Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Okay people, all of you who comment here regularly are going to be part of an experiment. Fortunately I do not need ethics board approval, they'd probably want signed consent forms.

I've been reading a book on intuition and developing same. Imagine that I have handed you an envelope. There is a question in it. Now, without really thinking about it write down whatever comes into your mind. An image, a sound, a word, a sequence of events, whatever. If you don't get an impression make one up. Then put it in a comment and post it.

Simple. Don't think about it too much just let your mind go.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Today I was reading Ask Moxie. I know, I don't have kids, but I find the current parent subculture fascinating. Did our parents worry about which stroller to buy? Were mothers consumed with guilt and feelings of inadequacy if they weren't able to breastfeed? Did strangers comment on one's parenting? The village may raise the child but I think the villagers have gotten a lot nosier and opinionated of late. It seems to me you need a thick skin to be a parent these days.

My own mother took a lot of flak for a choice she made. When my older sister was about 2 my parents sent her to live with our grandmother in Yugoslavia for 2 years. During those 2 years my mother got her PhD in linguistics from Columbia. She did what she thought was best though it was very hard for her. She knew that if she tried to divide her time between her child and her work both would suffer. I don't think my sister was at all the worse for this. My grandparents loved having her and she may have been a bit spoiled. She did not want for love, affection, or good care. It was an extreme choice that many among my mother's friends and family didn't understand. But I'm pretty sure perfect strangers would not have said anything. Nor would they have commented on the brand of stroller or the choice of food or clothing.

In many ways we have made progress. Children have better protection from abuse and we have greater access to information. On the other hand it seems we have become much more judgemental and ready to interfere. Parenting has always been a heroic endeavor and it has become even more complex. Every choice is scrutinized and occasionally published across the web. The local PTA has 50 committees and your child's friend may be on several medications. Not only are parents running to keep up with the Joneses but the kids are too.

Of course all of this only applies to the middle class. The poor have more important things to worry about, like where the next meal is coming from, and the wealthy have people to take care of these little worries.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Edges for All

Where do you fit in in the brownie debate? Are you like my aunt who loves the edges or like me who loves the middle? (she also sets her marshmallows on fire.) If it's the former then you are in luck.

Here it is, the Baker's Edge pan that gives you nothin' but edge. I thought of getting one for Meg as a belated birthday present but I'm not sure if she would really use it. She is capable of eating half a truffle and leaving the rest for later so I don't think she often bakes a batch of brownies. But maybe you know someone who loves the edges.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Some of you have heard me express a desire to live somewhere green and quiet, someplace with a garden. My thoughts first went to the Hudson Valley area, Cold Spring or Rheinbeck. These places are filled with ex-pat New Yorkers so they have amenities like restaurants and coffee bars and yoga studios. The consequence of this is that the houses and land are expensive. Houses go for millions and even empty lots can cost over a million. Also, the lots are few with all the development that has happened in the last few years.
What got me thinking about land was an article in the Times about small, eco-conscious homes. There are several companies out there that design and build little houses. They are very cute and have a small ecological footprint. Today I was online checking out land prices in New York State. I found some good prices in Ulster County. When I looked at a map of the area I realized that Woodstock is in Ulster.
Years ago I visited Woodstock in the company of my friend David. His mom lived up there, may still live up there. The town is very cute and as crunchy as befits the home of a rock festival. Lots of antique stores, crystal shops, and cafes. I'm going to hop a bus and go for a visit up there, maybe stay in the local B&B and talk to the real estate agency in town. The weather is warming up and it should be a really nice trip. It's only a 2 1/2 hour ride. I feel excited about it.
My intention is to discover what I want and need for my life. It's out into the universe now.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Got Soap?

I do. It's lavender castile soap. Castile soap is made from olive oil, just olive oil. I used the hot process and if you want the details go here.

For those of you who were wondering, yes, this will be addictive. You can all look forward to some soap in the coming months. Any requests?

I am going to make some using cold process too so I can compare them. I think it will result in a smoother looking soap. The current batch has some funky spots where it still looks gel-like. I can also use the current batch to make some liquid soap and some milled soap. Milled soap is soap that has been grated and then mixed with water and allowed to solidify again. It's a good method if you want to add fragrance or other ingredients that would degrade during the cold or hot process. It will also harden the soap so it lasts longer. It's the endless variety that's so enticing. You want to try all sorts of different oils and scents and shapes. I think that's really why people go into business doing this. Because how much soap can one person use? Or give away? You either have to start selling it or make a soap house. Not very practical unless you live in the desert.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


One of my favorite books is "Hour of the Octopus" by Joel Rosenberg. The hero of the story is part of a troupe of acrobats that travel around performing for their keep. They don't have a wagon or any horses so they walk everywhere with their belongings on their backs. Before beginning a trip the hero finds himself what he calls a freden, a throw weight. It's a small rock, not too small, not too big. Then, when his pack is too heavy and the road too long he can pour all his exhaustion and pain into the rock and toss it away. This makes him feel lighter, able to continue. Though I do not travel the road I think I could apply this method to my life.

Then recently I heard a new use for a small stone. You stick it in your pocket or your bag and then whenever you happen to touch it, you think of something to be grateful for. A gratitude rock.

Perhaps one could combine these two ideas. You use the stone to remind you of the great things in your life and then when that is not enough you pour all of your frustration and anger and pain into the rock and toss it away. I'm going to see how it works. I'll let you know.


One of my favorite books is "Hour of the Octopus" by Joel Rosenberg. The hero of the story is part of a troupe of acrobats that travel around the performing for their keep. They don't have a wagon or any horses so they walk everywhere with their belongings on their backs. Before beginning a trip the hero finds himself what he calls a freden, a throw weight. It's a small rock, not too small, not to big. Then, when his pack is too heavy and the road too long he can pour all his exhaustion and pain into the rock and toss it away. This makes him feel lighter, able to continue. Though I do not travel the road I think I could apply this method to my life.

Then recently I heard a new use for a small stone. You stick it in your pocket or your bag and then whenever you happen to touch it, you think of something to be grateful for. A gratitude rock.

Perhaps one could combine these two ideas. You use the stone to remind you of the great things in your life and then when that is not enough you pour all of your frustration and anger and pain into the rock and toss it away. I'm going to see how it works. I'll let you know.

Friday, February 16, 2007


I've been reading a book called "Toast, The Story of a Boy's Hunger" by Nigel Slater. He is a British food writer and cookbook author. The book is a short memoir of his childhood that uses food as an anchor. The food he had as a child doesn't sound very appealing but it is inextricably linked with his life. The book begins with his mother scraping the burnt part off the toast. She does this every time but this doesn't matter. Nigel writes:
"It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. People's failings, even major ones, such as when they make you wear short trousers to school, fall into insignificance as your teeth break through the rough, toasted crust and sink into the doughy cushion of white bread underneath. Once the warm salty butter has hit your tongue, you are smitten. Putty in their hands."

This got me to thinking about my own childhood and how food fit into it. I don't think Nigel will mind if I borrow his idea.

When I was about four years old I began to help my grandmother in the kitchen. She was a wonderful cook who could feel when the dough was right or the chicken was done. Naturally I liked helping with dessert best. One of my favorite desserts was apple strudel. I loved everything about it. The thin, almost transparent dough that was stretched by hand. The mixture of apples and cinnamon and the smell that filled the house as the strudel baked. Ema would always make some extra filling so I got to eat it, licking up the apple cinnamon liquid that had collected at the bottom of the bowl. Is there anyone that doesn't like to lick the bowl? There is love in being allowed to lick the bowl or the beaters. It's kind of intimate too. You wouldn't let just anyone lick your bowl.
And when you're little there is joy in being allowed to help, to learn, and to participate in creating a wonderful thing. Whenever I go visit my sister I cook something, like plum dumplings (more about those later). Her two boys usually want to help cook and though they often make the process much more difficult I cannot turn them away. Cooking for others is immensely gratifying. I highly recommend it. It can take you back to those days in the kitchen when joy was a bowl of apples and cinnamon.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More Human Oddness

You remember I wrote about the juror next to me who had gone from Vienna to Bangkok? Today we were walking to the train together and I said that as it was Chinese New Year I would have to get some dim sum this week. She said that she worried about Chinese restaurants, that sometimes they and the markets didn't seem too clean. And this from a woman who backpacked across the Middle East and Asia. I do realize that that was about 50 years ago but it still struck me as odd. I suppose it is like the former flower child who is now CEO of a bank. If I become staid and conservative in my later years remind me of this.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Now that I have my crock pot I am ready to bang out some soap. But I'm going to have to wait for a few days. The C-Town supermarket near me used to carry lye. I saw it there when I had a clogged drain and was looking for drain cleaner. I opted for the Liquid Plumber rather than the caustic lye. (It didn't work and I had to hire someone to come and clear the clog.) When I went back now to buy lye for soap making it was gone. Very annoying. So I have ordered some sodium hydroxide from a company called Saratoga Scents. They have a variety of soap making stuff including oils, butters, and molds. I also bought some pellet bees wax and some colloidal oatmeal. I've got the dry winter skin and I hope the oatmeal will help me out when I put it in my bath. I think I'll make some bath milk with milk powder and the colloidal oatmeal. Having looked around on the web I can see that I could make my own colloidal oatmeal. We'll see how it works.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Lady Epiphany put up a post about report cards. She writes that she felt terrible on the few occasions that she didn't get a good grade. It got me to thinking about my own experience with grades. I too didn't like getting less than an A but I'm not sure where that drive came from. Not my father or mother I don't think. I spent first and second grade in Montessori School and I don't remember if we even had report cards. I suspect that the teachers just wrote out a report and that it didn't have actual grades. Then during the year I spent in Yugoslavia I did get grades but they were all excellent and I was duly praised. Is that the beginning? It's hard to say. I found school pretty easy. In fact I don't think I brought home less than an A until senior year of high school when I got a B in physics, mostly due to a serious case of senioritis. I did do badly on a couple of quizzes here and there and I hated it. But I think the drive for the grade was all me, part of my own perfectionist tendencies. At some point I began to hold myself to a high standard. In high school I found people even more driven than myself for the high grade. 94 was not good enough, it should be at least 97. Why did I come to this need? Maybe it was so the praise would keep coming? That I wanted to be seen in a certain way by those around me? I know that I have always wanted others to think well of me, to see me as competent and intelligent and capable. This has manifested in other ways. For example, I like to know how to do a thing before I try it in public. I don't like to have to ask for help (though I will ask for directions). And if there is a good chance of failure I have walked away or not tried at all. I took some gymnastics in grade school and was just terrible. After that I never went after any sport. I did not see myself as athletic so I didn't try. Not being one of the best feels bad. I really can't blame any of my parents. I don't believe that they gave me this. Had I failed at something in school they would have been supportive and kind. What's the conclusion? I suppose I don't have one. It seems that I brought myself here. But I have been trying to change. To let things go and to try when I'm not sure that I'll succeed. But what if I fail at that?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Book Covers

Jury duty has turned out pretty much as I expected. Some interest combined with some frustration and just a soupcon of humor. The most interesting thing so far is the juror next to me, number 14 (I'm number 13). She's an older woman, retired, you can see lots of her on the Upper East Side. But it turns out she's led a very interesting life. When she was in her 20's she was living and working in Vienna. She met some people who were planning an overland trip to Bangkok and she decided to go with them. They backpacked across Europe and the Middle East all the way to Thailand. Once she got there she was out of money so she got herself a teaching job and ended up living there for three years. More proof that you should never judge by appearances.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I recently acquired two new kitchen appliances. And they were both free, but for different reasons.
First is the yogurt maker. It was a present from my sister. It is really idiot proof. You buy a quart of milk -cow, goat, or soy- add some starter or plain yogurt directly to the carton, mix well, stick it in the holder and plug it in. 8-10 hours later you have yogurt. You can add flavoring or sweetener and you can make it thicker by adding powdered milk or pectin. That's it. I admit, I miss having little glass containers but I love the small footprint.
It's called the Miracle Yogurt Maker.

The second appliance is a crock pot. I got it through That's a yahoo group that allows you to offer or ask for free stuff. It's true, it's not very attractive and it needs a good scrubbing and it is an older model that doesn't have a removable insert but it was FREE. Can't beat that with a stick.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Today I gave myself a little present (in anticipation of my tax refund). I got a make-up lesson. It's something I've meant to do for some time. I never really learned how to put on make-up, especially eye make-up. The only person in our house who knew how to do it was Wendy and she was gone before I was old enough to really wear make-up. I did have a friend named Alina who was an artist. She had a huge eyeshadow collection and when I was in Junior High I would go to her house and she would play on my face. I remember once she did me all in gold tones. It was very striking. But it was all very dramatic and completely impractical. I wore the stuff every day in high school but it was just a little. I was mostly concerned with foundation. That I did get better at. Once I got to college I was sucked into tech theatre and anything extra went away. The nails got short and unpolished and the eye make-up disappeared entirely. Since then I have only worn make-up occasionally when I was going out. I stand there in front of the mirror, doing my best to follow vague instructions gleaned from books and magazines. The results are never satisfying. And I often think, "I should get someone to teach me how to do this". So today I did just that.

I went to the Dorit Baxter Day Spa. It is not a high end spa. This is immediately apparent when you enter. There are pitchers of lemon water but the furniture is a bit scruffy and there is a lack of embellishment. But the staff was friendly and I was not made to wait. The make-up artist was a good advertisement for spa services, her skin looked good and her hair was well styled. The effect was spoiled a bit by her leather pants but I could not hold it against her. She was also friendly and enthusiastic. She began by talking about eyebrow shape. She asked if I wanted her to go ahead and shape them. It was not included in the lesson and would be extra. I said sure, go ahead. You are now staring in disbelief at the screen. It's true, I have always strongly opposed such a procedure. Not on any moral grounds or out of doubt of its efficacy (I know it can have dramatic results) but because I know that once you start it is hard to stop. But I figured if I was going to do this I should go all the way. They will grow back and I may just let them go. We'll see.
She then moved on to cleansing, toning, and moisturizing. Knowing that she would want to sell some product I told her I had some that I liked very much. I did not tell her that I make them myself. I suspect she would have disapproved.
We moved on to concealer and foundation. She then applied some blush. This is where the first surprise came. She picked a bronzer for the purpose. I would not have chosen it but it looked good. Then she proceeded to line and shade my eye. Her mantra is "fill in only what is missing". Therefore, if you have eyes that slope down you fill in at the top edge and sweep up. On the other hand, if you have a lot of crease don't fill that in. And that dear friends, is where I had been going wrong. Make-up books can only take you so far. They deal in generalities and cannot address your particular issue. They deal mostly with eye shape and not droop of lid or the problems of down-turned corners. So they advise medium base on the bottom part, dark color in the crease, and highlighter on top, then blend. This is does not work for me and is the reason I was never satisfied with my attempts. Now I know. Some mascara and my eye was all set. She then put on some lipstick. This was the next surprise. It was a browny color, again one I would not have chosen but it looked good. I was now ready for day.
In order to get upgrade me for the evening she added some shadow under the eye to give it a smokey look and increased the bronzer a bit. This is when I got the biggest surprise. She put on this bright red lipstick and a coat of clear gloss. And it looked great! It would never have occurred to me. I have pale skin and small lips and so I tend to go for lighter colors. But in combination with the heavier eye make-up and the bronzer made it possible. I couldn't go out in the day with those bright red lips but for an evening out they'd be fabulous. Who knew?
I managed to leave without buying anything though she did give me a list of what she had used.

I don't think that I'm going to start wearing make-up every day but it is nice to know that I can do it well when I want to. I tried to take a picture of myself when I got home but it didn't come out well. You'll just have to wait until our next night out to see the results of my lesson.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


We interrupt your usual programming to bring you comfy cats.

We have some kisses too.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday Meme by Me

I have tagged myself for a meme posted by Lady Epiphany. I don't think all of mine worked out as well as hers but you can judge for yourself.

1. My Rock Star Name: Xanadu Amsterdam

2. My Movie Star Name: Draga Truffle

3. My "Fly Girl" Name: Snin

4. My Detective Name: Crimson Goat

5. My Soap Opera Name: Nina New York

6. My Superhero Name: The Scarlet Shiraz

7. Futuristic Name: Burberry Dr. Martens

So I think some of these worked out better than others. I also had a hard time picking a favorite color and animal. To make your own fabulous names do this:

1. (your first pet, a street name you lived on as a child)
2. (grandfather/grandmother on your mom's side, your favorite candy)
3. (first initial of your first name and first two or three letters of your middle name)
4. (favorite color, favorite animal)
5. (middle name, city where you were born)
6. ("The", your favorite color, your favorite drink)
7. (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne, the name of your favorite shoes)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

As Expected

Two days into hearing cases and we have divided into two groups. I am part of the larger group that understands our role. We decide if a crime was probably committed and if the defendant probably committed it. Period. Then there are those who seem to be unable to make this distinction. They also seem to want to hold the victim responsible. They wonder why it took so long for the victim to realize he was being victimized. They question the competence of his advisers. They want to know when he first realized there was a problem and so on. The bottom line, of course, is that all of that is irrelevant. The victim may be naive and need a keeper but that does not change the fact that the defendant committed the crime. That is the only question. One case in particular made me want to beat my head against the edge of the jury box. The ADA was very nice about it but I suspect she was beginning to feel put upon. It must be very frustrating not to be able to do some yelling about what is and is not relevant. We also have a Geoffrey. Some of you readers know what I mean. I don't think he will be punning but you never know. If you hear I have been arrested you will know what happened.