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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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Election Musings

Unless you've been harvesting the Moon's organic crops in the last 24 hours, you've heard that my home state elected a previously little known state level politician, a Repulican, to the seat held for so very long by our beloved Ted Kennedy. This morning, my Faceplace feed was full of hatred and vitriol from many, many who are looking at this race from outside the state. They wail and rail at all of us "Massholes" (a term which certainly applies to our city driving techniques, but it's like calling someone's sister an idiot because you've heard them do it. It's ok to call one's own sister an idiot, but you're offended when someone else does it) for "destroying" health care and civil rights by electing this man. Well, I'm an educated, socially liberal woman who votes in MA and though undeclared, aligns herself with the Democrats at every opportunity. Sure, I'm concerned that perhaps my state has made the wrong choice, but I understand why it happened.

I'm sorry indeed that Democrats from out of state have lumped the entire population of this state together as architects of evil because of the approximately 1.2 million voters who expressed disappointment in the current agenda. Perhaps they should be angry with the more than 1.5 million voters who didn't turn out at all. Perhaps they also need to understand that voters in MA had an opportunity to make a statement about the direction of the Democratic party, and they did. You might not like it, you might not approve, but you should recognize that it means the need to re-energize the Democratic party, and rethink some of the agenda.

Perhaps Brown will block the current health care bill. I'm philosophically a Democrat, and I'm ok with that. We desperately need health care reform, we don't necessarily need this health care bill. On most other matters, he will be the most junior gentleman on the Senate, and he will be up for election again at the end of Senator Kennedy's original term in 2012. He needs to stay open to the voices of all MA voters if he wants to hold his seat. I think that will keep him moderate. I don't think he's single-handedly going to change existing policies or create legislation that will drive us backward on a social or civil level.

Here's what I'm asking the Democratic party to do: start listening to all of us, even the moderates, embrace some fiscal responsibility, and keep on pushing for civil rights and equality. Give me a candidate that really inspires me. Give me someone I can identify with. Give me someone I'm psyched to elect, not just someone I feel the need to elect in order to protect a party designation.

I'd like to remind everyone that we in MA passed same sex marriage first, and that, for what it's worth, (and where I'm sitting, it's not entirely comfortable) we passed mandatory health insurance legislation more than a year ago. We still have a senior Senator who's a Democrat.

And for those of you who will hate on Scott Brown for his 80's Cosmo spread, remember that we Democrats would be appalled if people criticized a woman who had modeled in her past and now wanted a political career. It's so irrelevant. Also remember that we loved Teddy, but he had a checkered past, too.

Now stop hating me on Faceplace because of where I live, and use your outrage for all of our good. I'll be back with renovation updates, recipes, and the usual drivel tomorrow.


Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK Day at Our House

In honor of the fact that it's cold and wintry-mixish outside, I'm making Moroccan Chicken Stew in my slow cooker.

I'm also listening to Felix and Mark banter in the other room. Felix just told Mark that he was "a clam guy," and Mark responded that he was "a little clam boy" and then om-nom-nomed him to squeals of delight. They're funny, my boy and his Dad.

My Mystery Project is moving along, and I'm occupied with high school alumni stuff and the seemingly never-ending job search. I'm also writing some romance fiction, and somewhere down the line, I'll be looking for draft readers. Let me know if you want in on the reading...

I hope the long weekend is treating you all well, and if you're visiting here from O! Canada or somewhere else exotic, I hope it's not one of those Mondays...


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Say Goodbye, Say Anything

I've had this movie poster since senior year of college. It hung in our common room that year. (I lived in an apartment style dorm suite. Very nice.) I framed it when I moved into my first apartment, and it's been with me ever since. It actually hung in our powder room here at the house until we demolished it in favor of a pantry.

At that point it got stowed in a storage area, where it's been for some months.

I'm abnormally fond of it, and today, I agreed to let it go. I took it out of the cheap frame with the chipped glass, and rolled it up. And then, I just couldn't do it. It's rolled up, gently secured with a rubber band, and I just can't let it go.

It's a movie poster from a college poster sale.

Let it go.

And yet.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

115 Days

Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm still working on that project of mine. I had some trouble getting motivated to start, but I think I've got a plan. I'm well into it now, and it seems doable.

Thanks for keeping me accountable, simply by reading.


Another Complete Room: Downstairs Bath/Laundry

This room has been 95% done for quite a while now, just awaiting a few last punch list items, and a chunk of time for Mark to make up the cabinet door fronts. Older posts pertaining to the bathroom can be found here, here, and here. Just to bring everyone up to speed:

This is the space when we first saw the house. That closet over there on the right had vinyl floors and the washer/dryer hookups. What looks like a white wall on the left is actually a 2' square pillar around the chimney that sat awkwardly in the crook of this L-shaped room. We will not discuss the awful emerald green carpet.

Here is approximately the same shot today. We've taken down and put up some walls to reconfigure the space. Now the bathroom occupies the closet and adjacent area, and a wall divides everything to the left into a small office/library (whose door you see here), and the wall facing the camera encloses the office and makes a front parlor/entryway of sorts.

And now, a short video tour of the new bathroom:

It's very exciting, after living with a house in transition for so long, to finally have so much of the space not only livable, but the way we dreamed of it when we bought this sad, neglected house.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Organic Celeriac from the Moon

I was involved in a thread over at Faceplace earlier today in which I was dared, in "Julie & Julia" style, to cook all of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and blog about it. I replied that I
d be cheating, as I already use the book as a jumping off place when I buy soemthing that I'm either not familiar with, or haven't played with before. My choice of example was "ooh, organic celeriac from the Moon" is on sale at "Whole Paycheck." I was joking. They don't grow celeriac on the Moon; they're only doing microgreens and chanterelles up there so far.

It got me thinking, though, about the shift in grocery shopping ideologies, once from local markets and grocers to big box chain supermarkets, and now away from big box chains and back towards farmers markets and so-called "good" chains like Whole Foods. Now, I'm never going to bad mouth farmer's markets. I think they're great, and maybe we should all be locavores for a year, and see how we do.

It's Whole Foods I take exception to. In many ways, they're great. They have a wide selection of pantry staples, and a wonderfully varied supply of specialty foods. If it's olives, cheese, fancy chocolate, artisan bread, gluten free baking supplies, or hard to find produce, they're my go-to location. The other day, though, I went in to get a pomegranate, three Meyer lemons, three Bosc pears, and whole star anise, and I picked up some eggs, frozen fish, and paprika while I was there. The produce, while labeled organic, was brought in from California and South America. So, we saved the planet a little by growing the pesticide free product, and then destroyed it a little by shipping said product several thousand miles, largely by fossil fuel.

I am trying, but I know I'm far from living green. I recycle, I compost, we avoid heavy pesticides whenever we can here at home. I shy away from chronic use of chemical cleaners, which is not to say I don't use them. I'm judicious in my application. I own an old car, which is fuel efficient and large enough to cart most of what needs carting, without taking up half the highway. Contrarily, I also like to eat clementines from sunshiny locales, and fish from the pacific northwest. I enjoy my green beans from a freezer pack when I can't go buy them at a farm. I've reconciled myself to this.

What really bugged me about my recent trip to Whole Foods was the woman in front of me. She was chatting with someone - friend, acquaintance, total stranger - about how she had recently decided to abstain from commercial grocery stores, and shop exclusively at Whole Foods and, of course, the CSA in season, because shopping there was better for her "carbon footprint."

First off, Whole Foods is a commercial grocery store. It's a national chain, for cripes sake! It's one with a conscience, yes, but one nonetheless. Secondly, my point about trading organic for heavily traveled. Third, changing stores for that reason shows good intentions, but also lack of through-thought. What if you are driving 10-15 miles to buy heavily traveled organic produce, when you could drive - or walk! - one mile and buy the same heavily traveled organic produce at Stop & Shop, or Shaw's, or Hannaford's? What good are you really doing? You're pumping 9-11 miles of exhaust into the atmosphere.

Whole Foods is a brilliant business. They have crafted themselves into a marketing juggernaut that deludes people too lazy to be informed about why they make their choices into thinking they're affecting real change in the world by simply switching grocery stores. They are also a good business model. By all accounts, they promote the right causes and suppliers, they treat people fairly, and their stores are often a pleasure to shop in. All I'm saying is, be careful how much importance you place on where you shop, and give some serious thought to how you shop.


Monday, January 11, 2010

The Family Room: Five Year Evolution

Inspired by the awesomeness over at Orion Victorian, I'm going to show you all the most recent update to the house. This project actually happened over five weeks in October and early November of last year, just in time for Felix's birthday.

This is what it looked liked when we first looked at it. It was far more turquoise in real life. ::shudder::

Here it is, poorly lit, with all the furniture heaped in the middle, after I repainted, which was the first thing *I* tackled in the house. By this time, Mark had already gutted the adjacent dining room, and rebuilt the floor joists.

This is what it looked like for most of the interim. Mark put in new laminate flooring, and we covered the icky brown vinyl windows with reed shades. We occasionally "stage" the room with "friends." It makes our claims of a social life seem plausible.

Flash forward four and a half years, and it's empty again, stripped of window trim, and awaiting its fate.

Exterior shot. Look, Ma, no insulation under the siding!

And the walls come down...

One new wall up, one old wall down.

Windows in, trimmed, and drywalled.

Present day, renovated and checked off the list!

I'm thinking about doing a five year retrospective in April when we celebrate the anniversary of the closing. What do you think?


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Birthday Cake & Surplus Frosting

I had a commission this weekend to do a birthday cake for a friend's mother. She turned 60, and my friend and his family threw her a surprise party. This is apparently, the year of 60th birthday cakes. Anyway, I was told cake for 20 or so, the Smitten Kitchen Best Birthday Cake, and mocha frosting. It was also mentioned that she likes lilacs, so I riffed a little on that, but in a modern, elegant, feminine-without-being-girlish kind of way.

Then I found myself with tons of extra mocha frosting. Boo hoo, poor me!
What to do with two cups of spare mocha frosting? (Besides sitting down with a spoon and a Colin Firth movie?) Bake chocolate cupcakes!
Ta da!


Friday, January 08, 2010

Orion Victorian! Go Check It Out!

I have, from time to time, posted about Mark's progress on the house. Various projects are underway, but nothing that's finished enough for a post (save one, but that's for another day). Over our five years here, I've developed a healthy appreciation for real life home remodeling (as opposed to the foolishness you see on This Old House, or anything on HGTV or DIY). It doesn't hurt that I married an exceptionally talented carpenter/general contractor...

But for today, I turn your eyes towards a friend of mine, and her new home adventure in Michigan.

She's wonderful, they're adorable, and I can't wait to see the soon-to-be three of them settle into and make their mark on their new home!

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Crock Pot Pasta Sauce

Everyone and their Uncle Larry (I don't actually have an Uncle Larry, but you know what I mean) has a recipe for pasta sauce, right? In these economically downturned times, isn't it necessary? The upcharge on the jarred stuff is outrageous! Now, I shop at BJ's for most of the ingredients, so I'm saving a little extra buying bulk, but I think you'll see my point. Never mind the satisfaction you get from being able to control the flavor and quality of the ingredients. Just think, no preservatives, no added sugars!

Amateur cost analysis:
1 24 oz. jar of pasta sauce with meat: $2.69 for basic Ragu/Newman's Own to $7.69 jar for the pricey stuff, like Rao's, or $0.11 - $0.32 per oz.

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes:$1.20
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes $0.85
1 6 oz. can tomato paste: $0.50
1 4 oz. can mushroom stems and pieces. $0.85
1 bayleaf: $0.05
@ 1T. each of dried parsley, oregano, and basil: $0.30
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste: $0.02
1 T. olive oil: $0.10
1 medium onion:$0.33
2-4 cloves garlic:$0.05
Optional Ingredients:
1 pound 90% lean ground beef, from BJ's, bought in bulk and stored in 1 pound packets: $2.49
@ 1/2 c. red wine (I go for whatever might be open, or a drinkable, cheap bottle like Charles Shaw Cab) $0.50

Total: $7.24 ($4.25 without the meat and booze) for @66 oz., divided into 2 24 oz. containers and frozen for future use, with @18 oz. to use for tonight. That's $0.06 - $0.11 per oz.

So, it's the same cost as the cheap stuff, and infinitely tastier.

Here's my recipe, such as it is. Enjoy, and save some $, while you're at it.

You will need: a slow cooker/crock pot*, a wooden spoon, a small silicone/rubber spatula, a skillet, a cutting board, and a knife.

Get the crock pot all plugged in, and empty all the canned goods (scrape all the tomatoey goodness out with the spatula), along with about a half cup of water, or more to make a thinner sauce. Add the spices into the crock pot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Put on the lid, turn it on (High or Low, depending on time), and leave it.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in the skillet over medium high heat, dice up the onion and garlic, and toss the ground beef into the hot pan, cooking it and breaking it up as you go. When the meat has almost no pink left, add the onions and garlic, and cook until most of the juices are gone from the pan. Pour in the wine, give it a stir, scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook off the booze for a few minutes.

Add this pan of deliciousness to the brewing crock pot, stir it all up, put the lid back on, and walk away until you've cooked up your pasta. I'd advise an 1-4 hours on high, or 4 to 8 or 10 hours on low (You might need a smidge more water for longer times, but not necessarily. My crock pot doesn't lose a lot of moisture.).

*If you don't have a crock pot, you can do it in a dutch oven, or large sauce/soup pan, just keep the heat below medium low, and proceed as above, watching for moisture loss and burning as it simmers. Cooking time is only one to three hours on a stovetop.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Plus Size Pet Peeve

Wait just a second while I drag out my soapbox.... Ok, here it is.

I won't bother tapping the microphone.

Based on some Googling informal internet research, I have learned that, like myself, somewhere between %50 and %55 of American women wear a size 14 or larger. That's a lot of us. I grant you, I'd love to work my way down out of this demographic, but that's another post. Even when I was at an ideal weight and in fighting shape, I was still between a 12 and a 16 depending on where I shopped, so even if I drop all my excess weight, I might still need a plus size from time to time.

Nevertheless, here I am a plus size shopper, and I am looking for clothes. I buy a lot of clothes at Old Navy - fits my budget, carries cute plus size clothes; how can I go wrong? I can't, but they did.

They used to carry a selection of plus sized clothes in the retail stores, which are plentiful in my densely populated corner of the world. Yay! Then, suddenly, no more. According to one painfully rude employee, not enough people need those sizes, so corporate yanked them. Okay, so I'll shop online... And, lo! Free shipping deals abound, and in-store returns. Next best thing, I guess... Until they stopped allowing in-store returns. Ugh. But wait! Free return shipping on items that can't be returned to a store. I can live with that. As of this past summer, that policy has gone out the window, too. Now, not only does Old Navy not carry plus sizes in the stores, they don't allow in-store returns on internet only sales, and charge me for the return shipping. Basically, I'm being penalized for not being a certain weight/shape. It's discrimination, and it pisses me off. Mind you, they're not the only ones. I'm just citing them as an example.

Never mind the sneaky practice that many retailers use, where they charge $2-$10 more for clothes larger than a size 16. Their argument is that it requires more fabric to create these clothes, so they have to upcharge. I counter with this: why do you not offer tiny women a discount? There is a far larger discrepancy in fabric between a size 2 and a size 14, than between a size 14 and a size. 18, and yet, when you make that jump, there's the bigger price tag. So, if my plus size jeans cost $5 more than the regular sizes, then charge the size 2, 4 and 6 girls $5 less for theirs.

Just a thought while I search for better retail practices elsewhere...


Saturday, January 02, 2010

127 Days

I have a project.

I don't want to reveal too much here, but I have a project with a projected deadline of 127 days from today. I hope to be able to say, periodically, as I go along, that I am working diligently on my project, and that the results are coming along.

Wish me luck, internets!


Friday, January 01, 2010

Crap. I Already Have One! Happy New Year!

Mark and I watched Julie and Julia this afternoon (I ushered in the New Year in my jammies and the Greatest. Robe. Ever.), and I watched it thinking, as I thought two years ago when I read the book, I should write a blog.

The title was my next thought. Both times.


But, lo! I do have a blog, and what readership remains. I don't have a consistent theme. I don't have a lot of intelligent things to share, but I do often have things to say, and this past year, I've let them slide in favor of facebook updates. Succinct, but not always as satisfying.

So, here's to more blogging in Twenty-Ten. Happy New Year, Everyone!