According to Jo, you must make an effort to comment on every blog you read this week. Well, the week she's talking about ends on Saturday, but you still have time. I'm doing it—you can too!
Someone reminded me today that I'm a Terrible Mommy because I never did baby books for my kids. So I will try to occasionally post funny but not sappy things the kids have done and said over the years. Better late than never, and all that. Here goes:
When Stephanie was about 3, she had a crush on a 5-year-old boy at preschool named Aaron. Every day she would report on what color shirt Aaron was wearing, what kind of juice box Aaron had in his lunchbox, and so on. One day she was absolutely beaming when I picked her up. "Aaron spoke to me today!" she exclaimed. I asked, "What did he say?" Her reply? "Stop following me!" And the smile never dimmed on her face. She couldn't have been happier if he'd invited her to the prom.
You know how some blogs consist of just a running list of links to clever and funky sites? Well, mine isn't that kind—although I do like some of those blogs! That being said, Pia showed me such a funny link, I had to share it. Click on each of the four photos to see commercials about the Trunk Monkey.
Julie will be 2 1/2 in another week or so, and she's at the height of the "Wanna do it all by self!" phase. She has to turn off and on all lights, she has to get her own bowl and spoon, she has to climb up into her carseat, etc. It's gotten to the point where if she drops something and I pick it up, she puts it back on the floor and picks it up herself. So, fine, it makes things go very slowly around here sometimes, but I admire her independent spirit. However, I don't care whether I'm stomping on her ego when I insist on wiping myself in the bathroom. She can hand me the toilet paper and do the flushing, but please, I will handle the actual wiping. Sheesh.
I'm in heaven. My Williams-Sonoma measuring cups and spoons just arrived! I've been using a mismatched set of crappy cups and spoons for far too long. The plastic ones never seem really clean to me (vanilla? garlic?) and the measurement marks rub off and they get warped. The metal ones are all dented. And, I was reading recently that inferior measuring cups and spoons can be much more inaccurate than you'd ever suspect. Well, these new ones are very heavy, solid stainless steel. Plus, I got the complete set of each, including the odd sizes. So now I have these cup measures: 1/4, 1/3, 2/3, 3/4, 1/2, 1, 1 1/2, and 2 cups; and these spoons: 1/8 tsp, 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp, 1 tsp, 1/2 Tbsp, 2 tsp, 1 Tbs, 1 1/2 Tbsp, and 2 Tbsp. Can't wait to bake something complicated.
Michael Chiarello strikes me as self- impressed and arrogant, but maybe that's because he makes such wonderful mushrooms. We also had chicken and overcooked (whoops!) green beans. And
we watched three more episodes of "Sex and the City"—I still like it; Andy is still unsure (but I couldn't help noticing he didn't fall asleep . . . !). As I did the dishes, I was relieved that it was Saturday night and I would have a chance to sleep in. Then I realized that, in fact, it's Monday night, and I have a full day with the kids tomorrow. Sigh. Looking forward to seeing Kristie's new house, though. She told me about her friend, whose six-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with colitis (sound familiar?). I'm eager to get in touch with her. That was me six months ago, and it wasn't pretty. At that point I couldn't imagine I'd ever be the voice of reason and experience.
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds whole small button mushrooms, wiped clean
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the mushrooms. Do not move the mushrooms until they have caramelized on the bottom. If you toss them too soon, they will release their liquid and begin to steam. When the bottoms are caramelized, toss them and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the butter. Cook and toss for 5 minutes, until beautifully browned.
Season with sea salt and add the garlic. Saute another 2 minutes, and add the thyme, lemon juice, and white wine. Cook to evaporate the liquid.
Toss in the parsley and serve immediately.
1. We're at the frigging dress rehearsal when Laura calls on Andy's cell phone to say that all our house alarms are going off. Luckily we were just 1 mile away, and we raced home (thereby missing the second run-through of the closing number for the show). We managed to turn the thing off and determine that nothing was wrong. It was one of the hard-wired fire alarms, and it probably got triggered by some dust or something. The alarm guy is coming out tomorrow to take a look. Meanwhile, why didn't the fire department show up? They're supposed to receive a call as soon as our alarm goes off. Poor Laura must have been pretty rattled, but she kept the kids calm. If it had happened during the night, particularly if Andy was away, I probably would have had a heart attack and died.
2. Afterward, we decide to go out and get a bite. Seems like every restaurant is closed or crowded. Then—shit!—Andy is pulled over for speeding. The cop says gruffly, "48 in a 30 zone. Any good reason?" to which Andy replies contritely, "No, sir. I was just driving too fast." Then, the cop disappears with Andy's license and registration. (At this point, I have to fill you in on something: Andy wants a motorcyle. I forbid it. Last summer he took a safe-riding course and got his motorcycle driver's license, which is indicated on his car driver's license. I continue to forbid it. Now you know.) So the cop comes back and says, "What kind of motorcyle do you have?" Andy says, "I don't have one. I just have the license." Cop says, "Wrong answer. The correct answer is Harley-Davidson." Grins. Andy laughs and I bud in with, "He'd love one, but I won't let him!" and the cop says something about me being "the warden." I tell him that if Andy gets a motorcycle, he can get an apartment to go with it. The cop laughs and gives Andy a warning, saying that if he does anything naughty in the next 30 days, he's in big trouble.
Note: Andy has a friend who's a cop. He told Andy a few things to keep in mind if you get pulled over (particularly for men). First of all, keep both hands on the wheel where the cop can see them. Second, when he asks for your license and registration, ask permission to reach for your wallet or into the glove box or wherever. And move slowly. It's very scary for cops to approach a car, and they really appreciate it when you make it easier for them.
I've also found it particularly helpful to cry (this works best for women).
Now, back to the motorcycle thing, and with apologies to Karine: I'm terrified of motorcycles! No matter how careful you are, some jerk in a car or, worse, SUV can still plow into you or cause you to swerve and skid. And if you have a motorcycle accident, you're going to die. Or wish you died. So after the incident with the cop tonight, Andy said (half jokingly, I think), "So, now aren't you glad I have my motorcycle license?" meaning, "Now don't you think I should get a motorcycle?" I said that as far as I was concerned, the motorcycle license allowed him to avoid a $180 (gasp!) speeding ticket, and now its little purpose was completely fulfilled. That was the culmination of it all, right there. He begged to differ.
If I may be so immodest, I make a great grilled cheese sandwich. I'm not talking about grown-up gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, like fresh mozzarella with chipotles on sourdough or gouda and avocado on pumpernickel. I'm talking about the kind of grilled cheese sandwich that kids eat. So hold your noses, cover your ears, but here's how it's done:
1. Place a nonstick skillet over medium heat.
2. Put two slices of Kraft American cheese (yes, processed American cheese food product—it's the only cheese that melts properly in a sandwich) between two slices of butter-top wheat bread.
3. Spread a thin layer of salted butter on the outside of one slice.
4. Place the sandwich butter-side-down in skillet.
5. While you're waiting for the bottom to brown, butter the outside of the top slice.
6. When the bottom is perfectly golden brown—just threatening to turn dark brown—carefully turn the sandwich over.
7. Immediately squash the sandwich flat with a cast-iron sandwich press. You have one, don't you?
8. When the bottom is equally golden brown, remove sandwich from skillet and slice in half. Take a photo, then cut off the crusts if your kid won't eat 'em.
You may have heard about us on the news. We're the People Who Don't Have HBO. We've seen the first four seasons of "The Sopranos" on DVD, but it wasn't until last night that we finally experienced "Sex and the City." We watched the first three episodes of the first season. I liked it a lot; Andy is not sure yet. However, we agreed that we don't care for Sarah Jessica Parker's looks at all. I just don't think she's even remotely pretty. There's something very horsey about her face; do you agree?
That being said, I like her character and think it's a fun show. So we'll watch the remaining three episodes on this DVD and then continue renting the rest from Netflix; if Andy doesn't like it, I'll watch it when he's out.
To accompany the show, we had pepper steaks with a red wine sauce. It was good, but not outrageously good, so I won't bother posting the recipe. Baked potatoes and asparagus, and yet another nice Cab (2001 Kendall-Jackson) from Costco. I have to hand it to them, they really have some good wines and the prices can't be beat ($15 for that one). Re the asparagus, I always roast it, but this time I tried a suggestion to roll them in egg wash and then bread crumbs and saute them. We weren't impressed. Here's what we usually do: Just snap off the bottoms, lay 'em out in a pan, drizzle with olive oil, grind lots of pepper on top, and roast at about 400° for something like 15 minutes, giving them a toss once or twice. Magic!
What, no Friday Five today? I’ve been looking forward to it all week. Ah well, since I’m new at this, I’ll go into the Friday Five archives and answer the questions for March 5, the week before I started my blog.
1. ...your first grade teacher's name?
2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon?
“Scooby Doo” (the original one)
3. ...the name of your very first best friend?
4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal?
5. ...your favorite thing to do after school?
Play with my Little Kiddles. Remember them? God, I’m old!
Please, please, I can explain! Why on earth would my latest CD purchase be a Mexican pop album from the early 90s? Well, back when we were young and playful, Andy and I went on a heavenly vacation to Costa Rica. While we were there, we kept hearing the same music everywhere we went. I finally asked someone what it was, and it was Maná. When we got home, I bought “Dónde jugarán los niños?” and listened to it endlessly. Then the CD somehow vanished, and I kind of forgot about it. Today at Border’s I happened to see a newish Maná CD, and that prompted me to re-buy “Dónde jugarán los niños?” I put it on in the car and surprised myself by remembering many of the (Spanish!) words to the first song, “De Pies A Cabeza.” I’m also looking forward to finally getting some of the Mexican slang words and expressions translated by Laura!
Anyhow, the last CD I bought before that was Susan Tedeschi’s “Wait for Me.” I like it, but I don’t love it. She has a knockout bluesy voice, à la Bonnie Raitt, but the songs are mostly overproduced, in my opinion, and too poppy (is that a word in this context?). The song I like best on the CD, and in fact the song I heard first and bought the CD because of (ouch! syntax!), is a cover of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.” Well done.
The CD I bought before that one was Warren Zevon’s final release, “The Wind.” Well. I wanted to love it, because it was his last, and he knew it would be his last when he recorded it, but I don’t love it. I don’t even really know why I was expecting to love it, because while I like some of his music, I’ve never liked it enough to buy it. I guess I got caught up in the hype surrounding his death, and I kinda liked “Keep Me in Your Heart” when I heard it on the radio. But, coincidentally enough, the song I like best on the CD is another Dylan cover, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” I got chills (and a tear in my eye) imagining him singing that while dying of lung cancer.
So, there you go: three CDs, none of which is typical for me.
There are big problems in everyone's life, big worries, big fears, big setbacks. Then there are the maddening frustrations of day-to-day life. To wit:
1. Will the inside of my car windshield ever be clean and streak-free? I've tried everything from Windex and paper towels to newspapers and vinegar. And still, when I drive into the sun, Streak City.
2. They can put a man on the moon, but they can't invent a self-cleaning humidifer?! What's up with that? I'm sick and tired of that slimy brown gunk growing in all four humidifiers, seemingly as soon as I clean them out and set them up again. I'd even settle for a humidifier that's easy to clean.
I have too much extra stuff going on these days. Normally I have all the usual shuttling around between school and various classes (and we are nowhere near as over-committed as most families I know), never-ending errands and household stuff, birthday parties and playdates, etc. But now:
Item: Somehow I got roped into running this year’s Family Event for Steph’s school (can you say, “Bingo!”?). I just typed a long paragraph about all the logistics and budgetary crap I’ve been going through, but I deleted it. Too boring. Suffice to say, I’m not having fun.
Item: To join the Windsor Club, so I can get on the mile-long pool wait list, we had to agree to be in a new members’ show. I’m a grown woman doing a skit, for crying out loud. We’ve had three meetings and one rehearsal so far; the dress rehearsal (oh, give me a break) is this Sunday. The good news is I get to wear rhinestone-studded horned-rim glasses.
Item: Leading Stephanie’s Brownie troop is requiring considerably more time than I ever imagined. She’s enjoying it, and so are the other girls, so I have to keep going. But I feel as though I’m spending a lot of time on it and not even doing a very good job.
Item: My Wesleyan 20th reunion is this spring, and as the Class Notes secretary, it seems I’m expected to have something to do with it. I haven’t even figured out my own travel arrangements—there’s just no way I’ll take the whole family. Andy would end up watching all three kids while I socialized; they’d be bored and nudgy in an unfamiliar place. But I don’t know that I really want to spend a whole day—and night?—without someone to hang out with.
Item: Pete’s birthday is in a few weeks, so he’ll be needing a family party on his actual birthday (a Sunday), cupcakes at school (the Friday before), and a kids’ party (the Sunday after). Oh yeah, and some presents. And a cake. And all the paper goods. It never ends. . . .
I've just discovered that my blog is being read by other bloggers who don't even know me! This is very exciting. I of course read many blogs; I just haven't gotten around to listing them yet. I'm sort of waiting to see which ones can hold my interest for more than a few weeks. Anyhow, it occurs to me that I haven't properly introduced myself, so I will now. My name is Karen. That's me over there, to the right. I've been happily married forever and have three great little kids. My oldest informed me the other day that I am 41 and 11/12 years old. Thanks, honey.
The other day, I was holding the door to the building that houses Pete's preschool, waiting for him to catch up. A few yards behind him was a guy coming in our direction, so I continued to hold the door for him. He did the thing where you jog the last few steps out of courtesy, flash a big smile, and say thanks. I happened to notice that he was wearing a GAP sweatshirt in a very bold yellowish-orange color. Inside, Pete and I went into the preschool on the first floor and the guy went upstairs, where there are some offices, a health club, and bathrooms. So, I hang out a bit with Pete and get him settled, then leave to go do some errands. A few miles away, I have to drive around a fender-bender scene, which involves a delivery truck driver and the guy I had just seen (I spotted the color of his sweatshirt first, then recognized his face). The two men were exchanging insurance info or whatever, and I could see that the front end of the GAP guy's car was smooshed. So I start thinking: What if I hadn't held the door for him? For one thing, he wouldn't have jogged those last few steps. Then he would have had to pause to pull open the heavy door. This would have taken maybe an additional 20 seconds. Maybe that 20 seconds would have translated into an additional delay wherever he was going in the building, or maybe not. In any event, it seems certain that he wouldn't have had that minor car accident, because the timing would have been different.
I think about this sort of thing all the time. Who knows how often some minor action I take has greater repercussions for someone else, and vice versa?
Go to Google and type in your first name followed by "is" (e.g., "Karen is") and put it all in quotes. Here's just the first 4 pages of responses I got:
Karen is currently planning trips to these cities
Karen is dedicated to providing paper chase solutions
Karen is Home
Karen is a self-taught Pastel Artist from South Wales
Karen is a Massage Therapist for Horse and Rider
Karen is unaware of what is happening
Karen is OUT OF CONTROL
Karen is Adjunct Professor of Humanities at San Jose State
Karen is Out of the Office
Karen is NDT Certified
Karen is too quick for me
Karen is the woman of my dreams
Karen is sponsored
Karen is fast becoming one of the more versed sand carvers out there
Karen is back!!!
Karen is in heaven
Karen is on top of the world
Karen is Red Tee to serve you
Karen is off to a good start
Karen is a successful teacher and researcher at a major research university.
Karen is a very tall girl
Karen is da bestest babe!
Karen Is Safe In Her Home!
Karen is not
Karen is HERE!!!!
Karen is a shy girl who wears glasses
Karen is interviewed for a ComputerWorld Canada cover story
Karen is Miss February 2002
Karen is a little slut
Karen is dating Ryan
. . . Sheila! She spotted my first blog typo. It was a good one, too. My recipe for Braised Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic called for "white whine." Come to think of it, I was feeling a bit kvetchy that day. (Don't go looking for it now; I've already fixed it.)
I should have explained that there are two types of glaucoma:
1. The more common type, called open-angle glaucoma, in which the part of the eye that drains becomes clogged. This is usually treatable with eye drops.
2. The rare type, called narrow-angle glaucoma, in which the part of the eye that drains starts closing off. This is treatable only by laser surgery. That's the one I'm in danger of getting.
I'm still reeling from the news I got at my yearly visit to my ophthalmologist on Friday. I usually love my eye exam, especially the part where Dr. Chang asks, "Which is better: this . . . or this?" and I have to decide which lens is clearer. (I've been begging him for years to get new eye charts; I have them memorized so I can no longer tell if I'm reading or just reciting. OFLC3 is my favorite.) I told him a few years ago that I could see fine with my contacts, but when they're out, I'm blind as a bat. I couldn't figure it out, because if my vision had deteriorated, you'd think I'd need a new prescription. But he said no, as you age, you just become more dependent on your glasses or contacts. So now, if I get up during the night, I have to put on glasses just to make sure I'm grabbing the cough medicine and not the nail polish remover.
Anyhow, so we're going along fine, when all of a sudden he pulls out the dreaded 3-D plastic eyeball model. Apparently, the channel between my iris and retina (I think that's what he said—by this point I could hardly breathe and was hearing only every third word or so) is getting shallower, which could eventually obstruct the drainage of fluid from my eye, causing excruciating pressure and loss of vision. Yes, glaucoma. He made a point to say, "You do not have glaucoma" but I sensed a "yet" in there somewhere. He said that if the channels (yes, plural; it's happening to both eyes) narrow off completely, my eyes will turn red and the pain will be unbearable. I asked if that would happen gradually, and he said no (which to me means only one thing: it will happen while I'm driving). If that happens they will have to—are you sitting down?—make a hole in my eye with a laser to drain the fluid. At this point I'm so upset I'm practically oozing down the chair and melting into a puddle on the floor. I did have the wherewithal to ask whether I need to come back sooner than a whole year, and he said no. He said he's been noticing this for a few years, so it's not something that only just started happening.
You'd think I went home and immediately started to do research on this condition (Yikes! I have a condition!), but I was almost paralyzed by the news. So, uncharacteristically, I waited until Saturday to start poking around (on the Web, not in my eye). I didn't find any information on a pre-glaucoma condition, but reading about the actual disease (particularly the description of an "acute closed-angle attack") made me dizzy.
Remember how bad I felt when Pete ate that slice of cucumber? (No? Go here.) Well, he never ate another one after that. After several nights of glaring and complaining, he finally asked us (nicely) if we would please stop putting a cucumber slice on his plate.
This blog was meant to chronicle my day-to-day life as a mom, my cooking escapades, and reviews of books (and movies, as it turns out). So what's missing? I haven't mentioned a single book yet! Here's the reason: A few months ago I fell hopelessly behind reading The New Yorker. So, after my last book group meeting, I decided to try to diminish the teetering pile on the end table. However, I am too anal to just read the current issue and move on; no, I have to go back and read them in order. So, until I catch up, I won't be reading anything relevant (f'rinstance: Howard Dean is still a contender from where I sit with my January mag). Sigh.
But, there's hope: I can give you a belated review of my last book group choice: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. It takes place in the 50s in the Dominican Republic. It's historical fiction based on the lives of three sisters, known as the butterflies, who were part of the underground movement to overthrow the dictator Trujillo. The fourth sister survived and tells part of the story. I was completely ignorant of this history lesson before reading the book, so I appreciated it for that, but all in all I wasn't too impressed. The characters were drawn very two-dimensionally, and the writing was somewhat lackluster. So, not a total waste of time to read, but not something I'll be eagerly recommending to anyone.
Last night I made Andy's favorite chicken recipe. It produces a wonderful sauce, perfect for sopping up with the ciabatta I get at Whole Foods. One of these days, I'm going to try to make my own ciabatta. I used to make bread all the time—before we had kids, of course. Anyhow, I like to serve this chicken with brown rice.
So then we started watching "The Royal Tenenbaums," which is filled with the kind of dark, dry humor I like. But I just couldn't keep my eyes open, so we turned it off and left the rest for tonight. This never happens to me! Andy is usually the one to enter REM during a movie. Then he wakes up near or at the end and claims he wasn't sleeping. So I say something like, "OK, then, name one person who got shot in the head" and he realizes he "might" have missed a little. Then I refuse to tell him what happened. It's not a perfect relationship, but it works for us.
Braised Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, sliced or smashed
3 lbs. chicken pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 Tbps. tomato paste
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. dried rosemary, crumbled
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 min. Transfer to bowl using slotted spoon. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour; shake off excess. Add chicken to Dutch oven and brown well. Transfer to plate.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add wine and tomato paste to Dutch oven and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Return chicken pieces and onion to Dutch oven. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 30 min., turning chicken occasionally. Add chicken stock and rosemary. Cover and continue cooking until chicken is tender, turning occasionally, about 20 min.
Tonight Andy made steak (rib eyes, salted and peppered, then seared in olive oil in a cast iron pan), frites (perfect in my opinion, not quite crisp enough in his), and salad (cuke, tomato, feta, vinaigrette). And a nice Bordeaux. Yum! Much better than the movie, "The Bourne Identity," which was kinda lame. At least Matt Damon is easy on the eye.
Last night I made Arroz con Pollo and we watched "Kissing Jessica Stein." The food was great (granted, photographing it on a terra cotta floor wasn't my best idea—kinda detracts from the lovely saffron hue) and the movie was fun. Here's a rough idea of the recipe; it's the type of dish that allows for nearly endless variations:
Arroz con Pollo
1 chicken, cut up
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 lb. cooked sausage, cut into 1/2" pieces*
1 16-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 tsp saffron, crumbled
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup rice
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives
1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan or Dutch oven (you'll need a lid later), heat olive oil over medium heat. Brown chicken well on both sides. Transfer to plate.
2. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to pan and cook until soft.
3. Add sausage, tomatoes, saffron, oregano, and cayenne and cook for a minute or two.
4. Add broth and wine and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Add rice and stir to combine. Return chicken to pan.
5. Cover and simmer for about 20–30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Check it near the end to make sure the rice isn't burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
6. Stir in the peas and olives and cook until the peas thaw, just a minute or so.
*If you're using uncooked sausage, just slice it and brown it first. This time I used Amy's all-natural chicken andouille sausage, which comes fully cooked and has no nitrates or nitrites, no preservatives, and no artificial ingredients. I got 2 lbs. for $9.49. (How do I love Costco, let me count the ways!)
1. Sometimes I look at people in their cars and notice whether they're laughing, yammering on their cell phones, looking sad, yawning, singing (BTDT; I've even practiced om-ing for yoga), or whatever. Then I wonder how I look to those people (not that they're looking at me, but...).
2. When I'm in the car alone, sans kids, it's almost an embarrassment of aural riches: Do I get my NPR fix? Do I listen to my folk radio station? Or do I remove "Shabbat Is Here" from the CD player and put in a grown-up CD? Oh my, which one? Usually I have all of 8 minutes to enjoy said riches, but still.
3. I've gotten used to the fact that I drive a minivan. While I'm in it, I'm very happy. Then I get out and glance back and realize, "Oh phooey, I was driving a minivan!" The Odyssey has been great; I especially love the automatic doors. I don't like the way you can't see the nose of the car from the driver's seat (makes it kinda tough to park up against a wall without using the Braille method). There's also a ridiculous number of cup holders. Get rid of the ones in the little pull-out drawer; I need to keep my lip balm there. The cup holders on the little tray table aren't deep enough, so my Poland Springs bottle always threatens to go flying when I take a corner. No one uses cup holders inside the glove compartment. Someday, when I don't have three kids in car seats, I'm going to get a regular sedan again; or, if someone can figure out a way to build a safe SUV that gets decent mileage, maybe I'll go that route. And I'll just keep dreaming about owning a cute little eggplant-colored Mini Cooper....
4. I wish one car would incorporate all of my favorite features from cars I've known. For instance, Andy's Mercedes allows you to keep the heat or AC on for 30 minutes after you get out. This is great when you're running an errand and don't want to get back into a freezing or sweltering car. I had a Mazda that had an option to let the air vents oscillate, which was very nice on a hot day, when you want the AC cranking but not in your face the whole time. My Volvo had the headlights on all the time when the car was turned on; I got used to never having to think about whether to turn them on or to remember to turn them off. Oh, and I miss driving standard transmission; do they even offer it in regular cars anymore?
Here's today's Friday Five:
1. ...owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?
I guess if I had a good enough chef, it would be bistro-style food. The chef would have to be able to prepare out-of-this-world roast chicken (à la Gordon Hamersley) and perfect frites.
2. ...owned a small store, what kind of merchandise would you sell?
Unusual, funky writing supplies: pens, paper, etc.
3. ...wrote a book, what genre would it be?
Plain old fiction. No experimental stuff at all.
4. ...ran a school, what would you teach?
Um, um, um, I guess I would have to master something first, right? The only thing I would feel even remotely qualified to teach now would be copyediting and proofreading skills.
5. ...recorded an album, what kind of music would be on it?
Folk. Maybe John Prine covers (like Prudence Johnson's album of Greg Brown covers). This is such a joke because I can barely sing "Happy Birthday" on tune.
This photo was taken a week or so before I gave birth to Pete. Note the puffy face and tired smile (little did I know how much more tired I would be very, very soon). Why am I showing you this? Because it's my current driver's license, and it's just about at the end of its 5-year term of office. However, I have a dilemma. They now let people over age 21 (or twice that, how 'bout?) get a new photo every 10 years—that is, every other time they get their licenses renewed. So, do I stick with the fat face, which at least looks pleasant and sane, or do I—one of the least photogenic people in the world—risk 5 years with a thin-face photo and a grimace or maniacal gleam or nauseated expression or half-closed eyes? I've decided on the former, and that sort of impresses me because it means I'm willing to live with the puffy pregnant face for another 5 years. Oh, and did I mention that it also means I can renew online and not have to deal with the lovely RMV people?
My friend Nancy could give Martha Stewart a run for her money (oops—probably shouldn't be talking about Martha's money these days), except on the prissiness factor. Nancy can laugh at herself, but she also knows the best way to cook things, store things, clean things, repair things, make things, buy things, and just in general do things. Particularly when a hygiene issue presents itself to me, my first thought is usually, "What would Nancy do?" Example: One time Julie pooped during her bath. Yikes, what would Nancy do? She would first worry about the kid—get her out of the tub and scrub her down with diaper wipes. Once she's taken care of, then worry about somehow removing the offending object(s) and disinfecting the bath toys and tub. Phew, that wasn't so hard. Recently Andy almost knocked over a glass of red wine on the rug. I said to him, "What would you do if you did get wine on the rug and I wasn't home?" I was hoping he'd at least start with something like, "I'd blot it carefully with a damp white towel," but instead he shrugged and said, "I'd call Nancy."
Tonight I made a chicken dish from Martha Stewart's newish little mag, Everyday Food. It consisted of chicken roasted on top of slices of acorn squash, red onion, and cremini mushrooms. It was OK but nothing special. We were fighting over the mushrooms, though—they turned out yummy. It was not as good as Tyler Florence's Pan-Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms and Rosemary,* which always turns out great. And I do like me some Tyler Florence! He's just about the only one on the Food Network who seems like a good chef and a nice person. Oh, I like Ming Tsai too. Some of the others seem to be good chefs but also jerks, like Mario Batali. And then there's Emeril. What an idiot! He's so clearly not a good chef and seems to be a total pea-brain to boot. He's always mispronouncing everything, like "a-say-gee-oh" (hard "g" sound) for Asiago cheese, or cannellini for cannelloni (last time I checked, white beans and pasta shells were not interchangeable ingredients). But worst of all is his shtick, with the "Bam!" and the "Kick it up a notch!" and all that crap. I don't know where they find these audience members, but they all act like they've been living in a hole for 10 years. All he has to do is mention alcohol or garlic and they go out of their little minds, applauding and whooping. Those rare occasions when I get a chance to flip on the TV, it seems he's always on, and I just can't watch him anymore.
*His recipe serves just one person; I can't recall exactly what proportions I used to serve both me and Andy, but it's something like this:
3 lbs. chicken pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. fresh white mushrooms, halved
6 shallots, halved
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup water
1 lemon, juiced
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Season chicken on both sides with a generous amount of kosher salt and pepper. Place a cast-iron or regular ovenproof skillet on the stove over medium heat. Drizzle the pan with the oil and lay the chicken in the hot fat, skin-side down. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the skin begins to set and crisp. Throw in the mushrooms, shallots, and rosemary. Stick the whole thing in the hot oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked, and the mushrooms and shallots are soft and roasted.
Use a slotted spoon to remove everything from the pan, and arrange on a dinner plate to keep warm while preparing the pan sauce. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered chicken fat and return the skillet to the stovetop. Stir in the water and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, scraping up the flavors with a wooden spoon. Cook the liquid down to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Drizzle the pan sauce over the dish, season with salt and pepper.
We played a lot of games growing up, and I still like most games. Somehow, of all the games around in the '60s and '70s, we didn't own "Sorry!" But we recently got a hand-me-
down set from Lisa and have been trying it out. It's confusing! My God, the rules go on and on and on. It took me forever to realize that you can start a piece out only on a 1 or a 2—it doesn't state it explicity in the directions we got, although I went to the Parker Brothers site and saw a (presumably newer) version of the rules that does spell it out. And why do you suppose there's no 6 or 9? Now I can remember a recurring skit on the old "Carol Burnett Show" when they would play "Sorry!" and someone (Vicki Lawrence, perhaps?) would say, "Sliiiiiiiiide!" or ring a bell and say, "Sooorrryyy!" Anyhow, it's kind of frustrating playing with the kids, because they have no concept of strategy (they would rather knock each other out than move a piece closer to Home). I secretly wish I could play it with just Andy or some other adult(s) to see if it's a good game.
I got this recipe at Cooks Talk and it's become a favorite of ours.
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined, patted dry
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons seeded, minced serrano chiles (about 3 chiles)
Rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
In a small pan over medium heat, toast the peppercorns, shaking the pan, for about 3 minutes. Do not let them burn. They may smoke and pop like popcorn; this is OK. Remove the pan from the heat; set aside to cool slightly. In a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind the peppercorns. Combine with the salt; set aside.
In a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Working quickly, in a bowl, toss the shrimp in the cornstarch and remove the excess cornstarch by shaking the coated shrimp in a strainer. Add the shrimp to the wok and cook, tossing a few times to cook through on both sides, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the garlic, chiles, and pepper-salt mixture. Toss everything together for about 1 minute. Drain the rice noodles and toss them in the pan with the shrimp for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and serve. Drink cold beer.
1. The recipe originally called for 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns and 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, but the latter are no longer available in this country, because of some plant disease they carry that destroys citrus trees here. I ran out of Sichuan peppercorns a long time ago, but this is still very good with just the white. White peppercorns have a milder flavor than black and also look nicer on white food, if you care about such things.
2. The original recipe didn't call for rice noodles, but that's the way I always serve it.
3. Be sure to wear gloves when working with these fiery chiles. One time I didn't, and even though I washed my hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water afterward, I managed to get a tiny bit of the oil into my eye and just about died from the pain.
I tell anyone who listens that Pete won't eat any vegetables. OK, well, it turns out that a big reason for this is that I never offer him any vegetables. It wouldn't just occur to him out of nowhere to ask me to rustle him up some cauliflower*, now would it? Most of the time Andy and I eat after the kids do, so Pete doesn't even get a chance to see us eating vegetables. Tonight, however, we were all eating spaghetti together. Steph likes a salad of cukes and red, yellow, and orange bell peppers with a little dressing. So I also cut a 1/2" slice of peeled cuke into 6 wedges and put it on a salad plate for Pete. He initially said, "EWWW! I don't want to eat this!" to which I replied, "That's OK, you don't have to." (I've read in a million places that you might need to present a food 15 or 20 times before a kid will even sample it.) Well, next thing I know, he's eaten all 6 pieces! Now, I don't think this necessarily means that he will eat any vegetable I put in front of him, but it definitely does mean that I have to at least put it in front of him in the first place!
*Speaking of cauliflower, there is only one way to prepare it: Cut it up into very small florets, toss with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, and roast until brown and tender. Something magical happens to the flavor. You must try it. It looks especially nice if you can find one white head and one green head (broccoflower) or purple head.
Ta-dah! I got my new Maytag dryer and it's all hooked up! Isn't it nice? I'm absurdly happy to be back to my laundry routine. I just need to switch the door so that it opens to the right instead of the left. (Is that the correct way to put it? I want the hinge on the left.) The washer is on the right, so I keep whacking the dryer door into the washer. Big noise.
P.S. Thanks to Joolie for teaching me how to make the text go next to the photo. (Now aren't I glad I enabled Comments again?!)
Since September, I've been doing ashtanga yoga about twice a week. I had never done any kind of yoga before, and I'm really enjoying this. Anyhow, between Laura being away and then the girls getting a stomach bug, I hadn't gone for two and a half weeks. Until today. Yikes! It was brutal, but I felt great afterward, as usual. I've really made great progress since September. There were certain postures I couldn't do at all then that I can do now. There are still some postures I have a terrible time with, and I get frustrated that I can't do them yet, but I guess some things just take longer than others. My instructor is always reminding us that yoga is a "practice."
1. Stephanie has a friend who, I gather, is somewhat moody. Here's the way Stephanie describes her: "She sometimes drops her happiness on me." Isn't that perfect?
2. We're riding in the car. Out of nowhere, Pete says, "How does a baby get in its mama's tummy?" Omigosh, I'm not ready for this! I realize I need to give the bare minimum of information—enough to satisfy him for the moment but not overwhelm him. I start with, "A mama has a tiny seed inside her, called an egg, but it's not like the kind of egg you eat, and it's not in the part of her tummy where food goes...." I stammer on for a minute or two and then pause. Pete's follow-up question: "How do you make paint?" I don't miss a beat: "I don't know—chemicals, I guess." My little existential guy.
3. Julie notices my empty wine glass and the bottle near Andy's plate. "Daddy!" she says. "Mama needs more wine!" That's my girl.
I'm known to have my irrational moments during the day, but they ain't nothin' like what I get at night. During the day, I have indigestion; at night, I have a bleeding ulcer. When the sun's out, I have a headache; by the light of the moon, I have multiple brain tumors. So last night I went to bed feeling slightly out of sorts. My main symptoms were fatigue and thirst. So by midnight it was crystal clear that I had Type I Diabetes. I mean, what else could it be, right? Andy let me sleep in this morning and, needless to say, I woke up feeling fine.
One night back when I was still nursing Julie, I had what was obviously a plugged milk duct: a hard, sore lump on my breast. Weeping and wailing, I woke up Andy to tell him that I had breast cancer. Yes, I had sprouted a large malignant lump in the space of a couple of hours. He tried to gently reassure me that I didn't have breast cancer, but I was indignant. Of course I did! And I needed to begin making arrangements for my imminent death. So, reasonable man that he is, he said, "OK, you're right: You do have breast cancer. But you're not going to die tonight, OK?" I agreed, and by morning I was able to massage away the milk clog and everything was hunky-dory again.
Tonight I made Baked Chicken with Herbs, Garlic, and Shallots. It was delicious! Although, frankly, if anyone can come up with a bad recipe using chicken, butter, shallots, garlic, thyme, rosemary, coarse salt, and pepper, I'd be curious to hear about it. Yum, yum, yum.
3–4 lbs. chicken pieces
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
6 medium shallots, cut in half and peeled
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
Leaves stripped from 10 sprigs fresh thyme
Leaves stripped from 8 sprigs fresh rosemary
1-1/2 tsp. coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 425°F.
Put the butter into a large, shallow baking pan. Put the pan into the oven while it's heating. When the butter is melted (about 10 min.), remove the pan. Add the shallots, garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and swirl the pan to coat the ingredients in the butter.
Dredge the chicken, skin side down, in the butter and herb mixture, and arrange, skin side up, in the pan. Sprinkle the chicken generously with the salt and pepper. Bake until the chicken is browned and cooked through, 50 to 60 min. Serve with the shallots and garlic along with a drizzle of the pan drippings.
We watched "The Good Girl," which Andy promptly added to our list of "Let's go hang ourselves" movies. It was definitely depressing, but I liked it. I have to admit that I've never thought much of Jennifer Aniston, but she did a good job here. Maybe she does deserve Brad Pitt after all.
The Friday Five for today:
1. What was the last song you heard?
“Elmo’s Song” (in the car with Julie)
2. What were the last two movies you saw?
3. What were the last three things you purchased?
Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies
4. What four things do you need to do this weekend?
Catch up on laundry.
Try to repair the hole in Stephanie’s favorite pants.
Fill out Pete’s kindergarten registration forms.
Get prints made of the last batch of photos on my digital camera.
5. Who are the last five people you talked to?
Stephanie’s friend’s mom (on the phone)
the plumber (on the phone)
New verbatim policy: I'm going to go back and enable comments on all my posts. If you want to comment on one of my posts, please feel free (click on "Comments" below the post). But be aware that anyone who visits the blog thereafter will be able to read what you wrote (also by clicking on "Comments"). This is fine with me if it's fine with you! If you post something and then want to kick yourself, just e-mail me and I'll delete it. I'm nice that way. You can also just e-mail me as usual; there's even a handy "E-mail" link to the right. See it?
Tonight I made an old favorite (from Gourmet about 10 years ago, I think). It's no longer on the Epicurious site for some reason, so here it is (edited to reflect the way I usually do it):
Spaghetti Frittata with Sausage and Tomato
1/2 lb sausage (pork, chicken, or turkey; hot or sweet—whatever!), crumbled, casings discarded
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained (I like Muir Glen or Redpack)
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
1/2 lb spaghetti
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
Heat some olive oil (How much? Depends on how fatty your sausage is.) in a heavy skillet. Cook sausage over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden. Add tomatoes and basil and simmer 10 minutes. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook spaghetti until al dente and drain. While spaghetti is in colander, cool off pot by running ice cold water in it, and then empty it again. Put spaghetti back in pot and toss with sausage mixture, cheese, and salt and pepper to taste; cool 2 minutes. Add eggs and combine well.
In a 12” nonstick skillet heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add pasta mixture and spread evenly. Reduce heat to moderate and cook frittata 3 minutes. Shift skillet so that one fourth of frittata is directly over center of burner and cook 1 1/2 minutes. Shift skillet 3 more times, cooking remaining fourths in same manner. Put a heat-proof platter over skillet and invert frittata onto it. Whee! Slide frittata, browned side up, back into skillet and cook other side in same manner. Slide frittata onto platter. Serve warm or at room temperature, in wedges.
I used garlic and herb chicken sausage from Whole Foods. I even took a photo of it, but it looked so vile in the photo that I deleted it. Trust me, it's delish. And it's not as tricky as it sounds. You'll feel very professional when you flip it over and see that lovely crunchy brown bottom!
Sometimes I think Andy can do just about everything—and well, too. But there is one area in which he is sorely lacking. Here is how Andy recently opened a new cereal box:
And this was not a fluke! All boxes are fair game for his ravages, as are plastic bags, which are occasionally torn open through the middle rather than anywhere near the top. And envelopes? Don't get me started. I'm beginning to suspect that this is not his fault and just might happen to be one of the few things I'm good at naturally and he isn't. My reasons are these:
1. He is smart, so he's certainly aware that packages are meant to be opened a certain way and indeed operate better if opened that way.My other idea is that this is just another Guy Thing, like asking for directions in the car, folding towels the one-and-only correct way, reading instructions beyond the words "How to Assemble," or locating an item in the fridge. Sometimes I believe the genes for these traits are just not available on the Y-chromosome.
2. He's a quick study, so the many, many times I've demonstrated proper package-opening technique should have sunk in by now.
3. He's coordinated, so it's not a matter of being unable to work the little flaps and tabs.
4. He curses and mutters, "Mother of God!" while struggling with packaging, suggesting that he's aware that something's going awry.
Because I'm a copyeditor by trade and because I'm a nerd by nature, typos really piss me off. I don't mind them too much in e-mails and such, but typos on menus, road signs, and even Pete's kindergarten registration forms (ARGH! It's true!) really put me over the edge. As far as I can tell, the #1 misspelled word on menus is "prosciutto" (usually seen as "proscuitto," which would be pronounced "pro-squee-to"). It's not an easy word for English-speakers to spell, which is all the more reason to just look it up before you have 60 zillion take-out menus printed and distributed all over the city. (For the record, the #1 mispronounced word on menus is "bruschetta." The "ch" sounds like "k," folks.) Other "favorite" typos on menus include "mescaline salad" (Whee! Look at the colors!) and "mold sauce" (for "mole"—now doesn't that sound appetizing?). Stephanie's school lunch menu for April provides for a Passover meal; however, the misplaced line breaks present it like this:
Matzo HardI think she'll brown-bag it that week. It's gotten so I want to stand outside Kinko's all day and offer—beg!—people to let me proofread their stuff before they get it printed. Sheesh.
Boiled Egg String
I just realized that I have no idea what I'm doing. Several people have actually visited my blog and left comments, although they didn't know that their comments would be published online (nor did I)! So I've now disabled the "Comments" feature—at least until I work out all the features of this little toy. I suspect this is a no-no in blog etiquette, so I apologize in advance for my perceived crassness. In the meantime, I've added an e-mail link instead.
For the life of me, I can't figure out what "TrackBack" means, despite having read that section in the help manual 50 times. Moreover, Permalink is a complete mystery. Hmmm.
I had hoped that this blog would contain notes and reviews of the various recipes I've been trying lately. However, the stomach bug that Stephanie and Julie got (did I mention that Julie barfed all over my Penzey's and King Arthur catalogs yesterday?!) also affected me in a minor way. I've been mildly queasy for several days and have had nearly no appetite, so I haven't really cooked anything. So, instead, today I will mention my favorite new food discovery of the last few months: panko (Japanese bread crumbs). My favorite use for them so far is breaded pork chops. I don't know what it is about these bread crumbs, but the chops come out incredibly crunchy on the outside but very juicy inside every time! I serve them with homemade applesauce (which I always make in the food mill, with the skins on so the applesauce is a glorious pink color). After I'm done frying the chops, I add a little more oil and quickly stir-fry a couple handfuls of snow peas that have been sliced crosswise about 1/4" thick (a trick I learned at my favorite food forum, Cooks Talk). They pick up all the lovely browned bits. Yum, yum, yum. Maybe I am getting my appetite back after all.
We watched "Catch Me If You Can" the other night. It was fun, and if even most of it is indeed true, then it sure was fascinating. Leonardo DiCaprio is pretty easy on the eye anyhow. But what nearly ruined the movie for me was listening to Tom Hanks try to do a Boston accent—it was painful! What is it with actors trying to do accents? I thought Rob Morrow had achieved the pinnacle of Bad Imitation of a Boston Accent in "Quiz Show," but Tom Hanks blew him away in this one. Speaking of Tom Hanks, whom I've always liked, I have to admit that I haven't been impressed with his last few outings. I thought "Road to Perdition" was lame, and there was just no way he was convincing as a bad guy. And, despite everyone's ravings about "Saving Private Ryan," I didn't find it realistic at all. I never once forgot that I was watching a movie.
Pete will eat no Food of Color. The staples of his diet are pasta (plain, thank you very much), bananas, American cheese (the beige kind, not the orange kind), pancakes, waffles, vanilla custard-style Yoplait, Pirate's Booty, tortilla chips, and French fries (no ketchup, of course). The foods he eats that are not technically beige are not exactly colorful either: peanut butter, Fluff, toast, pretzels, and chicken nuggets. Sigh.
1. Vomiting shall commence very early on a Saturday morning, to prevent parents from "sleeping in" and to ensure that any doctor they've ever heard of will be unreachable.
2. Vomiting shall be performed by oldest child, who already suffers from a chronic condition, thereby preventing her from taking her prescription meds.
3. Vomiting shall continue throughout the day. Infinitesimal amounts of water and saltines shall be ingested and rapidly regurgitated.
4. Vomiter shall manage to avoid beach towels draped over couch and thoroughly coat two cushions with vomit. Vomit shall seep into crevices at edge of piping on said cushions.
5. Laundry done the previous day shall have emerged from the dryer imbued with a strange toxic smell. The appliance repairman shall assert that he can't help unless it's a hot, burning smell and that a new dryer ought to be purchased. Meanwhile, vomiter shall produce prodigious quantities of soiled bedding, towels, and clothing. Parents shall take turns driving to relative's house to use dryer.
6. Younger brother of vomiter shall become bored and frustrated, crying that he's getting no attention and awaking vomiter from first vomit-free nap all day.
7. Younger sister of vomiter shall become obsessed with brushing her teeth, causing her to disappear into the bathroom at regular intervals, only to emerge completely soaked, grinning and announcing, "I bwush teef! Nice and kyean!" Parents shall add her wet and toothpaste-stained clothing to seemingly insurmountable laundry pile.