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October 2009

Getting Paid, One Way or Another

Tacobell Here's a local news item that caught my eye: a man enters a nearby Taco Bell. He brandishes a gun at the counter and tells the cashier to empty the register and lie down on the floor. Evidently before he collects the cash, however, he wanders back to the manager's office and asks for a job application. According to the police, he was no longer waving the gun and the manager didn't know about the attempted hold up. But there must have been something about the guy, because the manager refused his request and asked him to leave. Meanwhile, another Taco Bell employee had left the store, gone to a nearby Wendy's, and called the cops.

You have to wonder what this guy was thinking. I guess he needed cash, but wouldn't you think he'd have planned ahead of time whether he was going the legal route or the robbery route? Both at the same time seems pretty risky.

I don't think either his criminal or legitimate career prospects are too good. 


What A Mess

DSCN0024 Sometimes when my office is really tidy, it means I'm procrastinating. What better way to avoid writing than to do some really fun filing? 

Judging from the current state of affairs - I snapped these pix this morning - you might then draw the conclusion that I am hard at work on the book. And you would be correct. I spend hours every day trying to make progress. Unfortunately the mess in the room also illustrates my mental state. I'm overwhelmed. DSCN0023

Yesterday while I was on the elliptical machine at the gym, which usually helps me clear my thoughts, it occurred to me that I should take the time to make a much more detailed chapter outline and figure out what material goes where.  And that is precisely what I am going to do today. As soon as I clean some of this stuff up.


21

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Today is The Boy's 21st birthday. My baby is 21 years old. It is a significant milestone for him, of course. But it's also one for me. What does it mean when your youngest child is an adult? (Aside from the obvious that you yourself must be getting kind of long in the tooth.) 

I am really proud of both of my kids (am I still allowed to call them that?) and the adults they are becoming. But there is a sadness too, as the curtain has definitively come down on the part of my life that was about the early amazing stage of being a Mom. A Mommy. You know.

This is a photo of the cake I baked and My Daughter decorated for The Boy's b-day. We served it to him a few days early, since we were all together. I hope you can make out the tiny car and roadway - a tip of the hat to his obsession with cars from when he was a little guy. 

Happy Birthday Pocket. I love you!


On the Trail, an Eerie Tale

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Photographs by Suzanne DeChillo/The New York TimesAt Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., from top left: flax hanging in a barn; a resident ram; making soup over an open fire; wheat kernels that are ground into flour at the mill.

Published: October 15, 2009

Tarrytown, which sits high on a hill and has majestic views of the Hudson River, claims as a native son none other than Washington Irving, the author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and other spooky tales. Its sister village, North Tarrytown, voted to rename itself Sleepy Hollow in 1996. So a visit to both villages is worthwhile, especially asHalloween looms and Irving’s tales come to life — at least in the imagination. Take the Hudson Line on Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal to Tarrytown.

Multimedia

Spooky WorldSlide Show

Spooky World

Sleepy Hollow and TarrytownMap

Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown

10 A.M. Grab a cab at the train station and head to Philipsburg Manor, 381 North Broadway in Sleepy Hollow, (914) 631-3992, a national historic landmark. (Get a card from the driver; you’ll need a ride back.) In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the manor was a farming, milling and trading complex. A visit ($12; $6 for children 5 to 17) is a trip back in time, complete with staff members in period costume, like the miller dressed in breeches and stockings who makes stone-ground corn. (A bag costs $3.) The farm also has historical breeds of oxen, cows and sheep, and you can tour the 300-year-old manor house and learn, among other things, the lesser-known story of slavery in the North. This weekend and next, the manor will hold special Halloween events for children, like pumpkin carving and the telling of ghost stories.

11:30 A.M. From Philipsburg Manor, walk across Route 9 (North Broadway) and one block north to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, 540 North Broadway, (914) 631-0081. You won’t be able to cover all 90 of its historical acres, but you can easily find gravestones etched with old Dutch names like Vanderbilt and Van Rensselaer. The cemetery maps can also direct you to the graves of the famous, including Andrew Carnegie, Brooke Astor, Leona Helmsley and Irving himself, whose family plot is set off by a wrought-iron fence. The beautiful Old Dutch Church, built in 1685, abuts the cemetery, and has its own burial grounds. Both the church and the cemetery were featured in Irving’s work.

1 P.M. Take a cab from Sleepy Hollow to Main Street and Route 9 in Tarrytown. For lunch, some local residents gravitate to Lefteris Gyro, 1 North Broadway, (914) 524-9687, for reasonably priced Greek dishes like Avgolemono, an egg-lemon soup with rice and chicken ($4 large), or the homemade yogurt, served with honey and walnuts ($4.25). For a really casual feel, consider Lubins-N-Links, 29 Main Street, (914) 909-4198, for all-beef hot dogs ($2.75 with two toppings) served with homemade sauces like “Dad’s ‘Jubee’ onion sauce” and “Mama’s spicy kraut.” On weekends, try the “teenie weenies,” which look like pigs in a blanket.

2:30 P.M. On a recent episode of TV’s “Mad Men,” Betty Draper took her children shopping for antiques in Tarrytown. She could do the same today. Main Street is dotted with a half-dozen charming stores crammed with furniture, lighting fixtures, paintings and more. Try Michael Christopher Antiques, 23 Main Street, (914) 366-4665, which specializes in lighting (a gorgeous English Regency chandelier priced at $5,200 sits in the window), or the less expensive Carol Master Antiques, 10 Main Street, (914) 332-8441.

4 P.M. Snack time. Coffee Labs Roasters, 7 Main Street, (914) 332-1479, a cozy spot with a huge coffee roaster in its center, offers an array of coffees, teas, smoothies and pastries. The place usually has a couple of dogs lying around; it offers free dog biscuits. Humans can sample the homemade Mallomar-style cookies in mocha, raspberry and other flavors ($2.15). Children in tow? Try Main Street Sweets, 35 Main Street, (914) 332-5757, for its homemade ice cream. The shop always has seasonal offerings — and an apt choice these days is its pumpkin ice cream ($2.95). Once fortified, walk down the long, steep hill of Main Street, which takes you back to the Tarrytown train station.


Viewer Discretion Advised

Homemovieday_b I had both my kids home this weekend, which was a rare treat. The Boy was home for a fall break from college and his sister came out from the city to visit us. Saturday was  cold and rainy and we all hunkered down, spending most of the day together reading, talking and eating.

After dinner (a really delicious spicy turkey lasagne) we talked about playing a family game. Not everyone was enthusiastic (probably remembering the last time I beat everyone in Scrabble - heh, heh, heh! ) and then I foolishly suggested watching old family movies.

We popped an old tape into the VCR. What was I thinking? There was The Boy, at age 2, just starting to talk and toddling around with his favorite pillow. There was My Daughter, beyond excited at her 6th birthday party. Christmases, family vacations, birthday cakes. We all laughed as we watched, because despite the fact that nearly 20 years had passed, we hadn't changed all that much. Physically of course, the transformation was dramatic. But as we watched the children, we could see in retrospect that their personalities were already there. The Weatherman kept letting the camera drift to capture wind in the trees or snow on the ground. At one point I was watching a scene from Christmas Eve, and said out loud, "Why am I giving the kids scrambled eggs on Christmas Eve?" and then my voice rang out on the video, "Please don't record that I am giving the kids scrambled eggs on Christmas Eve!"

Of course what the videos really captured was how quickly time passes. They were great fun to watch, but also almost too poignant to take. Now the Boy is now back at college and My Daughter back at work and will return tonight to her apartment. It's just me and The Weatherman and a very quiet house.  


Spicy Turkey Lasagne

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My friend Sally made this for me when I went to visit her in North Carolina. When she gave me the recipe (actually she gave me the whole cookbook - "Great Good Food - Luscious Low Fat Cooking" by Julee Rosso) she told me that if I made this, I should make two and freeze one, because it's kind of labor intensive.

This weekend I followed her advice - served one to the family (The Boy and My Daughter were home) and made one to serve next week when my sister and her husband come. REALLY tasty and worth the effort. Serves 6.

3/4 pound Italian turkey sausage, casing removed (I bought spicy)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cups chopped, canned Italian tomatoes

3 ounces tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

Crushed red pepper flakes

salt and fresh ground pepper

9 lasagne noodles, cooked (or I bought the oven ready ones, a major breakthrough)

1/2 pound part-skim mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

1/2 pound low-fat cottage cheese, drained (I substituted part-skim Ricotta)

1 cup parmesan shards, grated large

In a large pot, brown the sausage until it's no longer pink, breaking up the pieces. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms, and saute, stirring for about five minutes. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, 1/4 cup water ad the rest of the seasonings. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. (The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen.)

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly spray or wipe a 7 X 11 inch baking dish with oil. Coat the baking dish with a little of the sauce. Cover with three lasagne noodles and cover the noodles with half the mozzarella and half the cottage cheese; sprinkle with 1/3 of the parmesan. Spoon on just enough sauce to cover. Repeat with noodles, cheese and sauce. End this a third layer of noodles, sauce and the remaining parmesan. Bake, covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagne stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Loving Westchester

One of the many reasons I love Westchester is because of its diversity of landscape. You've got easy access to Manhattan but you also have rolling hills, horse farms and country. About 10 minutes from where I live, we have the Rockefeller Preserve, where the Weatherman and I go for walks at all times of year. (We've also done cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.) 

It's particularly delicious in the fall. Yesterday we brought The Boy and the Boy's girlfriend, who is visiting, for a hike there. Not only was it beautiful, but we particularly enjoyed gazing at the farm animals there. What is it that is so calming and relaxing about staring at sheep and cows?

Better sheep and dog
How handsome is this dog?!

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Along the walk....

Pretty landscape
The Boy's Girlfriend is from California, and she says the cows are happiest there. But this guy doesn't look too miserable.

Cow
Now - this is an order - try to get outside today before you miss things like this:

Fall tree



The State of Marriage

Wedding Here are some fun facts about marriage: 

-The young brides are in Oklahoma and Arkansas, where half of the women who head to the altar for the first time are 24 or younger. (Guess what - they also had the highest rate of divorce between 2007-2008.) And there's more - roughly 10% of ever-married folks in these two states have had at least 3 spouses.

-In New York and Massachusetts, which you'd think are more liberal places, things are a little more stable.  The grooms are older - half of the guys who have ever married were 30 or more when they first got married. These states also have the lowest divorce rates between 2007-2008. And for what it's worth, only 2% of folks in NY and MA have been married 3 times or more.

-Overall, a shrinking percentage of people in this country are married, and those that are taking the plunge are doing it at older ages. The median age of a first marriage, which has been climbing for decades, is 28 for men and 26 for women. 

These fun facts, and more can be found in a study done by Pew Research


Newspaper Death Watch

NYT HQ Here's a memo that came out at the NYT yesterday: 

Colleagues,

I had planned to invite you to the newsroom and break this news in person today, but I've been hit by something that seems to be the flu. Though I strongly believe in delivering bad news in person, I don't want to add insult to injury by spreading infection.

Let me cut to the chase: We have been told to reduce the newsroom by 100 positions between now and the end of the year.

We hope to accomplish this by offering voluntary buyouts. On Thursday, the Company will be sending buyout offers to everyone in the newsroom. Getting a buyout package does NOT mean we want you to leave. It is simply easier to send the envelopes to everyone. If you think a buyout may be right for you, you have up to 45 days to decide whether you will accept it or not.

As before, if we do not reach 100 positions through buyouts, we will be forced to go to layoffs. I hope that won't happen, but it might.

Our colleagues in editorial and op-ed, and on the business side, also face another round of budget cuts.

In recent years, we've managed to avoid the disabling cutbacks that have hit other newsrooms. The Company has chosen to protect the journalism by cutting production and other business-side costs, and the newsroom itself has managed its resources frugally. These latest cuts will still leave us with the largest, strongest and most ambitious editorial staff of any newsroom in the country, if not the world.

I won't pretend that these staff cuts will not add to the burdens of journalists whose responsibilities have grown faster than their compensation. But we've been looking hard at ways to minimize the impact — in part, by re-engineering some of our copy flow. I won't promise this will be easy or painless, but I believe we can weather these cuts without seriously compromising our commitment to coverage of the region, the country and the world. We will remain the single best news organization on earth.

I doubt that anyone is shocked by the fact of this, but it is happening sooner than anyone anticipated. When we took our 5 percent pay cuts, it was in the hope that this would fend off the need for more staff cuts this year. But I accept that if it's going to happen, it should be done quickly. We will get through this and move on.

In my absence, Bill Schmidt and John and Jill have volunteered to take your questions this afternoon. Feel free to bring additional questions to me as soon as I'm back, or check with Bill Schmidt or John or Jill privately, or save them for the next Throw Stuff at Bill session, which is in a couple of weeks.

We often — and rightly — voice our gratitude that we work for a company and a family that prize quality journalism above all. I hope you know that the company and the family, and I, feel an equal debt of gratitude to all of you whose sacrifice and loyalty have kept us strong.

Like you, I yearn for the day when we can do our jobs without looking over our shoulders for economic thunderstorms.

Bill

(See title of this post.)


Making the Taliban Personal

David_rohde_600 Every day I read the paper and try to make sense of what's going on in Afghanistan. That in itself might be an impossible task. Knowing just a little bit about the country's history of unsuccessful foreign occupations, the miscalculations at the beginning of this invasion and the complete quandary of the current American military brass - well, it's all just overwhelming.

One thing that's made it seem accessible is NYT reporter David Rohde's account of his kidnapping by the Taliban. He was taken captive in Afghanistan and then held prisoner in Pakistan. Obviously he lived to tell about his experience. But his descriptions of his captors, the overwhelming hatred towards Americans, his assessments of foreign and military policy and the status of the Taliban are frightening and depressing. Here are just three sentences about his kidnapping:

"We arrived in Pakistan's tribal areas, an isolated belt of Taliban-controlled territory. We were now in 'the Islamic emirate' - the fundamentalist state that existed in Afghanistan before the 2001 American invasion. The loss of thousands of Afghan, Pakistani and American lives and billions in American aid had merely moved it a few miles east, not eliminated it. "

Sigh. Read the series. It's quite an education.


Pumpkins, Snow and Babies

How-to-bake-pumpkin-seeds-1 Late yesterday morning I was reviewing some survey responses for the book, when The Weatherman told me to look out the window. Snow! Not just light flurries but real snow - in the middle of October. Here's an illustration of how odd this is: my friend's daughter just married a young man from Brazil. They are living in Westchester and yesterday he got to experience both his first snow and carving his first pumpkin, all on the same afternoon. Now that's scary.

Meanwhile, on the book front, here are some random responses on how mothers felt when they gave birth to their sons:

"How do I raise a boy? What do I know about boys?"

"Happiness for my husband who wanted a boy child to carry on his name."BabyDM2702_468x343

"Boys bring a whole new dimension to motherhood."

"I felt a pang of disappointment with the birth of each son that he was not a girl." 

""I felt overwhelming love for him. I thought I was having another girl and when the doctor told me I had a boy, I exploded with love."



Campus Contagion

SwineFluBusiness_Sept 2009-thumb-335x285 I spoke to The Boy the other day, and between coughs and sniffles, he says he's feeling so-so, though not too bad. He was ferrying food to his girlfriend, who has been confined to her dorm room. It's not that she has full-blown swine flu, but she had gotten the nasal-spray vaccine for H1N1 and it had gotten her sick. The Boy told me a lot of students had similar reactions to the nasal vaccine.

The Boy himself couldn't take that vaccine, because he has asthma, and the spray is contraindicated for him. He tried in vain to get a regular season flu shot, but the school ran out. Meanwhile there was suppose to be a sign-up sheet for the injectable H1N1 vaccine, which he would be able to take, but last I spoke to him, he hadn't found it.

The college keeps sending parents updates about the flu - there have been enough confirmed cases on campus that the school is no longer sending cultures to the CDC - it's clear the virus is all over campus. This morning they sent an email saying that there are so many sick kids, they have to close the health center at night. (It sounds counter-intuitive, but they need to conserve nurses for the daytime shifts.) Meanwhile for the kids, there are the usual pressures of midterms, papers and multiple other extra-curricular activities.

All I want to do is airlift my son out of Maine, bring him home, tuck him into his own nice clean sheets, feed  him chicken soup and have him rest. Luckily, he will be coming home for a fall break next week. The antidote to H1N1: TLC.


Where Are The Hippies of Yesteryear?

I can tell you exactly where the hippies have gone - they are down in North Carolina. Specifically, they seem to be congregating at Shakori Hills Music Festival, which is a 4 day event located a little ways outside of Chapel Hill. This is where Sally took me on Saturday. I haven't seen so much tie-dye in one place since....1967. The funny thing was there were hippies of all ages, at all stages. You could see the 20 year old young hippies, and the 40 year old ones and the 70+ versions, the latter of whom tended to have a kind of Rip Van Winkle look. Think I'm kidding? Here is example one:

Tractor man

Wait - I promised you tie dye, right?

Tiedye hippies

OK - maybe that doesn't fully illustrate it. Let's just say that most people evidently got their clothes from this place:

Tiedye store

Here is a random festival attendee:

Purplehippielady

See what I mean? Or how about this umbrella "sculpture"?

Peace sculpture

There were some participatory events, like this African dance class:

African dance esons
 

Wait -this was a music festival. How was the music, you may ask? Er....mixed. Some good groups, and some that need to go back to the garage to practice. I'll leave you with a photo of a band of cross dressers who played a kind of celtic folk music. Look carefully at the guitar and accordion player. And New York thinks that it's a happening place!  P.S. I had a GREAT time at the festival and everywhere else down here.

Cross dressing band





Scenes From North Carolina

When ever I visit my friend Sally in North Carolina, I ask her if I need to bring my passport. That's because the world down here is SO different. We have been having a GREAT time, and I just wanted to share some pix.

On Saturday, we spend some time on the campus of UNC at Chapel Hill. There was a football game that day and we caught the band practicing. They were amazing.

UNC Marching Band

I must say, though, that the fans can get a little out of control in showing their support.

Kid at UNC blue hair

For lunch we went to Allen & Sons for some authentic N.C. 'Que. (That's bbq, my northern friends.)

Cue

By the way, those round things are hushpuppies, which are fried corn meal. I was going to post photos of the music festival that we attended yesterday, but y'all gonna have to wait for them. (Please note that I am starting to speak the local dialect.) 




Off To See My "Roomie"

Girls-getty_1376498i This morning I'm flying to North Carolina to go visit my best friend and former freshman college roommate Sally. OK - this may not be exactly what we look like, but this is exactly what we will be doing - laughing. We have been making each other laugh helplessly since we were 17 years old. Geez, that means we have been laughing for.... oh, right. Like I'm going to tell you that!

She's got all sorts of things planned for us, but I know we could have a great time doing absolutely nothing. Except laughing so hard that no actual noise will come out, of course. Can't wait! 

PS - Sally recently moved from Charlotte to the Raleigh-Durham area. If only I were flying to Charlotte maybe I could have gotten Captain Sully. Those of you who know me know just how much I love getting on an airplane. Not. 


Writing

ROYAL 0209 Guess what I'm doing today? 

Photo is courtesy of George Guitierrez, a photographer, Pulitizer Prize winner, and former colleague at the NYT. My favorite memory of working with George was when we were covering a story on road rage. We were both in the back seat of a police car, which was chasing a car going 95 mph on the Sprain Brook Parkway.

I was terrified and had my head in my lap. I took comfort in the fact that at least the photographer would be on the case, snapping pictures of the dramatic chase. But then I looked over and George also had his head down, hands covering his eyes. I always enjoyed working with him. 


R.I.P. Gourmet

Dec2005_1 I got my first subscription to Gourmet Magazine soon after graduating from college. It seemed like the height of sophistication to me - the gorgeously photographed food, the exotic travel destinations, the photo shoots of  attractive groups of people, eating a picnic with real silverware, perched at the seaside.

Even when I had the tiniest kitchen in my studio in Manhattan, I gamely tried challenging recipes. The Weatherman will not remember this, but I once successfully pulled off a Brie souffle in our apartment on West 89th St. (To truly appreciate this, you must understand that the kitchen actually had no counter. We had a little butcher block on wheels which we rolled into the kitchen to rest mixing bowls and the like while I was cooking.)

The apartment is long gone (a co-op now), and so, sadly will Gourmet Magazine be, come November. My Daughter has friends who work for Conde Nast so she gave me a heads up on this before it landed in the news. 

And now, a moment of truth. I myself canceled my subscription about two years ago. When I'm looking for a recipe I google it on the web. Those exotic spreads of places to go, that glamorous life style - they were starting to depress me. In my 20s, everything was still a possibility. Now, much less so. Plus I seem to have so much less time now. I still cook all the time, but the likelihood of my whipping up a souffle for fun is pretty small.

I know the magazine is folding because of the steep decline in luxury advertisers and not because I stopped renewing my subscription. But I still feel sad.


Goodbye Burgers?

Groundbeef_raw_2 I think I may be done with ground beef. Don't get me wrong. I love hamburgers, and am especially fond of The Weatherman's cheese burgers on the grill. I enjoy a good meat loaf. And chili. And various other things I prepare with ground beef.

But this weekend I saw Food Inc., a movie about the food industry. There were some pretty graphic scenes of slaughter houses. But honestly, it isn't the idea of eating slain animals that is my main problem. I have no real problem with the food chain. (When I see my angelic little kitties go after mice, it seems like nature's way.) The problem was seeing the disgusting way the cows and pigs are processed by huge agri-business, and the potential for contamination that got to me. Then Sunday, there was a cover story in the NYT about a girl who became paralyzed from eating a hamburger contaminated with a virulent strain of E. coli. 

Before this, I had no idea that the pound of ground beef you buy in the grocery store might be made up of scraps and bits from several different suppliers. The burger that nearly killed the young woman in the newspaper article had ingredients from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas, South Dakota and Uruguay. And the parts of the beef, the fat filler, and everything else that went in there...well, it was eye opening and a bit stomach churning.

I'm not sayin' I'm going vegetarian. I love meat. But I am going to start eating much more carefully. 


Food Pantry Issues

Grocery-bag

Sorry I didn't blog yesterday. First thing in the morning, when I usually write, I was instead frantically trying to find a substitute for a volunteer at our local food pantry. She's not just any volunteer, but the one who is completely bilingual and who knows a lot of our clients from the community.

We well meaning volunteers who speak only English can not do a good job filling in.

I ended up with a Belgian woman who speaks 5 languages - Spanish included. By 8:45 a.m., everything was running smoothly. As usual, we have a wide variety of folks coming for food - moms with newborns, elderly men, and everything in between. As usual we quickly ran out of eggs and chicken. And as usual, I couldn't get anyone to go for the frozen salmon burgers, which we get at a deeply reduced rate from the Food Bank and which no one will take. At least not a second time.

Phew! It is an important mission and yesterday was my responsibility. I would have felt terrible if I'd messed up.