Monthly Archives: May 2010

Sign Here, Please

TSA allegedly stands for Transportation Security Administration, but I am beginning to wonder if a second, shadow agency – the Totally Screwball Administration, perhaps – is also putting up signs in airports just to mess with people.

The fact that they put up a sign specifically forbidding carry-on snowglobes just makes me wonder, you know? First of all, it’s safe to assume that the ban on liquids over 3 ounces would apply to snowglobes as it does to shampoo, sunscreen, and toothpaste; second, is May really peak snowglobe season? Was this becoming a serious problem?

However, I’d like to state for the record that I recognize the inherent danger of snowglobes – and the water, glitter, and miniature cities and/or fantasy scenes they contain – and I know that this rule is in place solely to protect those who travel by air, and not because a rogue contingent of pranksters within The Somewhat Arbitrary Administration thought it would be funny.

Consider this a public service announcement for those preparing to fly the friendly skies – put that snowglobe in your checked luggage!

This one – credit for this one goes to my mother, who was visibly excited, and who told me that there was a great sign coming up, so I had my camera ready when we passed the George Bush Center for Intelligence. (In all fairness, this sign predates His Righteousfulness George the Second [see July 5, 2006 in the archives] and refers instead to George H.W. Bush.)

It’s still funny.

Baptists – at least the one in charge of the sign in front of this church – have a way of getting their point across: “Honk if u love Jesus – Txt while driving if u want 2 meet him.”

What I’ve been reading: Gone, Baby, Gone, Dennis Lehane; Persuasion, Jane Austen
What I’ve been listening to: Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan; Pleased to Meet Me, the Replacements

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Garden

A couple days ago, a fellow Hampshire alum and old frisbee friend of mine who lives in Cambridge put out the word that he was giving away some tomato seedlings. Last night after frisbee practice I took him up on the offer. It was too dark to plant them when I got home last night, but today was a beautiful sunny day for planting!

Happy plants. I hope. There’s one Roma and two mystery kinds (there was only one mystery kind originally but I forgot what the other one was – yellow, maybe? We’ll see!). The last tomato plant I had (indoors) grew to about five feet tall but never made any tomatoes.

The mint is doing well. As usual. Mint would probably be fine no matter what you threw at it – hail, frost, hundred-degree heat (and in New England you can get all three in a day!). You can tell this one totally COULD annex Austria or conquer Alsace-Lorraine, if it wanted to. But it looks pretty cheerful and benign. We’ll just make sure it doesn’t start mobilizing troops at the border, and all will be well.

Maybe people who studied history in school shouldn’t garden so much.

Here’s the strawberry plant I got at the plant sale at Town Hall, and some basil. Both survived the massive thunderstorm we had recently and seem to be thriving. No signs of strawberries yet, but I’m patient. I can wait. (HA! I can wait for about half an hour at a time, at which point I’ll go check on it again.)

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Life and Death

I encountered both on yesterday’s walk to the library.

From The Time Traveler’s Wife, (c) 2003 Audrey Niffenegger, pages 30-31 (the scene at the Field Museum):

I remove the cotton wadding from the mouth of a tube and shake a goldfinch onto my palm. It remains tube-shaped. Henry strokes its small head, lovingly. “It’s sleeping?”

“More or less.” He looks at me sharply, distrusting my equivocation.

Roadkill always makes me sad. And I have a special soft spot for squirrels. It did look like it was sleeping.

But there was also some pretty vibrant life along the way.

Just a couple weeks ago the tulips were out in force; now it’s the irises.

Out in front of the library, there was lavender:

At the edge of the frame is the statue of a young girl reading.

On the walk home I passed all the same pretty flowers, but also…

…this little guy! Who courteously held still long enough for me to take his picture.

Love the racing stripes, man.

What I’m reading: A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle
What I’m listening to: “Tuesday Morning,” the Pogues

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Lake Ontario Has Never Caught On Fire

Unlike Lake Erie.

So it has that going for it. It’s very cold in May, though – I didn’t go in any farther than this:

But it’s like that situation where you’re really close to a state line, and you don’t really NEED to go to the other state – say, Nevada – for any reason, but if you drive ten minutes out of your way you can say that you’ve BEEN to Nevada (for example), and why not? Same thing with the Great Lakes, or major rivers (I’ve also put my toes in the Mississippi). Call it compulsive dipping-toes-in-major-bodies-of-water syndrome.

And here’s your daily dose of adorable. Everyone remembers this game, right? One, two three, whee!

From the wildly exciting Lake Ontario, we go to…

…a bookstore. Naturally. Here at Book City they’ve cunningly decided to organize the books alphabetically, which results in two of my favorite authors being neighbors (despite the fact that one, namely Irene Nemirovsky, was carted off and shot by the Nazis during WWII, and the other is alive and well – AND HOPEFULLY HARD AT WORK WRITING ANOTHER BOOK – in Chicago).

Here is a duck made out of wood. I like ducks. And things made from wood.

Look, I never promised today’s post would be in any way cohesive, did I? Can something be “random-themed”? This is that.

On that theme, please look carefully and notice the huge (fake) dog on the porch of this pretty blue house. Thank you.

On that same street we saw a huge (real) Great Dane. When I say that its head was only slightly smaller than a pony’s, I am not exaggerating. Seriously, those are large dogs.

And speaking of dogs…cats! One of the cats at the aforementioned excellent coffee shop Merchants of Green was terribly tormented by this squirrel, clinging upside-down to the screen outside the window.

Same cat, later, high on catnip, squirrel forgotten.

This is the underpass where the duck and the goose were painted.

This area down by the harbor is – what else – an ice rink in winter, but a little paddling area in summer.

And that brings the “miscellaneous Canada pictures” section to a close.

What I’ve been reading: The Postmistress, Sarah Blake; A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle

What I’ve been listening to: Exile on Main Street, the Rolling Stones; I And Love And You, the Avett Brothers; Pleased to Meet Me, the Replacements

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Delicious, eh?

Honestly, I didn’t hear “eh” too much in Toronto, and I like the Canadian accent. It’s subtle but noticeable in words like “sorry,” “about,” and “tomorrow,” which, incidentally, is the name of a Hot Rod Circuit album (Sorry About Tomorrow). Now I really wish I had asked a Canadian to say the name of the album out loud. Missed opportunity!

Accents aside, the purpose of this post is: food! Last Thursday evening, we threw together a squash tart (which I tried to recreate last night, less successfully) and a pasta salad.

We roasted pieces of fresh butternut squash in the toaster oven, mashed them up, and spread the squash over several layers of phyllo dough. Then we sprinkled goat cheese (or was it feta?) over the top.

Meanwhile, we cooked some fresh spinach in a pan with a little bit of butter, minced garlic, chopped parsley, and sundried tomatoes.

Then we tossed the spinach together with some rice pasta, olive oil, and balsamic.

Yum.

I made my own version of the tart at home last night, adding in some spinach, but somehow it wasn’t as good. Food made with a friend tastes better, perhaps? Or else it just needed more salt.

Or more pastry.

They can’t all be winners.

However, after the tart, I adapted a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookie Book, and my tastebuds deemed it a resounding success. I was looking for a gingersnap or gingerbread sort of cookie with which I could use my chestnut paste (acquired in a cheese shop in Toronto) to make sandwich cookies. I started with the recipe for Gingersnap Raspberry Sandwich Cookies and made several changes, ending up with this:

Ingredients
3/4 cup butter (unsalted, room temp
3/4 cup white sugar (more for rolling/coating)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (+)
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/4 cup molasses
1 (scant) Tbsp maple syrup
1 egg
chestnut paste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream butter and sugar; add in molasses and egg. Add flour and spices gradually. Roll dough into balls (heaping teaspoon size worked best), and roll in a shallow bowl of the extra sugar to coat. Place at least 2″ apart on greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Let cookies cool on rack, then spread paste (or jam) on one cookie, and sandwich another on top. Sandwich cookies are best eaten the same day; they’ll keep longer individually, and you can add the chestnut paste or raspberry jam before eating.

I like these even more than the molasses spice cookies from New Best Recipe!

What I’m reading: This Book Is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson
What I’m listening to: Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan

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“Eh” Plus on Flora

Canada, Part II!

Often as we walked through Toronto, my friend would realize I was not walking beside her, but had in fact stopped several paces back to photograph yet another flower. It started before we even left the house…

…and continued as we left down the front path…

…and as we passed a combination fruit stand/flower shop…

…and in people’s front gardens.

Doesn’t this one look like it’s about to start talking?

On my last day, we walked through the Toronto Music Gardens. Appropriately, a bird was singing.

I love the cascading look of the steps and the building. I think there are some solar panels in the windows, but I’m not sure.

More to come!

What I’m reading: This Book Is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson
What I’m listening to: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits

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Canada On Wheels

Toronto in May is wonderful. It has much to recommend it, and curious signage is only the beginning: there are beautiful gardens, nice beaches (though Lake Ontario is still slightly chilly), great food, decent public transportation, and quite possibly the best coffee in the world.

Of course, I’m going to start with the signs.

In case you were wondering how to tell someone to fasten their seatbelt in French…here you go!

I wish bilingualism was more common in the U.S. So many other countries seem to manage it, why can’t we? Then again, they also manage to teach reading, writing, math, and science such that more than 60% of fourth- and eighth-graders can pass standardized tests at an acceptable level – another goal we can’t seem to reach. Pretty soon they’re going to have to rename it the Leev No Childe Beehynde act. Wait, that looks like Old English by way of The Pretenders. Ugh. Moving on…

Welcome to Canada!

This was an instant favorite, of course: TRAFFIC CALMING ZONE. This message brought to you by a friendly green and orange turtle.

Strictly speaking this is neither a sign nor graffiti, but I wish we had mint lemonade in bottles here. Then again, it’s easy enough to make lemonade and stick a few fresh mint leaves in, if you happen to have a mint plant. (A word to the wise: plant mint in a pot unless you want it to take over your garden like Alexander the Great sweeping across the Persian Empire. It’s that invasive.)

I put this question to you in all seriousness: WHAT? Of COURSE bikes are on wheels! They aren’t much use if they don’t have wheels, are they? (“Why the f— do I want a caravan that’s got no f—in’ wheels?” –Snatch) You wouldn’t have a auto dealership called “Cars on Wheels,” would you? IT MAKES NO SENSE.

Can’t be really upset at them for long though, as they have this chalkboard out front:

Fine, I’ll smile…but I still think your name is silly.

Aww, no love for the birds.

Brooklyn needs about 800 of these.

A nice Alice Walker quote on their sign: “If a book doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?”

I love this. Only in Canada: “This is a natural ice rink area.”

On the streetcar, just like they used to say on the school bus, but a bit more lenient (we weren’t allowed to stick our heads or legs out, either).

Some wonderful graffiti: “think that you might be wrong.” Has the writer just left off the “I”? Or is he (or she) gently nudging the reader to consider alternate viewpoints?

Again, not a sign or graffiti, but pretty cool, and I couldn’t think what other category to file it under…it certainly isn’t a flower. This lives in the aforementioned coffee shop.

Duck!

Goose!

Why have a boring old concrete underpass when you can have this?

The “eh” list…with a maple leaf. (Saw this in a branch of the Toronto public library.)

Down near the harbor there were these wavy sidewalks (hard to tell in this picture). Very cool-looking but make walking more dangerous apparently.

For the record, I did not do this, but I totally approve. (You can tell it wasn’t me, because I never write in black if I can avoid it, and that’s not my handwriting. Also I wouldn’t have capitalized the D without capitalizing the rest of the word as well.)

The best for last, my favorite…I just cannot get enough of this sign.

Canada Part II coming soon.

What I’m reading: Slammerkin, Emma Donoghue; Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane; This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
What I’m listening to: Let It Be and Tim, The Replacements

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