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To my right was the motley crew that constituted row 8, seats D-F. In the window sat an outrageously stylish woman in lace-up stilettos, a flowing skirt and denim vest few could pull off and a gold statement necklace of epic proportion. She had a subtly highlighted, choppy do, and oozed cool from every pore. This was all the more remarkable because our flight was scheduled to leave Houston just after 9am; I had previously felt awesome about having worn a bracelet today.

Next to Ms. Style sat a prim, gray-haired, seventy-something swathed in all manner of practicality such as cushiony SAS shoes and an enormous, embroidered shawl. I was surprised, pleasantly so, to see how technologically adept she appeared, rocking her ear buds and swiping her iPad screen left and right in between sips from a full can of real Coke. Maybe tech-grannies are the norm on flights to San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley.

The Painted Reed anchored the aisle seat across from mine. Tall and willowy, she was garbed in brick red skinny jeans, a black tee, dark Ray Bans which appeared affixed to her head, more tats than virgin skin and, of course, black Vans. She seemed encircled by an air of drama, completely of her own making.

Her first phone conversation -you see, we were stuck on the tarmac for a while- was an eight-round frustration knock-out with a customer service agent. She felt she had reserved a room, they said it had been released. “But I need one! Are you telling me I CAN’T? have one? Why is this hard? Do you understand what I am saying? I have said the same thing FOUR times.”
Ultimately, I think she got it.

Her second exchange involved the retelling of this fiasco to a friend with whom she seemed unwilling to share airspace. She laugh-talked -really, it was such a bizarre gigglespeak- so unceasingly for such an impressive amount of time that I started to wonder if there actually was anyone on the other end; if her phone had rung, I wouldn’t have been that surprised.

Ray Bans still on, she rummaged through her bag and opened a gray velour throw which she placed atop her lap with a flourish. Her reedy fingers then extracted from a purse (the purse thing surprised me; I wasn’t expecting this bird to own a pursey-purse though it was greige), a vintage pill box. She opened it and the used one reed to nose though its offerings, finally selecting one capsule, popping it in her mouth and downing it sans water. Impressive.

Her compact mirror emerged for the first time. Ray Bans still decidedly on, the reedy digits began a lengthy, infinitely patient process of combing through and placing just so seemingly each individual strand of her hair, hair that had been dyed that maroon-raven color; you know, the so dark it has a vaguely purple cast to it.

She then ordered a Coke and bag of caramel brownie bites, and removed her cigs from her purse as if considering actually lighting up. Are you getting just the image of Painted Reed?

After snacking, she went another round of hair do’ing in front of her mirror before calling it quits and nodding off. She slept with her Ray Bans on and mouth pursed, lips slightly open, as if irritated, in pain or constipated. Most unfortunate.

I hope she makes it wherever she’s headed.

And I hope the dear elderly woman wearing boots, a bike helmet and a full-on parka doesn’t expire from heat stroke. And I hope the tatted-neck guy who boarded the plane clutching a sweet floral pillow with real love got a good nap with it.

I myself read, napped, wrote and met an extremely cool woman, Betsy, who also attended Northwestern and now does really fantastic non-profit work at benetech on behalf of literacy, environmental issues and human rights. Sing it, sister.

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San Jose, here I come. After the very rude awakening that tomorrow’s 3:45am alarm will be, I’ll hop my cab to the airport and head west to Cali. I have a maternal health event sponsored by Merck to attend a couple hours after I arrive and then get to have dinner with one of my best college friends, Trisha, and the fabulous Paige, who I met when we both served as bridesmaids in T’s wedding. I cannot wait to see those two women! Yee-howdy for gal-pals! And then it’s off to the races of BlogHer. If this year’s conference even matches, much less exceeds, last year’s experience, I’m in for another big, inspiring treat. Will blog from the road.

Today’s lunch salad atop the gorgeous(!) hand-crafted wood board my friend, Suzanne, sent me. I received it today- what a beautiful surprise!

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farm-fresh salad (cukes and tomatoes from my friend’s recent bounty gift) atop my beautiful new board from Suzanne

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Y’all have simply GOT to make ricotta and candied kumquats and then serve them to yourselves for breakfast.

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candied kumquats and ricotta = breakfast of champions

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Dearest friend M and I headed out to Eastern Market a few hours back. Neither of us had been, but I’d heard great things about both the food stalls and outdoor vendors so wanted to go. I had in mind a cross between an indoor foodie heaven, a farmers market and a fabulous flea market. I’m sad to tell you that I found none of those impressions true.

Apparently, the “flea market” stands only set up during the weekend, so we missed that aspect, and today’s outdoor food stalls run from 3-7p so we were too early for those. Left with the interior market, we felt disappointed. An Asian market was selling Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and a Middle Eastern place was selling Cava spreads; Cava stuff is terrific -hummus, harissa, etc- but this was not a Cava stall. We felt very underwhelmed so decided to walk around Capitol Hill instead. As hunger set in, a quick Yelp search reminded me that Acqua al 2 was literally around the corner.

I have long wanted to dine at Acqua, not least because the first is in Florence, Italy, near my sister’s home. My parents have raved repeatedly about the filet with blueberry reduction sauce, and I love the look of the place. Secondly, I am lucky to call my friend, one of Acqua’s restaurateurs, Ralph Lee (also of Ghibellina renown). Ralph and his wife are two of my favorite people, and I don’t get to see them often enough. So I buzzed Ralph, confirmed that Acqua was open for lunch, and M and I headed right over. Ralph popped over to see us just as we were being brought an astoundingly sublime appetizer that I don’t recall ordering but am thrilled that someone thought we did.

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grilled peaches, burrata, grilled bread, honey and evoo at acqua al 2

As this dish was placed in front of us, I asked, “Are those peaches?”

“Yes!”

“And is that burrata?”

“Yes.”

“Oh my god, I cannot wait to eat this!!!!!!” I exclaimed, having to restrain myself to not grab a piece and stuff it in my mouth then and there. Ralph, M and I continued happily chatting, and then finally, I could not stand it any longer and slyly dragged a serving onto my plate.

They saw me.

With wild abandon, I cut a bit and placed it delicately in my mouth. Of.the.gods. I am telling you that this is a masterful combination of fresh ingredients and one I will be recreating immediately. M took a bite, shut her eyes and we both just went to town. There are not enough superlatives to describe my time with this plate of food. I could have eaten several more orders. Instead, we opted for the Insalata con Rucola e Pera (arugula and pears with shallots and a dijon vinaigrette), the Fusilli Lunghi alla Contadina (a super-flavorful vegetarian ragu that you would swear included meat) and a side of Spinaci Saltati (sauteed and salted spinach; possibly my favorite Italian side dish). Everything was delicious, fresh and bright. The salad, spinach and peach-burrata crostini are perfect examples of simple food at its best: take great ingredients and let them shine, best done when the chef ‘underacts’ by not trying too hard. Yes it takes skill but also restraint.

Aah!

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I got to visit with my dear friend, Gay, this morning, and while doing so made my stellar Black Velvet Aprisauce as well as a failed corn chowder. Darn! Four ears of fresh corn down the drain, literally, though I will say that made for the easiest cleaup and put away ever. I added way too much salt to the corn stock, and though I attempted to dilute it afterwards, such was not to be. I mean, how stubbornly salty can a broth be I ask you? Apparently incredibly so. Oversalted food is perhaps my least favorite fail. I hate bungling a dish, but so goes experimentation in the kitch.

A few months ago when my Mom was here visiting, she brought some old treasures she found in our attic: my childhood copy of Where the Wild Things Are, some photographs, an article or two, my Disney World autograph book and two diaries. One, from the summer before 9th grade, is a small, teal-colored book with bears on the cover and a simple lock that was ludicrously easy to pick. I was disappointed to find just a few entries, but read them curiously and gathered I was fairly boy-crazy and proud to have learned the Hammer, Roger Rabbit, Skankin and New Wave dances at a summer camp in Natchitoches, LA. Oh.my.god. What, pray tell, is the Skankin?

I hoped for more in the second journal, a red and white book, also locked and also with a bear on its cover (WTF with the bears), and was thrilled to find it a gold mine. Each page is dated, running from January 1 – December 31, 1986, which covers the second half of my fourth grade year, that summer, and the fall of my fifth grade year. I read the whole thing in bed a few nights back and was laughing so hysterically I thought I’d wake the boys.

Though I switched schools for fifth grade, in fourth I was still a student at Episcopal Day School (EDS) where I’d gone since kindergarten. Apparently, our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Emily Alexander (who I remember loving, although my diary tells me this was not always true), gave out a Citizen of the Day or Week Button with which I was obsessed. A good 50% of my entries between January and May involve who received the button, how hard I wanted to get the button EVERY time and if I didn’t, my thoughts on why and how I’d get it the next go round. This button was a giant black and yellow aluminum thing with a pin on the back, and I do remember clipping it to my jumper (we wore maroon plaid uniforms at EDS) proudly when I did receive it. I must have been like Hermione Granger crossed with TracyFlick.

““
Oh my god, Nutmeg just puked on the kids’ art table and on one of Jack’s pokeballs. Thank god J was NOT home to witness that blasphemous act.
““

Anyway, Hermione Flick here seemed to have at best ambivalent feelings about school itself, “hating” it a good bit of the time if my loopy handwriting is to be believed. I was super excited about the RCA Tape Club. Do y’all remember that? You could “buy” 8 tapes for a penny if you then bought one at full price or something. Anyway, those arrived in February. I got the Citizen Button a few times, wrote down random shit like what kind of birthday party my sister had (a pony party), how many Jaguars and Porsches I saw one day (2; 1), mourned the deaths of Luther and Carmen (my goldfish), who else got the Button, when I got motion sick going to Melrose Plantation and threw up, and so forth.

Looking back, I read like a hot mess of triviality. It’s hilariously embarrassing but also a reminder of just how real and serious things can feel in the moment and in a developmental period. I think it’s important to realize that because although I do laugh at the kids when they go apeshit about something ridiculous (For ex: Oliver cried rivers of tears in a variety store last Friday because I refused to buy him a small, tweed, pleather purse for $10.99; I laughed a bit because seriously, people. For one, he already has several purses, and secondly, this was such a shittily made little bag with no functionality whatsoever, and third, I was already buying Silly String.), it’s also important to take seriously what they take seriously (that’s actually reasonably serious and worth taking seriously).

Other notes from ’86: The Bears trounced the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 44-10. And the Challenger exploded. Weird to see that written out when I have no memory of experiencing it then but of course “remember” now because of history learned.

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Y’all, I simply do not understand salads in Mason jars. Why is this a thing? I don’t want to mash salad fixings into a jar and then eat from it. Honestly, this concept baffles me. As do fanny packs. I can understand their functionality, which is more than I can say for the Mason jar salad, but the lap purse is a trend that needs to call it quits. So do high-waisted short shorts.

Yesterday, I came home after the gym to find that a friend who’d told me she was dropping off some freshly-picked produce from her parents’ farm had wildly understated the bounty she was really leaving me. Look at all this!!! Unbelievable. I made a delicious sauté with a sampling of it and also, of course, a watermelon-feta-mint salad. Summer eating as fresh as it gets.

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just-picked produce from a friend’s farm

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summer squash, corn, tomato, basil, scallion and sweet Italian sausage sauté

The AROMO renovation is nearly complete, and I am so excited. Naturally, Oliver has decided that he loves his playhouse and the new rug. I told him he was two years too late but if he was gentle, we could share the desk. He agreed.

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AROMO interior

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