Saturday, June 30, 2012

Good Times, June Edition ...

The June cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Don Draper Cookies. Because the idea popped into my head. Not every cookie from this point on will relate to a TV show, however. There will be no "House" cookie.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Few Thoughts On Today's Historic Ruling ...

Well, first of all, I'll never bother with CNN again.

Way to botch one of the biggest moments in U.S. history, guys. Ouch.

But after reading the tweet from CNN that the Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, I saw a tweet from AP, saying the individual mandate had been upheld.

On any given day, I trust AP more than CNN. But then Reuters weighed in, and other outlets, too. They may have all been reporting the AP's news, but CNN seemed alone in its reporting. (Aside from FOX News, but you know I don't follow FOX News.)

And from there, Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree, like a Christmas tree Obama was trying to tax, if you watch FOX News.

I was mindful that I could not share the day's news with Dave. He had degrees in political science and journalism. Oh, the discussions we would have had.

The right wing, of course, is losing its collective mind over this. A Breitbarter declared, "This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration."

Really, dude? No exaggeration?

Well, shit! Somebody call Will Smith!

But seriously.

Trust me, FOX News viewers and others on the right who have drunk the Kool-Aid: Today's ruling is a good thing. Health care is a good thing. Tens of thousands of your fellow Americans not dying every year because they don't have health insurance is a good thing. Kids being able to stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 is a good thing. Denying insurance companies the right to deny you coverage because you have a pre-existing condition is a good thing. Forcing insurance companies to spend more of your expensive premiums on actual care is a good thing. Having millions more people paying into the insurance pool, thereby driving down costs is a good thing. Hell, for the happy capitalists among us, sending Big Insurance a huge influx of customers is a good thing.

Romney, of course, is increasing his rhetoric about repealing Obamacare. Never mind that Obamacare was modeled on Romneycare which he instituted when he was the governor of Massachusetts. Then, Mitt "was very pleased" with the individual mandate. Then, Romney encouraged Obama to follow his example. But now, of course, the very same legislation that Republicans have been proposing for ages is suddenly evil. EVIL! "... the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration."

Isn't that fascinating?

When it was their idea, it was model legislation. Under Obama, it's the end of America as we know it.

I think someone's fibbing

In solidarity with Romney, Boehner and Cantor are threatening to repeal ACA.

But they offer nothing – nothing – as an alternative. NOTHING. Unless you count all the parts of Obamacare that they now see that they'd have to keep in place, because - will wonders never cease?! – people like them.

Yes, woe unto the GOP to realize that people like being able to get insurance if they – the crazy kids – need insurance. People like being able to insure their kids until their kids can get insurance of their own. People like being able to go to their mailboxes and retrieve checks from their insurers if insurers don't meet thresholds for how much they spend on actual care.

The White House has done a bad job of messaging on ACA, which is why so many people say they oppose it as legislation, yet when asked if they like specific provisions of the bill, they're quick to answer "Yes."

Knowledge is power, kids.

(By the by, the $235 million that's been spent on ads attacking the law – nearly a quarter of a billion dollars – could have been spent toward its implementation.)

There's a whole lot more to the story, of course. Conservatives feel betrayed by Roberts. They're calling for his impeachment. Louie Gohmert is screaming for the judicial head of Elena Kagan. Sarah Palin is trying to make herself relevant again – of course, that assumes she was ever relevant in the first place – recycling the old "death panel" yarn.

But it really is much ado about nothing. Our president – yes, I know, it pains some of you to acknowledge him thusly – is a Constitutional law scholar. Do you really think he'd make health care the signature achievement of his first term – yup, I said "first"! – if he had any doubt that what he was doing was unconstitutional?

Of course not.

Interestingly, many are positing that Roberts may have ruled as he did because the dissenting opinion on the Court would have struck down ACA in its entirety. Nothing would have survived.

Radical much? Legislating from the bench much? Isn't that what Republicans are always yelling about?

Relax, folks. Remember, too much stress is bad for your health.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shun The Bun, Spanakopita To Go ...

If John were here, he'd want to know.

He liked it when I wrote about food.

I didn't eat breakfast. And I didn't eat lunch. But in my surfing, I saw recipes for Greek nachos – inspired! – and an orzo salad with Kalamata olives and feta, so my brain was thinking Greek the whole way home.

I was famished. Where's a leg of lamb to gnaw on when you need one?

There's a joint that makes a good gyros, but joint is not the proper name. It's a grocery that also serves food. So I steered the car that way. Gyros. And baklava. Because, well, it's baklava.

The woman behind the counter called me "Sweetie": "What can I get you, sweetie?"

Gyros to go, I told her.

She didn't have her gyros spinning. Something about her electricity being bad. The power was on. But whatever. Gyros was out.

But she pointed at her specials list, and my eyes fell on cevaps, which are not Greek but are gyros-like in flavor. I ordered some to go.

"They take about 10 minutes," she said, as if to ask if that was OK.

Yep, that was OK.

I sat down to wait and looked at the specials again and thought I should have gone for souvlaki.

Ah, well. Another time.

While I was waiting, she waited on other customers. She called them "Sweetie," too. They were eyeing the cheese pies on the top of the deli case.

Sweetie Lady told them that she had a tray of spinach pies just about to come out of the oven. Or did she say cheese? I was in a bit of a daze.

They paid for their order and were on their way. And my order was ready, so I stepped up to pay.

"What did you just take out of the oven?" I asked.

"Spinach pies," she said, knowingly. When it comes to spanakopita, I'm an easy mark.

"I need one of those, please. And some baklava."

She wrapped my pie in paper and taped it shut. Tucked it into my to-go bag along with a container of baklava. "For a king ..." she said, of my impending meal.

I handed her the money. "This is breakfast, lunch, and dinner," I said.

She smiled. "I've had those days."

In the car, I unwrapped my happy paper bundle enough to take a bite.

Oh, heaven.

Not-just-because-I-was-starving heaven but perfectly crispy-golden-phyllo-giving-way-to-spinach-and-cheese heaven.

Thankfully, I arrived at a stoplight. I pulled back more paper so I could continue to nosh.

I hit a hunk of melty feta.

"I am so happy," I said to myself, which was good, as it would have been rude to talk with my mouth full with someone else in the car.

The whole thing was gone before I got home. And it was fantastic. I thought about going back for another.

But instead, I tucked into my cevaps and rice and cucumber-tomato-and-onion salad. Well, "tucked" sounds somewhat reserved. I was not reserved. But hey, I used a fork.

Finished, I thought I should probably wait on the baklava. Have it later, when I could enjoy it more.

That idea lasted all of 10 seconds. Oh, it was good. Different than I've had from there before. This one was heavier on the cinnamon. But it was good, as if any combination of phyllo and walnuts and honey could be otherwise?

So now I am sated. Until Sunday, I'd wager.

But next time, gyros for sure.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chippy ...

I was sitting, which I count as one of my great skills, but I was feeling restless, too.

So I decided I needed a task.

And I had some recollection about paint-chip art, so I fetched my bag of paint chips and my circle-cutter punchy thing and started punching, completely clueless as to what I was going to do with all the circles once they were punched.

It probably would have made sense to organize the chips by color and punch in some kind of order, but I punched them into a big pile and then today, I thought I should sort them into some kind of separateness.

This is a quick sort into a few groupings of color. There is plenty of nuance that I didn't bother with here. But it's a start. For now. Until I figure out what to do with them, anyway.

In the meantime, this image makes me happy.

I Hope This Is Middle Age ...

They're happening.

Things I was so sure wouldn't happen to me.

Things that telegraph, with clichéd assuredness, "Kid, you're gettin' old."

"Older!", my mother is interjecting right now, reading this. "You're getting older, not old."

Well, yes, OK, older. Not old.


There was the day I received a senior-citizen's discount, which I laughed off when I saw the receipt and told myself that its presence was more about the clerk wanting me to save a few cents than it was any kind of commentary on my need to better moisturize.

And there was the day I had to move something away from me slightly in order to pull focus. Oh dear.

And there was the day I wondered where I had put my sunglasses before remembering that they were on top of my head. Where they reside for most of the summer.

And there was the day that I won tickets to a 10:30 p.m. show and realized that my days of attending anything at 10:30 p.m. – other than an engagement with my couch or my bed – are over. So over. So, so over.

And then there was this morning, driving, worrying that something was wrong with my vision. Why did it seem splotchy, fuzzy, grey? Cataracts? Already?! Thankfully, no, I realized. The aforementioned sunglasses are just afflicted with a smudgy lens.

And there are other indicators. They are, shall we say, bodily. We don't need to discuss them here.

Gone are the days of leaving my house at 10:30 to meet up with friends to catch a band's set at midnight.

Gone are the days – thankfully – of working until 4 a.m. and then going out until 6.

Gone are the days of remembering, well, anything unless I write it down. I have a lot of surfaces on my home on which to jot notes. Thankfully, I long ago grew out of writing things on my hand. So at least I have that going for me.

But all that said, I'm very fond of this age. Life does indeed begin at 40. It's a cliché because it's true.

I hope this is – give or take – my life's halfway point. I hope I'm fortunate enough to live that long, to make it into my 80s, sassy and well.

Last night I was thinking about the friends I've lost in recent years, one in his 30s, one in his 40s, one in his 50s, sudden, all of their deaths. We never know. I also lost a friend in his 80s, and while his death was sudden, too, in that I didn't have time to get to see him before he died, he had been ill, so while his death was sudden, it wasn't unexpected entirely.

So, as with everything, there are trade-offs. And I will gladly take this newfound sense of self in exchange for the occasional grunt of stiffness when I get up off the couch just as I will gladly do what it takes to focus on what's in front of me in exchange for seeing life more clearly.

Life is not a dress rehearsal, they say, but the first few decades surely do provide their share of opportunities for awkward blocking and botched lines. This phase feels more like opening night than the second act.

And since I've already received my first senior-citizen discount, I'd like to think that I won't be bothered the first time I hear from AARP.

But that remains to be seen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Like A Rainbow ...

One of the things that charms me about Angelo is his inability to illustrate a point with fewer than, say, a dozen images.

He crafted a post once – I cannot find it at the moment, otherwise I'd provide a link – that he illustrated with, if memory serves, 76 images.

Seventy. Six.

Because, you know, apparently 75 wouldn't do.

I understand what it is to be a visual person, but he is a VISUAL person.

This month, though, he's corralled images by color and I have been completely smitten (and just waiting for him to post "Purple" so I could complete the set of links I'd been compiling in a draft) with the expansiveness of the colors he presents, because I really do love color but I don't think about it expansively enough. I'm Muted Color Girl – you'll know me by my olive cape – but these posts are making me ponder color in a new way. I'm not about to paint a room canary yellow, but I have been rather in love with peacock blue for quite some time but haven't yet found the right piece. I'm thinking it needs to be the dominant color in a piece of art in my living room. The quest continues.

But as I was saying, Angelo penned these posts about color, and they're so delightful, I wanted to share. So then, in the order he wrote them:

Friday, June 15, 2012

White Boards, To-Do Lists, And Stickies! Oh My! ...

I have got to get a grip.

Is it a sign of aging that I keep making more and more lists?

Wait. Don't answer that.

But I need to build a better list method.

I have a whiteboard in my office. That's good. I keep longer-term stuff on that surface and take great pleasure in swiping entries off. Though I've never been very good at writing on a vertical surface. How do you teachers do it?

I have a clipboard on which I keep clipped a notepad, like a legal pad but shorter and white, and I like jotting lists on there with a pencil. I'm a big fan of pencils, especially when they're a bit dull. I like the weight of the strokes they make, the softness of the lines, a little blurry, if you will.

I have a stack of sticky notes that has dwindled from its former glory as a cube, but it has served me well for a long time. I've stuck a lot of stickies in a lot of books and gone on to write blog posts that were more ambitious in my head. I ended up passing over a lot of stickies, but the thoughts were important to me at the time.

I have a reporter's notebook that I like for its flippability, forward and back. I jot a lot of stuff in there, but then I clip it – with one of my beloved binder clips – onto the clipboard that contains the notepad, and that seems a bit silly, to jot notes on two different surfaces but keep them together.

I have a sheaf of scratch paper that I reach for whenever I'm at my desk. Each is half of an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet, divided horizontally into a rectangle that I then use vertically for grocery lists, mostly. Those get folded into thirds to stash in my wallet.

I have index cards in my wallet, because Anne Lamott thinks everyone should carry at least one index card and some form of writing implement with themselves wherever they go, and she's right: The index cards have come in handy on many occasions. I keep a running list of books I want to read jotted on colored index cards in my wallet. (My library, turns out, does not contain much of what I want to read.)

See what I mean?!

Who needs to jot down this much information?! And why is it all over the place? I think about getting a notebook and making that my clearinghouse, but knowing me, it would probably become another place for note-taking, not the replacement for all the others.

Maybe it's a female thing. Are women more prone to list-making than men? Do we have more to juggle and need a place to write it all down now, lest we forget it all later?

I have finally learned to jot notes to myself when something pops into my mind. Gone are the days of "Oh, I'll remember that later." I do not. I don't remember the one thing I specifically go into a grocery store for if it's not on my list. The cashiers aren't surprised when they see me walk in a second time. There is something about the act of walking across the parking lot to my car that makes me remember.

How do you keep track of your life?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Meaning Full ...

I just had this thought: "I am the most sentimental person I know." (There was context. It wasn't a random thought.)

But then I had this thought override: "No, you're not, Beth. You're just the weepiest. There's a difference."


Also: Uh oh.

I form attachments to people, that's for sure. Some marvel at my history of friend acquisition. As one once asked, "What is it with you? You meet these people and you become friends with them." He was talking about my "famous" friends.

To which I answered, "I dunno."

And I don't. I just seem to connect with people. Not all people, but a goodly percentage of folks I encounter become friends. Not talk-on-the-phone-every-week friends but meet-up-back-stage-and-go-to-dinner friends, keep-tabs-on-each-other-via-email friends.

Frankly, I credit cookies. They buy a lot of good will.

But the other day, I read this charming post on Leite's Culinaria, my online destination for charming posts (David did not write the aforelinked-to post, but he's a fine, fine writer, too) and I marveled that anyone could write something so engaging about ... a spatula.

Yep, a spatula.

I left a comment for the author, Rick Casner, because we writer types really like it when people take the time to comment on our prose. I wrote:

"What an entertaining read about a spatula! I can relate insofar as I once owned a spatula that had belonged to a great aunt. (She had left everything in her kitchen to me.) My mother loved that spatula. She never explained why, but she commented often about how much she liked to use it. So, one year, for Christmas, I put it in a box, wrapped it up, and gave it to her as a stocking stuffer. She was delighted! 'Where did you find another one?!' she asked. 'It’s mine,' I said. 'Well, now it’s yours.'

Damn if she didn’t nearly cry. I had no great affinity for it, other than its provenance. But mom loved it. Continues to love it. It’s at the front of her utensil crock, within easy reach."

But since then, I've been thinking about whether I have any similar attachment, and I'm coming up empty.

Oh, sure, I had a favorite green sweatshirt, and came to love its replacement almost as much, and I have a favorite coffee mug that's looking rather worse for the wear. (I must return to London to procure another.)

But for as much as I love to bake, I can't think of a favorite baking tool. I'm very fond of my cookies sheets, sure. And I love my brownie pan because it belonged to another of my great aunts. Her husband, one of my great uncles, engraved her name into the bottom of it so she would always be able to identify it if she took it out of the house, if it found itself commingled with other bakeware. And I don't know how anyone gets along in life without a bench scraper.

I have a go-to wooden spoon – my pudding-stirring spoon – but I rarely make pudding. Still, I like the way the end of it has darkened over time. I have one whisk I choose above all other whisks, but that's a function of need, not affinity.

I was finding all of this a bit distressing until my brain suddenly offered up this thought:

My love in the kitchen goes into my food.

Which I'm sure is true for most other cooks as well, but it's OK that I don't have a beloved spatula or measuring cups steeped in meaning.

Maybe the meaning comes later. Maybe, for some, the meaning is outside. Any 8-inch pan wouldn't have been special, but the one my cousins gave to me is meaningful because it belonged to their mom. The momness of it is what matters. Otherwise, a pan is just a pan.

Yes, that is surely true. And I'm welling up now, having written that.

Apparently, I'm somewhat sentimental after all.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Remembered Treasure ...

I bought this so long ago, I have no recollection of when I bought it. I mean, I remember buying it, but I don't remember how long ago. A long time, though. Perhaps before I moved into this house.

But this afternoon, my brain remembered it, remembered that I had stashed it in the linen closet, so I went looking, and yup, there it was, still bubble-wrapped. And well-taped.

I snipped through the tape and unwrapped it. And then noted that it was grimy inside. I presume I had planned to wash it.

So I did that, giving the inside a once-over with a Q-tip, and dried it with a tissue, and smiled, remembering that when I found it, I figured it was once used to hold lipsticks, but I thought I would find test tubes and pop in flowers instead.

I still might. It's not useful for much else. (Is it? Do you have ideas?) But I love the "fancy" ladies and the "That Girl" ladies and its hint of pinkness and its "Made in Italy" stamp.

I try not to buy stuff for buying-stuff's sake, but I couldn't let something so kitschy stay left behind. Even if I did then let it languish in my closet.

But it's freed now.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Plants That Just Happen ...

I live next door to lovely neighbors. Lovely as people – funny, kind, helpful – and lovely as stewards of their land. Their property is stunning. Any time any gardening magazine would like to drop by and photograph any part of their front or back yard, it'll be ready. They are fastidious and meticulous and, unfortunately for them, they live next door to me.

I am not a gardener. I am barely a mower, though I try to keep my grass in check. (It's overdue, but today's the day, neighbors! I promise!)

At the moment, I have an impressive thistle patch growing which, thankfully, they cannot see. (I'm pulling weeds today after I mow the lawn, neighbors! I promise!)

But part of what makes my neighbors so lovely is that they not only have a drop-dead-gorgeous garden, they are also happy to share plants.

Apparently, plants grow, and sometimes, they grow so big that they have to be divided, and then those plants need to go into the ground somewhere, and luckily for me, that somewhere is often here. William wanders over every so often and just plops something into the ground and it grows and looks fabulous, like this hosta:

Spectacular, right?

Thankfully, it requires no assistance from me. It just comes up every year, all showy and variegated and green. I love the color.

My one nod toward gardening when I first moved in was to plant a clematis. I planted it behind my garage, where my lovely neighbors can sometimes glimpse it, depending on where they are in their yard.

It, too, just happens every year, and when it comes to color combinations, it's hard to beat purple and green:

So, thank you, neighbors, for being so wonderful. And thank you, plants, for being so pretty despite any assistance from me.

I want to do better. I do. If someone could just take care of the heat and the humidity and bugs, I'll happily while away hours in the garden. I'll even wear a floppy hat.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Friday, June 01, 2012

Lovely ...

Much to the consternation of some, Mom has an impressive streak to her name: If she's at an event – banquet, wedding, what have you – and there's a centerpiece to be won, she wins it.

Which happened again yesterday. So she shared it with me. It was a grey, damp, drizzly day. My doorbell rang. And when I opened the door, I saw these:

I had just thrown out my listless alstroemeria. Perfect timing! Thanks, Mom!