Wednesday, August 31, 2011


For the third time in my life, the first day of school coincided with my birthday.  I lament this frequently.

Ok: a lot.


But, I have a good reason.  Once upon a time, I had a true summer birthday. Nobody went to school on August 29th. Nobody.  And then, the school district--somewhere around 1994--had this genius idea to send everyone back to school before Labor Day.  Thus, they (ie, the gods, the school district, the system, the Man, Big Brother, the PA Dept. of Education) screwed me.  Once you have a taste of a summer birthday, there's no going back.  I don't want to hear any nonsense like, "Oh, but it's so much fun to go to school and see 'everyone' on your birthday! And people leave you notes on your locker!"  I think Amalie tried this one back in 1996 the night before the first day of eighth grade (also my birthday), but it didn't work.  I liked my birthday precisely because I didn't have to DO anything: No bell schedule. No grouchy teachers yelling at us to "Shut up and sit down."  No class clowns making said teachers scream louder.  School was chaos.  With a summer birthday, I could go to the pool with my mom and my sister and glory in the fact that my birthday did NOT include the assignation of homework.

But things change. C'est la vie.

Nothing's better than when your mom buys you a baby cupcake at Starbucks on your birthday.

Somewhere around your twentieth birthday (which happens to fall smack in the middle of your first week of your junior year of college--which, unbeknownst to you, is going to be one of the best years of your life), you have to realize and accept: "I have a school-year birthday. And I'm going to enjoy it, dammit!"

So far, I've managed to stretch this event into a third day. This is mostly thanks to Irene who forced me to postpone any weekend plans I may have made.  Day 1 was a very good day.

Before I headed off to class, I met up with my mom in town and I made it a point to wear my new dress (purchased only because Jess so generously shared her friends and family discount at Anthro with me--thanks Jess!).

I had to run off to school at one point and pass out syllabi--yadda yadda yadda--and I left campus as quickly as I arrived there.  Ron tried to take a half day, which didn't quite turn out, but he was home earlier than usual.  We had wanted to go to Marly's for dinner, but we didn't know what Monday would be like with the hurricane, etc., so he decided earlier that Marly's would be saved for the following night and I could pick whatever I wanted for dinner on Monday night.  Initially, I picked Ron's pizza, but then I remembered spaghetti alla carbonara.

We only have this three or four times a year.  Basically, it's heart attack on a plate--nothing healthy about it.  In my experience, you can't really order this in any Italian restaurants around here.  I don't recall seeing this on any menus.  To be honest, this is a dish that could be divine in a restaurant or a completely gummy, nasty disaster. Ron ordered it the first time we went to Rome. I was pretty skeptical: spaghetti covered in egg and cheese sauce with pancetta?  No thanks. I remember telling him about the origins of this dish while he dug in.  (When you sign up for an Italian major, you learn things such as how spaghetti alla carbonara comes to be.)  Then I tried a bite at his insistence.

It changed my life.  Ron used this recipe when he first taught himself how to make it.

It was fun to eat outside until the yellow jackets showed up.  C'est la vie.  September is here.

Dessert was mostly comprised of the contents from my birthday gift.

Ron wisely selected large quantities of candy.  The funny part is, he bought most of the candy twice.  Why? Because when he initially bought it, he left it all in the trunk of his car so that I wouldn't find it.  Did I mention that it's August?

All of it melted; however, it's not such a sad story. He put the melted boxes of candy in the freezer, and it completely changes the whole experience of each candy: Milk Duds become crunchy toffee pieces; Junior Mints become extra chewy and creamy; and Whoppers (which really aren't my fave) become extra crumbly and (in my opinion) vanilla-y.  I really want to smash all the Whoppers and use them over vanilla ice cream.

When we had cleaned up dinner, we headed out to my mom's house since my grandparents were stopping by with a cake.  I think it's time to officially declare Aunt Edna's Cold Oven Poundcake as The Official Birthday Cake of our family.  My mom realized only yesterday that she doesn't have the recipe.  When one of us gets it, I'll post it here because (much like spaghetti alla carbonara) it will change your life.  And you'll never EVER eat store bought poundcake again.  Well maybe you'll eat it, but you won't like it as much.

Can you believe the sky actually looked like this?

I didn't edit these at all.

I was so glad that my grandmother also brought over my horoscope for the year.  Our local paper used to print the "Today's Birthday" entry, but they dropped it for whatever reason. I always tape up the year's horoscope on my bedroom mirror.

The day ended with the blissful satisfaction that only comes from: perfect, gorgeous weather; Starbucks with my mom; spaghetti alla carbonara; candy; poundcake; annual horoscopes; and the knowledge that the next day is a pool day because one does not teach on Tuesdays this semester.

YAY! 28!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Here comes the sun

It feels like years since it's been here.

And I [can honestly] say: It's alright.

Good luck to all of my teacher friends tomorrow!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hey Irene: Wanna know what I really think about you?

Oh Irene.  To say that you're a complete jerk is the understatement of the summer.

I'm so sick of you I could scream.  I don't want to talk about you; I don't feel like listening to you; I don't appreciate that you've ruined everyone's last weekend before it's Back to School.

I swear to God, Irene: If I lose power for three days because of you, I will come and find you.  You do NOT mess with a teacher during the first week of school.  And especially, you don't mess with a teacher's ability to blow dry her hair during the same week.  You really must be some kind of idiot.

Clearly, you have no clue how rageful I can be when my hair dryer doesn't work and my $3 organic milk sits in a room temp fridge.  100 mph wind? Girl: you ain't seen nothin til you've seen a seriously pissed off Virgo professor with a bad hair day during back to school week.

Oh, and Irene?  If your aftermath screws my birthday this Monday, there really will be hell to pay.  Look: It's bad enough that my birthday is forevermore the anniversary of the levies breaking in New Orleans because your friend Katrina destroyed them.  Really, I will never forget sitting in Ryan's pub that August 29th with my little sister (on my FIRST DAY OF GRAD SCHOOL, no less! WHAT IS IT with you girls wrecking Back to School week AND my birthday YEAR AFTER YEAR???). We stared open-mouthed at the flat screen televisions as the roofs of New Orleans disappeared under brown swirling muck.  It was horrible.  Happy Birthday to me.  The U. S. was in great spirits that day. Thanks a lot.

So thanks, Irene: Thanks for ruining Molly and Julie's respective plans to go down the shore, not to mention the plans of countless mid-Atlantic shore-goers.  Thanks for ruining my plans for meeting up with the fam this weekend for birthday cake.  Thanks for making me paranoid about missing a message from my schools because of power outages and possibly no Internet.  Thanks for coming after The Rainiest Month Ever in the Recorded History of Philly.  Thanks for ruining countless brides' weddings from North Carolina to Maine.  Thanks for forcing the poor patients in Manhatten hospitals to evacuate elsewhere. You're a swell girl.

So, in the meantime:

We've battened down the hatches and secured the rigging.  I'm seriously ready to set sail in this house. *knock wood*

I found an unfinished baby blanket that doesn't require electricity, Internet, or batteries for completion.

I have a stack of non-academic school books, three charged iPods, and one charged iPhone at the ready.

And I have two bottles of Skinny Girl margarita in the fridge.  And an extra bottle of vodka to be safe.

Fingers-crossed that this isn't too bad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where were you during the earthquake?

I know: I'm a day late. Nobody cares about this anymore.

For the record, I didn't feel a thing. Apparently, I was in the car when it happened and that has something to do with my anti-climatic story.  I came home from my mom's house via the supermarket, and my neighbor opened his door and said to me, "Oh my gosh!!!" And he just stared at me.  I said, "What? WHAT?"  His eyes were so big and he goes, "You didn't ... you didn't ...?  Go turn on the news."  To which I responded, "Oh my God, is Gaddhafi gone??"  And my neighbor goes, "WHAT? NO. We had an earthquake! Gaddhafi??"

So, I raced inside and the texting commenced.

From my mother: "We just had an earthquake! I was disappointed you had left because it is so much better to share that type of event. I literally laughed out loud and said omg earthquake in west chester!"

I texted Ron (who was in South Carolina at the time) and received: "Felt it here too! The projector in our room that was mounted on the ceiling was shaking. We have a guy from San Jose here and he guessed the magnitude."

I texted my friend Katherine in Raleigh, NC and received: "I was interviewing someone when it happened ... crazy!"  (Can you imagine an earthquake during your job interview?)

I texted Joanie G. in Nashville, TN, but she missed out on the fun. She lives too far west to feel anything. Her husband (who works in Philly) did not: "Did you feel it? Where are you? Ryan is at work and he said the building was bouncing up and down."

So that's that. My boring story is documented.

On the other hand, thank God it was boring.  Right?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crazy week

Just a note in passing: I have so much stuff going on here--a lot of last minute cramming before school starts next week. I may not get a chance to post anything decent until Weds. night or Thursday ...

Clearly, Penny does not feel the stress.

I suppose I can give a quick recap of the weekend:

1) It rained. A lot.

2) My mom discovered a new type of mold growing under her vinca that looks like chili peppers.  When it's not soaking wet, it stands up straight like red fingers growing out of the ground. It's one of the grossest things I've ever seen.  (Anyone know what this is??)

3) Leslie's friend Cary came to visit, and she came with us to the farmer's market. I have no idea why Leslie looks so distressed in these pictures while Cary looks so happy. It's the strangest juxtaposition I've ever seen.

Well, at least I'm a little bit caught up.  I think things will slow down a little bit on Thursday.  Looking forward to it ... but I don't want to catch myself wishing the week away!  I really don't like that.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Stormy insanity

After a summer with no rain, we've had a whole summer's worth of thunderstorms in one week.  The good thing about a summer with no rain is that you can take for granted doing anything you want outside--whenever you want.

So it's sorta annoying when you plan to grille half of your dinner outside only to realize that the sky is seriously dictating how much longer you have to actually prepare the meal.

Ron did what he could to get the fish and corn grilled (with success! Yay!). But at one point, he did jump through the kitchen door muttering, "Holy crap, I'm gonna get struck by lightning."

I don't remember the last time I cooked A MEAL.  Maybe May?  So I was annoyed that my one night of ambition (it wasn't even a hard meal--just vegetables and fish with couscous outta the box) could be potentially foiled by a power outtage.

Indoor insanity. Nice.

No power outtage--we finished cooking and ate while the rain pounded on the roof.  The resulting sunset was very pretty.

This was the pattern that the week seemed to follow, but last night we enjoyed a beautiful ...

Do you see it?

... rainbow.  I kept waiting for it to get darker, but it remained very faint.

Do you see the second, fainter rainbow on the right?
The Pool Ladies spent most of Thursday and Friday talking about the seriously LOUD storms that came through overnight on Wednesday and Thursday: "Oh my GAAAWWWDDD.  Did you hear that thunder last night?? It was so LOUD. It woke me right up!  And the lightning?  It was so BRIGHT!! I've lived here my whole LIFE and I've never SEEN lightning like THAT!!!"

I couldn't help but think, "Really?  It happens every summer ..." The good thing about all of this rain is that my car is so clean.  I don't really go anywhere, so it rains and the car stays nice.  Free car wash.

We'll see if this is an eventful weekend.  I have farmer's market photos from this morning and we're seeing friends tonight.  Tomorrow, Laurie and I go out and practice picture-taking with her brand new DSLR.  (Welcome to the club, Laurie!)

Enjoy your Saturday night!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Che bella giornata

After three and a half days of dense clouds and lots of rain (I think South Jersey is still trying to swim its way to the top), the sun has reappeared.

A big, glittery pool always reminds me of jewelry.  I want to buy a HUGE aquamarine and wear it on my hand where I can easily see it.

On days like this, I think to myself, "How do we make it through January and February without shriveling up and dying?"  Living through those months is a miracle.  I'm trying to suck as much energy out of the sun as I possibly can and store it up for the inevitable short and dark days that months away.

Her face hasn't changed since she's been seven.  She's gonna kill me when she reads this caption.

Of course, choosing to store solar energy in one's body can result in a sunburn on one's back.  Even if one is half Italian.

But, I'm not complaining.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Life between weekdays

Before dragging his sorry butt up to bed a few hours ago, Ron said to no one in particular, "It was such a loooong weekend ... too bad it's over."

Friday does seem like a week ago.  Our friend Tiff somehow stumbled upon this event that has been going on weekly the whole summer.  When this past Friday rolled around, Ron and I packed up a picnic and drove out to the Brandywine Polo Club to meet up with the gang.  I took riding lessons for seven years, but I had never been to a polo game of any sort.  The horses were beautiful, but this little guy pretty much stole the show:

His name is Bruce, and that's his dad, Matt.

Sorry, ladies.  I know what you're thinking, but Matt's off the market because he's engaged to Julie.

Yes, ladies. I know what you're thinking: Julie looks like she stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad.  All she needs is Kate Middleton-esque cowboy hat.

On the other hand, a cowboy hat would've been hideously inappropriate because this was a polo match and polo is English--not Western (God forbid we should cross those wires).

Between the nine of us, we had a ton of good food and (what seemed like) endless wine.

Great idea for a Friday night, Tiff! ps--I loved your dress but I forgot to mention it.

Once the game was over, everyone packed up their dinner stuff and moved their blankets and chairs off of the field and over to the live music.  I'm pretty sure we all unanimously agreed that we loved the band--I think they played for nearly two hours?  I was sorta distracted by the view.

The whole night was so California--the uptightness of the East Coast disappeared for a few hours.  This little corner of Chester County channeled Napa from 3,000 miles away.

The night was so relaxing that it was completely wiped us out.  I have never been so tired at 10pm before. Isn't it weird how that happens?  (Of course some people might say, "You mentioned 'endless wine': duh."  But that's not what I mean.)

So the next morning greeted us with more perfect weather, and my mom and I walked into WC for the farmer's market. I needed a bunch of stuff for dinner because we were expecting Ron's dad that evening.(Joanne was down the shore with friends, so the poor guy was totally abandoned.)

I think I dragged home bell peppers, poblano peppers, onions, potatoes, and apples.  Now that I think about it, we didn't use any of this stuff in Saturday's dinner.  So much for making plans.  See? And what did I say in last weekend's post? Something like, "Oh yeah, I show up at the market and regret not making a list previously."  So this time I make a list and it's completely pointless. Whatever. Why do I try so hard?

These things have been cropping up all over town. I like the monster feet that people have made for the bases of the blue mailboxes on the street corners. 

No, instead of using the stuff I bought, Ron simply raided the pantry and the fridge and used stuff we already had: Israeli couscous, tomatoes from the back deck, big hearts of romaine that his mom gave him earlier in the week ... the only thing we used that we bought was salmon. And a bell pepper.

Anyway, everything about it was fabulous. Ron marinated the fish in some random concoction, and the couscous was done like an Italian pasta salad: tomato and basil and parmesan.  I really wanted to do a Caesar salad with croutons (I love croutons), but I never got around to it.  But, I did make dessert.

Did I get a picture of Ron and his dad? No.  Oh, but thank GOD I documented the dessert!  I clearly have my priorities in order.

This was so easy to do, and NO--I did not buy the crust.  I made it! yay!  Seriously, it took me ten minutes.  (Is that why Ron's family calls these "half-assed pies"?) Here's the recipe ... I used last weekend's fruit to make it.  It makes an even better breakfast than a nighttime dessert.  Btw: Use your leftover heavy cream and turn it into whipped cream right before serving.  Add 1 1/2 tsp. of sugar before turning on your whisk. (Give me a break: You think I would whip cream manually?)

Sunday was the rainiest day ever.  I ran over to the library to get a copy of Scarlett--I decided that I have to read it now that Laurie says I should.  Of course the library has two copies, one of which was due 6 weeks ago, but the other one was available ... until three days ago when someone else grabbed it.  So I wandered over to the "large type" shelf, and there it sat.  All 15 pounds of it. I'm not joking.  It was at least 1,000 pages long and it weighed at least as much as my 5lb hand weights in the basement.  Sorry, but even I have my limits.  Now I'm going to have to drive out to another branch to get it.  Not a big deal, but what are the odds that someone else in Southeastern PA wanted that book (in normal type) the same week as me?

So here comes Monday: Let the week begin.