Friday, July 30, 2010

Charlemagne abhors a vacuum

Firstly, NO ONE HAS DIED.

*knock on wood*

Traditionally, unexplained periods of non-posting are accompanied by a follow-up explanation of the latest casualty in the family, but thankfully, this time I just didn't have electricity for a week!

My house has been overrun with a bunch of sweaty dudes, who swarmed over every possible area -- the attic, under the house, and everything in between. I've basically been sitting in a corner all week, reading This is Where I Leave You and Dead Man's Walk. I recommend both.

Anyway, now we have a new electrical panel and a new furnace and air conditioner, which we won't be able to use unless it actually gets hot this summer. Not that I'm complaining -- the more clothing I am wearing, the happier I am, generally.

(Sometimes I think of the chain-smoking, chain-Diet-Dr. Pepper-drinking English professor I had in college who would probably kick my ass if she ever read this blog, but that has nothing to do with anything. Sorry.)

So, before my electricity was shut off, and in between shut-offs and power-ups, what I've actually been doing is unhealthily obsessing over my family tree. Aaaaand this is where you stop reading.

Because apparently genealogy is interesting to exactly 14 people across the United States. We are all on ancestry.com, sharing information and dorking out about our relatives who fought in the Civil War.

But you guys? I came across what -- to me -- is astounding information about my ancestors, which I shall now list for you, in case you are still reading.

1. I am a descendant of Charlemagne, aka Charles the Great, who lived during the 8th century. He was King of the Franks, Emperor of the Romans -- in other words, he was a big effing deal. I emailed a number of Charlemagne's other descendants to alert them to this astounding information, and the resounding lack of responses is deafening. None of them care. So, moving on!

2. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. This discovery was a real bummer, because at some point I had convinced myself that all of my relatives arrived in America after slavery was abolished. Not so, not by a long shot. One relative even named their son after the guy who killed Abraham Lincoln -- Wilkes Booth.

3. One of my ancestors was a founding colonist at Jamestown.

4. One of my husband's ancestors was the founding governor of Plymouth.

5. My husband shares ancestors with Barack Obama and George H. Bush.

6. Another of my relatives was a sergeant in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

And that's about it, for now. But you have three guesses what I'll be doing for pretty much the rest of the day, now that my electricity is on and I'm sitting at my beloved computer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Electric

Today a man is here to do some electrical work, and as usual I am never sure what is enough and what is too much when it comes to Good morning would you like some coffee? Should I have brought in donuts? Should I make banana bread tonight?

Sometimes these guys think they can't use the bathroom and I have to be like You can pee in here. It's OK.

I'm a bit socially awkward.

Part of what we're having done includes replacing all of our light switches with those fancy "rocker" switches that look like this and have a little light in them so you don't break your face trying to find the light switch in the dark.



Which is great, because what we've got going on right now is what was installed during The Great Remodel of 1980, when wood and bronze were in style. I took a couple of photos yesterday so you can fully appreciate just how dated our decor is at the moment. I believe I have answered the burning question of How many bronze switch plates can one house have?!?! The answer: A lot.

Isn't this quaint? This one reminds me of one of our next door neighbor's house in 1986. Those were dark days.



Oh! How adorable. I suppose I could have cleaned this one off before taking a photo of it, but I preferred to demonstrate why metal switch covers are a really stupid idea. It looks like a petri dish of salmonella.



 One word: AWESOME. 



 Ooooh! Old school textured switch cover! Delightful. 



 This is in the front bathroom. There's A LOT of this crap in the front bathroom. 



 For example, this matching outlet cover. It's a beaute. 


 DISGUSTING. 



Here's a gem! This is in the back bathroom. The whole bathroom looks like this switch cover had sex and gave birth to mutations of itself. It's a real delight.



 THE HUMANITY. 




 One of the offspring. It's an off-kilter towel rack. Some day I am going to kill it. 



WHY, GOD?!

Friday, July 23, 2010

What I am pretty sure of

I am pretty sure that the older I get, the more emotional I am becoming. As a teen and in my early twenties, sometimes I felt completely cold and numb and hard and now, at 31, I weep on command.

I read this blog post today that referenced an article that referenced a study that said women are their most attractive at age 31. I have a flattering friend who has said to me this year: Are you getting better looking? And I said, no, I quit my job and now I get eight hours of sleep, so my face looks more alive, and after all, how can someone with my body mass index have become better looking? Well, lo and behold, it's because I am 31. Who knew there was an advantage to that?

I am the kind of person people tell embarrassing things to. Later on, do they kick themselves and think, Gah, I never should have told her that? I don't know why people tell me about their STDs and cheating spouses and such, although alcohol probably loosens lips.

I am pretty sure I am not supposed to have started all of these sentences with the word "I." I once had a teacher who condemned this practice. But who cares if all of my paragraphs start with "I"? That teacher was probably obsessive compulsive.

I think lots of people are autistic and don't know it.

I am just now learning not to take myself so seriously. Why did it take me this long to just now reach the tip of the iceberg of my own self righteousness and pity and recognize it for what it is? Which is: useless. I am beginning to learn to replace it with humor.

Many people think I am wrong and think I am going to reform at some point, but what I wish they knew was what I knew, which is that there is nothing to reform. Good people are what they are, no matter what they affiliate themselves with or call themselves. They aren't going to be punished in the after life.

Every day, without fail, my neighbor screams at her kids and I wonder to myself, Am I going to scream at my kids every day? Is this normal? I've been told by former co-workers and current friends that I seem calm, I have a calming presence, even if I know I'm about to have a heart attack. I hope I am calm with my children.

People change and sometimes it's disappointing and sometimes it's a good thing. Everyone does change and will or has changed. Sometimes they fit better with you after the change and sometimes they don't. Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes it takes a very big thing happening to facilitate certain changes. Sometimes people are vague, no?

I have a small family. Puny, tiny, teensy little family. Yesterday I read something someone said about how her boyfriend has 120 cousins. She herself was astounded by this -- she has 9 cousins. I have one cousin, plus a half cousin I have never spoken to. I feel like every year my family gets smaller, and it does. The only one working on bringing in new blood is my one young cousin, who has had two children.

My mission to quit coffee failed miserably in one week, following a bad headache. Coffee wins.

Another friend is pregnant, and another just had a baby. More are lined up, pregnant with first or second children, waiting to birth. A friend tells me this may be the tipping point at which more people in a certain group of friends are either pregnant or have children than do not. She is right. I am not pregnant. Neither is she. To my knowledge.

Ok, stream of consciousness complete. Happy weekend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Italian Pot Pie

You are not going to be very happy with me when I tell you this, but where I live, in the Bay area in California, we are having the coolest summer in 40 years.

It's wonderful. This week temperatures are in the high 70s and then in the evenings and mornings it's positively chilly. Sweater weather. Actually, I am wearing a sweater right now. It's due to what our smug weather people call natural air conditioning, meaning that the cold fog from the coast rolls in every night and cools everything down.

Never fear -- I'm sure it won't last long. After all, the rest of the world appears to be having the hottest summer on record. So. You may or may not want to make Italian Pot Pie, as it's really a winter recipe.

It's a recipe from the December 2008 issue of Everyday Food, and it's awesome. It's one of my husband's favorites. Here's the step-by-step.


Chop an onion and a couple of carrots. Whose adorable salt box is that in the background? Oh yes, that's my salt box. Honestly, one of the best purchases I've ever made.



 Saute the onion and carrots in olive oil until tender. Whose adorable matching spoon rest is that? Hmm.



 Then throw in a pound of ground beef, break it up and cook until no longer pink.



 There you go.




The recipe calls for tomato sauce and cautions that you should probably make your own really wonderful tomato sauce. Which is awesome, if that's what you'd like to do, but what I most often do is throw in some really cheap jarred sauce. Still comes out tasting really good.






 Then it's time to make the dough, which calls for flour, baking powder, salt, grated parmesan and crushed dried rosemary. I stick the rosemary in this mortar/pestle thing and crush it.


 Whisk together dry ingredients. I may or may not use more cheese than necessary.


Make a well in the middle and pour in melted butter and some whole milk. Now, I don't have whole milk so what I use is 1/4 cup 1% milk and 1/4 cup half and half. Works fine every time. It would probably work fine if you just throw in whatever kind of milk you have.


 Stir.


 Now spoon your meat mixture into some handy dandy ramekins.


 Then plop your dough mixture on top. Doesn't need to be fancy.


Bake for about 15 minutes. Martha says 10 to 12 minutes, but if your oven is anything like mine, it's gonna take 15 minutes. Careful with that tray of goodies, it's a heavy sumgun. What a lovely spoon rest.

Now this comes out HOT, as you might imagine. As pot pies are wont to do. I'm not sure if it's a good recipe for children unless you really let it cool down for a bit first.

But it sure is tasty. That dough on top is really the clincher. It's slightly crispy and has a hint of rosemary and parmesan. Just delicious.

For the recipe, click here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Inconclusive

My toes are in embarrassing condition. I am in dire need of a pedicure. I am going to have lunch with a friend today, and she is bringing her young son, and I decided that if he asks me about my hairy left toe, I am going to tell him I've been working on it for quite some time and am rather proud of it.

You know how children are. Always noticing your most embarrassing flaws. My sister is a teacher and says one of her students said the other day, "I think you're gaining weight." I told her she should tell the kid he's an ugly little peckerhead.

That's why I'm not a teacher.

Do you ever begin to prepare for an event months ahead of time, thinking: By the time this event arrives, I am going to be so hot. Commence the maniacal workouts and eating of bird food!

And then you crash and burn in a tangle of Haagen Dazs and Mad Men marathons? Has that ever happened to you?

Huh. Just wondering.

When I was young -- say, 6 years old, I used to pretend I had another personality. Or, rather, that another person lived in me or maybe possessed me, but only during bath time, and only when my younger sister was also in the bath with me. Or, when real me wanted a cookie and wanted my sister to steal it for me. 

My other personality was a witch. Like I pretended to be a witch in order to scare my sister into doing things for me.

It's hard being an older sister. You have to figure out a few things like: 1) How to get the attention you rightly deserve as the firstborn, and obviously, most important child. 2) How to effectively enslave your younger sibling. 3) How to make sure all food portions given to you are larger and contain more chocolate chips than those given to your younger sibling.

It's just hard. One has to get pretty creative.

Did you think I might somehow tie all of these separate thoughts together in a cute conclusion? Huh.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Crud

I'm pretty much at a loss today.

I wrote an entire post about my bed, and how our old bed used to sag in the middle, and how it was given to my husband for free before we married (which: GROSS), and how one time after we got married my husband was sleep talking in the middle of the night, except he was the angriest sleep-talker I'd ever met and he was all:

Why are you smirking at me???? 

Marriage is hard.

I am tired. By the way, I deleted that post about the bed(s).

We have to watch all of Season 3 of Mad Men this week because Season 4 starts on Sunday. And so we watched the first episode of Season 3 last night around midnight and during the On Demand showing, they have these commercials with SPOILERS in them.

Like, hello. If I'm watching Season 3 RIGHT NOW, then obviously I have not SEEN Season 3. Do not tell me what happens in Season 3 and why Betty is so upset, you crap faces.

See? I'm so tired that I'm calling American Movie Classics a crap face. That is sad.

I'm a little annoyed that I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt now. And also Leonardo DiCaprio, actually. After Titanic I wanted to hate him for life, but after Blood Diamond and Departed, I hate myself a little. Because I love him now. No, I haven't seen Inception yet.

The book Born to Run has fooled me into believing that I was actually ... born to run. Or at least walk incredible distances. I haven't run a lick since I read the damn thing, but I think I am going to.

Right now.  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer gathering

Boiling black eyed peas for Texas Two Bean Salad


Olive oil, cider vinegar, sugar


 Black eyed peas, pinto beans, celery, pimentos, red bell pepper

 A yummy, cold summer side dish. For the recipe, click here.


 Boiling potatoes for potato salad



Mayonnaise, mustard, white vinegar, salt & pepper


Potatoes, celery, red onion. The recipe calls for one whole onion, but I recommend just a half or even a quarter. I also add pickles to mine.



 Mixed together, with paprika on top. If you like potato salad, this is a classic. For the recipe, click here.


 Martha's summer fruit sangria recipe


 I used nectarine, strawberries, apricots, ginger & mint. This recipe was a bit tart for my liking. Perhaps omit lemon juice. On the second batch I added extra cointreau and a couple splashes of amaretto to sweeten it up and it was delicious. Next time I am going to use peach schnapps. I'll post the recipe below.


Avocado for guacamole. My recipe, below. 

Guacamole

Four avocados, peeled
Two small tomatoes, diced small
One green onion, chopped
Juice of two small limes (to taste). You can substitute lemon if you don't have limes.
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt & pepper, to taste. You can throw in some garlic salt for an extra kick if you like.

Peel and quarter avocados and place in medium bowl. Mash using a fork. Mix in tomatoes, onion, lime juice, cilantro and salt & pepper. This recipe always takes some tweaking at the end. Add or subtract ingredients to suit your taste.

Martha's Summer Fruit Sangria

In a large bowl or pitcher, combine 6 cups assorted fruit (such as mango, pineapple, cantaloupe, and apricot), sliced or cut into chunks, 1/4 cup thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger, 1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh basil or mint leaves, and 1/2 cup orange liquer, such as Cointreau. Mash gently with the back of a wooden spoon until basil is bruised and fruit releases juices. Add 1 bottle crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, and 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon) and stir to combine. Refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 1 day). To serve, fill eight glasses with ice and top with sangria.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I make no promises

Every now and then someone informs me there is a whole new way to die that I never even knew about.

Like a few months ago I was watching one of those "End of the World" Discovery channel shows where they were exploring all the different ways the world could end. For the record, none of them involved blood covering the sun and zombies coming out of the ground.

But they went over all the normal stuff. Meteors and catastrophic global cooling. Like in The Day After Tomorrow. Ya know. Nothing new. And then they were like: And we could also get sucked into a black hole.

What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh......

That is a thought that had never occurred to me. I guess that if we get sucked into a black hole, we basically get squished to death.

Remember when Han and Luke and Chewbacca were stuck in the trash compactor? Hmm.

Anyway, this morning I woke up and I am not joking here, my first thought was, I REJECT BLACK HOLES. My puny human brain does not GET IT, therefore they do not exist. End of story.

Yesterday a dear friend of mine called me, and after a lively conversation about the twenty quadrillion women we know who are pregnant, I hung up and realized that the word "vagina" never used to come up in casual conversation. But now it's like Oh vagina this and vagina that. Which doesn't bother me, because vagina is a hilarious word, actually. And vaginas are sort of hilarious, too.

Poor vaginas. They go through so much.

This friend and I, neither of us are pregnant or have kids, but we discuss pregnancy and children at length, I suppose attempting to comfort ourselves about the possibility of having to push a human through our ... vaginas. And when we hang up, I am always more terrified than I was before. Suffice to say I am woefully unprepared for procreation.

I read something the other day that said I may not be able to conceive due to my low Vitamin D.

Did you know that deficiency in Vitamin D is the root of all evil? It contributes to rickets, diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, cancer, autism, birth defects, and now apparently, infertility.

I'm on this vitamin-taking regimen that is a bit out of hand. I'm taking 2400 IUs of Vitamin D a day. Each pill only has 250 IUs, so. There you have it.

WHY GOD? WHY AM I DEFICIENT?

First the B12, now the D.

Remember Gattaca? I would have been a janitor. I am genetically inferior.

I am the black hole of Vitamin D.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Rut

Sometimes I wish my blog had a face, so I could punch it.

Look, blog. I don't love you. And actually, I think we have a toxic relationship. I'm not going to leave you -- because I need you -- but I've decided I'm not going to treat you well. And there's nothing you can do about that. 

That's what I would tell my blog if my blog had a face.

If my blog were made of wood, I'd want to burn it down. Sometimes. It's a good thing my blog is not made of wood.

Look, blog. I can't make you popular. It's your own ugly face's fault that you're not popular. 

That's what I want to tell my blog. 

I've read all kinds of things about blogging.

How to become a successful blogger. Three easy steps and you'll be Dooce-in' it up in no time, flat! 

Twenty things you should never do if you want to become a successful blogger! 

These people don't want you to write about what you had for dinner. But I do. 


I have a blog post for you. It's called: One thing you should never do if you don't want all bloggers to think you're a giant asshole. 

Guess what it is? It's writing about what you should never do if you want to become a successful blogger. Asshole.

I can't keep up with all of it. The tweets and the twats, the endless bookmarked blogs, the networking and the bloghers and the conferences and cliques and gatherings. I'm back in elementary school, watching Carl's friends trying to get his attention. There's a warm bologna sandwich in my lunchbox. I hate bologna sandwiches.

Look, blog. I have a few minutes for you in the mornings, and then after that I'm supposedly writing a book. Stop getting in my way.

That's what I want to say to my blog.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The foot


Did you read Carl Sagan's "Contact" or watch the subsequent movie starring Jodie Foster? Both are awesome although I admit Matthew McConaughey as the priest was a stretch. He tried.

Remember when they're building the machine the aliens beamed instructions for and they decide to put a chair in it? The aliens had just sent detailed plans to build the most complex machine ever created on Earth, but humans had to inject a chair into it, not trusting that a supreme intelligence would have accounted for a person's need to sit during a trip across a few galaxies.

And Jodie sits in the chair and when the machine starts up, the chair starts shaking violently because the aliens didn't instruct the humans to put a chair in it and that's because they weren't supposed to put a chair in it? So she unhooks herself and the chair breaks loose and sticks to the side of the orb? And she floats to Never-Never Land?

Hmmm. I liked that movie.

I am reading this book, Born to Run, because I fancy myself a runner in my imagination, and also because it's extremely well-written and entertaining. And I had been training for a 5K and then something happened to my leg and there was this awful pain that didn't go away for a while. And I thought, well, it's because I'm overweight.

And I googled the problem, and all the runners sites say my left foot is pronating too much. Which is a bummer.

And then I'm reading this book, and at one point it says that the more expensive your running shoes are, the more likely you are to suffer an injury.

It's involved, the discussion of why highly advanced shoes made to cushion and support your foot will actually hurt you. Suffice to say shoes change how you run, and the impact on your body is greater when you're wearing Nikes than when you're running barefoot.

Before modern, supportive shoes, foot injuries were almost nonexistent.

Shoes make the muscles in your feet weak. We cushion each muscle in the foot, pushing up on our arches, when in reality you would never push up on an arch. The whole structure would crumble.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

We have these miraculous bodies with innumerable nerve endings and intricate musculature and sleek bones that move and pivot with grace, and instead of trusting that however this happened, our bodies are machines capable of running, jumping, swimming, dancing, crouching, stretching... Instead of trusting this, we build a chair for that machine.

I'm not saying I'm joining the barefoot movement. But I'm definitely rethinking my expensive running shoes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cat control

We finally have video of one of the cats jumping on the counter and being scared by SSSCAT -- the compressed air can with a motion sensor on it that puffs air and scares the crap out of cats when they venture into areas they're not allowed.

This video is of Murray. I wish I could slow it down for you, but I think it's pretty funny, anyway. You can hear The Bachelorette on the television in the background -- this was filmed last night.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Raspberry Cheesecake

A dangerous thing has happened. I have made cheesecake, and it was good.

Actually, I'm sorry, it was damn good. It was a Level 5 on the Lakshmi meter. It was gone within about 24 hours.

I found the recipe on one of my favorite food porn sites -- The Pioneer Woman. If, for some reason, you've been living in blogger purgatory and have never heard of this woman, just trust me and go there. Every day.

TPW made Blackberry Cheesecake because she lives on a ranch in steaming hot Oklahoma and blackberries grow like weeds. I went to the grocery store and all of the blackberries were covered in mold (Safeway: You will rue the day you crossed me!!). So I got raspberries! You can use whatever kind of berries you want.

All of the ingredients on my fantastic 70's-era tile counter. Grout, you will rue the day you crossed me!


Toss the whole box of Nilla Wafers and some pecans in a food processor. If you don't have a food processor, you could try smashing this stuff in a bag with a club, like a caveman, but results may vary, my friend. If you've been using graham crackers or some pre-made pie crust -- just STOP IT. Trust me.


 Mmmm crumby. Then you pour in melted butter and some vanilla, and then ....


You throw it in a springform pan. These have little locks on the sides that allow you to slip the sides off the pie when it's all finished and cool. If you don't have a springform pan, just go get one. Trust me. So anyway, throw it in a springform pan, and don't panic at the sheer volume of Nilla Wafer/pecan goodness. Just smash it down with a glass.


 Til it looks like a decent crust, kind of like this.



 Here I've thrown a massive amount of cream cheese into my trusty glass bowl with a load of sugar.



And I used a hand mixer to beat it. TPW throws hers into a mixer, but as I don't yet own a mixer, I just used my ghetto mixer. And the good news is, it works just as well.



Here, I've already beaten in four eggs and am about to beat in a glob of sour cream.
 And then you just pour it over your crust in the pan, and throw it in the oven for an hour and ten minutes.



When I saw this, I was nervous. Because I'd never made a cheesecake. But it settled down into more of a cheesecakey form. Here it's finished baking and is cooling in the oven with the door open. Do not judge me for my dirty oven.


 While the cheesecake was cooling, I threw my raspberries and some sugar and a little water in a pan.


 Let it boil for a second. Then let it cool for a few minutes.



And then I poured it on top of my cheesecake. I managed to maintain enough control not to eat this entire thing, and instead brought it to a party. It's saying a lot, because the smell of this thing baking will drive you wild.

 Here's where I started using the iPhone's Hipstamatic application. We'd brought this delicious bastard to our friends' home, and here it is sitting in their adorable 50's kitchen. The springform pan has been removed.


Sweet love of mine. I lust for thee. There are no pictures of whole slices. It was that good.


Just ... I mean, look at that.

So anyway, I was so happy to have made something that was so delicious, because I'd recently gotten skunked by a couple of Martha Stewart recipes and was beginning to wonder, Is it me? It's not.

For the recipe for this cheesecake, click on this link to The Pioneer Woman's site, and enjoy!