Month: December 2015

The Kitchen is now Closed

Jawfish poking his head out of his cave to see if it's all clear

Jawfish poking his head out of his cave to see if it’s all clear

I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season.  Remember my last post, my big stand about refusing to make any rolled cookies in hopes of preserving my back?  Yeah.  I stuck to not making any rolled cookies, but as it turns out, if you make enough drop cookies while still up and down the train steps for 12 trains a day and add in cooking regular food, that doesn’t actually mean anything.

First came the molasses cookies.

IMG_6819 IMG_6831

Then came the oatmeal cranberry chocolate chips.

Photo by Art Child

Photo by Art Child


Pause to absorb some tank serenity.

This cracks me up, the snail has some type of algae (that I don't see anywhere else in the tank) growing from his shell.

This cracks me up, the snail has some type of algae (that I don’t see anywhere else in the tank) growing from his shell.

clown trying to convince the urchin to move

clown trying to convince the urchin to move

On to the chocolate crinkle cookies.

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Now for my favorites.  Honey nut ball thingies.  They have the flavor profile of a Greek/Middle Eastern pastry but in a cookie. They’re kind of a pain to make, lots of steps but well worth it.

The first step is the killer. Chopping and chopping

The first step is the killer. Chopping and chopping

End of chopping, walnuts on left, pistachios on right

End of chopping, walnuts on left, pistachios on right

Glaze of honey, oj, cinnamon sticks and cloves

Glaze of honey, oj, simmered down with cinnamon sticks and cloves

The filling=nuts mixed with orange peel and a little of the glaze

The filling=nuts mixed with orange peel and a little of the glaze

not so secret ingredient for the dough

not so secret ingredient for the dough

By this time I was grateful for a dough that didn't have to be mixed by hand.

By this time I was grateful for a dough that didn’t have to be mixed by hand.

End result, drizzled with the glaze.

End result, drizzled with the glaze.

Last batch, pumpkin cookies with a cream cheese frosting.  Simple and pretty fast to throw together, these are almost like little cakes.


Added up, somewhere between 15-20 dozen cookies, less the couple dozen that were casualties to the residual nerve damage from my fall last spring.  Lots of dropping/kitchen accidents now–I have to start remembering it’s just to be expected when calculating how much I need to prepare.

Christmas dinner I tried to keep things easy.  Ham, curried lentil/cauliflower/almond pie, and a baked spinach and pea risotto.  I’ve never made risotto in the oven before, but I saw a few recipes online, and it seemed like a great back-saver.  Blech. Let’s just say I won’t repeat that mistake.

The curry pie was also new for me, but this I would definitely make again. If I can remember what I put in it.

The curry pie was also new for me, but this I would definitely make again. If I can remember what I put in it.

Mini pies with the excess curry and crust

Mini pies with the excess curry and crust

Man Child wasn’t with us last Christmas, either, but this year we’re really feeling it.  Maybe because last year he was here right before and after, maybe because we know he’s much further away this time.  In any case, he’s been missed.  On the bright side, he definitely knows the routine/timing for us, so he and Miss Music (visiting him in Europe for the holiday) called to video chat on Christmas morning.

For you, Man Child--in case you were missing our Christmas breakfast. ;)

For you, Man Child–in case you were missing our Christmas breakfast. 😉

So yeah, I’m done.  I don’t want to mix, measure, chop, sauté, or bake anything else. More than anything, I’m sick of smelling like the inside of my oven.  Why oh why does anyone think it’s a good idea to create grown-scents and lotions that smell like food?  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a successful adult day if at the end of it I don’t reek of garlic, onions, cinnamon, or vanilla.

One of the best parts of this season has been having Nerd Child home.  Not just here, but relaxed because the college app hell is over.  This means I’m getting to hear lots of fabulous music.



Because of El Niño, instead of gray skies and ice we’ve seen quite a bit of fog in the city this winter.  Unfortunately, late December is still far from the end of the season, and I’m afraid we’re going to be slammed with early spring snowstorms.  This of course is based on nothing other than my pessimism.


For most of us, winter weather is, at worst, a nuisance.  Our recent high temps have meant it didn’t “feel” like it should be time for Christmas shopping, but it was more pleasant when we had to.  Feeling beat and smelling like holiday cookies is solved with a shower at the end of the day.  But for all too many, this warmer than usual season means everything.


Wheezin’ With the Season

Smudge Moon

Smudge Moon

It’s that time where I post about how crazy busy everything is, and how behind I am on getting ready for the holidays.

This year I’ve done absolutely nothing to get ready so far, but oddly enough I don’t feel stressed about it.  Each year we pare down a bit more in terms of the number of gifts purchased, amount of money spent, types and amount of cookies baked, amount of decorating done in the apartment and size of the tree. Because I’m not a shopper, I miss the biggest sales more years than not, and by the time my youngest was ten, I didn’t even pretend I would go anywhere on Black Friday, enough was available online.   And let’s be honest, hitting those big sales often means you end up buying more than intended, so financially it’s a wash, with more crap to figure out where to store on December 26th.

I am never spending three days making rolled gingerbread cookies again, whee!

I am never spending three days making rolled gingerbread cookies again, whee!

Art Child is disappointed because I told her I won’t be making any rolled (i.e.: fun holiday shapes) cookies this year.  I’m sorry she’s disappointed, but I’m glorying in my lack of guilt.  I’ll make some drop cookies, much less time and prep required, and they’ll be absolutely fine.  Instead of gingerbread cookies, I made a gingerbread bundt cake (used an oatmeal stout in it, freaking delicious!) so the apartment could at least smell like we’re getting in the spirit.  Because she’s sick (always at this time of year, it’s the one tradition that will apparently never be omitted) that little missing slice is all she’s eaten of the cake.  We won’t discuss how much I’ve eaten.

I probably should be feeling stressed about shopping by now, but I don’t.  The wish lists are small and mostly practical.  Nerd Child actually made a request (he’s the one who never asks for anything) so that completely removes the anxiety of trying to guess–knowing as I hand over my cash that I’m guessing wrong and spending too much–and we have to have him with us to make this purchase.  He won’t be back home until later this week, therefore there’s 0 reason to go fight the hordes on music row, 48th Street.  Not that there is a music row in New York anymore, most of the stores have folded or moved elsewhere, adding an element of maudlin “remember when” to the crowding.

If it weren’t for the fact that I once again forgot to factor in medical copays, I’d say we are going to be completely within budget.

If I can see this guy's rooftop decorations from my terrace, does that count as us being decorated?

Thank you, guy on the next street, for putting your decorations on your roof where we can see them even if you can’t.  

Honey, I’ve Got Underwear Older than You

And I’m wearing them.

Maybe the bones aren't as strong as they once were, but it's still standing.

Maybe the bones aren’t as strong as they once were, but it’s still standing.

Over the summer I posted about an idea I had for a novel.  Not exactly a new idea, it would involve a complete revamp/rewrite of a manuscript I wrote a few years ago.  I lamented in advance about all the work that would entail, the time, the energy, the damned hope.  I didn’t know if I wanted to.  I decided to put the idea to the side and see if both the idea and the urge faded away or took root.  It’s taken root, but I still haven’t decided if I’m going to do the work. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an opening, a few hundred words.  Not enough for me to call it a WIP (work in progress).  The night before Thanksgiving, I decided I absolutely needed to go right then to the neighborhood where it’s set to take some photos, so I can decide exactly where my imaginary house will be in my imaginary manuscript.  Just in case, you understand.

While I haven’t been working on anything, I still go on the writer’s forum.  I’ve got several friends on there, I’ve been a member for a long time, and there’s a healthy amount of silliness that takes place in the off topic sections.  I still read all the threads directly related to writing, though I rarely post on them.  So the other morning I was having my second cup of pre-dawn espresso and surfing the writing threads in an attempt to take a break from political overload, and I saw a doozy of a post.  Actually, it was a few posts, and I don’t even remember what the thread was supposed to be about in the first place.  Someone referenced a sad blog post they had read, about a woman who had been trying to get published for twenty years and was giving up.  No other details given, I have no idea who the blogger referenced is, or any of the details of her story.

Imagine my surprise to see a response that said something to the effect of, perhaps readers are lucky she’s giving up, if she couldn’t get anywhere with all that time.  Hmmm.  Someone else wanting to know what she was doing for all that time.   Someone else assuming her work must be poor.  And someone else referencing that she’d been failing longer than they’d been alive, and she should try something else.  Well, let me just say Mrs Fringe had quite a difficult time restraining herself from sending them to their rooms.  (no, I’m not a mod there and have 0 authority)  Maybe the time out corner, for 7 or 12  or 17 years.  Or as I like to call the time-out corner, life.  Again, I have no idea what else was going on in that woman’s life over the course of those twenty years, how much time was spent actually writing, or submitting.  It doesn’t matter, because one thing I’m sure of is that writing wasn’t the only thing she was doing.  Because life does happen, to all of us, whether we’re creative geniuses, no talent hacks, prim and proper accountants or women of a certain age.

Even though I wasn’t actually a part of the conversation, and no one was actually speaking to me, I was annoyed.  Feeling sensitive, because they’re asking the same questions and making the same deprecating comments I’ve been making about myself.  Some of it has to do with the writing, yes, questioning the value of my words and stories.  How do you measure the value of these things, anyway?  Because that, I think, is the crux of it for me.  What is the value?  If there is no measurable value without success, what is my value?  Being a woman of a certain age without clear markers of success, feeling the negative pressure, maybe I’m supposed to just fade out quietly; stop making a fuss, stop dreaming, move out of the way of the younger generations, and for God’s sake stop cursing so much.  Well, that last part is never going to fucking happen.

I don’t know if I’m going to write that manuscript.  But if I don’t, it won’t be because of how many years have or have not passed since I first said hey, I’d like to see my words in a book, on a shelf, and be paid a dollar for them.  I’ve been busy.

Living in the Real World?

City Streets

City Streets

The internet is aflame with gun arguments right now, impassioned and extreme on both sides.  On one site I’m a member of, I read a comment in defense of private citizens keeping themselves armed (without stricter regulations) to the effect of for those of us who don’t live in ivory towers…live in the real world…danger…needing a weapon…and a few cities were named, to make the point that (s)he was not referencing bucolic pastures or suburban houses made of ticky-tacky.  That specific comment really struck me, because as a city dweller I’ve always thought of this as an issue for those who don’t live in cities.  People living in wide open spaces who don’t have police and police stations within spitting distance, and of course, visions (fed by the media, no personal experience) of compounds populated by paranoid folks who don’t trust the commie gubmint.  Obviously there are criminals with guns here in the city, law enforcement officers, and those who work in the Diamond District, but nope, I don’t know of any neighbors who are campaigning to keep legal arsenals.

Several of my online friends who aren’t American have been asking me questions, all pretty much boiling down to a blend of what-the-fuck? why? guns? and America?

I touched on this in my last post, but I want to talk about this a bit more, and hope readers will join the conversation.  You’re welcome to agree or disagree with me, but no personal attacks or blanket slurs.  While Americans have a common bond by definition, our experiences of life in America–what constitutes the “real world,” varies greatly, and that plays a huge part in individual stances.

Maybe you grew up with inappropriate jokes about those who lived in the Bronx.  Or Detroit, or Chicago.  I grew up with inappropriate jokes about places in big sky country (is that a nickname for an actual place or an idea?), where the men were men and the sheep were nervous.  Shouldn’t we be past all that now?

You all know Mrs Fringe is a New Yawkah; born here, raised here, guessing I’ll collect social security here too.  I ride the subways every day.  I’m not wealthy, never have been.  When I was younger, I worked in downtown Brooklyn, when it was very, very different from the artsy, hipster paradise it is today.  Our office was next to the Brooklyn Arms Hotel, and every day on my way from the subway station, I’d feel the crack vials crunch under my feet while I rushed past the Brooklyn Arms Hotel (a particularly notorious welfare hotel) and hoped I didn’t get clipped in the head by something flying out a window–’cause that happened regularly.  Of course, I wasn’t first starting my day when I went into the office, that was after three hours of “field work,” which involved walking through neighborhoods that weren’t part of any tourist attractions, and visiting clients who weren’t particularly happy to see my smiling face at 7am.  Sometimes I was walking those streets at 1am, because of a late shift or an emergency–and trust me, this was long before New York was spit shined and spiffed up.  I’m not trying to glorify life in the city or America, there’s crime, there are problems, and yes, I’ve had a moment or ten where I’ve been frightened.

I don’t live in the roughest neighborhood, it’s one that’s been “gentrified.”  I’m not young, I remember when it wasn’t.  Gentrified in (most of) NY means there’s still a good mix of everyone–race, culture, and economics–sharing the same block and the same public schools.  Three kids, three elementary schools, and two of those elementary schools were classified as Title I schools.  Title I means there’s a high percentage of children who come from low-income families who qualify for free/reduced lunch.  If you’re unfamiliar, trust me, your income has to be pretty damned low for your kids to qualify for free lunch, and yes, here in Fringeland, we’ve had many years where our kiddos qualified because life.

On my block there are a mix of residences.  Google tells me one brownstone is on the market for $6 million dollars, average for the block and neighborhood.  Next to it is a housing project (yanno, the projects), there’s a small building that I think is a co-op (a very NY thing, you buy your apartment, but technically you own shares in the building, not your apartment, so everything you want or do–including the purchase of the place–has to be approved by the co-op board, generally a bunch of residents who take pleasure in agonizing over awning colors and making residents jump through as many hoops as possible), and there’s my building, which is part of a program from the 60’s/70’s designed to keep working class people in the city.  One block over starts the SROs and a couple of shelters.  Wikipedia says SROs are for one or two people, but I know plenty of families that live in those one room dwellings.  Regardless of which address they live in, I recognize most of the long term faces on the block and immediate neighborhood, and they recognize me, too.  We smile, nod, maybe say Happy Holidays. My family’s experience of America is quite different than that of the family in a brownstone up the street, and different again than that of a family in the projects.

Even if I only look within my building, there’s a mix of skin colors, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds; I know of at least ten different languages spoken within these bricks, twelve different religions, atheists–likely more, this is NY, we don’t talk personal religion all that much.  Multicultural is a fact of life here, not a talking point, and definitely not something that strikes fear in my heart.  So what’s my point?

We’ve got a lot of questions that need to be discussed and examined, but more guns can’t possibly be the answer.  If your experience of America is different than mine, that’s part of what makes America what it is.  It doesn’t invalidate my experience any more than mine invalidates yours.  Let’s talk about what’s real, what it is to live in x city, x suburb, x town; talk about it based on real life experiences, not phantoms of what could happen based on shadows and misdirection.  Maybe you’d be afraid if you found yourself on a subway platform at 1am and saw a few of my neighbors waiting for the 2 train.  I’m pretty sure I’d piss my pants if I found myself faced with a bear in the woods.  Hell, I run into the house when I’m visiting friends in New Jersey and a deer steps into their backyard.  But my world is still real, thankyouverymuch.  Real city, real New Yawk, real America.  There have been quite a few times where I wished I had cab fare, but I never wished for a gun.

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting


When Columbine happened, I cried.  Virginia Tech, I cried.  Sandy Hook, I cried.  After Sandy Hook, I thought I was finished crying.  Then came the shooting in Charleston, SC this past summer.  I cried again.  Yesterday’s shooting in San Bernardino, CA–I didn’t cry.  I’m horrified, deeply saddened, my heart aches and breaks for those lost, injured, and those who have lost loved ones in yesterday’s slaughter.  You know the one, in a Social Services center, where the developmentally disabled receive services.  I’m disgusted.

When did these types of shootings become an acceptable part of the fabric of America?  Last night I thought it must have been after Sandy Hook.  But I purposely waited before trying to put a blog post together, waited until I was calm enough to think beyond what.the.fuck.  Earlier in the day, before I saw the news from San Bernardino I was still debating whether or not I could write anything that made sense about this past weekend’s shooting at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado.  Whoops, I blinked, new shooting. So I make no guarantees as to the coherence of this post, sorry.

This morning I’m thinking this “acceptability” must be older.  Maybe 1984, when 21 people were slaughtered (also in CA) in a McDonald’s.  After all, not everyone goes to college.  Not everyone relates to seeing churches as a sanctuary.  Not everyone had a warm and fuzzy school experience.  But McDonald’s?  What could possibly be more American, more of a symbol of capitalism at its finest, than McDonald’s?  (Hell, when I had my first child, McDonald’s was one of my thoughts when deciding whether or not to raise my children vegetarian, and decided against it.)  Maybe it was 1986, when “going postal” became a punchline after 14 people were shot and killed in Oklahoma.  Come to think of it, when did these mass shootings become a sacred cow?  Not that they’re in any way, shape, or form funny– but somehow they aren’t a subject open for discussion.  Or study. Or, yanno, action.

My mind is peppered with questions, but not the ones you might think.  We’ve had so damned many of these shootings, in so many ordinary places filled with people going about their lives, there’s no question that any and everyone in this country should be able to identify and understand this isn’t a matter of a hazy “them,” it could be me, or you, or anyone we care about.  We’ve had so many I don’t care about the specific why or who of each shooter.  White, black, brown, male, female, Christian, Muslim, right now I don’t give a shit.  When we look at these mass shootings, we are always looking at American citizens taking out as many other American citizens as they can.  I think we need to focus on the how before anything else.  And the answer to how is guns.  Easy accessibility and the attachment to them.  It is bizarre, that we live in a society where the right to own a personal, literal arsenal is considered so holy, we aren’t even allowed to research it.  

Because, as the Facebook memes say, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  This is true–and they kill each other with guns.  We passed the time when access to legal guns should have been given (much) tighter restrictions at least thirty years ago.  It’s also true that increased background checks and tighter restrictions will not eliminate all gun related crimes and deaths.   We can’t cure  cancer, either, but we screen for it, pay attention to symptoms and warning signs, and treat people who are sick.  Surprisingly enough, even though we have no cure for cancer, many of the people treated go into remission and go on to live full lives.  Some don’t.  If we used the same logic currently being used for arguments against gun control, we wouldn’t treat any cancer patients because some will die regardless of treatments available and used.

Last night I had a conversation about this with a friend who is also medical needs mom.  Over the years, we have gotten very good at compartmentalizing.  You kind of have to, in order to help your child as much as possible, but also to, well, live.  Get the laundry done once in a while.  Laugh.  We have learned to accept what would have once been considered unthinkable, let alone acceptable.   So I understand how and why we, as Americans, have learned to compartmentalize these atrocities, these types of “events.”  When there are so many, we have to, in order to keep functioning.  But there’s a huge difference in this analogy.  We don’t stop caring and loving.  We don’t stop doing everything in our control to learn what we can, access the best treatments, provide the best life.  We don’t stop remembering our children, medical needs/special needs or not, are human beings.  It seems to me it’s time for the larger we, the American people, to remember these victims (past, present and future) of gun violence are human beings.  We’re supposed to care.  Care with real discussion, not rhetoric.  Care with action and the best preventative measures available.

“It’s too soon” is not a battle cry.  It’s a deflection.  And it’s nonsense when these horrors are happening so frequently there isn’t even a pretense of a time that isn’t too soon.

These shootings aren’t an act of God, a force of nature we’re powerless to prevent.  We, as a society, are making a choice.  We make a choice when we watch and read opinion pieces and pretend they’re news, we make a choice when we encourage hatred, when we value this life over that one, we make a choice when we tsk tsk about another mass shooting but don’t enact stricter gun laws.  Federal ones.