Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Silver Lining Department

You know things are bad when someone like me returns from the gym over lunch hour to their desk and the first thing I do is NOT eat my lunch but check the stock market. Good thing there wasn't food in my mouth when I looked at that ticker yesterday.

One thing I'm wondering: Is there any way to really stick it to the big investors who got us into this mess in the first place without taking down ordinary prudent personal investors like myself? No? I didn't think so, but I thought I'd ask.

But all is not lost! Really! There is good news in this! It is this: We have been handed ANOTHER bad thing we can blame on George Bush. Let's see how that list is shaping up:
1 major terrorist attack
2 unsuccessful wars
1 badly responded to hurricane
1 nasty Department of Justice scandal
1 democracy undermined
Civil rights eroded
Failed banks? Stay tuned—still counting!
Jobs lost? Families without health insurance? Homes in foreclosure? Too many to count, and just too many.
Do you feel safer than you did eight years ago? More financially secure? Prouder to be an American? REALLY? What I'm saying is THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE.

Do I really think these things are all his fault? YES, I DO. They are all the results of his administration's policies. He's reminded us repeatedly that he's the leader. And so he is.

But not for much longer!


So here's to the more nails in the coffin of Bush's legacy. Sometimes it's important not to be gracious. He has nearly ruined this country and everything it stands for. But if we can learn and change, we can go forward.

Are you coming?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What we ate this week

This is sort of an experimental post that I'm hoping will address a problem we've been having lately. I cook dinner almost every night, and about once a week I nearly collapse from creative exhaustion: I'm out of ideas. I just can't possibly do it anymore. Let's order pizza. I call Husband on the phone: "What should I make for dinner?" And he always answers "How about pork chops?" which is not a very useful response since I think most pork chops require brining to be really good, and I'm usually calling him with this question at about 4:00 in the afternoon from work.

So, I was thinking that maybe if I kept a log of what we eat, when I am lacking inspiration, I can go back to previous menus. Same for when I entertain—those Sunday dinners I make for the MIL could come in handy.

Alright! Here we go:


It's a Greek Sunday dinner at the Fig house!

Appetizer: homemade babaganoush (now that's a killer recipe; I'll post it the
next time I make it and snap a pic.), sliced baguette, fresh radishes, green
onions, kalamata olives

Spanakopita (recipes for this don't vary too much, but this site has lovely music)

Grilled lamb meat balls

Yogurt dill sauce

Fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and black flaked salt

Green salad

Dessert: Fresh pear and fig, parmesan reggiano and manouri cheeses


Marinated grilled chicken

Marinated grilled eggplant

Whole wheat couscous with feta, tomatoes, and fresh mint

Green salad with pomegranate seeds


Southeast Asian Beef Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Rice noodles in peanut sauce (sauce is from a big batch I made a while ago and stacked up in the freezer)

Angel hair pasta with roasted yellow and green squash, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, diced manouri cheese, kalamata olives, capers, grated parmesan, lemon juice, and olive oil—I know. I sounds like too many ingredients, but it was really good!

Fennel braised in white wine
Green salad


Grilled scallops with Pimenton Aioli (from last week's New York Times food section recipe, except they used swordfish)

Steamed broccoli

Rice cooked in chicken stock


Sophie and Husband had a date night: swimming at the YMCA and our dinner at our favorite taqueria. I had leftover pasta while watching the debate.


Sophie was at a sleepover, so Husband and I had a date night (he really gets around, doesn't he?). We pigged out at our favorite Chinese restaurant, known for great food and surly service, which you don't mind because their Peking Duck is so amazing.

That was our week in food, folks. If you'd like recipes for any of the above, let me know!

Friday, September 26, 2008

I weigh in on the ecomony

I know: Everyone has been waiting for this.

Let's start with the banking crisis. 
I am gravely concerned when I hear that the meetings yesterday did not work out so well and that last night as soon as everyone had finished their dinner, our legislators were going BACK IN TO MORE MEETINGS. Gadzooks—hadn't they already been in meetings ALL DAY? 

Here's why I'm worried: When I have been in a department staff meeting for over an hour, I will agree to absolutely anything if I think it will cause the meeting to end. After an hour, I have finished my coffee, eaten my cookie, wrapped up my grocery shopping list, and contributed all the reasonable discussion I have in me. Change our policy on punctuation following a font change? FINE! Agree to do the acquisitions department's photocopying for them? WHY THE HELL NOT? You can see the problem. This morning I awoke to news that (surprise) they're going into more meetings. Troubling.

Moving on to how this is effecting things at the Fig house. 
Husband came home other other night bereft after visiting his bank (he actually goes to a bank to deposit checks, just like an old lady) and discovering that an investment fund into which he had deposited a fairly sizable amount of money had (you won't believe this) decreased in value! Well, no shit. He had failed to follow my instructions, which were not to look at balances when the markets are in the crapper. The money is invested for the long term, and it's not worth getting all worked up about on a daily basis. (It's fine, of course, to take a peek when things are looking up just to give yourself a little boost. See, that's how I'm a glass-half-full type of gal.)

So anywhoo, Husband announces that he is DEPRESSED. His money is SHRINKING! Right: It's invested in a MARKET, which sometimes goes up and sometimes goes down. He would be better off putting his money in a SHOEBOX. Well, except for that inflation problem. Thank goodness I manage, with the help of Charles Schwab, the major investments for our family. When will he be able to RETIRE? Hard not to laugh at that one.

As someone who has fought their way back from several clinical depressions (none since having Sophie—I don't have time), I resist getting too concerned about Husband's usual one-they're-here-the-next-day-they're-gone depressive episodes. And sure enough, the following day, he came home reporting that he felt "much better!" Did it have anything to do with the markets? No, he had gone to his favorite YOGA class. 

So there, friends, may be the answer to the credit crunch/mortgage meltdown/banking collapse: Yoga. I'm off to write my representatives.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sing it out loud

The other day while Sophie and I were running errands, she shared with me some songwriting she has been working on. It went something like "My father is from Texas! My mother is from Oklahooooooommmmaaaaa!" It sounded familiar. She explained that she was writing new verses for a song their principal, who also doubles as the school's music teacher, sang for them in music class the other day. Sophie was astonished as I belted out the first couple verses of "House of the Rising Sun." "Everyone my age knows that song," I explained. 

But what a choice for a 3-4-5 grade class. And what a conversation it engendered. We always like a learning opportunity over here at the House of Figs!
Mama: Do you know what the song is about?

Sophie: Um, no. I just really like it.

Mama: The House of the Rising Sun is a house of prostitution. That's where men pay women to have sex with them.* Did [the music teacher] explain that to you?

Sophie: No, he just said it was a symbol for something that was sad. 

Mama: Well, that is usually a sad life for women. 
We talked about why women end up making a living that way, especially back when the song was written (1933): poverty, lack of education, abuse. "See how bad things were when men ran the world??" [And of course, they still are in many places.] And why that was often a sad life: no family,  social marginalization, bad diseases. 

So why, she asked, is the house named after the rising sun? Good question! Because the men have stayed up so late drinking, having sex, and gambling that when they finally leave, there's the sun rising for the next day. Not that I would know anything about that. 

And why did he go back to that house (to wear that ball and chain)? Because men are WEAK! And apparently sometimes not very smart. I mean, really. If a song has lyrics that you cannot explain without getting yourself into potential trouble with parents, PICK ANOTHER SONG. 

But once we cleared up all those details, we had a rockin good time listening to all the covers of this song on youtube. We like The Animals version the most. The Pink Floyd one was good too. Sophie wanted to know if something was wrong with Bob Dylan.

Look! Here's the karaoke version of The Animals. You can sing along too! Sophie and I used pencils for microphones. It is important that this song be sung at the top of one's lungs.

Of course we then had to talk about why they are wearing suits.

* We also talked about how parents have different ideas about what and when children need to know about sex. But most parents agree that their kids should hear about it from them, not from some kid at school. She understands I would prefer it if she did not advertise this knowledge on the playground. I told her it's fine to tell the principal she knows what's up. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My daughter's spelling is no longer creative

Nosiree. According to Sophie's teacher at back-to-school night, the term by which we are to refer to her not-quite-ready-for-prime-time/several-short-of-a-six-pack spelling is transitional spelling. Alright then! No expert on parenting am I, but this makes sense to me. We wouldn't want to ever dissuade her from something creative, would we? (I know parents of teenagers are laughing at me right now. ) Transitional merely means she's on her way from spelling like a hillbilly to spelling like proper little pointy head.

But we are enjoying the hillbilly spelling, which we think is really a hoot. I mean it's funny to spell birds burds (like turds). Right??

Part of it though is how she talks. And we're still trying to figure that one out. Husband and I are both native Californians who speak without any regional accent. So why do we have a daughter who talks about having to git going in the morning. And in this sign to advertise the sale of her old trailer bike:

Tear where? Right hire.

We're taking the same approach we did with reading: When she's ready, she'll do it. [This brilliance is not mine but her K-1-2 teacher's. I started off most conferences with him noting "She's not reading yet! Time to call Sylvan Learning?" And when he would reply "Oh, no!" wheels would start spinning in my head about how we could spend the money we could now save on tutoring—say, more private ski lessons!]

And we'll certainly help her on her way. But in the meantime, we're laughing our asses off over stuff like this, which was a letter Sophie wrote to Husband in one of her "games," probably the pet grooming service she operates out of her room. Apparently Husband was late to pick up one of his dogs and she needed to place a call. And then send a registered letter.

Dear msdr [Figs]

Why dose no own ansur the phowne wane some own is home. Your phowne most be brokin it gost wonte stop ringin.

Love, Sophie

Kills me every time I read it. 

Friday, September 19, 2008

She who should be nameless

I'm talking about Sarah Palin, of course. Because it is just NOT GOOD to keep talking about her. I get too angry and have fantasies about beating the crap out of her, which end badly because then she shoots me with a high-powered rifle. And it prevents everyone from talking about THE ISSUES of the campaign and the people who are actually running for the main office (remember those guys?). I think it's time to move on, and I've got a plan.*

The next time someone makes a remark about Sarah Palin her, just look at them blankly and respond with "Who? No, I'm not aware of anyone by that name. Did you hear what Joe Biden just said about McCain's years of anti-regulation stance concerning the financial markets? The stance he changed to pro-regulation, oh, just yesterday afternoon? Let's sit down and talk about this some more. Let me buy you a drink."

But I'm willing to grant one exception for discussing her and invoking her name: Ridicule. If you want to make fun of her or watch other people make fun of her, that's ok. Because it would truly be a crime to forgo watching Sarah Benincasa's YouTube impersonations** of Sarah Palin that person.***

Sarah Benincasa (you can say that name all you want according to my plan!) started her series of vlogs shortly after the Republican convention and has been cranking them out ever since. It would not be a waste of time to view all of them. 

This is the first:

And I like this one a lot because Dina Heath Barr, formerly off-stage, comes out for a little action. 

And while we're having fun at Sarah Palin's &*#%^'s**** expense, here's a little joke someone forwarded me that we can play on her while helping a good cause at the same time:
We may have thought we wanted a woman on a national political ticket, but the  joke has really been on us, hasn't it?  Are you as sick in your stomach as I am at the thought of Sarah Palin as Vice President of the United States?
Since Palin gave her speech accepting the Republican nomination for the Vice Presidency, Barack Obama's campaign has raised over $10 million dollars.  Some of you may already be supporting the Obama campaign financially; others of you may still be a little honked off over the primaries.  None of you, however, can be happy with Palin's selection, especially on her positions on women's issues.  

So, if you feel you can't support the Obama campaign financially, may I suggest the following fiendishly brilliant alternative? Make a donation to Planned Parenthood.***** In Sarah Palin's name. And here's the good part:  when you make a donation to PP in her name, they'll send her a card telling her that the donation has been made in her honor.  Here's the link to the Planned Parenthood website:
You'll need to fill in the address to let PP know where to send the "in Sarah Palin's honor" card.  I suggest you use the address for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:
     McCain for President
     1235 S. Clark Street
     1st Floor
     Arlington, VA 22202
Feel free to send this along to all your friends and urge them to do the same.
That sounds like fun, doesn't it? It's so important to stay positive!

* I thank the mother of my friend Gina for this strategy, which not only accomplished her objective but has given us one more excellent Ann story to enjoy.

** My deepest thanks to friend and blogger Gwendo for bringing this important material to my attention, as well as for buying me the miniature ice cream cones I could not find at my own Safeway. She knows what's important in life.

*** You know, maybe we should give her a symbol like Prince had when he was not Prince. But I can't get my keyboard to produce a wee little middle finger salute. Or a little gun. I'm working on it. 

**** How does that work for you?

***** Planned Parenthood is spending a lot of money fighting a proposition on California's November ballot requiring a waiting period and parental consent for young women to have access to abortion. And I don't think you had to grow up in my house to know how important defeating this is. Although that would surely help.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

May we please lift the moratorium?

On cookbooks, that is. I have so many. I also have print and online subscriptions to Cook's Illustrated. And issues of Bon Appetit keep showing up in our PTA's post office box, which means they are mine (part of my hazardous duty pay, I think). I am not supposed to be buying any more cookbooks until I have cooked my way through all the ones I have.

But I thought an exception might be made for this cookbook,

which was reviewed in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle's food section.

Oh, well. If we can't lift the moratorium, I can probably settle for the Brown Turkey figs that are very slowly ripening in our front yard. Pictures to come.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Saturday shopping:
The good and the not so good

Saturdays are my days with my girl. I take Sophie to her ceramics class, which is conveniently (or not) located around of the corner from Anthropologie. You can see the problem. This time I only looked and did not buy a thing (hurray for me!), but I'm pretty sure I may need these these dishes.Click to enlarge, please. I mean, come on. They have FIGS on them. And they will go nicely with my everyday solid black dishes, which are starting to chip after years of wear. How cruel of Anthropologie to tempt with not only clothing but housewares as well.

I retrieved Sophie in time to deliver her to gymnastics. Honestly, I'm sensitive to the plight of the over-scheduled child, but she insists she has energy for all these things, so if I can limp along after her, I think we'll be ok.

After lunch, it was onward to one of our favorite destinations: Target! Look at all the stuff we got:

A smart little dress for the office (I'm not sure whether I look like Jackie O or a 1960s airline stewardess),

this cute demin dress for Sophie (unfortunately this did not come in my size),

these lovely chocolate brown ladylike shoes (cuter than the look in the picture and perfect for sitting at my desk),

and these yummy GREEN loafers, which are seriously the most comfortable things I have had on my feet in ages. And here's the kicker: We bought TWO pairs of them. One for me and one for Sophie. Indeed, at age eight she has outgrown the children's sizes and I am now buying her ADULT SHOES. We think we look plenty snappy in our matching green shoes.

This was all well and good and sort of took the sting out of an earlier shopping incident. I went into Keihl's to buy this,
the only product on earth that can de-scale my elbows. It is truly fabulous stuff. Keihl's is a funny place. I am always slightly unnerved by the pseudo-scientific atmosphere, as if the sales people are setting out to solve a medical rather than cosmetic problem. But they always give you samples, which are fun and sometimes cause me to come back to buy the product. Much better marketing than glossy ads in magazines I don't read. I like their grapefruit-scented bath products, and if they ask me what I would like, I often request these, pretending that I have never heard of them and am intensely curious about how they work for me. But the saleswoman on Saturday did not think this was a decision I should be trusted to make. She craned her head forward, squinted, pursed her lips, and handed me a sample of this:

I was fine trying a new product until I read the copy on the packet:
This lightweight moisturizing lotion helps protect skin from external damage and diminishes the effects of aging. Combining Abyssine and Corallina Extract, our formula helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (emphasis mine).
Well, crap. Is that what a stranger sees when they look at me? Ok, fair enough, but don't expect me to be happy about it.

She wasn't done though. Another squint revealed to her that I needed this:

Apparently, Heat-Protective Silk-Straightening Cream revealed further problems:
Formulated especially for wavy, frizzy, or curly hair in need of smoothing, our unique straightening cream contains a blend of natural ingredients to help straighten out hair and tame frizz without weighing hair down (again emphasis mine).
I wanted to shriek at her "It is FOGGY outside! My hair looked JUST FINE before I left the house! And when was the last time you got carded buying booze at Trader Joe's? Huh? HUH?"

But maybe she's got a point. I like the hair cream a lot. My hair feels smoother and not so crispy on the ends, even after beating it into submission with a blow dryer. And the fine lines? They're just fine, thank you. Maybe I need a few more samples of that face cream.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What's cooking: Burgers, baby!

Actually, baby burgers. Or sliders, as the more hip call them.

This recipe is from the San Francisco restaurant Absinthe. I've only had a vodka martini there, having passed on the drink for which they are named. Whereas I appreciate the impressive accouterments, I do not like the taste of anise at all.

Their little sliders are another story altogether. This recipe would work fine for a regular-sized burger, but like so many foods, these burgers seem more appealing and even tastier in miniature.

I simplify Absinthe's procedure for the onions. They cook just fine on top of the stove, leaving the oven free for my fries. The aioli recipe produces way more than you will need for these burgers, but I don't know when having homemade aioli in one's fridge is ever a problem. I mixed some of my leftover with smoked paprika the next evening a dabbed it on top of grilled shrimp served with tomato paella.


Aioli (see recipe below)
Spicy caramelized onions (see recipe below)
1 pound top-quality ground beef
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Gruyere cheese, sliced
Dijon mustard
small rolls, split

Make the aioli and the caramelized onions. Gently mix the meat, the Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper and form into small patties, making a small indent in the middle of each to prevent it from rising and the patties forming into balls when grilled.

Grill the patties for a few minutes on each side. When you have flipped to the second side, lay cheese sliced across each patty and continue grilling until finished.

Lightly toast split rolls. Wait to place top roll on burger until condiments have been added (else melted cheese will glue patty to roll).

Spread Dijon on top bun. Spread aioli on top of cheese, add onions and top with bun.


2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
from half a small lemon
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon apple cider
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, pressed

1. In a blender or a stainless steel bowl with a whisk, mix the eggs, mustard, salt and pepper, and lemon juice until it begins to froth. While continuing to mix, add the canola oil in a very slow stream, until it starts to thicken.

2. Add the apple cider vinegar to help thin down the consistency.

3. When all the canola oil is incorporated, slowly add the olive oil. If necessary, add some water to thin down the aioli. Add the garlic to taste and adjust seasoning.

Spicy Caramelized Onions

2 yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
3 cloves
garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
tablespoon crushed chile flakes
Salt, pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a heavy skillet and cook over medium heat until onions are browned and limp and liquid has cooked off. Allow to cool to room temperature.

I served these with oven fries, heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with flaked black salt, cornichons, and a green salad.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, September 12, 2008

To run or not to run

Around my office there has been much discussion of McCain's recent selection of a vice presidential candidate. Palin's stand on the issues has really got us in a panic, so in the name of mental health, we've tried to focus occasionally on other aspects of the situation:

"I am the president of a PTA," I sniff. "And I have better glasses." They reply "Shit, Cindy. You would make a much better vice presidential candidate!"

But before I say sign me up, I think we should discuss this. I often find the two-column pro/con approach useful for considering such weighty issues. So here we go.

Would I Make a Good Vice Presidential Candidate?

Cons. My record could be sort of a problem here.
1. When I was a teenager, I did buckets of drugs. Really, just buckets. These things tend to get brought up in campaigns and rarely in a flattering light (e.g., "She really cleaned up nicely, didn't she?" or "Wow. She must have really started out with a lot of brain cells.").

2. I have knowingly hired illegal migrant workers. The fact that I paid them a decent wage (albeit under the table) and drove down the hill to pick them up burritos for lunch probably doesn't mitigate this.

3. I am an atheist. And while you would think that separation of church and state would render the fact that I have no church inconsequential, there seem to be a lot of people who think that being godless means lacking a moral compass, a sense of justice, and sense of greater humanity.

4. I have called in to work sick and then gone skiing. More than once. 
Pros. Alright! Here's my excellent platform. If you're not happy with Sarah Palin, you'll like me!
1. I will not support shooting wildlife from airplanes. There's just got to be better ways to spend one's time. And I'm not much on hunting, but isn't it more or less of a sport these days? Somehow chasing an animal to the point of exhaustion using aircraft and then blowing its brains out as it collapses just doesn't seem very sportsmanlike. I mean, for christsake, get down there on the ground with them and at least pursue them under your own power.

2. I will support reproductive rights. I just love how conservatives advocate for small government except when it comes to this issue. Maybe it's a fiscal thing: Social and environmental programs cost money. Maybe they figure that money they save on sex education and access to contraception is money that can be better spent on—oh, say—the military. Yes, that's it! But wait, that doesn't make sense. A pregnancy for many teenagers means the end of their education and increased dependence on social programs. But, wait! We can cut those! Money saved and god happier! But I think that's all bullshit. As I said, I will support reproductive rights. Even for Bristol Palin.

3. I will support gay rights, including gay marriage, equal access to benefits, and all the other things the rest of us have. I'm just not that interested in who you want to fuck. Unlike Sarah Palin's church, which is obsessed with it to the point of developing a program to "pray away the gay." Why would anyone want to pray away or mess with in any way the part of a person that determines who they love?

4. I will support public libraries. I will not seek to ban books. Haven't we had enough trouble with an administration that thinks people do not need information?

5. There are no voices (god or other) in my head telling me to kill people. You would think this is a given among people running for public office or even roaming the streets at will. And yeah, I know she is trying to claim she was invoking Abraham Lincoln, but I think that's bullshit. I think she really believes what she said, and it's reprehensible that she can't own it because it's not politically expedient. At any rate what Lincoln said was this: "[M]y concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right." Which is not the same thing as what she said.
So, I dunno. What do you think? Maybe I'm not ready. Oh, wait. No one nominated me. OK, I'll go back to posting recipes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sophie and I out and about

As I said, it's so hard to stay on message these days with positive and lovely. But Sophie helped me out over the weekend by accompanying me on an outing to San Francisco's Chinatown.

We zipped over on BART, walked several blocks, only to find ourselves inadvertently in the middle of the Autumn Moon Festival. Add about 500 hundred people to this picture, and you've got the idea. There were some booths selling food and merchandise, but many more were selling things like car insurance, cell phone service, and checking accounts to neighborhood people.
But Sophie's great about hanging on to me, and we weaved our way through crowds as I explained to her that China is a very crowded place, and many cities streets are just like this!

We window shopped a bit and then—following the excellent advice of friend, which was confirmed by the street crossing guide— popped in here for dim sum.

Sophie and I both enjoyed the menu

and ordered four different dishes, among which these steamed shrimp dumplings were the best. I could have eaten an entire plate of them.

Having completely pigged out for just over $15 (when was the last time you did that in San Francisco??), we headed off to work on Sophie's shopping list.

We did lots of browsing, looking, and chatting but managed to come home with everything we set out to find, and then some.

Sophie's list included a Chinese dress and a parasol:

She also took a fancy to this lamp, which will look nice in her room.

We're pretty into green these days.

In the "and then some" category, we also saw these "dresses" that are intended to cover a wine bottle.
Deciding that was just plain silly, we thought one of them would make a lovely dress for someone waiting at home for us. (No, not Husband! He's too big!)

Suzie the Doll says it is what she has always dreamed of. My daughter is what I have always dreamed of: Sort of a little on-tap girlfriend, ready for any adventure, who will take me wherever we go focusing through the unhurried, curious eyes of a child. And will eat almost anything. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thinking about police

No, no, they're not coming to get me. It's something else.

I can remember when I thought the cops were the bad guys. You know, the people who harassed innocent teenagers minding their own business with a six-pack of beer down on the beach. Who gave you traffic tickets that got you in trouble with your parents. I was, after all, raised on The Mod Squad. I was impressed by their hip, surly anti-establishment attitude. The cops were derogatorily referred to as "the fuzz." Yeah, I'm really that old.

Fast forward a couple of decades to when I lived in not-yet-very-gentrified and rather dangerous neighborhood in Washington, DC (Columbia Heights to if you went strictly by the map, Adams Morgan if you wanted a cab to take you there after dark). I was happy to see the impressive number of cruisers that patrolled my neighborhood. Thrilled even. Cops were the good guys. I still think they are most of the time.

This morning we turned on the news to hear about a police sergeant shot while responding to a domestic violence call not far from here. When I got to work, we all had an email telling us that this was the son-in-law of one of our co-workers. I see her daughter at work every once in a while, I knew she had a husband named Paul, and I knew he was a cop. Unfortunately, it was this Paul. He heard children inside the apartment screaming and crying, so he went in to save them, and his own three children are now without a father.

Over the years I have collected author photos from books I have worked on. Authors never seem to want these back and I've made several large collages of them. Something I've noticed over the years: The ones who look mean in their picture usually were. Same for the ones who look haughty and arrogant. Happy, friendly, kind people usually take a picture that shows just that. Like Paul Starzyk did. I never met him, but everything I know about him from his family tells me that he was everything you see. I can't imagine the grief they are going through and how badly they will all miss this son-in-law, husband, and father.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sometimes I Am Smart

Not often but sometimes. And rarely in the middle of a heat wave. I am not a hot weather gal. I like cool, crisp air that takes the breathe right out of you. I don't mind having to wear more clothes. I look better that way. Heat usually renders me unproductive and stupid. Which is probably why I think today's innovation was genius.

We Figs live in a soda-free household, but every once in a while I buy these fancy French lemonades our fancy grocery sells. Not because I particularly want the really very nice and not overly sweet fizzy lemonade but because I want the bottle. They are useful for a great many things, including storing homemade salad dressing, serving chilled water, and decanting infused wines.

But today I found a new use: bottling my own homemade sun tea so I can take it to work. Behold: Instead of running across the street on very hot days at work to buy an iced tea (I have an office with a window that I can open, but we have no air conditioning) for $2.25, I can use these bottles to take to work tea that I make at home.

Like this. In my yard.

I can get the bottles nice and chilly, pop them in my bag, and have one on my desk for the day. It makes my constant quest to drink more water easier. Today I made peppermint and The Republic of Tea's Spring Cherry. And a glass of iced tea is a nice substitute for the hot herbal tea I often enjoy on a cold night.

The heat wave is predicted to end soon, and I'm hoping tomorrow morning I'll awake to a thick blanket of fog and the sound of dripping redwoods. That's why I live here after all.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Something beautiful

So I thought I'd take a break from things unpleasant and horrible to show you what Sophie and I found at our produce market the other day.

It's a bright saffron-colored cauliflower. Sometimes, I explained to Sophie, you buy something just because it's pretty.

She agreed, and we added it to our hoard of tomatoes, figs, nectarines, and other goodies that will soon be gone.

Sophie allowed me to steam half of it (it was sort of her cauliflower), but the other half she kept for making an appetizer for us.

She drizzled raw florets with a little olive oil and lemon juice, topping it off with a sprinkling of black flaked salt.

She then paired it with a mixture of the most delicious little golden organic Thompson grapes and almonds (don't ask me where she came up with that combination).

Ok, that's very lovely and all, but don't get the idea I'm still not seething with rage over campaign goings-on. Do you think for just a minute people could stop discussing Sarah Palin's lifestyle choices and focus instead on where she stands on the ISSUES? Because then it would become alarmingly obvious that her views are very extreme and not in line with those belonging to many even within the Republican party. Right? Right????? Please tell me yes. Because I think there is something really wrong with a person who believes that a war is necessary because it is "God's plan."

Ok, ok. I'm back to meditating on the beauty of a cauliflower. These are tough times, you know. 

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thank you, Gloria

As Sophie and I drove home from her violin lesson yesterday, we tuned into NPR to hear Mitt Romney spewing his characteristic intolerance and ignorance. Sophie wanted to know what we were listening to. I told her. "The John McCain guys??" Yes. The other team. "Well, that SUCKS!" To which I responded "First of all, as we have discussed, I really don't like you using 'sucks' in that way. It is crude and does not make you sound like the smart person you are. Second, even though we disagree with people, we can listen to what they say with respect."

So there I was listening to Rudy Giuliani later that evening while practically convulsing with loathing and sobbing "He is evil! He is bad! Make him stop!!!" And of course it got worse as the evening wore on. Being a good example is hard.

But thank you, Gloria Steinem for aiding my recovery from last night's viewing by putting it in perspective. You're right.

Husband? He chose lemon lime

For the very silly reason that the ingredients list claimed natural and artificial flavoring instead of just artificial. But it still tasted pretty awful (I had a sip when he wasn't looking). 

The clean out was predictably horrible, but the procedure went well. That old usually bullshit line "It's pressure, not pain" actually seemed to be the case, and in spite of my recommendation Husband  survived without drugs of any kind. (I figure you've got an i.v. line in you, the drugs are free and top quality, and it's not like you're doing anything else anyway—why not enjoy yourself? I'd probably be a drug addict if I weren't so busy already.) 

He thanks everyone for their concern, as do I, especially considering I now have all kinds of useful advice about alternative flavorings and fancy toilet paper that will come in handy in  . . . um, let's see . . . [counting] . . . four years. Yes, four years. You do the math.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Not your average 72-year-old guy

I took a blog break over last weekend given that the trip Sophie and I took down to Orange County (a girlfriend of mine refers to this as "behind the Orange Curtain") was well documented by my dad on his blog. How many 72-year-old guys have a blog? This one does, but that's not the only reason he is not your average 72-year-old guy. Allow me to explain.

Having survived Disneyland on Friday (we got to introduce a friend of Sophie's to the Magic Kingdom for the first time!), we headed off to the beach on Saturday. The weather was great, the surf was up, and the kids were having a great time building sandcastles and messing around with my dad's bogie board in the wash. My dad gave the kids a few pointers and finally took the board out for a little action of his own. An excellent swimmer and experienced bogie boarder, he was venturing out a little farther to where the waves were breaking when a nice sized wave knocked him down. I was standing about ten feet away from him, closer in so I didn't get it as hard, when he came up from the wash with his face covered in blood. He knew he had hit his head and so instinctively put his hand to his head, although he didn't realize blood was pouring out of a large gash. I screamed at him to keep his hand on his head and press hard, and we started in. The kids ran ahead and summoned help from the lifeguard station. Within moments my dad was swarmed by earnest young men in red shorts, who before too long were joined by city paramedics (also very earnest and quite handsome).

They asked over and over "What is your name?" [George] "Where are you?" [Crystal Cove Beach] "What time is it?" [About 3:00]. Right on all accounts, except it was 3:30. The bleeding, they explained, was the least of their concerns. A few stitches would fix that, but they were concerned about the possibility of a neck or head injury. And they kept saying "Well, considering his age . . . " To which I replied to one earnest young man "This is not your average 72-year-old guy." Because he's not. He has a blog. He learned to ski at 70 and spent last winter blasting the bowls and black diamonds with the rest of us. He hikes at a good clip in altitude that leaves people half his age breathless. He goes to the gym most days for two classes (step, spin, Pilates, yoga, salsa). And he is my dad, who is not old. At least not to me. Not ever.

Nonetheless, while I was retrieving the car, the paramedics persuaded him to accept a ride to the hospital in their ambulance. Fourteen stitches, a sore neck, and a black eye later, he's fine. And we expect him back on the waves next summer.

For an excellent picture of the stitches and a clip from the local newspaper, look here. And say Hi, but don't bother suggesting he behave himself.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Oh, the choices!

Astonishing news here at the house of Figs: Husband will be having his first butt scope colonoscopy on Wednesday!! Whoo-hoo! Which means today we dragged out all his prescriptions and instructions and studied up on what needs to be done tomorrow for the clean out. Which we have every reason to think will be very unpleasant in ways I will not describe. Other than to note the single wonderful thing about all this (at least in my eyes):

The flavors! He gets to mix his selection in this big jug, which also has some mysterious powder in it that will facilitate the clean out.

How thoughtful of them to give him a choice of FIVE! When I had my glucose tolerance test when I was pregnant (to tell me what I already knew, which was that I did not have gestational diabetes), the only flavor I was offered was fizzy orange—at room temperature. This concoction Husband can have pleasantly chilled. In a nice glass! With a twist of lemon zest! Or a lime! Really, I don't know what he's complaining about. 

But he's nervous. And scared. And I feel sort of sorry for him. But not sorry enough that I could prevent rolling my eyes when he lamented heading off this morning to "his last yoga class" or thoughtfully offered suggestions of what he would like for "his last meal" tonight. I mean, for heaven's sake, Katie Couric had this done on live television. And a mean little part of me is looking forward to having someone in this family other than me endure an invasive medical procedure. Just to mix it up a little. 

I'm voting for Citrus Berry. What do you think?