Wednesday, September 29, 2010

from cassette to jump drive

So, I'll be dating myself a little bit here, but that's ok. Since when have I ever been shy? (ok, one time when I was four meeting some of my parents friends for approximately 5 minutes.)

The first tape I ever bought--with my allowance money--was Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Yep. There it is.

So, while I remember those little record things, I was still young enough that they mostly belonged to my brother, and I never called them anything other than little record thingies. We had one with the Big Mac song on it, and I had a few that came with books, like maybe the Care Bears?

Anyway, I had a Fisher Price tape recorder when I was 8 or so, and I remember putting my NKOTB tape in, sneaking in to sleep in my brother's water bed (while he & Dad were off in TX, Mom & I stayed in CA to wait for the house to sell) and put the thing under my pillow and listen until I fell asleep.
I don't know the first cd I bough, but I think it was Ace of Base... because that's just how classy I am. I do, however, remember when Dad bought our first cd player. He bought this awesome cd collection thingy of all the best songs from the 60s--15 discs full. Numbers 1, 4, 7 & 14 were the best.

But cds and tapes lived in glorious harmony for a long time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

a vendetta against sprouts

I do not like all the foods.

I like a lot of them, and I don't consider myself a picky eater, until I start thinking about all the foods I don't like. See, all this started with a sandwich. I was browsing the menu of a local deli, trying to decide what to order for lunch, and I'm naturally drawn to sandwiches with "California" in the name. Only, I really should know better, because what I've discovered through years of research is that "California" in the sandwich world means with avacado & sprouts. That's just cruel. It's like offering me a cookie and Pepto Bismol. Blech. So, I have a vendetta against sprouts. They are banned from my sandwhiches. And salads. And everything else I put in my mouth.

Other foods on that list include: cottage cheese, cantaloupe, jalapenos in any form which I can recognize them as such (if you chop them up small enough, I don't care as much), black olives, blue cheese, feta, capers, ginger in any amount larger than a smidge, brussel sprouts, beets, squid, wasabi, water chestnuts, those baby corn things in stir-fry, tofu that hasn't been cooked until it's no longer the texture of jello. Oh, and jello.

Most of the foods I don't like are about their texture. Sprouts not only taste like dirt, they feel like hair. Water chestnuts crunch in a wholly unappetizing way. Cottage cheese is just ookie, and while jello looks cool as it sqiggles and wiggles about, I don't want my food to squiggle and wiggle in my mouth, thankyouverymuch.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kitchen Witching

I am not a foodie.
I cook things out of boxes.
I use margarine & Pam.
While I know what a truffle is, and that the white ones are nice or something, I have no idea how to properly use white truffle oil.
I buy organic when it's convenient to my budget.

But I like to cook. I enjoy cooking shows, even if I can't imagine ever owning a spring form pan or Cuisinart, by which I mean food processor, no matter what brand. Because while Cuisinart may make other stuff... I really only call the food processor the Cuisinart... just like the mixer is the Kitchenaid.

I inherited my mother's inability to follow a recipe. Mom's a great cook, but she's a rule-breaker. She knows how food works, and what tastes good, so she reads the recipe, improvises with what she's got and makes things better. So, I don't follow recipes well either. I substitute. I guestimate. And worse, I try un-tested recipes on first-time dinner guests. (Thankfully, my friends like me well enough to try it, and I'm not afraid to order last-minute take-out.) Learning "family" recipes requires watching, and paying attention, and understanding that there is no reproducing exact results. You use "enough" salt, and stir until it "looks right" and that's where the magic of kitchen witching comes in.

While the term "kitchen witching" is new to me, the concept isn't.
Long before I knew how Mom made spaghetti, I knew how Grandma made biscuits. In the fridge is buttermilk, and above the stove is a Yuban can of bacon drippings. The cabinet across from the fridge had a pull-out shelf on which rested a giant ceramic-type bowl full of flour, and a sifter. Grandma would get the buttermilk from the fridge, and pour it into the bowl*, and stir until it made biscuits. Then she'd pinch off a bit, hand it to the nearest grandbaby to "roll 'em up, roll 'em up" and put it in the pan. Then the back of a spoon got dipped in the drippings and Grandma would pat the biscuts and in the oven they went. Best biscuits I"ve ever had.

Then, one day when I was 10 or so, my brother decided to fix a snack after school. He stared at the pantry & fridge, and made shrimp alfredo. Yeah, you heard me. Shrimp Alfredo. Out of a packet of ramen noodles, some cream cheese, frozen pre-cooked shrimps and I think ranch dressing. No lie. My brother is the MacGuyver of kitchen witching. His pork chops knock my socks off.

But he doesn't bake. Thankfully, his wife does. You haven't had cookies until you've had one of her cookies. She makes these honey cookies, and one time a white chocolate cranberry almond thing that nearly caused me to buy new pants. She has recipes. She's even read them once or twice. But she knows what makes cookies work, and then tinkers with the details.

I was bored with the recipes I knew one evening, and had a craving for chili-mac, only I really wanted enchiladas too, so I decided to put the two together... sort of. There was salsa, and cheese, and noodles, and chicken. Could I recreate it? Possibly. I don't think we have the same salsa, and I'm not sure how much of what I put in, but it wasn't terribly complicated.

My husband makes a fabulous stirfry out of ramen noodles, but he made this thing that we call Chicken O'Quinn one night when he didn't know what he wanted to make. We had chicken, and the ubiquitous cream of chicken soup, and bread. So he made little crouton things out of the bread. Yea... he did. Spiced with things that "smelled good." Nobody knows how to make it. We make it up as we go along every time.

Perhaps one of the best resources for kitchen witching stories is my friend Megan. I can't do justice to her retelling of how her grandmother instructs people how to make gumbo, but when asked how big a pot to use, she (apropriately) replies, "Well, how much gumbo do you need?" There's also a story about a turkey cooked in a busted oven which wound up being the most succulent thing to ever have had a feathered butt outside of Las Vegas, and it was a total accident. That's part of the magic--no right, no wrong, just go with it. Start with good stuff, have good tools, and if neither of those things are possible, work with what you've got until it's golden.

Which reminds me of Steel Magnolias. "It's just the easiest thing. A cup of sugar, a cup of flower, a cup of fruit cocktail, with the syrup. Mix it up & bake at 350 until gold & bubbly!"

Now, if anyone has ever made that dish, lemme know how it turns out. I've always wondered.

So, to put it more plainly, "kitchen witching" is the art of cooking with purpose, with love, with intent, and with a firm understanding of rudimentary kitchen chemistry & physics. Or at least an over-medium understanding. It's not about Martha Stuart perfection or Julia Child intricacy. It's not even about Alton Brown precision or Jamie Oliver simplicity. It's about food for the people you love. Making a meal out of what you've got. Taking the disparate ingredients and making something more than the sum of its parts, because you took the time to think it up, make it happen, and do it with love.

And if you're lucky, a really cool apron.

*In my adult-type years, Grandma has since told me that I'm skipping the step where she pours the buttermilk into a bowl with self-rising flour, baking... powder, or soda, and I know there's an important difference, but I don't remember which one it is... anyway, she makes the dough before putting it in the big bowl, and that's just to get it from doughy to biscuity...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Funkiest Funk© and the Blanket Escapade of 2010

So, I'm finally going to tell the story of The Great Blanket Escapade of 2010.

So, many moons ago, Jeremy & I were gifted a lovely chenille throw.  It is the snuggliest, softest, bestest blanket on the couch.  It's a soft shade of mossy-silvery green.  It has such a nice weight to it when draped across you.  It stays cool so you can have it on even when it's not necessarily cold enough for a blanket, because I enjoy being swaddled pretty much all the stinkin' time.

And this blanket, it lived on the couch, and it was well snuggled.  But eventually, as is often want to happen with things that touch humans, it developed The Funkiest Funk©.  Our brave heroine tried to ignore The Funk.  She tried to Febreeze The Funk.  She even tried to blame The Funk on poor, unsuspecting cats & husbands.

But alas!  It was no use!  The Funk would have to be eradicated, and this... this required The Washing Machine!

Much like a child without his blankie, our heroine was distraught at the thought of having to go a whole movie without her favorite blanket... see, that's when our heroine does laundry--while watching movies, so she can both be productive in doing housework and sit on her tushie at the same time.  It's an ingenious plan really, and you're welcome to try it at your domicile at any time.

So into The Washing Machine did yon blanket go. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Modern Etiquette...and stuff

So, I've never read a Jane Austen book, but I want to... I just haven't gotten around to it.  I love the movies, and the fashion, and something about the "Oh, I... sorry, were you?  Oh, no?  Well... um.... alright then." makes me happy.

Which is all a preface to the fact that while there are many uncouth and improper things that I do, I am a fan of certain old fashioned practices and matters of etiquette.

I don't consider myself a terribly old-fashioned individual.  I tweet, I blog, I text.  I don't wear hose with every skirt or dress.  I wear pearls with denim.  Still, there are aspects of the past that I wish to revive.  Luckily, I have the help of some very fabulous women to make that happen.  Emily Post I am not, nor do I aspire to be, but it certainly wouldn't hurt my feelings to have my friends & colleagues consider me a thoughtful, respectful, and enjoyable person.

Friday, September 17, 2010

When in doubt, stick it out or Hippos vs. Ballerinas

So, I've vacillated between posting this and only telling it to my friends in person, and obviously you can tell which side won that debate, and it's mostly because of phrases like "drunken monkey" and the need to for a public service announcement regarding physics.

Once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, I went to a bachelorette party for my dear friend Muffin*. Part of that party was a pole dancing class. Yep. Pole dancing. Like what some strippers do. So, in a room with 15 of Muffin's friends, we learned some basics of how to throw ourselves around this pole, slide about and walk on our buttocks. It was more silly than sexy, but it was really fun. It was fun because it made being sexy something that wasn't mysterious or unobtainable. It was a safe place to try moving our bodies in new ways, with someone who had insight to guide us. And you ain't seen nuthin' 'till you've seen a bunch of shy white girls (and me) trying to move like Beyonce. Seriously.

But we had fun, and it was a good workout. You use your arms & legs & abs & laugh a lot, so there were definitely calories burned.

Then, a year and change had passed when I saw an opportunity for further hilarity

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I've never been asked by anyone if I wanted to marry them... just ask my husband

So, tomorrow, it will be four years since we said "I do" and danced & ate cake with lots of our friends and I got to wear a beautiful dress and generally had a good time.  So... I thought this the perfect opportunity to tell you how I killed romance.  Killed it dead.  And maybe danced on its corpse.

You see, to put things into a little better perspective before I get into the good stuff, here are the facts, as they stood early morning, May 1, 2005:

  • Jeremy & I were dating (this is very important)
  • We had talked about getting married some day (this also, pretty important)
  • My parents, who at the time lived in California, were visiting Dallas for the weekend to see my brother, his wife, and me perform at Scarborough
  • Jeremy & I carpool down to the festival with my former roommate Paula
  • I didn't want a proposal that was a) in public or 2) at Faire.
Saturday, sometime after Faire or maybe before... in my head this brief conversation happens in a parking lot, and perhaps while loading or unloading Jeremy's car:

He: So, when can I get some time to spend with just you?
Me: After my parents go back home.
He: Really?  Can I have some time maybe Monday evening?
Me: Nope, spending time with my folks.  After all, they're only here for a few days.  You get to see me all the time, I don't get to see them.
He: uh...ok...

So, on Sunday, my folks are out visiting, and everything is great.  I'm having a wonderful day.  I show them my favorite shops, and this cute new one that was making the most adorable hand-carved wooden utensils.  Jeremy gave me flowers and we danced.  It was a great day!  Then on the drive home, Jeremy, Paula & I did our normal end-of-the-day questions.  Originally the questions were to help keep Jeremy awake while driving home, so Paula & I did most of the talking.  This day however, seemed different. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Once there was a Duck

And this Duck lived in the duck pond with his Duckling and MBFJC.

But perhaps I should back up a bit.

MBFJC is my best friend Jenny C.  I got in the habit of referring to her by both names because in high school, we had 2 Jennys and a Ginny... and an Alex & Adam duo... names were confusing.  And though we came up with various and sundry ridiculous code names, few nicknames ever really stuck... so there was always a clarifier...

But, as per usual, I digress.

So, MBFJC once upon a time met a very nice man.  And while she & I were at my other best-friend Andrew's house in SLC, UT with balie (whose name I still don't capitalize, because that's how I'm used to seeing it, just like in my head, she still has a pixie hair cut with cute barrettes and beautifully elegant hands), which was a weird collision of my worlds, but whatever... oh, so MBFJC and I were talking about this very nice man. 

I asked if she was dating him... because they certainly did a lot of date-like & couple-type things.

MBFJC, in typical Aquarian wishy-washy fashion says that typical answer of sit-coms & soap operas: I don't want to label it.  I don't want to call it dating.  I don't want to call him my boyfriend.  We just spend time together & enjoy one another's company.  We don't need to complicate it with labels and put it in a box.  It's just this free thing, you know?  It's beautiful, and I want to let it be beautiful and have that be enough, without having to call it something.  It just is, man.  I mean, it's just love, right?  But even that's a label, and I don't want to be pinned down by the labels of this crazy society man...

Ok, she didn't really say all that, because she's not a hippie, not that being a hippie is a bad thing, she's just too into Starbucks and scrapbooking for me to think of her as a mellow-flower-child type, though she is a free spirit and likes the thinking of ideas and the way that thoughts can change the world... she's never called me "man" in that way before, so you can chalk that version of the conversation up to a heavy hit with the ExaggerRay!  But she was reluctant to use words like "dating" and "boyfriend."  That much is true.

So, me, in typical blunt 6' redhead fashion said the following:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Overheard in Montreal

One time, back in 2001 or 2 or something like that, I went to Montreal for Spring Break with some friends from college, and we met up with some other college students in Montreal, and did stuff, but on this particular night we were going out to dinner.  There were native Québécois and a lady from Paris, and a woman who spoke some version of creole, and some pseudo-Spanish speaking Americans, and me... who took 4 years of high school french.

So there we are, at this restaurant, with at least 3 different versions of French being spoken at the table, and us wide-eyed Americans trying really hard not to be obnoxious.  And that's really hard for me, because obnoxious is one of the things I do best.  I practiced saying it too. Bonjour! Je suis un odieux Américaine. Pardonez-moi s'il vous plaît. .  Hello! I am an obnoxious American.  Please forgive me.

On this night at dinner, I tried to order my meal in French. One of the few things that stuck with me from my French classes were the two most important phrases in any foreign language:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Press 3, then 6, then 4 until it's time to press 5

A few notes before I start this particular rambling bit.

a) I am not "a gamer" in any sense of the word.  I play games.  None of them with enough in-depth knowledge or skill, either innate or cultivated.  I have no p-p-p-poker face.  I can't handle strategic games that require me to think more than a turn and a half in advance, and don't have the capacity to anticipate, predict, or use math to assume possibilities of another players moves.  Seriously, if I don't know what I'm doing next turn, what makes you think I have any clue what you're doing?

2) My hobbies and passions all revolve around playing dress up. 

So how did I wind up with a top-level character on an MMORPG, and why do I even know what that means... 

Well... a million years ago (or five-ish, I can't be sure), my husband (who wasn't my husband at the time) got really excited about this video game for the computer.  It was some fancy version of another game he'd played as a kid, only now it was über-l33t or whatever.  I wasn't all that interested, but I did agree to watch the trailer.

(I didn't even know video games had trailers.)

That went something like this:

Monday, September 6, 2010

A brazillion is five, and that's not a euphemism

So, everyone develops their own sort of language among friends... a conglomeration of hilarious misspoken words, inside jokes, and nonsense that stitches together the people you spend your life talking to.  I've been adopted into several lovely groups of friends, each with their own little lexicon, and along the way, those words have become so entwined with my own strange word choices that sometimes I forget that if I say something is adorkable, the whole world doesn't automagically know what I was meanting.  Look at me, I was just kidding.

A hilarious example that I was sadly not present for, but thoroughly enjoy the retelling of--and I may have the actual details wrong, but it goes something like this:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Just shake your rump

Alright, there are lots of songs that I like. I listen to the radio, and I enjoy it. This may not seem like a huge revelation to you, and it's not to people who know me, but I think it still sort of disappoints those friends of mine who introduce me to good new music that I would never ever know about if it weren't for them, or my few years in college radio. Luckily, my friends like me anyway, and because I have a knack for knowing names of songs & artists and can sometimes extrapolate this information from half-hummed bits of songs and misheard lyrics, they keep me around and make me playlists to broaden my horizons and stuff.

That being said, there are songs that I like that also drive me up the wall... I mean, I like them. I sing along when they come on the radio. I dance in my car. But later, when they're stuck in my head, I detest them, can't believe I even like them in the first place. They're bits of unimpressive digitized fluff, spanning several decades, and still, pop music is pop because that's short for "popular" and it wouldn't be popular if people didn't listen to it, and I'm one of those people, so I should just suck it up and baaaa along with all the other sheep and enjoy my happy dance tunes and realize that they won't make my eardrums pop from repeated listening, which I think is a more accurate description of why it's called pop music... but I digress.

Friday's list is "Songs I like that are guilty pleasures but also make me wish I were cooler but not so cool that I turned all pretentious and elitist and stopped enjoying simple pleasures like pop music" or perhaps "Songs that I just love and I'm not afraid of the looks I get from people because whether they have 'artistic value' or not, they make my life better because I get happier when I listen to them:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Socially Acceptable Human

Everyone has a particular set of rules by which they live, and a set of standards that they use to measure whether or not they are successful.  If you're very lucky, the two match up and you pass the test and can stand to look at yourself in the mirror.  These lists aren't really either of those things, but more some stuff that rattles around my brain when I'm doing stuff instead of other things I could be doing.

Things I think I should do all the time but hardly ever remember to do more than two days in a row after I remember that I should do them all the time because while I want to do them, I don't want to do them as much as I want to do other things, or at least that's what I tell myself because I can't think of any other reason that I don't do the things I want to do... because if I really wanted to do them, I would just do them, right?:
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