Category Archives: Observations

When Bad Bread Happens to Good Restaurants

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?

At the Bay House, DH’s beet salad starter was a work of art
As was my halibut— those green shapes are pea purée

Bread lovers of the world, unite! And what’s your pet peeve when eating out, dear readers?

The Curse of Almost

Six little letters that can change your life:

“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.

Photo by Nita on Pexels.com

To Breed or Not to Breed

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?

Or no pets at all?

Photo by Julia Filirovska on Pexels.com


The Fine Art of Not Meddling

Do any of you watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? One of the current storylines reminded me of a long-forgotten (subconsciously buried?) episode in my own life.

In the show, Joel’s interfering mother keeps trying to set him up with a “nice, appropriate, Jewish girl”, while he is secretly dating medical student Mei Lin, whose parents are the landlords of his Chinatown nightclub.

Flashback.

It was the 70s. I was in my early twenties, living in Manhattan, and had been seriously dating a Canadian artist for about a year who was not remotely Jewish and therefore not even borderline acceptable to my parents as a potential suitor despite his charm and talent.

My mother– never the most open-minded of people — opposed him sight unseen and started a campaign to “help” me come to my senses. This mostly took the form of not-so-subtle hints and comments. Then, one day, she learned that a neighbor’s father was in the hospital and his doctor was single and Jewish. Jackpot! My mother, never having met the man herself and knowing nothing else about him, told her neighbor to give the doctor my phone number — needless to say without my permission — even though she knew I was in a relationship.

I was livid. But it wasn’t the poor guy’s fault, so when he called I agreed to meet him for coffee.

Was he Prince Charming? Not in the least. I found him unattractive, timid, too old, and boring, and we had nothing in common except the same religion. I daresay he was not drawn to me either.

Ultimately, the artist and I broke up — for reasons having nothing to do with our families. But I’d learned my lesson: Keep my private life private unless I wanted to endure a boatload more unsolicited advice.

As a parent, I know it’s hard to see our kids making choices we feel are wrong for them. But unless their latest love interest is a criminal mastermind or serial killer, it seems wise to stay out of their relationships unless they ask for our opinions.

Who knows? With a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, they might even listen.

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

The Canine Connection

Thought for the day: Humans are like dogs.

We are generally friendly and want others to like us. We form packs with those like ourselves. We need lots of attention.

And some of us spend far too much time with our noses up others’ butts.

Photo by Blue Bird on Pexels.com

The Worst Foods For Your Brain

Not bacon, cream, or the usual suspects. I’m talking about a steady diet of negative influences that makes us feel lousy to the core. Such as:

  1. Fake news in all its mean, snarky iterations
  2. By extension, only getting news from one point of view. It’s important to hear what the other side is thinking, too — but not so much that we start hurling things at the TV
  3. Following the minutiae of celebrities’ pretend-perfect lives
  4. Inactivity
  5. Living in the past, whether you have good memories (those glory days as a high school athlete) or bad (your dysfunctional family)
  6. Envy
  7. Social media that makes us feel our lives aren’t as glamorous, exciting, happy, or satifying as other people we know
  8. Obsessing. Make a plan, take action, move on
  9. Seeing the glass half-empty
  10. Tunnel vision
  11. Influencer unboxings. Hey, many times they didn’t even PAY for the stuff!
  12. Holding on to anger
  13. Not cutting ourselves enough slack : our finances, weight, wrinkles, job, house, parenting skills etc.
  14. Forgetting that you are good enough just as you are
Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

The Confessional

In what passes for a social life these days, my most frequent interactions outside of conversations with my husband reside in the beauty world, aka mani/pedis, haircuts, brow shaping, etc.

I’m not sure if men have comparable experiences, but the intimacy of beauty rituals with people we see regularly invites a certain amount of sharing. Mostly, we discuss benign frustrations, updates, and recommendations (will our home renovation EVER be finished; when can we visit with our kids who don’t live nearby; someone’s annoying neighbor or relative; where can we find the best sushi, etc.) but sometimes I overhear a startling story.

This week, the woman getting her nails done next to me told the manicurist a peculiarly personal and grisly tale. She was in the salon with her four-year-old niece and mentioned that she is unlikely to have children herself, as she is a widow approaching her 38th birthday. She went on to recount the following: her husband’s ashes are in an urn in her home and apparently the contents also include a necklace. It seems the lid somehow became loose and the niece has recently been using it as a storage container, removing some of the ashes to make space to add her own treasures.

I couldn’t help wondering what body parts have been replaced with a four-year-old’s special possessions. And maybe it’s me, but this seemed beyond the pale of what one discusses with one’s manicurist!

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The Book Club Virgin

Although I’ve been an avid reader all my life — and exchanged book recommendations with friends for years — I was never in a book club until today.

Of course, “thanks” to Covid, it wasn’t what I’ve always imagined: a cozy gathering in someone’s living room, drinking wine, snacking, and veering off-topic.

Well, that last part kind of happened.

This was a Zoom gathering of a dozen women including many who knew each other and a couple of newbies. What I soon realized is that a book club provides permission to gossip shamelessly and unreservedly about people we’ve never met: “I can’t believe he said that!” “I can’t believe she DID that!” “What on earth were they thinking?” “His parents never really understood him.” “She was just trapped.” “How could he have been so callous?”

And, of course, we all wondered what the future holds and whether there will be a sequel.

This could be my favorite new guilty pleasure.

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

The Deploring Twenties

Happy New Year, dear readers! As we shake off our hangovers and make resolutions, I suggest we virtually hold hands and pray that 2022 isn’t a repeat of 2020 and 2021.

A century ago, the Roaring Twenties ushered in an era of economic prosperity, cultural milestones including jazz and Art Deco, the end of corsets along with acknowledgment of a woman’s right to vote, innovations such as automobiles, radio and telephones, electrical appliances, and moving pictures.

So far, the 2020s have little to boast about: a deadly pandemic; social isolation; increased pushback against the basic human dignities of controlling our own bodies, loving whom we choose, existing without fear because of the color of our skin; the ever-increasing consequences of climate change, etc.

It’s enough to make any sensate being take to our beds with a bottle of booze and wait until humanity comes to its collective senses.

But hey, it’s a new year, and optimism springs eternal. We’ve still got a chance to turn this century into the Soaring 20s. It’s just gonna take a little effort.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

What’s In a Name?

Is anyone else watching the middle-aged adventures of 55-year-old Carrie et. al. in And Just Like That? I’m enjoying it (after the shock of the first episode) but I have to wonder:

Does the world need a new definition for the no-longer-young but not-yet-old?

Photo by Bella Zhong on Pexels.com

To my mind, “middle-aged” is ’40s-’50s, and “elderly” is ’80’s-90’s. (Although from where I sit, 40 still seems relatively young.) So where do the ’60s-’70s fit in?

If you’re 60+, you’re not in the middle since we’re unlikely to live to 120. But is it “elderly”? Most sexagenarians I know are healthy, energetic, and reasonably current with contemporary culture thanks to technology. “Elderly” sounds frail rather than older and (hopefully) wiser.

I suggest that those of us in our ’60’s and 70’s deserve a designation besides Baby Boomers. “Post-ers” because we’re post-middle-age? “Pre-elderly”? Any proposals from the floor?

Back to the show. Some of Carrie’s outfits seem a little silly (“mutton dressed as lamb”) and I wish they’d let her look a bit more age-appropriate without being staid. But I applaud a world in which a show about older women (and their sex lives) still generates cross-generational interest. Maybe that’s all the progress we need.