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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Kay Kato

There's always something a little eerie about estate sales - the idea of strangers pawing through the possessions of the deceased. Kay Kato was a local cartoonist and illustrator whose work was published nationally. There must have been thousands of drawings here today - some in frames, some in folders, some just crammed into boxes.






The sale was held in Kay's house. I bought a signed (to her) book of George Price cartoons. And spent a long time leafing through vintage Saturday Evening Posts in the attic. I don't know what will become of these charming cartoons on the breakfast nook walls.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Two tips and a lesson in delayed gratification

We are back on the subject of box wine again, and while I don't intend to dwell on this, I did just learn two valuable tips. First, from Fly by Night Sailor, who maintains an entire blog devoted to box wine, I have learned that it can make a huge difference if you let a wine breathe. This applies particularly to wines that may be high in tannin. The idea is to introduce plenty of air to the surface. In other words, pour yourself a glass, and then LEAVE IT ALONE for fifteen minutes or so. The second tip comes from master sommelier Alpana Singh, who has just written a book of wine tips. She says that young, inexpensive wines, including red ones, benefit from being chilled. So, after putting the wine in the glass, put the glass in the fridge to let it do its breathing. I may be imagining things, but I really do think this helps!

A few hours in Montclair

If you think of suburbs as dull and lifeless you've never been to Montclair. I could have done this entire tour on foot; the starting point is barely a mile away, but, like a good suburbanite, I jumped into the car. First stop is the Avis Campbell Garden in the center of town. This is a hidden treasure maintained by the Montclair Garden Club. Yes, I'm a member, but I have only occasionally participated in the Tuesday-morning weed and clean up sessions. Lots of credit to those who do this.


The shops on Church Street are full of temptations. This optometrist always has an eye-catching window display.



It's hard to pass the consignment shop without a peek inside. Is this thing worth $80? It would look wonderful in my back yard. I think I'd paint it bright blue, though that color is fast-becoming a garden cliche.


These new condos are rising on the site of the old Hahne's department store; a dead spot in the center of Montclair for over twelve years. There will be new retail space at ground level. Some think these are architecturally out-of-scale. I don't agree. I won't be living there, but it can only mean that there will be MORE shops, MORE galleries, MORE restaurants.... more to enjoy.


I step into Gallery 51 and am enchanted by these incredible photographs by Sheila Bernard. Architectural photoraphs of urban buildings seen as reflections so they are distorted in astonishing ways. I am tempted to spend $250 on one of them. But I won't.

I've had spectacular dinners at Table 8, but never thought of having lunch there. To my astonishment it is nearly empty and I have a superb lunch for no more than I would have spent at a diner. I'll be back, Dmitri. Even though you spent all your time schmoozing with those three wine-drinking women about fast cars and collectible watches and pretty much ignored me; it's the fate of older women who dine alone, and I grudgingly accept it.


It's almost an afterthought, but I decide to duck into the library and see if the cafe is open (I've never found it to be so in the past.) Surprise! Not only is it open, but it is a delight. A light, bright space with a fascinating exhibit on local Black history sponsored by the Montclair Historical Society. I chat with a young woman who confirms my guess that wi-fi is available. She tells me that this place is ENDANGERED - not enough customers! People! What is it about cafes in the suburbs?

I thumb through a recent issue of Fortune. Libraries are great for catching up on magazines that one wouldn't otherwise read. I am enlightened by articles on philanthropy about Bill Clinton's foundation and a New York group called Robin Hood. Though I leave feeling a little guilty. Clinton says that if you have the ability to help and DON'T do anything you are morally negligent (I am paraphrasing here - he said it better; read the article).

And so to home. There's still time to mow the back yard. But there's still nobody who has to look at it but me. And there's always tomorrow.


Loupe

There's a tiny new gallery in town. It's all about artist-made jewelry. This isn't the sort of thing I would be buying; in truth I don't buy much of anything. But today was just about looking and admiring, not buying. Some of the pieces I loved most were made of polymer clay, a material that I would have considered more "crafty" than "arty", though who knows quite what the difference really is. Here's a peek through the window at today's opening champagne reception. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Zyzzyva

Friday's NYT crossword is a tough one. We have ZYZZYVA (a type of boll weevil) crossing with MIZE (slugger nicknamed "Big Cat" - not to be confused with another slugger, Andres Galarraga, who was also nicknamed "Big Cat"), ENYA, DRESSSIZE, DYS, DAZS, and LEOVII (Byzantine emperor known as "The Wise"). And that's just one corner. Whew!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday

Wednesday is a bridge day. The setting is beautiful and the company is refined. But it's not the same as the cutthroat game at the VFW Hall where I play on Tuesday and Thursday nights. And there are no "points" involved.


Still, who can resist a setting like this?


Afterwards there are errands. I make an abortive run to the dry cleaners to pick up things for daughter H. Not ready yet - grrr. Then I stop off to check out the newly remodeled A&P. Yikes! This is not your grandmother's A&P! Truffles!? Under lock and key! Ever since Whole Foods came to town the other markets have been tripping over each other to try to compete. We are getting a giant-size NEW Whole Foods in West Orange any minute, and now there is talk that there will be a local Trader Joe's. I'm not complaining.

Saratoga stopover

Saratoga is only about forty minutes away from the Adirondack house, so it was easy to contemplate a quick stopover on the drive home Monday. There's been a lot of yuppifying there; the center of town is dominated by a Starbucks, The Gap, Eddie Bauer...
Even so, the town is full of beautiful commercial architecture from the Victorian period, circa 1870-1880. Details such as this finely carved doorway abound.
The famous bakery/cafe, Mrs London's, is in this handsome old building. Closed on Mondays - darn! Another time. Noted that Borders Books had a large section devoted to local and regional books. A good source for when we want to plan some more ambitious side trips.

I stopped in to check out a fine wine store on Broadway. They carry only one type of box wine, and this is it. The proprietor told me it was a very good Chardonnay, and that they had trouble keeping in in stock. This is the last one they had. I have to finish the Banrock Station Shiraz (drinkable but not remarkable) before I open it. Will report in a future post.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Grape picking

What a glorious Adirondack day!


We have work to do. But we'll need to borrow a ladder.


Who knew all these grapes were way up here?


We'll need to move the ladder over to get the next group.


The Seckel pears are mostly on the ground, thank goodness. Mom is going to be busy making jams and conserves.


But our work is finished. Now we can relax and have fun!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Weekend away

Well, the front yard is mowed. It actually looks pretty nice now, especially if you squint. Nobody but me can see the back, so I won't be arrested. Leaving in a few minutes for an Adirondack weekend with the Newton branch of the family. Some day I will figure out how to blog from there, but it won't be now. Everyone behave!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

State Street Grill




New Jersey may not know how to do a great cafe, but diners-R-us! This new spot opened in August, on the site of the old "Willie's Diner". It's a Greek diner, gelateria, Starbucks, and brick oven pizza joint - all rolled into one. It's an easy fifteen minute walk for me, and open all the time. I've been there several times now already.

This is the main room, where I had lunch today. I like the fact that there are windows all around. Notice the obligatory TV sets all around the perimeter. All turned to different channels, all near the ceiling, and too far away to hear if you should happen to be seated within viewing range.


Lots of neon here. And there's a second floor. So far there has always been a velvet rope across the stairway, so I haven't had a chance to explore the upstairs.


This is the Starbucks part, just inside the door. There are a lot of separate little counter areas, as if the expectation is: "Coffee drinkers here, pizza eaters over there....."



The bakery case is just like the bakery case you'd find in any diner around here. The flan is always a good choice. So what it it's all a little on the glitzy side. It's New Jersey!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Airport Security Game


You'd expect to hear about a silly thing like this Shockwave "Airport Security Game" on a blog like Quantum Void - not here. But life is full of surprises. Sorry I didn't know how to make a link that would bypass the annoying ad. Maybe QV can do it.

Huge pocketbooks


So, the latest New Yorker arrives today, and on the cover we see a drawing of a fashionista with a gigantic pocketbook getting stuck in a revolving door. Then we open the magazine, and - on the inside front cover - what do we see? A Banana Republic ad for a gigantic pocketbook. We turn the page, and what do we see? A Louis Vuitton ad for an even more gigantic pocketbook. Flip a few more pages and we come upon a Dior ad for - a gigantic pocketbook. Two more pages: Bally gigantic pocketbook. Were these advertisers forewarned that their products were going to be the subject of PARODY and RIDICULE in this week's issue? If so, might they not have chosen to advertise something ELSE, just for this week?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Daily Collage



Blogging is one way to force oneself to write something - however brief - on a daily basis. It was my hope that I'd be able to provide a daily photo as well; so far I've fallen short of that goal, though I am using the camera on a much more regular basis than before. I've tried at various times in my life to do a daily drawing, but have never kept it up for long.

So along comes this blogger who makes a collage every day, apparently using whatever scraps of paper are at hand. I love the idea! What other "once a day" creative endeavors come to mind?

Inappropriate Giggles

It's May 1924. My grandfather has just died. Not Fafa, my Bloomington grandfather - he lived until 1953. This is Frank Sinclaire, the grandfather I never knew, born in Brooklyn in 1860. He's the one in the center photograph on the hall table. He had been on a trip around the world, accompanied by his father in law (my great-grandfather, Henry Bischoff). Tante, his sister-in-law, had been with them for most of the trip, but had stayed on to visit the Bischoff relatives in Germany for a few more weeks.

It was never entirely clear how he contracted the smallpox; someone thought it was the inadvertent touch of a ship railing in India. They had sailed from Southampton oblivious of the deadly germ. It happened fast, and he had to be buried at sea. The longitude and latitude figures are recorded in the family bible.

So there is a funeral in Brooklyn. My mother is ten. Aunt Lucy, her sister, is twelve. Cloe, the baby, is three. There they are, in the framed photograph on the left. Their mother, Marie, is still very young but will never marry again.

During the service, the two older girls are inexplicably and embarrassingly overcome by giggles, and nothing is to be done about it. My mother never mentioned this to me; it is Aunt Lucy who has told me this story. It is one of her clearest memories of that day - the horrible giggles, and her stoic determination not to miss a day of school.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tournament

Aside from the usual fourteen hours/week of bridge, sometimes there are extra sessions. Today, for example. There was a sectional tournament I'd agreed to play in. I had to leave at 11, and just got home (8:30). That's nine and a half hours! Our team came in fifth out of a large group, which earned us 2.73 "master points". Competitive bridge is all about earning these points. I have about 450 of them, and will be a "bronze life master" when I reach 500, which will probably occur within the next year. Not that I care - I play for the fun and the intellectual challenge. Someone at the club passed the 5000 mark the other day and we celebrated with a cake. Woo hoo! Seriously, 5000 is quite an achievement, and very few ever get that many.

Still, this many hours begins to look like the near-equivalent of a part-time JOB. Something to consider.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Spinach again

The spinach story just won't go away. I buy fresh spinach all the time. This package came from Whole Foods, before the whole brouhaha began. Look - it's BABY spinach - and it's ORGANIC. Surely they're talking about some more ordinary, generic kind. But no. It turns out it's THIS exact kind that's causing all the trouble. It's on official "recall" now, so I'll take it back. (And don't worry - I didn't eat any of it.)Would it be safer to stick to local produce? This is just very very scary. Posted by Picasa

A Walk around the Block

Saturday morning: After some errands in the car (wine store, farmer's market) I set out on foot. First, the library. I love the way this alyssum looks in the front beds with the juniper and the blue spruce. And it was my idea. A friend and I planted it one day in April and it's done just what I hoped it would do. Last year we tried annual vinca and it totally overran the space, nearly smothering the junipers. There's a lot of volunteer gardening that goes on in public spaces in my town - and a lot of trial and error.


It was a gorgeous day, after two days of solid rain, so I took the long way home, around the block. The florist in the arcade always has something to look at.


This cafe looks more tempting than it actually is. Something about cafes in the suburbs - they just don't really work. This will have to be the subject of a future post.


It's the first home football game today. I pass the field and watch the teams warming up. The band always lines up in front of the high school (which happens to be right across the street from my house) and marches to the field. In this picture they are almost there, crossing a busy street with a police escort to stop traffic. I love that cheery sound.


Home. The garden is a weed patch right now, but there are plenty of things in bloom. The Japanese anemones always look fresh, and need no special care or encouragement. Note to self: plant more of them.

Box Wine Update

A loyal reader reports the snagging of Black Box Pinot Noir in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Black Box steered me via email to a new-to-me nearby wine discount place where I found Black Box and Banrock Station products. There was no Pinot Noir to be had, so I opted for a Banrock Station Shiraz. This article pretty much sums up what's happening in the box wine biz.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Spinach Alert

Earlier posts notwithstanding, stay away from bagged fresh spinach for now. Especially if you live in Wisconsin!

Bridge

I haven't mentioned bridge until now. Since this blog is supposed to be about what I do with myself, it's time to mention that I spend at least 14 hours a week- sometimes more - on the game. That would include 3 "live" sessions, and 5 on-line sessions. Many of the top players in the world (example: above see Benito Garozzo, Jimmy Cayne, Mike Seamon, and Rich Reisig) play on line; you can learn a lot by watching them. Which I often do.

Bridge is a relatively recent obsession. We older cousins learned the rudiments from our parents when we were ten or eleven, sitting at the same library table where you saw Mah Jongg being played a few posts ago. My Bloomington grandparents were fanatical players, and a family story (not apocryphal, as I remember it happening) is that the first words I read - at roughly age 3- after a lot of phonics tutelage (making letters out of the cutlery at restaurants) from my grandmother - were "E-L-Y C-U-L-B-E-R-T-S-O-N" from the spine of a fat book in their house.

Atypically for my generation, I never played in college, though I recall playing quite a lot one summer with fellow counselors at a girls' camp in Vermont. I still have the plastic thermos I won playing in a Newcomers Club game in South Bend, Indiana. And as young marrieds my husband I and would sometimes have dinner and bridge get-togethers with friends, but that petered out as babies began to arrive. And serious bridge was still in the future.

About eight years ago I decided to buckle down and really learn the game. One of the first things I stumbled upon was a course for bridge TEACHERS given locally by the ACBL. The one and a half day course had no prerequisites whatsoever. There was an open book test at the end, after which I would be a certified bridge teacher (!) At this point, I figured, I ought to be qualified to just teach MYSELF what I needed to know. And, believe it or not, that's pretty much what I did, with the help of many, many books and much practice, starting with the relatively tame Microsoft Zone on-line gaming site, working up to the more rigorous OK Bridge site (this has now been overshadowed by the free Bridge Base Online site seen above, developed by Bill Gates' tutor, Fred Gitelman), and finally getting the nerve to show up at the local club where I play now.

My involvement in the game is still minimal compared to the diehard players. Still, it's fair to say that I'm hooked and that it's a big part of my life. I'll find more to say in future posts.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Name This Tune!

Do you know this tune? One of the long answers in the NY Sun crossword today was "Colonel Bogey", clued as "March name". The puzzle theme was golf, and the other long answers contained "par", "eagle", "birdie", and "albatross" (three under par). Though I realize now that I knew the tune, I associated it with the song from The Bridge on the River Kwai. Had to go to Wikipedia to get the whole interesting story.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Moving

It is 1951, the summer before I enter sixth grade, and we are moving into the big brick house on East Washington Street. It is to be our family home for almost forty years. We are the third owners of the house, coming after the Brantinghams and, before that, the Roses, the original 1910 owners. Every once in a while, even after we have lived there, we hear some old-timer refer to it as "the Rose house". We ourselves sometimes refer to it as "the old Brantingham house" when defining it for strangers.

This is to be our REAL house - my mother's dream house - the reward for putting up with all the strange wartime rentals, the two-bedroom starter house on Grove Street purchased by my father for his bride in 1939 but abandoned or rented out for long stretches during the war years, and the slightly larger but no longer adequate Olive Street house where we moved right after the war, the family size having increased from three to four with the birth of my sister in 1945. There are five of us now.

My mother has an ambitious and comprehensive interior decorating plan that is carried out over several months during that summer before we move in. New furniture is bought, though there is considerable discussion about WHERE it should be bought. My mother, the transplanted New Yorker, wants free rein to shop in Chicago, where there are "good" stores. My father feels that there is a political need to buy some things from the Bloomington merchants who may be or employ his patients or potential patients. They compromise, my mother winning on all the important points.

Walls are painted and papered. A door is relocated. A new closet is built for me in the large attic room which I have been persuaded to accept as a very special and unusual bedroom. ( It is too hot to sleep up there in the summertime, so my "summer" bedroom is the small sleeping porch off the back hall, opposite the huge walk-in linen closet.) And in the "study", a large dark knotty pine paneled room over the attached three-car garage, halfway up the back stairs, there are new built-ins to accommodate my father's medical books, his stereo system, and a black and white television set - the first we've ever owned. This room, much to our amusement, is referred to as a "ballroom" by a local society reporter a number of years later, in reference to my parents' annual New Years Eve party.

It's the last move the family makes. I go East to college in the fall of 1958, but return many times for vacations. My husband and I are married in the house in 1963. We spend summer vacations there with our young daughters just as, a generation before, my sisters and I were all packed off to the Adirondacks. When my mother dies in 1976, my father remarries and stays on for another eleven years, until his death in 1987. The house is finally sold in 1990. I haven't been back since then.

It would be nice to think that it's sometimes referred to as "the Price house" now. Or that someone might remember us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A See-again Dinner for One

Last night's dinner


Tonight's dinner



Tortellini for One:

Cook big handful of dried (or any kind) tortellini in boiling salted water. Takes about 5 minutes. When done, drain, leaving a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta water in the pot. Throw some spinach leaves into pot (preferably the baby kind, but tear up if they are big ones), cover the pan, and wilt for a minute over low heat. Put the tortellini back in the pot, add some fresh chopped up tomato, salt and pepper, and grate some fresh parmesan over the top. Done!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Googleplex

If you Google "theoc youtube" as someone from Tarpon Springs, FL has just done, this blog will be hit #28 out of over 134,000. Incidentally, it has just been revealed that users of gmail (Google's free email software) risk having the contents of all their emails saved and searchable in perpetuity. Is this a good thing?

On a serious note

The media is awash right now with 9/11 anniversary material. This long article by Martin Amis is very much worth reading. It raises any number of provocative questions and will improve your vocabulary.

65 and Better

I came across this recently on Ken Jennings' consistently interesting blog. Ken is the all-time Jeopardy champ in case the name isn't ringing a bell; I met him briefly at the Crossword Tournament in Stamford last March where he was invited to speak and ended up winning in the rookie division. Very nice, down-to-earth guy. Anyway, he writes:

The list of haircut prices on the counter listed two special rates: one for "Junior (12 and Under)" and one for "Senior (65 and Better)." "65 and better?" The opposite of "under" isn't typically "better". Do we really think America's delicate elderly would be offended by formulations like "65 and older" or even "65 and over" No, apparently they won't be happy until we pretend that debilitating old age and proximity to grisly death is "better" than youth and vitality. (Yes, I know it's "better than the alternative." Ho ho ho.)

Too bad this blog already has a name. It would have been something to consider.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rant


OK, I will probably end up deleting this boring post even if it is against the rules of the blogosphere. But I am going NUTS.

When I got the laptop in Feb 05 I kept the old desktop. There were files on it that I knew I'd ultimately want, but there was no special urgency. A few months ago I bought a flash drive (Sony Microvault 512ME, if you must know) thinking that would be the most efficient way to transfer files. Finally, tonight, I decided I'd take the plunge and move some files. Should take about 2 seconds, right? Aaarggggh!

The problem is, the thing needs a driver. It's not a problem on the laptop; the drivers seem to pre-exist. But the desktop needs to have them installed. And of course there is no CD; the drivers have to be gotten ON LINE. But the desktop isn't on line (even though it used to be) and I don't know how to make it so without risking losing the laptop connection. I really just don't know how all that router stuff works. I even think I might have actually DONE something at one point to take it off-line, but my memory on this point is vague.

So I go on line with the laptop, get what seems to be the right driver, then copy it to a CD. Not without difficulty. For the first time ever (and I've burned tons of CD's) I am encountering a problem with the CD needing to be "made compatible" with other systems. After a couple of false starts I think I've done that right; it has to be done AFTER the files are copied to it if I am understanding things.

But, when I put the CD in the desktop drive the install process can't FIND the driver. Even when I point out exactly where it is.

So now I've gone back to the place where I downloaded the drivers and I seem to be seeing a message that indicates that the drivers must be installed DIRECTLY from the website. Can this be true?

Naturally there is no easy way to find any tech support on the Sony site to confirm or ask about this.

Why is this so hard?????

UPDATE: AlexanderTheGreat has come to the rescue and all is well. Thank you, Quantum Void! I'm sure you're all relieved.