Tuesday, November 30, 2010

caught (lyn)

Julie and I are seeing a screening of Mike Leigh’s new movie, Another Year.  When she suggests dinner I say, “Yes, of course,” and then agonize over where to eat.  Three criteria must be met:  inexpensive, healthy, and near the screening room.  I do a Google search of cheap eats in midtown and come up with the perfect sounding place, Macaron Café, described as, “your explicit shop to indulge in French culinary tradition with impeccable service and love.”  This little café lives up to its reputation. 

It’s a teeny tiny place.  Our small table is so small that we need two if we want our food to fit.  Julie and I both have a Venezia salad (arugula, artichokes, bresaola, tomatoes, fennel, pine nuts, red marinated peppers, and parmesan cheese).  The dressing is some kind of mustardy thing.  It is truly one of the best salads I’ve ever had.  I have an impeccably made cappuccino for dessert, along with the little café’s signature macaron cookies-one in pumpkin and one in raspberry.  At $20, it qualifies as a cheap eat, but the sophisticated food belies the category.
I get home from the movie late and see the big police trailer still parked in front of my apartment.  This morning at 5:40 I was awakened by the rotating green light that sits atop this large vehicle and blinks in my bedroom window.  I knock on the trailer door and a young policeman answers.  I ask him if he could please not turn on the rotating blinking light this evening.  He tells me not to worry.  “We’re moving out in a couple of hours.  We caught the guy.”  I can’t believe it.  In a city of 8.4 million, New York’s finest are able to find the upper eastside robber.  I lose a pair of glasses in my own apartment and they are never found again.  I am in awe.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

hubris (lyn)

Not often do I remember when I learned the definition of a word.  But I remember this one.

It was around 1978 and I was living in Chicago.  My boyfriend at the time was talking and used the word hubris.  I had never heard the word before and did not know its meaning.  He explained it to me, and while I remembered its definition, in 32 years I can’t ever recall using it.    But twice this week I thought of it.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I was excessively confident about my ability to eat whatever I wanted, knowing that any weigh I gained would be temporary.  Applying the word hubris to my behavior may have been a stretch, but I did think of it as I had my second helping of pie on Thanksgiving day, having just had a burger and fries the night before.

Tonight I think of it again.  Robyn and I see a screening of the movie Inside Job, about the global financial meltdown of 2008.  Unlike other catastrophic disasters, this one is manmade.  And most horrifying, the people making it still refuse to admit to any wrongdoing.  Most of them are still in powerful positions.  These are brilliant men (yes, they are mostly men) whose motivation for wealth lets them justify their actions.  Heads of investment banks.  World-renowned economists.  Smart scholars.  All of them have become exceedingly wealthy as the rest of us have lost jobs, houses, and life savings.  

I read a definition that says, “In many cases, people overcome by hubris will bring about their own downfall.”  Shamefully in this case that hasn’t happened.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

as expected (lyn)

I step on the scale this morning and weigh 123.2, up 3.2 pounds since leaving four days ago.  Time to start tracking again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

home sweet home (lyn)

It’s a marathon trip home.  It takes 7 hours to go 236 miles.  Flying is not a good option.  

Everything at the airport turns out to be quick and easy, but because we can’t anticipate the experience, we need to allow for the extra time.  Plus there is the Phyllis-factor.  My mom gets very nervous when anyone has to be anywhere at a certain time.  She anticipates all reasonable and unreasonable possibilities for missing our plane. There could be bridge traffic. An unpredicted snowstorm could suddenly disrupt the calm of a clear November sky.  The Delta pilot could inexplicably decide to leave Logan ahead of schedule.  You just never know.

Alexander and I again end up at the airport early.  This time, we are at the gate two hours and 10 minutes ahead of schedule.  Despite having had a big half sandwich of cranberry chicken salad, I’m hungry.  Alexander gets two orders of French fries (he decides the first isn’t big enough) and I have a Starbucks coffee, one of their large chocolate chip cookies, and a few of Alexander’s fries.  Having the extra time probably adds an extra 1,000 calories.

We land in New York around 7:30, but then need to find our way to Jamaica Station via the airtrain.  I incorrectly follow a few signs and almost board a train going in the wrong direction.  Alexander comments, “If you weren’t with me you’d probably end up in actual Jamaica.”

We get home and are greeted by an unfamiliar sight: a big police van, a police car with two friendly officers inside, and a large group of policemen congregating in front of our apartment building.

Oh, and a wanted picture of a menacing-looking guy is posted in our lobby’s front window. 

Apparently there have been five women attacked and robbed on the Upper Eastside in the past few days and command central has been set up at our front door.

Welcome home.  It feels good to be back.

Friday, November 26, 2010

the day after (lyn)

I skip the big egg and fresh ham breakfast but more than make up for it later in the day.

After hours of discussion (or so it seems), we answer the burning question that keeps getting asked, “So, what are we doing today?”  Our choices are limited.  We rule out shopping (“Why would we want to do that here?”).  We decide against bowling (“I am not wearing shoes that a million other people have worn.”).  No one is interested in the local theater production of the The Nutcracker. And so we decide to do what we knew we’d do all along, see a movie.  Picking one though, takes tremendous research and thought.  Michael and I are the experts but our opinions are not sought.  Outside research is required.  We narrow it down to three movies and use IMDB and Apple movie trailers before 10 of 11 of us agree on Love and Other Drugs, a quasi-romantic comedy. The movie doesn’t start until 4.

My parents stay home and we take two cars over to Mashpee Commons.  But before leaving, we pose for photos in front of my parents’ house: one of the six grandkids, and then one of the  three daughters and two husbands.

Once in Mashpee, we abandon our plans to just walk around and end up at Bobby Byrnes to have lunch.  This time I order the three lobster sliders and a small salad.  I wisely skip the French fries and one of the small slider buns.  Not much of a concession but hey, it’s something.

The movie is entertaining enough, though certainly not memorable.  I have some of my sister’s popcorn; it is so much better (and of course more fattening) than the bland, tasteless-but filling-one-point popcorn I’m accustomed to eating.

We get home in time for dinner, another gigantic-caloric event.

Lasagna.  Eggplant Parmesan.  Caesar salad.  Leftover desserts from last night.  Entirely new offerings of laugh-out-loud good humor.  And one big family photo.

lunch at the toyota dealership (m)

Friday.  Day after Thanksgiving.  Wake up with a food hangover--first time in over a year.  Skip breakfast because I'm punishing myself for yesterday.

Take the Highlander in for a regular service check-up.  Now that H is driving this car, there's more incentive to stay on top of these things.  Arrive with a tote bag full of diversions for me--Blackberry, iPad, book.  The service attendant tells me to make myself comfortable in the lounge.  He estimates two hours for the service call.

Station myself at a table with two chairs, one to put my stuff on and one to sit in.  Start by cleaning my purse.  Feel virtuous as I get a lot of sales receipts, gum wrappers, and dead lipstick tubes out of there.

My stomach is growling.  I look up and see a snack bar--pastries, bagels, cream cheese.  Can't go there.  I get up and get a hot green tea.  An hour later, I truly am hungry.  There's a box of Lipton Cup a Soups.  Calorie count is low but 540 grams of sodium is a lot for me.  I'll swell up like a float at the Macy's parade. The hot chocolate looks good but no calorie information.

And then, across from the snack station, over by the recycling, I see my lunch.  Apples, bananas and bottled water.  Why did they hide the good stuff there?  I take a small apple and a small banana and a bottle of water.  I feel even more virtuous.

I saunter over to the "living room"--leather chairs and the television with Kathy Lee and Hoda on and spot a People Magazine with Kate and William on the cover.  Just as I'm in pig heaven eating my banana, drinking my water, and reading about Kate's family, the attendant comes over and tells me I'm all set to leave.

Aww.  I was just getting comfortable.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

a happy thanksgiving (lyn)

My sisters and their families arrive today.  Later, my aunt and her husband come.  Then Cynthia and Elizabeth.  And finally, my nephew, his wife and the star of the day-their 2-year old daughter Avalie.  

In total, 20 of us celebrate Thanksgiving together. 

My immediate family of 13 is all dressed, ready and hungry by 1.  The other guests have been invited for 3:30.  It’s a long wait.  Appetizers are put out early but we are told not to eat until everyone arrives.  It’s not easy sitting around oozing baked brie, crackers, shrimp cocktail,  creamed herring, and those little pigs in a blanket.  But somehow we manage.

By 4:30, the house is full.  Football, food and photos before the big meal.  It’s just as Thanksgiving should be. 

I pose with Valerie (left), my mom and Jean, and alone with Alexander.

And every year my dad carves the turkey.

Jim, Jean’s husband, is the most spiritual one in our family.  He always gives a nice toast, and my father usually adds to it.  This is, hands down, my dad’s happiest day of the year.  A few times I even catch him sitting and just observing the room with a quiet smile.  He is immensely proud of his family.

I heard somewhere on TV that the average Thanksgiving meal is about 4500 calories.  Adam’s plate, always the biggest, could be even more.

Everything is great.  I have some turkey, cranberry sauce, very little squash (I’m not a huge fan of the marshmallows inside it), peas (just a few), my mother’s amazing stuffing (passed down from her mother), mashed potatoes, and gravy.  I skip the candied yams as I always do. 

I’m not sure how this tradition started, but after the meal, the men drift from the table to watch football, and the women clean up.  We are a liberal family, but the men in it never seem to participate in the table clearing.  I think at home they do, but not at big family gatherings. 

Dessert is amazing.  I skip the birthday cake (Alexander, Sally, and Adam all have birthdays in November and December) but eat everything else.  I have a small piece of blueberry pie, a small piece of apple pie, and some fruit.   Alexander convinces me to also have a homemade mini chocolate-in-chocolate tart.

The day is marked with good food, conversation and much laughter.  I must have one of the funniest families.  It’s one more thing, among many, for which I’m deeply grateful. 

A few hours after dinner and dessert and three football games, the kids start making the Thanksgiving sandwiches. I finally say no to something.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing...(m)

Wake up Thanksgiving morning on the late side: 10 a.m.  Still trying to shake this cold.  My throat is hoarse; my eyes sting.  The phone is ringing off the hook with friends and relatives calling to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving.  T puts me on with my brother J who is hosting dinner at his house.  "Mmm...you sound awful."   I sound like something out of The Exorcist, in fact.

Have Bran Buds, skim milk and a whole banana for breakfast.  So far, so good.

My brother, who normally asks us to come at 3:30 p.m., tells us to be there at 2 p.m. for the "mashed potato bar".  T and I send the boys ahead and I use the time to take a steam shower.  At 2 p.m., I have a 3-point Fage Greek yogurt with peach.  Excellent.  I'm satisfied and maybe even a little full.

We arrive at my brother's house with five pies, a coconut cake (for his birthday--his favorite cake).  The mashed potato bar was a huge success.  Glasses of mashed potatoes with 8 different toppings.  I'm so glad I missed that.  The Patriots are playing on the big screen television in the family room.  A huge platter of cheese, crackers, nuts and grapes are there.  I go into the other room and pour myself some seltzer water.  Find my sister in law's sister in the quiet room (the living room) sitting by the fireplace.  Nothing but powdered dates in there.  Wouldn't eat them if they were the last food on Earth.  Figured it is safe to be there.  Catch up with the sister in law who says I look "terrific".  I think I'll stay here longer than planned.

By 4:30, I start to get hungry.  Go into the family room where my sons, nephew and mother are sitting.  Have  a piece of cheese.  Then some nuts.  Then another piece of cheese.  Stop myself and get another glass of seltzer.

Dinner is served around 5 p.m.  The plan was to have turkey, a little cranberry sauce and some peas and one yam.  Here's what I have:

turkey, cranberry sauce , a tablespoon of mashed potatoes, some gravy (and I don't even like gravy), some stuffing, a tablespoon of corn and peas, a tablespoon of Betsy's vegetable and cheese casserole and her squash/raisin/brown sugar casserole  and some creamed onions.  It all is excellent.  Better than I've ever remembered.

Having overdosed at the dinner table, I put myself on KP doing the dishes.  When the desserts come out, don't you think I was one of the first at the table?  I get a sample of pumpkin, pecan and chocolate pie.  Put those in a dish and give 3/4 to my mother and eat 1/4 of one slice of each.  Someone offers me a something-tini drink (my sister-in-law's family makes everything trendy...appletinis, blueberry martinis, etc.  I almost died when an aunt ordered Sex on the Beach several years back).  This one is with white chocolate liquor.  Vile, but I drink about 2 oz of it.

By 8 p.m., we head home.  I had eaten more in this one day than I do in 2 or 3 days.  What got into me, I wonder.

Maybe it's the cold.  Don't they say "Starve a fever, feed a cold"?

thanksgiving eve (m)

Wednesday.  The day before Thanksgiving.  Harrison leaves the house at 7 a.m. all suited up for the big Thanksgiving assembly at school.   I have the whole day ahead of me....or so I think.

My aunts call.  Aunt Y is not doing well.  I think she's depressed because she gets weepy all the time.  I offer to come visit and bring lunch.  They love how I make tuna fish.

My mother finds out about the visit and wants in on the action.  "Pick me up first.  Then I'll go back to your house with you to do Sam's laundry."  It's a fair trade as Sam doesn't do any laundry on his own and usually fills the back of the Yukon with his clothes.

I go back to bed and sleep until 9:30 to help fight off this nasty cold/sinus infection that I've had all week.  I can't really talk as my voice is so hoarse.  I get up, take a steam shower and feel a little better.  Without my glasses on, I take my meds...two Sudafed and two Mucinex D (12-hour formula).  An hour later, my heart is racing.  I put on my glasses and re-read the labels. Oops, I've overdosed.  Only one Mucinex D and not with Sudafed.  I call my husband and tell him I think I may be having a heart attack.  He replies, "You're fine," and says he has to go to a meeting and will call to check on me later.  I contemplate getting Lifeline for me.

The tuna fish comes out well (3 cans of Bumblebee GOLD label--prime fillet.  $3.00 per can unless you buy it at BJ's for $2 per can but you have to buy a 6-pack; Hellman's mayo, minced celery and red onion; coarsely ground pepper).  I serve it with Pepperidge Farm double fiber multigrain bread and brought reduced fat Cape Cod potato chips and Vlasic dill pickles.

The aunts are in heaven.  Even my mother says, "She really can't cook but she makes a great tuna fish sandwich."  I just have tea. The visit did the job as Aunt Y is all smiles by the end.  They are concerned, however,  about the double fiber bread and cancel their afternoon plans to go out.

We pick up a pizza at a pub for Sam.  We arrive home just before he does.  He's starved.  I have a slice of pizza.  2 p.m and I'm at 10 points (had Greek yogurt for breakfast--3 points, 7 for the pizza).  On plan.

I leave to do errands in the next town.  Buy my brother, J, his birthday gift (wine coasters and wine stoppers).  Call Harrison--he has "plans" he tells me.  School, rink, and now, the movies with his buddies Andrew and Payne.  I remind him that Thanksgiving traffic is brutal and to leave plenty of time to get from the rink to the movies.  "It's under control," he replies.  He's grown up even more since he got this license. 

By 6 p.m.we leave my house to go look for wreaths for the cemetery.  We head to this wholesale produce market.  A woman announces that the pies are marked down 50%.  My mother, who has trouble hearing, somehow has no trouble hearing this from across the aisle.  My mother, who has trouble walking, somehow has no problem racing over to the bakery aisle.  She has a sweet tooth and I recall all the desserts she made when we were kids and how she rushed us through dinner to get to the desserts. 

We stop at Panera Bread for a light dinner.  I have a cup of low-fat vegetarian soup and a small salad (they list their calories and fat content).  So far, I'm just below my point limit and it's 8:15 p.m.

I take my mother home and set her hair and blow dry the rollers, one by one.  It's 9:30 p.m.  I have to pick Sam up in Boston at midnight. 

How should I spend the time in between?

I have to pass by my cousin Patty's house on my way home.  Her lights are on.  I can see the light flashing from the television.  I pull into the driveway and beep slightly.  That's her cue to come to what we call the "drive through window."  Patty is delighted to see me.  That's what I love about her.  She's so welcoming.  "Come in! Come in!"  I tell her I can't because I'm sick.  "We're all sick here!  Come in!  It'll be fun!"

Fun?  Like one of those measles parties the mothers used to throw in the 60's so all the kids could get infected at the same time.

I walk in.  There is food everywhere.  Pots of sauce with meatballs and sausages cooking on the stove.  A 25-pound turkey seasoned and sitting in a large pan waiting to go into the oven (she puts it in at 1 a.m at 250 degrees and lets it cook all night so the house smells of turkey in the morning).  The bar is stocked with wines, liquors, soft drinks.  The trays of eggplant parm and lasagna are covered in tin foil and set on the porch to stay cold overnight. The breads are in their bags, next to the bread baskets.  A large bowl of fresh fruit.  A bowl of nuts of several varieties.  A huge pot of potatoes sitting in water rests on the stove. The table is set for twelve (she sets it days in advance, turning the glasses upside down and then covers the whole thing with a Vanity Fair paper tablecloth).  There are boxes of exotic candies waiting to be devoured.  Bags of chips to go with homemade dips.

Patty offers me tins of cookies (the Danish butter collection which you get at Costco, BJ's etc.  I could eat the whole box).  There's a French brand of chocolate covered cookies.  Are they good?  I ask.  "They must be!  They've been in business since 1849!  Says so right on the box!" she says.

I feel like a reformed heroin addict who just stumbled upon a crack house.  

I settle on a large glass of water.  Patty pulls out a mug from her freezer and gets me bottled water to pour into it.  It's the best water I've ever had.  I also eat a cherry pepper stuffed with proscuitto and parmesan cheese. 

We reminisce about our childhood holidays spent at the Aunts' home.  They had no children and their home is where we had every holiday as they also lived with our grandparents.  40-60 people for every holiday.  It was incredible.  It took days to prepare this production.  My mother was on baked goods (naturally).  Patty's mother, my aunt V,  did the raviolis with our grandmother (they used a glass upside down to cut the dough and Patty forked the edges).  Uncle H did the turkey.  His Armenian mother brought an enormous pan of exotic rice (turns out it was rice pilaf, made the authentic way).  Our Irish aunt Shirley brought a ham.  The other aunts made side dishes of vegetables.  It was a feast.  Patty's father and my father--brothers and best friends--transformed the enormous living room into a dining room, setting up the long tables and chairs for everyone. The other aunts and uncles set the tables.  China.  No paper goods.

After dinner, the room resembled a casino as the adults smoked and played cards.  We kids dispersed, with the girls headed to Aunt Y's bedroom to try on perfume and make up.  The boys went into the den to play games.

Patty looks at me and gets quiet: "You know, what we had was really special."

It was.  No wonder Aunt Y is a little depressed these days.  It's all gone now for her.  Her parents, 7 of her 8 siblings, her husband and in-laws.  Her house is no longer the party house. 

I leave Patty's at 11:45 p.m to pick up Sam at midnight in Boston.  I think about my kids and hope they get to experience the joys of being part of a big family someday.

Meanwhile, I'm thankful for the years I was part of this big, crazy family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

pre-holiday travel and food (lyn)

I check the scale before leaving.  120.  I know it will read higher the next time I’m on it.

Today we are flying to Boston.  It was actually less money than taking Amtrak.  We are leaving from Kennedy with little luggage so we decide to try out public transportation.  Our plane departs at 12:30 so we leave the house at 9.  This time it’s not just my mother telling us to get to the airport early.  Newspapers and television seem focused on the new security measures at the airport.  Pat downs and scanning machines and “the busiest travel day of the year” combine to make getting to the airport early essential.

I pack a lunch of bagel thins, cream cheese, and lox.  We take a bus to the subway, the subway to the airtrain, and the airtrain to the Delta terminal.  We whiz through check-in (no scans or pat downs) and are at the gate, all checked in and ready to go by 11.  We spend the next hour and a half waiting.  My mother would be proud.  For her, being 90 minutes early is just about right.

The flight is on time but the driver my mom has arranged for us is not.  More waiting and now we are hungry.  We find Legal Seafoods and Alexander gets a Caesar salad and I ponder the tuna wrap.  In the end, I decide to skip the calories and have instead a 2-point Weight Watchers Sweet and Salty that I'd thrown in my bag before leaving.

We arrive at my parents around 4:30.  We could have flown to Italy in the time it's taken to get to the Cape.  My sisters and their families are coming tomorrow.  We only have a few things to unpack and my mom wants to have dinner now.  It takes a major effort to persuade her to wait until 5:30. 

At exactly that time, as if some loud alarm has gone off and everyone has ignored it, my mother declares with impatience, "C'mon, let's go.  It’s 5:30."  The urgency in her voice suggests that the restaurant is taking its last reservation at 5:40 which of course is not true.

There's an easy consensus on the restaurant we choose, Bobby Byrnes.  We all have burgers and fries.  I feel thin and good and decide that this Thanksgiving I'm going to enjoy the food as well as the company.  It’s a nice start to the long weekend ahead.

Monday, November 22, 2010

dilemma (m)

I suppose I should be happy that Harrison placed well at the recent qualifying competition to move on to Nationals in January in Greensboro, North Carolina.

However, I'm watching the news about Thanksgiving travel and security and it occurred to me that I have a dilemma. 

Do I choose the full body scan or the pat down?

the package arrived in china (m)

Michael emailed today, ecstatic.  The package made it to China despite dire predictions by Joe at the Post Office.

Michael thanked me profusely for sending him the French Onion Sunchips, ginger snap cookies and Kraft Mac'n Cheese boxes.

"You can't imagine what it's like to crave something you can't have," he writes.

 It's been 14 months since I devoured my last McSkillet burrito at McDonald's.  They are divine. Soft, fleshly, hot.  I used to have 2-3 per week.  They are 15 points each....almost my whole day's budget.

Yes, Michael, I do know from cravings.

brunch (m)

My mother may tell you that I've never met a meal I didn't like, but that's not true.  I don't like brunch.  In fact, I hate it. 

Here's why. 

1. It's too confusing.  So many choices, it's overwhelming to me.  Waffles! Make your own omelette!  Wait a minute, eggplant parmesan!  Over there is chicken Marsala!  Drives me crazy.  I like simple.
2. You can't have a conversation with people at your table.  They are up and down like toilet seats.  One minute you're talking to someone and the next minute, they are getting up mid-conversation saying "I'm ready for my waffle now, want to come up with me?"
4. I don't want to get up for my meal.  I want to sit and be served.  I stand up all week and serve people at home.  This is my time to sit.
5. Quality.  I've never had a brunch where I think the quality is as good as ordering one thing done well.  Served to you.  Piping hot.  Brunch food looks picked over and is lukewarm.
6. Germs.  I once found a serving spoon lying down in the eggs.  I also saw someone cough into the hash brown potatoes.  I'm sure that stuff goes on in the kitchens, but I don't see it. 
7. Food choice.  Breakfast is not my favorite food. I don't crave eggs.  I'm indifferent to waffles (too much air in them).  My favorite food is lunch.  Sandwiches.  I'd be happy at a Deli where you could sample small sections of different sandwiches.  I loved the little finger sandwiches after my in-laws' funerals. 

Yesterday, I went to brunch with two women whom I love and with whom I used to work.  D was my assistant for over 20 years.  She was the one who kept my pregancy with Sam secret for 5 months and had a receptacle ready every time I had to vomit and couldn't make it to the ladies' room.

J came into my life at the tail end.  Just 3 months before I left my job of 26 years, my other secretary (the princess who spent more time telling me what she didn't do than doing the few things she did do and who wore her full-length mink coat to work in the winter)  took the severance package and left.  D recommended her friend J.  No one wanted J because she was older and a tad quirky (she is heavy and gets hot flashes and needs a fan blowing on her face constantly). 

J was as good as advertised and we became very close in 3 short months.

Brunch was their pick.  $20 per person.  All you can eat. 

I had 4 cups of coffee, pineapple, canteloupe (I waited for the guy to come out of the kitchen with the fresh fruit and then ambushed him with a clean fork before anyone could let the tongs fall onto the fruit).  No egg whites so I had a full egg omelette with every vegetable.  Sliced roast beef, half a bagel with cream cheese.  Two sausage links.

Oh, and did I mention the vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and chopped walnuts? 

The company was lovely.  It was so good to see them.  We caught up on each others' lives and laughed a lot.  We choreographed when we would get up and down to go through the line.  We each took turns minding the purses while the other two went up to get food.

When we parted company, they said we will do it again soon.  I looked at my watch--2 p.m. and I had used up all my points for the day.

I hate brunch.

"I won't be needing your services any longer" (m)

Saturday.  Harrison's road test.  He went to Driver's Ed at a local place which is an absolute dump run by degenerates.  All the kids we know go here.  The owner is as old as Methuselah.  Some of the ceiling panels are missing.  Place smells of mold.  The chairs bear the initials of every previous student (we found Sam's).  Some more ambitious students also carved messages ("bite me"; "this place sucks").

It's amazing anyone learns anything there, yet somehow they do.

With the new rules, parents must log in at least 40 hours of driving time with their kids.  We did 40 hours by June but made Harrison drive all summer and Fall just to be sure.  Because of his busy schedule with school and skating and newspaper, we couldn't get an appointment with his driving school until December.

So, we switched to the driving school in the next town.  This one is run by Russian immigrants.  I could barely understand "Yanna" over the phone.  For some extra money, they could find a spot in November and on a Saturday.

We arrive as scheduled at 11:30 for the 12:00 test.  There is no obvious system in place.   The three Russians are running the show (husband, wife and some enormous guy whom we watched consume an entire dozen of Dunkin' Donuts).  Harrison comments that he feels like we are in the movie Red Dawn--where the Russians take over the U.S. 

I get out of my car to ask what the process is.  The donut guy comes over and says "Please to vait in car.  I vill call you."  He called us --two hours later.

Finally, Harrison takes his test.  He passes. 

He takes the wheel of our car to drive home.  Gives me a kiss on the cheek and says, "Your services are no longer required."

It's the end of an era of schelpping kids around for 21 years.  School, hockey, baseball, skating, etc. 

And just like that, I'm obsolete.

What will I do with my newfound time?  I have big plans to go to the gym and spend time there.

But first, I'm going to take to my bed and have a good cry.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

the strip house (lyn)

In celebration of our sons turning 18, Shari and her husband Stewart and I take our two boys to dinner.  Their birthdays are one day apart.  We go to a downtown restaurant called The Strip House, known for their strip steaks.  The last and only time I was here was in October of last year with John.  I remember loving the steak and feeling thin (though I was 30 pounds heavier than I am today, but heading in the right direction).

Keeping with the strip theme, the restaurant walls are decorated in siren red, and covered with black and white seductive photos of women from the 1900’s.  We arrive in time for our 9 o’clock reservation and it’s clear that whatever financial woes the country is suffering from has not touched this establishment.  It’s bustling with activity, every table is filled, and additional diners are waiting or just hanging out in the bar area.

We get a great table.  Although some time is spent perusing the menu, we all know we are getting the 16-ounce strip steak (except for one who orders a filet), french fries, truffle creamed spinach (a major hit), and one piece of cheese cake that is big enough to feed the five of us for dessert. 

Even though I am clearly not counting points (I begin the meal with two pieces of warm dinner rolls, both with butter), I am still weight-watcher conditioned.  I eat only half the steak, despite easily being able to finish all of it.

We put a moratorium on discussing anything related to college, and still have much to talk about.  It’s a great night with good friends. 

And I even get to repeat the culinary aspect of tonight’s dinner tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

busy day (lyn)

I decide to dress glamorously today.  Now that I can wear short tight little black skirts again, I want to.  So that’s what I do.  I add black tights, short Ugg boots, a black zip cashmere hoodie with a white T underneath, and a big black wool cape trimmed in fur (I got this years ago and rarely wear it, but it makes me feel very Hollywood-ish when I do), big Black Chanel sunglasses, and one splash of color-lime green leopard fingerless cashmere gloves.  I walk past the doorman and even he notices.  “You look sensational,” he says.  Normally I barely wear makeup so this is a big change.

My first stop is a meeting with two executives from BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts).  For about a year now, I’ve wanted to become more involved in this organization, and they’ve asked me to come in to discuss becoming part of their Screening Committee.  The meeting goes well, and I hope to begin working with them in January.

Next I have a coffee date with Neil, a friend of Shari’s.  Coffee is a great first date.  It’s quick.  Inexpensive.  And an easy way to tell if it’s worth a real date later on.  We both decide it is.

I come home and have lunch.  I finish off the soup I made a few days ago and then have some Fage 0-fat yogurt with a teaspoon of honey.  This might be my new favorite weight-conscious food.

There’s This Guy guy reads my blog from yesterday and writes, “I just read it!  I'm not too sure how to reply, so I decided to check some emails before I reread the blog.  Thank God there are no comments.  Let me think about it as I'm ‘not particularly intellectual’."  Later he calls.  It’s a fun, conversation.

At 4:30, I meet Robyn to see a screening of Blue Valentine, a not yet released movie that neither one of us really likes.  I’m home by 8:30 and have a crabmeat sandwich on bagel thins.

I’ve not been as cautious lately about food, and this week I was up 1.4 pounds from two weeks ago.  But I’m not too worried.  I can still wear a teeny tiny tight black skirt and feel good. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

dinner: one failure and one success (lyn)

I decide to skip a movie screening tonight so I can be around when Alexander gets home from school.  His dinner is pretty much ready; it just needs to be heated up.  Alexander has an appointment after school and gets home around 7:30.  We talk, he relaxes, and now I have to get ready as I’m meeting Carl for dinner at 8:30.

“How long should I heat the turkey burger for?”  Alexander asks.  “”About three minutes.  Maybe less. It just needs to be warmed up.”  “And what about the roll?  Should I put that in the microwave, too?”  “No, it’s better to just put the roll in the toaster.”

Less than five minutes later I hear, “My dinner is ruined.  I followed your directions and look what happened.”  I come into the kitchen just as Alexander is using a fork to pry the burnt roll from the clutches of the toaster.  And as if that isn’t bad enough, he shows me the turkey burger, still in the microwave, sitting between (not on) two pieces of a beautiful ceramic plate that used to be one.  I guess my dishware is not microwavable beyond two minutes.

I, on the other hand, have a superb dinner.  Carl is in town and he’s asked that I choose the restaurant.  There’s a nearby small Italian restaurant that for a year now, I’ve been suggesting as a destination whenever we have a girl’s birthday celebration, and for various reasons, my suggestion has always been overruled.  But tonight it’s not and Carl and I meet at Alloro. Carl quickly observes the restaurant’s authenticity by saying, “It’s a good sign when all the waiters speak Italian.”

I am not paying attention to points, although by conditioning I have only one piece of bread.  I start with something called eggplant parmesan, traditional and revisited.  There is nothing ordinary about it, and I can understand why it is the one thing on the ample appetizer menu that never changes.  Our conversation begins comfortably.  I order one glass of red wine, and later have another.  By the meal’s end I can definitely feel the effects of the wine.  For the main course, I have sliced duck breast, orange sauce, turnip puree (my second time with a turnip-anything this week) and a tiny eggplant and chocolate tort (whoever created this gem is a culinary genius).  Each plate delivered to the table is a mini masterpiece.  I follow Carl’s lead and skip dessert. 

By the end of the meal I fear I’ve become less filtered.  When Carl asks, “What about us?,” there are a million better answers to give than the one I did.  “This is why I don’t like long distant relationships.  If you lived here, you would never have asked this question on our second date,” I say.   If Carl lived here, things would not need to accelerate quickly.  It is only after I get home that I worry about my words being too harsh.

Carl is a really great guy.  I like many things about him.  He’s smart (very), athletic, interesting, has a powerful personality, is kind, and while strong, is not overbearing at all.

I like him.  But Idaho is a long way from New York.

sam is 21 years old today (m)

Twenty one years ago today, I gave birth to my firstborn son.  The pregnancy was problem-free except for 41 weeks of vomiting.  Definitely a boy, everyone said.

I remember sitting on the blue chair in my bedroom looking out the window on a beautiful Saturday--ten days past my due date.  For one scary moment I panicked thinking the pregnancy wasn't real and that I had just gotten fatter.  I called up my good friend Mary and told her I couldn't stay in the house another minute.  She was a reluctant accomplice to my escapade.  We went shopping at Conran's in Cambridge.  I bought six blue and white trays.  I have no idea why.  I didn't need trays and they weren't even on sale.

During the outing at Conran's, I went into labor.  At 7:40 p.m. that evening, Sam was born.  I will never forget seeing that scrunched up little face for the first time. It literally feels like it all happened yesterday.

My boy is a junior in college now.  He's grown into a first rate human being and I am so proud of the man he has become.  We will celebrate when he comes home for Thanksgiving break.

Twenty one years have gone by in a flash.  Kids mark time like nothing else.

Through all the changes over the years, the biggest one for me personally is that I weigh less than I did before I was pregnant with Sam.

Some things, however, haven't changed.  The blue and white trays are still here and they make me smile every time I look at them.

there's this guy (lyn)

Once upon a time, back in 1984, I met this guy.  He wasn’t my type at all.  He wasn’t particularly intellectual.  Didn’t care about school.  And worst of all, he was from my hometown.  He was a little unrefined.  I mean, his manners were good, and he dressed well, and he appreciated good food and nice places.  But he didn’t filter what he said.  You might even say he was a bit coarse.  But I liked him.  He was sexy.  Had good street smarts.  And he was a lot of fun.  In fact, when I think of him, I think mostly of the fun we had.  At his Back Bay apartment.  On his boat.  At dinners.  At his apartment in New York.  Pretty much anywhere we were.  Our relationship never progressed to anything serious, so there were never any real issues.  I was with him in Chicago for a long weekend, and after that, it was over.  Nothing really happened; our thing just ended. 

We have no mutual friends, so when we stopped seeing each other, we also lost total touch.

This past September we bumped into each other.  He’s married now (and has been for over twenty years).  He seems happy.  But it was clear that our unresolved thing is still unresolved, and the attraction is still there.  He is loyal to his wife and would not cheat on her; and I would never be the other woman.  But we have been communicating, very unromantically.  In fact, he may be fixing me up with a friend of his who is moving to New York in late December.

The irony about this guy is that I really think he gets me, while I’ve discovered that I don’t get him.  For example, I knew him as a wealthy playboy.  He worked, but his expensive hobbies seemed more important to him than his job.  I also didn’t find him particularly athletic.  Now, it seems, he is a triathlete.  He is always at the gym.  He is always going on some marathon bike ride or doing an exhaustingly long swim.  Or running.  Or playing squash.  And, he is more altruistic than I ever knew.  He’s heavily involved in helping youth who are physically disadvantaged.  He also cooks.  Something else I never knew about him.  He comically explained it this way.  “I learned to cook when I was delivering boats for boat builders.  I got to keep dry (while down below cooking), and egotistically, I could control everybody's bowel movements! “  In another email he wrote, “You are too obsessed with your weight.  It's your sense of humor & your personality that I always appreciated.... Christ do you need stroking.“

He’s refreshing to talk to.  There is no pretense about him.  I feel comfortable around him, and still think he’s fun.

In my next life I’m sure we’ll be married.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

another try at soup (lyn)

Given my lack of real success with the squash soup, I decide to make another kind of soup, again, with inspiration from Karen.  Karen, who is a very good cook and outstanding baker, recommends buying the pre-packaged soup vegetables.  Since I have no cooking intuition whatsoever, I like to eliminate any possibility for error.  I buy the package suggested by Karen; it includes carrots, leeks, parsnip, onion, and fresh herbs.  (I wonder if I've ever made anything containing parsnip and leek before?  I think not, as I don't even know what these roots taste like).   I wash, peel, and cut up all the vegetables (slightly more work than just dumping in the peeled and cut up squash).  I then add chicken brother, simmer until the vegetables soften, and use my new best friend...the emulsifier.  The end result is fine, though nothing special.  The soup is filling, has no points, but is totally devoid of any real flavor.

Alexander comes home and sees it and starts to gag.  “That’s not for me, is it?” he asks, somewhat rhetorically. I beg him to try a taste, but even that is too much for him.

Well, there's one good thing.  Unlike my one-point light baby bell cheeses or 3-point mini Haagen Dazs mango sorbets, I needn't worry about this soup disappearing from my fridge.  I have total control over its longevity.

Monday, November 15, 2010

an old thing to do (lyn)

Zelia’s colonoscopy is today and she’s asked me to pick her up (you cannot leave the doctor’s office without an escort).  But thoughtful Shari has access to a car, and so she suggests that the two of us drive down.  I’ll run in and pick up our patient, and then we can drive her home.  Much better than waiting for a cab.  And so that’s what we do.  In the car on the way back uptown Shari says, “You know, this is the 6th time in six months that I’ve picked up a friend after her colonoscopy.  I guess this is now what we do at our age.”  Aging is such a cheery thought.  I cannot think of one redeeming thing about it. 

I had planned to see a screening tonight but it’s in Tribeca. Zelia decides not to go, and I decide that a free movie (even one I want to see) isn’t worth the hour or so it takes to get there.  That, and it might rain tonight.

I make chicken for Alexander, order in sushi for me, and happily stay in.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

weekend choices (lyn)

It being New York and it being the fall, there are many things to do on the weekend, and you can’t do them all.  So to use an SNL expression, here’s my weekend update:

I Could:

  • ·      Go see the new Houdini exhibit at The Jewish Museum with Penny.
  • ·      See a free screening of a movie I don’t care about in the evening.
  • ·      Watch a Netflix movie that I’ve had since November 3.

I Should:

  • ·      Exercise.

I Do:

  • ·      Buy Alexander a couple of T-shirts at Bloomingdales because they are on sale from $38 to $9 (I think they may have been marked wrong).
  • ·      Finish up the zero calorie squash soup that isn’t horrible but not something I would ever make again.
  • ·      Give advice to a friend whose docile cat hisses at her for no reason (internet research suggests that the cat may be harboring a grudge).
  • ·      Have coffee with Penny in late afternoon and catch up on life, hers more than mine, as she recently has so much drama in it.
  • ·      Celebrate Alexander’s birthday again when Karen and the kids stop over with a creative handmade card and extraordinary Beats by Dr. Dre high resolution head phones; Alexander loves this gift; the kids eat cookies and cake and Karen and I make the mistake of joining them.
  • ·      Eat only a small leftover dinner of lobster salad on a 100-calorie sandwich thin.

I Could:

  • ·      Go with Robyn to an auction of Bernie Madoff’s household items, from a magnificent 10.5-carat diamond engagement ring (that goes for $550,000) to used cuticle scissors.
  • ·      See a free screening of a movie I do care about in the afternoon with a friend I haven’t seen in too long.
  • ·      Join Zelia for a movie at night.

I Should:
·      Exercise.
·      Watch the Netflix movie I still have, American History X.

I Do:

  • ·      Go watch the Horace Mann Lion’s play the last game off the season.  Despite a 1-6 season, they miraculously make it into the playoffs where they loose to a rival team.  The boys play well and the parents are exuberant in their cheers.  I eat two pieces of Costco apple pie after the game but manage to avoid both pasta entrees and the bread and the cookies and the brownie bites.
  • ·      Receive a letter from the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board; it was issued two days after the hearing, much quicker than I thought.  Another miracle.  The judge agrees with my arguments and I win the case.  This won’t result in much money, but it does make me feel good.
  • ·      Have dinner alone while Alexander has a birthday dinner with Eric’s parents.  Settle on a veal chop from Agata’s.
  • ·      Read some Harlan Coben, one of my favorite writers. 

 I Could:

  • ·      Go to a Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off Benefit where for only $10, I can have three slices of competing pies (obviously not a weight-watcher-friendly event).

I Should:

  • ·      Watch the Netflix movie I still have, American History X.

I Do:

  • ·      Exercise, by effortlessly walking with Penny to an off-Broadway play on 8th Street (about 3.5 miles).
  • ·      Meet Robyn at The Public and see That Hopey Changey Thing, a well-acted, sometimes interesting (but mostly not) one-act play.
  • ·      Have swordfish, roasted tomatoes and mashed potatoes for dinner, but then have a piece of Alexander’s birthday cake of about a million calories.  Glad it’s now finished.
  • ·      Decide not to argue with Alexander when he tells me at 11, “I’ll be up very late tonight studying for a Stat test.  Don’t say a word.”  I don’t.