Monthly Archives: July 2010

Short-shorts

A short time Central Park could provide inspiration for a dozen stories. Just sitting on one bench for an hour introduced me to a couple of new characters I’m tucking away for later use. We are just two blocks from Central Park, and we are traveling with a seven-year-old, so we are seeing a lot of the park.

One of my favorite activities is to walk by the benches slowly enough to read the little plaques. (I am assuming that donors to the park were given a plaque in return for their gifts.) There are the predictable “Celebrating ten years of marriage” and quite a lot of simple memorials. There have been quit a few that are delectable morsels of short-short stories that peak the imagination.

One row of about ten benches all sported memorials to one guy named Andy, who died well loved by his “women walking buddies” various family and friends. Beyond that we don’t learn much about Andy other than he walked around Jerusalem and appeared to have died young.

This pair, found on two benches next to each other–a story of lovely, anonymous hope:

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String Camp

We’re in New York while Emma attends a “string camp.” Maybe it would be more accurate to say “THE string camp.” The list of instructors looks like a who’s-who of the violin and fiddle world.

http://www.bluegrassjournal.com/2010/05/12/mark-oconnor-anounces-teachers-for-2010-string-camps/

(sorry for the link, but the iPhone app for wordpress makes some things tricky)

Unlike any summer camp I’ve ever attended, this one is sans cabins, annoying ‘counselors’ and 2:00 raiding. Instead we are ‘roughing’ it in a corner suite of the Empire hotel. I blogged about our first day yesterday, but the iPhone appears to have eaten my post.

Lat night’s 9:00 orientation was a reminder of the night-time life musicians tend to lead. Even with our West-Coast head start Emma and I were yawning all three hundred feet back to the hotel. The camp sessions are during the day, but the jam sessions continue until Midnight.

The evening concerts are each night from 7:00 to 10:00 and are open to the public. The first hour are student performances and the last couple are teacher performances–including Mark O’Connor’s local quartet.

It’s going to be a very intensely musical week!

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Final Distribution

I was plowing through the fourteen inch stack of mail on my desk when I came across an envelope from the attorney my brother used to get through Mom’s estate stuff.   A few months ago, I marked the third anniversary of her death in this blog in Marking Time. Anyone who’s had a close relative die knows that death can be the start of an interminable string of paperwork, and court hearings.

My brother who lived in the same town as my mom ended up her personal representative and was charged with doing all the work.  I would chime in via email when asked about various issues, but I really like to think Ken had the freedom to pretty much just “take care of things.”  It’s not that I didn’t have opinions or concerns or didn’t want to be involved.  My distance from the process really had more to do with the fact he lives in Carson City, and I don’t.

(Another blog post comes to mind here, but I’ll tuck the one titled “Things to do before I Die so I don’t drive my children or other heirs insane or embarrass myself posthumously”  aside for another day.)

It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to open the envelope and find the letter from the attorney explaining that the enclosed document was the State of Nevada’s official form explaining the final distribution of my mom’s estate. Ken managed to sell the house a few months ago.  And, while I figured there would be some sort of final distribution to the four of us, I hadn’t thought about it for a while.   The words in the photo jumped out at me in black and white.

I had a renewed and profound sense of loss and sadness.  There is something so impersonal about seeing the words Final Distribution in legalistic capital letters like that.  While I suppose the legal work is officially complete, I can’t see it as an order to “be done now.”

Grief morphs over time.  I swing between sadness and anger, loss and nostalgia all the time.   I’m not done distributing my grief  in spite of what the State of Nevada might think about it.

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Water Woes

Oh yes. Again.

At least there’s no water damage this time.  For those of you who haven’t followed my life closely over the last few years, let me fill you in on some details.

In 2006, there was a very nasty windstorm in the Seattle area dubbed the “Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm.”  It happened in December and power was knocked out in the area. We were out of power for seven days, which turned out to be a blessing in some ways, but that’s beside the point.  Our house is built on a hill and has a fancy footing drain that takes water from the front of the house to the back when it rains heavily.  This drain failed because it was plugged with blackberry vines, and the sump pump in the basement had no power to take care of the water as it slowly filled that floor.  We had eight inches in the basement.  The cold weather prevented mold from growing as we waited for power to return so we could use blowers to dry things out.  We had to replace the carpeting, the furniture, the computers and repaint the walls.

Okay, not our cats, not our sink--but close enough and too cute not to share.

A year and a half ago, the kittens were in the laundry room late one night playing with the laundry room sink faucets.  The sink is directly above the library.  I woke to the sound of pitiful kitty cries and a sense of displacement to the waterfall sounds within the house.  Let’s just summarize by saying water flows in strange ways when it travels from one floor to the next–the water missed the musical instruments and most of the books in the library.     And I had a new-found appreciation for how USAA insurance jumps in to help.

These things don’t sound so bad when I look at them, but at the time they were pretty darn traumatic.  Then, we had the issue with the Water Association insisting we put a second water line up to our guest house.  Fine.  We paid for it.  Then we had this leak in the system that ended up with $1000 water bills for months on end before we could figure it out.  Great.   We hired a company that empties the water lines and fills them with a gas and walks around with special stethoscope to listen for the leak.  Another chunk-o-change, and we experience our first “regular” bill of $30 a month.  That’s been fixed for a while now.

The water we get from the street has almost zero pressure.  So, we have a pump on each service that provides us with pressure.  It draws the water from the street up to the houses and pushes it through so that we can fill a glass of water in a few seconds rather than, say half a minute.

Pump

Sort of like this.

Now, I finally get to this week’s water woe.  They are adding a road behind us and the water district had to rebuild their lines up an adjacent street.  To do so, they turned off our water.  They didn’t tell us exactly when they were going to turn off the water, either.  We knew, vaguely, that it would happen and the first time it was off it was for about half an hour.  Then, it went off for a whole day.  When the work was done, our pumps started doing some strange things.  It started with the first pump to the guest cottage.  Then the pump to our house…and now both of them are cycling non-stop even when we are not running water at either location.  Sighs.

The plumber is sure it’s due to the fact that grit was somehow introduced into the system during the  road work.  Still, it’s a huge pain to have to repair and replace the water pumps.  At least water seems to be our main bugaboo on this property.  Not like we have to worry about…say…changing light bulbs.

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The Green Bean Conspiracy

The only green beans I'm finding today are on the web.

Okay,maybe it’s exaggeration to go all conspiracy theory here.  I don’t really think that there are people out there plotting against my salad Nicoise plans for dinner tonight.  But tell me people, when was the last time you went to two different grocery stores, at two different times of day and found absolutely no green beans in the produce department?    I’m flummoxed.  And annoyed.  The apologetic guy at PCC wasn’t even sure if they’d be getting any in, but thought maybe later today he would know.  Last night, the produce guy at Whole Foods was “hoping for some soon.”  What the hell?  It’s not exactly like green beans are a rare vegetable.

I have beautiful potatoes from the garden that Bill dug up last night.  Bill picked the last head of unbolted and edible lettuce last night.   We have a jar of imported Spanish tuna that is just waiting to be used up.  We even have home-grown shallots for the dressing!   The tomatoes from the store are red and taste like they should for a change.  The only thing I’m missing is the green beans.  Maybe it’s just me, but I just couldn’t buy the yellow wax beans the guy at PCC pointed out as an alternative.  It’s just not the same.  I just don’t get it.  How can there be no beans in the middle of July?

edit, later in the day:  I found some green beans.  They are not from a farmer’s market, nor are they particularly petite.  They are however, organic, green and free of blemishes.  My dinner plans are saved.

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Dissecting the Cherimoya

The most recent issue of Fine Food came with a Cherimoya Lime sorbet that looked too good to pass up.   We first encountered this fruit about a year ago.  We bought one, brought it home, cut it up and immediately spit it out.  It turns out that the Cherimoya is one of those fruits you have to “learn about” to enjoy.  A friend of ours explained how it had to get brown and soft before you eat it.  We bought another one a month or two ago and waited diligently for the hard bitter interior to ripen and soften into the creamy sweet yumminess that is “Cherimoya.”

The turned out interior.

When we saw the sorbet recipe, I knew I wanted to make it.  Not finding any cherimoyas at the local regular stores, I found myself near an Uwajimaya and wandered in.  Ignoring the hefty per pound price, I bought what I needed for the sorbet and took it home.  They were already store-ripened.    When I got them home, I made the sugar syrup and set it aside and set to work scooping out the pulp of the fruit.  Three pounds of the little globes produced about what I needed for the recipe.  After the first piece was cut up, I figured out a little trick to make it easier to handle.  Cut the fruit into quarters or eighths.  Then, fold it back against itself like you do when you’ve cut a mango into blocks.  The individual seed pods separate like magic giving your finger’s easy squeezing access to push the seeds out.  Pop the skin back into it’s original shape, and you can scoop out the sweet creamy interior easy-peasy.

All served up.

The recipe calls for three cups pulp, one cup sugar syrup, a couple tablespoons fresh lime juice and a teaspoon of lime peel.  Once those are all pulverized and blended in the food processor, the mixture is set to chill until ready to churn.  I used my old fashioned electric ice cream maker complete with ice and salt because the batch was too big for my little freezer style maker.  Half an hour under the beater, and I had a thick creamy looking sorbet.  I let my mixture sit overnight, so it turned a sort of funky pinkish brown color.  Everyone agreed, though…the final product was worth the little effort it took to make.

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Picky Feet

I’ll start with a disclaimer that I have told Emma that I’m posting this, and she said, and I don’t dare quote her directly, something to the effect that it’s okay to post this because any of her friends reading this will know about her pickiness already.

Sort of like this, but Sparkly Red and White...

My daughter has a checkered record when it comes shopping.  When I take her shopping with me when I’m buying clothing, I can trust her judgement about whether something fits me, looks okay on me or should be tossed aside.  She pulls no punches and gives an honest and fashionable opinion.  It turns out, she’s a really good fashion guide and has an awesome eye.  When she’s shopping for herself, she will not buy something if I tell her it looks fine unless she likes the way it feels and looks.  She doesn’t just say, “well it sort of fits, so I’ll get it.”

That last statement is oh, so true, when you’re overweight, by the way.  When you’re packing extra inches, anytime something covers the areas you want to cover without stretching taught is purchasable.   Getting out of that habit has taken some time.  I’m having tons of fun buying clothing at “real stores” and shops that have “regular sizes” and are “form-fitting.”

However, the most painful shopping experiences I’ve ever had have been when shoe shopping with my daughter.  When she as young, we spent several hours at the “Shoe Zoo”–an AWESOME shoe store in our area–trying on everything imaginable.  We went through 52 pairs of shoes.  This is no exaggeration.   She was too young to articulate what was wrong with the shoes we were trying on.  The poor clerk was practically in tears when the owner came back from errands or whatever he was doing.

He looked at the clerk and said he’d help.  He picked up Emma’s foot and looked at it and had her pick out the shoe she liked the best.  She pointed to a red and white leather oxfordy looking thing and he put it on her foot.  After a couple of minutes poking around at the foot and shoe he told us to relax while he went into the back.  After a short while, he returned with the shoe and put it on her foot.  Her eyes lit up and she announced them, “comfortable.”   He had rebuilt the foot bed of the show.  It turns out that Emma has unbelievably high arches.

We’ve graduated from 52 pairs at one sitting to much fewer.  She outgrew the Shoe Zoo, much to our sadness, and moved up to Shoes’N’Feet in Bellevue.  Our first visit there, she picked out fifteen pairs that she thought she might like.  The clerks looked at her naked food and took away half without letting her try them on.  They know feet, and they know shoes!

Over the years, Emma has learned what works and what doesn’t.  She’s become articulate in a way that borders on obsessiveness.  But it has helped her become her own shopping advocate.  She can pass up certain brands by simply knowing they will never fit her foot.  She can stick her hand in the shoe and feel around for the seams that drive  her nuts, and check out the sole to see if there’s any support at all.

The boots of repair hell.

Earlier this spring, we had a shopping Nirvana at Fluevog.  She found and tried on about ten possible pairs before these boots.  The were a perfect match from the first moment she tried them on.   Not only did they fit “her style” they fit her feet! One should note that Fluevogs are hand-made in Portugal and sport a hefty pricetag that would make one think they would be…well…durable.   My personal experience with their shoes has been awesome, and every company has mistakes in its inventory.  Apparently the entire shipment of these boots had heel problems of one sort or another.  She wore these for about a week before I had to take them in to be repaired.  WHICH, Fluevog did for free, by the way.  I really like their styles and their shoes, and their customer service is awesome.  I just wished these boots had held up to the use of a teenager who walks a mile or more in them every day.

Come to yesterday.  We are going to New York in a few weeks where Emma will be attending a violin camp put on by Mark O’Connor.  It’s very exciting, as we are all going, and we’re going on foot. I looked at her sandals and realized they are about three years old, falling apart and all stretched across the top a few weeks ago.  We’ve had one trip to a store that ended in nothing being bought, so I wasn’t looking forward to searching again.  I fed her a good Dan-Dan noodle lunch and took her to the Walking Company at the mall.  (Shoes-n-Feet was closed for the 5th of July and missed out on our business this year.)  Go figure.

Brownie-Plum Comfort!

She tried on ten pairs.  Found four that fit and would be good for her feet.  I’m still in shock.  She now has a pair of Dansko’s for the long hours on her feet in hot weather in New York, and two fairly cute pairs of Naot’s that she can walk comfortably in. I think we’re looking at a near normal level of picky-feetedness.

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