Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New England Neighborliness

Growing up, "Yankee" was a synonym for uncouth or lacking manners.  Also for people who in my mother's opinion talked funny-- meaning no Southern accent, a category that now includes yours truly.  Now that I am firmly ensconced in Yankee territory, I've been really delighted by how kind and generous all of our neighbors have been.  From the 10th Street potluck when we first arrived to babysitter referrals to our next door neighbors inviting us for cocktails tonight (well, actually, cocktails start at 4:30--- my kind of New Year's Eve celebration: start early, finish early and walk 20 feet home), everyone has been super-friendly and welcoming.  This afternoon, after a heavy snowstorm started to let up enough to go out and shovel the sidewalk and steps, our across-the-street neighbor Joe came over with his snowplow and did our sidewalk and driveway for us.  Joe definitely wins the MVP award and I will be baking some cookies tomorrow to take over to him to return the favor.  People can be so great... even (especially!) Yankees.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Elephants Everywhere

If someone broke into my house and took a very close look around, he would notice drawings of elephants on every surface.  It's Peter's favorite thing to do: grab the nearest Sharpie/tub crayon/ballpoint pen/chalk, thrust it in my direction, and say (in the endearingly demanding  voice he has perfected) "Eh- luh, eh-luh."  This means, "Hey lady, draw me an elephant PRONTO!"  And, being a good mom, I oblige.  Again and again, as you can see from the photos.  Perhaps I can parlay my elephant drawing skills into a second career?  (Or is it my third career at this point?  I'm also very good at hanging out in coffee shops-- a real moneymaker, that.)

A related pastime is looking at videos of elephants.  Animated elephants dancing, baby elephants playing in the snow, elephants playing soccer or painting self portraits, and elephants getting drunk on rotten/fermented fruit.  What did parents do before the Internet?  Something developmentally appropriate and educational, no doubt.

Speaking of exotic animals, there's a new baby giraffe at the Roger Williams Zoo.  (A link here to photos and videos of some of the other giraffe calfs born recently, but not the latest, born just last week.  Someone needs to update the zoo website.  Maybe they're all busy with the giraffe baby boom...)

Monday, December 29, 2008

December's Cookie of the Month: Chewy Ginger Snaps

Before Christmas, I made some cookies while Dad and Karen watched Peter.  I got the recipe from a link off the Kitchn: chewy ginger snaps.  The recipe was easy and the results looked professional and tasted great.  Mine flattened out more than the picture on the website, but stayed chewy and very ginger-snappy. Actually, they tasted almost exactly like my favorite Starbucks molasses cookie only smaller.  Definitely recommend making them-- B. took some to work and said they were a big hit with his co-workers. (Although I suspect he may have eaten more than his fair share...)  Of course, now I think I need a Kitchen-Aid standing mixer for all of my future baking endeavors, but that will have to wait until Christmas '09.  And a bigger kitchen that can accommodate the extra appliances.  The verdict: 8 out of 10.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Just Up the Road but Worlds Away...

I've only been to Central Falls, RI on purpose once (and passed through a few times on my way back from Target in North Attleboro), and it reminded me of some of the most devastated mill towns in western Pa.  This story in Saturday's NYT is so devastatingly sad-- the portrait of the community is almost devoid of hope-- and maddening-- the immigration system in this country is an embarrassment.  Too bad that Bush never got around to immigration reform; he had a shot before the issue became toxic again.  I doubt Obama will be able to tackle this along with everything else on his incredibly full plate (economy, economy, health care, two wars, economy).  

Mars is better than Venus.

Why oh why is GQ so vastly superior to comparable women's magazines? Let me count the ways...

1. It's funny.  I've never picked up a copy of Vogue or Harpers Bazaar and laughed out loud at an article or feature (unless it was "how ridiculous" laughter).  It's like all of the women who work there are so undernourished that it's deprived their brains of the capacity to process humor.  GQ is consistently funny, so much so that I'm constantly turning to B. on the couch to say "Did you read this???" which he undoubtedly finds either a) annoying because he hasn't read it yet or b) annoying because he has and yes, obviously he thought it was funny too.  My point is that the stuff is so funny that you can't keep it to yourself.

2.  It's comprehensive.  While Vogue and the like tend to focus only on clothes, accessories and beauty products, GQ hits all the high points: technology, home design, travel, culture (usually of the pop- versus high- variety) and Alan Richman's food writing is sublime.  The articles are well written and don't feel like they were created by some socialite who "writes for Vogue" to fill the hours between her blowouts and charity fundraisers.

3.  It's stylish.  GQ has embraced the list to good effect.  Clean graphic design, top notch photography.  While women's magazines can also do some interesting things with design, GQ's seems to enhance the readability of the issue; it's not gimmicky.

4.  It's quirky and has a point of view.  The staff writers' personalities shine through, and after a few issues, you feel like you know them (like an old ex-boyfriend that you occasionally regret breaking up with).  Glenn O'Brien is the Style Guy, a monthly column that "solves your sartorial conundrums."  Questions from wearing white (Alexander McQueen!) jeans in winter to the appropriateness of a sleeve tattoo peeking out at work.  Now admittedly, women's fashion is much more mercurial, with fewer rules; I'm not sure you could even do a Style Gal.  But I'd sure like to see someone try.

5.  It's smart.  Don't let the sometimes hootchie cover photos of women fool you; GQ is a publication that does not insult your intelligence, whatever your gender.  (And let's be honest, Jennifer Anniston looks good in that tie...)

So I urge all you ladies out there to get yourself a subscription.  Say it's a late Christmas present for your boyfriend or husband, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts you'll be reading each issue cover to cover and wishing they'd start a "sister" publication.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Heart My Butcher.

I never really had a butcher in Pittsburgh.  I guess the closest I came was Fosters on Butler Street, and while the guys in there were friendly and helpful and the bacon wasn't bad ( the kielbasa was excellent), the whole time warp vibe didn't sit so well with me.  Something about the walls radiating a 1970s energy diminished the aura of freshness you want when you buy meat.

Providence appears to have better meat karma (apologizes to JK).  Today and yesterday, I was home with little sick grumpy snotty P.  Company was here over the weekend, and I was in sore need of some alone time.  So the minute Billy walked in the door from work, I escaped to Eastside Market which was open until 6 on Christmas Eve.  (I hadn't bought anything to cook for Christmas Dinner and felt guilty.)  I decided against turkey (didn't we just have Thanksgiving) and ham (boring), and went to check out the steaks.  Larry the butcher gave me two beautiful strip steaks for $8.99/lb-- a $7 per pound discount!  In Larry's own words: "Now you know why Hollywood movie stars fall in love with their butchers..."  I'm not quite sure what he's talking about with the Hollywood thing, but consider me smitten.  Tomorrow's menu: broiled strip steak, baked sweet potatoes (thanks to PD for getting me hooked), sauteed spinach and savory bread pudding. Thanks Larry for reminding me what Christmas is all about... great deals on beef!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


A gratuitous picture of my adorable son.  Doesn't he look like trouble?

Pawtucket Farmers Market

There's an unbelievable farmers market just up the road from us in Pawtucket in the Hope Artiste Village.  HAV is a great adaptive reuse of a huge mill building, with live/work and retail space.  (The extraneous "e" on the end of Artist is the only objectionable thing about it.)  Anyway, the market has tons of vendors from around Rhode Island, which for a tiny state has a rich local food scene.  I bought some of the best apples I've ever eaten there last weekend, and we bought our Christmas tree there too.

Pawtucket is an intriguing place... I always get lost when I'm there, but it's chock-a-block full of those white elephant buildings that would be totally condo-ized in a hotter market. I have to go there this week to get my Rhode Island drivers license; Billy made one attempt at the DMV, got horribly lost (it's not just me) and then was taken aback by the lines.  Good thing I have plenty of time on my hands these days.  I'm going to pack a lunch and take a book with me.  

The kitchen

Our kitchen is a mixed bag... it's big and sunny, but no dishwasher, no garbage disposal and the counters come up to my knees.  I'm pretty pleased with my organization in here.  The rolling shelves and bakers rack were good additions.  So far, I made some decent meals in here-- a productive use for all my free time while I wait for my job to thaw out.  The chalkboard has worked especially well for grocery reminders. I saw a post on The Kitchn a while back where the people used a white board divided into 4 sections: one for stuff to buy; one for stuff to use up before it goes bad; one for things they'd like to cook; and one I forget.  Or something like that-- it seemed very complicated to me, but in a smart way that probably translates into fewer vegetables liquifying in the crisper and more thoughtful, inventive meals.

Our New(ish) House

Obviously, this photo was taken a while ago-- the leaves on the street trees are all gone (raked up and disposed of by me-- made me miss our compost bin back in Pittsburgh).  It's a cute (read: small) bungalow that fits the six of us nicely (two adults, one toddler and three cats).  Tenth Street is a great street... the first month we were all here, our neighbors hosted a pot luck dinner and we met the rest of the 10th Street crew.  All very nice people and a number of kids.  Oddly, on Google Streetview, Tenth Street is the only street omitted in our neighborhood--- we live in the Bermuda Triangle.

So the blog title, with apologies to Bruce Springsteen, is a nod to the current hiring freeze at my prospective employer.  Once it thaws, I will hopefully be gainfully employed and professionally satisfied in ways I've never dreamed of... and probably not blogging. I have an obscene amount of time on my hands these days.  We'll see what happens when the freeze thaws.