Monthly Archives: December 2007

Two minutes in heaven is better than…

I’m only about 6 months behind on this, even though the Dilettante tipped me off in her usual ahead of the curve way. That said, I was one of the first to get the DVD. These guys, the Flight of the Conchords, are my new favorite guilty pleasure. I sat through 12 episodes and only moved for laughter, which was frequent.

H doesn’t want to admit how much he likes them, but I notice that even he knows the lyrics. Now, it’s time for business.

Thanks to both BlueMilk and OhTheJoys for spreading the word.

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Filed under comedy, Flight of the Conchords, funny, men, real life, really funny, women

green monster invades local home

Even our Red Sox ornament on the tree could not keep us safe from this green monster, who has made our family his conquest. All three of us sniffle, snort, and produce something akin to smoker’s cough; we’ve taken turns with the lower end of the vocal register, and with headaches. (H and I actually tagteamed on Christmas Day; I got to sleep until noon, he went to bed at 4pm.)

What gives some measure of comfort is the familiarity of our own beds, the ability to check in and out without keeping to a visit itinerary. No last minute disappointments, no 6 hour emergency room visits, the security of knowing our pediatrician is just across the lake.


Filed under colds, family colds, holiday vacation, home, home for the holidays, sick time, vacation

the most popular post on this veggie femominist site…

is a recipe for sausage stuffed mushrooms. No joke. Everyday, someone somewhere needs to know what hors d’oeuvre they can make with Jimmy Dean sausage and breadcrumbs, they plunk their words into Google and hello! We meet.  They meat. The number 2 recipe is for baked olives, which is something I still like to make and eat, and others appear to like it too.

Somewhere close by in popularity, though off the food topic, is a post where I used the tag “voyeur.” Good thing the picture of me on my own site is so bad. ;)

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Filed under Blogging, funny, ironic, popular, Recipes, traffic

Closing time

Last September, I told my colleagues I would be leaving at the end of the year. I summed it up this way: I was able to run a 6 year experiment in remote work, and the results were in: it didn’t suit me. It was great to be together at meetings, and get caught up face to face, but it wasn’t so great to be thousands of miles away from a growing toddler, now little boy. It wasn’t as great to work from an office in my home, two hours behind my nearest colleagues, even if it had a dancefloor. Since we wouldn’t be moving back to Boston anytime soon, and we’ve settled into the wet woods of the NW, it seemed like the right time to go.

I’ve joked that, since my mail went out, it’s been like a 3 month-long Irish wake. Casket is open, joking is 24/7, people take out all but forgotten photos I’m glad have private acls, and some very nice people ask if there isn’t a way, some way, to stay. I think I’ve put in 10 hours of exit interviews, thinking about the future and its bright possibilities, for technologies and people alike.

At the last face-to-face meeting I attended, I cried only twice – once when a colleague gave a detailed account of how I had helped him, and once when I saw a young couple with their son, about Ben’s age and enthusiasm level, enjoying pancakes for Saturday breakfast. I knew I had made the right decision, leaving when I felt my work there was done.

The last month has been focused on putting together announcements scheduled to run in the new year, making changes to internal resources so they are usable to people other than me, firming up the details of scheduled interviews, essays, making lists of what I’m handing off and what I’ll be carrying through into the new year, including two fun writing projects on the history of the Web and the future of Mobile Web work.

My last week has brought relative quiet to the internal irc channels, with a loyal skeleton crew. Other folks pop in and wave with reports of snow, geek gifts, or new publications on the horizon. The autoresponder scheduled to go live on 2 Jan is short and sweet; the “see you later” internal Web page is sweet, but longer, with photos and anecdotes of conversations and travels and children, the things that matter when most of your colleagues are also your friends.

Calling it closing time doesn’t feel quite right, since no one is falling into the night, fumbling for keys, trying to remember where the car was parked. Our joints open again tomorrow, it’s just that now, they’re side by side.

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Filed under colleagues, Friends, goodbyes, hellos, transitions, work

It’s time to dance

Our old square piano sits in the cold spare room, along with my desk, H’s desk, the file cabinets, my grandmother’s armchair, a sofa we have yet to put on Craig’s list, the laundry and moving boxes on top of said sofa,  and many many stacks of paper.

The floor is made with Spanish tile, shiny, oxblood, with bumps and ripples, set between wide swaths of mortar. So wide that Ben likes to imagine the tiles as lily pads, and hops each to each, careful not to touch the grey “water.”

The previous owner told me she and her husband chose Spanish tiles when they renovated the house in the early 80’s,  because they loved ballroom dancing and wanted to be able to move through the floorplan in music, lightly tapping their way through waltzes and foxtrots. In our renovation last year, we removed nearly all of the tile, except for this one room.

Now, when H sits down to play at the old square, which because of its structure will never be more accurate than 1/2 note flat, Ben stops dead in his tracks – even if they are dinosaur tracks – and finds me, asking to dance. We do all sorts of dances, badly, but with smiles. We do leaps and bends, hops and jumps, we raise our arms to the sky and sweep them down again.

When a political discussion at the Scanditalian Christmas table turned a bit sad and hopeless – as in, is there anything to look forward to? – notes began to spill from the spare room, on other side of the dining room wall. My little boy stopped reading a dinosaur book and came up to the dour table. “Mommy, it’s time to dance!”

I smiled at the change of subject, and told our guests to join us. They stood in the doorway, smiling at a happy boy in a red reindeer sleeper. We spun and hopped, stretched and galloped, and he lept, over and over into waiting arms.

So many things might be better if we only had a moment to dance.

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Filed under Christmas, dancing, Love, mothers, music, parenting, sons

Christmas animal action

Last year, Ben learned a song at daycare called Animal Action, where he would move and make sounds like a particular animal. It was one of his favorites, given his established love of creatures.  He still performs it, along with the Zoboomafoo theme song.

So, as people asked for Christmas gift ideas, I went to the zoo, the aquarium and museum of natural history for suggestions. We now have 5 dinos, including 2 battling T-Rex; a bucket of sea creatures, between 5 and 10 animal books, including the amazing Encyclopedia Prehistorica – Dinosaurs. We have yet to open the 4ft box containing an ark.

It’s been an eye-opener to see how Ben relates to the animal world. The aspects of dramatic play have expanded to include a repetoire of prehistoric and current creature behaviour. We now have T-Rex family meetings, tiger pouncing, and leaping lemur time.  We swim in the tub and on the floor, we waddle and applaud with our flippers, and sleep under the water like hippos, bubbling up only for a breath of fresh air.

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Filed under Uncategorized

when pr ladies go off-message and tell the truth

… or, Can it be feminist to call an immature female reporter a girl?

A few weeks ago, I had to deal with a young, inexperienced “editor” for a commercial publication that happens to be a Web site with a primarily blog format. She had sent in a form letter to solicit participation in their site, and immediately posted an extended whine that, at points, rose to the level of snark. Mostly, it was an immature screed about auto-responders and the requirements one needed to follow to get email requests through. It’s the commercialization of the worst the blogosphere has to offer – where snotty, poorly informed opinion doubles for content. (I won’t post the link, as I’d rather see their traffic stay in the low double digits, but I’ll send you the links if you want to see them.)

The post also revealed her lack of professional reporting experience – she hadn’t done research to determine whether my client even had a blog, and didn’t check the Web site for press contacts, a basic thing for a reporter to do. And as the blogosphere is a place where most of us like to put on our best face or funniest mask, she apparently chose her Facebook profile photo for her headshot. I wondered what was wrong with her editor.

Our staff read her post, and didn’t think too highly of either the writing quality or the tone. And as for the photo, well, it looked like she had just come out of the pool in her nicest strapless swimsuit, and was trying to get the water out of her ear. (Never mind what was behind the ears- clearly that was wet.) The internal snark reached a wit level that would have blown this pub out of the water, but I told people to hold back, mostly because I saw myself in the writer – young, smartass, clueless. Fully acknowledging that part of smart ass is, infact, smart. More than anything, she reminded me of myself as a 15 yo writer/editor for my high school newspaper – utterly convinced of my wit and genius, and only needing to prove to others that I was, in fact, pretty.

So I did something I have never done professionally, inspired by that worst of all motives, the self-convinced, self-identification-based “good” intention. When I called her to tell her we had reviewed her interview request, I gave her advice with her rejection, as if I knew who she was – namely a young me. Advice on writing. On self-presentation and why her chosen photo undermined her seriousness.

And, in a particularly brutal move, when she said, “I wasn’t trying to be some kind of bitch, you know,” I responded directly:

“No, no, no one called you that here. I would not call you that. Bitch, no. But if I may be frank, petulant 15 year old girl? Yes.”

I heard her groan, as if I had punched her in the stomach. It was not a good feeling for either of us, although I had hoped she understood what I was saying…. in the way I had wished someone had given me that advice early on.

I encouraged her to write directly to the person she insulted, to apologize for the way her post landed, and to make an effort to erase any bad feelings. Ben was on day 5 at home with croup, and I was headed to an emergency MD appointment to see if he would have to go to the hospital, and so I had to cut the call short, but I offered my email, my phone number, my successor’s number, and told her she could contact me anytime.

What happened next? She ran to her editor. Big man writes a screed, selectively choosing quotes from our conversation. Kind of like a petulant big brother who’d like to settle the score with the mean old lady who picked on his sweet little sister. Suffice to say, I’d love to get royalties for all the free content I gave them. And of course, I apologized publicly for the way I spoke to the young editor. It wasn’t fair or smart to offer something unsolicited, much less assume what she could handle. Particularly if it is a pr lady who tells the unvarnished truth to no clearly scoped professional end.

I think the weirdest part of the whole interchange, though, was how the big boy editor referred to me as sexist. I doubt he would have written a piece like that if the junior writer was an immature young man and I called him a kid. Or if his picture was at a kegger with his cleanest baseball hat, and I told him it didn’t help his credibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I made three basic mistakes – remember that everything is on the record, stay on message, and pay attention to cultural mores. The comments and posts were a dead giveaway for what was considered fair game. On the human side, I think my mistake was just as basic. Had I asked the writer what she had hoped to achieve with her post, the conversation might have gone differently. Might have.

Upon reading the posts, a friend said, “Ooh! Looks like you stepped on his little girl.” For her sake, I hope her editor stops being her big brother and starts being a mentor instead. And for mine, I’ll keep my advice to myself, and consider taking it now and then.

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Filed under criticism, everything is on the record, Feminism, pr, when pr ladies tell the truth

otter and scorpion are friends

In Ben’s world, Otter and Scorpion are friends. Scorpion, sometimes called “Splish” or “Sting”, likes the desert, and can get a little pinchy. When he’s in a bad mood, we find a nice dark cool cave for him. Otter, sometimes called “Splash” or “Splashy” likes to play in the river, or the sea, and likes to eat fish and clams. As a result,  we make summertime beaches out of the bed covers where they can play together.

Because they are good friends, it’s important not to go somewhere with one and not the other.  They fit comfortably into Ben’s little backpack, and sleep together nicely, no pinching or stinging, when the day is done.

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Filed under childhood stories, children, kindness, otter, play, scorpion, toys

[recipe] beet risotto with greens

Thanks to Deborah Madison’s _Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone_, I was able to recreate a flavorful memory from my engagement dinner for our guests at the Scanditalian Christmas  Eve Dinner. I prepared this with baby spinach to cut on prep time. It was perfect in flavor and the magenta and green colors were in the spirit of the season.

I used dry vermouth – it was perfect.

Beet Risotto with Greens

5 ½ to 6 ½ cups vegetable stock
3 T butter or olive oil, or a mixture of the two
½ cup finely diced onion
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine or Vermouth
2 T chopped parsley
2 T chopped basil
2 to 3 medium beets, peeled and grated, about two cups (a food processor makes quick work of the grating)
2 to 3 cups greens – beet, chard, kale, or spinach – stems removed, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated zest and juice of one lemon
½ cup freshly grated parmesan, or more to taste, plus more for sprinkling on the finished dish

Heat the stock until simmering. Heat the butter/olive oil in a big, wide pot. Add the onion, and cook over medium heat for about three minutes, stirring frequently. Add the rice, stir to coat it well, and cook it, stirring constantly, for one minute. You should see a white fleck in the middle of each grain of rice.

Add the wine and simmer until it’s absorbed, then stir in the basil, the beets, the chopped greens, and half of the parsley. Add two cups stock, cover, and cook at a rapid simmer until the stock is absorbed. Begin adding the remaining stock ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed before adding the next. When the risotto is nearly done, season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the lemon juice and zest. It may taste really lemony, but it will mellow after a few minutes. Remove form the heat and stir in parmesan cheese – feel free to add more than ½ cup grated parmesan. Serve dusted with the cheese and the remaining parsley.


Filed under beet risotto, beets, delicious, italian food, italian recipes, recipe, Recipes, risotto, scanditalian christmas, vegetarian, yummy

[recipe] olivada

My first foray into grownup party entertaining was thumbing through  _The New Basics_ and finding this gem.  I make it by approximations now, but it’s always good, even if you go heavier on the parsley. Use a mini food processor or chopper bowl attachment on a handblender for easy results.


  • Three garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup pitted kalamata or niçoise olives
  • 1 tbsp capers, preferably salt-packed and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp flatleaf parsley, chopped

Mince the garlic (this is easily done by dropping the cloves into the food processor bowl while the blade is running). Turn off the food processor, and add the olives and capers. Pulse a few times to mix ingredients. Start food processor again on medium-high setting, drizzling in the olive oil through the feeding tube until the mixture is smooth. Put mixture into a bowl, and stir in the parsley.

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Filed under appetizer, delicious, Food, mediterranean food, olivada, olives, party food, recipe, scanditalian christmas, spread, yummy