Saturday, December 31, 2011

Have One

I hope the last day of the year is a perfect one for you. I have no resolutions or wise words to offer, only gratitude for your community.

Perfect Day

Just a Perfect Day,
Drink Sangria in the Park,
And then later, when it gets dark,
We go home.
Just a perfect day,
Feed animals in the zoo
Then later, a movie, too,
And then home.

Oh, it's such a perfect day,
I'm glad I spent it with you.
Oh such a perfect day,
You just keep me hanging on,
You just keep me hanging on.

Just a perfect day,
Problems left all alone
Weekenders on our own.
It's such fun.
Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself.
I thought I was someone else,
Someone good.

Oh, it's such a perfect day
I'm glad I spent it with you
Oh such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on,
You just keep me hanging on.

You're going to reap just what you sow.
You're going to reap just what you sow,
You're going to reap just what you sow,
You're going to reap just what you sow.

-- Lou Reed

Friday, December 30, 2011

God forbid

The Mother should ask The Brothers to emerge from the Video Playing Den and vacuum the living room floor. One boy was jabbed by the vacuum by accident so he screamed in "pain," only to have the other boy laugh aloud instead of apologizing. Adele wailed in the background, over the vacuum and the crying and yelling, so The Mother had to raise her voice to even higher decibels and inform The Brothers that they were acting like jerks to each other and spoiled brats to The Mother. The Mother's voice crescendoed and then stopped. She took The Silent Girl out of her wheelchair and walked out the front door. Her neighbor, Tom The Father of Four Children, was across the street, and when The Mother asked him whether he had heard her screaming at The Brothers, he nodded and said I was cheering you on.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails

Are you starting to think that I'm being driven to drink as my post yesterday and now, today, is about alcohol? A few comments yesterday expressed concern; I believe there were even subtle suggestions that alcohol isn't the answer.

I want to allay your fears. I'd make the point that I've never been a drinker and can't imagine becoming an alcoholic at the age of 48. I guess you never know, but like I explained yesterday, drinking doesn't make me do anything other than feel sleepy, and I don't really enjoy the sleepy feeling. I'd also add that I'm a very social person, and when I drink I become increasingly not-so-social (again, the sleepiness) and would rather disappear -- to bed, preferably. Alone.

So. If you're new to the blog (and I have gotten some new readers who are very welcome!), you might also think that The Husband has a Mistress. I have gotten comments expressing wonder, astonishment and even admiration that my tolerance is such that I can joke about The Mistress. I'll allay your fears here as well. The Mistress is my husband's Job. He is a chef and literally works 12-20 hours a day six days and sometimes seven days a week. The Mistress is demanding and The Husband has little to any sway over those demands. 

So, we've cleared those things up.

What about the title of this post? It's the title of a book that my son Henry gave me for Christmas. It's very cool, and he was very proud that he got it for me from my favorite bookstore, helped by my favorite bookstore maven, Liz. Here's a little excerpt from the book:

Cocktails were morning drinks. Drinking in the morning often means getting over what you were drinking last night, and that kind of behavior is what they used to call dissipated. If that wasn't sufficiently nefarious, cocktails contained bitters. Bitters may sound benign to modern ears, but at the dawn of the nineteenth century, they were medicine. Adding them to cocktails was the equivalent of dousing one's beer with Nyquil. No one knows for sure how the cocktail got its name, but I am certain it was because these were your wake-up call -- like a rooster heralding the early morning light. And the plumage? Those spicy bitters... If you drank a cocktail, you were a little dangerous, and therein lay the seeds of its fame.
I have to admit that I love both of these words, both as descriptors and for themselves:

dissipated and bitters.

Since I've talked about alcoholism and mistresses, dissipation, bitters and my own tolerance for all of them, including a bit of Tolstoy love yesterday, I think I'll also include a recipe from the book for a drink that might really rock your world. Here it is:

Shake the following otherwise bourgeois ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and strain into a cocktail glass:

1 ounce gin
1 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce cherry brandy (Cherry Heering is recommended)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

What about the photo at the top of the post? Well, that's my paternal grandfather, an Italian immigrant who owned a bar and grill in Harlem. That photo is one of my favorites and causes the most ruckus when I ask the viewer to pick out my grandfather in the bunch. While you might be tempted to think otherwise, there is no alcoholism that I know of in my family.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Drinking and Anna Karenina


I've been drinking more lately. I'm one of those people who has never been a drinker, despite the pleadings of some of my friends who insist that drinking a glass of wine a night would be good for me. When I took them up on the recommendation, I wanted to go to sleep at around 9:00 and therefore discovered the secret to why I am able to write and read into the wee hours of the morning, as opposed to my more "exhausted" friends. The other day, I bought a bottle of Kahlua at Trader Joe's because I remembered how good it tastes, but I haven't opened it up yet. Two nights ago, I had a pomegranate mojito before dinner, a glass of sauvignon blanc with my moules frites and a shot of vodka at my friend's house after dinner. Last night, I had a glass of wine with my dinner and contemplated a Blue Moon when I got home. I saw a movie, too, last night -- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I remember reading the book in my late teens when I was totally into Robert Ludlum and John Le Carre spy novels. I don't remember being confused when I read the novels, but last night I was completely befuddled by the movie and so was my really smart friend Shannon. We laughed about it over our wine and dinner, and I even looked up a plot summary online afterward.

Oh! Now I understand!

I'm reading Jeffrey Eugenides' book The Marriage Plot, and while I was so excited to open and read it, I'm now in that exasperated slog phase when I should just give up and put it down, bored to tears, but I feel obligated to finish it. This seems to be happening more and more lately -- I feel like I haven't read a novel in years that I connect to with joy and wonder. The last really great book I read was the memoir The Boy in the Moon. A fellow bookworm told me that I should re-read Anna Karenina, so that's what I'm going to do.

Remember the famous opening lines?

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Who is writing like this anymore?

Would it be too much to add a shot of Kahlua to my morning coffee? Or should I start reading Tolstoy with a shot of frozen vodka?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mild with a tad of rue

The bathroom's favorite time of day

I wondered this morning how early is too early to whisk away the Christmas things, freshen things up, tidy things up, as my Dad still says. Yesterday, I averted my eyes whenever I passed through the living room and went out the front door -- both because I can't stand the mess but also because I didn't want to chastise anyone for it. I thought I'd hold the boys' dirty clothes as ransom for cleaning up -- I'm not going to do any washing until the place is tidied up, I thought I'd say. When I spooned egg into Sophie's mouth this morning and she jerked in what seemed like the millionth small seizure of the morning, I left the egg on the floor in what we call a small test of change in the quality improvement arena (one of the jobs I juggle in healthcare). Will it drive me crazy, unduly so? Will the dog pick it up? Will the tween and the teen bend down and pick it up when they walk into the kitchen after rolling out of bed at 11:00 am? My intent is not to sound or even feel bitter -- in fact, I feel mild. Mild with a tad of rue.

Here's a poem:

Nocturne of the Poet Who Loved the Moon

I have grown tired of the moon, tired of its look of astonish-
ment, the blue ice of its gaze, its arrivals and departures, of
the way it gathers lovers and loners under its invisible wings,
failing to distinguish between them. I have grown tired of
so much that used to entrance me, tired of watching cloud
shadows pass over sunlit grass, of seeing swans glide back and 
forth across the lake, of peering into the dark, hoping to find
an image of a self as yet unborn. Let plainness enter the eye,
plainness like the table on which nothing is set, like a table that
is not yet even a table.

-- Mark Strand, from Almost Invisible

Monday, December 26, 2011

It was a good Christmas,

and there was much to wish were different, but there was also much to be grateful for. I walked slowly with Sophie right behind an old woman and saw the similarities in their steps, their fragility and labour, but Sophie's curls lay softly on her shoulders where they had been so beautifully arranged by Mirtha an hour before. The Husband spent all of Christmas Eve with The Mistress, but my children were with me, oblivious to anything but excitement and anticipation. Sophie had a huge seizure as we walked out of the doorway of my friend's house, and she lay on the floor jerking with me kneeling beside her, but two knights in shining armor picked her up and carried her, gently, to the car. It's a Wonderful Life seemed a little too long for the boys and a little darker than  it ever had before to me, but it was interrupted by a group of carolers, neighbors whose voices rose in the air clear and harmonized. The morning came much too early, but there was much joy as presents were unwrapped and coffee was sipped, chocolates from stocking consumed before breakfast. It's the day after, now, the house is a mess, the candles melted down to clumps of wax, and leftovers crowd the refrigerator, but the sky outside is clear blue, twisted branches with clinging yellow leaves and what seems like a hundred tiny birds in the pots outside my bedroom, sitting among the lemons.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve...The Rest of It

 Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Buttercream


 Paris-Brest and Wreaths

These Three Kings

From Orient Are

What Christmas Eve Looks Like So Far

Caramel Sauce with Sea Salt
Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce

 Pecan Puffs Recipe from old Joy of Cooking

Still Life with Clutter

 Christmas Tree

Village Under Christmas Tree

Outdoor Vintage Santa, sort of creepy but classic

Our Front Door

 Silly Hat with Saint


Blurry Saint, 
but it made me realize how people assign Jesus and the Virgin Mary to a slice of toast and such

Excessive Video Game Playing

Choux Pastry for Paris-Brest Order

Toe-Soak in Epsom Salts

Sunshine Girl in Purple Boudoir

Carol of the Day - Christmas Eve

I went to high school in Atlanta, Georgia and sang alto in the school's choir. Every year at Christmas, the choir participated in the traditional Episcopal Lessons and Carols service. I loved this service, particularly the beginning when a soprano stood at the back of the darkened chapel and sang the first verse of Once in Royal David's City. The choir joined in soon after and then proceeded into the chapel with candles. It was so beautiful and still gives me chills.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I've been honored

over at my friend Gretchen's blog Second Blooming. I'm a tad embarrassed, but not enough to not direct you over to Gretchen, because she's a terrific blogger and writer -- warm and funny and full of southern charm and awesome family stories. There are not too many people who will praise me and then call me to task on my more -- ahem -- colorful characteristics, but Gretchen has done it very well.

Now I'm off to sharpen my tongue.

Carol of the Day

This so reminds me of my childhood -- my mom and dad -- the piles of Christmas presents under our tree, my Christmas long dress, the parties my parents had, taking the guests' coats and bringing them to my parents' room, jumping on the piles of furs with my sister. My father worked through much of Christmas -- he was a retailer for a very high-end department store -- but he was always home on Christmas day, and he'd play Perry Como and Andy Williams, all the songs that now pipe out of elevators and into malls over and over but they weren't cheap then. I'm so grateful for these memories --

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Toward the Winter Solstice

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;   
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

-- Timothy Steele

Raindrops like Stars

I sat here this morning as the light fell in slanted and shadowed with a cup of coffee and silence. Everyone else was sleeping. I pulled a book off the shelf and started reading it -- a book that someone sent me long ago that I would say falls into the Christian literature genre -- maybe even Christian self-help. It's by Rob Bell and called Drops Like Stars. I had shelved the book when I got it, after a quick and cursory look-through, lots of pain and suffering, the man on the cross, the agony, etc. Lots of inspiration. But this morning, I opened it halfway through and started reading it, only a few words on a page.

So in the end of every major disaster, every tiny error,every wrong turning, every fragment of discarded clay, all the blood, sweat and tears -- everything has meaning. I give it meaning. I reuse, reshape, recast all that goes wrong so that in the end nothing is wasted and nothing is without significance and nothing ceases to be precious to me. (the character Harriet March, a sculptor in a novel by Susan Howatch)

My coffee steamed in my face as I read on, illuminated by chance.

Carol of the Day


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Snow in Los Angeles

We don't get snow in Los Angeles, although last year Burbank saw some and both of my boys have undying hope that it'll happen here. You can see snow on a clear day, on the mountain tops that surround this palm-swayed city, and that's the way I like it. We always satisfy the snow-urge, at least for one night, by going to The Grove, a sort of Disneyland-esque outdoor mall down the street from our house that goes wild at Christmas. Mock us if you'd like, but when it snows at the Grove, it's awesome.

Carol of the Day

I know I'm stretching the word "carol" here -- and have done so a few other times, but this song is one of my favorite Christmas tunes. It makes me think of my other life -- the one where I lived in Tennessee in an old church with a boy who wrote novels in a room with carpeted walls, smelled Laotian food through cinder block walls, got up in the morning, wore hose and pumps to work and then came home and watched Star Trek reruns and ate spinach out of a can with a bit of melted cheese. Sounds like a stretch -- but it was good times. Wait awhile, eternity, old mother nature's got nothin' on me, come to me, come to me now, we're rolling, my sweetheart, we're flowing, by god!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Down the street and around the corner - an Update

corner of La Brea and 4th, Los Angeles

This huge Vladimir Lenin popped up overnight this past weekend at La Brea and Fourth St., outside a building owned by Ace Gallery (a Banksy appeared on and was removed from a wall there in 2010). The piece is "Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin's Head" by the Chinese artist brothers Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang and it caused an uproar at the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale in late 2009. Blog Fairfax By Night first spotted the sculpture and explains "With a vivid chrome finish, the metal sculpture is constructed from horizontal sections that were purposefully staggered...As such a well known person, the artists' decision to give his face a chrome finish takes the focus away from Lenin, and to the sculpture's context by allowing the reflections to highlight the immediate surroundings instead of Lenin..." In this case, of course, that's a slightly blighty intersection on a drive-through section of La Brea.

Mothering, Disability and Race

Lisa sent me the link to this video this morning, and I urge those of you interested to watch the whole thing. It's about mothering, race, disability and where and how they intersect. It's funny and moving and sobering.

Carol of the Day

Oh, Otis, Otis, Otis -- you make me think about an old boyfriend and trying a little tenderness even when you sing Christmas songs --


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