Formerly a creative director and writer at NY and NJ ad agencies, I'm now retired and living in Oregon, USA, with my husband and countless dust balls.
With this blog, I specifically hope to reach "mid-century moderns" -- women born in the '50's -- with content and observations about the issues we deal with every day. But I welcome all readers of any age, sex, orientation, etc… you youngsters will eventually be my age too, and I love reading everyone’s comments!
Whew, dear readers. After weeks of inactivity (blog-wise, that is) I have recently noticed more and more “can this be true?” events in the world.
You’ve probably seen the news story of actress Anne Heche driving out of control and hitting some unlucky woman’s house, causing it to burst into flames and destroying all of her possessions.
While Ms. Heche’s subsequent intubation and mental health issues may deserve sympathy too, here’s what has me shaking my head: WHY does the woman whose house was crashed into need a GoFundMe page to get her life back together, rather than millionaire Ms. Heche’s family immediately offering to pay what’s necessary??
And on a different note (literally), I was driving the other day and an old Eric Clapton song, “I can’t stand it” came on the radio.
My question: Who on God’s green earth would EVER cheat on Eric Clapton?!?
Continuing with alternative baking methods/bread, I decided to attempt focaccia. Spoiler alert: not perfect, but perfectly acceptable in a pinch.
In my search for a suitably-sized vehicle, I discovered that out of the dozen or so bread/loaf pans accumulated in decades of marriage — this not being the first for either of us, though that may not explain the excessive number — only one actually fits in the toaster oven.
Dimensions, for anyone else who is oven-less, or wants to give this a try (the rest of you can enjoy a short snooze):
Length: Exterior including handles 9.75″/25 cm; interior 8.25″/21 cm
Width: Exterior 5″/12.25 cm; interior 4.25″/11cm
Height: 2.5″/6.5 cm
1 cup warm water (not too hot; you don’t want to cook the yeast)
1 teaspoon dry yeast
2- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (more or less) extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
12 pitted olives, Kalamata or Castelvetrano, as you prefer, sliced
Wanting to take advantage of an overabundance of fresh tomatoes, I had a pizza craving yesterday. I could have ordered one, but a) take-out pizza around here is less than stellar, b) I only wanted a small portion for lunch, and c) I was mostly in the mood to bake and we don’t have our ovens yet. (Ah, the endless joys of home remodeling.)
One option would have been the grill but I didn’t feel like a massive post-lunch cleanup and preferred something quick and easy. Solution: the toaster oven. I was also curious to see if other items like cookies or baklava could be baked in it.
Step 1: Divide a pizza dough recipe by 25% to make a quantity that might fit in the toaster oven. Caveat, this is not my favorite recipe, which is best made 2-3 days ahead, but it was ok in a pinch:
1 cup bread flour (sorry, MacGyvering did not allow time to convert to grams)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon sugar
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Approximately 1/4 cup warm water
Mix dry ingredients in a medium-large bowl
Add most of the olive oil, retaining a small amount in reserve
Add about half the water, and begin mixing everything together
If dough is too dry/crumbly, add more water a little at a time until it comes together. Likewise, add more flour if the dough is too soggy.
Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it forms a ball.
Spread remaining oil around the inside of the bowl, add the dough, and roll the dough around until it’s lightly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
After the dough has nearly doubled in size, punch it down lightly and shape it into a rectangle on an aluminum foil “tray” that will fit in your toaster oven.
Pre-bake the crust at the hottest temperature (mine only heats to 450F) until golden brown.
Remove from toaster oven and add toppings. I used a light layer of (more) olive oil, then sliced tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, and scattered bits of Boursin cheese because that’s what I had in the fridge.
Return to the toaster oven and continue baking until cheese is melted and everything is cooked. You can blast it on the “toast” setting towards the end to help brown the crust.
I can’t tell you exactly how long this takes because you’d have to experiment, but it was maybe 20-30 minutes baking time.
Delicious quick lunch with my nonalcoholic Faux Cosmo:
Fill a tall glass with seltzer or sparkling water. Add a splash each of orange juice and cranberry juice. Add the juice of 1/2 lime. Garnish with a slice of lime. Pretty and refreshing!
I hope this is not a new trend. In recent weeks, Dear Husband and I have eaten at two excellent restaurants with truly inferior bread. What gives??
First up, Toulouse — a lovely French/Creole place in Seattle, where one would expect to find good sourdough or certainly an acceptable baguette. Instead, we got flabby structure and squishy crust; mon Dieu!
Then, last week, a local place on the Oregon coast — the Bay House — which has a relaxing ambiance, superb service, and beautiful food (see below) — with this notable exception. Hey, if it’s too humid, pop the loaf in an oven to crisp it up! I’m tempted to bring my own sourdough next time. Think they’d mind?
Bread lovers of the world, unite! And what’s your pet peeve when eating out, dear readers?
“You almost got the job” (Translation: You were second out of a zillion applicants).
“You were almost accepted” … to the club, college, team, etc.
“You almost made the flight”… and now you’ll be stuck at the airport lounge eating stale peanuts for three hours.
This sneaky little word can encapsulate the difference between success and failure, or, in the case of our never-ending home renovation, the difference between ”livable” and ”not exactly”.
When our well-meaning neighbors ask, ”Is the house finished?”, no doubt wondering how in hell this remodel has taken a year and a half and counting, we generally answer ”almost”. As in, we still don’t have shower doors in two of the bathrooms because, well, somehow they were measured incorrectly. Twice. And no ovens, because they were “only” ordered nine months ago. Oh, and an unusable bath tub because the tub filler was set too far away from the tub so water splashes all over the floor and needs to be replaced. I could go on, but you get the picture.
On the other hand, ”almost” could have magical powers, e.g., ”The bullet almost pierced your lungs/spine/brain” or ”That car almost plowed right into you”.
If only this were one of those good ”almosts”. Grrrr.
A couple of weeks ago, I wandered down a blog rabbit hole reading a post and responses concerning the author’s dilemma of whether or not to have a third child.
The comments were sensitive and thought-provoking, relying on various writers’ personal experiences and larger ethical questions, such as: Is it selfish to bring more children into a world where profound climate change threatens to create an uninhabitable future for the next generations?
Set against the current debates on Roe v. Wade, the decision whether to have children at all is increasingly fraught.
It is, of course, both a deeply personal and mostly unknowable decision with no ”right” answer. Some of the women had yearned for children and wished they’d had more before their biological clock stopped ticking. Others admitted that parenthood involved more sacrifice than they’d ever expected. Which isn’t to say they regretted or resented having kids, though some might have, but it was not exactly what they’d envisioned.
Having struggled to balance a demanding career with raising two kids— on my own after my divorce when they were young teens— I know it’s not a simple choice. And that it’s not for everyone, regardless of what your friends, family, or well-meaning co-worker tells you. Or, frankly, your spouse, unless they are the sort of person who is guaranteed to cook, clean, change diapers, do at least 50% of the work, and take over when it all becomes too much to handle.
The only person who should decide what you truly want is you. Letting anyone else pressure you either way will just lead to resentment.
As someone who is not particularly patient, and who likes things done the way I want them done, I could easily have forgone the parenting experience. And not because I don’t love my kids, which I do, but because I would have been a happier person if I hadn’t been stretched so thin.
I do know this: parenthood is hard. Kids get sick, get hurt, require a lot of attention for the first two decades, change your marriage (not always for the better), and come into the world with their own personalities which may not be the mini-me you envisioned. And how would you handle serious illness or disability— theirs or yours? Or becoming a single parent?
For anyone on the fence, I’d say you will be ”ready” when you feel that any and all obstacles are less important to you than not having kids. If you thrive on order and control, the chaos implicit in having children will be profoundly stressful, no matter how much money you can spend on childcare. Kids are messy, unpredictable, and not for everyone. I know an awful lot of people who never had children and don’t regret it.
Another litmus test: What’s your ideal pet? A cat, which can be happily left on its own? A dog that needs frequent walks, lots of attention, and rewards you with unconditional love?
Ack, what a week it’s been! Last Thursday, the movers delivered all the furniture etc. that had been stored since we had it all packed in March 2021. (Thanks to Covid and living halfway across the country, we couldn’t do this ourselves so we hired “professionals”.)
Since then, we’ve been driving to the house (about an hour away from where we’re renting) to go through everything. And finding lots of broken china, crystal and antique furniture— much that we collected in our travels or had been in our families for years.
Most breakables were packed reasonably well, although their boxes weren’t marked “fragile”. The damage seems to have occurred when boxes were loaded, unloaded, and probably dropped along the way.
To add insult to injury, we’re also missing several valuable items. The list keeps growing, though as we get to the last remaining boxes, hope is fading. Luckily, we have insurance, but I anticipate a long, unpleasant process to resolve it all. And, admittedly, this is a first-world problem and we have accumulated way too much stuff, but still.
End of rant; hope your week is going better than mine!
This is our favorite day of the trip. We dock in Ghent, which I would love to see but alas there isn’t enough time to thoroughly explore both cities, and we want to do justice to beautiful Bruges.
Bruges is a fascinating combination of old and new, from its medieval buildings and churches, tree-lined canals and peaceful courtyards, to its many delectable restaurants, chocolate shops and other modern offerings.
We begin with a stroll through the convent originally established in 1245 as a béguinage. This was a community of religious laywomen who lived and worked together, following the prioress’s rules, but did not take vows: a remarkable opportunity at that time for unmarried women to be (relatively) socially and financially independent. Today, Benedictine nuns call this lovely complex of 16th-18th century houses and gardens home.
We stroll through narrow streets to the expansive main plaza, where horse-drawn carriages await eager tourists such as ourselves. It’s still too early for lunch so off we go for a tour led by our horse Gina. Our driver warns us that Gina can display a bit of a temper if we get too close, so we stay safely tucked in the back while she clip-clops through town.
Earlier, we’ve serendipitously stumbled upon the Delvaux boutique, which is enticing to me and tolerated by my long-suffering husband. I spy, and purchase, a silk scarf with Delvaux’s famous Magritte-inspired designs, which goes perfectly with one of my favorite bags, the Tempête.
We see many people taking advantage of the sunny weather to float along the canals but we continue our wanderings until it’s time to return to the ship and rejoin new friends for cocktails and dinner.
Greetings from Belgium! Today we’re in Antwerp, which seems to have more chocolate boutiques per square foot than anywhere else on the planet. Luckily for me, they are all closed at the moment. Antwerp is also famous for diamonds, should you need a bauble or two.
Antwerp was the home of Peter Paul Rubens, and you can see his 17th century masterpieces in the beautiful Gothic cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady) in the main square. The medieval guild houses are quite stunning as well.
Happy Passover and Easter; I hope you’re having a lovely holiday weekend.
Resuming our travels, we arrive at the scenic village of Kinderdijk, a World Heritage site remarkable for its nineteen preserved 18th century windmills. Not merely picturesque, the windmills are an innovative hydraulic system (first developed in the Middle Ages) that harnesses wind power to pump water away from the land, allowing cultivation and preventing flooding. Low-lying Holland would be underwater without its network of polders (land reclaimed from the sea), windmills, and protective dikes (embankments)!
We’re docked near eight of them (built in 1740) — an easy walk — and begin with an overview of the area, aka Windmill 101.
We then stroll over to one of the mills which allows visitors inside. Much like a lighthouse, it features minimal living quarters (and low rent) for the person who tends the mill and keeps it in running order.
l skip the steep climb to the top, as I can envision one of us losing their footing and everyone tumbling down like dominoes. Even so, the windmill is a majestic sight.