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Published in: on December 12, 2009 at 3:27 AM  Comments (1)  

Neighbors with Automatic Weapons…A Bad Thing?

Dear Jerkwad Neighbor:

 How are you?  I hope you finally got some sleep last night…it’s nice to know someone did. 

Can I share a teeny secret with you and what I can only assume was your posse: waking up to the sound of automatic gunfire at 3 am does not make for a sleep filled evening.  In fact, one might even construe that such behavior would easily be classified as just plain rude. 

One, my husband and I do not respond well to being startled as a form of awakening.  I don’t even like birds chirping outside my bedroom window, so imagine my displeasure at the sound of gunfire.  Two, I don’t appreciate laying on my back wondering what the ethical, to say nothing of the proper etiquette, in dealing with random gunfire. 

I did consider calling the police; however, the idea of being seen talking to the police, well as we all know, might not be the wisest thing I could be seen doing.  But if you persist in this unseemly matter, I most likely will overlook the lack of wisdom.

I would be tickled pink if you could refrain from such an utterly male form of juvenile expression.  I hate to be sexist—and I do so hope you do too—but I know you are a guy.  Most angry anti-social girls are more mouthy than armed.  Guns are such unpleasant things—believe me, I would be irritated by loud mufflers or even loud shouting at 3 in the morning, but less so than I would be hearing gunfire.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Your neighbor.

Published in: on December 12, 2009 at 3:19 AM  Comments (1)  
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Real Voices in my Head. Damn.

I rise up and squint at the clock, 5:20 a.m.

The room is still dark, save for the light coming from under the bathroom door where DH is getting ready for work. Everything looks familiar—I’m home, I’m in bed and I am safe…however my ears tell me something quite different. Be afraid, very afraid…Welcome to the Twilight zone.

Let me fill in the back story: DH and I are NPR geeks. The area where we live is blessed with 3 different NPR stations so it is always on in the background. We can name all of the announcers, which as I write this, suddenly seems so sad.  But there it is. Geeks we be.  What’s interesting to me is how polarizing this admission is. When we mention NPR, some people call us wacky liberals…I tend to avoid these people…at the other end of the spectrum are friends who, when they hear the letters NPR, raise their eyebrows in total and genuine concern, ask, “How could you guys listen to such conservative drivel?”  I just thought NPR was kind of, you know, fair and balanced, middle of the road.  Besides, where else can I hear hours of uninterrupted broadcasts from the BBC?  Don’t you just love The Strand??  Talk about book reviews written for English majors!   But  I digress.

What woke me up this morning was proof that there are some stories that make you wonder if it is wise to set the alarm clock radio to NPR.  This morning, even before the sun had peeked its rosy nose over the bridge, I heard something so troublesome I had to sit straight up angry and in total and completely stupefaction.

NPR did a story covering those TEA party folk that seem to be popping up like toadstools throughout the center of our country.  Name calling is bad.  Ad hominem attacks are, as we know, the lowest form of argument—it’s not really arguing…but sometimes name calling is an act that is just viscerally satisfying. Here goes: These people are simply racist homophobes who really need to go back and read the Federalist Papers and maybe the Bill of Rights, and hey, while they’re at it…the Bill of Rights.   I like to think I am open minded, maybe not so much.  These TEA party folk make me want to rethink whether or not being open-minded is a good thing. I mean, would I allow my child to watch FOX news or Glenn Beck (their fomenting leader)??  Questions like that help substantiate my choice to not breed…

These people claim a groundswell following…(now there’s a scary thought…a “Honey, where’s our passport” type of scary).  Name calling is so silly, I admit…however, if their concerns were based on facts and not some weird racist reactionary agenda, maybe I’d listen…Like where were they during the Bush administration, when spending skyrocketed?  They claim to support individual liberty?  I think not…where were their protests when Cheney and his henchmen eviscerated civil liberties under the guise of fighting terrorism??

They’re simple right-wing ideologues who don’t like the new president because, well, I think we all know why.  When questioned about what Obama has done to engender their hatred of all things Obama,  Lorie Medina (one of their leaders)  was unable to specify even one act. Not one!  Not even a hint (visions of Sarah Palin, anyone?).  That a leader within this movement could be stumped by this seemingly obvious question – you would think that the answer would form a substantive plank in their platform–is jaw dropping amazing.  Perhaps her inability to respond belies the fact that these folk are merely rats clinging to a sinking ship…our society is finally evolving into one that is (hopefully) more inclusive…(finally!) the anglo-patriachial-evangalical christian paradigm is being displaced…and these people refuse to let go.

Grrrrrrrrr.  I need to go run.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 at 2:12 AM  Comments (2)  

Eyeliner and Bathrobes

If I could have one wish? Hmmmmm? World peace? Nope. Sorry guys, if people can’t figure out how to behave….why should I help?

A million dollars? Maybe….you know, at one time, I thought that a million bucks was a bucket load of money. Then we moved to Oakland. Sorry, but a million buckaroos will get you a 1 bedroom condo and maybe a Dior purse.  That’s it.  Just think, you could walk out my front door, and you could spend $1,000,000,000 in less than an hour.  Amazing.   No, what I’d ask for is black eyeliner that stays put.  Imagine going to the gym and looking up from the Stairmaster and not making that guy next to you gasp in horror.  I admit it, I am one of those women who wear makeup to workout, actually, just eyeliner and mascara…without these, women pull their children close, making the sign of the cross as I walk past.

I don’t think my husband has seen me without anything on my face.  No, that’s wrong.  About a year ago, I woke up one morning with that scratchy feeling in my throat…I did a quick check of my vital signs…uh oh, I could breath through only one nostril…and who hit me with a baseball bat? That’s not a good sign, I moaned to myself…I can’t breath, my throat hurts and my hair aches. DH had already left for work-he leaves at an ungodly hour to commute to his job—so I was on my own.

I pulled the comforter up around me and tried to sleep, which is impossible when you can’t breath. Frustrated I called the cats for company, patting the bed next to me… hopping up onto our bed and burrowing under the comforter is a major cat treat, reserved for DH’s absence…for some inhumane reason, DH has declared that the cats are forbidden to sleep on our bed. To me, one of the main reasons for cat ownership is that purring thing they do when they curl up with you…it puts me right to sleep…actually; I blame my insomnia on DH’s No Cat in Bed Rule. To squelch or lessen my protests, DH put two heated cat beds in the corner of our bedroom and also the living room (ostensibly to keep them off the furniture)…When I complain that I want to sleep with the cats, DH points out that I am welcome to go to their corner and join them. To be fair, it goes without saying that left on my own, I would turn into that crazy cat lady down the block…I soon realized that I married and get to live with the crazy cat man).  Despite the cat’s warm and cozy velvet beds (yeah, really), I miss curling up with them. So we have this routine, when DH leaves for work, as soon as his key locks the front door, they scamper up onto the bed…We have this routine down pat.  I am amazed how they know who is responsible for their forced exile.  One morning, DH unexpectedly returned to retrieve a forgotten item, the cats suddenly sat up and then scampered off of the bed as soon as he unlocked the front door. They high-fived each other with their little paws in the air when DH finally left.

So I spent the most of the day buried beneath the comforter with our two cats stationed on either side of me. My nose finally unstuffed, I was able to sleep through most of the day. When I get a cold or the flu, my body thankfully goes unconscious.  Around 5 or so, I woke still too sick to do much more than my beached whale impression, I got up and decided to lie on the sofa. I pulled on my favorite bathrobe. I’ve had the robe since college…it is two sizes too large, but very soft and furry. It’s made out of faux fur in a leopard print; actually, it’s an acrylic fur (read: shiny) in a light brown with what appears to be black dots someone spray painted onto the tips of the shiny fur, but after years of washing, bits of the fur have fallen out along with some of the dots, it looks like its made from the pelts of very ill hyenas. I don’t care,  love this robe, it’s so soft and warm…and when I wear it to get the morning paper, none of our gang member neighbors mess with me…in fact, they often cross the street when I appear.

Nonetheless, given the fact that most men don’t go for the balding hyena look, I only wore it well after DH and I were married…in our dating days, I am afraid it might have constituted a deal breaker.

Armed in the warmth of my furry robe, I figured my feet should be warm. When I was a kid, my mother had a thing about bare feet. Going around without shoes would surely lead to a cornucopia of maladies from the croup to scarlet fever, “You’ll catch pneumonia,” she’d yell if my brother and I watched the TV barefoot…going outside to play without shoes was unthinkable…What? Did we want to catch some weird disease and die??  It wasn’t until high school before I realized that the Black Death of the middle ages wasn’t caused by people who didn’t wear socks and shoes. The holdover is that I always wear shoes—running barefoot through the grass seems very odd to me (besides, living in the city, there are scant patches of grass and usually urban pooches have visited them first, so eeewww!)

I put on my pig slippers. I know that most people prefer to wear bunny slippers and that they are the pinnacle of cuteness. But I have inordinately small feet—whenever I go shopping for slippers, it seems that my shopping is timed to occur days after the last run on bunny slippers…For some reason, mothers have stocked up on furry slippers with rabbit ears for their children. The shelves are empty. So, instead of yanking them off the feet of children, I am left with a slipper menagerie filled with the lesser animals…hence, my piggy slippers.  Besides I think mine are more sophisticated. My piggy slippers are what I like to consider as my post-modern porcine slippers…they consist of 2 pigs deconstructed…pink slippers with just a hot pink pig nose glued on the toes to give the mere perception of a pig…there were ears at one time, but you’d have to talk to the cats about that.

I shuffled out to the living room…and settled in to watch the evening news…somewhere between the traffic report and sports I fell back into a deep slobbering sleep. Keys jangled in the front door lock…the cats leapt off of the sofa to form a furry welcoming line at the front door—we have very friendly cats… The front door opened onto a dark apartment the blue light from the TV cast an earie glow. I sat up, my hair shmooshed up on one side, and one pig slippered foot poked its pink nose from beneath my balding bathrobe, the other lay ravaged under the coffee table. Obviously, while I slept, the cats had had their way with it.

When DH’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, he gasped the gasp that was strangely reminiscent of that girl scream he does when I make him kill a spider. He had left early that morning, a normal looking person lay sleeping in bed…the look on his face, keys in one hand, his briefcase strangely held shield-like in the other bespoke that upon return from work, he had expected that same person, hopefully in an upright position.  Aside from that girl scream, DH proved to be a pretty compassionate caregiver.   Bowls of soup were prepared, he coaxed me back to bed…where he begged me to bring his wife back.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 10, 2009 at 6:41 AM  Leave a Comment  

Husbands and Chainsaws

Here’s something I can guarantee that most wives hope to never see:  Their husband standing on the balcony with a chain saw…or better yet, your husband attacking your silk upholstered chair with a chain saw while on the balcony.

I posted about our chair that was savaged at the paws of our two cats.  Kapok bleeding, its days were clearly numbered.  DH it seems, decided end its misery and finish it off.

As I watch the bits of kapok now floating through the neighborhood flocking the trees and other balconies down our street as it floated past, it becomes clear that my idea to get rid of the chair by simply calling someone to haul it away…to take it off into the woods as it were, much in the same sense as those Indian tribes that take their elders out to the forest to be left to die, in the dignity of being one with nature.  My plan was just plain prosaic.  A chainsaw clearly has more of a definite verve to it.

I perused Craigslist looking for someone who hauled rubbish.  DH would point out that no one would come for a single item.  Living in a 450 square foot apartment, we are minimalist at core.  One thing DH and I share is a phobia of clutter.  If I add to the list of things to be hauled away, we’d suddenly have to do without—a sofa?  A lamp?  Not a bookcase!  This void would give me the excuse to shop, but I’ve actually finally reached that stage in the evolution of our décor where I like everything we have…the table from Tibet, the chest from India, our Jim Morrison portrait and giant Buddha sculpted in wood—we’ve attenuated our jumble of stuff and have finally crossed that fine line between junky into eclectic.

So, after a few days of searching for someone to haul our chair away, I found one ad that said ‘No job too small,” I called and was stunned by the price.  For what Mr. No Job Too Small asked, I could pay to have the chair reupholstered in an antique brocade from Pierre Frey… by the way, speaking of  Upholstering—note the capital “U”—this is an esoteric art it seems, right up there with the Free Masonry…What is with their prices?  I took our chair’s measurements into our neighborhood upholstery shop…a teeny tiny shop, crowded with a dusty forest of fabric bolts with sumptuous velvets, brocades that begged to be petted and awed over—none of which were cat or husband-proof.

A very nice old man with a faded tape measure draped around his neck shuffled out from behind a red and white toile curtain, behind him I could see an old sewing machine.   He straightened as he greeted me…he was so cute…I was taller than he was—and I’m short!  Mr. Santa’s Helper pulled his wire framed glasses from the top of his head as he took my slip of paper with the chair’s measurements.  He smiled as his fingers danced over the keys of an ancient adding machine.  He pulled the crank to produce a grand total.  I audibly gasped as he explained that the price was just for labor and not the fabric.  Obviously Mr. Santa’s Helper has to make payments on his condo in Monaco.

Frustrated, I even suggested that DH just simply haul the chair to the curb.  Perhaps someone looking to hone their upholstering skills would drive past, stop in total awe, able to appreciate the glory the chair once possessed and take it home and assume the challenge of restoring its beauty, upholstery staple gun in hand.  Practicing would give their career that final coup de grace propelling them into that 6 figure income… Or maybe someone, just needing a chair would see past its gaping wounds and take it home.

I have seen worse on our street corners: detritus of renters without leases.  Much of the stuff left out for free pickings is pretty sorry, drawer-less chest of drawers, sofas missing one back cushion, three legged tables propped against telephone poles.  However, they never fail to disappear.  By morning, everything, no matter how derelict, is gone.  I have images of couples driving around the city in the cover of darkness looking for that sofa to go along with that single plaid sofa cushion sitting sadly on their living room floor…Excitedly, they’d point from the car, breaks screeching, ”Look honey, there’s a plaid sofa missing one seat cushion!  So it seemed plausible that an appreciative chair aficionado would grab ours right up.

DH’s argument against ridding our apartment of the chair was that we would be left with a vacant corner in the living room.  Fine with me, I thought.  However, for DH, a void in the furniture topology was for some reason, bothersome.  As I watched him dismember the chair with a chain saw–while keeping the cats and myself safely behind the closed glass patio door, I realized in DH’s head, removing the chair constituted a major task.  I also wondered how he defined the term ‘good idea.’

We have been flirting with chairs for a while now. Actually, we were operating under some significant impediments to walking into a furniture store and buying the first chair we could agree upon: size and cat proofing.  Most furniture chains seem to cater to people who live in the suburbs and not urbanites with diminutive floor plans…I felt like Jack in the Beanstalk, where upon climbing the beanstalk, we suddenly landed into the Giant’s neighborhood LazyBoy store.  Who has the floor space for an armchair the size of a Hyundai?  Or we’d visit a ‘designer’ outlet that catered to the Loft people—those folk who have uber cool furniture usually in silver or white suede where the lines are exceedingly minimal, the prices aren’t.  As for cat proofing, I still think that it would be a good idea to pack up the cats in their carriers, show up at LazyBoy and turn them loose.  Whichever chair they ignore is the one we buy.  Unfortunately, when I mention this plan to salespeople, they tend to only talk to DH.

Too bad husbands can’t be packed into pet carriers to go shopping.  One thing I learned very early in our marriage is that men come with a certain number of shopping hours—much in the same way that the life of that Duracell battery in your flashlight is only viable for only couple of hundred of hours.  You can tell when their shopping reservoir is running low–as they use up their hours, the crankier they become.  The number of hours that a husband can shop is amazingly relative…handbags?  5 to 20 minutes max…fishing poles—even though you have never seen your husband fish—12 hours.  Furniture shopping falls somewhere in between, the actual limit is closer though, to the 20 minute mark.

Last Saturday, I managed to cajole DH into a furniture store…the trick?  Fear.  I thought about food, but it was difficult getting the bacon to stay on the car seats (actually, broken bits of cupcake would be better bait).   I made dinner reservations at a restaurant next to the furniture store I had in mind. With he promise of sushi, his ears perked up, “Isn’t that next to the place where we saw that black leather chair we liked?”  In mock surprise, I told him he was right (actually I was surprised he remembered).  In all the innocence I could muster, I suggested that perhaps, if we had time, we could take another peek.  I knew that we would have an hour before closing.  This would keep us well within that window of shopping time before he turned grumpy.

We had seen this chair early in our hunt for the perfect chair.  It really was perfect: black leather, i.e., cat-proof, and despite being a recliner, it kept its recliner nature to itself—it had a small footprint, therefore would fit in our apartment.  Why didn’t we buy it when we first saw it?  On first sight, DH had suddenly morphed into Goldilocks and wasn’t sure if it was comfy enough (it is).   Out of the blue,  he wanted wood trim.  He didn’t.  Was it the right shade of black?  Really?  None of these concerns meant anything—they’re merely symptoms of that male resistance that is the one design flaw (well, one of them) in the male psyche.  (One need simply nod and provide the requisite appearance of agreement, and it will pass, resist and the symptoms turn into a full  blown virus where the male disagrees with everything you suggest).

Suddenly DH didn’t want a recliner.  This is amazing, since as we all know, nothing says testosterone like a chair that reclines.  We left the store…I just sighed knowing that all I had to do was bide my time.

Walking back into the store the other evening,  we quickly found the chair again.  He sat in the chair.  He looked at the chair from behind.  He agreed it was a very cool chair.  He removed the seat cushion, why?  I am not exactly sure…he crinkled his nose and started to peruse the other chairs in the showroom…”What if we buy a sofa instead, and put ours against the wall to the balcony, then we won’t need a chair.”  He was losing focus.  I knew had to act quickly.

I said that the furniture store at the Mall (the Mall we had yet to visit) had a stores with store-wide sales.  A mall during the holiday season is a scary place for most men—DH especially. Perhaps it would be prudent to check out their stock,  I reasoned.  I saw that he was starting to pale, now was the time to go in for the kill…”But if we buy this chair right now, we’d have it for Christmas and I wouldn’t have to drag you through the mall where EVERYTHING is on sale.  EVERYTHING.”

They delivered the chair the next day.  Which is why DH was on the balcony sawing the old chair in half.  I’m sure the neighbors think we’re serial killers.  I swear we got weird looks as we carried large black garbage bags filled with parts of our old chair to the dumpster.  Bits of kapok in our hair, we slung the bags into the dumpster.

I wonder if we should paint the bathroom, now?  I think I saw blow torch in DH’s tool box.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 9, 2009 at 3:30 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Voices in My Head

Welcome to our tiny, but oh-so-cute apartment, Mr. Obama.  Have a seat.  Can I offer you a drink?  A martini? Hahahahah! That’s funny.  It’s so early, but you know, I’ll share a secret,  before I took up running,  I used to  justify a breakfast gin and tonic by noting the 9 hour difference between here and Paris and announce “Hey, it’s dinner time in Paris!”   Running cured that…neighbors hate it when you curl up in their hydrangeas…but with your job, I must say, I wouldn’t be surprised if you did indulge in, shall we say, a matinal martini now and then.

OK, let me pour you some coffee.  And please try these scones…That’s nice of you, but I picked these up at a bakery down the block. I don’t bake.  Baking requires accuracy in measuring and lists of ingredients that really need to be followed.  I’d attempt a cake or something, and after I put the batter in the oven, I’d glance at the recipe and suddenly realize I’d left out 3 key ingredients.  Baking is too unforgiving.  I’m one of those cooks who measures by handful and pinches.  I call it the Jackson Pollock approach to cooking.  I know, I am so clever!  Besides,  if you think of it, most recipes, except baking of course, are nothing more than series of techniques…but we’re not here to talk cooking, are we?

Let me first say, thank you for coming.  I knew you would.  It was only a matter of time before you sought my advice.  Oh no need to apologize, really.  I know what a pain it must be to leave the office…though, you do travel an awful lot…but never mind, the point is you’re here now.

Well, where to start?

First, you know the 30,000 soldiers you’re sending to Afghanistan?  Wait, here’s some paper and a pen…sorry, but all my pens have pink marabou.  Ignore it, but you really need to take notes.  Back to your decision to send more soldiers into Afghanistan…I have to say, this is such a bad move, really, really bad.  A real waste.  Not only are you alienating your base of support—we’ve had protests here that are really tough to watch, I mean, at one time your popularity was way up there…with this move, I hate to say it, but you are really missing the mark.  It’s like going to Bergdoff when the real sale is at Bloomies.  Listen, here’s what I’d do…I’d skip right over Afghanistan and march right into Pakistan and give them a firm talking to…I mean really.   I’d let them know, that if they continue to harbor or in anyway support those Taliban or Al Qaida folk, I’m going to be reeeeeeaaaaaaaaalllllllyyy angry…and as my mother used to warn…”don’t make me come over here again!”

Then, I’d march over to Saudi Arabia.  I would have such a hard time containing my anger there.  But I would tell that royal family, that if they don’t get their act together, they will see nothing but green everywhere. I mean, REAL GREEN.  We’ll make everything, everything solar powered.  We’ll never buy a drop of oil again if they don’t stop funding people like al-Qaida and yes, the Taliban…don’t look at me that way, we all know, the Royal family funds this stuff.  Why we’re messing around with Iraq and Afghanistan is beyond me.  I know, they’re rich, waaaaaaaay rich, but still.  And besides, they’re only rich because we pay them, Right?  That’s all.

And finally…oh, can I get you more coffee?  Do you like it?  Good…Where was I?  Oh yes…finally…to help insure world peace…you need to focus on why people don’t like us.  Whenever somebody is angry with you, don’t you think it’s a good idea to figure out why?  Whether or not you should do anything about it, well, that’s another story.  Usually, I try to be nice to people, if I piss someone off, I like to know why. At least, then I can decide to try to win them over to my side, that is, if I can’t or won’t hahahaha concede.  Look, we have some serious enemies out there.  I’m not blaming you—although, I really, really blame that other guy before you for spurning them on…what a dork…but let’s not even start with him, I know you have to get back, and if we start talking about him, you’ll have to spend the weekend, and all we have is an inflatable mattress…imagine walking in to the living room and seeing the President curled up on a blow-up mattress in the middle of the living room.  I know, pretty funny.  Honest, I wouldn’t mind, but DH might be thrown for a loop.  Besides, I know our neighbors are probably more than a tad intrigued by the armed guards on our roof.  And…you have to get back, you’ve got work to do.

This might be a toughie, but we need to stop supporting Israel.  I know, I know…okay, maybe we can just cut back a bit on the amount. I know, you might lose a few friends, but ya gotta think, “Big Picture.” Besides only idiots say that not supporting Israel is anti-Semitic…that’s so dumb…being anti Zionist is simply being anti-imperialist.  That’s not bad, right?  I thought so.  But I think we need to focus on helping things in Gaza.  Honest, trust me on this.  Maybe, if we help them out, they’d lessen their vitriol against Israel.  Our current foreign policy is just making people angrier and angrier.  We would score so many goody points with the rest of that region, that, you know, peace would be a reality.

So simple, really.

Thank you for coming!  It was such a pleasure.  Here, let me wrap up the rest of the scones for you to munch on the plane.  Oh, and could you do me a favor, take these cookies here, and give them to the guards on the roof.  Thanks.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 5, 2009 at 1:38 AM  Comments (1)  

Stalking Old Boyfriends and Pork Loin

There are some things I refuse to look up on Google search—especially in Google images.  This includes such horrors as jumping spiders (I’m sorry, but the words ‘jumping’ and ‘spider’ just do not go together) or Madagascar hissing cockroaches or jeans with elastic waistbands.  Each is so hideous and downright scary in real life, that confronting any one of them nose to nose on my screen, would freeze me in terror as my quivering fingers struggled to find the damn key that closes the page.

I recently found that there is a far more dangerous place on the web.

No, I am not talking about stalkers or sites proffering those ads for free designer handbags (I swear, it read FREE Prada—you choose!), these wicked sites, upon being clicked, fill your computer with enough viruses that the CDC puts your apartment on their list of places where travelers must be inoculated before visiting.   True, these sites are scary, but not half as scary as that one place out there in cyberspace that contain images so horrible, which once viewed, you’ll pour a stiff Vodka tonic and go straight to bed.  The site?  Facebook.

On the surface, Facebook is a seemingly innocent social networking site where people from literally all over the world can come together and connect.  The nexus for that connection can be as arcane as the love ancient Babylonian Lit—Gilgimesh Rocks! or as charming as the love of dressing ones” cats in goofy costumes.  (I want to know, do these folk sedate their cats?  How do you do it?  Our cats are either psychic or have mini calendars tucked somewhere in their fur coats, because when the holidays come  around, our guys take to camping under the bed.  I think they know Christmas is coming, and my glue gun is ready!  Should we make elves?  Reindeer hats with pipe cleaner antlers, anyone?

Unfortunately, such convivial cuteness and sense of community belies the darker side of Facebook. I came upon this side quite innocently.  One afternoon, I was perusing the web for a recipe for pork loin that didn’t require me to butterfly it in order to stuff it, creating a pinwheel effect.  I had never pinwheeled a piece of meat before, and despite this handicap, still consider myself to be a good cook.  I wanted to be justified.

I had just watched Martha Stewart create a pecan stuffed pork loin.  Sitting in front of the TV with my mouth open, “Noooooooo…”  I was incredulous.  Had I been shortchanging DH by mishandling this cut of meat?  I swear, it never occurred to me to cut the loin to flatten it, spread any number of fillings and to roll it up like a jelly roll.  According to Dame Stewart, this method “Was how it was done.”

Really?!  I usually just bought this cut of meat because it came vacuumed packed, which meant I could toss it in the back of the fridge, pull it out whenever, unzip the bag, add salt, garlic powder, tons of black pepper and roast it for one of those, “I’m toot tired to cook” dinners.

I hit the laptop and Googled “Pork Loin.”  There are obviously entire populations of people devoted to the pork loin. I was even bombarded  with billions of pages out in cyber-land dedicated to recipes, rubs, and sauces, none of which required pinwheeling the loin.  I was somewhat vindicated, though stuffing the loin, jellyroll style is the epitome of pork loin prep, to find that there are legions of slovenly cooks like me who just pop the thing in the oven.

One thing about the internet, it’s almost too easy to wander off of the safe well-lit pathway of pork loin recipes into the dark alley ways where danger lurks behind sooty doorways.  Too easy.

From pork, I wandered over to Facebook to check my page.  I am an infrequent Facebook user.  I never could get into the friending concept.  I have hundreds of friends who I don’t know or who I have never met…they are just friends of friends of friends…you start out with one, and a week later you have 200.  Kind of like crab grass.

Still, Facebook can be interesting, especially if you’re bored.  I just didn’t know what existential trauma lurked beyond its cheery blue and white logo.  I logged in, answered an email or two from people who read my blog–I’m still amazed people actually read it!—and started to peruse for people who might be neighbors…no real interesting hits; a book club that has meetings every Monday evening looked interesting; a Thai cooking class…I bookmarked these for further exploration.

Getting ready to log off, I suddenly got the idea to type in the names of people with whom I went to high school.  I had no idea where the idea came from.  I didn’t even like high school.  I say, silly and misguided are those who deny the evil gremlins who sit on the corners of the laptop as we type.  DH was so wrong when he said he didn’t believe me  as I explained how one had forced my fingers to type in his credit card number after it had forced me to hit “buy” over at the Marc Jacobs site.  Really, it wasn’t my fault.

Typing in names of old girlfriends didn’t really yield much.  I figure many have new names through marriage, or knowing the girls with whom I hung around, multiple hyphen names from multiple marriages.  Then I typed in the names of my old boy friends.  Nothing.  Zip.  Then it hit me, they don’t have access to the internet in prison…My mother was always convinced that the guys I chose would most likely end up doing 5 to 10 for something.

I suddenly recalled a guy’s name.  How did I forget?  I was so in love with this guy.  I mean, head over heel, in love.  At 15, I knew with all the wisdom in the universe that this guy was IT.  It was also because of him that I almost ran away to join a convent.

One Saturday afternoon, he came to my house to get a homework assignment.  When he called to say he was coming, I swear it was as if Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Mickey Dolenz were all coming over for a party.  When this guy arrived, I dutifully gave him the assignment, explained it for him and joked around a bit.  He had to meet his dad for something and couldn’t stay.  I walked him to the door, waved and closed the door.  Thrilled beyond thrilled, I looked in the hallway mirror to check my hair, and there it was. I had a chocolate milk moustache from the glass I had before he had arrived.  Convinced my life had come to an abrupt end, I couldn’t talk my mother into driving me to the nearest convent.  Sadly, me and the hunk never really shared anything but polite pleasantries ever again.  He never knew the heart he and a glass of chocolate milk managed to break.

I slowly typed his name into Facebook’s search window.  Oh good lord, his name, and picture both came up.  My jaw hit the table as I read his bio to be sure it was the right guy.  I got to his list of schools and hometown. Yep it was him.

I squinted at the picture.  One time he was the school hunk who played hockey.  Now, he is bald and well over 250 lbs.  I’m not friending him.  Nope.  That would be too weird.  I haven’t logged onto his page since.  At first, I chuckled when I saw his girth and shiny top.  Then I thought about how I had changed over the years.  Would he chuckle too?  Probably not.  I’m roughly the same size I was in high school; and I still have all of my hair.

Best of all, DH doesn’t mind my chocolate moustache.

Easy Pork Loin

1 packaged pork loin

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tbl salt

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup dark rum

In a zip lock bag, place the loin and all the liquid and salt.  Seal, squeezing out all the air, massage the meat to break up and dissolve the sugar.  Store in the fridge for at least an hour–over night is best.

Pour everything into a covered baking dish, bake at 400°  for about an hour or the internal temperature reaches 140°–uncover for 10 mins to brown lightly.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 4, 2009 at 3:23 AM  Comments (3)  
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“Baby, let me cook for you!” or Tales of the Kitchen Tease

DH is a kitchen tease.

He promises great meals but has yet to deliver.  He rattles on with tasty dishes, exotic ingredients, culinary techniques that would make Julia Child gasp in wonder.  He waves his arms with grand gestures describing chili and hearty meals of Texas barbecue with baked cornbread.  With emphatic whispers, he describes barbecued ribs where the juicy meat drips from the bone, the meat drenched in a sauce constructed  out of clover honey and smoky peppers soaked in apple cider from a recipe, he swears is older than the Alamo.  Not only DH’s regional Texas cuisine fills his culinary offerings, one day he will also produce tasty treats like potatoes roasted with rosemary and white wine or cupcakes with a French custard filling.  Each delicious offering is made with equal promise.  The sincerity as unctuous as homemade butter cream toffee.

Unfortunately, these promises are as mythical as Big Foot riding a unicorn while bearing a coupon for a free Louis Vuitton bag of my choosing.

Even sadder, I fall for the tease every time.

His tease routine started early.  One evening, a week or so into our marriage, we were snuggled on the sofa.  A fire was blazing in the fireplace, the cats curled on the hearth.

He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a neatly folded piece of paper.  It was lined in light blue ink and had three holes punched down one side.  This was a sheet of binder paper, the same kind kids everywhere used for homework assignments.  I smiled, sitting in expectant silence…it’s so romantic when guys recite poetry to you.

DH smiled, “This is so old fashioned, you’ll love it.”  I sank into the sofa pillows and smiled urging him on, “Go ahead, sweetie, read it to me…” Puzzled, DH  shrugged as he cleared his throat:

“1 tub of sour cream, 1 bag of egg noodles, mushrooms and 2 cans of tuna.”

I sat back up, surprised.  This was DH’s personal recipe for tuna casserole.  Love poetry, eh?  I wasn’t disappointed as much as confused.  I had quickly learned that DH and Lord Bryon will never be mentioned in the same sentence by anyone.  Yet, I was still confused on a couple of levels.  We had just eaten a meal of chicken in wine with potatoes mashed with blue cheese…and he’s offering tuna casserole?

When we were first married, I suffered that Uber Wife Virus…every dinner was going to be worthy of at least a 4 star restaurant meal—Zagat would list our kitchen!  (By the way, after five years of relative wedded bliss, I can say in all honesty, I have been cured of the Uber Wife Virus).  Symptoms included tome-like shopping lists and oh-my-god—weekly menus!  I’d sit at the kitchen table every Saturday morning with a stack of cookbooks searching for dishes for the upcoming week’s dinner menus.  I’d choose the dishes, list the ingredients I needed with the page number for each recipe.  Luckily, time heals some forms of madness.

I gave him a quizzical look.  Did he really expect me to use tuna that came in a can??  Unfortunately one of the lesser known symptoms of the Uber Wife Virus is food snobbery.  I wondered if the casserole could be made with that tuna in olive oil that comes in those pretty jars from Italy.  He woke me from my Italian tuna reverie, by saying he used to make this dish all the time.  My eyes widened, “Really?  You cook?” I had heard rumors of such a thing—his father even told me once, that “Yep, your husband loves to cook.”  This is like finding out that your shy and reserved spouse was once a Chippendale dancer.

The next day, there was a large canvas grocery bag perched on the counter.  The bag was filled with the ingredients for DH’s tuna casserole.  “Is there anything I can get you?”  I asked, putting the tub of sour cream and bag of shredded cheddar into the refrigerator.  He paused, as if I were speaking Portuguese.  He just nodded “Nope,” as he grabbed a cookie, heading out for his morning run.

Later, he returned with a flyer for a new restaurant down the block…”This looks good”.  A new food experience is always an excuse not to cook.  I didn’t even think twice about his offer to cook.  The ugly truth didn’t rear its head until a few days later…

With the expiration date on the bottom of the tub of sour cream quickly approaching, I wondered when my home cooked meal would appear.  The next day when DH walked in from work, I chirrped, “Let’s have tuna casserole!”

“Oh yeah,  that’s my favorite!” DH perked up excitedly.  “I have been craving that lately.”  We stood silent for a minute.  I swear, suddenly I felt as if we were gun slingers at the OK Corral:  Instead, of six shooters, we were going to draw saucepans.  Finally, DH totally oblivious, cheerfully offered, “Why don’t you use my recipe?”

I pointed it that it was his recipe and it would be so cool to try his cooking in a voice I use to coax the cats into their carriers to go to the vet.  Sheepishly, DH always replies with the same thing, “But you’ll make it so much better than me.”

I am afraid I fell for this tease once again.  The other day at the grocery store, DH put a bag of crimini mushrooms in the cart.  “What are those for?”  I was totally confused, DH always says I use too many mushrooms—I figure some people (me) are more mushroom friendly than others.  “Stuffed mushrooms!” he said as he went to look for breadcrumbs.  He returned to the cart bearing a box of Panko, the Japanese style breadcrumbs.  “These will be soak up more of the sauce…we’ll need sausage too”   As he gathered the ingredients he explained how to remove the stems and chop them into the stuffing for even more flavor.  I was totally impressed.

Days later, the mushrooms remained sitting forlornly next to the package of sausage and slowly wilting parsley that DH said would add that “verdant” taste.  I have come to learn that his sudden use of GRE level adjectives is always a bad sign.  (The use of  “visual optimization” preceded DH coming home with a giant flat screen TV).  He called me from work to see if I needed anything.  “Are we having the mushrooms tonight?

Here’s what I did:

1 lb of crimini mushrooms (choose large flat ones), stems removed and set aside

½ lb of sausage

1 12 oz bag of Panko breadcrumbs

½ c butter

1 bunch of Italian parsley finely chopped

1 Tbl of lemon zest

  • Chop the mushroom stems into tiny pieces
  • Brown the sausage, breaking it into small pieces, add the stems to the meat, when cooked, set aside
  • Pour out the fat, and melt the butter – you want the sausage flavor, but not the sausage grease
  • Add the panko to the pan and coat with butter
  • Add the sausage pieces and mushroom pieces to the panko
  • Add the parsley and lemon zest to the mixture
  • With a melon baller or teaspoon gently fill each mushroom cap with about a teaspoon of the filling.
  • Bake the filled mushrooms at 400° for 30 minutes or until the caps are cooked.
Published in: Uncategorized on December 3, 2009 at 3:09 AM  Comments (1)  
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Stilettos on High

Look at these:

or these:

Decisions, decisions.  Yeah, right.

I’d choose the purple babies hands down.   At least,  I’d know they come in my size.

I have to thank Em over at her totally charming http://eminpursuit.blogspot.com/ for turning me on to to the purple clogs available at Hanna Andersson.

I totally relate to Em’s conundrum of tossing out your favorite, albeit not Manolo sexy, but totally comfy shoes, as she says “to reinvent (our) style into streamlined and hip.  I recently spent an hour looking for a now too cool Doc Martens I forgot that I tossed out during a frenzied shoe-makeover. ‘No more comfy shoes!  “I want ’em pointy and high!” I wailed.

Isn’t funny how we all start with the shoes?

If my shoes are funky, nothing is right in the universe.  I could be wearing a Dior blouse, a Ralph Lauren (Black Label, thank you) alpaca skirt, a mink-trimmed sweater, and my ubiquitous pearls and feel as if I should be squatting by the nearest subway entrance with a chipped plastic cup and a sign with “Help me get to Bloomingdales” scrawled in lipstick.

I have almost called in sick at work if I couldn’t find the right shoes to go with that day’s ensemble. Such is their importance.

At one time, my categories for shoe beauty were as narrow as the shoes on that list.  They had to be pointy things with skinny heels.  They needed to show toe cleavage….oooh yeah!   And if there was a strap, it had to be as thin as a piece of bucatini…I once had a pair of 4 inch heels that consisted of:  the heel, the very thin–I feel-every-pebble-sole and one narrow strip of gold eel skin that went across the vamp.  How something so narrow could be responsible for blisters the size of Montana was a true mystery.  Blisters is notoriously in the plural, so enamored was I with these beauties, that I would suck it up, and slip these on and teeter through the day.  These were my go to shoes for work.  I became an expert in the different types of band aids.

One of the reasons I so loved these shoes is that they were my size.  I wear a size 4.  I have midget feet.  People oooh and awwww when they see my feet—Once on a very crowded city bus, a man kept gushing with his adoration for small feet…I kept politely nodding until he asked if  he might rub mine.  After I coaxed my eyebrows down from the top of my bangs,  I quickly squeezed me and my tiny feet to the front of the bus.

In my next life, I swear, I will have size 10 feet.  Yea, I want to have to back up to ring the doorbell!   I am so jealous of you ladies who have larger feet.  I can’t imagine how it must feel to walk into a shoe store for grown ups, choose a pair, and hit the jackpot! They have your size!

I can’t fathom purchasing a pair of shoes, getting them home and not needing to figure out how to pull the ears off.  Even though children sized shoes can be cheaper I am now haunted.  Every time I see Mickey or Minnie, I feel an urge to apologize profusely.

So when I found a source for grown up shoes that fit, I’d rebel at being constrained by maryjanes and aimed for the highest heels and the scantiest form of support available.

Before we moved to the Bay Area, I lived in a town were nobody walked.  It was amazing.  GM probably underwrote the city coffers.  While the town consisted of strip malls upon strip malls and its system of public transportation nothing more than an urban myth, my feet never touched the outside ground.  I only had to teeter from car to my desk to my car to the restaurant and back home.  It was easy to live in high heels.

When we moved to the Bay Area, my life totally changed.

Our neighborhood is noted for hills…no, I mean real hills; hills that have staircases carved into the sidewalk.  The squirrels, I swear, shop at REI and wear hiking boots.   From up here, our views are breathtaking.  From our balcony, if I lean far to the left, I can see the ocean and the Bay Bridge, if I lean further over the rail, I can see the San Francisco skyline at night.  Most of the time though, if I look straight down, I can watch people pause, clutch their chest, pant like a dog for a few seconds as they come to the top of our hill.

One morning, coffee cup in hand, I stood on the balcony, thrilled to be nose to nose with the squirrel scampering from treetop to treetop, I looked down at my feet…they were all dressed up in their baby pink maribou’d 3 inch slides that I found in a Barbie Dress Up kit–hey, they fit!

In a bolt of lightening, it hit me.  I had suddenly turned into Rapunzel trapped in her tower.  I couldn’t walk down the hill to catch the bus.  I’d have to have groceries shipped in.  I’d have to wait for weekly mail drops for news from the outside world.   I ran, ok, I minced, to the closet, I had nothing that that would keep me from tumbling down the hill and sliding into the bay.

I quickly logged into Zappos!  In a matter of days I have transformed from Rapunzel to Indiana Jones, my quest was to find a pair of walking shoes that don’t scream solid and sturdy.  Solid and sturdy are merely a hop, skip and jump from bucolic.  Some walking shoes bring images of potato farms…I like potatoes. I respect potato farmers, I just don’t think combining the two make for fashionable shoes.

So far, the quest never ends…Em, I am intrigued by the clogs…thanks for the link!

Guess what?  I started cooking again.  DH is a happy camper.  Thanksgiving is still lingering like that poltergeist that won’t leave.  I froze a hunk of turkey the size of our Prius.  I figure, come February, the poltergeist will rise again transformed into some sort of casserole.  For now, we had beef and cheese tortellini vegetable soup…perfect for these cool winter nights.

This is so easy:

2 large leeks cleaned and chopped

2 large carrots cleaned and chopped

1 8oz package of cheese tortellini – I find these near the dairy aisle in my grocery store

3 8 oz cartons of beef broth

½ head of cabbage shredded

2 large russet potatoes peeled and diced
1 lb chuck roast cut into 2 inch pieces

1 tbl of thyme, and oregano

¼ cup sherry

salt & pepper to taste

  • In a large Dutch oven, pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom, heat until it shimmers.
  • Sauté the leeks until soft
  • Add the meat, continue to brown lightly
  • Add the cabbage and toss with the meat and leeks, cook until the cabbage start to wilt.
  • Pour in the broth, tomatoes, bring to light boil
  • Add the potatoes and the oregano & thyme
  • Boil until the potatoes are soft
  • At this point, you’ll need more liquid, so add about 2 cups of water, bring back up to a light boil
  • Add the tortellini and cook for 7 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
  • Stir in the sherry and serve!

Enjoy!

Published in: Uncategorized on December 2, 2009 at 1:45 AM  Comments (1)  
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My Husband the Pusher

I totally blame DH for this.  I am now a pastry junkie.

DH traffics in baked goods.

He’s not a baker by trade or avocation, just a lover of all things carbohydrates.  Pre-DH, I was the poster child for Atkins, not on purpose, I just loved meat and cheese.  I have never met a sausage patty or piece of cheese I didn’t like.  Pastry and bread just were not on my radar.  Maybe it’s my Asian roots, rarely did I eat bread with my meals.  Bread was simply a piece of architecture that kept tuna salad or peanut butter from running down your arm as you ate it.

Pastry was a foreign concept.  I don’t have a sweet tooth.  Anything salty, on the other hand, combined with anything greasy can make me swoon….Doritos are banned from a 2 mile radius to our home.  I have been found after inhaling an entire bag, sitting with a satisfied smile as I licked the salt from my orange stained fingers.  Not a pretty sight on so many levels (although, let me tell ya, you can keep your pates or duck terrines, there is n-o-t-h-i-n-g as good as a bag of sour cream and green onion Doritos and a glass of cold Chardonnay).

In pre-DH days, the weekends were spent in shoe stores.  Now, they’re spent trekking through the city foraging for groceries for the upcoming week.  Come Saturday morning, we morph into a pair of squirrels gathering nuts for the upcoming winter.  And just like squirrels who burry their nuts in order to free their paws and cheeks so they can go off and gather some more, DH and I return home mid trip to drop off the bags of fruits and veggies from the farmers market, to put things in the fridge, ostensibly to keep the fish fresh, but I know it’s just to free the car’s trunk for more food.  As I grab my purse to head back out, I spy DH is doing his happy dance.  He knows our next stop is the bakery.

It goes without saying that one of the best things about San Francisco and Oakland is the availability of a wide an amazing array of things to eat.  We are especially blessed it a preponderance of bakeries, specifically French bakeries.  Despite my love for all things French, while in Paris, quelle horreur! I only had a polite appreciation of the bread and pastries…I’d dutifully eat my croissant with my morning café au lait, but I was just waiting for lunch so I could peruse  their cheese shops or their charcuteries  where I could buy hunks of salty smoked  sausages or pork terrines.

As soon as we moved to Oakland, even before he found a route to his office, DH traced a path to the nearest French bakery.  When I first visited the tiny store with him, I was struck by the lace curtains, the tiny wrought iron tables dotting the sidewalk out front—how French!  When we opened the jingling in front door, we were greeted with air that was sweet with milk and sugar, and two glass cases filled to the brim with pastry confections.  My joy turned to surprise as soon as two women appeared from behind a  chintz rose cabbaged curtain.  They both greeted DH by first name, one offering him a cookie, “Here we just made a batch of your favorite ones!”  My eyebrows arched.  I suddenly had that awkward feeling as if  I had just met his secretary and saw that she was Angelina Joli’s double.  Why were these women so familiar?  How did they know his name?  And why is he grinning?  “Oh, Monsieur comes in every morning!

He just sheepishly shrugged his shoulders, as he brushed the crumbs from the corner of his mouth.  He was right, this the home of the good stuff.

The French, I think, invented bread.  Okay, maybe not, but they took the idea of dough to stellar heights.  Each week, we buy a huge boulot for the week.  It’s a crusty football heavy and dense but with a contradicting fluffy white interior wickedly designed to soak up melted butter.

Besides our bread, we always buy a collection of goodies for desert: a series of cute petite canneles (chewy, chocolate and creamy); a bag of rainbow colored macaroons; and cream and berry filled tarts.  Usually, despite their amazing aroma, I let DH have them—oddly he never pushes the point that ‘sharing makes it taste better’ like he does when I put beets in the salad.  I figure that there is a caloric splurge with my name on it in the form of a fat wedge of brie waiting in the fridge.  DH gets the sweets, I get the savory.  He never opens a box to find his cookies missing, or I never found the cheese or salami gone.  This is the divine order to our universe.  Until, that is, he pushed to cross over to his side.

One day, he came home with a small white bag, inside was piece of dough, shaped like a neat package and covered with a light snow of powdered sugar.  Interesting.  It was at once flakey and dense.  He said to try it.  I took a tiny nip off of a corner.  Then a bigger bite.  It was heaven.  Oh my word.  My eyes rolled back into my head.  Once you  bit open this flaky package you were met with layers upon layers of buttery pastry surrounding a thick flood of lemony custard—not too tart, not too sweet but as creamy as heavy satin.  Meyer lemons have never tasted so good.

I was quickly hooked.  Yesterday, the ladies offered us scones hot from the oven.  We got the box home – how we manage the modicum of civility to refrain from just pulling over on a side street and stuffing ourselves with these things beats me.

“You’ll love these,” DH speaks with the knowledge of a long time patron.  Rosemary chocolate?  Not being a real fan of scones, I brush it aside.  As I recluse the box, I see a hunk of dark chocolate poking from a corner flirting with me.  I give in and decide to take a bite, and another, and then the scone was gone.  What an interesting combination!   The rosemary and chocolate together conspire to play a weird head game on your tongue.

At first bite, you expect something rich and savory to follow, hmmm? Perhaps chicken, no?  Or potatoes?   Instead, you’re met with an explosion of deep dark, bittersweet chocolate.  Totally amazing.

I now have the habit.  I crave things flakey and sweet.  I totally blame DH.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 1, 2009 at 2:52 AM  Leave a Comment