When simple is very good

August 4, 2009

Five of my favorite simple summer pleasures

1- Making and enjoying a simple salad comprised entirely of things from your very own garden*

2- Drifting off to sleep to the sound of crashing waves, laughing children and the sand moving underneath your improvised pillow

3- An early morning run when a soft breeze blows and smells faintly of honeysuckle

4- Taking a solitary Sunday walk to an ice cream shop and deciding the abundance of calcium makes your double cone an appropriate if not sensible choice for lunch

5- Plunging yourself into the Atlantic and feeling the nerve endings on your skin jump to attention as your body slowly cools and drifts with the sea

What are your simple summer pleasures?

*My tomatoes are finally in and boy were they worth the wait!  Everything else in my garden has been growing like crazy from all of this rain.

Today, while on my way to  Dr’s appointment ironically, I saw a billboard adverstitinsg a local hospital.  It said, if you have a  problem (and really, who goes to the hospital if they don’t) they guarantee you will be seen by a Dr is 24 hrs!  They are going to go out on the limb that is 24 hours you will actually have some face time with a medical professional…and they think this is something to brag about.  Getting care in 24 hours is something they want you to know about them, because this apparently sets them apart from the rest.  It got me thinking about the status of health care in this country and regardless of your support for the presidents new plan, I think we can all admit something has got to change.  I don’t know what the right answer is but I believe in order to address the problem we need to face some simple truths.  Here are 5 truths that I believe.

1)  I believe that our current heath care crisis is not one of the state of health care at all but rather a crisis of class and by extension race and sex. I believe that we can not address health care until we are willing to admit to the class crisis in our country and deal with that too.

2) I believe that all people have the right to health care.  I believe it is as fundamental as my right to freely speak about its importance or someone elses right to pray for change.  I certainly believe it is as important as the right to carry an Uzi which people seem to get all bent out of shape about.

3) I believe that it is the responsibility of every person to do their part to ensure everyone has access to quality health care.  We live in a society and as members of that society we agree to certain social contracts.  The contract that causes you to stop at a red light so you don’t plow into an unsuspecting pedestrian is the same contract that should provide that pedestrian access to a good Dr if you do.  It is no less homicidal to deny someone cancer treatment as it is to use your hard earned Uzi to off them.

4) I believe that no heath plan can be considered comprehensive until it includes ‘luxeries’ like preventative care, well care, access to good nutritional information and yes, I am going to say it, reproductive care*.

5) I believe that these are my beliefs and I do not believe that you have to agree with me.  But, I do believe that it is your responsibility to find your own beliefs and talk about them.  I started talking about health care 10 years ago when a family friend asked my father for his old ear drops because he could not afford drops of his own.  A hard working man in his 50′s could not afford medication to treat and prevent something that my father could get for an $8 copay.  If you tell me there is something right about this situation, I will happily admit that my beliefs are wrong.

*I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why my insurance will happily cover Viagra but will not cover birth control pills.  If you have a good explanation for this, I would LOVE to hear it.

5 lessons I should have learned by now, but have some how managed not to. 

Lesson 1:  No matter how ‘right’ you believe you are, and how many people approve the content, do not, under any circumstance, send an e-mail when you are angry.  You will be just as right in a few hours and once you calm down, you may even see that the other person might just have a point.

Lesson 2: After you have hit send on your nasty gram, do not head to the nearest kitchen to start eating whatever will crunch under your teeth.  This will not make you feel better and will probably give you a tummy ache.

Lesson 3: Do not buy clothes on line from any company you are not 100% sure of the fit for. You think that you will return them but they will sit in your car in their little plastic envelope for weeks and when you finally get to the post office you will calculate how much you have spent on shipping and be annoyed. 

Lesson 4:  Do not leave the house with out looking at the front and the back of an outfit to make sure your bra straps are in no way visible.  This will result in you making a frantic phone call to your assistant at 8:00 in the morning informing her that you had an important meeting you forgot about while you scour the racks to find a replacement undergarment or shirt.  Neither will fit right or look good.

Lesson 5:  Do not expect the people around you to change.  They never will and you will always be disappointed.

PS:  All of these lessons have been reinforeced today; before lunch.  I think I deserve a nap.

I was visiting some friends a few weeks ago and the conversation turned to facebook.  Someone asked me, “why aren’t we facbook friends?”  To which I replied, “um, I thought we were real friends, and…I am not on facebook”.  A hush came over the room and 12 people proceeded to tell me why I HAD to join facebook.  Now, I don’t believe I HAVE to join anything (other than the ranks of people who curse their bad luck and show up for jury duty once every 5 years), but I found myself having to defend over and over why I have not yet, and don’t plan to ever, join facebook. Here are the top five arguments and my response.

1) People say “It’s great, you connect with people you have not spoken to in years!”

I say: I am sure there is a reason I have not spoken to them in years.  Probably, because I decided I did not like them

2) People say: “But you can post your wedding pictures, and look at other peoples pictures and babies”

I say: I did not even make a wedding album to show my family, I have no desire to post pictures of a private and sacred day ON THE INTERNET for strangers to look at.  And any kids I want to see, I have seen.  You know, in person.

3) People say: “It is a great way to keep in touch”

I say:  I believe that having dinner is a great way to keep in touch.  I believe talking on the phone or sending ‘gasp’ an actual letter is a great way to keep in touch.  I believe that mass updates on what you are doing is a mediocre, at best, way of keeping in touch.

4) People Say: “It is easy”

I say:  So is easting fast food, using automatic bill pay and wearing sweatpants to work but I don’t do any of those things either.

5) People say: “You can re-connect with people you went to high school with”

I say: My point exactly!

PS:  I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but I was finally inspired by this very funny post over at Learning to Fly.

Growing up on Long Island, I have had the great pleasure of attending a few authentic lobster bakes.  Big pits are dug in the sand and your meal is layered among damp seaweed fresh from the ocean and hot coals or rocks that have been heating in a fire.  If you ever have an opportunity to attend an event/meal like this, I highly encourage you to do it.  But, for those of you who don’t live near the sea or are uncomfortable loosing some of your clams as you dig out your dinner, here is a really easy way to recreate a clambake in your home with 5 ingredients*.

lobster_bake_photo

Potatoes, small red or new potatoes are best

Lobster (I like one per a person and at least one or two extra)

 Shucked Corn (the fresher the better)

Clams

Shrimp

Place the potatoes at the bottom of a large soup or stock pot (or a lobster pot if you have it).  Fill with enough water to just cover the potatoes, throw in a few bay leaves if you have them.   Lay the lobsters over the potatoes then top with the corn, the clams and the shrimp in that order.  Turn the flame on high and cover.  The whole thing is done when the clams open.  I don’t know why this works (perhaps this guy could explain it) but it does.  Serve with drawn butter if you would like and lots and lots of napkins.

*Yes, this all part of my evil ploy to get people to start buying more lobster.  Yesterday I picked some up for dinner for $4.95 a lb, and culls are 5 for $30!

** There are many different types of clams out there and some are better for some things than others.  I always ask my local fish guy what is best that day because I would take really fresh over the ‘correct’ clam for the recipe any day.  That being said, you should shoot for smaller clams; little necks, steamers or cherrystones.  Quahog’s are just big littlenecks but they can get really chewy when you steam them.   

Note: This is my mothers ‘recipe’.  She cooks by sight and by feel and when she bakes she measure liquid in eggshells.  So if you are  the type that needs exact measurements, this might not be for you.

Last week D and I found ourselves with one of those reasons to celebrate* that allows you to forgo any self imposed budgetary restrictions you had in place and go anywhere you want for dinner.  We mulled it over and talked about where he wanted to go, we thought about some swanky places with over priced food and some really casual places with underrated food.  Finally we settled on a beatutiful local place on the docks that over looks the water and has a view as good as the food.  We generally stay away from these places not because they are not great, but because well…they are always full of people.  Last week was no different.  Here are the 5 different classifications of people who were out that night and easy ways to spot them.

1) The Family That Arrived by Yacht.

Can be spottedwearing: Navy blue blazers with gold buttons, white shirts, tan pants and loafers (no socks).  Amazingly enough, this outfit comes in sizes ranging from 4T to 44/34.  Adult women can be found in Lilly Pulitzer dresses on overly tanned skin wearing their ‘summer’ diamonds on polished fingers clutching Chanel bags.   Juvenile girls wear sundresses with impossibly white cardigans and have begun training for their first face lift with hair pulled back in a painfully tight bow courtesy of their foreign nanny.

Can be heard: Saying nothing.

kids_collection_15

2) The People That Work for the Family That Arrived by Yacht.

Can be spotted wearing: White shorts and matching polo shirts over tan well worked bodies with boating sandals, white sneakers or flip flops.  When the sun goes down and their polarized sunglasses are pushed up on their sun bleached hair you can see serious sunglass lines (raccoon eyes) and are assured they have the farmers tan to match.

Can be heard: Actually talking to the children or seeking out a place to find cheap draft beer.

3) The Tourists.

Can be spotted wearing:  Matching sweatshirts with screened on letters spelling out the name of the town they are visiting or the town they visited before when the temperature dropped and they realized they packed for the tropics not a coastal town in New England.    Outfits are accessorized with shopping bags full of salt water taffy, cheap t-shirts and small boxes covered in shells. Cameras hang unashamedly around their necks.

Can be heard: Asking for directions while looking at their map, discussing the merits of the 2 for 1 coupon verse the 20% off coupon and wondering out loud ‘where all the locals eat’.

4) The Locals

Can be spotted wearing: Judgemental looks, signs of fatigue and whatever they wore to work that day, or whatever they threw on when they got home. 

Can be heard: Complaining about the tourists, saying hello to friends who have also ventured out for the night and comparing this summers crowds to last.

5) The Fishermen

Can be spotted wearing: Concerned looks over the falling  prices of  wholesale lobster** under salt caked baseball caps advertising West Marine or a local shipyard,  foul weather gear, work boots and t-shirts.   Work callused hands clutch bags of gear, coolers of lunch remnants and sweatshirts not needed since dawn.

Can be heard: Giving each other a hard time, laughing at someones expense or walking home exhausted in silence. 

* For anyone who is wondering, D passed the last of 7 exams to become a licensed architect. 

**Go out tonight and buy lobster!  It is cheap, delicious and the industry is really hurting.  If you live in NE, buy local lobster!  If you live anywhere else, buy NE lobster! If you are a lobster lover and are going to write me a nasty e-mail about the promotion of killing sea creatures don’t bother! 

lobster

Don’t you want to eat me?

Yesterday, I returned home from a week long family vacation at the Jersey Shore.  The weather was touch-and-go, but it was great to spend time with all of my nieces and nephews as well as my gaggle of in-laws.  As I have said before, I try not to talk too much about my family on this blog.  It feels like this is my space, not theirs, and I should respect their privacy.  But, this past week I was so moved by one of my nieces I really wanted to share it with all of you.  K, who is 4 was born with spina bifida.  Here are five things I learned from her this week.

1) The things you can accomplish when you set your mind to it are astounding.  Strangers will watch you in awe and wonder where you found your determination.

2) Failure is a stepping stone to success.  You will tread on many falls, mistakes and attempts before you reach victory.

3) There is nothing wrong with being 4 seconds slower, when you are 5 seconds smarter.

4) We are only as different as we believe ourselves to be.

5) When the perseverance becomes tiring, when the failures seem unduly greater than the successes, when you are tired of being smart and different…it is more than ok to cry and take a nap.  Things always seem better after a nap.

How to make a perfect evening, in five steps. 

1) Start with 2 people who may live together but due to work and social obligations and at times sheer exhaustion, spend far less time together than they should.

2) Bring to a beautiful evening with a warm setting sun and a cool ocean breeze.

3) Add a walk along the docks and delicious meal at a fabulous local restaurant. 

4) Stir in easy laughter and fluid conversation.

5) Allow to simmer for 5 hours or until you drift off to sleep in bed together. 

Recipe keeps forever with attention and care.

Five things I really, really miss about my home state of NY. 

1) It is the kind of place where state senators have secret meetings to change allegiance from one party to another and STILL claim that they are a member of the party they just screwed over.

2) It is the kind of place where once the senators have changed the power structure of the senate the now minority group grinds everything to a halt to try to prevent what has already happened from happening.

3) It is the kind of place where the senators do a political version of taking their ball and going home and literally, yes literally, lock the door and refuse to work until they get their way.

4) It is the kind of place where someone stands in front of news camera’s dangling a key to the state legislature but does not use it.

5) It is the kind of place where all of this is considered perfectly normal, business as usual and really, just another day at the office.  Or, standing out on the lawn refusing to go to the office. 

*If you want to hear actual facts about this story, you can listen here

Letter to my neighbor

June 8, 2009

Dear Neighbor, 

I just wanted to take a moment and mention the following five things.

1) It is not completely unreasonable for the people in the immediate vicinity to want to get some sleep on a Sunday evening.

2) Spending time in your back yard swearing like a sailor, trying to sing songs you don’t know the words to and screaming at the top of your inebriated lungs do not help the rest of us fall  or remain asleep.

3) Responding with threats, assertions that you are the only civilized person on the street and saying that it is America when politely asked to quiet down or move the party inside do not help either. 

4) Taunting, hollering and daring the people around you to call the police might not be the best plan for helping your case. 

5) I hope you spend the morning vomiting up your indiscretions and suffering with a headache that makes your re-think your religion.

Sincerely, Your Neighbor