Saturday, November 19, 2005

Measure for Measure

We moved to Milwaukee from England in 1981. There wasn't any underground engineering work [involving big lumps of rock] of any scope in the UK at that time and the U.S. seemed preferable to Libya, the only other work alternative for my husband. While the Libyan pay was great, the fact that one had to sign a contract stating that you understood that they would not be responsible for returning your body to its country of origin in case you met an untimely death while on Libyan soil was enough to put us off. Our U.S. options were Los Angeles, somewhere on the eastern border of Washington State and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee won.

One of the first friends I made in Milwaukee was my daughter's English teacher and it just so happened that she was also from England. We had Easter dinner with her that first year we were in America and I remember meeting her son, Mark, who had moved back to England to study theatre. I hadn't really thought of these people for years until this past week when I discovered that the Mark Rylance, Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre in London, was the Mark that I'd met those many years ago.

This afernoon we went to see him in Measure for Measure at the Freud Theatre, UCLA and he was nothing short of brilliant. Spot on perfect.

It's L.A. so no theatre performance is without a number of big screen actors in the audience. This performance was no different. First my friend Betsy spotted Rita Wilson. Well, she thought she'd spotted her, but then thought it couldn't be Rita because she was dressed so carelessly. But then she saw Tom Hanks, so knew the Rita sighting was a solid one. She also saw them their Prius. Yea! Helen Hunt was also spotted, but we don't know what car she was driving.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Happy Birthday Bunny...Happy Birthday Mummy

A fuzzy school picture of Bunny (Laura Grace Eveling) at almost 14. The year was 1939 and so much lay in front of this young girl. Before the first day of school had even started, Britain, France and Australia declared war on Germany, the United States quickly declared its neutrality (the one effing time they decide against a war...still strikes me as being unbelieveable), south Africa declared war on Germany days later, followed shortly by Canada.

My grandparents had bought their first and only home on Beehive Lane in Great Baddow, Essex and lost it in the Great Depression, never to buy another. My mother can remember playing in their back garden not long before they were forced to move, and running into the house and asking her mum for something to eat. The only thing in the house was a stock cube over which boiling water was poured. My mother rejected that offering but also remembered that afternoon when the second post arrived. She said it always seemed that when they were at their lowest (financially), a letter would arrive from her mother's family in Liverpool, a short letter with a ten bob or pound note tucked between its crisp folds. This money put food on their table and young Bunny can still remember walking to the shops with her mother minutes after the money arrived, salivating and excited about what they might have for tea.

Her tiny, younger sister Patricia, after spending most of her short life in Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, was at her most profoundly ill at this time. There was no National Health Service and the TB that had stricken this dear little girl, had resulted in mountains of bills. My grandparents had chosen to pay the hospital and the physicians treating their child instead of the mortgage and so it was that they buried their middle child (3 years old) and had their home foreclosed upon within weeks of each other. Mum has very few memories of her little sister, but one is very clear. Patricia was allowed home but vary rarely and she was in her cot, sitting very patiently and looking at her big sister, my mother. She spoke beautifully for one so young and my mother said she suddenly sang out, "Nurse, oh Nurse, I'd like a drink please." She'd forgotten she was home and instead of calling for her Mummy, she'd called for a Nurse.

This is a picture of my Mum taken at her house in Eastbourne, England in early October. I love this photograph. It captures the free spirit that my mother is. I think she looks great for her 80 years.

The picture below was taken a year ago when she was visiting us in Topanga. She's hard at work with Lottie creating table decorations for our Thanksgiving know, snakes and stuff. I'll post a bit more about Bunny in the days to come.

Until then, though...Happy Birthday Mum. Happy 80th Birthday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

This is amazing and even if you're not a bread pudding fan, if you don't like this then your taste is truly suspect. I figure why not add more carbs to an already carb-riddled day. There is something just so completely decadant and perfect about this dish. I understand it was cleverly invented at the Wild Fire Restaurant in Oak Brook, IL.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

2 cups half and half
1 15 oz can pure pumpkin (if you're a purist, bake and scrape the pumpkin)
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tblsp dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes egg bread (about 10 oz) If you can't find egg bread, use cheap white
1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins)

Caramel Sauce
1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream

Powdered sugar

For Bread Pudding: Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk half and half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend. Fold in bread cubes. Stir in sultanas. Transfer mixture to 11x7-inch greased, glass baking dish. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Caramel Sauce: Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar over bread pudding. Serve warm with caramel sauce and either creme fraiche, whipped cream, ice cream or creme anglaise.

Sweet Potatoes with Chipotles Beats Sweet Potatoes with marshmallows Hands Down

Knowing I love sweet potatoes, Elissa gave me this recipe last year and it is truly fantastic. Thanksgiving is not a time to be fussing with highly complicated recipes so this one fits the bill perfectly. It's got that whole sweet and spicy vibe going for it.

Mashed Sweets Potatoes with Maple Syrup and Chipotles

adapted from Bobby Flat, Bolo and Mesa Grill

This can be made a day or so ahead of time, put in a gratin dish, dot with butter and reheat at 350 'til hot. Yield 6 to 8 servings. Most people don't eat huge quantities, so you can stretch this to serve 12 if you have the traditional mashed potatoes with the Thanksgiving meal, as well.

5 lbs (about 10 medium or 5 large) sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1/3 to 1/2 cup maple syrup (the real thing)
3/8 cup creme fraiche (can't figure out how to do french accent marks)
4 tsp puree from canned chipotles (some I mince a bit, too if you want it spicier hotter)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt to taste

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place potatoes on large backing sheet and bake until soft, 35 to 40 minutes for medium potatoes, up to an hour for large.

Meanwhile, combine syrup, creme fraiche, chipotle puree, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth.

When potatoes are tender, remove from oven, slice in half lengthwise. Scoop hot flesh into a potato ricer or food mill, puree into bowl with other ingredients. Stir with rubber spatula to combine. Potatoes should be light and fluffy. Taste for seasoning and if serving immediately, transfer to warm serving bowl.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sodding Brussel(s) Sprouts Recipe...This One has Become a Favorite

Some people say brussels sprouts and others brussel sprouts. However you spell it, brussel without the 's' makes for an easier pronunciation. In our house, it''s always referred to as the Sodding Brussel Sprouts because every single year I cannot find the recipe until I send an email to my dear friend in Milwaukee (Elissa) and ask her to find hers and send it to me (for at least the fifth time), generally on Thanksgiving Day Eve. I'm sharing this recipe to honor the fact that I found it. Of course it wasn't in my recipe folder, but in the restaurant folder. Misfiled or not, I found it!

Some of us have brussel sprouts every Thanksgiving, and some people don't like to even be in the same house where a sprout has been cooked in the last week. We're the former. We like small, round, green things. So, here's a recipe for every person who has ever said, "I hate brussel sprouts." I assure you, if you don't like these, you're a philistine.

This is for four...we generally have to at least treble this recipe since even the brussel sprouts haters will eat it.

Brussel Sprouts Leaves cooked with Pancetta and Mirepoix

1 lb. brussel sprouts
2 tbsp. rendered duck fat or olive oil
Mirepoix (dice one small carrot (2 oz or so), 1/2 large stalk of celery (2 oz) and 1/2 yellow onion (3 oz or so)
2 oz. pancetta, thinly sliced, diced
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground white pepper
white wine vinegar

Working with one sprout at a time, remove as many of the outer leaves of each sprout until you reach those firmly attached to the core. Trim the stem end, freeing more leaves and repeat until you reach the dense center. Slice the center thin.

Warm the olive oil or duck fat in a six-quart non-corroding saucepan. Add the mirepoix and pancetta and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, without browning the vegetables, until they have softened. Add the water and the Brussel sprouts leaves, sprinkle with the salt and stir well to combine. Cover the pan and cook 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often until the leaves are tender. Season the leaves with freshly ground pepper, correct for salt and add a dash of vinegar. Serve while the color is still vivid...this is not a dish to make ahead of time. Do the prep earlier, but cook just before serving. It's a good thing to cook while the turkey is being sliced.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Thanksgiving Deserves Better...Recipes You Really Should Try at Least Once

I'm a fan of the live turkey bird. I'm partial to the dead bird, too, but I want her to have lived a fabulous organic lifestyle, full of rambles in the woods and nutritious nuts and berries untainted by the polluting hand of man. I also love turkey leftovers but am not inclined to create leftover turkey tetrazzini, turkey soup or turkey timbales. I like it on the day, hot and not dried out, and lovingly roasted, carefully basted and fussed over in my convection oven (said oven has taken me three years to get used to, but I'm now 100% sold on them). Then I like it for a few more days, cool and in a sandwich with mayo or my favorite cranberry recipe.

This posting is my first of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. It's taken me years to put together my Thanksgiving Day menu. Some years it includes a couple of these items, other years all of them. Each year my daughter and I try one new recipe. Dearest son is in NY and I'm hoping he and his dearest S.O. will send me a recipe or two because those two can cook...seriously cook. Impressive, really, because they seriously cook in a tiny NY kitchen. My daughter is a seriously good cook, as well. Both of my kids are far more imaginative in the kitchen than I am, due in part I think, to me being a kid in the 50s and 60s when food in the average UK and US kitchen wasn't terribly exciting. They've been exposed to far more exotic foods far earlier than I ever was. And now I've gotten to the stage in my cooking life where I've got to be seriously motivated to cook something new and complicated before I'll haul out long-lost pans that are recipe specific.

Now I'm going to leave you with the first of my must-try recipes. If not for Thanksgiving, then try at Christmas. They all go beautifully with a Christmas goose (my family's personal favorite) or a roast beast and always with the turkey.

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Sauce
So easy, so delicious, it easily trumps any other cranberry relish in my book. I was given this recipe by dear friends, George & Kathleen Malone, soon to be leaving Apalachicola, FL for Asheville, NC. People either love it or hate it. Dotty's family loves it.

2 cups raw cranberries
1 small onion (not tiny like a pickling onion, but not huge like a vidalia)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp white horseradish (prepared) I generally use double the amount the recipe calls for

Grind the onion and cranberries together in a food processor or blender.
Add the other ingredients and mix well. Put in a plastic container and freeze.
One hour before servicing, move to the refrigerator to soften. It always takes me longer. I take it out of the freezer at least four hours before dinner.

Interesting fact: Susan Stamberg, former co-host of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" used to broadcast this recipe every year around Thanksgiving. She claimed it was her mother's, but it turend out that her mother got it from a Craig Claiborne column many years before. Very few people are neutral about this unusual, rather strong relish, they eiether love it or hate it. I'm in the former group. This relish is shocking pink(sort of pepto bismal(ly)) in color which definitely shakes things up at the table.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Our Beginnings

I arrived in London in 1968, full of the very beginnings of pregnancy and trepidation at the thought of marriage to a very young man I hardly knew. I also had what I thought to be a fortune…$2,000, saved from a variety of summer jobs. That we’re still married today, even happily, is a testament to dumb luck and love.

Customs cleared and baggage searched (no scanner then...all searching done by hand and they poked and prodded every case...customs took forever) I hesitantly walked into the confusion of Heathrow. On the flight I’d obsessed over details. I tried desperately to remember every nuance and subtlety of the man I was going to marry, but kept coming up with this amalgam picture… the features of all the boys I’d ever loved. I had known this man only three short weeks, but in that time I had determined, with all the conviction of youth, that he was the one. I find it curious, that as I write I’m able to refer to my husband, Roger, as a “man.” Today I have a son a some years older than my husband was when I married him. Was the young man I married as young as our son was at 24? Surely not. If I truly felt that, I would be filled with remorse for the opportunities and adventures of which I’d deprived him. I like to think that I was the adventure, but in fact, I know I was more of a trial.

Arrivals and departures are so casual today, but in 1968, one still dressed to travel. I seem to remember wearing something vaguely Mary Quantish. I do remember that my hair was growing out of a Sassoon cut and that I’d died my naturally dark blond hair a hip, blackish color. I had blond roots. In other words, I had looked better, and the reality of my hip attire fell far short of the impression I wanted to make. Tugging on the jet-creased piece of fabric that was my dress, I looked up and saw him. I remember that. I remember he was everything I knew he was but couldn’t shape in imagery on the plane. I felt better. I knew this new adventure, this new life of mine, would work out. Maybe not for years and years, but certainly in the short run. That’s the way people were beginning to think in the 60s

The second week I was in England, the Sunday Times began a series of articles that dealt with this brand new phenomenon that was sweeping the country. Perhaps not so new in the United States, but certainly assuming front page coverage in the British Isles…the subject was D.I.V.O.R.C.E., and the increasingly high numbers of people seeking it. Divorce still had a capitol “D” in those days and was whispered, much like AIDS or cancer is today. Since I was almost married, I decided to read up on Divorce. What I read almost convinced me that I would be lucky if my marriage lasted two years. I tried to be philosophical about my impending Divorce but sadness filled me every time I thought about it. I pondered over the fate of my as yet unborn child and shivered with dread at the thought of having to go back to my parents’ home, tail between my legs, baby in arms, begging for help. What I read assured me that divorce was indeed imminent because:

I was under 21
My husband was under 24
We had no money
I was moving to a new country far away from my parents
I had no close friends within 25 miles
We had known each other under a year
I was pregnant
I was pregnant
I was pregnant.

The handwriting was on the wall, that much was obvious and it filled me with gloom.

And so, filled with those sad but delicious (because I was still at an age where drama in life was appreciated) fears, I began an apartment search with my fiancé (not that we called each other that).
I had no idea that trying to find a flat would be so difficult a task. Whole areas of the East End of London were still bomb-ravaged so the city still had a vaguely post-war feel to it, and housing was still at a premium: very scarce, very expensive, and very sub-standard. It might as well have been the day after the Blitz. Roger, my intended, would search the classified section of the Evening Standard every night, circling what areas we could live in and what prices we could afford and then plan our strategy for the next day. I was used to modern apartment complexes in the Washington suburbs or wonderfully old apartment buildings deep in the city, heavy on charm and character. He was used to grotty bed-sits (efficiencies) entirely unsuitable for a married couple with a baby (YIKES) on the way. Turns out we could barely afford one bedroom, much less two. We couldn’t afford to live anywhere but close(ish) to the nice parts of town. I wanted to live in Hampstead...West Hampstead was the best we could do. He would call me every day from work and we’d rush to the listed apartments, trying to be the first in line. I couldn’t believe the shortage of housing. Roger explained it as being a post-war shortage. POST-WAR, my brain screamed? The wretched war had ended over two decades before. There was much to London in the late 60s that I couldn’t understand and one of those things was accommodation.

Anyway, we looked and we looked and we looked and finally, one day, I got this jubilant call from Roger. He’d run out on his lunch hour, armed with that day’s copy of The Evening Standard and had found the perfect apartment. I can clearly remember my excitement. Oh my god, he'd acheived the impossible, he'd found the perfect apartment. Little did I know, then, just how different were our opinions of perfect.

He had found a 3rd (2nd fl. Eur) floor ‘flat’ on a straight, treeless street in a marginal neighbourhood. Bonus points awarded for being equally as close to a good area as a bad area, I suppose. At one end of the street, Irish laborers toughed it out, their wives picking over second best in all the shops. At the other end, out-of-season fresh produce and Chinese wash carpets were cheerfully arranged in up-market shop windows. And even further along the road, not that far north of us was Hampstead, the place I wanted to live, the place where I was sure we could find the truly perfect apartment. What really struck me as strange about this flat was that we had to walk through other people’s flats to get to ours. Okay, not their sitting rooms, but their hallways. I mean if they had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo, or they wanted to wander half-dressed through their flat, and we were coming or going at that moment, we would see them. The stairs ran straight through the body of a terraced house, and the third floor (our perfect flat) was nothing more than the third floor of the house.

The place was a nightmare. A mess. Totally uninhabitable, in my estimation, but because we were almost married, because I was pregnant, because we had no money, because he was handsome, because he knew London and the housing stock, I said, “Yes, yes, it’s perfect,” grimly lying through my teeth.

I wandered through looking at the rooms; all two and a bit of them. Front room, with a ghastly pink-tiled coal fireplace. Roger read my thoughts and said he’d put a gas fire in immediately. Good idea, I silently thought. I’m not hauling buckets of coal up three flights of stairs just to get warm. The tiny bedroom overlooked a tiny back yard, concreted over, and all the other tiny yards, full of washing and children’s bikes, and grime; layers and layers of grime. Then the kitchen, as it was so inaptly described while in truth it was a short hallway. Our apartment door opened into this room. A few chipped cupboards, a sink, and a gas stove perched on four legs, circa 1910. Oh yeah, and a grubby, peeling linoleum floor. That was it. Then the bathroom, a fairly big room with a grand curved, legged and chipped tub, a big gas water heater on the wall and…a sink. “Where’s the sodding toilet?” my mind screamed. My mind had already screamed “Where’s the sodding refrigerator” when we had toured the kitchen.

I quickly ran through the tiny flat again, eyes raking every corner and the one closet. Just as I thought, no toilet. I stared at Roger in disbelief and then hissed coldly, “Where’s the fucking toilet?” He looked at me, quite brightly, and said, “Oh, it’s close, just down that flight of stairs. We share it with the landlady, Mrs. Schwartz.” It was at this moment that I knew for certain that Roger and I were fundamentally different, with completely different ideas as to what was perfect, much less necessary. I had grown up with my own full bathroom, sharing with no one, and now I was sharing with a complete stranger, and my landlady at that. “Show it to me,” I snarled.

We picked our way down the stairs, Mrs. Schwartz leading the way. She kept on and on about how many other people wanted this flat. I made faces and stuck my tongue out at the back of her balding head. Bottom of the stairs, frosted glass door, The Bathroom. A toilet, a sink, and a shower-curtained tub, the rail barely discernible beneath big old lady knickers and support stockings. I glanced at Roger and shook my head, silently giving him one strong message. “This Will Not Do.” He misinterpreted my look, not knowing me terribly well, and said. “Great, we’ll take it.” I rolled my eyes, and watched him hand over the deposit. Seventy pounds. One month’s rent and one month’s deposit. Then I walked upstairs and waited for him, in shock.

I practiced what I would say to him and when he walked in, I just said, “I can’t live here. It’s awful. How could you even begin to think that I could live here,” and I burst into tears. Something I did with alarming frequency through my pregnancy. We moved in the next week. You see, there really was a housing shortage and I had a lot to learn, not only about living on a budget, but also about making do. I mentally tallied all these things up, thinking about the D word and how forces seemed to be conspiring to make it inevitable.

One gets used to things. We all know it’s a fact, but it sometimes amazes me when that which is untenable one day, a month later becomes quite normal. That’s precisely what happened on Dynham Road. Within a couple of weeks, I was beginning to know the shopkeepers, my tube station was predictably crowded at certain times and empty at others and the rhythms of life in this corner of London gradually revealed themselves to me. I busied myself with decorating this little space and Roger and I used our Saturdays to spend over-the-odds for curtains and carpeting. Before any primping of the room could truly happen, though, Roger had to remove the pink-tiled, circa between-the-wars, ugly fireplace surround. There was no way that I would haul coal up and down the two flights of stairs. So, courtesy of the building site where he worked as a young civil engineer, he arrived home late one night with a serious-looking sledge hammer and some other tools of destruction.

Saturday morning, with no warning to Mrs. Schwartz that the destruction was about to happen, he took his first swing. While he had told her of his intention a couple of weeks prior, she had no idea that the deed was imminent. The whole building seemed to shudder as reluctant tiles pulled away from old plaster. The second swing cracked and then Mrs. Schwartz burst through the kitchen door. Her balding head was more noticeable than usual due to her deep, red coloring. She looked horrified as she rushed into the sitting room. As Roger brought the hammer down again, Mrs. Schwartz screamed. He stopped, abruptly and turned to look at her. “What do you think you are doing?” she screamed. “What I told you I would be doing,” Roger answered with an equal amount of passion. “I told you I was going to remove this surround and replace it with a new, gas fire.” “You didn’t say you were going to tear the surround out, just that you were going to put in a gas fire.”

I didn’t know the details of their prior discussion and so stood mutely at the edge of the room. Then, she started screaming at him again, about eviction this time. I turned and ran to the bedroom and shut the door. In my delicate state I couldn’t stand any dissention. Behind closed doors I could hear her wailing at the damage and the ruin that was now her third floor flat. Roger screamed something else, and finished off with, “…you stupid cow.” I was straining at the door trying to hear when I heard the window being thrown up with some force, then dead silence. I waited a moment, hearing nothing, and then rushed from the bedroom. I was convinced that he had thrown Mrs. Schwartz out the window. But the scene that greeted me was something quite different. Yes, the window was thrown open, but Mrs. Schwartz was standing, silently for once. She was not at all dead. Roger had thrown the window open and stuck his head out, purely in frustration. He’d felt like shoving Mrs. Schwartz and wisely chose to stick his head out the window, instead. He slowly gathered his equilibrium and eased himself back into the room. “Get out, Mrs. Schwartz. You came in here uninvited, now leave. I assure you that when I am finished this will look better than it did before I started tearing it out. The Gas Company comes tomorrow to connect a lead, then the fire will go in.”

She didn’t utter a word, just silently turned to leave. I was in the doorway and moved aside for her saying, “Mrs. Schwartz, don’t ever walk in this flat again unannounced. We rent it from you, but legally, you have no right to just barge in here.” She just looked at me and gave a curt nod. Roger sat on the floor, in the sitting room, head in hands. “I could have hit her,” he said, looking alarmed at his own feelings. “I know, but you didn’t,” I reassured him. “That’s all that counts.”

He picked up the sledge hammer and starting whacking away again. It didn’t take long and the whole thing was off the wall, leaving an unsightly, gaping hole. “I’ll take this out to the tip and then start patching the plaster,” he said, more to himself than to me. I nodded and said, “Well, I guess I’ll go get something for dinner.” We were both shaken by the confrontation with Mrs. Schwartz, yet oddly depleted. No more words were necessary. We had stood together, as a couple. As unsettling as the argument had been, I think we both were somewhat comforted by being a team. I know I was.

By the following week, a much-too-good, expensive, pale-grey Wilton carpet was fitted on the living room floor while deep, cranberry red curtains were being made by a local seamstress, a bargain by American standards, but still stretching our meager budget. I think Roger felt some excitement at finally having a place to live in that felt truly comfortable. I know what my feelings at the time were…I remember them all too clearly. I wanted to immediately disguise the fact that I was living in sub-standard accommodation. I was making, or at least trying to make, the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear. And then our Tomotom furniture arrived. It was as modern and statement-making as any I’d ever seen. It felt like fun furniture … whimsical furniture. I adored it. I can remember Roger staring at it, probably saying to himself, “What were we thinking of?” but it made me laugh out loud. The huge, round red chair with the big yellow cushions was sized for two people. It was a circular love seat. I plopped into it and gestured for him to come over. We both fit. I loved it. No focusing on the kitchen or the bathroom. Our bedroom had a beautiful, old brass bed, one tiny closet, one chest of drawers and one window without a view. Our kitchen was a corridor, no window, a few makeshift cupboards and an ancient stove. Our bathroom had a bath, a sink and a wall heater, but I focused on none of that. I shut the living room door and felt that I finally was home.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

FTD Came Through Again

Beautiful flowers were delivered this afternoon...anniversary flowers. Only a day late which I do believe is a record in this marriage. That I remembered first is also pretty impressive since Himself is usually the first to recollect. But the flowers arrived and a lovely little note: "Happy Anniversary. You got me this time!!! With all my love, Roger.

I think his flowers are a lot prettier than my card to him, but I couldn't resist this.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

We've Been Married for Thirty Seven Years Today, I Think

That's a lot of years. Our 37th anniversary (if in fact today is the day) is being celebrated 2,000 miles apart. Himself is in Milwaukee on business and I'm on top of my bit of the mountain in Topanga, listening with delight to the rain and waiting for his phone call. We can't find our marriage certificate, or at least I can't, which means we can't easily settle our disagreement on the actual date we got married. I'm sure it's the 11th and Himself reckons it's today. Whatever the actual date, we generally don't remember until days or months later and the first one who screams "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY...I REMEMBERED FIRST!" gets to gloat and then we reminisce a bit and then it's over and, really, the actual marriage itself was so unmemorable that this seems enough celebration.

We married in a registry office in Hampstead, London and had a few friends as witnesses...that was it. It took about 10 minutes. He was identified on the marriage certificate as a civil engineer (almost 24 yrs. old) and I was labeled as a spinster (20 yrs old). Some guy with a camera hung around out front, on Tavistock Hill, and took a couple of photos. We paid him a guinea, upfront, and he mailed the three pictures to us a week or so later. I looked a bit green as my morning sickness was kicking in at photo time and Himself was all wrinkled in the suit he'd worn the night before (stag party left him feeling a bit morning sickie, too) and decidedly undressy desert boots. When I first saw the pictures I can remember thinking we looked completely unsure of this whole marriage gig, but now I look at them and all I notice is how very young we were.

So, maybe today is our anniversary and maybe it isn't. Whichever date is correct, I feel pretty lucky to still be with the man I fell in love with so many years ago. After all, we'd only known each other for about 12 weeks before we married and out of those three months, we'd only been in the same country for several weeks.

Monday, November 07, 2005

WANTED!!!! (in the State of Maryland)

Today Himself went to get his California driving license since, like me he reckoned that once you've broken the law by not getting a license within 10 days of moving to the state, just use your old, valid one from your old state until it expires...or until it gets close to expiring because if you let it expire you have to do the "BEHIND THE WHEEL" part of the test and not just the written part.

He studied and studied because everyone says the California test is tricky and I made an appointment for him so he wouldn't have to queue up for the privilege of test-taking, but guess what????

He was denied the test and was told that due to some nasty little red flag that popped up on their computer screen from the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles, he was ineligible for a California license until he clears the mystery matter in Maryland. We immediately wrote an email to the MD DMV and will hear back within 24 hours just what infraction Himself is guilty of and...we have been wracking our brains and we think we've come up with the, ahem, misdemeanor.

In 1976, about 36 hours or so before we were due to move back to England so the very same Himself could go back to university and finish up all those pesky degrees he'd been meaning to finish up BEFORE HE HAD FLIPPIN' KIDS AND IT GOT ALL COMPLICATED, we think he was stopped for speeding, a few blocks from our house. But, since we were moving and all...we put that silly little inconvenience out of our heads because we had more pressing matters to attend to like the moving van that was shipping our entire house full of stuff across the Atlantic later that afternoon and signing the closing papers on our house sale and stroking the worried little brow of my seven year old daughter who did not like changes, NOT ONE LITTLE BIT. Colin was too young to care about moves and changes which was good, since Jane was not in the least happy about it all.

Isn't there some statute of limitations on shit like this?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Am I the Only One Who's Happy that Scooter said NOT GUILTY!

How could a grown man called Scooter be guilty of anything? Yeah, right... I am so thrilled that he's pleaded NOT GUILTY because now he's gonna name names! Maybe this damnably greedy house of cards will start falling sooner than I hoped.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Our Leader...

Donald Rumsfeld was giving the President his daily briefing. He concluded by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaimed. "That's terrible!"

His staff sat stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sat, head in hands.

Finally, the President looked up and asked, "How many is a brazillion?"

(sent to me by my friend, Betsy, this morning)