redbird: The Unisphere in New York's Flushing Meadow Park, with sunset colors (unisphere)
( Dec. 24th, 2018 08:45 pm)
We had one full day in New York on this trip, and [personal profile] cattitude spent part of it visiting a friend on the Island. [personal profile] adrian_turtle and I met my mother at the Cloisters at around noon. On our way uptown, we'd gotten into line for a Metrocard vending machine when a stranger came over to the line and asked if we had just gotten into the city. When we and the woman in front of us said yes, she handed us each an unlimited-ride Metrocard with four days left on it, saying that she was leaving town and didn't want them to go to waste. The woman in front of us asked "how much?" and the donor shook her head and said "Merry Christmas."

The trip uptown was unremarkable, and I found that I have a good memory for the details of that trip, including the irrelevant ones: I knew we were approaching 110th when the track sloped downward, and then (having lost count of stations) recognized 145th by the color of the pillars supporting the roof.

Adrian was delighted by the Cloisters, including the famous Unicorn Tapestries. This visit what caught my eye most was sculpture and artifacts (including a unicorn-shaped hand-washing pitcher in the room with those tapestries); when we went downstairs to the Treasury, I pointed out the wooden carvings on the staircase we had just descended. We had time to look at almost everything before we decided it was past time for lunch, which we got at the diner Cattitude used to go to regularly when we lived in Inwood. The staff has changed and the menu is shorter than it was, but it was basic good diner food, and they still know how to make tea.

Then we took the train down to the Village so we could go to Varsano's, my old favorite chocolate shop, which [personal profile] roadnotes had first introduced me to. I was pleasantly surprised not to have to wait (the Saturday right before Christmas), and we bought lots of interesting chocolate. My mother asked the difference between a lemon cream and a lemon truffle. I wasn't sure and asked the shop assistant; she passed the question to Mark Varsano, who explained and then put one of each on the counter for Mom to taste.

After I'd paid for my chocolate, Mark said something like "I still miss our friend," meaning Roadnotes, and we talked about her a little; one thing he mentioned was her dry sense of humor. I'd been afraid I would have to be the one to tell him she had died, and warned Adrian on our way downtown that I might need my hand held—but it's unsurprising that the same "small town that just happens to have eight million people feeling" that had Mark asking me how she was after she moved to Seattle means he'd gotten the sad news from some other mutual friend.

here there be politics, but relatively low-stress, I think )

The day involved a lot of walking, including at least ten flights of stairs; by the time we headed back to our hotel my ankles were complaining about the stairs in front of my aunt's building, but my knee and hips were (and are) doing okay.
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Dec. 23rd, 2018 09:10 pm)
Cattitude, Adrian, and I just spent a couple of days in New York City, mostly to see my mother. We talked a lot, walked a lot, and ate some good food. Good sushi at a randomly selected restaurant Friday evening, and Ukrainian food for lunch today before we came back to Boston. I had two kinds of pierogi: truffled mushroom, new on Veselka's menu since my last visit, and sweet potato.

I also showed Adrian the Cloisters, and we had dinner last night with my aunt Lea, her husband Dave, and my cousin Janet, as well as Mom.

[I will try to post more later, but want to at least touch on this before falling over. Tonight the cats need my attention.]
Mia Kanner's Linzer Torte

My mother called today and asked if I still have her mother's recipe for linzer torte, because she wanted to share it with some people at her senior citizens' center, and I emailed it to her.

I have that recipe because when I asked Grandma and she said she didn't have it written down, I asked if I could come over, bake with her, and write down what she did, including the quantities of different ingredients. That was in her kitchen on Ocean Parkway, so before Grandpa died—that makes it at least 22 years ago now. I made copies of the recipe and sent them to my mother, brother, aunts, and cousins. Then I mislaid it and had to ask my Aunt Lea to send it to me.

My grandmother's linzer torte is a cake made from a mix of white flour and ground nuts; it resembles the "linzer tart" cookies sold in American bakeries only in the name. The basis of this recipe was probably something from a Viennese cookbook published about a century ago.

I''m posting this recipe in the hopes someone will bake and enjoy it, and to reduce the chances of it getting lost.

This recipe makes two eight- or nine-inch round cakes, and can easily be divided in half.

The cranberry filling:

1 bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and add the cranberries. Mix well. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and cook ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease two 8- or 9-inch round baking pans.

The dough:

1 cup bland vegetable oil (corn or canola is good)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour sifted with 3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon rum
8 ounces ground walnuts (this is what I always use), almonds, or filberts)

Beat the oil and eggs together well. Add sugar and beat well. Add the flour slowly, mixing as you go. Add the cinnamon and mix it in. Mix in the rum, then the ground nuts.

Knead until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Either roll the dough out, or pat it into the baking pans with your hands. You should have some dough left over. Pour in the cranberry filling. Top with a criss-cross pattern of dough. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes: the cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

My aunt said she "always thinks of the rum as the secret ingredient." I don't remember linzer torte tasting of rum, though my aunt says the recipe she sent around was taken directly from my printout, and I am considering omitting it.

This cake is vegetarian and parve, but not vegan.

This post is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.
This is the email I got this morning:

Dear Vicki,

I hope and assume you were able to take part in yesterday’s protest. I’m so proud of what you, [[personal profile] cattitude] and Adrian have been doing during these terrible times. Will try to phone later today to see how it went for you.

Love as always

I am just back from a trip to New York to see my mother; I got far too little sleep, and therefore came home a day earlier than I'd been thinking of, but am glad I got to see people.

[ profile] cattitude, [personal profile] adrian_turtle and I took a train to New York Tuesday morning. My mother lives in London, and is currently in the US to see us, her sisters, and my brother. I'd hoped Mom would come up here for a few days, but she asked if we could come visit her instead, because she is finding travel more wearing than she used to. (My aunts live in New York; Cattitude, Adrian, and I are here in Arlington; and my brother and his girlfriend just moved to New Orleans.) My aunt Lea didn't want to put four people up for three days, so Mom got a hotel room reasonably close to my aunt's house.

We spent Tuesday afternoon and evening with my aunt and her husband: tea, conversation, and dinner (we had Chinese food delivered, because we wanted to make things as easy as possible for Lea and Dave). My cousin Janet came over near the end of our visit, after saying she didn't think she'd be able to make it because she had a class. (Conveniently, the one dish the rest of us hadn't especially liked was very much to her taste, so everyone was well fed.)

I was pretty worn out by the time we left Lea's (and was thinking that I should have insisted on leaving slightly sooner), but we talked a bit more before bed.

And then everyone else went to sleep, and I just lay there: every time I got close to drifting off, I was interrupted by a siren. (I think most of them were ambulances headed to Bellevue.) By the time that ebbed, the cold front was coming through, and the wind was far too loud for me to sleep. (This isn't usually a problem, but I'm not usually on the 29th floor.)

As far as I can tell, I didn't sleep at all Tuesday night. I got through Wednesday, mostly, on stimulants, protein, and sheer willpower. Since the hotel is near the Second Avenue Deli [which is no longer on Second Avenue], I had matzoh ball soup for lunch; everyone else had sandwiches to go with theirs. From there, we went to the American Museum of Natural History, because I hadn't been there in ages, and it was too cold a day for me to want to walk around the Bronx Zoo.

That was fun: we went to the special exhibit on Cuba (which I think I liked more than Mom, Andy, or Adrian—I spent quite a while looking at various kinds of anoles] and to the Hall of Rocks and Minerals (an old favorite of mine and Catittude's, to the point that when I needed to sit down, I pointed across the hall and told him "I'm going to go sit by the big amethyst" and he knew exactly what I meant. Before that, I helped someone who was using a walker and, when we asked if he needed help, said that he'd been told there were gems and couldn't find them. So I said "I'll show you," led him up the relevant ramp (the hall is broken into lots of different levels, connected by stairs and ramps, not all of them obvious) to the Star of India, a well-known and very fine large star sapphire.

Dinner that night was at a sushi place that had odd ideas of what "chirashi" and "don" meant: in both cases, instead of raw fish on a bowl of rice, they served a platter of fish and rice, and put spicy mayonnaise on the rice. I tasted it, realized the problem, and asked for some plain sushi rice instead, which they brought, but while the fish was reasonably good, I doubt I'd go back there even if I lived in the neighborhood. I think I got between five and six hours of sleep that night: I tried going to bed early, but found it difficult not to listen to the conversation in the next room. (Again, this was nobody's fault, and when I asked them to lower the volume, they did, and came to bed soon after.)

Adrian took a bus home Thursday morning (so she could be back in time to teach), and Cattitude and I had lunch with my mother and then caught an afternoon train. Home in time for dinner and to reassure the cats that we still love them. [ profile] 42itous very kindly came in to feed them and keep them company, but they seemed a bit agitated when we got home. However, Molly spent most of the night curled between my feet, and both cats were much calmer by morning. I was glad to be back in my own bed, and got about nine and a half hours' sleep, which has helped a lot.

(I realized yesterday that I had cheerfully done one of my balance exercises—standing on a moving subway without holding onto anything—on no sleep the day before, on our way to the museum. Successfully, and on the way back I realized I was more tired and sat down. However, the fact that this worked doesn't mean it was a good idea, and I had known my judgment was not at its best for lack of sleep.)

ETA: Looking at the news this morning, I saw that Amtrak had a "minor derailment" [sic] at Penn Station this morning, which was still affecting train travel to and through the city a few hours later, which made me suddenly and perhaps irrationally more pleased that I came home yesterday.
redbird: closeup of a white-and-purple violet (violet)
( Aug. 4th, 2016 04:40 pm)
My mother just spent a few days here, and she is Vastly Impressed that I am actually growing cucumbers. The cucumbers aren't doing as well as I would like, but she hadn't quite realized that ordinary people (who are not farmers) grew cucumbers, or maybe she hadn't realized how far a few vines would spread.

She was also very pleased with the cherry tomatoes, as am I.

The overall state of things is: the cucumber plants may be sick, but it's not as bad as I had feared a week or two ago. One of the cherry tomato plants is burgeoning; the other has produced a few fine tomatoes and has lots more coming along but still green. The full-sized tomato doesn't seem to be setting fruit, alas. (Fortunately, the farmers' market in Arlington Center has a vendor who labels things as Yellow Brandywine or Purple Cherokee or Taxi, not just "heirloom.")

The lettuces bolted, flowered, and are busy setting seed. We have a really fine collection of volunteer pokeweed alongside the driveway. (It's generally considered a weed, but it's on the Audubon Society's list of things to grow around here to benefit wild birds and insects, and the downstairs neighbors don't seem to mind it blocking one of their windows.) I was pleased to see one volunteer purple clover in the vegetable garden yesterday; they're very pretty and good for the soil.

I did some extra weeding this afternoon while waiting outside with my mother for her cab back to the railroad station. (I always take transit, because I feel more secure that way, but her trip, her decision.)
My mother is visiting for a few days, mostly just to spend time with us. Yesterday [personal profile] adrian_turtle came over in the morning, and we all sat around talking for a while, then went over to Central Square for lunch. (We had been going to head straight out, but it was raining, and we had nowhere we needed to be at any particular time.)

Apparently [ profile] cattitude and I had each picked one of the best things on Middle East restaurant's lunch menu on our respective first visits. This time I had the lamb shank again, which everyone agreed was excellent; my mother had Cattitude's original choice, the pumpkin kibbe, still excellent; but Cattitude's spinach pie was only okay, and Adrian didn't like her stuffed grape leaves. (They also didn't get the water hot enough for tea this time.) But we had more nice conversation, and shared the particularly tasty things, and then adjourned to Tosci's for tea and ice cream (I'm the only one who had both).

By the time we were done at Tosci's the sun was out, and we took the T over to the Public Garden. We enjoyed the flowers and the big old elm trees (now a rarity, alas), and Adrian showed everyone the ether statue, commemorating the introduction of anesthesia at/by Mass. General Hospital in 1846. It was erected by a "grateful citizen," no name given, the following year: probably either one of the first patients to benefit from anesthesia, or a close relative thereof. (We saw mallards, of course (one reason people visit the Public Garden is Make Way for Ducklings) and a couple of swans, and lots of squirrels and pigeons. Someone was hand-feeding the pigeons (and had a few landing on her arms briefly), and the mallards were trying to get at the food on the ground.

We then had a nice evening at home. Cattitude had stopped at the farmers' market and bought Arctic char for dinner, and baked it with mustard and fresh dill; Adrian made a salad with lettuce and our home-grown cherry tomatoes, and more of the dill in the dressing.

My mother both likes the tomatoes specifically—one of the plants we selected is a fairly sweet yellow-orange variety—and is pleased and impressed that we are growing vegetables, and finds the garden attractive to look at out the window. She missed the best of the cucumber flowers, but the general effect is still green and pleasant, and now includes a volunteer purple-flowered clover plant.

That one tomato plant is doing very well indeed; the other cherry tomato, a red-purple one, is bearing, but those haven't been ripening as quickly, nor has it spread as far.
redbird: The Unisphere in New York's Flushing Meadow Park, with sunset colors (unisphere)
( Jun. 28th, 2015 09:10 pm)
While [personal profile] adrian_turtle and I were in New York seeing my mother, the three of us had dinner with my aunt Lea (and her extremely laconic husband Dave).

Adrian and I both wanted to see my aunt; she likes Adrian, and vice versa. So we walked down there (it was about half a mile from our hotel* to her house), talked, and ate a home-cooked meal, and then talked some more. We spent about three hours before I apologetically said that while I was sorry to end the evening, I was getting tired and needed to get back to the hotel.

Somewhere in the conversation, my mother and aunt were discussing logistics for Sunday, specifically that she needed to get to Port Authority for a bus and the Gay Pride parade was likely to disrupt bus service. (Solution: subway, which goes under traffic, including parades.) Lea mentioned that she and Dave would be watching the parade, and have been doing so since it was much smaller and there were few spectators. I thanked them: the parade is a big extravaganza now, with floats and bands and corporate sponsorship, that's not how it was when I was marching in the 1980s, and it mattered to have people cheering us on. (It still matters, but it's different when the sidewalks are full of spectators.)

We also talked about our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier that day. We went there, instead of to the American Museum of Natural History, because Adrian wanted to see the van Gogh special exhibit Mom mentioned and we looked at other 19th-century paintings, and sculpture, and random other things we passed. Since Mom and I have been to that museum fairly often, and Adrian hadn't, we asked what she was most interested in: even someone healthier and more energetic than any of us couldn't do the Met in a day. And we showed off pictures of my new cats, including the nice one of Adrian cuddling her.
[personal profile] adrian_turtle came here for Thanksgiving with me and [ profile] cattitude. She got here after midnight Tuesday; we made the cranberry relish late Wednesday and did all the other cooking and food prep on Thursday. This year not only did we make dinner and enjoy eating it together, everything went smoothly. That's the advantage of both practice and having identified the specific rough spots from previous years; I think this is the ninth time the three of us have made a Thanksgiving dinner together. (One year when [personal profile] roadnotes and [ profile] baldanders were living in Brooklyn, they had the three of us and her sister over for Thanksgiving at their apartment, but I don't think we did much cooking that year.)

This morning we slept in a little, and I went over to the fitness room and worked out after the morning tea and yogurt. We had leftover turkey and cranberry sandwiches for lunch; my beloveds are making beef-and-sweet-potato dumplings for dinner. I suspect we'll continue to have a low-key weekend before she goes home.
I recently spent ten days or so in the Northeast: not quite a week with [personal profile] adrian_turtle in the Boston area, and then a couple of days with [ profile] cattitude and his family in Niskayuna (it's near Albany, N.Y.). There was no specific connection between the two visits, but Boston and Niskayuna are a lot closer to each other than either is to Seattle; flying across the country once, and a train from Boston to Albany, seemed more feasible than two cross-country trips close together*. Adrian and I had a pleasant week together (despite the heat), without much worth posting about.

We were in Niskayuna for an informal memorial gathering for Cattitude's mother, who died in February. She hadn't wanted any sort of funeral or memorial, but at least one of her children did, so the compromise was to get people together, and go to a nearby park that she loved and talk about her, just conversation. We dressed up a little—"a little" meaning I put on a silk shirt, and some of the other women wore skirts, and my nephew Ben complained a little about his nice clothes not being comfortable, but got to keep his blue sneakers. (He'd have been happier in shorts, I think.)
cut for length )
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Jun. 29th, 2013 10:18 pm)
My mother is in town for a few days, basically to visit us (though she has taken a hotel room a few blocks away, rather than sleeping on our couch). There's been plenty of conversation, and today she came with us to the farmer's market (lots of berries), and after lunch we went to the Seattle Aquarium. That was fun: they have multiple touch pools (sea cucumbers were softer than I expected), an octopus that was clinging to the glass tank so what we saw was a broad, flat mass of suckers, and a nice jellyfish exhibit that you can walk under/through. Also seals and sea otters and birds.

I made fresh whipped cream after supper, to have with some of the strawberries; [ profile] cattitude watched me, since he'd never whipped cream before. That was after a dinner of baked salmon and cherry tomatoes (fresh from the market) and pasta with fresh-grated parmesan cheese, which Mom decided to try, and liked: she'd only had the powdered-in-cans type before.

We haven't settled on plans for the next couple of days; the point of this visit is to see me and Cattitude, not Seattle, so sitting around my apartment drinking tea is entirely valid.
I started the day wrestling with bureaucracy, which was stressful even though I think I succeeded (the phone system in question was annoying enough Tuesday and Wednesday that I decided the best bet was to call early). I headed downtown mid-morning, to do a bit of shopping and then spend time with my mother, who is visiting from London for just over a week.

The shopping was successful, and had one amusing bit. My main goal was more of the Golden Assam tea I like, which meant McNulty's, on Christopher Street in the West Village (yes, I can get Assam elsewhere, but I like this specific tea, and Porto Rico doesn't carry it). I wound up with a pound of loose tea, and a box of elderflower and blackberry tisane; if I like that, I'll look for it elsewhere, because almost anywhere else is likely to be cheaper. (I want something with elderflower for times I need to settle my stomach.) There's a drugstore a block away that often has the toothpaste I like, so I went in there. They did have it. I brought it to the cash register, and muttered something like "what does this cost" to myself as I looked at it. The cashier smiled and said "You get your neighborhood discount," and I was just alert enough to say "thank you" rather than "What neighborhood discount?" As far as I can tell, I got 10% off on the toothpaste because I was carrying a plastic bag that said McNulty's; either that, or he was just feeling friendly. I like the Village, but I can't claim that it's my neighborhood.

I then walked, took a bus, and walked some more to my aunt's apartment; it was sunny and getting hot, but not oppressive (or I'd have waited for another bus for the last bit of the trip). Mom was out running errands, so I spent a while talking to my aunt, which was also nice; nothing deep and meaningful, but pleasant. I spent the afternoon partly talking just with Mom and partly also with my aunt Lea (her husband Dave was his usual quiet self).

Thence to the gym, for a session with Emilie which didn't go as well as sometimes. Part of it was that she was running late again. I was annoyed (though glad she called and let me know), because [personal profile] adrian_turtle was visiting briefly on her way through town. Also, the person who was teaching a spin class during the first half of our session had the music up very loud; Emilie criticized one song choice, and I noted that at that volume, even if it was my favorite song it wouldn't help. The other problem was that my left calf cramped badly; Emilie did a bunch of massage, which helped a little, but I still decided not to do any more of the exercise it cramped during, and to skip one other. (I said "no lunges today" and she told me she had been going to say the same.) (No session details today, I didn't take many notes.)

I had given Adrian my spare keys on Tuesday, so at least I wasn't fretting about keeping her waiting in a coffee shop or bookstore somewhere. In fact, I got home and found her napping. *smile* I woke her gently and said I was feeling drained, and the answer was "would you like me to cook?" I took her up on that, and she looked through my fridge and cupboards and made pasta sauce. A good beginning to a pleasant but too-short visit. Too short because she had a mid-morning bus home today. So, two very brief visits, both of them involving more time asleep than awake, but I was glad to have her here, especially as [ profile] cattitude is away on business this week. I not only am not lonely, but am enjoying having today to myself.
[personal profile] adrian_turtle came to visit me for the weekend, and to go with me to my aunt's seder. It was very good to have Adrian here, and spend a few mostly quiet days together [ profile] cattitude was at Minicon).

cut for length )
redbird: me with purple hair (purple)
( Jan. 8th, 2012 07:50 pm)
I went to the gym for about an hour this morning, then met my mother for lunch and spent the afternoon with her at my Aunt Lea's. (And with Lea and Dave, once the football game was over.) Much good conversation, and I'll throw in a quick plug for the Bluebird Cafe, on Third Avenue just south of 23rd Street, because when I asked for tea the waitress asked if Irish Breakfast was okay, and then brought me a pot of good tea, not a teabag and some hot water. I hope to see my mother again before she heads off to Dallas next weekend, in part because she may not be back here until November (because of other travel plans).

I explained, again, that the gym isn't just determination, it's that I enjoy most of what I do there (though cardio is boring, and I don't like the abdominal exercises, I just accept that they're important). Mom has been walking more, that being the only kind of exercise she's found that she can do and likes.

Also, I realized while at my aunt's that the bead from my captive bead earring is missing; I suspect it fell out well before that. So I suspect tomorrow evening's plan is to find a piercing shop (and not the one that put the earring back in for me a month or so back, because I don't think I trust them at this point).

gym numbers, cut for your convenience )
[ profile] cattitude and I went to visit his parents over the weekend. A relatively quick overnight trip: up Saturday morning and back Sunday evening, so one night away and no time off from work. But we didn't get home until bedtime last night (we stopped at a diner near Penn Station for supper rather than deal with that when we got home), in part because we spent an hour and a half on the Schenectady railroad platform waiting for a delayed train. It's a risk you take with the Adirondack, but the other trains weren't at anything like convenient times.

cut for length )

Today I went to the gym after work; a fairly ordinary workout, but reasonably satisfying. Also, I overheard one of the trainers talking a couple of pictures of one of the people she was working with; this suggests I might be able to get Emilie to do the same for me, to replace my now-very-old workout userpic. I've been assuming photography was against gym rules and didn't ask, but they might be more willing to trust their own staff using my camera than a fellow gym member or guest doing so.

numbers, cut to avoid boredom )
Lunch today was corn on the cob from the Greenmarket, with a couple of yellow plums for dessert. There are things I really like about summer, and the fresh food is one of them. (Temperatures warm enough not to need clothes are nice; it being too hot for clothes to be comfortable is a nuisance.)

Then I went downtown and spent the afternoon with my mother, in the hotel she's staying at. She has a suite, with a little kitchen, so we were able to make tea and, later, raisin toast. There are also actual couches to sit on; quite pleasant. We talked about all sorts of things for a few hours, and then I went to the gym branch near my office for a quick workout. A reasonable Sunday after a very quiet Saturday.

gym numbers )
I had a nice lunch with my mother today; she came over to the building I work in, and we tried a new place right around the corner. I figured the food might be good, and the acoustics probably would be. Acceptable sushi rolls, and no trouble at all hearing each other, which is good. (She has a lot of trouble understanding me on the cheap cell phone she uses when visiting the U.S.)

Mom is definitely smaller than I remember (using our relative heights as a gauge, as well as a memory of her as 5'1" tall) but otherwise is looking well. She's in town for a couple of weeks (in an odd-shaped thing where she is here, then upstate and Texas, then back here for a few more days). I'll probably do something with her on Sunday, and then dinner Monday evening. In some ways that's a lot, but it's because I'm trying to squeeze something like the amount of time together I'd be getting in the course of several months if she still lived in Queens, rather than London. In some ways, it's another long-distance relationship, and again, not one where there's any expectation of changing that fact. And that comparison comes to mind in part because I just spent several days in Montreal almost entirely either socializing with [ profile] rysmiel or just reading, with no effort to see anyone else.

This evening seems to be about staring into space, and doing low-key things like sudoku puzzles. I feel as though I've done enough for one week, and have to remind myself that I only worked three days this week. But Tuesday was a travel day, and involved a walk home on a hot, sunny afternoon as well as a bit of nice wandering around on a warm, sunny afternoon in Montreal. (It was about 10C/15F hotter in New York at 4 in the afternoon than in Montreal at 10:30 a.m.)

Nothing much to say about the Montreal trip except that it was very good to spend time with rysmiel, to wander mostly on familiar streets, and eat a variety of nice food. Suite 88 had a really good pistachio gelato. I didn't read anything particularly noteworthy except some of the pieces in the first third or so of Ursula Le Guin's The Wave in the Mind; other than that it was light and/or rereading. Sometimes you need that, or at least I do.
redbird: a two-gendered cardinal, female one side and male the other (two-gendered cardinal)
( Apr. 20th, 2011 09:39 pm)
[personal profile] adrian_turtle came down to New York for a seder at my aunt Lea's. (Lea specifically invited her as well as me and [ profile] cattitude, who was too swamped by work to come with us.) Again, not only do my family like Adrian, they seemed glad that I bring someone who can sing. My cousin Janet was talking about my grandmother on the other side of the family's singing, and I said something about that being the job of my side of the family (broadly defined).

Janet (our leader) said she didn't think we needed to adjust the language much for feminist purposes, in part because this was very much a women-run seder. (We started with one man present, and Dave never says much.) So we used the traditional Maxwell House haggadah; Lea noted that this is the one the president uses.

I heard a bit more about Frieda's history, and good things Grandpa did. (Frieda isn't blood kin as far as I know, but my mother and aunts refer to her as their "fourth sister.")

There were some new-to-me people at the seder, neighbors my aunt knows from her Shakespeare class. So she gave them the apartment tour, and when we sat down noted that almost everything in the room was from other members of the family, including my grandparents' expanding table and some of their dishes. (My aunt has bought furniture, it's just mostly in other parts of her home.)

Partway through the seder Janet's boyfriend John arrived. As in past years, he was loud and seemed to feel the need to be at the center of attention. This involved, among other things, asking questions some of which I realized afterward he had to know the answers to. Maybe he didn't know that humans are the only animals with a menstrual cycle, but I refuse to believe that a recently retired science teacher doesn't know what the male and female parts of a flower are. That's fourth grade material. But because it's fourth grade material, and I had it on my desk an hour earlier, I just answered without stopping to analyze.

A little later, the topic of eggs, egg-laying, and male animals that carry or protect eggs (I think) led to my aunt saying that egg-laying animals are defined as female. John's reply was "Well, what about transvestites or transsexuals or whatever they are? They don't lay eggs—are they female?" Adrian answered that a person's gender is whatever the person says it is. John challenged that idea (which I know is not universally accepted), and then asked something clueless about (IIRC) the difference between "transgender" and "transsexual." My first response was "Do you have a few hours?" Then I and Adrian settled in to do a bit of Trans 101. That's not what I'd expected that afternoon, but it may have done some good—probably not with him, but with some of the other people there, who seemed uninformed but not hostile. For example, one of them said she thought transgendered people were "confused," and I just said that my trans friends didn't seem confused, though other people sometimes are. Adrian suggested on our way home that he had probably been leading into some kind of ignorant "joke," but that he hadn't been counting on throwing those questions to a room where the answers included "Well, my doctor is trans, and…," me talking about trans friends, and my aunt being calm and thorough on biological questions.

I think we did a decent job with that bit of education, and I'm fairly sure it was better than if we'd left the topic lying there after John tried to heap scorn on the idea that a person can say "I'm a woman" and have that be meaningful. If I'm less practiced at Trans 101 than some people, I'm also less worn out by having to do it, both for the same reason: I'm cisgendered, and most people read me as female, so I don't have a lot of these conversations. And I was talking in third person, which in some ways is safer.

I also had a nice catching-up talk with my cousin Karina before the meal, as well as chatting with Janet; the one thing I regret is that I barely got to say more than hello to my cousin Anne. Had the conversation not veered the ways it did, I might have asked Janet how her father is doing; I tentatively attribute his absence to introversion and/or not liking crowds of his wife's relatives, even if he's known them for half a century.

Because food also matters: I ate lots of charoses, in part because it seemed most other people had forgotten that there was any left, and of a good cucumber salad. My only contribution was some Ceylon teabags; I wanted something good that wouldn't need milk, so threw a half dozen in my bag. One of Lea's friends made a very nice ground walnut and lemon cake. And my aunt Lea made a point of giving me one of the few remaining glass teacups and saucers (again, stuff from Grandma and Grandpa) to drink from.

(Edited to change title: I'd thought I was writing an outline, and it turned into a real post.)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Mar. 23rd, 2011 10:28 pm)
[ profile] cattitude and I had dinner with [personal profile] roadnotes and [ profile] baldanders this evening, at Fountain Cafe, a Middle Eastern restaurant on Atlantic Avenue. We picked it mostly for geography—it's three doors down from Sahadi's, where I was overdue to buy dried fruit and such—and it turned out to be a good place to spend a relaxing hour and a half talking. (I am now overcaffeinated, because it was easier for the waitress to pour me more tea, and for Cattitude and Roadnotes to point out that I didn't have to drink it, than for me to leave the glass sitting on the table.)

And then we stepped outside again. Sometime between 6:30 and 8, the mixed precipitation had acquired a layer of sleet and freezing rain to go with the rain, bits of snow, and hail. We made our slow, careful way to the nearest subway entrance, and so home. Sometimes it's worth changing trains twice to save a few blocks of walking outdoors (and one of the changes was just across the platform).

Roadnotes and I are going to try getting together again next Tuesday or Wednesday, possibly with one or both of the guys, before she and Baldanders set off on their trans-continental adventure. And I'm going to miss them (squeezing out time and energy for visiting Seattle even occasionally will be tight).

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redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)

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