Just a tiny warrior battling the dragon of ignorance and modern
day lunacy ...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignonne: From Caveman to Julia Child

This reliable recipe for Boeuf Bourguignonne is my variation on a classic. Novices and professionals alike can make this dish sing.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to Kill Lycra

When I was 12 years old, I owned the perfect bathing suit. A one-piece Jantzen, white with a red and blue stripe that radiated down from budding cleavage to narrow hips, it fit in all-the-right-places. That Jantzen suit made me look at least 15. The suit was hot.

I wore it on the beach, sashaying my little hips. I wore it in the community pool for diving lessons, And fatefully, I wore it to an indoor pool at a hotel. The blast of stinging chlorinated air should have warned me that my white Jantzen was headed for trouble, but I hopped in anyway, paddling around in the overly warm water. A little backstroke, a little freestyle, a little doggie paddle … I was looking great!

How great was revealed when I decided to hop out of the pool to show off my dive. Climbing out on the ladder, I did notice that my suit felt a little looser than usual, but no problem. I was gonna make that awesome dive. Up another set of stairs, out on the platform, toes curled, knees bent, back arched, and a straight arrow into the water … I nailed it!

Eager to repeat my performance and to impress the other hotel pool patrons who were obviously now watching, I prepared to exit the pool again.

My younger sister intervened.

“Umm, your suit is green” she advised, “and it looks like a balloon.”

Ha-ha! I thought, Jealous much? In your black and yellow bumblebee suit? I’m working it, kid, and you are so not.

I reached for the ladder again.

“No, really,” she insisted, “you should probably tell mom that your suit is broken.”

“What?” I smirked, “You are like so … nine. Leave me alone!”

She shrugged. Who cares if her big, dumb sister looks like an idiot?

As my body emerged from the pool, I felt an alarming slap of fabric against my belly. Wait a minute, I fretted, this suit fit snugly an hour ago.

Glancing down, I knew the terrible truth. The tight, sparkling white of the suit was replaced with sagging neon green fabric. The bright red and blue stripes were faded to a dusty pink and dim grey. The elasticity was gone, I mean completely gone. The perfectly cute, perfectly fitting suit was now a loose bell of distorted fabric sloshing around my midsection and pulling down my thighs. I had to grab the neckline to avoid full exposure.

The pool had killed the Janzten.

A little ego died too.

Those pool guests weren’t admiring my diving skills or my streamlined form. The rapid disintegration of that suit was a pure spectator sport.

My mom provided a rescue with a towel.

The hotel offered an apology for their overzealous use of chlorine.

Mom collected $25 in compensation for the death of the Janzten.

My next suit was dark blue, racing back, Olympic style, and it NEVER saw the inside of a hotel pool.

Copyright 2009 Karen Napolitano

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer Reading ... and Some Are Not

It's August, which means that nearly everywhere the following exchange is taking place:

Mom: Have you finished your summer reading?

Teen: Huh?

Mom: Have you started your summer reading?

Teen: Huh?

Mom: Do you know which books are required?

Teen: Ummm ...

Mom: Do you need to go to the library or bookstore?

Teen: Now?

Mom: Arrgghh!!

Summer reading could quite possibly be the perfect predictor of future success. How each teen approaches this task will foretell his/her future with certain reliability. Summer slackers and students can be neatly divided into five distinct groups.

The June Reader
This student is destined for a life of lonely success. Punishingly unpragmatic, this student executes the requirement almost immediately after school dismisses. Purchasing the book from Amazon with his pre-paid Visa gift card, this overachiever finishes his annotations before the 4th of July. His interpretation of the text is flawless, almost argumentative in its precision. This student will enjoy his career as a Constitutional lawyer or a CPA. Details and deadlines would never bedevil this learner. Added bonus: His relentless hard work is an established fact and many other students plead for a glimpse of his work by mid-August. Stubbornly, this idealist will never yield.

The July Reader
Happy-go-lucky, this guy puts in just enough energy and advance planning to get the job done before crunch time. Mom provides a broad safety net and leaves the book on his bed where it languishes until a rainy Tuesday. Refreshed from a month of lifeguarding and Showtime movies, this guy is willing to trade a little pleasure for a little pain. He powers through his book, takes adequate notes, and dumps book and notebook under his bed until eventual resurrection in late August. This genial, middle-of-the-summer reader will succeed in marketing, management, retail, golf or related fields where his like-minded buddies can surround him. Added bonus: He can hang out with his friends guilt-free for the rest of the summer.

The August Reader
Is it August 1 or August 20? The answer really matters. The August 1 reader is just a slight variation of The July Reader. Usually a follower, the August 1 reader jumps into the task when his July buddy reports that he's finished. This learner will be a future part of a successful marketing team or an IT consultant group. This guy relies on the cues around him to make a choice. He'll do well ... as long as he is never alone.

The August 20 reader is in a totally different category. On August 19, this guy doesn't own the book, hasn't checked the website, isn't quite sure when school will resume, but a tiny voice (see also mom + teen exchange) nags him into action. If someone puts the book in his hand, he will start to read it. If he must rely on his own wits to procure the book, then advance the calendar to the 1st day of school when he will
1. beg to borrow the copy belonging to the June reader
2. failing this, scoop up an abandoned copy from the floor of the locker room

The late August reader has a bright future. Not hemmed in by a sense of responsibility or commitment, he will be a world traveler, survivor, and innovator.

The September Reader
Oooops. Too late.
This learner may or may not own the book ... and may or may not have attempted to read it. His summer was a long blur of YouTube videos made and posted by him. Perfecting stop-motion animation, he re-enacted his favorite music video moments as well as numerous personal interpretations of his favorite songs. This dude already has a long list of subscribers and a budding relationship with a CGI Hollywood connection. This guy's name will appear in many movie credits in your near future. To hell with books ...

The Blogger-Not-Reader
A dangerous breed - this instructor-type once showed the promise of a June reader only to yield eventually to life and time. Neglecting review of the books she assigned months ago, this blogger-not-reader spends glorious summer days tapping out nonsense on her blog.

Copyright 2009 Karen Napolitano