Watched “The September Issue” on DVD with my stepdaughter the other night. For anyone not familiar, it’s a documentary that follows the production of one of Vogue’s legendary September issues under the unwavering guidance of editor in chief Anna Wintour.

I’ve been buying and reading Vogue since I was about my stepdaughter’s age — 17. And I always buy and read the hefty September issue. I saved that issue for years — had a collection of about 25 years’ worth of September issues. Eventually, the box got so heavy, and I moved so many times, that I allowed my copies to be tossed into the recycling basket. It pained me — but not as much as moving them pained me!

We both thoroughly enjoyed the movie. And as someone who’s worked on magazines (on a much smaller scale than Vogue) I appreciated it on two levels — as longtime reader and fashion lover, and as someone who’s felt some of the joys and frustrations of print media.

I felt keenly the irritation and sense of loss expressed by Grace Coddington, the creative director, whose beautiful, fanciful, romantic photo shoots often were under threat of being trimmed, rejected, misunderstood. She seemed to feel that time was moving on, times were changing, and she was being left behind.

As a late 40something, I can completely understand. I also admired her willingness to admit that there were times when that was a good thing, and that sometimes Wintour’s understanding of change was dead on, such as Wintour’s decision years ago to start featuring celebrities on the cover some months.

Grace’s exultation when her last-minute photo shoot — including a flash of brilliance involving the documentary cameraman — is a hit with Wintour, brought cheers from us both. We’d been rooting for her all along!

I’m so glad I had the chance to share this film with my stepdaughter. It showed two strong women who each had their own well-informed points of view and opinions based on years of experience. And these two strong women didn’t always agree, and that was OK. They had mutual respect and that was the key.

A great lesson for a 17-year-old. And a lot of other people I know. Myself included.


A taste for health

It’s been a week of successful experiments in delicious, lower-calorie dining around here.

The oven-roasted cauliflower — hot oven, olive oil, splash of lemon, sprinkle of Parmigiano when done — won raves from me and mystepdaugher.  Husband was less enthusiastic than we were, but ate it happily enough.

A dinner of whole-wheat spaghetti tossed with sauteed veggies (asparagus, red peppers, broccoli), cubed feta, chunks of roasted chicken and just a little ricotta — won raves from both me and my husband. And a promise to make it again soon so my stepdaughter could have some — she missed dinner that night.

And an old favorite, steel-cut McCann’s, with brown sugar and raisins, has made a return for breakfast several times this week.  Yes, it’s spring, but it’s still chilly in the morning, and this really fills us up and helps keep us going till lunch!

It’s another gorgeous sunny spring day, and I’m tempted to grill dinner outside — but that would require some serious grill cleaning.  Perhaps it’s time to make that whole-wheat spaghetti dish again …

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, going on 8 p.m., and so far, I score a “Fail” in the celebration department.

I am not wearing green (unless you count my eyes).

I did not cook green eggs for breakfast or pour myself a green beer. (Though right now these green-frosted chocolate cupcakes look pretty good! Wish I had one!)

I did not say to anyone:

I remember joining in all the green insanity when I was in college. The St. Patrick’s Day parade in St. Paul, MN. Followed by an all day/all night pub crawl (by the end of which we were actually crawling), always making last call at O’Gara’s piano bar.

Tonight it’s one of my college-age daughters whooping it up. She texted me earlier to say “I’m drinking a green beer!” She’ll have a much warmer time than I ever did — she’s in Florida — but other than that it sounds like she’s following in my sometimes unsteady footsteps. I will say a little prayer for her safety and hope she finds a pot of gold at the end of her rainbow.


Yesterday, ABC News reported the possibility of a link between women suffering from broken femurs due to brittle bones, and the osteoporosis medications known as bisphosphonates – including Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel  and Reclast.

The ABC News report indicates that the drugs work to strengthen bones at first, but if taken for longer than five years, they may cause bones to become brittle, and vulnerable to fractures.

Today, the FDA announced that they will take a deeper look at whether or not such a link exists. They issued a drug safety communication detailing the investigation:

“At this point, the data that FDA has reviewed have not shown a clear connection between bisphosphonate use and a risk of atypical subtrochanteric femur fractures. FDA is working closely with outside experts, including members of the recently convened American Society of Bone and Mineral Research Subtrochanteric Femoral Fracture Task Force, to gather additional information that may provide more insight into this issue.”

As a woman who is not yet at the point where osteoporosis drugs are a concern, but who is aware every morning as my knees creak in protest at the trip downstairs for coffee that time is marching on, reports like these are starting to penetrate my consciousness much more than they would have ten years ago.

I expect I’ll spend a little time online tomorrow, checking out info on bone health. And, while I’m at it, maybe I’ll stumble on something to help these creaky knees – just hope I don’t break anything in the process!

Pasta primavera

In honor of today’s glorious early-spring weather (sunny, temps in the 60s), I’m making a version of pasta primavera for dinner. And, because I’m not working this week, I’ll make the pasta myself — something I love to do, but not after working all day!

For the pasta: I’m using the basic egg pasta recipe from Lidia Bastianich, in “Lidia’s Italian Table.” Just eggs, unbleached flour, a pinch of salt, few drips of olive oil, and a little warm water if needed. Ten to fifteen minutes later — after some steady kneading, you’ll have a silky-smooth ball of dough. (For the kneading process, I find it helps to pour a glass of wine, put on some tunes — Black Eyed Peas‘ “I Gotta Feelin'” has just the right beat — and enjoy the workout.)

Today’s wine: Argiolas Costamolino 2008, from Sardinia. ($12.99)

For the primavera sauce: Using what I found on a quick trip to Greg’s Produce in Hockessin, DE. Gorgeous red peppers (they are huge!), some leeks and asparagus.

One large red pepper, sliced into bite-sized strips
1 T. olive oil
Two medium leeks, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, sliced crosswise
One bunch asparagus, cut into bite-sized strips to match peppers
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt, pepper as needed

Add olive oil to hot saute pan. Add vegetables and saute until just crisp-tender. Grate garlic into veg, add a bit of salt and pepper, and then broth. Boil to reduce, 2-3 minutes.

Add cooked pasta to sauce (fettuccine, farfalle, whatever you love).

Spoon ricotta into warm serving bowl. Pour pasta and sauce over, stir to mix. Add Parmigiano Reggiano, and salt/pepper if needed.

Dear Spring,

I’m so glad you’ve come to visit! We’re going to have a great time. I’ve opened the windows for you — don’t worry about my allergies. I’ve stocked up on Claritin — small price to pay for the pleasure of your company.

Speaking of the pleasure of your company, I was browsing some Spring-themed poems and found this one, which I just love.

Rite of Spring by Seamus Heaney
So winter closed its fist
And got it stuck in the pump.
The plunger froze up a lump

In its throat, ice founding itself
Upon iron. The handle
Paralysed at an angle.

Then the twisting of wheat straw
into ropes, lapping them tight
Round stem and snout, then a light

That sent the pump up in a flame
It cooled, we lifted her latch,
Her entrance was wet, and she came.

Love it, Spring! You know, of course, that there’s always a certain thrill in the air whenever you’re around! Spring fling, spring fever … spring break. (Something I’m trying not to think too much about, since my daughter is experiencing her first Florida spring break this week!)

Looks like you’re full of energy and raring to go today — sun shining, birds singing (they DO get started a little early in the morning!), warm breeze blowing. So maybe just a little spring cleaning and then we’ll spend some time outside. I’m thinking we’d have fun taking a walk up at the park. Then we can pop into Greg’s Produce to see what you’ve brought them.

And, of course, we’ll have pasta primavera in your honor tonight! I’m thinking asparagus, baby peas, maybe some halved grape tomatoes for color. Maybe homemade fettucine. Definitely lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Later this week, when you’re in more of a rainy mood, we’ll get some more cleaning done — maybe get to the kitchen cabinets — and then curl up to listen to your showers beat a soft rhythm on the skylights, we’ll sip some sauvignon blanc, nibble on goat cheese and watch a movie.

If there’s anything you need, please let me know. We’d be delighted if you could stay a while.



Fun with furlough

I’m on furlough this week. On the plus side, I’m completely disconnected from work (forbidden to so much as PEEK at email!) and have a full week (Mon.-Sun.) of time to dedicate to non-work pursuits. On the minus side, my next paycheck will be cut in half, so the week’s non-work pursuits must be free or really cheap!

I am trying to work up some enthusiasm to get my house in order. Literally. Closet needs cleaning. Bedroom needs cleaning. Carpets need cleaning. You get the (dirty) picture.

Today's project

The weather is just beautiful — sunny, in the 50s, 2010’s first real taste of spring. So I’m also trying to work up some enthusiasm for taking a long, brisk walk through the park.

And yet, here I sit, fingers on keyboard. Sipping an extra cup of coffee. Perusing other blogs. Thinking about what I might cook this week (so much for cheap pursuits and a clean kitchen!).

Wish me luck … and please pass the structure!

5 p.m. update: Worked on the closet off and on all day. Did lots of laundry. (Gee, doesn’t furlough sound FUN?) Still have some more organizing to do, but the bulk of it is done. Feels good.