Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Show Of Hands, Please

Ever brush your teeth and have the toothbrush slip and nail yourself right where the inside of your upper lip meets the gum and it really hurts?

Did you look at the calendar today and say, "Thank God! The last day of February!" And then did you make a little motion like you were rolling dice and say, "Come on, March!"?

Do you ever have a button go missing from a dress or a shirt and so you put the aforementioned article of clothing aside with the intention of reattaching the button right away, like when you are watching "Gilmore girls" but you don't and you don't and you don't until you forget you even owned that dress/shirt?

Did you know that they killed off Alan Quartermain on "General Hospital"?

Me neither.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This and That, Thanks to NPR

There was a report on NPR this morning about yesterday's auction sale of a Honus Wagner* tobacco card. This is the mother of all baseball trading cards, owing to its rarity. The story goes that Mr. Wagner was a non-smoker and didn't want his image being used to sell cigarettes, lest it set a bad example for children. Even in lousy condition the card can sell for over $100,000. Yesterday's mint condition card, which was once owned by Wayne Gretzky, sold for $2.35 million dollars.


I am not musing on the fact that someone, anyone, can place that sort of value on a bit of ephemera. It falls under the "people are nuts" category, which is really more Charlie's purview. No, I'm just thinking about all the things that one little news story made me think about.

First of all, I thought about baseball and how Opening Day is coming up and how I don't know if I care anymore because the ownership of the Mariners just seem bent of self-destruction. And if they don't manage to keep Ichiro....no...have to stop thinking about that.

I thought about my friend Honus, so nicknamed in college because the other guys thought he resembled Wagner (a bit because of his looks but mostly because, like Wagner, he was big and broad but fast). Honus went on to marry one of my best friends and become the father of my namesake. With the gravity conferred by marriage and parenthood, we all started calling him by his Christian name. But sometimes, maybe every 10th time that I see him, I'll slip and call him "Honus" and he always laughs

My college group was big on nicknames. No one used anyone's actual name. Ever. The core group were Lash, Willy, Eggs, Doc, Rotten (full name, Johnny Rotten), Pistol and Honus. It just occurs, though, that they never gave nicknames to any of the girls, maybe because this was a pretty insular group of guys and girls were mostly on the periphery. I, however, had a nickname -Quiche-owing, presumably, to the fact that I was on the inside, "one of the guys". I was also more or less Doc's girlfriend but my connection to the group predated that arrangement. We were a pretty tight group and for 2 years together we studied, went to concerts, learned about punk and New Wave, followed baseball and watched "Saturday Night Live". I gave the guys advice on the women in their lives. The guys, well, mostly they fidgeted and stared whenever I was having trouble with Doc. Probably because they knew what it took me years to realize, that I was better off without him.

And that got me thinking about the time the Boomtown Rats were coming to town.

We were very excited, me in particular, as I had a bit of a pash on Bob Geldof. We talked about the upcoming show for weeks and I decided to honor the occasion by getting a little more punk. I asked my friend Becky to double pierce my left ear, which she attempted to do using a sterilized needle and an ice cube. Only my ear lobe was rather, shall we say, intractable, and Becky had a date and she was only able to pierce the ear about halfway before she had to leave. So I went home and with probably half an hour to spare before the guys were to come get me I pretty much just jammed an earring through the beginnings of the hole. It hurt. Quite a lot. Which I thought just made the whole thing that much more punk.

But alas, the boys never showed up. That hurt, too. This was back in the olden days, children, before cell phones, so I couldn't call and say, "Hey, where are you?"

The next day we were all hanging out and they were talking about the concert. Actually, raving about it. And Doc turns to me and says, "What did you do last night?" and I said, "Waited for you guys to come get me for the concert" and he said, "Oh. You wanted to go?" The really sad part of this story? I dated that arse for at least another year.

Funny what one little news story can churn up.



"I Don't Like Mondays"



* "Who", you ask, "was Honus Wagner"? Only one of the best "all around" players to ever swing a bat. He played short stop for the Pittsburgh Pirates although it was said that he really could have played any field position well. He had a lifetime batting average of .329 and held a .300 average for 17 consecutive seasons. More importantly, he had a reputation as a likable, stand up guy. He was well-regarded and respected by his peers and fans. So he's always been a model to me of what a professional athlete should be.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

My Computer is Ticking

Seriously. I don't think I've ever heard it make that noise before. Or maybe it's just that it is so blissfully quiet that I'm noticing for the first time.

"But,isn't it always quiet around there of a Monday morning?" you ask.

And I reply, "Well, yes, technically".

But the stillness of which I speak is more to do in my own mind. I was so looking forward to getting up this morning and starting this week because for the first time in 3 weeks I'm not stressing about anything. For 2 weeks I was preoccupied with details and busy-ness for the school Mardi Gras, plus our own Carnevale feast. Overlapping with that and then carrying over into last week was all the hooha around The Job, what with the resume/cover letter/test related stuff. But now the parties are over and The Job stuff is out of my hands and I don't have to think about it until I hear anything else. (The Child was very cute this morning, asking if I'd sent in the test. Then she proceeded to ask all sorts of questions about how we will do things when I start working. So I had to remind her that I don't have the job yet. "Well, I know, but let's just say..." she pressed on, dismissing the idea that it won't become a reality with a wave of her little hand).

Between us, I'm pretty confident that I'll get an interview. No reason why I shouldn't. But we all know that doesn't assure me of anything beyond that. I've interviewed people before. Being qualified doesn't necessarily mean a person is "a fit". God knows where this will end up. And that's fine for me.

I am just very happy to have this day, with lots of time in it to do all the things I feel like I've been neglecting these last few weeks. And just for now, let's avoid discussing the obvious fact that all this preoccupation, waking at 3am with too much stuff buzzing in my brain and juggling of expectations and obligations is likely of preview of coming attractions should I get The Job. I recognize the need to hone my juggling skills. I don't plan on practising today.

Best Costume Design

I simply must share this with you. It is uncannily reminiscent of my own daily life.

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Oscar Highlights

I did pretty well on my picks...not bad, considering. Plus, I discovered that I had actually seen one of the other nominated films, a documentary called "Deliver Us from Evil", so I was feeling particularly smug by the end of the evening. (How did I manage to see 2 of the nominated documentaries and none of the best picture nominees?)

Best Moments for Me:

All things Ellen, including the fact that she wore proper shoes. Wasn't actually crazy about the maroon velvet tux-like thing, but it is not like Ellen became successful owing to her brilliant fashion sense. That's Portia's job, anyway.

Alan Arkin choking up during his acceptance speech. Scorsese choking up during his. I love that stuff.

Helen Mirren.

Al Gore.

Those dancer people who did the sillouette thingys...that was nice. Mostly because they were so mercifully brief. Do you remember when they used to have full blown dance numbers for each nominated picture? And how excruciating it was? Cutting those was the best production decision made in the history of television. (That and green lighting "BSG").

Will and Jada's faces when little Mr. Jaden came out to present.

But the moment that made me jump with unrepressed giddiness was when Diane Keaton came out to present because I ♥ ♥ ♥ her. I would just love to spend a day hanging out with her.

Best I've Never Heard of That But I So Have to See It Now:
And the kid who made the movie gave a really sweet and earnest speech.



Best You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop After winning in every category, "Pan's Labyrinth" was beat out for best foreign language film by "The Lives of Others", a German film that no one I know has heard of. And then the director or whoever it is that receives that particular statuette gets up and has a bloody American accent. What the?

Biggest Disappointment: Peter Frakking O'Toole has now been nominated, and passed over, 8 times. Passed over for his work in the following:
1962 - Lawrence of Arabia
1964 - Becket
1968 - The Lion in Winter
1969 - Goodbye, Mr. Chips
1972 - The Ruling Class
1980 - The Stunt Man
1982 - My Favorite Year
2006 - Venus

How is this possible? In '03 he was presented with the Honorary Whatsit Oscar for his body of work..and he wrote the Academy saying, 'Thanks' but he was "still in the game" and would prefer to wait and "win the bugger outright". Then they told him he'd be getting it whether he showed up or not, his kids told him it was a great honor so he went and received the award from Meryl Streep. (I looked all this up, btw). Still. Sheesh.

Also, I didn't spill anything.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Superfantastically Well-Informed Oscar Picks

Yes, yes. Hollywood's Big Night and I am not too full of myself to admit that I lovealovealove the Oscars. The Neighbor is bringing BBQ and it's just gonna be a big night o' fun (which I hope ends by 10 because that's when "Battlestar" is on. Oh, won't this be a great evening?)

It is only fair to tell you that I haven't seen a single solitary one of the big films. Not one. So I'm just pickin' stuff 'cause I wanna.

Best Picture: Totally going with the absolute long-shot here, "Little Miss Sunshine". I know, I know. Best Picture never goes to a comedy. But this one has Toni Collette and Alan Arkin. Who I love.

Best Director: Frears or Scorsese will make me happy here. Clint Eastwood, not so much. I don't know what it is about him but he bugs me. And he's won lately, hasn't he? For that "Million Dollar Baby" thing?

Best Actor: This is a toughie. I like Will Smith & Forest Whitaker. But I absolutely, profoundly ♥ Peter O'Toole so I say, give it to him. Anyone know what movie he was in?

Best Actress: Called this one as soon as the nominations were made public. It will be Helen Mirren. Period. Although, this is a good time for me to mention my deeply held belief that the Oscars need a new category, 2 actually, Best Actor and Best Actress in a Performace as an Actual Person. Because as much as the portrayal of real people is an interesting challenge for an actor, it bugs me that people who create fictive characters always seem to be given short shrift next to the actors who portray known quantities. In the end, the latter can't help but end up being impersonation. It might be really good impersonation, but it isn't the same thing as truly creating a character. They make a distinction in the writing category between original screenplays and those adapted from other material. Samey same in the acting category, imho.

Supporting Actor: Give it to Marky Mark. Or Arkin. I'm good either way.

Supporting Actress: Much as I adore Cate Blanchett, I think it would be fun for Jennifer Hudson to get this. Mostly because she's not Beyonce.

Original Screenplay: We'll stick with our Best Picture pick here and say "Little Miss Sunshine".

Adapted Screenplay (see? 2 writing categories): Yeah, sure, "The Departed". (I do not even know what that movie is about).

Foreign Language Film: "Pan's Labyrinth". The previews were awesome.

Art Direction: I stand corrected. I have seen a nominated picture. However, since "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" took 2 hours of my life that I'm never getting back, I will vote for "Pan's Labyrinth". Because I'm nothing if not consistent.

Costume Design: Gotta go with "Marie Antoinette". ..truly fab stuff. Again, I've seen the previews.

Original Score: "Pan's Labyrinth". (I heard some of it on NPR. It was super neat).

Documentary Feature: Hush my mouth...another movie I actually saw! And I thought it was very good. So of course my Oscar pick here is for "An Inconvenient Truth".

Oh, and lo! Animated Feature Film: I also saw "Cars". And it was good. It was no "Toy Story" but it was close. So, yeah, it's got my vote.

And now I'm done because no one cares about all those other categories except the people who are nominated. Oh, and I suppose I should care about Original Song but ironically, even though 2 of the songs come from films I've actually seen, neither is ringing a bell. So I will just pass on that one. And it'll probably end up being something from "Dreamgirls" anyway.

Ellen DeGeneres will be hosting and I think she'll do a fine job. Her humor and style may be entirely too low-key for such a big show but she'll make me laugh, which is all I care about. I do hope that she wears nice shoes with her inevitable suit instead of sneakers. I mean, come on, Ellen. It is the Oscars. But then, I'm one to talk. I'll be barefoot and wearing my flannel jammies.

For those of you far too intellectual to bother with such trivial and mindless things as award shows, I hope you have fun working on your Latin translations or reading Tolstoy in the original Russian or whatever it is you do on a Sunday evening. The rest of us will be reveling in the bad gowns (and the good ones), the stupid speeches and the ones that make us cry, and probably spill something on ourselves at some point because we leap up in joy at the announcement of a winner. Ah. Oscar Night.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Past, Present, Future

Yesterday

The Child was helping me unload groceries from the car. Which was very nice and helpful of her. Then we were talking in the kitchen and it felt cold. I asked if the door was open. It was. Which meant that The Dog was gone. He would never miss an opportunity like that.

The biggest challenges were that we didn't know how long he'd been gone (possibly about 10 minutes) and his tags recently fell off and we haven't troubled to attach them to a new jump ring and get them back on his collar. The guilt I felt over the latter was huge. If we didn't find him right away, how would anyone know to contact us if they found him. I almost cried but didn't, mostly because I had to help The Child keep a lid on her own hysteria.

She grabbed the walkie talkies and got on her bike. She went north, I went east as these are the 2 directions he's most often gone in times past. Every 2 minutes The Child would call me, with a wavering voice, to see if I'd found him yet and to say how badly she felt about not closing the door properly. Every 2 minutes, 10 seconds I'd tell her to keep looking, remain calm and pray to St. Francis.

As I began walking what we call the Boofacina Mile, I ran into a man taking his schnauzer for a walk. I told him there was a little black schnoodle on the loose and to please keep an eye out for him. I was about halfway along the Mile when the walkie-talkie cackled at me...it was The Child and she had The Dog. (The man with the schnauzer had been a help in his retrieval, btw. Yay for the kindness of strangers).

I found the two of them at the corner of our street. The Child was sitting on the ground, wearing her bike helmet and weeping into The Dog's fur. He was sitting calmly on her lap, looking up at me with wondering doggie eyes. "Mama," she sobbed, "I saw him in the alley and I said, 'Come Dog, I have a treat' and he came running right to me and he didn't even try to get away and I hugged him and gave him a treat and the treat was love". And then she started bawling again.



I finished my test yesterday. The one for The Job. It kinda kicked my ass, not because it was really all that hard. I knew what needed to be done but there was also a lot of second guessing and rewriting and obsessing over details. Which is probably what they want but considering that I wasn't actually given a paradigm to work with I wasn't always sure that I was obsessing over the right details. I finally had to shake myself and say, "Hey. You're done".

Part of what I did for the test, though, was make one of the recipes. There were things about it that I just wasn't sure about so the only thing to do was make it. It involved sweet dough and frying. Yum.



The Child has a Science Fair at school on Sunday. She finished her project last night. I'm very proud of her. This is also the last science fair of her elementary career. (They do it every other year). This does not sadden me.




Today
I woke up thinking about a few changes to make to my test. I was excited as these were bits of phrasing that had been eluding me the entire time and they came to me in my sleep. All I needed to do was plug them in , spell check it, have one other set of eyes read over it for anything I might have missed and I could send it in, with time to spare.

So of course, the network had gone woogly in the night...something it does when it matters most. Yes. I had saved my document. But I have some weird thing going on with Word wherein once I close the program, whatever I've done gets all wicky in the whacky woo and has to be completely reformatted. (Yes, Gina, that's still not resolved). It only happens to my stuff. So I hadn't actually closed Word through all of this. But now it closed itself. And I was none too happy about having to completely rewrite the whole bleeding thing.

Which is why I was very happy when The Spouse decided to open it on his computer and email it to me.



I have more dough to fry. Won't that be lovely?



Remember Macaroon? The big sister The Child never had? Well, she is now tutoring The Child in math on Saturdays. They work for an hour and then I give them money and they walk down to the coffee shop and have girl time. It is very awesome.




Tomorrow
Oscar Night. Yay! The Neighbor is bringing BBQ.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Leadership

Here's something I'll bet you didn't know about me: I'm a bit of a royalist. Not in a "divine right", political sense, of course. More to do with pomp and circumstance and old stories of kings and queens, especially those bloody and complicated Tudors. We can blame it on my Canadian born grandfather.

Because of this little tendency, I pay attention to the Windsors. I got up at 3 a.m. to watch Charles and Diana's wedding. Actually watched Andrew & Fergie's and Edward & Sophie's, too. I was absolutely devastated, for reasons I'm still trying to understand, when Diana died and stayed up late to "attend" her funeral.

I have particular affection for Wills and Harry. My first thought upon hearing of Diana's death was for the boys and their loss was the locus of my pain in those sad days. (I'd also bought the media hype that Charles was a distant, uncaring father. There was a sweet moment, when Charles and the boys were looking at the floral tributes outside the castle; Harry took his dad's hand and held it as he pointed out one of the remembrances. "Maybe they'll be alright," I thought).

The boys. Wills and Harry. Love. Them. I'm rooting for them to be happy, to marry for love. I also think it would be just jolly to see William crowned king. This scenario assumes Elizabeth II ever actually dying and further assumes Charles abdicating so he can totter off to his organic farm with his equine-faced concubine wife (guess I'm still holding a grudge). It would just be super fun to watch an honest-to-goodness coronation. And I suppose it would be just as fun if it were Charles' coronation; Lord knows he's waited long enough for it. But geez...can't you just see Wills in ermine? Makes me giddy.

Then there's Harry. The one that, heretofore, has been noteworthy for having the Spencer red hair, partying a bit too much and learning the hard way that Nazis really aren't that funny. He's 3rd in line to the throne, which isn't that far away if you think about it. His maternal great-grandfather was 3rd in line, becoming George VI after his father died and his brother Edward abdicated to be with the wicked Mrs. Simpson. And there was another Harry who was 3rd in line...Henry VIII...who was destined for the Church until his elder brother Edward died and he suddenly went from "spare" to "heir".

I don't know that Harry will ever be king of England. I do know that he has recently displayed a great deal of character and that's the sort of thing one likes to see in a potential monarch.
This spring, even as Britain is reducing her troop commitment in Iraq, Harry will deploy to the front lines.



In an interview when he turned 21, Harry said, "There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst, and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country. That may sound patriotic but it's true.” And now he's living up to his word. He told his commanders that he'd quit the service if they made him stay behind when his unit deployed.

Now there are all sorts of ways to look at this, I suppose. There are those who argue that it is a PR stunt to drum up flagging support for the war. There is the concern that his presence on the battlefield heightens the danger for the troops under his command (he's a "cornet", the British equivalent of a second lieutenant). I'd argue that there is nothing stunt-like about a young man performing the duties for which he trained. Isn't that what one expects of a soldier, regardless of his pedigree? As to the increased risk, well, the front lines of Iraq are not a particularly safe place. I don't see how it could be more dangerous than it already is. And frankly, were he another sort of person, that would be an excellent excuse for not going. Who could argue with a prince who said, with some legitimacy, that he didn't want to endanger his troops? But he's not playing that card.

Now surely you know that I hate this war and would much prefer to see all the troops come home. But I don't blame them for the war. Soldiers have a hard and dangerous job and when they serve with honor they deserve our respect (and better than decent benefits when they return home).

It is laudable to see a child of privilege living up to such a commitment. Quite the done thing in that family, when you think of it. Wills also holds military rank (though they won't let him see combat duty). And the boys are simply following the footsteps of their father, uncles and even grandparents (Elizabeth was a driver during WWII). Golly, makes you wonder. Must do a Google search to see how many children of US Presidents ever served in the military. You just don't see a lot of rich, powerful Americans encouraging their kids in that direction.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't want my child to go to war, either. I don't want any child to have to go to war. But I certainly honor those who are willing. So I find myself kvelling a bit over Prince Harry. He's turning into a fine young man and I wish him well. I think Di would be very proud of him.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Just in Time for the Oscars! I Watched a 2 year old Movie!

I watched the Kiera Knightly "Pride and Prejudice" last night. Or rather, tried. I will grant the following:

It was a treat to look at.
Kiera Knightly is adorable.

But she's no Elizabeth Bennett.

And I don't even know who that guy is who is supposed to be Mr. Darcy and won't even IMDb him because I don't care. Pft.

I fell asleep. There's the truth of it.

I might turn it back on this afternoon, do some ironing and see if the last half changes my mind. But I'm sceptical.

I have a point.

For quite some time now I have been saying "pft" and "meh" in response to this newest version of one of my very favorite books ever. These dismissive interjections have been made for the simple reason that, having seen the A&E production, it was clear no one would ever have to try and make the story again. It was a faithful rendering of the tale. Because it was a mini-series the script was deep and wide, with lots of characters and significant conversations that went to the heart of the principals and their motivations. It was pretty to look at, well acted and hello? starred Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.

When the latest movie version was released in 2005 I never considered seeing it, citing the attempt as silly and futile. "Not interested. Pft, again", I would say.

But there are people, people I like and respect, who over the years have said, "Oh, but you should see it. For what it is, it's quite well done". And then they'd go on to celebrate the performance of this person or that and talk about how gorgeous it was and such like that.

And I realized I was doing something I really hate in others: deciding ahead of the evidence. This is not the conduct of an intelligent, fair-minded person. Such a person bases her response to facts and research, not to blithe, unthinking reaction. Yes. I love Colin Firth. True, I believe him to be the definitive Mr. Darcy. But to dismiss something out of hand, without even an attempt at understanding it, is silly, lazy and possibly even dangerous. (Ok, not strictly in this context but as a rule knee-jerk reactionism is most decidedly not a good thing. I could name one or two political movements that embody this. I won't. Just saying).

So I finally put the movie on my Netflix list and then finally stopped shoving it back down the queue every time it bubbled near the top. And after having it in my house for 2 weeks, finally watched it. And fell asleep. Because it really didn't do anything for me.

But at least now when I say, "Oh, I didn't care for it; I much prefer the A&E version", I won't be just talking out of the side of my neck. I'm fair-minded like that.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Father began his homily today with this little story:

A young priest is assigned to a parish in New York City. One night he finds himself walking in the rough and tumble Bowery neighborhood. Suddenly, he feels a knife against his ribs and a gruff voicing saying, "Alright, buddy. Give me all your money".

The priest reaches for his wallet and as the thief pushes him around to get at it, he sees the priest's collar. "Oh!" he exclaims, handing back the wallet, "I had no idea. Please forgive me, Father!"

"It's alright, my son," says the priest. "Here, have a cigarette".

"Oh no, Father," replies the thief. "I never smoke during Lent".

That pretty much sums it up for me. These next 6 weeks aren't supposed to be about giving stuff up just for the sake of giving stuff up. It is an invitation to change my heart, change my life.

In that spirit, this year I am going to attempt to become more mindful. This means a lot of things. I want to be more mindful of what I put into my body (as opposed to just shoving something filling but not necessarily wholesome into my face at 11am because I neglected to eat a proper breakfast). Mindful about moving (especially when I have a little Dog who just loves his walkies). Mindful of how I treat others (especially the ones under the same roof). Mindful of how I use my time (like turning off the television after watching the show I purposefully intended to watch rather than spending the next 2 hours mindlessly surfing).

This is going to be a Lent about lots and lots of little ways I could be a better person/wife/mom/friend, and not so much some big, grand sacrifice. It's going to be about paying attention, listening, looking people in the eye. It's going to be about making choices for my time that speak to the things I care about (like "Gilmore girls") but not the things I don't (the E! True Hollywood Story: Bimbette McBimbetterson). I'm going to get up from my computer when my husband comes home and give him a proper Donna Reed greeting...because he deserves it. I'm going to assume the best about The Child rather than just assuming that whatever it is she's doing is wrong and somehow designed to drive me insane.

And like that.

I think this exercise in mindfulness can only be a good thing for my growth as a human being. But there's another motivation as well.

Let's say, just for grins, that I get this job (that I'm trying not to think about because I really want it and besides, it's hard not to think about it when I am currently working on "the test"). Working would be a good thing, on many levels. But it would also mean that 8 hours of my day are no longer available for use as I wish. I want to continue blogging and working on other writing projects. I'll still have to manage the home front (although obviously everyone else is going to have to step up. The Child already gets that, telling me last night that she needs to start cooking more dinners). It is going to require being able to be pretty bloody purposeful about time.

I am well aware that people do this sort of thing all the time. I'm not breaking new ground. But it will be new for me, new for us. So I think about it. Sometimes, I worry about it, too. (Not consciously, but my dreams have certainly had an angsty-abandoning people vibe going on). And of course I'm not abandoning anyone or anything in pursuing this. But it will be a big change and big changes always bring adjustments, even if they are good. Just saying, it would be wise to have "mindfulness" down before anything happens rather than try and develop that characteristic in the midst of everything else changing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to go pay attention.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Another One of Those "Today I Sneezed" Posts

You know what's sad? Trying to sleep in and not being able to. It's not as sad as war, pollution, death, disease and wounds that won't heal. But it's kinda sad.

The Child is on mid-winter break. It's just yesterday and today but still. I woke up when The Spouse brought me my "snooze alarm" coffee (because he obviously didn't know there wasn't any school). I kept trying to go back to sleep, just because I could, but it simply wasn't happening. By the time I finally gave it up as a lost cause, my coffee was cold. That was sad, too.

Things that are not sad:

♦Shrove Tuesday. Having already had our carnevale indulgence, tonight will be a low-key affair, involving Dutch Babies and sausage. Breakfast for dinner. Yum. This will be followed by the traditional Shrove Tuesday viewing of "Gilmore girls".

♦Hearing back from recruiters. Yep. I made the first cut and am on to round 2. Which involves a test. Which I think I can pass because it doesn't involve parallel parking or algebra. And I have a week to do it.

♦My child. She is quite the little Perky McPerkerson these days, co-operative and virtually non-argumentive (which is huge for her). Don't know what that's about or how long it will last but it sure is nice.

♦Little dogs. The Dog's sister is visiting for a few days. They are adorable. It makes me so happy see them scampering about, chewing on each other.



And Cue the Spit Shot

The Child was full of President's Day trivia questions this morning, including the origin of the term "First Lady" and which president served the most terms and what you have to do to be impeached. This led to a little conversation about the Clinton impeachment. "What did he do wrong?"

"Well, pretty much he had an affair and lied about it".

Silence.

"It's bad to have an affair," she said. "But that seems like a dumb thing to impeach a President over".

"Yeah, I kinda thought so, too," I said.

She went about making her breakfast and then asked, "What was her name?"

"Whose?"

"The woman that President Clinton had an affair with?"

"Monica Lewinsky."

"Well, she just sounds like trouble".

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I Knew That

drawing personality

What your analysis says about you:

Your friends and associates should generally find you a dependable and trustworthy person.
You are a thoughtful and cautious person. You like to think about your method, seeking to pursue your goal in the most effective way.

You are creative, mentally active and industrious.

You have a sunny, cheerful disposition.


What does your drawing say about YOU?

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hi. I'm So Glad It's Sunday.

I am sorely in need of a day of rest. I will not be getting out of my jammies. The glorious madness of non-stop parties is over, leaving me a happy little puddle of weariness.

But enough about me. Let's talk about the Carnevale feast, shall we?

Ah, Carnevale! One of the most favorite of all our feasts, the time when no regard is given to calories, carbs, grams of fat or any of that other nonesense. Time to eat large, drink plenty and generally indulge; it's one last fling with the table before the fast of Lent begins.

The party began with a little apertif of wamed olives with orange zest (pretty much my signature apertif snacky thing) and champagne or sparkly juice. Beads were donned.

The first course was a little wedge of paté with cornichon and crackers. I did not make the paté myself because Trader Joe's has a very good country style one but one of these days I'll get around to making my own in the proper little paté terrine that Nicole gave me long ago. (I also used to make cornichon from itty bitty French cucumbers that I grew myself. Note to self: find some seed again this year because that was just plain fun).

We have the same salad each year for Carnevale, a very simple toss of chopped celery and shaved Parmesan in a lemon juice/olive oil dressing. It is a surprising combination of refreshing crunchiness. Ancient Romans would secure celery leaves around their heads as a preventative to hang-overs.

Then came the main course, which is always lamb, but this year involved the discovery of something called ras el-hanout, which is Moroccan for "superfantastic and gorgeously aromatic powder of heaven". There wasn't time this week to go to the souk in the Public Market, which would no doubt have had many variations on the theme so I had to make my own. Never having used the stuff before nor having any idea what it is supposed to taste like, some research was involved. Ras el-hanout is like curry powder in that there are common ingredients to all the recipes but personal twists are given the concoction from region to region, cook to cook. Some of the recipes read like something you'd find in the notebook of a white witch and there wasn't time to search the city for many things unpronouncable. I finally struck on an accessible combination of cinnamon sticks, cloves, fenugreek and the seeds of mustard, coriander, cumin and fennel. One of the common ingredients to the mix, however, is rose petals. The co-op only had rosebuds for craft use and I didn't know if my Valentine roses were free of pesticides or whatever so I threw a pinch or so of rosehips into the mix.
All these lovely things were slowly warmed in a heavy pan until little seeds started popping and incense-like fragrance began wafting through the house. Then everything was whizzed through the spice grinder until reduced to a sneeze-inducing powder.
Instead of leg o', this year we did racks o' lamb. The Spouse rubbed the racks with the gorgeous ras el-hanout, then seared the lamb and tossed it in the oven to roast. Then the roasting pan was deglazed with shiraz and honey was added to the wine. I had mixed a few tablespoons of rosewater to the honey, to help make up for the absence of roses in the spice rub. The sauce cooked down to a silky little pot of yum. I have a bit of a thing for a good sauce and this one goes onto my list of "Top 10 Most Delicious Sauces Ever Eaten".

The lamb, which I can really only refer to now as My Favorite Lamb Dish of All Time, was accompanied by the following:

Bleu Cheese Potatoes Delmonico (involving quantities of butter and cream plus some emmantaler that was lying around because you can't have too much cheesey goodness).

Artichoke Heart Gratin, which was stupid simple. The original recipe called for cooking the artichokes in Italian dressing but I figured that was just fussy so used marinated artichokes to begin with. These were cooked by themselves for about 10 minutes, then mozzerella cheese was sprinkled over it all and baked some more, then the dish was sprinkled with french-fried onions and warmed for 1 more minute. It was, um, really yummy.

Green beans tossed with toasted hazelnuts (that ReeRee whacked into little bits for me) and lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper completed the plate.

Between dinner and dessert we have a pre-Lenten conversation wherein everyone shares his or her intentions for the coming fast. We draw names for our secret prayer buddy, who we will keep in our prayers during Lent. (In Holy Week we send out what The Child calls "love letters", revealing ourselves). After the sharing and a sung Our Father and a little Sanctus in Latin, it's time to get back to the table.


This year we had 2 desserts. The Neighbor, who came very very late because she was singing in a concert, procured for us a King Cake, baked fresh yesterday morning by a gentleman who is originally from New Orleans. It was very good, with lots of crunchy sugar on the top but as yummy as it was last night, it was even more spectacular this morning with coffee. King Cake, which actually has it's roots in Epiphany, has a little surprise baked into it and the person who gets the prize has the honor of procurring next year's cake. That would be Jerry.
But important as observing tradition is, one also needs something rich and decadent for dessert. This year I made tiramisu, from blog buddy Dariush's recipe. Hello. Let's just call it what it really is, shall we? Coronary in a Trifle Bowl. But what a way to go.
Layers of ladyfingers soaked in coffee and marsala (because I was too lazy to get amaretto) between which lurked cups and cups of luscious filling (marscapone cheese combined with a whipped egg yolk/sugar thing combined with thick cream). And for a little extra Carnevale glam, I also sprinkled grated chocolate between the filling and ladyfingers. Just before serving it got a nice sprinking of unsweeted cocoa. (I doubled the recipe, Dariush. It turned out really well. Thanks again). It was the best tiramisu I've ever tasted...rich and flavorful but with a good balance between all the elements, which is usually where tiramisu fails, imho.

And then there was the post-prandial indulgence of Scotch or a last glass of wine. The Neighbor arrived just as everyone else was preparing to take their sated selves away so she got to give out hugs and then The Spouse and I sat with her while she ate the plate of food we'd kept warm for her. And then we took our tired selves to bed and I didn't even care that there were still dishes to do. Someone will get around to them eventually.









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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hi. I'm a Little Punchy.

But even if you don't know the song, you gotta admit, chipmunks are just funny.

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Hi. I'm Exhausted.

Ever have one of those times when you get to the other side of a big event that went really well (except for the one arse who asked 15 minutes into the event, "Is this all we're doing?" and one side of your brain had to remind the other side that you were a Christian so that you didn't say what you wanted to the arse) but then you were so tired that you could barely sleep plus every time you rolled over you ached because you realized too late that doing the Bunny Hop in 4 inch heels wasn't actually the most intelligent thing you could do and then after a restless night you had to get up early to go back to school to finish cleaning up the event and marvel at how much recycling one little party can generate? Then, to top it all off, you have to clean your house and pick up your kid's math tutor and make beautiful food for the annual Carnevale feast which is a really important and precious time in the life of your little community but all you really want to do is take a nap?

Yeah. Like that.

It is a gorgeous springish day, with all manner of birds singing and crocuses popping up and anemones on special at the co-op. The Child, who is supposed to be cleaning her room, is wearing my tiara from last night and putting pictures of Corbin Blue (or as she likes to call him, "my husband") all over her wall. The Spouse is hauling $412 worth of exotic (and not so) groceries into the house. The Dixie Chicks are blaring and The Dog is running around stealing Mardi Gras masks. ("Odd birds," he's thinking, "must destroy").

Just another Saturday around the casa.

I need to soak my feet.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

I Jumped

I have to go throw up now.

Hi. I'm Very Nervous.

Ever have one of those times when you're going about your business, la la la la la, and then all of a sudden (or, as The Child says, all the sudden) you're feeling completely nervous and freaked out? That just happened to me and frankly, I'm still in the throes of it. It's not a panic attack where I need to breath into a paper bag and take a sedative. It's just a case of mega-butterflies. Me still no likey.

Part of it is the party tonight and all the stuff that still has to be done but that's only part of it. Plus, per The Child's request I found some purple hair gel, nail polish & eye shadow and some hair and body glitter. So even if the party ends up sucking and everyone hates me because it's so bad, she and I are still going to look super fantastically Mardi Gras-ish. OH! And per my request, all of the Executive Board members will be wearing tiaras tonight. Yay!

None of it has to do with Carnevale because I got the menu planned and have all the ingredients and it will be delicious. Seattle Coffee Girl, as is her way, sent a fabulous arrangement of flowers for the dinner table. See?
Pretty.

A tiny smidge of it was to do with money. I deposited a large check earlier this week and the bank put a hold on it. I figured they'd do that. For like a day. But they were going to disperse the funds over the course of two weeks. And I was all, "What?" It was a disbursement check from a large financial institution. One that regularly runs television ads and has, at a rough guess, 100 kajillion dollars in liquid assets. It's not like it was hand-written from Guido of Big Guido's House of Concrete and Financial Services or drawn on Sixth Little Tiny Bank of Red Ink. So I said to them, "Hey. Let's see if we can't get that money released just a little earlier, 'k?" Because I really want to use it now. But I got a call from the bank an hour ago and everything is good so that's not it anymore.

No, the fundamental reason probably owes to the fact that my cover letter and resume are now as good as they are going to get and all I have to do now is email them to the recruiter. And I'm scared.

As long as I don't do it I can just think about how great it would be to get a cool job doing work that is interesting and getting real money for it and not having to worry any more about whether or not I can get my kid's teeth fixed. In fact, I can not worry anymore about getting my teeth fixed. There's a concept. As long as I don't do it, I can just imagine them looking at my resume and saying, "Hello? Perfect fit. Golly, we sure hope no one else snatches a gem like this away from us. Somebody call her quick!"

But once I hit the "send" button, I have to deal with it. I have to deal with all the down-side stuff of looking for a job...saying something stupid in the interview or just plain being rejected outright and then having to start looking again for something that comes remotely close to being as fantastic an opportunity as this appears to be. Once the deed is done I have to deal with the reality that I might not get it. Or that I will. Because as exciting an opportunity as it is, it will mark a huge change in the life of our family. And change, even good, beneficial change, is a challenge. And you know me. I like things to be nice and sweet and easy.

So there you go. I'm on the edge of something, one way or the other. I've got this feeling I used to have when we were kids and we'd climb way up in the hay mow and onto a really high rafter and then jump. We knew it would be ok. We knew we'd land in nice, soft hay. But there would always be this incredible thrill in our chests, hearts pumping fast, right before the leap. After the jump, the rush would convert into a big big wave of euphoric relief. Yeah. It's like that.

Ok. Here I go....

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

No, I'm Not Going on Hiatus, Too

Hi. Yes. I'm well aware that it's past 1pm my time and I still haven't posted. It could owe to one, all or a combination of the following:

♦ I woke up at 3am worrying about the school Mardi Gras party, for which I'm sorta kinda in charge. I knew we would have a meeting about it this morning and that I would feel better about everything (and I did) but still. There are always a ton of details to a thing like this and I always want to make sure all the i's are dotted and all the t's crossed. Like a gerbil on a wheel the mind races in circles: Is 3 vats of gumbo going to be enough? It will be if no one shows up. But if no one shows up then we won't make any money and that would bite. But what if a ton of people show up? Does someone have time to go get pizzas? And around and around again.

♦ My whole entire life might be changing. For months I've toyed with the idea of going back to work. In the absence of Graydon Carter stumbling upon my blog and insisting that I become a featured columnist at "Vanity Fair", I've been half-heartedly poking around job listings. The thing is, it would be nice to make some extra money, especially with The Child heading to high school in a few years and people wanting to travel and all that. I've always thought it would be nice to earn the money for school tuition, travel and the occasional new piece of furniture. The hope had been to manage that with writing, even though I know this is not a profession one takes up to become rich.

But then, of course, there are all the implications if I did go back to work, especially as regards writing. I didn't write when I worked full-time before, I was pretty sure I wouldn't again. And after 13 years of setting my own schedule and making my own priorities, the thought of taking some soul-sucking job just for a few extra pesos, not to mention the dramatic change to the way our family operates, well, it just never seemed worth it.

But last week a friend told me about this gig. A gig that, on paper, sounds like the sort of job I'd make up during a round of "Create that Dream Job". A gig that involves both writing and food (hello?), that is located about 5 minutes from The Child's school, that has awesome benefits. (And no, oddly, I have no idea what it pays but since my current salary is $00,000.00 per annum, it's got to be a net gain). It's the sort of job that, were I to get it, would actually fuel my creativity rather than sap it. There would still be time to blog and work on books.

I'm trying not to get excited or invested or any of those things. It's not like I have to get a job this very second. Just because it sounds perfect doesn't mean it is. And I don't want to be anywhere that isn't the right place for me to be. So I'll apply and wait and see and if I get to the next round and remember how to interview and manage to prove to them what an asset I'd be to their company then, hey, great. And if nothing comes of it, at least I got my resume in shape.

So yeah, that's consumed a lot of energy.

♦ What else? Oh, right, we have our annual Carnevale feast on Saturday and I haven't even planned the menu yet. That could be an issue.

♦ Plus, I just had an email from JP saying that more of our videos have gone missing so we are still hating Viacom and have to figure out what we're going to do over at Here's the 80s . Fortunately, the club is all on one level or a certain someone would be on the balcony.

So, sorry. I'll try to do better. Now I have to run down the street after our garbage can because it's super windy right now.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Obligatory Valentine's Day Post

The Spouse is not one given to grand gestures. He has pulled out all the stops on a handful of occasions in our 16 years but he's really not a chocolates and roses sort of guy. Which is not to say that he is without romantic instincts. He's a big old softy (he cries when Beth dies in "Little Women"). He does nice things for me, like bringing me coffee every morning. He also leaps up and starts singing all of Ewan McGregor's parts during the "Elephant Love Medley" of "Moulin Rouge" and expects me to take Nicole Kidman's lines.

But I don't expect a lot of sappy romance from him on a regular basis. And I long ago stopped caring that such was not his way. I've had sappy romantic boyfriends. After a while they get a little grating. I'm very happy with what I've got: a good man who provides well for his family, takes an interest in my life and supports my endeavors. And he's a good kisser. He watches chick flicks with me. He was there for the birth of his child. It's all good. I love him, he loves me and we don't need a Hallmark event to prove it or say it.

That's why I was so surprised to wake up this morning and find a dozen red roses on my desk. Happy Valentine's Day, Pookie.




BTW, just in case you have no idea what I'm talking about when I refer to the "Elephant Love Medley", here it is. Happy Valentine's Day to you too, dear blog buddies. I ♥ you.





Man! I just love that bit.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cultural Exchange

On Saturday The Neighbor, The Child and I walked to one of the 4 synagogues in our neighborhood. We'd been invited by the Rabbi's Wife to a kiddush for her daughter's newborn baby girl.

The Rabbi's Wife is a wonderful woman, English by birth, who looks out for the neighborhood. The Neighbor and I really got to know her when we were all working out in the mornings at our local Curves. She's funny, articulate, caring and a terrific cook. She has 3 grown children. One unmarried daughter, Tanya, lives at home. She's makes gorgeous hats. John, their son, lives in California and he and his wife just had their first baby. The middle child, Ana-Aliza lives next door to her folks, with her husband, Chaim, and 2 children. The Child babysits for them.

The Rabbi's Wife loves to tell us about Jewish customs and hear how we crazy Papists do things. It was in this spirit of increasing ecumenical understanding, and just 'cause she likes us, that she invited us to the blessing for the baby.

We arrived just as services were ending. Tanya spied us and hurried over to greet us. We exchanged hugs and "shabbat shaloms" and then she waved her mom over. Rabbi's Wife, wearing a huge black hat waving with black and white feathers came over cooing, "I'm so pleased that you came!" We had to duck under the hat to kiss her cheeks. She pointed out Ana-Aliza, who still looks fairly done in, having had to spend 6 months of her pregnancy on bed-rest. Her sweet little tiny baby was sleeping soundly. We gave Ana hugs and kisses and threw in a few "mazel tovs" for good measure.

Rabbi's Wife introduced us to Ana's mother-in-law, a charming woman from New York, who very graciously accompanied us over to the hall for the kiddush. The room was decorated with pink and white balloons and a gorgeous spread of food was arranged on tables in the middle of the room. Round tables with white linens sat around the spread, with pink toffees scattered on the tables. The congregation gathered around as the Rabbi offered up the kiddush for the new baby. ("What's he saying?" whispered The Child. "He's blessing Celia," I whispered back. "Oh. Right. That's Hebrew," The Child replied). Then the feeding frenzy began. The Mother-in-Law had told us to make ourselves comfortable and "Eat all you like", so we did.

This particular congregation is Sephardic. Historically, Sephardim are those Jews associated with the Iberian peninsula. Most of of them are descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, who settled in places like Greece and Turkey. Those influences are prominent in the food. There was Greek salad, tyropita, smoked salmon with cream cheese and vegetables rolled in tomato and spinach tortillas, pickled fish, Caesar salad and some sort of fabulous crustless quiche thing with cheese and spinach. As I was filling my plate an old man came up to me, gestured to the tyropita and said, "Have you tried one? They're good".

"I certainly plan on it. They look delicious".

"They're better with whiskey," he said.

"Well, you'll have to point me to the bar," I joked. He grinned and gestured to the back of the room. Sure enough, there was a table containing several bottles of good whiskey, vodka and wine. (I'm not a fan of kosher wine. I'm sure someone somewhere makes very good kosher wine but I haven't found it yet). The Neighbor and I filled little plastic shot glasses with whiskey, toasted to the baby and drank. The old man was right. A bite of tyropita with whiskey...fabulous combination.

We seated ourselves and tucked in. Then I noticed a woman we knew, Judy, whose father, may he rest in peace, used to live next door to us. Judy rents out the house now and we rarely see her. I called her over and we had a lovely time catching up. She couldn't believe how big The Child had grown. We had a great time talking about the old days when her dad was still in the house and catching up on news of each other's families. Mother-in-Law came over to see how we were doing. "Are you getting enough to eat?" she asked.

"What are you, a Jewish mother?" Judy joked.

"Why, yes. Yes, I am", smiled Mother-in-Law.

Later we were joined by the Rabbi's Wife, who barely got to eat anything because every time she lifted a fork to her mouth some other congregant would come over to congratulate her. Just as we were getting ready to leave the Rabbi came over saying, "Are these our neighbors? Oh, I'm so glad you could come!"

It isn't always easy to be the outsider in a situation but I must say, we were made to feel very welcome. It was lovely to be included in a special occasion like that and to remember once again that the things we share in common with others are more important than our differences. I couldn't help but sit there, embraced by the kindness and hospitality of everyone, and think what a contrast it was to be enjoying such warmth when all over the planet so many people, even those who share a common birthright, are busy killing each other. It's so hard for so many to reach across their differences to find common ground and there we were, celebrating life together. It would have made me very sad but I was too full of good food to be melancholy for long.

The Neighbor and I went back to the bar for a final shot of whiskey and to say goodbye to friends, old and new, before walking back home. It was a good time. And as I told The Neighbor, "You gotta love people who do shots after services".

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A Post for JP

I got up this morning.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Yay!!!!!!!!

I found the Dixie Chicks CD!

Now I just have to learn how to operate the 300 disk CD changer that Santa brought.

Good thing I can play music on my computer. This is going to make the next hour of paper work go so much faster!

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Sunday Night TV

We completely forgot that the Grammy's were on last night. As a rule, I wouldn't even care. As I told JP last night, it's not like U2, David Bowie or the Pretenders were nominated for anything. I haven't paid much attention to the music scene these days. My knowledge of current music is influenced largely by the amount of time I spend listening to Radio Disney in the car with The Child. Ask me about Hannah Montana and I've got trivia up the wazoo. Anyone with an actually hit on the Billboard top 100, not so much.

But I had wanted to see the Police reunion, which I just watched on YouTube. They are still just the cutest things ever and I'm going to listen to their records while I clean house today. That will make me happy.

The big news, of course, is that the Dixie Chicks cleaned up, winning in all 5 of the categories for which they were nominated. This is first and foremost, recognition of an absolutely perfect record album. (Which we actually own, although it's gone missing, so one of my tasks today is to find it). But no one can escape the fact that they also took quite a beating some 3 years ago for speaking out against the war in Iraq. The criticism was scathing and it looked like the end of their career. But as adversity is wont to do, it just made them fiestier and stronger. The record certainly reflects that as well. So last night was as much a vindication for them as it was an honor for the musical achievement that is "Take the Long Way Around". And I rather wish I'd been able to see it.

The good news? At least we remembered there was a new episode of "Battlestar Galactica".





"Not Ready to Make Nice"

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fooling Around

This is a test. Blogger thinks we’re spamming over at “Here’s the 80s”. Trying to post 100 videos in a weekend. Hmm...who’s bright idea was that again?

Anyhoo, I’ve been finding all these videos and have things to say about them and I figured that at least I could work on the text and then maybe when Blogger is over its hissy fit, it won’t take that long to put up more material.

So I’m just trying to see if it works to copy the embed scripts into Word and then copy them into Blogger. That’s all.

Plus, I played this song earlier and totally forgot how much I loved it and how adorable this video is so I figured I’d play it over here, too, just for fun. Assuming this works.

That is all.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Time Warp

A weird thing happened last night.

The Child had stayed at school until 4 so, after dropping off our car pool kid, we got home around 4:30. Then I fooled around on the computer for a while before going out to the hardware store to pick up a couple of plants. The Child is doing an experiment for the upcoming science fair; she's doing the classic "take two identical plants, give them identical care but subject one to rock 'n roll and the other to classical music and see if it makes any difference in how they grow" experiment. (How classic, you ask? I did the same bloody thing when I was her age). Her hypothesis is that it won't make a lick of difference. Anyway, I go get her plants and come home to start dinner, only to realize that the glaze for the ribs required an orange and we were out. Off to the co-op for a very expensive organic orange, which for $1.13 should squeeze itself, thank you very much.

Back home I look at the clock and start panicking because I'm now running super far behind and that's going to seriously compromise the mandatory Thursday night TV viewing.

I rush around finishing up dinner while The Child gets all excited to eat by herself watching TV in our bedroom (because your shows aren't appropriate for me, are they, Mom"?...which is true but really she just wanted to eat without us for a change). Dinner is finished up, right before the hour (thank heaven for convection heat) and everyone is called together so we can at least say grace as a family. Then The Spouse says, "You know, it's only 7".

I look at the clock in shock (tee! that rhymes) and sure enough, we're right on schedule. In the end, we ate together properly like a family that has its priorities straight and I felt very silly and smug at the same time.

It reminded me of a morning, long before The Spouse, when I woke up in a frenzy because my alarm hadn't gone off. The sun was shining brilliantly through the window which meant I was super late for work. I scrambled up and got ready in a mad rush (taking time to still make coffee because starting a day that late, with all it entailed, still required sufficient caffeine). I lived about a 10 minute walk through an actual park to my office. I scampered out onto the street, walking in that measured run sort of way that allowed for the gaining of the optimal amount of ground without actually breaking a sweat or falling out of my pumps. It was a beautiful spring morning and I remember wishing there was time to enjoy all the budding things around me.

The streets and sidewalks were oddly quiet. I had the eerie sense that some disaster had befallen and I was the last to know. There was a light sprinkling of businessmen around and I began sizing them up, you know, in case we were the remnant and had to repopulate the earth.

I got to my building and the door wouldn't open. It was locked. I peered in through the glass. No doorman. This was getting creepy. I used my card key and entered the silent, echoing lobby. No one else was in the elevator, so not the case on a weekday morning. I got to my office, which was also locked and dark. Only then did I think to look at my watch. It was 7 a.m.

It's sort of nice when that happens. It's like getting a whole extra hour that you didn't think you had. Time really is relative, isn't it?

And now, what with another blockbuster weekend coming over at Here's the 80s", I'm getting into VJ mode and will now offer you some songs about time. Have fun.



"Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)"


"Only Time"

Oh, of course...like you didn't see this coming all the way from Tacoma.


"Time Warp"

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nothing Exciting to Report

My standing Thursday morning meeting ran long. I hate when that happens. It ended up being one of those things where our agenda (working out the final details for a Mardi Gras carnival next weekend) was pushed aside by the book-keeper, who needed help with the budget, and a representative from a learning center. Oh well. The learning center lady brought an apple caramel pie with her. We liked her. A lot.

So now I'm fully loaded on sugar and ready to make up for lost time. Which is good.

In other news, there's nothing to report.

The Child has been very well behaved this week. She seems to be owning this teenager thing in all the right ways at the moment. Plus, she's working on a story for her writing class that she is beyond enthusiastic about. I love seeing that. Last night she told me, "This story is so good, Mom, that I think I'll have to send it to a publisher when I'm done".

The Spouse has resigned his commission from the on-line infantry unit he's been playing with for, golly, at least a year. (Don't worry; Mr. Stickler McSticklerson will let us know how long and also correct me if it's not an infantry unit). I think it made his imaginary friends sad but he said he just wasn't having that much fun anymore. These days he's into a flight simulator game. Last night he flew to Bangor, Maine. Last week he was in Key West but he didn't bring me any imaginary Key Lime Pie. Bad Spouse.

The Cat has been eating dog food and shunning her own. The Dog has been very doggie, but seems confused by The Cat's sudden interest in his kibble.

I've been frustrated lately by the size of my desk. It's fine for using the computer but there's not a lot of surface area so when I have to pungle bills or do other paperwork it gets very crowded. I was thinking of swapping my desk with The Child's, but that would involve a lot of heavy lifting. Last night I figured out that I could move my laptop to the side and still have room to operate my mouse (because I hate the little mouse pad on the computer). It's like having a whole new desk. And yes. I'm very slow when it comes to thinking outside of the box.

JP and I are rolling through on Operation Restoration over at Here's the 80s. He's working from the front end of the catalog and I've bringing up the rear. So far we've only had to box about a dozen videos because we haven't been able to find replacements. Considering how many artists are already in the catalog, that's pretty impressive. We're still urging a boycott of Viacom. The next phase is to figure out who some of their major advertisers are and start a letter writing campaign to those folks. Because Viacom isn't going to care that a bunch of non-Neilsen families aren't watching their programming. But the advertisers will. Gotta hurt 'em where it counts, in the pocket book. Bastards.

That's all. Now I've got work to do. Have a great day.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Back in the Kitchen

All this talk of bistros and cooking got me thinking about kitchen tools. We've got a very functional kitchen full of groovy tools. But there are some for which I have particular fondness.





The coffee maker. Duh. Because you have to have coffee. You have to have coffee to start the day, you have to have coffee to cap the perfect meal. (This also assumes having decaf in the house, for the light weights. Sometimes I forget that).



The corkscrew. We have to replace this tool about every 2 years. I live by the motto that you should never cook with any wine you wouldn't drink. That's why I've never purchased "cooking sherry" in my entire life and never will. Wine isn't just essential to accompany a meal, it is the soul of a good sauce and is vital to a good daube. A glug of red wine even goes into the house pizza sauce. And as we were reminded during the Big Blow of '06, the beauty of a cork screw is that it isn't powered by electricity.


I call this wooden spatula "Dame Judi", because it is an all-purpose, useful thing, like my mom. I found it at a yard sale for 25 ¢. "Dame Judi" can stir, scrape up deglazed bits from a pan, flip pancakes, flatten fried plantains...whatever is asked of her. She bears her age with remarkable grace.







The microplane. I saw people using these bad boys on cooking shows for years but never had one because a grater is just a grater, after all. Right? Wrong.


Microplane graters come in all sizes. We have a box grater microplane that The Boys gave us for a hostess gift and which I love but this little number gets used all the time. Food glides right over it. I can reduce a hunk of very hard Parmesan fairydust bits without breaking a sweat.








When we were first married, The Spouse worked for a specialty food company. He drove truck in the morning and did computer stuff in the afternoon. One of the benefits of this job was that he got to bring home goods that couldn't be sold. If, for example, a bottle of olive oil broke in the case, all the bottles that got oily couldn't be sold so they just sat in the warehouse, free for the taking. For years we never spent a dime on oil, balsamic vinegar, capers and the like.


Once there was some food show at which his company had a presence and one of the other vendors was using Kitchen Aid mixers at their booth. When the show was over, The Spouse negotiated an obscenely good price for one of the mixers. One of the first things I ever used it for was marshmallows. (Hmmm...haven't made those in a while....). These things are built to last. I expect my great-grandchildren will still be using this mixer.



I ♥ my measuring cups. They are from Nigella Lawson's line of kitchenware. I ♥ them because they look like proper teacups. I'm a sucker for good design and like having tools that are both functional and beautiful. I like that they look like teacups because long, long ago, that's what women used when a recipe called for a cup of something. It makes me feel very retro to use these.





For years I used cheap whisks from the grocery store. Then we discovered Dick's Restaurant Supply. I have 2 of these big balloon whisks. They have heft. That's important when you're whisking egg whites and don't want your arm to fall off from exhaustion.














This is the single most important investment we've ever made. I big, fat puffy ♥ my stove.2 ovens (one with convection ability), 6 burners and a griddle. It is beautiful. I love that it has little legs so it looks like a piece of furniture. I love that it is so big. I love that it is gas. (I'd never cooked with gas heat before we got this...I burned a lot of sauces before I got the hang of it). We turned out some pretty amazing meals on much smaller, much crappier stoves, all the while dreaming of what it would be like to have the capabilities of a big Viking range. And I'll be honest, we balked at the expense. But then we were certain that it would more than pay for itself. The reaction from our friends when we remodeled (designing everything we did around this purchase) the unanimous reaction from our friends was, "I can't think of two people who will get more use out of it". Which helped us feel much more comfortable about spending The Child's first year of college tuition. She can get a scholarship, right?


My hands. And I don't mean that in the obvious sense because of course I have to use my hands to cook. I mean that I consider my hands to be tools. From separating eggs to kneading bread dough (I start it with the bread hook on the mixer but you can over-knead it that way, which is not good, so I always finish the job by hand) to mixing meatloaf, sometimes just using your hands makes the most sense. It's efficient, they are easy to clean and you can't drop them on your toes.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chez Fabulovna


There were some comments on yesterday's bistro post referring to my opening a restaurant called "Fabulovna". Which made me laugh.

Then last night, during a production meeting about Here's the 80s (and how we're going to start a Viacom boycott because they suck) JP asked, "Did you ever go to culinary school?"

I laughed.

"So where did you learn all that stuff about cooking?" he asked.

"Watching TV," I said. Which isn't the whole truth of course but it's part of it. I learned from Dame Judi, I took home ec classes in high school, I watched Graham Kerr and Julia Child. But mostly I just learned by doing. I like good food, so I learned how to make it. Pretty simple really. Add to that the fact that I live in a city full of good restaurants, that I had some spectacular meals in France and I was fortunate enough to marry someone who likes good food, cooks well himself and enjoys entertaining as much as I do and there you go.

But JP wasn't done. He'd been thinking about this. "Did you ever think about going to culinary school? Like in a few years when The Child is out of the house and you've got the time? Because you're half way there...it would be the easiest educational experience ever".

And I thought that was adorable. The man hasn't even eaten anything I've cooked. (Though he been promised fried okra with tomato marmalade someday). And here he was, based on a few pictures, telling me I should go to school, become a chef and open my own restaurant.

So I told him what I'm now going to tell you. Not. I've been in the restaurant business. It's grueling. A restaurant kitchen is the most stressful place on the planet. And I don't cook to get stressed out. I expect all the fun would be sucked out of it inside of a week.

This is not to say that The Spouse and I haven't occasionally talked about it. He was in the restaurant biz for 20 years. We understand what we'd be getting into. Which is why the conversations never go very far. Forget about the astronomically high rate at which new restaurants fail. It's hard work. Hard work on evenings and weekends. We'd never entertain again. And we like entertaining. And so we quickly shelve ideas of prix fixe menus and return to planning parties.

There is a circumstance under which I'd open a restaurant. This involves falling into a bucket of money, so that we wouldn't actually have to make anything off the restaurant. And it also involves having a restaurant somewhere other than America. Because my idea of a perfect restaurant is like some of those I've read about in Peter Mayle's Provence books: an out of the way old house, run by a husband and wife...she cooks, he waits tables and pours wine. Or the other way around. And people go there for the food, they eat whatever the chef feels like making that day and they wait to be served. And they go away happy. The notion of cranking out 100 dinners a night for a bunch of people who are on their way to the theater, not so much.

But JP seemed stuck on the idea. "Well, what if you moved to Stars Hallow and the Dragonfly Inn was being sold and Sookie St. James didn't want to cook anymore because she had, like, a bazillion kids? Because then it could be exactly the sort of restaurant you want and you could cook all this beautiful food and buy excellent produce from um, from your husband who would start growing produce..."

"Because Jackson had to quit farming because he had, like, a bazillion kids".

"Exactly," he continued. "And so then I could move to Stars Hallow, too, and I could, um, play 80s videos and Sling could be the bartender (do you think he really was a bartender? Because some of those drink specials he comes up with are really exact. I mean, I've spent a lot of time in bars and all I know is "Bud Light") but anyway, we could all live in Stars Hallow and war with Taylor all the time and it would be totally great".

And I told him that yes, if the Dragonfly Inn was suddenly available and Stars Hallow was a real place and we suddenly found ourselves living in the midst of "Gilmore girls" then sure, I'd have a restaurant.

And, by the way, should that ever happen tiaras will be mandatory at Chez Fabulovna.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

The Great Bistro Feast of '07

For the past 4 years we have donated a "French bistro feast for 4" to the auction at The Child's old school. Except that by special arrangment, it is purchased every year by the same group of people and there are more than 4 of them. They bring the wine, we do the rest.

We have always had a superfantastic time at this event (and it looks like we'll do it again because this year Sandy procured it before the end of the first course) but this year seemed like the most fun yet. I don't even know what it was in particular but we just laughed all night long and it was beyond enjoyable.

Plus, and I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but dang! This year I surprised even myself with the general tastiness of the meal. Seriously, if I'd had this meal in a restaurant I would be telling everyone to get themselves post-haste to Chez Whatever. It was that good.

Apertif was, as always, green olives that have been sprinkled with orange zest and gently warmed. Goes great with champagne.
















For the first course, I baked a little loaf of honey-wheat-walnut bread. This was toasted and served with a rough country pate (no, I didn't make it myself...Trader Joe's has an excellent one), a little smidge of Dijon mustard and cornichon.














The entree was a beef daube that was so superfantastic I want to make it every week. First came a mix of tomatoes, onions, garlic, capers, anchovy paste & cornichon that was then layered with thin slices of chuck roast. Add a bouquet garni and cook all afternoon and voila! a pot of sheer ambrosia.














We served it with a gratin of potatoes, parsley and cream plus a little dollop of a carrot-yellow pepper puree (mostly just for color but it was really tasty).














Here's the progress of the gratin: first a buttered dish and a bay leaf.














Then potatoes, each layer sprinkled with parsley and salt. Pour cream over it all, top with dollops of butter and another bay leaf and bake.














Couldn't be easier.



Sometimes I got so engrossed in hostessing that I forgot to take pictures of the food. Can you believe that? But after the entree we had a delicious salad of arugula, pancetta, Kalamata olives and large shavings of Parmesan, tossed in a lemon/olive oil dressing. Very refreshing and tasty. Then there was a cheese course with more of the walnut bread and table water crackers. 3 cheeses, manchengo, chevre with warm honey and a blissfully good Stilton with cranberries.

For dessert, I made crepes which were rolled around vanilla ice cream and frozen. They were served with raspberries and a hot fudge-rum sauce.



This leaning tower of ramekins gives you an idea of the state of the kitchen afterwards.











But we didn't care because this is what it looked like in the other room:

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Blogtopian Housekeeping

I made a few changes to my sidebar this morning. Just thought I'd mention why.

First of all, this week's word is actually a statement. Because Viacom sucks. You can read the whole story over at all things bitter if you want but the upshot is that Viacom, which owns MTV and Nickelodeon, among other concerns, has ordered YouTube to remove hundreds of thousands of video clips, claiming that they aren't getting any money for them. JP makes a perfectly articulate rant case for what's wrong with this picture but I'd just like to reiterate that I'm all for copyrights and royalties and all that but a) MTV doesn't play videos any more and 2) even if they did, videos exist pretty much for one purpose only...to promote a record.

OK, here's the thing. A site like ours isn't making any money off of playing these videos. What we are doing, however, is giving exposure to bands, some of whom no one has paid a lick of attention to since, well, since the 80s. It's even possible that one or two records have been sold in the last month because someone viewing our site said, "Oh, man, I forgot all about those guys. I gotta get that record!" Or maybe they went somewhere and paid 3¢ to download an mp3 to their iPod. Or maybe no one did any of that. But a lot of people had a lot of fun and a lot of good music (and some not so great) was heard again by a lot of people and last time I checked, that's why most people got into the music business in the first place.

JP makes the very good point that our little buddies over at Viacom never actually paid a dime to produce any of those videos. I suppose if anyone has a right to be concerned about making a nickle on a 20 year old video, it would be the record company or whoever that paid to make the thing in the first place. But maybe that makes too much sense.

If I were the head of Viacom I'd be asking myself, "How do we get the maximum exposure for our product?" And then I'd go to YouTube and I'd say, "Hey, let's create a Viacom channel and we'll give you fabulously clean digital copies of every video that has ever aired on MTV so that anyone who wants can have a look, download 'em and maybe even play them on their blogs". That's what I'd do. But then, I'm a reasonable person.

And you know what? Let's say, just for fun, that JP and I had figured out a way to make money with "Here's the 80s". Well, heck, then if I was Viacom (or more importantly, the person who retains rights to the royalties) I wouldn't go to around demanding that the content be removed. I'd have my people talk to their people and say, "Fine. Show the videos. Kick us back x amount of dollars". And we probably would because a) that's commerce and 2) we'd be racking in so much from all our our personal appearances that we wouldn't even miss the dough.

Whatever. We'll figure it out and I'm not going to let JP jump off his balcony just yet but it is a bit of a blow. So we hate Viacom. We hate it so much that there is now an official boycott of said Viacom in this house. A certain someone is just going to have to live without Spongebob Squarepants.

That'll show 'em.

In other news, I rearranged my blogroll, creating a separate category for blogs I like that don't update as often as others do. This is not a moral judgement. It actually is just for my own convenience, for when I'm short on blog time and just want to check in on those who I know are most likely to have new content. That's all. (And being sick last week really played havoc with my blog reading. I'm so behind. Just saying). In my view, every blog over there has merit, but there are the daily reads and then there's the rest.

Oh. And the BSG number didn't change because, well, there wasn't a new show last night due to the Superbowl. That makes me sad.

That is all.

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