Friday, April 29, 2011

Internal Gordon Ramsay - Round 1

There is a lot of pressure when you cook for other people. I have this paralyzing fear of being judged entirely on my cooking skills, which are virtually non-existent. I wonder if it’s a remnant psychological glitch somewhere in my psyche that harbors the idea that all women should get married, whip up a gourmet meal at a moments notice, keep a neat and tidy household, raise a flock (herd? murder?) of babies, and grow up to be nurses or teachers, but only as an option to spinsterhood.

Hmmmm… nah. F*** that. More likely it’s the fear that people might find a hair in their food.


Because the mere thought grosses me out so much I made that cat-horking noise (Gak!) out loud as I’m typing this, I’ve started to wear a shower cap when I cook. There was momentary consideration of the standard food service hair net. But it’s only a net. There’s still a chance that a hair might slip out of one of the little holes. I realize I look totally insane standing over the stove in hot pink and purple flowered shower cap, but better safe than hairy.

For the past week, I have been stressing about today’s potluck at work. I signed up to do a dessert then immediately started freaking out.

My Internal Gordon Ramsay: WHAT?!! Dessert?! Are you mad? You’ve only made two desserts in your entire life and I shouldn’t allow the mud-pie when you made when you were three to count.

Me: I know I can do it. There has to be a three-ingredient, five-star dessert recipe for a beginner out on the internet somewhere. [Frantically Googling.] The internet has everything! Right??

My Internal Gordon Ramsay: Dear god, this is the worst predicament I’ve ever encountered! Why didn’t you stay in your specialty area and volunteer to bring drinks and paper plates like you usually do? You can’t afford to start experimenting now! Especially with this group!

Me: I’m tired of being mocked as the soda and silverware person. I want to do contribute an actual dish.

My Internal Gordon Ramsay: This will end in tears, mark my words! Probably tears followed by puking!

Me: [Punching myself in the head] Shut the f*** up, Gordon! Get out of my kitchen!! And my head!

I made custard pie, then as a Plan B I made a fresh fruit salad and bought a can of Redi-Whip. We’ll see how it goes. Now my fear is that my dishes will be the only ones no one eats.

Next time I’m calling in sick on potluck day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Am Lush Armstrong

I would ride my bike a lot more often if it had one of these on it. GENIUS.

If you would like to have one too, check it at this etsy shop.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hop AWAY As Fast As You Can

James Marsden must really have needed the work.

On Easter Sunday Conlan and I went to see a matinee movie. Going to the theater has become one of our few bonding opportunities without his little sister underfoot constantly demanding everyone's attention. Conlan (age 6) got to pick the movie.

He selected HOP.
I am an adult who will readily admit to a love of animated art form. Often times I prefer to see an animated film over the other live-action selections at the theater. Not this time. I had a sinking feeling going in that I wasn't going to find the experience enjoyable based on the fact that I hadn't found the trailers even moderately interesting. Everyone knows they show the best bits of the film in the trailers.

But it was Conlan's pick and I didn't try to dissuade him.

Uck. About halfway through I was hoping Conlan would say "I'm bored. Can we go now?" I would have happily sacrifice the $15+ admission. Unfortunately, he didn't despite my prompting "Are you bored yet? How 'bout now? How 'bout now?" every 90 seconds.

And they say today's children have a short attention span. What. Ever. That kid has a scary, laser-like focus.

Three-quarters of the way through I was ready to stab a spork in my own eye just to end the suffering.

Finally, mercifully, the credits rolled and we headed home in a colossal thunderstorm that had water pouring across the back-country roads in rivers. As we advanced on one of the a larger bodies of water flowing across the road, Conlan quizzed me on how to  traverse it in order to achieve the "cool" end result of water shooting over the hood of the vehicle onto the windshield in blinding sheets. Setting the windshield wipers on Ludicrous Speed, we yelled like invading Viking barbarians as we approached each puddle.

Disclaimer: I don't want you to think that I was behaving irresponsibly with a child in the car. I wasn't. I'm not a complete idiot. We live in the country. I have a Jeep with water-shed tires and an outside oxygen intake valve. We were belted in. We were driving under 10 miles an hour. We didn't drive into water that I wasn't completely aware of the depth of before starting across. We weren't fording unknown, hippo-infested rivers in Africa. We had to get home and puddle jumping was going to be a necessary part of the journey no matter which route I took. We just added the yelling and the windshield wipers to make it more exciting.

Later when I asked him what his favorite part of the movie was, after several seconds of intense deliberation he replied, "The ride home. Oh, and the Twizzlers."

Man, I love that kid.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

If I Were a Gay Man

... I would find David Sedaris the sexiest man alive.

He's rather geeky, but I find that attractive anyway. It has been a development in the last few years that I have been inexplicably drawn to men that are pencil-necked, pocket protector wearing WoW nerds I could bench press. Add to that a sense of humor and the ability to make me laugh and I become putty. Silly Putty, to be exact.

On Monday, when a friend and I went to hear him read, he was wearing a bowtie. "I have a policy against the wearing of bow ties," he said by way of a disclaimer, "but I bought this shirt in Japan and it has really big buttons which you can't see if I wear a regular tie."

And with that statement my nerdy attraction gauge registered off the charts.

I own all of his books except for the most recent, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. His writing I knew to be brilliant and funny, but hearing him read it out loud added a whole different dimension. During the reading there were moments I laughed until I could only wheeze in semi-silence. My face and my sorry excuse for abdominal muscles hurt after, but it was a good sort of pain.

A Modest Beastiary

After the lecture when I finally had my moment with him at the book signing table, I couldn't take my eyes off his shirt buttons. They were like clown buttons, pearly fasteners the size of silver dollar coins. You could have seen them from space.

I concluded at that moment we were soulmates. Unfortunately for me, he's gay. Which would mean I'd need a sex change to even have a shot. Even then it would be highly unlikely to happen as he has been with the same partner forever.

It was the only time I have ever wished to have been born a gay man.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Gaiam Challenge - Earth Day 2011 | Gaiam Life

My Gaiam Challenge - Earth Day 2011 Gaiam Life

"This year I pledge to grow some of my own food in a raised garden bed, compost all my appropriate food waste, and continue to volunteer on my company's Green Team committee to try and find ways to positively impact our community at a corporate level."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Captaaaain Underpaaaaaants!!

This afternoon my sister hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law. My younger bother got married last year and they are expecting their first baby next month. Her name will be Ava Daisy. Or, where I'm concerned, because I can't seem to say it as two separate names, Avadaisy.

I was in charge of cake and balloons and my mom and sister were doing the rest of the food. They volunteered to do it all despite my protestations that I, too, could contribute more than a bakery-ordered specialty cake and decorations.

I never should have told them about the lasagna.

Attendance was good, probably because we told everyone there weren't going to be any games. You could hear the collective sigh of relief, so I must not be the only person who loathes baby shower games. I am a person who loves most games most of the time, from sport games like co-ed softball right down to Clue. But I hate baby shower games. I usually try to lose as fast as I can so I can remove the painfully fake, rictus grin I force myself to display as I try to appear friendly and innocuous and not my usual bloodthirsty, highly-competitive self which is secretly urging me to just KNOCK HER DOWN AND TAKE HER FREAKING DIAPER PINS!!

Strangely enough, despite the fact no alcohol was being served, this party ended like many parties I attend end - with me wearing a pair of underpants on my head.

My sister has two children and they are the best, most brilliant, most beautiful niece and nephew on the planet. However, my niece Kimber, who is under the age of two, simply didn't understand that the wondrous pink packages weren't for her. She was heartbroken that she got scolded every time she reached for one.

GRANDMA AND AUNT HOLLY TO THE RESCUE!! My mom and I had puchased a few presents for her though, just so she wouldn't feel left out. I bought toys and my mother, ever the practical gift-giver, bought clothes. Clothes that included Kimber's first package of big-girl underpants.

Suffice it to say, she was excited and fascinated by the concept. Right away, she pulled a pair on over her jeans, then handed me a pair to put on.

"Sorry, chicken (that's my nickname for her)," I said, "but I don't think these are going to fit me."

She puckered up like she was going to bawl. I was totally raining on her underpants parade. Oh lord, I couldn't have that. "Buuuuut they might fit on my head!" I said excitedly, and snapped a pair of Disney princess underpants on my head, which she found HILARIOUS. Then she popped a pair on her head, too. We sat in the living room floor, ponytails poking out the leg holes, laughing hysterically.

"Oh, man," my sister said as she walked in from the kitchen to see what we were doing. "You have no idea what you've started."

And the legend continues...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Random Drive-By Tarot Reading

Several weeks ago, I was in the consider the name of this government agency redacted, CIA-style, getting my type of government document. Of course, where the U.S. government is concerned, you get nothing for free. Unfortunately charging citizens for drawing breath does not appear to create enough cash flow to keep our overpaid, underworked, soulless politicians from threatening a potential governmental shutdown because they are unable to agree on a budget.

Democracy is NOT synonymous with capitalism, and vice versa.

But I digress.

Beaten down by the system into a quivering jelly, I quickly whip out my card holder on command to pay my fee. The lady behind the desk, who up until this time has been a world class beeatch specializing in waging a subversive form of psychological warfare against all comers, makes a comment about the artwork on the cover of my card holder.

"Is that a..." she says, fumbling for the word.

"Tarot card," I say. "The Magician."

"Cool!" she says, her eyes lighting up. "My mom used to have a deck." I see an opening to perhaps enhance my experience, which up until this point has been like a barefoot stroll through the Nine Levels of Hell.

"I read them. Not much lately, but I used to read for people all the time. I have a deck with me most of the time." I take the cards out of my commodious handbag to show her.

She glances around, then leans across her large desk and asks in a whisper, "Can you give me a quick reading?"

I glance over my shoulder. There is a room packed with people all anticipating their turn at the desk. They sit in the hard plastic chairs facing away from us, their eyes focused hopelessly on an electronic board mounted to the wall displaying three red numbers that rarely change. Each desperately clutches a paper slip, waiting for their magic number to appear, a magic number that will mean an end to their personal hell.

I feel pity for these lost souls, but I see my chance and I take it. It's every woman for herself on this sinking ship and the lady behind the desk is dangling my lifevest in her hand.

"Sure," I say, vowing silently to the crowd of lost souls that I will be quick.

I shuffle the cards quietly, a couple of swift bridges with the worn cards that barely creates a whisper of sound. None of the people in the waiting room stir, or look toward us. Her co-workers are nowhere to be seen either, but that's standard in any government establishment; a waiting room full of people and four or five employee desks, only one of which is occupied by anyone doing any work.

Quickly, I lay out the top three cards: The Page of Cups, the Page of Swords, and the Six of Coins.

"A message," I tell her. "The Pages are often messengers. There's money involved. Are you expecting any money? Inheritance? Tax refund maybe? Pending lawsuit?"

She gives me an odd look, like she's having second thoughts about asking for a reading. Like I'm running a scam. Like she wasn't the one who asked for a reading in the first place. "No. Not expecting any. Why?"

I shrug and grin. Not a good idea to have this lady thinking I'm some sort of two-bit shyster. "Well, there's an unexpected windfall coming your way. If you don't get the actual money soon, you'll get a message about the money. Maybe a couple of messages, since there are two Pages represented. There's an emotional connection, the Cups, and a connection to the law, the Swords."

"How soon?" she asks.

"The next four to six weeks, by my reckoning." She's staring at the cards intently. I quickly scoop them up and stick them back in my bag. "Good news then."

She blinks a few times and then smiles. "Do you do parties? This would be so fun to do with my friends "

I give her my number and finish my business, never expecting to hear from her again.

On Tuesday, she called and asked about how much I would charge for a reading, or reading at a party for her and a few of her friends. We chatted a bit and just before we hung up she said, "You remember that reading that you gave me? Well, guess what?"

I could hear the suppressed excitement in her voice. She was dying to tell me and had intentionally saved the best for last. "It seems that my husband's ex-wife recently got a job. She called a couple of days ago to tell us she's going to start paying us all the back child support she owes. The first check for $XXXX will be arriving next week."

Didn't surprise me. Though it did seem to surprise her some.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lasagna - Epic Fail

Oh, it looks tasty on the outside...

but it was pure barfy on the inside.

Remember how I mentioned that during one of my more distracted Read-A-Thon moments I baked a lasagna? Yeah, well... it turned out disgusting.

I am cutting myself some slack because I'd never made lasagna before. But I should know better than to just wing it when I am trying to cook. "Winging-it" successfully in the kitchen requires the kind of kitchen-witchery knowledge that takes years of experience to accumulate. To make matters worse, I tried to make a lower fat, lower calorie, lower sodium version.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Lasagna is supposed to be all meaty-cheesy-noodley goodness and require a crane to lift it from the oven because once all the nummy components are assembled it weighs about 150 pounds. If you want to eat a low cal and/or low fat diet, lasagna is simply not the dish for you. Just as a side note, substituting half a ton of low-fat ricotta for the original mozzarella, parmesan, romano mixture is not a good idea. Even full-fat ricotta tastes like ass. Unlike with other kinds of cheese that you may use in cooking, with ricotta, more is not better. It also doesn't melt. It's like asbestos cheese.

Turkey sausage instead of the regular fatty Italian sausage or hamburger? Also a bad, bad idea.

I managed to choke down a single serving (when is the last time I ever ate one serving of anything?) only because I ate it with a side of jalapenos and washed it down with a half a bottle of Shiraz. Imagine that rolling around in your digestive tract all night. Oooh, yeah. I'm lucky to be alive.

What am I going to do with this thing? It feels like a sin to waste so much food, but I wouldn't inflict this stuff on my worst frenemy. Now I am stuck with 150 pounds of crappy Italian food guilt.

This stuff doesn't even rate a toque at all. It gets a BLECH = 7.5

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My First Read-A-Thon Ended - 24th Hour Mini-Challenge

Whew. This was a true test of my ADD dysfunction levels. The second I decided I was going to read all day, the perverse part of my nature decided nuh-uh, there was stuff I had to do that simply couldn't be put off another second.

Like bake a lasagna.

Clean the bathroom.

Water the lawn.

REALLY?? I hate those tasks. You throw a Read-A-Thon challenge out there, and suddenly I have an all consuming desire to get all domestic goddess and make my shower fixtures sparkle with a blinding radiance. Who IS that person? I don't even know her, and I definitely don't like her.

In spite of all the (mental) challenges I faced, I did manage to get some reading done, which was the whole point.

Final Read-A-Thon Q&A

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? 1-2AM. At some point I passed out to wake up at 8AM with sunlight streaming through my windows still clutching my Kindle.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I put several re-reads in my pile. I don't think I'll do that next time. My recommendation would be to save at least 1-2 brand new books you have been dying to read to put in your Read-A-Thon TBR pile. Very, very difficult, probably next to impossible, for most book-lovers to put off reading a book you're salivating after, I know. Give them to a friend who will keep them in a safe and super-secret place until Read-A-Thon begins. At least that way you are guaranteed to plow through those books in record time. I may give The Walking Dead Compendium to my friend Bittner to hold for me with the understanding that she is not to turn it over no matter how much I may beg and threaten.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? It was my first one, and it all seemed pretty fab.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Seemed pretty smooth from my end, but I know a lot of hard work went into all of it. Props to all the hosts/hostesses, cheerleaders, prize kings/queens, and everyone else behind the scenes. You guys are UH-MAZE-ING.

5. How many books did you read? 4 completed. Another 4 started and stopped.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce - Read it on the Kindle and I'm not sure how many pages it was.
Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy - Started this one before the Read-A-Thon and was about 200 pages in, but the bloody book is 537 pages long, and I'm counting it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Vol. 7 Twilight - Graphic novel. May I just say, "Finally!"
Dojo Wisdom for Writers by Jennifer Lawler - Great stuff. Worth another read.
Stalking Ivory - 31pages. Won't be going back to this one.
If the Buddha Got Stuck - 19 pages. Despite it's fun name, small format and bright, cartoon-y cover art, there is some deep stuff in here that deserve more time and contemplation. This one is a must read, but not for Read-A-Thon.
The Lincoln Lawyer - 52 pages. Will finish it this week.
Emporer Mage - Another Kindle buy. I made it 13% of the way through before I passed out.

7. Which book did you enjoy most? Buffy
8. Which did you enjoy least? Stalking Ivory

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I wasn't a Cheerleader.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Very.
What role would you be likely to take next time? Cheerleading. It was great getting all the encouragement from everyone and I would like to return the favor.

Until next time...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What Hour Is It?? - Read-A-Thon

Ooooer. I'm not doing so well with my Read-A-Thon. I had a bad case of the restless today, which I am blaming on this infernal wind. Seriously?! I know it's all about "when the wind comes sweeping down the plains" around here, but this is freaking ridiculous. Finally I'd had enough of being cooped up and I went the the grand opening of a friends nursery, had lunch with another friend and my mum, stopped at Pink Swirl for yogurt, picked up a few things at Lowes, watered the lawn, planted three new containers for the porch, and basically spent a significant chunk of time outdoors avoiding my TBR pile.

By the time I came inside to escape the wind and do some more reading, it felt like I'd been beaten with a stick, my eyeballs were embedded with grit, and all of my exposed skin was covered with a fine dusting of grime. My hair is so tangled I doubt I will be able to yank a brush through it. Ever. I may have to shave my head and start over.

Even the outside critters have started to migrate indoors to attempt to escape the ravages of the wind. I just smashed a spider the size of a Volkswagen. *Shudder* He was so huge I thought if I attempted to smack him with my flip-flop he'd yank it out of my hand and proceed to beat me to death with it. Instead I went with the big gun, a cowboy boot. It got the job done, but now I'm going to have to mop. Gross.

I have finished Wolf Speaker, Scarlet Feather, Dojo Wisdom for Writers, Buffy Season8Vol7Twilight. Half-way through the second chapter, I threw Stalking Ivory against the wall. How did it ever get published? Such terrible writing. Dreadful garbage. I want my life back. The author should be sued for inhumane treatment of the public at large. The Lincoln Lawyer was the next book in the pile and so far it hasn't induced any similar fits of rage. Michael Connelly better thank his lucky stars for that, too, because I still have that cowboy boot and I am not afraid to use it.

Maybe I should carb-load now. The lack of proper snackage at the appropriate intervals has made me very irritable.

Read-A-Thon - Random Factoids About Self

1. Where? Broadcasting to you live from My Porch, Oklahoma.
2. Three random facts about me: I'm in the final stages of completing my Tumbleweed Home (Never heard of it? Check it here.), I am the steward of a polydactyl tuxedo cat named Beckett, and I have a black belt in Karate/ Taekwondo/ Muay Thai kickboxing.
3. How many books in your Read-A-Thon pile? Nine, I think. Maybe ten.
4. Goals? Finish the BookBabes selection o' the month, Scarlet Feather, and still have time to go to Lowes.
5. Done this madness before? Nope. Total newb.


7:00am - I'm up, I'm up. Sun is rising, tea is brewing, toast is... well, toasting, and I am reading. Starting out with something easy on my list 'cause my brain hurts this early on Saturday. Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce, prepare to be read-a-thonned! (Pretty sure that's a word, read-a thonned, but as it is too early for me to care if it isn't...)

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Read-A-Thon List

Here's my list for the Read-A-Thon this Saturday:

If the Buddha Got Stuck by Charlotte Kasl
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8 Vol. 7): Twilight by Joss Whedon
Journey to Center by Thomas F. Crum
Dojo Wisdom for Writers by Jennifer Lawler
Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce (on the Kindle)
Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce (on the Kindle)
The Realm of the Gods by Tamora Pierce (on the Kindle)
Square Foot Gardening by Mel  Bartholomew
Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchey
The Spirited Walker by Carolyn Scott Kortage
Stalking the Ivory by Suzanne Arruda

That will be about all I can manage. It's a pretty ambitious list, even with a three YAs and a graphic novel. Since this is my first time to do the Read-a-Thon, is it better to have too many or too few on the list?

Now that I've signed up, I'm rather daunted by the task ahead. Not so much the reading, but the staying up 24 hrs, especially since I've been running short all week and Saturday is my official zzz's catch-up day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hell's Meals on Wheels

I have trouble boiling water without it turning into a major international incident. Ask my last two roommates. I have twice fused a boiled dry kettle to the heating element on the stove top. Bread is often reduced to char even with the toaster set on low just because I am present in the room. My oven took out a restraining order against me for good reason. I hate cooking - mainly because I'm not any good at it. Well... not any good when compared to my mother, who is my plumb line for the edible. I don't know why I can't set my standard a little lower, because I know I am never going to live up to it as my mum is a unbelievably good cook and baker.

If I'm going to bother investing the time and the money in order to produce food that doesn't simply come out of a bag, box, or can, then I want to make certain it's going to be edible. I turn to America's Test Kitchen.

Were I to pick a single cooking show to watch on television it would have to be ATK. No, it's not as action packed as Iron Chef, it isn't as campy as Good Eats, and its hosts/chefs don't look like they stepped off a runway in Paris.

FYI, you should never trust a skinny chef.

There are some fairly witty and cutting remarks flying between the host, Cook's Illustrated editor Christopher Kimball, and the variety of chefs/scientists/quality control experts. All of the dialogue is ad-libbed because they are just that comfortable with each other. I like the sense of camaraderie between them. It feels like they're letting you into their exclusive cookery club where all the cool kids wear bow ties and aprons.

There's a LOT of science involved in the testing, retesting, and trial and error of the recipes in the America's Test Kitchen before they reach the stage of perfection necessary to air. It's more like a kitchen/ laboratory. You can rest assured when a recipe has made it into an ATK magazine or cookbook that it is going to be good... as long as you follow the recipe exactly. Because using a pound of chicken vs. a pound-point-five can make a huge difference in the outcome.

I found that out with my own brand of trial and error. And error. And error.

This week I prepared their Tex-Mex Chicken and Rice out of their Light and Healthy 2011 magazine. It was delicious. It was so delicious in fact that I wondered about its "light and healthy" claim. The only issue I had with the end result was the level of spiciness, but that's my personal preference and easily remedied with the judicious application of the world's greatest condiment - sriracha.

I cooked it in a cast iron dutch oven. Why does everything taste better when it's cooked in cast iron?

It's kinda purty, too.

Out of a possible ten toques (white puffy chef's hat) this recipe gets an eight both for ease of preparation and taste.


= 8

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thanks to the BookBabes

I always knew you guys were awesome, but now I have to admit you may know me better than my own family.

I hope you take that as the compliment it was meant to be.

Our most recent book club meeting was at Holly House and was officially the first party to be held at my mostly-completed domicile. As long as we're not counting the time shortly after having poured the slab for the foundation I took a bottle of booze and sat on the concrete rectangle in the middle of my acre getting hammered, waving my bottle in the air, and yelling "You may now address me as the Land Baroness!" at passing cars.

Yeah, I know you're thinking, "Crazy, party of one", but you shouldn't be so judgey.

The BookBabes came bearing gifts. Who doesn't like prezzies - ANY prezzies, right? However, these gifts were even better than your average housewarming presents because they were absolutely perfect - wine and a pair of bookends shaped like chairs.

Get outta my head, guys.

Emily Dickinson loves the new furniture.

Thanks. You're the best.