Archive for August, 2009

tin soldiers 003

Would you like to hear
Of the terrible night
When I bravely fought the —
all right.

– Shel Silverstein, The Battle

Lately I feel like I am drowning in my own narcissism. Me – starring in my own show about me! and what I buy at the grocery store, and what I read — and what I think about what I read. It’s pretty much, what I think about everything and it’s making me tired. I talk too much and write too much — about me(!). Blah, I can’t stand the sound of my own voice anymore.

One thing’s for sure: I need to pick up a newspaper. Isn’t there some scuffle going on in Washington over this thing called healthcare? Isn’t the ocean unusually warm? What are the folks in China up to? These are places where I need to park my brain. Maybe if I worry about the swine flu a little more, I might worry about my pre-teen daughter’s social life a little less.

I think there are two times a year when Jcrewville gets extra crazy. One is right before school gets out and everyone’s outdoing each other with parties, fundraisers and teacher’s gifts. The other is back-to-school time when moms who have been out of circulation for the summer get nutty trying to re-enter the social scene at the playground. At least that’s when I start getting all twisted-up and insecure.

I hate gossip and yet after months of isolation, I binge on it like raw cookie dough…until I’m sick and full of regret. Why, why do I do it?

So if you’re unfortunate enough to have clicked on this post and are bored, join the club. If you are feeling vulnerable because it’s that time of year when you need to put on lipstick and make cocktail-party chatter with other moms, you are not alone. And if you have any opinions on healthcare or the swine flu or news about you (!), please share.

In the meantime, I’m going to throw on my fleece and sit outside on this chilly afternoon. Or maybe I’ll brew a pot of coffee and bake some cookies.



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Fall Preview


I got nuthin’ to say this morning except that it’s raining — and I’ve turned every light on in the house even though it’s only 9:00am. This reminds me that fall is coming and after that, eight months of darkness. The ladies of Jcrewville will have to pack their Lily Pulitzer away until next year.

My daughters need new shoes and soccer cleats. Despite the dirt and neglect, their feet somehow grew spectacularly this summer.

Next year, I will have seven hours and ten minutes each day all to myself. I need to get back in shape and even more daunting…find a job (insert neuroses and insomnia here).

Suggestions are welcome.

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Small-Town Ledger


His periwinkle eyes were my first clue. Standing there alone, clutching a five dollar bill, he looked confused about where the line ended. I motioned for him to cut in front of me.

He moved up to the counter. “Can I have my mom’s drink, please?”

The cashier seemed confused. “What, honey?”

“My mom’s drink.”

The barista looked up and said to the cashier, “Oh that’s Kelly’s son.”

“Oh right, Kelly’s son.” And she began to ring up the order while the barista called out, “Venti, no-fat, extra-shot with sugar-free vanilla.”

I smiled. Of course that was Kelly’s son. Of course they knew her order. It was a moment of Mayberry. Woman sends her small son to Starbucks all alone with no worries because we all know each other’s children. We all look out for them. I add this to my plus column.

In the negative column sits the pain of a family down the street from me. A family facing divorce. People started whispering “marital problems” last summer. Everyone knows about it except possibly their own kids. For a year, people have been speculating: Has is happened yet? Who wanted out? Why did it go bad?

That’s the thing about living here. We all know each other’s business, each other’s drink order, what we all paid for our houses. Diagnosed with breast cancer? Everyone rallies, cooks and drives your children to school (plus). Your teen daughter experiments with alcohol? Everyone talks, keeps their distance, diverts babysitting jobs from her (minus).

Some days I’m awed by the pretty scenery, other days I’m creeped-out by the lack of privacy. Is it normal that after eight years I still find myself tallying the pluses and minuses? Maybe that’s just life…or mid-life…or whatever.

Right now, I guess it’s just where I live.

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The Short List


It’s an impossibly beautiful morning. The back door is wide open. I’m supposed to go on a walk with my husband to loosen up my sore muscles and his creaky back, but right now he’s reading the sports page so I have a few minutes to indulge in me-me-me-time.

Waltz promised she’d read my grocery list if I wrote it down. I couldn’t possibly print the whole list — besides, I’ll assume you don’t really want to know what brand of kitten chow I buy (yes, I said kitten — kittens actually, more on that later).

Instead I’ve complied my short list of favorite things to buy in the summer. It’s the stuff I need to stockpile in case my husband loses his job, in which case my whole family will be forced to subsist on my selfish but yummy choices because hello, I buy the food.

1. Jicama.
Welcome to my own personal Jicama Festival. It started in late spring when I ran into a former preschool mom who’d lost weight and looked amazing. She was loading up on jicama.

I was like, “oh yeah, jicama…. it’s yummy, but I’d never think to actually buy it.” She told me she slices it and dowses it with lime juice and Splenda for a sweet snack. Her arms were seriously cut and unlike me, she only had one chin. I put two huge jicamas my cart. (P.S. I did contemplate secretly tailing her, three carts behind, just to see what the skinny people buy, but I’m a bigger person than that).

So yeah, jicama. Peeled and sliced up like french fries (*sigh*) in a ziploc, I pull it out whenever I want to munch on something (straight up and neat, not tainted with Splenda). Recently, Alias Mother suggested a salad with jicama, watermelon, mint and lime. Can you imagine? So I bought more jicama, some watermelon and limes and then I forgot the mint. Curses.

2. Mint.
This was my not on my go-to list this year or I’d be knee-deep in heavenly jicama salad, but gosh, mint – Mint! Nothing soothes the soul and makes me crave rum like fresh mint. One summer I planted it in two huge pots and spent months muddling it for various mojito-ish concoctions that kept me happy, boozy and lazy through September. It was a very good summer.

3. Greek Yogurt.
So creamy, so yummy. I am kind of squeamish with yogurt, but the Greeks — Op-ah! they made me love yogurt. I mix it with flax seed, vanilla, blueberries and a little stevia. It’s expensive but I justify it by returning cans and not buying shoes. Oh, and I never buy fat-free, just low-fat. Fat-free is just not creamy enough.

4. Flax seed.
I started buying flax seed when I read about it’s anti-inflammatory effects. Now, I put it on salad, in my yogurt, in cereal, and sprinkled on peanut butter toast. It’s nutty and hearty, and I love that it leaves a few little seeds in my gums that I can fish out with my tongue in a rather satisfying post-meal ritual.

5. Arnold Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins.
I’m trying to stay away from white flour and bread in general, but I’m hooked on these. They’re like thin, but hearty little hamburger buns — 100 calories and 5 grams of fiber per. They make a great snack slathered with peanut butter or with a slice of cheese, especially when you’re dashing off to Target, hypoglycemic, and don’t want to yell at your kids in front of the other moms at Target. I also serve them toasted, open-faced, and drizzled with olive oil for my people. They eat it and actually thank me.

6. Diet Coke.
Everything I’ve read about fibromyalgia says to lose the aspartame. My teenage neighbor insists Diet Coke contains formaldehyde. Screw it. I need my Diet Coke. Everyday. There is nothing like it — cold, out of can (not a bottle), bubbly, fresh, and with a little kick of energy. It’s just a little chemically beverage that makes me so happy. You may scold me all you want. I may die early and never decompose — but I just. don’t. care.

7. Lemons.
I confess, buying lemons makes me feel smug — like I’m some kind of great cook or something. But I think lemons make everything taste bright and fresh: squirted over roasted asparagus, nestled in sparkling water, splashed into mayo and curry powder for a quick dressing.

My favorite go-to chicken recipe is just lemons, olive oil and whatever else I have around: fresh thyme, garlic, red onion, Dijon mustard – smooshed together in a ziploc to marinate until it’s time for grilling. My foodie brother says not to add the lemon juice until the end, that it will pre-cook the chicken in a cheviche-like fashion, but I let in marinate for hours. It makes the chicken soooo tender and yummy.

8. Good White Wine.
I love red-wine, but I had to give it up when postpartum (or perimenopausal?) hormonal changes made me intolerant. Now I must drink white, but that’s good in the summer, chilled in a pretty glass. I won’t list a region or grape because I’m not that discerning so long as it’s not Chardonnay, which makes me shudder, and costs more than seven dollars. For some reason, I can find good wine under ten dollars, but never under seven.

9. Starbucks Verona Coffee.
I know, I love Dunkin Donuts, too – but in the morning, I need black, bitter, super-hot Starbucks.

10. Chocolate chips.

There you have it. Please feel free to add a few of your summer favorites and/or wine recommendations. We can have a virtual summer picnic. I’ll bring the jicama.

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Flare-ups are a Pain.


Sometimes remission can fool you into thinking you’re cured – or even misdiagnosed.

I’ve been feeling so great: running, drinking coffee, hunching over the laptop, gardening…doing basically whatever I want. I recently told a friend “I have no pain, I feel completely normal.”


Then it reappeared – angry back pain, a fork twisting between my shoulder blades, soreness in my knees and elbows. I am trying to ignore it before it gets bad, or worse–sucks me below the surface.

Still, I can’t help going through a mental checklist – is it stress? Too many glasses of Pinot Grigio? Excess blueberry crumble? A seasonal reaction to the August air?

I’m swallowing fistfuls of vitamins, backing off the vino/sugar/white flour and going for a walk. Then I’m going to stretch out in the hot sun and exhale.

That’s all the time I’m giving it. After this post – pain or no pain, I’m moving on.

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It started out as a lovely idea. The state where I live may be stingy with jobs, but she is mighty generous with her fresh water, Christmas trees and blueberries. While I love the beach and a proper Frasier Fir, I’ve never really taken full advantage of the whole blueberry thing.

So today, in a moment of random summer giddiness, I suggested to my girls that we go blueberry picking. They were all over it.

We drove to a farm 20 minutes outside of Jcrewviille and started picking…and picking…and picking. I had no sense of the quantity we were amassing, but I wasn’t concerned. The rural setting, the rather primitive set-up (woman in tight pink t-shirt hands you plastic buckets, mumbles and points to a big field of bushes) – it all spelled cheap to me, so when my girls asked how much, I said “Fill up your buckets, Girls.”


And we did.


Three buckets later and I now own $22 worth of blueberries. Twenty-two dollars. That’s like a whole outfit from Old Navy. My husband is going to kill me. I need to distract him, seduce him with quick-thinking blueberry trickery: cakes, cobblers, pies and what else?

Blimey, I don’t know. I need suggestions, good recipes. I know I can freeze them, but please give me some yummy ideas to whip up. Stephanie: I’m counting on you!

Quick, help me hide the $22 worth of beautiful, fresh blueberries before my husband get home.

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