Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye & Hello

Happy New Year!

Wishing you good health, peace, joy and love
in 2011 and beyond!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

This & That Round-Up

: : She’s back and she’s still very funny - “earthy” this time, but very funny.

: : She flew practically from one pole to the other to meet Father Christmas in Rovaniemi, Lapland in Finland.

: : He has spent the last quarter century as a non-smoker. Coincidentally, so have I.

: : I wish I could turn back the clock so you all could go see what was, hands down, the best Revels ever.

: : Isabella weighs 7 lbs, 10.5 oz / 3.47 kgs and is just dandy!

: : This is the same way our relative met & married his new wife - minus the coverage in People Magazine and the chateau in Switzerland.

Monday, December 27, 2010


The wind was and continues to be fierce; the cold bitter and biting. But the snow, well, around here, not too much. Actually, I can’t provide accurate figures for snowfall accumulation because the snow here in the hills of Worcester County was generally light and fluffy. Add in the high winds and that meant both drifting and scouring. The drifts in the dooryard near the barn measured around 18-20 inches / 45-50 centimeters. Yet there were a couple of small, nearly bare spots on the driveway. When Chuck ventured out earlier this evening he found the roads around town in generally good shape. The exceptions were dramatic and all involved rural roads, like ours, where the high winds had swept snow off open fields, onto the road.

Tomorrow promises sunshine, more below freezing temperatures, but lighter winds. Trust me, that will most definitely be an improvement!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Let It Snow!

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

It doesn't show signs of stopping,

And I've bought some corn for popping,
The lights are turned way down low,

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

When we finally kiss goodnight,

How I'll hate going out in the storm.

But if you'll really hold me tight,
All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying,
And, my dear, we're still good-bying,

But as long as you love me so,
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

- Written by Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne, 1945

Ah, but we did have someplace to go!

Today was our day for Isabella’s “Rolling Christmas”. That meant we needed to drive from Central Massachusetts to Kent County, Rhode Island. Not a problem - except for the blizzard. Yes, this wasn’t just Isabella’s first Christmas, it was her first blizzard as well! As the week progressed and the meteorologists’ forecasts became more specific, we decided to base our travel plans on the timing of the storm. They were all predicting the snow to begin in Rhode Island about noon, but the heaviest bands weren’t expected until late afternoon and early evening. So after a flurry of phone calls (yes, flurry!) we settled on an earlier arrival time of 11:00 a.m.

As we loaded our sleigh car and drove down our driveway at 8:20 a.m. the first flakes were beginning to fall. We arrived at my mothers home a little after 10:00 and packed up the dinner she had prepared (and her!) and headed over to Carrie and Al’s. We had a lovely time. Al had gotten what, in the lot, looked like a modest tree, but turned out to be room-fillingly plump and quite fragrant. Carrie had decorated it with Izzy’s “assistance” over a few days. Add in the opened holiday gifts from the earlier iterations of the Rolling Christmas and their home was very festive!

After much holding of Isabella, a good dinner, plus conversation and laughter, we left Carrie and Al’s about 20 past 2 and drove my Mom back to her home on the other side of town. The roads had been treated and some had been plowed, but the driving on secondary roads was tense. Once we got up onto Route 295 headed home, it was steady going in light snow on well plowed surfaces. But Route 146 was a challenge. The snow had intensified and the road had a thick accumulation of snow on it. Chuck was driving that difficult leg of the journey. But once we made it to Worcester, we seemed to be ahead of the heavier bands and the traveling was much better. We switched drivers in the Price Chopper lot at Park and Highland - taking the opportunity to re-clear windows and lights on the car. I then began driving up into the hills of Western Worcester County. By 6:00 p.m. we were back in our driveway (which had very little snow on it), safe and sound.

Since then, the wind has picked up and the snow is falling heavily and steadily. By the time the blizzard is over, they say we might get between 12 and 18 inches (30 - 45 centimeters) of snow.

We’re grateful to have been able to share the holiday with family. Very grateful we were able to navigate the roads safely to and fro. And ever so happy to be home again.

Chuck cleaning off the car in Rhode Island, 2:18 p.m.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s my favorite movie of all time. It always will be. All the great directors, writers and cinematographers that have ever lived could collaborate to create a film together and it wouldn’t hold a candle to “It’s A Wonderful Life”. I watch it every year, at least once (I own a copy). Every year I discover something new or understand some aspect of it in a new way. It’s perfect. I laugh; I cry; my blood boils at Mr. Potter; my heart melts when George and Mary embrace over the telephone and again when they are reunited on the stairs with their children. The final scene is the best happy ending ever. Ever. Some members of my family don’t understand its magic. They need to watch it, start to finish, without commercials and give themselves over to it - no distractions, save perhaps popcorn or eggnog. I’m certain that’s all it will take. ;o)

Wishing you a very
Merry Christmas!

Image courtesy of Karen’s Whimsy

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Then and Now

One month ago today, Isabella Rose left the NICU to go home for the very first time. When she was discharged she weighed 5 lbs, 13 oz / 2.64 kgs. Now she weighs 7 lbs, 3 oz / 3.26 kgs! She is a wonderful child. I’ve written before that when we first met her back in August, at just four hours old, weighing 1 lb, 6 oz / 620 grams, she struck us as sweet and strong. That is still absolutely true. Her mom and dad, Carrie and Al, are great parents - attentive, loving and increasingly relaxed. Even a call to 911 last Friday, while intense and scary, was taken in stride, and they pronounced Isabella “pink and perfect” by the time the Rescue Squad arrived.

We are all so very grateful; so very happy.
Thank you for your support, encouragement and celebration over the last five months!



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Solstice Wishes For You

May all these be yours...

Thanks to Roo for reminding me about Wordle and to Morgan for introducing me to it in the first place!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thank You USPS!

Today was expected to be the busiest day of the year for the United States Postal Service. May I say simply that Letter Carriers Rock! In the interest of full disclosure a member of our extended family is employed with the USPS. But I remain amazed that we have such an incredibly efficient postal service and we pay lower prices for those services than many other countries. So remember to thank your letter carriers this holiday season. And don’t forget, you can tip them too! *

* There are a lot of references all over the internet that there is a USPS regulation that letter carriers cannot accept gifts over $20.00. I can’t find that authoritatively on the USPS website. If you can find it, please leave a link in the comments. Otherwise, giving a gift in appreciation for great service from one human being to another, well, that strikes me as an entirely private matter... ;o)

Blue Ribbon!

Without a doubt, the best blue cheese I have ever eaten is Cashel Blue Irish Farmhouse Cheese made in County Tipperary, Ireland. I remember tasting close to a dozen artisanal blue cheeses out in Seattle a couple of years ago. Many of them were very, very good. But this past October I had some Cashel Blue as part of a salad at McKay’s in Bar Harbor. It was intense but not overpowering; creamy without being mushy. It had an ancient, earthy, yet wonderfully fresh taste. We made a note of the name. Saturday night we found some at Whole Foods near Alewife. Last night I added it to our salads. At this stage of ripeness it can’t really be cut and cubed. So you need to use your fingers to break and roll bits of it off. It was as good as we remembered! The Cashel site has a lot of useful information about the cheese along with some recipes. Although I have trouble imagining incorporating this blue into anything, simply because it is so enjoyable on its own - think very plain crackers, apples, pears or a lightly dressed salad. I look forward to having it with a prosecco or with a moscato. Basically, I look forward to having it again!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

il Casale

We had a great evening last night. Part of what made it so much fun was we went out to dinner with our niece Kate and her husband Phil. (You may remember Kate from this post.) My Dad was an excellent storyteller. Chuck tells a pretty darn good story, as do I. But Kate is the best storyteller in the family. So there was a lot of catching up and a whole lot of laughter. What prompted the get together was actually Isabella Rose. Because our (now 7 pound!) grandniece can’t be around crowds, we’re having a “rolling Christmas” this year. Small groups of family will be visiting Carrie, Al and Isabella on different days. Most of us are bringing a meal so as to keep the impact minimal and maximize the celebration. It’s a good solution, but it means we won’t be seeing the whole fan-damily at one big gathering. Hence, a holiday dinner in Belmont with Phil and Kate.

il Casale is located on Leonard Street in the heart of “downtown” Belmont. It’s housed in a converted firehouse: high ceilings, brick walls, deep toned wood tables. Our waitress was Soledad. She could teach a master class in how to be a great server. Throughout the evening she struck the balance we love of being attentive, without being intrusive. Because none of us had ever been there before, she walked us through the evening specials and the printed menu. After extensive discussion we settled on three Sfizi - little tastes - as appetizers: maiale (pork meatballs), burrata (buttery mozzarella), fegatini (pate). They arrived on individual dishes and Kate divided and served them to us. Each was a delightful burst of flavor; very much like an amuse-bouche. While we enjoyed the Sfizi, we continued to study the menu. Which, when you are talking, laughing and already waxing rhapsodic about the food, can be a challenge!

We finally placed our main order off the Secondi menu: Chuck, the osso-buco lamb shank; Kate, the veal saltimbocca; Phil, the bistecca, which last night was a grilled rib-eye; I chose the brodetto (seafood stew). We also ordered two items from the Contorni menu: the spinach with marscapone and lemon; plus the polenta with gorgonzola. A “small serving” (not really) of the radiatore pasta with the wild boar ragu off the Primi menu rounded out what became almost a family style meal. Soledad also made solid recommendations from the wine list. Chuck’s choice was the most noteworthy: a glass of the Grifalco Aglianico del Vulture.

When our dishes arrived, it was with an efficient, but festive flurry of activity. Multiple servers appeared with all of the items at once. Soledad checked to make sure we had everything and checked back with us shortly thereafter. Every selection was excellent. (O.K. One tiny quibble: the spinaci could have been a little creamier, but no spinach returned to the kitchen uneaten!) We were all very happy with our individual entrees, as well as the tastes we shared with one another.

Then came dessert. Could il Casale keep hitting it out of the park? Oh yes indeedy! Kate and Phil decided to share a tiramisu. Chuck chose the crostata di mele (apple tart) and I ordered the frittelle (Venetian style fried dough with a chocolate fonduta). Once again, tastes were shared liberally and we all agreed they were delicious. Personally, I thought the frittelle were out of this world. Crispy on the outside; tender, almost creamy on the inside; each little beignet-cum-munchkin was scrumptious dipped in the dark chocolate sauce. They should be ordered automatically to share after every meal.

My only problem? il Casale has ruined me for all other restaurants, because all others will pale in comparison!

Note: Reservations are recommended. And it’s important to speak with il Casale directly to request either a low or a high (bar height) table.

: : Update: After I posted this, I checked out the reviews for il Casale over on Open Table, Trip Advisor and Yelp. Wow! Apparently there is a wormhole near the entrance to the restaurant. Most of us are lucky enough to step into the real restaurant and have the spectacular experience we did. Others pass through the time space anomaly and emerge in the cruel impersonator where service is poor and the food is mediocre! All I can tell you is that the four of us ordered thirteen different dishes and enjoyed every single one.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The world turns; the darkness falls; we’re sliding into winter.
The welcome chill of autumn becomes raw and biting.
Winds of summer brought comfort; winter’s wind causes us to steel ourselves.
The lights keep us steady and sane.
Creamy yellow glow of lamps through frosted windowpanes; twinkle lights dangling from porches; these cheer us.
Evergreens strung round and round with bulbs of green, red, blue, orange; these gladden our hearts.
Crazy, inflatable snowmen, Santas, penguins; tethered to the ground, bob and weave as their light spills onto lawns, dusted with first snow.
Wicker reindeer, draped in white lights, graze in an imaginary forest, adjacent to sidewalks and parking meters.
We squint, the way my Dad taught me to check our Christmas tree decades ago, we squint and the lights steady us; warm our hearts and something deep within us calms, then soars.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

DADT - The Song

We were at The Bull Run in Shirley, Massachusetts last night for a particularly fine concert by David Buskin, Robin Batteau and Marshal Rosenberg. (Here’s my post from last year about Buskin & Batteau.) The Kennedys opened for them, or as the Bull Run’s impresario said “we have two headliners tonight”. Despite The Kennedys having been on the folk music circuit for 15 years or so, we had never heard them live before. They were terrific. Maura’s voice is lovely and Pete worked some sort of musical miracle on his ukelele and produced George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” - amazing!

About three quarters of the way through Buskin & Batteau’s excellent performance, David went to the piano and Robin picked up his violin. David introduced the next song by saying he had written it just a few months ago, assuming it would be well out of date by now. It was called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Sadly, it is still all too timely. Here’s the video they shot at Fox Run:

You can find all things Buskin & Batteau here.

An explanation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Join the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts to repeal DADT.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thank You!

Have you ever looked at your calendar and not seen any blank spaces? That’s what my week has been like. It actually began at the beginning of November when our washer and dryer began their inexorable journey to the recycling facility. Heck, it probably began back in July when I had my surgery. Regardless of the starting point, things got so busy that I missed the anniversary of Pink Granite. It was November 25th, Thanksgiving Day. But there were far more important things happening at the time - like the long awaited homecoming of Isabella Rose!

While this acknowledgement is belated, it is heartfelt: thank you for reading and joining in Pink Granite for the last four years!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Said No, No, No

Back in September, I posted about fewer, less and pled. Yesterday, I Tweeted and had a word display as misspelled. Under “natheless” appeared the dotted red line symbolizing an error. Nunh unh I thought articulately. So I headed to and typed it into the search box. There it was, properly spelled, a legitimate adverb - - - but wait. In italics was the word “Archaic”. Archaic?! I’m using it. I’ve always used it. It’s a perfectly lovely synonym for nevertheless or nonetheless or notwithstanding. Archaic?! It’s Old English or Middle English and has been in use since before 900 AD/CE. Note that’s in use; not dig it out, dust it off and pronounce it quaint.


I understand that language is fluid. It adapts and responds as a culture changes and evolves. Fine. But we need natheless. It flows smoothly off the tongue and has an aural lightness which allows it to be employed in less formal sentences. Won’t you join me in keeping it contemporary? Or, as fussbudget lexicographers might insist it be termed, bringing it back?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just A Typical Conversation

I speak with my 87 year old mother just about every day. Sometimes it is a brief call; other times the conversation can pinball around for more than an hour.

So I’m on the phone with my mother this afternoon and she’s rattling off various tidbits of news. She’s telling me about her card group and their going away luncheon for Margie - a big success.

Then she tells me of a couple of kindnesses done for her by two neighbors.

Then she says: “Oh and Rosie (name changed to protect the innocent - and others) is getting married!” “Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed because Rosie, a friend of my eldest sister, is in her 60’s and has never been married before.

“Yes,” says my mother, “she’s been sober for quite some time now.” Had I been drinking, I would have done a spit-take!

I laughed and told her I wasn’t quite making the connection between the two statements of apparent fact.

Undaunted, my Mom breezed on to say: “And there was also some news about Rosie’s brother. But I can’t quite remember now if he’s gotten sober as well or if he died.”

I suggested we might need just a few more facts before we broadcast any news updates about Rosie’s brother!

Friday, December 3, 2010

It Works!

My digital camera is a five year old Canon PowerShot S2 IS. Yes, I do dream about digital SLRs, but I like most aspects of my camera. Two things I don’t like are the slow recovery time between shots and the harshness of the pop-up flash. Without upgrading to another camera, I’m stuck with the lag time. But Photojojo provided a solution for the glare of the flash. Ages ago they recommended making a Film Canister Flash Diffuser. I finally did it and it works like a charm!

While Isabella was in the NICU I never used a flash. I didn’t wish to harm those tender eyes of hers. As a result, I became quite adept at adjusting and screening in iPhoto and Photoshop to compensate for low light and the dreaded fluorescent light in her room. Now that she is home, the lighting is still complicated. When we first visited on Thanksgiving, I shot just a few photos without flash. But as the gloaming settled in, I had to flip up the flash. The photos had an unnatural quality which made me think of the strobe lights on the dance floors of the disco era. (Yes, I am that old!) I resolved to make the film canister diffuser and give it a whirl.

We tried it out today and the only tweaking I need to do is to get a tighter fit on the canister. If I tipped the camera down too far or flipped it to the side for a portrait orientation it came close to falling off. But that should be a fairly easy fix and well worth the time to achieve a more natural, true-to-memory photograph.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Chanukah!

The calendar turned another page and suddenly it was Chanukah. So thanks to a tip from Wendy and her mum Fiona, I turned to SmileBox. I have wanted to get into the SmileBox website for ages, but was always turned away because we are Apple computer users. That’s literally, turned away. They had a “Sorry but you’re a Mac user” message! Now SmileBox plays well with Mac and all is forgiven! In very little time, with very, very little reading of directions (hello?) I had a SmileBox Chanukah slideshow card ready to go. One tiny quibble was that the flickering candles on the card numbered only eight for the eight nights, but there really should have been nine to include the Shamash candle. And the eight flickering lights were all at different heights which is also a no-no. I ran it by Chuck who gave me the sweetest look which said something like: I love you very much and only you, the good Irish Catholic girl, are going to zero in on that.

So, I sent it!

Latkes are later in the week! Yay latkes!
But I am so wanting some sufganiyot this year. They’re the small, jelly filled doughnuts.

Enjoy every minute of the eight days and nights of Chanukah!

: : As always, has an a great and exhaustive section of their website devoted to all things Chanukah - from history to how to light the menorah/chanukiah.

: : And the best book to guide you through the Festival of Lights is still “Haneirot and Halalu, These Lights Are Holy” edited by Elyse D. Frishman and illustrated by Leonard Baskin.