Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend Update

Dear Internet,

It’s been a fair bit since I have blogged with any meaningful regularity. I know this true because the lovely and gracious Poppy told me so her very own bad self. So it’s only appropriate this blog entry deals with our weekend jaunt to Poppyville. In order to minimize the stress levels to which modern life subjects us all, I’ll let you know that Poppy was (as previously stated) both lovely and gracious and we had a terrific weekend.

That said, there are times when your mind is not weighed down with your everyday woes and cares when you start to notice the manifest weirdness that swirls unnoticed otherwise. In our case, this started when we were in the gate are awaiting the call to board our flight. There was a woman arrayed in very 1970s raiments. Frosty blue eyeshadow, the fauxest of faux eyelashes and a blouse with a print emulating a stained glass window designed by someone unfortunately suffering under the influence of mescaline.

As befits someone seemingly extricated from a time capsule ca. 1976 Nashville, she was also a rather voluble sort. She spoke to the unfortunates at either side in a pronounced New Yawk accent which I almost, but not entirely, managed to tune out. Considerably more difficult to tune out was her dog, a small Shakenpys with a misanthropic disposition and anger management issues manifested by snarling loudly, so that it sounded like two asthmatic ducks fighting to the death over an iron lung.

Joy for us, Midcentury Dog Woman sat right behind us on the flight and promptly propped up her considerable feet on our armrests, as if she were flying Pap Smear Airlines. Other than her proffering us (quite unbidden) massages to the small of the back as she adjusted herself, and the Laryngitic Waterfowl sounds emanating from her vicinity, the flight was uneventful. Not that MDW was content with the foot propping thing, opting to berate whomever she called upon landing to pick her up, for foolishly suggesting she take a mode of transport which didn’t involve the berate-ee schlepping to the airport. Oh, and that Noo Yawk accent...I thought the poor wretch was going to die of adenoids.

Upon arriving and checking in, we went for lunch. For some karmically unexplained reason, we were seated behind another socially dysfunctional woman who alternately berated her mother (seated directly behind me, and apparently dying of shame) and her father (on the cell phone) and her 3ish-year old son, who had had quite enough of the whole enterprise. As the woman’s patience wore ever thinner, her decibel output grew commensurately, her mother turned increasingly puce with embarrassment and her son’s displeasure became simultaneously more lachrymose and vocal. To our eternal relief, Angry Restaurant Woman eventually skated to the very ragged edge of a complete emotional meltdown and announced her departure. She didn't actually say she would be climbing atop a fast food restaurant with a cache of firearms, the better to vent her vexations upon pedestrians, but it wouldn't have surprised me.

Had I not been busy working the chopsticks on behalf of some dim sum, I would have applauded heartily and bribed the lad to kick her shins upon egress.

Our day, of course, wasn’t quite done. We had clients to see (the “official” purpose of the trip, you see). Our client was unable to fetch us and we hailed a taxi. Our driver, a Somali national (if the profusion of stickers affixed to the interior of the vehicle are anything to go by) had the radio tuned to a Christian radio station – at full volume, no less – and in marked contradistinction to the message proclaimed over the airwaves, proceeded to weave suicidally in and out of traffic (of which there was an impressive, if immobile, amount) and honk vehemently at elderly pedestrians who adversely affected his progress. This jaunt took 45 minutes, during which time we heard an interesting exegesis of the story of Joseph in Egypt at 120 dB.

Dinner with the client proved uneventful in a good way.

The next day we arose and TFBIM shopped* and then we went over to the Buxom pied-a-terre and after catching up with TSMPM and admiring the growth of Master Buxom and Poppette (who are 7’5” and 7’2” respectively) we wandered happily to lunch. There we discovered why the Buxom offspring are in the 122nd percentile for height: dessert which is primarily a two paving slabs of chocolate brownie, adorned with caramel and ice cream and served in a small wading pool. This strict regimen, as near as I have been able to piece it together, seems to act upon the sleeping child, grasping the pituitary firmly during REM sleep and squeezing it fervently, pretty much as the dairy industry recommends for a recalcitrant Holstein. Poppy was Otherwise Occupied, and thus I was unable to sound her out on the matter.

The highlight of the weekend was being to finally hang out with Poppy. We had an Opening Night to attend, with dinner to follow and it was fun to see us all in suitable finery. Poppy, style maven that she is, apologized for her ensemble – which was very flattering to her, and damned fetching overall – because it was the only outfit which she could wear given her available underclothing…or something like that. At dinner we didn’t really get to catch up, because the band had struck up and when you have to speak at such a volume that your vocal cords can be seen vibrating from the pulses of your neck, well, it’s a bit difficult to get conversational. But what conversation there was proved to be solid gold as always. MWAH.

We arrived at our hotel around 1:30am and somehow managed to arise and walk by 9am. Having breakfasted with TSMPM (Poppy was again Otherwise Occupied) who had baked a spectacular banana bread and gave us lashings of most excellent espresso, we headed for the airport. Where our flight home proved safe and uneventful.

So here we are.

-J.

* One of the highlights of any trip to Poppyville was being able to stop at Paul Stuart. They had a sort of trunk-show thing going on and, being a man with a tenuous grip on my willpower, I ordered a suit. (Like an idiot, I realized I didn’t specify a “ticket pocket” on the jacket. ARGH!)

Posted by Joke at 7:18 PM 8 comments

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Doing what must be done.

And what, you may wonder, must be done? Scratching out a blog entry, mostly. That's no easy feat when you have nothing of real interest to add to the cyberconsciousness. Nothing new, of note, has happened. I'm coming down with a cold and I am trying to decide if I ought fight it or let it run its course...the question being what'll put me in better shape for my trip to Chicago on Friday.

Upon my return on Sunday, I trust I'll have much to tell. But it's Wednesday and I don't.

The only thing which springs to mind is a modest little foodie rant. It's this: The moment I discover a cut of (usually) beef which is flavorful, tender and reasonably priced -- keep in mind I am a cheapskate -- some genius will publish an article on said cut in a foodie magazine and the price will have shot heavenward.

Therefore, just so nobody wonders if I have spontaneously combusted due to an absence, is something (more of a rough guide, really) of a recipe, cobbled together from David Rosengarten's Taste and Patricia Well's Bistro cookbooks.

You need steak. It could be one of those big ones you slice and serve (think flank and its ilk) or the usual individual ones (ribeye, whatever). I used "chuck shoulder steak" in lieu of flank, but you do whatever. Get two pats of butter and melt them in a largeish skillet over medium-high heat. Pat your steak(s) dry -- this is key -- and then salt and pepper them. When the butter has ceased to foam. add your steak and sear it hard. DO NOT MOVE IT WHILE IN MID-SEAR. Turn on your oven (or toaster oven, ideally) and preheat at medium low. Flip the steak and sear the bottom for about half as long as you did the top. Put the steak on an ovenproof platter and stick it in the warm oven. If you're all fussy and obsessive, you can use a thermometer to get to the degree of doneness you prefer. I like medium rare and I eyeball it.

OK. In the now empty and forlorn skillet add another couple of pats of butter, crank the heat up to high, and as soon as they are melted add a half onion, diced as finely as your patience permits. Sautee and make sure you pick up the caramelized beefy goodness off the skillet's surface. Add a clove of garlic or two, also minced as finely as your patience will allow. Yes, you may use shallots, or scallions, or spring onions, instead of onions.

Adding a touch of salt will help the onions/garlic exude juice and wilt more quickly. As soon as the exuded juices are evaporated, add a good glob of tomato paste (I eyeball it, but guesstimate 2 teaspoons) and make sure it caramelizes, but doesn't burn. Add a dairy product of choice, a 2-3 tablespoons' worth. Cream, creme fraiche, creme legere, even sour cream or sour half-and-half will work. Add a liquid of choice (I used beef stock, but wine will do fine and even a splash of milk would work if you want to play up the dairy angle.) to thin down to the consistency of a slightly thicker sauce than you prefer. (You'll see why.) Yes, this will make more than you'll need, but you can freeze it very nicely for for later.

Take out your steak and drain the exuded juices from the platter into your sauce, which will thin the sauce down to about ketchup consistency. Plate up the steak and serve with a tablespoon or so of the sauce. Resist the impulse to consume the sauce directly from the gravy boat.

So there,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:01 AM 5 comments

Saturday, September 22, 2007

You'd think he was an Australian husband.

OK.

My BiL and the gazillion dollar Bichon Frise stud dog.

My niece and nephew had been harassing my BiL and his wife --seemingly from the moment of conception -- for a dog. Oh, dear Internet, you couldn't possibly believe the whinging/whining, the torrents of lachrymose fluids, the pleading, haggling and abject beggary in which these kids engaged, shamelessly.

Eventually, my BiL nodded a weary assent. Of course Mrs. BiL*, being an aspirationally posh sort of girl, couldn't just go to the dog pound and get something suitably cute. So, after much deliberation they wound up getting a Bichon Frise puppy. This puppy cost as much as a set of aspirationally posh faucets, to give you an indication of what sorts of sums we're talking about.

Me? I'm not a pet person. I'd tell you how much I'm not a pet person, but the imbeciles who haunt BabBab's dreams would march on my house like ecomentalists would Jeremy Clarkson's. Suffice it to say that I love all domestic animals, particularly when we have no ownership relationship.

So the idea of getting a dog that costs more than my first two cars combined is an alien one, especially when we're talking about a dog whose only real party trick is to simultaneously oscillate at 100Hz and urinate a quart or so of canine fluid. To say nothing of the completely reiduclous name of the breed. But they did, and if you like that sort of thing it was pretty good. It came with an impressive pedigree, all the paperwork, and probably was listed in the Social Register. The seller told them they could expect to recoup their costs, many times over, in stud fees.

Except that once the puppy "was of age" he developed the habit of doing what my nephew innocently described as "the hugging dance." So, for reasons which have yet to be adequately explored, my BiL had his gazillion dollar stud dog neutered.

You have no idea, dear Internet, how livid my beloved was with me over my failure to refrain from laughing uproariously over the fact my BiL bought a gazillion dollar stud dog, only to cut its balls off.

Yes, I have a particularly puerile sense of shadenfreude,

-J.

* I love her to death, but this doesn't mean I am utterly blinded to some of her more, er, vexing quirks.

Posted by Joke at 2:42 PM 9 comments

Friday, September 21, 2007

...and now, the news.

Except there really aren't any news. Not any newsworthy ones, at any rate.

Here is the biggest piece of news: NOS was doing so well in Spanish as a consequence of being in Heidi Klum's classroom that he was promoted to "Advanced" where his teacher is Dame Maggie Smith.

His academic assiduousness has, er, waned. A lot.

"How much has it waned?" I hear you ask.

So much that he was given a Saturday detention. Quite a downward leap, that. In fact, the only thing to take a steeper dive is the dowry we were expecting to collect on the lad. Now we'd be damnably lucky to break even.

Between work, the fact I have undertaken the restoration of TWO cars simultaneously -- if any among you are automotive-conversant, you'll know such an undertaking makes the Charge of the Light Brigade seem like dressage in comparison -- which includes sourcing out all the tiny bits and pieces carved from unobtainium, and planning for the kitchen redo that kicks off in January-ish...I have been swamped-and-a-half.

So that's pretty much that.

-J.

P.S. Remind me to tell you about my BiL and his megadollar stud Bichon Frise dog.

Posted by Joke at 11:37 AM 3 comments

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Remain calm. All is well.

I'm just swamped, dear Internet.

-J.

P.S. I am cackling with glee that Bec of all people has chided me on my blogging infrequency of late.

Posted by Joke at 7:45 AM 8 comments

Friday, September 14, 2007

The difference between rough and bad.

Dear Internet,

I've had a rough week. Not a BAD week, but a rough one. That is, nothing terrible happened to me, but lots of little things have cropped up and I've been swatting flies since forever.

-J.

P.S. Go show blackbird some bloggy love. She's had a week that was both rough and bad.

Posted by Joke at 3:16 PM 4 comments

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"I was at my desk, early."

On Sept. 11, 2001 I had just sat down at my desk, a soothing beverage at my elbow and a copy of the Wall Street Journal and Investor's Business Daily in front of me, ready to confront the day's labor.

That's when I heard the news.

As I mentioned last year, I had a friend die that day. Interestingly enough, in looking up stuff to help me compose a post, I ran across the blog of a priest in New Jersey who was, at the time, assigned to the parish where my friend and his family attended Mass. Father Toborowsky expresses my feelings rather well.

-J.

P.S. DIH also has a particularly worthwhile post.

Posted by Joke at 11:59 PM

Liver Wringage

It's taken longer than you might think.

Not because I availed myself of a waterfall of wine and cocktails, but because the lack of temperance lasted well nigh unto yesterday. Anyway, here is the report:

The Anniversary thing went off exactly as planned. (This is widely considered good.) There were some things about that for which I didn't care in the least, but this was not "my" event so I smiled and nodded and looked amiable and, as Scripture says, plied myself liberally with with wine and ardent spirits.

Of course it was not just the general aspects of the evening that compelled me to suffuse my bloodstream with mood-ameliorating levels of ethanol, but, rather the presence of various people I have been reliably told are related to me by ties of blood. I don't have the greatest gene pool, I know. Earlier in my husbandly career I used to say that my relatives were so uniformly abysmal that I had to get married and make my own.

At any rate, whenever you announce a big deal event like this, these relatives descend from the hills with a whoop and a holler. So I braced myself fully and managed to survive the onslaught. The toast bit went well, mostly because I had an ace up my sleeve. Given the makeup of the audience, about 25% of the people there were not bilingual, speaking only English or Spanish. So, and NO deserves full credit for this, I had my BiL (the Irish engineer, or TIE) come up with me and translate into Spanish. The way it worked was that I'd issue a long, rambling paragraph and TIE would encapsulate it in one raggedly pronounced word of Spanish. So my 45 second greeting turned, in TIE's Spanish, into "Hola." So you see, the actual text of the toast wasn't that relevant.

My dad sort of enjoyed the evening, but A Man of His Years really gets worn out after all those hours of relentless socializing. He literally wasn't fully recovered until yestarday. This is because with relatives pouring in from South Carolina, Virgina, California, Missouri, NY, etc. they all had to be entertained further. Which only tires everyone out.

Now, TFBIM and my sister really did a great job in pulling this off. TFBIM did yeoperson's work, considering the hours labor involved, the fact she was...er...on Day Two AND running a fever with some sinus action for added fun.

Incidentally, she took the wrong meds for the sinus thing (pseudoephedrine and her thyroid do NOT get along) and at 3am bolted upright into what seemed like an outright anxiety attack; heart hammering and breaths coming elusively in snatches. Combine this with the fact TFBIM isn't [how do I say this diplomatically?] the most...er...coherent person when immediately awakened, and I thought she was having a Satanic Possesion episode.

So that was that.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:46 AM 4 comments

Monday, September 10, 2007

Twitterpated.

There are several of you who have put up the Twitter thingy -- sorry for the webgeek jargon -- on your blog.

I want to say THANK YOU!

Because of this, whenever I click on your blog, instead of being instantly transported to your touching/trenchant/hilarious musings, I now have time -- finally! -- to go to the kitchen and prepare myself a lovely espresso and also catch up on the news. Later today, I will attempt to make a cappuccino in the time generously afforded me by a Twitter-ed blog as it loads.

Thanks again,

-The Management

Posted by Joke at 11:15 PM 4 comments

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I will say this...

Having an open bar at your parents 50th Anniversary event--where all manner of annoying relatives will congregate like mastodons at a watering hole--is bloody genius.

More as soon as my liver gets wrung out.`

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:17 AM 10 comments

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oh, no!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Very, very sad news.

Michael Jackson* has died, apparently from a heart attack.

I am seriously saddened.

-J.

* No, not that Michael Jackson. I mean the one who had talent and actually contributed to the progress of civilization.

Posted by Joke at 1:38 PM 2 comments

Driven to blithering insanity in three convenient installments.

As you may know, my parents are celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary in a few days. To understand the ramifications of such a statement, you have to know the parties involved. So, I'll try to give you a brief overview of the circumstances and personalities attached to this project and that way you'll see why lunacy hounds me.

First, we come to the fact my dad never wanted* this Very Grand Affair that we'll be having. But, my ol' man is wildly passive-aggressive, so he'd never actually issue a veto. He just grumbles darkly and stresses out visibly, so much so that adrenaline squirts out of his pores. My mom, who knows how these things work -- better than anyone if'n you ask me -- made sure the event was handled by TFBIM and my sister. This was done under the cover of "women do this so much better than men** do" but it was a coldly calculated triangulation move on her part. She knows that TFBIM will not give her an outright "no" to any request (whereas my sister would, almost reflexively) and that neither TFBIM nor my sister are very good at persuading each other, but good at compromising. This way she gets exactly what she wants and without putting her fingerprints thereon or actually exerting any work.

Clevah girl, the old mater.

The only things I have been given to do is "the toast" which I think of as wildly lame (only my mother and wife seem to want it, a supermajority if there ever was one) and which I plan to extemporize mercilessly, lest anyone ever rope me into this sort of thing ever again. I also am in charge of printing out the program, which has to be in English and Spanish and -- because we're that kind of Papist, and because there will be a Mass -- some Latin.

So I have been racking my melon trying to get this thing to line up properly so that on facing pages appear the various things next to each other, all symmetrical-like. Which is harder than it seems, since it's all done on a 8½" x 11" page folded in half...so that "page 2" is the left half of the back of the first sheet, and "page 3" is the right half of the front of the second sheet (and the right half of the back of the first sheet is page 19, etc.)

To say nothing of having to compose a menu and select wines in a committee which includes my sister who pretty much dislikes anything that involves the tastebuds.

My involvement, otherwise, is merely to deal with "What do you think, honey?" followed shortly by "What do you know?" as this spirals into TFBIM's and my sister's and my mother's idea of the wedding someone never had. Y'see, there is a reason why I never do anything even remotely social with anyone else helping*** me. I am fearing a rather dissonant event with a dissonant edge to it.

My dad, of course, is hating every damned minute of it. Then people come up to him and say "Wait until you see it, you'll love it!" (he won't) which only helps to hate it all the more, but he will politely grin and bear through the thing and then passive-aggressively take it out on everyone.

Except me, because I'll be going underground for a spell.

-J.

* When asked what he would have preferred, he said "A minute of silence."
** Bullshit.
*** This always brings to mind the axiom that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

Posted by Joke at 8:58 AM 8 comments

Monday, September 03, 2007

I'm practically famous-ish.

Look at me.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:45 PM 11 comments