Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From Here to [Grand]maternity - Welcoming Mason Asher Klein

With incredibly accurate timing, Ciel's labor began in earnest on the 24th of September (She was VERY ready, and the 24th was her due date!) with gMom Louise, friend Lindsey, and Jared attending.

Ciel and Jared took their carefully packed "labor bag" and amid great excitement left for Mt. Auburn Hospital shortly before midnight. Aunt-to-be Jaime was on her way back from New York City to welcome the new baby. gMom-to-be-for-the-second-time began reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown to await the happy news, and the dogs bounced around throughout the night. Around 6 am we heard the news: Mason Asher Klein had arrived at 4:42, weighing a healthy 8 1/2 lbs and measuring 21 inches!

Although the name Mason was on the "short list" of boys' names, it was ironic that I was reading "The Lost Symbol" while Mason was being born, as it was filled with Masonic history and lore. In fact, Mason's great-great-grandparents on the Hadden side were members of the Masons and Eastern Star! A very fitting name.

A cast of many grandparents, friends, grandgodfather, new aunt and new uncle arrived to celebrate, which garnered Ciel a single room while at the hospital - and on Sunday, Mason came home to begin a new life with Mom and Dad, his boppy, and Molly the dog! Three great-grandparents and a number of great aunts and uncles celebrated from afar.

Chillin' with Champy and the Gnome in Burlington, VT

Bright and early on the 13th of September, I embarked on a journey to Burlington, VT - via Philadelphia (how silly is that?) for a SAS Users Group Conference (NESUG.) I was co-chair of the Posters section, and had both a poster and a presentation to give. The conference site was quite beautiful, overlooking Lake Champlain and a short walk to a very cool and funky downtown (not to mention close to Ben & Jerry's, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Champlain Chocolates, and the like!) The leaves had not yet turned, but the skyline in the evening was nothing short of amazing.

A highlight of the conference was a dinner cruise on Monday night. The view from the boat was stunning, and the company was good.

Still, I was happy to bid adieu to Burlington, ever nervous that I would miss the blessed event to come.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Harvest Time

The hazy heat of late summer, punctuated by the shrill of cicadas, has led to the beginnings of harvest time. The fruit is getting heavier on the trees, and the tomatoes are heavy on the vine. The first leaves are already turning. The roses are fading, and the color scheme of the local flora is trending towards yellows and oranges.

Of course, the TRUE sign of fall around here is the return of the Pod people! Moving trucks and PODS litter the streets, along with all the detritus of unwanted furniture and household items. Back to feeling ancient in a city of mostly under 21s! Autumn of our lives, I guess.

Family Toast

In preparation for Alex and Michael's too short visit to Cambridge last week, Jim and I did some quality control at the Friendly Toast, a new and funky "diner" in Kendall Square. Alex & I had previously eaten at the Mother Ship Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, NH, but we needed to know that this version was acceptable. The long wait for a table on Sunday morning allowed a little time for enjoying the beautiful sunny day and interesting architectural details in the complex.

The decor is eclectic to say the least. Jim was lucky enough to be situated right under a couple of (human female) torsos hanging on the wall. It was like something out of an Old Navy commercial (only these ladies weren't talking!) Jim had green eggs and ham, while I had a vegetarian option which was quite good. The friendly toast (thick slabs of homemade bread) was really the best part though!

We assured ourselves that it was suitable to bring Alex and Michael to prior to their long drive up to Alex's good friend Diane's daughter's (the other Ciel) wedding in Belfast, Maine - but first, the night before, we fortified ourselves with a nice "slow food" dinner at Craigie on Main! Alas, Jim could not attend the second trip to Friendly Toast due to a meeting at work, but I sent Alex and Michael off to the wilds of Maine (and myself to the wilds of Cambridge) with full tummies.

Morning Glory

Jim's mother was quite fond of morning glories. In her memory, Jim has become. . . Jim MorningGlorySeed! [He also is a Morning Glory himself, epitomizing the "early to bed, early to rise" maxim. We of the opposite persuasion (nightowls) do not mind a bit, since we get coffee and newspaper in bed!] We have a quite glorious crop in our front "patch", which Jim is, *ahem*, helping to spread themselves to a fence at the end of our dead end road.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Driving Ms. Jaime - Frumpy's Adventures in the Big Apple

Sunday, August 16 dawned hot and sunny, and Frumpy, the minivan, was stuffed to the gills with carefully selected and packed items for Jaime's new adventures at Teacher's College in the coming year. By 9 am, Jaime had said goodbye to the dogs, her dad and sister, and Jim and we set off, le TomTom guiding the way.

By noon, our first hurdle had been overcome - we had successfully executed a key exchange at the train station in New Canaan, CT in the blistering (but thankfully dry) 90 degree heat. Encouraged, we began what we thought would be a short leg from New Canaan to Manhattan. Well, short as the crow flies, anyway! Once over the state line, we were achieving approximately 40 mpm - minutes per mile! Patience, which Haddens and their offspring know well, is a highly overrated virtue - but necessary in this case. The heinous delay turned out to be a truck and car simultaneously blocking BOTH lanes for access to the George Washington bridge. Gaah. Looking at the equally slow moving traffic on the other side of 95, I declared that I wasn't taking THAT route home.

Two hours later, we arrived at 940 Amsterdam Avenue - to encounter our NEXT hurdle - no parking spaces! I wedged poor Frumpy illegally behind a construction dumpster and a smidge in front of a fire hydrant. The good thing about this was there was space behind the hydrant to open the hatch to the rear of the minivan - the bad thing was either Jaime or I needed to stay with the car and her stuff! (No less than three passerbys offered to take some of Jaime's stuff off our hands!) Jaime made a few trips carrying items up to the third floor walk-up while I moved as much stuff out of the car as possible and made a trip up myself to scope out the new digs until our savior Dave arrived (with a bagel for Jaime!) to help carry the big pieces up.

Jaime's new apartment is well-located, close to Columbia and Morningside Park, with many restaurants and a laundromat on her short block. Her room is large, with two bright windows, and the armoire and dresser purchased from the previous tenant were actually big enough to hold Jaime's clothing! She does have a few extra unwanted roommates - the bane of NYC, la cucaracha!

Once the sidewalk was clear and I had been reinvigorated by some cold seltzer from the deli across the street, Frumpy, le Tom Tom and I began the trip back to Boston. Le Tom Tom done me wrong - and steered me right back into the 40 mpm traffic - apparently le Tom Tom believes that the GW bridge is the ONLY way out of Manhattan. Still, looking at the stall and crawl traffic on the other possible routes made me realize I should just keep inching along like an escargot. Once I hit the state line to Connecticut, the driving was easy.

UNTIL I hit the NEXT hurdle. On the Mass turnpike, we have "Fast Lane" which allows travellers to get a transponder so they don't have to stop at the toll booth - they just drive through specially designated lanes. I'd often wondered (aloud) why many of the toll booths were arranged with the fast lanes on the right with the cash lanes on the left, because the cash drivers stopped while the fast lane drivers don't. The BIG KAHUNA of tollbooths on the Mass Pike is the Newton/128 tollbooth - and last time I was on the Mass Pike in bound it had the fast lanes on the right and the cash lanes on the left. Naturally, I carefully arranged to be in the left lanes as I approached the toll booths in heavy traffic. Then I noticed the signs indicating that they had reversed the lanes. It was total chaos - cars were driving sideways, people begging, pleading and cursing. Since I noticed early on, I was able to slip Frumpy in front of a very large truck in one of the cash lanes. Then, there was nothing to do but wait, and wait, and wait. It took over an hour to get through the toll! I made the best of it, and paid the toll for the trucker behind me. The toll collector was TOTALLY bewildered! Made my night, anyway. I got home to a happy husband, dog and cats around 9pm - 12 hours!

Happy Birthday, Julia Child!

In honor of Julia Child's birthday on Saturday, Don, Audrey, Jim and I had a celebratory dinner. Interspersed with helping Jaime prepare for her big move to New York City, and a good-bye barbecue at a friends, Jim and I teamed up to prepare two of my Dad's recipes, Risotto al Fresci Fungi and Tarte Tatin. Of course, with the kitchen in utter chaos (even more than usual), coupled with the facts that I should have done some prep work the night before (not realizing the Tarte Tatin pastry needed to chill for several hours) and that Jaime needed a ride to her barbecue, it made for some serious craziness with both Jim and I stirring frantically!
I am so grateful to my better half, who peeled and chopped apples, zested and juiced lemons, and stirred risotto. I could not have done it without him! He even ate some of the Tarte Tatin (as he said, he was invested in it!)
While preparing the tarte tatin pastry (which i stuffed in the freezer to *enhance* the chilling effect and then had to microwave to roll out!), I whipped up a blueberry buttermilk bundt cake (courtesy of http://www.epicurious.com/) for Jaime's barbecue, which smelled exquisite.

In the rush, I did not take a step in preparing the tarte tatin that I should have - my Dad specifically warned about drying the apples before using. As a consequence, the oven and much of the kitchen was covered with apple juice, and I was sucking out tremendous amounts of extra fluid with a turkey baster. I had serious, serious, doubts as to the success of the Tarte Tatin. Intrepidly, Jim and I forged on and drove to Somerville at the appointed time with the still steaming risotto and the just-out-of-the-oven-and-not-yet-inverted Tarte Tatin in the big old cast iron frying pan.

The chefs and chefesses calmed themselves with glasses of wine and a delicious swiss chard appetizer provided by the hosts, Don and Audrey.

Once so fortified, I girded my loins and went to attempt to invert the tarte. To my utter surprise and delight, it emerged intact and even somewhat attractive! (Later we would find it was tasty as well.)

Audrey and Don provided a lovely salade (as my dad would say), fresh green beans, and a beautiful (and succulent) pork sirloin "en croute" that the risotto accompanied.

A toast was made to Julia - long may she wave! And a good meal was had by all.

Going to Seed

A precursor to the coming harvest time is the start of going to seed (including bearing fruit.) Although some plants are still flowering, more than a few of our local plants are flaunting their productivity - seen on our most recent "pack walk!"