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Michele Grant

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Rowhouse livin' [Tue 24 Jul 12|13:20]
Have moved to blogger, where I've started what I'll call an urban home economics project: Rowhouse livin'.
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Votey-votey-vote-vote tomorrow! [Mon 01 Nov 10|16:12]
Hey, everybody, it's votin' time tomorrow. Polls are open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Google says they can find your polling place for you if you've forgotten. (You don't have to show ID to vote in Pennsylvania, unless it is your first time voting at this particular polling place. But the threshold documentation requirement is pretty low.)

Here's my voting guide for this round!

U.S. Senate -- Joe Sestak (D) is a veteran from Delaware County, endorsed by newspapers across the state. Pat Toomey is an extreme right-winger whose policy statements align with Rick Santorum's; he's a denier of anthropogenic global climate change, and he would both outlaw abortion completely and imprison the doctors who perform them. These are not reasonable positions. Vote reason! Vote Sestak.

Governor -- Dan Onorato (D) has the executive experience of having run Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), where he balanced the budget, eased the property tax burdens of middle-class families, and started green initiatives. Tom Corbett has won the endorsement of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who just turned down about sixteen quadrillion federal aid dollars to build a tunnel that would create jobs for his state's unemployed and generate further jobs created by the future ease in commute between New York and New Jersey. We don't need that style of leadership in Pennsylvania. Vote Onorato!

Lieutenant Governor -- Scott Conklin (D) . . . oh, just vote the straight Democratic ticket for the state offices, wouldja already? There's too much "Pennsyltucky" right-wing nonsense in the General Assembly, and it needs to be countered by Democratic leadership in the Executive Branch.

U.S. House -- You know what to do. That's right. Hold your nose and vote Bob Brady (D). Unless you're in District 7, in which case would you please, for the love of all that is good and holy, vote Bryan Lentz (D) instead of Pat Meehan? Thanks.

General Assembly -- We really need to get more women in there. I read somewhere (but am too lazy to dig up the cite) that Pennsylvania is near the bottom of the lower 48 when it comes to the percentage of women we have in our state government. I'd run, you know, but they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night, yeah, they blew up his house, too. I'm so deeply, deeply not interested in getting into ward politics here; I'm happy to participate in non-partisan poll-watching and data-gathering instead.

Philadelphia Ballot Questions -- These are important! Especially the third one!

1. "Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to confirm Council’s power to (i) require the City, its contractors and financial assistance recipients to provide employees a minimum level of pay and benefits, and (ii) provide that failure to comply with such requirements may temporarily prohibit a business from receiving City contracts or financial assistance; and to authorize Council to designate existing City agencies (including Council) or to create new agencies to enforce such provisions?"

I'm not a fan of this one, because it could prevent the city from doing business with companies for which it's prohibitive to offer whatever minimum level of pay and fringes City Council may mandate. And do we really need a bigger city government and more red tape to get work done or get a grant? I say vote No on Ballot Question 1.

2. "Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to modernize the City’s procurement process, including by allowing for electronic bidding, electronic reverse auctions and electronic execution of contracts; for appropriate bidder security; and for cooperative purchasing; all to minimize the cost to the City of contracts?"

Heck, yes! Speed that process up and make it cheaper! This is a serious improvement to the city procurement process, so I say vote Yes on Ballot Question 2.

3. "Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to add the following additional prohibited grounds for discrimination in City procurement contracts: discrimination on the basis of ancestry, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or disability?"

This would bring Philadelphia into the same league as the other cities in the nation that have prohibited LGBT discrimination in city transactions. As far as I'm concerned it's the most meaningful and important ballot question in this election. Vote yes, yes, Yes on Ballot Question 3.

4. "Should the City of Philadelphia borrow one hundred six million six hundred ninety thousand dollars ($106,690,000.00) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?"

I don't know if the bonds floated here would get federal matching funds or what, but you know, I like having my trash and recycling taken away weekly. Please vote Yes on Ballot Question 4.
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1200 miles later [Wed 01 Sep 10|16:27]
Twelve hundred miles and ten days later, I'm back in town after tooling around Atlantic Canada. Pix and something of a travelogue once I get laundry done and find a data cable to connect this camera we used to my computer.

Anybody have a USB cable with a super-super tiny connector for the camera? It's even smaller than the connector that goes into my BlackBerry. F*@! me but I don't have a cable here that works.
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Blueberry . . . [Wed 21 Jul 10|20:40]
. . . jam!

Ingredients:

  • about 4 dry pints whole blueberries
  • 4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Method:

Crush the blueberries (e.g., with a potato masher) a handful at a time. Measure out 4 cups of crushed berries.

Combine the pectin with about a half-cup of sugar. Mix the blueberries, lemon juice, and pectin-sugar combination in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the rest of the sugar and bring to a hard boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, then remove from heat.

Pack into half-pint, 12-ounce, or pint jars. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath canner.

Yields about 7 half-pints . . . or about 14 half-pints if you make two batches over two days.
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stuff going on update [Tue 20 Jul 10|15:53]
  • Last night Eleanor put herself to bed, as she's been doing lately, without informing me or needing to be told to turn her light off. (It's summer, after all.) I knocked and went into her room a moment after I'd heard her shut her door -- otherwise I make her keep it open for air circulation -- and said, "What? You don't need any huggy-huggy-kissy time-for-bed huggy any more? You think you're too old for this?"

    Eleanor allowed as how she was, in fact, too old for this.

    I said, well, we have to do this one last time, then, and we have to do it right; so I gave her a big bear hug and some obnoxious smoochy kisses, and I snuggled up on the bed and gave her some more obnoxious smoochy kisses and said, "How does it go? Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite!" Then I said, well, you know, if you decide that this shouldn't have been the last time, then let me know, but otherwise that's it, and I won't bother you at bedtime any more.

    And that's how Eleanor outgrew getting tucked in at night.

  • This morning after dropping Eleanor off at camp, I bought a 12-pint flat of blueberries from the supermarket, because I noticed yesterday that the price had bottomed out on this season's local (Jersey) blueberries. The cashier seemed really irritated that I was buying an entire flat rather than just a few pints. I don't know what her problem was. She grumbled about having to pick one of the pints out of the flat to scan the barcode, and then she muttered that she couldn't fit the flat in a plastic bag for me to take. I smiled -- as I'd been doing through the whole transaction -- and said it wasn't a problem since I was walking only a few blocks, and I didn't mind.

    A third of the blueberries ended up as jam before noon. I'll do another batch tomorrow, which will make for a total of some dozen half-pints of blueberry jam. It sounds like a lot, except that I didn't do strawberries this year because local strawberries weren't up to snuff for jam or preserves. Not flavorful enough. But the blueberries turned out really well, with a very slight sour bite to them; and besides I'll need to take a jar or two up to Nova Scotia when we see family later in August.

    I used up the last of the tall 12-ounce jars in today's batch, and they toppled in the canner again. I don't like dealing with toppling things in big pots of simmering water, so I'm glad that I'm through with those crazy jars this season. Tomorrow will be all half-pint jars.

  • I'm seeing a fella. It's nice.

  • Went to see Robert Bresson's Pickpocket a few nights ago. I'm, uh, trying to figure out why it's a seminal film. I get the comparison to Crime and Punishment, of course, but I'm not convinced there should be a favorable comparison there. Clearly I'm not getting what Bresson was doing. I should see more of his œuvre so that I can dig his themes better. 'Cause it's the ideas and themes that he's emphasizing, when he gives us characters with generic names (Michel, Jacques, Jeanne) and non-actors reciting their lines dully. The elaborate pickpocketing sequence at the train station was delicately choreographed and carefully filmed, focusing on the thieves' hands and the victims' property, further drawing attention to the subject matter of the film (pickpocketing: can it or its perpetrator ever be justified?) rather than to the actors. But other than that sequence, Pickpocket seemed longer than its 75 minutes. I dunno. Maybe the film has aged badly, or maybe I've lost my capacity to sit through challenging art and I need more razzmatazz to hold my attention.

  • Wish I had more work.
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recipe: potato salad [Tue 06 Jul 10|12:17]
Ingredients:

  • 1 dry quart (about 2 pounds) boiling potatoes
  • 2 or 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar or liquid from a jar of sweet pickles
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced, or an equivalent quantity of diced green (sweet) bell pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp each mustard seed and celery seed, if using vinegar instead of pickling liquid
  • 1 cup regular mayonnaise, divided

Method:

Chop the potatoes coarsely into 2-inch dice. Soak briefly in cold water, drain, rinse, and drain again. Cover with salted water. Add the eggs and bring to a boil. Boil gently until potatoes are done (10-15 minutes), then drain.

Remove the eggs, peel, chop, and set aside. Spread the potatoes on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan, pour the vinegar over them, and toss very gently. Allow the potatoes to cool at least 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, onion, celery, salt and pepper, and mustard and celery seed. Add about half the mayonnaise and toss gently. Continue adding mayonnaise until the salad components are coated enough and cling together; add more than 1 cup if needed. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with paprika or something green, and serve immediately or chill.
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Eleanor's birthday party [Mon 14 Jun 10|10:47]
I would complain about the black fabric paint spilled onto the carpet, or the slightly charred meringue on the baked Alaska, but really Eleanor's birthday party yesterday, postponed from last month, was a lot of fun.
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pressure canner ordered [Tue 08 Jun 10|16:27]
I've ordered a pressure canner. It's a 21 1/2-quart All-American brand pressure canner/cooker, and it should arrive early next week.

Got tomatoes?
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Eleanor and her bacon habit [Fri 04 Jun 10|14:28]
We've been raising Eleanor as an ovo-lacto vegetarian, though in the past few years we've been giving her fish every once in a while for the protein fix and some flexibility with mealtimes. But at school, Eleanor and some of her classmates arrive early enough to get some kind of breakfast at the cafeteria. Some kids get tatertots, others get Tastykakes, or chocolate milk, or eggs and bacon. Eleanor's been "sneaking" pastries -- it's pretty clear what she has in mind when all she wants for breakfast before we leave is toast -- and for the past few months she's also been getting a piece or two of bacon from a classmate.

In class, though, they've been wrapping up the year with a unit on nutrition. The highlight of the unit was a screening of Supersize Me.

Eleanor says she's no longer a bacon-tarian now.

Apparently the movie was more successful than I've been at making Eleanor really understand the health reasons why we stay mostly vegetarian. I didn't want to nag, and I can't hang with her in the cafeteria and be the food police. I was chalking it up to harmless thumbing her nose at me, and -- frankly -- really enjoying the taste of bacon, and I just tried to repeat that it's bad for her and feed her better at home. I was thinking of taking her on a trip to a farm, not a factory-farm shock trip, but a trip to maybe a farm in Lancaster County or something to see where the bacon starts from. But if the movie works, yay!

We'll see how long it lasts, but it's been fun to watch her reaction to the film. It really struck her that the guy got so seriously ill so quickly from his McDonald's diet.
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attention: qwrrty! [Wed 02 Jun 10|20:20]
Was flipping thru the Consumerist blog today and thought, gee, that kid sure does look familiar!
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