Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Post Birthday and Thanksgiving Update

I turned 46 about a week ago.

Not very thrilling, exciting, or interesting. You get to a certain point in life and birthdays are just days. Although it was kind of cool getting a constant barrage of birthday wishes from people on Facebook, starting with the Russians and Ukranians, and moving westward across the globe. That put a smile on my face. And most of them were not just "happy birthday" written on my wall but really sweet messages of love from friends.

Who needs a card or gifts. They are so overrated. Real love and kindness outweigh.

My actual birthday was on a Monday and I didn't really want to go out on a Monday. I had suggested to Doug that we go out on Sunday night but ... he wrinkled his nose and said "but football. And it's not your birthday so no." I schlepped myself home from work, and all three of my family members were ready to go out. Geoff had finished his homework, Jess had CLEANED A LOT OF THE HOUSE which is a gift far greater than anything in a box, and that made me feel much better about going and spending time with them. I usually just want to watch Monday Night Football and go to sleep when I get home.

 At the restaurant, when the girl asked if I wanted dessert I said "It's my birthday so I'll have another glass of wine instead," and she brought me wine AND dessert. Really super helpful when you're accounting for your sugars coming from the alcohol and you don't want ACTUAL sugars. Hmmm. Luckily, everyone at the table had at it. I had a small bite of the ice cream and I ate the strawberry.

That's about as exciting as it got. I'm 4 years from 50 and a thousand miles from the 17 year old I sometimes think I am.

As many of you know, during the summer Doug and I went to a friend's house to help dispatch some chickens.

These same friends repeat the deed with turkeys, and I didn't go on this trip but Doug did. He came home with a 27 pound turkey.

For four of us. My parents had plans and the other people I'd asked to come over all had plans too. I figured he'd come home with a bird, I had no idea it would be the size of a truck

Doug put it in the oven at 10pm the night before Thanksgiving at about 190 degrees. He said it would be done around 10am, we'd go to the last home Varsity football game of the year, and make the sides and whatnot and eat by 2pm. He was pretty spot on with his estimate. It was done a little earlier than he'd thought it would be, so we tented it and left Jess home with the task of the pies and the green bean casserole. She didn't get to the mashed potatoes and stuffing part of things so I whipped those up and we did, indeed, eat at 2.

The turkey was fantastic - just quite possibly the best turkey we've ever had. Farm raised, hand cared for, perfect. I don't think I can ever get a grocery store turkey again. It was more expensive per pound (but seriously, only like a buck more a pound) and we ate off of it all week. And I have 2 pots of stock, one of which I have to portion into smaller containers and freeze... not sure how that's all going to fit in the freezer...

The Thanksgiving football game was really good. Our team won big (45-12 I think) and there were more people there than I've ever seen anywhere in my life. No room in the stands, so we stood on the sidelines and chatted with a dad whose son graduated last year and got his Eagle. Geoff has always looked up to Steve, and his dad is really nice, so it was great to catch up with them both.

Geoff had a rough end to the season as I mentioned in the last entry. He pretty much decided that he wasn't going to suit up for the game because it was stupid and a waste of time. He didn't last year. But I think some of the guys talked to him and convinced him to come and suit up. So he did, and he had a great time, and was very happy. A better note to end the season on than the Thursday prior with their game getting canceled and him getting pissed off about the season getting ruined.

He told me there is a "70% chance" that he'll play next year. I hope he does. While he had a really rough time personally for a couple of weeks, I think in the end he got a lot out of the process and has learned a lot about himself and others.

 Steve told him that Junior and Senior year you get to play a lot more and it is a lot more fun. Freshman team is fun and Sophomores are kind of lost in the shuffle, but he encouraged Geoff a lot and I'm glad for that.

You can't quite see it but Geoff decided to do No Shave November, or Movember, or whatever people call it. He looks like an Amish kid with the long curly hair and the beard but no real visible mustache. He shaved it off this weekend because he just couldn't stand it anymore. I thought that was funny. It looked cute.

I guess that's it. I can't think of anything else.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The final game - ruined

Geoff's freshman squad had their final game of the year scheduled today. He was pumped and psyched for it, really couldn't wait to play and was very much looking forward to the great big finale.

His coach emailed me at about 1pm with bad news, and surprisingly it had nothing to do with Geoff and his attitude or any other problems with him.

Seems about 10 of the freshmen on the opposing team were suspended. The coach told me it was for bullying. Geoff said that the rumor mill at his school was that they were smoking pot and ganged up on other players who didn't want to.

Doug and I were sad and shocked, and I have to say I was incredibly relieved that  nothing that happened had anything to do with Geoff.

In the greater scheme of things, when I look on Geoff and I look at kids his age, I need to stop and be so incredibly thankful that he is the person he is.

He never lies to me. I sometimes doubt his stories, and have to double check stuff he tells me, but he never lies. Never.

He can be exceptionally kind, surprisingly so. We were at the market on Thursday and he saw the mom of one of his friends loading her car up. He ran over to her and said "May I help you unload your cart and take it for you?" She looked stunned and thanked him but she was all set. She looked at me with this big smile and said "he really is the most kind of all the kids I know."

I feel that football this year could have worked out so much better for him, and I'm relieved it is over and we don't have to think about it any more. I think he is required to suit up for the Thanksgiving game, but if he isn't required, if it is optional, I'm not going to make him do it.

If you have read this blog over the last 12 years, you know this boy makes my head explode sometimes.

But the long and the short of it is that he is a fantastic person and I need to be more thankful for him and the young man he is becoming. 

A Rant about Adobe Scene7

In my happy little part time job, where I work (like I am right now) in B's living room with the chickens strutting along the patio, and the woodstove cranking, and the bearded collie sleeping at my feet, I am truly happy.

Unless I have to work with Adobe Scene7.

What is Adobe Scene7? Well, this wikipedia article pretty much accurately sums it up. It is a "rich media" management tool, web based (although you can buy a desktop version of it) where you can build catalogs, emails, presentation marketing packages and all kinds of things.

You may have used Adobe Scene7 as a consumer as mostly retailers use this program to build their online catalogs. A viewer can zoom in, rotate, change colors of items to see what they'll look like (oh, this dress is lovely in puce! Not so lovely in orchid).

Our customers upload media into Scene7, our software helps build the online shopping experience.

One of the things I have been trying to do FOR WEEKS is get a "universal viewer" to work so one of our clients can have their sales reps carry around an iPad or other tablet device, instead of 6 print catalogs, one of which weighs a million pounds because it is so full of stuff.

Some days, the links work, the previews generate, everything looks great. I go back to it the next day and the exact same links render differently, don't pop up in a new window the same size as they did the day before.

It is almost like there is a ghost in the machine.

The Adobe support for this product is horrible. Their in house support says "reupload your content and try again." Thanks. I've done that. They referred me to a creative partner, and this creative partner charged us by the hour, and we still don't have a solution. She was nice and all and came back a few times with "there is a configuration error on their end in the server, they're fixing it. But now something totally different is wrong.

I'm frustrated with Scene7, I WANT IT TO WORK because in theory, it is pretty bad ass. But right now, I have a migraine, I want to throw my laptop into the woodstove and blind kittens and drown puppies.

There, I got it out of my system.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Yesterday at the cooking school we hosted the second of four workshops on Macarons. The workshops have been sold out for weeks, which is great. And we are really excited to offer them again in the new year, along with two other classes. One in Pate a Choux (sorry, I can't make little accenty things, not sure how to do that) and French Fruit Tarts.

If you are not sure what a macaron is, it is different from macaroon. Which most of my people will know about. A coconutty little delight usually enjoyed around the Jewish holidays. Macarons, pronounced slightly differently due to the lack of that extra O, are a meringue and almond shell with a flavored filling. The  shells can be flavored too but not with too much liquid or with anything with high oil content. They are primarily the "bun" to the little "burger" of sweet flavory goodness. And the fillings are where the flavor lies.

The Patissier, Jackie Lee Donabed, runs what I'd call a nano-bakery (like nano-brewery, only for baking) called The Blue Macaron. Classically trained in all of the french confectionery arts, Jackie designed this workshop as a four hour long in-depth training in these little pillows of sugary delight.

The entire first hour plus was demonstration. The six students watched as Jackie made a batch of macarons from scratch, talked about all the things that could possibly go wrong, all the ways to make it go right. She whipped the egg whites, made the almond "flour", heated the sugar, brought it all together and showed the technique of folding the dough all together and piping it onto the trays. She then made a salted caramel filling, put it all together and it was delightfully wicked and delicious.

The students in the class then got their turn. Having watched step by step, she had them execute. For the most part they did everything exactly right... with a few mixing hiccups. Discussions about what went wrong "so you know next time" mostly concerned the folding of the flour and the meringue together. Doing it too hard crushes the proteins in the egg whites. And a few of the students had shells that were not perfect but now they know.

The students were encouraged to use food coloring for their shells, and they made their choice of minty chocolate or spicy chocolate ganache for the fillings.

The results were colorful and delightful.

All told, the amount of work that goes into one of these suckers is STAGGERING to me... queen of the toll house cookie and the quickbread. I will never ever question why they are so expensive again. To make a dozen, it literally takes more than an hour. Go ahead and measure that against a banana bread, even if you make a cream cheese frosting.

They are delicious, little heavenly pillows that you bite into, and the shell dissolves in your mouth and the filling dances around the melting meringue... it's sublime.

Our students yesterday were hard on themselves for not having perfect results. The shells were all different sizes, the fillings were uneven... too much in some not enough in another. Learning that delicate balance from the act of folding and mixing to the piping and twirling, the filling and resting... all of these come second nature to Jackie as a professional. The students need not be ashamed. They did a fantastic job.

All told, not a bad way to spend four hours on a Sunday afternoon.  Pictures? Of course.

The first batch ...

Jackie Lee Donabed, our Patissier

Pipe, press, twirl. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Erin approves!

The students become the masters.

good sizes, a little too close together.

Orange is an interesting choice of colors...

the ready to bake macarons wait...

Piping, piping, piping!

Look at those perfect little "feet" on the macarons!
That's the goal.

fililng, filling, filling...

a finished collection. Beautiful.

The light at the end of the football tunnel

I'm up very early on a Monday USA holiday (and I think a holiday elsewhere maybe... I should look that up) where most people have the day off but some, like my husband do not. I always like Monday holidays, because they make that lovely weekend thing extra long.

I'm actually going into work but not until later. Geoff's football team has a game at 10am at another high school, so I'm going to go to that game and leave straight from there.

Geoff hasn't fared very well in the last couple of weeks with football. He was off to a great (and impressive) start and just sort of self destructed. Twice now I've been called and asked to take him home from practice, the second time was bad enough that he asked to go see his psychologist, whom he rarely sees because he says he just "doesn't need to."

I'm incredibly glad that Geoff recognized in himself that he needed to go talk to someone, and made the request. The season hasn't gone well, mostly because he kind of feels he doesn't have a place. The coaching staff, or maybe the school district, made a weird choice about teams. There is usually a Freshman team, a JV team and a varsity team. They didn't have enough kids to field a JV team, so they put all the 10th graders on Varsity (and hardly any of them have had a chance to play) and Geoff got assigned to Freshmen, which pissed him off to no end.

Turns out that was a good choice, for Geoff. Which is why he was doing well. He knew the drills, knew what to do, and kind of at times exhibited some leadership, according to his coaches.

But in the last 4 weeks they've been playing JV games with other school districts who didn't field a Freshmen only team, or schools that had enough kids for JV and Freshmen. So the JV guys are getting to play, and the Freshmen, who were doing well and getting gelled together and stuff, are now standing on the sidelines. Geoff gets to play one or two plays in a game so he feels like he's taken a step back and it upsets and frustrates him..

And I think this and the season and the whole thing has worked his last nerve. He's sick of it. He's incredibly sick of it all. He's sick of practice, he's sick of the guys, he's sick of running, he's sick of drills.

He started working out for this season at the end of June, so I can see why he's sick of it. But there are only two weeks left, and it isn't worth self-destruction to get out of things at this point. Just... see it through to the end and the light at the end of the tunnel is not a freight train coming your way buddy.

I've been kind of disappointed too, but I'm also incredibly proud of him. He's done great work. He has hung in there, made some new friends. He looks great - dropped about 20 pounds and looks kind of super. He's kept all of his school work organized and his grades are doing well, so he's managed to balance everything he needs to balance in order to be on a team, dedicate 3 hours a day during the week and most of his entire Saturdays or Friday nights to, and done a good job of it.

But... I don't know if it is all worth it though. For the same amount of money he could have joined the YMCA for a year.

He told me there is "only a 70% chance he'll play next year" the other day. I told him not to think about next year, but get through this one. I am taking my camera to the game today, and since Doug is not with me I am not compelled to sit in the stands with him.... and I can prowl and take some pictures.

It is a beautiful day out so ... let's seize it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Voting Stickers - a brief rant

So today is Election Day all around America. Dozens of my friends on facebook and in their blogs or on their twitters or wherever are posting that they voted. Great. Good on ya.

But many of them are posting pictures of stickers that they got at their polling place. Complete with big shit-eating grins of how proud they are that they got them a sticker. For voting.

And some of them are pissed off that their polling place doesn't HAVE stickers.

To this, I say, What the hell do you need a sticker for? Are you in elementary school? Did you do a good job on your homework? Were you nice to a kid in the hallway and a teacher saw you and gave you a sticker as a reward?

What the hell, America? You're not five years old already. Grow up. I pooped today, did anyone give me a sticker? I ate lunch today... Any sticker for me? I did my job for 6 hours today, does that garner a sticker?

Look, it's your right as a citizen to vote. You register, you vote, you participate. If you choose not to participate, that's fine too. It's your right. You don't get rewarded with cute assed little stickers that you'll peel off and maybe stick in the trash or in a little chotchkes album or whatever.

Be fucking thankful no one cut your hand off for voting. Or shot at you. Or tried to blow up your polling station.

Just do it and get on with your life. And stop acting like you deserve a trinket to show everyone what a big boy or girl you are.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Sandy from the Eyes of Long Island

Some of you may know I grew up in Huntington NY, on the North Shore of LI.

When I left for college in 1984, I swore I would never go back. I wasn't happy on Long

Island. Everyone was cramped into a small space, I grew up in "the projects" and I really wanted to be in a place that had space, had mountains, had elbow room. Wide open spaces, room to make my own mistakes, as it were.

I went to college North of Boston, in a place with lots of elbow room. I met and married my husband in college, who grew up in a place with lots of elbow room. I went on trips to places with mountains and plains and big wide rivers. I knew I would never go back to apartment buildings, mass transit nightmares, pushing and shoving, New York.

When we got married, we lived in a couple of towns where the elbow room was lacking, one very affluent town and one rather not so bright and shiny city. Eventually landed in super small town spaciousness up near the Merrimack River. And I have enjoyed making this town my town.

My visits to Long Island are few and far between. My sister and her husband still live there. My parents moved up to Cape Cod several years ago, so a lot of times holidays take place there, or here, and rarely at my sister's because to be honest, it is an epic and horrifying pain in the ass to go to Long Island.

9/11 happened, and it made me suddenly incredibly proud to be a New Yorker. I had walked away from the crowds and the insanity of city and "Island" life. But all of a sudden I realized watching what was going on there that this was really a part of me, a part of my heart and soul. Remembering being at the top of the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers, so many times... Remembering taking Doug there, the boy from Wide Open Spaces USA, for the first time. He'd never seen an Hasidic Jew. It blew his mind.

I realized that my bluntness, my sarcasm and my sometimes too big a heart all come from growing up there. It made me who I am. And the smile of being proud that the people there who never walked away from the City, but loved it and stayed there and took care of it were taking care of each other.

Fast forward 11 or so years to this week, and Hurricane Sandy.

Knowing that we all make fun of the storm alerts and the 24/7 news cycle and the "French Toast Warnings," I thought why the heck are they making such a big fuss over a Category 1 hurricane. It'll be like any other wind and rain storm that we get here all the time. Panties were in a bunch everywhere. And I felt relatively calm and assured when I realized the storm was going to take a left turn before making it to my house.

As everyone knows, it beat the shit out of lower Manhattan, Long Island, the Connecticut Shore, the Jersey Shore and Staten Island. Really beat the shit out of it. Like none of us even imagined.

And now I'm sitting up here in the north country, in the wide open spaces, watching Facebook updates from friends who still don't have power, friends who have run out of gas and fresh water because they either didn't plan or didn't take it seriously. I'm watching my sister and my friends waiting for things to get back to normal... each of them have their house standing and while food may be rotten and in the trash at least there is a roof overhead and the promise that it will all be okay.

A lot of people are not convinced that the chaos is as widespread as it is. But it is. When I look geographically at the location of each of my friends who are dealing with this, it stretches from the East End of Long Island up into northern New Jersey and down to the Shore, the entire shore, of that state. Friends in Maryland and Delaware are also recovering from this experience.

My friend Tracey wrote this on Facebook yesterday, and I asked her permission to share it here. I am watching from a distance as my friends are living in the middle of what is on the very edge of turning into Thunderdome.

Update Storm Sandy aftermath – Chaos transitions into anarchy on the quaint north shore of Long Island as gasoline shortages now pit one struggling human being against another. Police abandon intersections, where they have been stationed controlling traffic, to surround any gasoline locations that are lucky enough to have both electric (to pump) and petrol (in the tanks). Lines are miles long. We’re being told that the situation is being driven, primarily, by the inability of the big gasoline tanker trucks to actually get & transport the gasoline to the gas stations in order for the people to get it.

Cars that run out of gasoline while waiting in line are just abandoned and pushed off the road. People (in full blown panic) running up ahead of the line trying to fill random containers with gas, like Poland Springs water jugs, are restrained & explode with emotion. Businesses/homes that had been lucky enough to run on generators thus far, are going down like dominos – unable to power their generators with gasoline any longer. In this way… conditions, ever changing, continue to deteriorate in the wake of Storm Sandy - uncertainty becoming the only constant.

All of the gas stations are surrounded by yellow ‘do not cross’ police tape. You know who is pumping, from a distance, from the number of police cars with lights flashing that surround – and the mobs of people trying to get through the police lines.

There is not a D-cell battery ANYWHERE to be found, at this point. People who had been running their cars to look for supplies (batteries, ice, etc…) or to charge laptops/cellphones with car charges are no longer able to do so. The guy smiling at you in the hour+ long coffee line at the Dunkin' Donuts would kill you for the few gallons of gasoline in your car. He lies to you, with his eyes, when he pretends he’s not thinking exactly that.

Where will we go from here?

It  sounds a little dramatic, a little hyperbolic, but really... it's not. And this is town by town by town across a several hundred mile long area.

Here's to hoping it gets better soon. And that no more weather arrives to pose further problems. 

stupid move...

When I moved the blog over here, I removed all of the html pages for the old blog entries from my old domain, but left the folders with the pictures in them up there so they'd be handy, and because they are referenced here in this blog from the cutting and pasting and moving over that I did ...

and now I accidentally deleted the images folder from the old site. and I do not have some of the folders locally on this laptop, so I can't replace them all.

When I try to do something that I think will be helpful to me, I end up screwing everything up. And that is just epic and stupid.

Makes me want to go back to bed... because now, I kind of need to rebuild all those folders or hand insert all the pictures BACK into this blog, entry by entry.