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Category Archives: Life

The Movie Crash Course Holds a Bake Sale

Image result for a wrinkle in time

So!  There is a lot of buzz around the upcoming movie adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time. I’m going to be seeing it for certain, and am especially intrigued to see what Ava Duverney does with the story.

Towards that end: there are more than a few schoolteachers who’ve started Kickstarters and Go Fund Me drives to take their classes to screenings of the film.  I’ve actually thrown my hat behind this drive, from a school in Oakland, California; several of the students speak English as a second language, but this teacher sounds like a hell of a force of nature, and I’d love to see them make their goal.  They are pretty close, too.

If you have some shekels to spare, please consider donating.

Thanks – the next review coming soon.


Need A Long Winter’s Nap

I have the whole week off work this week, and am staying in town – devoting the time to a long-overdue clearing-out of closets, cupboards, and other dark corners of the house.  I started with the pantry, so I could then better plan the grocery shopping and maybe even be organized enough to start being super-organized enough to do meal planning.  …So far, so good – I discovered I had enough random odds and ends to make a lovely sausage and canellini soup for lunch today, with leftovers.

The pantry was the first hurdle – I pulled everything out of it and laid it out on all the tables, shelves, and such around my living room, carefully writing everything down and making some amazing discoveries (“Why do I have a package of mochi flour?”….”Oh, shit, I forgot I already had this marzipan, I didn’t need to buy any last month after all,”….”oh hey, I have corn flour, maybe I can try making my own tortillas”).  After wiping down the counter and dutifully logging everything, I started to put it all away, with a more organized system – random Asian ingredients on this shelf, liquid sweeteners on that one…

…And I went to put away my sugar. And couldn’t find it.  Which was bizarre, because my sugar canister is a bright yellow plastic tub, big enough to hold an entire five-pound bag of sugar.

I looked at all the tables.  I looked under them.  I checked behind chairs.  No sugar.  I looked on the floor in my living room, in all the corners.  No sugar.  Did I maybe put it in the bathroom?….I’d fetched a spray cleaner to wipe down the cupboard, maybe I’d distractedly brought it in there.  I checked – no sugar.  Maybe I put it in the fridge?….Nope.  Maybe….in my room, because I was running out of room?  Nope.  In the hall closet?  Nope.  Any of the other kitchen cupboards?  Nope.

I re-checked the living room.  Re-checked the kitchen.  Re-checked the fridge.  My room.  The bathroom.  The hall closet.  The kitchen cupboards. No sugar.

I remembered reading that saying the name of the thing you’re looking for makes you more likely to spot it – it’s a hack for your brain.  So I then re-traced all my steps, muttering “sugar, sugar sugar sugar”.  Nothing.  I did it again – “sugar, sugar, sugar, SUGAR goddammit”.  Nothing.  I tried invoking St. Anthony, Catholic patron saint of lost objects – “Help me out here, St. Anthony, I’m losing my mind looking for this motherfucking sugar.”

Yes, I cussed at St. Anthony. I was not quite in my right mind.

All told I spent a good 20 minutes fruitlessly wandering in circles around my apartment bleating out “sugar!” and getting more and more frustrated. How in the hell could I have misplaced a five-pound tub of sugar in a two bedroom apartment, when I had only been in one room of that apartment?

I got desperate. Only a second set of eyes could help, I thought – I had clearly somehow developed a weird tunnel vision, and someone else would probably walk in and see it right away.  I swallowed my pride, and called my friend Colin – sometimes he picks up art supplies in my neighborhood, so I was going to beg him that if he was going on a supplies run today, maybe he could come by and help me find my sugar.

I braced myself while the phone was ringing, trying to figure out how I was going to explain this one.  Colin answered, and right as I was taking a breath to make my plea – I happened to finally look up instead of down.

There was the sugar, sitting on a bookshelf.

“….Hello?” Colin asked, tenatively, when I didn’t speak.

“Um. Hi.” I said.  “Well, I was initially going to ask you a favor, but it literally just resolved itself right now, so I instead have a funny story.”

Colin laughed uproariously after I told him everything, and then suggested that maybe I should go back to sleep.


Everything Under The Sun Is In Tune

I showed up at work today armed with a pair of eclipse glasses I scored at the last minute (Niki had a spare – thank you!).  About mid-morning, I found out that Pink Floyd’s song “Eclipse” was exactly the right length as the peak was supposed to be, so I downloaded it, thinking I would play it precisely when the peak hit us here in New York.

I was getting nervous about an hour before, when a bank of clouds started to roll in – right where the sun was going to be.  But then at 2:30, fifteen minutes to peak, i head down to the street with glasses in hand.

Now, if you’ve never seen a pair of eclipse glasses, you don’t expect much.  They’re flimsy cardboard with plastic film lenses; and if you look through them ordinarily, you can see nothing at all.  I’d been playing around with them at home this morning, and it was as if I were blinkered.  So I wasn’t sure what I would see when I got down to the street and put them on.  There was a small cluster of people from a couple of the surrounding office buildings, trying to simultaneously shield their eyes and peer through their fingers; the residual light from the sun was just too overpowering.  I put on the glasses and had a look up.

And I saw a crescent sun.

“Oh WOW.” I blurted out, making a couple people’s heads turn.  A cloud obscured it almost right away, so I snuck out of the direct path of pedestrians, waiting for the cloud to pass.  Knots of people were standing around me, discussing the eclipse; the group right next to me was a four-man team of young men in the starched-shirt and khakis uniform of bankers.  “Where is it?” one asked, looking up.

“It would be that way,” I cut in, pointing.  “Except that there’s a cloud now, so you can’t see anything.”

“And how long is it? Will it get all the way dark?”

“Nah, we’re only going to get like 70% of it.  It started at like 1:30 here, and then it’s at its peak in about 15 minutes; and then after that it’ll start moving away and it’ll be all done by 4.”

“If only it wasn’t for that cloud!” another one grumbled.

“Yeah…but we got like 15 minutes until its peak.” The cloud started to pass a bit, so I took another look through the glasses again, as they talked on, unclear what they were looking for.  Then turned to them.  “Anyone want a look?”

“Sure, I’ll try,” one said, dubious. He put them on.  “And where would I look, right up th-WHOOOOOOOOOOOA!” he gasped when he finally saw it.

“Ooh lemme try!” one of his friends excitedly asked, reaching for the glasses.  “So you can really see it?…..OMIGOD!”

A pair of women behind us saw them react, and heard me laughing.  “Wanna try?” I asked them.

“Uh, sure….” one reached for the glasses, and stepped over towards us, putting them on.  “WHOA FUCK!” she gasped.  Her friend had another similar reaction.  And so did the family of Japanese tourists that was passing by at that moment when I let each of them look in turn as well.

One of the bankers asked to borrow them again, trying to figure out how to hold them in front of his camera and get a picture.  “Here, I’ll hold them for you,” he offered, gesturing to my iPad, and we clumsily tried to get a picture, me fiddling with the camera on my ipad and him balancing the glasses in front of the lens.  The clouds covered the sun again, and I told them to also take a look at the shadow of a tree near where we stood.  “If you look at those shadows,” I said, “they’ll be all crescent-shaped too.”

“What about a pinhole like those guys over there?” someone near me was pointing at another cluster of people nearby, fiddling with a couple pieces of paper.

“Yeah, that’ll work too; it works for the same reason that the shadows look different – there, look!” and I pointed at the ground, at the dappled shadow of the tree near us.  Someone else had my glasses while I got a picture of the filtered-leaved shadow, chuckling as I heard yet another person blurt out their awe.  They handed the glasses back to me when I was done, and as soon as they did, another person asked for a look.  And then another.

I was down on the sidewalk for about a half hour, but spent most of that time loaning my glasses out to strangers.  At one point I was informally assigning numbered turns to people (“Okay, ma’am, you’re next, and then you here on my left – they asked just a couple seconds before you on my right did, guys”).  But everyone thanked me profusely after a look. I even went back up to my office and grabbed one of my colleagues and dragged him down, telling him it would just be five minutes (his reaction when he put on the glasses and looked up – “whoashit, yeah“).

I came out to look at an eclipse. But I ended up being more charmed at the sight of everyone around me all being struck with awe and excitement, and all of us turning into children for a while.




Hey, Wait……

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning.

A lot of the white supremacist groups claim that they are simply “expressing pride in being white”.  However – have you ever noticed that they can’t seem to do that without insulting others in the process?

August Break Day 1 – Morning

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I think I started last August with a version of this picture as well – the lemon verbena on my bedroom windowsill, which is one of the first things I see when I wake up.

A year ago I had just gotten back from my second trip to Paris, and had romantic notions of using more herbs in cooking.  The French cookbooks I already had spoke of using lemon verbena in baking a lot, and I already knew I liked the scent; a sort of fresh, herbaceous lemon.  I picked this plant up last June while on a camping trip with a friend, when we’d stopped at a roadside stand for grillable vegetables. I saw it in a little cluster of 4-inch herb pots they were selling, and snapped it up.

Actually, let’s look back at how it looked a year ago today:


Yeah.  It grows fast.  And what I didn’t know at the time is that all those baking recipes only use a couple leaves at a time, so I would be stuck making regular pruning and harvesting forays and trying to cope with the excess.  I’ve made sugar syrup, I’m going to try pesto and jelly this season; I tried candying the leaves once, but that really, really didn’t go well.

….Know any recipes with lemon verbena, actually?

August Break 2017

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I’ve only come upon a couple of blog challenges that I’ve wanted to do; this one I did last year was especially fun.

The blogger Susannah Conway started it as a “break” from trying to write blog posts every day; she decided she was just going to take pictures instead.  And people jumped on that like whoa.  Fast forward a few years – and I didn’t even know who Susannah Conway was, but this “August Break” thing sounded interesting and there I was.  The idea is simply that you take a picture every day and that’s it.

I actually did a lot more photography as a hobby some years back and have been wanting to get back into it; this would be the perfect excuse (along with my finally biting the bullet and signing up for Instagram).

I’m In The Money

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So I grew up in New England, and we tend not to talk about money all that much.  Especially if we’re having money difficulty; we go all stoic and stiff-upper-lip and try to “make do and mend”, resorting to repairing things that break instead of buying new or waiting for sales or reverse-engineering our own solutions.  Or just going without.  This is the kind of approach that can be carried too far, of course – there have been times that I have been almost pathologically afraid to spend money on myself.  Also, all the frugality in the world isn’t going to help you if you’re just plain not making enough money to begin with.

That latter state was my lot for the past couple years.  But – the new job has fixed that, and then some.  And it’s taken a couple weeks to sink in, but….I’m starting to get into it.

Now, I’m not going totally bugnuts, buying up entire racks of shoes or renting a yacht to go to Martha’s Vineyard just for lunch or anything like that. I’ve maybe spent more than I should on books, but the bulk of the money I got from my first paycheck went either to paying down some debt, starting a nest egg, or finally getting some long-needed house stuff. (Hellooooooooo, replacement window blinds! Welcome, stash of bulbs! Hi there, no-longer-threadbare pillowcases!)

When it comes to things I’ve been buying sheerly for pleasure, they’ve actually been comparatively modest: a couple yards of fabric to go towards a quilt I’ve been working on (yes, I’m making an actual quilt), a couple pounds of candle wax to round out the candlemaking stash Niki gave me (rather than buying the actual pre-made candles, which was getting costly), or a couple of utterly gorgeous French cookbooks (I make no excuse because I don’t need one dammit).  Or going to the occasional movie.  Or just going out for ice cream or dinner or lunch.

Or actually paying people back.  The thing that saddened me most about being so cash-poor for so long is that my friends have had to cover me more times than not – never anything big, just a couple extra bucks here, an extra five there, whenever we went out.  Or even the convenience move – if a group of us were gathering for a movie run, it would always be someone else who’d say “I’ll pick up the tickets and y’all can just owe me.”  It would always be someone else saying “what the hell, I can put dinner on my card and y’all can just owe me the cash.”  We usually settled up, I told myself, but it would always be someone else making that initial convenience step.

Tonight I am seeing a movie with a few friends; we were planning our attack this morning, and in the middle of the discussion I popped over to the movie theater site and just got our three tickets without even thinking.  “I got our tickets,” I emailed back, “so we can all just meet there.”

“Oh, great! Thanks!”

And the feeling I get simply because I am able to do that – and may even be able to cover them for a car to get them home after – is a feeling that I have been missing for a long time.