26 December 2009

2010 NY Resolution: PDAing at the Wheel

It started in 2009, but it ends here and now. I am resolving that from January 1, 2010 forward, I will no longer text or worse while driving.

That's right: I've been doing things worse than texting with my Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) while behind the wheel. (I don't know about you, but I always figured if I ever needed to confess anything about PDA behind the wheel, it wouldn't involve any sort of battery operated gadget or concerns about car chargers. I'm kinda disappointed in myself.)
On January 3, 2009, I left Los Angeles for a cross country drive I needed to make. The picture at the right shows me when I stopped for lunch on the second day. I think I was in Tucumcari, New Mexico that day. I rarely stopped for lunch. I rarely stopped for anything.
But my problem started when I was only a few miles down the road. I began to suffer separation anxiety. I was worried about being disconnected from the Internet for the roughly 2700 miles of driving ahead.
So I pulled out my PDA and typed "AOL" into the search line. A few seconds later, I saw google.com offering "aol, America Online," and I clicked on that. I logged into my email box and felt the rush! Mmmmm! Hello Lover!
I guess you could say I'm an email-addict. I suffer withdrawal symptoms if I don't check email at least once per hour of my day. You know what that's like, right? Wondering if the business email I sent before leaving the house bounced back? Did the product inquiry I made get answered? Has the friend who got a medical test the day before received the results? And of course, how many different Canadian Pharmacies are standing by right now to fill my Viagra order. (Ha! Just checking to see if you're awake!)
Considering that I have five email boxes (counting only the ones I regularly check) and two, er, three social network profiles, I am dangerously devoted to my PDA.
There is no doubt about how disastrous my nasty habit could be, if allowed to continue. Experts are already saying that texting while driving is actually more dangerous than drunk driving. Numerous states have laws against it. More are making laws. It's bad. I'm bad. Or I was.
Add in the fact that I didn't just text and it's true: I was an actual menace. In 2009, I logged on the Internet to surf while making three cross country trips, and usually at high speeds. And every time, I would promise one of my loved ones, "I'll quit. No more emails at 85 mph. I promise!"
Except most of the time, I was surfing before I reached the far edge of the little town where they live.
But this will be the year that I stop it. I'm going cold turkey. No more surfing or texting when I am behind the wheel.
I would advise you to do the same. Of course, you probably didn't ever hear the siren call of the Internet on your Treo at 80 mph in Kentucky, did you?
Nor did it speak to you as you drove... and drove... and drove... across the Texas Panhandle.
And it certainly never whispered in your ear outside of Nashville, "Oh, just log on for a moment. It'll only take a few seconds. And then you'll feel so much better. You'll be relaxed and able to drive another couple of hours."
I mean it. This is where the going gets tough and the tough get going; where the web link gets cut comple. . .

Sent from my AT&T Wireless Treo as I tra-la-lah'd home from Fawn Grove, PA after a wonderful Christmas with a friend and her family.

22 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's all sort of hemming and hawing from here until Christmas, isn't it?
So while we're waiting, I thought I'd show you my collection of lovely holiday light pictures. WHO KNEW I could produce such wonders with the little point-and-click gadget that I keep in my purse? Certainly not me! Imagine my surprise!

But I do love to drive around during the weeks leading up to Christmas for a look at holiday lights. These are a few of the snaps I took prior to the big snowstorm that hit Washington last weekend.

They look a little bare, in that context, don't they? But I find myself charmed by the simplicity of some of these light displays. I like the honest, simple honor of the holiday.

The people who put up this display also dance in rainstorms, I like to believe. A demonstration of childlike joy in holiday lighting! These lights seem a genuine celebration to my eyes. But this next one makes me wonder.

Can you explain this one to me? Do Boss Hawg and his Missus actually live inside?

Or exactly what do these little critters signify? Love of all things bacon, perhaps? A sausage fetish? I have a friend in California whose last name is Lamb; she puts lighted sheep figures on their front lawn at Christmas. Maybe it really is the Hoggs, Hawgs or maybe bikers (people who ride 'Hogs') living inside?

I liked this picture again, because of the intensity and the simplicity of feeling. They only put up one strand, but it was nicely done, wrapped around in the branches of a small, unusual tree in the front yard.
This next one reminds me of my past life in Southern California. You can see it from half a block away. You know why it reminds me of Los Angeles?

Because in Southern California, I lived in Glendale, just above Hollywood and Burbank. Glendale, in case you aren't aware, is the capital of Armenian-America; and Armenians (in my experience) often like to position a different holiday decoration about every two feet on their front lawns. This display is enough to make me wonder if the people inside are Turkish or Russian Armenians?
They didn't stop at lawns. No, not them! Ahhhhhhhh, feel the nostalgia sweeping over me! Shall we drive on?

This was a nice little, honest display, don't you think? In many Washington homes, the holiday tree is lit just inside the front window. You can't see it in my pictures, but... I know it's there.

And finally, my favorite picture. This house is half a block away from my apartment. I like it best because of the kind of lights that are on the tree: red and green and retro. They are the larger bulbs, about 3/4 of an inch, just like the ones my Dad used to wrap around the tree when I was very small.

He'd put up the lights, plug them in and stand back for a look. After a few adjustments, he'd give the go-ahead, Mom would bring out the boxes of holiday ornaments and a couple of packages of extremely environmentally unsound tinsel and we'd be amused for hours.

And every few nights thereafter until Christmas, we'd gather there at the end of the day to sit with the lights out and sometimes, sing carols.

I guess that's what it all boils down to for most of us: a simple reminder of holidays past, family far away and emotions we thought were packed away that suddenly come to the surface at the sight of a simple strand of lights. At least, I hope you're having that experience again this year.

Merry Christmas!

19 December 2009

A White Washington Christmas...

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I don't like snow. So imagine my surprise when I had to go move the car today and found myself playing in the white stuff on the way back. These are some pictures I took... until the snow did something bad to the camera. It almost seemed that...

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas...
Snow really does cover a multitude of the sins that Washingtonians heap upon their historic city. The snow started falling early Saturday and covered right over all the grey prospects, bleak attitudes and dark worries that we all seem to have this year very nicely. Very nicely, indeed!

Just like the ones I used to know.
So very much snow. This is the next street that runs perpendicular to the one where I live. That's my little black car, buried under a foot of snow on the right. I dug it out. I can't underestimate the value of good leather mittens, particularly now that I've returned to the east coast and multiple seasons. *Sigh.
Where the tree tops glisten...
It's true that if you smile and fake it, you might start to feel it. In this weather, you might also get chappy lips! This weekend, walking around in the snow, it didn't feel so cold. I started to run and play a little. Someone passing by said, "You better watch it! Get that childlike enthusiasm under control this instant!" And I had to admit to myself, I was having fun.
And children listen...
There were lots of kids out with their parents. The neighborhood where I live, is very "up and coming," with a mix of races and ages that I find appealing. However, the camera went down. So if you'd like to see pictures of children in snow, check here, as the Washington Post's current crop of photography recruits seem to prefer children and dogs. (Someone call and remind them that CREATIVITY is actually what WashPo subscribers prefer.)

To hear sleighbells in the snow.
No bells where I live. I woke to a remarkable silence both Saturday and Sunday. Snow inspires quiet and it's a cherished benefit.

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas...
This man is shoveling the walk in front of his neighbor's sidewalk. Now that is holiday spirit!
With every Christmas card I write.
You wanted to see this picture, didn't you? I didn't take the Capitol picture. I didn't get this far from home and besides, the camera died. It's little holiday gifty for you (and me!) from the cyber-world.
May your days be merry and bright...
It is beautiful, isn't it? It is so beautiful and yes, I was standing in the middle of the street. But so was everyone else. Otherwise, you were clomping around in 15-20 inch deep snow. Everywhere.
And may all your Christmases be white.
Wow, look at that! It almost looks like I'm singing. Aren't you relieved to know I'm NOT!

13 December 2009


"Santa-Baby, slip a sable under the tree for me!"

Ah! But which Santa to ask? Walking along the sidewalk in downtown Washington, DC, this was the sight coming our direction:

I was with two of my cousins (having a wholesome, family-style celebration in the city) when we were visited by these four personages.

Naturally, I stopped them for a chat. Wouldn't you?
It turns out they came down from Pennsylvania (the Harrisburg area, I believe) for Santa-Con, which is short for Santa Convention. The Santa Convention is a roving party which arrives in major cities bringing the Christmas Spirit (*ahem in copious amounts) to good girls and boys wherever it goes.
For instance, there is a Santa-Con in New York:

Santa-Con in the Midwest. Branson, Missouri is shown here:

And an international sort-of boat people version of Santa-Con in Copenhagen, Denmark:

It seems wherever they go, this is what they do:

This was in Baltimore's Harborplace. They seem pretty happy and well, you must admit, they brighten up about anyplace they go.
Lately, it seems that you are curious how I take these pictures. I get a lot of questions about how I get these pictures and you also wonder why people don't swat me away.
I don't sneak up on them. I just like people. I deeply like all kinds of people. In fact, the more different the person is from me in looks, lifestyle, smell or almost any other aspect, the more interesting I find them. Matter of fact, I'm fascinated by them. Life is short; I'm asking all my questions now.
More to the point, I've observed that most people who leave home sporting unusual looks, such as neon-blue-mohawk-hair-and-40-plus-piercings-on-the-subway-in-New York, or perchance a tartan Santa kilt and fur leggings topped off by a Santa Cape walking along in front of the National Museum of American History are the very ones who might welcome some attention. They certainly deserve it, having gone to all that trouble.
So I offer it. Once they sense my harmless intent, they open up and also seem to naturally start posing. I think it also goes to how starved we are as a culture for the idea of a genial stranger being kind to us.
But for whatever the cause, here's today's offering of the very Spirit of Santa in a Stewart plaid:
She says her name is Calamity Jane. (Yes, I know she probably has another name. But just because you show everyone what's under the cape doesn't mean you want them to know everything about you. And that's okay, too.) The leggings, CJ said, were salvaged from Burning Man. That statement right there told me the type of Christmas Spirits visiting us: Free sPiriTs.
This is her escort:
His name is Richard Karn. (There's a toolbelt joke floating around somewhere, isn't there? If you have it, feel free to add it in the comment section.) With a smile like that, you know he's enjoying himself.
Next is Patchouli. I didn't catch whether she smelled like patchouli; I was, um, standing back and, um, admire. In case you can't tell, there is a prodigious amount of cleavage hidden by that bow-tie and gracious! I stood back in awe! Or something close to it.

Three piercings, glued on sparkles around her eyes and my goodness, as one of my friends would say "My Patchouli, what BIG EYES you have."
As I said, whatever a person puts out, I assume they welcome comments, compliments, questions and all manner of attention on that same matter.
Soooooooooo... did you notice the riding crop? What about that leash, which seems to go out of frame and leads to...

Ken. He seemed the shyest of the group and I noted that with some level of respect. Or something close to it.

As one of the cousins said, "So many Santas! This must be awfully confusing for children."

And I heard myself exclaim as they walked out of sight, "Merry Christmas to All; And to All a People-Candy Night!"
(By the way, one "Santa" said something about the next one being next weekend in Philly?)

08 December 2009

EX-treme Chocolate and Toffee Chunk Cookies

As the title of this blog suggests, I consider people are the true candy of life. They offer sweetness in all its infinite variety. Sometimes, I like to savor them. Other times, I simply chomp them down like a 5 year old in a sugar frenzy.

But today, I offer a different type of sweets. I'm going to give up one of my best recipes. (NO, NOT the recipe and method for the cake at the bottom of this post! Be a grownup and wait for your birthday, then demand I show up with it! Sheesh, you people are such troublesome little licorice snappers!) I'm doing it because we all know I love to cook (even if I do live in a weird little arrangement with limited access to a real kitchen at the moment) and to support a fun cookie contest on this cooking blog, offered in the holiday spirit of my good friend Brooke. Please click there after you look over the recipe and vote for whoever, whatever flips your skirt. But do remember who'll be putting the stamp on your holiday card this season. Or not.
At this time of year, I love to make cookies and indulge my friends' sweet tooths. I've been known to do this in many forms, but by far the most popular one is a known as "Marti's Best Oatmeal Candy Cookies," and you're about to find out why.
When I lived in Los Angeles (*sigh), I made these in large numbers and delivered them with a bit of chocolate coconut chews, spiced nuts, over-sized triple fudge brownies and the like to friends. And those I wished to befriend.
One fellow took particular childlike joy in wolfing down his almost before they were out of my hands! It was a little alarming at times. Made me somewhat glad I'd carefully cleaned all the cookie dough out from under my nails before I ventured out on that cold winter night. Considering the amount of sugar, candy and general calories in them, I don't know how he got to sleep. Ever. But... not my problem! His lovely wife mentioned them the other day, so I gave her the recipe. Now I'm giving it to you. And with a more accurate name.

EX-treme Chocolate and Toffee Chunk Cookies: Makes 4 dozen substantial (Ok, HUGE) cookies
Sift together:

3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt

2 cups butter
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 brown sugar


2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Add the sifted flour mixture to the creamed butter.

Mix in 3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal.
(That "instant" stuff isn't going to hold up to these cookies. Old-fashioned, please! Like the sturdier stuff we are made of!)
Next, turn off the KitchenAid and add:
1 1/2 -to- 2 cups dried cherries or craisins
2 cups chopped chocolate bars (I use leftover halloween candy, Hershey bars, Ghirardelli bars. I draw the line at Guittard and other snotty brands. That's ridiculously expensive. But at all costs, DO NOT USE "CHIPS" of any sort!)
1 1/2 -to-2 cups chopped SKOR bars. (Buy a big box at Sam's or Costco. Heath bars also work well.)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Don't over mix. Just get it all in the bowl and try to turn it on slowly so the stuff doesn't fly out and try to combine it.
Now, form this stuff into logs. They should be about two inches. Get out the plastic wrap, pile it on in log shape, wrap it up and give it a few rolls on the counter to even out the bumps.

Put the dough in the fridge to chill for 3-6 hours or more. Overnight is good. Take the evening off and have some fun. Go to a movie. Watch a DVD. Smooch someone you love. (*sigh)

When you're ready to bake, cut the slices about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, and sorta smoosh them down a little. These are huge cookies, about 4 inches across and close to 3/4 thick. I'm sure you don't want YOUR friends and loved ones to enjoy anything less.
Make sure you bake them on parchment or the silicone sheets. With all the extras, they are pretty much as billed: candy with some cookie bits stuck in there. Which means, they can really stick to a pan and WE HATE CLEANUP.

Bake them at 350 degrees for about ten minutes to start. Don't overcook, but I like mine done. I don't know how you like your cookies. So make them and find out.
Meantime, NO, I don't happen to have any pictures of these cookies or making them. Since some of you are new here, let me explain, we're mostly about PEOPLE AS SUSTENANCE here at this blog. So I offer you a few other pictures.
Seen inside the freezer of a man I once dated:

Peter Pan Lives!!!!! I said I once dated him, didn't I?
Birthday cake, a very few minutes after assembly:

Friend's wedding cake (truly accurate, bless 'er!):

Favorite reporting outfit. Ever:

First in a series of heinously crass Christmas cards:
This year's card, minus the caption:

A friend said it "doesn't do justice," but I think with the caption, justice is deeeeeeeeefinitely served. But I won't spoil the surprise for some of you.

And finally, my High school crush, years later. EEK!!!!!

The Internet is a truly amazing and wondrous place, isn't it? And google is well, the sorter of all people. People are candy and... so are my cookies. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: You must remember "to give is better than to receive." Make 'em and GET THEM OUT OF THE HOUSE.