Friday, March 27, 2015

Makes Beth Happy, March 27 ...

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

Romper!
No explanation needed, right?

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipes of the Day are:

Pine Nut and Feta Cheese Ball
Oh, hello! Pine nuts and feta?! I'll skip the fennel seeds, thankyouverymuch, but otherwise, I'm in!

Sweet Potato Biscuits
Once upon a time, I only liked sweet potato fries or chips, but I've since become a convert to all things sweet potato, and these look delightful. I want to add ham and cheese.

Walnut Galette with Bourbon-Vanilla Custard Sauce
Come on, now. Warm, sticky, walnutty, vanilla, bourbon-y, custard-y goodness?!

I couldn't pick just one recipe this time. Happily, they stack up as an appetizer, a main-course accompaniment (or a main course, if you use them for sandwiches), and a dessert!

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

Wood + Brass Lounge Box
This would make a handsome spot to stash remotes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spumoni! ...

This morning, on Pinterest, I spied a pin for spumoni pound cake!

I clicked through to the recipe and turned my nose up at the first two ingredients: two boxes of yellow cake mix and a box of instant vanilla pudding mix.

Yes, I am a baking snob. I own that. But pound cake is a lovely, simple dessert. It deserves better than the bastardization of cake mix and instant vanilla pudding.

So my brain moved on from the cakeification of spumoni but my love of spumoni remains.

I love the word. It makes me happy. Spumoni!

In the States, National Spumoni Day is August 21. But in Canada – which is basically the United States with better health care – National Spumoni Day is November 13.

Which is my birthday. I really should have been having spumoni every year after dinner. Birthday dinner is always lasagna, because my mom makes the best lasagna on the planet. This past year, we added layered salad to the menu along with tiramisu, for an all-layered dinner. But spumoni could slot in for tiramisu. It's a layered dessert, too. In its traditional form, at least. Or, hell, I could have spumoni and tiramisu.

Ooh, yes, please!

Though I don't need it to be neatly layered and cut into slices. I'm perfectly happy with it scooped out of a cardboard bucket and plopped in a little metal dish, the way it appears in divey Italian joints.

Oh, spumoni ... . If only it were warmer today ... .

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Am My Mother's Daughter ...

I laughed out loud when I saw this image* on one of the blogs to which I subscribe.

My mom has taught me many, many things over the years. But one of the most frequent refrains that I hear her say in my head is "Who wants to dust all that?"

This table would give her hives. Or angina. Or both.

Thank you for teaching me practicality, Mom. Sorry the weekly housecleaning habit didn't stick.

* Click on the image to see a larger view. Note the absence of a glass top on that table. Honestly, can you imagine anyone trying to clean that thing?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Farewell ...

Once upon a time – coming up on three years ago – I wrote "Farewell, Son Of Woobie about my second-most beloved green sweatshirt.

Today, I am writing about my third.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day – not that I'm much of an observer – I decided to don my hooded sage-green sweatshirt over my olive-green long-sleeve T-shirt (whew, hyphens!) and double up on green.

And as I put my left arm through the left sleeve, I put my left arm through my left sleeve. At a point at which my arm should not have appeared.

Whoops.

I looked in the mirror and told myself that perhaps I would keep him, for his hood, which I put up when I shovel snow because I don't own a hat.

But no. Instead, I shall buy another hooded sweatshirt before the need for a hood once again arises. This guy has given me many, many, many years of comfort. I bought him at an Orvis store in Vermont on a trip so long ago, I can't even remember the year.

Thank you, green hooded sweatshirt. May you find Woobie and his son.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Enduring Love Affair ...

As the day wore on Friday, I pondered dinner.

I was 99 percent sure that I wanted carbonara. I had a package of bacon in the freezer. I had a hunk of Parmesan in the cheese drawer. And I had some number of eggs.

What I did not have was pasta.

And any desire to go to the store.

I pondered pastaless carbonara but thought the better of a bowlful of bacon coated in eggy cheese, as I don't have a cardiologist programmed into speed dial.

The procrastination continued, long enough for me to realize that I could already be eating carbonara if I'd gone to the store when the thought first came into my mind.

And that was a sad, sad realization. So I grabbed my wallet and my keys and headed off to the store.

Back home, I put water on to boil. I popped the package of bacon into the microwave to bring it to a sliceable state. And I grated Parmesan cheese.

And then I took a picture of it, because the sheer ridiculousness of the volume made me laugh.

And then I wrote a tweet and posted the picture, because of course I did:


I sliced the bacon, meaty and gorgeous, and plopped it into a big frying pan on the stove into which I had added a splash of water. It took me decades to learn to fry bacon in a bit of water, but oh, what a revelation! It never seizes into carbonized Chiclets. It remains perfectly chewy. Not even chewy, really. Just perfect.

And I cooked the pasta – I went with linguine because I like the heft and texture of it – and I cracked eggs one by one into a dish and then added them one by one into a large bowl and then I tossed in two absurdly large handfuls of grated Parmesan and zipped it all together with a fork. And then I added more Parmesan because of course I did.

And then I drained the bacon on some paper towels and drained the pasta in two batches with a sieve because I was too lazy to grab a colander which I wouldn't feel like washing later and I dumped the bacon and the pasta into the bowl of eggs and cheese and tossed it all together and heaped a serving onto a plate and hit the top of it with more cheese and then a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper for good measure.

And then I ate it.

And thought of this:


Indeed.

I Gave The Post Office Another Chance ...

... and it delivered a Priority 2-Day package in ...

TWO DAYS!

Yay, post office! I knew you could do it!

This time, I used an official Priority box from the post office. I wonder if that makes a difference. It shouldn't, but if that's what it takes to get 'em to provide the selected and purchased service, so be it. I can make gift decisions based on what will fit in the available boxes.

As I was shipping said package, I mentioned my previous problems to the clerk. She was a bit defensive initially but softened as I explained all that had gone wrong. By the end of our transaction, she apologized for the delay. Which was nice of her, given that she probably wasn't responsible for mucking up the previous works, but as an agent of the post office, it was nice of her.

So, my relationship with the post office is back on slightly more stable ground.

For now.

Then again, I don't have anything to ship in the near future.

I may or may not want to take the gamble the next time.

Perhaps a shipment with UPS is still in order, to see how well that goes. Or not, as the case may be.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ten Years Ago Today ...

... I wrote this:

Jeff Phillips (www.postnuclearart.com -- brilliant photography, check it out) is the reason I am here. I've batted around the idea of a blog for a couple of years, but never got off my ass (or, as I am sitting at my desk typing this, gotten *on* my ass) to do anything about it. Until this very moment. But I believe that everything happens in its time, so for whatever cosmic reason, today is the day that I lend my voice to the millions of others in this parallel universe.
I can't wait to see what happens.
Here we go ...


Jeff's site is now http://jeffphillips.me/.

Everything else has changed.

But of course it has. Doesn't everything? By definition, this second is not like the second that came just before it. In this second, everything has already changed again. Time is funny that way.

The tag line I drafted for this blog is "As a writer and singer, I am finding my way through words."

That remains true. In addition to prattling on for 10 years in this space – some days and weeks and months and years were more prattle-filled than others – I've written articles for clients, web copy for clients, myriad other projects for clients, and an ebook for myself.

It was quite a revelation, silly as revelations go. But never before had I created something (with help from a lovely designer friend; thanks again, Marcus!) and launched it into the world.

And people bought it!

Not a ton of people, mind you. But it is out there, in the world, in perpetuity, so that others may.

(And I have a little plan brewing on that front, too. I am hopeful that my next royalty payment from Amazon is heftier.)

Huh.

Fun!

As for singing, well, my engineer friend Brian and I never did complete his plan to record an album's worth of songs, but we got close. And I've found a new studio nearby where I hope to get back to recording in the very near future.

But on the singing front, I've also taken voice classes and – GASP! – performed ... IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.

My voice teacher, Gwen, passed away recently. She was too young and the story is very sad and I shall miss taking a class with her again (I was looking into doing just when I came across the news that she had passed away) but she helped me establish a good foundation. It was in her living room that I first sang into a mic for the first time. She was plainly frustrated with me on many occasions but she stuck with me, helped to coax me out of myself. And for that, I am very grateful.

This blog has been a chronicle of a lot of my life, which I know baffles at least one fried of mine (because she has told me), but writing is my therapy. And many are the instances I have had when I have read something online and said "YES!" in relief that someone else has thought a similar thought or felt a similar fear and I find great comfort in that.

So I share. If passersby glean a bit of commiseration or validation or some other -tion from something I've written, then my efforts are even more worthwhile than they are simply to me.

I've written about my very dear friend Dave in the immediate aftermath of learning of his death and that post was used as one of the eulogies at his memorial service, which was was of the honors of my life.

I've written about my very dear friend Charles who also died far too soon and that post has connected with many people who knew him. One of his daughters has become a friend and she once told me that she's probably read that post 100 times. Someone posted this comment:

I was with Charles on that fateful vacation. I still think of him often as well. Thus, the search of his name on Google and finding this blog.

Your writing brought him back.
Thanks.


"Your writing brought him back."

That is one of the most breathtaking sentences I have ever read.

That sentence would make 10 years of blogging worth it if I found it worthwhile for no other reason.

But of course, that is not the case.

I have connected with amazing people through this blog. Some have become dear friends.

And what better outcome than that could there be?

Blogging has never been a living for me. I've never included ads. I've never sought sponsors.

This has always simply been a place to share.

My posts have become less frequent but I like knowing that this page is here, that I can return to it whenever inspiration strikes.

Odds are good that I will not write a "Twenty Years Ago Today ..." post, but then again, who knows?

I never thought I'd end up writing about 10.

Let's see what the future holds.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Donna Day 2015 ...

This image of Donna sits on my desk. I see her every day. The words "Choose hope" appear below her.

And that is what this post is about.

Donna died on October 19, 2009. She was four.

She may no longer be present but she is still very much with us.

So, so many of us.

I never met Donna, as Sheila (Donna's mama) and I – friends in high school – reconnected just a month before Donna died.

But she was a pebble dropped in a still, endless pond, and the ripples continue to radiate, year after year after year.

Her extraordinary parents, Sheila and Jeremy, parent her now by sharing her story. Sheila wrote Donna's Cancer Story and touched the world. Sheila and Jeremy tell Donna's story and help raise funds for Lurie Children's Hospital each year as part of the Eric & Kathy Radiothon.

And every year, they host a St. Baldrick's event, too.

As of this moment, the total funds raised for Donna's Good Things, the organization created by her parents, stands at $290,634.

After this year's event, on March 28, that total should swell well beyond $300,000.

Especially if folks like you contribute.

Bafflingly, childhood cancer research is woefully underfunded. Frankly, it's infuriatingly underfunded.

Consider these statistics:


Kids deserve far, far, far better research and care.

I encourage you to read Donna's Cancer Story. Meet Donna. Marvel at her intelligence and humor and truly indomitable spirit. She will inspire you as she's inspired so many of us.

Read about childhood cancer and the important work St. Baldrick's performs.

And then, please, contribute to this extraordinary cause.

Choose hope. Every day.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Farewell, Flannel! ...

Cotton sheets! Cotton floral sheets! Bedding appropriate for waking Sunday and realizing I forgot to change the clocks!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Dear Post Office: It's Not Me, It's You ...


I wasn't going to write this post. And then, this morning, I received an email from the USPS and spied that it was "signed" thusly:

"Your friends at the United States Postal Service"

Oh. Well. Let me rethink my plan.

OK, "friends," we need to talk.

First off, let me reiterate that I really, really, really want you to succeed. I think all the bullshit that Congress is putting you through is just that: bullshit. If you could break up with Congress, I'd totally support you. We could curl up on the couch together, each with a pint of Ben & Jerry's, and I'd reassure you that Congress is being an asshole and that you deserve better.

But, as is often the case in relationships, both parties could stand to do better, be better. And as your "friend," let me tell you what I see that you could improve.

Simply put, you need to keep your promises. You need to provide the service I pay for. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Here's what happened:

On Wednesday, February 25, I shipped a package. I chose Priority (Ostensibly) 2-Day because I wanted the package to arrive on Friday, February 27. The timing of the arrival of the package was key.

In an effort to demonstrate improvement, you started including tracking on all such packages. Good on you.

So, when I got home, I went to the site, keyed in the tracking number, and clicked the radio button for future email alerts. I received an email that the package was accepted at the post office. Yup, I was there. Good. And then I received another email that the package departed the post office. OK. Good.

And then I received nothing.

For two days.

I thought perhaps there was some technological glitch. Perhaps the computer wasn't generating emails? So I went to the site and pasted the tracking number and there was no new information.

So I searched for the number for my local post office. I like the people who work there. I figured they'd be helpful.

Instead, I discovered that I now have to call a 1-800 number. Ah, yes, because nothing says "customer service" like "call a number and speak to a person who will have no idea about your problem."

But I called. And, of course, a computer answered. And I spoke my (very lengthy) tracking number and the computer told me what I already knew, which wasn't what I wanted to hear. So I pressed "0" to speak to someone.

I won't relay all that I went through on that phone call, but suffice it to say that it involved yelling into my phone. To a computer.

Because I was never allowed to speak to a person. Nothing I did or said – or yelled – would connect me to a person.

That, my "friend," was really maddening.

The night of the 27th, I received an email that my package had arrived at the next facility in the process. Which isn't terribly far from my house. Suffice it to say, if I had driven the package to that facility myself, it wouldn't have taken two days. It might have taken an hour.

When I shipped the package on the 25th, the clerk at the post office handed me my receipt and pointed out that there was a survey I could fill out online.

Guess who filled out the survey?

But I presumed that my survey rant would fall on deaf ears, so to speak, so I also went online and filled out a complaint.

On the morning of the 28th (aka the day after the package should have already been delivered), I received an email that the package had left the facility at which it had arrived the day before.

It was ultimately delivered just before 5 p.m. on Monday, March 2.

That morning, I had received an email from "eCustomerCare National" informing me that I had not included my tracking number, and could I please provide that.

Whoops, yes, my oversight. I replied immediately with the tracking number and thanked "whomever" for their assistance.

Two days later, on March 4, I received this:

An email had been sent requesting the tracking information so that it could be pulled up in the system. We have not heard back with any of that information, so we are not able to look the package up at this time. Any questions please let us know.

I forwarded my reply from March 2 and mentioned that the package had been delivered that day.

And then I received today's "Your feedback about the United States Postal Service is requested" email.

"Your feedback is very important to us as we strive to improve your customer experience."

Uh huh.

So I filled out the survey – you did not fare well, post office – and I thought I'd let that be the end of it, until I saw the "Your friends ..." bit, and then I decided to write this.

Also, it gave me an excuse to mock up the graphic at the top of this post.

So, to sum up: I paid nearly $30 to ship a package Priority 2-Day. I shipped that package on a Wednesday. The expected delivery date was Friday. And it showed up late in the day the following Monday, which is about when it would have showed up if I had paid for First Class postage instead.

I wasn't expecting miracles, post office. I was simply expecting to receive the service for which I paid.

The weather wasn't a factor. We did get a bit of snow that Wednesday, but nothing that should have ground operations to a halt.

Like I wrote, I really, really, really want you to succeed, post office.

But this is not the first time this has happened.

In fact, when packages I ship show up on time, those are the exceptions, not the rule.

I deserve better. We all deserve better.

Next time, I'll try UPS.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Really, Jayson? Really? One-Off Edition ...

I haven't whipped up a Jayson post in more than a year. I think I thought I was beating a dead horse. But then, today, I spied a Jayson pillow on Pinterest and I clicked through to see if maybe – just maybe – Jayson had adopted a slightly more sane policy when it comes to pricing.

Nope. The pillow's $295. And maybe that's a "normal" price for some folks to pay for a dec pillow, but I am not one of those people.

Anyhoo, I had to check out the Flea section, as long as I was on the site.

And I spied this:

Vintage Metal Atom Model – $4,795

It is, of course, from France. As most Jayson Flea items are, but "Huh," I thought. "That seems like quite a lot of money – even by Jayson standards – for a model of an atom."

And then I checked the dimensions.

Would you like to know the dimensions?

63"W x 55"D x 42.25"H

That's right, this model atom is more than five feet wide.

And it's not necessarily that old. It's listed as "20th century."

Do people in France have very poor vision?

Or did someone make a model of an atom that would be to scale if it were viewed from space?

I greatly appreciate the very precise height dimension of 42.25 inches. Because how upsetting would it be to get your giant atom home only to discover the perfect display space is a quarter inch too short?

I would like the meet the person who buys this big-ass atom. If that's you, please do drop me a line.