Move Over Mary Poppins!

The real life adventures of one nanny, her husband, child, dogs, house, and whatever else crosses her path.

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Location: MA, United States

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Sunday, November 30, 2008



O Christmas Tree!

In anticipation of our annual Tree Trimmin' OysterFestivus, we headed southwest to Sutton to try out a new tree farm. We went to Sleighbell Tree Farm, which was far more of a traditional cut your own tree farm than we've been going to these last few years. They have hayrides, hot cocoa and cider, and it looks like a Christmas tree farm (and yes, that matters to me). I think it will be fun in subsequent years with Felix. For this year, however, he rode in the backpack in a purely suprvisory role.
Off we go!
Still searching for the perfect tree...
We found it, cut it, and are taking it back to be baled for the drive home.
Tree acquired!

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Saturday, November 29, 2008




Friday, November 28, 2008

Two Family Thanksgivings, One Thanksgiving Day

Yesterday, we packed our little selves up after Felix's morning nap and headed to my parents' house, about 45 minutes away, for Thanksgiving, Part I. My brother and family are visiting from Pennsylvania, and I wanted some time with my niece and nephew before 2pm dinner. Mom managed to get all the kids and grandkids in one shot, but, as you can see, we're not all looking stellar... Maybe we can get our act together next May when we're all in Florida?

After dinner, complete with crepe paper crowns and noisemakers, we packed up again and headed south to Mark's parents' house in Rhode Island for Thanksgiving, Part Deux. In a rare show of youthful vigor, both Felix's Great Grandma and Grandmemere (his great grandmothers on Mark's side) were in attendance and feeling good, as was Mark's great Aunt, Matante Del (for those of you like the nuances of dialect, matante is the Woonsocket French Canadien direct address word for Aunt, from the French Ma Tante/my aunt, but it's pronounced muh-tount, rhyming with account), who at 90 still drives a big old hunk of American steel around town to do her shopping and borrow trashy romances from the library. She has no grandchildren, so I've kind of adopted her as my grandmother.

Felix played with his cousins, ate two big family meals, harrassed my parents' dogs, got birthday presents from his uncles (which kept him busy when he started to run out of steam), took a swim in Memere's new bathtub, and rode halfway home before falling asleep, which meant he didn't get to sleep until 10 last night. The result of that? One cranky little boy. The best two hours we got out of today we spent getting sushi for lunch. Felix went to town on an avo maki, after having eaten most of an order of edamame, some miso soup, and a few pieces of my seaweed salad. Other than that, today we paid for his wonderful behavior yesterday. Getting him to bed on time tonight will certainly be something to be thankful for!


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Lurkey Doo and Turkey Lurkey Dap

"I eat that turkey then I take a nap."

See you tomorrow!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Baking Edition

First up today is Sandwich Bread. What? Umm, isn't this, like, the national holiday of pie? You're thinking I should be making apple or sweet potato something, right? Well, nope. I'm still a kid as far as Thanksgiving goes, and I go to my Mom's house or my in-laws, so I don't have to cook or bake so much.

I come home with leftover turkey, though. See where I'm headed?

MultiGrain Sandwich Bread
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1 1/4 c. dry whole grain hot cereal mix*, divided
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. white flour
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
1 c. whole milk, cool, not cold
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. room temp. butter

Before we get going, you should know that this is not a high rising bread. It's dense, chewy, sturdy bread. The whole wheat flour and oats don't stretch like all white flour will. So, don't be disappointed if it is a small little loaf.

Pulse 1/2 c. grains, all the flours, salt and yeast in a food processor fitted with a dough blade for 5 seconds to blend. Add milk, syrup, and butter and process for 30 seconds. Dough should be moist but not sticky and cool to the touch. Roll it out onto a floured surface, and hand knead the remaining grains/oats into the dough. Oil a bowl, and set the dough inside to rise for about 2 hours. (I like to extend the rising time to 4 hours, punch it down halfway through and let it rise again, but that's not necessary.) Turn it out onto a floured surface, punch it down, and let it rest, loosely covered, 15 more minutes, before patting it into a rectangle and rolling it up like a fat jelly roll. Place it into a greased loaf pan, and gently pat it down into the pan. Cover loosely and let rise until the dough almost comes up to the top of the loaf. Preheat oven to 350F and place an empty cookie sheet in the oven one rack below the one you'll bake the bread on. Put a kettle of water to boil. As you're placing the bread in the oven, pour hot water into the baking tray. Bake for 45 minutes or until the bread has an internal temp. of @2ooF and sounds hollow when thumped. Despite the temptation, let it cool completely before slicing.

*I like a mix, but old fashioned rolled oats on their own are fine

Next: Pumpkin Sandwich Cake, which I did exactly from the recipe, and it came out flawlessly. The only small change I made was to bake all the batter in one 8x3"pan and slice it in half horizontally. It took 30 minutes instead of the recommended 16-18. I'll bring this to my parents' house, and probably snag some of the left overs to bring home with us after my in-laws. Pumpkin cake and cream cheese and chocolate for breakfast. Mmmmm.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy whatever you're doing, whereever you're going, and whomever you're with!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Of Bachelorettes and Brunch

Last weekend was a social one for me. Saturday night I went out with my cousin and her girlfriends for her bachelorette party. We started the night off with champagne at her house, then were taken into the city by black car. We had a cocktail at M Bar & Lounge before heading over to the Wine Cellar for fondue and wine. Three fondue courses later, with wine pairings and a champagne toast under our belts, we walked down the street to Match for a nightcap before catching cabs home.

It was the first time in almost two years that I've more than a glass of wine, and let me tell you, I'm not as young as I once was! This was especially evident at 6:30 when Felix woke up looking for his Mama. After some extra snoozing, I got the house tidied up and put together some food for our brunch company.

I made baked french toast, which for me, was like eating bread pudding for brunch. Yum! I also served a lemon cake with lemon curd, bacon, and homemade applesauce. I got to hang with my god-son, G, who is five and funny and clever and sweet, and miss when I don't see him for months on end.

After our friends left, Mark and Felix and I pretty much just collapsed. Then yesterday I had to head into work, and I was super pathetic. I fell asleep twice while nursing Felix during O's preschool stint. Mommy needs a vacation. Thank goodness I'm off from work until next week!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Thinking Is Still On the Fritz

Hi... Is anyone still out there? Is this blog on?

I'm still mostly in brainfreeze. I'm going to just admit that I forgot my laptop at home today, and by the time I got home from work I was too damn tired to deal. So, here I am, watching Heroes while Mark and I have chicken korma on the couch.

I give you Felix "helping" Daddy.
And Felix, asleep at the wheel.
I promise some actual content tomorrow.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tea Leaves on Page 56

Apparently, feeding the munchkins sparked some conversation. Nice!

And now, some filler until I can think normally again.

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.

I've done this one before. I find it entertaining. Kind of like reading tea leaves.

"Brrr's recall of what had happened before seemed limited to apparent causes of what had happened next."

from A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Feeding Frustration

When I was a kid, lunch was a sandwich, some fruit, maybe chips or pretzels or goldfish crackers, milk, and sometimes two cookies for dessert. On weekends, lunch might be leftovers, or soup, or grilled cheese sandwiches. If you'd asked me, I would have said I liked bologna and mayonnaise on white bread, or roast beef and mayonnaise on rye or pumpernickel. I ate whatever my Mom offered. Turkey or ham, or plain cheese - I didn't learn to like cheese on my sandwiches until much later. I liked pickles, too.

SpaghettiO's were a rarity. I never had Kraft Mac until high school.

We were offered snacks once or twice a day. Watermelon was a favorite, as were popsicles if it was hot. Juice was allowed moderation, milk was the beverage of the decade.

I went to public school, and for $0.65 a day (in 1st grade, by 8th it was up over $1.75) I ate in the cafeteria, unless the scheduled offering was truly repulsive, in which case my Mom would pack a lunch. See above for a description.

Dinner was what my Mom was serving. Burgers and steaks and chicken on the grill in the summer. Soups, stews, casseroles in the winter. Roast chicken, vegetables, rice or potatoes on the side. Spaghetti with homemade sauce she made by the vat. I rarely had jarred until after college. Salads. Cheerios and Raisin Bran with milk. Oatmeal. Ice cream after dinner if you ate your vegetables.

And, for the record, Mom worked outside the home part time, took care of us, and kept the house on top of these culinary marvels. I don't have to do half of that at work. I can certainly prepare meals for them. What I can't get their parents to do is change their buying habits.

I cannot grasp the pickiness, even after all these years, exhibited by the Boss kids. They have a rotating menu of about 8 dishes, and unless I do their grocery shopping, we're limited by the same things that end up in the fridge every week - a lot of prepackaged nonsense. They don't like hamburger. They don't like anything but plain chicken breasts, occasionally with garlic and olive oil or some pizza sauce and cheese. Fish? No. They don't like homemade macaroni and cheese, or spaghetti sauce, jarred or otherwise. They don't like cooked vegetables, even when they're crisp steamed. It makes me want to hang up my pans and make them Annies Shells and Cheddar every night and have done with it.

I can live with it, since they're not my kids. What's hard is teaching my own little one to think outside the chicken nuggets package when I can't get the others to eat anything fresh and simple. It's an uphill battle. I do keep trying. But sometimes I just need to whine.

Done now.


Friday, November 21, 2008


Last night I had the kind of dreams that I don't remember in full, just as fragments, like photographs. These dreams usually leave me feeling disoriented and somehow estranged from my morning routine. As if I'm still in the dream, like sleepwalking.

Last night I saw a ghost. Or a memory. Or an angel. That's all I can remember. I was dreaming about a friend who's been gone for more than two years as if he was still right here in the city. A phone call away from having dinner together. He felt that close.

I think about him at the strangest times. He creeps up on me. When we were in college, I used to drive him and another dear friend home from school pretty regularly. Whenever we got caught behind a slow car (torture on the Vermont back roads we drove), he would intone from the back seat, "It's the Slowest People In The UNIVERSE!" We imagined them as shapeshifters moving from car to car to ensure you never got where you were going on schedule. I used the intonation around my Mom in subsequent years, and eventually explained its genesis back to him. She took to using it, too. Last weekend Mom and I were on our way down I-495 to do some shopping, and we were trapped behind a slow car sandwiched between two lanes of slow cars. She wondered aloud if perhaps, as a divine prank - which I agreed would be right up his alley - he was now moonlighting as the Slowest People In The UNIVERSE in his celestial spare time, just to yank my chain?

I still have his number in my cell phone and his last contact information in my address book. I cannot bring myself to delete them. Is that usual? I nearly called his old number yesterday instead of the contact above his name. Also, in dredging up the photo for the shoe post, I found his face grinning up at me from my college photo albums. It's easy enough to understand what might have triggered my dreaming; a lot of reminders about a death that still feels like such a waste and a loss that blindsided me, and my psyche's need to worry at the grief when I'm safe and sleeping.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blogging About Soup Is Like Dancing About Architecture

Imaginary Aunt Kate asks for my thoughts on soup. She apparently prefers Baked Potato soup without bacon, and dislikes Broccoli and Cheese soup.

Soup is a funny thing. It's one of the simplest foods to make. Put water and meat or vegetables or beans or noodles in a vessel and heat. What's hard about soup is making it really good.

The best soup I've ever tasted wasn't even one I'd ordered. Mark ordered it on our honeymoon. It was onion soup gratinee, and you could feel and taste the house made beef stock. It was luscious, and I don't especially like onion soup. We used to have a silly fantasy that someday, we could convince someone to smuggle a thermos home in their luggage, but the TSA does not love us. Bah! No liquids! And what lunatic would pack soup in their checked bags? Oh well...

So, there you go, start with a crafted stock.

There was once a Spanish garlic soup that I loved. I think I had it at Tapeo on Newbury Street, that had the silkiest texture and most delicate flavor.... If you're serious about texture in pureed soups, I think nothing beats hand sieving through a china cap, but let's be real people, a throrough immersion blending does the trick if your puree-ables are properly cooked.

I'm not a fan of baked potato soup, but I do like potato leek, if it's got the right texture. As to broccoli and cheese, I think a really fresh cream of broccoli soup, think rich chicken stock thickened with a light roux, heavy cream, and steamed broccoli florets, with a hit of red pepper flakes and romano cheese - not from a shelf stable can, people, from a grated hunk of Roman cheese - could be delightful.

But that's just me.

I make a crawfish "bisque" that Mark is partial to, but it's a process to get there, again, because of the stock. When we can get them, we buy shell-on cajun style frozen crawfish (There's one brand we like best, but the name escapes me. They come in a blue plastic box.), and snack on them. We save the shells, and I simmer them for half an hour with some garlic, onion, carrot, and celery, then strain off the broth. I use that as the base for the soup, with an organic mushroom soup base from Whole Foods - that actually tastes mushroomy - and frozen crawfish tailmeat. I finish it with herbs and a splash of sherry. Mmmm...

And then, there's 0 Point Soup.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Woman's Tale of Health Care

N asked me what I though about health care. I could rant all day on the topic of health care, both as a national problem, and a ridiculous hassle here in the Bay State, but anger gets the better of me and I become incoherent, so instead, I shall tell a tale...

Once upon a time, a college graduate took a job as a nanny. Her benefit package included full health coverage. Since she'd always been a dependent on her parents' policy, health care was something she knew she should have, but to which she had never given much thought. Her employers purchased a policy through a smaller carrier that offered group rates to single employee tax ID folks, like people who have nannies. She was 22, healthy as a horse, and didn't ever even bother to get a doctor during the first year.

After the first year, the rates went up, and her employer discovered that Tufts Healthcare offered a comparable coverage for less money, so he switched her over. At this point, she began to take advangtage of the some of the benefits of an HMO. She got a PCP, used her discount at Weight Watchers meetings, and tried to get herself even healthier. Things continued on happily until she left them, three years later, to try out her culinary degree.

It was a little over six months before she found a job with health care benefits. That period had been the first time in her young life that she had been completely uninsured. Now she found herself with benefits she had to partially pay for, especially if she wanted to get benefits for her fiance as her domestic partner until such time as they were legally married. HarvardPilgrim was pretty progressive, huh? For the better part of a year, she worked for the hotel kitchen before the ridiculous hours and psychological exhaustion prompted her to leave, and go back to nannying. (While perhaps not the most relevant career choice, it does have its upsides.)

She took a job with a young family in Allston. Her health care was offered through NHP, a state affiliated HMO. It was perfectly sufficient. She was responsible for choosing her coverage from a number of options presented by her employers. While researching different providers, coverage levels, and price points, she started to develop a sense of what she wanted from her health care plan. Sadly, the one imperative, getting her fiance on the plan, seemed out of her price point now that she was out of the corporate infrastructure. The plans that offered DP'ship coverage were too expensive, and the cheap plans didn't offer it.

When that job situation tanked, rather spectacularly, three weeks before her wedding, she was again without health care coverage, this time before a two week trip to Hawaii and San Fransisco. All was, happily, well in the end.

She returned from her honeymoon, and started back at her old position with the very first family who had originally hired her. This go 'round, her employers let her take the reins and choose coverage that would suit her needs and price point. It was agreed that the cost to insure her as a single gal would be covered by her employers, and the extra cost of adding her new husband would come out of her paycheck pretax. She went back to the plan she'd lost with her previous job, added her husband for a small upcharge and felt great about getting him a PCP and seen by specialists for some of his recent complaints. He might be the bread winner, but she was contributing!

The next spring, yet another rate hike. Back to the drawing board for our heroine, who chose Blue Cross MA for her new coverage. This plan was actually less that the state affiliated plan's new rates, and had great coverage! Hooray! There is a benefit to the new laws requiring MA residents to either purchase health care or procure it through state funded initiatives (ie, her tax dollars paying for other people's health care, including those who abuse the welfare system and illegal workers... but that's a different rant. That's the rant about how she's a democrat with fiscally conservative leanings, and very mixed feelings on government aid systems, and how she feels that it's not wrong to ask that people become legal citizens in order to enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship nor is it wrong to ask that folks who find themselves in the unenviable position of taking government money to survive be asked to give something back. There has to be a better solution than what this country's got going at the moment.)

Then, she and her husband decided to have a baby. Health care became the biggest financial concern she had, aside of making sure the mortgage got paid every month. The having the baby part was great. The hospital copay was only $500, for a stay that racked up almost $17,000 dollars (and that, praise the universe, was a healthy, mostly uncomplicated birth!), but once baby made three, the new premiums skyrocketed by over %50. Ouch.

She dug deeper, discovered a provider based out of Tenessee called MidWest Life, licensed to sell in MA, who specialized in the self employed folks, and switched from an in state HMO to a nationwide PPO system, with an a la carte based coverage selection. She went minimum on most things, and then made sure that well child coverage was strong, as well as emergency and preventative care. Brilliant, right? Paying for what you need, not paying for all the HMO extras that have to make up for the differentials between the healthy folks who don't use most of what they pay premiums towards and the chronically ill who use more than they pay for (because, if you're an HMO, you've go to balance those numbers, right?). Paying premiums based on a national average, as opposed to the spiked rates here in MA, where only a handful of providers are allowed to peedle their products sounded great.

And then MA decided to up the ante. The new minimum coverage criteria go into effect at the beginning of 2009, and guess what? Her coverage no longer makes the grade. What she felt was sufficient for her family and budget was no longer suffient according the great and powerful Oz, or whomever the hell is in charge of all this. If she does not switch to a compliant coverage minimum by year's end, she is fined approximately $75 per adult, per month until she does. There goes all the paycheck she was saving by switching away from Blue Cross.

On Saturday, she meets with an insurance broker to try to find a middle ground. This could be her fourth health plan in three and a half years. If she gets an ulcer from worrying about it, she may just send her medical bills to the state.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Boston Children's Museum

Friday morning, the boys and I took an adventure southbound on the Red Line to South Station, and walked to Fort Point and the Children's Museum. I hadn't been since before the renovations, so I was kind of excited to see the new exhibits and the new homes for my old favorites. We had a grand time on the T, and enjoyed the Museum, though our time there was brief. We had a good lunch at ABP, and headed home again for naps. I think the photos tell the story better than I do.

O tries out the golf ball raceways.

The bubble cylinder.

Felix in Arthur's Camp Out Tent

Felix in the toddler water table.

O taking another kid for a "ride" in the car.

Felix playing trucks in the Construction Zone.

O takes a rest on the rope bridge.

After lunch, O shares his Hoodsie Cup with Felix while they watch the barges.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Reading. Be Back Soon.

I had a post all set, save for the photos, but it's been backburnered. I got my hands on my mother's copy of Katherine Neville's The Fire last night, the long awaited sequel to my favorite book of all time, The Eight. I'll be back tomorrow, likely after I've finished it.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ginger Scones: A Recipe

When your son is up at 6:30, you have plenty of time to think about breakfast pastry. Last weekend, I made two cakes (well, cake like items), and there was much frosting. I had a bowl of egg yolks waiting to be used. I had milk and fresh ginger. I had butter. I will have scones!

These are more eggy than traditional scones, lightly sweet, with a hint of ginger. I had mine with cinnamon plum tea and a dollop of maple syrup sweetened buffalo milk yogurt. Sadly, I ate them before I remembered to take more pictures.

So, here they are, my weekend after making a ton of Italian Mousseline Buttercream Fresh Ginger Scones.

Fresh Ginger Scones
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
2 TB. sugar, divided
1-2 TB. grated fresh ginger, or more to taste
5 TB cold butter, cut in pieces
4 large egg yolks, plus one for egg wash
3/4 c. whole milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, grease and flour a 9" round cake pan.

Blend dry ingredients in a large mixing bow. Reserve 1 TB sugar. Add ginger to dry ingredients and blend. Drop in butter pieces, and blend into the flour mixture. Lightly whip the egg yolks into the milk, then in as few strokes as possible, stir the wet ingredients into the dry. When everything is moist, stir the dough ten times. I use a dough whisk, which keeps the amount of stress on the dough pretty low while looking pretty cool. Turn the dough out into the cake pan, and, with floured hands, pat it flat. Score the scones into 8 wedges, then blend the reserved yolk with a little water and brush lightly over the top of the scones. Sprinkle them with the reserved sugar, and bake.

Bittman recommends 7-9 minutes. In my old oven, it took 15 to get them golden brown with a little crust on the edges. I suggest starting at 7 and adding 2 minute intervals until they're perfect.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shoes of My Heart

Fibby asked about my favorite all time pair of shoes. Then, she posted about hers, and it got me thinking. Like her, I had a long love affair with a pair of Docs. They were black cherry, distressed, 9 hole boots, and I wore the hell out of them in college and kept wearing them for a while after. I can't actually remember where I bought them or when I finally gave up on them, but they were so there for me.

But the favorite shoe? The one that still makes my heart flutter? The pair of shoes that lit up my face, made me feel sassy and confident and, did I mention, tall? I shed a few tears when I retired them. Alas, they were hopeless dated, never mind that getting pregnant flattened my 10's to 10 1/2's... I gave them to the Salvation Army, hoping that their faded glory might live on as someone's fabulous costume find.

Aldo, circa 1997, Harvard Square: I was spending the days with some girlfriends from college over perhaps Christmas break(?) of junior year. We went in to look for shoes for Becs, I think, but I came out with the most expensive pair of party shoes I'd ever bought. Red damask platform sandals, which gave me a towering 4.5" of extra height, bringing me to just under 6'. Serious shoes, people.

I wore them anytime I could think of an excuse, long before red shoes became a kind of neutral. In order to properly blog about them, I dug out and scanned in a photo from the dark ages of 1997. This is me, wearing my shoes, and pouring myself an industrial sized cocktail while pre-partying before Winter Carnival Ball.

Good. Times. Great. Shoes.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Because It Keeps Catching Me Off Guard

I give you this. This encore is still my mental screensaver, 8 days later. I keep going back there in my head. I'm telling you, I loved this song before I saw this show, but oh. man.

I wish you all could have been there. This video is like looking a photo. There's just a little of the realness gone. Nevertheless, you'll get the idea.

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Ten Memorable Meals

Veronique suggested some best of/top ten type posts. I immediately thought of meals, because I'm a foodie and a chef and food is my heroin. Just ask my hips. Plus, food is much more fun than blogging about learning and parenting and important stuff.

Some of these are restaurant meals, some are casual meals with friends and family, all make my heart all squishy with good memories. I present them to you sort of in an order, but nothing hard and fast.

  • L'Espalier, Boston, MA, April 2003: before Chef McClelland departed the original location, this was my dream restaurant. White glove service, exquisite cuisine, intimate setting, and Mark took me for my birthday. Perfect!
  • Harris' Steakhouse, San Francisco, CA, June 2005: on our honeymoon, we found this place by opening a guidebook and putting a finger down. Best steak and atmosphere of the trip!
  • Dinner party with N & Friends, Medford, MA, October 2001: a carpet picnic extraordinaire with many of my best friends all together in my house, and good food made by a great cook (thanks, N!), enjoyed by all.
  • Thanksgiving at Uncle Andy and Aunt Steph's house, November 1997 (I think it was '97...): my mother's younger sister came east with her family for the first time in almost 20 years. I got to meet her, and my five cousins for the first time. It was the first time the whole family was together for a holiday meal, and the first time I realized the size and fullness of my family. They are infinitely precious to me.
  • The campfire on Pine Hill when I may or may not have tried to light the entire campsite on fire, Harvard, MA, Summer 1995 or 96: This one was great. I was a counselor, working with a small group of older girls, and somehow the pre-lit coals for the dutch ovens ended up rolling down a hillside covered in dry pine needles. Still, all and all, I remember we ate pretty well. Plus, there's the magic of summer camp...
  • That post musical meal at Denny's, Worcester, MA, 1993 or '94: The one where Alta first ordered Moons Over My Hammy. Good times.
  • Valentine's Day, Medford, MA, February 2003: I made Mark a four course dinner starting with home made fettucine and salmon roe, and ending with a chocolate raspberry torte. Tres romantic.
  • That great little restaurant, Rome, Italy, March, 1994: We ate at this little local place, and there was wine and so. much. food. We spoiled ourselves, and it was great!
  • Dinner in Manhattan with L&T, NYC, February, 2005: Osso buco. Oh. My. Heart. My heart was safe, though, because my husband made us walk a hundred blocks south through he Upper East Side before dinner.
  • The I.N.I., Lakeville, MA, Summer, 1998: Spaghetti and terrible sangria with Al, Ali, and Guy. I'm sure the food was awful, but the company was positively intoxicating. Looking back, I was so carefree and lighthearted. We all were. While I wouldn't trade what I have now, I miss that freedom.
I'm sure there are more in the corners of my mind, but for now, there you have it.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

North Caroliiiiiiine Ba! Ba! Ba! Hotel

(For those of you who commented yesterday, I am working on your posts. Meanwhile, enjoy this gem from the Carpet Bag)

Gibberish? Nope. Oish.

O went with his dad to a Celtics game a few weeks ago, and they played Sweet Caroline at some point during the festivities. O somehow retained this song as North Caroline. Who knew he had a budding interest in US geography?

O also does performances for us, sometimes on the recorder, sometimes dance or gymnastics, sometimes songs. This day, he was an arena performer doing his hit song North Caroline Ba! Ba! Ba!, which consists of him repeating the "chorus" loudly in a rough approximation of the tune. He may have studied vocal performance with Maestro G, who gave the world such gems as Dinosaur Rawk and Tom Brady is a Winning Machine (But He's Injured). After the "show," he packed his sister's Hannah Montana sing-a-long microphone in a picnic basket, and headed upstairs, telling me he was going on a plane to stay at the North Caroline Ba Ba Ba Hotel, and would be back tomorrow.

When he got back, a moment later "tomorrow," what do you know, he sang the song again.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Out of Ideas; also, Comment for Charity

It took 12 days and 16 posts for me to completely lose the impetus to blog.

Never mind that I'm stretching here and turning not blogging into blog fodder. Blog fodder. Sorry, it just sounded cool in my head.

To give you all a picture of where I'm at this lovely November day, I'm standing at the marble counter in the galley kitchen at the townhouse where I work. Felix has unpacked the toy kitchen equipment, and is cheerfully flinging all of it from one end of the kitchen to the other, while O runs in circles around him chanting, "Humpf!" and giggling like a maniac. Both boys are still in their jammies, O's are Buzz Lightyear jams from last year, so they're a little short at the wrists and ankles, while Felix's are red plaid flannel and brand new, so they're more on the baggy side.

Now that you know where I stand, anyone got any ideas? Topics they'd care to hear my $0.02 on? Scintillating secrets they'd like revealed? Leave an idea in the comments. I love ideas.

As an added incentive to help me, from now until 9PM EST, I'm going to add $0.25 per idea comment (One per individual, and please no spamming. Those just get deleted and make me sad.) to Felix's annual holiday donation to Heifer International. This year, I've chosen the Eastern Uganda Umbrella Project. I know there are at least 15 regular daily readers (thank you,, so that's almost $4. If the total gets up to $20, I'll have to stop there, but that's 80 comments, and I'm not expecting that kind of turnout... It might not sound like much, but we're not wealthy people, and every dollar helps.

Inspire, me intertubes.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trading Up

Even babies have car envy.

I took Felix and O to the local tot lot before school the other day, and, for the first time, got Felix on a ride-on car. He was great at self-stabilizing, and even got so far as to push himself a few inches forwards and backwards. He was rocking the car he had, while O wheeled around, Fred Flintstone style, in the Li'l Tykes car nearby.

However, as soon as O abandoned the LT car for another activity, Felix leaned so far off the side of his car that I had to help him down to the ground. He then scooted right over to the bigger, fancier, two door model.

And it escalated as the day went on. When we got back to the house, O took a spin in his reproduction antique pedal fire truck. Not to be outdone, Felix threw himself towards it, pointing and straining out of my arms, yelling, "Dat!"

Finally, he has found his Rolls Royce.

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Monday, November 10, 2008


Felix hosted his very first birthday party on Saturday. There was a cake sort of shaped like a monkey.
He got really into the frosting smearing aspect of cake eating.

He invited his grandparents and his Uncle Tracy and the Boss kids and many other favorite people. Everyone helped him open presents.

A good time was had by all, I hope. Especially Felix, who, due to the mild weather and amount of frosting on his clothes, went mostly nude for a good portion of the festivities. When he finally put on a new shirt to cover his naked belly, he was in fine form to show off his new remote! Bonus, it even has a car!

He ended the party like a trooper.
His parents ended the evening in front of TV on the DVR, Chinese take-out menu in hand.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

When Your Carrot Cake Collapses

I meant to post today about Felix's first birthday party. You know, all those pictures of the baby all covered in chocolate frosting, and up his ears in wrapping paper. I still plan to, but today I want to tell the story of my cousin's carrot cake, and how it ended up looking like this:
Half eaten, in a bowl.

I offered to make a cake for my cousin's bridal shower, not really taking into consideration the fact that Felix's birthday was the day before, and obviously, I was going to want to make him a cake too.

A month or so ago, I asked my cousin what kind of cake she wanted. She answered carrot. I said, "Okay!" I baked the cakes a few weeks ago and stowed them in the freezer. This morning, I whipped up the cream cheese frosting, defrosted the cakes, and sliced them for layering. I was merrily stacking, filling and crumb coating the cake when disaster struck!

Half the cake sheared off! It just collapsed.

I shimmed it with extra cake, reinforced it with skewers, and refrigerated it to try to stem the weeping frosting and slumping cake slabs. Alas, the cake was doomed.

Like any overextended mom, I lost my mind. I called my mother, who was also co-hosting the shower, and burst into tears. She's a cool cucumber, my mom, and just offered to pick up something from a local store. She told me to take a deep breath, a shower, and to get myself to the party.

I hung up the phone, and headed upstairs for that shower. I turned around, though, when I realized that I could just up end the cake into a trifle bowl, pack in the remaining cake and frosting, and make the top pretty. Voila! Carrot cake trifle! Voila! Happy cousin!

Upon reflection, I think the structural collapse had to do with the soft, moist consistency of my carrot cake recipe, the thin layers, and the lack of structural integrity inherent in cream cheese frosting, even when it's a 1:2 ratio of butter to cream cheese and made with an Italian meringue base. I will adjust my methods next time. I leave you with this image of my lovely cousin, resplendent in her ribbon and bow finery, pretending to throw the "bouquet."

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cop Out Post

I am flat out. My legs hurt, my feet are sore, I'm tired, the kitchen's a mess. I promised I'd post daily, and by gum, I will.

I didn't promise to always be interesting, though. Did I?

I'll upload the pics from the boy's birthday party soon. That should be fun, right?

Enough. Sleep tight.


Friday, November 07, 2008

The Decemberists. 11.6.08. Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA

You may have had to be there last night.

I've never been at a concert where the whole crowd stood and sang and hope was palpable. The feeling reminded me of the last night at summer camp, when you're already nostalgic for what you haven't yet left behind, and you know that you're poised between past and future. You love everyone in that moment. Add that to the current political climate and you have a victory celebrated in song. I'm not often given to that kind of rally mentality (or at least I haven't been in a long time), but I have to say, my heart was full. This was, perhaps, the finest encore I've ever heard.

Adapted from Sons & Daughters, by The Decemberists

When we arrive, Sons & Daughters,
we'll make our homes on the water.
We'll build our walls with aluminum;
we'll fill our mouths with cinnamon now

These currents pull us 'cross the border.
Steady your boats, Arms to shoulder,
'till tides will pull our hull aground,
making this cold harbour now home.

Take up your arms, Sons & Daughters!
We will arise from the bunkers!
By land, by sea, by dirigible
We'll leave our tracks untraceable, now.

When we arrive, Sons & Daughters,
we'll make our homes on the water.
We'll build our walls with aluminum;
we'll fill our mouths with cinnamon now

Hear all the bombs fade away ...

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Ellipticals Come to Those Who Take Up Their Own Cause!

There are a million ways to spin the idea that if you are bold, the universe rewards you. I like to think that the universe rewards courageous acts, but how you define courage is as personal as religion or politics.

Well, I have been courageous in my small way. I have decided to love myself again.

What in blue blazes does all this have to do with elliptical trainers, you ask?

When I was younger and single, before mortgages and the price of heating oil going through the roof, and too stupid to notice I wasn't getting enough sleep, I would haul my cookies off to Mike's Gym in Medford at least three mornings a week for a 5:15 session on an elliptical trainer. I love them! Easy on my knees and ankles, challenging, and effective! I tones up fast and lost a fair amount of weight. I stayed motivated for years on that thing. Sometimes I would even hit the elliptical for an extra 45 minutes after my Sunday yoga class.

Then, gradually, job, husband and child, suburban commute and finances conspired to rid me of my gym membership, and my will to go to the gym along with it.

Well, yesterday I bought a stability ball, since I like sitting on them, and when used properly they're supposed to be great for your core. I've got a bunch of exercises for it from a book I bought, and I got to thinking, if only I had an elliptical. Then I'd have more motivation to do some cardio, too.

What do you know, Mrs. Boss came home a few nights ago and announced that her new elliptical would be delivered by week's end. With my ball coming, too, I've got the tools right here at the "office." Felix even has a reliable nap schedule, so I know I can get that workout in - a big improvement over the chaos of the last year.

Time to buy a new sports bra, I think!


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Back to Dutchess County

For the last five or six years, Mom and I have been going to the Vermont Hand Crafters' Association Show in Burlington, Vermont. Last year, we ended up skipping it due to the fact that I had a three week old Felix in tow. This year, we decided to check out a new venue.

Having thoroughly enjoyed our genealogical research trip to greater Poughkeepsie in August, Felix, Mom and I decided to return to Dutchess County and go to Crafts at Rhinebeck last month. Once again, we packed up the stroller, backpack, portacrib, and enough luggage to sink a ship and headed out!

Having scouted out the area just a few weeks ago, we were well prepared for our trip, and arrived at the Fairgrounds in time to have a tailgate picnic before heading in. This fair is a family oriented one, and so there were animals to pet and observe, hayrides, and lots of kids. Felix was super well behaved, and loved the hayride, even if he did sit on the floor of the wagon and watch the ground pass by below him.

He also enjoyed watching the kangaroo at the animal exhibit. Not only did she have a joey in her packet, which several people actually saw, but she, like Felix, is afficianado of bouncing!

After the fair, we drove north along the Hudson, to a tiny village called Tivoli. We had a yummy dinner at Santa Fe before heading out for our hotel in Kingston, directions in hand. More than an hour later, we arrived at our destination. It should have taken us 15 minutes, but Google was very wrong. Luckily, we called the hotel and the night clerk knew the area well enough to get us back on track.

We had a solid night's sleep, a good breakfast, a swim in the hotel's pool, and were back on the road. Our big stop for the day was Old Chatham Shepherding Company. We saw four day old lambs, bought some cheese and had a picnic. Then, home again, home again.

All told, it was fun, but Vermont has a better craft fair. We'll probably go back to Vermont next year, and maybe leave Felix home with Dada....

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Great Pumpkin

Apparently, a few autumns ago, my father in law kicked over the Halloween pumpkins from his front stoop, and neither he nor my mother in law got around to dealing with the resulting mess before the snow fell. By spring, the composting pumpkins had sowed themselves into the front yard. By this fall, they'd become a full fledged pumpkin patch, complete with at least four smallish pumpkins.

On of these pumpkins was the perfect size for Felix to have for Halloween. We didn't carve it this year, but it has proudly sat on our front steps all month. Back around Labor Day, Felix pulled a Linus and checked out the pumpkin patch to see if was a sincere one.

If you ask me, it doesn't get more sincere that this.

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The Stuff of History

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

First, may I say congratulations on your victory, as well as that of the Democratic party. I'm proud to have been even a small part of it.

Now, I have a few things to ask. While there is no doubt that your election to the presidency is the stuff of history, please remember, in the coming years, that you are a servant of your constituency, not the history books. Make me proud that I cast a vote for an intelligent, compassionate, progressive leader. Strive to redefine the term elite through your example.

I believe that the elite should lead. Not the affluent, the pandering, the grasping, the jaded, but the true elite. The educated, articulate, visionary people of this country. Please remember, that is how so many people think of you. Keep your agendas focused on your people.

There is so much work to be done. Remember your promises to those of us who work hard, struggle to keep a roof over our heads, stay on the right side of the law, and try to raise our children to become the next generation of educated, articulate, visionary leaders - regardless of party, race, or religion. Stay close to the ideas of unity and moderation. Do what you can to repair the flaws in our society, not bandage them. You have our futures in your hands. Treat them with the respect they deserve.

That will truly be the stuff of history.

With hope and cautious optimism,


Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Bright and early, La Famille MoMP headed out to the polls. I try to avoid politics for the most part on this here blog, but I'm big on voting - for whomever floats your boat.

It was 6:40 when we got to our precinct polling location, Keefe Technical High School in Framingham. By my rough estimate, we were between the 60th and 75th people in line. Promptly at 7AM the polls opened and by 7:05 we were on our way to our cars. It was delicious in its efficiency.

Felix was well behaved, traffic was light, and I was in to work totally on time.

Praticipation in the democratic process? Check!


Sirens and Monsters

Mister O continues to amaze me with his particular brand of imaginative play. And now he's begun to really be an influence on Felix.

O is really into rescue workers, especially their vehicles. This is nothing out of the ordinary for a preschooler in the city, but O shows a special affinity for sirens. He's also a gifted intuitive mimic. That blend means that we play ambulance and firetruck. A. Lot.

This is how the firetruck game goes: we're walking down the sidewalk. I'm pushing Felix in the stroller, O is walking along with us, and says, "Can we pay fietruck?"

I say, "Sure," and away we go. O stops, lets us pass him by a few feet, then starts up a very realistic siren wail (known to occasionally make strangers turn around to look for the oncoming rescue vehicle) followed by a low throaty, "Hawnk hawnk!" He sounds like a pack-a-day goose. My job is say, "Better move over, there's a firetruck coming!" and pull the stroller over to the right while he passes us and runs ahead a few paces. Rinse and repeat.

Lately, I've noticed that when O is with us, Felix will kick up a decent rendition of O's siren. It's pretty funny listening to the two of them siren away as we're walking the terribly civilized streets of Beacon Hill.

One of his other noise specialties is his roar. He's not into dinosaurs or lions or bears particularly, so I've dubbed it Monster Noise. What's funny is that my yet to be verbal son now does a perfect monster roar.

He saves his best roars for Dada, and O, of course.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Comment Moderation is On

Cause I'm up on again. And we all remember what happened the last time...

How did I get there? It's an intertubes mystery. I am, however, looking forward to relative anonymity again...

So, friends and loyal readers (all 15 of you), hang in there. Free for all commenting will be back when I feel safe again.


Candy! Candy! Candy!

My little ghoulies are funny about food. They are also funny about treats. They don't like cake, but they do like frosting. They don't like brownies, or cookies for the most part. They like vanilla and cookie dough ice cream, and lemon sorbet, but few other flavors. They like Hershey Bars and Skittles, but not Reese's or Snickers...

Hallowe'en becomes a minefield for me. The kids all collect their candy, then sit down afterwards and have a trading session that blends Wall Street ferocity and UN diplomacy into a sugar crash inducing summit. What's left at the end, is a bag for each child containing their favorite candy, and a bowl of discards for the adults to eat. Only, the "discards" are peanut butter cups and Snickers and Milk Duds galore!


So, for my part, I must set some limits and remember that a Snickers bar doesn't necessarily make me feel better, even when it feels like it does.

As to the ghoulies, for these first few days following Trick or Treat, they can have their candy with reasonably tempered abandon, and then, as the bloom comes off the rose, we'll ration it out more and more.

What do you know? Moderation....

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Project Me

Like my pal, Fibby, I've been in a project-y mood this weekend. I've got a few boring household ones, but one of the larger, more revelatory ones is spending a little of my resources on me.

When I got pregnant at the beginning of 2007 I turned inward. My social life slowed down, I was nesting with Mark and the dogs, feathering the nursery, talking to my unborn son. Then he arrived, and bang! I was Mama. My identity sort of got swallowed up in a riptide of hormones and breastfeeding and sleep-learning and exhaustion. Not exactly post partum depression, more like like post partum identity loss.

I've put on some unwelcome pounds, and I started to feel sorry for myself. Yikes!

Suddenly, I found myself feeling lonely and unattractive. I found myself grumpy and irritable. I found myself watching reruns of daytime reality shows like Clean House and What Not to Wear. And like a great big cliche, I saw the light.

I needed to embrace who I am right now, take care of myself a little, and start liking my life. Because really, I have a solid, happy marriage, a healthy son, a home, a job, friends who might still love me if I ever called them....

That said, where does a girl start? Well, for me, it's the material things. Don't judge. I know me pretty well, and I know that I need to feel pretty before I can get down to the hard work. So, I shopped. Judiciously, with coupons and gift cards and free shipping deals. And this weekend, I rebuilt my wardrobe with pretty clothes that fit the me that's here, not the me before Felix, or when I was skinny six years ago or when I was on my honeymoon, or whatever. Just. Me. Now.

I bought red high heeled shoes, and a mock croc bag. I bought a sparkly necklace. And some new unmentionables... Today, I went to run errands in a cashmere sweater, a skirt and cute shoes. With a little mascara and lip gloss on. And you know what? I felt good. Good enough that I fought the urge to buy bad snacky foods. Good enough to stand up straight and smile at people, not just hide behind the carriage full of groceries and baby.

So, Project Me is definitely under way!

Now that I'm moving along on that front, though, there's laundry and dishes and cooking that needs to get done...

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Pirate's Eve

Last night, Mark came into Beacon Hill to celebrate Hallowe'en with all my ghoulies at work. The Boss family decided on a piratical theme this year, and as an unofficial family member, Felix chose to join them. Big Brother J was Captain Jack Sparrow, Miss E was what I like to call a pir-ette, and Owen went more the Erroll Flynn direction. Felix was their cabin boy. The group was a rather fetching sight!

I've said it before on this blog: Beacon Hill's best night is Halloween. The neighbors trade their tweed for witch's hats. Doors are thrown open. Candy is given with abandon. Last night was no exception. I can only imagine the chocolate that will be waiting for me on Monday, even after the weekend's gluttony.

There is a house on Chestnut Street with its own garden, and they always do a fantastic haunted yard. I tried to capture it on film, but the limitations of my point and shoot are painfully obvious.

My little pirate's favorite parts of the evening were his lightstick and the fact that his Dada came to Boston, as evidenced by these photos. All Mama got was crying and a lightstick up her nose...

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