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.