Saturday, July 30, 2011

Goodwill, Indeed ...

Every so often, I pop into my local Goodwill and peruse a few shelves for possible food-styling props.

Yesterday was one such day.

I was in the hunt for a cordial glass. On the first pass, I found shot glasses. I found vodka chillers. I found one cordial but it was too modern in feel. I did find a juice glass that had some age. I didn't want anything new.

I did another pass. Nothing.

I did a third. Voila!

On the way to the register, I checked the aisle of assorted household stuff. Behold, a silver oval tray. Have I mentioned my addiction to silver oval trays?

No?

I have an addiction to silver oval trays.

At the register, the cashier asked if I'd be using any coupons or discounts. (I love that Goodwill even offers coupons or discounts.)

No, I told her.

So she handed me a scratch-off ticket and a pen, to use the cap to scratch off the ticket to see how much I'd save.

Scratch, scratch, scratch: 20%.

And so my total, tax included, for two wee glasses and a small tray?

$1.28.

Best. Prop. Resource. Ever.

I always walk out of there feeling like I should give them extra money, on principle. How do they accomplish good things with totals like $1.28?

Someday, I shall write a check.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Didn't Feel Like Family ...

I had lunch at Olive Garden today.

Yes, really.

And the timing was especially poignant, as just this morning, I wrote to a friend, as part of a discussion of all things ubiquitous and predictable: "Such is the way of the world, m'dear, and the same reason that the parking lot of Olive Garden is always full."

I guess people like knowing what they're going to get.

Now, I will fully cop to having McDonald's on my first trip to London, but that's because I was curious to know if a cheeseburger in London would taste the same as a cheeseburger here. I figured they must, that all suppliers must abide by identical standards, but still, I wanted to taste for myself.

Yup. Exactly the same.

I am happy to report that I skipped McDonald's on my second trip to London. I was far too taken with EAT. Though I did pop into Starbucks. Twice. So sue me.

Anyway, today was an adventure. And I should clarify that the only reason I found myself dining at Olive Garden was because my mom had a gift card to spend.

I hadn't been in about 20 years.

Since the parking lot is always jam-packed, we decided to go first thing, before running another errand. We arrived at 10:57 a.m. People were sitting in their cars.

We waited by the door until someone opened it from inside. Past the airlock, we were greeted by the uniformed horde. It was a bit intimidating, really. Easily a dozen Olive Garden staff, if not more, were standing there, staring at us. It was a little "West Side Story."

We were sent on our way with a server who led us to our table, a booth.

We both ordered ice water, no lemon. (If you're not hip to the lemon scene in restaurants, a) they're almost never washed before they're sliced, and b) once they're sliced, folks just reach in and grab slices to pop into or onto glasses. And I reckon those folks aren't washing their hands first.)

I can say this for Olive Garden: I like the water glasses.

Our server looked as though she might have a skin condition and was wearing a lot of makeup to compensate. Which is not a criticism. People should feel pretty. But her very purple and pink eyeshadow threw me for a momentary loop.

Mom opted for the Venetian Apricot Chicken. I ordered the Grilled Steak & Portobello Panini.

Our server asked if I'd like the soup with the panini or before.

"With her salad," I said, gesturing to mom, forgetting for the moment that I would be having salad, too.

She disappeared and returned with a tray.

I can also say this for Olive Garden: I like that Parmesan cheese comes fresh from a Zyliss grater.

The soup was hot. Too hot, actually. I stirred it a bit while mom helped herself to salad. A woman at the next table spoke, loudly, of a dissected artery.

I looked at my soup. Minestrone. It was pretty bland.

I set the bowl aside and proceeded to salad.

I can also say this for Olive Garden: I like that the salad plates are chilled.

Yup, the salad tasted exactly as I remembered it tasting. And it was just as overdressed as I remembered it, too.

And behold the breadsticks in the plastic faux basket. Mom wondered why there were only three for the two of us. But more arrived later, even after we had said no to the offer of more.

And then there was lunch. Mom's chicken arrived looking not at all like the picture. But then, food never does. Have you ever had a Whopper that looks like the picture at Burger King?

And then there was my panini. It was served on a white rectangular plate. As our server set it down, the halves slid sadly to one side. Rarely has a plate containing food looked so forlorn.

Our server explained that normally, it comes plated with a cup of soup.

But I had wanted my soup first. And so my entree was Little Panini Lost.

My mother was almost pissed. "I'd be embarrassed to serve that to someone," she said. "They could have at least included a garnish."

She made me take some of the asparagus off her plate. I laid a spear between my sandwich halves, diagonally.

"Take another one," she said. So I did. And I almost crossed the second one across the first, to be a bit artful. But that seemed unnecessary.

The forlorn panini was fine. Edible. Remarkable in no way.

Mom left part of her chicken. It wasn't a big serving to begin with, and she had said she was hungry.

"You're not going to finish?" I asked, knowing full well she could.

"I don't think it's real chicken," she said. "It seems processed."

I picked up my knife and fork and cut a piece and tried it.

It was unexpectedly soft.

I tried another bit, from the edge. That had a bit more texture, what you'd expect from a breast of chicken. But still, her point was taken.

Whatever they do to process the chicken, whatever marinade or brine, does leave the chicken rather "meh." Why finish "meh"?

Our server returned to ask if we'd saved room for dessert.

Oh, no, I said. Too many breadsticks.

So she brought us the check.

On the way out, I had to stand aside to let the throng of patrons past who were headed to their tables.

Once we were outside, I turned to mom and said, "Let's never do that again."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Today ...

I feel fractured.

What is wrong with me?, I ask myself, over and over. Why can’t I figure this out?

I know so many people, so many people who have so many nice things to say. I have gobs of experience, of connections, of talent.

How can it all add up to nothing?

I tell myself that I’m not being assertive enough, and perhaps that is my lesson to learn. But I have never been assertive. I am not comfortable talking about myself, selling myself.

And yet, I have. In recent interviews, I have (I believe; geez, I hope) projected self-confidence without lapsing into hubris.

It seemed to work. I connected with those women, first one, then the other, days apart. References were requested, so references were supplied, one of whom had told me that the company in question takes a long time in making its decisions to hire. Patience isn’t my strongest suit, so that was good to know.

Fortunately, I had a legitimate reason to check in with the woman making the hiring decision. To her credit, she replied to my email and took the opportunity to update me on the hiring situation.

Both she and her boss thought I was fantastic, she wrote. They both think I am a fantastic writer.

They were going to pursue other candidates, but they hoped I would still be open to being considered, in the event that those candidates didn’t pan out.

I took that to mean that I was third in line.

And so I replied that I would very much like to stay in consideration and that was true. I believe in the company and the work they do. And I believe I could contribute to the company’s mission in many ways.

Still, in this market, being the third candidate – or a candidate possibly further down the line – doesn’t bode well for one’s chances. How many people do you know these days who are turning down jobs?

Even though I know networking is the most likely way to find a job, I still peruse the job sites every day. Some interesting gigs pop up on Craigslist from time to time, as one did the other day.

I sent off a resume and a link to a blog post as my writing sample, exactly the kind of writing I’d be doing for the would-be client, only the copy they’d need would be much shorter. Shorter copy. Tighter. I can do that.

The woman conducting the interviews responded and mentioned that she would be conducting interviews via Skype.

So I downloaded Skype. And learned a bit about it.

The day of our chat, my hair was very much in the mode of sabotage. Really, hair? The first time I have to do an interview via Skype and now you won’t behave?

Luckily, the woman popped up just in advance of our appointed dicussion time to ask if audio only was OK.

Absolutely. I love audio only. Right now, woman, audio only is my best friend.

So we chatted, and when the discussion came around to how much the gig was paying, I managed to neither choke nor laugh.

Read enough postings on Craigslist and eventually, nothing will surprise you.

She said that she’d be letting people know two days later.

Two days later was four days ago.

I take it I didn’t get the gig.

Frankly, it’s kind of funny. I’ve worked at major metropolitan newspapers. I’ve edited an international best seller. My work has appeared in newspapers and on web sites across North America. And in Asia, come to think of it. Translated.

So was I overqualified or underqualified for the job that would have paid $625?

Some days, it feels interminable, all this. And yet, I know it’s not. I know the day will come when I will look back at this moment and it will be nothing more than a part of my history.

Still, some days, it’s hard to see that day.

Well-meaning family and friends offer advice.

Apply for other jobs, not in your field, they say, helpfully! As if all the people who are looking for jobs who have experience in those fields aren’t going to be considered first?

Go back to school! Get an MBA! I’m sorry, go back to school? You mean, have no income to pay current bills and incur more debt in the form of future bills to get a degree that will allow me to do what exactly?

I know they mean well. I do.

But they don’t understand. They think they do, but they don’t. They can't. They haven't been in this place.

Other friends have assumed the much-appreciated role of cheerleader. Other friends seem to have fallen away. Perhaps they fear ennui is contagious. Perhaps they fear I have an employment pox. Or perhaps I have fallen away from them. These are not my most social days.

I am fully aware that this post is risky business. Will it help me or hinder me in finding a job?

I don’t know. I would hope that any prospective employer who happens across my blog would appreciate my honesty. For today, this is my life. And today, my life feels like a little too much to bear.

Writing is both my release and processor, the filter through which my muddy thoughts pass and hopefully come out more clear.

A way to exhale.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spatial Cadet ...

I am a very visual person.

I have proof.

Some people are very right-brained. Some people are very left-brained. I am both. Which can either be taken as an aspect of me that's fascinating or as further proof that I can't commit to one thing.

Of the two options, I like the former.

I write, and I love to write. And I sing, and I love to sing.

But yesterday, half of my brain said, "Let's create something!"

And the other half, which is my bored-child-on-summer-vacation half, replied, "Yeah, but what?"

And the creative half, the right half, which in the moment was like a tween hopped up on sugar, said, "Paint!"

Paint?

Now, y'all know I love to paint rooms in my house.

But that's not what my brain was saying.

My brain wanted to paint. Like a painter. On a canvas – a large canvas – with brushes and a couple of tubes of color. My brain wanted to create art for over the loveseat in my living room to replace the photograph that my spatial brain recently realized was out of scale. In relation to the loveseat, it's fine. In relation to the whole wall, it's wee.

Well, I didn't go buy a canvas and brushes and paint. And I don't know how I'd paint a large canvas, anyway. On the floor, perhaps. Because I don't own a large easel. (I do own a small easel. Have you ever bought an easel? Damn. Money.) And I figured I'd need something bigger than my car to transport the size canvas I wanted to buy.

So I nixed the painting idea for the day. And I wrote instead.

Now, I do not fancy myself a writer of fiction. I have great respect for those who do, but I do not include myself among them.

Well, I don't. Left-brained Beth doesn't. Right-brained Beth might have other ideas, because a couple of weeks ago, an idea popped into my head and I started writing – typing, clacking – and I liked what came out.

So yesterday, I revisited the bit that I'd written and wrote more. And revised. And read. And you know what? It's pretty good, even by the standards I set for myself. And if a short novel is about 300 pages, well, then, I only have 298 1/2 pages to go.

Still, it left me wanting more. It was creativity, but I didn't crave writing yesterday. I craved creating. With my hands. Painting. Sculpting. (Hello? Beth? You don't sculpt.) Not baking, though dough is an artful medium. It was too hot to bake.

And this morning, the impulse hadn't gone away. I busied my hands. I made my bed. I washed my dishes. But they still want to do something more.

For a while, I stared at the wall above my loveseat, envisioning what I want to see hanging there. I know the predominant color. Very saturated. Odd, for me. I may be leaving beige behind at last. But within the field, I'm not sure. It won't be intricate. We're not talkin' Seurat. It will be more modern, but not this, because, I mean, stop it. It will be more like Pollock before he broke through. I've always loved the mural he created for Peggy Guggenheim.

Mind you, I don't flatter myself. I know I am not a painter, so it is absurd to cite the likes of Seurat and Pollock here.

But I've always created the pictures in my mind. So when my staring at the wall gives way to a vision, that's what I'll paint.

For now, I have my stack of art and design books around me. For now, pictures will do.


Update: I ran an errand, both out of necessity and to get away from staring at the wall. On the way home, my right brain said, "Ooh! Don't you have colored pencils? You can draw something, at least!"

My left brain said, again (perhaps it's a disaffected teenager), "Yeah, but what?"

My right brain said, "A bird!"

A bird?

OK. Whatever. A bird.

So when I got home, I rummaged through my bin of craft stuff that I keep on hand in case any kids drop by or in case my nephews and niece suddenly find themselves young again, and indeed, I had a box of colored pencils, just a few colors, but enough.

And I sat down with my sketchbook and my right brain said, "A silly bird!"

OK. Fine. A silly bird.

So I drew the first little plume. And then I drew a bit more and penciled in a beak – I knew he would be smiling – and added his eye and then my right brain said, "OK, we're done!"

We're done?

My right brain likes his cute little bird face and has no interest in figuring out the rest of his little bird body.

And I wonder why I never finish anything?

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you
Partial-Headed Bird No. 1. To be funny. Because I think artists who number their work are stuffy and because I know full well that there will never be a Partial-Headed Bird No. 2.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hello, Rainier Lovelies ...


I didn't tweak the color even in the slightest. They're just that luminous and gorgeous.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Donna's Birthday ...


Tomorrow, July 20, my friend's Sheila and Jeremy's daughter, Donna, would have turned 6. To honor her memory, we're all going to wear black, not to be solemn, but to celebrate her life. Black was Donna's favorite color. I invite all my friends to join us, and join Donna's Good Things on Facebook, and post pictures of themselves in black.

(Yep, it's gonna be a scorcher in Chicago. Perhaps you'll wear cool black sunglasses. It's the spirit that counts.)

You can read Donna's story and learn of other ways to get involved at donnasgoodthings.org.

Update: Today is Donna's birthday. It warms my heart to see so many people on the Donna's Good Things Facebook page posting pictures of themselves wearing black in her honor. Sheila and Jeremy shared this photo of Donna with me. It is on the desk in my office. Every day, I wish her a good morning and she, in turn, reminds me to choose hope.

Don something black today. Honor Donna. And choose hope.


Monday, July 18, 2011

'How Not to Become Invisible After 40'? Really? ...

I subscribe to my fair share of email blasts from job sites. Some are strictly for job postings. Others are more chatty.

This morning, the headline "How Not to Become Invisible After 40" caught my eye. Mission accomplished there. So I clicked through, and I read this.

I hadn't read something that condescending in a long, long time.

The writer, who helps "people over 40 get their career mojo back," writes, "... one of the top complaints I hear from readers (especially women) is that they seem to have become transparent. Sales clerks look right through them, the opposite sex does not check them out, and even their resumes seem to disappear once it’s clear how old they are. ... [W]hat can you do to make sure you don’t become socially invisible after 40?"

I know, right?!

Here's the writer's advice. [ And my commentary in brackets. ]

1. Expand your group of friends. [ I'm on board with this one. We should all endeavor to know more people, different people. People who hold different political views, religious views, cultural views, what have you. We can all learn from each other. ]

2. Stop wearing your I-Give-Up Clothes. [ No. 1 piece of advice for women on this topic for women: Become friends with Lycra. Lycra? That's your advice, helpful mojo-reclaimer? Lycra? Yes, once you hit 40, your body immediately droops and you can never find properly fitting clothes again. Everything must stretch or you're doomed. ]

3. Innocently flirt. [ How about calling this "Being kind to other people"? When I thank someone for holding the door for me, I'm not flirting. ]

4. Embrace your grown-up-ness. "Remember when you were a kid and people like your school principal, the top teacher, and favorite athletic coach all seem to really have their sh*t together? They had that cool confidence that comes from being a Real Grown Up. You’re that grown-up now. Remember that." [ Yes, I would wager that most people over 40 recognize that they're grown ups. I would also wager that most people just wrote this writer off for using the phrase "really have their shit together." ]

5. Work out with weights. [ Get off your Hoverounds, kids, and hit the gym! Seriously? Seriously?! "Work out with weights"? Yes, our collective over-40 assumed malaise will miraculously lift if we all buy gym memberships or stock up on free weights at home. I'm all for fitness, but if you're feeling invisible, I think your problem is deeper than arm flab. ]

As my friend Carl commented upon reading this, "I agreed wholeheartedly with Point #1. After that, all I heard was 'Pretend you're 28.' That *will* get you noticed, but not in a good way."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Checking In ...

My friend Patti Digh is working on another book. Patti is always working on a book, it seems. She's a book-writing machine, that woman. With a husband and two daughters and an ever-expanding menagerie of pets. But she is a writer. And writers write. And so she does.

Her latest book-in-progress is titled The Geography of Loss and for it, she is asking the question, "For what or for whom do you grieve?"

I read that, and answered, reflexively, "Dave."

And then I realized that that was not true.

I realized that that part of me is healed. I think about him, still. I wish I could pick up the phone. But the grief is gone.

The sadness that trailed me like a shadow after his death has transformed into run-of-the-mill missing. I'll always miss him. I miss him every day. There is so much we would talk about if we could. But grief it's not.

And then I thought about other losses in my life, relatively recent and profound. And I realized that I no longer grieve those either.

There are things in my life I would like to change. Will change. And I know that future grief awaits.

But for the moment, this moment ... and this moment ... and this moment, I am OK.

Makes Beth Happy, July 16 ...

The Makes-Beth-Happy Word of the Day is:

Blurt!
Need I say more?

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipe of the Day is:

Parmesan Toffee Cookies

Oh, that's right, I'm pimping my own recipe, because it's freakin' genius! Parmesan cheese in a cookie, people! You will not believe how good these taste. Until you try them. So get bakin'.


And the Makes-Beth-Happy Objet of the Day is:

Dot Coffee Table

This table is no longer available, so I won't bother with a link (which will just tell you that the table is no longer available). But while its lack of availability makes me sad, the fact that it exists in the world – somewhere – makes me happy.

I'm Holding Out On You ...

I'm in the mood to write. Sometimes, oftentimes, I am not in the mood to write, but sometimes I am in the mood to write and yet I feel as though I have nothing to say.

To wit, right now. I just started a blog post and gave up just a few sentences in because it wasn't real. I was concocting a post, not writing one. Stringing together words that didn't ring true. And if they don't ring true, what's the point in writing them? Writing doesn't count if it's fake. For me, anyway. James Frey might disagree.

Sometimes in my wanting-to-write-but-feeling-as-though-I-have-nothing-to-say moments, I think that my life must just be that uninteresting, that if I were to write about my day or week, I would have nothing but banalities to spew, and who wants to read another person's banalities? Most of us have plenty of our own.

But then another thought appears in my head, as just happened again a moment ago, and that thought is that I have plenty to say, I'm just wary to share it with you.

Why? Oh, you know. There's the fear of being judged. There's always the fear of being judged. Of disappointing. Of incurring an exasperated sigh. There's the sense that I should be further along on any given journey, that everyone else has figured out far more than me, that I must be missing some crucial gene because how can I be so smart yet so stunted?

But then yet another thought appears that says, "Beth, you know enough to know that you're not alone. You're not the only one in this place. You're not the only one to feel this way. And there's comfort in that, for you and for them. You feel relieved when you see yourself in another's words, that moment of 'Exactly! Yes!' So write what you have to write. Offer others that moment."

So here I am.

Well, kind of.

There are many things swirling about these days, many messages, many signs. Nudges, reassurances. The net is there.

It's like those very intricate locks in the movies, many moving parts that must all fit together exactly to open or close. All of those pieces are coming together. Finally. And I feel the need to write it all down. To capture it. To see all of the pieces mesh. It feels too fleeting otherwise. Like it might evaporate or the window will close or the moment will pass and I'll have missed it.

But no. I can't miss it. It's here. I know it's here. I just have to pull it all together and take the next step.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Akbar 'N' Jeff's Cryonics Hut ...

One of the folks I follow on Twitter, @steveweinstein, posted this tweet earlier today: "The good Christian Bachmann Clinic's position on Jews: Pray Away the Oy Vey."

Which made me chuckle. And made me think of Matt Groening's brilliant "Akbar 'n' Jeff's Cryonics Hut" tagline: "Where the Elite Beat the Heat and Avoid Having to Meet St. Pete."

I did a quick search for the 'toon and lo and behold, I did not find it.

So I snapped a snap with my snappy snap camera at a resolution high enough to allow folks to read the whole thing. (Click on the image for the larger version.)

"Yes We Have Party Ice"!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Good Times, July Edition ...


The July cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Parmesan Toffee Cookies. "Wait a minute," you may be saying. "You put Parmesan cheese in a cookie?" Why, yes I did.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chewy Sugar Cookies ...


I like sugar. I like cookies. But sugar cookies have never been my go-to sweet. Given the choice between a sugar cookie and an oatmeal cookie, for instance, I will shove people into the street to get to the oatmeal cookie.

A sugar cookie is one of those baked goods that is so basic, it seems foolproof, right? Au contraire. And I should know. I tried this recipe and ended up with cookies that looked like Today sponges, disturbingly so.

And I tried this recipe and while I was happy to have ended up with cookies that did not look like a form of contraception, I wasn't much inspired to eat them. They were just, you know, flat. (Though Dorie Greenspan is such a baking goddess, she may have intended them to look entirely different. I may have done something wrong.)

But yesterday was National Sugar Cookie Day, so I was moved to try the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Chewy Sugar Cookies. I was rarin' to bake, until I read the recipe and realized that I needed ... cream cheese. Yep, cream cheese for a sugar cookie. So I made a plan to go to the store. But as long as I was going to leave the house, I figured I may as well make a master list of errands and knock 'em all out, which is what I did, which I why I didn't get around to baking the Chewy Sugar Cookies until today.

And I am happy to report that this is a sugar cookie, the epitome of a sugar cookie. Crackly on top, barely crispy at the edge, and chewy in the center as promised by the name.

Chewy Sugar Cookies
(From Cook's Illustrated, November & December 2010)

NOTE: The final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie dough. For the best results, handle the dough as briefly and gently as possible when shaping the cookies. Overworking the dough will result in flatter cookies.

2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces * ) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter **, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large *** rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Place 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogenous dough forms.

3. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use #40 portion scoop). Using hands, roll dough into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.

4. Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

BETH NOTES:

* It really behooves you to weigh ingredients when they're specified by weight. Baking is a precise art, and depending on how you measure flour, for instance, you may end up with more volume or less than called for by the recipe. A digital scale is a good investment for your kitchen if you like to bake. They're not expensive.

** I used salted butter then halved the amount of table salt to 1/4 teaspoon.

*** These cookies spread quite a bit. A half-sheet pan would be ideal on which to bake a dozen. But if you have smaller baking sheets, I'd bake four batches of six cookies each, unless you don't mind your cookies baking into each other.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hello, Lovelies ...


I'm no fan of summer heat, but I sure am a fan of summer fruit.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sunflowers ...

My friends Sheila and Jeremy showed up to my 4th of July shindig with a lovely stash of sunflowers. (They also brought a fun balloon, which their son was reluctant to give up. Hey, I get it. Balloons rock.)

I never think to buy sunflowers, but I shall start, every now and then. They're so sculptural and artful. I feel like I have a bit of van Gogh in a vase.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Seven Things ...

Some months ago, I happened upon this post from Angelo, a collection of seven things we don't – or didn't – know about him. The post was inspired by a meme from another blogger and he decided to play along.

And I'm glad, because otherwise, I would never have learned this: "When I lived with my grandmother in Greece (my parents were working in Germany at the time) I ate a flower from her yard because I thought it was so amazing looking that if I ate it, [its] powers of color [and] beauty would be a part of me. I was 4 and I had an allergic reaction. My tongue, mouth [and] lips swelled up to at least twice their normal size. It also did not taste as good as it looked."

I love that anecdote. The admission of the allergic reaction and the visual it conjures is priceless, but the notion that he ate a flower because he thought its powers of color and beauty would become a part of him perfectly foreshadows the designer he'd become.

I like learning quirky facts about folks. So since I'm sitting here, in the mood to write, and since I haven't posted in a week (lots going on), I thought I'd try to dream up seven things about myself that I haven't already revealed in more than five years of blathering on in this space. Or maybe I'll end up repeating myself.

Either way, seven things. Here we go.

1. I have a scar on the underside of my chin that I earned when I was 4. It was a summer day. One of my cousins and her mom were visiting. My mom gave me and my cousin permission to play in the sprinkler, so I took off running across the neighbor's lawn to tell her. My neighbor was also sprinkling. So the grass was wet. I slipped just as I neared the sidewalk and my chin hit the pavement. After the initial shock wore off, I did a push-up of sorts (most likely the last time I executed a push-up successfully) and saw blood all over the sidewalk. I got up, cupped my hand to my chin and ran to the back door. Since I needed both hands to get the door open at that age, I kicked the door to get my mom's attention instead. My aunt came down the stairs and saw me crying and asked if my cousin had scared me. I pointed, emphatically, at the blood dripping down my arm. She called my mom, my mom took me to the hospital, and I got four stitches in my chin. The doctor asked me if I wanted pink sutures to match my bathing suit. I remember glaring at him. But I did have the presence of mind to ask one of the nurses if they gave out prizes. She said no, but that if I was a good girl, she'd tell my mom to get an ice cream for me on the way home. Which my mom did. My cousin was supposed to spend the night but those plans were nixed so I could rest. My cousin was pissed that she had to go home. The moral of the story: Don't run on wet grass. For that matter, just don't run. Unless chased.

2. The late, great Dale Earnhardt once winked at me, put his arm around me, and called me "darlin'." I had interviewed him for a story and told him that I'd rented a Monte Carlo to drive out to the event where we met. Dale, of course, raced a black Monte. The rental place only had white. He was OK with that.

3. My favorite word is "chicken."

4. Every so often, my brain reminds me of the time I accidentally spilled Diet Pepsi on my Greek literature professor in college and I still feel a little mortified.

5. From an early age, I planned on being a doctor. Clearly, that did not pan out. As a kid, I wasn't sure what kind of doctor I'd be, but I told my grandmother that she could stay at my hospital for free. As a teen heading to college, I wanted to go into oncology research and find the cure for cancer. Make no small plans, eh? As a pre-med student, I got fed up with all the prerequisites I had to slog through before I could get to the relevant classes, and English Teacher Dave suggested that that was the university's way of weeding out the serious students from the not-so-serious students. Smart man, that Dave. But every time I'm in a hospital, I feel like I belong there. As a doctor, not a patient. Maybe I was a doctor in a past life.

6. I haven't held a tennis racquet in years, but I used to have a really strong serve.

7. I have a fear of performing, but I love the view from a stage. After seeing Ciarán in a play on Broadway years ago, some friends and I went up to his dressing room to hang out for a while before going to dinner. We came down the set of stairs on the far side of the stage, far from the stage door. When Ciarán started to walk toward it, I asked him if it was OK for me to walk that way. He looked at me, perplexed, and said, "The door's over there." I explained to him that it didn't seem as though a mere mortal, as it were, should be allowed to walk across a Broadway stage. He smiled and headed that way. And I lagged behind for a moment so that when I hit center stage, I could turn out toward the house. I figured it would be the only time in my life I would have that view.