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24 posts from November 2007

November 29, 2007

Ruminations on Ruins

Ruminations on Ruination

by Nancy

Over Thanksgiving, my husband and I went to Greece for a week--actually a cruise around some of the islands--and then spent a few days in Venice. It was our reward to ourselves for 30 years of basically happy marriage.  (No parent of teenagers could ever be called truly  happy, could they?) Over the  years, we've taken a few beach vacations with the kids, not to mention a gazillion trips to Disney (not my favorite place on earth, which may tip you off about where I'm going with this today) but this trip was really special. It was an up-close stroll through a part of the world besides our comfy corner.

Here are some thoughts:

>  My husband and I shared the cruise ship with nearly 2000 fellow passengers and 900 crew members. Yet at twilight on our first night aboard, Jeff and I were THE ONLY PEOPLE on the deck as the ship sailed out of Venice. We watched the lights of the city pass by, listened to the bells of San Marco that have been ringing for hundreds--no, thousands of years--and marveled that we had that miraculous experience to ourselves. Unforgettable.

>  Then we spent a few days going ashore on various islands and poking around historic ruins. Let me tell you, the Greeks have no clue how to manage an archaeological site. Or else we Americans are idiots. Picture this: We were touring Olympia--yes, the site of the original Olympics, which were founded by some Greeks who wanted to unite warring cultures by conducting peaceful athletic competitions. Go to fullsize image

The buildings were destroyed by a couple of earthquakes and a flood or two, but the stones pretty much show where things used to be. The giant, grassy bowl of the first stadium is clearly visible. Amazing. But when our tour guide showed us the altar where the Olympic torch is still ignited, she INVITED US TO SIT ON THE REMAINS OF THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA while she talked. I mean, the actual stone columns of the temple had been tumbled onto the ground, and we SAT ON THE PIECES.

Would this happen in America? No.  In fact, no way in hell.

But if we Americans were allowed to, say, sit on the steps of the White House, would we think differently about our country's past and what it means? I dunno. I got to thinking about the Viet Nam memorial. Remember the controversy when it was first built? People complained that it looked stupid, but the veterans immediately connected with it--touching the wall of granite, making rubbings of the engraved names--and showed the rest of us that their experience and sacrifice was much more meaningful than the rest of us had ever imagined.  (In fact, I believe the current support of our troops during an unpopular war has resulted directly from the reaction to the Viet Nam memorial.) Is the tactile element part of changing people's minds, do you think?

> In Venice, the local bus is . . . a boat. The Vaporetto is a fleet of small ferry boats you can jump onto and ride the canals to wherever you're going in the city. It's very convenient, cheap and charming. Plus necessary, because there aren't any roads for cars. Skip the expensive gondola ride and take the Vaporetto. You can spend a weekend taking in the whole city for about 15 euros apiece.

But the "bus stops" are boat docks, and when you get off at your stop, you must step from the bobbing deck of the boat onto the stationary platform. Which elderly Venetian ladies with canes manage to do without pitching headfirst into the canal. But an American woman ahead of me stumbled as she took the unfamiliar step, and she turned to her husband with some outrage. "The Italians have a serious safety problem here!" Which made me laugh. Have we learned to depend upon our government to protect us from our own human clumsiness? I mean, the city where I live was initially settled hundreds of years after Venice was papering their ceilings with paintings by Tintoretto. But here in the U.S. we're tearing down city playgrounds because kids might scrape their knees. It's nuts.

>  Languages. Our Venice hotel desk clerk spoke halting English when we checked in. It was difficult but not impossible for us to understand her.  She also spoke Spanish to the couple who checked in before  us, and German to the people after us. And I heard her making herself clear to some Asians later the same weekend. Which is really humbling when you think about it. I can barely remember a sentence or two from the French I took for FIVE YEARS in high school and college. Try to imagine a French tourist exhanging euros for dollars at your local bank. Chances are better he'd get arrested for being a terrorist before he'd get his money changed.

>  In Venice, all the locals wear black.  Why? Are they in mourning, or something? For what? Wait, maybe I've already answered that question. Anyway, it looks vey chic. Which is a typically American reaction, I suppose: To us, how they look is more important than the way they think.

>  Last of all, why does anybody buy expensive luggage these days? It must be a status thing, like thousand dollar Prada handbags. Our luggage came off the baggage carousel looking as if it had been abandoned on the tarmac during a monsoon, then run over by a 747 and left in a mud hole---which, come to think of it, might have happened. I saw a lady leaving our cruise ship with a Louis Vuitton suitcase that had come with a clear plastic wrapper, kinda like the plastic slipcover our neighbor, Mrs. Turnbull, used on her sofa years ago. Is preserving the label on the suitcase more important than the trip?

We had a delightful time, really. We saw astonishing historic sights, met some charming---and not-so-charming, but still interesting--people. We didn't visit a sanitized amusement park where you must buckle a seat belt before "shooting the rapids" on a mechanical ride. We ate a few slices of pizza in the shadow of the Rialto bridge, smelled the canal and watched a new world go by. I sang on the steps of La Fenice. ("Don't Cry For Me, Argentina."  Trust me, it was amusing at the time.) The whole trip was a chance to explore and remember why we decided to marry each other 30 years ago. 

Jeff and I are not terribly romantic with each other.--Maybe that's why we've lasted together.  But that twilight sail out of Venice with him holding me close to stay warm?  Now, that was romantic!

November 28, 2007

The Universal Rental Car

The Universal Rental Car

By Elaine Viets

I drive a 21-year-old car. But don’t feel sorry for me. It’s a 1986 Jaguar XJ-6, one of the most beautiful sedans ever made. There’s just one problem. Thanks to my old car, I’m a little out of it when it comes to driving new vehicles.

A car made in 1986 unlocks with a key, not a thingie that chirps like a cricket.

The headlights turn on with a round switch marked with a picture of a headlight.

The windshield wipers have their own switch.

The trunk opens with a key. So do the dual gas tanks. There are no gas tank latches on the floor, or the dash, or hidden under the seat.

I am a good driver until I rent a car, which happens mostly on book-signing trips. The first time, I asked for a "midsize" vehicle. I thought I’d get something like a Saturn, a reliable car that my female friends love.

But the rental car company’s definition of midsize was a green Neon, which looked like a moldy bread roll. The Neon was a little cramped. All six feet of me were folded inside like an origami sculpture. Also, the shocks seemed to have expired about 40,000 miles ago – I felt every pothole in the parking lot.

But that wasn’t the real problem.

I pulled out of the rental agency onto the highway, and swung in front of a semi, the way I always drive. I hit the gas. The Neon sat there like a paperweight. I pressed the pedal to the metal. The Neon didn’t budge. All I could see was the Peterbilt grill in my rear-view mirror.

I was going to wind up on that shiny grill, squashed like a June bug. I kept pressing the gas pedal and praying. Either the Neon’s four cylinders woke up, or the truck driver did, because he swerved around me and I managed to stay alive to return the car.

This book trip, I didn’t ask for a "midsize" car. I asked for a six-cylinder model. I have no idea what it was, but it was fast, roomy and white as a cotton ball.

It was nearly midnight when my plane got in, and there wasn’t enough staff at the agency to give me a lesson in Rental Car 101.

The rental car was clean and smelled like it had been shampooed by a dog groomer. The heater was blasting like a smelting furnace. I roasted for twenty miles before I got the temperature somewhere below Florida in August.

When it started raining, I felt around on the steering column and turned on the bright lights. This annoyed the oncoming cars, who blinked their headlights at me, because I was one of those jerks who drove with her brights on.

I frantically jiggled switches and got the windshield wipers going, but only the "intermit" switch, which meant they worked every so often. Sort of like most people in Florida.

The gas cap opener was on the floor next to my lost earring.

I couldn’t figure out the radio at all – not even to get the farm report. For four days, I was forced to sing to myself, and I sound like a tortured cat.

I should have stopped at the closest outlet of the rental agency, but pride prevented me: I didn’t want to seem like a dumb girl. It was only when a man who traveled often told me he could never figure out the windshield wipers on his rental cars, that I felt better.

That’s why I’d like to make the following modest proposal: America needs a universal rental car.

A car where tired travelers don’t have to relearn the interior every time we drive it.

In the ideal Universal Rental Car, the gas cap lever is always in the same spot. Ditto for the headlights. Also the windshield wipers, and all three speeds are clearly marked.

Is that too much to ask? In a land where everything is alike, from shopping malls to suburban tract houses, do we have to keep turning out confusing rental cars?

November 27, 2007

Incredibly Bad Food

Incredibly Bad Food

By Sarah

Cupcakes As many of you know, I'm swamped rewriting SWEET LOVE, my upcoming book about a woman who finds the meaning of life at a dessert class. (Shoot. I think that's the first time I ever summed up this book so succinctly. Must be getting close to the end.) The manuscript is due Friday, but I've asked - okay, begged - my editor to extend the deadline until Dec. 6. Which might explain this rambling, not very interesting introduction.

I really like this book now. In fact, I love it, especially the parts where the seventy-five-year-old mother waxes nostalgic about food. I'm talking bad food, not the kind you find in New Orleans. (See yesterday's post.) I'm talking the1960-something, Pennsylvanian, artery-clogging glop my mother plunked down on the table every night. What my father would call her "opus." (Never mind that she used to be a reporter for the Providence Journal and so that was damn insulting.)

Of course, this was before men and women cooked together, before women had careers. My mother's entire life was planned around that weekly menu starting with her shopping list and coupons. Shop Rite,Ap  for example, offered triple-coupon Wednesdays but back then it was no good for vegetables. A&P had coffee you ground right at checkout. (Eww!) But it was over priced. This meant my mother circulated stores for various items, stocking up on canned goods in case of nuclear war. You remember nuclear war, dontcha?

But that was merely the beginning. There were also hard and fast rules that could not be broken. Such as - every dinner must, absolutely must, contain meat. Spaghetti had to have meatballs. Lasagna, too. Secondly, every plate had to have two vegetables including one that grew underground (potatoes - very big, by the way - carrots, parsnips) and above ground (broccoli, spinach, peas.) Organ meat was a twice-a-month ordeal. Tongue (with spicy mustard) was once a month. A starch was mandatory. As was a salad.

Meat_loaf Also, there were two nights that could not be tampered with - Monday and Friday. Monday was meatloaf night so there'd be meatloaf for meatloaf sandwiches (on white bread with mayonnaise and ketchup, natch) in the school lunches. Friday was fish. This had been decreed by the Pope, though my mother, an Episcopalian, had no truck with him. I think her willingness to go along was simply relief at not having to cook another dead cow.

A Sunday ham meant trouble. My mother could make a ham last days, maybe even years, thanks to her cast iron meat grinder. Ham salad sandwiches with relish. Ham croquets. (And may I just say here, whoever introduced the croquet phenomenon of the 1970s needs to be strung up by his ham hocks.) Even split pea soup with the ham bone. There weren't nothing left of that pig once she was done with it.

Of course, no one profiles this era better than James Lileks in his gut-busting book, Regrettable Food.Regrettable_food  His website is just as funny and informative. Having perused through most of it, I came away convinced that the milk industry was behind a conspiracy that resulted in tons of children being pumped full of bovine hormones. Sounds kooky, I know. But if breast cancer is on the rise among members of my generation, I have to wonder if our mothers' proclivity to add sour cream to everything is behind it.

But food is not only edible nutrition, is it? It's also comfort and - for members of the Great Depression generation like my parents - security. A plate of "a meat and three" meant the mortgage was paid, the car ran, the job was still there. Meant the children wouldn't starve.

Even today I bring back some of my mother's less harmful dishes when I sense my family is rocking. Baked chicken with rosemary. Lasagna (only with spinach and artichokes instead of ground beef and ricotta.) And, of course, a nice juicy steak. Rare in the middle with an ice-cold dirty martini to wash it down. That's living. (Or, if you're an artery, dying, I suppose.)

I don't do fish on Friday, but I try to eat it twice a week. Organ meat is a no, no. (Yeah!!) Though I will admit a perverted fondness for liverwurst sandwiches and also tongue. Tongue is fantastic sliced thin with the right mustard. Ohmigod. I'd give anything for a tongue sandwich right about now.

Sundae Unfortunately, I don't have time to go into my mother's sticky, dripping, fudge-coated desserts except to say that a hot fudge sundae with homemade hot fudge over peppermint ice cream was standard fare on Saturday night. So easy to make, too. You should never buy it.

There's more. Much more I have to say about desserts. But I'll save that for Sweet Love. In the meantime, let's hear your Bad Food stories and we can all feel nostalgic together.

Back to the book!


November 26, 2007

Dispatch from New Orleans

Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber own and run a magical restaurant in Woodstock, Vermont called Osteria Pane E Salute ("Bread and Health"), where they produce spare and perfect artisanal Italian cuisine using local ingredients and maintain a cellar of fine Italian wines.  But that's not why Deirdre is guest blogging today.  She's a writer of the highest caliber on the subjects of food, life, travel, friendship, love -- you name it.  Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and won the Calvino Prize for New Fiction.  Her food writing was featured in Best Food Writing of 2005 and can also be found in Gastronomica, in their inspirational cookbook, Pane E Salute (with blurb by Nancy's hottie Anthony Bourdain), or at Deirdre's blog, Fuoricitta, where she'll tell you what they're growing, cooking and eating on any given day (complete with wonderful recipes!)   


Dispatch from New Orleans: Ain't It Just Like Livin'

by Deirdre Heekin

We're on the road.  My husband, Caleb, and I are traveling.  We do this every November and April, close up our small restaurant in the small village of Woodstock, Vermont and point ourselves North, South, East or West.  In April, we are always East.  We land in Italy for a time to eat, to drink, to be inspired.  In November, we could be anywhere.  We have found ourselves in L.A., Buenos Aires, Montreal, New York, Oregon, Paris.  This time we are in New Orleans.

We have long wanted to come here.  My family lived here years ago, and Caleb's aunt and uncle still do.  We are sad to have missed the New Orleans before The Storm, but we are happy to finally arrive, to see the proud and elegant city as she gets herself back on her pins.  The sections of town near the river are looking quite fine, houses freshly painted, gardens tended, the remaining live oak looking broad and powerful, thriving.  Other sections of town, those farther from the river, especially those in the infamous 9th ward, are still vacant and ghostly.  Windows are boarded up or are filled with jagged broken glass.  The water lines still exist on the sides of the houses.  The yards are wild with pink oleander, grasses and the climbing blue plumbago.  The stench of rot and mold lingers.  Walls are still marked with signs left from the National Guard.  1 Dead in Attic.

We've come to New Orleans on a pilgrimage: to eat, to taste Cajun, Creole and soul food renditions.  We compile a list, not of all the usual favorites and must-eats, but of smaller places, those who opened as little as ten days after Katrina because they couldn't stand by and stop cooking for their city.  They knew they needed to feed their people and all those who came to volunteer their help in those first harrowing months after the hurricane.  We've heard stories of Paul Prudhomme setting up in a parking lot with propane burners and cooking kettles of gumbo, or Donald Link opening Herbsaint with only six people when usually there is a team of 45.  We heard that old favorites opened for business even when it was nearly impossible: Upperline, Dooky Chase, then Brigsten's.  These are the places at which we choose to dine on our first visit. 

Dining at Dooky Chase is tops on our list.  It opened in 1941 in the first historical section of town to be inhabited by freed slaves.  We are eager to eat their classic dishes: fried chicken, red beans and rice, stewed okra, green beans with dirty onions. Leah Chase, daughter of the original Dooky, has been cooking at this restaurant since the Fifties.  We have always been awed and inspired by those stalwart cooks who keep at it day after day. 

But Dooky Chase is currently closed.  The message on their answering machine says they hope to re-open at the beginning of November, and in the meantime they are serving take-out.  We grab at the chance after an early lunch of fresh oysters and fried softshell crab at Casamentos (some days we have to eat throughout the day in order to hit every one of our destinations) and pick up a late lunch from Dooky Chase.

It is a charmed visit, one full of stories and good cheer, though as with many things in New Orleans these days, there is a melancholy note.  We walk in the side door and it's clear they have been under significant construction.  No one is about, and we yell, "Hello!  Anyone here?"  Someone shouts back from the kitchen.  We are greeted warmly and given a take-out menu.  We order.  We are offered a seat in the newly painted bar while we wait.  A handsome young man brings us water and iced tea served in glasses with lemon.  We tell him this doesn't seem much like take-out service.  He smiles genuinely and says, "Well, I'm hoping you'll come back again."

Like so many others, Dooky Chase has fallen on some hard luck since Katrina.  Two feet of water flooded the building, and they have been renovating and restoring ever since.  The restaurant is home to an extensive African-American art collection, and fortunately they were able to get the artwork out and into storage up in Baton Rouge before it was lost to the elements or to looting.  Leah Chase's husband takes us on a tour of the refurbished dining rooms.  Leah Chase is conducting an interview in a pretty yellow room with French chairs and pale yellow brocade.  She holds our hands in her own upon introduction and is enthusiastic about re-opening, but you can also tell that she is flat-out.  Finding employees seems to be the biggest problem facing the restaurant these days.  There are not enough people left in the city.  Too many have moved away because they lost everything, and needed to start somewhere fresh instead of waiting and waiting and waiting to pick up somewhere far behind where they left off.

Leah's husband takes us into the red room, the private green room, again elegant and old world as if it's still 1955, as if New Orleans might still be part of New France.  The Empire style would have made Napoleon proud.  When our fried chicken, and red beans and rice, and stewed vegetables, and fried shrimp sandwich are all ready, he brings us back to the bar with its bright green walls and black-and-white trim and a terrific painting of Louis Armstrong.  He notices that Caleb is wearing a T-shirt from Brazil and begins to scat a little bossanova number.  His voice is pure and tremulous and his smile is true.  He encourages Caleb to join in, and Caleb does so, tentatively at first, but then gaining momentum.  When they are done, we all clap, and Caleb asks, "Now, what if I'd been wearing my Italy T-shirt?"  And they are off again, the older black man and the younger white one, dipping and reaching for notes from that old classic, "Volare."  To fly, says that song in translation, I fear this dream will never return, my hands and my face are covered in blue, suddenly I was pulled away by the wind and soared into the endless sky.

We take our carefully packed picnic to Audubon Park and sit under a pergola at a table and lay out our treasure.  The dishes are beautiful in their simplicity and spicy, savory aromas; they need no translation as they are perfectly understood.  The fried chicken melts on the tongue, and the candied yams have sweet and texture.  We look out over the green park in the evening, at people jogging, mothers and father teaching children to ride their bikes, two friends walking a dog, the man who comes to feed the ducks.  Here's to the New Orleans of old, and to all that will be new.  Here's to the return of the people, and their unfailing spirit, because all that wind and rain and devastation can't take that away.

November 24, 2007

A Party with Rope Ties and Handcuffs

The Lipstick Chronicles was delighted to hear that our friend Penny Warner has a new nonfiction book. She’s been giving parties that are a bit out of the ordinary. No writerly wine and cheese for Penny. Her signing parties have handcuffs, rope ties and of course, lipstick.

Calm down, Margie. This is an educational blog. Penny teaches readers how to lift fingerprints with face powder and tap out Morse Code with high heels.

Let’s let Penny talk about "The Official Nancy Drew Handbook," just out from Quirk/Chronicle books. She’ll tell you how to host a Nancy Drew, Girl Detective Party.

A Party with rope ties and handcuffs

By Penny Warner

Since I write party books on the side, I decided to turn my book signings into book parties, and host a Girl Detective Party for readers.

Intriguing Invitations

First I made Top Secret Dossier Invitations and sent them out to friends and fans. I folded a six-by nine-inch manila envelope in half and wrote the party details inside using fancy fonts. I decorated the envelope, inside and out, with stickers and stamp imprints, featuring magnifying glasses, flashlights, skeleton keys, footprints, puzzle pieces—anything related to Nancy Drew or sleuthing.

Then I filled the pocket with additional party information, a list of my appearances, and a miniature magnifying glass. After sealing the envelope, I stamped "Top Secret: For Your Eyes Only" on the outside, and mailed them off.

Dress Up Like Drew

When I host the signing parties, I either wear a T-shirt with the silhouette of Nancy Drew on the front (ironed-on transfer) or a flowered frock, trench coat, and cloche hat, with period clunky shoes. I haven’t dyed my hair Titian yet, but I’m tempted. Around my neck I wear a necklace with a large skeleton key, and I carry a giant magnifying glass. (Hm. Am I making a fool of myself?)

Teach Sleuthing Skills

At show time, I select people from the audience to help me demonstrate detecting skills we’ve learned from Nancy, such as "How to Write SOS Backwards with Lipstick When Your Hands are Bound Behind Your Back," "How to Tap out a Morse Code Message with Your High Heels," "How to Lift Fingerprints with Face Powder," "How to Disguise Yourself and Go Undercover to Follow Criminals or Your Cheating Boyfriend," and "How to Pack the Perfect Handbag for All Emergency Contingencies," (all found in "The Official Nancy Drew Handbook.")

Housekeeper Hannah Gruen's Goodies

Finally I whipped up some of Hannah Gruen’s favorite recipes, such as her Leaning Chimney Lemon Bars, Blackwood Hall Butterfly Pie, or Shadow Ranch Strawberry Shortcake, and serve them to the attendees, along with Nancy’s signature drinks – hot tea or hot cocoa.


For those who buy a book, I hand out an Emergency Bookmark/Whistle/Flashlight, a Morse Code magnet, or a Lipstick/Pen as a thank-you bonus.

And for those who read the Lipstick Chronicles and want one of my Nancy Drew tchotchkas, just send me an email along with your address and I’ll send it along. You can reach me at tpwarner@sbcglobal.net.

November 23, 2007

TLC Online Cookie Exchange

The TLC Online Cookie Exchange!

By Rebecca the Bookseller

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope your dishes are done and your feet are resting - or that you are out shopping like a maniac, whichever sounds better to you. And if you work in retail, we wish you big sales with as little hassle as possible.

Blog_snickerdoodlesWhen I was growing up, my Grandma always had a tin of cookies in the kitchen cabinet. Many times the cookies were my favorite, but now I only have them at the holidays. The recipe came from an old Betty Crocker cookbook. They are easy to make, even if the name sounds silly.


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

*It's the only time I ever use the stuff. So don't assume you have it in ye olde spice rack.

1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
2. Mix 1 1/2 cups sugar, the butter, shortening and eggs in large bowl. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
3. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. [At this point, some people refrigerate the dough. [I can't tell if it makes a difference in the taste, but it is nice to do ahead of time if you want them fresh on a certain day.]
4. Mix 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.
(Total time will vary; cook or bake time is per batch.)

Here is one that's messy, but great fun with kids - it's a variation on Rice Krispy Treats;


1/3 c. butter (that's the official recipe but I always use more)
16 lg. marshmallows (you can use marshmallow cream, but I like the marshmallows better)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. green food coloring
2 1/2 c. corn flakes
Red Hots

Melt butter and marshmallows in saucepan. Add vanilla and food coloring. Mix it so that the food coloring is distributed before you put in the cornflakes. (Otherwise they look partially dead because some of the cornflakes will stay brown. It's not festive and someone could cry. Okay, it was me.) Add the cornflakes. Coat the flakes well. Drop on wax paper in a wreath shape and drop a trio of red hots on each wreath so they sticks on. If you don't have the patience for shaping them, just make them in drops, stick the red hots in there at random and call it holly. Do not try the shortcut that my sister tried and make it into one big wreath. You'll end up with green all over the house as people pull chunks off and then meander about the place. Let them set overnight. Hide them if you want to have any left in the morning.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and happy baking too!

November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Songs

Thanksgiving Songs

By Rebecca the Bookseller

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just in case anyone checks in today, we didn't want you to feel like we forgot about the blog.

So here are my choices for Thanksgiving songs, if you'd like to make a mix to keep you entertained while you cook up your bird, or your reservations.

The Thanksgiving Song - Adam Sandler (this is not for kids - which is a shame, because it's catchy - but there are a couple of lines that are going to raise questions you just don't want to discuss over dinner).

Thanksgiving - Beatroots

American Thanksgiving - Chris Winters

Happy Thanksgiving - Debbie Friedman (a cute folksy song that's fun to sing)

Thanksgiving, or Pass the Indian Please - Firesign Theater (a skit on tolerance)

Thanksgiving Day - John McCutcheon

Prayer of Thanksgiving - Mormon Tabernacle Choir (any choir will work, but I like the big voices on this song)

Thanksgiving - Shawna Carol

Thanksgiving - Teddy Goldstein

Thanksgiving Theme - Vince Guaraldi Trio (I can still see Snoopy making toast and popcorn)

Over the River - Warner Bros. (I picked the Loony Tunes version because my sister's family loves them. Feel free to pick a more traditional arrangement)

Thanksgiving - Deb Talan

Colors/Dance - George Winston - he has an entire CD of Autumn music that's terrific

Thanksgiving - Benjy Westmoreland

Thanksgiving Waltz - Jay Ungar & Molly Mason (I think this was from a PBS epic like The Civil War or something)

We Gather Together - Phillip Aaberg (This was the one I liked best when I went searching on iTunes)

Celebrate Me Home - Kenny Loggins or Al Jarreau

Thank You for Being a Friend - Andrew Gold

Thankful - Josh Groban (from his new Christmas CD, which is magnificent)

We Gather Together - Brad Pribbenow

Bless This House - Dana Bishop Sanders (a lovely little prayer - we are getting all the kids to do a stanza to surprise my Mom today)

Now Thank We All Our God - Kate Higgins (the first hymn I learned)

Our House - Madness (a bit of a stretch, but a classic)

Homeward Bound [Live] - Simon & Garfunkel (a good road song too)

Family of Man - Anita Baker (I love this song and her smoky voice is perfect)

Take Me Home Country Roads - John Denver

I've Got Plenty to Be Thankful For - Bing Crosby (nothing says holidays like Der Bingler)

(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays - The Carpenters (yeah, it's pushing Christmas, but I love it)

Everybody Eats When They Come to My House - Cab Calloway (great lyrics and a classic too).

Happy eating and singing and dancing!

Please remember to tell the people you're Thankful for how you feel!

And thanks to you for being part of TLC!

Oh - and don't forget to stop back tomorrow for our TLC Online Cookie Exchange!


November 21, 2007

What Do You Call Him?

What Do You Call Him?

By Elaine Viets

What do you call the man you’re going out with, if you are an adult?

I’m not talking about "honey," "baby," "sweetheart" or other terms of endearment. I mean what is his official title? Is he your lover? Your man? The person you’re seeing?

Those are either too personal, or not personal enough.

The question came up on a flight from St. Louis to Fort Lauderdale. I sat next to a woman lugging a bagful of tile samples and decorating magazines. She was slender, attractive, and somewhere south of forty.

She put the magazines in a briefcase and the heavy tiles in the bin over my head. I had visions of the plane hitting an air pocket and the tiles falling out and cracking my head like an eggshell.

I started babbling to pass the time. "Are you a decorator?" I asked.

"No," Tile Woman said. "I’m helping my boyfriend" – she made a face – "choose tiles for his new condo. I hate that word."


"Boyfriend. It sounds so high school. I’m too old for a boyfriend. My friends say I should call him my special friend, but that sounds like we went to special school together. There’s no word for mature adults who are dating."

She was right. "My man" sounds like something in a torch song. And what happens when your romance is over? Do you say, "My man done left me"?

"My lover" is too much information.

"My friend" is too coy.

"My good friend" is worse. What do you call everyone else – your bad friends?

"My gentleman caller" is too old-fashioned, unless you’re into phone sex.

"My guy" sounds like a girl-band song.

"My date" is too impersonal. If you’ve been going together for a year, is he still a date, or someone with commitment problems?

"The man I’m seeing" makes it sound like you’re only seeing particular parts of the guy. (OK, I have a dirty mind. But when I worked at a newspaper, a dirty mind was a career asset.)

"The man I’m going with" makes me want to ask, "going where?" The answer is usually "nowhere."

There’s no polite way to describe adult dating.

College students, who are far smarter and more sensible than I was at twenty, have a term called – brace yourself, Myrtle, I’m about to drop the F-bomb – "fuck buddies." That’s blunt, but it means they’re friends who have sex. They have no serious "till death do us part" plans.

It also recognizes that adults have needs, though maybe not forever. I could just see myself announcing a man that way to my Aunt Marie. She’d turn a beautiful shade of eggplant before she booted the guy out the door with her size-12 Enna Jettick.

If Tile Woman moves in with Condo Man, then according to the federal government, he’s her POSSLQ (Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters), pronounced Possel-Q. That term is accurate, but lacks imagination. It also makes the man sound like a rare species of South American monkey, the ring-tailed POSSLQ.

Really, a ring would solve everything, at least until the couple divorces.

If Tile Woman was engaged to Condo Man, he’d be her fiancé. That’s a word you can say anywhere, anytime. Even to Aunt Marie.

November 20, 2007

My Thanksgiving As A Dog

By Sarah

Secret_lives I'll admit it - this Thanksgiving is not one I am (or, rather, can) be excited about. I have a book due to my editor Nov. 30 and while the rough draft is done, I'm only halfway through the rewrites. Hard rewrites, too. Plus, I have 26 hours in the car ahead of me to visit in-laws in Ohio whom I managed to piss off with Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives. I'm lucky to have been invited, frankly.

No wonder the muscles in my back ache as if I've been lifting drywall all weekend.

So I was freaking out about this other day when I returned to my car after doing a bit of grocery shopping, to see my Basset hound, Fred, eagerly and happily waiting for me. That's when I had my epiphany. All I have to do to survive Thanksgiving is to follow the Rules For Dogs. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how brilliant is this idea. (If I must say so myself.)

For example, Rule #1: Shake when asked to shake - Simple, straight forward. Only, repeatedly putting aShake  paw, I mean hand, on someone's arm for more shakes is not recommended.

Rule #2 - Don't beg. Asking your nephew Milo if he's going to eat his stuffing is annoying. Suck it up and get your own. So what if everyone thinks you're a pig.

Rule #3 - Don't steal food. Stealing stuffing from Milo is also not recommended. And if you get caught, you'll look like a bully as well as a glutton.

Rule #4 - Assume the best. Just like your dog assumes there is a perfectly good reason for you to be gone all day and holds no grudge when you return, assume that there's a perfectly good reason why your father made that crack about the "vidiot generation" to which your children belong. Simply smile and stick out your tongue. He'll get the message soon enough.

Rule #5 - Don't piss on the carpet. Corollary: Don't throw up in the back hallway. 'Nuff said.

Rule #6 - Be eager to go for a walk. Walking will ease your regret and get you out of the house away from the &$#% football into some fresh air where you can bond (rebond?) with tony sister in law who bears absolutely NO RELATION to character in a book you wrote three years ago.

Yapping Rule #7 - Don't yap. No one likes a constant yapper, either in a dog or a human. Sit back and listen. You might learn something for another book down the road. Not that you're working on one or anything.

Rule #8 - Sit when told to sit. Drives the hostess nuts when people mill around instead of digging in when she went through all the trouble to calculate the timing just so.

Rule #9 - Fetch. Don't make your host or hostess do all the work. Refill the relish tray, the water pitcher. Get the mashed potatoes so she can sit down and relax.

Rule #10 - Be good. That's a good girl. Who's a good boy? Are you a good boy? Are you a good boy? GoodBasset_houd  boy.

And that's it - please feel free to add your own. I have the feeling we could put together a whole how-to-guide for Thanksgiving when we're done.

P.S. Works for office behavior, too. I think.

Happy Thanksgiving!


November 19, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different


And Now for Something Completely Different

by Michele

I'm about to do something I've never done in my life before, which -- given that I'm not as young as I used to be and that I keep pretty busy -- is saying a lot.   The shocking development:  I'm having Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant this year. My husband and kids will be with me, but no parents, in-laws, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, kids of cousins or other extended family.  And I'm not cooking. I'm not even reheating. 

This choice puts me in a tiny minority.  A 2005 poll showed that 87% of Americans eat Thanksgiving dinner either in their own home or in the home of a relative.  Six per cent eat with friends, while only three per cent eat in a restaurant.  That places me just one per cent above the true weirdos -- the two per cent who choose not to eat Thanksgiving dinner at all.  Honestly, when I went googling for a poll on Thanksgiving habits, I never expected to find that my decision was so beyond the pale.  I thought the restaurant number would be higher, maybe 10 per cent, maybe 15.  But no, if you believe that poll, we're stepping far out of line.  What we're doing borders on the sacreligious. (Though come to think of it, the website where I found the poll was running a banner ad for an Ann Coulter book.)

So why are we doing this crazy thing?  (And when I say we, the hubby and I arrived at this decision together).  I'm not an obvious candidate for that wacko three per cent.  My kids are still young enough to be in need of hearth and home at the holidays, or so I've been raised to believe.  I've been a Thanksgiving purist my whole life.  The only Thanksgivings I've ever spent without the long, groaning table full of food and every family member you haven't seen since the last one were a few when I lived in California and couldn't afford to fly back east.  Even then, I either found a real turkey dinner to attend or cooked one myself and invited all the other East Coast orphans I knew.  Last year, if you remember, I hosted a big gathering at my house complete with mimosas, turkey and all the trimmings (recipes courtesy of this backblog) and more mimosas.

Huh.  Is it that experience I'm reacting to, I wonder?  Yes, cooking and cleaning were a lot of work, and everybody sat around and watched too much football and didn't say anything profound.  But isn't that how Thanksgiving always is?  And don't we love it anyway?  But if I was completely satisfied, wouldn't I be doing it again this year?

The clearest explanation I can come up with is that we just plain needed a break.  Holidays have become overwhelming.  I love them, but this year's been one big blur since Independence Day.  Labor Day we had a huge barbecue.  Halloween took up months of my life.  I literally just today finished taking down the orange lights and throwing away the pumpkins, and meanwhile, the wreaths are ordered and I'm about to put those pretty Christmas candles in all my windows.  It all seems too frantic, too materialistic, too much

Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, where we're supposed to feel grateful for the food we eat.  I try to remember that, but do I?  We all have our own personal versions of the holiday's meaning.  Maybe we volunteer at a shelter or organize a food drive.  Maybe we prefer the historical take, thinking about the Pilgrims and the Indians and the fact that we're an immigrant nation.  For me, Thanksgiving is about family coming together.  Part of me will definitely miss the long table and all the relatives.  But part of me is excited to pare down to just the nuclear family and see if we can find some new meaning, some magic moment or profound little nugget of conversation.  It's an experiment.  I don't want to do this every year, but I think it's worth a try.

Or am I crazy?  Feel free to ignore me and exchange stuffing recipes.