Saturday, July 30, 2005

Grownup summer

So far, so good. I did moon around the house whining about how I had nothing to do for a while yesterday, but eventually kicked my butt into gear and accomplished Nos. 3, 5, 7 and 8 on my list of things to do. And just a few moments ago, I picked up the clothes bomb.

Otherwise, I've been doing my best to enjoy what Ginga described as grownups summer the other day. Walked Lucyfer the giant pony this morning, then got a bagel and an iced coffee and headed to the beach. It was gorgeous -- low humidity, bright sun, a light breeze and a new New Yorker. Couldn't have wished for better.

Now we're home again. I've got freshly washed hair (though I'm still uncertain about the haircut), the dishwasher is running and simple syrup is chilling in the fridge. Dinner tonight: pennette in a pink cream sauce with zuchini, along with a green salad and mojitos. I'm pondering making some sort of cooked fruit dessert (peach pie, perhaps?), but am fearful that I'll run out of steam halfway through. The plan is to go for a night paddle after dinner... I'm not all that into kayaking, especially with the rotator cuff problems I've been having lately, but it should be nice to float around in the twilight a bit.

Tomorrow: More of the same, plus a trip to Home Depot to scout out fixtures for the big bathroom remodel.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Here it is, late Friday afternoon on a beautiful day in July. I am done with work and, what's more, I have no work to do over the weekend. I have no plans for the weekend. My husband is at work until 8, and just about every friend I can think of is off doing something on his/her own.

I have no idea what in the hell to do with myself.

Sure, there are things I could do:
  • Pick up the clothes bomb in the spare bedroom.
  • Pay a few bills and put away the paper detritus all over the desk.
  • Water the transplanted azalea that is shriveled and brown.
  • Take the sheets off the futon where our friend P. stayed for the last two nights.
  • Pick up crazy Lucy, my sister's pooch, who will be our house guest this weekend.
  • Read one of the many magazines to which I subscribe. Or today's Boston Globe. Or, like, a book.
  • Wash out the multitude of product that the hairdresser put in my hair.
  • Go for a run. The 10k is in eight days, and I haven't run since Sunday. Bad MC.
But none of those sound particularly appealing to me. And so I sit here, anxiously surfing from blog to blog, looking for something interesting with which to fritter away my time. And then D. will get home in a few hours and I'll be all pissed and grumpy that I did nothing with my several hours of quiet.

So, with that, I'm headed upstairs to change my clothes, then I'll grab the iPod and head out for a run. Here's hoping I can maintain my sanity during an entire weekend with nothing particular to do.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday night gerunds*

Eating: Yuppified green salad -- Arugula, green-leaf lettuce, radicchio, Thai basil and scallions, all from our organic farm share, plus feta and a nice little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper dressing. Not to mention a slice of pumpernickel (only the bland, tasteless, only-looks-brown-but-doesn't-taste-it version we can get here) and buttah. The husband is out with a friend, we've got a ton of greens and I'm unmotivated to cook for my own self. So that's dinner.

Drinking: A fine, cheap sauvignon blanc, ie, dessert.

Listening: To WFUV, one of the world's greatest stations, not least since they unveiled unlimited high-bandwidth streaming. And, yes, I sent in my membership renewal last week.

Avoiding: Paying bills. And cleaning the bathroom. Especially cleaning the bathroom. A friend from high school -- who, in fact, is the first boy I ever had a crush on, way back in kindergarden -- is headed this way as a houseguest. Due to frequent moves on the part of my family, we did not actually see each other from age 5 to age 15, when we ended up in the same high school and in the same group of pals. At which time we did not have crushes on each other. Anyway, we haven't been in touch for a couple years, but it turns out he's not only moving back East but is also interviewing for a job about 15 minutes from here (400 miles north of where we both grew up). And so he's staying with us Weds. and probably Thurs. Which means I really need to clean the bathroom. And put sheets on the guest room bed. And move my fertility chart thing off the kitchen counter.

Worrying: About the fact that it is now day 28 of my cycle and I have not yet ovulated. So far this month I have spent $45 on ovulation predictor tests (Anita, I keep meaning to email you about those cheap test kits you mentioned at one point) and for what? How can I obsess about getting pregnant if I can't even ovulate? (No, I am not pregnant. Temp is very, very low -- lower than usual, in fact, and has been for the last approximately eleventy-three days.)

Running: Quite a bit, as it turns out. Ran 5.4 miles yesterday morning, and every other day prior to that for the last week. Nothing like fear of a 10K in two weeks to motivate one's lazy ass.

Loving: My new skirt, bought with proceeds from the freelance assignment I whined about a few weeks back. Nine-tenths of that check is going toward the credit card bill, but one-tenth was a little splurge for me, on the peppy little number you see there in the site's header. So there is some reward for all those Saturdays at the computer.

Skipping: My blogversary, which occurred last Wednesday. I'd intended some deep treatise on the implications of writing about one's life for an audience of anonymous strangers, some friends inside the computer and a few real-life pals (hi Sarah!)... but then it was hot, and I was grumpy.

Wondering: Why grownups don't get summers off. And how, exactly, my boss would arrange her features if I walked in tomorrow and said I need to take the entire month of August off. Which sure sounds tempting right now.

*Does using an obscure grammatical term as the title of a post mean I have reached the absolute depths of geekiness? Or is it the beginning of a fabulous meme that will sweep the Internets, borne though it is of my complete lack of ability to write a few coherent paragraphs that are actually, like, connected to each other?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A summer conundrum

Last night, we ditched our dinner plans -- grilled steak, with homemade coleslaw with cabbage, carrots, garlic scapes and the never-ending cavalcade of kohlrabi and salad turnips from our farm share -- to treat a friend to dinner in celebration of her successful negotiations to buy a house.

We ended up at a new fried seafood place, at which I had an entirely brown meal consisting of fried scallops and french fries, and then headed over to the ice cream stand for dessert (ginger ice cream -- yum). So here is my question:

Does the fact that we walked there and back make up for even one quarter of the lovely, delicious, entirely evil things we put in our bodies??

On second thought, maybe ignorance is bliss in this case...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Second verse, same as the first

Arrrgh. The miserable workday I experience five times over last week? It hath already been repeated. And it ain't looking good for the rest of the week, either.

The day began, as many lousy Mondays do, with the realization two-thirds of the way to work that the laptop containing the cover story for the issue that goes to press Wednesday was sitting on my couch at home. So much for getting in early.

And when I did finally arrive at work, laptop in tow, within moments I learned that my latest new hire had quit. I repeat: Up and quit after three weeks on the job. No notice, no nothing. Just a phone call to my boss this morning, saying that last Friday was the last day and the parking pass and office keys would be coming in the mail, thank you veddy much. Dream job appeared out of the blue and all that jazz. Whatever.

All of this and it was only 8:45 a.m.

We joked about whether it'd be better to go back to bed or just start drinking. Suffice it to say that we did neither, and that I arrived home at about 8:15 this evening, having already hung up on my beloved husband once and grumbled about my life oh, say, 936 times during the course of the day. And now, after a mere 2.5 hours at home, I'm headed t0 bed.

Here's hoping Tuesday looks up. And if it doesn't, here's hoping that whoever makes it so has a strong constitution and an even stronger left hook.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thirty-three years and one day

Sorry for the silence 'round here. Last week I was hit by a triple whammy at work: the return from vacation, the time I had to invest in interviewing candidates for a position we have open and the need to devote most of Friday to a meeting in Massachusetts (especially fun since it began at 9 am). Oh, and then we had unexpected houseguests Thursday night.

So it was no surprise that both my chiropractor and my husband felt the need to give me little lectures about work-life balance during the week. I don't disagree with them; I know I work more than perhaps I need to, and that I thrive on having too much to do. But last week was such an aberration... I felt as though I was being judged a bit harshly.

And, in any case, I've certainly made up for it this weekend. I did about 45 minutes worth of work this afternoon (with at least two additional hours worth of other stuff that I could have done) and that's it. Kaput. In part, the sloth-like behavior (for me, anyway) was a natural outgrowth of my hellacious week, in which I'm guessing I worked somewhere between 55 and 60 hours... I just didn't have it in me to spend more time toiling.

And then there was the fact that yesterday was my birthday. As a summer birthday kid, I always was able to do pretty much exactly what I wanted on my birthday... there was never any school to interfere. And my mom didn't work until I was in middle school, so she was pretty willing to do whatever I wanted. We never had big, extravagant parties or anything; it was just clear that you got to pick what you wanted to do for the day, as well as what you wanted to have for dinner and dessert. It more than made up for not getting to have a birthday party at school during the year.

So even later on, when I had summer jobs, I'd take the day off and go to the beach. (I'm curious if other summer b-day people experience this sense of entitlement about doing exactly what you want on your day... Any thoughts out there?)

By necessity, I've had to lose that insistence on acting like Queen of the World just because it's my birthday. But last year I was on vacation and had the best birthday ever -- we were down on the Jersey Shore, having a family reunion at a rented beach house. I spent the morning at the beach, then had an excellent sub like they only make them in NJ. In the afternoon, we went to the gloriously cheesy boardwalk in Seaside; my cousin bought me a big lemonade, Darren subsidized me for several rounds of skeeball and my dad took me on a Ferris wheel ride. Back at the house, we had shrimp cocktail and oysters on the half shell, followed by excellent thin-crust pizza and an ice cream cake. I was in heaven... and I later realized that what made me so happy was exactly the same sequence of events I would have enjoyed when I was 10.

We couldn't reproduce that exactly this year, but we came awfully close. I spent yesterday morning at the beach with Darren, catching up on Entertainment Weekly and then digging into Fourth of July, Asbury Park, a very interesting book that my sister gave me (along with a very silly Disco Queen clock, a grow-your-own French poodle kit and a stuffed orangutan). Later I had a very pleasant nap on our front porch (interrupted by the arrival of my in-laws with my present, a signed copy of the new Linda Greenlaw book... a very nice gift, except for the fact that I had taken off my bathing suit and thrown on a very skimpy little nightgown, figuring that I'd wait until after I showered to put on real clothes... made for an awkward few moments, but oh well.).

Then, the piece de resistance: Dinner at Cinque Terre, a fantastic northern Italian restaurant. We had many, many courses, including the most amazing pasta dish that I think I've ever eaten, not to mention many fine beverages. After that extravagant three-hour affair, we waddled across to Street & Company, another fantastic restaurant where our friends know the bartender, so we sat for another few hours, quaffed several delicious limoncellos and gossiped about the snooty tourists who'd been tormenting the staff all night. I came home with a full belly and a slightly achey head... it was a good night.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Among the Italians

So, the vacation recap: It all went very smoothly, starting with a drive down that was startlingly unimpeded by traffic. Darren and I kept exchanging glances, not daring to mention out loud the bizarre lack of cars on the road. (People heading in the opposite direction weren't as lucky -- the tolls in Maine and New Hampshire were backed up about a mile.)

We were there, along with my sister, her fiancee and Lucy the pony dog, for five days, which was just about right. Plenty of time to relax and catch up, but not so much time as to drive each other crazy. I only saw my grandmother once, for several hours at a barbecue at her house, but she seems to be okay. She wasn't very talkative, and she actually let us cook and clean up afterwards (a very rare occasion), and she seemed a bit weak. But she's two weeks away from turning 85 and she's got a bum valve in her heart, so I suppose that's all to be expected. My grandfather seemed thin and concerned, which is also to be expected. We'll see them again late next month, when there is a joint birthday party planned (he's turning 90 this year).

Food highlights: Greasy thin-crust pizza at the beach. Yum. Sushi... including my first taste of actual raw fish (and, to my amazement, I liked it. That spicy tuna is something else). My great-aunt Mimi's homemade pizza, which disappeared in a flash from the big Fourth of July picnic. And my mom's peach pie (though, secretly, I think mine is better).

Seeing the extended family at the Fourth of July picnic was a treat, as usual. My grandfather is one of several siblings; his father emigrated from Italy in 1894 as a 10-year-old kid. My grandfather is the only one of his siblings who didn't marry an Italian, and none of his kids (my dad and his brothers) married Italians, either. What's more, my grandparents and their kids didn't stay in north Jersey, while most of the rest of the extended family did.

As a result, my relatives are very Italian, with north Jersey accents, some gold chains, some big hair (although the altitude has come down in recent years) and some pretty stereotypical behavior. (The racism, for example... A lot of Jersey Italians have really horrific attitudes about people of African-American descent. I don't know a lot about the origins of this particular prejudice, but I'm sure at least part of it stems from the immigrant's desire to see himself as superior to another group.)

Some of this is objectionable and irritating... and some of it is hilarious. One of my dad's cousins could walk onto the set of The Sopranos without a moment's preparation; he seems to enjoy hamming up his guido act. At our wedding, for example, he rolled up to Darren and smoothly slid him the envelope (containing our card and a check); he warned that "you'd bettah take good care of her" and slapped Darren on the back rather vigorously. He's given us repeated warnings that if he ever finds out we were in his neighborhood and didn't stop to see him, we'll be in big trouble.

And then there is the hugging and the kissing. In my dad's family, when you arrive and when you leave, you hug and kiss everyone. Even if you're going to see them the next day (at which point you will repeat it all anyway). My native Mainer husband was a little taken aback at this in the beginning, but after nearly six years of marriage, he smooches the great aunts with the best of 'em.

My mom, who grew up outside Washington, D.C. in a pretty stoic Irish-German upper-middle class family, has always been put out that my sister and I identify more with the Italian side of the family. But it was impossible not to -- the Italian relatives are so vibrant and outspoken, and their food is so good, not to mention the fact that we simply spent a lot more time with them growing up. In the pictures of my generation -- all the second cousins -- there are rows of kids with olive skin and dark brown hair... and then there's fair, blonde little me: the mitigan (the phonetic Italian pronunciation of American). If Darren and I have kids, they'll be almost entirely mitigan, but I swear they'll grow up with the occasional Sunday gravy and reverence for olive oil. And they'll learn to kiss hello and goodbye.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Home again, home again

We're back in one piece, having arrived in these parts around 5:45 this evening. And the first words my sister said to me upon our arrival were, "They still have strawberry!"

Exactly what I needed to hear after five days at the parents', including two large family barbecues, two dinners out, two separate trips to the Italian ice place, pizza at the beach, etc. etc. So, needless to say, I just polished off a strawberry sundae with hot fudge.

An update on the trip will come tomorrow, but tonight my presence has been requested in the living room, where I will watch an episode or two of The Sopranos with my jittery husband, who has a job interview at nine o'clock tomorrow morning. They couldn't have ruined his vacation more expertly: They called his cell phone to schedule the interview literally as I was rounding the on-ramp to the Maine Turnpike Friday afternoon. By the time we were five miles down the road, he was jotting notes about the presentation they've asked him to make at the interview. "Since you're going to be on vacation the whole time, you don't have to have it in writing," they said. "Just be prepared to present it orally."

We're both on vacation the rest of the week, which gives us time to:
1. Finish painting the garage, if the weather cooperates. We had the house painted last summer, but decided to do the garage ourselves to save money. By the time it was too cold to paint anymore last fall, we'd done most of the front. Since it faces the street, it's the most important side anyway. While I was in Detroit last month, Darren finished the front... so there are three sides left to go.
2. Apply for a home equity loan. We finally have a contractor lined up to totally re-do our bathroom, which means we must next mortgage ourselves to the hilt. Also, must compare rates between home equity and auto loans, because I am dying to replace my trusty 1990 Honda Civic hatchback with something with a few more doors... and a CD player... and power windows. Oh, and nice safety devices such as airbags. I have dreams of buying a hybrid, but suspect I'll end up with something much more prosaic. (Link is not actually my car -- thanks, sea air, for the extra rust -- but a reasonable facsimile thereof.)
3. Unpack. Ugh. And perhaps also clean up what has become the permanent clothes bomb situation in the spare bedroom.
4. Write my latest freelance assignment. It's due Monday. I'm being paid a large sum of money for it, which is fabulous (see #2). But it also makes me nervous, as does the fancypants editor I'm working with. (Then again, I pitched them the piece -- and they liked it. So I should just chill out.) The story is only 750-1,000 words, so I figure I can bang out a draft pretty quickly and then spend lots of time polishing it to a glossy sheen... i.e., deleting any phrases such as "polishing it to a glossy sheen."
5. Buy groceries. Pay bills.
6. Recreate, relax, run, catch up with friends, etc.

Here's hoping I actually reach #6 before Sunday afternoon.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Berry exciting

Strawberry season is finally here. And this year more than most, I'm taking advantage of it. The fabulous soft serve place near our house makes strawberry ice cream using berries they pick themselves from a farm a mile or two away. The soft serve is very good, but my favorite is the strawberry milkshake, which includes chunks of fresh strawberry that clog up your straw.

What makes this all so great is that it's so fleeting: Strawberry ice cream lasted six days last year. With the rainy, cold spring, it's likely to be even shorter this year. So on Tuesday, when I noticed strawberry listed on the flavors as I drove home from work, I put out a call to several friends. Tuesday night, I had a strawberry shake. Wednesday night, I had a strawberry nor'easter with oreos (it's like a blizzard or flurry). And then last night, at a group dinner out to celebrate some work stuff, Darren and I split a luscious piece of strawberry pie. Yum.

Tonight, however, we are heading down to NJ to visit my folks for a few days. Traffic is supposed to be horrific, so I've researched all the dog-friendly hotels along I-84 in Connecticut... we'd like to drive all the way to my parents' tonight, but in case it gets lousy we can bail out. I figure we'll leave here around 5 or so... there's been no packing done, although we did do the laundry. I'm starting to make some piles of things I don't want to forget, and Darren took Rocky with him to work this morning so he can drop her off at his parents' (she's easily overwhelmed by the chaos at my parents', so she gets to be pampered by D's folks). Jelly will make the trip with us, as none of the Jersey family has met her yet, and being mostly deaf and blind means that the chaos will roll right off her.

Not sure if I'll be posting from NJ or not... if the weather's as good as they're predicting, I may spend the entire time on the beach, which is just fine with me.