Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Best Shampoo And Conditioner Ever




I've been washing my own hair for over 40 years. And this is the best line of shampoo and conditioner I've ever found. It's for colored hair, ostensibly, but I'd use it even if I were going gentle into that dark gray.

Why? Smells good. Lavender, rose, mint. Feels good, slip to the fingers, bubbles galore. Works well, (to use good again would be parallel, but incorrect) soft, shiny, bouncy, dreamy hair. I switch between the moisturizing, voluminizing, and "essential repair" products.

No sulfates.

Drawback? Yes. Not cheap. But absolutely delicious, should you want to wash your hair in the near future. Oh, and only the "essential repair" products, (the green bottle) are paraben-free.

Here's some more information about Pureology. Here are some other reviews, and more reviews. And video reviews. Also some special offers.

And if you know of something better, please do tell.

*No recompense received for this posting. Just the sweet joy of helping us all wash our hair.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Breaking News - The New York Times Agrees

A link from a reader, to Professor Noah Feldman of Harvard, in the New York Times.
Unlike almost every other dominant ethnic, racial or religious group in world history, white Protestants have ceded their socioeconomic power by hewing voluntarily to the values of merit and inclusion, values now shared broadly by Americans of different backgrounds. The decline of the Protestant elite is actually its greatest triumph. (The Triumphant Decline of the WASP, New York Times, June 28, 2010)
If that isn't some of what we're trying to say around here, I will eat my Princeton Reunion hat. Excessive tigers and all.

Thank you, Professor Feldman. Thank you very much.

One request to all, that all comments replying to each other remain polite. Feel free to be as rude to me as you like.

How To Plant A Cottage Garden That Feels Bigger Than It Is

I have a little cottage garden. A little cottage garden surrounding a little ranch house built when Silicon Valley was still a twinkle in Fairchild's eye. When the neighborhood was little. Which it is not any more. But I digress.

In Northern California coastal regions, a cottage garden hedges its bets by including drought-tolerant grasses amongst the hydrangea, and relying on Mediterranean flora for inspiration. A High WASP, fading family fortune to blame, may hedge some additional bets, relying on camera angles to suggest the grandeur of her childhood homes. But she will tell you in advance. You deserve that much.

So here's how to plant a cottage garden that feels bigger than it is.

Mix up your plants, unexpectedly
I'm fond of massing plants. Somewhat more structural than your archetypal cottage layout, but if there's no room for interpretation of the classics, where then is taste? Even if masses in a small garden mean 8 plants of one type, 6 of another, 12 of another - let them grow in organic shapes and entangled if they will. Here, the front yard in sun, the back yard in shade.


Lychnis, lavender, fleabane


Hide your fences, and your neighbors
You see that patch of brown above, through the greenery? That's my fence. On the other side of my fence are my neighbors. I do my best to pretend they aren't there. Gardeners with gas mowers and children in swimming pools thwart me on occasion, but I raise my chin and think of England.

Build paths, or suggest them

These paths may wend their way only around a raised bed, or through a shrub or two to the back fence. Which might be nearer in reality than you pretend. Again, front yard in sun, back yard in shade.


Plant a cutting garden in its own bed, or pot if that's what you've got
My cutting garden followed the sun to my front yard. Luckily Northern California also supports gardening eccentrics with visible tomatoes. For cut flowers, I have one rosebush. And since I can see it out my kitchen window, for the most part I cut roses only in my imagination, preferring they live on outside rather than drop petals with a tiny thwap on my kitchen counter.


The rose. I do not know its name.


Cherry tomato plant, basil, cuban basil, marjoram, thyme, parsley, mint, more mint. Still more mint.

Write up a list of future projects
Things left undone, projects for the future, empty containers are all markers of hope. Anything unfinished is a vista, of sorts.



Finally, when in doubt, plant another rosebush. They are likely to light up for you, early in the morning. Which, although a cheap date sort of photo opportunity rife with easy sentiment, can lift a full heart in real life. I suggest we do not dismiss roses.




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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bugs Do Not Belong On Upholstery, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:08am

Yesterday I was sitting on my sofa. It is from Pottery Barn, but that's besides the point. I could see the right hand sofa arm out of the corner of my eye.

Up crawled a silverfish. Right onto the peanut-colored faux suede. I am reasonably sane about bugs - not all the way to wise maybe, but sane. However, that crawling silverfish was too much.

We all have our limits. Bugs on upholstery is one of mine. I know you've got yours. Sometimes life is profound and sometimes, I think, it just isn't. Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Movie Stars, Marble, A Sitar Player. India, 1982.

An ongoing and occasional series on a 3-month trip I took to India in 1982. I was 25, and traveled by train across the country alone, writing an article on the then-unknown Indian film industry and combating the anxieties of youth and solo travel. Often includes references to what I wore. You can find the previous posts here.

This story has no pictures. Even at 25, I knew not to take pictures of movie stars in their houses. And this is a story with movie stars.

In Delhi I continued to research the film industry. One day I went to a movie theater. I saw a Bollywood version of "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers." It was 3 hours of men in overalls, dancing with women in saris. By then I understood that mine was not to laugh. I just watched, and noted.

The next afternoon, I interviewed the actor Shashi Kapoor. His father, Raj, was responsible for establishing the Indian commercial film industry. Shashi was a movie star. Second in fame only, in those days, to Amitabh Bachchan. Mr. Bachchan is the one who arrives by helicopter in Slumdog Millionaire.

We met in the lobby of the Taj Hotel, New Delhi. I was wearing my pale blue, skirted, seersucker suit. We drank tea.

Mr. Kapoor was terribly gracious. He told me all about his family and the meaning of the film industry for his country. He was right, as it turned out, but during that time in India how right he was or was not didn't matter to me. Whatever I was told, I entertained as possible. Tigers fed nearby on rubies, for all I knew. The Indian film industry would threaten Hollywood's world dominance, for all I knew.

Then Mr. Kapoor invited me to a party. If we'd been in Hollywood, I'd have recognized the host's name. But in stories, the famous often play the part of scenery.

I had to go all the way back to my hotel and change. All I had that looked like evening gear was my sky blue rayon salwar kameez printed with gold ink. I wore my pearls, though, in hopes. Left my hair down my back.

Mr. Kapoor and his assistant picked me up in a black Mercedes. Mr. Kapoor in the front, me and his assistant in the back. We drove through the streets of Delhi. I remember walking up the stairs to the second floor of the house, thinking, wait, these floors are marble. Wait, everything is marble. It turns out that marble is quite soft and cold to one's feet.

There were somewhere between 70 and 120 people at the party. It's hard to count when your faculties are consumed with making sense of new data. I appeared to be the only person not Indian. I suppose I talked to somebody or other.

Dinner was served. Buffet. No chairs. They didn't do chairs. Everyone ate more quickly than I would have expected, standing, holding plates, or sitting outside on the marble balcony. Then a couple asked me if I wanted to smoke marijuana with them. I declined. Again, some things one learns early.

After dinner we were called with a bell to sit on bright silk pillows scattered all across the floor. Orange, yellow, fuchsia, gold. That picture remains very clear in my mind. Pillows. The marble floor. A sitar player, again, a name I would have known, were I at home. But I was halfway across the world in a country and civilization that cut the word foreigner down to its bright bones. I remember everyone there had very shiny black hair. Except me.

And so we listened. Until the evening ended.

It was a generous night. I do not know who gave more to whom. Nor how I was glamorous or how I was not. But I felt beautiful. I was 25, when we are all beautiful. Looking back, I also see, I was so out of place. I didn't realize until years later that my cheap tunic made in a street bazaar, of a gold block print that would wear off sooner rather than later, was inappropriate to the occasion. To my shame. Or that I was probably saying silly things. What I remember is the polished surfaces, what I think is that the movie stars were all quite nice to a foreigner, and made sure I had enough to eat, and a place to sit.

The value of memories isn't known at the time. Nothing is a memory until it is remembered.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How, And Why, To Plant A Cottage Garden Anywhere On Earth



I have a proposition for you, one which I do not expect to be controversial. Here goes. Gardens are wonderful.

My High WASP cohort is with me on this one. We do love a garden. And our genre of choice is the English cottage. At home we are not prone to formal plantings of colored annuals, spelling out our monograms. Nor to singular shrubs, lonely, disciplined, labeled. Nor to wallpaper plants, i.e., 60 sad impatiens in a row, advancing before 23 well-behaved azaleas, flanking 7 uniform hydrangeas. While our vacation houses might get a little fanciful - topiaries, follies, the crunch of French gravel paths - at home we like to balance our personal formality with the comfort of a mixed border. Or two. Or six.

High WASPs plant cottage gardens even when the cottage is, well, a little grand.



If one still lives in the family manse, cottage-ification is by necessity limited to regions near and dear. Overseeing an entire acre, or two or forty, covered in artfully massed and scattered and staked perennials? Please, no. Unless you are the queen of something. For ordinary manses, rolling swaths of sustainable vistas are a good thing. But the walkway to the front and back doors, the borders around the paved stone patio, or the brick-decorated swimming pool will most likely cottage-up. And if family fortunes have declined, and one lives in a regular house, swaths and vistas are a thing of the past. One learns to appreciate the small.


You might well wonder, "What is a cottage garden?" You might well consider, "Do I want one?" I ask you in return, do you like:
  • Mixed and crowded plantings whose final architecture you can't quite predict
  • The Fibonacci curves of nature
  • Dedicating space to growing plants to cut, either flowers, or food, or both
  • Walking amongst your plants, and the paths to walk upon
  • Honoring the geography where you live?
As you can see in the photos above, cottage gardens should be planted every which way, as though they might have chosen to grow in situ of their own accord. The effect you are looking for, which might in fact be the High WASP credo, is, "Oh this old thing?" Even though you or your landscape architect might in fact have spent at the very least a lot of time, if not money, planning and designing. And then spent a lot of time planting, watching plants fail, and replanting. Dignified chaos is a lot of work.

You should also remember that cottages sustain themselves. You will need to plant things to bring inside, flowers, or herbs, or vegetables, even when you don't have an acre for a cornfield. I remember the cornfield, next to the barn, opposite the cottage, where we stayed on my father's family place. And the deer that would walk out at night, as we held our breaths and waited. But I digress.



Do not worry. Strawberries in a pot count. Orange trees in pots count. Basil leaves on a windowsill count. You only need the chance to crush, or sniff, or bite something you have grown.

Your cottage garden should have paths, to wind through the greenery, to conceal and reveal. Even if the only path you have is the one leading from the sidewalk to your front door, or up the stairs to your apartment, let it meander just for a minute, if you can.

Most importantly, the cottage garden must adapt to the environment in which it finds itself. Plant a polite space, following the culture of your adoptive home. High WASPs wish for nothing more than the nirvana of appropriate. Above, the garden on the right is in fact in England. The garden on the left? Chicago. Planted affectionately, in a corner protected from winds.



Noe Valley, San Francisco. Where a cottage garden includes the plant known as Kangaroo Paws. Under a crayon-blue sky, cottages might have a kangaroo or two nearby. In the desert, a cottage garden might consist of succulents, cacti planted as though they'd just happened to arrange themselves in patterns along your walk, in amongst the swept dust and broken pottery embedded into adobe walls.



You didn't think palm trees were part of a cottage garden? They are in Santa Barbara. While in the hills above Silicon Valley, Mediterranean natives do a heck of a job mirroring the foxgloves, hostas, and peonies of other climates. No need to imitate the cottages of other lands.



So get out the tools hiding in your garage. If you want to get fancy, put them in a basket. Tie a bow on the handle. Do not bewail the lack of a gardener. Gardeners work on the vast nether reaches. What is close to home we do ourselves.



Enjoy the digging, the weeding, the pruning. Nothing is so good for the soul as a good pruning session. Protect your cottage. Curiously, weeds ignore demographics, weedkiller is poison for everyone, and you don't really have to get your hands dirty. One could say the earth is our cottage, if one wanted to speak out.

Archetypal Cottage
Grand Cottage
Corn
Path
Chicago
Noe Valley
Mom's House, LPC
Dad's House, LPC
Garden Necessities, LPC

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Monday, June 21, 2010

News From Around The Blogosphere

Just a few bits and pieces I thought you all might like to know.

Or, in the case of La Belette Rouge's move to her new URL, http://www.labeletterouge.com, need to know. La Belette is a psychotherapist and writer. She writes about her thoughts, her experiences, her therapy, her self. And she does it in a very original voice. If you wondered where she went, she's here now. La Belette Rouge. If you've never read her, please take a look.

If you wondered where I was yesterday, when I wasn't on Reggie Darling, all has been remedied and I am here, with photos of tiger-infested garments and thoughts about the evolution of High WASPs. Thank you to Reggie, for hosting me, and for checking in from your travels.

In other news, I had the privilege of meeting Deja Pseu, of Une femme d'un certain age, this weekend. We sat at outside at the Stanford Shopping Center and talked for a little while, before family obligations, as happens, grew pressing. Deja is, not surprisingly, a very accomplished person. We had a great time talking. Behind all of us putting words and pictures on the internets (as the young 'uns say), are humans with lives. Not news, maybe, but noteworthy nonetheless. And she wore this, which was fabulous.

Finally, Nellie (the winner of our omelette pan giveaway), and I have been exchanging emails. She wrote, of course, to thank me.
I am extremely pleased with the quick arrival of the omelette pan via CSN Stores! It was delivered today, and I have it washed, dried, and waiting for "christening" in the morning!
Nellie has just had her 70th birthday, and also says,
Age is just a number, and at 70, I am still waiting to feel "older.":-) Several activities keep me busy, and I think that is vital to maintaining enthusiasm and a healthy attitude.
I say, go Nellie. Go us. Including the young 'uns amongst us.

Guest Post: Reggie of "Reggie Darling" On His Yale 25th Reunion

Today we have the honor, and privilege, of a guest post from Reggie Darling. Reggie writes one of my favorite blogs on design and hospitality, providing tips on how to be a gracious host, a well-behaved guest, as well an absolutely fabulous array of inspirational home design photos. He and Boy Fenwick, his husband, scour the East Coast for antiques. Boy photographs their finds, and their weekend house in upstate New York, gracefully and compellingly. In short, every time I read his blog I wish either to visit him or own all his stuff.

Today, Reggie's writing about his 25th Reunion at Yale. Since he and I agreed to exchange posts, you'll find me over there today, writing in turn about my 25th Princeton Reunion.

Hello. My name is Reggie Darling, and I am guest-posting here on “Privilege” today. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Lisa for the first time over dinner in San Francisco when I was there on a business trip. While I had communicated with Lisa over the preceding months, both by commenting on her blog and by enjoying comments she left on mine, and later by email, I had never met her before our dinner. I was pleased that she agreed to dine with me, a stranger, as I had found her blog “Privilege” to be interesting, thought-provoking, humorous, and charming. I was delighted to find, when I met Lisa, that she is all of these in person.


Over dinner we hatched a plan to write guest posts on each other’s blogs about our 25th college reunions, hers at Princeton, mine at Yale. But since then I have decided to slightly alter my subject, and write about the three 25th reunions I have attended over a forty-year span, the first two at Yale and the third at Vassar. For I believe that you, as a follower of her blog, may be interested to read from another High WASP (as she defines it) how much the world of the High WASPs that Lisa examines has changed and evolved, and in a relatively short time. And I believe the contrasts of these reunions illustrate much of this change . . . for the better. So, here goes.

Yale Class of 1944 25th Reunion

I attended my first Yale 25th reunion in June of 1969, when I was twelve years old. I was there because my father was celebrating his 25th reunion that summer, having graduated in 1944. My father’s Yale class was a pivotal one, because it was the last one that enrolled there before the U.S. entered WWII and was almost entirely populated with the types of men that had attended the university since it was founded in 1701. In other words, White Anglo Saxon Protestants, the offspring of this nation’s ruling classes, largely drawn from the East Coast, and the product of its elite boarding schools. When my father applied to college he did so only to Yale, since it was a foregone conclusion that he would be admitted. As he told me when I asked him years later, it didn’t even occur to him to apply anywhere else.


My father brought our entire family with him to his 25th reunion, including my mother, my three older siblings, and me. I was pretty much odd boy out at the reunion, because I was too old to engage in the activities organized for children, not old enough to hang out with the teenagers, and too young to join the adults, whose primary occupation appeared to be drinking alcohol and talking about the old days while wearing silly hats and blue-and-white striped jackets. My older siblings didn’t want to have anything to do with me, since I was a “dumb twelve year old,” and my parents were otherwise engaged. So I spent a lot of time hanging around the reunion tent observing what was going on. One of the attractions of doing so was it provided me--in stark contrast to back home--with unlimited access to Cokes, bottomless bowls of peanuts, and endless cheese and crackers, since the tent was set up with a fully stocked bar continuously manned with a fleet of accommodating bartenders morning, noon, and night. Pay dirt!


Over the course of the reunion I got to know the bartenders by name, and I enjoyed speaking with them when the pace slowed down and they had nothing else to do. One evening, while lurking around the tent after my parents had staggered off to bed, I noticed that one of the bartenders was having an argument with his manager, and I sidled over to see if I could overhear what they were fighting about. It turned out that the bar was understaffed that evening, and the bartender was complaining that he didn’t have time to both wash out the used glasses and also man the bar (this was back in the days before plastic glasses were used at such events). So, having nothing better to do, I piped up that I would be happy to wash glasses for them, and, much to my surprise, the exasperated manager agreed to let me do it. I then spent the next several hours happily washing glasses and delivering them to the bartenders, who were pleased for me to take this burden off their hands. I had such a good time doing it, in fact, that I spent the better part of the rest of the reunion washing glasses behind the bar in the reunion tent, where I became something of a mascot for the bartenders. My parents were more than happy to let me do it, too, because it got me out of their hair, they knew where I was, and, besides, they thought it was a hoot. And at the end of the reunion, much to my delight, the manager presented me with a twenty dollar bill for my efforts. Not only did I get to wash the glasses for my bartender pals, but I got paid for it, too!

Yale Class of 1979 25th Reunion

Although my father’s Yale classmates were almost entirely made up of WASPs, after WWII the face of Yale’s undergraduates started to change. Slowly at first, and aided by the G.I. Bill, Yale’s student body began to become more diverse. By the time I entered Yale in September 1975 it was a very different place from the university my father had enrolled in. For one thing, Yale had gone co-ed in the fall of 1969, and by the time I matriculated forty percent of my classmates were female. In addition, a substantial percentage of my class were people of differing ethnic and religious backgrounds from my WASP origins, and the majority of undergraduates there had attended public schools. While being a legacy offspring was certainly not a liability to getting admitted to Yale, it was no longer the easy ticket for admission that it had once been. In other words, Yale had become a meritocracy. But Yale remained, and remains to this day, a very macho, competitive, and elite university. Today, however, these defining characteristics of the university have nothing to do with the ethnicity or religion or gender of its students, unlike when my father went there, when its doors were tightly closed to anyone who didn’t fit a very narrowly defined vision of who should be admitted. I loved my experience at Yale, and I look back on it fondly and with respect. I feel fortunate to have been able to go there.


One of the things that has changed since I was an undergraduate at Yale is that the stigma of being gay in this country has largely dissipated in the intervening years, at least among educated people, and had long become a non-issue by the time of my 25th reunion, held in June 2004. When I was an undergraduate at Yale in the late 1970s, being gay was still considered to be a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association, and it was stigmatized to a degree that is unfathomable today, at least here in the U.S. While I had (discretely) come out to a number of my friends during my senior year at Yale I had not brought any of my partners with me to reunions until my 20th, when I brought Boy Fenwick, my partner in life (and more recently my legally recognized husband, at least in Massachusetts, where we got married last year) with me. While some of my classmates were slightly taken aback when I first introduced Boy to them as my life partner at my 20th reunion, they rallied immediately. And when he joined me at my 25th reunion, no one batted an eye. I had a marvelous time at my Yale 25th, and having Boy there with me was an important part of what made the experience memorable for me. Needless to say, that would not have been the case for any of my father’s classmates if they had the audacity to do such a thing at their 25th reunion in 1969, where they would likely have been met with disapproving astonishment at such an introduction, and where the offending classmate and his partner would probably have been ostracized, if not asked to leave. Thank goodness people are more enlightened these days here in America.

Vassar Class of 1985 25th Reunion

In addition to coming from a family where Yale figures prominently among the men, Vassar figures prominently among the women. My father’s mother, known as Granny Darling, went to Vassar, class of 1913, and initiated the first Yale-Vassar marriage in my family when she married my grandfather, Yale class of 1911. She dearly hoped that one of her offspring would continue the tradition. My Aunt Mary (her daughter), Vassar class of 1941, was the first to frustrate Granny when she married outside the fold (headstrong girl!), and my father disappointed, too, when he married my mother, Sarah Lawrence class of 1943. After both of my Vassar-educated cousins, classes of 1967 and 1972, failed to marry Yale men, Granny then looked, with mounting desperation, to her two grandsons with Yale potential (my older brother, Frecky, and me) to remedy this unfortunate situation. She was further frustrated when Frecky, Yale class of 1974, married a Brown graduate shortly after finishing Yale. I was, then, her remaining hope for such a felicitous union. More than once when I was an undergraduate at Yale my Granny Darling gently admonished me to be sure to “look up a nice Vassar Girl” in the hopes of achieving her goal. Unfortunately, Granny Darling died before I graduated from Yale and long before I met, and then married, Boy Fenwick, Vassar class of 1985. I can just imagine hearing my dear Granny’s reaction upon learning that one of her Yale-educated grandsons had indeed married a Vassar graduate (“At last! What joy!”), followed by her surprise when she learned that I had, in fact, married a Vassar Guy and not a Vassar Girl (“He married what?”). I am fairly confident that Granny would have eventually come around after her initial shock wore off, since at least it is a Yale-Vassar union after all . . . although it’s not exactly the union she had envisioned.


So when I joined Boy at his Vassar 25th reunion earlier this month, I did so more than solely as his partner in life, but with an added appreciation of his college’s history, traditions, and its meaning to my family. I enjoyed myself at his reunion, and I had a lot of fun there meeting his college friends and seeing the places on campus where he had once lived, studied, and frolicked. I also thought of Granny Darling and the other Vassar women in my family when I walked around the campus, and I felt a pleasant connection to the school that extended beyond the happiness that I experienced in joining Boy there as he and his classmates celebrated.


Even though Boy graduated from college only six years after I did, his experience at Vassar was quite different from mine at Yale. For one thing, the majority of his classmates were female (55% to Yale’s 40%, when I was there), which is not surprising, given Vassar's history. Also, his classmates were a slightly more diverse group of people than mine had been at Yale, at least they appeared to me at his reunion. Finally, attitudes towards being gay had relaxed considerably by the time he enrolled at Vassar, and he was out as a gay man from the moment he arrived there as a freshman.


As I sat at a table under the large white tent during the big class dinner at Boy’s 25th reunion, I felt glad to be there with him and his friends, who welcomed me with civility and humor. I also felt a connection with my dear Granny and was amused that her wish for a Yale-Vassar marriage had finally come true, albeit not quite how she had envisioned. And I felt very fortunate, indeed, that the world had evolved in my lifetime to such a point that I could find myself there with my beloved spouse, under those happy circumstances.

Images:
Yale postcards - Reggie's private collection
Vassar postcards - Cardcow.com


Note: I have noticed that Reggie's blog hasn't been updated yet. He's traveling. Technology is not as simple as they would have us believe. Stay tuned.
Note: All is remedied! I am at this direct link, with photos of tiger-infested garments.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Have A Lovely Weekend, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:47am

We have gray sky this morning. High and light rather than low and dark, but still, gray. This makes the peach roses out my kitchen window more vivid, and the pink hydrangeas in my back yard surprising, and bright.

Here in the US, it's Father's Day tomorrow. Some of us kids will go up to my dad's house and get fed and enjoy the day and kiss him on the cheek as we leave. I could elaborate, but I might get sappy. And we certainly can't have that.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend. I thank you all so much for reading. I'd dive into concepts of affection and gratitude, on my part, but again, I might get sappy. So let's talk roses and hydrangeas and shades of pink and communicate our feelings through shared aesthetics. And say thank you. Say it so many times.

For some reason I imagine the conversations, if for one day those were the only two words in our entire language.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

LPC is At "Live Bold & Bloom" Today

Today I am at Live Bold & Bloom, writing about, How To Live Boldly When You Are Scared As Heck. Something I may understand, for a change.

Barrie, the blog's author and a career and life coach, did me the honor of asking for a guest post. She and I did a workshop with Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch on blogging. It was a very good experience.

So please take a look at Barrie's blog, if you would. One caution - I rely on my life story for this post, and I have told these details before. My apologies. If I could invent a new life to have lived, I might do so. However, as I have said before, this is as true as I can make it. Barrie, thank you very much for this opportunity.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How To Get "Tunic" Arms

In our recent discussion of the hunt for tunics, many of you commiserated with my desire to stop sucking in my stomach. "Enough already," we said. "We just want to breathe as nature intended."

However, many of you also expressed concern over revealing your arms. I believe I have found a solution.



And, now that you have had a moment to reconstitute yourself from the puddle of laughter into which I threw you, so unceremoniously, let me confirm. Yes. That is a ShakeWeight.

Celebrated on infomercials, so beloved by Ellen DeGeneres that she has made it a recurrent meme on her afternoon television show, and rife with opportunity for bawdy jokes.

The ShakeWeight. And I bought one. And I use it. And I think it actually works.

Anticipating your next question, no. No, High WASPs do not generally recommend the acquisition of infomercial goods. But Sturdy Gals, known in their youth for sufficient strength to carry tables, celebrated for their biceps, and now mourning the loss of said musculature, are granted dispensation. We take Queen Victoria as our model, muster up our inner Grande Dame, and say under our collective breath, "We will if we want to."

Good triceps take one a long way down the quiet halls of aging. Do not go gently. ShakeWeight.

No compensation was received for this post. I thought about trying to make the links to Amazon the kind that give me $0.12 every time they are used, but I used up any brash I've got posting the link to SNL.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Should Your Kids Really Send Thank You Notes?


Crane notecards. For when I run out of the dragonflies I'm using now.

I have a confession to make. Despite my efforts - sleepless nights, Legos embedded in the soles of my feet, the times I reminded myself to say yes instead of no - in one significant way I failed as a mother. (Probably more than one, but this is all I'm ready to confess.)

I never made my kids write thank you notes.

Why? Because I hated doing it myself. Because my mother was a good mother, and she made me write what seems like hundreds.

There was a formula. First you had to say, "Thank you so much." Then you had to actually refer to something specific that you liked about the present. Then you had to say "Thank you," AGAIN. I just hated it. Sort of like filling out customs forms as you sit on an airplane about to land. Sheer tedium.

So, while my kids always said thank you to anyone in the room, and always called those far away, no notes were written. I only regret what I do not do. I regret this.

Thank goodness my sisters taught their kids well, holding up the High WASP side. Thank goodness some other mothers have also done their jobs. Here's how I know.


This notes is from a young woman just turned 30. She invited me to her birthday party and I bought a present. A lovely photo on the card, blank interior, hand-written. My mother would approve. Said young woman thanked me, told me why she liked my present, and thanked me again. I say, good job, young woman's mom. Hats off.


Then these. From Buckeroomama's kids. She won our NaraCamicie shirt giveaway. Since she lives in Hong Kong I shipped the shirt myself. Since I knew she had adorable little kids I added a couple of sticker sheets. Voila, almost by return post, came these notes. They now occupy a place of honor next to photos of two other cute kids I know, and a little painting done by one of said cute kids.

Josh, her five year old son, made me this purple card. He might be five and half by now. Auntie is a term of inclusion. I am quite honored.



And this from Zoe. Her three year old.



Josh, and Zoe, thank you so much for your notes. They are beautiful and I like them. Tell your mama I like her pictures too.



One more thing? My daughter writes thank you notes. Now. She even uses gold-rimmed Crane stationery. Daughters can compensate for maternal weakness. I suspect my son will join her soon in thank-you-noting, having stepped down from his former reign as "The God of Mute." He'll probably use email. That's OK. I'm glad when my kids figure something out that I wasn't able to teach them, even when they come up with a slightly different answer than I might have expected. To everyone who ever gave my children a present, this is my thank you note. I hope "Better late then never" applies.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hunting For An Elusive Item Of Clothing - The Standalone Top

In the days when I worked, my wardrobe was easy to put together. Set.

Wardrobe X = [(tees x jackets) + Armani pants = formal work] + [(tees x jackets) + nice jeans = casual work] + casual jeans + house trashwear + exercise gear + little black dress. (Not to mention the old ball gown waiting in the back of closet for some imaginary event).

Now that I'm mostly at home, well, let's see.

Wardrobe Y = [yoga pants x tops = in house and actual yoga] + [casual jeans & khakis x tees = can leave the house at least] + nice jeans + even nicer jeans + little black dress. (Old ball gown still waiting in the back of closet for you know what).

Here's the problem with Wardrobe Y. It is topless. For all intents and purposes. My old tees used to look good only because a) I wore a jacket over them b) I was younger and my waistline more defined.

Time for the next step in Wardrobe Y optimization. The wardrobe for a life where you have lost your job may be lost, but not your wish to look pulled together. Standalone tops required. Jackets become sort of a pain in the neck. How do I know? Because I've been wearing this, every time I have any desire to make a showing of any sort.



Because until it got hot I wore my Naracamie shirt all the time.

What is your favorite standalone top? The one you can throw on over jeans to go shopping, for lunch at a good restaurant? For an early dinner, outside, with white wine, goat cheese and honey? For me, it's a tunic. I'm tired of holding in my stomach. If it's going to thicken, okay, I suppose. I concede. But I don't have to parade that little pudge all over the known universe.

I went hunting for tunics online. We have the <$100 contenders from J. Crew and J. Jill. Not quite enough panache to carry off what I'm envisioning.




We have the $100-$200 contenders from the Tunic Queens, Lilly, Milly (was $245, on sale down to $145), and Tory (was $345, on sale down to $162). I've liked pieces from these designers before, but this year, not so much.


Various other contenders in this price range, include Tahari, a line called Johnny Was, and my favorite, Geoffrey Parkinson. (Was $225, but on sale down to $129).
And yes, net-a-porter has a host of tunics to look at, but they were all either too froofy, too long-sleeved, too expensive. or the wrong color for me. Women in their 50s should not wear anything named "baby doll." Even if it's just a silhouette. You may find something perfect.

I found perfection online at Brown's.


A little houndstooth for ironic classicism, a little global sophistication, some navy. What could be better? For £295, or $430. Ouch.

When the answer to an online quest is Dries van Noten, most of us have to switch strategies. If the envisioned solution doesn't exist, we have to enter the real world. One thing I've found is that dreaming is the stuff of, well, dreams, but you have to be prepared to throw everything aside and deal with what is. Keep your vision in mind, sure, but focus on a solution.

Time to hit retail-on-the-ground. See? That isn't so bad.

Images:
Lace tunic, Laundry, by Shelli Segal. And all this time I thought it was Tory Burch:).
J. Crew striped, belted, J. Jill White, buttoned
The Tunic Queens, Lilly Pulitzer, Milly via Nordstrom and ShopStyle, Tory Burch,
Tahari flowered via Saks, Johnny Was multicolored via Neiman Marcus, Gregory Parkinson low-necked via Barney's

Dries van Noten via Brown's

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sports Spectaculars And Motherhood, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:10am



It's World Cup time. South Africa tied Mexico yesterday - no small feat. Meanwhile, the NBA Championship just finished Game 4 of 7. Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Boston Celtics. Two storied teams from large cities on opposite sides of the country.

And all this just reminds me of my son. Equivalently, I cannot hear the word ballet, or even see a tall, flexible young woman teach yoga, without thinking of my daughter.

I'm not sad. Although I miss my children, it's not a constant feeling. But once kids get all up in your rib cage, or you bring them home from weeks spent with a birth mother, waiting, you're kind of done for.

Not everybody needs to have kids. Not everyone ought to have kids. But if you do, and one of them is a soccer player, and you possess, therefore, 11 photos of little boys lined up in uniforms of various colors, uncountable gold male figures in various soccer poses, and a memory of a little guy, lying in bed, working out the World Cup bracket in his head, well, you just aren't going to cheer unfettered ever again.

And you might have to walk down the hall and see if said World Cup bracket is still in existence, and you might find the old, torn newspaper clipping hanging on a wall behind a photo collage, and you might then have a moment. The kids become a layer of significance under almost everything.

Which is fine, really. Go South Africa. Go Bafana Bafana. Go USA. Go Lakers.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Things That Come In Threes

Queen Bee Swain tagged me for some 3s. She is one to watch, and young, and full of fire, so I do what she says.

A. Three names I go by:
  1. Lisa
  2. Mom
  3. Old Horse
B. Three places I've lived:
  1. Cambridge, MA (I was born there, while my father was finishing his Ph.D.)
  2. London, England (Worked in theater administration, 1979.)
  3. Glenmore, PA (Air Products and Chemicals. My address started out, "Rural Drop." Amish families sold their pies at the local convenience store.)
C. Three of my idols:
I don't idolize anyone. I'm too old. Nobody's perfect. I'm certainly not perfect but I'm all I've got to work with. So here are my favorite American Idols.
  1. Adam Lambert (go dude.)
  2. Clay Aiken (and I'm over the shame.)
  3. Kelly Clarkson (because the woman can sing.)
D. Three things I like to look at:
  1. The screen of my computer. Where you all talk to me.
  2. My back yard. In springtime. In wind. Late afternoon.
  3. The face of anyone I love. In particular, the space below their eyes, and above the cheekbone. So vulnerable and unnecessary.
E. Three places I have been:
  1. The Panama Canal at night. All the lights twinkling on an engineering feat that could teach Steampunk what for.
  2. The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. And the surrounding ancient wooden cubicles.
  3. Katmandu. On a bicycle. In hail.
F. Three of my proudest accomplishments:
  1. Graduating from Princeton Magna Cum Laude.
  2. Graduating from Columbia Business School at all. Accounting took me out to the woodshed. Taught me what for and then some.
  3. Ranking in the top 3 salespeople in the Western Region at Air Products and Chemicals for an entire year.
Note that my children are not my accomplishment. They are their own.

G. Three things I love to eat:
  1. Chocolate.
  2. Broccoli (good thing too, given the chocolate)
  3. Pho. (Which is pronounced fuh, and is the best chicken noodle soup ever, in case you don't have any Vietnamese restaurants in your neck of the woods and don't know what I'm talking about...)
H. Three things I want to do someday:
  1. Live forever.
  2. Hold a grandchild.
  3. Write a book proposal. Anything beyond writing a proposal is in someone else's hands.
I. Three things I am looking forward to this year:
  1. My son coming home.
  2. My daughter coming home.
  3. Coming home myself. On any given day. Opening the front door, dropping my keys in the little crystal heart bowl I keep on a sofa side table, taking off my shoes, taking off anything tight or itchy, getting a glass of water, sitting down on the sofa, and looking out the window.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We Have A Winner! (Omelette Pan Edition)

As usual, your comments were wonderful.

Omelette memories appear, for the most part, to be fond ones. Whether made on honeymoon for Barbara: for a husband by rb and Lori; by a husband for Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella, suburban prep, Class factotum and Queen of Cashmere; by a boyfriend for Victoria; by mom for Staircase Witch, Jennifer, Belle on Heels, JAW, minerrva, and lisa; by someone else's French mom for Booklady; as a mom by Town and Country Mom; by dad for Maggie, Anne, and palais; by a beloved teacher for cdclaycomb; for oneself as did Alice and Faux Fuchsia; at a college diner for Austyn or a grandmother's country club by Blue12rain; or, inspired by Julia Child for MJ, see you there!, and Sharpiegirl. The most original, however, was either Deja Pseu, who learned from a classic car garage mechanic (reminds me of this classic Springsteen video), or Betty B48 who are her first omelette at the Parliamentary Restaurant at the Canadian House Of Parliament. On fire indeed.

Jean S. simply had her first one, "back before dirt."

And for Academic, Hopeful, here's to dignity. No need to repeat why.

Favorite omelette ingredients include: for Laura, thinly sliced ham, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and maybe asparagus; for Karena, mushrooms, asparagus, and mild cheddar; for glaciercountyhoney, apple, cheddar, and nutmeg; for Len♥reNeverM♥re, anything with butter and cheese; for Patsy, cream cheese before goat cheese was invented; for jinnan-tonnyx (I only JUST figured out what her name means) whatever leftovers she has; for Pixie, Abigail and Ms. Givens, mushrooms; for Tabitha, truffles if not for youth; for Victoria, fresh asparagus, feta, mushrooms and a few scallions; for Plumberry, bacon and leeks; for High Heeled Life, spinach; for Walking Barefoot, herbs; for Red, French feta, any fresh herbs she has on hand, and a few cherry tomatoes; for Sheri, red peppers, cheese and mushrooms; for VictoriaN, ham and mushroom; for hostess of the humble bungalow, fresh caught crab and freshly snipped chives; for mint juleps and magnolias, peccorino romano and scallion frittata covered in an ahi tuna mint and tomato mixture. Mint Julep is, clearly, a very serious cook. For CaraBella, tuna, breadcrumbs, onions and egg. Her parents were, clearly, very original cooks.

We even received two more omelette recipes, to add to mine, and Jan's souffle. The first, from Russian Chic, who says,

"I would like to share my grandmother’s omelette recipe.
Since it is little rich and starchy, it is better reserved for a weekend brunch.

Ingredients
8 strips strips bacon, cut into paperclip-sized pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic clove, chopped
Dash of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon oil or duck or pork fat, more if needed
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
5 eggs
Salt and pepper

Directions
1. Fry the bacon in a small frying pan until crisp and remove to paper towel to drain. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the butter to the pan, heat to medium and gently fry the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one minute. Remove all to a plate. Deglaze the pan with a splash of vinegar and reduce until it’s almost gone.
2. Add the tablespoon of oil or fat and get the pan quite hot this time. Saute the potatoes, stirring only occasionally, until they are soft when pierced with a fork and very crisp and golden on the outside, a good 20 minutes. Return the onion, garlic, and bacon to the pan.
Gently stir the eggs with a fork, season with salt and pepper, and pour them over the potatoes. Cook until the eggs are set on the bottom, but still a bit slithery on top. Cover the omelette and continue cooking until the top sets, no more than a minute because you still want it a little runny on top. Run a spatula around the edge and slip the omelette out onto a large plate."

The second from Elke.

"The first omelette I ever made for my husband was the morning after our first sleep over. 18 years later -- he still asks for it every Sunday.

2 T butter
6 eggs
1/2 c chopped ham
1/2 c chopped salami
1/2 c shredded cheddar
1/4 green pepper
1/4 red pepper
2 T cream cheese
1 t parsley
salt
pepper
Salsa

Melt butter until it stops bubbling. While butter melts, separate eggs, whip whites and yolks separately, then combine. Add to pan. Reduce heat to medium low. Let set for 2 minutes. Add ham, salami, cheddar, g & r peppers, generous salt and pepper. Dot with cream cheese, sprinkle with parsley. Let set for one minute or until eggs are set. Add 3 T salsa. Fold onto plate."

In the "Other Things To Cook Altogether" category, we had tortilla de papas from Marcela, crepes from Pam, soft-shell crabs from Erin, mushrooms, peppers and onions from Countess and Spanish tortillas from water241.

To draw the winner's name I thought it appropriate this time to use my very large All Clad stockpot. Useful for soups. I must say, too heavy for mundane things like pasta water. Revereware has a valuable role to play in real-life kitchens. But I digress.



The names.



Close my eyes, hand into pot.



The winner! Nellie, please contact me by Friday at skyepeale@yahoo.com and I will put you in touch with our gracious CSN representative.

Thank you everyone for participating. I find I love to give stuff away, so if I have anything to say in the matter, there will be more chances in the future. I swear I'd like to give each and everyone of you a present.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Brutal Pearls And Subtle Bright Red Lipstick; The Power Of An Oxymoron

"Cool" fashion usually involves tension of one sort or another. The wearer has enough force of character, or enough vision, to carry off a union of unmatching goods. Combining patterns, textures, or "high-low" elements.

While cool isn't a dominant High WASP trait, some style archetypes are cooler than others. The Grande Dame wears a messy bun with her red satin ballgown. The Artsy Cousin mixes ikat, madras, and pearls. The Sturdy Cousin, well, if she's cool it's usually inadvertent. She buys a mariniere t-shirt while biking through Normandy, and upon her return to the US she finds it's an overnight fashion sensation.

But, as a Sturdy Gal myself, I am drawn like a taupe moth to the blood-red flame. And would like to offer up two possibilities for high tension fashion. For the oxymoronic among us.

First, "brutal pearls." Duchesse at Passage des Pearls put together a list of presents for 20-year olds. Among the suggestions, a pearl necklace strung visibly on linen. Brutal, if you will.


Pearls on leather or rubber. Diamond ornamentation, even. Style oxymorons. Or, similarly, a gold plaque on wrapped, rough leather from a wonderful jewelry store with endless online goods, Ylang23. One might engrave on it, as a reminder, what Lydia, or @littlefluffycat's dad used to say. "All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough." Therapeutic for the Sturdy Gal. Or one might mix modes even further, and engrave one's monogram, ornate and classic. I know, right?

Second, I would like to suggest a subtle, but bright, red lipstick. This is a recent purchase. Jane at simple + pretty recommended Lipstick Queen. For some unknown reason, as I have said, I have a faith in makeup that I have long since discarded vis-a-vis clothing. My faith is not misplaced here.


Lipstick Queen "Medieval" red lipstick.


I am another proponent of lipstick that looks like your lips but better. In the Nars "Cruising" I found a nude. In the Lipstick Queen "Medieval," what we have is a glamorous, sultry, lip-bitten, subtle, easy red. That is completely and totally wearable when you run to the grocery store in your son's khaki pants, a white tee, and turquoise Haviana flip flops. I know. I've done that difficult experiment for you. And, in case you wondered, even cool people with red lipstick sometimes then leave all the produce they just purchased in the store. No matter. A lipstick with all the allure of red, one that even Sturdy Gals can wear to leave the house, makes up for so many missteps.

Note: To anyone new to Privilege, the Grande Dame, Artsy Cousin, and Sturdy Gal are High WASP style archetypes. If you search the blog, using that handy search box on the upper left hand side, for any one of them, the general tomfoolery will become clearer. I think.

No recompense was received for this post.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

How To Have A Good Mood Day, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:48am



On any given day, there is almost nothing I have to do. I'm not working. The nest is empty. You'd think, as I did when I was busy with work or children or both, that this life is paradise. Uh, no. I'm not complaining, mind you. But it turns out happiness isn't just about not getting bossed around. Not just about removing external demands on your time. Because you are always subject to the demands of your self. And the self can be a pretty persnickety master.

Some days I am giddy and happy, almost all day long. Some days I am nagged by little jabs of distress, or an underlying feeling of dread. A very first world problem, as they say, but when that's where you live, that's what you face. Time without demands has focused me on how to put myself into a good mood as much as possible. I'm not kidding. I've been experimenting. Seems that if I have the privilege of not working, it's my responsibility to enjoy my freedom as much as possible. Which requires a good mood.

If the attempt below hints at hubris, please excuse me in advance. High WASPs believe in prophylactic apologies. I do not mean to imply that I am wise, or evolved, or even a spokesperson for the project of happiness. Just had some time to spare.

Here's what I have found.

1. Get a good night's sleep or you are man down from the git go. Drink little alcohol - or none, eat a very light dinner, shut down the computer at least an hour before bed, make sure you have a good book for those final moments awake under the covers, let in cool night air or engineer some, drink just enough and not too much water. There is nothing more predictive of a good mood day than a good night's sleep.

2. Spend some time noticing and enjoying the weather. That's easy in a California summer. It's hard to feel gray under so much blue sky. But almost every kind of weather has something good about it. The noon light on a gray day, the sound of rain hitting windows, evenings when high humidity locations cool off a little bit. Dinner at 8pm, as the temperature finally falls to 80 degrees. Or, if none of that is possible, internal weather. A fire in the fireplace. Do not discount your really strong air conditioner.

3. Create a to-do list that matches your capabilities. A couple of short-term things, tasks with deadlines, or stuff easily done that creates more mental health that it takes away. For me that's removing visual clutter, folding laundry, clearing up a counter. But also make daily progress on what you really care about. Your heart-felt priorities. For some people, that's helping others. Contributing to the world. For some, it's moving towards a personal goal. Again, I'm not talking about how to be a good person here, who can say what that means? I'm just presenting my research on how to have a good mood day.

4. Develop a routine that allows you to accomplish a lot on your to do list without having to think about when or how. Structure your habits so they support your tasks and goals. I find I exercise better if I schedule in classes to attend. I go to yoga at 1pm, while the walk I meant to take at 8:30am is mysteriously postponed until it's too late. And why it's too late is one of those metabolic mysteries that must simply be obeyed. I write when I have finished my first cup of tea. That way I don't have to think about it. The effort of planning and deciding takes a toll on cheer. Why do you think people take cruises? Apply a cruise ship mentality to your day. A Lindblad cruise, more than Carnival, but a cruise nevertheless.

5. Move around. Music is good. I love Pandora radio. Note that I am not saying you have to "work out." Just moving around as much as possible is enough to start up a good mood. Formal exercise is a long term effort for health and vanity, but it doesn't make me any happier than dancing while I clean the house, or weeding in the back yard for an hour or two.

6. Get outside. Scientists think they can prove that nature makes us happy. Glorious redwood forests and wildflower meadows may lift our hearts but we can even find a little nature in some plants on a balcony. If you stop reading and consider, my guess is that you know exactly where your nearest nature is. We tend to know these things.

7. Find a vista, if you can. A beach, a hillside, the 15th floor, doesn't matter. Studies show that people feel better with an uninterrupted view where someone or something has their back.* I can see the sky out my living room window, as I sit on my sofa. I look up a lot.

8. Use food like medicine. Not as an addiction, but as preventive, curative, medicine. Lean protein will help you to feel full. Definitely a good mood moment. Lots of vegetables and fruits are good for digestion. Another good mood moment. Chocolate, in moderation. And comfort food from your personal history - with the caveat that in this day and age, given what we know, it's going to be very difficult to sustain a good mood if you have eaten in a way that doesn't support your health and appearance. Sometimes our histories subvert our happiness, and that's a larger project. Worth undertaking.

9. Talk to one person you love, only to connect, only to enjoy their being and remember why you love them. Talking to people about whether they have finished the estimate, or where they put their sunglasses, or how they need to get to the table now or dinner will be cold and disgusting, isn't a moment of connection. When we let the presence of someone we love fill our hearts, to my way of thinking, that is the goodest of all good moods.

10. Some days you may wake up and know that you are going to suffer. There is nothing wrong with one day spent lying on your sofa with magazines, DVDs, Hulu, a good trashy novel. A mental health day, if you will. Indulging in recreation has few repercussions.

11. On the days when all this fails, go easy on yourself. You eat too much chocolate, tomorrow is another day. Don't fall into a spiral of eating more just because you ate some. Same with alcohol. You left all those papers on the desk, unsorted? No matter. We are humans. We wrap buildings, we aim for peace, we cry at commercials. We get confused. There is value, on occasion, in acceptance.

12. Finally, don't borrow trouble, as our grandmothers might have said, then. Stay in the moment, as the Buddhists might say, now. And do. Any time you have a minute that belongs to you, notice. And if it feels you have no time that belongs to you, make some. Because even I, with no boss, no job, no children at home, no deadlines, can feel as though I have no time that is my own. So it must be something we set up, that feeling. And must be something we can break down.

If I try to pinpoint the things from this list that I have found to have the most impact, I'd say sleep, movement, and accomplishing any absolute deadline tasks. Then, don't borrow trouble, because at bottom most of us are natively glad to be alive. We can set our bodies up to feel cheerful, and quiet our minds to give that feeling some space.

This is all rather touchy feely. Let's pretend we're not talking emotions. Our human frailty. The short sweetness of life. Let's pretend it's just research. Dry, rational, objective. Thank you. Much appreciated. Otherwise I'd have to put my tongue back into my cheek. Thank you very much. Have a wonderful weekend.

* I read about this vista study a long time ago, before the Internet. I've never forgotten it, but can't find it now. Apparently random natural patterns are also good for us, like leaves in the wind, light on the water.
**I know that for some, body chemistry means that native happiness is elusive. Depression is a different kettle of fish, one which I don't know much about.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Would You Like To Win A Copper-Clad Omelette Pan?

It's time for another giveaway.The fine folks at CSN Stores got in touch with me. CSN has all sort of online shops - they supplied the Rowallan jewelry keep last year. The company also sells mattresses, garden furniture, and things like TV stands. They appear to do almost no marketing, except this bit where they contact bloggers and offer to give goods away. It's an interesting business model, were I still in the business of business models. But I digress.

This giveaway also boasts a harmonic convergence of epic proportions. In this case, a reader request for my simple spinach and goat cheese omelette recipe, and recent forays to France, converge at an All-Clad, copper-covered, 8-inch frying pan. I have one just like it. You also get some cleaner. Because you may like to keep your copper looking like, um, copper.



All you have to do is leave a comment below telling us about the first omelette you ever ate. Or your favorite omelette recipe. Or, what else would you use an 8-inch frying pan for? Imagination is a good thing.



The first time I ever had an omelette was on Mont St. Michel, in France. The year must have been 1977. Yes, some of us were alive and eating omelettes back then. My sister and I spent that summer traveling through France. We took a train out from Paris, if I remember, to see the small island. Omelettes were famous on Mont St. Michelle. Still are, although now it's quite a tourist industry. My sister and I just sat, and ate the souffled omelettes, in wonder at how delicious they were. Then we got back on the train, if I remember, and went back to Paris.

Nowadays I eat omelettes because they a) are full of protein b) make a good container for vegetables c) use few dishes d) are easy to make, after 30 years of practice.

Omelettes are also the key to entering the kingdom of High WASPs. Surprised? Have you ever watched the original Sabrina? (*cue sound of 15-year old Lisa, sighing*). Audrey Hepburn comes home from Paris, having learned how to cook an omelette. Which causes Humphrey Bogart, eldest son of the estate, to fall in love with her. Oh, indeed, it's a terrible story from the perspective of class and gender. But what do we know at 15?

Do you need any more encouragement? Here's my recipe.

Ingredients:
3 eggs
(1 tbsp of water or milk is sometimes advised. I fail to notice any impact whatsoever)
Some goat cheese from California. Just because.
Two handfuls of frozen or fresh spinach
Butter
Salt
Pepper

Required Tools:
8-inch frying pan
Fork or spatula
Small mixing bowl
Strainer

Steps:
Let me say first that despite my experience in Mont St. Michelle, I don't cook souffled omelettes for myself. Jan does, here. I will be trying this recipe, and it may change my life forever.

Neither do I like the thin rectangular egg sheets that pass for omelettes at many diners, nor the masses of compacted scrambled eggs often seen in Northern California breakfast havens. I like my omelettes tender, moderately fluffy, and cooked all the way through. Just like salmon. Except the fluffy part.

So the entire art to omelettes is what you do in the 45 seconds between when the egg hits the pan and when you fold the resultant material over whatever filling you've put inside.

First, get your goat cheese out of the refrigerator, where you keep it, although you wonder if you're doing something declasse keeping cheese too cold. Unwrap it. Put it on a cutting board. Wonder why on earth no one has solved the problem of good/reusable cheese packaging. Separate 4-5 clumps of goat cheese from the mother ship, each about the size of a teaspoon. Put the cheese back in the refrigerator and quiet your inquiring mind.

Second, take out the butter, and some spinach. If you are using fresh spinach, be virtuous, take out olive oil which is good for your heart, and saute at low heat until wilted. Not your heart, the spinach. Then dump said spinach into a strainer. Probably good to squish a little, overly wet fillings are anathema to omelettes.

If you are using frozen spinach, put it in a glass bowl with a little water, cover with a paper towel, and microwave it for a minute until thawed. Then dump the spinach into a strainer and proceed to the squishing.

Third, take that SAME glass bowl from the microwaving process, (you see, the goal is to have as few dishes to wash as possible), once it's cooled down, and crack in 3 eggs. Some people will tell you to use 2 eggs. In my opinion, 3 is perfect, leading to the right balance of you-can-cook-all-the-egg and the-resultant-egg-layer-is-substantial. Mix until whites and yolks are one yellow mass. If you don't, you'll get streaks of egg white - like fried eggs - in your omelette. To me that is a sign of a Diner Omelette and is not my preferred mode. To each his or her own, however. In all my 30 years of cooking the Omelette Police have never paid me a visit. I believe them to be apocryphal.

Fourth, light a medium-high burner under your frying pan. Go get slice a tablespoon of butter off a stick and walk across the kitchen balancing the butter on your knife, hoping it doesn't slip. Throw it into the pan. Let it melt, then foam up, but not burn. As you can see, sometimes one forgets to pay attention and butter browning commences. Forgive yourself. This is not the worst thing one can fail to notice in a lifetime.




Swirl the butter around so that all the pan is covered. Or spread the butter around with a spatula. This is effective, just less graceful.

Now pour in all the eggs. If there's an art to omelettes, here's the moment. This is my way - taught me by my mother. There are other ways, and other mothers in the world.
  • Let the egg cook for 5 seconds. You will see the edges foam and puff a little bit.
  • Start to shake the pan gently. The egg mass will loosen. Move it from side to side inside the pan just a bit.
  • Take your fork and hold its tines horizontal to the layer of egg that has cooked, stirring the uncooked liquid. Do this for 5 seconds.
  • Now move your fork down towards the pan, keeping the tines horizontal. Do this in an area halfway between the center of the pan and the edge. Use the flat fork to press on the cooked egg layer and pull it away from the edge, towards the center.
  • Tilt the pan so the edge you've pulled the egg away from is down.
  • Liquid egg will run into the now-empty part of the pan.


  • Repeat all around the egg mass, fairly quickly, making sure you are creating a circular form of cooked egg, and letting the uncooked egg run UNDER and AROUND the cooked part, so that it gets cooked in turn.
  • Once the egg is mostly done, you can pick up the edges of the cooked circle here and there so the last bits of liquid egg run out and cook. If you're obsessive about raw egg, *raises hand*, you can scrape any liquid left over the edge of the cooked mass onto the pan surface.
Now it's time to put in the filling. Place the gobs of goat cheese at regular intervals on one side of the egg mass. Now spread the spinach on top of the cheese. Tilt the pan and slide the omelette in one direction, up the side of the pan, about an inch. Then pick up the edge of the omelette that's still on the flat part of the pan, and fold it over on top of your fillings.



Turn off the heat, leave the omelette to sit in the pan for a minute so the cheese will mostly melt. Salt. Pepper. Serve. Goes well with whole grain toast.

Now I'm hungry. The winner will be drawn next Tuesday, June 7th. Please enjoy.

They specified that I say the words, "TV Stands," linked, up here at the top of this post. Why "TV Stands," I can't tell you. But it seemed a reasonable price to pay. Think about it, if someone said to you, "Say, 'TV Stands' and I will give you a copper frying pan," wouldn't you do it?

BTW, The Cape House is ALSO hosting a CSN giveaway, in her case for a gift card. Go here and double your chances.

Images:
Frying pan from CSN
Mont St. Michel
Omelette in process, me

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