Sunday, July 27, 2008


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Paging Holden Caulfield

Driving with Madison earlier today. Dilapidated white panel truck with all kinds of colorful scrawls and spray-painted streaks passes by. She notices.

"Dad, what are those signs called again? The writing that people do all over the place?"


"Graffiti, that's right. Why do people do that?"

"Oh, I don't know..."

"There's some by the side of the mozzarella store, you know? On the wall of the plaza. What's that one sign you always see? What does it mean?"


"Yeah, where they have graffiti you usually see that sign. It's like one big finger, and then knuckles."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Revelation

I noticed these lavender/purple cone-type growths in our backyard yesterday, sort of buried behind other greenery and up against the wood fence that runs between our house and the one next door.

Made a point of grabbing the camera and heading out there earlier today, I figured these might be prime for some "macro setting" images, and they were even more intricate and beautiful than I might have imagined. People out there in Web-land seem to be into the flower photos, so here are a couple more to start the week.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Arbitrarily Speaking

I had a couple of moments with the girls over the last few weeks that have lingered in my mind, mainly because they sort of build on each other and reinforce the importance of something I think is a pretty good standing goal, especially as it relates to parenting - avoiding arbitrary decisions/rulings that seem to come out of nowhere, without appropriate justification or reason.

The first one happened at a large party that featured a face painter. Of course within a few minutes of arriving we were standing in line with the girls, who each got some kind of colorful creation painted on one of their cheeks. As parents, we particularly love our kids' affinity for an activity that typically requires the application of glitter-based paint within a millimeter or two of an eye, but I digress.

Later on, Madison said she wanted to go back to the face painting pavilion to adorn the other cheek, and I walked over with her. We stood there for at least 10 minutes while the artist worked her magic on two kids who were ahead of us, no one behind.

Just as she was wrapping up with the subject directly in front of us, a few children approached and crowded the table area. As Madison excitedly positioned herself in the now-vacant chair, the woman took one look at her half-painted face and said sorry, she was going to have to wait until the kids who hadn't gotten any artwork yet were taken care of before she could add to her earlier creation. Our 7-year-old is a "rules" child, so after shooting me a blank and slightly startled look of disappointment she quickly surrendered her spot, which was eagerly filled by one of the other kids. I glared menacingly at the woman for a moment, but she could not have cared less, and rather than argue the point we moved on from the area and did not return.

I could absolutely understand where she was coming from, from the standpoint of trying to extend the face-painting goodness to as many subjects as possible, but it still seemed jarring and not quite right for her to have furthered this noble agenda by turning away a little girl who had stood in front of her for several minutes, patiently waiting her turn and anticipating service through a system (time investment = reward) she had already experienced, only to be thwarted by an unexpected turn of events.

Fast forward about a week, we're in Vermont and enjoying the attractions at the Bromley Mountain family Adventure Park. At one point it's just me and Ava, and she wanders off to the 24-foot rock climbing wall, which - to my utter amazement - she scales in about 30 seconds, ringing a bell on the top that we then learn qualifies her for a cool little Bromley sticker.

She's into the sticker, she's proud of it, and after a cold drink we're back at the wall, which she climbs again, resulting in another sticker. We then move on to the alpine slide for a few runs, but before long our 5-year-old is flying up the side of the wall again, in search of that bell and another prized souvenir.

As Ava hits the ground after her latest triumph, the teenage attendant (a new one) asks - in a tone that has a "qualifying" feel to it - "have you gotten any stickers so far today?"

"Yes," Ava responds, "I already got two stickers!"

Oh man, here it comes, I'm thinking to myself. Here comes the notification of some new "rule" we didn't know about... some maximum allowable sticker quota or something that is going to cause my happy and triumphant daughter to wander out of this attraction disappointed, cold water dumped unexpectedly all over her achievement.

Before I can interject or assert my presence in the moment, this youthful authority figure, crouching down and looking up at Ava as she frees her from the safety harness, says, "Well, this is going to be your last sticker today, OK?"

Ava agrees, nods, understands, is happy with the outcome. And it struck me how easy - and justifiable - it would have been for this person to have instead delivered some version of, "sorry, you're not going to be getting a sticker for that last climb, because you already have a couple and we need to make sure we have enough for other kids, OK? Move along now please..." Just like the face painting situation - there would have been a perfectly reasonable and understandable rationale behind that kind of verdict, but its sudden and seemingly arbitrary implementation would have been a real downer, and instead this park staffer, who must have been all of 16, found a way to respond to the situation by making a clear and reasonable agreement that everyone was happy with.

We don't do a lot of advice or counsel here... this blog is mostly about celebrating moments, but these two recent events have really driven home for me a basic objective that I want to keep in mind - namely the importance of avoiding the arbitrary, or at least the unexpected, and making sure our girls - to the greatest extent possible - have everything they need to understand the decisions and actions that affect them. I want them to be able to build expectations from a pattern of behavior that is consistent and clear. And that idea actually seems seems pretty applicable across all relationships and personal interaction, even those that don't involve face paint or rock walls.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hydrangea Two Ways

Monday, July 07, 2008

Green '08

Just advance warning that it's going to be relatively quiet around here this week, we're up in Vermont for the first leg of this year's summer vacation, and rather than feeling compelled to run back and forth to the Wi-Fi-enabled pool area in the condo complex every time the girls say something endearing or profound, I'm going to basically clear the decks on posting and focus in on the family.

Recent arrivals can read about last year's trip here, and since I've been doing this blog for two years now you can actually go all the way back to this moment from Green '06, no additional effort required on my part. This dedication to documenting our lives is starting to yield dividends.

Have a great week everyone.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ridiculously Good, Ridiculously Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

I heard a version of this recipe on the radio a couple of weeks ago, and was so intrigued I actually pulled off to the side of the road and jotted down the key details. Actually I kept on driving while I was writing, risking accidental death and dismemberment, but young and impressionable people might be reading this so let's go with the "pulled off to the side of the road" modification.

We made a small batch last weekend and it was without a doubt one of the tastiest things ever produced in our kitchen, so we quickly went back for a second round.

Cast of characters is relatively limited, fresh whole tomatoes (we've been using the smaller "on-the-vine" variety, which were declared "safe" during the recent salmonella outbreak, but they can't seem to figure out what was really going on there, so proceed as you will at your own risk, smaller grape or cherry tomatoes would also work well), extra virgin olive oil, course sea salt, fresh ground pepper and finely chopped garlic. That's it.

The very basic preparation includes the following steps:

1. Wash the tomatoes

2. Gently score the skin, so that it will peel away after a very brief bath in boiling water. A strategy that seems to work is running a serrated knife completely around the tomato, starting from the small circle left where the stem was attached, then do a little quarter turn and run around the circumference again, so you wind up with two full scores around the tomato and four "sections" - but be careful here not to go too deep, you just want to break the skin, you are not looking to "cut" the tomato. Try holding the blade in your fingertips. Here is what it looks like when this part of the process is done:

3. Put the tomatoes into boiling water for two minutes, to loosen the skin and allow its removal. From this point on you want to handle these things pretty gently, to preserve the fruit's integrity as much as you can. Take two or three in your hands at a time place them in the hot water with care.

4. After two minutes, you will see the seams where you scored the skin starting to open up, remove the pot from the heat and dump out as much water as you can without the tomatoes tumbling out all over the place. Then place the pot into the sink under cold water, to stop the cooking process and cool these little red orbs off enough to allow you to work with them easily.

5. Gently remove the skin from the tomatoes, it should peel off fairly easily at this point, and - while being careful not to "break" them - put the skinned tomatoes into a colander or some other waiting receptacle. If you abuse or disfigure a few don't worry, they'll cook up fine. When they are all ready to go they look like this:

6. Chop up some garlic. You want a fairly small chop for this, because you are going to sprinkle this key ingredient over the halved tomatoes, so garlic boulders are probably not ideal.

7. Take a baking pan with some depth, 1/2 inch or so, and line with a sheet of parchment paper. The radio station version didn't mention the paper lining, but Gwen suggested it and it worked well for us last weekend so we're sticking with the approach.

8. Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange them in the tray, round side up. You don't have to worry about how close they are together because, believe me, they are going to shrink down, not expand. Try not to break them up into undefined red clumps, you want nice halves if you can get there. I like to use a knife to flake off as much of the stem remnant as possible without killing the thing. The discarded pieces look like this:

9. Once you have the tomatoes in relatively close rows on the tray, it's time to season. Drizzle olive oil over the tray, try to hit as many as you can, grind up some pepper and sprinkle on some salt. Then add garlic to taste. You could also sprinkle on some finely chopped shallots with the garlic for even more (and broader) flavor.

You can go heavier or lighter on the seasonings, to be sure, we tend to like a rustic version, pretty heavy on the garlic, and regardless of how much you use the finished product is going to pack a lot of flavor, which is likely going to, uh, linger, if you get my drift.

Let's just say that if your plans for the evening include going out to meet the only decent prospect eHarmony has produced in six months of profile surfing you probably should steer clear of these beforehand. Better to go with a pre-game meal of dry white toast or plain pasta, which will be easier on the breath and also offer essential fortification against the effects of nervously-guzzled Chardonnay.

10. Put the tomatoes in a 200-degree oven for anywhere from five to eight hours, depending on their size/thickness and how long it takes them to roast down. Yes, you heard me right, did you read the title of the post? Five to eight hours. Trust me when I say it's worth it.

Here's what this latest batch looked like after three hours in the oven, less than halfway home and nowhere near as good and they were going to get:

And the finished product...

You could use these cut up in a pasta salad, on a burger, in scrambled eggs or an omelet, maybe as a different approach to bruschetta, anywhere you want a strong burst of tomato flavor. But after two batches we haven't moved beyond standing in the kitchen and devouring them right off the tray.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th

This is not a rebel blog, but it's probably worth noting that along with the fireworks this year comes the sweet realization that change, in one form or another, is relatively close at hand.