Monday, November 30, 2009

Public Option

The healthcare and health insurance reform debate has been a long, exhausting and sometimes ugly slog. Now the United States Senate is back in the thick of it. Once again, it is time to contact your senators and the the White House to let them know you want the Public Option. More specifically, tell them you want a strong, robust, wide reaching Public Option. And, let them you know you want it A.S.A.P!

Here’s how to do it:

To Contact The White House:
Via the Internet: Click here to send an e-mail.
Via Telephone:
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461
Comments: 202-456-6213

Via Postal Service:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Via Twitter: Use the address @BarackObama and @whitehouse (both of these are verified accounts)

To Contact Your Senators:
Do you need to find the contact information for your senators? Follow this link to the U.S. Senate and use the “Find Your Senators” search box in the upper right corner of the page.

If you have questions about health insurance reform (or want to find out if a rumor is true or false) you can check the White House’s webpage called Reality Check.

And remains an excellent location to parse truth from misinformation on a wide variety of topics, including the current healthcare debate.

psssst...Do Something!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Not A Player

I did not inherit the gambling gene. I’m not complaining, just noting. We met down at Foxwoods Casino today for a second Thanksgiving of sorts; a brunch with my sister Gail up from Georgia as the guest of honor. It was a blast to do the Mimosa Brunch at David Burke’s with seven of us around the table, talking, laughing, inquiring after items on each other’s plates and occasionally eating off each other’s plates as well! But playing the slots? Not so much.

Years ago I won $75.00 at Mohegan Sun and needed Chuck to help me step away from the machine before I gave it back! As he stopped at a nearby machine just to see how it worked, I grabbed him by the elbow and hurried him away. Why? I was afraid I would see someone sit down at “MY winning machine” and win even more! Today I tried the penny, 2 cent and nickel slot machines. I fed a total of $35.00 into a few machines while we were there and was delighted that I left only $14.97 cents in the casino’s coffers. It’s not that I don’t get mesmerized by the bells, whistles and flashing lights of the slots. I do. And it’s not that I wouldn’t love to slip a $5.00 bill into a machine and win so much that the attendant has to come and I need a security escort to my car. I would. Really. But the bottom line is, for me, losing is just too darned stressful.

Now you know why it is highly unlikely I’ll ever visit Las Vegas or Atlantic City!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Following The Trail

It’s not that I’m easily distracted, it’s that I become very focused on a task. Sometimes, said task, causes me to head to Google. That leads me to follow promising leads, backtrack, regroup and follow new leads - bookmarking wildly as I go. Which is how I ended up at the Library of Congress tonight, after I had begun on eBay, entering the search word: “Yiddish”. It was at the LOC where I found this graphically beautiful Works Progress Administration (WPA) poster which struck me as intensely poignant. It was published sometime between 1936 and 1941 in New York City, urging Yiddish speaking adult immigrants to attend: “Free classes in English! Learn to speak, read, & write the language of your children!” It was practical, well intentioned and even generous. But at that same moment in time, across the Atlantic, one out of every two Yiddish speakers in the world were in the process of being eliminated from the planet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Day After

Once upon a time, this day would have been spent shopping with my Mom. Before the malls came to Warwick, Rhode Island we would shop in downtown Providence. After the malls began sprawling nearby, we would shop there. (My father always insisted the stores moved from Providence to Warwick because Mom had relocated and the stores had to follow her!) We came prepared with lists, wore comfortable shoes and would say yes to all the fancy, sturdy, handled, shopping bags the stores readily dispensed. Once I became a teenager, Mom would periodically send me out to the car to stow our treasures. I became quite adept at shaking my head to wave off hopeful drivers looking for parking spaces. I would re-lock the car and head back in for the next round. Midday, we would stop for lunch. After ordering, we would pull out our lists, check our progress and plot out our strategy for the afternoon.

I loved every single minute of it.

But I haven’t shopped on the day after Thanksgiving in ages. Nor have I darkened the doorway of a mall on the day after Christmas in years and years. Neither has my Mom. For us it was part of era. A 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s solidly middle class consumerism, which was emblematic of security, celebration and freedom. It was also all tied up in an odd corruption of the Magi and their gifts; laden with religious overtones and being good for Santa Claus; transmogrified into a pile of brightly wrapped presents under an exquisite, twinkling, artificial tree.

I loved every single minute of it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Chuck and Al carving the turkey

There was hugging, cooking, laughing, uncorking, talking, stirring, pouring, basting, drinking, mashing, explaining, mixing, tasting, checking, photographing, oohing, aahing, discussing, improvising, carving, serving, herding, toasting, remembering, eating, watching, laughing, crying, hugging, goodbyeing.

It was all good.

For all of this, and more, I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For You

It began life as ornamental kale in a garden bed in Bar Harbor, Maine.
But I wanted to turn it into a corsage; a boutonniere, for you.
Thank you for reading and joining in Pink Granite for the last three years!

Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ’09 & Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It Started With A Baseball Cap

Yesterday we drove out to the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a powerful, fascinating, wonderful experience. We have known about the Center and have been meaning to go for a long time. But it was a chance meeting that finally got us off the dime. We had stopped by Wild Willy’s in Worcester for a quick meal last week. I noticed a man in the next booth wearing a Boston Red Sox baseball cap. Here in “Red Sox Nation” that’s anything but unusual. Except in this instance “Red Sox” was written in Yiddish! I pointed it out to Chuck who approached the gentleman and asked where he had gotten the cap. He smiled, said the National Yiddish Book Center and asked if we had been there. When Chuck said no, not yet, the gentleman said “You’ve got to go.” But it wasn’t an off-hand remark. He said it in such a sincere, intense and thoughtful way, it struck as quite remarkable. As soon as we got home we looked up the center, found the hat and spent quite a bit of time exploring the website. The more we read and the more we thought about the gentleman’s advice, we knew we had to go as soon as possible.

The National Yiddish Book Center is located on the campus of Hampshire College. It’s a beautiful wooden building both outside and in. On a less rainy day, the gardens and grounds will deserve exploration. From a visitor standpoint, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We followed the easily self guided tour of what is a cross between a museum, a library and a cultural inheritance. We watched a brief video which explained how the Center came to exist. It all began around 1980 when Aaron Lansky was studying Yiddish. But he couldn’t find enough books. He posted a few signs around his neighborhood and soon elderly Jews were contacting him, delighted by his interest and relieved to pass the books on to someone who would value them; treasure them as much as they did.

During World War II, one of every two Yiddish speakers in the world was killed. Countless volumes of Yiddish books were destroyed. Hebrew was the language of scholars and religious services, but Yiddish was the language of the home and commerce. Beyond the staggering human toll, to lose half of the speakers of a language was a huge blow to the thousand year old shared culture of Jews in every corner of the globe. It was especially wrenching after the time between the wars when Yiddish literature had flourished. When the State of Israel was established, Hebrew, not Yiddish was made the national language. This hotly contested decision dealt a further blow to the language. So by the time a young student in his twenties was studying Yiddish in the 1970s, nearly all the books were out of print and many thought it a dead or surely dying language.

Aaron Lansky’s book “Outwitting History” (Also available here) chronicles how the collection grew from a few boxes of Yiddish books to over 1.5 million at the center today. Please don’t be intimidated if you don’t read Yiddish in the original or if you don’t speak Yiddish. Because most visitors are in the same situation, the center is full of English language, bilingual and transliterated signs and exhibits. Their goal is to open Yiddish back up to the world. All are made welcome and admission is free.

We all know and use lots of Yiddish words: bagel, goy, schlep, nosh, kvetch, chutzpah, feh!, klutz, oy vey!, shmaltz, latke, lox, shmuck, yente, shtick, maven, dreidel... just to name a few. Visiting the National Yiddish Book Center provides a history, a context and a greater depth of meaning to why Yiddish words, books and music remain vital today. It also sparks a determination not only to protect the past, but to encourage a Yiddish renaissance.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It’s Not Just Me

Regarding my post from the other day, “One Voter”, turns out I am not the only undecided voter here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. According to the Boston Globe: “Coakley Leads, But Electorate Unsettled”. Subtitle reads: “In Globe poll, 50 percent remain undecided; Capuano running 2nd, but far behind AG [Attorney General Coakley]” .

On the one hand, I’m glad I’m not alone. But on the other hand, what does it say about this particular crop of candidates, that, as a community, we are so undecided; so uninspired?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Forgotten - Not Gone!

We’ve been enjoying this season’s new ABC series “The Forgotten” starring Christian Slater. Being the kiss of death, we’ve been worried the powers that be at ABC wouldn’t give it enough time to catch on and establish an audience. Chuck learned today that they have ordered five new episodes. Yes!

The premise is that a group of volunteers work with police on cold cases to try to identify the bodies of Jane and John Doe homicide victims. The show always captures our attention, holds our interest, isn’t excessively grisly and doesn’t telegraph the ending in the first two minutes! Is it perfect? No, but it’s very good. (And whoever is shooting their aerial shots of Chicago deserves applause.) ABC seems to like broadcasting clips from their shows, but, despite banners to the contrary, I couldn’t find full episodes on their site. The next episode of “The Forgotten” is scheduled to be broadcast on Tuesday, December 1, 2009. Mark your calendars...

Friday, November 20, 2009

One Voter

I liked Ted Kennedy. I liked him a lot. I respected the work he did in the Senate. I admired the way he wore the label “Liberal” proudly. I mourned his passing. I was satisfied with the appointment of Paul Kirk as our interim senator. But I cannot get excited about this senatorial special election. Perhaps worse still, I haven’t made up my mind about who to vote for. And the primary is on Tuesday, December 8, 2009!

Here are the candidates webpages:
Scott P. Brown - R
Michael E. Capuano - D
Martha Coakley - D
Alan A. Khazei - D
Stephen G. Pagliuca - D
Jack E. Robinson - R

Here are the candidates Twitter pages:
Scott P. Brown, R
Michael E. Capuano - D
Martha Coakley - D
Alan A. Khazei - D
Stephen G. Pagliuca - D
Jack E. Robinson - R
Some of their Tweets are quite interesting!

Two Boston Globe reports on the candidates federal financial disclosure forms caught my attention:
Senate Candidates Disclose Assets
and the follow up
Coakley Admits To Federal Filing Error

I’ve seen lots of television advertisements for the four Democrats, but so far none for the two Republicans. Truthfully, even though I’m still a lower case “i” registered independent, I am a progressive, so I can’t imagine voting for either of the Republicans. I know tons of money is being spent on this campaign, but so far, for this voter, not only is the steak hard to find, there isn’t even very much sizzle.

I think I’d like a chart that states the six candidates positions on a list of key issues.

Geezalu! Even that sounds boring as sin!

Anyone have any thoughts or recommendations?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


A rose hip along the Shore Path in Bar Harbor
Beauty and promise amid the thorns and the fading leaves

How did it get to be Thursday?
Tuesday was spent to and fro and in Rhode Island with my Mom - out to lunch, grocery shopping and other errands with her.
Wednesday was one project after another inside the house - laundry, cleaning, sorting/tossing/recycling, number crunching and spreadsheet making.
Today was one project after another outside the house - yardwork in this unseasonably warm weather. Plus Chuck cleaned the gutters and got half the holiday lights up. (No they are not on yet!)
Apparently that’s how it got to be Thursday.
And next Thursday is Thanksgiving?

Time to stop and smell the roses - or, at the very least, admire the rose hips...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

”Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Mom
Happy Birthday to you -
and many more!

My Mom, Dorothy, is celebrating her 86th birthday today!

The day after her birthday, Mom usually begins saying that she is in her "next year". For example, tomorrow, she will say "I'm in my 87th year now!" Sometimes, she says the number for the "next year" often enough that she begins adding an additional year by mistake. But the other day she said "Well, I'm almost 90 now!" Uh oh... this could get interesting in a hurry!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gourmet Fried Onion Pieces!

In this instance we were not the kiss of death! The item was just “seasonal” and now it’s back!

I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let me back up...

Here in the U.S. something called a “Green Bean Casserole” has been a winter holiday classic since the mid 1950s. The key ingredients in the recipe from the Campbell Soup Company are green beans, Cream of Mushroom Soup and French’sⓇ French Fried Onions.

Last winter, we were in Trader Joe’s and on a whim I picked up a can of their “Gourmet Fried Onion Pieces”. I think the first way I experimented with them was to sprinkle a few on the top of individual gratin dishes of macaroni and cheese, made with chunks of tomato. Oh my! It was scrumptious. Before using them, as the cook in the kitchen, I had taken a small taste of the T.J.’s Onion Pieces straight out of the can. In the past, I had done the same thing with the French’s canned onions. I still have the sense memory of a thick, gummy coating left on my tongue after the French’s. But the Trader Joe’s just tasted like, well, crispy, fried, onions - nothing gummy; no unpleasant coating lingering in my mouth. I should note that the Trader Joe’s are accurately labeled as onion “pieces”. You won’t find the pretty little onion rings that you will in the French’s cans. That aesthetic may be important to you, but for me, the taste and texture of the Trader Joe’s Onion Pieces win by a country mile.

So I continued to experiment with this new ingredient. (They were insanely good on baked potatoes.) Based on how this post began, you already know what happened next. Yup. We went back to Trader Joe’s to pick up another can to stash in the pantry and they were gone. Kiss of death that we are, the managers soon saw our familiar, pitiful faces at their counter. That’s when they told us the Onion Pieces were “seasonal”. Immediate gratification was not to be ours, but we still had hope. A few weeks ago, as they geared up for the winter holidays, we began to see displays of “seasonal” items in TJs. Finally, on a recent visit, they were there - same tin, same UPC, same delicious crispy bits inside. Don’t wait until January. Put them on your grocery list and get thee to a TJs!

True family story:
Many years ago, my Mom made the Green Bean Casserole for a big family dinner. Everyone was carefully spooning out a serving of the casserole with the decadent layer of crispy onions on top. About halfway around the table, my cousin D got to the dish. He took the serving spoon and, for some still unfathomable reason, vigorously stirred it all up together - effectively drowning the coveted crispy onion crust.

I remember a collective gasp.

I never saw cousin D again...

: : Update: In response to a Thanksgiving Eve request from “speterson”, here is a photo of the recipe off the back of the Trader Joe’s Gourmet Fried Onion Pieces. Enjoy!
Click on the photo to get a better look.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Buskin & Batteau

Until a few years ago I had never heard of a “house concert”. Then we learned that David Buskin would be performing with Modern Man at something called Fox Run. Fox Run turned out to be a house concert venue. A couple named Laurie and Neale have been hosting concerts in their home for twelve years. You make a reservation and buy your ticket in advance, on-line. You arrive at their home, located in a lovely neighborhood in Sudbury, Massachusetts. You slip off your shoes, leave them by the door and check in at the desk in the foyer. You drop off your contribution to the intermission dessert/snack table in the dining room (No red wine please - think of the carpets!) and head into the family room where the concert will be held. You place a reserved sign on the seat of your choosing and get ready for an evening of music.

Last Saturday night found us once again at Fox Run. This time we were there to see Buskin & Batteau. David Buskin and Robin Batteau began performing together back in 1979 after meeting in the band “Pierce Arrow”. For many years they had day jobs as jingle writers at competing advertising houses, each of them repeatedly hitting the jingle equivalent of home runs. They continued to perform together on the folk music circuit until about 13 years ago when, according to their press kit, they took a “hiatus to 1) be dads, and 2) take a nap”. We were delighted when we heard they were writing and performing together again. We bought their latest album “Red Shoes and Golden Hearts” as soon as it became available and have been enjoying it very much.

Saturday’s concert was opened by Linda Sharar. Her music was new to us, but hooked us sufficiently that we purchased both of her CDs during intermission. At the end of Linda’s set she was joined by David, Robin and the dazzling percussionist Marshal Rosenberg for one final song “Arturo's Sons and Jorge's Daughters”. Linda exited to enthusiastic applause. Then David, Robin and Marshal performed music not just from the new album but many of their classics as well.

It was a wonderful concert. Buskin & Batteau are known not only for their musical skills (David on piano and guitar; Robin on violin and guitar), and their clever (never precious) lyrics, but also for their wit and humor. Their albums are great, but seeing them in person, listening to the stories behind the songs, brings added depth and dimension. They have always been great entertainers - polished and professional - as well as self confident and relaxed enough to roll with any hiccups that can occur during a performance. The end of the concert brought a standing ovation, “curtain” calls and an encore (which in this instance meant they left the stage in the family room, headed into the kitchen and returned!). This concert was particularly good, not just because the Fox Run venue was so intimate, but also because the guys seemed especially happy. When I mentioned this to Robin after the show he agreed and referred to one of the songs off the newest album “Choose Joy”.

Saturday, Chuck & David managed to work out that they have known each other for 39 years. I first met David about 21 year ago. Sometime in the next year or two I gave him some bad advice on how to operate the lid on a pitcher of water and he very politely had to ask us all to leave the dressing room so he could change out of his drenched jeans. I’m amazed I wasn’t banned from his concerts for life - amazed and happy!

You can see Buskin and Batteau at The Stone Temple Coffeehouse in Quincy, Massachusetts on Saturday, November 21st. I know it will be a great concert, because they always are.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month...

“On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Presidential Proclamation

Honoring all who served
Honoring all who were wounded
Honoring all who gave their lives

You stood in our stead
You stood for our country, for our constitution
You stood for our freedom, for our liberty

You have our gratitude, our respect, our memory
We pledge our service, our advocacy, our work for peace...

Monday, November 9, 2009

If Only I Were Gumby

I’m still here, just pulled in too many directions at the moment. Nearly all good, except for a thankfully extremely rare, near-migraine Chuck had to deal with. In the 24 years we’ve known each other he’s had fewer than a handful which have truly felled him. This one was brief and quickly truncated by rest; hence “near-migraine”.

The next few days will continue to be busy, culminating in what I hope will be the last dental visit needed to finally get my tiara crown. If you follow me on Twitter this is old news, but I realized Tooth #3 is the most expensive thing in my head. Any more work on that tooth and it will be worth more than our car!

The weather has been unseasonably warm and breezy, so the line drying on the porch has been faster than those humid days of summer ever were. And that makes me ridiculously happy! I promise to update you on the concert we attended Saturday night as soon as life allows...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

You’re Welcome!

I found another food blog of note. It was typically serendipitous. Chris Hayes, Washington Editor of The Nation Tweeted: “Making the world's greatest lasagna recipe: butternut squash basil bechamel.”

O.K. I thought, I’ll bite - pun fully intended - and I clicked over to discover a blog by Jessica Jones called Jonesing For... It’s eclectic, interesting, chatty and some of the recipes are quite unexpected.

Go on, give it a whirl!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bill Sparkman - Ongoing

I’ve previously written about the late Census Worker Bill Sparkman here and here.Tonight, on The Rachel Maddow Show, it was reported that two unnamed sources told the AP that while the case is still an open investigation, the possibility that Mr. Sparkman committed suicide is being looked at closely.

I’m grateful the investigation is still ongoing. I hope that the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to work the case along with the Kentucky State Police. But, based on all of the descriptions I have read about the condition of his body when it was discovered, I remain convinced Mr. Sparkman was murdered.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tooth #3 - The Odyssey Continues

This afternoon I went for what was my second and last visit to the endodontist. Turns out the #3 tooth typically has just three nerves. Well, mine had a fourth. A bonus nerve. Who knew? Unfortunately, it meant an office visit which had more in common activity-wise with the first visit than I (or Dr. V.) had hoped for. But all is well and, with any luck at all, sometime next week the long anticipated, lovely new crown will be gracing my #3 tooth.

I think I should have opted for the Tiara. ;o)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Without the brown, fallen oak leaves in the background, it would be easy to mistake this shot for summer.

But a closer look at the milkweed pod sending its fluttering seeds out on the wind is proof of autumn.

Maine: NOT The Way Life Should Be

58% of the registered voters in Maine went to the polls yesterday. (detailed results available by county and town from the Bangor Daily News) Of those voters, 52.77% voted to repeal Maine’s Marriage Equality law. 47.23% voted to let Marriage Equality stand in Maine.

The approval of Question One which means the repeal of Marriage Equality in Maine is disheartening, disappointing, dispiriting. But two towns in particular who voted to strip same sex couples of their ever so recently afforded rights shocked and angered me.

Remember Mr. Spooner, the World War II Veteran, Veterans of Foreign Wars Chaplain, widower and the father of four sons - one of whom is gay? His fellow citizens in the city of Biddeford voted to repeal Marriage Equality in Maine: 53% Yes, 47% No.

And remember Mr. Redicker, the Vietnam War veteran and father of two daughters; one gay, one straight? His fellow citizens in the town of Fort Fairfield also voted to repeal Marriage Equality in Maine: 70% Yes, 30% No.

Do we blame ignorance? Fear? Hatred? I don’t know. But this process of state by state referendums on Marriage Equality now stands at zero victories. The comparison to the lengthy and enormous African-American Civil Rights Movement is fraught with differences and controversy. But the three federal legislative landmarks were the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The important part of that last sentence is the word “federal”. But ever since the perversely named Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became law in 1996, the federal deck has been stacked against Marriage Equality. And the language of DOMA explicitly undermines the impact of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution on marriage, which says states must respect the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings” of other states.

Same sex marriage is currently legal in just five states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont; with New Hampshire’s law to take effect on January 1, 2010. But until the day when the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009 (H.R. 3567) , which repeals DOMA, becomes federal law, each of those states will be standing alone. Same sex couples legally married in those states will not have their marriages recognized in other states. The work for Marriage Equality must continue at the state level - including vigilance that existing rights are not eroded or overturned. But after yesterday’s vote in Maine, I believe the most important work is to get the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009 passed into law.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Night 2009

Riding the roller coaster that is election night.
Sometimes the screaming is excitement.
Sometimes it’s terror.
But I always get back on the freakin’ ride!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hard Cider

I know when it comes to crops, monoculture is generally undesirable. While polyculture and biodiversity are both very good and the ideal. I’m familiar with Seed Savers and heirloom fruits and vegetables. I even know a little about heritage breeds of livestock. But until I watched the lush PBS documentary The Botany of Desire (Based on the book by Michael Pollan) I did not understand how important it was for us to drink hard cider. Yes indeedy. Hard cider is not made from the handful of popular sweet apple varieties to be found in grocery stores. No, hard cider is made from all the myriad tart apple varieties, including the precious antiques. So every time you purchase a bottle of hard cider you are supporting polyculture and biodiversity. Every time you drink a toast with hard cider you are saving the planet!

As soon as my consciousness was raised I went directly to our liquor closet. I chose one of the bottles of cider from West County Cider of Colrain, Massachusetts and popped it into the refrigerator. We enjoyed it that evening with the roast pork and it was a lovely accompaniment. Massachusetts’ own Johnny Appleseed would have been proud.

Going Door To Door

When Chuck and I set the date for our marriage we walked over to our Town Hall and got a marriage license. Easy peasy.

It’s not that easy for everyone:

Vote NO on 1 - Protect Maine Equality

Time’s running out!
You can help protect marriage equality in Maine by clicking here to donate!