You can go home again, part I

So here I find myself, in improbably rainy Los Angeles, and so far so good. Mostly what I've experienced thus far is traffic (surprise!), the inside of a dear friend's cozy house, and a quick trip to the bank and to my favorite L.A. cooking emporium, Surfa's. (Tellicherry peppercorns? Not so easy to find in small town New York, believe it or not. Ditto, curry leaves.) None of this has provoked any of the anxiety I was anxious about having before we left yesterday; in fact, the whole trip west was so smooth (despite the six hour and forty minute flight time) that I am slightly concerned about what lies ahead (which just goes to show you how insane I truly am, in that the slightest bit of good fortune precipitates the presumption that immense pain and suffering must lie dead ahead.

But until the doom arrives, I can continue to enjoy a city that I always thought looked better when wet (witness the number of wet-down streets you'll notice in just about every film ever made) and that does, in fact, seem less crowded and cleaner than my memory of it. I'm sure this is the rosy view of a visitor, and in fact, my overwhelming feeling thus far is that I really like visiting L.A.; I just don't really want to live here. So all good.

Now I am gearing up for tomorrow's big festivities, a skating (yes, ice skating, in L.A.) party with a bunch of families and their nearest and dearest all hurtling around a Pasadena rink while enjoying hot pretzels and cocoa. And in the moments before and after, I hope to steal some quality time with a few more near and dear ones, including family members still slightly miffed at us for taking the two most precious children in the world to the frozen northeast.


Better Google search culminating in a visit to my blog....

"where pigs live and what they eat."

I cannot make this stuff up, which is why I am not a striking screenwriter.

It's all about the H

First of all, I'm pretty sure he might have created this under an assumed name:

And second, he was nominated yesterday for an Independent Spirit award (like the Oscars, but lower rent and arguably more fun) for A Mighty Heart. Props to my darling husband! If you feel like shelling out $95, you too can join Film Independent, and vote for him. Imagine if the Oscars worked like that!


It's time for flannel sheets

Baby, it's cold outside. 28 degrees as I type this, colder in the wind, and yes, I know that's not really cold. I grew up in Chicago, after all. The H has requested flannel sheets, which is saying something, considering that he's the king of thread count. Meanwhile, a few brief notes, which I'll try to expound upon tomorrow:

1) WWYD is my new motto; Y is short for the name of my dear friend Yael, with whom I stayed in Vermont; she and her husband are truly the two neatest (as in tidy, not as in cool, though they are that, too) people either the H or I have ever encountered, and I have been inspired by her example (maybe following so closely on the heels of the Swiss experience?) Anyway, I am trying to turn over a neat and organized new leaf. (I know, I know; I'm always trying to turn over that leaf. I can dream.)

2) Heritage small farm turkeys really do taste better. A lot better. More on the turkey(s) of this holiday weekend, their modes of preparation and ensuing deliciosity later.

3) I go to back to LA for a quick visit in three days. I'm a little freaked out about it.

Off to sleep, if a screaming small child will allow it.



The Snowy Day, part 2

Best google search culminating in a visit to my blog

Last Wednesday: "end of life brown vomit." Okey dokey then.


Our expedition to Vermont, and our holiday with our friends, were both beyond expectations. We relaxed, the kids played, my friend and I cooked together all day Thursday and the meal, which I had no hand in planning, was divine. Our friends, a college friend of mine, architect turned movie producer, her husband, an IT genius who manages systems for a major investment bank, and their six year old son are some of the kindest people we know. She and I have known each other for around twenty years, so there aren't too many surprises for us, just the comfort of a constantly renewing and deepening friendship. The husbands, on the other hand, have met only a few times over the years, and though they have liked each other very much , you never know, I find, how men will or will not connect with one another--or maybe this is just my man. In any case, they quickly discovered a shared interest in the Japanese game go; this kept them occupied in every free moment--they were like teenage lovers stealing away from the adults (in this case, the wives) in order to make out.


Wish I could have been there....

This is too, too good.


The Snowy Day

Do you remember that wonderful Ezra Jack Keats book, The Snowy Day?

We had a little bit of that wonderment today with our first real winter storm. When we woke, there was a dusting of snow on the ground, and it was beginning to rain. Warm enough, we thought as we readied for the day, that the drive to school would be uneventful, if a little slick. By the time we all piled into the car (both kids had school today, and it was "Family Sharing" day at Dido's, which meant that we had to both be in the classroom at 10:30, so we decided to drop them both off, grab breakfast in Lenox, and then go to school, rather than doing the drive twice in one morning) the flakes were falling again, the kind of wet, large flakes that sound almost like hail when they hit your car. Our driveway was white, the road was white on top of icy wet, and we felt our first slight skidding shudder as we headed down the hill that is our road.

The H has only driven in snow maybe four times in his life, two of them in the last year (once here, when he arrived in April, the other in a big storm in Mammoth, CA with our friends last winter) and he doesn't like it so much. Plus I think he spends the whole time he's driving in bad weather thinking about how much scarier it would be if I were the one behind the wheel (he puts little faith in my driving ability in dry, sunny weather, so combination of me, snow and automobile gives him fits.) He was grumpy and white knuckled by the time we hit the "highway" that takes us out of NY state and into Massachusetts, and the two cars we saw slide off the road did little to improve his mood.

In Massachusetts, the snow seemed heavier and thicker than in our little town, and there was nary a plow to be seen. The trip that usually takes 30 minutes took almost an hour, and it was scary. If it hadn't been the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break, we probably would have turned around and just called it a family snow day. But we pushed through, breakfasted at (not nearly as good as I remember it from my New Hampshire high school days) Friendly's, and showed up for Dido's big day, which was lovely. After fetching the Babe, we all headed home to play in the snow (them) and work on taxes, mail and other fun (me.)

We ended the day with a field trip to pick up our locally raised, heirloom breed turkey from a beautiful farm about 30 miles away, in the south part of the county. (My friend over at The Town Tart used to live in this part of the county, and if I'm not mistaken, on my travels today, I may even have driven by the biker bar she used to own. Maybe she'll stop by and let us know for sure.) In any case, our beautiful bird will not be eaten on Thursday as planned; we accepted a last minute invitation to visit friends in Vermont for the holiday, and I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled even though the only thing I'm expected to prepare (and it's already done--I made it tonight) is cranberry sauce. This represents something of a change for me, and my attitude about my favorite of all holidays, and I'm still puzzling over the metamorphosis.

I've posted before about my Thanksgiving mania ( really--it's a disease- see here and here, and here), a truly unattractive need to be in total control of the food and festivities, to the exclusion of good spirits or good manners. I've been a real bitch about it in the past. This year, I could care less. We were supposed to have family visiting here for the holiday, but an ugly falling out, as yet unrepaired, has kept them from coming to us. I'm really, really sad about that, and for the last couple of weeks, until we planned to go away, I was anxious about the holiday, worried, I think, about the four of us sitting forlornly at home, trying to be festive.

Thanksgiving also has a history, for the H and me, of consistently being a rare day of raucous, explosive, f*** you fighting; he has a sour mien most Thanksgivings that culminates in no fun at all...but as he keeps remarking, delighted and surprised, he doesn't feel pressured and awful this year. He attributes it to not having overdue work (hard to have when you're on a work stoppage) but I think it's beyond that, and I wonder if, for us both, it's a kind of freedom in leaving behind the many profound relationships we had in California. Their many blessings also entail great and welcome responsibility, and although all that responsibility still weighs on us like a warm blanket, there is also a sense of joy and fleeting freedom in throwing it off and running outside into the cold air. Of course, this feeling is only a good one if you know you can then run promptly back inside.

Happy Thanksgiving, all. What will you be doing for the holiday? (This would be a good time for a little quick commenting, a little de-lurking, if you're so inclined, dearest readers.)



The Internet! Too New!

The H, apparently, is so taken with the powers of the blogosphere (who knew?) that he's setting up his own little corner of it. Sorry--family and friends only (but then, most of my readers fall into that category) but I think it's just hilarious. He's using Apple's iWeb software to set up his site, and when I tried to explain why that's not necessarily the best blogging tool (wholly uncustomizable, for one thing) he just looked at me. He's very busy building a couple of pages with adorable pics of the kids--this is what unemployment will do to a man, apparently. Anyway, it's sweet, and oddly flattering, and we'll see how long it last.

Meanwhile, we had our first noticeable snow fall on Saturday--light, lofty flakes coming down when we woke up, and within what seemed like nanoseconds, the kids had pulled on their snowsuits, hats and mittens and run outside. The total accumulation was maybe a quarter of an inch, and it all melted that afternoon, but for fifteen minutes, they were transfixed. It was a magical start to a lovely weekend, and I blame the loveliness (and the general busy-ness) for my absence from the computer. Now it's Monday, the day of bills and paperwork and no fun, and I'm digging in.

Tomorrow, I'll try to be back with something more interesting to say. In the meantime, enjoy a little Jon Stewart.


The Stranger, Part II

I feel the need to quickly explain myself from that last post. Here's the deal--it's different here than in California. Duh, right? But the differences are subtler than I anticipated, and more difficult for me to navigate. I had an assumption (bred, I think, in the unique California culture that I probably need to go immerse myself in Joan Didion to define) that I would easily navigate the social waters of my new home. And, to some extent, I have. I am making great, wonderful friends (many, many of whom, it bears mentioning, are not from around here.) And the prevailing culture is different--not worse, not better, just different--from what I had in L.A. And being away from L.A. lets me see nuances there that I was missing, or blind to, before.

I am, I fear, neither fish nor fowl, a bit of an outsider, which is, truthfully, how I've felt everywhere, my whole life. Maybe we all feel that way.


Stranger in an unstrange land

One thing about trying to post every day is that I definitely feel the pressure to dig a little deeper--for meaning, or theme, or something...--in my daily experiences in order to come up with something more scintillating than, say, the weather, to write about. Sometimes, it doesn't work out. But other times, the muse is on my shoulder. Ah, but I flatter, and get ahead of, myself.

Today, the H and I (and the Babe) took a drive across Massachusetts to visit our nearest Trader Joe's. Anyone who's read this blog for any length of time (or who knows me from my old life) knows how I feel about TJ's. In L.A., I pretty much only shopped there, and the Hollywood Farmer's Market. Here, given that my closest outpost is an hour and fifteen minutes away, it's a little harder to stay so loyal (or stubborn.) But with a bare cupboard and an attempt at strike-induced economy, the trip made sense. (Let's just say that the flour tortillas my kids live on are half the price--half!--there than at our closest market; pasta is a quarter of the price. In the Prius, the trip makes sense, at least economically.)

After our mega-shop to stock up for winter (the most money I have ever spent at TJ's, and that's saying something) we headed a little further east, to Amherst, to have lunch at a Chinese restaurant that Gourmet magazine highlighted as one of the country's best farm-to-table dining experiences. Amherst Chinese was good, if not fantastic; certainly the best Chinese food we've had since we moved here, but we're spoiled, coming from L.A., which is probably the best place outside of Asia to eat Chinese. Nevertheless, we had good scallion pancakes, which made us both sigh with contentment, and the sauces on the other dishes didn't taste like corn syrup, unlike the faux-nese we've eaten here. We were happy.

Neither the H nor I had ever been to Amherst before, and the town is charming, centered on a long rectangle of a village green, with restaurants, bookstores, inns and so on all around. A pretty picture-perfect New England small town, and we were both sorry we didn't have more time to explore (we had to book back to Lenox to pick Dido up at school.) As we were heading out, the H made a comment (as he often has, since our move) about me feeling at home, feeling that here, I'm among "my people" (his words.) I've been thinking about this lately, about whether or not I am truly at home in the northeast, if I really identify more strongly with the culture here than in California, which I still (somewhat secretly) think of as home.

What I realized, pondering this during our drive back, and tonight as I was putting the kids to bed, is that during our months of slow extrication from Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time justifying our decision (to move) to myself (as well as, no doubt, everyone else.) That justification took the shape of a critical view of what I posited as the predominant culture in L.A.--celeb & money centric, possibly shallow, narcissistic. Not my friends, mind you, none of whom deserve a molecule of those labels, but the world around them and us. And, to a large extent, I think that's true. But having been away now for six months, I can also see (highlighted, standing out in relief against the new culture in which I am immersed) the positive elements of Los Angeles that I ignored (or, perhaps, truly could not see) in my desire to leave. Parents in L.A. are rabid about educating their kids. They immerse themselves in their children's school communities and donate unbelievable amounts of time and money to improve those communities. People are open and welcoming.

[to be continued...and none of the positives about L.A. should be construed as absent here in my brave new world...just different; I'll elaborate when I finish...]


Back to the source

Trouble in my dear Mieke's life prompted me to go back to the beginnings of her blog, to the very first entry. I had no memory of it, though I read it probably the same day it was written, almost four years ago. What I found made me unspeakably sad; if you catch up on her current entries, you'll understand why. That's her story, and not mine to tell, but as I have before, I encourage you to send kind thoughts her way. She needs them.

As I've written recently, Mieke's enthusiasm for her blog encouraged me to start mine, which began here. For reasons I don't remember, I started it on Salon, back when they had a blogging section, and there I discovered my first blogging friend, Alyssa (who doesn't blog anymore, which bums me out, but I love her anyway.) My beginnings were not so inspired, but hopefully, my writing has gotten more interesting over time.

When I go back to read some of my past entries, I'm struck by a few changes--I used to post a lot more about politics, and I used to post a lot more recipes. I haven't done either of those in a long while, and I think I need to get back on the diet of KOS and White House Briefing and Raw Story that fed a lot of that energetic outrage. When Bush got reelected, I kind of gave up--I think a lot of liberals feel the same. With an election on the horizon, I am trying to find it in me to try again, the way I tried in 2004, to contribute to the discourse (at least in my tiny corner of the world) and to effect some change. I have not yet decided who I support among the Democrats, so maybe it's time to really delve in, stake a position, and get to work.

As for the cooking, well...I started my food blog at the beginning of the summer to track my cooking-from-the-CSA-box adventures, and that adventure quickly--uh, burned out. I may try again, because I enjoyed it, and got great feedback from those who read it. I am hoping, at some point, to do some more formal food writing, as I ease back into trying to actually work for a living. In the meantime, you might have to endure some food posts here every once in a while...

Back in the present tense...things are getting much, much better for me. After a rough time, I am feeling much more myself and on top of things. And we've even had a respite from the cold--it's a balmy 46 degrees here as I write this. Ah, New England.


Nearly six weeks until winter

And it's 24 degrees outside. What in the world was I thinking?


Flexible Flier

Here in the northeast, it's starting to get cold. As I type this, the temperature outside is 30 degrees F, and headed south. My joints are not sure they're really ready for this return to winter, and they're even more uncertain after spending the afternoon watching scary human tricks, aka Chinese acrobats, none older than 20 I am sure, all flexible and strong beyond belief. Rather than making me feel the exalted possiblities of the human form, though, watching them today made me wince--repeatedly. Something of a shift, I think, from seeing their abilities as superhuman potential and instead, as indicators of my own looming frailty?


These are the good old days

Or, they were, when the Lovely Swiss helped put my kids to bed and clean up the kitchen after dinner. Alas, she has left us, high and dry, but I learned one thing from her: tis a greater glory to completely clean your kitchen at night than to leave it for the morning. Our neighbors came to dinner tonight, for Cuban roast pork and frijoles a la Edith, and my kitchen is spotless. I am only slightly red-wined, and off to bed. The day was hard but ended well, and that feels like an accomplishment.


Pink is the antidote to blue

It should come as no surprise that someone who has bothered before to post about pink nail polish would amuse herself by painting her daughter's fingers and toes pink in the name of passing time, amusing said daughter, and elevating her own mood.

It worked, for both of us.

For those who might be concerned, this is not the formaldehyde-laden polish we all know, love and fear. It's Aquarella, supposedly less harmful.

The moral of the story

Never quote really depressing songs on your blog, or, do, if you want lots of friends to send you worried emails. Thanks to you all; I love you and although I am not fine, I am ok, if that makes any sense at all.

Meanwhile, the Babe is busy "writing" a note to her daddy, possibly all over the new mattress in our guestroom. When I said I had to send Daddy a note, I meant an email, and when she said "I want to write a note, too!"--she also meant email. When I handed her pen and paper she looked at me like I was a total moron. "No. A NOTE. On the caputer. With the email button."


The Blue of Blue

The blue of blue
Is mostly grey
Ain't no silver line
No brighter day
Last of the coming up
Didn't come my way
Looks like I'm down here to stay...

Not mine. Nicholas Holmes and Carly Simon

Rough day. Nothing to do but quote sad songs.


And another thing...

Folks keep asking me about the Writers Guild strike. For the best information on what is really going on, visit journalist Nikki Finke's site, Deadline Hollywood. The mainstream press and the Hollywood trade papers (Variety and Hollywood Reporter) have not been reporting accurately about the issues that motivated the Guild's decision to strike.

And yes, it's incredibly stressful, and I am in good company hoping that it will be resolved swiftly and equitably. Lots of people's livelihoods depend upon the business of Hollywood staying in business.

Welcome, Husband

We interrupt our regularly scheduled post to alert the seven regular readers of this blog that indeed, the earth has spun on its axis. The H actually read my blog today, and dare I say it, I heard him laughing. He also mentioned that it's a little depressing and that he's not sure he comes off so well. I say to you all, there's nothing I say about him here that I wouldn't say to his face--only the timing might differ a bit. So bid my striking spouse welcome, and share my awe that he finally paid attention. (I jest--but only a little.)


Day 5 of NaBloPoMo

So it's only my 4th post. It's still a hell of a lot more frequent than I usually manage, and no snide remarks, please, about regularity. Not in the mood.

No progress to speak of on the au pair front, though thanks to Sitemeter, I discovered that the Czech Flake does seem to check my blog obsessively. "Of course she does," said my best buddy. "She wants to see if you're writing about her." Ok, there you go. Now stop coming by. I'm done; there's nothing here for you.

Meanwhile, I am interviewing about a million 20 somethings by email and growing increasingly zen about the whole thing. B today noticed that I was in a "really good mood" (which just shows you how dark it must have been around here the last few weeks) in spite of it all. I realized that the really good mood was occasioned not simply by my giving up chilling out about the au pair drama, but by my husband performing the hated afternoon drive to pick up the kids...I had a whole afternoon to sort piles of old bills in my so-called office. You cannot imagine the joy, as I contemplated actual filing (remember the Freedom Filer post?) instead of shamed hurling of unopened envelopes into stylish fabric storage bins. Now if I could only get my tax info pulled together found, all would be right with the world.


Family circus

Yes, that is the circus train, going through our closest little town. It was impossibly long, and seeing it was one of the highlights of an otherwise pretty tense week.

We told Dido tonight that B is leaving. He cried, he sulked, he hid, he acted out and I wanted to die. Ok, not really; that's melodramatic (see where he gets it?) But it was awful...I think it drove home for her that her departure is going to have a big impact on all of us, which I guess I was sort of horribly glad about, but I felt sad for her, too. No one wants to make a six year old boy cry. She didn't know (I hadn't told her yet; I didn't want to complicate her departure plans, which I knew she had already made based on the supposed arrival date of the girl I will forever think of as the Czech flake) that the Czech had, uh, flaked. As for the Babe, who has finally, I think, started to accept B (she's liked her the whole time she's been torturing her, as only a two year old can do) she was sad for about a nanosecond and then start gabbing away on her horrible new purple Barbie cell phone.

Have I mentioned that I think our (fifteen year old) dog might be on his way out, too?

Oh, and right, the writers' strike starts in, what, six hours?

Good times.


More errors than comedy

First off, let's just acknowledge that the Nablopomo pledge has already been broken. I am going to choose to view this as taking the pressure off, rather than as some kind of highest order character failing.

Now that that's out of the way...

A few more fun things. As I wrote the other day, our lovely au pair decided a week or two ago that au pair work is really not for her; she'd rather be on a beach in the Dominican Republic. (If there are any mothers of two year olds out there who wouldn't rather be on a beach on the Dominican Republic, please let me know. I'd like some of whatever you're taking. In other words, her decision is entirely sane and understandable, if a bit solipsistic and inconveniently after-the-fact.)

I spent the next weekend emailing prospective au pairs. One, a Danish girl, was really interested, couldn't wait to talk to me, but was in transition leaving her former family. She'd call me, she really would. She disappeared for two days. No one else responded to my emails. Finally, the Dane emailed me proposing a phone interview the next day. We set a time. Two hours later, she emailed again to say sorry, no thanks, she'd taken another au pair job with a different family. Ok....

In relatively short order, I found and interviewed a Czech girl who was already in the States, au pair-ing for another family, but unhappy in her situation and wanting to move. We had a nice conversation, she seemed smart and good with kids and cheerful and entirely committed to being an au pair--this last was important to me, given the experience with B. The H and I discussed it, agreed to give it another shot, and I told her we wanted her to come here. In short order, she agreed. After much buck-passing, travel arranging began. This all happened on Hallowe'en and the day after. Then, yesterday afternoon, I received a terse email from the Czech--she'd changed her mind. She was going home to her parents. Oh, so when I asked her, repeatedly, if she really wanted to do this, and she said, repeatedly, yes, yes yes--that must have just been a passing feeling. I see. Ok.

At what point in life do people actually start to consider commitments they've made to others? My dear friend, who came from north of Boston for the night yesterday (along with her delightful daughter) and I agreed that the magic age of responsibility might be 27. I think that's about when it kicked in for me.

If I believed in destiny, which I don't think I do, I might say that I am, clearly, not meant to have an au pair. The H keeps telling me that now that he's going to be on strike, he'll have more time to help me with running our lives. Stay tuned...



In addition to the arrival of the first two eggs, we've had three more, for a grand total of five. Mind you, I have eleven hens, and they're supposed to lay around five eggs, per bird, per week. I'm just assuming that I have a hen or two who is precocious, maybe even slightly slutty, and that the others are late bloomers.

I scrambled a couple of the eggs for the kids' breakfast yesterday--the first one had a double yolk, and as everyone had predicted, it was sunflower yellow. I didn't try any (though I plan to) but the aroma was incredibly rich and, yes, eggy. The H and tend to like our eggs poached, so that may be on the weekend breakfast agenda, especially since I acquired these seemingly ridiculous but incredibly handy tools. If you prefer to support small, local businesses instead of corporate behemoth culinaria conglomerates, I bought mine here.

As to other events, a few worth noting are first, Halloween, which yesterday, duh, was. My kids' costumes are self-explanatory, but of note was our first localish 'ween celebration, the town parade in Lenox, MA. Two fire engines, the high school band in a flatbed truck, and a bunch of costumed kids and parents marching up Main Street. It doesn't get much more fantasy-American than that. If only there were a way to have the kids eat great local candy, like a particular brand of local fudge (Fiddle Fern) which is so unbelievably good that I have been pining for it like Proust without his madeleine since I received it as a holiday gift from this illustrious personage about 8 years ago. It is, inconveniently, not available for online purchase, but if you're a fudge freak, email me and maybe I'll get around to sending some out. Meanwhile, we've got big bags of candy crap in the kitchen, and no doubt I'll have sugared-up crazy kids for the next few days until I make the rest of it disappear.