Archive for the 'Blatant Self Promotion' Category


busybusybusybusybusybusybusybusy. . .

As I start this I remember recently reading an article about whether we are actually as busy as we think we are.* Whether maybe we know we’re not actually that busy but it seems important to society that we be busy, so we’re also not actually as busy as we say we are.

I googled “Are we really that busy?” and got article after article after article about how we’re NOT actually as busy, etc. etc. so it must be true.

But anyway. I’ve been really really busy lately. Usually this time of year I have lots of time to sit in the adirondack chair on my deck with a gin+lemoncino+tonic (a “lemony snicket” apparently) and a good book. Not so much this year.

We were very busy in April and May turning this:

Our backyard in early April.

Our backyard in early April.

into this:

Our backyard now. (The perspective is the opposite, but they're the best panoramic I have of each)

Our backyard now. (The perspective is the opposite, but they’re the best panoramic I have of each)

Of course it helps that the world also turned green during that time span, but there it is.

We leveled 500 square feet of dirt, and then spread and leveled (with a carefully calculated 1/2″ per 8′ slope) 500 square feet 4″ deep in gravel, and then laid 5 tons of flagstone one piece at a time; and Husband built the pizza oven.

Lots of work. My back is still pretty pissed off at me, but there it is.

We also had to deal with the fact that Second Son’s car (my old Honda Odyssey) finally gave up the ghost after 13 years of service and 240,000 miles. We drove it, gently (the transmission was going, so there were to be no sudden moves), to the Honda dealer and basically gave it to them in trade for a 2004 Corolla with 96,000 miles on it (a significant improvement, nonetheless). After cleaning out bags of papers and food wrappers and water bottles, and, mysteriously, the steak knife that has been missing from our set for ~ 3 years (our driveway is “dark and creepy” at night, apparently the steak knife was to offer protection; thinking if someone were on the attack it would have been either useless or turned on him, but I guess it made him feel better, so whatchagonna do, especially since I didn’t know about it at the time?), Second Son stood in the parking lot and said his good-byes. I found myself “harkening” back as well — it was purchased in the week or two before Only Daughter (now 13+) came to us from her birth home (South Korea), and has seen us through a lot of life’s changes. More of my life looks different now than the same — divorced, bought a house and moved, remarried, children grown and graduated, different jobs, opportunities, friends. That van was a pretty significant material connector really to what I would call my “former” life. Maybe I should have stood next to Secondo and said a more formal goodbye as well.

He rescued his lego Ninja from the dashboard, we drove away.

Dante? Is that you?

Dante? Is that you?


This past week I completed my apprenticeship (hopefully) to become a member of the Royal Conservatory (of Toronto) Board of Examiners. This Wednesday I leave for a 12-day trip to the British Isles to perform with a choir for whom I play. Husband’s unable to come, so I’m traveling with the group and he’s holding down the fort, such as it is.

I find myself with new chamber groups to work with, new performance opportunities, job openings that I may or may not apply for, so the transitions continue.

Have you heard the expression:  “You throw your anchor into the future you want for yourself and then pull yourself along by the chain”? The thing is, (or shall I say the things are):

  • Do you really know what you want from the future? So often it doesn’t turn out the way we had expected.
  • Have you ever found yourself dutifully pulling yourself along by the chain, and The Whole Entire Time nothing in your surroundings seems to indicate that you’re pulling on the right one? Like, “Now just wait one cotton-pickin’ minute. Whose chain is this? Am I pulling on the right one? Is that yours? Where was it this was going again? Who moved my cheese?“)

marine anchor chain


It seems that we can spend months and years if not longer chasing things, trying to form our futures into that Future; you know? The Future We Want? And then all of a sudden all of this stuff happens, seemingly out of the blue.

Now I realize that it’s not “all of a sudden,” that all of the things I’ve done and connections I’ve made and hours I’ve spent practicing and trying to be a good teacher and good collaborator have paid into these opportunities.  But it still seems kind of random, and quite unexpected. Good, but unexpected.

Anyway, I’ve been really really busy moving rocks and practicing and pulling on those damn chains. I have a zillion ideas of things I want to write about, but it seems that my hands have been pretty full.

Thanks for sticking around.

I’ll  post some pictures of really old castles and Stonehenge and this drink I’m supposed to try in Scotland (a crabby green something?) as soon as I can.



*Being me, I have absolutely no recollection of the source of this article; hence I am unable to link to it. My apologies.


blisters and dirt

Where I’ve been.

At art fairs, getting blisters on my feet; walking the dog, re-opening old blisters; planting flowers and moving flowers and spraying stinky stuff all over my yard to keep the rats-on-long-legs out of my yard.



Had a good “rant” going a couple of days ago when I read a “financial advice” column that started with the author advising a young new mother who was considering going back to work to pray about her decision.


That’s financial advice now? To pray?

Got distracted by dinner preparations or Dexter the Dumb Dog or my gin and tonic, though, so it never got written.

Noticed in the NYTimes that Michele Bachman missed three, count them, three, opportunities to change the world. Or maybe it was just politics. But she didn’t. Alas.

And that Angeline Jolie’s aunt died of breast cancer; further vindication of her (Angelina’s) decision to have a double mastectomy as a preventive measure.

And apparently the newest styles for the summer involve completely see-through white tops for women. Any color bra seems to be fine.

Read a little Rilke (Diaries) and paid more than expected for my “oil change” (the new loss-leader for car dealerships to draw you in so they can lube things and replace things and rotate things. What do I know?).

Since eliminating the ONE photo of the couple playing nude Scrabble on what one can only hope was a nude beach (You won’t find it, so don’t bother looking. Sicko.), I have seen my stats go through a subtle transformation.

Looks like this now:


Better, I guess, but I’ve lost 3 “followers,” although I can’t help but wonder why they were hanging around if that was all they were looking for. I do still really like the Versace post. I think it was some of my best work. . .

Maybe I’m just not writing enough. Or timely enough. Or funny enough.

If only I had bought a big metal chicken at Bed Bath and Beyond today. . .



The Why’s and Wherefore’s

Husband often asks me, when I’m about to initiate a difficult conversation, say, (or maybe even an argument,) with someone, if I have first figured out what I hope to accomplish. I guess that understanding this is perhaps a worthy goal for just about everything we do in a day.

Have been trying to figure this out myself, since three days ago when I decided that I really wanted to start a second blog. Why not just post these thoughts in the blog I already have?

I do actually hope that some of my current blog followers will follow this one as well. (Hint-hint-nudge-nudge-wink-wink)

But I want this one to be different.

So back to the question, worded in a slightly different way: Why bother?

What, exactly, does this thing I’m about to do (fill in the blank) accomplish . . . and I would complete that sentence . . .  that will help fulfill my personal/emotional/spiritual goals as a person with a short time on this planet and a whole lot of life I’d like to live?

And here’s what, why, how, at least, as best I can explain it:

I (like to) believe we’re all searching for what I, for lack of a better term, will call Enlightenment. To live, laugh, love, better and more fully; to find Happiness, by which I mean the inner state that has nothing to do with the outer circumstances, but which resides deep within, burning like an ember; maybe to do one thing every day that feels like we Made a Difference.

(It’s funny, but it reminds me of the conversation I had with Husband the other day about that tattoo I’m trying to talk myself into/out of getting: Chinese characters that say “Live the moment.” But then I thought, and said, “But what if the moment sucks?”)


I want to try to post one thing each day for a year that helps toward this goal: to live, laugh, love, better and more fully; to find Happiness, that inner state that has nothing to do with outer circumstances; to do one thing every day that Made a Difference. It might be something I read, something I observed, something I did or said or that someone did or said to me. Every single one of them could probably fit under the category I call “Grace.” Some of it might be obvious (Duh!), some hopefully insightful, some somewhere in between. Maybe you’ll have heard it before, maybe it will remind you of something that you would like to share. There won’t be the same type of political commentary, or feminist “propaganda,” or making fun of advertising. Well, unless they contribute toward my quest for enlightenment. Who knows, maybe I’ll find that it’s not necessary, or not getting read, and abandon it entirely. I suppose I could start a separate category, but for some inexplicable reason, I want it to be separate.

Maybe it’s silly to think we can find Enlightenment at all — it is the ongoing quest of some of whom I already consider to be the most enlightened people I know — but maybe we’ll all feel better knowing that we’re looking together.

The new blog can be found at: I’m going to post this same post as my “introduction,” well, except for this paragraph — that would be weird — so please read on. After this, I will not duplicate.

Hope to see you there.


Hit me! a.k.a. I apparently can’t do simple math

I’m 4,996 “hits” from 100,000.

I don’t suppose I could entice any of you just to click on random posts from the archives so I could celebrate 100,000 hits before the 3-year anniversary of this blog (February 28)?

I didn’t think so.

I’d offer a prize, but I wouldn’t know where to begin.


Babysitting 101

Yesterday I received an email from my department chair informing me (among others) that I had not completed the participation confirmation for my students. (Is that ironic?) These are college students, mind you, college students, and this would be not the first time, but the second time this semester I had to log in to our faculty center and click into each course number that I teach and then click on little boxes next to the student’s name confirming that they were coming to class and participating fully.

Today Only Daughter brought me her social studies test and told me I needed to sign it, even though she had a perfect score.

Any chance these two things are related?

Now I understand, first of all, that she’s in 6th grade, and secondly, that teachers want to know that parents are paying attention, and thirdly, that parents of students who might not be performing as well on tests might be needing to pay more attention to whether homework is getting done, whether the child is studying for tests, etc.

But would it be too much to ask that teachers encourage students who are doing well by showing their trust, and allowing the students the opportunity to be independent and self-disciplined without the constant checks? Last year I had to initial her planner EVERY SINGLE DAY, whether there was something written on that day or not. Is this how we teach independence and self-discipline?

As a teacher myself, with students of all ages from kindergarten to college, the biggest problem I see is that students aren’t invested enough in their own learning. Some of them do the work so as to be able to say they “did the work,” by which they mean “put in the time,” without any attention to whether anything has been learned or accomplished.

Is this really what we want to encourage?

With a couple of students this week I used an example from earlier years, when I would have First or Second Son sweep the floor. They would sweep, the floor would still be dirty, I would tell them “I thought I asked you to sweep the floor” and they would reply, “I did.” I would then have to point out that the purpose of the exercise was not the act (of waving the broom around over the floor) but the result (the floor is now clean).

Second Son is a natural musician. He played percussion in the marching band in middle school, and could ace every test. His best grade, though, was never higher than a low B, because he didn’t practice. I understand that teachers want students to practice, but presumably this is so that they can master their part. I also think that students who practice and who are less naturally skilled should get some boost to their grade if they perform less than perfectly on their playing tests. But if the student can already perform the assigned skills perfectly, why are we requiring that they practice more? Should the teacher maybe at least make the extra effort to give them something that presented a challenge so that the “practicing” wasn’t just a matter of “putting in the time”? What kind of lesson are we really teaching here?

As a piano teacher I never tell a student how long they must practice every day. I do, however, give them clear guidelines in what and how they should be practicing, and an estimate of approximately how long that should take. I then compare what they have accomplished that week with how much time they claim they practiced, and make adjustments. If they are learning everything in less time, I give them more to work on, or make things more difficult. If they are practicing a LOT and not accomplishing much, we either talk about what their practicing looks like to make sure it’s productive time, or I give them less or things that are less difficult.

The point, always, is what we want to accomplish.

I can’t help but wonder if more college-age students would be more self directed and successful if they grew up with people who cared about and were invested in their success, but only watched over their shoulders when there was a real need. I can’t think of anything that encourages independence more than telling a child that you believe they can do it, and then stepping back and letting them.

Maybe it’s just me.



wouldn’t it be nice if. . .

Husband and I were just talking about tonight’s upcoming debate as we made our dinner preparations (cornmeal-coated oven-fried chicken tenders; curried sweet potato pancakes with raita).

He’s been reading up on Mitt’s activities during Mitt’s tenure at Bain capital, and on hostile takeovers, buyouts, “reorganizations,” etc. in general. It’s a dirty, cynical, greedy business. Capitalism at it’s most capitalistic.

Tonight’s topic is foreign policy.

My wishes are, basically, two. (I get two wishes, right? Isn’t there a genie in this bottle of bourbon? Drat.)

1. A moderator who actually makes the candidate answer the questions he was asked, and who disallows a candidate talking beyond his allotted time.

2. Candidates who actually tell us something without resorting to campaign-speak. Many argue that the American people don’t know the issues, and respond from a more “intuitive,” reflexive place (somewhere behind their belly button, I think). I argue that if you talk to people like they are children, they think like children, and if you talk to people as if they have a reasonable ability to, well, reason, they will do so.

Call me optimistic, just don’t call me late for dinner.

I’ll be tweeting, if I’m not in the fetal position, moaning.

Didn’t their Mamas teach them it’s not polite to point?


New Year’s Resolutions, in October

Heard a little bit of discussion on the Diane Rehm show this morning by various pollsters, including how unreliable the answers to the “Do you intend to vote?” question are. One of the pollsters compared it to how committed people are on January 5 or so to carry out their New Year’s Resolution.

Some of you may have figured out, especially if you read the comments/discussions that ensue sometimes, that I broke a bone in my foot around 8 weeks ago. I would like to say it was a result of something heroic and/or exciting, like tripping over the lead runner in the Chicago Marathon, but actually I just stubbed my toe on the foot of my bed, in broad daylight. Now I’m not all that graceful, and am often doing three things at once while thinking about at least two other, completely unrelated, things, so these kinds of pratfalls are not all that unusual. I even laid on the bed, whimpering softly, for about 10 minutes before I limped out to the kitchen to tell Husband what I had done. Not that I wasn’t expecting sympathy, but these occurrences are quite frequent, and I didn’t want to push my luck. When the throbbing was getting worse rather than better, though, I thought maybe a little sympathy, and, oh, maybe an ice pack was in order.

The stupid thing was that two weeks more passed before I had it X-rayed, including a weekend when we were power washing the deck and house and I walked right off the edge of the deck while looking up at the soffit I was washing. (I don’t know how to spell soffit. I think that’s right, but wordpress is giving me grief. Anyway.)(And the deck is only ~ 3 feet off the ground, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.) Of course I was barefoot, because my toe hurt too badly to wear shoes, and of course I landed on the broken foot, so I’m sure that didn’t help either. So yes, I broke a bone in my foot. The tip of what I’m calling the 3rd toe bone — I’m sure there’s a more technical term, and I’m also quite sure the doctor employed the technical term at my appointment after my X-ray, but I don’t remember it.

It’s this one:

Which means that my foot hurts more than my toe hurts (although the toe looks like someone else’s, like a little sausage, and doesn’t match the other toes), and it has taken a ridiculously long time to heal. I wore an actual shoe on Saturday for the first time in 6 weeks (we won’t talk about the two weeks I was wearing shoes when I shouldn’t have been. What can I say? I’m an optimist.) I managed to walk ~ a mile with Husband each day over the weekend, and my foot is tight and sore afterwards, but at least I’m off my butt, finally. I did have a yoga Groupon which has now expired, and my plans to restart the couch-potato-to-5K thing has been a bust, but maybe I can start next week. . .

I also have started a new juicing plan. I’m hypothyroid, and, while I take Armour thyroid, it often feels like the only result of thyroid medication is that my blood tests show a normal TSH level; I still feel half asleep most of the time, and am always always cold (my temperature the other morning was 96˚). A side effect of hypothyroidism is slow metabolism (it just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?), and I have heard that drinking fruit and vegetable juices as meal replacements a few times a week helps give your digestive system a break and this is supposed to help fire it up, somehow.

So three days a week I’m drinking home-juiced carrot, carrot-apple, carrot-beet, carrot-cucumber-wheatgrass, apple-pineapple-ginger, cherry-pomegranate, etc. juice instead of eating breakfast and lunch. On the days I do so I still have a healthy dinner (although the temptation sometimes is to eat more for dinner than I would otherwise, because, hey, I haven’t eaten all day so I deserve it, right?). I tend to lose ~ .5 of a lb on juicing days and then gain .25-.4 of a lb on non-juicing days, so I’m not really seeing this as an effective diet strategy. Also, on the next mornings, the whites of my eyeballs seem orange. They’re probably not really orange, but they seem orange.

Oh, and I’ve stopped shampooing my hair. =:-O

I have read, on more than one occasion, how bad it is for hair to shampoo it — I mean, think about it! We wash it with this stuff full of chemicals, most of which have been demonstrated to cause cancer in rats (rats with particularly clean hair, but still) and which removes all of the healthy oils and nutrients from our scalp, and then instantly put goop called “conditioner” on it to undo the damage we just caused.

I did “wash” my hair this morning with baking soda paste and then “conditioned” it with some apple cider vinegar. Of course, I thoroughly rinsed the baking soda out first, as I was not 7 and trying to make a “volcano” in my shower. I think I might smell like a pickle, but my hair looks fantastic. (And isn’t the henna-ing still looking nice? I keep thinking maybe I should stop bothering, since I have to re-apply the green mud every month or so to cover my roots, but then I see a picture like this and think, “Fine. I’ll keep doing it.”)

If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately avoiding any discussion of the presidential election.

I am also trying really hard to avoid eating the cold sesame noodles in the fridge. Carrot and beet juice just doesn’t have the same zing.

Oh, and speaking of hair this is what we did over the weekend:

Despite my concerns, it seems to have turned out fine, I have earned “hundreds” (I think it should be thousands) of “Mom coolness points,” and she did not get sent home from school.

So there’s that, then.


it’s always so nice to be appreciated

Samuel Snoek-Brown has graciously nominated me for a Blogger Reader Appreciation Award. While this, like the Versatile Blogger award, and many others, is one of those awards that we bloggers use to pat each other on the back, I just don’t think there’s enough of that going around generally speaking, so I’m going to take this pat on the back thankyouverymuch, and pass it on.

(Like Kendall at thisisnotthatblog said on Twitter one day — this day needs more high fives.)

He acknowledged my blog by saying it was “Snark done right,” and I had a moment of pause where I thought, Really? Snarky? But yeah, I’ll admit it; I can be a little snarky. At least, despite the fact that this might be a blatant display of self-indulgence and/or bad manners, well, at least I’m executing correctly. He also finished off the compliment with this:

“The posts here almost always crack me up. This is snark done right, people. But when they don’t crack me up, it’s because blogger “sheriji” has said something numbingly profound. Seriously, I love this blog.”

Wow. Numbingly profound. That has to be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said.

To accept the award, I have to follow these rules:

1.  When I pass it on, I provide a link to his post, and thank the blogger who nominated me.

Thanks Samuel!!!

2.  Answer 10 questions within my own blog.

My Favorite Color

All of them. Seriously. This is not a cop-out. Which color I “prefer” depends on the day or my mood or whether it’s something I want to paint on my walls (really deep, interesting colors, or a sunny Tuscan yellow), wear (autumn colors, browns, forest greens, gray, burgundy), or drink coffee out of it (red, or blue, or lime green, or purple, or. . . you get the idea). Plus did you hear that 75% of people prefer blue? So that pretty much rules that one out. . .

My favorite animal to include in a story?

I’ve never written a story with an animal in it, but my favorite animal in a story is the Porcupine named Fluffy. Just because Porcupines. Aren’t. Fluffy.

If I had to write an animal in a story, it would have to be a giraffe or a rhinocerous. Puppy dogs and bears get way too much press already, and I’m always rooting for the underdog (see My Favorite Color).

My favorite non-alcoholic drink while writing?

(Buzzkill.)(Literally) Fine. Coffee. I do love coffee.

Printed books or e-books?

I can’t decide. I love the convenience of e-books and that I can “buy” a sample of every book I ever read a good review of so that I don’t forget about them when it’s time to actually buy a book, but I won’t take my tablet to the beach or in the tub, and it’s not as much fun to mark up and I certainly can’t share it with my Husband because then we’re both wanting the tablet at the same time, so not all that convenient I guess.

Harrumph. Do I have to choose?

My favorite writer(s) now?

I can’t get enough of Merwin, Jane Kenyon, or Dorianne Laux for poetry. I just loved Light in August (Faulkner), but find a lot of his fiction quite challenging. Was really sad when Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger was all read to the end. Am always watching for Safran-Foer to publish another book, and read every story by Alice Munro the moment I see it.

Your favorite writer(s) ten years ago?

Can’t remember back that far. I do know that there are never enough good books in a stack next to my bed for me to read, so please recommend recommend recommend!

Your favorite poet Classic & Current?

Ooh, I answered that one already. Merwin, Kenyon, Laux; and, of course, Shakespeare.

Your favorite time of day to write?

When I don’t feel like I’m ignoring/neglecting anybody else to do so. Depends completely on the circumstances of the day.

What is your passion when it comes to your writing?

It’s funny, I had decided not to read S S-B’s answers so as not to be influenced (besides being kind of bummed that he stole my favorite color answer), but what he wrote really struck home with me. Especially: “I’ve discovered I’m obsessed with home and community. Not really with domestic life or human society, but with the ways in which home becomes the greatest source of conflict and why people so often fail to connect with each other and yet keep trying, desperately reaching out for one another with the same hands they use to push people away.”

I started the blog because I wanted to talk to people, no, I wanted to talk with people. (I love the comments, and the conversations I get into with other bloggers [sorry oldblack, I think I hijacked “Anne” just a wee bit].)  I find that if I make a conscious effort to read other blogs, and the newspaper, and keep up with my New Yorker’s, etc., etc., I have a lot more to think about and a lot more to say. I, too, am always looking for connection. Facebook and Twitter just wasn’t doing it for me because there wasn’t enough room to really write something, to really say something. I’m also always looking for the right thing to say so I can figure out what I actually think or feel. It’s probably a very inefficient way to communicate with myself forcryingoutloud, but there it is. The fact that there are almost 200 of you out there who have signed up to read this stuff regularly is just fun. It does help me feel like maybe, just maybe, I’m okay too.

3.  Nominate other blogs that I find a joy to read. (Ten is recommended, but I’m going to go with the presumption that the joy part is more important than the number, so I may have fewer, I may have more.)

4.  Provide links to these nominated blogs and kindly let the recipients know that they have been nominated.

Redamancy Lit — quotes beautiful writing in all forms. Am sad when she’s gone for stretches now and then.

This is Not That Blog — Short and sweet, often more about the pictures than the words, but Kendall puts things in such a particular way that it not only must be me, but makes me laugh out loud almost every single time. I only wish she posted more often.

Rage Against the Minivan — I don’t always agree with her, although I usually do; but she writes about stuff, and posts writings by other writers, that always gives me something to think about. We need more bloggers like this — issues regarding women, families, raising children, society and its influences both good and bad, etc. etc. Great stuff.

(Sidebar: I was just going through the list of blogs I read regularly and I got completely sidetracked by Louis CK. Here:


Misfits Miscellany — poems. A couple of them mine, but most not, because that would be weird, and well, impossible, and then it would just be my blog.

Quieter Elephant — a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, but all about life and our reactions to it. Plus I always want to know, quieter than what?

Oldblack — he doesn’t post real often, and the posts are usually pretty short, and he claims to be both dark AND boring, but he is very interested in the conversation, so I find myself checking in with him regularly, and he with me. Listens with his head, and his heart.

5.  Include the award logo within your own blog post.

Can I follow instructions or what?



Heard in the bathroom, yesterday

Only Daughter: Someday if I’m rich I’m going to give most of my money away because I would feel really badly about having so much when some people have so little.

Me: (thinking many things, including “does that mean you’ll pay me back for the thousands of dollars I’ll have spent on gymnastics classes and college?“) Wow. That’s really generous of you. Some people would say that that makes you a “Socialist,” and the Republicans won’t like you for it.

Only Daughter: What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?

Me: (thinking that I should be really careful to give a balanced answer, and not only because this might be a conversation I want to blog about later, but because I want her to think for herself not just spout whatever dogma she hears from me) Well, Democrats think that the world is a better place if we all take care of each other, so we should all have as many of the same chances as we can, and even though we should all work hard and do our best, sometimes we need a little extra help; Republicans believe that we should all “pull ourselves up by our own boot straps,” and that even when things are tough things will work out better if we are each responsible for ourselves.

Only Daughter: So how many Republicans are there? Like 5?

(I wish.)

(Good girl.)


this is kind of cool


call me Martha

Made 2 Roman blinds for the “piano room” front windows the other day. They fit perfectly, Husband installed them without drilling through his thumbs, and they looked SO MUCH BETTER than the dirty, hideous, puke-green-with-some-kind-of-apples-or-roses valances that were there before I decided that I must, as they say, strike while the iron is hot.

So this morning, after a biscotti and a soft-boiled egg and 30 minute of hip-opening yoga with Jason Crandal, I decided to make the valance for the back window. This window is of the picture-window type, coming in at a whopping 107″ wide.

Leaving off the details relating to the 2 hours of sketches and math involved in converting a pattern for a 52″ valance into a 107″ valance, the two trips to the fabric store to purchase sufficient fabric, and the 20 minutes of meditative breathing to establish the right frame of mind “preparation,” here is a chronicle of the day (I was going to Twitter as I went, but I only have 7 followers, and I didn’t want to interrupt the creative process):


Facing an enormous pile of fabric. Stripes, stripes everywhere. This is either going to look really fabulously fantastic or I’m going to go blind.


Have managed to cut out all of the pattern pieces and still have a full yard left. Clearly I suck at measuring/planning, but this is a good thing because now I have enough to make a blind for the front door and we will no longer have to worry about people peering in at us as they try to deliver baked goods or subpoenas (as if either ever happens) while we are emerging from the bathroom.*



Wow. This is going really well! I’ll be done by noon for sure.



I must have sewn 17 miles of seams already. This is ridiculous. What was I thinking? There is no way this is ever going to be done, or that I won’t have murdered someone just for the sake of finding something else to do.


2 “cascades” plus 5 “swags” plus 3 “trumpets” = 1 too few “trumpets.”

Must cut another “trumpet.”

No longer have sufficient fabric for front-door Roman blind. Peeping Tom’s take note.


Am buzzing on a caffeine high from 6 shots of espresso and breakfast being three and a half hours ago. Time for a turkey sandwich and a pear. No beer. Not a good idea when “sewing.”


Return to the task with renewed vigor and confidence. Must lay out 11 panels of now sewn-together valance parts onto 7.5 yards of fabric lining, using a 6′ long table.


Valance seems to be running too far to the east on the lining; must lay out again.


Valance now running to the west (only because I started at the other side). Must figure out why this keeps happening before I start cutting.


Oh. On third try realize that am pinning the seam allowances towards the “trumpets” rather than toward the “swags.” Question whether this can really make that much of a difference.


It does. Valance now pinned to lining.

Start cutting.

Husband comes in to ask how things are going. I reply that, despite earlier reports, valance will not be completed by lunchtime. Also report that am beginning to feel a little angry, but only a little. Husband suddenly thinks of something Very Important that must be done in The Other Room. (I call it “running for the hills.” Coward.)


Begin sewing 7.5 yards of lining to 7 yards of valance. Realize that “cascades” were attached on the opposite sides from where they were supposed to be attached. Am not sure how such a thing could have happened. Decide I will just deal with this later.


Can’t just “deal with” this. Realize that the result of mistake is that the rod pocket for the “cascades” is ~ 12″ higher than the rod pockets for the “swags.” The result of this will be that the majority of the valance will fall ~ 3′ above the floor.

After long and careful consideration, decide this won’t work.

Husband hears strange noises from kitchen. Comes to investigate. Offers helpful advice, support, and a willing ear while I talk through my idea for solving said problem. Challenges claim that the pattern states that at this stage in the process it is important to start drinking. Am unable to provide documentation. Must have lost that page in the scuffle.

Husband redeems himself from being a “party pooper” by helping to rip out “wrong” seams, and watching encouragingly while remedies are made.


Husband helps hang Really Really Long curtain rod despite directions for freakishly large drill bit, and. . .


. . .looks on approvingly while pleats in “trumpets” are adjusted for maximum effect.


This is all I accomplished today. It’s all I can do not to look at them admiringly every 7 minutes. I’m quite certain I have other things to do.

But Martha’s got nothin’ on me. Well, except ~ $970 million or so.




*Who designed this house, and decided it was a good idea to place the main bathroom directly in line with the front door?


untangling the tangles

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was going to start a new project — one Goldberg Variation a week until the whole piece is learned.

Yesterday I started the first Variation.

But let me digress for a moment.

I’ve noticed over the past several months that when I’m feeling emotionally turmoiled (isthataword?) I turn to Bach. At the end of a particularly long day or in the middle of a stressful week or after a difficult or disappointing conversation or encounter, I find myself sitting at the piano, working my way through a Prelude or Fugue; musical Valium, if you will.

The past couple of days were particularly trying.

To spare you all of the gruesome details, let’s just say that a student of a colleague of mine at “my” college misinterpreted and/or misrepresented a very brief and casual exchange and the colleague, someone I like very much, and thought liked, trusted, and admired me, assumed the worst. And, rather than asking me what had happened, wrote me an email telling me how unprofessional and insensitive I was, and then blithely went about the rest of his evening, not getting my phone message, not reading my email. I, being the I-must-be-the-crappiest-person-in-the-world type, was awake until 3 a.m., and awake again at 6:30, and had a generally overwhelmed and in-the-overtired-induced-ozone all day Friday.

We exchanged a few emails after he FINALLY returned my call at 9:30 the next morning (15 hours after his message), and he apologized for jumping to the wrong conclusion, and for not asking me about it first, but I still generally felt like crap about the whole thing, but for gradually evolving reasons.

After I got over the self-loathing stage, I was angry, and had a few questions.

Why did this person so easily assume the worst? This isn’t the first time this has happened to me; it seems to be my superpower; I’d rather have another. I’ve always worked really hard, I’m fairly good at what I do, I’m organized and responsible and conscientious. This seems to have hurt me rather than helped me. I’ve actually been told that, as an adjunct, I “didn’t know my place.”

Anyway. . .

Even if things had happened as the student seems to have portrayed them, why is this automatically a bad thing? We coddle students too much, we treat them like customers rather than students; our job seems to be more about patting them on the head and making sure they feel good about themselves than about actually pushing them to achieve their best or challenging them when they don’t. This can’t be good for them, nor for society in general.

And, finally, why do I ALWAYS go so easily to self-critical, self-loathing, even when righteous indignation or outright anger is what’s called for? I think it’s a woman thing. I’m not sure, however, that it’s a good thing. Husband points out that he goes right to anger; he is much more efficient that way. I think it’s a guy thing, and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing either.

I always end up feeling like this: (from

when I should probably be feeling like this

So, back to Bach. . .(remember Bach?)

His music often seems like a tangle. It can take days to work out fingerings that allow you to navigate the passagework; and often there seems to only be one fingering that actually works. The melodic lines can be easily identified and unraveled when listening to a good recording, or even just by looking at the score, but making them audible can feel like trying to untangle a large skein of yarn after the cat has spent a night “playing” with it. A forest of whirls and knots and undergrowth. And then, often seemingly suddenly, the order is revealed, and everything clicks into place.

Maybe that’s why. Order from chaos, eventually, but always ultimately, revealed.

In a not-completely unrelated story, we were without power for around 18 hours because of “bad weather.” (We’re not really sure what it was, although it was a little windy and we live in the forest, and apparently 74,000 Consumers Energy customers were without power in Michigan today, so I guess we’re lucky that it’s back on “already.”) Anyway, nothing restores a sense of order like coming home from good Thai food and Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in the same movie, to lights and heat and finally being able to clean up the kitchen.

Husband says that the clean kitchen is a sign of hope.

That makes sense to me, although I think the order-from-chaos thing helps.

I would post a recording of me playing the first Variation, but Husband thinks that recording it at 11:52 p.m. after a glass of scotch might not be a good idea.

He’s probably right.

Another time, then.


pandering post-Oscar post; Updated

Okay, first of all, I was really curious as to why I had 51 hits in one hour last night when the usual hourly rate is more around 10-20. Then I discovered that J-Lo apparently had a wardrobe malfunction, and I had a post about J-Lo from a couple New Years Eve’s ago. Really? This is all you have to do? Look for a picture of J-Lo’s nipple? I’m betting it looks pretty much like anybody else’s.


ANYway. . .

…I have just wasted 30 minutes I can’t get back looking at pictures from the Red Carpet “ceremony” (seriously? it’s a ceremony now?) so I thought I would waste a few more commenting on them.

But first a question. How much Botox is too much? The bottom half of Billy Crystal’s face looked 60+, but his forehead NEVER moved. Weird.

For the sake of fairness/disclosure, all of the photos below (unless otherwise noted) were taken from

41 going on 60. If she gets any thinner she’s going to look 160.

In her pre-skeleton days she used to be beautiful.

I just don’t get it. Why does this repeatedly happen, where there seems to be no such thing as “thin enough”?

Speaking of skeletons. . .

We all want to know, Angelina. What was up with the leg? Did you lose a bet or something?

How does one write a choking sound?

The top of this gown is at LEAST two sizes too big.


Um, polka dots? Um, no.

Is it just me, or does he actually LOOK like Puss in Boots?

Stand up girl! You’re at the Oscars!

“Princess Charlene and Prince Albert”

Enough of the ridiculous, now for the “Stunning”:






(I am a little curious about the back.)



so much for those delusions (of grandeur)

Just discovered that there’s a website called “alexa” that can track the traffic to your blog, so I thought I’d go see what I could see.

Here’s what I saw:



How many blogs do you think there are out there, anyway?

It also showed this graph:


(I’m including the category “Blatant Self Promotion.” Is that ironic?) (Or just sarcastic?)



instead of what I should be doing. . .

Which is getting my act together to start another college semester tomorrow, what I’m doing is thanking Quieter Elephant for, and humbling accepting, his* nomination for The Versatile Blogger award.

I suppose I “qualify” because I write about just about everything. Here I always feared that this just revealed me to be a jack-of-all-trades-master-at-none, at best, or, at worst, a scatter-brain. Who knew that this meant I was  “versatile”? Versatile’s good, right?

So now I get to face the challenge of figuring out how to display this lovely badge on my site (little help from any of you techies out there?), and to follow the “rules”  — although I am reassured that there are no “blogging police” out there, I am, if nothing else, a rule-follower, so here goes.

The Rules: 

1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass this award along to 15 or 20. (This is going to be difficult for me, despite my claim to be a rule-follower. I barely have time to keep up with writing on my own, and don’t think I even read 15 or 20 blogs. I’m going to count on the reassurances of not being policed, and recommend only those I know well enough to do so with integrity.)

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Seven Things About Me

1. I tried, one year at Thanksgiving, when one of my sisters was asking what we were thankful for, to be thankful for cheese. She thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. I love food — good food, healthful food, interesting food, strongly-flavored food, and even better if this delicious food is being served with interesting wines. You will often find on this blog recipes or reports of our latest delicious creations. I also think that the four food groups (I know, it’s a pyramid now, but work with me) should be cheese, chocolate, wine, and coffee. Somehow I can’t see that going over, although, if you have those four, I’m pretty sure the rest of the good stuff works its way in somehow.

2. I want to be loved, admired, respected. I often joke that, as the 6th of 8 children, I have a tremendous need for external validation, and nothing pleases me more than any form of being patted on the head (“Me! Me! Pay attention to me!). This award definitely qualifies, so, again, thank you! Unfortunately, sometimes this means I talk too loud, say too much, and cry too often (when I feel I’m being overlooked or undervalued).

3. I’m three years into my second marriage, to the man of my dreams. I was married before for nearly 20 years, to a very kind, good man with whom I had very little in common and therefore virtually nothing to talk about. The wresting away, with the fear of hurt to my children, was the most difficult thing I have ever done. My husband, (known to you as Husband,) is everything I ever wanted in a husband — besides the fact that he cooks, does laundry, shops, insists on making my coffee every morning — he’s my best friend, lover and favorite companion (I hope this doesn’t embarrass him).

4. I wish I could live at least ten different lives. I want to write, paint, make sculptures in my garage and collages out of photos and stones and scraps of paper, take pictures, travel, be a surgeon, fly a plane. I want to be a tall black woman with fabulous hair, a nerdy scientist who finds the cure for cancer. I want to read every great book ever written, watch every great movie ever made. There just can’t be enough time in one life to do all that I want to do.

5. I’m perpetually conflicted. While I feel all of the things above, I feel the need to work countless hours at work I’m not always sure is what I want to do anymore, and I don’t always take as good of care of myself as someone who wants to live 300 years should.

6. Wow. I’m at 6 already. I didn’t think I’d get this far.

7. I love writing on this blog. I find myself thinking about this more than I think about anything else I “do.” I wish I could make a living at it.

Blogs I recommend

Misfits Miscellany: this and that for all things literary

Blog con Queso: many ways of looking at the world and being a woman

Running in Circles: don’t we all?

This is not that Blog: So funny! Makes me want to go out and get a digital drawing pad, even though I can’t draw

Mocha Momma: Love her!

Treacle Talks:  Her banner reads “planning to get sauced on life’s juice: stumbling her way to getting there.” Exactly!

Mannered Gold: Her banner reads “Mumbling with enthusiasm; typing with inflection.” Exactly! (Again; is it okay if I say that twice?)

Roger Ebert’s Blog: You might think it’s just going to be about movies, but it’s about so much more.

The Bloggess: She’s probably already nominated, and won, but she’s funny, irreverent, generous, and real. My favorite combination. I wish she lived next door so she could be my neighbor/best friend that my husband worried about when we went out together at night.

On to my next task.

Thanks for reading!

*I assume it’s a “he” because what woman would name her blog after an elephant?



Just managed to “score” an “invitation” to join Pinterest.

I’m not really sure what this process is supposed to represent. Being the mildly cynical sort, I can’t help but feel that the manufactured experience of petitioning for an “invitation” is supposed to make you feel like you’ve gained access to some kind of exclusive club.

And at the risk of sounding paranoid, if I link my pinterest board to my twitter or facebook accounts, is there any way of knowing whether pinterest is pillaging all of my personal information for some nefarious reason?

(You know, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean the world isn’t out to get you.)

I do often feel that much of our time is spent shouting and waving our arms, like the chronic middle child: “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!” We write on facebook about what we’re doing today or what we’re eating or what we’re thinking; we write on blogs to rant or rave or muse. We spend a lot of time talking, but not a lot of time listening.

I’ve often wished my posts would trigger even more conversation, although I’m wondering if maybe it has something to do with how/what I write, and whether I could invite more discussion somehow. Without a trace of irony, I ask, any suggestions?

I do spend a lot of time reading, fiction, New Yorker/Sunday New York Times. I also spend a fair bit of time talking, primarily to my students, but also to my husband, daughter. I don’t think I spend enough time talking to my friends. Or my sons.

I’ll have to do something about that.

Meanwhile, if you have a pinterest account and are willing to share it, please post it in the comments.

You can find my board at






breaking nobody’s records but my own

Just noticed this today on my blog stats.

Not winning me any awards, or generating any advertising or anything, and maybe, as my husband would say, small beer, for some of you, but kind of fun to me.

Thanks for reading!




fall’s bounty

Here are some recipes from our autumn weekend, enjoying the fruits of the season.

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread

adapted from Willow Bird Baking

I like more pumpkin-spice flavor in the bread itself, so I added a few things.

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread

To make the dough:
2 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. (+ maybe a little more) unbleached flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 T. unsalted butter

2 T. unsalted butter
1/8 c. brown sugar
2 T. milk
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. rum or brandy

Make the pull-apart bread dough: Grease and flour an 8×8 square baking pan and set aside. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, brown the 2 tablespoons of butter. Let it bubble and foam and until it starts to darken, swirling around in the pan occasionally. When it’s the color of dark honey, remove it from the heat and pour it into a large heat-safe mixer bowl to cool. In the same saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk until it bubbles. Remove it from the heat and pour it into the bowl with the butter. Set the saucepan aside for another use later.

Stir spoonfuls of the pumpkin puree in to cool the butter and milk mixture. When the temperature has lowered to around 110˚, stir the sugar and yeast in and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir in the rest of the pumpkin, salt, spices and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour. If you haven’t already, fit your mixer with a dough hook. Add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time, starting with the wheat, stirring between each addition. Keep kneading with the dough hook on low speed until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes with a mixer). I used home-made cooked pumpkin, so my pumpkin puree was quite moist, and had to add at least another 1/2 c. of flour to get it to the right consistency. It should be somewhat sticky, but spring back when touched.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let it rise in a warm place for about an hour until it doubles in size. Mine took longer because my pumpkin was a little cold and it cooled the dough. (After it rises, you can put it in the fridge overnight to use it in the morning, but let it sit out for half an hour before rolling if you do.)

Make the filling: While the dough is rising, whisk the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together in a small bowl. Toward the end of the rising time, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter for the filling in the saucepan over medium-high heat and brown it as directed above. Remove from heat.

Shape and bake pull-apart bread: Knead a sprinkling of flour (about 1 tablespoon) into the dough, deflating it, and re-cover it. Let it sit to relax for 5 minutes. This is important, or it’s way too springy to deal with. Flour a large work surface and turn your rested dough out onto it. Roll it out to a 20 inch long and 12 inch wide rectangle, lifting corners periodically to make sure it’s not sticking. If it seems to be snapping back, cover it with your damp towel and let it rest for 5 minutes before continuing (I had to do this twice during the process).

Spread the browned butter over the surface of the dough with a pastry brush and then sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top, patting it down to ensure it mostly sticks.

Cut the dough into 6 strips the long way with a pizza cutter. The best way to do this and have it come out evenly is to cut the rectangle in half, then cut each half into equal thirds. Stack these strips on top of one another and cut the resulting stack into 8 even portions. Place these portions one stack at a time into your greased loaf pan like your filing papers, pressing them up against each other to fit them all in. Cover the pan with your damp cloth and place it in a warm place for 30-45 minutes to double in size.

While dough rises, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 if you have a glass loaf dish instead of a metal pan). When it’s risen, place the loaf in the center of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until dark golden brown on top (if you take it out at light golden brown, it’s liable to be raw in the middle, so let it get good and dark). Cool for 20-30 minutes on a cooling rack in the loaf pan while you make the glaze.

Make the glaze: In your saucepan, bring the butter, milk, and brown sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove it from heat, add the powdered sugar and rum or brandy, and whisk it to a smooth consistency.

Assemble and serve: Use a butter knife to loosen all sides of the bread from the loaf pan and gently turn it out onto a plate. Place another plate on top and flip it to turn it right side up. Drizzle glaze over top. Serve each piece slightly warm with a drizzle of glaze.

Pan-fried Trout with Spinach and Almonds

Mix 1 c. coarse cornmeal with lots of salt and pepper and 1/8 – 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper. Cut 4 trout filets off the skin. (It works best if you work your sharp, fileting knife in under the fish flesh on the short end until you can get a good hold of the skin, and then pull the skin while holding the knife securely. This should take the fish right off the skin. It worked so surprisingly well I was disappointed when I ran out of fish to de-skin.) Pat the fish filets dry with a paper towel, then dredge in the cornmeal, packing it a bit to help it stick, and put on a cookie sheet that you then put in the fridge until ready to cook.

Brown 1/4 c. of sliced almonds in a dry non-stick skillet.

Clean ~ 1 lb of baby spinach and remove stems. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and then throw the spinach in and toss around until wilted. Put into mesh strainer to drain.

Allow the water to cook out of the pan, then add 1 T. butter and 2 T. of olive oil. Let it get good and hot, then pan-fry two of the trout filets at a time, ~ 2 minutes per side. Serve each filet on a small bed of spinach, sprinkle with 1 T. of the almonds.

Healthful Apple Strudel

Strudel dough:
Whirl 1 c. wheat flour, 1/2 c. white flour, and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Add 1 egg, 2 tsp. melted butter, and 1/4 tsp. vinegar and whirl until it’s all moist crumbs. Warm 3/8 c. milk to just barely warm, and pour through the opening in the top of the food processor bowl with the blade running. Allow to process for up to a minute until it forms a nice ball of dough. Pour out onto a well-floured cloth, roll to cover with flour, and cover with a bowl.

Mix 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 3 T. flour, and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Peel and slice very thinly, 4 c. apples (firm, tart ones are good, but we used just-picked Honey Crisps and it was fantastic!). Stir the apple slices into the sugar/flour mixture until well coated. Add 1/2 c. raisins and 1/4 c. chopped hazelnuts. Stir again.

To roll out dough:
Roll and gently stretch the dough to a 12-16″ square. Be patient, it will happen. Brush with 1 T. of melted butter. Fold in half into a rectangle, brush top with a bit more melted butter. Fold that in half into a square. DON’T BRUSH THE TOP WITH MELTED BUTTER. Roll and gently stretch the dough until it’s back to the size you started with. You want it thin thin thin, but you also want to be able to maneuver it and not have it tear, so be gentle.

Pour filling out just this side of a line down the middle of the rectangle. Leave an inch or so on each end, and a few inches at the edge by you. Dot with just a little bit more butter and sprinkle with brandy.

Fold the ends of the dough up over the ends of the filling, and, this is where it gets a little hairy, oh-so-carefully roll the whole thing up like a jelly roll*. Use the cloth you’ve rolled on to help you. When you get to the end, position a large cookie sheet behind the strudel still on the cloth, and keep rolling the strudel right on to the pan. Phew!

Brush the top with milk and then sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar. You can cut slits, but it will probably “explode” in the oven anyway, so don’t worry about it.

Bake at 375˚ for 35 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, plain yogurt, or homemade whipped cream.

*I love this expression — it’s in recipes all the time, and no one I know has ever in his or her life made an actual jelly roll. Yet we all know what is meant. Cool.

Sorry I don’t have pictures of the fish. Too much to do all at once, and then it gets cold quickly, so we ate it instead. Drank a delightful dry riesling with it. Yum.

Happy fall!!!

My allergies are actually killing me, so I’m thinking maybe I wouldn’t mind maybe one teensy weensy hard frost?



what I’m doing when i’m not writing on my blog

Played through my upcoming Italy program for a couple friends today and tried out my new Sony PCM-D50 digital recorder. (Love it!!!)  Here are a few tracks from the live performance. My piano hasn’t been tuned in a while — have to wait for the weather to settle down a bit, so hope it’s not too painful for those of you with discerning ears.

Hope you enjoy!

01 Excursion No. 1

07 Variations in F Minor, Hob. XVII_6

08 2. Orientale


Just Sayin’s first anniversary

Started this blog a year ago, plus a few days. (sorry, I was distracted)

Enjoying it so far; hope you are too.

Just looked back at a few of the early posts. Check them out if you haven’t — I’m particularly fond of the one re: Ms. Capuccine, and the handsome guy doing dishes.

Another favorite, although not quite so far back, was the one about Spanx for Men.

Thanks for reading!

Reader Appreciation Award

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