Monthly Archives: November 2007

A visit with Aunt Anne

I drove out to visit my Great Aunt Anne today.  She is 88 years old and is still living on her own.  For that last few years, her situation has been less than ideal, but workable.  However, these days it’s not going well.  She’s essentially stranded in a suburban ranch house with nothing around but neighbors and a private day school.  She does still have a car but can’t drive anymore because her driver’s license expired and she knows that the DMV won’t give her another one.  She’s right too, her macular degeneration has gotten so bad that she can hardly see.  It seems to be a moot point anyway, as the last time she tried to turn on the car’s engine, the battery was dead and she doesn’t have the problem-solving skills to figure out how to get it charged or replaced.

There are other signs that she is struggling more with living on her own than she used to.  In the past she was always thrilled to see me and would chat on for hours about the past, the mistakes she made in her life, her hatred for President Bush and why she doesn’t believe in god.  This time, we chatted for about half an hour before she turned the TV on because it was time for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”  It was shocking to see how much she has withdrawn into television.

The saddest moment of the visit was towards the end.  I had my coat on and was fishing in my pocket for my car keys.  As I grabbed them I said, “Okay, I’ve got my keys.”  This phrase sent Aunt Anne into a panic and she said, in a wobbly voice that sounded near to tears, “Where are my keys?”  She began patting her pockets and started walking around the house.  She said, “Honey, please help me find my keys!”

I asked her if she was planning on going anywhere and she said no, but she still wanted to have her keys.  Eventually she found them and flopped into an armchair with a thump.  I leaned over, gave her a kiss and said, “I love you Aunt Anne, I’ll talk to you soon.”  And then I left.

The soothing mindlessness of a pomander ball


Apartment 2024 is smelling appealingly of cloves and orange oils right at the moment because I took a brief break this morning from the nearly-finished thesis to make a pomander ball.  There was something soothingly mindless about making rows with cloves in the skin of an orange that gave me a much-needed break from words, thoughts and my computer screen.

Fickle machines

Last night I crawled into bed, all ready for sleep, with my computer.  It was midnight and I was tired, but I needed to do a little more work before I could rest.  I worked for about an hour, writing posts for Slashfood and Green Daily before turning my mind to some school work.  Just as I was about to settle down and read my class’s discussion board, my computer went black.  There was no warning, no messages asking if it was okay to shut down.  It was just gone.

I plugged in the charger, thinking that maybe it was a power issue, but that didn’t remedy it.  So I put it down on my dresser and went to sleep, hoping that it would magically fix itself overnight.

I woke up with a start at 7:25 this morning, far earlier than I normally rise and instantly remembered that I was having computer issues.  Staggering out of bed, I approached the computer and pressed the power button.  Nothing.

Getting back into bed, I spent the next half hour sending good thoughts to my computer.  I imagined a beam of light pouring over its pearly white case.  I told it how much I appreciated it and how I just needed it to work for a few more weeks.  I reminded it that its purpose in life was to compute and by not turning on, it was denying that which it had been born to do (I have never claimed to be normal).

However, when I checked it again at 8 am, it was still stubbornly resisted booting up.  I can’t get through the day without a computer, what with needing to stay on top of things at Slashfood and really needing to finish my thesis (which was all happily saved in my gmail account).  I made arrangements to borrow Scott’s MacBook and hopped into the shower.

When I was all dressed and ready to go, I tried one last time to turn it on.  This time, when I depressed the power button the fan whirred to life and the machine started.  I quickly texted Scott and told him it was working and that I didn’t need to bug him after all (and thanked him profusely for being willing to come to my computer rescue once again).

So my three year old iBook is working once again and I am breathing a sigh of relief that I’ll (hopefully) be able to finish out grad school on this mostly reliable computer before moving on to the refurbed MacBook I bought last Friday that is now waiting for at my parents’ house in Oregon.

Fork You: Lovely Leftovers

Here it is, folks. The very last episode in our Thanksgiving series, in which we make a dish that I like to call Turkey Pot Shepherd’s Pie. It combines all your Thanksgiving leftovers neatly into a single dish that is easy to make, very flexible and quite tasty when reheated the next day. It’s one that would also work really well with leftover roast chicken which then turns it into something you can make more than just once a year.

My brain is bruised

I used up most of my brain power today working in the writing center at school.  We’re getting to the end of the semester and so from 4-8 pm today I sat in a chair as an array of students plopped down in the seat across from me and handed me things to read.  I read, edited, commented, corrected and advised.  As soon as one person thanked me for my work, another one would settle in the chair and hand over their paper.  I believe I read something in the neighborhood of 60 typewritten, double-spaced papers today.  It was a lot.  There was a moment, around 7 pm, when the words all started swimming together and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue.  But I gathered my wits (at least what was left of them) and kept on going.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my worn out brain to bed.

Leading the way at Slashfood

Until this last July, the only time in my life I had been paid for my writing was when I ten years old and submitted an essay to the Oregonian’s Thursday children’s page. They paid a whopping $10 for the right to print the story, an amount that seemed thrilling back in 1989. My mom was so tickled by my first paycheck as a writer that she refused to let me cash it. Instead, she handed me a ten from her wallet and tucked the check into the middle of my baby book. It is still there to this day (we lost the privilege of cashing it 90 days after it was issued, so it’s been a moot check for some time now).

Then this summer, I was hired to blog at Slashfood and started to earn some money writing about food. This felt nearly too good to be true, since it brought together two of my passions and gave me an opportunity to expand a little in the world of food writing. Well, it continues to get better, because a couple of weeks ago, they asked me to move into the role of lead blogger/editor for site. This is what I hinted at briefly in this post a couple of weeks ago and now it is officially official.

There is this part of me that is continually boggled by the fact that my future is starting to shape up in a way where I can see that I will be able to make a living writing, reading, editing and possibly making some food video. I feel so fortunate that sometimes I have a hard time articulating the gratitude. It is such a joy to be in this place in my life.

A quiet day, a concert and a little recognition

I didn’t leave my apartment today until 6:15 pm.  I spent the day puttering.  I did a load of laundry.  I put away all the kitchen appliances that got pulled out as I got ready for Thanksgiving (I have a kitchen storage annex behind the coats in my front hall closet, as my kitchen isn’t exactly what you would call spacious).  I dusted (and made myself sneeze repeatedly).  I did some work on my thesis.  And I fixed a hole in a shirt that has been awaiting repair for over six months.  It was one of those quiet catch up days I need every so often.

Tonight I went out to dinner with Scott, Becky, Eric, Autumn and Dave and then off to see They Might Be Giants.  I am not as much of a TMBG fan as the rest of the crew, but I had a great time.  I think this was the best show I’ve seen since I saw Polyphonic Spree at the TLA on Valentine’s Day, 2005.  It was the next to last show in a eleven week tour and they were giddy with excitement to get off the road and back to their homes.  They played two energetic sets, bringing out a horn section for the second half.  After the show was over and the lights were back up, everyone slowly headed to the door.  I noticed a guy in a hooded sweatshirt looking at me and half smiling.  I smiled back and he came over.

He said, “I bet you get this all the time, but I wanted to let you know that I subscribe to your podcast.”

I didn’t know how to respond at first, as this is not something I get all the time.  This is, in fact, only the second time I’ve ever been recognized and approached by someone who recognized me from all this crazy web stuff I do  (Wendy, you were the first!).   I mumbled a few things before pulling Scott over and introducing him.  Of course, neither one of us thought to get the guy’s name because we were both so startled at having been noticed at all.  It was flattering and really cool to be recognized.

Friday Thanksgiving


I spent the evening with my family out in Plymouth Meeting tonight for round two of Thanksgiving dinner. I brought half a gallon of gravy and there were three kinds of sweet potatoes and no regular ones. The food was delicious, although it was a little chaotic getting everyone seated and settled at first. We toasted to Derek’s first Thanksgiving and spoke of the people we loved who were no longer living. David and Winnie brought three kinds of cake and Jean made two pumpkin pies that were perfect: flaky crust and deep, fragrant spiced pumpkin.

Over dessert I got teased into reading an essay from my thesis and thankfully the response was good. After the eating was over, Amy, Angie and David played “Name that Patient,” a conversation game that goes back their days growing up on the grounds of the Norristown State Hospital, in which the recount tales of the patients they knew from their childhood. Several hours later, it was getting late and my great Aunt Belle, now into her nineties and the last surviving member of her generation, needed a ride back into the city, so we headed out.

I took a bunch of pictures, but somehow managed to leave out half the people there. I guess that’s what happens when there’s a baby in the room.

The holiday kitchen dance

Last year this time I was out in Oregon, getting ready to cook dinner with my parents. The celery, mushrooms and onions were chopped and bagged, ready for the stuffing. Multiple heads of garlic had freed from their papery skins and the defrosted turkey was resting pertly in the fridge in my mom’s largest metal mixing bowl.

Cooking holiday meals with my dad (he handles the bulk of the holiday cooking in my family) is one of the great joys of my life. We have a certain innate ability to anticipate what the other one it going to do before they do it without talking. It means that I know when he needs help maneuvering the turkey and he knows when I need a little help draining the potatoes. This skill also makes moving furniture and loading cars together quite pleasant.

Luckily, I’ll be home in December and we’ll get to do the holiday kitchen dance for Christmas dinner. Until then, I’ll make his gravy recipe for my extended family Thanksgiving dinner on Friday.