Saturday, December 30, 2006

And now, the big announcement:

Scotland daughter has been delivered of a baby girl! 8 lbs. 4 oz., a very quick labor, and everyone's home again, in less than a day's time. The baby is to be named Evelyn (middle name to be named later), but called Evie. No pictures yet, though I will certainly publish some shortly, because . . .

I am leaving tomorrow to visit and assist. I will spend six hours (more or less) on the beach and environs in L.A. because of my lengthy layover, but actually I'm looking forward to that, a little, before the hellish journey. Which will all be worthwhile, because I get to see everyone, including a brand-new tiny girl and her slightly larger big sister. Not to mention the mom and dad. Ta ra.

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas cookie hangover.

Let's play "what music should lisa b. listen to in the New Year?"!

Heretofore, the game has gone like this:

1. Gather all end-of-year lists, including the random ones from the New Yorker "Talk of the Town" section, the New York Times list, lists I get sent from various music subscription services, the list in Rolling Stone, the list in Spin.

2. Compile a list based on the above lists, recommendations I've been given, and intuitions I have.

3. Try to cadge music from others who have it, buy it used, download it from emusic, etc.

Here's my list so far. Let me add a rule: you may endorse selections, but mocking is highly discouraged. Feel free to tell me stuff I haven't thought of or heard of. Offers to lend music for a listen highly encouraged.

2007 List of Music to Listen to:

New York Dolls, One day it will please us to remember even this
Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not
Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope [already downloaded]
Justin Timberlake, Futuresex/Love Sounds
Decemberists, The Crane Wife
Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood [already downloaded]
Willie Nelson, You Don’t Know Me; The Complete Atlantic Sessions
John Lee Hooker, Hooker
Weather Report, Forecast: Tomorrow
John Coltrane, Fearless Leader
Susan Christie, Paint a Lady
Nellie McKay, Pretty Little Head
Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards
Yusuf, An Other Cup
TV On the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
Roseanne Cash, Black Cadillac
Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar
Andrew Hill, Timelines
Billy Hart, Quartet
Nelly Furtado, Loose
Paul Motian Trio 2000 + One, On Broadway Vol. 4 or The Paradox of Continuity
Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Solo
John Legend, Once Again
A Hawk and a Hacksaw, The Way the Wind Blows
Norfolk & Western, The Unsung Colony
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat
Jolie Holland, Springtime can Kill You
Sparklehorse, Dreamt for Lightyears in the Belly of a Mountain

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Megastore kitchen is closed.

Yesterday was the now-traditional Boxing Day Supper, in which all members of the historian's family and my own children are invited for an extravaganza. I shopped for this meal on December 23rd, stored the vegetables in the garage (which is plenty cold, let me tell you) because there was no room at the inn, as it were, what with the onslaught of baked goods produced both within and without my kitchen. Christmas Eve--more baking. Christmas Day was rather low-key, cooking-wise, as we dined at my folks', and I only had to bring a vegetable dish (rosemary roasted carrots).

Yesterday, though, I got up, and here was my plan:

cheese straws

bake cupcakes

make ice cream

skewer and marinate chicken
salad dressing
shrimp cake mixture
shell pistachios

remoulade sauce

2 p.m.
Pear apple crumble
Prepare vegetables for roasting
Form cakes

4 p.m.
Make orange pomegranate salad
Frost cupcakes
Set table

5 p.m.
Roast vegetables

5:30 p.m.
cook cakes
grill chicken skewers

It was a delicious dinner, but I was cooking all sorts of things throughout the evening. Perhaps not my best plan? I cook for the love, you know, and I got lots of it during the evening--but I was definitely still sloshing olive oil into the pan and sauteing shrimp cakes all night.

Big hits included pear-apple ginger crumble with ginger ice cream, a concept I shamelessly filched from the Trio dessert menu; tiny cupcakes with sprinkles on them; the shrimp cakes with homemade remoulade sauce (which always makes me feel like a genius); roasted brussels sprouts; and cheese straws as part of the pre-dinner nibble assortment. Everyone had a great time; the Jazz won; small children loved their toys. At the end of it all, the historian and I collapsed.

Actually, the collapse extended till today. I arose to schlep college daughter to her sandwich artistry job, then walked around Dillards like a ghost, bought a magazine at Target, and came home, made myself a little lunch, then slept for three hours. Historian did much the same, minus the post-holiday shopping. We woke up to recognize that there were still more dishes. So, actually, the Megastore kitchen is not closed. The dishwasher is going, and I'm making us a little dinner. Actually, the Megastore kitchen never closes.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Right now, me and Martha are tight.

When I was traveling with my daughter in November, she bought a copy of a Martha Stewart magazine about homemade gifts. Back when Martha was just an upstart ex-model, I remember reading a review of one of her first cookbooks, which gently disdained her practice of basically lifting other people's recipes, changing some tiny thing about it, and passing it off as her own. (Although, realistically, most cookbooks do this, as the review also pointed out, but anyway.) Of course, that was way before Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Martha Stewart Bitch CEO, Martha Stewart goes to jail, Martha Stewart appears again on television talk shows and somehow, because she went to jail, magically became slightly more likeable.

I am not above picking up a lifestyle magazine from time to time. But I generally found Martha Stewart Living to be rather forbidding. Too many instructions and special requirements, fancy equipment and too many steps in all the projects. Likewise, when I am in the depths of my squalor (and that pretty much tops out about now in the Megastore year, with Christmas (the baking, the buying, the wrapping, the decorating) and the end of the semester (the grading, the portfolios, the torn-out hair) coinciding), I think wistfully of how I could keep a better house. You may have seen the new Martha Stewart book--Homekeeping Handbook? This sort of book is tailor-made for this type of annual (okay, maybe more frequent than that) crisis, and don't think I haven't thought about buying it. But ultimately, I know it wouldn't help. Martha is way too organized for the likes of me, and I would probably find I feel the same way about the book as I do about the magazine--too many instructions and special requirements, too much equipment and too many steps.

Anyway, I had a chance to peruse the Martha crafty gift mag and found several things I wanted to make--food things--so I bought my own copy. Between then and a couple of days ago, I re-perused it several times. I considered: should I scrap my own time-honored Christmas baking regimen in favor of Cigarettes Russes (a very labor-intensive cookie that yielded about 2 dozen fancy rolled cookies) and Sweet Cardamom Crackers (that last one still sounds kind of tempting)? Or should I add to the time-honored baking regimen? Replace one or two of the old faves with a new-fangled recipe or two (probably lifted from someone else with a tiny alteration--but who's counting)?

I know, these are trivial questions, but you have to remember--I was grading and dreaming of Christmas. I only put my tree up yesterday. I believe this beats the old record of the tardiest tree -raising date at the Store.

So, basically, the outcome of the perusing and considering was: I scrapped a couple of things in the old regimen and substituted new ones, and let me tell you, they are all good. I made pomegranate jelly (not baking, but I'm giving little jars away to people I would formerly have given baked goods, so somehow, it's part of the regimen). I made excellent caramels (each wrapped in a waxed paper square). I made Lemon Sandwich cookies. I made Chocolate Peppermint cookies, which were unbelievably good. I didn't scoop the dough with a 1" ice cream scoop, which apparently does a better job of apportioning out the dough--I don't have a 1" ice cream scoop, or silicone baking mats, or cooking spray, for that matter. I improvised. But it was all good, anyway.

Whatever else I may have thought about Martha, I'm pretty darn happy about my cookies. Also the jelly and the caramels. Maybe I will hang up my clothes tomorrow, or fold the dishtowels, cloth napkins, table cloths and place mats I had to wash because we had a mouse incident (don't ask). Even though Christmas is just around the corner, it's not too late to be a little tidier. That's would be good thing. I'm pretty confident that's the way Martha would see it, anyway.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New 18-year old powers.

That's what my youngest, aka Running Son, has, because today, he turned eighteen.

Let's pause for just a moment to say: damn.

That's right, my son is eighteen. The matter of his powers came up because I called him from the Fanzz store (yes, all the double-z merchandise in the world, in the basement of the EnergySolutions Arena) to figure out which of the zillion pairs of official NBA b-ball shorts were the ones he wanted. "You're gonna have to ask the guy, Mom," he said (oh, how I hate to ask the guy!), "because I can't see the shorts from here. Not even with my new 18-year old powers."

Well, damn. I asked the guy, and he pointed me to the shorts that most closely resembled the away game shorts, which I purchased. By the way, NBA merchandise is the biggest crazy scam in the universe, but that's another story for another day. The over-priced shorts plus a Nintendo DS game (Mario 3 on 3, in case you want to know) were the birthday gifts.

I also had explicit cake-making instructions: "Store-bought cake mix, chocolate, NOT organic, NOT Wild Oats, just normal chocolate cake, with in-a-can frosting, white, NOT organic, nothing crazy, just normal, store-bought frosting. In a can." My own awesome cake-making powers were held in check, though I exercised them just a little by hand-beating the batter for 300 strokes. Everyone agreed it was delicious, though, which just goes to show you--sometimes the normal, non-organic, store-bought option isn't so bad. We had a forest of candles to emphasize the point of how freakishly old the baby of the family now is.

The Jazz redeemed the price of the shorts by beating the Clippers handily tonight, a good gift for the birthday boy. I'm not particularly interested in him growing all the way up, moving out, making a life for himself. But these, as I understand it, are part of the repertoire of the 18-year old powers. So I suppose I'd better get used to the idea.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Teaching's over for the semester.

Now it's grading, which hasn't officially started for me yet. That's because I gave my students till tomorrow to turn stuff in. Which is just fine with me. I've been easing into all of it. Today I have been collecting student work from the Introduction to Imaginative Writing course to turn it into an e-zine. A one-off, of course, since the course is over. Once I'm sure there aren't brilliant little pieces straggling in late, I'll publish it on my website and the students will be able to send the URL around to their loved ones and they'll be able to download it, and all will be well.

It's been kind of fun. And I'm actually feeling quite a bit less frantic than I did, say, last week. And last week was actually quite a bit less frantic than the week before.


1. College daughter has been working her college butt off, finishing an e-portfolio, a "tangible" portfolio, a website, and all kinds of stuff. She's doing a great job--you can see the learning happening. I have read and commented on many of these documents. I feel her instructors should be paying me a small fee for this.

2. Running son finished the arduous Eagle Scout preparation and paperwork last night. I feel that the paperwork is basically a preparation for the workers of tomorrow to suck it up and jump through the hoops. However, let me say how proud I am of running son for this, as
he had a great project (a field day for third-graders, which he designed and managed like a pro). He is the latest in a long line of Eagle Scouts, including his dad, my dad, and my grandfather. Huzzah!

All the married and otherwise independent children are carrying on with their lives, including two expected babies, a bachelor's degree expected in the spring, a master's degree expected in the spring, and lots of holiday visiting about to occur. The historian's son is about to get married, too, a marriage that will bring two adorable twin girls into our lives. I'm not sure I'm going to relax much over the holidays, but for now, before the portfolios arrive full-force, I'm calm and kicking it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

These things are an abomination before the Lord.

1. cold french fries.
2. convenience stores without self-service soda fountains.
3. bad convenience store bathrooms.

Otherwise, our little road trip to CA was a smashing success, and here's why:

Running son did a bang up job running a very difficult course at the Footlocker Regional cross country event, Western Region sector. Here he is:

I'm sorry to say that he's the shadowy one in the foreground. It's a damn miracle that he's in the picture at all--I did a lot of prep work setting up my shot and when he came into view, I forgot that I wanted to take a picture, because I was yelling, "Go, Running Son, Go, Running Son, Go!" etc.

The course was extremely hilly at Mt. San Antonio College, or Mt. SAC, as they like to refer to it. My youngest sister actually ran this course when she was a high school runner. I was grown and gone, so this was news to me. Anyway, even though R.S. should have had the advantage of "training at altitude," as they say, lots of the runners from CA who "train at sea level" were damn fine runners. All in all, it was quite an interesting deal, to see how freakin' fast these young people are. When the seeded female runners lined up, the announcer pointed out that there would be "130 flying girls," and he was right. The fastest female high school runner from Utah, Kim Quinn, who is dang fast, came in 13th, not qualifying for the national finals--and she's fast! Really fast!

The historian and I left town on Thursday evening and drove to Cedar City. We got up in the morning and drove to Walnut, CA, near the San Bernardino mountains. We got in at about 2 and checked into our hotel where there were about a billion high school runners and their chaperones. Apparently, however, high school runners are a fairly serious bunch when they've got a race the next day--there were little to no shenanigans. We had Mexican food in a strip mall (the best kind) and marveled at all the signs written in Korean in Walnut. Kind of a trip.

The next morning was the race (see above). Then we drove to the Claremont Colleges to check them out. That was interesting and cool. Scotland daughter considered going to Scripps. Here is a gateway into the courtyard of academe at Scripps:

Seems pretty good to me. The historian ran across a job announcement for an academic vice president at Scripps. I say he applies, gets the job, and we get to hang out in this type of swanky yet serious educational environment. Or we could stay at the community college. Probably it's sixes.

We gassed up and drove all the way to St. George. I would like to tell you that we were edified by the sudden magical oasis in the desert that is Las Vegas. But we were not. I continue to loathe that town, and there were traffic issues and road work to underscore this point. Nonetheless, we passed through these trials (note to self: add "Las Vegas" to "These things are an abomination before the Lord" list), and we made it to St. George where we considered our dining options and ate at JB's, site of the cold french fries debacle. However, the Jazz did pull off a thrilling win against Seattle, so all was well.

We had a wonderful time. A road trip is a chance to reconnect with the person you're driving with. It had been years since we'd driven to the L.A. area, a trip I used to make a lot when my folks still lived there, and I still love all the landscapes you pass through to get there.

When we got back, the dogs were ecstatic to see us, and the house was none the worse for wear, or only barely the worse for wear. Let it be noted that Bruiser and Betty have both developed a hunger for knowledge, or at least so it appears, as while we were gone, they started to eat some books.


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