A new project

Last year I attended Maggie Mason's Camp Mighty, and part of the conference activities were to work on our life lists (aka bucket lists). One thing I had on there was "buy nothing for 1,2 or 3 months". (I wasn't able to commit to how long I needed to go without buying stuff.) Anyway, since November my thinking's changed and I decided that 2012 would be a year of buying nothing for myself.

I've launched a site to document my year of "making do" with what I've got: Make It Do. You can follow my progress there as I try and I've also set up @makeitdo on Twitter. There's also more information about how I envision this year actually going, and some guidelines, etc. Wish me luck!

(Alas this means I'll be posting more online, I hope, but probably not a whole lot more here. Poor Megnut, you're a beloved blog that deserves better than this!)

The Whale Period

Ollie's huge whale

Minna is the one who started the whole whale thing in our household. For some reason she just loves whales, and has since at least this past summer. But now both of them have taken to drawing whales. This is Ollie's latest creation. He drew it, colored it in, and then cut it out. It's probably 16" wide and it's stuck to the pantry cabinet in our kitchen. I love it. I think it's my favorite art he's done yet.

Sunday morning drawing


Scene: Ollie and Minna, sitting on living room floor, drawing.

Ollie: "That's a really nice whale Minna!"
Minna: "Thanks! Ollie, nice whale too!"
Ollie: "Thank you Minna."

Silence and drawing.

Minna: "That's a big whale Ollie."
Ollie: "It's a sperm whale. All whales are big whales Minna. Except killer whales."

Minna Kottke, a serious portrait

Minna Kottke, a serious portrait

I love this picture of Minna, taken with 35mm film (!, I'm shooting more film these days, maybe more about that later, maybe not) about a month ago. The print in my kitchen looks even better than the scan, a little deeper, a little darker. Still there's something so old-fashioned about her pose. It really is a portrait, not a snapshot.

Looking west on Christopher

Looking west on Christopher in the afternoon

More more more

Here's your latte from a stern barista

I am doing a lot of sewing. I am doing a lot of cooking. I am not doing enough photography but am trying to do more. I am going to post the photos here when I take them, like this one of Minna from this morning at the playground. I am not doing any writing but am trying to do more. I may enlist Siri's help on that last one to see if I can dictate the writing in my head and get it posted here more easily.

Casserole of Late Fall Greens

I have a pile of recipes from the Greenmarket tucked in a corner of my bookshelf. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon one from 2009 at the same time my fridge was filled with kale and collard greens from my CSA. Since then I've been hoping for more kale every week at CSA pick-up. This casserole (I like to call it a kale gratin) is fantastic and so delicious. Better after a day in the fridge and re-heated, as the flavors meld. I won't stop making this until the late fall greens stop!

Casserole of Late Fall Greens

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
2 1/2 ounces of bacon (about 3 strips)
2 cups of cooked winter greens (spinach, swiss chard, kale, broccoli raab, etc.)
1/3 cup freshly grated hard cheese (cow's or sheep's milk would be best, I use Pecorino)

1. Prepare and cook the greens, removing any tough stems, and roughly chop. (To yield 2 cups cooked you will need 1 pound of spinach or broccoli raab, 1 3/4 pounds of swiss chard, or 1 1/4 pounds of kale.) Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook until the greens are tender. Drain and squeeze to remove excess water.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 4 cup shallow gratin dish. Toss together the breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon of melted butter with a pinch of kosher salt and little ground pepper and set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and garlic to a boil over medium-high heat and then turn down the heat and simmer vigorously until the cream is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Take the pan off the heat, remove and discard the garlic cloves. Let the cream cool slightly and then season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

4. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisped and browned. Drain on a paper towel and remove almost all of the excess fat from the pan. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and return the pan to the heat. Add the cooked greens with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Evenly spread the warmed greens in the gratin dish.

5. Crumble the bacon over the greens. Sprinkle on the cheese. Pour the seasoned cream over the greens/bacon/cheese and top with the bread crumbs. Bake until brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

From the 100-Mile Diet: Local Eating for Global Change, via NYC Greenmarket Recipe Series

Remembering Bodhi

On a day in early September, 1993 I drove to meet an orange kitten, the last of the litter, being given away in Cambridge, MA. I'd never seen such large ears on such a small little body. And as big as he grew, his ears were always oversized for his frame.

There was some debate about his name the first month he lived with us. I proposed "Pumpkin Bread," unwilling to shorten to "Pumpkin" because that seemed generic. My housemates refused to call a cat "Pumpkin Bread." Then it was "Mr. Darcy" when my British Lit class tackled "Pride & Prejudice." That was a bit formal for such a rambunctious kitten who would bat my pencil as I tried to do my homework. Name enlightenment struck during my Asian Religions class. Maybe this kitten could help me find my own buddha nature. Bodhi it was.

It's hard to reconcile the cat of the past few months with the memories of the early years. After one vet visit, I loaded him into the cat carrier with a cone around his neck. In the car there was a tremendous whirlwind of activity in the carrier, and when I got home I discovered he'd removed the cone. While in the carrier. I called the vet to ask if I should put it back on.

"Oh yes, please put it back on. You shouldn't take it off yet," said the vet's receptionist.

"I didn't take it off," I explained, "He did. In his cat carrier on the way home."


"I don't think you should try and put it back on him."


In the early years, Bodhi spent time outside, getting into cat fights that left him with a torn ear, bringing me presents of little dead rabbits when we lived on the Cape. He was a "dog" cat then, coming when I called him, and following me wherever I went walking.

He moved to San Francisco with me before I had an apartment, living with my parents while I traveled for work as a consultant. When I eventually settled down, I brought him from Marin to my place in the Inner Sunset. He settled on the sofa as I called my landlord for permission to have a cat. She refused to give it to me, and respectful of authority at that time, I drove him back over the Golden Gate the next day.

A few months later my parents moved back east, and I had no choice but to bring Bodhi to my apartment. There was never any issue. I don't know if my landlord ever found out, and "ask forgiveness, not permission" became my rule of thumb, at least as far as landlords and pets were concerned.

In May 2001, the day I was laid off from a dumb job I'd taken in financial desperation, Bodhi had some weird seizure. At the vet ER they diagnosed a heart murmur and heart disease. They said most likely he'd last six months to a year. At that time it was hard to imagine ten more years of adventures: a move to New York City, a sojourn in New Hampshire, a return to New York City and three different houses before his final home in the West Village.

Our first New York apartment was tiny, and Bodhi got fat from lack of exercise. But I'm not sure he realized it, and when some friends came to visit and sat on our sofa, Bodhi hopped up to join them, wedging himself between their laps, intent on being part of the conversation.

The arrival of two kids meant less attention from me, but more from them. As old as Bodhi got, he was always so patient with the kids, letting them lie on him like a pillow, putting up with their petting and pulling. Even this morning, purring as they played with him and Minna showed him her rain boots.

These last six months he's lost so much weight, until the bones just poked through his fur, and you could feel his skull when you rubbed his ears. Often I'd pass him sleeping and sort of hope that maybe his chest wouldn't rise as I watched. But it always did, slowly, as he slept and slept.

I struggled with whether it was time, and how to know for sure. But to know for sure would be in some ways to wait too long, to see his pain and suffering too clearly. He stopped using his box over a week ago, and that was something about which he was fastidious. The dog-cat who welcomed every visitor to our house now barely raised his head when someone entered the room.

The semester before I got Bodhi, I took the best class I've ever taken. We studied Buddhism, Deconstruction, Emily Dickenson, and Walt Whitman. I read every word of "Leaves of Grass" again and again, and in times of great sorrow I always come back to it:

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

All goes onward and outward--nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

I took Bodhi to the vet this afternoon. I petted and stroked him as they administered the injections. At the end, we were left alone. I thought of how lucky we both were: to have shared so much time together, to have been so loved. To leave this world without pain, surrounded by love, is about as lucky as one can get.

Bodhi 1993-2011

Easy yummy fish with zucchini

It's that time of year when I make Zucchini-Wrapped Fish Fillets as much as possible. Tonight I used Greenmarket flounder and it was perfect. As long as your fish won't flake too much and fall apart, sub whatever catches your fancy. The light flavor and basil essence makes this one of my favorite hot weather fish preparations.

Sewing clothes for the kids

When I was young I did a fair amount of sewing, but never with patterns. For Christmas 2007 I received a sewing machine, and had visions of sewing all kinds of clothes for Ollie. Well that didn't really happen, until now.

I sewed shorts for Minna!

These are the shorts I just made for Minna. I used this awesome tutorial for basic kids pants and just made them shorter. And the pattern was free! And you just print it out at home!

Oh sewing-interweb, I had no idea you existed in this way. My sewing machine pedal will be to the metal this summer, watch out for pants and shorts and skirts and dresses galore!

Fantastic cookbook for healthy eating

Heidi Swanson's new cookbook Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen is out and it's fantastic. I cooked from it this weekend and made three amazingly delicious dishes. We had millet muffins for breakfast. The little millet crunchies were great. We had kale, coconut and farro salad with grilled grass-fed beef steak on Saturday night. And last night I made the broccoli gribiche with roasted potatoes, capers, and mustard to accompany steamed mussels. Also fantastic. I can't recommend it enough. If you're trying to get more veggies and healthy foods into your diet, this book is a great way to do it. I can't wait to cook more things from it, and to make the same recipes again.

Need some insurance advice

Following up last week's post about insurance ridiculous, I spent some time poking around for different plans and found a hospital plan that "covers your hospital needs-and the hospital needs of your covered dependents-even when you are far away from home." Well visited are covered too, and It's significantly cheaper than our current plan and a better insurer. You pay out-of-pocket for non-hospital visits, but then hospital stuff is covered. That would work for us.

Here's the question though: they say they only cover expenses billed by the hospital, so if the surgeon isn't on the staff, their work wouldn't be covered. I have no hospital experience and so my question for those in the know: is it common for hospital doctors to be hospital staff? Or are they usually not? What I don't want is an accident that sends me to the ER, like a car crash, and I have some emergency surgery and after the fact discover the surgeon isn't a hospital employee. And then be on the hook for $300,000 in bills or something. Anyone with experience, please chime in!

A brand new bike

A boy and his bike

Last weekend Ollie got his first "pedal bike", as he calls it. Every day he just wants to ride ride ride. Looking forward to the long days of summer to do just that with him.

The insurance mess

I haven't had employer-provided health care in over ten years, which means I've been paying for individual or small group insurance for myself and now my family every month. Every year my premiums increase by 30%, so I've changed providers going from crappier to crappier policies until now we've got the cheapest I can find. This "cheap" policy is costing over $1300 a month and is an HMO, so it only covers in-network providers. Because it's not a very good insurance company, very few providers take it. For my OB/GYN I just pay out-of-pocket for my appointments.

Two things now: my pediatrician referred my son to an ear-nose-throat specialist to check his hearing. None of his referrals take our insurance, so I called the company, used their website to pick a random doctor, called the doctor and was told they didn't take it, was transferred to another doctor, was transferred again and finally ended up with a fax line picking up my call after fifteen minutes on the phone. After two hours calling various people, I gave up and am now going to pay out-of-pocket for the referred doctor for Ollie tomorrow.

Some time last week I think I stepped on a piece of glass. There's something in my heel and I've soaked it and squeezed and tweezed but whatever it is, I can't get it. It's been throbbing for a week. My primary care physician can't see me for two weeks. Their urgent care center takes my insurance but I have to make them my PCP to have the visit covered. Another local urgent care facility doesn't take my insurance. So basically if I want to address this before May 24 and not pay out-of-pocket, I need to go to the ER and it's a $50 copay.

I wouldn't even mind going to the ER except my local hospital closed and the ERs are across or uptown. Why did my local hospital, a level 1 trauma center serving an area with over 800,000 people, close? It went bankrupt. There was a New York Times article around the time of its closing stating that its ER was a dumping ground for people with no insurance because they wouldn't turn anyone away. I don't know if this is true. I don't know why they went bankrupt and suddenly closed. But it's insane that an area as dense as the lower west side of Manhattan has no hospital and that politics and money are keeping residents from critical health care services.

I probably won't go to the ER because it's not an emergency, and I don't think it's an appropriate use of those services. But my insurance and the system are conspiring to send me there. I'm not sure how that keeps health care costs down, to pay for an ER visit over less extreme types of care. I guess ultimately the insurance company saves money because I'll just walk around with glass in my foot for two more weeks. And pay out-of-pocket for care in addition to paying thousands of dollars a year for insurance.

I'd hoped health care reform would somehow solve this, but it's clear to me that it won't. The system is broken and even people who talk about fixing it don't seem to realize just how broken it is.

Hidden in our food supply

Great video below from Robyn O'Brien speaking at TEDxAustin about untested GMOs in our food supply. While most of the information was familiar to me, it reminded me once again why I shop and cook the way I do for myself and my family.

There are two old-time meat stores in my neighborhood and I prefer to buy my meat there rather than Whole Foods. But it's not organic or grass-fed. So those beef cows are most likely being fattened on a fed lot with genetically modified corn. The talk got me thinking about that, and wondering what to do. Stop supporting the butcher whose craft is disappearing? Ask him to buy grass-finished beef? Why has eating gotten so complicated?

The truth behind Cinco de Mayo

In the spirit of bubbling up old content, how could I not point you to my curmudgeonly What you're really celebrating with Cinco de Mayo rant from 2006?

I think it's great that once a year Americans decide to pay attention to their friends south of the border and celebrate a piece of their tumultuous history. Just don't think you're celebrating Mexican Independence, because you're not.

Boy I used to get fired up! And I'm still annoyed by Cinco de Mayo.

Best of 2000

Ugh it's painful to read these old posts, so I made it through July 2000 before stopping. I fear if I keep this up, I'll become so depressed by the amount of crap I've contributed to the world that I'll give up the site entirely. Not a great start to its thirteenth year.

This post about I/O overload from March 2000 struck me. I clearly remember writing it, and the day I sat on the MUNI and realized I was too drained to do anything but sit. Also at the time I was fairly unable to just sit, to just be, until exhaustion forced me to. I was uncomfortable with the stillness that comes with stopping. There's a lot of fear of being alone in those early posts.

Quiet time to myself is now so rare and so treasured. I could happily read on the subway if I happened to be alone but I'd also gladly just sit and watch and think. Two kids, one husband, and twelve years later I'm in a much better place. But I sure would enjoy a Saturday to myself.

What did you do today?

Some morning yoga

Oh you know, just some yoga around the house...

The best from 1999

Hard to choose something I liked from 1999 because it's some slim pickings. Boy were blogs just random dumps of junk in the early days, at least mine. (Please refrain from pointing out that's still the case...)

But upon review, two things struck me:

1. I hadn't realized, or had forgotten, that we launched the public beta of the Pyra project management app on August 4, 1999. And then Blogger on August 24, 1999. In my mind the Pyra app lived for a few months publicly before Blogger, but it was only twenty days. No wonder Blogger kicked Pyra app's butt. Poor thing never had a chance!

2. The web sure has come a long way, baby! We all know that, but it's funny to see posts like this one where I want online travel planning to work better. Or this one about how the average person uses the Web once every 13 days and stays there for an hour. I "joke" I use it once a day and stay for 13 hours. Somewhere between then and now, the Web arrived at where I thought it should have already been in 1999.

Oh yeah, and my favorite from 1999? A true maternal conversation, wherein my mom questions my boyfriend databases choices.

Twelve years man!

Today is's birthday. In the past I've let this day slipped by, but this year I thought I'd count down to it with the best posts from each of the past twelve years. But Ollie was sick last week and didn't go to school hardly at all, so my limited free time disappeared. And well with all life, etc. I didn't get a chance to read through twelve years of archives. Also? It's kind of weird and depressing to do that. So for now, Happy Birthday! It's hard to imagine twelve more years of this site, but I also can't picture it going away either. So be sure to check back in 2023. Or maybe just later this week, when I'll hopefully share some of my favorite posts of all times.

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