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Busy day here. I’m juggling five different essays/articles right now. I really need to just finish one of them and get it out, instead of tinkering on all of them simultaneously. I have to get some real xmas shopping done, order cards, and usher a group of high school boys with Aspergers around town for the tree lighting.

After of a couple of years of solid anti-charter school activism, there is suddenly a backlash from the charter school advocates. The fact that a majority of African-Americans like charter schools is a real vulnerability. Elizabeth Warren is suddenly on the defense, because charter school advocates showed that she sent her own child to a private school. There’s a lot of chatter on twitter about her recent interview with the NEA.

The outcome of this impeachment thing is predictable and depressing. It’s pretty clear that our tacky president is a buffoon, but the Senate is going to give him a pass. I don’t see anybody watching the hearings, other than geeks like me. Nothing has happened will change anybody’s mind. Nothing that has happened in this full year of the Democratic primary will change anybody’s mind; Biden’s got it. I thought that Mayor Pete had a shot last week, but now I’m recanting.

Here’s a lovely profile about a lawyer in Cleveland who sent away for his birth certificate to learn about his birth parents. Turns out he knew his father.

(Series of pictures taken by Jonah, when we were in an outdoorsy shop in Scotland this summer.)

Apt. 11D Gift Guide 2019 – Food

I usually have the TV on in the background as Steve and the boys get out of the house in the morning. Lately, Dan Buettner, the National Geographic writer, has been talking up his new book, The Blue Zone Kitchen. When he comes on the TV, I usually stop putting away dishes and organizing my daily to-do list, and watch the segment.

Buettner has made an entire career around looking at the five areas of the world where people live the longest — Sardinia, California, Japan, Greece, and Costa Rica. His questions are always the same: What are those people doing right? What can we learn from them? The answers are clear. It’s lifestyle.

People in those areas have a life purpose that doesn’t end when they turn 65. They don’t immediately retire from a job, plop down in front of a tv, and remain there until heart disease and loneliness destroys them. The grandmas take care of grandchildren. The men keep fishing and providing for their families. They walk everywhere. They eat communally. All good stuff.

Now, he’s focusing on the foods that they eat. What are the commonalities? The answer is low meat consumption, lots of beans, vegetables, and fruit, low dairy. It’s interesting because so many of the fad diets put lots of those foods, like beans and squash, on the no-no list. Because we eat a pretty standard Mediterranean diet here, I am a fan of Buettner. In fact, this book is the only cookbook that I’m interested in right now.

We eat a lot of vegetables. At Sunday’s farmer’s market, Steve and I load up on at least four bags of vegetables. It’s fairly random. I grab whatever looks happy that day — leeks, cabbage, lettuce, corn, beets, radishes — and then figure out recipes later. The Sunday before Thanksgiving was the last day of the market until May, so I loaded up on squash, potatoes, carrots, and onions — items that would last in the bottom shelf of the pantry for a couple of months.

Because I work from home, I’m able to experiment with cooking. I probably spend more time in the kitchen than most people these days. If I was working in an office in the city, I might maintain our diet by planning ahead and cooking bigger batches of food every three days. But right now, I do this in my own disorganized fashion starting at 5:00 every day.

I do all this, not because it’s super healthy, but because it tastes good. I like the challenge of turning something humble and even ugly, like a turnip, into art. Because I was raised by the Italian side of the family, I associate food with love; it’s how I show my family how much I love them.

So, let’s talk equipment. What is in heavy rotation in my kitchen these days? What needs regular replacement?

The key to cooking vegetables properly is knowing how to clean them and cut them up. Everything else is simple – you roast them, sauté them, steam them, stir fry them, eat ’em raw. But you can’t get past square one without the prep work. Mostly that takes some practice, but good equipment is also important. So, you need the following items: three or four great cutting boards, an excellent set of knives, a colander, and a sharp peeler.

I like to pile up my cutting boards on the counter, because the wood is a nice accent in my white kitchen.

Another important, but often skipped step to cooking dinner is to transfer the food from the pots on the stove into serving bowls on the table. I know a lot of busy parents skip this step and just serve the food out of the pots on the stove, but that simple transfer of food from pot to bowl is essential. It keeps the food from over cooking. It makes everything look more appetizing. Somehow that two second step turns dinner time into an event.

I’m lucky enough to have a new kitchen with deep drawers where I pile up my various serving platters and bowls. I heavily rely on a set of really basic white bowls from Crate and Barrel, as well as some super colorful bowls from Le Souk. I just picked up an inexpensive set of three nesting bowls from IKEA that I’m using a lot.

We finally got an Instant Pot, but that’s Steve’s baby, so I can’t talk about it much.

Alright, this post is long enough. My running buddy is pinging me to meet up with her.

Apt. 11D Gift Guides 2019: Camping and Travel

We love camping. We have a large shelving unit in the basement filled with equipment, so we can take off for a weekend trip on a moment’s notice.

Here’s a blog post of one of our trips this summer and another post with products that we use and love.

REI is having a big sale right now. I like their men’s base layer crew top, sleeping pads, women’s jacket, and pullover.

At Amazon, check out the headlamp, tent, sleeping bag, lantern flashlight, stove, and a rooftop car carrier for all the crap.

This year, we traveled to North Carolina, England, Scotland, Toronto, and Chicago. Next year, we’ll do more, because travel is something that binds my family together.

Our current suitcases are ten-year old Samsonites, which I purchased at Kohl’s using Kohl Bucks. I’ll probably upgrade next year. I do love Tumi, but they might be a notch too high of a price point for me. Maybe we’ll do a TravelPro.

As I’ve said before, I love packing for travel. This year, I used a universal adaptor, a travel pillow, travel backpack, packing cubes. I’m looking around for the best travel jewelry case, but haven’t decided which one I love the most.

SL 678

My in-laws live in Emerald Isle, NC, just down the block from David Sedaris. When I first sent them one of his essays about there, they didn’t quite get his sense of humor. Now, they stalk him and notify me when a Sedaris is in residence. And they send me links to his latest essays.

The New Yorker’s Best Books of 2019.

Going to see the Nutcracker is a very expensive, but awesome NYC-area tradition. We’re going this year with an added bonus of more diversity. Truth be told, Jonah isn’t totally excited about this, because he associates the show with matching sweaters and other terrible things that we did to the boys when they were children. He’ll get over it, after we let him wear his scruffy beard and get a beer at the microbrew across the street from Lincoln Center.

For anybody who has read the Federalist Papers, it’s very clear what Madison and Hamilton would have thought of Donald Trump. I’m not sure if we will ever recover from his presidency. I think that one of the first jobs of the next president and Congress should be putting in place all sorts of laws that limits the power of the president and reforms election laws, so this NEVER happens again. I think that proposals for these reforms should be part of every campaign.

Apt. 11D Gift Guide 2019 — Cyber Monday For Me

This is just quickie post of the deals that I’m checking out right now. Mostly it’s clothing that I want for the holiday season.

Because I work from home, my uniform are jeans, blouses, and boots. I have daytime versions and nighttime versions. I am not a yoga pants around the house girl. I feel pretty strongly that just because I work from home, I still have to put on contacts, make-up, and a decent outfit. After all, I’m out and about town seeing people during the day, too. I’m not living in cave.

I rely a lot on J. Crew, the Gap, Ann Taylor and Banana Republic for the girly blouses. They’re all having 50% off sales right now. At J.Crew, I like this one, this one, and this one.

Steve and I have been binge-watching Schitt’s Creek for the past month. One of the characters, Alexis Rose, is a modern Boheme who wears a lot of flowery dresses and floppy hats. So, maybe that’s why I really love this flowery dress at the Banana.

For the rare work event, I have a handful of dependable, comfortable, packable outfits. I just picked up these pants and blouse. These shoes needed a little breaking in, but now they’re conference-ready.

I’ve gotten way pickier about sweaters in recent years. This is one way that women over 40 can make mistakes. I hate itchy woolen cowl necks and bulky cable knits. I like items that can be easily stripped off, makes me look skinny, and/or are super soft. I have one J. Crew cashmere sweater that I wear nearly every day. I think I need another. They are 50 percent off at Garnet Hill today.

Apt. 11D Gift Guides 2019 – Tech

I’m going to start with tech products, because there are so many cyber deals today.

We’re an Apple family. So, I have an iPhone, an iPad, and an iMac. Jonah has an iBook for college. I need to upgrade my iPhone this year. My old iPhone 5S still works, but I need a better cell camera. I think I’m requesting the iPhone 11 this year. With the new phone, I’ll need a new case, too.

Because we use these products for years and years, I don’t mind spending big bucks on this items. Also, they are cross-over items, meaning I use them for work and for fun.

Good headphones are a must for the boys. Steve and I use wireless earbuds for running.

Ian is a Nintendo Switch kid, while Jonah uses Xbox. I’ll do game recommendations later.

Accessories like multi-port plugs and wifi extenders are frequently used.

I use my Nikon 5100 nearly every day to take pictures of the kids or books for my Etsy Shop. I leave the camera in the kitchen, so it’s always ready to record an especially good dinner. The camera is ten years old and still works too well to replace yet, but if I was going to upgrade, I would go for a camera with wifi, so I could more easily post pictures to Instagram and the blog. A former photography teacher told me that he leaves his good camera at home for typical evenings and slides a smaller camera in his pocket for quick, spontaneous shots. I haven’t done that yet, but would consider it.

Gift Guides 2019

It’s December, so it officially time for some holiday gift guides here at Apt. 11D! Woot!

Here’s the drill for the new people. I’ll list ideas. Some ideas will send you over to Amazon. If you buy that item or anything on Amazon via a link on this blog, I’ll get a small kickback, which I’ll translate into boots for me. Win-win!

So, if you have to buy a gift on Amazon, I would really appreciate if you got to the website from a link here. I have a busy morning after a three-day break, but I’ll get the first post up here later this afternoon. In the meantime, here are previous years’ ideas. In the meantime, if you have some ideas for me, please list them in the comment section.

Thank you!