Monthly Archives: December 2005


A dear friend of mine got married today. I’ve known Akhri since I was about four years old. Her mom was my montessori school teacher, and because there are seven years between us, Akhri was enlisted to babysit for Raina and me one more than one occasion when we all lived in Eagle Rock. I have a vivid memory of her at 13 years old, standing in our kitchen, making macaroni and cheese.

Akhri and Brian have been together for more than seven years, and two weeks ago decided to get married and have a party. Last I heard, they had been considering a common law marriage, until they discovered that Oregon doesn’t actually have those. My mom called me in the middle of my workday, just before I headed to Portland for the holidays, to tell me that not only would I be home for Christmas, Hanukkah and my dad’s birthday dinner, I would also be home for Akhri’s wedding reception.

It was half potluck, half catered, with enough to feed twice the number of people who were there. The food was Middle Eastern themed, and we brought a big bowl of roasted veggies and a large green salad. The hall of the Portland Subud house was decorated in shifts by many loving hands. My mom and I stopped over there this afternoon to add our white fairy lights and a several candlesticks. When we arrived, we weren’t the only ones doing helping get ready. A friend was in the kitchen baking the chocolate wedding cake.

I arrived tonight with my parents and sister at 6:30 to kids running between rooms, people carrying food from the kitchen to the hall, and a space that was transformed by candlelight and joy. Akhri was alight with happiness, and when I got a moment to talk to her, she told me about her wedding service that was held earlier in the day in the chambers of a Multnomah County Judge. How she was moved to tears by the words of the ceremony, as simple as it was.

It wasn’t a formal night. There was one toast, cutting of the cake and a brief kiss, before they evening was turned over to talking and music. Cory, an old friend, did a little fiddling. My dad ran home for two guitars, so that he and my sister could jam for a bit with Cory. Akhri’s two year old niece stole the show with her dancing. At the end, everyone chipped in to do dishes and put the hall to rights.

It was a wonderful way to bring my visit to a close.

I've been tagged–The Meme of 4s

I’ve been tagged (by Melissa). Since I’ve been a little low on the creativity lately, I’m happy to play along and be told what to write.

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: Professional Personal Organizer, right after college. Nanny, the summers between college. Staff Assistant at the AACR. Tour guide at the Independence Seaport Museum.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Say Anything, Home for the Holidays, Peggy Sue Got Married, Moonstruck.

Four places you’ve lived: Eagle Rock, CA, Portland, OR, Walla Walla, WA, Philadelphia, PA.

Four TV shows you love to watch: Medium (I love Patricia Arquette), Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars and Stargate SG-1.

Four places you’ve been on vacation: I’ve never been much of an exotic vacation person. Right now I’m on “vacation” sitting on my parents’ couch. I have done a little traveling, having been to Poland, Bali, the Oregon Coast and the Chesapeake Bay (okay, I realize the last two aren’t so exotic).

Four websites you visit daily: The Philly Metroblog, Dooce (I’m addicted), my very own Apartment 2024 and Philly Future.

Four of your favorite foods: Pinch Pie, big bowls of Pho, Pecan Tassies and fresh tortilla chips with sour cream and spicy salsa.

Four places you’d rather be: I’m pretty happy where I am right now, watching tv on my parents’ family room couch.

I’m not much of a tagger, but if you’d like to play along, please go for it.

Pinch Pie

My dad turns 57 on January 2nd, but since I’ll be back in Philly by then, we are celebrating tonight. It will be a little party, just some family and close friends. We’re having teriyaki beef stroganoff, steamed broccoli and pinch pie.

One of the traditions in my family, initiated by my grandma Bunny (dad’s mom), is that the birthday boy or girl gets to pick their birthday dinner. No request goes unfulfilled, which is why while I was growing up we had sushi (uncle Bill) as well as hot dogs and corn on the cob (me at age 6). While the main courses run the gamut, the dessert is almost always the same. Because if you’re smart, you ask for pinch pie.

Pinch pie isn’t really a pie at all. It is a big meringue shell, that you fill with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries. Some time during the 80’s, one of my dad’s brothers came up with the idea to sprinkle toasted slivered almonds on top, an addition we’ve kept, because it’s just so darn good.

Bunny first made pinch pie in the 40’s, as a special Valentine’s Day dessert for her husband. It was a recipe she cut out of a lady’s magazine, although she was never the lady’s magazine type. She made the shell in the shape of a heart, and picked the white and red fillings to compliment the holiday. I imagine her, standing in the kitchen of her farmhouse in Virginia, apron wrapped about her waist, her feet in old canvas sneakers, whipping both air and love into that bowl of egg whites as she kept one eye on her boys.

When my family moved to Portland, we were no longer within birthday dinner range of Bunny’s big house in Woodland Hills, CA. I would call her on birthdays, to have her talk me through the recipe for pinch pie, one more time. Each time we talked, I wrote down the instructions, but I still liked to call, for the connection and the encouragement. Bunny died when I was 14, so I can’t call her for tips anymore. But I think of her, as I stand at the counter in my parents’ kitchen, the 5 by 7 recipe card with my 11 year old handwriting in front me for reference, whipping love into egg whites.

Pinch Pie Shell

6 room temperature egg whites
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (please, use the good stuff)

Beat the 6 egg whites with the cream of tartar on the lowest speed the mixer has, until they start to foam up. You beat them on low, because you don’t want to break the long, thin strands of proteins in the egg whites. They help the mixture get stiff, and you are going to sculpt a bowl out of this stuff, you want it as stiff as possible.

Slowly add the sugar, in about four parts and keep blending.

When you are almost finished, add the vanilla. You know that you are done beating the eggs when it looks glossy, and it stands up in sticky peaks when you remove the beaters.

These days I make it on a sheet of parchment paper, laid on a pizza pan, but the original recipe calls for a buttered platter (a buttered cookie sheet also works. Do not spread this out on tin foil, it is impossible to remove). Take half the mixture and plop it out in the middle of the pan and spread it out to make the floor. Then start building the walls around the edges, sculpting them thick and as tall as you can make them.

Put it in a 225 degree oven for about an hour (you aren’t really baking it so much as drying it out). When it’s done, put it up someplace high, because people like to break little pieces of it off before it’s time for dessert.

Fill it with ice cream (it doesn’t have to be vanilla, but if it is, make sure you get the kind with the little flecks of bean in it). Top it with fresh whipped cream, lightly sweetened. Sprinkle the toasted almond slivers on top, and serve with a bowl of strawberries on the side. We always use the sweetened, frozen ones, because they have lots of juice.

I have one warning. This dessert may make you want to lick your bowl when you have finished scraping up everything you spoon can get to. In my family, while you weren’t allowed to lick your bowl at the table, no one blinked if you took it into the kitchen to get those final drops of strawberry, ice cream and meringue. Yum.

Pet love

This morning while I lay in bed reading, not wanting to get up quite yet, my grumpy 13 year old cat Dinky, who always spends the first four or five days of my visit punishing me for staying away so long, came over to snuggle. Minutes passed as we sat there together. He purred and drooled a bit as I petted him and occasionally rubbed the top of his head with my nose. I love this cat beyond reason, and have reluctantly prepared myself for the day when my mom will call me to tell me he has disappeared or died in his sleep. But for now he lives and I get my snuggles in while I can.

After 20 minutes of cuddling, I heard the downstairs door open, and my dad whispered to the dog, “Go say hi to Meecie.” Bonnie bounded up the stairs and leaped on the bed, sending the cat flying off to find a safe, dog-free place. Bonnie rolled over on her back, waiting for the pats and scratches she knew would be forthcoming. I did not let her down and covered her with affection and attention.

Though I love the pet-hair free life I lead in Philly, I miss the small, furry animals that roam around my parents’ house. If my apartment building allowed it, I would get a cat in about three minutes. But until the time I live in a place that welcomes pets, I have to get my fill of dog and cat love while I’m home. I’ve made good headway so far.

Random Friday–On the Road

I’m following in the Random Friday Ten tradition, despite the fact that I am so totally out of my normal routine. I figure one thing’s got to stay consistent. You know the rules, but for the newcomers, here they are. Turn you digital music player to shuffle/random, and tell us the first ten songs that appear, with no deletions or exceptions, no matter how embarrassing or odd the songs that show up may be.

1. Looking for the Next Best Thing, Warren Zevon (Genius: Best of)
2. Southern Belle, Elliott Smith (Elliott Smith)
3. Original Music from “The Wonder Years”, Various Artists (The Wonder Years Sountrack)
4. Grandpa’s Song, Mo Mack (Not Too Much of Any One Thing)
5. Dizzy Miss Lizzy, The Beatles (Help)
6. I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine, Elvis Presley (The Sun Sessions)
7. Boom Boom, The Yardbirds (Smokestack Lightning)
8. Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls (Retrospective)
9. Crown of Love, Arcade Fire (Funeral)
10. Party Generation, Dar Williams (End of the Summer)

Favorite Song: Closer to Fine. I feel like it is the anthem of my teenage years. In high school, it was always the song we would sing together, whether it was on the car radio or sitting in a park with my sister or one of her friends playing it on the guitar. It doesn’t matter whether you know the words perfectly or not, you can still always manage to stumble through it.

Personal Connections: I’ve got two nice personal connections here today. The first is that one of my dad’s songs showed up on the random ten today. Yes folks, Mo Mack is my father. Yep, I have a father with a stage name, a rock star alter ego, and I love him all the more for it. It’s a great song too, all about his relationship with his grandfather.
The other connection is a little more tenuous. I have two friends who have a cousin who is a member of Arcade Fire, and I once met him, dressed for an aerobics class in my friend Shay’s dining room.

Portland Connection: Elliott Smith once lived in Portland, and I have a friend who played music with him occasionally. I remember when he played his song from “Good Will Hunting” on the Oscars, she was pretty darn excited, if a little jealous too. These things happen.

Seen Live: Dar Williams, Indigo Girls, Elliott Smith and my dad.

The day after sad

Half an hour ago I was in the bathroom, drying my hair, when my mom came in and said, “Hey, do you know that you have nine comments on your blog?” I unplugged the hairdryer and sat down in the computer/dog room, to see what people had written. I was a little afraid someone would be out there, ready to blast me away for publicly admitting to unhappiness but instead I was blown away by the love and support.

Thank you all. A lot!

I’m feeling a little better today, but there are still some deep and long-standing emotions that need to be processed and released. I’m working on it.


I got an email from my boss today, which punctured the tenuous joy of my vacation and sent me spiraling downward. I’ve been holding onto the edge of okayness for a while, and in the 30 seconds it took me to read her email, I lost my grip altogether. It wasn’t actually anything she said that broke my grasp, the contents of the email addressed something I may have not followed through with to the degree that was necessary, but that doesn’t really matter. It was just another reminder of how mismatched I am with my job, and my feeling of sadness at not knowing how to change it.

I sat on the couch in parents’ family room for about an hour, sobbing, while my mom sat next to me, not knowing what to do besides hand me kleenex and watch my mascara stream down my cheeks. In the moments between gasping breaths, I managed to hiccup out a few words. I told her how sad I feel being me. How I feel like I will never be able to do the job I’m employed to do very well, because at heart I am not a perfectionist, and my job really requires one. How I feel like there is nothing in the world that I am good at. That even in the moments when I remember how much I like writing, how much joy I feel at creating a good sentence that can tell a story and make someone feel transported, I am also defeated by the difficulty of it and the near-impossibility of finding success at it.

Right now I feel broken and unhappy. I don’t know how to get out from underneath this. I haven’t cried like this in years, and the tears are still close.

Crossing paths

I left work yesterday at 2:30 to head for 30th Street Station to catch the R1 to the airport so I could get on my 4:56 pm flight and get home to Portland. I walked out of my office building and headed down Market Street, towards the train station. Halfway between my office and the station, I paused on the empty sidewalk to switch hands on the handle of my suitcase and adjust the bag slung around my shoulders. When I looked back up, a figure was walking towards me. A familiar figure.

It was Ted.

I don’t know what kind of cosmic force keeps pulling us together, but there’s something out there that causes our paths to collide. Once my brain registered that it was him, the only thing to do was laugh out loud and grin. He walked up to me grinning too, and said, “I thought that person and that suitcase looked familiar.” We hugged and chatted for a couple minutes, until I said I needed to get going to catch the train. He wished me a good holiday, and told me to say hi to my family. In that moment, the one Christmas he spent with my family flashed through my head. It felt so distant, as if it belonged to another lifetime, one totally detached from the one I now lead. We walked away from each other and I did not look back.


Getting my suitcase out of the 30th floor storage unit requires not just a trip upstairs, but a trip downstairs to get the key from the front desk, then the trip upstairs on the freight elevator (the only one that goes up that far), down a creepy, cold hallway lined with rickety wooden doors, a fight with a rusty lock on both the way in and the way out and then the trip back down to return the key. I did the suitcase obtaining routine about two hours ago, and I still haven’t started packing. I keep planning on starting, but then find another task (like blogging) to keep me busy. I have come over to my computer twice, thinking I would shut it down and pack it up, only to sit down, check my email and start reading blogs.

But I’m an organized girl who can pack quickly and efficiently. My sister starts packing five days before she goes on a trip, where I’ve never packed more than 18 hours before my flight. I’ve always said that this is because I know where all my stuff is, so I don’t have to spend days looking for it. But it’s also because I have a deeply procrastinationistic nature. But enough. Time to stop stalling, stop avoiding. I must now rip myself away from the computer to go fill my suitcase with clothing. Because I don’t think I’m going to get through security naked, despite the ease in screening that might cause.