Friday, February 29, 2008

Radish-celery salad

I've had great luck over the years with recipes from the Boston Globe, and this one is no exception. I'm not a huge radish fan, but this recipe caught my eye, and I tried it last night. It was delicious! We had it with chicken and oven fries, and it was an excellent combination. Flavorful, tangy, refreshing.

Here is the recipe for those who don't want to click on the link:

1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 bunch radishes, very finely sliced
4 inner stalks celery, very finely sliced
1/4 cup sliced celery leaves
6 large parsley leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon capers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small wedge Parmesan cheese, cut into thin slices

1. In a small bowl combine the shallot, mustard, vinegar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper; set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the radishes, celery, celery leaves, parsley leaves, and capers.

3. Whisk the olive oil into the vinegar mixture. Pour the dressing over the radish mixture and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Transfer to a large plate and top with the Parmesan slices. (Jill Santopietro)

FYI I used red wine vinegar instead of Champagne, and grated Parmesan instead of slices, and that seemed just fine. Enjoy!



Dentist problems

I'll admit I'm not a fan of dentists, but I duly attend my bi-annual check ups, and I do the best I can. When it came time for my son to visit the dentist, at around age 3, we chose a large pediatric dental practice right in town, in the same building as my husband's doctor. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But as I've experienced this practice over the years (5 years now), I've become less and less enamored of it.

The hygienists are very chirpy and friendly, and clearly have had a lot of training with kids, but they really don't get J. He is quite fearful of being there, and really hates having people go into his mouth to work. He gags quite a bit (as I do), and particularly hates the x-rays. I try to be sympathetic, but also insist that he go through with the procedures (which doesn't always work). But it seems to be getting worse and worse. And, like me, he has a small mouth and large teeth, and he will need extractions and braces. So he will need to spend a lot of time at the dentist/orthodontist, and it would help if he were more comfortable there.

One thing I particularly hate about this practice is the large procedure room they have. You know how you go to the dentist and typically see your provider in a small, private room? Here, they work on the kids in a large open room with about 10 chairs placed all over the room. There is absolutely no privacy. So if J starts freaking out, everyone there will hear. This just isn't a good situation for him.

So I'm looking for a new dentist for J. Someone who will take their time, really make him comfortable, and go at his pace. Someone who will not deny his fears, but who will empathize and help him deal with them. If you happen to know anyone in the Boston area who has these qualities, let me know.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Living Room Reclaimed!

In spite of all my angst, I did actually complete my living room reclamation project while DH and DS were away last week. I got rid of a toy shelf that hadn't been used in years (yay Freecycle!), purged all the toys except the games that DS actually plays with, and rediscovered pottery and glassware that I haven't seen in years to put on display on the mantle and on shelves.

Here are the new curtains I made:


...and here is the straightened and purged toy area....


...and here is a new lamp I bought from Ikea!


The living room looks like a REAL living room now and I am very proud of myself. Also, I'm having some friends over for brunch in a few weeks, and now my house looks more like a house and less like a yard sale!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

I was so looking forward to my week alone at home. I had all these plans, ideas of what I'd do with all that free time. I had a list. You know where this is going, right?

It hasn't worked out exactly as I'd planned.

Yes, the house has been very quiet, and I've had the chance to sleep in a bit. Yes, no one is crashing through the house with balls and pucks and hockey sticks at top speed. Yes, I've been working (slowly) on the valences and I rearranged (artfully, I hope) some vases and pottery and glass pieces to make nice vignettes around the house. I've moved a bunch of toys J doesn't play with any more into the basement. I bought a ton of stuff at Ikea. I've gotten together with some friends.

But overall, it hasn't been as fun as I'd planned. It's almost too quiet, and I seem to have developed ADD because every time I start on one project, I'm distracted by something else in the room, and then I start working on that, and then....

And of course, there was a snowstorm, so I had to spend time shoveling. And the day of the snowstorm, I had to stay at home, which put a damper on some of my plans.

Even I am getting tired of this whining. I guess the bottom line is: I like some quiet time, but not too much. I guess a week is too much.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Guess what? Kids don't make you happy

I caught part of NPR's radio show On Point yesterday, and it was on the topic of happiness. The expert guest was a professor, Sonja Lyubomirsky, who had done research and was promoting her book, "The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want." I'm typically suspect of these shows: 6 steps to happiness! 12 ways to become a joyful person! but I do like On Point and generally they do a good job with important topics. So I listened.

Here's where it became very interesting:

At about 27:40 into the show (and you can listen to that exact part if you click the link above and move the little bar to 27:40), the host asked: of all your findings in this research, what was most striking to you?

Lyubomirsky replied, and I quote:
"The most surprising thing is that the research shows that kids don’t make people as happy as they think they would--that people with kids are actually less happy."

Lyubomirsky seemed really perplexed with this finding. She kept backpedaling. Perhaps we aren't using the right methodology? The host questioned: are you asking mothers after they've been up all night with a baby?

Lyubomirsky replied: "it’s a robust finding...and the more kids that people have, the less happy they are."

Still perplexed, she hypothesized that the measures she's using just aren’t quite capturing the complexity of parenting. And she ended: "I hope to show that kids do make people happy."

Well.

As I've said before...no duh.

Kids don't make you happy. They make you crazy. They make you tired. You have moments of happiness. But I don't think that kids, at least little ones, make you happy. It doesn't fit with the Hallmark vision of what having kids is supposed to be like. But that's the reality of it. And now...research shows it, too. Hmm...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Three long days

The past three days have been the longest three days of my life... Well, that is probably an exaggeration, but it's seemed like forever. Why, you ask, all the impatience? Well, my DH and DS are going away on vacation tomorrow morning and...I'm staying at home. Woo hoo! Probably no one but a mom can appreciate why I would give up a week in a warm place for a week, alone, at home. But that's what I'm doing, and I can't wait.

For 3 days, we've been packing, figuring out which games and books to bring, which cords to which electronics, etc. etc. We are almost there. All we need to do is finish packing the final items, go to sleep, and wake up at the ungodly hour of 4 am. Then I'll drive them to the airport, drop them off, and probably drive home and go back to sleep.

So what do I have planned for my days of freedom? My big project is to do some home decorating. My current plans are to work on valances for a bunch of new shades we just put up around the house, to possibly repaint some of the kitchen cabinets and put on new hardware, and to do a ton of cleaning and cleaning out. Sounds like a blast, huh?

My other plans are to get together with some friends in a more leisurely fashion than usual; go shopping in some stores that I usually don't have the time to go to; go to some museums and movies; and possibly go to Kripalu for a few days of yoga if I can get it together.

So...I'm excited, but also feeling a bit guilty of how much I want them to leave already! I'm the kind of person who just needs some alone time, and I haven't had a lot of it lately. So hopefully this week will do the trick.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gender or Color?

So now it seems that if Hillary Clinton loses, it will be because of sexism, and only sexism.

NOW President Kim Grandy states:

I can't tell you how many people have emailed or called me outraged by the sorry display of sexism in the media these days. Much of this venom is currently directed at one woman -- Sen. Hillary Clinton -- though as we have pointed out before, no woman in the public eye, from Nancy Pelosi to Michelle Obama, is exempt.

For the first time in our nation's history, the idea of a woman president is no longer limited to the fantasy world of TV or movies. Possibility could become reality this November, and some folks are just having a hard time dealing with it. That many of those people have high-profile jobs at major news outlets is a cryin' shame.

And if Obama wins, it will be because he is a man.
"Gender stereotypes trump race stereotypes in every social science test," says Alice Eagly, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. (in Black Man vs. White Woman from today's Boston Globe)
In fact, both candidates have a liability, if you will. Clinton: being female. Obama: being black. So one way of looking at it is: will Clinton's white-ness be more important than her female-ness? Or will Obama's male-ness be more important than his black-ness? These articles seem to point to the latter. The fact that Obama is male is more important in this race than Clinton's whiteness, experience, or anything.

Hmmm....

The Globe article continues:
It would be a gross oversimplification to reduce the Democratic race to the white woman versus the black man. Factors like Obama's eloquence and inexperience and Clinton's policy mastery and her association with the ambivalent legacy of her husband have played a larger role in how the race has been talked about. And indeed, this presidential contest can be seen as the country's attempt to lurch beyond a blinkered, monolithic identity politics....

As Clinton has discovered, gender stereotypes are stickier. Women can be seen as ambitious and capable, or they can be seen as likable, a host of studies have shown, but it's very hard for them to be seen as both -- hence the intense scrutiny and much-debated impact of Clinton's moment of emotional vulnerability in a New Hampshire diner last month.
This is very interesting. I really thought that the fact that Obama was black would be more a problem to him than Clinton's being female would be to her. I guess my hypothesis isn't playing out.

As I see it, Clinton has a few liabilities in addition to being female: her husband, for one, who is acting like a jerk. Her "experience," which may be one of her strengths, may actually end up being a liability because it shows that she is "part of the establishment."

Obama has little baggage as he is relatively new on the national scene, although not inexperienced in life skills (he and I are the same age, and given that, he's probably been working for 25 years, as I have, which is no small chunk of change). He is not seen as part of the establishment. He is seen as a voice of change.

As I said before, I was impressed with Clinton in one of the debates. Her grasp of the policy issues is impressive. But Obama has that elusive leadership quality. He doesn't need to know everything to be an effective leader. He needs to find good people to help him. And we really need someone who can change the opinion of the world about the U.S.

So for right now, sexism be damned, I'm rooting for Obama. Sorry, Hillary.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Change

My husband just sent this to me, and it's a must-see...about the election...and change...and Bowie...

Had a bad week

Was just at CVS and couldn't even get NEAR the valentine section...there were about 10 or 15 men there, anxiously looking over the "wife" section of valentines....too funny! Of course, I was there as well, so I shouldn't talk. It's been a hell of a week. No time to buy valentines or to do anything else, either.

Monday: I was completely dressed and ready to go to work, when suddenly my son had a stomach ache and a cold and couldn't possibly go to school... Spent the entire day indoors (it was about 20 degrees out all day).

Tuesday: Son was feeling better, he went to school, I worked all day.

Wednesday: Husband and son both woke up at 4:30 am for no apparent reason. I went back to sleep, awoke to snow and ice and rain, and a 2-hour delay to school opening. So wasted the morning at home, finally dropped my son off at 10 am, and then onto work. It rained ALL DAY. HARD. Like Noah's Ark kind of rain.

Tomorrow, which is supposed to be my day off, is instead another work day, to make up for Monday.

Friday will be my day "off," but Friday is a short day for my son, so I will have approximately 6 hours to myself....

What a week!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mitzvah Sunday Doesn't Cut It

Both my synagogue and my son's Jewish day school hold an annual event called "Mitzvah Sunday." A mitzvah, in this situation, is essentially a good deed. Some type of volunteer work done for the sake of doing it, and not for payment. It's a community service day, for lack of a better phrase. (There is, as in anything in Judaism, a longer explanation, and if you are interested you can look here.)

Judaism is a very pro-social-justice kind of religion, and promotes doing mitzvot, good deeds, as well as giving tzedakah, charity. However, you are supposed to do these activities ALL THE TIME, not just one Sunday a year.

But...people are busy, and I'm sure both the school and the temple figure that it's better to get everyone together to do something good once a year, than to expect them to do things on their own throughout the year. Okay, I see their point.

But somehow, Mitzvah Day leaves me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. Okay, I came to the school (or temple) and we had a big "rah, rah, we're great for doing this" rally, and then we go off to our rooms and pot plants/sew dolls/make scrapbooks/write letters/bake cookies for old people/poor people/people with Alzheimer's disease/kids in hospitals/soldiers/etc. A few brave souls actually leave the building and go work on community farms, clean animal cages at shelters, bowl with kids with disabilities, or put on a concert at a nursing home. And then we leave and go back to our privileged lives, and are supposed to feel good about what we've done for a few hours?

I just don't buy it.

I'm not sure what it would take for me to feel like I'm REALLY making a difference, but this isn't it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

On Gay Marriage

This clip, from The Daily Show, is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. Especially the comments from Brian Camenker. He is such an idiot! He makes absolutely no sense, but somehow, he manages to keep doing what he is doing (fight gay marriage, gay rights, sex education, anything that has to do with sex, basically). By the way, we know the gay couple interviewed, Don and Robert. As a matter of fact, we went to their wedding (which was lovely) a number of years ago, before gay marriage was legalized.

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Pause

It has rained for a good part of the week, and things were starting to look really dirty and gray. Yesterday, it snowed just a bit, and now there is a lovely white coating over the trees, the ground, covering up the ugliness. As I look out the window, it's snowing very lightly again, and the world looks beautiful. The contrast between the dark brown of the tree limbs and the white covering of snow has captivated me this year.

I am home, alone, and it is very peaceful. I have 5 or 6 hours to myself, and then the weekend craziness begins. But for now...peace.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney has flipped his last flop!

Yay! Romney has quit the race! Hopefully I won't have to look at his well-coiffed head ever again.

Someone from the Democratic Party's blog had a hysterical comment - I'm copying it here:

As somebody in the office just noted, it's Romney's last flip-flop. Various news outlets are reporting Mitt Romney will be dropping out of the race.

NY Times earlier today: "Mitt Romney is committed to staying in the Republican presidential race despite his losses on Tuesday...his advisers said Wednesday."

And now: "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will suspend his bid for the Republican presidential nomination..."

Relief...and Reality

Mammogram is negative. At least for this year.

Had a brief, but interesting, interaction with the radiologist. "Everything is fine," she said, "but you might consider getting a breast MRI. And due to your family history, you might consider genetic testing."

I smiled wryly.

"It kind of feels like I'm sitting on a time bomb," I commented. "There really is no prevention."

"Well, there's secondary prevention - detecting it early," she replied.

Yeah. There's that.

This is the deal. I have a higher than normal risk of breast cancer. My mom had it. I had children (well, child) late, not early. I had chest x-rays as a child (due to a positive TB test). I am an Ashkenazi Jew (Eastern European roots). I might have the breast cancer gene. But as far as I know, the only thing I can do is keep getting mammograms and physical breast exams to catch it early. There is no prevention.

Here is some more info I found
Society Advises MRIs for Some at High Risk for Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Info from the ACS

As I look through the information, there is precious little that I can actually do. I can't change my mother or my background. I can't take away the x-rays. I can't have my son earlier.

I should exercise more. I should eat healthier, less red meat. I should probably drink less alcohol (but do I want to???).

But in terms of radical prevention, like having my breasts removed, or taking medications that may prevent breast cancer but cause other diseases: no way.

And so....I wait....

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nervous

I am having a mammogram on Thursday, and I just started to get nervous this morning. I missed my mammogram last year (I shouldn't have, but somehow I did), so it's been 2 years since my last one. I'm afraid of what they will find.

I hate to say it, but I fully expect to get breast cancer sometime in my life. One in seven is pretty high odds, and I already know quite a few women who have it. Also, my mom had it when she was around 48, and I'm almost there.

So I'm getting nervous. Jumpy. Antsy. Scared. Can you blame me?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sports or Sex?

I've been hearing news reports about the "parties" taking place around the Super Bowl this year, but not until I read this in today's Globe did I really take notice. Now I think I'm going to be sick...

Apparently, parties are being put on by such illustrious enterprises as Maxim, Playboy, Penthouse, and Victoria's Secret. And I wasn't invited?

Here's a bit from the article:
The celebs were back at it Saturday night, showing up at Super Bowl bashes thrown by Playboy, Penthouse, Sports Illustrated, Victoria's Secret, Creative Artists Agency, and Hyde, to name just a few....
To give you an idea of the vibe, a young woman riding with us on the shuttle to the Paradise Valley venue offered to perform a striptease. We politely declined.
Nice. Very nice.

And this is just disgusting:

Hugh Hefner, looking a little rickety at the age of 80, showed up with "The Girls Next Door" on his arm. Hef's No. 1 girl friend Holly Madison told us that she and her No. 1 man want to have a baby in 2008, and that's keeping them very busy.

"We're doing a lot of, um, trying," Madison said.

My sense from this article and others that I've read is that the Super Bowl parties consist of stars, scantily clad women, lots of alcohol, stars, and lots of scantily clad women.

Sounds like my kind of party.

And we wonder why 16 year olds are having sex and getting pregnant, and why 9 year old girls dress like teenagers, and why teenagers look like 20 year olds, and why girls have sex before they get their drivers licenses... we wonder why? This is why.

Super Bowl Fallout

The headline on Boston.com currently reads "IMPERFECT." Oy. Since when is perfection the goal? Oh, yeah, I forgot, we're talking about sports, not life. In sports, it's only good if you win. It doesn't matter if you played a good game, or if you played as well as you could. We're only interested in winners.

I ended up watching the entire Super Bowl yesterday, which for me is unheard of. I accompanied my son to the neighbor's (my husband is away for a few days), and then when he became tired, we both retired to our TV room for the rest of the game. Our spirits were lifted, then dashed, as New York defeated the Patriots. My son cried, a plaintive, keening sound. This morning, he awoke still sad. Too sad to watch SportsCenter, his favorite show.

It's not easy living with sports fans. It's not easy being a sports fan. Boston is very, very sad today. But, as my husband put it: "baseball starts again soon."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Rachael Ray Week

Somehow I managed to make 3 new recipes this week, courtesy of Ms. Ray. They were:
I wish I had taken lovely photos of my cooking, as some other bloggers do, but alas, I didn't. However, you can follow the links and see what they look like.

My review: the Cod Croquettes were surprisingly tasty for cod fish cakes. They had a lot of flavor, due to fresh thyme and fresh parsley, as well as some Old Bay seafood seasoning blend. I didn't have enough time (!) to make the Sweet Red Pepper Gravy that was recommended to go over the fish cakes. I'll have to try that another time.

The Blue Cheese-Stuffed Potatoes were delicious by themselves, but with chunks of buffalo chicken on top: WOW! I was surprised to find out how easy it is to make buffalo chicken. I used to LOVE buying a batch of Buffalo chicken wings as a treat, and now I know how to do it myself! The Blue Cheese-Stuffed Potatoes were also good cold, as left-overs. This one I'll definitely make again!

The Country French Chicken was good, but not great. It needed more seasoning for my taste. I may try it again and tweak the seasoning: we'll see.

So that's the kitchen round-up for this week. Still baking the Simple Crusty Bread that I blogged about earlier: I mix up a batch of dough, and whenever I feel like it, I bake a perfect, delicious round loaf! Love it!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Now I'm Confused

So I watched the Democratic "debate" last night on CNN, and Obama and Clinton were being extremely nice to each other. Clearly, there is more that they agree upon than disagree upon. In a way, it's sad that we (and they) have to go through this whole campaign, when in reality, they are quite similar.

Except...I hate to say it...Hillary impressed me more than Barack did last night. She really did. She seemed much more on the ball, seemed to have more fleshed-out ideas, seemed more politically savvy. I wanted to like him more... but I didn't. She impressed me.

So now I'm SO CONFUSED.

Perhaps, in the end, they will both be on the ticket, so I won't have to decide after all. But for now...who do I vote for on Tuesday???