Grandma Diary: Censorship & A Science Museum

My grandson looked over my shoulder as I read the morning newspaper. “Why are those girls crying?” he asked. I quickly turned the paper over. How to explain sexual assault to an eight-year-old? “They’re upset about something bad that happened to them,” I said and looked through the paper quickly to find a story that might satisfy his news curiosity and be more appropriate.

An article about a state park and a potential golf course development seemed to suffice and my grandson grasped the potential environmental issue and said he hoped there would be protests against the golf course.

It’s hard to share the constant bombardment of news with little kids.

He and his sister had slept over. He’d already plowed through half the bag of library books I borrowed, and we’d heard enough “Knock Knock” jokes to last a year or so. Then at one point, I heard them humming lyrics from Hamilton. Their parents, who saw the show, play the music in the car and the kids know several songs. My grandson performed what he called an entire sentence, mimicking the rapid pace and diction of one of the lines. They asked if they could go see the show. No, I told them, they’re too young for some of the lyrics (profanity), and I wasn’t sure that they’d really understand the story. Instead, we’re planning a trip to see The Lion King. I think for now that satisfied them.

After a pancake breakfast, we took them to the Liberty Science Center, newly renovated and touting its planetarium, the fifth largest in the world. Before the show, we had time to tour some exhibits. Climbing the stairs to the second floor, we saw a staff member demonstrating how sound effects objects. That staff member happened to be our son’s former high school biology teacher.  


The kids went into a space simulator, climbed a rock wall, and participated in all sorts of physics experiments, including a “Power of Air” demonstration. 

The planetarium show, “To Worlds Beyond” toured the planets and solar system, posing the question about life beyond our Earth. I told the kids that most likely in their lifetimes, they’d be able to travel into space, as easily as they now visit their other grandparents in Detroit.  I wonder about life beyond Earth, and sure hope that they’re taking better care of their planet and inhabitants than we do.

Posted in aging, commentary, Education, environment, Family, Grandchildren, Museums, galleries, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Yes, Medicine too

Wise words from Dr. Judy Washington.

A Family Doctor's Reflection

“Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice”. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Why we can’t Wait, 1964

My mother worked two jobs to support the three of us. She did refuse to clean houses.  That was not where she saw herself day in and day out.  She landed a job in an upscale boutique in a wealthy section of Birmingham.

I learned early in my life about racism and sexism and how it can hold a family back. When I applied for summer jobs, they were always filled. The jobs in fast food restaurants that paid well went to white students and the openings in our community were filled.  So, I was a camp counselor for free, taught vacation bible school and did a summer science program.

I have never made a comparable salary…

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David Hockney at 80

We should all age like David Hockney. At 80, he paints everyday. Sometimes on his ipad, sometimes on canvas. Lucky for us, we get to see his work and appreciate how his art has evolved in his life.

A little break in the cold weather provided a perfect morning to wander through the exhibit, transported from Britain’s Tate to New York City’s Met, chatting with my friend Claudia, comparing the prolific artist’s younger works with current ones. 

As a young man, Hockney embraced his homosexuality, proudly expressed in his paintings. Growing up in Britain, he fantasized about life in Los Angeles, dreaming of sunny weather and water, especially swimming pools. He’s spent the past 30 years living on and off in California, a residence that has informed his work.

The show includes works inspired by his mentors, particularly Pablo Picasso, his love of nature, and desire to combine genres. One of my favorites is “Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica,” (1990). Hockney invited friends to accompany him on an hour and a half drive through the Santa Monica Mountains, choreographing the views, twists and turns in the road to music by Richard Wagner. Later, he turned the experience into a painting.

At the Met until Feb. 25th. Go.






Posted in aging, art, Museums, galleries, New York City, reviews, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Chemical Crayons

Sometimes a crayon should just be a crayon.

Not so for blogger and crafter, Que Interesante, whose slogan “where geek meets art” helps her sell products that combine science with craft items.

For a few bucks, you can buy her stick-on labels that match a crayon color with an element from the Periodic Table.

Well, far be it from me to stand in the way of anyone being entrepreneurial while also creating something that amps up science education.

That said, I won’t be buying them for my grandkids. They have time to learn about elements and the periodic table. I’d be happier if they could name a color beyond the basic ROYGBIV. For example, look at synonyms for red: scarlet and crimson, ruby and chili, maroon and cinnabar, fire engine and cardinal, vermillion and cherry. And so on. I’d love to hear children use these in their vocabulary to describe something they see in nature, or in writing fairy tales and poetry, or in coloring.

Maybe it comes down to the whole left brain/right brain debate. I fall into the right brain—visual, creative versus left: mathematical and logical. The theory, however, has been debunked as the sides of the brain don’t work independently of each other.

Maybe that’s what QueInteresante is doing by mixing geek with art.

So congrats QueInteresante on your line of products and your commitment to raising our kids’ scientific knowledge. Thanks to blog friend, ksbeth,  for posting about these labels.

Sometimes a crayon should just be a crayon. What do you think?



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Cold Weather: Soup & Random Conversations

It’s soup weather for sure. I spent a good part of yesterday making stock from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass, and then made soup with a bunch of random vegetables in the fridge. A friend used to describe her plans for dinner as “kicking the fridge.” My soup fits that image—some carrots, onions, parsnips, celery, garlic, broccoli, and peppers. Once everything softened up, I added the fresh stock, water, and herbs, and pureed everything with an immersion blender. Hot, fresh, delicious.

I’m not one for too many new gadgets. My husband bought one of those superpower blenders and I know I could make hot soup directly in it. Another friend proudly showed off her new instant pot, though she complained the pot retained smells and hers indeed smelled of yesterday’s curry. Too fiddly for me and too big. I don’t have room in my kitchen for another appliance. I’ll stick to my beloved and well-used Le Creuset soup pot. I love how soup simmers on the stove, sending its aromas through the kitchen, inviting me to sample and adjust seasonings. I guess I’m an old-fashioned cook.

Speaking of soup, I like buying bags of bean mixtures. At Shop-Rite recently, while in line to check out, a woman behind me asked how I cooked them, pointing to the bags. Happy to share my tried and true method, I described how I soak the beans overnight, then cut vegetables, sauté them a little, add the beans, then water and stock, and simmer for hours until the beans are soft. One bag makes about four quarts of soup, I told her, that I usually freeze two for us, give one to my parents, and one to my son and his family. She shook her head, “No, takes too much time. I like fast cooking.”

From soup to…. lipstick. At Costco this week, for some weird reason- hey it’s winter and my lips felt chapped– I pulled out a lipstick from my pocketbook (long ago mastering the technique of lipstick applying without a mirror). A stranger approached and told me about a new Maybelline lipstick that lasts 24 hours. I thanked her for the tip, noting that I’ve been thinking of replacing or replenishing some of my make-up. As she walked away, I wondered why would I ever need a lipstick that lasts 24 hours? Well it was the thought that counts and nice to make a friendly connection, even if about lipstick.

I’m getting some physical therapy for lower back arthritis. There’s nowhere more fun than to listen to the jokes and anecdotes told by the other patients. Today a man read from his cell phone: “Why are Ben & Jerry sending me an email?” I suggested that perhaps they want him to sample a new flavor. The therapists figured that they want money for something. The patient deleted it and a bunch of other emails, making jokes about each one.

Happy 2018! May you have a year of great soup and random conversations!







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A No Shopping Year? Could I Do It? Could You?

Ask any knitter and they’ll admit they have more yarn than they can use. The stash, as it’s called, comes in handy for last minute projects that require small amounts of yarn or can be made with combinations of yarn weights and colors.

In my stash, I have leftovers from sweaters and vests in case I need to make repairs or lengthen a sleeve or hem. I have yarn I’ve bought when a local store went out of business. And I have yarn I’ve bought from stores online. And therein lies my problem.

The Internet has made me addicted to yarn shopping. While knitting is a wonderful hobby, overbuying yarn isn’t. I’ve kidded around with friends that I need a support group, or a 12-step program. When there’s an ad for yarn on sale, or a free shipping offer, or a pattern or favorite yarn brand I can’t resist, they got me good. For example, I fell in love with a poncho pattern and bought yarn to make several, listing in my head all the people who I’d shower with gifts. The same for a child’s hat pattern. My problem is that I’ll make one, or even two, then get bored and move on to another project. Or buy something else.

In the scheme of life, these aren’t extravagant purchases and my yarn supply isn’t taking over the entire square footage of my house. I can justify that I purge now and then, either by donating yarn to charities or giving bundles to friends.

But what about everything else?

Ann Patchett’s article in today’s New York Times, “My Year of No Shopping, resonated. How much more do most of us need?

There are great excuses to shop. A little retail therapy. Gifts for grandchildren. Just to browse. Yet reasons to live with less are environmental. We shop; we discard. We fill landfills with fabrics and other materials that don’t biodegrade and contribute to global warming and pollution.

A no shopping year? Could I do it? I doubt it. But I can unsubscribe to emails from retailers to avoid succumbing to discounts. I can limit my Internet browsing to things I only need. I can promise to not buy more yarn.

What about you?


















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Leonard Bernstein at 100

On our way to a performance of Junk,  Ayad Akhtar’s new play about the 1980’s financial world where junk bonds captured investor (and federal investigator) attention, we stopped at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’ exhibit about Leonard Bernstein. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the American composer and conductor’s birthday and the library has gathered memorabilia for the public to see and hear. 

The exhibit opens with a quote from Bernstein’s father, Samuel, a hair product distributor in Boston and a Russian Jewish immigrant.

“Every genius had a handicap. Beethoven was deaf. Chopin had tuberculosis. Well someday the books will say, ‘Leonard Bernstein had a father’.” (1958)

Samuel initially discouraged his son from pursuing music as a career and expected Leonard, called Lenny, to join the family business. Given a piano by an aunt, Leonard began lessons and became hooked, learning music by the European greats as well as American composers like Aaron Copland and George Gershwin.

The exhibit includes 150 photographs, scores, costumes, record album covers, awards, and correspondence. There are a few of Bernstein’s pencils that he used to compose, and called his “soldiers.” There’s a soundproof booth where you can sing along karaoke-style to “America” from West Side Story. 

Bernstein recorded more than 800 records for prominent record companies, composed operas, symphonies, Broadway shows, and film scores. He became politically active, promoting peace, through his music. He said, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

Truly a genius. The world is lucky he didn’t follow his father’s wishes.

As to Junk, I had my financial journalist husband patiently explaining a few things and also comparing the play to the actual events and people of the period. I found the characters a bit stereotypical and while not the worst play I’ve seen, not my favorite. The greed of the people and their behavior and attitudes toward those less fortunate is a reminder how little has changed especially in today’s political climate. 

See the Bernstein exhibit. It’s free, on until the end of March. And inspiring.


Posted in art, commentary, Education, Museums, galleries, Music, New York City, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments