Thursday, April 17, 2008

Everybody likes to eat.

Did you hear the story on NPR this morning about the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as “Angola?” Angola used to be a cotton and tobacco plantation, and even now continues to grow cotton along with most of the food that the inmates eat. Twice a year the prison hosts a rodeo, and many of the prisoners have concessions selling some crazy-sounding southern food made with the vegetables they grown on the penitentiary’s land, as well as crawfish from their ponds. They don’t get to handle or keep the money, but it sounds like the experience of having others compliment their food and getting to be out interacting with people not from the prison is what makes it worthwhile to them.

Many of the prisoners are there for life, and it had me thinking about what the hell that would be like. Angola is set on 18,000 acres of what sounds like beautiful land, but that can hardly make up for forty or fifty years living behind bars with other people with histories as unfortunate as your own. Can you even imagine that? Continuing to try to live your life knowing there is no chance you will ever be free again? How thoroughly bizarre to realize that THIS is your life; that there is no reason ever to have dreams of where your life might lead you, because it’s not leading you anywhere, ever.

So that’s pretty uplifting.

Since I am still a free woman, I can travel, and as you know (since it’s pretty much all I talk about), R. and I are going to Paris and London in a month. With the crummy dollar, we’re not staying anywhere too exciting, but I am unable to stay anywhere too budget without crying and generally being a royal pain in the ass so we’re not in total dumps, either. We are staying at The Parkcity in London, which gets good reviews on Tripadvisor. I’m a little concerned that it’s going to be one of those weird, battered-around-the-edges places you see when you’re coming in from Heathrow onto Cromwell Road, but hopefully not. As for Paris, I’m still looking because even though our hotel looks pretty cute, it’s in Montparnasse. That’s not an area I’ve ever been particularly drawn to, although it is easy walking to the shops of the rue de Grenelle, Le Bon Marché, and then over to St. Germain, and there are plenty of good restaurants nearby. And it’s 135 euros a night, including VAT, so that’s pretty reasonable. I think my problem is, as usual, I’m a five-star kind of girl with a three-star salary.

I really need to start making some reservations for dinners in Paris; does anyone have any favorites they’d like to suggest? I’ve already booked a place called Le Timbre, which is newish and popular, and I figure we’ll go to a brasserie one night to ensure I get an adequate dose of foie gras, but I wouldn’t mind branching out a bit otherwise from my same old standards. So… any suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What bothers me today.

In the long list of things that I find disgusting, there is one that ranks pretty high: toenails sporting a French pedicure. I think the issue is that I already find toenails to be pretty gross sui generis, and especially so when they’re long enough to scoop dip out of the container. A French pedicure requires that the nails be a bit longer than normal, in order to fit that delightful white stripe across the tips, so with a glance I know two things about the woman who grooms herself in this way:

1. She doesn’t find long toenails to be disgusting, which is just bizarre, and
2. The rest of her is probably pretty tacky, too.

Because I can almost guarantee those toenails will be peeking out of a pair of high-heeled sandals or wedges purchased from DSW or some other low-end, warehouse-type retailer, and dollars to doughnuts there will be a toe ring involved as well. And where the shoes don’t merit enough attention to even come from Nordstrom, the rest of the outfit will follow suit.

Lest you think I am a complete bitch, which, of course, I am, I will say that certainly a girl can pick up a perfectly charming little spring outfit at an inexpensive chain store. Yesterday I wore what I thought was a perfectly cute, reasonably tailored pair of “railroad stripe” trousers to work that I had picked up at Old Navy. However, I paired them with a pair of A.P.C. wedges that kept me from looking like I’d just given up. And the toes that were visible in MY wedges were a perky shade of spring pink. Maybe not everyone’s taste, but also not designed to rip someone else’s ankle to shreds if I stand too close.

And of course, maybe I am wrong; perhaps the beaches and restaurants of St. Tropez are alive with the tanned, white-tipped feet of the lithe and fashion-forward jet set. It is a “French” pedicure, after all. But I’m guessing that if you see a girl with such a pedicure in France, it’s more likely she shops at the Parisian equivalent of TJ Maxx than on the Faubourg St. Honoré.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Since I’m so busy at work I don’t have time to ruminate on any of the darker corners of my life or the world’s issues today, here’s another installment in my evolution into Martha Stewart’s grubby and less able little sister; the one who never left the shitty house in New Jersey, who drags one leg behind her and who can’t function if there are more than 5 ingredients involved in a recipe, one of which had better be cheese … but who still has the same dishes they both inherited from their mom.

So last night we had a friend over to dinner, and I made macaroni and cheese. I know; that doesn’t sound particularly thrilling, and in fact R. tells me that in one photo I took of the finished product, it looked like vomit. You be the judge:

It may look weird, but I’ll tell you what: it tastes fabulous, it’s perfectly appropriate for a mid-week, casual dinner with friends, and there is nothing easier to make. This is important when you have one of these to deal with as well:

Here’s the recipe.

Macaroni and Cheese

16 oz. rigatoni
16 oz. cottage cheese (I use 1%)
12 oz. sour cream (non- or low-fat)
16 oz. shredded cheese (cheddar or a mix)
1 egg, beaten

Cook rigatoni according to package directions. Cool. Combine all ingredients, reserving a little cheese to sprinkle on the top. Spread in a 9 x 13 casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese, and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

As you can see, Thomas also enjoys a little get-together, as evidenced by this picture of him reclining on the table after dinner.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I'm less a flower than a tincture.

I am an

What Flower
Are You?

Huh? I found this quiz on Cindy's blog, and apparently this is me in a nutshell:

"You are a health conscious person, both your health and the health of others. You know all about the health benefits and dangers of the world around you."

Um, that is simply not true. I'm a lawyer, not a volunteer for Medecins Sans Frontiers. Now, apparently I was a shaman in a former life, according to the psychic who predicted my whirlwind romance and wedding (to a big, blond beefy football player-type), so maybe it's rooted somewhere deep within, but otherwise I'd say it's flat out wrong.

Couldn't I have been something a little more lovely; like, say, a lilac?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Who doesn't love dishes?

I know I have mentioned my collection of green kitchen ware before; it’s been an addiction for some time even if I have not added to it in awhile. When I was in college, my mother and her sister began to develop extensive collections of early/mid twentieth century dishes and glass. My cousin and I liked hanging out with our moms, but to do so meant endless visits to the antique malls of the South. One day, as my cousin and I hung listlessly around the doorway to yet another antique emporium somewhere off I-95, bitching about being bored, it occurred to me that these stores had a lot of dishes in my favorite color, green. As both my mother and my aunt were gobbling down every piece of cobalt depression glass in sight, I decided I would start a collection in green. Of course, I was in college so I had no money, but my acquisitive mom was happy to get me started and soon I was on my way with a green glass decanter and my first criss-cross refrigerator dish.

Over the years I have collected a pretty amazing amount of stuff; from Hazel Atlas bowls to Manhattan glass to a Fire King breakfast set to Bauer pottery to… you name it. Here are pictures of some containers out on my counter and of a cabinet of glasses.

The containers are from the 30s and 40s, and the glasses are a mix. The hobnail glasses on the top shelf are from the 1910’s, and the tall glasses next to them are from the 50’s. The Ring wine glasses on the second shelf are from the 30’s (gorgeous, and a gift from my aunt for graduation from law school), although the ones next to them are 1990’s Target. The bottom shelf has green Manhattan glass tumblers and a bunch of Swanky Swig juice glasses from the 50’s (I think). Anyway, I get loads of pleasure from using all my dishes, and I can set a pretty fabulous table. I also have a large collection of mismatched plates from the 19th and 20th centuries, each having some element of green as their common feature. When I set a table with those, I often use my toile silverware, the site for which I linked to yesterday and more pieces of which I add when I go to France.

That company has all sorts of cute stuff, though, and I think I might add something new this time. I really like this Liberty pattern in “lime”, which I think will go nicely with some Cath Kidston coffee mugs I already have in green…

Now I’m all keyed up for some serious shopping.

Monday, April 7, 2008

C'est lundi and je me sens pauvre.

You know what worries me if I let myself think about it for too long? Retirement. It’s a tough balance between trying not to live like an ascetic in order to fund one’s retirement (which has never been my forte) and not just blowing through all one’s cash only to wake up at 60 and see a thousand dog food casseroles on the horizon. I haven’t been the world’s best at saving for my future so far, and at 39, it feels like it’s already too late. So far, all I have managed is that I contribute the maximum to my 401k each year, and since marrying R. we also contribute monthly to a mutual fund and a gold fund. I’m sure that’s more than a lot of people manage, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still not enough. It’s particularly true at a time when I check my 401k balance and see that my “personal investment performance” is already down 5% for the year. Awesome. So I have essentially been throwing money in the toilet. R. reminds me that when shares are down, the money I put in simply buys more shares, so that when prices go back up, there are more shares to gain value. I understand this intellectually, but still I look at the balance that seems to have been sitting in the same place for some time now and visions of Sunday mornings with my spotted, arthritic hands struggling to guide the scissors through the coupon pages lodge in my mind.

Fortunately, in six weeks we will be spending our tax return on profiteroles, patterned flatware and Prêt-à-Manger duck wraps instead of sticking it in some sort of savings vehicle. That should go a long way toward easing my mind. I guess when I’m trying to think of another way to stretch boiled cabbage into another delicious dish, I can think back on the halcyon days when I thought nothing of starting every Parisian dinner with a slice of foie gras, or of gaily loading another frivolous treat from La Maison du Chocolat into my basket…. Paris itself will be a distant memory, too, but I’m sure if I look hard enough at the cracks in the cheap plaster of our one bedroom tenement apartment, I can imagine it’s a map of Paris’ arrondissements, the Seine flowing agelessly through.

Or, we can just retire there and I can look at the cracks of our Parisian tenement walls instead.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Pink like porkies.

So the good news is the baby slept through the night again last night, thank Christ. I was wondering if we were lost forever. Now I can see his one little tooth poking up from his bottom gum without having to pull back his lip to look for it, and I have to say it’s ridiculously cute. I guess I’ll need to learn how to keep it clean so it doesn’t rot right back out of his head, causing more sleepless nights.

But when one door closes another opens: now he has pink eye. Yes, pink eye. Not having been around a bunch of children, I haven’t seen a case of pink eye since my own 30 years ago, and it’s no more pleasant now. I called his school to tell them I was taking him to the doctor to confirm, and the director asked me to call if it was true so they could post a notice. Refusing to take responsibility for infecting the rest of the kids, when he obviously picked it up there himself, I said, “I’m pretty sure he got it there since it’s the only place he goes.” The director replied that no other children have it, so I lied and said I was pretty sure one other kid in Eeyore’s class had had it recently. In fact, there is this one boy who is always a hot mess of gooey snot and flame-red cheeks and nose, so chances are his eyeballs are red behind all the other rheumy trappings of babyhood. Whatever; I’m not above throwing some other hapless child under the bus to avoid looking like the gross family that nobody wants around.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I am a zombie.

My life isn’t even worthy of a blog post lately. I mean, don’t get me wrong; my life is wonderful (mostly) for me, the one living it. But for you? Eh. Not so much. Here are some examples of the drivel occupying my brain:

1. I don’t think I am ever going to be really thin again. I have a particularly doughy case of muffin top that is tiring me out, and not enough willpower to get rid of it. I go to the gym regularly and eat sort of reasonably (for a high school football player), but I can’t bring myself to stop eating and last I checked that’s the only real way to lose weight. Serious, boring, shitty deprivation. No chocolate, no wine, NO FUN and so no dice. I’ve never understood the women who claim to be satisfied by “just a square or two of really good dark chocolate;” because if it’s that good, I want even more.

2. I don’t think I am ever going to sleep again. We had two or three precious weeks where Eeyore was sleeping from 7:30 at night until 6:30 in the morning, and I quickly became accustomed to sleeping almost like a human again. However, he started teething recently, and the last few nights in our house have been total hell; like freshly home from the hospital bad. Since babies keep getting teeth until they’re about 2, it’s easy to imagine that this could continue until that time. No sleep = very difficult to remain upbeat about almost anything.

3. Paris. I think about it constantly now, and when I have a spare moment I’m scouring the internet for new restaurant recommendations. I’m pissed that my excitement is tempered every time I think of not being able to see Eeyore every day. It makes me kind of sick. Shit, I’m almost in tears every day when I have to go back to work after visiting him at lunch; how can this be anything but a hundred times worse? I miss him right now.

At this rate, I won’t have anything interesting to say here until I get back from France.