Monday, September 27, 2010

Road Trip!

We've been in Chicago for a few days now and have been having a wonderful time with our wonderful friends, K&E and J&E and their gaggle of littles. We have been having a slumber party at K&E's beautiful new house in the suburbs and it feels like we are proper grown ups with all of the hanging out in the kitchen and cooking and kids... oh; right. WE ARE! We had a few bonus prizes yesterday with the addition of Claudia and her two littles who are in town for a few weeks in between their move from Italy to Mexico; and, Amar graced us with his presence! Always a bright addition to our party, there's always some fun social challenge to solve, and he is entertaining to no end. Ahhhh!!! It is SO GOOD to be back here with my wonderful friends (who at this point, having known them more than half my life, are really more like my family).

Tomorrow we set off South to Tennessee to visit my grandmother. Mark's never been to the South (well, unless you count Florida which, while geographically South isn't well and truly Southern. He'll get to see more of the US on this road trip albeit, there's not too much between here and TN to see. We'll make it up to him with some seeing-of-the-sites in Music City. He's never met Grandma B, so he's super excited. Plus my dad and twin sis are meeting us there so it will be a family reunion of sorts! Wish my mom were coming, but having just recovered from shoulder surgery and being out of work already for two months, she just couldn't swing it. But we'll look forward to seeing her at Christmas.

I love road trips. The surprising stops, the good (bad) food, singing to good radio stations. But the stay in Chicago wasn't long enough. Maybe it's time to move back...

Pictured above (L-R): Tommy Cesca, Andrew Gaffney, Ella Cesca, Will Gaffney, Lucy Meder, Amelia Gaffney (held by daddy Emmet)

Pictured left: MRN being silly (well, responding amiably toward direction by his crazy wife).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Count Down to Chicago

2 days!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trouble in River City

I have issues. It centers around dirt. And my huge aversion to it.

For a while I thought that I might have OCD*. When I see dirt, mess and clutter in the house, I have a physical reaction to it. My body tenses up and my blood starts to boil. MRN says that he can see it building up and he hightails it to either tidy or to get out of the room (the latter is probably the better option...). I try to hold it in-- I know that it's happening, and know that it's irrational but I can't help it. I hate dirt and I hate things to be dirty.

This does not bode well for a super handy and wonderful husband who is single-handedly renovating our really old house.

Yes-- rationally I do understand (and endlessly appreciate) that construction yields mess. And that all the mess is for the good and it's making this house more live-able (and ultimately sale-able). And the fact that MRN does the work himself saves us loads and loads of money. And the reality is-- he is NOT messy. He's extremely, extremely clean, in fact. He always, always cleans up the building mess and he even does laundry and cleans the bathroom (well, every once in a while). He's actually a much more thorough cleaner than I am. But even with all this, when the dust, dirt and grime starts blowing all over my clean house, I go a little crazy (okay-- a LOT crazy).

The most recent blow-up (it really is the only time we argue-- and poor MRN, it's due to my crazy) was about dirt from a project he did in the attic. He was fitting a new fan in the bathroom and spent 2 days in the cramped and really, really dirty attic / on the roof putting in new ducts, vents and the lot. And there was dirt EVERYWHERE-- all over the walls, dark streaks an inch thick ground into the tan carpet in the hall and all the way down the stairs-- all over the kitchen-- floors, counters, EVERYWHERE. Even though the sane side of me knows that it has to be done and it's going to make our house so much better (and fix the damp problem we have upstairs due to the lack of an extractor fan in the bathroom), I only saw red (or in this case-- black). I needed to clean. MRN's argument is that you wait until the end-- or else the project takes forever. My argument is that you clean as you go-- it saves time at the end and creates less mess that you can't get out at the end. I've even tried to clean while he's doing the work, but it drives him crazy (and admittedly, I can get in the way and stop progress altogether). An argument I will lose every time.

Soooo-- in order to appease my crazy, MRN thought it would be a good to take our fancy vacuum in the attic to, well, vacuum some of the dust away. Disaster. Not only did it break the vacuum-- it actually created MORE mess, with the exhaust fan from the vacuum blowing more dust out of the attic into the house. Plus it clogged up the filters making it unusable and covered the actual vacuum in filth. Good intentions... poor results. Now, my shoeless house is so dirty that my feet are black from walking around-- despite scrubbing the floors. Ugggghhhhh... not good for my crazy.

On a happy note, reading the vacuum manual I was not only able to fix the vacuum myself (go me and the DIY) but also discovered that the whole darned thing comes apart so you can SCRUB IT CLEAN!! MRN came home to me doing just that... and it looks brand new (to his credit, he just shakes his head and stays quiet. I'd like to think it is because he is affectionately bemused, but I think it may be more him wondering what he's gotten himself into with me). Once the filter is dry (12 more hours), I should be able to vacuum up the rest of the dust (come on Dyson! You can do it!). Bonus? I think this recent bout of crazy has finally justified a carpet cleaner to boot.

The lesson? Happy wife=Happy husband.

*Don't worry-- concerned that I had OCD, read a bunch of books about it a few years ago and have self-diagnosed that I do not; I'm just really, really, really--annoyingly so, anal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's the point...

... of making anything from scratch when you can just buy this? Seriously-- it's the best brownie ever. Especially if you make them just a tad underdone. But the best-best part? The chocolate chips that are already in the mix. I buy this from Costco. Yes, everything is better in bulk.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's what's for dinner

The brown butter tarragon sauce turned out to be my favorite part; the monkfish was delish, but MRN was suspicious of the artichoke hearts. Leftover polenta from last night's dinner. Broccoli was uninspired, but still yummy... esp to mop up the brown butter sauce...

Trying to keep the menu varied and still good can be a challenge-- especially when you work for the man and want to pull your hair out 10 times a day, leaving very little time or energy for creativity. Not to mention, I am a creature of habit-- I can eat the same thing everyday for months and months and be perfectly happy (case in point: in Chicago I ate Chipotle every single day for lunch... the exact same order. It got to the point that the staff would have my lunch ready for me by the time I made it through the crazy long line-- complete with my preferred idiosyncrasies... light on the rice and meat, heavy on the veggies, a bit of pico and a bit of hot sauce. Once in a while I'd break it up with a veggie sandwich from potbelly's, but pretty much for the 2 years before I moved, it was all Chipotle, all the time).

Now with someone else to feed (and I demonstrate my love through doing things for the ones I love!), I can't eat the same thing every day (although we eat a lot of the same thing a lot...)-- so I'm constantly on the look out for new recipes or ways to change something old to something new. But equally important (because of the aforementioned working for the man), the recipes can't be too complicated or time consuming or else we'd eat at 10 p.m. every night (which unfortunately for MRN is a lot of nights because of HIS crazy working for the man job). With my job becoming more and more uncreative, I have to look elsewhere... and with artistic inspiration fewer and further away, I'm turning to food (although trying to keep it healthy because I don't want to weigh a million pounds!). On the menu this week:
  1. Turkey chili with herbed polenta and roasted vegetables
  2. Prosciutto wrapped monkfish stuffed with sundried tomatoes, spinach and artichoke hearts with a brown butter tarragon sauce and a side of broccoli
  3. Pasta fagioli (hoping to stretch it last at least two days-- thanks, AB!)
  4. Mediterranean meatballs (ground lamb, garlic, red onions, sundried tomatoes) with a spinach, roasted pepper and goat cheese salad
  5. Polenta pizzas (pepperoni and sundried tomato, anchovy and olives, artichoke heart and roasted garlic)
To be fair, the turkey chili was actually last night, but since it was done (and super easy) I thought I'd include it. Either MRN is lucky, or cursed... he keeps complaining about his growing belly... time will tell!

Friday, September 17, 2010


We've all heard our fair share of odd terms of endearment. "Pookie," "Snookums," "Bubs." Then there's your more standard fare, "Baby," "Babe," "Sweetie" or "Dear." But I don't think there's one so strangely endearing as one previously dubbed upon me:


Yes. As in the duck. Why, you ask, would someone call me a duck? Weellll-- it starts with a not so funny story (well, at least it wasn't to me...). It was 1997 or 1998 (holy crap that was a long time ago) and I was out to dinner with friends in New York City. We were going to a friend's play following dinner, so we were in a bit of a rush to get through the meal (although I seem to remember this was also the night of the telling of the "Jesus is Coming Subway Story" which I'll have to remember to retell in another post because it's freaking funny...). We made it to the play on time, but I was starting to feel not so good. Throughout the first act, my upper lip started to itch and I was having a bit of a hard time catching my breath. When I tentatively touched my lip I realized that it was swelling-- I didn't know how much until intermission when I rushed to the bathroom and saw that it was indeed swollen-- to about quadruple its normal size (You see where this story is going...).

I went out to find my friends and with my hand covering my mouth, made excuses and dragged my unwilling boyfriend out of the theatre. Upon getting in a taxi I uncovered my mouth and he burst out laughing. (Yeah-- thanks.) "You look like a mallard."

Lots of liquid Benadyrl and a trip to the doctor the next morning for a shot, my lip eventually did return to normal, but the nickname stuck. Used mostly in times when I was particularly pathetic or sad, but always affectionately. It always pushed me out of whatever doldrums I was in and made me laugh. And it was rather endearing.

I'd been having a particularly pathetic, self-pity kind of week when I happened across this sweater on my favorite store's website tonight. I started to laugh. I'm thinking of getting it so whenever I'm having a gloomy day I can whip it out. It would always make me smile.

Migrating Mallard Sweater from Anthropologie.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not Your Grandmother's Pot Roast

My friend Heather asked me to guest post on her cooking blog, "Pestle Mortar." So exciting! She's a kindred foodie spirit, an amazing chef (trained in pastry at the Cordon Bleu!), you can always find great recipes on her blog (not to mention, she always brings a tasty treat to a party!).

Check out her blog to get the yummy recipe.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The cupboard under the stairs

No Harry Potter room for us-- couldn't fit a bed in it if you tried. But given the teeny quarters we live in (with no storage space... have I mentioned that enough?), we are trying to maximize every good quality for what it's worth. High ceilings mean cabinets and bookshelves to the rafters. Oddly shaped alcoves get shelved and faced with interesting fabric as a door. Even the bed frame doubles as storage, with some fancy spring action that allows you to lift the foot up to reveal our linen closet. You have to be creative when you're dealing with 100 year old houses b.c. (before closets).

Under the stairs is the latest transformation. The refrigerator, washer and dryer were shoved underneath, but with things piled high on top, we weren't using the available space to the best of its ability. Not to mention it was both unsightly and super loud. I don't know why but washers and dryers in England are ridiculously loud. They may very well be the same decibel as the U.S., and really? What do I know-- I've only experienced them in a garage, basement or a separate laundry room. But all the same in such close quarters (here), if the washing machine was running, forget about watching TV. Even turned up all the way you literally couldn't hear anything.

Enter the ever-handy MRN. We started with some damp-proof and new plaster. Then a vent was fitted through the wall, under the stairs, to the exterior for the dryer. Next came the framing and boxing in to house the washer and dryer and create shelving followed by a new light (since the single bulb hanging from the ceiling really wasn't doing it for me; not to mention it kept burning through boxes and bags I was storing up there above the microwave... a teeny bit of a fire hazard). And finally? The piéce de résistance-- bespoke (English-ism meaning custom) doors to match our kitchen, made by hand by the talented MRN.

The awesomely crazy thing about the feat is that there is literally not a straight wall in this house. Partially to do with its age, although I suspect much of it to do with the cowboys who called themselves builders, it means lots and lots of extra work to make anything look right or doors to actually open. This project was no different, but sheer genius has prevailed. The result? Amazing cabinets that even have room for the vacuum (courtesy of yet another custom shelf) and a laundry basket. All hidden away by beautiful doors.

Can you tell I'm excited??

damp course treatment and new plaster

lovely light bulb

yes-- sooooo attractive...

boxed in and getting tidier (new refrigerator... the teeny one broke... thank goodness)

new doors going in, pre-sanding and painting

painted and beautiful, color matched to kitchen cabinets

and another bonus-- a place to hide keys and (finally) hang my key ring key (that i love). oh-- and get things off the front of the refrigerator (which MRN hates).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Am a New Yorker

Nine years later... seems like a lifetime ago. At the same time, it's like it was yesterday. My eternal gratefulness to policemen, firemen, armed services and their families who put their lives in the line of fire to protect ours.

I Am a New Yorker.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Prepping for a wander

And what a wander it will be. Heading to the US in a couple of weeks. First stop is Chicago where we'll visit our dear friends K&E and J&E and their beautiful gaggle of littles (well, K&E have more littles these days!). We'll have missed the glorious summer but it will probably be warmer than England. From there we'll drive to Tennessee to meet up with my Dad and sis to visit my beautiful 92-year old grandmother. Drive, you say? Indeed. We decided upon it for a number of reasons:
  1. It's cheaper. Even with the car rental and gas, for some reason getting from England to Tennessee is crazy expensive. Brits don't want to go to the Southern US (except Florida, that is)?? Go figure.
  2. We get to see my college roomies. Not that I ever need an excuse. But especially special because there's a new little (Amelia) to meet.
  3. Road trip! I love a good road trip-- the flexibility, the food... plus, MRN has not seen very much of the US, so this is a good opportunity (even if it is just Indiana and Kentucky... shhh. Don't tell him).
I have to admit I am looking forward to the food, especially as we pass into the Southern part of the country. There's the standards-- Cracker Barrel, Chick-fil-A. But the exciting part is the unknown discoveries... will we find an awesome diner? Fantastic BBQ? The options are limitless.

I'm trying to decide our route now. We could go direct-- straight down through Indiana and into KY; or we can go slightly out of the way and cut over to Columbus (where I'd be able to stop at the Ballard Design outlet... heehee. Don't tell MRN...), but would add a couple of hours onto our trip. Do we just want to get to Music City so we can play tourist there (even though I lived there, I was 2, and haven't been there since except to fly in and out, since my grandmother lives in eastern TN, about 2 hours from Nashville), or do we want to take our time and stay over somewhere interesting. I have to say I'm still a bit burnt out on the planning front from the wedding so I'm not super jazzed to do my research. So if anyone has any suggestions, they are welcome!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Missing the boat

First Jamba Juice and Trader Joes, then Chipotle and now?? TARGET! Why is it that all my favorites came to NYC after I moved? I think the universe may be trying to tell me something.

Okay, okay-- so technically Target was in the City before I moved-- in Queens, in fact. I'd get a trip in every once in a while when I had a rental car for work, or could talk my then boyfriend into a jaunt (usually accompanied by a bribe of Outback Steakhouse... yes, the way to a man's heart...). Way back then (stretch your minds to circa 2004) Target was still in its turn-around phase: pre-designer dumbing down their expensive lines for more affordable fare for the masses. In a time where brands are diversifying and diluting their value, Target has found a way to defy all odds. High end designers-- Michael Korrs, Zac Posen, Liberty of London and my personal fave, Orla Kiely, have managed to keep their couture street cred while still bringing fashion to us normal peeps. Pretty impressive.

Growing up, Target was more of a discount store. Not quite Pic-in-Save (a Southern California version of a dollar store only, pre-dollar story. Holy crap, I'm old), but not up to Wal-Mart standards. Target is a rags to riches story to the nth degree. And I'm happy to say I was along for the ride.

I often bemoan the fact that there isn't a Target equivalent in this country. Nothing even close. It's a must-stop when I'm home (as in, anywhere in America that has one... watch out Chicago!). Maybe when I leave England Target will open its first international location here. Bad timing-- the story of my life.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A hand model I am not

My hands, and particularly my nails, are always mangled. I don't know if it's a matter of the inordinate amount of typing I do on a daily basis, the fact that I wash dishes and take showers with no cold water, or simply don't moisturize. But my cuticles are always a mess and my nails always uneven (okay-- may also have to do with the nervous picking that I inevitably do when stressed or upset). Manicures, despite obvious need, have never been my cup of tea. Mostly due to the nail polish being chipped the same day as the manicure because I can't sit still long enough to let my nails dry (oh, okay-- my consummate clumsiness may be the culprit). Even when I got engaged I wasn't that girl who got manicures to show off the ring. Any way you slice it, it was never worth the investment. Pedicures on the other hand are a different story. I love foot massages, getting callouses buffed away and toes painted. It's a little slice of heaven. Another entry for another time.

Since moving to England, pedicures have gone away simply due to the fact that it's not an every corner business like it is in NYC and Chicago. In fact, I've yet to see a nail salon anywhere-- even in London. I know they must exist... people have nails here too, after all. But the McDonaldization of nails has not yet hit this country.

Yesterday I was killing some time waiting for MRN in Manchester and happened upon a nail bar in Selfridges (think Neiman Marcus). Operated by Nails Inc London (see? I knew there had to be one in London!), they offered a number of options including a "3 week manicure." Intrigued, despite not being a manicure girl (as my man hands will attest), I decided I'd try it out. Until I saw the price tag.

50 GBP. That's a whopping $78 folks. For a MANICURE. Ummm... I could get two a week for three weeks for those prices in New York or Chicago... NEW YORK CITY OR CHICAGO! Paying nearly $80 bucks for a manicure in Manchester??? I don't think so.

But my nails were in such bad shape, I did spring for the 15 minute manicure at 27 GBP ($42). Given a simple file and paint was 20 GBP, it seemed the prudent thing to do to at least get my cuticles oiled, trimmed and some lotion rubbed on my hands. Even though the sushi that I ate for lunch was HALF the price (and I ate a lot of sushi), I figured, what the heck. Nail salons here are, after all, a commodity. It was a decent manicure-- but certainly on par with the fast food chains in the U.S. (but really, how would I know?). And the technician (that's what they call them here) was super friendly and we chatted about The Hills and Laguna Beach and whether I'd ever seen any celebrities when I lived in LA (yes). All in all, 15 minutes well spent.

So far I haven't botched the job yet... and I even veered from my normal clear (or pale pink... because then at least I don't have to whip out the nail polish remover on day two) for this on-trend, super dark purple (the photo looks black... and MRN thinks it's black, but the description on the bottle said "sultry black grape" darn it. Yeah, okay. Either way-- I'm liking it, despite my man hands. I guess it's good that I [mostly] work at home. Oh well-- it will likely be gone by tomorrow.

(P.S. The nail technician did in fact say that I had very nice nails. I am wondering if that's like when aestheticians tell you that you have really nice skin while their squeezing all the crud out of your pores...)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Shoes, Glorious Shoes...

Some pretty shoes to go with my Fall faves... oh to live in world with unlimited closet space (and, errr, money...).

Wingspan Heels from Poetic License (love, love, love Poetic License...); Gust of Wind PumpsRensselaer T-Straps; Lavandula Heels. from Plenty by Tracey Reese;

Monday, September 06, 2010

Fall faves

Even though it's all-Fall, all the time here in England, I still look forward to my favorite season. I like the way the air changes-- it feels and smells different, and it gets me thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving and all the yummy smells and food-- apples, pumpkin, cinnamon, oh my. I also love fashion in the fall-- the twilight period before digging into winter coats... where you can get away with a cardigan thrown over your dress and adding some tights. I live in skirts in the fall / winter-- throw on some heavy tights and some boots and I'm perfectly content. I'm a girly-girl at heart, and I'd much rather be in a skirt than slacks (which I'm in most of the rest of the year). So the promise of brisker weather puts me firmly in my happy place.

I'm loving the resurgence of plaid combined with feminine details like ruffles and flowers this season. Plus all the fun detailed cardigans. And skirts with horses? How much better can it get for this now country-living girl? I also love pairing unexpected patterns, textures and colors-- something Anthro does oh-so-well. Now only if I could get there easily enough...

Images from Anthropologie (is there any other?): Sea Fan Sweater, Painted Night Skirt, Half Pass Jacket, Paisley Paths Skirt, Marston Sweater Skirt, Summer's Reminder Cardigan, Best of the Bunch Cardigan, Easy Keeper Skirt, Stable Skirt, Terrace House Jacket, Ruffled Plaid Dress, Herringbone Sweater Jacket

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Even though I am on a self-imposed shoe ban, boots are a must-have English year-round item. You see, it's cold and rainy ALL THE TIME, so investment in boots is justifiable. I'm still waiting on my Wellie's, which enough hints to MRN might bag them this birthday... but in the meantime, I'm coveting these babies from Anthropologie. I mean, what could be more perfect? Leather with ruffles? Sure, not so versatile, as I couldn't really use them for work... but lots, and lots of leisure. Plus, no heel, so I could actually walk around in them. I love all things Anthropologie. They opened their first European store in London last November, and I've made frequent trips. It's massive, but they don't have the same great sale rack as my beloved State Street store in Chi-town, and buying retail is not as satisfying (or wallet-friendly). Of course, I do indulge in small items (hats, headbands, socks) but mostly save for impromptu US trips (while the GBP has taken a massive hit in this downturned economy, it's still a bit better than the USD). The new Fall catalogue just came out and I'm drooling over all the wool skirts, cardigans and checkered tights. I think a trip to Anthro will be in order for this month's trip to Chicago!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Because you're worth it! (No this is not a L'Oreal Commercial)

In addition to a brand new family blog, my sister way over on the other side of the world has also started a new business venture. She's repping for Stella and Dot, a great jewelry line with some to-die for stuff. Since I'm no longer allowed to buy shoes (self-imposed... I still look longingly, but alas, my little house has run out of space, and I'm continually frustrated by having to unload an entire closet of stuff to find the pair to a pair of shoes. Although I am still in search of the perfect flat boot... but I digress...), I've decided that it's time for me to learn how to accessorize.

I am a rubbish accessorize-r. I have a penchant for losing jewelry (only the stuff that costs a lot) meaning that once it's on, it doesn't come off. Or, I am relegated to putting it in one place, and one place only so that I don't have a heart attack when I can't find it. But the older I get, the more I realize that a necklace, or a bracelet, or a brooch can really make-- and change an outfit. At 34, I am, much to my chagrin, a suit. I have to wear them for work, and since my work wardrobe is a big financial investment, I tend to buy conservatively-- as in styles that will work for multiple years. But I hate boring-- so I try to wear interesting patterns or colors in shirts or scarves-- and especially interesting shoes. But with my shoe ban, I've decided the next best thing is jewelry.

When my sister sent me a link to her website a couple of weeks ago, there were so many great choices, I didn't know where to start. I decided to go for things that were flexible-- so I could pretty-up a work outfit, but also wear it on the weekend. I chose these:

Similar family, but not the same; it will depend on how fancy I'm feeling on any given day, I suppose. I had a load of other things on my list, but my sister and I have shockingly identical taste, so I saved a bunch of stuff to order later. Seriously-- out of 10 things, these were the only two things not duplicated (which perhaps should have led me to NOT choose them because she has better taste).

And have I mentioned that the GREAT thing is that anyone can order something fabulous at anytime from her website?!? (heehee) And my favorite thing? No, not the jewelry (although it's pretty great)-- the packaging (of course). Each piece comes in beautiful gift boxes (for no extra cost) so for the lazy amongst us, built in gift. A treat for you, a treat for someone you love. How can you not try it out?

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Yes, I live in the ghetto. I've complained about it often-- mostly in jest, but certainly loudly. I live in the equivalent of a housing project where the town council dumps all the non-contributors to society where they don't have any other place to put them. These are the dredges-- the people who are working the system-- claiming benefits by having more and more children but can't afford to actually take care of them. Because when you live in a socialist country where they just throw money at you, why would you bother working? These aren't people who the system should be working for-- the elderly, disabled, people who aren't physically or mentally capable of taking care of themselves. These are young, able-bodied people. I know this because they hang out on the street in front of their (and my) house drinking and smoking (even the pregnant ones), playing really loud music while screaming and playing soccer and running around like idiots. This is what my tax dollars are paying for?

Don't get me wrong-- I believe in a system that helps people that need it. What I don't support is a system that turns a blind eye because it's harder to do the work and makes it easy to take advantage of it. Sure, these people, who are clearly able-bodied and can work, are working it because they can-- they obviously have no self-respect or pride. But why should the government reward them for that? Why are they not held accountable for what they take? There's a tv show here called "Benefits Busters" where a woman with a child was claiming benefits and not working because she couldn't afford to pay for childcare. So instead, the taxpayers were paying for her lifestyle-- which included a large, two story, three bedroom house, new car, 52 in flat screen tv... all without having to lift a finger. Ummm-- her lifestyle is better than mine, a two income household where we work our tails off saving money, paying our bills-- and apparently for this woman's life as well. This might sound crazy, but why wouldn't the government, I don't know-- subsidize childcare through someone actually working for it? But no-- in the UK it's free money all the time.

Yesterday was the breaking point for me. I was upstairs working in my home office and turned toward the window when I heard a noise. There, a 20-something man standing in his backyard, proceeded to unzip his pants, whip out his penis and pee. IN HIS BACKYARD that is overlooked by a half a dozen houses. I thought-- what kind of lazy does it take for someone to walk into the backyard to pee rather than using the bathroom. This is where I live?!? And really?? Do I really need to see some stranger's body parts before my second cup of tea in the morning?

Yes, I am a sometimes Pollyanna-- I try to look for the good even when it's buried deep in s(*$t. Sure I had ridiculous fantasies of us cleaning up the area-- literally and figuratively. Setting a good example-- picking up trash, working with the local council, community police, inspiring good action through good action. And I tried for a better part of a year. But the only thing that this experience has taught me is that pay it forward is just a movie. Working the system is the only thing that actually pays you back. It makes me sad though-- for the babies and the children of these people. You see the cycle just repeating itself. They weren't taught anything by their parents-- self respect, setting goals and working for them, accountability... and now their children-- these innocent little things that are so dependent on them, are in the same boat. Really, really sad.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I like pretty food. Yes, it must taste good-- that's a given; but I also like to serve a pretty plate and that usually means a variety of colorful vegetables to brighten up whatever meat or starch is being served (much to MRN's chagrin). Even if I've made a classic meat and potatoes dish, I'll chop up some fresh parsley and toss it on top so I'm not serving some bland, grey-ish something. It's amazing what a little parsley will do.

Despite the absolutely abysmal weather that we've had this summer (have I complained about it enough?), I think we've managed to BBQ at least three times. This past weekend we had a rare day of partial sunshine, so out the BBQ came from the shed and MRN fired it up. I'd marinated pork tenderloin overnight (throwing caution to the wind that the weather report would hold...) and had mandolined my potatoes and chopped my fennel and onions for the potato fennel gratin and made homemade guacamole. But my favorite? The pretty plate you see here, all ready for grilling. Admittedly I was the only one excited for this puppy. But as I argued, everything tastes better BBQ-ed, right? And this looked even better once it came off of the grill. My carnivorous guests humored me and tried a little of everything (my favorites? The asparagus-- of course, the eggplant and the red onion, which gets deliciously sweet when charcoal grilled), but I pretty much ate the entirety on my own. I have to say though, I'm okay with that.