21 December 2006

you are not the boss of me (when I'm not at work)

Yesterday was MUCH better, hence today is better too, as the funk in which I was is now but a distant memory.

You see, yesterday I stayed home from work. Always a quality plan, but especially this time of year, you just have so many things to do and not being at work (unless one is internet-shopping, of course) lets you get so very much accomplished. For example:
~ laundry
~ cookie baking (once during the day, and once last night)
~ errand-running
~ present-wrapping
~ gift-buying
~ card-printing and addressing (and stamping and sealing - which count as separate tasks, really, when you're doing that many)
~ Presidential speech-watching (not a highlight, especially since he did not say anything remotely intelligent AND prevented me from seeing Mary-Louise Parker on Martha!)

That recounting seems short. Anyway, it sure felt like a lot yesterday, and sure crossed a lot off my list! Whew! Of course when my lovely husband got home and only had to sign his name to the cards (rather than co-assemble, stamp, seal, etc.) he was thrilled. He then accused me of working to make a case for being a Stay At Home Not-Yet-Mom. And to that I say, "HEY!!!!!!! is that an option?"

P.S. Because we're at the stage where everyone asks, or at least wonders, no, no babies. As the lovely husband says, "Give us through '07 and then we'll let you know."

20 December 2006

The City

Sometimes when people who live in New York refer to it as "The City," claiming the proper noun as entirely their own, it is rather annoying. But then you visit, and it all makes sense again.

We went to New York weekend before last and had a fabulous time. Hotels were outrageous (given the season) so we stayed at a bed and breakfast. I'd never thought about doing that in New York before, but it worked very well - highly reccommend it for your next trip!

Knowing we were going to have the chance to catch up with some of our dearest friends, and that, as one of those friends says, "brunch is church for people in Manhattan," I'd done my research. You definitely need to try 202 at the Chelsea Market.

And why, oh, why, can't DC just have ONE H&M that's half as massive, and with half the selection of the H&M on Harold's Square? *sniffle* We discovered several Christmas presents.

Since no trip is complete without cheese, I scouted out this bad boy. Delicious dinner, nice atmosphere, and we sat at a table beside an actor who was very nice, even when I eyed his scrumptuous-looking profiteroles.

19 December 2006

terrible horrible no good very bad

I'm exaggerating.

A little.

I'm just not having a good day!

It's one of those where everything you do turns out catawampus when you need perfection. And when you try to fix it, you just get airbrushed catawampas*.

So I went down to the drugstore to cheer myself up. Bought a new lip gloss. It's fine, maybe a little too bronze and not enough rose, but it's supposed to last FIVE TIMES longer than normal lip gloss. which would be great because that would give me twenty whole minutes between applications. (Or, to be honest, my usual habit is to slap it on the morning and forget about it, so really we're just talking twenty whole minutes of lip gloss a day.)

Also bought a torture device. Ever seen this? My modest hope was that it would turn the attention from my bad hair day toward my twenty-minutes-of-shiny-lips. BUT IT'S HARD! I mean, like, medical residency hard. (Not that I've done that, but I can imagine that it's grueling.) It is obviously made for people whose hair is cut in a blunt line. And let's be honest, if your hair is cut like that, are you really to type that's into updos? No, you're into headkerchiefs, plain and simple.

I work in such a small office (three people, including me) that it's pretty obvious when one person is gone. They must have wondered. I have no idea how long I was in the ladies room, standing at the mirror, alternately cursing my very un-octopus-like possession of only two hands, and laughing hysterically as I got slapped with what they call the "spring end" of the hairagami. (There is no spring "end!" That's like saying an elephant has a "heavy end." The thing lives to snap back together.) Anyway, I finally got it in my hair...though it did require a rubber band to tuck in the stray ends on one side (just the one! Other side looks great!) and two enormous bobby pins to pin back some hair from my face. Oh, and did I mention that now that it's on my head, I feel like it's trying to pull my hair out? A black velvet twisty snappy vice for my head. That's what I bought to cheer myself up today. Solid.

*Even this was a nightmare. I wanted it to be caddywhompus.

13 December 2006

a cry for help

Confession: I am very disorganized.


(No, really. VERY. Not at work. Not with projects. But with general cleaning and things around the house -- disaster.)

Actually, I prefer to phrase it as having a "tendency toward entropy," but I've gotten some feedback (to the tune of "let's be honest, shall we?").

The good news for me, though, is that my sister is super-organized and very talented at helping other people become more so. It's nice that the universe (which itself has a tendency toward entropy, I might add), balanced our family out this way. And it's really nice that my sister's coming to visit soon...

on the phone tonight

Me: I thought I had just found some marshmallows in the closet, but it was balloons.

SmallBean: Were you looking for marshmallows?

Me: No -- I was looking for the hammer!


08 December 2006

herring for everyone!

Last night we attended the House of Sweden's annual St. Lucia dinner and I must say that next to choosing and chopping down the family Christmas tree, there is no better way to ring in the season.

If you're unfamiliar with St. Lucia, see here or here.

If the concept sounds vaguely familiar, you probably saw this movie. Wish I could find stills from it to show you a very peeved Judy Davis wearing the wreath with candles on her head.

I think even though we're not Swedish, we'll institute this tradition when we have kids, especially since it calls for the eldest daughter to bring the parents coffee in bed. And who says that should happen only on December 13th?

06 December 2006

the things that matter

While the wisdom of Messrs Kaufman and Hart is undeniably true, I would argue that having certain things does in fact matter.

A case in point: the orange pan.

Mama has a great big orange roasting pan. Growing up, I saw everything from (a great big batch of) brownies to many Thanksgiving turkeys being cooked in it. It is such a nice size -- huge -- and such a warm color, and everything seemed to look tastier coming out of the oven because of it.

I should add here that in my family, especially on my mother's side, when people pass away, one does not inherit money so much as kitchen tools. This might sound like quite the rip-off, but let me assure you that great comfort and satisfaction are to be gained by baking in Great Aunt Minnie's loaf pan. (As a side note, an aunt once sent me a large kitchen knife along with an eloquent and very humorous letter detailing the fine reasons (learned from her mother, aunts, etc.) that a woman should always own such a knife. And if you are, yourself, Southern, or through some other fortuitous consequence know of unabashedly, gloriously, crazy women, I am sure you realize that not all such reasons involve culinary preparation. Beware ye intruders.)

Keeping in mind our family's bequests, and given my hope that my mother will achieve her dream and live to about 115 and gently drift off while holding hands with my (then 118 year-old) father on the front porch swing, I didn't expect to have a shot at the orange pan anytime soon.

But a few Christmases ago, I was astounded to unwrap a package and find my very own great big orange roasting pan! My ever-resourceful Mama found her pan's long-lost twin and bestowed it upon an extremely grateful moi.

So tonight, I pulled it out in anticipation of Christmas baking. The first step is Chex Mix, and even though I nearly double the recipe, it all fits. And somehow it just tastes better. Actually, it tastes perfect. Just like Mama used to make.

15 November 2006


Oops! I disappeared. Unfortunately, it was not Alice-style...no talking caterpillars to report. I just, well, got busy and forgot how much I was enjoying the blogging and then accidentally stopped doing it.

There is just so much going on right now and this morning's quick, work-diverting thumb through the online news tells me that a lot of it is bad. Well, to that I say, "no thank you," and "how 'bout something happy?" So here is a list of things that have been pleasant, amusing, and interesting to me lately:

a recent word of the day that I was able to work-in today during noisy, morning rush-hour traffic.

Giada on the Food Network.
(who does NOT want to eat "eggs in purgatory?" I'm renaming all recipes using themes from Dante from now on.)

also, Giada gave me these, which were a total hit at the most recent party.

this morning on the Today show, Meredith Viera was giving Martha Stewart a hard time about complicated recipes ("Can't I just buy canned sweet potato?" "No." "It's not gonna taste any different.") and then at the end of the segment, Martha handed Meredith a Cranberry Meringue Tart and once Meredith took a bite and said yum, Martha chirped, "It's poisoned!" I will try to find the video. We laughed out loud.

names. I love names. I remember reading the section on name meanings in my mother's college dictionary over and over again. There are lots of baby name sites, but I like this one a lot (and it doesn't have pop ups).

France. Good food. Purse chairs.

and last, and perhaps most excitingly, did you know that Koko the gorilla is still alive and well?! Love her website.

especially love the kids' page.

Now go flutter around and spread some happy fairy dust.

And check back soon. I promise to stick around.

02 November 2006

juuuuust right

I'm not sure why, but I really wanted some tiny pumpkins. I thought they would be cute for Halloween, of course, but also for Thanksgiving. So I planned to keep them around for awhile. But the other morning, I found out that someone else also really wanted some tiny pumpkins:

Whichever creature availed itself of my intended cornucopia ingredient bothered neither the glitter pumpkin, nor the other big pumpkin that is sitting on the porch. Maybe it was the infamous Goldilocks Vampire Squirrel.

Beware, tiny pumpkins everywhere (probably tiny bowls of porridge, too).

19 October 2006

justification from the queen of the blog world

HA! Remember a few weeks ago when I predicted Friday Night Lights would be the great new TV show of this fall? Well, I've been watching it, and it's very good -- surprisingly different for TV. Like other truly well-written shows (Seinfeld, Cheers and Frasier), it's focused on characters rather than icky bugs and manufactured drama. I confess to being a little worried that this could backfire, since some seriously high-rated shows achieve great success through dredging. But I'm holding out hope that people will tune in to intersting, conversation-generating, television for a change.

And tonight I found out that I'm not alone.

uli was robbed

Michael just didn't pull it together (why so many neon hotpants?!) this time.

Laura's things were fabulous(corset dress and English netting nouveau-corsage, please!) and only bested by

Uli's, which showed such a wonderful range of fabulous!

So why-oh-why did I-only-design-clothes-people-like-Courtney-Love-would-wear Jeffrey win?! *sigh*

But, you know, how very Uli-like of Uli it was to say at the end, "Some things happen for a reason. I think number two is right for me!"

Uli is a grown-up. Go Uli!

who introduced you to the pomegranate

Okay, kids. It's time for some comments. I don't care if you email me or leave the notes on the blog, but I'm ready to hear from you.

So here's a question that I love because it occured to me many years ago and I have yet to find someone who doesn't remember or to hear an uninteresting story!

18 October 2006

making Cinderella's carriage look slightly less uniquely sparkly since autumn 2006

Look what I made today!

(Sorry for the pic. The camera's still out so I'm stuck with the the one on my phone.)

Now I think all pumpkins should be covered with glitter. Of course Ms. Stewart does it better, but then I was only going to spring for the $3.99 large container of silver glitter, not the $4.99 vial-that-looks-too-small-to-hold-enough-poison-to-do-anything-dangerous container of cool orange.

Happy almost-Halloween!

12 October 2006

it's aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!

A few days ago, I mentioned that SmallBean and I were going to start a cooking blog! Well, glory be, we've gone and done it! Y'all come see us.

more, more, more

(how do you like it, how do you like it)

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

I heart quizzes.

thursday is the new friday

I'm done, people! Done, I tell you. Tired of sitting at a desk typing things into a computer. I want to go HOME and sit at a desk (or on the sofa) and type things into a computer...and knit...and make cards...and play...

However, since I have not yet won the lottery...I am at work.

In case you, like me, need a little diversion today:

Your Haloween Costume Should Be

Candy Corn

06 October 2006

make it work on another level

My dear, pescotarian, non-driving friend from Kentucky and I went to see Tim Gunn speak Thursday night at the Corcoran. Obviously, no one who reads my blog will be surprised that I'm a fan of the museum. In addition to great art and a great art school, though, they have fabulous public programs that bring speakers to DC. As it turns out, Mr. Gunn is a DC native! But that is about the least interesting thing we learned this evening. To say that Mr. Gunn is an elegant, erudite, articulate gentleman would be quite an understatement. He is also completely charming, very funny, and, I think, just a tad wicked!

Since I really don't think I can distill my thoughts at this hour, I am just going to post a few of my notes.

On living in Kuala Lumpur (while working for Parsons) for three months:
"...and people would say, 'Oh, how fabulous!' and I would say, 'Do you know that Kuala Lumpur means muddy confluence?'" *under his breath, dismally* "aaaannnd it's equatorial."

Mr. Gunn is the great-grandson of Harry Wardman, a very well-respected DC real estate developer. (Also see here.)

On walking the red carpet at the Emmys (after Project Runway Season One was nominated):
"I felt like a mongrel at the Westminster Kennel Club!"

On what's important:
"You have to recognize that a serendipitous moment has occurred, and evaluate it."

On who 'makes it,' he says he tells his students:
"Those of you with the MOST passion and the MOST drive, those of you who HAVE to do this -- no matter what obstacles in your way -- are the ones who are going to make it."

On the 7.5 hour taping of the reunion episode of PR3 (aired Wednesday night):
"Heidi and I wanted to just self-eviscerate."

On change:
"Actually, I like the unknown. It suits me."

On how he would never have guessed his path:
"When I was playing in the sandbox...actually, I hated sandboxes - dirty and messy!"
(Hear! Hear!)

On PR3 the mothers episode, which he described as "psychotic":
"Because the mothers and sisters were our guests, editing was very kind to them. It was also very kind to Jeffrey." *pause* "And I have to add - and I will -- Vincent WON?!?! What was that? Looked like she was one of the pilgrims!"

(Judge for yourself. The lovely Heidi is Uli's mom - it's not her fault.)

That's it - time to sleep. Even the PR designers go to bed at midnight...

28 September 2006

this is sick

"No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed. I have known mothers who remake the bed after their children do it because there is wrinkle in the spread or the blanket is on crooked. This is sick."
- Erma Bombeck

Amen, Erma Bombeck.

I am sick! Again! Curses! (But only since Tuesday night, so I really have no excuse for the lag in posts...) So let's be positive and talk about Things That Make Us Happy. Maybe that will perk up the old sinuses.

- Anything Fleur de Lis...just found out about this place in New Orleans

- Papers and Stationery...just finished the invitations for a baby shower (will post a picture soon) and am about to get started on the invitations for a bachelorette party. As usual, I bought my supplies at Paper Source. I'm considering asking them if they would mind terribly if I just set up a cot in the corner.

- Hanging Pictures! I did muster the strength to hang one picture on a wall yesterday. I nearly wore myself out (I think it weighed a solid eight ounces) but it was totally worth it because it is the first thing I've hung inside our new house. And we moved in March. How terribly embarrassing. Oh, well! Still haven't found the picture hooks, but I broke down and bought more at Lowe's last weekend. Maybe I can go crazy and hang two things today! Baby steps.

- Okay, I'm worn out again! More soon. OOOH, and SmallBean and I are going to start a cooking blog. Get ready world!

14 September 2006

random specifics

The weather in DC has been so perfect this week. It's my absolute favorite: cloudy, chilly, and you cannot be sure about leaving your umbrella behind. Aaaah, fall is coming. It will soon be time for sweaters and soup!

My favorite street vendor, Davitt, from whom I usually just pick up a morning bottle o' Evian, had lowfat chocolate milk on Tuesday! Super handy since I accidentally skipped breakfast, and so tasty. Chocolate milk is highly underrated.

Given the classes at the Corcoran this week, my days are lengthy and I have quite a bit to carry with me in terms of notebooks and worksheets in progress. After a fruitless searches for my trusty, huge red leather purse, I remembered that my black tote bag would be perfect and that I knew exactly where it was (because I'd used it recently, which is basically always the case). One of my many aunts -- you know who you are! (or maybe all of them will take credit!) -- gave it to me YEARS ago...seriously, it might have been a decade...for Christmas, and I have struggled over the years to keep it from the sneaky, prying hands of friends and roommates. It's just such a great bag. Just like Mary Poppins's, it is a completely reasonable size to sling over your arm and carry down the street, and yet it holds all of my purse's contents + two big notebooks + lunch. And I am therefore not a Glamour Don't riding in on the Metro.

Happy for me: unlike everywhere else on earth, Cosi makes their tuna salad without celery! (I am allergic. My throat feels like it's going to close up.) They use carrots instead. I humbly suggest that everyone follow suit.

Once upon a time there was a website - what now would probably be a blog - by these people named Al and Lori Marsh. I think they lived in Lake Wobegon or thereabouts. Their whole website was made up of quotes, and even though it disappeared about five years ago, I still miss it. One of my favorite quotes (and I'm sorry I cannot recall the attribution) was said by a lady at a church supper, "We don't believe in luck. Please call it a 'Pot Blessing.'" Marshes, where are you?!?!

***Project Runway spoiler below***

I'm so excited that Laura won last night's Project Runway challenge! Great dress and I still cannot believe she's dealing with all of this while she's pregnant. On the flip side of the PR coin, I am so relieved that no fluke allowed Angela or Vincent to continue. They are just not as good as the other five. And I was sad to see Kayne go, but I am sure he's going to make it on his own anyway. Even if some people did think that shirt looked like Elvis. (I didn't. It was just not right with the pants and unnecessary bling. Dave Navarro could totally rock it.)

***spoiler over***

gotta get to work!

13 September 2006

first step into someone else*'s territory

I have had some weird jobs, and perhaps more relevant to this topic, I have worked with some seriously weird people. Of course that can make everything from coming up with a PR plan to booking a plane ticket insanely difficult, but the upside is that you get great quotes out of it.

To that end, here are a few of my recent favorites from the office:

"I'm really sort-of 'seat of the pants'ing it."

"My sense is that the French don't build houses in the middle of forests."

"I can't remember what it was but I can tell it was something exquisite."

"I go straight to the pumpkin patch from the office, right?"

"Dulles gives me anxiety."

"It's rather...rather...full of his characteristic opacity, I would say."

left on a note on my desk, "See me re: $4,542.63."

"I haven't used crayons in a presentation before -- not since I was about ten."

and, what I consider the best of the week so far:

"Please be a little clearer by what you mean with Wachovia Bank vs. Mongolian Embassy."


12 September 2006

why I get off track

These days I'm very busy with the docent classes, and trying to do some reading and quick research to stay on top of the material. But here's what happens:

- I learned a few weeks ago that there's a piece of art with Judith as the subject (in the Corcoran's new exhibition).

A quick warning: I really don't think anyone will find any of this offensive, but just in case, you should know that the painting I'm discussing is not of flowers and ladies with large hats. The subject is Biblical and violent, albeit in a very classical way - nothing will jump out at you or give you nightmares.

- One of the docents said that the piece was based on Carravagio's "Judith Beheading Holofernes" (or, better yet, if you speak Italian).

- I finally got around to looking up that painting, and reading more about Carravagio, and came across this tidbit: Andre Berne-Joffroy, Paul Valéry’s secretary, said of him: "What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting."

- Now, we could talk about "what modern means" all day (no, really, we could, and you'd like it!) but I got sidetracked by the link to Paul Valéry.

- As it turns out, Monsieur Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry is considered a polymath. (And not because he has four names.) ..quite a compliment for someone to put you in a category with people like Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin.

- There are a few lists of polymaths on Wikipedia alone. Other than being disturbed that there are no women on any of these lists, I was otherwise entirely happily interested and intrigued.

And then I remembered I was trying to research a piece of art and its subject!!! How do I ever manage to get dressed and leave the house?!

06 September 2006

"i am frivolous...

...then I feel guilty." - Catherine Deneuve

I'm confused. A few years ago, it seemed like everyone suddenly stopped using the word "actress," and everyone, from Sidney Poiter to Meryl Streep was now to be called an "actor." While I'm not interested in going as far as the British with gender-identified professions -- manageress is a little much -- actress never seemed like overkill. It also has never struck me as a diminutive, like some feminized forms. Dame Judy Dench is hardly minimized by the "ress."

But these days I feel like I'm hearing the term again. Am I accidentally telepathic? Did my unvoiced mental musings make it into some producer's ears, and prompters were suddenly re-programmed?

And this is really the least of my questions. But we have to start somewhere.

05 September 2006

rhymes with olé

We have a pretty busy week ahead of us, including my first round of classes for my new volunteer project: being a weekend docent at the Corcoran. I'm tremendously excited. It's been one of my favorite museums for a decade now, and I've wanted to be a docent there for almost that long. The program is somewhat intensive (classes three nights this week, four nights next week, and more to come), so I thought I'd get ahead on some cooking.

One of my favorite standard recipes is for Mole sauce. I should say first that my recipe is far from the traditional version, which, as best I can tell, takes three days to prepare (three days during which you pretty much stay in the kitchen), and uses more peppers (fresh, roasted, dried, etc.) than I even knew existed.

See one intimidating version here . Someday when I have time, I really will do it, but for now:

This recipe still has plenty of ingredients, but more of the "let me dig into the back of the pantry" than the "let me run down to Mexico" variety. It isn't too labor-intensive, and can be made in about an hour. And if that still seems like a lot of work, keep in mind that it would make more than enough sauce for you to serve at a large dinner party. We usually have plenty for a half dozen meals. I keep some in the fridge, and freeze some right away. It's great on chicken, pork, veggies...probably almost anything...if you've never had it, try it on turkey or chicken first to get the traditional effect.

Okay, so -- here you go! I cribbed from an 1993 issue of Gourmet to get started.

Easy Mole Sauce

3 cups chopped onion (white or yellow)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp anise seeds
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp allspice
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp raisins
2 cups chicken (or veggie) broth
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned is great, just drain them first)
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp salt
sesame seeds for garnish

In a large, heavy skillet, saute the onions in oil over medium heat, until brown (as if you were making French onion soup). Meanwhile, in a mortar with a pestle combine coriander and anise seeds. (Or grind them in a coffee grinder. Or use pre-ground.) In a small bowl, blend the ground coriander and anise with the chili powder, sugar, cinnamon, oregano, and allspice. In a separate small bowl, combine garlic and salt and mix or crush into a paste. Once onions are browned, add spice mixture and saute for one minute. Stir in cocoa powder, peanut butter, raisins, broth, tomatoes, and garlic paste. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender, here's your chance to use it! (If you don't have one, this is a great excuse to go get one. You'll love it. A regular blender will work absolutely fine, though, it's just more work because you have to transfer the sauce into it.)

Using a blender, puree the sauce to thin it to the desired consistency. (I like to get rid of all chunks, but stop just this side of silky smooth so that the sauce still has some body to it.)

We're having this tonight with fajitas. I forgot to say that Mole is a great alternative to salsa if you leave it fairly thick. Tell me if you have more ideas!

03 September 2006

so tell me

I really love the Proust Questionnaire. You can find numerous links about what it is and its history, but the basic truth is that it is a parlor game, and Marcel Proust evidently played it. Legend has it that someone wrote down the answers he gave once as a teenager and then again later in life.

I first came across the questionnaire while living in France and watching Bernard Pivot host Bouillon de Culture. At the end of each program, he would ask a handful of the questions to the major scientist, artist, or politician he'd interviewed. I found so many of their answers fascinating. You may have heard James Lipton reference Bernard Pivot and ask the questions on his program, Inside the Actors Studio.

I've played this game with a few people over the years. In my opinion, it's best played one on one or in very small groups so that everyone will feel that they can be more forthright. I remember certain people I've played this with, and even more so, I remember certain answers people gave that really surprised me.

Though questions may differ or more questions may be added, the real beauty of it is that your own answers change over time. Of course you can find lists with hundreds of questions, but these are usually some of the basics:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

What is your greatest fear?

What is the quality you most admire in a man?

What is the quality you most admire in a woman?

What is your most marked characteristic?

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is your greatest extravagance?

What is your greatest regret?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Who are your favorite writers?

Where would you like to live?

How would you like to die?


"The thoughts and opinions of one human being, if they are sincere, must always have an interest for some other human beings."
- Mary A. Ward

01 September 2006

luck is like having a rice dumpling fly into your mouth

That little Japanese proverb succinctly expresses so much. I mean, frankly, while it might be nice, it would be a little unsettling to find a dumpling in your mouth, especially if you didn't put it there.

But I have been thinking about rice lately. Because, in the words of Mitch Hedberg, "I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something."

For example, Seeds of Change makes a seven grain pilaf that is delicious. Everyone likes it. I serve it to company. People always ask for the recipe. Rather than lie (it gets too complicated), I opt to give them the back-up box in my pantry as a party favor.

One note: I use less water than the recipe calls for (2 1/4 cups rather than 2 3/4 cups), but otherwise follow the directions to the letter, including toasting the grains (which is easier than it sounds, especially if you are capable of stirring).

Also, we seem to love every variety offered by this company:

The California Brown Basmati is probably my favorite. Great with Indian food.

My lovely husband's favorite is their Sushi Rice, which I must admit, is crazytasty. Perfect with Kung Pao Chicken (I'll post that recipe soon) or simple broiled fish.

And I just realized we haven't had risotto in forever! Another reason not to like summer! Aaah, but fall will come, and it will be time to use this variety...takes quite a bit longer than white arborio, but oh, my, the results are worth it.

And I'm looking for a new recipe for saffron rice. I've used this one, and it was fine, but not great. Any ideas? Or maybe I'll just walk around with my mouth open waiting for a misguided flying dumpling.

31 August 2006

older and...ignoranter?

I am frequently amazed by how little credit some people give members of the senior generations in our country. In my experience, once you hit 70 or 80, you have pretty much seen it all, and seen most of it twice, whether you wanted to or not.

Oh, I know that as we age, our memories and some other faculties weaken. (My memory is already horrible. I've probably blogged about this already.) I'm just not sure that was the case with these circumstances:


"Senior citizens find nutured 'weed' is pot"

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona seniors had no idea what the flourishing plant they nurtured in their driveway was until a passing deputy told them it was marijuana.

A Yavapai County sheriff's department said a deputy spotted the blooming 5-foot-tall marijuana plant growing in the driveway of a retirement community near Prescott, midweek.

"The residents just thought it was a pretty weed and so they decided to nurture it," department spokeswoman Susan Quayle told Reuters by telephone.

The officer yanked out the plant, which Quayle said was either "self-seeded or could have been dropped by a grandchild visiting the community."

"No citations were issued. The officer just educated them," she said.


"Dropped by a grandchild?" Good one!

30 August 2006

blog as pensieve

I have been a bad blogger lately! Sorry for the dearth of posts! Well, let me clear my head and then we can get into some new things.

Project Runway Obsession:
I can't believe Laura is pregnant -- with her sixth!

Tim Gunn's comin' to DC and I have a ticket!

(Woe is me -- what to WEAR?!)

I'm holding out for the flower/plant product episode. I think Michael would blow everyone away with that medium.


We just rewatched Charlie & The Chocolate Factory...and had a debate about it with our neighbors. Sean and I both like Tim Burton's version best (if we have to pick something other than the book).

And God bless Wikipedia and its users for this, a Comparative Literature major's idea of a well-spent hour (reading...I'm sure it took forever to write).


Persian food for dinner last night! Walnut chicken with pomegranate sauce, saffron rice, and a spinach saute I threw together with cranberries, slivered onions, and a dash of cinnamon. The pomegranate sauce is extra-tasty, as one might expect of something made from a pomegranate. I doubled it. Want to try the walnut coating with fish..maybe a thick, fleshy white fish like snapper? pat the coating on top and bake...sounds good to me!


I just sliced off a piece of zucchini bread with a coffee stirrer...and people don't think I could make it in the wild.

(I couldn't. Bugs are scary.)


I am waaaaaaaaaaay behind on correspondence! And Christmas will be upon me before I know it. In fact, I started working on (ideas for) our Christmas card today. I heart personally conceptualizing and assembling complicated paper products. (I did get a tad overwhelmed last year and Sean had to pinch hit by addressing some envelopes.)

If I owe you a thank-you note, I promise to get it in the mail this week!


P.S. It's not in the dictionary yet, but I'm sure it soon will be.

16 August 2006

let down by the internet

I'm a big fan of Wikipedia. It's chock full of interesting, helpful, and usually factual information. It's also a tribute to the basic good in humankind. And not to delve into psycho-babble, but as far as I'm concerned, it's the best, most honest representation of the fact that a good deal of our knowledge is subjective at best.

So I was terribly sad today to type in one of my favorite searches, only to find that the page has been -- sob -- deleted!

I am so sorry to be the one to inform you that you missed the experience of the "List of People Widely Considered Eccentric."

I mean, couldn't you get lost in there for a few hours yourself?!?!


I understand the debate...I just really enjoyed the list! I didn't think badly of anyone for being on it (to the contrary, in fact).

I mean, how else would I ever have learned of the Collyer brothers?

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go recycle some old newspapers.

15 August 2006


"You keep using that word...I do not think it means what you think it means."
-- Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

I just came across this picture I took while we were on our vacation/road-trip back in July:

Talk about variety in your diet.


Were you ever to take the time to really consider the existence of Vienna (am I supposed to capitalize that?) sausages, would you even have imagined that there were this many kinds?

Now that we have all wasted sufficient brain cells contemplating this "meat product," let's move on to more worthy cases of inconceivability, such as the fact that I read today that The Hermitage is in possession of more than three million items.

No wonder I have yet to make it through the "Collection Highlights" on their website.

(I've heard that the largest number most people can visualize is between 60,000 and 100,0000. We have some experience with those numbers since that's about how many people a college football stadium can hold. Personally, I'm not sure I'm holding onto the concept of 3,000 of anything all that well.)

My mind immediately races to the fact that there is surely a catalogue of The Hermitage's three million items. And that catalogue probably includes measurements, condition, provenance, exhibition history...and a dozen other details. Just imagine standing in the copyroom waiting for THAT document to print! ("No, I'm good. I brought granola bars and a sleeping bag.")

I hope some computer genius started capitalizing on that massive programming need...right after he finished beating all the machines at chess.

P.S. Don't worry, The Met has two million. And I would think it possible to catch up much more subtly in the art world than with the space program.

14 August 2006

causing a ruckus

First let me admit that I had to spellcheck ruckus. It just didn't look right. Obviously, it's a highly under-used word. Will have to put that on my List of Things to Remedy, right after Inadequate Degree of Recline of Airline Seats.

So, this past weekend I was down in North Carolina. In the process of helping...perhaps I should say attempting to help...my sister return some duplicate gifts from her wedding registry to Belk's, this happened:

Though you can't really tell from the picture, not only the plastic case, but also the label and the actual featherbed have been pulled below the floor into the escalator's claws of death.

Here's how it went down:

- SmallBean and I were hauling the first load of items up the second-floor Bridal Department. (no, they don't sell brides. it's not that easy. you have to at least go to Russia!)

- As we stepped off the escalator, I felt the enormous, queen-sized, down featherbed being jerked out of my hand.

- I spun to the left and realized it was the Rolling Handrail of Doom and it wasn't messing around. It had grabbed the plastic packaging on the featherbed and was pulling it toward the floor.

- I tried! I pulled so hard! I was overcome! :(

- The CurlyHairDay vs. Escalator Deathmatch did not go well. As I realized I was making no progress whatsoever (that is to say, the ENTIRE FEATHERBED was being eaten), I flipped open the cover and pushed the emergency stop button.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that all this happened in approximately four to six seconds.

A store employee showed up as if called by God...what, they wear beepers for this, but no one's ever near the cash register?...and proceeded to try to pull the featherbed back out. (I know that I'm tougher than I look, but come on...a little credit.) Three more store employees showed up and proceeded to strategize, gawk and chuckle and try to get the escalator to reverse -- no luck. From what I eventually overheard, they will just have to call Tony, and it may take him 24 hours to get there. (Tony is obviously in high demand.)

Oh, and though I tried to explain what happened numerous times, somehow the store employees just kept assuring me that "Tha reason we cain't jes turn it bek own is whut if someone's haayund is een thar? *big eyes* You don't wan it to jes keep eatin' it up."

And I'm thinking, "Um, no, but you do want it to LET GO."

(And I'm FROM North Carolina so don't give me any flack for the spelin'.)

The good news is that the store didn't hassle us about giving my sister credit for the "returned" featherbed.

The bad news is that if--

**wait! disclaimer! I drove down (nine hours!) the previous day, slept for about four hours, got up at 5:30 that morning to help my sister with a yard sale -- in the rain -- sigh ...nevermind, it's still really no excuse**

Okay, so if, unbeknownst to me, a nearby customer happened to have a video camera and you can find out that person's name and address, you should go ahead and leave for Vegas and put money down on their win on next week's American's Funniest Home Videos. In the interest of full disclosure, I had on a grubby tshirt, an ancient blue hoodie, BRIGHT GREEN JOGGING PANTS, and my hair looked like a bird was going to nest, but, finding it too untidy, decided to keep looking. And I was wrestling. An escalator. For a featherbed.

Enjoy your prize money. Send me a postcard.

And do not let your children near those Conveyor Belts of Death!

11 August 2006

ixnay on the antasyfay ootballfay

I still refuse to play fantasy football (I'm not even going to capitalize it! So there!) but I might watch something having to do with football on Tuesday nights this fall.

Friday Night Lights hasn't even premiered yet, and I'm already convinced it's going to be a hit. Every time hear the preview, I have to come back into the room to watch. (I watch a lot of TV from the other room.) Love the song -- click on Collide.

It won't be the next ER (nor will anything else for a least a few more years) and it won't be The One That Is As Good As Friends, but I think that for those of us who enjoyed our youth, and who like television, drama, and puppies, this show is gonna rock.

duu duu da duu da duut...

09 August 2006

bean counters

"Nature also forges man, now a gold man, now a silver man, now a fig man, now a bean man."

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that my sister has a bit of an odd nickname. In cased you missed it: here is how it started.

The other thing you need to know is that there are rules.

"Rules," you ask?

Mmm hmmm. Rules.

Like these:

1. SmallBean is the only allowable non-bean name. In the beginning there was the SmallBean, and, as previously mentioned, it is good -- it's a perfect nickname -- so it's staying.

2. Only SmallBean and I can bestow Bean Names. And we are very particular. We have to a) love you and b) have the perfect name for you. It can take us awhile to come around to both. That said, a Bean Name is not a measure of our love. There are people at the top of our lists to whom no nominative legume as been assigned.

See? That wasn't so bad. And now, for the Cast and Crew.

The Beans:

RedBean = me (the hair)

JellyBean = my lovely husband (think about who else liked jelly beans and worked in Washington, DC)

SoyBean = Mama (lactose intolerant)

CoffeeBean = Friend who seemed to subsist entirely on coffee for a few years while the three of us (Small, Red, and Coffee) overlapped working at Starbucks.

GarbanzoBean = we wanted to be able to call her Chickpea!

StringBean = GarbanzoBean's brother (guess what? he's tall and skinny!)

BlackBean and VanillaBean = an Ebony and Ivory team

ButterBean = smooth talker

GreatNorthernBean = Mainer

And we have big news. Per recent discussions, you might read about a brand new Bean Name right here on this blog! How exciting for you!!!

07 August 2006

note to self

I was enjoying some leftover homemade kung-pao chicken today...but then I took one particular bite and thought, "What?! I don't remember there being a bad spot on that green pepper! Weird. Bad mushroom? Tastes strange. Like it was pickled or something? No..." (People at work were probably trying to get my attention during this inner monologue. Can't talk. Busy eating.) Of course I shook it off and continued to enjoy my lunch (inertia) and then when I looked down, a few bites later, I realized I was about to chomp down on a slice of fresh ginger...mystery solved.

I just made this stuff two nights ago! I must figure out a way to remember the ingredients I used while cooking. I mean, this dish only has five ingredients total!

This is just going to get worse as I age and have children. Brace yourselves.

28 July 2006

"i was keeping a list...

...of problems for an ambitious theory of cryptography. I was interested in the classical problem of producing secure conventional cryptosystems." - Whitfield Diffie

(Of course. What else would you have been doing?)

I'm a lister. Just ask my lovely husband. If we're having a busy day, there is definitely a piece of paper guiding us through it, with little tick marks added by yours truly as we go. I don't need special notepads; I will write on anything. Receipts, my agenda, leftover newspapers... And I don't number. That would just be silly, not to mention overwhelming.

Speaking of my lovely husband, when he left for the weekend earlier this month, I realized I had the place to myself, which is a nice way of saying really I wished he were still here or that I'd gone with him. But there was much to do chez nous, and I intended to make a dent, so the listing began! I then reviewed and counted twenty-one things on the pre-Sunday-9am calendar. Ambitious. And no, not twenty one Steps To Accomplishing Something, as someone one asked me. That would be cheating. The list is things that need to be done, such as, in my mother's listing vernacular, "Paint LR"...

When we would get our lists for the weekend back in the day (aka the 80's), all the rooms had their own (rather obvious) abbreviations: Living Room = LR; Dining Room = DR; Your Bedroom = Your BR; etc. I am now physically incapable of spelling out l-i-v-i-n-g--r-o-o-m on a piece of paper.

The LR did get painted, and not the color we'd originally planned! It is now a lovely dark blue. That first shot turned out more "electric" than "sophisticated," and the people at the paint store were not remotely helpful, so we returned to Lowe's for Olympic Paint. And I have to do a little unpaid endorsement here: I am not someone who really minds the smell of paint, but this paint HAS no smell! You can actually sleep in the room after you paint it. Bravo, Olympic People. (Maybe you should work on those world game thingies...there is some room for improvement there.) Anyway, as mentioned in one of my recent posts, the digital camera is under the weather, so I don't have pictures of it yet, but it does look great!

Today I have been working on another list, which includes lots of presents for people who just got married, people having babies...it's all so happy and exciting! But first I think it's time for a nap in the BR. After I clean the K.

25 July 2006

giving baby nightmares

In helping a friend who's expecting shop for a rug for her nursery, I came across this monstrosity being sold by Target:

Who did that?!


Is it called "Tobacco" because it looks like that's what was spat on it?

It gives me a headache combined with a seriously nauseated feeling...and not a small dose of irritability.

In case you are not adequately offended, may I just share that it comes it two other, ummm...colors.


and Peridot:

I am offended for the real peridot, by the way.

Do these look better in person? or worse, maybe?

And let's just touch on the fact that if you buy the largest version, you're dropping more than a grand on this putrescence!

culinary dervish

I have been cooking up a storm these past few weeks! Must be the fresh summer produce, or the plethora of food blogs I've recently found...or that it's too hot to go outside...

Unfortunately, the digital camera is sick again. So I don't have enticing pictures to share. :( But I do have ideas!

Per Suburban Apron's suggestion, I made Martha Stewart's Crustless Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche for dinner one night. Yum! Instead of four ramekins, I used one large dish. The only downside was that it had to bake for nearly an hour rather than 35 minutes. But it puffed up so prettily and tasted so good that I didn't mind in the end.

Once upon a time I did not like cherries. Well, nevermind to that! I was wrong! WRONG, I tell you. Three words: Chocolate Cherry Muffins. They are to die for --but beware, they are not sweet, so if that's what you're looking for, keep looking! (By the way, I don't know what those non-chocolate muffins are doing in the picture. They are just in the way.)

Back at the grocery store, the red Swiss Chard looked too good to pass up. We usually just chop it up and sauté it with onions and a little olive oil, but I decided to try something new. Gourmet's Swiss Chard Gratin was delicious. Don't be daunted by the roux.

More soon! Happy cooking!

16 July 2006

to market, to market

I've been wanting to visit a local grower to buy produce, and finally, yesterday, I made it out to Potomac Vegetable Farm. I didn't want to overdo it, so I just bought what I know I can use this week...even though my imagination was running wild.

The Delicious Bounty:

And they had pick-your-own blackberries!

As if that weren't enough, (and perhaps so much for the "just what we can consume this week,") on my way out, I could not resist the peaches.

What to make with all this?! I am inspired by Cream Puffs In Venice's delight in berries...need to get my hands on that Berry Bible book...but I also think a blackberry cobbler sounds pretty perfect. And I've been meaning to post my mom's cobbler recipe. It is oh-so-easy and always delicious.

Fruit Cobbler

1 stick butter
2/3 cup milk
4 cups fruit, washed and dried*
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar, divided

Melt the butter in a 9-inch square pan or deep dish. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and 1/2 cup sugar in small bowl. Add milk and stir until just blended. Spoon batter over melted margarine. Do not stir. Pour fruit over batter and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar (or less if your fruit is sweet!).

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

*If you're using peaches, etc. To Peel or Not To Peel is up to you. I love fruit peel, so I leave it on.

**You can substitute the flour, salt, and baking powder in this recipe for 1 cup self-rising flour if you prefer.


13 July 2006

there's a reusable fiber for that

I started to type this story and then realized there were so many explanations required that you'd need a legend to read it. So here you go:

SmallBean = my sister. That's been her nickname for a few years now. It's a long story but it stemmed from a misunderstood reference to a "small baby," and once someone else heard us laughing about "small bean," and said, "that would be a good nickname for you!" it stuck. No, it does not make sense, technically speaking. It's just somehow the most perfectly-suited nickname ever.

NewBean = my brother-in-law. SmallBean married him just a few months ago and I am almost as happy about it as she is! He doesn't have a Bean Name yet, as we ran out of bean varieties a few years ago. On that note, yes, I'd love to know more, so do tell. But really, we've tried. I mean, there's already a GreatNorthernBean.

Special note: I have a shockingly bad memory. If a UFO ever lands in my backyard (though really I imagine them as much larger than that) and the cameras show up, I will be the woman on the news saying, "I was just in the keechen' and tarned around and, laaaandaaaamoses! it was THERE and then it was just GONE." And that will be all I can remember. Not just because they zapped me. Or maybe they already have.

Story: I was on the phone earlier tonight with SmallBean. I was standing in the kitchen and had just handed something to my Lovely Husband. I don't remember what it was (see?) but it must have been dish that was still a little wet, because he promptly tore off a paper towel to dry it. And I said to SmallBean, "He just wasted a paper towel!"

Right now you're probably thinking, "Wasted? Didn't you say it was wet?" or "A paper towel? How much do those cost, anyway?"

But not my sister, no siree. Without missing a beat, she shot out, "NewBean wasted a paper towel a few weeks ago!!!"


We're related. And we grew up in the same house. Sourcing things via heredity vs. environment doesn't really work for us because those two things are virtually indistinguishable. All those genes and experiences have been combed and worked over by so many hands and woven together just like the cotton for a dish towel.

12 July 2006

stalking implies denied reciprocity

Here is the start of a list of people I am totally friends with, but they just don't know it yet:

1. Ina
Ina Garten = The Barefoot Contessa = show on the Food Network
Love her, love her food, love how cute she is about her husband, love her friends, love her garden, love her house, love that my husband bought me a cookbook through her website and requested that she autographed it and she did (nice!) and she wrote, "Dear Kathryn, Have fun! Ina" And you know what? I AM, INA! I'm having a great time! Thank you! Oh, and did I mention that every single one of Ina's recipes works perfectly and is delicious? If you are on the Food Network, I think that's an unspoken expectation of your viewers. Alas, it is not true for all the hosts. (This means you, Rachel Ray!)

2. David Sedaris
Anyone who avoids the use of singular nouns because he cannot remember their gender en francais is a friend of mine. Two tomatoes, please. Not to mention he's a North Carolinian. And we know those are always cool. If anyone who ever reads this knows David Sedaris (or IS David Sedaris -- why dream small?) could you please request that he start a blog? He can even charge for a subscription to it. That's fine. I will pay in tomatoes.

3. Stacy and Clinton
Some people tout Trinny and Susannah, and here's what I have to say about that: in general, they look great, but very few of the people they dress do! Not fair! Are they trying to up their odds of pretty by comparison?! Not nice. Bad Brits. Whereas Stacy and Clinton always look smashing, and they do not let people buy ill-fitting clothing (Jackets must button! Yes, Clinton, you are right!) and they pay attention to personal style (No making a stay-at-home Mama buy a suit she doesn't need. Flattering leather blazer, yes. Dark three-piece, no.). Also, Stacy shares my, um, affinity (it's my blog, I can call it what I want) for pointy-toed shoes. If only everyone watched WNTW, they would know that our toes are not crunched into the end and if the shoes fit properly then no, they do not hurt. AND, Stacy seems to have located every single v-neck, empire-waist, eye-popping color blouse or shell on earth. Good job.

28 June 2006

what about the rainbow

It's Day Four of constant work for the sump pumps. We've had no rain since a slight drizzle yesterday, and the back yard is but a shadow of its former pond, but we're expecting rain and severe thunderstorms tonight. The basement is mostly dried out, and I really don't want it to get wet again! But in thanks to the two things that have kept us from far worse problems than we've had, I've decided it's high time we named the sump pumps. They have been chugging since at least Sunday night, but probably since sometime Saturday afternoon, and I feel like they need a little credit! I also feel like since I have been going down there and talking to them (as if they were plants and my expelled breath would be somehow constructive to their continued strength) I should go ahead and fully anthropomorphize them so as to not feel crazy.

Meet Maximus:
Maximus is an attractive, well-built machine. He enjoys home improvement projects, especially those involving plumbing and foundation maintenance. In general, he keeps to himself, though he's loud enough to let you it when he's working. For at least three days now, he's been in charge of the wettest section of our basement. Not a complainer, Maximus just likes to keep on keepin' on.

I'm still working on a name for the second one. Anybody have ideas for a name with a meaning something like "quiet immortal warrior?"

26 June 2006

R.I.P. thermal carafe

Our coffeepot has left us. It makes a threatening crackling sound when you load it up and press the brew button. Hence I am curled up with a cup of tea this morning attempting to wake up sans coffee...don't think I've done this since the 80's. I have nothing against tea and enjoy a cup as a pick-me-up now and then, usually in the afternoon. I'm just a coffee person. I really hope this cup of tea gets me all the way to Starbucks.

Also, while we were in Alabama over the weekend at the incredibly lovely weekend of our friends, God sent storm after storm to DC until he remembered the whole rainbow promise. So I'm home from work to start figuring out the basement. All the (now soggy) boxes must be emptied and they (and maybe their contents) thrown away. All the other boxes must be put on shelves (which I must construct). And I have to go buy a new coffeepot!

22 June 2006

karma balances things out

Normally you have to live in a major metropolitan center to have places this cool to visit:




Alas. For now, I will have to console myself with The Manolo:

20 June 2006

"i think it's in my basement...

let me go upstairs and check." - M.C. Escher

For those of you out there who are concerned that you're missing out on the joys of home ownership, I have two words: leaky basement.

Though we feel lucky that we have had only a few problems since buying our house in March, it does seem that all of our mini-crises have been related to water...the clogged sink, the dripping pipe, now the puddled basement...I do hope no Jumanji-style floods are in our future.

Fortunately, last night's interior waterpark could be measured in towels soaked (eight) instead of inches. And the rain that caused the puddles was nearly of the flash-flood variety, not some wimpy morning dew. Perhaps the best news, though, is that we managed not to freak out about it! Yeah, us! We investigated, evaluated, and then ended up in the back yard dragging pipes around to extend the sump pumps' outdoor piping.

Oh, yes, I said sump pumps. (We have two. Alexandria is low-lying. Fortunately, we're not in an area that floods so frequently that we have to hook ours up to car batteries!) And I was out there without shoes on, people -- this exercise did not seem worthy of a shoe-ruin. I also stepped on one bug and picked up three flower pots that had other bugs in them. *shudder.*

If old age ain't for sissies, then home-maintenance certainly ain't either.

14 June 2006

trouble with much gusto

I should say first that I do not speak Spanish. French, oui. Spanish, notsomuch. I want to learn, and I do try, but I have trouble with mucho gusto. It's supposed to mean (i.e. means) "It's nice to meet you," or "Pleased to meet you." Unfortunately, while in Ecuador and Argentina a few years ago, it was my typical response to, "How do you like the food you were just served?" I probably seemed like some bumbling 19th century poet in ankle-length skirts, trying to brave a jungle expedition. It seems the best interpretation I can hope for would go something like this:

Ecuadorian Host: How is the scrumptious homemade pancake covered in eight kinds of the freshest fruit you've ever seen in your life?


At this point, my sister, involved in conversation across the table, would hear me in that little reverberation chamber in the back of her brain, reserved for an alarm signaling that she must rescue a flailing family member on the verge of committing cultural atrocities.

My sister: What? What did you just say?

Me: *wincing* I like it?

Ecuadorian Host: Does the altitude bother her terribly? Has she been bitten by a mosquito?

My sister: She likes it very much, thank you. She says the fruit is very fresh, and the crisp edge of the pancake is perfect.


So today, I met this guy in my building. He's on the cleaning crew and must be new to the night shift. I said hello. He offered a tentative reply. I smiled. He shyly asked if I spoke Spanish. I shook my head and gave him my best, "como estas?" He smiled and nodded. Since I also know "me yamo," I introduced myself. He responded, and then before I could stop myself, I said, "mucho gusto!"


I sure hope I got it right.

some color in my cheeks

I'm back! I think I scared some people with the last post. Sorry about that. Sinus infections are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things, but so far I've always made it back after glimpsing the dark side, despite my threats that it is 'sure to be consumption this time!'

So now I'm back at work, which is not very exciting since I'm not in love with my job right now. But I am also back to getting stuff done around the house, which is very encouraging and somewhat overdue. We meant to put the new slipcover on the couch last night...will try to get around to it again tonight...and we bought some paint for the living room. We're trying a test patch first, but I think we're gonna like it. After much deliberation, we chose "Adriatic Sea" from Sherwin-Williams. It's a deep blue with just enough green in it so that once I choose a red for the dining room, the house won't look like it was done in primary colors. (I hope.) Pictures coming soon!

09 June 2006

chez maladies

I have not put on makeup since Monday morning. For those of you who do not know me (or many other Southern women) well, this also means that was the last time I left the house.

While Coquette was the sickest last week -- we are so sorry, Mademoiselle Fourmont, and hope you are all better now -- CurlyHairDay is the sickest this week. I had a sinus infection a month ago, gave it to my lovely husband, then I got better, then he got better, then he got sick again, then I got sick again. I usually get two or three bad sinus infections a year (bad allergies) but not in a row. I mean, really.

Since my head is pounding, sleep is but a fond memory, and I cannot speak without being interrupted by a violent coughing fit, I have been home from work since Tuesday morning. In my time off from work, I have realized several things:

1. The last time I missed four consecutive days of work due to sickness was January 2002. This was after a trip to France, where I developed a sinus infection and subsequently became convinced my brain was going to explode during the flight home. (In case this ever happens to you, antihistamines are your only hope. In my experience, their basic effect will be to make you slightly less convinced of the possibility of imminent brain explosion.)

2. What I thought was my new phone's crazy and amusing ring and laser light show is actually a torture device for those with pressure-filled eardrums and eyesockets.

3. There is a lot of free stuff on our On Demand cable. Why just this morning I watched Anthony Bourdain go to Peru. He is very funny...though I haven't read one of his books, since I like food and have been told I'll be wary of anyone else preparing it once I am privy to his insider's take.

4. My cat Maggie sleeps a LOT. She is a good nurse, though. She wanders around after her naps and meows and checks on me and sometimes wants to be petted and then goes off to sleep again. Maybe I am just jealous because I cannot sleep right now due to the sickness.

5. Plumbers are expensive. We had a clogged kitchen sink and despite previously mentioned efforts and new tools, were not able to solve the problem ourselves. One plumber, plumber's assistant, and new pipe in the basement later, everything but our checkbook is better. I will not be complaining, though, because there are no longer dirty dishes in the guest room. (Do not be alarmed, there were only a few fragile glasses there while the plumber was plunging -- you read that correctly, plunging -- the sink. But still, no one wants dishes, much less dirty ones, in their guest room. ick.)

6. It is hard to choose the right blue to paint your living room. More on this soon.

7. I treat Kleenex as if they are rationed, I am out of coupons, and I have only begun the first blizzard of the Russian winter. One blow and throw? Oh, heavens, no. Those puppies get turned and twisted and folded before they get trashed. Gross? Not something you wanted to hear about? Well it's not something I really wanted to think about either, but given the scope of happenings in my life this week, I am trying to be positive and I therefore see this as an eco-consicous behavior on my part. *curtsy*

8. ALSO, our friends at Kleenex make this new antiviral kind! Don't believe the hype? Well, all I can say is they are wonderfully soft and yet by 2am made my nose tingle a little...so there must be somethin' in there. I have the green box.

9. Per my mother, each instance of her catching me sans socks was quickly followed by sickness during my childhood. I have informed my lovely husband, who immediatly agreed to pester me into putting on a pair whenever necessary. He is tired of this too, clearly.

I am going to go eat a popsicle.

06 June 2006

it is what it is

So yesterday morning, I washed my hair, scrunched it, ran the blowdryer in its vicinity, pulled it back from my face with a barette and a few pins, and left for work. All day I kept thinking, "but it's not a real curly hair day." I saw myself as happy, patient (at least as much as I ever am), optimistic, and polite. Alas, the curly hair prevailed. By the end of the night it was whipped back into a ponytail, I'd been to Lowe's wearing jeans and a tank top to buy a plumbing snake, and I managed to speak not-so-nicely to my lovely husband, who even used the word "thusly" (*swoon* we love a good vocabulary!) and tried to help with the clogged sink despite being sick. *sigh* Like I said, the curly hair prevails.

It was Kate who first named the phenomenon, from her desk on the other side of the bank...she would know within a few emails whether my hair was its natural, unruly self or had been tamed and smoothed that day. Evidently I'm much more refined when I bother to hot-roll.

01 June 2006

wash your hands before you read the book (or don't*)

Well, the curlyhairday explanation will just have to wait, since I have discovered a recipe for some wonderful muffins. I was craving Morning Glory Muffins and had searched high and low for a recipe...and then I remembered this fabulous cookbook my sister gave me for Christmas:

And the index (every non-fiction book...well, even some fiction books...should have one) had the very recipe I wanted (see page 642)! They're from the Morning Glory Cafe on Nantucket. Tasty goodness.

Morning Glory Muffins

makes about 30 muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole wheat flour.)
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
12 carrots, peeled, coarsely grated (4 cups)
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecans, chopped (4 ounces)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
6 large eggs
2 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Generously butter (or spray with nonstick spray) muffin cups.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in carrots, raisins, pecans, coconut, and apples. Whisk together eggs, oil, and vanilla in another bowl, then add to flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them to the top. Bake muffins, in batches if necessary, until springy to the touch, about 30 minutes per batch. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

These muffins keep, stored in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 2 days. (Or freeze 'em. I mean, gracious, you have 30!)

I halved the recipe with excellent results (if I do say so myself) and made 12 large muffins. If you're not a coconut person, I'm sure you could substitute with extra carrots.

On the back of The Gourmet Cookbook is a quote from Ruth Reichl, the editor, "Our goal was to give you a book with every recipe you would ever want." Well done, Ruth.

* "A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins." - Charles Lamb

Quotes. I love quotes. They should have been on the original list.

Happy baking!

31 May 2006

no time like the present

My dear friend Scott started a blog a few weeks...or was it months...ago. And I've been meaning to start one myself. After all, what better way to inform the people in your life without pestering them with a phone call or email every time you have something to say?

So here's what I think I'll be talking about:

Things I Love, including
1. people
2. books
3. travel
4. cooking
5. knitting
6. my cat (don't worry, Maggie, this is clearly not in order of preference)
7. our new house
8. many things French, as I am a definite francophile

and probably Things I Don't Like, including
9. cleaning
10. the heat
11. my recent wishy-washiness
12. anything that happens to me while I am experiencing one of the above three things.

Next entry: Why CurlyHairDay?
Stay tuned for: Choose your flamingo!