Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gizoogle It

After seeing this post on The Bloggess*, I Gizoogled myself.

This is what came back:

Yep.  A shitload of chicken photos.  Fo' realz, chickenie hoes.

* One of the funniest blogs (and books), evah, muthaf&%#er.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Done Well

We loaded the car for our trip up the coast with all of the road trip essentials:

My son: Kindle Fire filled with episodes of The West Wing; basketball; sweatpants.
My daughter: big bag of chips; The Hunger Games trilogy audiobooks on her iPod; Ugg boots.
My husband: recent issue of The Economist; Lego(R) VW Camper Van kit; running shorts.
Me: roasting pan; chef's knives; hand mixer; kosher salt; serving platter; two nine-inch cake pans; ceramic pie plate; measuring cups and spoons; whisk; spatula; matching square and rectangular enameled baking dishes; pre-measured ingredients in ziplock bags; olive oil; three cookbooks; two cooking magazines; nested set of glass mixing bowls; baking sheet; Silpat; cooling rack; laptop loaded with cooking blogs; stretchy leggings*.
The dog: Stinky breath.

The very fitting Lego project, completed.

Later that day, we arrived at our rental house, pleasantly surprised by the following:

My son: There was a flat panel TV with all the sports channels in HD, and his bed was unbelievably comfortable.
My daughter: She got to sleep up in the loft, with a porch that looked out over the ocean.
My husband: The house was four blocks from the beach, he and the dog could roam anywhere in town, and his dad was happy to come by and just hang out.
Me: The kitchen was beyond fully stocked, with a Viking range, potato peelers, and a turkey baster, and Trader Joe's was less than 15 minutes away.  Plus, there was a brand new bookstore in town to explore.
The dog: Everybody he met wanted to pet him, and he got to roll in the sand.  A lot.

The days were warm and bright, filled with walks by the sea, reunions with friends, cozy breakfasts with Grandpa, feisty multi-player card games, a little too much email, just enough wine, hikes through cypress groves, afternoons at the movies, a few unfortunate stomach pains (mostly mended) and, the highlight for me, family gathered around a table groaning with home cooked food for Thanksgiving dinner.

It wasn't perfect. I had a lot of pangs about Mom. My father-in-law was much frailer than we'd expected.  My brother-in-law's girlfriend spent an afternoon in an ER waiting room, suffering through gall bladder issues.  I let work get in the way, and didn't sleep nearly enough**.

But somehow being together, in that unexpectedly great house, made those things less important and all the good moments matter.  It was the Thanksgiving we needed.

It was Thanksgiving, done well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Really Ugly Duckling of Cakes

One the books I used to love reading to the kids was The Stinky Cheese Man, by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith*, and our collective favorite story in the book was The Really Ugly Duckling.

I had a bit of a Stinky Cheese Man flashback the other night:

On Thursday, I made a really ugly cake.

Well, as it turns out, it was a really, really ugly cake, but I put some candles on it and we ate it and it was infinitely better than anything in the pond after all.  In fact, it was one of the most delicious birthday cakes I've ever made.  Everybody had seconds, and we all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A humble brand of fabulousness

There was not much love lost for Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue when I hosted book group today.  It was a big, over-written slog of a novel, ripe with good intentions and populated with an unlikely but ultimately interdependent tribe of memorable, flawed, striving characters buried under an avalanche of similes and metaphors and weighty authorial preening.  Like Fifty-Eight, abandoned in death, we collectively longed to escape to a loquat tree and never look back.

Here is an example of what Michael's editor should have done:

There was not much love lost for Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue when I hosted book group today.  It was a big, over-written slog of a novel, ripe with good intentions and populated with an unlikely but ultimately interdependent tribe of memorable, flawed, striving characters buried under an avalanche of similes and metaphors and weighty authorial preening.  Like Fifty-Eight, abandoned in death, we collectively longed to escape to a loquat tree and never look back.

The book was way too long.  The author was clearly full of himself.  There was a parrot that got away.

Lucky parrot.

There were small flashes of comic genius:

"Then a hatch in the side of the gondola sighed and swung open, divulging the airship's secret cargo: a basalt monolith, the very thing to set half-apes dreaming of the stars.  Black knit polo shirt, skull polished like the knob on an Oscar.  Gold-rimmed sunglasses, gold finger rings, black Levi's, Timerland loafers.  Pausing at the top of a fold-down stair for a display of freestyle looming, brother looked like a celebrity golfer or as if perhaps he had recently eaten a celebrity golfer."

Freestyle looming is going to be my new thing.

I loved this, too:

"The cakes and cookies at Neldam's were not first-rate, but they had an old-fashioned sincerity, a humble brand of fabulousness, that touched Archy in this time when everything good in life was either synthesized in transgenic cyborg vats or shade-grown in small batches by a Buddhist collective of blind ex-Carmelite Wiccans."

Now, I had my lunch theme:  Food with a humble brand of fabulousness. And no blind Wiccans.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Of my choosing

On Saturday morning, I wanted to be chosen.
Hundreds of other people wanted to be chosen, too.

As a group, we were given lengthy instructions about the process, our options, and how the day would unfold.  

We chanted and cheered while marching for the cameras, repeating our performance five or six times until we had mastered spontaneously swarming the building in boisterous good spirits.   

I got to shake Gordon Ramsey's hand.

Then everyone waited in an orderly mass on the sidewalk, passing the time with chit chat and texting and reading the paper and comparing notes on our food.  Periodically, a cluster of people, containers in hand, would be called to report for their tryout.

After several hours, my group filed into a room with an assigned place to set out our dish.  Each of us had to say really brightly on camera, "Am I the next Master Chef?"*  The (extremely gracious and kind) casting team came around, tasting and testing, asking questions, and making notes on clipboards.

My challah bread and homemade butter had devoted fans among the crew and my fellow aspirants.  But I talked a little too much about my job, my family and our pets, and not enough about what I would do if given a sheep's heart to make dinner with**.

I was not chosen.
I felt a little disappointed, but not surprised.  I also felt hungry***. 

When the giant cardboard judge bobble heads came out, I realized definitively that I was completely out of my comfort zone.  I literally ran and hid.

On Tuesday morning, I wanted not to be chosen.
Hundreds of other people wanted not to be chosen, either.

As a group, we passed through the metal detectors, found chairs in the jury assembly room, and were given lengthy instructions about the process, our options, and how the day would unfold.

Then everyone waited in an orderly mass on the 11th floor of the Superior Court building, passing the time with chit chat and texting, reading the paper and comparing notes on the inconvenience of being in here.  Periodically, a group would be called to report for a trial.

I got lots of work done because they had free wi-fi.  I walked to lunch a a cool restaurant and ate outside at the bar.
I didn't shake anyone's hand.

After several hours, a voice came on the PA system, not to enpanel another group, but to tell us we were done for the day.

I was not chosen.
I felt lucky, and a little surprised****.

On Tuesday evening, I did the choosing.
Millions of other people were choosing, too.

Right after leaving the courthouse, I got in my car and drove 45 minutes through traffic to my polling place.  It was growing dark outside, and my heart was thumping as I inked my ballot.

I put on my sticker, and hoped.

Then I waited at home in a state of nervous anxiety, passing the time by making fried chicken, homemade applesauce and cheesy scallion bread for dinner, obsessively checking returns online and watching NBC news with the kind of rapt attention usually demonstrated by my dog when we pick up his leash*****.

After several hours, the state of Ohio turned blue.

He was chosen.  
We, collectively, had done it.

I felt elated and shocked and relieved and grateful and awed and amazed, all at once. It was incredible.

My kids then elected not to enjoy the chicken, because I had chosen to fry wings instead of boneless chicken tenders.

People make choices all the time.  Sometimes, having the power to choose seems inconsequential.  But this week, choosing made all the difference.  

* I knew right then that I wasn't the next Master Chef, but I said it anyway.  If I learned nothing else that day, I learned that I am definitively NOT an on-camera person.
** I should have replied:  "I'd cut it into cubes, marinate in garlic, olive oil, rosemary, and a splash of balsamic, then grill it on rosemary skewers and serve as an appetizer." What I actually said: "I'd put in into a ragu and hide it. Otherwise no one in my family would touch it."
*** We waited straight through lunch, and there was a lot of amazing looking food around that audition table.  
**** Well over two-thirds of the people who'd started the day with me had been called into courtrooms before lunch.
***** There I go again with the irrelevant pet references!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pardon the mess!

FYI, for the six of you who actually read this thing, I'm shifting the blog format back to the set up I had before, and there's clean-up work to do on some of the older posts as a result.   The good news is that I can add back the fun little side notes about books to read and cookbooks to buy, and all kinds of other  things that slick but useless dynamic view layout didn't support.  Stay tuned and bear with me, guys.  You probably need to hit the gym after those candy bar cookie bars anyway!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Facebook Official

Apparently this is a thing now, going "Facebook Official":

Putting it out into the world that you're with someone and it's real. A milestone of note, etched wide across two timelines, open for comments and likes and discussion.

Except, of course, from your parents*.
They should just calm down and stop being so nosy all the time.
What's for dinner anyway?