Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!!!!

Every year, around the bitter end of December, I start to get nervous. I realize that yet another year has slipped away and I haven't yet seen Machu Picchu, the Eiffel Tower or lost enough weight to successfully button that silk charmeuse blouse that's been hanging in my closet for many months.

I used to get pretty upset and make unrealistic declarations after pouting and stamping around for a while. I've changed. I still entertain thoughts of travel and weight loss but I have become more reasonable and accepting of both who I am and where my life is taking me. I honestly believe that this comes with age so if you're still pouting and stamping, hold on. And, any year where my kids are okay is good enough for me. In other words, I see what's out there and have learned to appreciate the pleasure and beauty of quiet routine. In today's world, I think that's a gift.

I do, however, wish you all a lot more than that--I wish you joy, good health, a job if you're looking, friendship, love and peace of many varieties---of mind, in your heart and for the whole crazy, little world. We could sure use some of that.

I also wish that Justin Beiber and Kim Kardashian would run away together and shun the media for the rest of their lives.

May it be a nice,simple year---even if we don't see Machu Picchu, the Eiffel Tower or fit into that stupid blouse by next January.

Thank you all for reading what I write--it means the world to me. My blog host shows me from where the people, who take five minutes a day to read this blog, come and my mind is blown. Thanks to my readers in Canada, South Korea, Kenya (I know who you were---welcome home!), the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, the Ukraine, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Tunisia, Thailand and just yesterday, Macedonia and Estonia!!  They don't call it the world wide web for nothing and I find that thrilling.

Thanks to my readers right here in the beautiful USA and for your comments and encouragement. Happy New Year to all with lots of love from "Susan Says..."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Three Questions

1. Is it wrong that I love the movie "Speed"? That I watch it every time it's on? That I wish I had Sandra Bullock's smooth hair and could get away with wearing shoes with little white socks like she does in the movie? Is it wrong to wish that Keanu Reeves, in a blindingly white tee shirt would tell me, in that weird deep voice of his, exactly what to do next until we end up facing death together in a subway car in downtown Los Angeles? I am not dissing Seth here. My interest in Keanu is mostly platonic while Seth would sell me to a medical lab for experimentation purposes if Beyonce asked him to.  

2. Is it wrong that instead of shpritzing my kitchen counters with Fantastik and wiping them down with the scrubbie side of my yellow and green sponge for the forty billionth time that I would just as soon sledge hammer them into formica splinters and run out and roll in the snow until the men in white coats arrive? 

3. Is it wrong that I secretly don't think that having five cats is enough and that I want to secretly slip away to the local shelter and secretly choose another kitten to secretly take care of? Secretly.

Answers below.

1. No  2. Yes. 3. Yes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Holy Cow. I have subsequently been reading about the many tragedies that have occurred in the city as a result of lack of snow removal and the post below, in no way, means to make light of them. Mayor Third Term better figure something out quick.  Hang in there, NYC.


I have something to admit. 

On Friday I heard that a blizzard was a possibility for the day after Christmas. The weathermen were being uncharacteristically cool in light of a developing storm that was threatening the eastern United States with lots of snow and high winds.

When any kind of extreme conditions are even a distant threat, the weather forecasters typically work themselves up, very quickly, into a full froth--waving pointers and clickers wildly about in front of their screens, breathing hard, their eyes all crazy. But this time they seemed to be hedging their bets. All seemed to concur that the computers were in disagreement---some predicted the storm was heading right at us. Others said we might get grazed but the majority of the snow could likely go out to sea. 

At this point, I flippantly announced that I hoped we'd get a huge snow storm that would "cripple the East Coast." With an uncharacteristic swagger that sprang from some untapped vein of hubris, I taunted the approaching weather system--a big undulating mass of meteorological protoplasm spread across the map, challenging it to either "go big or go home."

I am so sorry. If the weather gods just happened to be tuned in, at that moment, to a middle-aged woman with an attitude and I had anything to do with the fact that New York is a total mess and that hundreds of flights have been canceled--inconveniencing countless travelers, that small children have been sleeping in airports for days and that three plane-loads of exhausted passengers sat on the tarmac at JFK for 39 hours because customs agents hadn't been able to get to work, I apologize.

I beg forgiveness of the dedicated drivers who had no choice but to abandon their buses at odd angles all over the city and of the people stuck on a crowded subway for eleven hours. I apologize to the school band who missed their chance to play for the Pope and for the man in Queens who tried to shovel his entire street because no plows had been through in 36 hours after the snowfall.

Please forgive me, East Coast. I will spend the remainder of the winter being polite to the weather map and will never, ever taunt a storm system again.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Celebrity Break-ups, 2010

Don't pretend you're not afraid of her, Brad.
   Will someone sit me down and patiently explain, in a manner I can understand, why Jesse James cheated on Sandra Bullock? And, while you're at it, can you include some comprehensible reasoning behind why Tony Parker would ever canoodle around with another woman when he had Eva Longoria waiting for him at home?

I know, I know...I saw Oprah, too. Supposedly it's not about the sex but about the feelings of newness and appreciation that will send a man out of the arms of his beautiful wife and into those of another but that can't explain rumors of Ryan Reynolds cheating on Scarlet Johannsen. They were only together for two years and, according to my research (conducted on line at Shoprite), hardly ever saw each other due to their busy schedules. Maybe these women were too perfect and their men simply couldn't take the pressure? Maybe these men are just idiots who need a good beating. But I still don't get it. Conversely, here I sit in clown pants, eyes nearly swollen shut from too many pistachios last night and breath that made Buzzy hide under the bed....this must mean that Seth will stick around for a while since I am applying absolutely no pressure whatsoever. I sure know how to keep a man.

It is perfectly understandable why Charlie Sheen's wife  decided that being held at knifepoint might be a problem and if I were Jenny McCarthy I, too, might pack up my fake cheekbones and leave a man who wore my bathing suit to the beach. Most easily understood is Tipper leaving Al. Who wouldn't? He travels the world carrying on about conserving energy but never turns a single light off at home. I just totally made that up. How would I possibly know that? I just don't like him.

Identical twins, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens are making the world less pretty with their split as did Halle Berry and her supermodel beau, but they were just too glossy and gorgeous to remain a couple. In order to look directly at them, you had to use one of those cardboard contraptions with the pinpoint hole needed to watch a solar eclipse in order to avoid frying your retinas. Their daughter, a perfect blend of perfect genes will keep their legacy alive.

Kate Gosselin and whoever that was she was married to, are way too boring to mention and I wish Jennifer Aniston and Rene Zellweger would finally give up and join a convent.

And, speaking of, Brad Pitt...I know you are reading this, Brad, so please take my advice--Run! Take the kids, grab all your slouchy caps and the beads you like to put in your beard (which you grew just to piss off Angie, you can't fool me) and leave that woman behind to put her strange spell on someone else. You used to be a nice guy--everyone said so! Pack up Maddox (named after a former governor from Alabama known to be an incredible racist???), Pax, Zahara,that little cross-dresser Shiloh, those weird twins and leave! NOW. You can stay here until you get your head on straight.  But you will have to shave.  That beard pisses me off, too.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Every winter on bitterly cold days such as this, I try to remember what a summer day is like. I do the opposite in the hot months and find the chill of winter impossible to recollect, as well. Unable to draw on sentient memories of a cold day to refresh me when I'm a sweaty mess or warm thoughts to comfort me in the cold, I've come to realize that I have a very small range of temperature (and humidity) levels at which I am totally comfortable.

There are about twelve days of the year---six in May, the other six in October--when I am not whining about the fact that I'm either too hot or too cold. I also complain aggresively about my arch enemy, humidity. It's rare that I'm not either perspiring and disgruntled when the levels are too high or slapping on creams and waxy balms when they're too low. Too hot, too cold, too humid, too dry--I am not proud to be a weather malcontent.

But I am kind of loving today. Having a blizzard hit the northeast has certainly been an unpleasant event for many: thousands are stranded in airports and I empathize with their plight as well as worry about the homeless and those without heat or shelter. 

I, however, am selfishly enjoying the cozy nature of a day where both my kids---home for the Christmas holidays--are stuck indoors with Mama. Yeeeehaaa--my skills as a sandwich and hot cocoa maker will surely be in demand! Maybe either Tom or Charlie will mention jello and I will race into the kitchen to dissolve the sweet red grit into water I have merrily boiled! Or someone will muse aloud about cinnamon toast or grilled cheese with tomato and I will immediately fling myself back into the kitchen to cheerfully whip it up! Or oatmeal!  Or an omelet! Oh, joy!

Perhaps I can bully someone into chatting with me for a bit or watching a movie. Dare I dream that a game of gin rummy or scrabble might be included in this snow-day agenda? That may be pushing it. But if I squint, tilt my head at about 45 degrees and employ all my powers of self-delusion (which are formidable), I may be able to successfully pretend, if just for a moment, that my boys are little again, need me and are as overjoyed as I to be stuck inside on a snowy, blowy day such as today.

I hope you're all safe, snug and warm, too.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Everyone at "Susan Says..."

My huge staff (a small, grey cat with an attitude problem) and I would like to wish you all a wonderful holiday.  May it be full of the people you love and lead to a new year of peace, prosperity and good health.

Thank you all for reading, commenting, joining and, in so many ways, making this blog so much fun for me.

So, Merry Christmas to all and may your holiday--however and whatever you celebrate--be sweet!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pretending she can read...
Things Recently Overheard:
In Target, yesterday in the shoe section.....
A woman struggling with a little girl of about three who did not want to try on snowboots: "If you don't stop wiggling around, I will not buy you these boots and you will never go outside again."
Also, in Target, a few minutes later but in the hosiery aisle:
One young lady of approximately nineteen years of age, wearing sweats and Uggs, to another nearly identical young lady: "Now, all I need is to find a boyfriend. One who actually likes me."
And, overheard this morning:
"No!  Nooooooo!!  Anything but that!!! Tell me you're kidding!!!! "Please, noooo!!!  NOOOOOO!!!!"
Me, upon learning that trees have been killed for paper used to print a book by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi who has been proudly lowering the standards for idiots everywhere since arriving on the pop culture scene last year. The book, about romance at the Jersey Shore, will be released this January.  Shame on you, Simon and Schuster. Shame.
Have a great day today, friends....catch you all tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Red School Bag

The Photocolorist and Her Daughter

The best Christmas present I ever received was given to me when I was six years old. 

Money was very tight when I was a child. My parents were divorced which, back in the early sixties, was unusual enough but my father, always a trendsetter, chose to be a "deadbeat dad" before that was even a term. Back then you were just a jerk. 

My mother earned her living as a "photocolorist." Totally obsolete today, this was the art of hand-coloring studio photographs which, in those days, came only in matte black and white.

My mother, a talented artist, worked long hours and made little money but I didn't know that. I only knew that, since she worked from a cluttered desk in the bedroom, she was available for a hug or a chat when it was needed.

The year I was six must have been a good one because I remember lots of things under our small, silver tree.

That Christmas morning, I crept into the living room where it stood---and where my grandfather slept because when we returned home post divorce, he gave us his bed--and quietly gathered my gifts to open in the predawn chill.

There was a doll, I remember. Some clothes--things I needed which got wrapped up and took on celebrity by the simple fact that they were presented in shiny holiday paper.

And there were lots of interesting doo-dads in the hand-sewn Christmas stocking that said "Susan" in my mother's sweeping script and over which she'd embroidered in red cotton thread. I remember, in particular, a tiny metal replica--accurate in detail--of a US Mail box (back then, they were red, white and blue). It was a bank and came along with a sandwich bag filled with new pennies to be dropped through the slot. I shook it countless times through-out the day just to hear and feel the rattle and heft of the coins inside.

The gift I instinctively opened last was the one whose memory I have held dear for 46 years.

In those days, kids didn't carry backpacks. You either secured your stack of books with a stretchy rubber strap or, if you were very lucky, carried a schoolbag such as the gleaming specimen I unwrapped on my sixth Christmas.

Upon the front flap, my mother had hand-lettered my name and address in gold paint. Small enough to be dignified but large enough to be clearly read, this was the special touch that set this bag--which wasn't real leather--apart, propelling it, I was certain, into eventual residence in the School Bag Hall of Fame. My children and I would visit it there one day---staring at it behind glass and I would say, "Kids, I once carried that beauty to school!"

I must have clicked it open and shut a thousand times that day, putting my books in and taking them out again, showing it to my aunts and uncles who tirelessly agreed that yes, it was the most beautiful school bag they'd ever seen.

Not a single one of my gifts that year plugged in.

The doll was to cuddle and confide in. The clothes were to keep me warm. The school bag was to carry books like "Blueberries For Sal," to my first grade classroom in a school that's had its name changed but whose shadow, on a short winter day, is the same as it was years ago--falling across the path of a girl on her way home, one hand in her mothers', the other holding tight to the best Christmas present ever.

I hope you get your red school bag this year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Buzzy's Revenge.....More on Thumbs.

What would Fonzie have done without thumbs?

While doing something, no doubt, extremely important, the other day, it appears I injured my thumb. I know this because it's swollen and red and hurts like the fire of a thousand suns when I banged it into the faucet a few minutes ago.

This "thumb situation" has rendered my left (thankfully) hand virtually useless and is very ironic since I am often very pre-occupied with the limitations imposed on my cat, Buzzy, due to his lack of not one but two opposable thumbs. As a concession to Buzzy, I intend to spend my day observing and making note of what I cannot do as a result of this unfortunate injury. So far, it was both tricky (and very painful) to change the litter box, typing is a free-for-all and buttoning my coat is looking very iffy.

Buzzy is, of course---especially in the face of recent contract negotiation hijinks and so-called "sensitivity issues"--pleased that I will  now have an opportunity to develop a clearer grasp (hahahahah!!!) of his plight. Buzzy may be giving my ability to internalize the emotional pain of others far too much credit and will certainly be less festive when he sees how "challenging" it is to fill his little bowl with crunchies and dispense the treats he so enjoys at the end of a tough day being a pampered cat who naps in a Zappos box for hours on end.

Meanwhile I will also keep an eye on the finger in question which is beginning to resemble a Looney Tunes cartoon thumb (you know the kind---after Elmer Fudd smashes his thumb with a hammer while attempting to keep Bugs Bunny from escaping by boarding up the entrance to the hollow tree he's hiding in but he's not really in there.....).

 I seem to injure fingers regularly even though the only manual labor I perform is putting my summer shoes away for the winter and vice verse. My fingers often seem to be in the wrong place a the wrong time--occasionally sending me to the local ER where men in green (not doctors, just men wearing green) gleefully slice, dig, irrigate with anti-biotics and send me home with enough percocet to stun an army. Hopefully, it will not come to his and I will see you all tomorrow.

Buzzy is now going to laugh at me while I attempt to do some gift-wrapping. I'm starting to wonder if Buzzy and I are spending just a little too much time together...........

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cookie Crouch

I woke up this morning feeling like I'd been hit by a train...or, at the very least, bumped by  a bakery truck. My bones ache and my lower back is throbbing. You've heard of tennis elbow. Well, I have an unfortunate case of "Cookie Crouch."

"Cookie Crouch" is a side effect of a different sort of physical activity---slightly less demanding than whacking a ball over a net and typically performed by women of a slightly older demographic, it affects those of us who undertake a major baking during the holiday season.

After hours of creating cut-out cookies in assorted seasonal shapes, I am bent like Groucho Marx but, unlike Groucho, seem to have accidentally misplaced my sense of humor and festivity somewhere deep in the bowl of ingredients.

I think back to my grandmother and her massive baking endeavors. While Christmas cookies were not specifically her thing, she would make mountains of fresh "kifli" (buttery horns of cream cheese dough filled with ground nuts and sugar), endless trays of apple and cheese strudel or chocolate babka that made grown men weep. My little day of cutting snow flakes out of dough cannot even be spoken in the same breath as what went on in the kitchen of my youth but I am considerably less tough than that little Hungarian baking machine known as Grandma and I accept that. I do remember, however, after the all the goodies were done and resting, fragrant under clean kitchen towels, that she'd disappear for a while. "Cookie Crouch" is not a new phenomena.

I start out cheerfully enough. Working with the Food Network murmuring in the background, I mix, chill and roll until hours have elapsed and a huge pile of cookies has accumulated on the counter. I swat Seth away as he makes frequent trips to the kitchen to see what's ready to be eaten and continue on until there are cookies on every available surface in my little kitchen. The back pain grows slowly and steadily and unless Advil is administered immediately, you're sunk.

If I were 25 years younger---and someone else--I might have looked cute, standing in the kitchen with flour on my nose. But, upon finding me, holding onto the table for support with desperation in my eyes, Seth makes himself scarce once the groaning begins. The swearing will soon follow.

To be so blown out after a baking extravaganza is a shocker. I don't remember feeling this broken in previous years and I realize that like marathon runners, I must start training immediately for next year's event.  First, pass the Advil...and a cookie.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Mall Part II

Ahhh, the mall.

The song "Santa, Baby" playing in every store. Mr. Claus, himself, looking bored in his roped off wonderland and about three billion people patiently milling about in the Apple Store, waiting to plunk down enormous sums on the latest techno-gadget.

It was as I expected. I did encounter several department store "men" stumbling about helplessly but there was there was no "coupon lady" to be found. In her place, I witnessed an exhausted shopper have a total meltdown over the fact that there were too few cashiers in Macy's.  There were, as predicted, huge numbers of freshly-minted collegians on the premises--the girls squealing and exchanging air-kisses while the guys did the "bro-hug" and clicked budding antlers. If none of this makes sense, please refer back to yesterday's post--it will give you a frame of reference for shopping at virtually any mall across America during the holidays.

Every single year I forget how the combined scents in "Bath and Body" almost put me into pulmonary arrest and wander in to be instantaneously greeted cheerfully by dozens of manic salespeople. Almost immediately I am bid adieu by the same apron-clad army as I beat my way back to the exit, reeling from the coconut lime verbena and vanilla bean and lavender and cucumber melon and lemongrass and blackberry and hydrangea and pomegranate and mango mandarin and sensual amber and citron and honey suckle aIl battling to the death for olfactory domination.

I did find a place to sit and enjoy a bottle of water--miraculously, directly in front of Sephora (again, refer back to yesterday's post), squeezed between one, apparently dead man wearing a Northface jacket and another who was self-comforting, while his wife was choosing a lipstick, with Godiva chocolates. Despite the fact that I immediately began pointing to my mouth, rubbing my tummy and wiggling my eyebrows at him, he did not offer me a single one.

While sitting and sipping, I wanted to applaud a man who emerged, smiling, from the store clutching a little Sephora shopping bag that looked just the right size to contain a gift certificate buried in the colorful tissue. For all the men reading this, take a lesson--his wife will not want to disembowel him with a fireplace poker on Christmas morning...and, judging by the expression on his face, he knew it.

So, I did my thing, emerged alive and wish you all happy shopping, baking, decorating and Cash Cab watching (wait...that's just me, sorry). In other words, have a great weekend!!  And, thank you all for taking a few minutes each day to read my blog!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I am going to the mall today. I've put it off as long as possible but next week Charlie will be home for Christmas break and I won't want to leave his side to finish my holiday shopping.  Instead, I will offer him hot chocolate with marshmallows every ten minutes, ruffle his hair nearly as often and bend down to smile directly into his face at unexpected intervals....this is standard behavior when he's home and cannot be interrupted by a trip to the mall.  

I hate the mall. It's always terribly hot inside and today, it's simply too cold a day to leave my jacket in the car since, at this time of year, the lot is packed and I may have to hitchhike to the entrance. The first level has become an obstacle course, packed with holiday kiosks (Crocs, calendars and smoked sausages from Hickory Farms) and filled with salespeople hell-bent on grooming my eyebrows, rubbing cream made with salt from the Dead Sea into my skin or giving me a massage. In the past, to avoid confrontation, all one had to do was walk past them briskly, avoiding all eye contact. They're more determined now that it's Christmas and eye-contact or no, will approach with jars and bottles at the ready. If you refuse, they shout after you, calling you filthy names and accusing you of having crepey skin or a chicken neck. Okay, they don't really do that but I'm scared they will.

Then there are "the men" in the department store. They have apparently never shopped or handled money before in their lives and, quite possibly, only recently emerged from some type of larvae in which genetically enriched mucus has been transformed into a small army of male shoppers who haven't a clue--about anything. Emerging, in December, from the chrysalis in which they've developed, they find their way to the mall where they stumble about, blocking your way, looking helpless, whimpering softly and asking efficient, yet extremely sweaty, women for help. Holding up a bright red blouse, one will say something like, "My wife's favorite color is blue, will she like this?"

How about the woman who is before you on line? She's got an immense armload of stuff and has offered to let you go before her but, for some inexplicable reason, you laugh and say, "Oh, no thanks!" You've both been waiting for quite a while and have been making pleasant conversation but when it's finally time to put her purchases on the counter, her head suddenly spins 360 degrees and, vomiting pea soup, she whips out a huge wad of store coupons held together by a rubber band. She and the cashier then proceed to painstakingly match each one to the correct item, debate about whether they can be combined and summon a manager to referee the conflict as you feel your arches slowly falling and your hopes for ever leaving the store, fading.

There are the hordes of teens giggling by the escalators and college freshmen home for their first Christmas break, all wearing Uggs and conspicuously new sweatshirts from their alma maters-to be, are popping in and out of J. Crew in a steady stream. If you're tired and need to sit for a moment, forget it. All available public seating is taken by men who are waiting for their wives who are either in Sephora or Victoria's Secret. These men are either obviously impatient--tapping a toe and fidgeting, or appear dead.

The food court is too crowded if you want a snack, the bathrooms are too far away if you need to go and there's a gigantic close-up photo of a set of abs in the window of Abercrombie that has attracted a crowd.

I ate a healthy breakfast, limited my coffee intake, have dressed in layers and set the DVR to record two hours of Cash Cab.  I'll let you know how it all went tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Agreement Reached Between Buzzy Szold and Blog Management

Discovery Channel viewing time was a reported sticking point during the negotiations.
Buzzy Szold, his management and "Susan Says.." are happy to report that an agreement was reached after nearly 26 hours of uninterrupted and intense negotiation. All parties appeared exhausted but happiness was evident as they emerged, disheveled but clearly relieved after over a full day behind closed doors. Sequestered with little more than coffee and kibble, the lights were immediately turned out in the garage once the negotiations were completed.

Talks broke down around 3 AM when lawyers for "Susan Says..." in what appeared to have been a response to a productive segment of the negotiations, gave the "thumbs up" sign through the window to the waiting cameras. Buzzy Szold, who has no thumbs, felt this was a blatant slap in the face and stormed out of the session to hide under a bush for close to an hour. Coaxed out by a handful of Pounce Treats, talks were resumed after promises for increased sensitivity were made by representatives of "Susan Says..."

The terms of the agreement have not yet been made public but information has been leaked and it appears that "unlimited catnip," one of Buzzy's original demands, was scrapped early in the process and that the "bubbler" fountain was also taken off the table soon after talks began. Sources for the blog hinted that one of those padded window platforms that attach under the sill had come into play and that a "vigorous brushing" had been knocked down from twice a day to only in the morning. It has also been hinted that hairball medicine and squeaky toys came into play but details are still unclear. The source, who prefers to remain anonymous but has a very, deep throaty meow, informed us that both "treats" and wet food will be more forthcoming but that Buzzy had to commit to wearing a ceramic Santa hat in today's photo.

A press conference has been scheduled for later this afternoon.

Upon hearing the news, crowds gathered and celebrated peacefully.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"No one can deny my contribution to this blog
and demanding proper compensation is in
no way out of line." Buzzy Szold
This just in from the Associated Press:  The observant among you may have noticed that the daily photo of Buzzy in "Susan Says..." is not up to its usual high standards this morning.  This is due to the fact that budding celebrity Buzzy Szold has been showing signs of rebellion lately, expressing extreme discontent with his compensation package for his contributions to the blog.

Management strongly disagrees but is currently in intense negotiations over possible additions to his contract. Among other things, Buzzy is demanding "treats" more than once a day as well as a vigorous brushing both "upon rising and immediately before bed," additional wet food, unlimited catnip, no more Costco brand litter in his box, a heating pad in his basket between the months of November and April and an electric "bubbler" cat fountain.

"Without me, she'd be nothing," Buzzy was recently quoted as saying in December's issue of "Feline Idol," adding "while she thinks I've let my recent noteriety go to my head, I know that the success of that stupid blog is due, in great part, to me." 

Management freely acknowledges that whatever modest success the blog has achieved is due, in some part to Buzzy but feels that his lavish lifestyle of snacking, napping, looking out of (several different) windows and watching the Discovery Channel for long, uninterrupted periods should be sufficient. Since negotiations are in full swing, it remains to be seen what new contract agreements will be reached in the next 24 hours. Both sides express a desire to come to an agreement and move on. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nolan Carroll's Mom vs. Sal Alosi

Trip my son? I think not.
Many years ago ago when my oldest son, Tom, was very small, I watched a dysfunctional little twerp stretch out a stubby leg and trip him during an afternoon at our weekly playgroup. Tom, all of three, hit the floor and despite having banged his knee and chin,  quickly resumed playing.

I, however, became a ball of simmering, vindictive rage when this kid's mother, who had also witnessed the event, did absolutely nothing. This kid was a known factor at playgroup. He loved to push others down, grab toys and was, in general, a mean spirited little bastardo whose behavior went unchecked because his mother chose to ignore it. I learned that talking to the woman about it was useless.  Either she didn't care, was too exhausted from coping with this deviant at home or was as much of a jerk as he was. 

After another incident involving Tom, I realized that something had to be done and took it upon myself to threaten the kid personally. Whispering something really mean into his tiny ear, I recognized that evil of his caliber could only be affected by evil of equal magnitude. And, if he repeated it to anyone---which, to my knowledege, he never did--no one would have believed that someone as apparently (hahahahahaha!!) sane as I would ever say such things to a small child.

To sum it up---it worked. He stopped his aggressively nasty behavior (and avoided me like the plague) and, although they left playgroup a few months later, the remaining time with him was uneventful. Needless to say, I never mentioned this to any other mothers from that group but I can now say, "You are most welcome." I did tell my husband who has been patiently waiting for us to get sued for over 20 years.

My point is this: The Jets coach who tripped that young player on the sidelines should be put in a room with that kid's mother for about an hour. I doubt he'd try anything that low and unsportsmanlike again. 

Maternally administered vigilante justice is very powerful. Perhaps my whispered words into the ear of that budding playgroup bully saved him from a life of crime or, perhaps, all of you now think I am a certified maniac. Regardless, I did what a mother does if someone trips her kid. And, if anyone does it again to either of my two grown up lummoxes, you can expect it to happen again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Susan's Chunky Dip

If you never make any other recipe I suggest or take any other advice, this is the one you SHOULD NOT IGNORE--everyone I know loves it. This is an easy (although you have to do a wee bit of chopping) dip recipe that you will want to eat by the spoonful and will be requested again and again.

It's origin is that after having a salad that included all these elements, I thought it would work in dip form and it does. It's best with a crisp cracker or sturdy chip because it's chunky. I serve it with Wheat Thins and provide a small spreader for slathering.

You can make it with the lower calorie/fat versions of the ingredients, too and it's still fabulous.

Susan's Chunky Dip
One cup crumbled bleu cheese
One cup crumbled feta
One Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
One can Water Chestnuts, chopped
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (see note below)
One cup mayo
One cup sour cream

Combine all ingredients and start eating. It will keep in the fridge for abut a week but it will never last that long!!

You can adjust the mayo and/or sour cream to taste. Some people use all mayo or all sour cream. I like the combo. You can also add or subtract it depending on your texture preference.

To toast pecans....first chop 'em.  Then place in dry skillet on low to medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. That's it. This will bring out a nice, toasty flavor in the nuts.
Oh, sorry. I thought you said chunky cat....

Friday, December 10, 2010

There's a cigarette in Grandpa's right hand.
I just read that President Obama has quit smoking.

While I am, personally, very anti-smoking, I am not sure I want my president to struggle with the stresses of battling a nicotine addiction while in the oval office. I want him to kick back, put up his feet and take a phone call from Vladimir Putin without the distraction of jonesing for a smoke, don't you? Whether he needs a glass of wine, a Three Stooges marathon or a cigarette (or, perhaps, all three simultaneously), I want the leader of the free-world to do what's necessary--within legal limits-- to successfully chillax at the end of a long day.

I grew up in a house with a very dominant smoker. My grandfather carried a standing ashtray around with him and held a cigarette like the macho European male he was---four fingers on top, thumb on bottom. When I was very young, I don't think I ever saw him without a cigarette and used to love to please him by emptying his ashtray or locating a fresh book of matches. He limited his smoking to the living room and the front stoop but when his sisters and brothers would visit for a raucous game of Hungarian cards (and lots and lots...and lots of yelling), the smoke around the heavy wooden table was so thick that I could barely see them through the haze. My eyes tear and my lungs seize up now just remembering  it. I decided at an early age that smoking was not for me. 

At 65, my grandfather was told that he should quit because his heart was starting to be affected by his since-the-age of-thirteen habit. He came home from the doctor, finished the last unfiltered Camel in the pack, put down his ashtray and never smoked again. Hungarians, you see, are very stubborn--we'll steal your horses, exit a revolving door first despite having entered behind you, and in the case of my grandfather, quit smoking very abruptly. He lived to be 92.

I became very frightened when, for a while in high school, my son Tom picked up the habit. I began a daily stealth routine of rifling through his pockets and mutilating anything I found connected to tobacco. For emphasis, I snapped the cigarettes in two before burying everything in the garbage and barricading myself in a closet until the yelling (we're a very loud family) stopped.

I chafe at the cavalcade of new intrusive laws that want to limit and criminalize acts that, although destructive--ex. a bag of peanut M&Ms for breakfast--should be ours to freely make. All bets, however, are off when it comes to tobacco because I don't think that industry ever plays fair. Case in point, ammonia is now added to cigarettes to aid the brain's absorption of nicotine--so you become addicted more quickly. Not fair.

However, if anyone needs an outlet, it's the president of the United States. So, smoke on, President Obama. I'll even share my breakfast M&Ms with you if you need a little sugar with that smoke.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Toilets I Have Known

 In England, the British Toilet Association (no joke) hands out an annual and, apparently, much coveted award to the best public bathroom, or "loo," in the kingdom. Inspectors fan out across the realm and choose the winner based on cleanliness and decor but also seek, a "wow" factor, such as holiday decorations and fresh flowers. Why not? I have been to enough horrific and terrifying public bathrooms to be open to anything that might motivate their improvement and maintenance.

When I was younger and more limber, I was less concerned about public bathroom quality. In the 70's, finding a public bathroom was tricky....museums and movie theaters were a possibility but mostly, seekers were turned away. When you finally arrived at Grand Central Station (the Port Authority bathrooms were too dangerous, besides being less centrally located) and marveled gratefully at the sheer magnitude of the main floor women's room, you soon realized that several stalls had been converted into apartments and were, therefore, inaccessible. Complete with pictures taped to their walls and assorted belongings stacked within, homeless women had taken occupancy of some choice locations. Sad but civilized, we co-existed. I haven't been to the women's room in Grand central for many years but I doubt that practice is tolerated today. 

When I had small boys, I had little choice but to learn where they could "go."  Traversing the streets of our busy Bay Ridge neighborhood, a young mother quickly developed a sense of "pee-friendly" establishments and made use of them on a regular basis. It did not take a genius to figure out that it was very easy to blend into a wake at a local funeral parlor, plus in the summer it always nice and cool in the McLaughlin or Campbell Funeral Homes. My boys knew how to blend in and sometimes, I'd sign the guest book as a means of saying thank you.

I developed relationships with local bartenders as well. With very few exceptions, we were welcomed in for a smile and a pee. After all, at the time these were neighborhood bars, open by ten in the morning and doing brisk business by 11. Then a "short beer" cost a quarter and slices of tired bologna and white bread were put out around noon for the patrons to soak up the alcohol. My boys and I would enter the smoky, darkened bars from the sunny streets and, squinting and blinking, would use the black and white tiled bathrooms, undisturbed. Many of the barmen greeted us like visiting royalty--we declined the bologna sandwiches but enjoyed the comraderie.

Finding a public bathroom in any major city can be tricky. With the advent of fast-food chains in cities like New York, some of the challenge has been removed but old-school seekers, such as myself, sneer at the glossy availability made possible by Burger King and mcDonalds.

A hard won pee is much more rewarding than an easy one, I say.  "Susan Says..." congratulates the pub, JD Wetherspoon on their win this year. Keep the good work up and the toilet seat down--an excellent motto to live by in general.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lacking thumbs, Petunia could only dream.
Oh, morning. I know you can relate. Today, my eyes snapped open like tightly wound window shades. I was energized and ready to face the day...only it was 5:00. Still dark, the house felt like a meat locker but I knew I should leap out of bed, make coffee, shovel the litter boxes, maybe read a bit, finish addressing the holiday cards but---and when I did it, I knew I'd regret it--I chose to force myself back to sleep.

Fast forward two hours. The alarm goes off and I swat at it with a hand that feels more like a canned ham than a human appendage. I utilize that evil invention, the "snooze button," several times--each time falling back into a sleep deep enough to host a dream. I am now groggy, resemble a potato that has just been dug from the earth and almost fell down the stairs which, I swear, were in a different place yesterday. I should have risen, with the roosters, at five.

But, despite my bleary state, I am still coherent enough to grasp the important constants of life. First, Sharon Osbourne must be eliminated from our daily lives and sent back from whence she came with a handkerchief pinned to her inflated busom and a dime in her shoe. Second---Will and Jada should have reconsidered before allowing their daughter's first professional step as an entertainer to be "I Whip My Hair."

I also want to mention Elizabeth Edwards whose words about not fearing death because she was hoping to, in some way, be reunited with the son she lost many years ago, made me sob. She was accused of being a bitch but who wouldn't be after years of living with an egomaniacal snake-oil salesman who, likely, was a philandering bastard before he made a public mis-step and was exposed. So, RIP, Elizabeth---I hope you got to see your son right away.

Have a great day, friends. I actually hear my snooze alarm going off again and since the cats lack the thumb-u-lar ability to do anything about it, I must take care of it. Many years ago, we returned from a week's long vacation to discover that an alarm clock had been beeping for seven days straight. The cats, all huddled at the opposite end of the house with their paws jammed in their ears, were very, very angry at us.... 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Stoop...Part II

The Stoop After a Big Snow
First kisses, games, performances of popular music of the day--I am not the only one who enjoyed and, subsequently, treasures the memories of a special stoop. I may, however, be the only one to have made a gruesome discovery on a trip back to my old house.

On a sunny day, a few years after the brownstone of my youth was sold by my aunt, I packed up my two boys to visit the old neighborhood. I had moved out of New York City but occasionally returned to my old stomping grounds to visit, shop and buy a specific pastry only found in the local bakeries (something heavenly I always called a "chocolate bell"--a moist, rich hunk of chocolate cake topped by a dollop of chocolate cream and totally enrobed in dense, shiny chocolate ganache---in the shape of a bell. The chocolate bell is, perhaps, the greatest invention of mankind edging out penicillin and the light bulb by a crumb) and gaze lovingly at the exterior of my old house and, of course, actively hate the new people inside.

On this fateful afternoon, I pull into the spot by the fire hydrant directly in front of the house and look upward only to get one of the most extreme shocks of my life as well as a whole new reason to hate--and plot to murder--the people now occupying my former address. Brace yourselves, stoop lovers--the stoop was gone. 

Completely. Lopped off. No more. In it's place was a paved parking spot. Gone, also, was the silver maple I had planted when I was four and which had grown into a magnificent shade tree. Gone was the small garden with the mock orange bush. Gone were the four o'clocks, the irises, the wild chives and the clumps of purple violets. Gone. 

The front of the house had been redone entirely. The only entrance was on the ground floor now. I think I blacked out because I, literally, don't remember what happened next. It must have involved some form of hysteria because I had black trails of mascara running down my cheeks and the kids were screaming. My stoop was gone. The lions, gone. Where were they? In a dump? Their granite faces staring at nothing from the bottom of a mountain of refuse. I am feeling faint just writing this.

The house is like a body without a head now. I still visit the street and sit sadly in front. Yes, I believe in progress.  And, yes, I know the value of a place to park but to remove a stoop is a criminal action. I am too scared to ring the bell and try to talk to the monsters within so I just sit and think awful thoughts about them. Often my grown sons accompany me. Only the older of the two ever played in that now-spectral front yard but both share my sense of loss. 

Even in its wildest dreams, my stoop never imagined an internet that would host its tribute. I will return again to sit and hate the people who removed it and then drown my sorrows in a chocolate bell...or two. I will also enjoy my memories--when my block was the most beautiful place in the world and I was the ruling princess of an artfully built structure made of limestone and sandstone known by the term "stoop." To exist in memory is not such a bad thing, I suppose....especially when the memories are as good as mine.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Stoop

My Own Personal Lion
I recently received a comment about a photo I posted of the house in which I grew up. More accurately, it was a photo of the stoop.

To the rest of the country, the word "stoop" means to bend slightly, lowering oneself to an acceptable level to accomplish a specific task.  Or, simply, to slightly droop about the head and shoulders. To New Yorkers, past and present, it means something entirely different. 

A "stoop"--technically, a small concrete platform leading to the entrance of one's home, is infinitely more than its definition. It is often the social hub of your existence--especially,but not exclusively,in the warmer months. Elevated and removed from the activity of the streets below, my stoop--guarded by a pair of dignified stone lions--was the safe perch from where, for many years, I observed the world.

Sitting with any one of an assorted number of family, neighbors or friends, I watched life stream by. In the summer, there was the parade of strap hangers returning from work after a steamy ride on the "B" train--the crispness of their morning pep, significanlty compromised by the crowded ride over the bridge. I anticipated the daily line-up (the "elevated" was just down the street) and the regulars became the cast members of my daily life. Occasionally, people we knew would take a few minutes to climb halfway up to fill us in on the happenings in "the city." Who needed a newspaper when you had a stoop?

The stoop was a place to read--- the "Little House" series or the Tolkien trilogy and, later, magazines like Glamour or Seventeen where I gazed longingly at the long legs and straight teeth of the models on the glossy pages. Back then, I would have traded those attributes for my stoop despite how I loved it. The stoop understood, silently accepting my adolescence and waiting for it to pass.

Stoops are for courting, as well...and telling secrets. They are for eating an ice cream cone (bought from Bernie's on the corner) or, if it's hot enough inside, an entire meal, balanced on one's knees. Long before I was born, my grandmother would sleep out there on the hottest summer nights, waiting for a breeze. Believe it or not, if the wind was exactly right, you could get a whiff of the ocean--or the garbage dump, if the wind was wrong--from my stoop, as well.

Stoops are for giggling at your neighbor's new haircut or sitting on all night during a blackout in July. They absorb tears, too but prefer laughter as you brace your feet on the limestone ledge, scooting over on the step to make room for your mother's folding chair or your cousins, visiting their grandma next door.

In tomorrow's post, I will tell you what happened to my stoop....stay tuned.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Recipe: Easy Sandwich Cookies!

Cute and Easy Sandwich Cookies
 Last Saturday I came across some unusually good baking (equivalents) tips and shared them here (check archives).  I received such an overwhelming response that I want to share a recipe from last week's baking event that was a huge and unexpected hit.
These cookies are my version of a recipe using premade dough. I bake, mostly, from scratch but keep a log of sugar cookie dough handy for baking emergencies or to use as a weapon. I needed plenty of cookies fast and these were a smash hit. My cookie eaters all give them thumbs up. This is easy, also, for college students with limited room and a lack of electric mixers--none are needed. In fact, no fancy stuff is needed, at all!
"Susan Says..." Small, Cute and Easy Sandwich Cookies
Heat oven to 350
1 roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp (or two capfuls) almond extract
some granulated sugar in small bowl or on a plate
1 package cream cheese, softened a bit
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar--or, to taste depending on your need for sweet
1/2 tsp (or one cap) almond extract
I drop (literally) red food coloring, if you want to tint the filling to a pleasant, very light pink (I did and it looked really nice).
Rip open tube of dough without feeling guilty that you are using pre-made dough--let it soften for a few minutes. Place in mixing bowl and soften it further by breaking it up with a wooden spoon and add flour, almond extract. Knead or continue mixing until ingredients are smooth and combined. I didn't knead it--just mixed and it was ready very quickly!
Spray cookie sheets lightly with Pam and start shaping dough (I sat down for this) into approximately 100-120 half-inch balls. These are smaller than you think but  do not fear, it works. Place them about one inch apart on cookie sheet. Flatten each one with a small glass (I used the bottom of a glass salt shaker) that has been dipped in the granulated sugar. I had to dip for nearly each cookie because the dough gets a little sticky. Pop into preheated oven for 6-8 minutes or until a very pale golden and remove from oven. Let sit on baking sheet once done for about a minute before transferring to cooling rack. Cool completely (about 1/2 hour). Your kitchen smells fabulous right now.
With a fork, blend confectioner's sugar and one drop food coloring into softened cream cheese. Once cookies are cool, spread about 1/2 tsp filling mixture on flat, un-sugared side of cookie and make a little sandwich with another cookie. This will go fast and you will want to eat them as you go because they are small, cute and delicious.  Resist because whoever you are baking them for will be very impressed and think you worked very hard which you did not.
Yield about 50-60 cookies.
Variations:  You could try lemon extract instead of almond or, use no flavorings but put a little cinnamon into the granulated sugar you use for flattening.
You will love these!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Chanukah!
Good morning!  I have two things to run by all of you this morning. First, I wanted to alert you to the fact that a California congresswoman has introduced a bill that will regulate the volume of the commercials you see on television. The name of this bill is the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM Act. Very cute. They probably organized a committee to come up with that so it could have a fun acronym. She is worried about the spikes in volume that advertisers use to get your attention.  Unemployment has risen two tenths of a percent in recent weeks and this is what your congress is discussing with serious faces on the floor of Capitol. 

Okay, next:  Happy Chanukah to all celebrating!!  Kick up your heels and enjoy that honey cake. Chanukah was so early this year that it snuck by me on tip toes and I apologize for not mentioning it earlier. Happy, healthy holidays to all!!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Thanks so much for reading this week. I am now going to try to spread the rumor that President Obama and Tim Geithner (who really are scheduled to get together to discuss the nation's woes today at the White House) will be having their meeting in a sweat lodge and will later "hug out" the problems with the economy.

Watch this space tomorrow for an unexpectedly fabulous---and ridiculously easy--recipe I stumbled across last weekend.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It even happens to presidents
The weather was very wild yesterday. My favorite umbrella was a vicitm of a huge gust of wind and by the time I got home, I was soaked and my hair made me look like Nicky Sixx (if you don't remember him, google a picture--it's worth it).

Below is a column written last winter after experiencing similar weather but it also explores the many different soundtracks that accompany our daily lives...

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I awoke recently to a freight train rushing through my backyard. I’d heard this sound before so instead of becoming alarmed, I snuggled back into the blankets and listened to the accompaniment of driving rain as it joined the freight train of the wind. A stormy day, heralded by sounds I’d come to recognize, waited for me as I yawned and stretched.
When I moved up here, there was lots to get used to. The first full moon alarmed me because of the incredible amount of light it shed. The darkness of a moonless night, in turn, scared me because I’d never experienced such darkness. The biggest change, however, was the soundtrack of life in the country.    

The city shouts at you all day. When I visit, one of several things I am startled by is the amount of horn usage. How can there be so many reasons to lean on one’s horn? But I quickly remember: you spot a friend across the street—a honk and a wave. Some idiot crosses too slowly at the stop sign—a honk and a glare. A hapless student driver pulls out in front of you—a honk and an eye roll. Then there’s the moron who double parks you in so you have no choice but to sit in your car honking until he comes running. You are then obligated to berate him mercilessly even though you, yourself, have been guilty of the same offense. The honk and the finger is still popular but used more judiciously of late because another city sound is the brick shattering your windshield, so you must pick your victim wisely.    

Here, the sounds of nature are more prevalent than car horns but it can get controversial. For example, there’s a bird in a tree behind the house that, despite the fact that we are Mets fans, insists on screeching his support for the Yankees all day. In fact, he has family all over the neighborhood and, if you listen, you can hear them shouting “JETER!!” from their leafy perches. I plan on importing a Mets-loving bird next spring but have yet to find one.    

In the country, winter brings the tell-tale scrape of the snowplow (followed by the sound of people repairing their mailboxes after the plow has passed). In summer, bats screech as they wheel about over the woods at sunset. There’s the cheer from the ball fields and the thump-thump of the sound system in a teenager’s car as it hurtles down my road. There’s the overheard snippet of conversation outside the barbershop and the hello shouted to the UPS man as he pulls away in his truck.

Where I grew up, the winter brings quiet nights but as the weather warms, the population moves to the stoops. Music pours from a dozen radios at a time, basketballs smack asphalt as boys bounce to and from local playgrounds, familiar notes emanate from the ice cream truck that creeps down your block at twilight and shouts of “Ma, I need some money!” ricochet off the bricks as kids surge forward to demand their favorites from the man in the brightly-lit window.

Let’s not forget the cursing. In Brooklyn, we pride ourselves on our filthy mouths (at least I did). We curse when we’re mad, happy, surprised, anxious, old, young and yes, even in-utero (at least I do). We curse when the audio goes off in the movie theatre and we curse when it comes back on. We don’t care. It’s fun. Plus it scares people from other parts of the country, perpetuating the stereotype about New Yorkers who, secretly, love that (at least I do).

When I was little, warm weather meant hearing everything that went on in the apartment house across the backyard. We knew what was happening in the lives of strangers we recognized only by voice—engagements, graduations…even bad dreams at night. It was daily theater, free of charge. It’s different here. When a fight breaks out, I gallop through the house closing windows so the neighbors can’t hear us bellowing. 

It’s still winter, of course, and I can hear the wind howling around the corners of this house. We had snow today and tomorrow I’ll hear the drip-drip of the icicles as they melt at noontime. Later, I’ll know there’s mail when I hear the mailbox slam shut. It’s a daily symphony here or in the city. Off-key as I may occasionally be, I love to hum along.