Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A little fret before I do my crossword.

Well well well, no new episode of The Good Wife? Instead, the Victoria's Secret Lingerie Parade? with Wings? Boo, I say. BOO. I don't think the television people fully understand what happens to me when my shows aren't on. I need my shows, Television People! Harumph!

I am pretty sure I have some work to do but for the life of me I cannot remember what it might be.
Also, while fretting, I think I will worry just a little more about this

because it's always worrisome until it is done, and then, we can debrief and discuss and decide how to do it better, take notes and whatnot of "What We Will Do Next Time,"and then we can all go home and watch the dvr'd episodes of Big Bang Theory and 30 Rock which had by golly better be on the DVR or I don't know what I NEED MY SHOWS.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lessons for daily living.

1. Never give anything away.

Selfish? Maybe. But what about the shirt that hung in my closet for years--years!--unworn, because it was beautiful and I loved it. But still: years, and unworn, so I gave it away, and just now I had the perfect idea of how I could wear it. Is it still in my closet? or my other closet? No. And now, my perfect idea will go unexecuted. And I will not allow myself to turn the lack of this perfect shirt into a quest for another one. But that will be hard, because not allowing myself stuff? Not my particular talent.

2. Scones for breakfast.

Lesson? Maybe not. But you can't tell me that a day that begins with scones is not a good day.

3. Half a snow day is better than none.

Way, way better.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This week in baked goods.

All week long it has been bagels aplenty around here. First, I bought a bunch--cinnamon raisin for the historian, plain for running/former missionary/college son. Then, when I took said son to the store for other food, he thought we might need some more. This bagel-buying orgy started because of my bagel-in-the-morning habit, which started after my sabbatical when I foolishly agreed to be a faculty l*****. I had to be at school in the m*******, so freaking early so many days, that stopping for a bagel started to seem like my earthly reward.

I know, I know. Going to work doesn't mean earning an extra earthly reward. Your paycheck is your reward for going to work. But I am just telling you: this is how the bagel habit got started. Stop judging me.

So, my bagel place had this promotion--every time you bought something, you got a punch in your little card (shaped like a bagel--cute, but you had to fold it in half to put it in your wallet. A folded bagel, with punches in it. This I faithfully kept for twelve full punches). Once you got the full twelve punches, you got a free baker's dozen of bagels! Calloo callay, oh frabjous day. All of a sudden, having piles of bagels around seemed like the thing to do.

Anyway, now we are down to less than six plain bagels, which might be worrisome if I hadn't just recently baked
  • a chocolate cake last Sunday;
  • a pumpkin pie on Thursday; and
  • bread today.
I already told you about the cake. There's still a little left, and it is still more than edible, that's how good the cake is.

The pie is maybe the best pumpkin pie I have ever made. Let's see if we can figure out why, shall we?
  • I baked it in a tart pan, ergo more elegant and possibly also--and paradoxically--cuter.
  • I roasted the pumpkin the perfect amount of time, so there was no faint redolence of scorch.
  • there was cream.
  • there were perfect eggs.
  • there was a delightfully buttery crust.
  • I baked the pie the perfect amount of time--the custard did not crack and it was perfectly creamy.
  • the pie had the exact right amount of crystallized ginger. I think this factor was aided and abetted by the extra amount of flat space made possible because of the tart pan. The ginger was more evenly distributed per bite. I could draw you a diagram, but I don't have time for shenanigans like that.
Anyway: that pie was grand. It was the kind of goodness that makes you want to make another pie tout de suite. But now that pie is gone.

First of all, some of it was eaten on Thanksgiving. I kind of like the fact that my family, overall, loves the pecan pie more than the pumpkin. For myself, the pecan pie is a tad too sweet. Anyway, this demographic data means that there is usually some leftover pumpkin pie to bring home from the feast, and that means pie for breakfast, yay! Pie for breakfast leads inexorably to no more pie, however, and that's exactly where we are.

But today was another snowy day (not to say "snow day," alas.), so I decided to make bread. Whole wheat bread. I took the slow rise method (not a scientific slow rise like those very serious bread bakers advocate. I aspire to their scientificness, but I really wanted to eat bread today, so I just used a little less yeast.), which meant that there was a wheat-y smell in the kitchen for several hours. I used two different kinds of Montana wheat flour and a little (very little) rye. This bread tasted delicious. We had it with our dinner.

All this baking is preparatory to the orgy of baking I hope to undertake for the fun of it over the next few weeks. If there happened to be enough snow falling at the exact right times, I could even start it right now.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Little guy, big swashbuckle.

Recently, I saw a preview for the newest Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawntreader. I have read nary a one of these books, so it's all movies to me; forgive me, then, that I don't know the name of righteous rodent who comes a-swashbuckling with his mighty (small) blade in service of all that is right and good. I'm just guessing, though, since it was just a preview. But I did think to myself Holy Yoda, what is it with tiny critters and mighty powers? You remember, when Yoda has a lightsaber fight with the Emperor Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith? It was kind of cool, but did you have a sneaking feeling that it was a little ridiculous? because Yoda was little. Super little. Agile as all hell, not to mention wise, but still: tiny.

This led me to think of Muggsy Bogues and Earl Boykins, both well under 6 ft. and credible, memorable players in the NBA. The very fact of their under-sizedness made their playing feel exciting and maybe even brave. Also--and no disrespect intended--a little comic, but in a good way.

Since this is the third paragraph, and I have a pile of examples, one might hope for a conclusion, but one will remain dissatisfied, since all my possible conclusions seem to veer for a cliche. Instead, I offer this,

and I do hope you are fully inspired.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The story of crab.

There are a lot of things to write about, not least of which is the birth of a brand new baby granddaughter. I hope to have more to say about this soon, but let us just say this, right off the bat: so very happy for the historian's son and his lovely wife, and for the darling little girl.

But for tonight, I am going to tell you the story of how I happened to have two enormous Dungeness crabs in my refrigerator.

Me, in Whole Foods, both blithe and smug, having put in my cart everything I would need for my portion of the Thanksgiving day feast . . . AND MORE . . .

Guy behind the fish counter: You look like a person who loves Dungeness crab.

Me: [thinking to myself: I do love Dungeness crab!] (aloud:) I do love Dungeness crab!

Guy behind the fish counter: Well, then come over here and have a taste.

Me: [thinking to myself: a taste! just a taste!] (aloud:) Thanks!

That crab happened to be some of the most delicious crab I have ever eaten. [Note to self: the word crab starts to sound kind of funny when you say it a whole bunch of times in a row. See if you can come up with a synonym.]

Guy behind the fish counter: . . . And it's a really good deal. You buy one of these, it's a nice meal for a person.

Me: [thinking to myself: that is a good deal!] (aloud:) That is a good deal. How many of them would make about 2 pounds?

Guy behind the fish counter: About two of them.

Me: well . . . crabs [crustaceans?] kind of scare me.

Guy behind the fish counter: Totally understandable. I can clean them for you.

Me: [to myself: did he just sing the words "I can clean them for you"?] (aloud:) Really?

Guy behind the counter: Yes! (shiny and melodic)

And that, my people, is how I ended up with 2 crabs, cleaned, wrapped in fish paper, in my refrigerator. And also how I ended up thinking, I have two crabs in my refrigerator, cleaned, yes, wrapped in fish paper, yes. And yet I am the only crab eater at my house.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good will and thanks.

I started writing a thanksgiving post yesterday but when I started to write about my children I started to cry, so I decided to wait a minute. But it's Thanksgiving today, so I just want to say I'm grateful for

writing and
my good life,
and music and art
and the good health of my parents,
my brother and sisters,

my darling my husband,

all kinds of growing things,
farmers, books, movies,
friendships old and new,

my children who fill my heart and my life,
and the beautiful grandchildren.

Today, I feel lucky and full of joy. Thanks for stopping by occasionally--I'm grateful for you, too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Son of dog.

Or: Dog, Part 2: an FAQ.

Q: How many messages total did you leave for the strange large friendly dog's people?

A: Three. One when we first identified the phone number from the tag; one for the second phone number on the tag, wherein we intimated that we might need to take the dog to the shelter; and a third, left by running/college/former missionary son, wherein he said, pretty much, "We're keeping the dog here, and you can call me anytime, because I'm going to be up all night. I'm young like that."

Q: Where did the strange large friendly dog sleep?

A: At first, we thought to corral his largeness and curiosity in a warm bathroom, with a cushiony bed and blanket. However, he thought dimly of this arrangement, and there was much whimpering for the 22.5 minutes he was in there. Aforementioned son thought it would be better to have the large dog downstairs and Bruiser upstairs, which would have necessitated Bruiser sleeping with us, which is in fact what he did. On our bed. With occasional jumping out of bed to whimper at the door, indicating his grave dissatisfaction about our refusal to allow him to investigate, i.e. fight with, the strange large friendly dog. But we were firm, and the new arrangement worked out fine, if by "worked out fine" you mean "we got four hours of sleep last night."

Q: What of strange large friendly dog? What became of him?

A: Taking aforementioned son up on his offer, the people of the strange large friendly dog called at about five a.m., and came to get the dog thereafter. Bruiser took notice of this exit by hopping out of bed and whining at the door. We were all Wha? and went right back to sleep. Roughly around seven a.m., son announced that the strange large friendly dog had been retrieved by his grateful human, and I thought, basically, Thank God. Because it's one thing to have a strange large friendly dog follow you home and try to romp with your leashed dog (if by "romp" you mean "hump"), and then have a doggy sleepover at your house. It's quite another to deal with that situation in the light of day. When you have to go to work, and there's a blizzard coming on.

Now that you mention a blizzard: no one could have been happier than I than when the snow-day-callers at my place of employ called a snow day starting at 2 p.m. My only complaint was that they could have just gone ahead and called it two days ago on Sunday. Everybody knew it was coming. Let's be proactive, people.

So, after provisioning (almonds, laundry detergent, whipping cream, potato chips, Izzy soda), we hunkered down to wait for the storm. As the hours passed and there was wind but no snow, and even a patch of blue sky, I found myself anxious for the snow day's credibility. What if only a paltry amount of blizzard arrived? What if, blizzard-wise, it were a pussy cat instead of a roaring beast? Would they ever call a snow day again? Thank goodness we got a little pizzazz out of the storm. Now, I'll be busy thinking proactive thoughts about how it could last until tomorrow around noon. A double-header snow day is the best.

(p.s. for all friends and beloveds who are traveling: I hope you're safe and get where you're going more or less on time.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Two words.

Harry Potter, and "Strange Dog Adventure." If you counted five words there, I'm going to have to ask you to take that counting outside the premises, because it is bothering me.

1. Harry Potter was perhaps the most satisfying movie of them all, so far. However,

2. "Strange Dog Adventure" is not my favorite episode in this genre ("Lost Dog for Which We
Feel Responsible" is a genre, yes?). For one, when we called the numbers on this nice, unfixed, large male dog's tag, we got messages for two businesses. At which I left detailed messages, which for two, have not yet been responded to. And for three, ugh. Why is the dog roaming? why do we feel responsible? why don't I feel okay just dropping the dog off at the after-hours dog-drop-off place at the Animal Shelter? why won't the owners of the several odd phone numbers return the call? why? Anyway, the dog will be spending the night in an enclosed (undisclosed?) space in our house tonight. Bruiser, needless to say, is a wreck.

I said I would blog, and I did. That is the extent of it for tonight, the "Strange Dog Adventure" night. In homage to the Strange (nice) Dog: Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This dinner brought to you by Google.

As you well know, we had a snowpocalypse last night, which meant that there was serious doubt about whether the historian and I would make it home from our movie double-header downtown in one piece. The odds were more significantly stacked against us because we were in two separate cars. That's because I spent some artistic time at the Roasting Company. I swore to myself that I would draft the current poem I've been working on, or know the reason why. That's because I had my writing group today, at my house, and that's why the snowpocalypse had especial significance: because what if I couldn't arise at the crack of dawn to go buy special ingredients for things I had never made? because what if my writing group food were just ordinary stuff that I already had? The Horror.

I know that was a lot of becauses, but sometimes there happens to be a long chain of causality, okay? a chain which led me to the inevitable conclusion that I should be sensible for just about the first time in my entire life, and figure out something to make out of the bountiful ingredients already in my well-stocked house.

So, the assessment of possible already-there ingredients included:
  • arugula
  • pears
  • a soft persimmon
  • a suspiciously soft blood orange
  • broccoli
  • potato chips
  • a shocking amount of 2 liter bottles of various caffeinated soft drinks
  • granola bars
  • pasta of all kinds, including those pasta side dishes in a bag
  • (in case you can't tell, college-running-post-missionary son and I went to the store on Friday)
  • various legumes
  • a bunch of cheese
  • some smoked salmon
  • chocolate
At first, when I thought I might run to the store at the crack of dawn, I was thinking I might make a version of this delicious Thai soup I had at Cafe Trang this week. Alas, no time for lemongrass. So I thought perhaps I would invent some kind of fancy chowder that used smoked salmon? But then I thought, I know: I will Google Orangette to see what she has to say about all of this. And that's how I ran smack into the best idea for a day when your trees are laden with snow and you feel lucky not to have spiraled off the road into a wintry death: red lentil soup.

Did I have red lentils? I did. So I made this soup and commend it to you for your wintry hours.

Then, I took the arugula and some mint I had, washed and tore it up into a bowl, then slivered up a teeny sweet orange pepper I had languishing in the fridge, and two pears for sweetness. A vinaigrette, with sherry vinegar in the vinegar slot and a little garlic and a little mustard to sharpen it up, and that was a good salad. I also put some delicious crackers on a plate with Point Reyes blue cheese and the smoked salmon.

For dessert, I made chocolate cake. While I had Orangette doing my research for me, I used Orangette and chocolate cake as search terms, and came up with this recipe. And of course I made adjustments. For the flour, I used a little bit of organic unbleached white, some white-wheat, and some delicious unbleached cake flour. Instead of canola oil, which I did not have, I melted some butter, and why not? Also, I happened to have some full-fat buttermilk which was thick and gorgeous and made this cake a champion. Finally, I did not have any cream so ganache was not possible. Instead, I had the teeniest amount of vanilla ice cream, so I put a spoonful of that and a spoonful of blackberry jam (mine) next to the little cupcake, unwrapped on a plate. And those three flavors--the dark dark of the chocolate, the milky ice cream, and the purple fruit--were divine.

So after the writing group friends left, singing son gave me a call. "Are the Jazz playing tonight?" he asked. I told him they weren't. "Well, what are you having for dinner?" Soup, I told him. And so he and his little family came over, and my writing group repast did a second stint, and it was just as good the second time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Enough already.

Last night when I could not sleep AGAIN, I thought about this fancy fact:
NOVEMBER USED TO BE NABLOMO (is there supposed to be another syllable there? somehow it seems like there should be one. Oh well.), aka National Blogging Month, where you blog every day and win a prize, or not, but at least you blogged. (Right! NabloPOmo--National Blog Posting Month. The fact that I could not remember that says everything, absolutely everything.)

Perhaps some of you, the people, may remember when that fact used to mean something around here.

Well, I am tired of being a person who doesn't blog anymore. Not blogging is for suckers. Not blogging is symptomatic of the joy that gets sucked out of life because of The Grind, which also, and perhaps not coincidentally, happens to be for suckers. Suckers: I am going to blog again. A lot. Every day from now until the end of the year, even if it's just nothing at all. That's right, you can count on me for daily blogging, often about nothing at all, until the end of the year, December 31. And after that, maybe I will just keep right on blogging, or maybe I will have won a fabulous prize and I will be too awesome to blog anymore. We'll just have to see.

ANYWAY. I happened to be perusing one of my new favorite blogs, hyperbole and a half. And whilst perusing, I happened upon her Twitter feed ("FOLLOW!"). And then, on her Twitter feed, I found another funny (also: salty, so feel free to beware) blog called More is Better. On More is Better's Twitter feed, she has this to say about herself:

"Always cooks with real butter"? That's a pretty good motto. How about this, which More is Better also has to say about herself:

It may have occurred to the more discerning of my readers that "Always cooks with real butter" and "deliciously vulgar" could be MY mottos (also: "More is Better"--I should probably sue More is Better, as I'm quite certain that I'm the original on that one, too). This leads me to think I should be proactive and snag the good mottos, since they seem to be being taken by More is Better at a pretty good clip. Let's get down to it:

"See the potato chips, feel the shine."
"Hand-built by movies."
"Exceedingly Good Shopping."
"Good to the last whine."
"Uh oh, better get housekeeping." or maybe:
"Housekeeping: it's everywhere you wanna be."
"Designed for shoes."

(these slogans brought to you by the Slogan Generator, courtesy of the Surrealist.)

Tomorrow: recipes for cooking what is in my house, because I'm pretty sure the roads will be too snowy to go out. That's right: recipes. Tune in.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Luckily, we have a lot of vegetables.

The historian is doing a Sunday crossword puzzle.

I am replacing one page in my manuscript with a corrected page, as I have just discovered that there is a leftover word with a strike-through in it. The strike-through is there because the word was supposed to have been deleted, which is what the strike-through meant. I am also trying not to think about the fact that I have recently sent this manuscript with its unassuming yet nefarious, possibly malicious, strike-through word to at least a dozen places. Ugh.

Son and his friends are downstairs watching an unviewed season of Scrubs. Friend of Son, who is like a son to me, comes upstairs with a dish to put in the sink.

Friend of Son, who is like a son to me: I ate some of that potato pie. It was good.

Historian: What would you call that, sweetheart? would you call it potato pie?

Me: I would call it "Tortilla Española." But it had feta on it, so it was unorthodox. (pause, to contemplate how pretentious I just sounded, what with that ñ and all.)

Friend of Son: (polite laugh:) Well, it was good.

Me: Are you a tomato eater?

Friend of Son: Yes, I am.

Me: It's good with some tomatoes by it.

Historian: It was really good.

Me: (small and invisible preening, after which I resume inserting the page at the scene of my recent strike-through humiliation.)

Friend of Son: (without a word, picks up half-eaten bag of Lays Wavy potato chips in the red bag; makes for the stairs.)

Me: . . . So that's how it is around here.

Friend of Son: (sound of laughter disappearing down the stairs.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sometimes you just hear what you want to hear.

This evening, walking the dog at dusk.

Kids up the street: (in chorus) Can we pet your dog?

Us: Sure!

Me: His name is Bruiser.

One kid (while petting Bruiser): We know. (pause:) I'm a monster. (one arm inside his shirt)

Another kid (also petting Bruiser): I'm a monster too.

Me: Very scary.

Yet another kid (petting Bruiser): I'm not a monster.

Me: So, the monsters are trying to catch you?

Yet another kid: (nods)

More petting. Then:

Me: (brisk as all hell) Okay!

The historian: So you think it's time to get going?

Me: Yep.

Kids: (in chorus) Bye Bruiser!

The historian: (contemplatively) When that kid said I'm a monster, at first I thought he said, I'm a Marxist.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Things I overheard myself saying to my hair care professional.

Last week:

"...In fact, I would argue that the Thursday New York Times is the best weekday Times, and you know why? Because (1) the Style section, and (2) the Home section, and also, (3) the crossword is challenging but not as hard as the Friday crossword."

Sometimes, the little things, such as the Thursday New York Times, are enough to keep you going on the days when your outfit is good, but you have 2.5 more things to do in the amount of time you have allocated to do things, such as run the contract down to the Provost, and also your travel request because the dean is supposed to sign it but you're married to the dean, but you forgot to get your chair to sign it first, so up and down the stairs you go in high heeled boots, hooray for everyday cardio!, and then the e-mail and the phone call and still there are midterms to grade, as well as the last minute preparations for class, 0.50 of which goes better than you could hope considering your colleague is there for classroom visit one of your post-tenure review, and 0.50 of which is a little bit meh.

On such a day, the prospect of the Thursday New York Times is the earthly reward for getting 88% of the available items on the "I must get this done TODAY" list. And now, I will turn my attention to it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Or, procrastinating?

Last night at the Sufjan Stevens concert, I persisted in believing that I would get up so early! this morning to read midterms. Also, I believed somehow that we might be home at around 10:30 p.m., from a concert that began at 8.

On the way home from the concert:
Me: I think it's hilarious how, after all this time, I still chronically underestimate how much time things actually take.

The historian: Like what?

Me: Like, I thought we might get home from the concert by about 10:30.

Historian: (snickers)
An actual snicker, the people.

Anyway, the Sufjan Stevens concert was amazing. Epic. I wouldn't say that SS's every aesthetic decision was perfect. But I would say that I felt at almost every turn that I was witnessing an artist--not "artist" the way people talk about a pop star as "the artist," but "artist" as in, a person who's making art. The whole thing was immersive--textured and layered with sound, visuals, movement, joy. I could discern antecedents (the Talking Heads of the Stop Making Sense era) and peers (the chameleonic, ever-inventive Beck), but no exact equivalents, and it really was pretty intense--revelatory--to be there.

I also loved that pretty much the whole show was new music, and most of it from the more bracing The Age of Adz rather than the prettier All Delighted People EP--bold, not at all ingratiating. I had previous listened to this music, or at least some of it--it was kind of great to experience it, really, for something like the first time in this way. The music that wasn't from The Age of Adz--"Seven Swans" from Seven Swans, and a four-song set from Illinois ("Chicago," "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois," "Decatur," and "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.") that concluded the show were a kind of gift--but I felt that the new material really put these songs in a bigger picture--they're great songs, without doubt, but they're not the best SS will ever do.

Well! having thus discharged my responsibility with regard to the review of the concert, and having confessed how yet again I have lied to myself about getting up early, the duration of things, and how much I will realistically accomplish on any given morning, I must do something: read some midterms? grade some online discussions? record a video response to a class discussion? go home and nurse this little cold that is now stalking me? Who can say?


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