Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy Birthday, Pop!

Wishing you a wonderful 75th year!

If I could, I'd get you:

  • a liberal Democrat or even a Socialist for president  . . . until I'm 75!
  • the dissolution of gerrymandered districts;
  • the reversal of the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United;
  • a complete reversal of climate change;
  • a huge crackdown on pesticides, chemicals, and other harmful materials (like microbeads) in our food, personal products, and other consumer goods;
  • renewable, sustainable, responsible energy for everyone;
  • strict gun laws and an end to the prison-for-profit system;
  • free college education for everyone . . . and the Dream Act;
  • nationalized healthcare including long-term disability, palliative care, and hospice for everybody;
  • the expansion of the National Park system;
  • computers, DVD players, smartphones, and digital SLR cameras, and other electronics (and systems) that do what you want them to do . . . even if you don't know;
  • calm waters and good fishing;
  • no more mosquitoes; 
  • a futuristic UV blocker bubble anywhere you go;
  • new episodes of "Law & Order," "Downton Abbey," "Frasier," and whatever other show you like;
  • Pino's, down the street;
  • ice cream every night; 
  • and a teleportation system connecting your house and ours.
Well, until that happens (and I'm sure I'm forgetting something), we send all of our love to you!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer Fun: Our Movie List Update

We watch a lot of movies, especially for people who pretty much never go to the theater (maybe once a year, maybe.  This year it was Minions.)  This has been the summer of re-watching all the Marvel movies.  Yes, I know, violent.  But in that fantasy/sci-fi kind of way.

Tonight, we watched Back to the Future.  It aged pretty well in 30 years.  Yep, we're now the future--except that's the second movie--and no, we don't have hoverboards yet.  The first one goes back to 1955.  The kids enjoyed it enough.  Sis was particularly surprised that the young female lead now plays the mom on "Switched at Birth."  And neither one of them could comprehend the inside joke about Huey Lewis and the News. (They also didn't realize there were cars in the 1950s.  Sheesh.)

I was looking at my old list (trying to find a movie for Labor Day weekend) and realized we've seen many of the ones on our original list a few years ago.

Still a lot of good ones to see.  And we'll have to watch the movie Matilda before we go see the Broadway musical in November.
  • Andre*
  • Addams Family Movie
  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • Adventures of Tintin*
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Babe
  • Back to the Future
  • Beetlejuice
  • Beethoven*
  • Big
  • Black Beauty*
  • Black Stallion*
  • Brady Bunch: The Movie
  • Caspar*
  • Castle in the Sky
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Clue
  • Dark Crystal
  • Dr. Doolittle*
  • Dolphin's Tale
  • Escape to Witch Mountain
  • ET
  • Fern Gully
  • Finding Neverland
  • Flash Gordon
  • Flight of Dragons
  • Flight of the Navigator*
  • Fly Away Home*
  • Footloose
  • Free Willy
  • Ghostbusters
  • Golden Compass*
  • Goonies
  • Gremlins
  • Harriet the Spy*
  • Heidi
  • Home Alone*
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Hook
  • Hugo*
  • Incredible Journey*
  • Incredible Shrinking Woman
  • Indian in the Cupbaord*
  • Iron Giant*
  • Jaws
  • Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer*
  • Jumanji
  • Jurassic Park
  • Karate Kid
  • Labyrinth
  • Ladyhawke
  • Land Before Time*
  • Last Unicorn
  • Legend
  • Matilda*
  • Miracle Worker
  • Mrs. Doubtfire*
  • Muppet Movie
  • Muppet Treasure Island*
  • Nauiscaa of the Valley of the Winds
  • Never-Ending Story
  • Newsies*
  • October Sky*
  • Parent Trap
  • Paulie*
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure
  • Perfect Game*
  • Pharlap*
  • Pollyanna
  • Popeye
  • Princess Bride
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Sandlot*
  • Secret Garden
  • Secret of Kells
  • Secret of NIMH
  • Secret of Roan Inish
  • Secret World of Arietty
  • Short Circuit*
  • Slipper and the Rose*
  • Song of the Sea*
  • Space Camp
  • Spaceballs
  • Spirited Away
  • Stuart Little
  • Superman
  • Swiss Family Robinson*
  • Tale of Princess Kayuga*
  • Time Bandits
  • Tron*
  • War Games
  • Water Horse
  • Whale Rider
  • Where the Red Fern Grows*
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit*
  • Willow

Summer Fun: Cooking with Mama

Mama has done it again:  she has had a glorious day helping the kids to make some of their favorite foods.   About a year ago, it was linguine with clam sauce and chicken marsala.  Today, Bud made beer-steamed mussels with bacon and garlic, while Sis made fried chicken.  Mercy, they eat well!  And they have such fun and pride doing it.


Beer-Steamed Mussels with Bacon and Garlic
(from a NYTimes recipe for clams)

100 littleneck clams (Mama substituted 2 lbs mussels)1 tablespoon unsalted butter¼ cup diced chorizo or bacon, optional2 cups beer, approximately 1 can or bottle
  1. Carefully scrub the clams under cold running water to remove sand and grit, then set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot set over medium heat, and when it foams, add the chorizo or bacon, and allow it to crisp, stirring occasionally, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add the beer to the pot (use just 1 cup if cooking 50 or fewer clams), and allow to heat through, then carefully add the clams in layers. Cover the pot, and allow the clams to steam and open, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Serve in the pot, or use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove clams to a platter, and serve alongside a bowl of the remaining clam broth and melted butter.

Fried Chicken from Southern Living a la the NYTimes

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
chicken with skin, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut up into 8 pieces (see note)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil, like grapeseed, peanut or canola (do not use olive oil)
¼ cup bacon drippings (or use more oil)
  1. Combine 1 tablespoon salt with 3 quarts water in a large bowl or container. Add chicken, cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse with cold water and pat dry. 
  2. Stir together remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Sprinkle half the mixture evenly over chicken. 
  3. In a large sealable plastic bag, combine remaining pepper mixture and flour. Add 2 pieces chicken to bag and shake well to coat. Remove chicken pieces, shaking off extra flour, and set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken. 
  4. Take a large (10- or 12-inch) cast-iron skillet or chicken fryer, for which you have a lid, and fit with a candy or deep-frying thermometer. Add oil and bacon drippings and heat to 360 degrees over medium heat; the oil will ripple and possibly give off a few wisps of smoke. 
  5. Using tongs, immediately add chicken pieces, skin side down (work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding pan). The oil will drop to about 325 degrees, where it should stay; adjust heat so that oil is bubbling gently around the pieces. Cover and cook 6 minutes; uncover and cook 9 minutes. Turn chicken pieces; cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook another 5 to 9 minutes, depending on size of pieces. If necessary for even browning, turn pieces over a few times toward the end. 
  6. Drain on paper towels or paper bags. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving. 


  • If chicken is larger than 2 1/2 pounds, use a large heavy knife to cut each breast half in half again, making 10 pieces in total.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Fun: Beautiful Balloons

Tonight we ventured to the hot air balloon festival north of us.  While I won't sully this post with a long, detailed recitation of the major problems of the festival (complete lack of preparation, not enough of anything, long long long waits and many shortages--most disorganized I've ever seen), we really liked seeing all of the balloons--the one in flight as we arrived, the tethered one going up and down (with its loud and bright propane flame), the inflation and deflation of 10 balloons, and the "glow" when the fire lit the balloon from within.  There were a few rainbow balloons and a pink and a blue one each for Sis and Bud.  Mama, who had dropped us off, didn't get to see much because of traffic and delays.  But it was better than sitting at home.  We also got some great artisanal cookies (a chocolate orange one and even a GF dark chocolate almond one), a 1000-piece balloon puzzle, and a hanging balloon for our porch.

We spotted a balloon as we drove towards the hot air balloon festival.

Sis watches the tethered balloon take riders up and down.

Add caption

I couldn't believe these were left just unattended.  People just stepped over them!

I liked all the rainbow balloons, while Sis liked the pink-ish one and Bud the blue-ish one (not inflated yet.)  

They never glowed all at once but were still so pretty.  There were 10 in all (in my mind I think of them as rainbow tethered, rainbow and black stripes, Bud's blue balloon (which says Avery's Beverages on one side, inflating in this pic), "safari" balloon, checkerboard, Sis's pink/magenta balloon, rainbow diamonds balloon, blue and yellow steps, rainbow diagonals, and "Superman" balloon)

Summer Fun: Breakfast in Bed

I was treated to breakfast in bed yesterday morning.  The kids had apparently cooked up the scheme the night before, let Mama in on the plan, even had a menu all ready.  And within a few heartbeats of my waking up when two cats had a disagreement, the kids were in my room, ready to go.  Sis had even consented to Bud waking her up early (she is on adolescent time and will easily sleep til after 9 a.m.; he still regularly sees 6:30 a.m.)

Look at this menu:  see the GF options?!  So sweet.  They had carefully recorded all of the things they knew how to prepare and could serve easily for breakfast.  And made notes of what I could have.  With dessert!  Sis was apologetic about the lack of GF sides; she said they'd work on that.  And I loved that ice cream is annotated "only some times.")

In the end, I had a single scrambled egg, some rice puffs, a half-and-half lemonade/iced tea.  Service was prompt and courteous.  Then we all munched on candy while watching tv.

When asked the occasion, they replied, "Because you put up with us all summer!"

I'd do it again, eggs or no.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Our Anniversary Weekend Getaway

This weekend was our sometimes-annual tradition of a weekend alone in the city (see here and here; we went to Block Island in 2014)--what we have called a nano-honeymoon--perfectly timed with our actual 18th anniversary.  And we had a wonderful time!  While the kids stayed with their NYC grandparents eating their way across Queens and going to the beach (even boogie boarding on the waves!  Think tummy surfing with a smaller board), Mama and I returned to our favorite hotel near Union Square and had a delightful three days.


We actually started our weekend, after dropping off the kids, in Midtown--at 61st near 1st, at the old Mount Vernon Hotel Museum.  Built as a mansion with carriage house in the late 18th century, the carriage house became a "day hotel" (think 19th-century spa) with parlors for the ladies to sew, play music, visit, and take tea, and fishing and a horse-trotting track for the gentleman, with a big supper for all.  Miraculously, the building survived (Thanks, Con Ed!  They bought it way back when and didn't tear it down) and is now administer by the Colonial Dames.   Gommie, you might remember this--it was known as the Abigail Adams Smith House when you went, I think.  Well, like Gommie, I love a good house museum and this one had great fake food (that three-tiered gelatin dessert!  those blackberries!  even that oyster pie!), a remarkable parlor barrel organ, and a complete traveling whiskey case with gold-painted glass bottles in all sorts of odd shapes. We also liked the shop, where Mama picked up the little owl that features in most of our pictures instead of one of us (she did the same, with a different little owl that was mistakenly left at home, on her own trip into the city about a month ago.)

We headed to our hotel next, the indulgent Inn at Irving Place, where we've stayed the last two times, and were even able to get into our lovely room early.  I always love the period kitsch, tastefully arranged without too much thought to historiocity; a little nicer than shabby chic, it is very comfortable and evokes a different time for me (but with air conditioning!)  It's also very conveniently located right near Union Square, which affords us a great neighborhood to explore and dining options to try.  Mama had assiduously researched special GF/DF/FODMAPS dining options for me and found several in the area.  And not just meat and rice.  We started with french fries from our favorite Maoz, which we ate while perusing the Union Square Green Market, on our way to the Lion Brand yarn shop.  

Loved these bags; wish they were t-shirts
The Lion Brand yarn shop had a great all-yarn (mostly knit) farmer's market display in its window and the staff walked around helping customers while knitting and crocheting!  I can't imagine.  I had fun seeing all the various yarn colors and textures, plus notions and accessories, and only brought home half a bag of yarn!  Okay, their bags are really big, but still.  I even finished a mandala in the Landscapes Boardwalk (which, I must admit, I liked better as a skein than as a finished piece--for me, there is too much murky green and brown and ugly orange!  And the colors change so quickly that the striping didn't work well in the rounds.  Oh, well, it felt wonderful and I enjoyed the crocheting nonetheless.)  Mama even got an Amigurumi book. (She isn't a yarn hoarder like I am.  Yet.)

I might be getting my days switched, but we visited the art supplies store on Friday, too.  Mama perused everything like a kid in the proverbial candy shop, picking up a pencil case and some other items.  We spent a lot of down time on this trip just hanging out in our lovely room and engaging in some of our hobbies--crochet, drawing, reading--in the serene peace and quiet.  I loved the afternoon light through our tall windows.  We also ate take out in our room a few times.  Our late-afternoon snack Friday was from Hu's kitchen, which had a GF/DF dessert called Maple "Creme Brulee" made with taro and coconut milk; Mama enjoyed a "Diesel Walker" or something, which was sloppy joe beef on a baed of sauteed "grandmaster veg."  Late that night, we had GF rosemary-potato-ricotta pizza, a lovely GF truffle ham sandwich, and a GF nutella strawberry dessert pizza from Pie by the Pound.  At some point, and I can't recall when, we also got a snack from Wok to Walk, cilantro-laden noodles with spicy sauce for her, chicken teriyaki rice for me.  As I said, we did manage to find some great food.

We started this day off, after "sleeping in" til 8:30 a.m., with a long-awaited trip to Friend of a Farmer, a restaurant I had seen advertised and had wanted to visit since my grad school days 20 years earlier!  While I was sad to have to skip the renown pancakes, I did enjoy a skillet omelet and home fries.  We also got a sampling of their homemade breads, of which I ate this incredible lemon one (half a slice, willing to take the consequences, which never materialized.)  Mama enjoyed her crab cakes benedict and cheese grits.  What a way to start the day!

You would think we don't get food in Connecticut because we stopped at the Bradford Cheese Shop next and had fun choosing delicacies to take home.  Well, in truth, our little corner of CT has an overabundance of pizza, diners, and take-out Chinese, not much else (unless you look really hard, but we have found nearby enough Peruvian, Indian, vegetarian at Bloodroot); at least, we have both a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's.    We got special Fentiman's soda, including my favorite Rose Lemonade and Mama's favorite Shandy (lemonade and beer, a British combo), some GF treats, lots of odd potato chip flavors for Bud, some caramels for Sis; more than half the fun was perusing the international variety on the neat shelves.

Later that day was the highlight of our trip, Fun Home, the musical.  In case you don't know, Fun Home is based on the autobiographical, "tragicomedy" graphic novel by famed lesbian cartoonist, Alison Bechdel.  She focuses on both her coming-out narrative and her closeted, gay father's suicide four months later, in a wonderful, richly-layered story of her life at different ages (mainly, elementary school, college, and adulthood.)  We had known and enjoyed her nationally-syndicated Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip for 20 years and read the graphic novel when it came out.  But we never knew it could be a musical!

And what a musical it was!  I had seen "little Alison" actress Sydney Lucas perform "Ring of Keys" on the Tonys and instantly loved the song.  It reminded me of Mama, when we first met (except she had jeans):

Your swagger and your bearing
And the just-right clothes you're wearing
Your short hair and your dungarees
and your lace-up boots
and your ring of keys.

It's only missing her flannel shirt, baseball cap, (SW 25, i.e. Stonewall Riots 25th anniversary), and her omnipresent, omnipotent Swiss Army knife.

We both loved the musical.  First, the 1970s period details--the photo cube, the box tv on the floor which the kids sprawl in front of, the "Partridge Family," the clothes, even the exclamation "tough titties!" (where did we get that, anyway?)  Though, I didn't grow up with a dad who ran a funeral home--a "fun home"--like she did, but I remembered many of the other bits.  Mama recognized the old bags from Macy's, the Strand, and Li-Lac Chocolates.

The performance was unique, being played in the round at Circle in the Square, an intimate theater.  It was also played straight through, with no intermission or late seating.  In fact, we were in a section where we weren't allowed to get up and leave at all, behind the little orchestra, by a trap door!  Big Alison sat at the base of our stairs a couple of times.  You really felt like a ghost in Alison's life, experiencing its layers as she remembered it.  And the actors were top-notch.  So amazing.  The actress playing Big Alison is a lesbian, too and makes the show.  Middle Alison played it with no make up and is so believable as an awkward college dyke.  And Little Alison, just 12 years old . . . wow, just wow.

But it really was the coming out story that resonated with us--from Little Alison's awareness of not fitting in sometimes (dresses, barrettes) to her crush in college and first forays into lesbian culture and sex (which elicited groans from Big Alison--"I didn't even know what Take Back the Night was!"  and "I had a crush on my first grade teacher!" to being scared of hanging out with "real lesbians" and that first major romance "I'm majoring in Joan . . . ."--there were often two Alisons on the stage at once, drawing connections between different parts of her story) to the pain of coming out to parents, with silences and awkward conversations (I know what it's like to send that letter.)  You could definitely tell where the lesbians in the audience were because we laughed loudly at the same parts (and there were so many more lesbian couples than I have ever seen at a Broadway show, ever.)  It was so special and really resonated; we just never see lesbians in Broadway shows.    Perfect, perfect, perfect.  Especially for the 18th anniversary of our own little lesbian love story (20 if you count from the very beginning, but Aug 23 is the date we like to count best.)

Whew.  We processed the entire experience over a late lunch at Otto, Mario Batali's pizza place.  He is very GF friendly and so I got a GF spaghetti carbonara that was delicious.  Mama had a seafood appetizer with little dishes of cuddlefish, cod, anchovy, mussels, calamari and the like treated in different cold, pickly salads.  We also loved the spinach, ricotta insalata, salad with honeyed truffle oil!  Decadent.  And the desserts!  Olive oil gelato with passion fruit granita and basil syrup with a sprinkle of salt--I got a big bite of salt and thought it was awful but second tastings, after Mama's reassurances, revealed it to be a marvelous concoction.  I got the lemon meringata.  YUM!  We walked nearby Washington Square, where Mama spent summers as a child when her mom was finishing her Ph.D. at NYU, reminiscing about her childhood at Bobst library, our time in NYC together, that fateful day 18 years ago (after a fight of all things--just like in the movies when the sparring characters kiss!--but we were fighting long distance Chicago to NY over the plot of Bar Stories and its implications and then, well, we weren't fighting), September 11, and other times.

We sauntered home via the Strand bookstore, where we picked up some books for the kids, souvenirs for our cat sitters, and a couple of craft books.  I came across a few reminders of dear Aunt Sis--an artsy epistolary book called Griffin and Sabine that she had given me decades ago and a pair of art socks (was it Van Gogh?) that I had taken her just last December.  Bittersweet.  We enjoyed a slow walk home; it was cooler on Saturday than Friday, remarking on the various buildings (we always realize anew that the house across the street was Washington Irving's)--and even the plantings!  (Because if a plant can survive the sidewalks of NY, surely it will survive our yard)  I think there are a few more caladium varietals we can try.   We spent the rest of the night in our room, playing with art supplies and yarn, just talking and hanging out, like we did in NYC when we met in 1994.


We had planned to attend a Friends church service at the historic meeting house in Queens, but when the time came, we were more content to laze around and talk.  We picked up some GF treats at a nearby coffee shop and had tea in our hotel parlor, while reading bits from the Sunday Times to each other.  Yay, panda twins!  Boo, abortion restrictions in Ohio!  Great bit on Tig Notaro!  Plus lots of articles we skipped because they'd been online all week already (there's an article on 36 hours in Burlington, VT, Ms. Sew and Sow.)

We checked out around noon and grabbed lunch at British fish and chips shop, A Salt and Battery.  Mmm, vinegar on chips, bangers with a curry sauce (Mama loves that curry sauce!), and another Shandy for Mama.  We grabbed some last-minute treats from the British shop next door (more rose teas, various crisps flavors for Bud, some Crunchie bars for Sis, a TARDIS mug.)  I would've loved to go to Tea and Sympathy, next door (all three are owned by the same couple), but would've been sad to forego my usual non-GF/DF favorite scone and clotted cream.

We drove out to get the kids, down the West Side, past the WTC and City Hall, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and through various neighborhoods til we reached the beach.    The kids had a marvelous time as well and we were all sorry to see the weekend end.

Until next year . . . .

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Fun: Chalk the Walks 2015

Bud and I participated in the (inter?)national Chalk the Walks event today, which I first heard about on FB.  Essentially, people are invited to decorate their local sidewalks and surfaces with inspirational messages and drawings.  Several of our friends participated and I've enjoyed looking at the pictures all day.  It was blazing hot so we worked pretty quickly and, with not rain in the forecast for a few more days, it'll be up for awhile.  

Ours is here (a butterfly, "Carpe Diem," a flower mandala, a sun/moon, and a Tree of Life with bluebirds of happiness and squirrels)--hard to photograph whole, but fun nonetheless: