Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I Heart Portsmouth, NH

This past Saturday, as part of Jim's annual Birthday Fortnight (we usually just do Birthday Week, but we've been so busy that I granted him an extra 7 days--my right as Goddess of Birthday Week), we took off in the morning for a drive to Maine. The first order of business, however, was a stop in Portsmouth, NH. For our family, that usually means breakfast at The Friendly Toast. Great place for pancakes, killer French toast, and tasty Eggs Benedict. (Be sure to feed the meter in the lot out back, though; on our previous visit, I ended up owing the city of Portsmouth a whopping big $10--or maybe it was $20--because we'd overstayed the timer.)

I usually love walking around the Portsmouth downtown, one of the best examples of urban preservation/renewal/"town centerishness" in New England--shops, restaurants, coffee bars, benches to sit on. (Okay, it's almost theme-parkish, but I still love it.) But this Saturday, we instead went in search of the Portsmouth edition of the Seacoast Farmers' Markets, being held in the parking lot of City Hall. Which is NOT within walking distance of the town center area, unless you REALLY like to walk. Fortunately, we drove--I'm no fool. (Most of the time.)

We stocked up on organic everything--corn, tomatoes, melons, sugar snap peas. I love New England--where else in America do you see a sign on more than one stand one week before October that says "We'll have corn next week!"? In the rest of the country, corn season has come and gone, gone, gone.

According to the website, the Farmers' Market will be repeated every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. until the first week of November. So you still have time to get that corn, which should be ready for picking any day now. (And tell 'em Alison sent you--they'll have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, but I'm guessing they'll be polite about it.)

Portsmouth--check it out, and I'm guessing you'll heart it, too.

Happy Birthday to Yoooooooogle!

The day is nearly done, but I couldn't let it end without wishing Gooooogle a happy seventh birthday. How did we ever live without you? It's not many nouns that so successfully become verbs, yet even the language purist in me can hardly make it through the day without Googling something. Anything, just about. Everything, just about.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Looking for Thanks in All the Wrong Places?

Rebecca, from I'm Just a Girl, has an interesting post today about civility and ingratitude.

One of my girlfriends recently threw someone a birthday dinner. She went all out to make the night special....she decorated the house, made a dinner complete from appetizers to dessert; she really wanted to create a memorable night for them. And it was.... everyone had a wonderful time. Interesting thing though. The guest of honor never called the next day to say thank you. Actually, the next time they spoke - a few days later - it wasn't mentioned at all then either. My friend - being a very thoughtful, kind and warm person - was hurt by the fact that nothing was mentioned. No "hey - you know, I really had a great time the other night...". Nothing. How do you react to something like that? Do you give them the benefit of the doubt that they thought expressing fun at the moment in which it occured was good enough? Do you chalk it up to ignorance?
The older I get, the more forgiving I try to be of other people's quirks. Maybe the guest of honor was distracted. Maybe he/she really did think that all that effort was worth nothing more than a thank you at the time. Maybe.

As much as possible, I like to think the best of people, especially my friends. But I'm with the party-giver--I'd have been a little hurt, too. So Rebecca and I want to know: Is that just our hangup? Maybe we're just a couple of over-sensitive gals.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Quite a Stretch

Tonight, The Boy was finishing his homework at the dining room table (as I should have been. I brought something home to proofread, and what am I doing? Blogging!). He said, "You know, it would be nice if they'd let us get up for five minutes during class and just stretch. It would help us because our muscles get stiff sitting for so long."

I said, "But don't you get recess every day? Two recesses, in fact? Don't you get to stretch then?"

"Oh, Mom," he said, in his infinitely wise manner, "that's running around! We don't really stretch. Stretching would be nice. Just a half-minute or so between recesses."

At work, I can install a program called Stretch Break on my computer. You set it to ping you to perform ergonomically correct exercises every 30 or 60 minutes. I used it for a while, then found it annoying to be interrupted every hour, so I finally uninstalled it. But The Boy is making me rethink that. Maybe stretching for a half-minute a few times a day would be nice.

But two recesses a day would be much, much nicer.

Attack of the Exploding Tomatoes!

As good as the tomatoes we ate the other day were, we didn't quite finish the sizable basket we'd bought. So I was understandably chagrined to come home tonight and find that a couple of overripe ones had burst out of their skins and leaked tomato juice all over the counter. And onto my cell phone charger. And my son's GameBoy. And the base of the coffee pot.

I guess they were literally too much of a good thing. Next time I guess I'll make sauce.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

On the Other Hand, the Southern Gal in Me ...

is looking forward to frying up the green tomatoes we bought. I don't know if they're an acquired taste, because I've eaten them for so long, but I love 'em. Wilson Farms sells the green ones as well as the red.

Note: Fried green tomatoes are not to be confused with Fried Green Tomatoes, but it's a pretty entertaining movie. (I still love it when Kathy Bates snags a parking space out from under a younger woman and barks that she's not only older, she's better insured.)

Perfect New England Dinner, Vegetarian Style

Tonight, we ate the tomatoes and corn we bought a couple of days ago at Wilson Farms. I love, love, love the perfect New England-grown produce we're getting now. We're a few weeks behind warmer parts of the country, but that just means we get to stretch out that taste of summer a little longer.

Interestingly, although the "regular" (read: outstanding) red tomatoes were so dead ripe they were practically bursting out of their skins (no doubt because we didn't eat them the moment we came home on Sunday), they paled in comparison to a single, gigantic heirloom called a Brandywine. Jim tells me that many people believe the Brandywine to be the finest of all heirloom tomatoes, and I can't disagree.

Tomatoes with fresh basil and mozzarella. Corn with butter and a sprinkling of salt. The calendar says that autumn begins on Thursday, but if I can, I'll eat my fill of summer until the first frost.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Because You'd Look GOOD in an Eye Patch! (and Even Better with a Parrot on Your Shoulder)

Avast! Before it's too late, be sure to celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day. If you're not sure exactly how to talk like a pirate, check this out.


Happy Birthday, Honey!

Happy birthday to my smart, loving, good-hearted, greatest-dad-in-the-world, and just plain old gosh-darn-cute husband! You're the best!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hiding from Nature's Wrath: SFNE

According to a mildly scientific study conducted by Slate.com, when it comes to avoiding and surviving natural disasters, the safest area of the United States is, you (may not have) guessed it: New England.

After combing through a variety of data about hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods--and the accompanying death toll--on a state-by-state basis (and eliminating some states outright for their sheer proximity to danger, such as volcanoes), three New England states came out on top in terms of safety, at least when it comes to natural disaster:
Of the 18 states, only three had a fatality rate lower than 0.01 per thousand for the last decade: Connecticut (0.00587 per thousand), Massachusetts (0.00299), and Rhode Island (0.00286). These figures are somewhat surprising, given that all three of these New England states have ample coastlines and are thus susceptible to fierce storms. But they are also more immune to hurricanes than their southerly counterparts, virtually free of tornadoes, and blessed with relatively cool summers and winters that, although cold, aren't quite North Dakota cold. They're also affluent—all three boast family median incomes above the national average—and, as Hurricane Katrina reminded us, socioeconomics matter when it comes to preserving life during natural disasters.
And what area of the country turned out to be safest of all? Huskies unite: none other than Storrs, Connecticut:
It's a safe 50 miles from the sound and not close to any rivers. It also has relatively easy access to a major city (Hartford) in the event an evacuation or hospitalization becomes necessary.
Thanks to Michele for the link.

Tell 'Em Andy Sent Ya

Yes, I know that Andrew Sullivan, in addition to being a conservative, is also gay, so he's not exactly impartial on the subject of gay marriage rights. But he's also a clear thinker (most of the time) and excellent writer, so I thought it was worth posting this:
TWO LEGISLATURES: We now have two state legislatures backing marriage rights for gay couples. Since the advent of marriages for gays in Massachusetts, public opinion has swung dramatically in favor of them. Why? The reality is that this is a sane, modest, conservative, practical reform - and when you actually see couples committing to one another and taking responsibility for each other, very few are dismayed. I'm waiting for the reaction from the theocon right. They have always framed their arguments around judicial tyranny. Now, they have democratically elected majorities and states' rights to fight against. In Massachusetts, the vote to abandon the constitutional amendment banning marriage was a whopping 157 to 39. What's their argument now?
I realize that some of those who voted against the amendment did so in order to wait for the possible ballot initiative in 2008, because they don't favor civil unions OR gay marriage, and so didn't want to support an amendment that would have created civil unions.

But by all accounts, at least 115 of those who voted down the amendment now (or always) supported equal marriage rights. If you know a legislator who voted down yesterday's amendment purely to keep civil unions off the table (in addition to banning gay marriage), let them know you disagree. You can mention that some conservatives disagree, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

This Just In: Not Over, But Headed in the Right Direction

When even a co-sponsor of the proposal to ban gay marriage says that the sky hasn't fallen in the last year, I hope people listen:

"Gay marriage has begun, and life has not changed for the citizens of the commonwealth, with the exception of those who can now marry," said state Sen. Brian Lees, a Republican who had been a co-sponsor of the amendment. "This amendment which was an appropriate measure or compromise a year ago, is no longer, I feel, a compromise today."
Although we still face the prospect of a ballot amendment in 2008, this time the vote wasn't even close.

This Just In: All Quiet at the ConCon

My husband is down at the Constitutional Convention where they're about to debate the gay marriage issue. Apparently, a lot of the opposition just hasn't shown up.

The Massachusetts Family Institute (sorry, no link for you) asked its supporters to show up several hours before the 1 p.m. start time, but by 10 a.m. this morning, almost no one had shown. By noon, a few had come, but in nowhere near the numbers they turned out at the last ConCon. And apparently without many of the out-of-state church contingents with the scary little kids threatening my husband with a horrible death from AIDS for supporting gay marriage rights.

Maybe the last few weeks have taught some people that there are more important things to worry about--poverty, disaster, and homelessness, to name a few--than denying loving, consenting adults the chance to marry.

Hell, at least there's fewer people yelling at my nice-guy husband. That's a start.

Two Really Bad Drivers in One Day

I don't usually bother with the "bad-Boston-driver" stories, but these were too good to pass up.

Road Story: Driving home from work yesterday, I could dimly see in my rearview mirror an oncoming ambulance. Since I was at least a half-mile or more ahead (and in a different lane), I just bided my time until it got closer before pulling over to let it pass. In the meantime, I glanced frequently in the mirror to watch its oncoming progress. It wasn't moving that fast--for safety's sake, no doubt--but had the full complement of lights and sirens. That ambulance meant business. But although all the other cars did the proper thing of moving aside, one didn't. Was the driver talking on a cell phone? Lost in iPod world, perhaps?

There was actually little traffic (and plenty of room to maneuver away from the ambulance), but instead of just, say, moving into the adjacent lane, that one car came to a complete halt directly in front of the ambulance. What is that? Panic? Some idiot's idea of a joke? Or just some kind of an idiot, period?

The poor ambulance driver honked his horn (that weird, echo-y sounding horns emergency vehicles have) until the car started moving again (fairly slowly) and finally pulled aside to let the ambulance pass.

Parking Lot Story: Making a run to Johnny Rocket's in the Burlington Mall, I turned into a lane. Up ahead, I could see parking, lots of parking--if you were willing to walk an extra 50 feet back to the mall. But apparently the woman driving toward me had other ideas. She had staked out a space (in the middle of the row) about to be vacated by another shopper. But instead of pulling over to one side to wait so that I (and others--there were others) could drive around, she planted her car firmly in the center of the driving lane, making it impossible to go around. Again, plenty of room to go around. Unless you stopped in the middle of the driving lane.

I understand that sort of thing at the holidays, when an empty parking space can start a turf war. But based on the direction she was headed, she had passed at least 50 empty, easy-to-get-into spaces. I mention that last part because--of course--she couldn't make her swing into the space she wanted in one swoop.(BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH ROOM, LADY--YOU WAITED IN THE WRONG PLACE. IT'S SIMPLE PHYSICS. Oh, sorry, did I just yell?) Yes, she had Massachusetts license plates, like Ambulance Boy. Maybe she was his mother?

I'm usually very forgiving of driving errors; I've made a few myself. But really, people, let's try not to give the good people of Mass. a bad name through sheer boneheadedness. Put away the iPod. Put away the cell phone. Come back to Physics 101.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

KFC Memories

We grabbed some dinner tonight at KFC. As a reformed Southern gal, I'm not proud of my love for fried chicken, and I manage to avoid it much of the time (to the relief of my future cardiologist), but tonight my son requested it. He hadn't been feeling well today, so we called it a treat (but I was sneakily quite happy with his request).

Eating KFC--specifically KFC, not any other kind of, and in many cases better--fried chicken, brings back a nostalgic memory of Sunday school picnics. They were always held in Red Wing Park, a park and playground on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia Beach. (Has there ever been a better name for a swamp?) A yearly event, for some reason the picnic wasn't a potluck, just a bring-your-own, end-of-year celebration for the entire synagogue Sunday school. In my dim memory of those picnics (which I always enjoyed), what really stands out is the big bucket of KFC (then called by its full name, Kentucky Fried Chicken, before the marketers decided KFC was more palatable to a health-conscious public).

During the late 1960s and '70s, my mother was one of the few working moms I knew. But despite her work schedule, Mom made the time both to take us to religious services on Saturday and teach one of the weekly two-hour classes (a classic case of: if you need something done, ask a busy person to do it). Nevertheless, she drew the line at fitting an elaborate picnic spread into her week. So, although we often made some of her delicious potato salad and a plate of deviled eggs (I'm a great hard-boiled egg peeler), she'd punt on the main course. Hence the big bucket of chicken every year.

I remember that the first couple of years, I was a little embarrassed that we seemed to be the only ones who brought anything "ready-made." (Ah, how times have changed! Where would we working parents be now without the prepared-food counter at Whole Foods?) Then, somewhere around third grade, I gained enough awareness of my environment to realize that the other kids were looking enviously at our bucket of tasty KFC. After all, most of them probably just brought the same sandwiches that went into their school lunch every day or maybe a strange casserole. Some of the really adventurous ones (i.e., dads) would grill burgers, but my mother hates, hates, hates open flames, so that was out for us. In any case, we had fried chicken, those biscuits they give you (with honey, of course), maybe some cole slaw, and Mom's wonderful potato salad.

We always went home empty-handed (empty-bucketed?), because for some reason, other families were always willing to share the burden of our leftover food. I guess they felt sorry for us and wanted to make sure we didn't carry the shame of our store-bought chicken out of the park. Isn't it nice when people care?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Has This Happened to You?

This morning I reminded my husband that I needed our smaller car, the Subaru, to drive into Boston and park at Mass General for my annual physical. As he left the house, I could hear him repeating "Don't take the Subaru. Don't take the Subaru. Don't take the Subaru" over and over.

Naturally, he took the Subaru.

I saw him through our upstairs bedroom window driving away in the Subaru, leaving the truck behind. I tried calling his cell phone, but since he traditionally keeps it turned off to "save the battery" (I think he really just dislikes carrying a phone, but because he's currently attending grad school and going to work, I like to be able to reach him), I went right to voice mail. I then called his office (again, voice mail) and left a message in my best martyred tone that I would drive the truck to the office (it's only three miles) and pick up the Subaru. But he gallantly offered to bring the small car home.

In the end, it worked out well because he was around to wish our son off to school on the bus. Before he walked out of the house again, I gently pried the Subaru key out of his fingers--he was already gripping it--and flipped through the ring to the correct key.

This time, we said it together: "Take the truck. Take the truck. Take the truck..."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Proud of My Town

Those of us who live in Lexington are all too familiar with the story of David Parker, the Lexington parent who apparently believes that gay parents do not constitute a fit family unit and that his children should not be "exposed" to those who do believe that functional families come in all types.

He was arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave school grounds following a discussion with school administrators about a book with a "Heather has two mommies" type of picture, a book called What Makes a Family? that came home in a school "diversity bag."(Note: The book was not required reading, didn't promote a "homosexual agenda," and in fact, the entire bag of materials was made available to parents at the beginning of the school year. Each bag--which is mainly filled with books, recipes, and music about cultural diversity--goes home with a child for a week, and parents can refuse to take the materials at all. I'm a little embarrassed to say that when such a bag came home with our son once, we barely looked at the contents.)

It makes me weary even to think about the case, because I feel sorry for the children involved: Parker's, because--contrary to what the Parkers say, I do think they're exposing their children to bigotry and this isn't just about "parents' rights"; and the children at the Estabrook School who were put through all this mishegoss (as my New York relatives would say).

I'm proud of my town because, last night, when anti-gay-rights groups held a demonstration on the Lexington Battle Green in support of Parker, many more people came out to support the Lexington Public Schools--and to support all the families within the schools, not just the "traditional" ones--than came to support the anti-gay groups.

I have to laugh, though. The website of Article8.org (sorry, no link for you), one of the virulently anti-gay groups that supports Parker, reported that the 200 or so school supporters were on the verge of a riot and that Parker wasn't safe in our presence. And how could it be otherwise? Consider the people who Article 8 reported were there:
Participating in the counter-demonstration were Helen Cohen, Chairman of the Lexington School Committee, and Tom Griffiths, a School Committee member. Also identified in the crowd were Jeanne Krieger, Member of the Board of Selectman, Rabbi Howard Jaffee of Temple Isaiah, Rev. Judy Brain, Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church, and Rev. Bill Clark, Senior Pastor of the First Unitarian Parish in Lexington.
There's a vicious bunch, if ever I saw one. Even the photos on the website show a bunch of people standing around talking, holding signs, and mostly...talking. But apparently there was a bloodlust lurking beneath all that talk, laughter, and ... talk ... that I somehow missed. How foolish of me.

(Click here to contact Lexington CARES, which organized the last night's school supporters' rally. As their website shows, they're a bit underfunded, but they sure can drum up a nice counter-demonstration!)

We're Fine, Thanks

We got back from the Florida Keys almost two weeks ago. We were delayed by one day, thanks to the beginnings of Hurricane Katrina. Because my husband spent several years studying violent weather (mostly tornadoes, but also hurricanes) with the Texas Tech Wind Research Center, we even drove from Marathon down to Key West during the storm just to see what a Category 1 hurricane looked like.

It looked wet, dark, and windy, but only a little scary, although we didn't hang around to investigate the flooded streets of KW. Once we got there, we turned around and drove back. But there was no evacuation order and--as we realized a few days later--only a little disruption of routine tourist life.

By the time we left for Miami and our flight to Logan, one day late, the skies of Florida were sunny, and the storm had moved out to the Gulf of Mexico. We thought we'd have a few amusing stories to tell our friends.

So much for amusing stories. I'm just sick about this whole mess and couldn't find the words to express it. Fortunately, others are doing an excellent job. And most of us--unlike the directors of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security--do read the papers, watch CNN, and track blogs.