Saturday, May 21, 2011

Words of Wisdom: The Army Dude (aka The Science Guy)

It's the infinite wonder of this existence: anything is possible.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Auntie Maria: International Woman of Mystery

I have always thought of, and described, myself as an ordinary Portuguese girl from Portsmouth, Rhode Island. This is unfair to my mother, who brings English, French, and Belgian genes to the family stew. It might also be unfair to a possible German grandmother back in the swirling mists of time in Portugal, who bequeathed red hair to the family (even I have some of it). We’re not sure about her; she may be apocryphal.

In the past, I’ve had people guess that I’m Italian, Greek, Armenian, Black Irish, biracial, Spanish, Mexican, and I don’t know what all else. I’ve been asked about my background a lot over the years. People can’t seem to figure out what I am.

In general, I think this is pretty cool. I’m a citizen of the world! I’m a harbinger of a new millennium where we all live in a global village! I’m an auntie without borders! I’m every woman (it’s all in meeeee)!

I recently learned, however, that the TSA can’t figure out what I am, either. So they jump to the logical conclusion: that I am a terrorist. When I flew to Paris in March, the TSA not only got a good look at everything my mama gave me via their backscatter technology, they followed it up by detaining me for a couple of minutes, scaring the crap out of me, not allowing me to speak to the Foodie to let him know I’d be along shortly (apparently they assumed we belonged to the same terrorist cell; however, he got through the checkpoint with no problems), and then coming up behind me and groping my hair.

I had thought that when flying out of Boston, you had two choices: backscatter or groping. I stand corrected. People of indeterminate nationality apparently get the pleasure of both.

Why my hair? The Cop told me that Rastas sometimes hide drugs in their hair, but I wasn’t wearing dreads, my hair was in a braid.

In Paris, I got the full treatment – again, I was the only one of my group of four who did. I went through a regular metal detector, and then a very polite French lady felt me up. You’ll be glad to know that I not only was my hair drug-free, I wasn’t carrying any contraband between my boobs, in the waistband of my jeans, in my armpits or my socks. At least she was nice about it; in Boston they were as rude as the airport personnel in Boston always are – which is to say, very.

What I find really funny about the whole thing is that I as agents were feeling me up, they were also X-raying my bottle of medication, which is for depression and anxiety. I could be wrong, but I imagine that being a drug mule or a terrorist requires a bit more courage and steadiness in the nerve department than one might expect from an old maid with a cat and a bottle of Celexa.

A few people I’ve told about this have said “But that’s the whole point! You are the last person anyone would suspect, so you’d make the perfect criminal.” Sorry, but by that logic, Mrs. Gottbux in the next line over, with her bobbed blonde hair, Tod’s driving mocs, and Caribbean tan is an even less likely suspect than I am. Why isn’t anyone feeling her up?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Katie Goes To Paris (On A Steeek)

Katie At The Eiffel Tower

As I mentioned in a previous post, my niece Katie wanted me to bring something of hers with me to Paris -- specifically, a stuffed animal she's had since she was a baby. I didn't like that idea (suitcase space being at a premium) so I came up with Katie on a Steeek. I thought my gentle readers might enjoy a peek at a few of the pictures.

I spent quite a bit of time in the past couple of weeks putting together a scrapbook of all the pictures I took of Katie in Paris. I wrote a little story and drew cartoons and things to go along with the pictures. It took A LOT longer than I had anticipated, but it was fun and she loved it.

Katie Inspecting A Statue On The Pont des Invalides

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure and giving credit where it's due, I totally stole the idea from Monica of 5 Cats Shy, who takes pictures of Catwoman at different locations and posts them on Catwoman's facebook page.

Katie In The Garden At Chateau Versailles

This Katie On A Steeek is a picture of her in Halloween makeup. I thought it went really nicely with the flowers. She looks like she belongs there, doesn't she?

Katie Shoots A Cannon At the Musee de l'Armee

I even got The Foodie involved in taking some shots. He was a really good sport about it -- we got more than a few funny looks taking pictures like this all around Paris.

Katie And Auntie Figure Out The Metro Map

The Foodie took this one as well. It gives you a good look at how complicated the Paris Metro system is, how freakishly long my fingers are, and the feature that makes the TSA suspect me of terrorism (hint: it grows out of my head in curly abundance and draws latex-gloved hands like a magnet).

Katie With Mysterious Costume and Instrument

This one is my favorite. The Foodie and I came across this pile of pink satin and gold lame one afternoon in the Marais. There seemed to be no explanation for it. It was like a drag queen had suddenly disappeared in a puff of fabulousness, leaving behind only a costume and a ukelele.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Vapours

Gentle readers, I know I haven't been blogging much in the last week or so. You see, I recently learned that my beloved and otherwise-very-awesome sister has begun to wear legwarmers. On purpose. As I'm sure you can understand, this is a shock to my system. It's been all human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria up in here.

But fear not, my friends. Maiden sisters are made of strong stuff. After a few days on my fainting couch with cold compresses, hot tea, and the early novels of P.G. Wodehouse, I feel ready to face the modern world anew. Even a world in which legwarmers might be sprung upon me at any moment.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

New Feature: Department of Home Economics

Meet my grandmother, Mary Agnes, circa 1950.

My grandmother was Mary Agnes -- or, more properly, Maria Inez in Portuguese. She usually went by Agnes, as the family already had a Mary in the brood by the time my grandmother came along (they were very Catholic). Doctors, clergy, and the like tended to call her Mary. I honestly don't know if she preferred it or it was due to a level of formality. In any case, I am calling her by both names here because I like double names, and also, because I am the last of a long line of women named Maria, Mary, and Marie.

It is from Mary Agnes -- and my mother, Marie -- that I learned most of what I know about home economics. And since times are tough and we are all looking for ways to live better with less, I've decided to share what I know. I'm hoping that my mom will chime in with a guest blog or two, as well as a certain friend of mine who shall remain nameless at this point, but who can make furniture she picks up in the street on trash day look like a million bucks. I plan to pass along tips, recipes, ideas, book recommendations, and that kind of thing.

I'm using the picture of Mary Agnes as my icon, because what I am thinking of is, for the most part, old-fashioned common sense and know-how. Also, I love a pretty apron. For those of you who are not interested in this feature, when you see my grandmother on your blogroll, you know to move on to something you find more interesting.

For those of you who are still with me, let's begin.

Herbal Olive Oil

I know I can't be the only one this happens to: you buy a certain herb for a certain dish and you use about a tenth of it and then spend the next week looking for ways to use it up until it sadly wilts and dies in your refrigerator. Here's an easy-peasy option to use up what's left. The amounts are purposely vague because it's a "use it up" recipe.


Olive oil: this is where you bring out the good-but-not-great stuff. I like extra virgin oil, but the expensive stuff is meant to be enjoyed as is. By all means, use what you have. This is not about using up, not buying new. And if you prefer the taste of some of the lighter olive oils, go with that.

Leftover herbs: either a single type, or a blend that you enjoy together, such as basil and thyme. Experiment and see what you like best. About a half cup of stems and leaves per two cups of oil works well. Eyeball it. No need to chop, just check them over and remove anything wilted, and then throw the herbs in, stems and all. You can even use just stems if that's all you've got left.

Clean jars or decanters with tops: Bonus points if you're reusing something that would normally go in your recycle bin.


1. Place the oil and herbs in a saucepan, and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Watch it like a hawk, because it can suddenly go from barely simmering to a full-on boil, and, well, unless you plan to throw the oil over a wall at some attacking Huns, you don't need that. Also, the oil tends to get cloudy if you let it boil. (Cloudiness will not affect taste, but it won't look as pretty or last as well. )

2. Once you see some slight bubbling (usually around the herbs), take the pan off the heat. Slap a lid on it and let it steep for one hour. This is an excellent time to catch up on your blog reading.

3. Strain the oil into jars and cap. I usually strain it into a large pyrex measuring cup first, then pour it into the jars.


You want to use the herbal oil up within about two weeks. Refrigerating it stretches that a little, but has the disadvantage of solidifying the oil, so it needs to warm a bit before you use it. I've discovered that it freezes well, with no loss of flavor.


Use this oil as you would any olive oil in cooking, salad dressings, etc. It's great for dipping bread into (I like to pour a little into a dish, then add some salt and pepper, but that's up to you). I always make more than I can use because I have yet to meet anyone who didn't appreciate getting some as a gift.

*** I had an added recipe for garlic-infused oil here, but my mom brought it to my attention that there is a botulism risk associated with it. I've made it several times before and I'm still here and healthy as a horse, but I don't want to take a chance that anyone might get sick because of botulism in the garlic you use.