Monday, May 20, 2013
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
(This article previously appeared on Betterafter50.com)
Have you ever walked through a ghost town? There is evidence of the vibrancy and life that once had been a part of the town, but now a deafening stillness exists, and perhaps a sense of peace. Yesterday the town of Boston and its environs were modern ghost towns, victims of the circumstances and proximity to the tragic bombings that occurred earlier in the week. With an estimated population of 4.5 million, these areas are usually bustling with people and vehicles and on Friday you would be hard pressed to find either. They were still, but there was no peace.
There were black tanks rolling through the streets--men in SWAT uniforms carrying on house-to-house searches, German Shepherds rooting and hunting--all shattering what is the relative calm of an urban city.
Where am I? Is this really happening, or is it Jerry Bruckheimer at his best?
The city was at a standstill--just like during a snowstorm...but there was no snow. And as I sat in my Cambridge apartment, under lockdown by order of the powers that be, I found it hard to believe that two men could bring these cities to their knees. Were we overreating? The night before we heard there had been a shooting at MIT. We live in MIT proper--my Kendall Square neighborhood and MIT have a symbiotic relationship--we feed off each other--so it was quite disconcerting to hear the news. All the while we never imagined that the Marathon bombings were connected...
So we went to bed...
At 6am on Friday we learned the horrible news, and the truth. The suspected bombers were not only behind the shooting, but they murdered an MIT police officer and had carjacked a car just down the street. And so began my close relationship with the TV. I tried my best to do some work, read, and exercise (I said I tried--didn’t say I was successful), but the TV kept calling me back. After a long while it became apparent that I was watching a continuous scroll of reruns and listening to assumptions and sound bites. Pundits with specialties in every area of psychology, terrorism, history...you name it--weighed in on the suspects, their family, their life, what was going on inside and out. Friends from childhood who may have passed them in the halls--once--became authorities. Even their car mechanic gave a discourse.
Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker, spoke of all these “expert” journalists: “We are now a nation of experts, with millions of people who know the meaning of everything that they haven’t actually experienced.”
One dead, one to go. From windows and balconies, families with little to do resorted to taking photos to document the day during their “imprisonment.” It was a search of Marathon proportion for the Marathon Bomber.
And as the day wore on...and on...and on, and daylight began to give way to night light, the lockdown was lifted. (Perhaps the public could be more useful outside their doors rather than behind them?) My husband and I did not rush out, embracing our freedom. There was still a murderer on the loose--where should we go?
And then, in a hurl of bullets and a flash of explosions (another Bruckheimer moment), Suspect #2 was discovered. Our wish for him to be taken alive was fulfilled and the surreal events of the day were over.
Did yesterday really happen? The buses and trains, and cabs are all rolling again. People are out, dogs are being walked, restaurants and bakeries are back in business. I think of the countries in which lockdowns are a normal occurrence. Where hiding in bomb shelters is a way of “life,” something that is built into the fabric of everyday normalcy. How do they do it? Does someone come around with a device a la Men in Black and zap away their memories...until the next time it happens?
There was jubilation in the streets last night, but there is no real reason to throw up our hands in a celebratory fist pump. Too many people have died and too many people are suffering. Succesfully handling the cause for yesterday’s siege is a victory, but a pyrrhic victory nonetheless.
Did yesterday really happen?
Monday, February 11, 2013
This post is part of a Generation Fabulous bloghop. The February theme is celebrity crushes.
I have never been one to advocate hero worship, and thus have had very few celebrity “heroes” throughout my life. Oh yes, there were the people I admired: the civil rights activists, the teachers; the Mother Teresas of the world...and of course members of my family at different times during the years. But there really was never anyone whom I would recommend putting on a pedestal. (I’ve been saving that honor for yours truly...like that will ever happen!)
Kelly Ripa probably falls into none of the categories that I’ve mentioned--I don’t think she’s a philanthropist, and I daresay that she’s not a civil rights’ activist. So it might come as a huge surprise to anyone who knows me (and actually I am quite surprised about it myself) that I am a Kelly Ripa wannabe!
Call me shallow, call me vapid...I’m going out on a limb here by admitting this, and I think that alone should earn me some sympathy points. All I know is that most mornings at nine a.m. you can find me in front of my TV waiting to see Kelly and her hunky cohost Michael Strahan come through the door with a flourish.
What will she be wearing? Will it be the black Manolos or the gray suede Nina Riccis? I especially love the black and white Stella McCartney dress she used to wear last year, and there was a little purple number that was another fave of mine. I drink my morning coffee and listen as she and Michael banter back and forth about her kids, her husband...her life. It’s my guilty pleasure--to live vicariously through Kelly Ripa.
Could Kelly and I be friends? She’s a blonde and I'm “brunette,” she is a TV personality, and being a celebrity in my own mind does not make it so. She earns 20 mill a year, and I...don’t even ask. She’s 42 and I am...not. OK, OK, so there are not very many things we have in common...we’re both little, does that count for anything? (Yes, I know, she’s little-er than I am...so what!) Who’s to say that the person you admire has to be like you? In fact, I bet most people admire folks who are nothing like them for that very reason.
But wait a minute...she and I are not all that different. She’s a mom...a working mom. I’m a working mom! So what that she earns a “few” shekels more than I do. She’s out there in the trenches everyday...getting her hair and makeup done...toiling away and interviewing the likes of Ben Affleck, Catherine Zeta Jones and Brooke Shields. She’s under a lot of pressure having to be cute and witty under all those hot lights.
She’s got three children who test her patience just like mine did way back when. And she’s a hands-on mom: picks those kids up from school in her chauffeured SUV(after her morning show and daily two hours of private training at the gym). She shuttles them to doctors’ appointments and after-school activities (and shares the load with her Adonis-lookalike hubby Mark to whom she’s been married for over 16 years). That’s a tough row to hoe, but I can relate...sort of.
In all honesty, I do admire her. I think she’s adorable and a very savvy businesswoman. The little girl from a working class family in New Jersey has earned her stripes.
And I was wrong about her not being philanthropic: last week she participated in the Empire State Building Run-Up for charity. (Wonder how many pounds she lost on that one--she’s probably even littler now!) Kelly, in addition to about 700 people from around the world, including some elite athletes, took part in a vertical race, up 86 flights of stairs. They climbed a total of 1,576 steps, starting at the lobby and finishing at the observation deck. And she finished in 18 minutes! (She was a veritable Tinkerbell flying up those steps--I admire her strength, determination...and knees!)
The charity Kelly was running for was Team for Kids, the primary charity fund-raising vehicle for New York Road Runner’s youth services division. Funds raised through Team for Kids provide “free or low-cost school and community-based health and fitness programs to children who would otherwise have no access to regular physical activity.” The programs serve nearly 100,000 children each year in more than 400 schools across New York City and beyond.
Kelly and her crew raised over $80,000 for Team for Kids at the Run-Up, so don’t be a hater on Kelly; or on me for being a Kelly Ripa wannabe. A person could do worse.
Love ya, Kel...I think I can call her that now. Say “hi” to Michael for me.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
There’s a plastic container on my kitchen counter filled with what most people think is dirt. It’s not...it’s coffee grounds. I once read somewhere that sprinkling spent coffee grounds in your garden is good for the soil. It seems they are loaded with nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium--nutrients that are beneficial to the plants.That was many years ago when I lived in the suburbs. I would make my coffee and once the used grounds had cooled (and dried--you can’t do much with wet, sticky grounds), I would run into the backyard and toss them in whichever patch of soil was closest. I really believed that those grounds were the reason my Meyer Lemon trees did so well. The fruit was plump and juicy and gave off a heady aroma when the pre-fruit flowers blossomed. I daresay my tenants are tending to the tress in the same manner I did. One can only hope.
I live in the city now and I have neither garden nor much soil near me. So, the container sits on the counter waiting to be emptied.
It’s not just because I have no garden that I don’t regularly toss the grounds. I live on a floor that is too high up to keep going out each time I make a pot of coffee--that’s excuse number one. The other excuses range from, “I can’t handle the dog and the bag of grounds at the same time, I can’t let anyone see me tossing something into the building’s bushes, I can’t let anyone see me on the elevator with a plastic bag filled with an unidentifiable brown substance.” So, the container sits on the counter and waits.
I prefer throwing the grounds out at night, when no one is around. But my husband usually gets night duty with the dog, and he says that it's my project, so it's my dumping responsibility. Right before it rains is a good time, because the grounds can really soak into the soil then. But I don’t often plan ahead, and once the rain starts, I usually have an umbrella in my hand--too cumbersome.
The best time to unload the grounds is right before a snowfall. They then get covered up and smashed below the surface. We haven’t had much snow lately, but they do predict a storm is on the way, so perhaps this week is the week.
The container is getting pretty full, and if that snowfall doesn’t materialize, I’ll have to start throwing the overflow down the disposal. And really, since I don’t have a garden, and I don’t have to worry about the building’s soil, I should just forget the whole thing and chuck the entire lot.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
When living in Southern California, obsession with fashion has all to do with looks; weather very rarely plays a part in the decision-making process. The fluctuations are not that drastic: it's either hot, hotter or hottest. There are periods during the year when the temps dip a bit, but for the most part, those “cold” mornings turn into warm days and sometimes, those warm days turn into “cold” nights. (And by “cold,” I mean 30s and 40s--it’s all relative.)
|Michelle in her pumps|
Whenever guests from the East Coast would visit us out West, our rule-of-thumb recommendation would be, “Bring a sweater, you never know...and don’t forget to throw in a bathing suit.” You really don’t need to be a rocket scientist (or a meteorologist) to figure out what to wear in LA.
Now that I am living back on the East Coast, form trumps fashion--often, and weather is the first thing I consider before getting dressed to go out--especially in the winter. I never had to think more about boots than I do now. Back in Cali, they were pulled out only occasionally, and the weather outside never had anything to do with it. I had short boots with kitten heels, and tall boots with spiked heels, and short boots with spiked heels, and tall boots with kitten heels. I probably wore them two months out of the year and after that they were quietly relegated to the inner depths of my closet, giving way to strappy sandals and flip flops.
|Michelle in her boots|
With the varying degrees of weather we are hit with in Cambridge, my inner conversations usually deal with wondering whether I should wear the UGGs--they’re warm, but not waterproof, or the Hunter rain boots--they’re waterproof, but not warm. And if it’s really cold and icy out, I can wear my Sorels--they go down to minus 25 degrees, and they’re waterproof...but they aren’t exactly stylish, so I can’t wear them with dressy clothes. And the other boots, although dressy and stylish, have heels that are too high for walking on icy streets. No, this is not the conversation of rocket scientists either, but it can spin my head.
That’s why I, like just about everyone else on earth, was curious to see what Michelle Obama would be wearing on Inauguration Day. I watched as she wore her silver pumps on her way to church during the early hours of the day, and I was thrilled when I noticed her footwear had changed by the time she stepped out for the Inauguration ceremony.
The thought of standing on spiky heels for a few hours, in 20-degree weather, probably seemed like a daunting task to her, so she changed into long, suede and leather boots. Her decision totally validated me! She had those conversations with herself too--FLOTUS!! She must have been going for the not terribly warm, but warm-er, yet stylish look. And in addition to checking the temperature, she must have known that the day would be dry, since she dropped a cool thousand bucks on those beautiful boots (I Googled them), and I daresay they were waterproof!
|Me, in my coat|
I could now go into the clothing conversations I have in my head, but I won’t bore you. Just know that today I am wearing a coat I like to call my “Fort Knox Coat.” It’s kind of like a jacket within a coat--you put it on, zip up an inside jacket, then zip up an outer coat, snap some snaps, all the way down, and close two large buttons over the throat to make a puffy scarf. By the time I am all zipped, snapped and buttoned in, I look like a potato, and there’s no chance of wind, or anything getting inside. It’s amazingly warm, but I don’t think the coat is waterproof, so....
Sometimes it’s just easier staying home.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Our Book Group meets the first Tuesday of every month. Yes, I know this past Tuesday was the second Tuesday, but we’re a true bunch of renegades, and we don’t really spend much time talking about books anymore anyway. So, on the second Tuesday of the month, our first-Tuesday-of-the- month Book Group that talks more about food than books, met. (Did you get all that?)
The book we were “discussing” was Tom Wolfe’s “Back to Blood.” But that’s beside the point. (So, if you’re expecting a book review, you’ll have to go elsewhere.) The consensus was, “the book was long,” “the book was classic Tom Wolfe,” “we all saw Bonfire of the Vanities.” Oh, and this last comment was most prevalent: “Let’s eat.”
Before you begin making some cheap generalizations about the IQ and attention span of the group members, I have to say that many of them are MIT grads, MDs, Ph.Ds, and biotech execs, so the brains are definitely present...it’s just that the stomachs usually win out over the brains.
We have each unintentionally been pigeonholed into our designated food categories, and I always have the dessert one. I try to never bring an overly fussy or heavily frosted dessert--we do sometimes have books lying around, you know, and I would hate for them to get dirty.
My repertoire has run the gamut of cookie bark, biscotti, quick breads, and scones, and this time I went the cookie route. One of the members of the group lives with a man who comes from Spain. She once mentioned how much they loved “Alfajores,” a traditional treat popular in Latin America and some regions of Spain. It’s basically a shortbread cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche, a thick, creamy caramel. I promised to make them some and there was no time like the present.
So here it is, this month’s contribution to the Book Group. I wish my contribution to the book discussion could have been as good. (Although I doubt it would have been as appreciated.)
Alfajores (Caramel-Shortbread Sandwich Cookies)
(makes about 25 sandwiches)
6 oz. unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 whole egg
3/4c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1tsp. grated lemon peel
2c. all purpose flour
Dulce de Leche:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
Sift cornstarch and flour together and set side. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, lemon peel and sugar together until fluffy. Slowly add the egg, brandy and vanilla extract and mix until combined. On medium speed, add flour mixture and mix again, until dough forms into a ball.
Remove dough from mixer bowl, divide in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
Meanwhile make Dulce de Leche:
Empty contents of the can into an oven-proof dish; sprinkle with the salt and tightly cover with foil.
Place the covered dish in a larger roasting pan or casserole dish and fill it up with water until it reaches three quarters of the way up the covered dish. (You're creating a water bath.) Bake at 425 degrees for 60-90 minutes, checking every 30 minutes on the water level and adding more as needed.
Dulce de leche is ready when it takes on a brown and caramel-like appearance. Remove from the oven and whisk to smoothness. Leave at room temperature if using right away. If not, store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Using a lightly floured 2-inch round or scalloped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. (You will have approximately 50.) If you have time, place on the baking sheets and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes. (This will firm the cookies so they maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for about 12 minutes, or until cookies are brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Shortbread cookies with keep in an airtight container for about a week.
Alfajores: Take two shortbread cookies and sandwich them together with a heaping teaspoon of Dulce de Leche. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with confectioners sugar or dip them in chocolate. Can be covered and stored for a few days in the refrigerator, but the cookies will soften a bit.
Makes about 25 cookie sandwiches.