Monthly Archives: November 2005

Some recent pictures

So I’ve been going to a lot of weddings (well, okay, just two) lately, celebrating major holidays (haven’t we all), and generally partying it up. But, I haven’t been posting any pictures. So I’ve made some Flickr sets, and I’m putting the links here.

But first, a warning.

If you weren’t actually at these events, or you aren’t my mother, you might not find these so interesting. Some of them are even admittedly crappy. But, for those of us who were there, they are fun. So, with that said, feel free to take a look. There are some nice pictures of the toasted flour on my stove, proof that I did indeed spend a hour over a frying pan with a melt-proof rubber spatula, making nice toasty flour. Also of me, with my hair all slicked back after hours of dancing, which is actually not such a good look for me, but what can ya do.

Without any further stalling, here we go:

The Stefator/Spectorelli Wedding

The Lori/Jim Wedding (aka the night I danced my tush off)

Thanksgiving Weekend

Only mildly insane when it comes to Christmas decorations…

I opened the door to the suite of offices where I work on Monday morning and walked into a holiday wonderland. Christmas lights had been strung the length of the hallways. Tinsel garlands were draped over doorframes. Swags of fake greenery were tacked to cubicle walls and a box of stockings and bows were left in the reception area, an opportunity for the rest of the office to decorate to their hearts’ content.

Instead of making me feel festive or holiday-ish, the onslaught of unsolicited decorations made me feel frustrated and a little grumpy. Frustrated because the lights, tinsel and stockings made the assumption that everyone celebrates Christmas and would welcome the decking of the halls for the holiday season. Now here’s where the mildly insane part comes in. I do celebrate Christmas, and enjoy the decorations (when they are tasteful, tacky holiday decorations make me a little crazy). But because of this half-Jewish side that I carry around, I get annoyed when the world assumes that everyone celebrates Christmas.

When I was growing up, I desperately wanted to put Christmas lights up on the outside of our house. All the neighbors did it and I just loved the way it looked. When I asked my mom, her standard answer was, “We can’t put lights outside, I’m Jewish*.” She stated this with such authority and conviction that for years it was ample justification for me. Somehow I imagined that there was a special team of Jewish police that would come and arrest her for violating the rules if she allowed her husband and children to outwardly display their recognition of the Christian holiday season.

Except that we always had a Christmas tree inside that was visible from the street. And we celebrated Christmas whole-heartedly, while the neglected menorah sat on the high shelf of the living room bookcase, under multiple years of dust. And my mother, who had grown up in a mostly Jewish neighborhood outside Philly, had had a Christmas tree while she was growing up. Of course they had to sneak it in under cover of darkness, so the neighbors wouldn’t see, but it was still there.

With this history, is there any wonder that my gut reaction to Christmas decorations is so screwed up? I didn’t say anything to anyone in the office (and I think I may be the closest thing to a Jew you can get to around here), because I don’t really have the goods to back it up, because I do, in fact, celebrate Christmas. Soon the lights and bows will fade into the background and I won’t even see them anymore. Until that time I every time I walk by the Christmas balls hanging from the doorjam into the copy room, I imagine that the wrapped Christmas boxes printed on the ornaments are really little dreidels.

*Eventually, years later, she did relent and let us put a few lights up on the potted evergreen that sat on the porch.

La la la

When I don’t know what to say during a conversation, when I want change the subject or lull has been reached, I tend to half say, half sing-song “la la la.” I’m not entirely sure where it came from, or when it reached such prominence in my vernacular, but it’s there, and it appears to be sticking. It has even bumped the word “anyway” out of the top position as most frequently used transition word. I’ve been using it so much that my friends and family have started to make comments about it, or just shrug their shoulders and almost imperceptibly shake their heads when it pops out of my mouth once again. Some interpret it as a sort of, “I’m not listening” phrase, but that’s not it at all. It’s just my way of altering the focus and shifting the conversational energy and often giving someone else a little giggle. I’ve found it also works over email, when I don’t know where else to take a sarcastic volley when it lands in my gmail. It’s just a simple little redirect and I’ve grown quite fond of it.

Anyone else got one?

Contentment comes while walking towards sushi

At 5:15 pm this afternoon I was wrapping up my day, closing applications and straightening my desk for the morning, when I took one more glance at my personal email. My friend Cindy had emailed me saying, “What are you doing for dinner? Sushi?????? :).” With no set plans for the evening, snatched up the phone to give her a shout and set a time to meet at Kami Sushi.

I walked out of my office building and into the freakishly warm night, plugged into the shuffling pod, unnecessary coat slung across my bag, feeling jaunty (what a good, expressive word. It doesn’t get used nearly enough), happy and looking forward to dinner. As I walked east down Market Street, I felt the loneliness and dissatisfaction of the weekend drain away. It was replaced by a feeling of hope, excitement for the future and generalized bliss at being alive in this place, at this time and in this life. I’ve felt this way before and I know that it doesn’t last, at least at that level of strength and intensity, but I’m always grateful for the moments when I feel it, because it allows me to reset myself, find my default settings of contentment.

I’ve been feeling change coming for sometime, although those feelings has receded into the background a little as life in Philly has gotten more interesting and engrossing again. But it’s still back there, in the back of mind, an itch I can’t quite reach and it grows more irritating when I think about it. Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better when I scratch it either. Over the sushi (yellowtail/scallion and eel/avocado rolls) Cindy asked me what my plan was and I had to confess that I have no plan. I’m just going to hang with the uncertainty for a little while longer (I’m giving myself an April 1st reevaluation deadline) and try to enjoy those little moments of unsolicited, unexpected joy.

Blistex Medicated Berry

Yesterday I stood in the cold remedies section of CVS, staring at the display of chapsticks and lip balms. I didn’t really need anything, as I already possess just about every tube of lip stuff every produced, but I find that when I’m craving something new, I can quench that desire by purchasing a new lip stick/balm/gloss/tint. Over the years my dad has been the beneficiary of the many tubes of Bonne Bell and Carmex that I’ve collected, although he drew the line at using up the grape and root beer flavored stuff. In every coat I own, there are two or three or four tubes and sticks of scented, flavored and tinted glosses and balms.

Yesterday I found myself reaching up and pulling down a packet containing a tube of Blistex Medicated Berry. It’s not a flavor I naturally gravitate towards, but its the favorite of Andrea, my best friend from college. She always had a couple tubes of the stuff around and when I close my eyes I can see her with the dark pink tube in her hand. The smell takes me back to our room the first semester of our sophomore year of college, living in a tiny triple with our friend Bridget, on the third floor of Lyman Hall. She would apply the Blistex right before bed, in between kicking at the underside of my mattress from her lower bunk, in an attempt to stop the squeaking of the boards holding my mattress up, and saying good night. It’s nice to be able to have a little piece of Andrea, 3000 miles away.

The Marie Curie of emotional discovery

Right now the scent of banana bread* is traveling from my oven to where I sit at my computer. A moment ago I listened to the quiet, deeply satisfying gurgle of hot water pouring from the kettle into my mug.

I’ve spent the evening alone and I’ve journeyed through a variety of states of being while doing so. Earlier tonight I felt restless, wishing it was warm summer night, one where I could meet a friend in Rittenhouse Square, get gelato at the new Capogiro at 20th and Sansom and wander around Barnes and Noble without the burden of a coat. I walked over to the Roxy to see the new Harry Potter movie and felt abnormally uncomfortable being there by myself.

I found myself wishing myself back three years in time, to when I was first falling in love with Ted, not because I wish I was still with him, but because I miss that rush of feeling, excitement and discovery you experience when you are learning a person. I almost called a couple inappropriate guys, all because I was uncomfortable being by myself, but stopped before I picked up the phone. I’ve chastised myself for not spending the evening writing, even if it was nothing more than a blog entry about my two nights of Thanksgiving meals with my vastly extending family. I’ve looked in the mirror and found my appearance lacking.

All that, and I’ve found the time to do my laundry too.

The crazy thing is that in spite of feeling all this tonight, all the emotions of discomfort, sadness, frustration, hopelessness, and futility, I’m still here and I’m still okay. That might sound like a really simplistic discovery, but for me, right now, it makes me feel like Marie Curie discovering radium. But enough profundity. I’m going to bed.

*Ma, don’t worry, I won’t be eating it. I’m taking it to church tomorrow.

Verbose but in the end, boring

I just spent the last half hour on the phone with my friend Cindy, trying to figure out what to do tonight. After 30 minutes of talking, where we proposed and rejected dinner at Kami Sushi, movies at the Bridge, movies in Manayunk, movies at the Roxy, drinks and dinner at the North Star, dinner at Standard Tap, checking out Grace Tavern or getting Indian food at a buffet in West Philly. After all that, we came to the conclusion that neither of us actually wanted to go out, which is why nothing sounded appealing. Yep, we are really just that boring.

Grateful for…

My crazy, loud, loving extended family I had dinner with tonight.
My only slightly less crazy, still loud, loving parents and sister out in Portland.
The ability to make gravy that tastes just like my dad’s.
Cars that run reliably.
An apartment that smells like home.
Down comforters, windows that seal against the wind and bedside lamps.
Friends who give me books, conversation, unconditional love and brunch the next day.
A former love who has become a friend.
Paying attention to the family stories as child, when the people who lived them were still alive to tell them.
Music played live and voices raised in song.
An invitation to eat leftovers tomorrow with even more family.


Gravy, gravy everywhere

My apartment smells like Thanksgiving. I’m not having a dinner here, but I’ve got a crockpot full of turkey stock simmering away, and two pumpkin pies baking in my little turquoise oven. The pies are for the dinner at the CA House tomorrow that I won’t be attending and the stock is for the dinner at my cousin Angie’s house in Plymouth Meeting that I will be at. It won’t be stock for long though, tomorrow morning it will become Mo’s famous gravy.

In my family my mother cooks dinner just about every night. Baked chicken legs (with a rotating marinade/glaze of teriyaki, apricot jam or honey-mustard) string beans, salmon and broccoli are her specialties, but when holiday meals roll around, my dad is the man with the plan. He became the holiday cook when I was in my very early teens, because my mom was pretty sick, the chronic fatigue syndrome having raised it’s head in an attempt to swallow her whole. She could handle the average protein and veg dinner, but the work required to make Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner was far beyond the contents of her reserves. He was the head chef, and I was his willing and capable assistant, chopping celery, onions and mushrooms the night before, manning saute pans in the morning and handling the three standard side dishes–string beans with toasted almonds, mashed potatoes and creamy butternut squash. He took care of the bird, the stuffing and oh yes, the gravy.

It is that gravy I will be taking to Angie’s house tomorrow. It beginning with a flour toasting process that takes an hour and nerves of steel. The flour goes into a frying pan and you stand there, stirring, turning and making a mess all over the stove. This process is preferably done an evening or two before it is needed, with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer on the counter next to you, to pass the time. You want to go right to the edge, to the place where you fear it will burn, but know it won’t. Once the flour has turned dark, nutty and brown, you are done. The toasted flour then goes into a sieve or sifter and the clumps and lumps are worked out. Fast-forward to the next day. As you are putting the turkey into the oven in the morning, you pop the contents (neck, gizzard, liver and heart) of that notorious paperbag that comes inside the bird into a pot of water with a roughly chopped onion, several snapped stalks of celery (with the leafy greens), a couple cloves of garlic, salt, bay leaf and whatever else you use to make stock. I always throw a spring of rosemary in, mostly because that’s what my dad does. You let this stock/broth (I know, stock comes from bones, so this isn’t quite a stock, but oh well) simmer all day, until you are ready to make gravy. You make a roux with some of the toasted flour and some turkey drippings, siphoned off the roasting pan, get a nice thick paste, and then slowly add stock and the rest of the pan drippings. It needs a half hour of simmering to get rid of the flour taste, and then you have vats of dark, rich, yummy gravy.

The MoDad always makes about a gallon of gravy, because he is very serious about never running out of gravy before you run out of turkey. For years we had a guest who came for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners every year, and the thing he liked best about coming to our house for the meal was the abundance of gravy. When he was growing up, there was never enough, and so it was like his childhood dream come true. One year, as my mom was passing the pitcher of gravy across the table, her hand slipped and the gravy poured all over the table. This guest jumped, grabbed his spoon and started scrapping the gravy off the tablecloth and back into its vessel, in an attempt to save it. We let him go for a second, while someone ran to the kitchen for paper towels. We mopped up the rest of the gravy and gently reminded him that there was still about a half gallon, bubbling away contentedly on the stove. He was at ease once again, in the assurance that there would be enough.

I’m improvising a little this year, since I have no little white bag of turkey innards, I bought a pack of wings and a pack of gizzards to use to make my broth. I’m going to make my roux with a little butter tomorrow and then add the drippings from Angie’s pan when I get to her house. But I don’t doubt that it will be wonderful. Yum!

A sushi coma calls, but first the bike…

Right now my belly is pleading with me to go stretch out on the couch, to relieve the pressure that an overabundance of Morimoto’s sushi. Tonight I went, with my five favorite girls, to celebrate our friendship and the fact that we finally have Lara back after months of wedding planning and preparation.

But I wanted to finish the story of the bike I started yesterday. Mel asked in the comments what happened to the bike, and it’s a funny story. I rode it all throughout my senior year of college, back and forth to campus, and out on longer rides, along Mill Creek. When graduation rolled around, I decided it really needed to stay in Walla Walla, and so I posted an ad on the campus listserve, offering it for sale. I put the price at $15, which was what I had originally offered to pay at the thriftstore in the fall. I got a response from a hipster-y sophomore and we met in the parking lot behind the Harper-Joy Theater so she could check out the bike. Her mom was with her, for some reason I don’t totally understand, and they looked it over, and offered me $12. I took it, because hey, it was $3.50 more than I had paid for it seven months earlier. So I got a great bike, enjoyed it for a year, and made an almost 50% profit in May. Not bad at all.