Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Fortune Cookie

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

So when your kitchen looks like this:

and it's only The Husband and you at home, and your kids don't like Chinese, then spring rolls and crabmeat wontons and vegetable fried rice becomes what's for dinner.

And when your house hasn't sold, and you've just buried a second statue of St. Joseph, and the country's debt crisis threatens to wipe out the savings that you plan to use for a new potential house, and when you're among the 10% of the country collecting unemployment, then this becomes a rather apropos and very wise fortune cookie indeed:

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Book Review: In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time

In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time
by Peter Lovenheim
256 pages

"Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day."
from Sesame Street

As regular readers of this blog know, our family is in the process of moving.  So far, we've visited approximately a dozen houses in various neighborhoods, all of which look nice enough.

With moving, I'm always a bit apprehensive about what types of neighbors we're going to get.  (I suppose everyone is, to a degree.) You see, growing up, my family lived next door to a batshit crazy woman who often referred to me as "monkey-faced," who often shrieked that we needed to turn the wind around because it was blowing into her yard, and who would take Poncho (her annoying as hell Chihuahua) for strolls in our fenced in backyard. 

The police were called on numerous occasions (we still have the meticulous log my father kept of every incident; it's considered a family heirloom at this point), my brother and I were on a first-name basis with all the sergeants and the zoning officer (or whomever is in charge of things like putting up fences), and I'm not exaggerating when I say that it is a miracle nobody was killed.  (Although it wouldn't surprise me if the constant stress of living next door to this witch was a factor in my father's death at 44.)

But despite this wackadoo next door, ours was a neighborhood where we knew one another.  Across the street there was the elderly couple who signed birthday cards to me as "Grandma and Grandpa Yeager" and who consoled my frantic, hysterical mother when I once went missing for several excruciating hours (the result of some parental-child miscommunication rather than foul play).   Next door, there was the socialite with the Doberman Pincher and whose shore home was in the same condo as my friend Meghan's.  And across from her lived the family of our trusty babysitters.

So it was with all this in mind that I picked up Peter Lovenheim's memoir In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover At a Time. 

Sleepover doesn't refer to, say, Peter Lovenheim's daughter spending the night at a friend's house nearby.  No.  It refers to his sleeping over at his neighbors' homes, as an adult.  As in, striking up a conversation or two with a neighbor only known somewhat casually, mentioning that he was writing a book on neighborhoods and building community, and then asking to sleep over as a way to get to know them better.

Now. If you know my husband in real life, you can probably imagine his reaction when I told him the premise of this book.  He was, quite simply, aghast.  There's no way this would happen in our house today.  And indeed, when approached by Lovenheim with this notion of having a sleepover, several of his neighbors turned him down flat.   (In addition to sleeping over for one night, Lovenheim also accompanied his neighbors - as well as his mailman and his newspaper delivery guy - throughout their entire day, coming along on their visits to the local Y, watching them as they siesta'ed during the noon hours, tagging along to workplaces and business meetings ... you name it.)

It doesn't take much to realize that the main (and ironic) reason that The Husband and I would never consider having one of our adult neighbors sleep overnight is because we simply don't know who the hell they are. I know the names of the people immediately next door and their kids. And I know what my other neighbor does for a living (thanks to the FBI showing up at my door) but I'll be damned if I know the guy's name. The always-attired-in-New-York-Yankees-apparel guy who walks his white poodle? No clue. The single dad with the two girls, two doors down? Dunno.  The people two doors down on the other side who moved in a few weeks ago who I think are from Pittsburgh, where we're moving to? I can tell you what they bought the house for (thanks to my studious perusal of the local real estate listings) but we have yet to say hello.

From his descriptions in his book, Peter Lovenheim's neighborhood is similar to the one I'm leaving in regard to interactions between residents.  And unless you are my friend W. who lives in a development with real-live coffee klatsches happening monthly or author Rachel Simon, who writes lovingly of her neighborhood in her own memoir, The House on Teacher's Lane, I'm betting it is similar to yours, too.

In Peter Lovenheim's case, it takes a tragedy - the murder-suicide of a husband and wife living several doors down - to make him contemplate how things might have been different if the wife didn't feel so isolated, if she had a safe place to go in the throes of domestic violence, if someone had noticed something amiss or felt comfortable in giving her the name of a local shelter - if they knew it.  (Ironically, several such things did happen after the tragedy; neighbors offered grieving family members their spare bedrooms while making funeral arrangements, people brought food, and in the immediate hours the young children of the couple were cared for by - you guessed it - a neighbor.)

In the Neighborhood, then, becomes Lovenheim's memoir about his quest to get to know the people on his street.  While chronicling these encounters, Lovenheim gives his reader an often funny and introspective glimpse into the culture of community, about the various reasons why we are so content to "live as strangers," and how and why this dynamic evolved from a time when it was commonplace for neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar from one another.

There are also heartbreaking moments too - such as when Lovenheim learns how his octogenarian next door neighbor Lou needed to call a daughter living 20 minutes away when he found himself temporarily immobile. Or when Grace (a woman who power-walked daily through Peter's neighborhood for 40 years) stumbled, sprained her ankle, and crawled on her hands and knees to the other side of the wide, tree-lined road ... without a soul noticing.

Through what is an easy read, you feel like you get to know Peter's neighbors - and start thinking more about your own - which, I suppose, is kind of the point. You also get the sense that writing this book was a bit cathartic for him. (Some points are repeated more than a few times, and there was a little too much navel-gazing about his personal life, but these are just minor quibbles I have.)  Most of the time, Peter comes across as a genuinely nice and pleasant guy, someone who anyone would be pleased to have as a neighbor.

Yeah, even me.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hello, Goodbye

Sunset outside our house ~ June 2011
(Seriously, who wouldn't want to buy a house
with sunsets like these thrown in for free?)

"Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few ...."
September Song (K. Weill, M. Anderson)
sung by Frank Sinatra (and others)

Suddenly, there isn't enough time left.

Perhaps there never is.

There was so much I wanted to do in these last few weeks and days of us being here. 

One last trip down to the beach. To the creamery. To the little zoo.  To the gardens.

There were things I'd wanted to do for the first and last time: walk the labyrinth behind the art museum. Walk in the art museum. 

And then there's the people. 

There are people I'd hoped to see one more time. 

You know who you are.

There are people I wish I'd had the chance to say hello and goodbye to at the same time. 

You know who you are, too. 

(Because this ability to become friends with someone a few towns away - but never meet in person - is one of the more bizarre things about this social-networked age in which we live.  And if you recognize yourself in that statement? Yeah, I'm probably talking about you.)

And don't get me started on the kids' goodbyes with their friends. I've botched that so incredibly badly that it will undoubtedly cost me thousands in therapy down the road. 

I could blame a bunch of things, such as my tendency to procrastinate, which has me down to the wire in regards to the packing.  Or the insomnia.

Or I could blame my dental emergency of earlier this week, when I was in agony with a toothache so horrendous that I was deliriously Googling "home remedies for an abcessed tooth."  (Tried the warm teabag, the ginger and lemon, the ice packs.  Stopped short of immediately acquiring an on-the-spot D.D.S. degree by boiling a needle to perform self dentistry, despite the detailed step-by-step instructions helpfully provided by a supposed "dentist."  Decided to throw myself on the mercy of the real dentist I owe $2,000 to, who kindly wrote a heavy-duty prescription that made me comfortably numb ... and able to talk again.)

(It wasn't an abcess.  It is an already broken tooth that is slated for removal that has an inflammed nerve pressing up on my sinuses. Yeah, good times.)

Or I could blame the fact that this has been a really tough summer, behaviorally speaking. Boo's. Betty's. Mine. We've been struggling, all four of us.  This long-distance arrangement has taken its toll in many ways ... which makes this move the right one, and this decision to leave now the best one we can make.  The sooner we can become a family again, come what may, the better.

The truth is all of that, along with this:  I'm not really good at goodbyes, with endings.  Given the choice and an escape route, I'll avoid them every time. 

So, I'm sorry - truly sorry - to those friends who we didn't get a chance to see or who may feel slighted. I really am. 

Just know that right now, with so little time left, it's the only way.

We said goodbye to a dear old friend
And we packed our bags and left feeling sad
It's the only way
We said hello as we turned the key
A new roof over our heads
Gave a smile
It's the only way
Only way

Turn your head
And don't look back
Set your sails for a new horizon
Don't turn around, don't look down
Oh there's life across the tracks
And you know it's really not surprising
It gets better when you get there ....
Well it really don't matter much where you are
'Cause home is in your heart ....

"We Said Hello, Goodbye" ~ Phil Collins

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Mona Lisa Writes (On Behalf of the Mad Hatter)

The Mad Hatter with my Boo
Storybook Ball, Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia, PA
May 2009

So on Monday night, after watching Obama's speech on the debt crisis and John Boehner's rebuttal, I wrote that quick, one-off post with the quote about Boehner seeming Oompa Loompa-like. ("Speaker Oompa Loompa," in case you missed it.)

And since I like to pair my posts with one of my own photos that somehow corresponds with, or adds meaning or whimsy to my words, I chose this one from May 2009.  I'd won tickets to the Storybook Ball at the Please Touch Museum,  where I snapped this photo of The Mad Hatter interacting with Betty and Boo.

Especially Boo.

Well, as these things sometimes happen in this blogging world, that post caught the attention (I have no idea how) of The Wife of The Mad Hatter ... who emailed me.  (We'll call her Mona.)

Mona married The Mad Hatter a few weeks after I took that photo and, as she wrote, "I've finally seen a good candid of my sweetie at work. THANK YOU!"

No, Mona. It's me who needs to thank you for writing because that allows me to thank your husband. Because, you see, there was more to that photo than meets the eye, as I wrote back in my reply.

Hello Mona! 

Even though that event was two years ago, I still remember how wonderful The Mad Hatter was with my son.  Boo has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, and has difficulty in social situations.  In fact, even going to the Storybook Ball was a bit nerve-wracking (I was by myself with both kids).  But [your husband] came up to us immediately and connected so well with Boo, just going back and forth with him and making him laugh like I hadn't heard him laugh in so long. When people like [your husband] do this, even if it is part of their work, it makes a difference and is noticed and very much appreciated.  

All best, Melissa 

Those of you who are parents of kids with autism or who have other challenges, you understand this, don't you? You understand how you can remember a simple interaction two (or many more) years later with someone who immediately gets your child.

Who makes him laugh.  And laugh some more.

Who makes you think this evening might actually work out after all.  This might turn out OK. 

"Until you've seen this trash can dream come true
You stand at the edge while other people run you through
And I thank the Lord there's people out there like you
I thank the Lord there's people out there like you."

"Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" ~ Elton John and Bernie Taupin

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wordless Wednesday: A Little Flock of Seagulls

Strathmere, NJ ~ July 28, 2009

Sometimes, when a photo doesn't immediately come to mind, I'll look back in the archives and see what I was capturing two or three years ago (or more.) 

Hence this one, from our family vacation to the shore exactly two years ago this week.  

We're 6 days out from Moving Day. 

The three of us will be with The Husband soon enough.  
For more Wordless Wednesday photos, go here.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Speaker Oompa Loompa

Best comment of the night on Boehner's rebuttal to Obama's speech comes from someone commenting on The Atlantic's Facebook page.

The Speaker was whiny and as colorful as an Oompa Loompa with his orange face and green tie. 

I hope this guy is a writer, because metaphors like these shouldn't be wasted.

(And yes, I know this photo isn't of an Oompa Loompa - it's from when the kids and I went to the Storybook Ball at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia in May 2009. This guy - who was supposed to be the Mad Hatter, I think? - was hilariously entertaining and connected especially well with Boo. It's the closest thing I had to an Oompa Loompa in my stash of photos.)

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

And This Here House Comes With a Beautiful Den of Iniquity

This, pictured above, would be my neighbors' pool. The same pool which they kept uncovered and HEATED for the entire winter of 2009-2010, which saw one of the biggest snowstorms (up until that point) to hit the East Coast on the day I snapped this.

(If this photo looks familiar, then congratulations: that means you've been hanging around this blog since almost the beginning, as I first introduced this to yinz with this December 2009 post: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ... July?)

Anyway, the pool saw some action this fine Sunday morning, and if you're my Friend over on Facebook, you know of what kind of action I speak of.

Let's just say that the temperatures weren't the only steamy thing going on outside this morning.

Let's back up and set the scene, shall we?  Yesterday we get a call that we have a house showing at 11 a.m. and then another one that is pending, but needs to be rescheduled. We spring into action, clean like fiends, and bolt for Starbucks with minutes to spare. Back home, the only sign that there's been any activity in the house is some mauling of our pillows, which kinda creeped me out, but if turning the house into a Motel 6 or a Den of Iniquity is what it takes to sell the joint, that's fine with me. (This comes on the heels of the folks who were our last showing - a full month ago - using two out of the four bathrooms in the house.)

So this morning's fun begins with the cat walking across our faces at 4 a.m., waking me up from a dream nightmare in which I've just attended a fundraiser for a certain rather conservative politician from Pennsylvania whose work on autism issues I greatly admire and respect, but for whom I will not vote for President (if he makes it that far) because of his views on a couple of social issues (mostly involving couples, come to think of it.)

I decide to wake up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.

On a Sunday.

By 8 a.m., my coffee's not kicking in and I decide to go back to bed and try this again in a few hours.  I wake up at 10:30 a.m..  The Husband goes outside to smoke a cigar and to read. (Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, for those who are interested in such things.) I'm cranking Spotify on my laptop, drowning out the nonstop squabbling that's in full force from our children. Moments later, The Husband comes inside, motions to me to remove my earbuds.

"There's a family in our driveway that wants to see the house."

Obviously, there's a scheduling snafu, probably related to yesterday's appointments, but we're happy to have the family come take a look if they don't mind seeing us in our Sunday best ... which means me as The Lady of the House still clad in pajamas at almost 11 a.m. and kids fighting over who's turn it is for the computer.

This family tumbling out of the minivan parked in our driveway consists of two little kids, including a 9 month old. They get it, they understand. The Husband stalls them a bit while I throw on something more presentable than a tank top sans undergarments and ratty, practically see-through shorts.

In comes the family of four AND the wife's parents AND their realtor. I zone in on the father and immediately go into full PR mode, thinking that maybe he has some say-so (they struck me as a very traditional type of family) or might be helping with the finances or something. I refer to him as "gentleman" and "sir."

I tell him that the neighborhood is wonderful, very safe, we've got a police officer living across the street and a federal air marshal right next door.  Lots of kids. Did they happen to see the park when they drove in? Really, we've never had a problem in the four years we've been here.  Very quiet.  A family neighborhood.  Family, family, family.

All of my talking points are completely true.  This is the type of neighborhood that conservative politicians like the one I dreamed about use for their brochures, with people like me on the steps of our McMansions on half an acre talking casually about The Issues That Matter to You.

We bond over the fact that the prospective buyers are from Pennsylvania and - whaddaya know? - we're headed to Pennsylvania.  This makes us kindred spirits, even though our respective towns are 237 miles apart.

"You're going to Pittsburgh?" they said.  "We're from York!"

"Oh, we know York!" I yelp.  "We've driven through York."

This might be a bit of exaggeration (I know I've definitely seen signs for York) but I'm in get-this-house-sold-now mode.

The father strolls over to one of our house's selling points, the floor to ceiling 14' windows in the family room.  He sees the neighbor's pool and I know what's he's thinking.

"They're not a problem," I said, pointing to the glistening pool. "I was worried about them too, to be honest.  But they're not the type to have parties, loud noises, none of that. We've never had an issue."

We wish each other good luck, we all apologize again for the scheduling snafu, we thank each other.  The family leaves.

In the mere seconds that this takes, the neighbor's teenage son and his scantily-clad girlfriend (or friend with benefits, who the hell knows?) appears. I start making lunch and glance out the same windows, and realize exactly what they're doing in the ... um ... deep end.

This goes on for 43 minutes (oh, the stamina of the young!), during which my Facebook friends and I entertained each other with our commentary.  Alas, for those who had hoped for such, a YouTube video was not technically possible.

Meanwhile, my "Melissa-don't-you-dare-turn-this-into-a-teachable-moment-for-the-kids" husband has turned into Archie Bunker and is going around the house closing all the blinds.  "These politicians who say they don't want to see same-sex couples kiss?  I don't want to see ANY couple kiss, particularly when it's right in my own backyard."

Me, I'm now second-guessing myself as to whether they were there when the Prospective Buyer's Father and I stood gazing at the pool.  I KNOW they weren't. I mean, I'm pretty certain they weren't.  They COULDN'T have been there ... could they?  Or have I just gotten too used to ridiculousness like, I don't know, keeping one's pool heated during a blizzard (and all winter long).

Who DOES THIS in full view of a house with 14' floor to ceiling glass windows?

I DID mention this is a family-friendly neighborhood, right?

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

The Sunday Salon: On Moving On

"There comes a time in everyone's life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone

I sold what I could and packed what I couldn't
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town
I've loved like I should but lived like I shouldn't
I had to lose everything to find out."

"I'm Moving On" ~ Rascal Flatts

We're a week out from our long-awaited move to Pittsburgh!  Still no bites on our house, although we had a showing yesterday and there's another that I couldn't exactly accommodate on all of 10 minutes notice (got the call at 9:05 for a 9:15 showing) so hopefully they'll reschedule. Beings that this was the first showing we'd had in a MONTH (thank you, horrendous housing market), I've become a little lax in keeping up the charade that we live in a pristine home, so we ran around like maniacs cleaning with less than two hours notice.  I am telling you, I would love nothing more than to accept an offer on this house with t-minus 8 days to go.  Puh-leese.

Anyway, during all this, The Husband reminded me that we won't have Internet access at our house from this coming Friday through Monday (moving day).  Which I had kind of ... not realized. Verizon wants their router and whatever other gizmos that keep us connected and sane. In some ways, this will be a good thing because I won't have the likes of Facebook and Google+ and Google Reader and Spotify (my newest toy) to distract me from the final days of packing.  But, although I bow to those of you who can go completely unplugged, I am weak. The prospect of being Internet-less for AN ENTIRE WEEKEND unnerves me to no end.

I expect the packing to go down to the 11th hour, so it's probably safe to say that, even sans Internet, I don't expect to get much reading done this week.  Which is a bit of a shame because I just started Pamela Haag's Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules.  (Love that title.) I'm not too far into this, but so far the premise is that most of us married folk are in lackluster relationships. (Huh. There's a newsflash).

Haag refers to such marriages as "low-conflict, low-stress," with the majority of us looking at our spouses at the end of our boring same-old day and wondering if this is as good as it gets. (Um ...yeah. Hate to break it to ya, but it kind of is.)  As the author's best friend says, "It's just unrealistic to think that the person you talk to about hiring a plumber is going to be your big love affair." (pg. 9).  According to the book jacket, "Marriage Confidential articulates for a generation that grew up believing they would "have it all" why they have ended up disenchanted. Haag introduces us to contemporary marriages where spouses act more like life partners than lovers; children occupy an uncontested position at the center of the marital relationship; and even the romantic staples of sexual fidelity and passion are assailed from all sides - so much so that spouses can end up having affairs online almost by accident." 

This is the type of book that The Husband would see me reading - probably in bed, no less - and roll his eyes while commenting why anyone needed to write a book to state the obvious. Me, I love this sort of thing. Haag ponders the notion that, since most of us are simply plodding through our married lives, it's time to reinvent the whole notion. For example: term limits.  A couple would agree to stay married for, say, 10 or 15 years.  At that point, the "contract" could be renewed ... or not.  (Maybe I'll reserve my opinion on that until after I see how The Husband and I survive this next week.)

Speaking of marriage and moving and making a new life, it was rather timely that Caitlin Shetterly's memoir (Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home) was the book I spent the most time with this past week.  First of all, I love the cover.  Isn't that gorgeous?  And Caitlin and Dan's story, although different from mine and The Husband's, was definitely one that I could relate to - which is kind of the point of this memoir.

Caitlin and her husband Dan were like many young married couples when "the recession came home" to them in December 2007. Dan's full-time job as a photographer was reduced to part-time, downsizing his salary by more than a third. A second job as a bouncer, along with Caitlin's work as a freelancer, didn't help cover the rent on their apartment. They decided to chase a lifelong dream by moving from Maine to California in hopes of new opportunities. What happened afterward (the "going broke" part of the subtitle) puts a face on the statistics of this seemingly-never-ending recession (personally, I believe we're headed for a Depression, if we're not already there) and how the economic realities of our times affect every aspect of our lives.

And finally, into this week a DNF did fall, one that once again puts me in the minority of book bloggers. (I checked some reviews from bloggers whose taste matches mine, and, yeah ... the problem with this one is definitely me.)  I lasted about 30 or so pages with Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes.  I just wasn't connecting with the characters and it was obvious that Something Terrible was imminent, but it seemed to get off to a slow start and I don't have the patience for that right now. Maybe this was a case of bad timing for me with this one, I don't know.

Speaking of getting off to a slow start, my packing awaits ....

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Into the Fire: My Weekly Recap and Ramblings About Rescue Me

For those who missed it last week, this is my weekly feature where I talk Rescue Me.  Spoilers abound, so read at your own risk if you are not caught up to this week's episode.  Otherwise, keep back 500 feet. If you missed my profound thoughts on last week's season premiere, go here ... and then come back.

All right, you've been warned.

So.  Maybe it's because I wasn't drinking my beverage of choice (Mike's Hard Black Cherry Lemonade, baby!) while watching this episode, but this one fell kinda flat for me.  Have I mentioned how much I am not liking this sisterly-bonding crap, particularly with Janet and Sheila?  Yes, I believe I have.

The stereotypical scene with them all having their periods (well, except for Janet, obviously), and crying, and inhaling chocolate, and Tommy in "the vagina aisle" of the store was horribly acted, fucking ridiculous (and borderline insulting, but then again we are talking Rescue Me) and completely unoriginal.

Same with the guys playing Keystone Cops in yet another medical facility. I actually wondered for a moment if this was some sort of flashback from when they bailed Lou out of the hospital, but apparently not.  It just seemed like filler to me.  And what kind of doctor looks at the real Lou sitting in front of him and buys the story that he weighs 165 pounds?  One that clearly needs his eyes checked.

But I was delighted to see Maura Tierney make a re-appearance.  I just love her character on this show. Perhaps we can surmise where this is going: Tommy falls for her all over again and once again needs to deal with losing someone he cares about.  I also think the "legacy" theme could have been explored a little more in depth. Regardless, I'd like her to stick around a bit.  She's the only intelligent female on the show, for God sakes.

I'm a huge Sinatra fan, so I the ending made me smile.  But the obvious Frank song to use was not "I've Got the World on a String."  Nope.

Definitely should have used "That Old Black Magic" instead.

"I hear your name and I'm aflame
Aflame with such a burning desire
That only your kiss can put out the fire
'Cause you are the lover I have waited for
The mate that fate had me created for
And every time your lips meet mine
Darling, down and down I go
Round and round I go
In a spin, loving the spin that I'm in
Under that old black magic called love." 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Someone I'll Miss

Rainbow as seen from our backyard on April 3, 2009 (my 40th birthday)

One of the things that I have truly loved about living in Delaware is having Chris Coons as my Senator, because he says things like this:

"Do we really think it is OK for our federal government to say, 'we do not like who you love?"

and this:

"I don't see what business it is of our federal government to reach into Americans' hearts and judge them for who they love, particularly when their states have empowered them to marry .... I don't know about my colleagues, but my wedding ring and my marriage did not magically dissolve or disappear just because New York passed a same-sex marriage bill last month."

I'm really going to miss being represented by this guy. 

For real.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: Wishful Thinking ... Kinda.

We're in a scorching heat wave at the moment, just like many folks, so I immediately thought of these photos from Snowmaggedon 2010 for Wordless Wednesday.  We'll pair this with the lyrics from the song that is in my head this morning (one of my very favorite Elton John tunes.)  This has nothing to do with The Husband and I, but ... well, whatever. 

"And I call the kids on the telephone
Say there's something wrong out here
It's July but it's cold as Christmas
In the middle of the year 

The temperature's up to ninety five
But there's a winter look in your mother's eyes
And to melt the tears there's a heat wave here
So how come it's cold as Christmas in the middle of the year... 

... But there's an icy fringe on everything
And I cannot find the lines
Where's the beauty in the beast we made
Why the frost in the summertime?" 

"Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)" ~ Elton John  

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.
copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Sunday Salon

This has been one of those weeks where each day has felt like an alternate one (Thursday feeling like Friday, etc.), and dealing with a bout of insomnia isn't helping. Today is more of the same.  After a great dinner last night with friends, I came home late and was so wired I couldn't go to sleep.  (And going to bed at 11:30 p.m. felt like it was the middle of the afternoon - thanks to the coffee I'd had, and because I've been going to bed at 1:30 a.m. Forcing myself, really, because I'm just not tired.)

What I should have done last night was get up and read, but that wouldn't have helped because I'm on a streak of reading some amazing books this week.  (Instead I tossed and turned, woke up at 4 a.m. this morning, then closed my eyes "for just a little bit" at 1 p.m. before intending to spend the afternoon packing boxes that are unwilling to pack themselves ... and woke up at 4:30 p.m.)

So, you'll probably be seeing me cruising around the interwebs sometime around midnight or 1 a.m. tonight.

Unless I am reading my current book, which would be Caitlin Shetterly's memoir Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home. I'm only 25 pages into this book, but it's one that I can identify with.  Our circumstances are different than Caitlin's and her husband Dan, but similar in the sense that one of us (me) is among the current unemployment statistics and the housing crisis is dramatically affecting our ability to sell this house (and as a result, our savings).

The Husband and I are much, much luckier than most people - as Caitin also writes - but I can understand the emotions in the midst of phrases such as " our story of our lives falling apart while we tried to do whatever it took to take care of our son, our dog, and ourselves, we felt, essentially, flattened. Actually, it was worse than that:  What we felt was that we could no longer dream. That was, possibly, the most dangerous aspect of what happened to us." (pg. 3) 

So, yeah, this one is really resonating with me right now.  Caitlin is feeling like my new best friend.

And speaking of books that resonated with me (and which was the perfect lead-in to my wonderful reunion with friends I hadn't seen for years), can I tell you how much I absolutely LOVED Michael Cunningham's novel By Nightfall?  Loved this. Loved, loved, loved this. It's a Gatsby-esque and gorgeously written book about internal and external beauty, what happens to us when we feel that the beauty has gone out of our lives, and the ways in which our souls try to recapture our once-seemingly-eternal youth.

Through Cunningham's exquisitely rendered main character of Peter Harris, he makes us take an in-depth look at who we are as a person, how we relate to each other, and the questions we ask ourselves in the middle of the night as we sense our life becoming not what we anticipated. (Like me, the main character Peter has a touch of insomnia. Unlike me, he spends the wee small hours of the morning with a glass of vodka and a sleeping pill or two.)

There is so much I could tell you about By Nightfall, but you'll just have to wait for the review ... which is proving hard to write because, well, there's so much to tell you about this one.  Suffice it to say that this will be among the best books I've read all year. (Hell, the last 40 pages contain some of the best emotionally tense writing I've read EVER. They're of the sort where you might find yourself, oh, say ... procrastinating putting off making dinner for your kids, for example.  Not, you know, like I would know anything about that.  And yes, my kids are well-fed and regularly so.)

Last Sunday I skipped the Salon because I didn't feel like I had anything of substance to say.  What I would have said was probably how much I was loving Children and Fire by Ursula Hegi, who joins the aforementioned Michael Cunningham as one of my favorite authors. (To learn why she is, you need to read my review.)

Arrggh, Blogger just cut off the last paragraph of this post, which I just don't feel like recreating.  I loved Children and Fire. 

That is all. 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Weekend Cooking: Dinner at Coyote Crossing

One of the best places for a summertime get-together in the Philadelphia area is a restaurant called Coyote Crossing, which happened to be where I dined last evening with friends I've known for nearly 25 years.  I adore everything about this place (which isn't compensating me in any way for this post). Granted, I'm not a restaurant connoisseur by any means, but I am pretty particular about my Mexican food, which happens to be Coyote Crossing's claim to fame. In my opinion, there's no place better for authentic Mexican. 

And the dinner we had last night was amazing.  We started off with regular iced teas while waiting for one person to arrive, and then moved onto margaritas. 

I'd suggested a pitcher, but our very attentive and extremely patient (even as we lingered slightly too long) waiter suggested that we might want a tower.  None of us knew what that was, exactly, so you can imagine the astonished looks on our faces (and those from a few other bemused and possibly a bit jealous other patrons) when this thing arrived: 

I don't have a picture of this that doesn't include folks who might not want to be featured in such close proximity to such a thing on this here blog, but the picture here shows it next to the pole of the umbrella canopy over our table.  (That's also one of our dining companions kind of obscured, so that gives you a sense of this.)  We promptly nicknamed this the "Tower of Power." 
I hadn't had lunch so I was starved, and my dinner did not disappoint.  My friend D. had the Tequila Lime Salad (pictured below) with corn, black beans, red pepper, red onion, avocado, cilantro, and pico vinaigrette topped with grilled chicken. (These people read my blog, so my taking pictures of their dinners didn't phase them a bit.) 

My dinner was this freakin' awesome Coyote Veggie Burrito (pictured below) with poblano onion strips, rice, corn, and black beans. It was topped with a pumpkin flower sauce (whatever that is, but it was damn good) and avocados.

My friend J. had these chicken quesadillas, which weren't on the menu and which tells you how awesome of a place this is that they would make something made to order. ("If I'm here, you can have whatever you want," said our waiter.) She had a Caesar Salad with this.

And finally, my to-die-for dessert.  Cheesecake wrapped in a flour tortilla dusted with cinnamon and sugar, with chocolate sauce for dipping.  (I had two of these; the other two were shared with my friend T.)

Heaven on earth ... made especially so when shared with wonderful friends and great memories. 

Coyote Crossing is located at 800 Spring Mill Road in Conshohocken, PA (pronounced "KON-shah-HOCK-kin") and in my opinion is one of the best places in the Philadelphia region for authentic Mexican food.  

And Weekend Cooking is a feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Years of The PR Grins

Taken by me at my college alma mater, June 2010

"And the moments when my good times start to fade
You make me smile like the sun
Fall outta bed, sing like a bird
Dizzy in my head, spin like a record
Crazy on a Sunday night."

Uncle Kracker ~ "Smile"

We had this thing we did, my friend T. and I, back in our shared days of being dizzy in our heads and crazy on Sunday (and many other) nights. 

We called it "the PR grin" and we would pose for the camera with big, exaggerated toothy smiles as long and as bright as we believed our futures to be.

During those years, we lived and studied and played and worked together in a PR office with a close-knit group of people who would (we knew then and now) go on to become our friends and our mentors, even as we churned out press releases and affixed dot-matrixed labels to envelopes and sorted newspaper clippings.  "The PR grin" was tinged with a splash of sarcasm and satire, our way of saying to put on a happy face, dammit, no matter what was going on in our lives.

One day, our boss made a comment that has stayed with me throughout all of the 20 years since our little group went on to seek new paths, new careers, new lives, new selves.  She said that in all likelihood, we would never be part of such a group again, that this bonding, this camaraderie was a rare and special thing.  I remember thinking that she was probably right and somewhat deflated that, at 20, professionally-bonding wise, this might be as good as it gets. 

And, as she usually was, she was right. 

I've thought about the years of The PR Grins many times in those last two decades - as The Husband (who also worked in that same office) and I reminisced about the boss who followed the one who left; as I've interviewed for jobs and searched for something that resembled even a scintilla of that essence that once was, once upon a time; as I've ruminated over opportunities lost and paths taken; as T. and I clinked glasses a year ago; as I've become a bit (maybe a lot, depending on the day) more jaded and cynical and distrustful, particularly in recent months. 

I said to The Husband the other night (over the phone, naturally, since that's how we conduct our lives during these long-distance days) that one of the reasons I'm having such a hard time with this move and particularly, leaving this house, is that it represents the last time I was filled with abundant hope, when I still believed in dreams and I trusted that things could get better.

And coming on the heels of having just finished reading Michael Cunningham's brilliant new novel By Nightfall, and as our little group gathers together to have dinner tonight - these five of us together for the first time in more than 20 years, a gathering organized on Facebook - I'm thinking about what has lasted and what remains from those days when we were beautiful, and smiling at how miraculous and glorious it all is that we're still here, all of us, still connected, inextricably woven into each others lives.

Tonight there will be photos extracted from yellowed albums, and there will be glasses clinked and books shared.  There will be a large expansive patio, and Mexican food under canopies to protect us from the soon-to-be setting sun, and there will be hugs and laughter from our table and others. 

And we will, in the words of Carly Simon from "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of", take a new picture, the tuning adjusted, still with the same wide grins of old.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Into the Fire (or, my new weekly feature in which I talk about "Rescue Me".)

OK, people ... I want to talk "Rescue Me" with those of you who are so inclined.   And yes, I plan on making this a weekly thing.  I'm calling it INTO THE FIRE, for the Springsteen song, 'cause I'm creative and shit like that. 

(But first, a word about that photo. I LOVE this photo.  It's one of my favorites among the many, many thousands I've taken. This was from an event in October 2010 at a firehouse in Lewes, Delaware and they had moved the racks of coats towards the windows to make more room for the event set-up.  The blue sky, the symbolism of this in relation to 9/11 with the firemen being trapped inside but at the same time forever in the brotherhood of the firehouse... well, I just love this one.) 

Which makes it fitting (if I do say so myself) to talk about the last night's final Season Premiere of "Rescue Me."  If you're a fan and haven't seen the episode or aren't caught up to Season 7, feel free to skip this post and move on with your day.  I won't be offended. I mean, I can count on one hand the number of TV shows I currently watch, and I'd be pissed if someone spoiled them for me (I hear you laughing, my Darling Husband).  


So, last call, people.  KEEP BACK 500 FEET. Any speculation about what might or might not happen are my own theories, not based on anything else.

OK, so we're all good here?  Good.  Now, I missed episodes 7-10 of Season 6 (Netflix had already pissed me off about not having this, so with their rate hikes on top of that, I'm cancelling my membership.)  But from the recaps last night, I've surmised 4 critical things: 1) Damien was badly injured in a fire; 2) Tommy was, as per usual, responsible; 3) Sheila lost her shit, as per usual and 4) Damien now has a brain injury and Sheila is, as per usual, delusional about the reality of the situation.  Oh, and that Janet and Tommy's little no-strings-attached deal has produced The Baby That Will Of Course Be the Emotional Replacement for Connor.

Did I miss anything?

1. All right, then. First off.  DAMIEN!  God, this is heartbreaking to watch ... but it's going to be interesting to watch how Michael Zegen grows as an actor in this role. I think this has some potential for him, professionally. I was a little disappointed to read that he wasn't happy about the changes in his character.  If I was his agent or manager or something, I would be suggesting that he spend some time at a rehabilitation center for people with brain injuries.  It could also be a good catalyst for him to do some charitable work in that area, but it seems like he's not personally ready for that. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe he already has or has plans to do so.  Whatever.

BUT. I will say this.  I would really, really, really love to see a scene where perhaps Tommy is out with Damien somewhere, pushing his wheelchair, and someone calls Damien a "r****d." Hell, he doesn't even have to be out with Damien someplace; he just needs to be at a bar (yes, definitely a bar) where another person calls someone that despicable word and then, then, all of a sudden Tommy Gavin GETS IT. Tommy's been fast and furious with his (almost excessive at times) use of that word on the show, a quality of Rescue Me that I have personally struggled with and cringed at every time. I think this would speak volumes for Denis Leary's character (his real one, his soul) if such a scene were to be written into the script.  It would demonstrate that Leary, himself, does in fact get it, which he hasn't always done. 

2. What's with this bullshit of Janet and Sheila being BFFs??   I'm so not liking this grief bonding of the babes.  I'm just NOT.  Give me a good old-fashioned, down and dirty catfight with those two any day over their junior high school style giggling over Tommy's various anatomical assets. This whole "sisterhood" shit with them is not flying with me. Also? My prediction/what I'd like to see? Since this is the last season, Janet dies in childbirth. Or in some kind of accident. Tommy can't cope with raising two kids under 3 alone and he gives The New Connor to Colleen and Shawn to raise. Which, of course, would not be pretty because it would be Tommy and Janet all over again, but with the roles reversed.
3. Colleen and Sean (how does he spell his name?).  Love that they're getting married.  Knew that her working in a bar was a bad idea. Was kind of thinking/hoping/wishing that Tommy would have seen the ring on Colleen's finger when he found her passed out in the back room.  I think the writers missed an opportunity there, 'cause that could have been good. 

4. Best Line goes to Sheila with her remark (I can't find the exact quote) about "you kidnap one baby and everyone thinks you're a criminal," or something to that effect.  A close runner up is Tommy suggesting "Yoga? Pilates? Goddamn Facebook?"  to Uncle Teddy when he says he needs something to keep things interesting. 

5. Funniest Scene: When Tommy is on the hood of Janet's car and lands in front of her ob-gyn doctor.  Hilarious.  And classic.  And so very Tommy and Janet. 

Overall, I think this season is off to a good start. The Sheila/Janet bonding is a bit too jump the sharkish for my tastes but if they can get that nonsense remedied, then we're good.  

OK, your turn. If you watch Rescue Me and saw last night's season's premiere, I wanna know what you thought.  C'mon, c'mon ....

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Construction Zone

The house we're trying to sell, as it once appeared under construction.
The view is of Betty and Boo's rooms.
September 3, 2007

This is why I'm writing the particular novel that I'm writing.

“Writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself. Even among the most reluctant and doubtful of writers, this willfulness must emerge. Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, “Listen to me.”

—Jhumpa Lahiri, “Trading Stories"

All images copyright 2007-2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Melissa changed her status from Married to In a Relationship.

"So many tech-heads, recent invasion
I stretch out my long legs 
And I kick away the mouse pad, baby ...."

Google + ? God, you're good. 

I did not want to fall in love with you.  Hell, I did not even want to LIKE you. Oh, you have no idea how much I didn't want to like you. 

In fact, it was my intention to despise you because, truly, I need the likes of you like I need another $10,000 price drop on my currently for-sale house. 

I don't have TIME for you.  I'm a grown up. With  RESPONSIBILITIES. There are kids that occasionally like dinner to be made for them.  And there's a novel that I'd like to write before I'm, say, 80.  And I've got a house that needs to be packed up because we are moving in 19 freakin' days. 

Google, I do not need to + you to my life right now.  

But, well, one thing you've already figured out about me is that I'm easy.  So damn easy. 

I even changed my browser for you. 

I mean, all I need to do is see a handful of friends ogling you and I want a piece of you too.  I need to see what you're all about.  What you can do for ME. 

And you ... you've got some potential, kiddo.  Oh, yes.  Yes, you do.  

You're teasing me with those big wide-eyed circles of yours.  Making it so easy for me to do what I secretly love - put my friends into secret categories.  You know that's one of my pet peeves with whatshisFace. I never quite got used to my friends all commingled like that and even though he promised that I could still keep some people out of my life, he's made it pretty damn difficult.  And, like those little pesky habits that you start to ignore when you're in a long-term relationship, I've gotten used to that.  

But you?  You're a quick drag and drop, baby.  You're all about the drag and the drop, aren't you? 

And now, after spending just one day together, you've got me sitting by my laptop like my 16 year old self by my push-button Princess phone, picking up the receiver to see if there's a dial tone. (Remember those?) Instead, now, I'm constantly checking to see if someone's added me to a circle.

You know how to play me, don't you?  You're smooth like that.  

You're all sleek, fresh, brand spankin' new, still a virgin in terms of ads or videos of a dubious nature. You haven't spammed me yet. You haven't taken me on a lame date to Farmville or asked me to buy you animals for your Zoo, or bought me some cheap Bejeweled Blitz and you know what? I'd prefer we keep it that way. (Let's keep it simple and casual, baby. No need to mess up a good thing, right?) And worst of all, you haven't slowed down in the middle of a session, like Facebook was doing a few weeks ago, frustrating me to no end. 

Cyberman lights up but mostly he floppy
Computer man crashes
He's so humpty dumpty, baby.

I've been around the block long enough to know we might be just each other's summer flings, that eventually you'll turn out to be like all the others. We'll be hot and heavy for a little while, and then we'll see each other's dark side, our true colors shining through.  Then ... you know what comes next. We'll have to have The Talk.  Re-evaluate our relationship and all that bullshit. Figure out Where We're At and Where We're Going. What we MEAN to each other.

See, deep down inside? I'm a girl who's looking for someone who cares about ME, as a person.  And I'll give you this: so far, you're saying and doing all the right things.

This, Google+, could be the start of a beautiful friendship. 

Or .... more.   

Much, much more. 
I don't want to have to go into
Those chat rooms anymore
I don't want to see that pinwheel go 'round
And around and around 
Every time I try to open any window
Hold me, you big dumb guy, you smart guy.
"Big Dumb Guy" ~ Carly Simon 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.