Wednesday, April 30, 2008


When I was a kid, my dad would pay us to put together the mailings for his company.

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the floor of the den, in my night gown, sealing envelopes with a sponge-topped water bottle. I think I was five.

Daddy would pay us a penny a motion. So, folding the press releases counted as two motions (one for each fold), sealing the envelope was a motion, stuffing the paper into the envelope was a motion and stamping it was a motion. Five cents a piece if one person did it all. The jobs were always shared with my older sister so neither of us ever got all five cents for a piece. We did get lots of IOUs for tiny amounts of money that we periodically swapped back to Daddy for real money.

Later, as teens, we would work for an actual hourly wage, but the work was essentially the same -- fold, stuff, seal, stamp. Honestly, and I'll check with them, I do not think that my youngest siblings ever got paid for piece work. By the time they came along we older siblings had already transitioned from piece workers to hourly employees so I suspect that they were probably always paid by the hour.

During my junior high school years my dad had an account with a company that put out monthly updates of, I think, metals prices. The first mailing was a binder with lots of card-stock pages. After that, we sent out the monthly updates in specially sized envelopes. This was in the late 70s, early 80s when small notebooks were "the thing" with my school age set but these binders were slightly smaller then those and only fit the special cards printed for them. Each month there would be extra cards and for years we used those cards as scrap paper. I think Daddy still had a stock of them when I graduated college.

As a high school student I transitioned from assembling the mailings to typing the labels for them. I still remember typing labels addressed to the "Container Port of Wilmington Delaware." For the life of me, I cannot tell you why we sent mailings to various Container ports but I'm sure my Dad could.

I was reminiscing about this very topic to my secretary this morning and lo and behold what should need to be done this afternoon? Labeling envelopes. Piecework! I could have let others do the work but after reveling in the memories, I just had to jump right in.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Concert Review

O.k., maybe not. I'll leave that to Liz Smith who will probably give it a rave as she was one of the hosts.

The day started with an excited and nervous Squidette periodically squeaking with excitement. Yeah, squeaking. Never said my kid was normal.

She went off to school loaded with everything she would need for the day, including her concert outfit, carefully folded around plastic bags to keep it wrinkle free. (It pretty much worked.)

About 1:00 I got a call that my notes were not good enough and I had to go sign her out of school. No big deal. Down and back to work in about 40 minutes.

We parted ways at the school door and she made her way to Carnegie Hall for rehearsal. Rehearsal went fine and the kids were loaded with sway. Useless swag but swag all the same. Well I guess the baseball cap could be useful -- except it's a Yankee's cap. And we're Mets fans.

After the rehearsal, Mike met her and took her, first, to Myzel's for some pre-performance chocolate, and then to a diner for dinner.

Fast forward to concert time. We climb to the balcony and find our seats way up high. Hey, at least we could see the entire stage. We were seated with the Kids in the Balcony program.

Perusing our programs we finally find mention of the Salute to Music program and locate Squidette's name, conveniently misspelled at the bottom of the list. Oh well, at least they got her first name right.

The program starts and the Pops launch into New York and Baseball themed pieces. Liz Smith cedes the host position to Dennis Leary who talks about the Salute to Music and Ronald McDonald House programs and then ... reads the names of all of the Salute to Music kids. And correctly pronounces Squidette's name!

The orchestra and the kids play We are the Champions and We will Rock You with the Ronald McDonald House kids drumming on buckets that spell out "GO YANKEES."

We had a decent, if tiny, view of Squidette but for some strange reason, my vision kept blurring. ( Judicious applications of kleenex seemed to solve the problem.) While we could not tell which notes were hers, we could see her fingers moving over her clarinet and she swears that she actually played.

The rest of the first half is kind of a blur but it was definitely enjoyable. Reggie Jackson did something but I could not, now, tell you what he said. A portrait of George Steinbrenner was revealed and the Pops played.

Squidette joined us in the balcony for the second half. Her smile was so big that I thought her face would crack. The Pops and various artists then entertained us with a selection of Broadway hits as they honored the Nederlanders. The kids knew many of the songs and we all enjoyed the remainder of the show. Kathleen Turner hosted.

Yesterday, we had to attach a bowling ball to Squidette's leg to keep her from floating away.

She seems to have come back to earth today and will spend the afternoon on a much more "normal" project -- preparing for the science fair. Her group is going to compare the melting times of chocolate. Yup, it's back to normal for us Squid.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Carnegie Hall Debut

May I proudly present, appearing on stage at Carnegie Hall for the very first time,the lovely and very talented,
(Flowers courtesy of our next door neighbors.)

More tomorrow, when I have had time to come off of my pride induced high.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Little Gardening

As long time reader know, I have one of those rare things in New York City -- a balcony. And even stranger ... I use it. At lease durng the summer.

I love to try to grow food on my balcony and have tried over the years, peas, stringbeans, canalope, pumpkin, watermelon, cucumbers, bell peppers and tomatoes -- as well as a host of flowers and herbs. The only things that have done really well are tomatoes and gerbera daisies. So, for this summer, I am going with proven winners -- tomatoes and daisies -- and some basil for good measure.

9 pots. 6 different varieties of tomatoes (in 4 different colors), 2 different color daisies and one pot of basil. With luck, we will be eating lots of pasta with fresh tomato sauce this summer.

Oh, and tomorrow? Squidette is performing in Carnegie Hall, with the New York Pops!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Squid on Wheels -- Lost in Yonkers

Well, not really lost. We had a GPS and a decent sense of where we were going since we'd been there many times before in the car.

It was a lovely day and we had promised to go visit a sick friend. Since they live only about 15 miles away, we decided to get there under our own power and enjoy the great outdoors.

Our route started as many of our rides with a trip up the Manhattan Greenway to its northern end. Today, for the first time, Squidette managed to ride up the hill leading from the base of the George Washington Bridge. The elevation change is 129 feet over about half a mile. Steep barely describes it. The last bit is practically vertical. O.k., I exaggerate a little but keep in mind that it is so steep that I refuse to ride down it. Yes, I can ride up it, but not down it. Go ahead, make fun of me. Everyone else does.

Continuing uptown we entered the Bronx via the Broadway Bridge -- which, technically, actually begins and ends in Manhattan. Marble Hill, the neighborhood on the "mainland" side is a part of Manhattan. Yes, there is a small piece of Manhattan on the U.S. mainland. Read the link to get the full story. It is rather interesting.
Riding through the Bronx was quite nice. Until we hit Riverdale Avenue with its 200 foot ascent over 1.3 miles. Fortunately, the lesser angle allowed all of us to ride up it but it was not easy.
At the top, we found this monument. From across the street we could see the words "Sputyen Duyvil" but didn't cross to find out what it was. Next time.
And here it is, Yonkers! Click the picture to make it bigger and look at the sign hanging in the background.

We spent two lovely hours with our friends and then headed home, this time avoiding Riverdale Avenue in favor of Broadway. This is what much of lower Broadway looked like.
This actually looks much nicer then the reality of broken concrete, single lane traffic and trains rumbling overhead. Next time I think I will push for Riverdale Avenue instead.
Crossing the Broadway Bridge you get a lovely view of Spuyten Duyvil -- the channel that connects the Harlem and Hudson Rivers.
A pause half-way down the hill by the George Washington Bridge gave us this view of a half sunken boat.

And finally, the cherry blossoms which perfumed much of the last few miles of our journey.
31.2 miles. Not a bad ride.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Squid on Feet: On the way to (and from) Chinatown

As we headed south from home, I decided to document some of the wonderful bank buildings that fill our city. So many of these edifices were built to hold what were, at the time, major financial institutions. Now, however, most are now filled with other businesses or, sadder yet, have been torn down. These two are right across the street from each other at 14th Street and 8th Avenue.

Now a spa for men.
Now an emporium of high priced food.

Continuing downtown, we wandered across this interesting alley. That's it, just an interesting ally.
And this hotel alternative.

Not having stayed in a hotel in New York City since my wedding night, I cannot vouch for this statement.

As we continued downtown, we located the Bleaker Street Red Mango and spotted this bit of street art.
No, we did not get any Red Mango -- that came later. What came next was the Bowery Mission.

The Lower East Side has always been a haven for new immigrants. My ancestors, the European Jews, settled there many years ago. Today you find immigrants from Asia -- different origin, same story -- looking for a better life. The Bowery Mission serves those who need a hand up, no matter their story. As we came off the the Bowery, we encounterd another bank building. This one, still in use as a bank, albeit a different one then what it was built for.
Most Precious Blood Church. Home to the National Shrine of San Gennaro, from whence comes the Feast of San Gennaro.

And then, just some interesting structures and artwork as we made our way home.

Take a good look at the next three pictures. These are rooftop structures.

iMade Mike think of the Three Little Pigs. All of them are on top of this structure.

Neat, no?
And finally, the Public Theater is the home of the Shakespeare Workshop, founded by Joseph Papp in 1954. My first introduction to Papp's genius was during the summer of 1986 when Mike introduced me to Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The tickets are free if you are willing to spend time on line during the day. We would go with a group of friends, spread a blanket out and wait for hours until the tickets (or passes for the tickets) were handed out. We'd eat bread and cheese and talk about all sorts of stuff. The play was only a small part of what made the day wonderful.

We finished our walk with a stop at the Greenmarket for another tomato plant (that makes 6 for this year), Barnes and Noble and ... Red Mango. Yum!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Squid on Wheels: A Minor Ride

We set out with a bold itinerary. We were going to ride all the way north, futz around Inwood Park for a while, check out the sights at High Bridge Park and then meander our way home. Squidette wanted to go fast!(No, not in Chinatown, rather, around 140th Street by the railroad tracks.)

Once mounted and pedaling, however, she realized that the preceding late nights had robbed her of the ability to go fast and so we just rode up to the Little Red Light House and back -- 17 miles.

Maybe we'll try again tomorrow or Friday.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spinning for a Break

Inspired by Dave, who seems to predraft all of bump of roving before spinning it, I decided to finish up the first bump, designated to become Mike's next sweater.Little Squid is there to give you a sense of perspective. Most of that predrafted fluff spun up into this:

and these.
Around 8:30 I decided to stop for the night so there is still some unspun. I'll take care of that today so that Maria doesn't have loose roving around to deal with. Then I'll do some plying and predraft the other bump.

Now, however, a little spin on my bike ...

Monday, April 21, 2008


Two parents, 5 kids and 4 grand kids. Need I say more?

(Except that those are NOT my fingers over Not-so-Lil' Bros head. Those fingers belong to his son!)

This was the first night.

The second night was spent with our neighbors and, due to a migraine on Little Squid's part, adapted somewhat. On Passover, one is supposed to "sit around the table relaxing" (to quote my dad's haggadah). This rarely happens, simply because we cram all of the family and friends around the table as is humanly possible. The cramming is due to the desire to share and be with family and friends but physically, is not as comfortable as the phrase would lead you to believe.

With Little Squid partly out of action, we really did sit around the table relaxing. We moved the basic seder accouterments to the coffee table and lounged on the couch and in chairs, unencumbered by the confines of the dinner table. The little ones (ages 3 and 5) had freedom of movement (and stuffed plaques to play with) and the adults and our two read the haggadah and talked and laughed. It was nice even with a semi-miserable kid. He was less miserable since he was able to participate to the best of his abilities. When dinner was served, most of us moved to the table.

Over all, a lovely two evenings.

Today we tortured the kids with their annual physicals and accompanying vaccinations. Tomorrow, hopefully, a bike ride.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

You Never Leave Your Parents ...

... empty handed.

It's a plot. My parents are trying to thin out their belongings by palming them off on us. Really. I never leave their home without a pile of books or other miscellany. Last night was no exception. And since all five kids were home, I'm betting that my parents got rid of a ton of stuff.

Us? We walked out with several books. Actually, it was one of the lighter loads, not requiring a box or other special equipment. All we needed was a bag. I'm not even sure what they all are aside from another Asterix book or three and the cookbook that was a gift and not a hand-me-down. For a change, Mike was the recipient. When my Dad says "take," you just can't refuse.

Complaining? No, I'll just try to remember to bring stronger bags next time.

*** Actual Passover report in a day or two after Lil' Sis and Not So Lil' Bro send me their pics. I forgot my camera for all of remembering to put a fresh battery in it. ***

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring Break!

Woo Hoo!!!

We start off with a bang, or rather a sonata or four as we troop up to Carnegie Hall for a concert. Then two Passover seders and some serious relaxing. As much as I want to be on my bike every day, it probably won't happen due to various obligations. It's o.k., what we have to do is good stuff so it works out.

For those of you wondering about the status of the blanket ...
it is actually much further along with only 42 rows of flower/stem/leaf left to go.

Wishing all my readers either a lovely weekend or a joyous holiday -- or both!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Riding on a Tuesday

I finally did it. I finally managed ride in the time between getting out of work and picking the kids up from Hebrew School.

After showing off my "Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies" tee shirt to colleagues, I drove down to the synagogue, parked at a failed meter (was that a sign or what) and did two loops of Central Park -- including the Great Hill. The entire ride took a little more than an hour (along with riding to the park) but only because I paused before getting on the loop to take a call from Squidette. Each loop took less then 25 minutes -- slower then Papa Squid does it but then I am unlikely to ever catch up to him at full speed.

I feel virtuous.

Too bad I can't do it again today.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Squid on Wheels -- Separte but Equal (almost)

It is a damp, slightly chilly day, today, but ride we did. Yesterday, in contrast, was warm and perfect (despite overcast skies) for riding but recitals and operas got in the way. That's the way things go sometimes.

Today, however, we could not easily ride as a family if we wanted to be sure of avoiding the rain that is predicted. So, we did the next best thing, we kind of rode together.

Little Squid and I saddled up and peddled uptown for Hebrew School, stowing his bike in the cloak room. Papa and Squidette drove uptown, unfolded their bikes and, with me in tow, did a loop and then some of Central Park. Breakfast at the dinner for the three older Squid and then Papa and Squidette drove home while Little Squid and I did another partial loop of Central Park (we did a small bit on the way uptown) and rode home. Total credited family mileage: 12.4. Squidette did about 9 but did a smaller, uncredited ride, with me a week or so ago, so she is caught up for family mileage purposes.

(Photos were taken today in Central Park. Unfortunately, the over cast conditions does not show the lovely flowers at their best. My favorite, the forsythia, are almost finished blooming for the year.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Concert Report

Should have brought the kids. The concert was wonderful! Though McFerrin did not perform Elliot Moose. But he did do the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

The dynamic between McFerrin and Ma and McFerrin and the Orchestra of St. Lukes was just amazing.


Sometimes You Just Have to be an Adult

Yesterday was one of those times. You know, when you have the be the one in control, the one holding it all together when secretly you just want to go off and cry because the event is really just too much.

Yea, that kind of time. It was also one of those times when you know that it is o.k., to feel crummy afterwards. When all the emotions catch up with you.

I'm over it now. Mostly. Got a little weepy while writing thank you notes to everyone who helped out.

Tonight? Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin at Carnegie Hall. Adults only.

It is a lovely evening and the walk, should I be able to persuade Mike to walk more slowly then is his wont, should be very nice. As should the time with my husband.

Good music, a good man and a sock to knit during intermission. What more could I ask for?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Trying to Do Good

I try to do good. It goes with my philosophy of not lying and the whole teaching thing. Basically, I want to help make the world a little better.

Until now I have resisted the urge to blog about our efforts to go "green" because they tend to fall somewhat flat in light of my driving a minivan through Manhattan every day. However, inspired by Norma, I am sharing these:

Introducing Baggy, Bag-eel and Bag-Gob, soon to be joined by Baggle-Waggle.

They are small, fit easily in a purse or attach to a belt loop and open up to the size of an average plastic grocery bag. They also hold more, since they are stronger, and the handles are a tad more comfortable to hold. And, since the clips hook easily onto the chain retainer on the front door, we seem to be remembering to take them on shopping trips. I even grabbed Bag-Gob yesterday because I knew I was hitting the drug store on my way home. No huge Duane Reade bag for me!

As I said, we try.


(Baggy, Bag-Eel and Bag-Gob were purchased for about $5 at the 125th Street Fairway. I do not know if the 75th Street Fairway stocks them.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Elliot Moose and The Addams Family

Ever realize that the Elliot Moose theme and the Addams Family theme are very similar? Just saying ...

Yes, today I bounced around school alternating between the two. I even did the snaps for the Addams Family song.

I'm easily amused these days. Wonder what song tomorrow will bring.

Meanwhile, half my family is on their way home from San Antonio and the Final Four. Since American Airlines grounded all MD 80s shortly before some sibs were due to take off, this is taking some doing. My parents are home, though, and that is good.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Good for Distraction

I have found the solution to all of our problems ... when you are feeling out of sorts, just start singing the Elliot Moose song . It is absolutely impossible to be down with this silly song running though your head! Yes, I wandered the halls of school today alternately humming and singing it softly as I bounced along. Hey, whatever works.

To answer Anita's question from yesterday: we are reading Asterix in English. No one on my side of the family ever mastered French. So yes, we may be losing something in the translation but I was laughing my sides off as I read Asterix the Legionary while knitting last night, so it probably isn't too far off.

The blanket is coming along. I fell behind a bit last week but managed to catch up and get ahead yesterday. Three of the five petals are done and number four is a day or two from its finish.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Of Gauls and Games

Two weeks ago, my kids introduced me to Traivian. It is a slow moving interactive game which involves thought, strategy and a certain attitude. One builds up ones resources, (grain, wood, iron and clay), ones population and ones defenses. If you are of the warrior bent, you will attack others for their resources, or, just for the heck of it.

Players have a choice of Romans, Gauls or Teutons for their villagers. Due to my extensive training in all things Gaulish, via Asterix the Gaul, I, of course, chose to go that route. In the two weeks that I've been on line, I've created a larger village then either Squidling.

The game takes very little time out of each day, since building ones resources happens slowly. It is, however, addictive.

Should you choose to join us, we are on server 1 and I go by ... what else ... Mama Squid. Yeah, a wimpy name for a war game but then I am trying to be a peaceful Gaul as in the manner of Asterix.

I highly recommend these as training guides. :-)


My father fell into Asterix when I was about the age of Little Squid. Little Squid now has most of my Dad's collection here as he reads his way through them. A few moments ago he asked me if I was ready for him to choose another for me to read. Boy I love hooking my kids on my childhood loves!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Squid on Wheels: First Ride of Spring

It is my pleasure to present the PTSD (Pre-Teen Speed Demon). Zipping along at speeds upwards of 18 mph she is still careful and courteous to the others on the greenway. Crowds and rough road, however, frustrate the heck out of her.

After sprinting down the west side of Manhattan, we then carefully wended our way through the spring-weather induced crowds at the southern tip of the island and the masses near the South Street Seaport until we were able to actually ride again.

As we made our way across town, we passed the Russian and Turkish Baths. Back before the era of metrosexuals, The Baths were a strictly male bastion. There are still hours when men can let it all hang out (and others for the ladies) but most of the time, the baths are co-ed. Look at the Russian Bath -- it still had that old-time look that comes with being, well, old. Everything else looks pretty modern. Mike and I are thinking about going over one day and having a nice schvitz together.
Continuing west, we passed St. Vincent's Hospital -- a place that, so far, we have only once had to visit for medical reasons.
This building now houses offices and labs and such but prior to it's incarnation as a medical mecca, it served as union headquarters for the National Maritime Union. There are three buildings in Manhattan that used to belong to the NMU, and they all have a nautical feel to them. This one is due to be demolished and replaced with a modern hospital funded with the proceeds of the sale of all of the other building that make up the St. Vincent's complex.

And there you have it, the first real ride of the season and your first 2008 tour of New York City via Squid on Wheels.

Total milage: roughly 11 easy miles.