Saturday, August 30, 2008

Speaking of buggering off...

We're out for the long weekend. Back Monday-ish.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 5:52 PM

Friday, August 29, 2008

Killing me softly, without song.

Were I to be the lovely and gracious Badger -- and it has been authoritatively stated I am not -- I would have started this post with something like:

"Dudes. Oh, DUDES."

And you would have totally gotten the tenor, right away, of the thing in general.

In particular, this Junior High thing will be, indirectly, the death of me. You heard it here first. Here's the problem: Between the change of school, and the change in academic level, and the change in environment (coeducational vs. single-sex and nuns vs. priests) the sort of scholastic hand-holding has come to a sharp, screeching, decisive halt.

By Day 2 he was coming home with copious notes and two hours' worth of homework and reading. The fissure in this situation, as you might've spotted, is that the average 11 year old is not exactly, y'know, keen on doing homework. NOS (who has managed to cruise by effortlessly on raw talent lo these many years) as you may have further surmised, falls within that category. He doesn't particularly fret himself about putting the Spanish notes in the Math binder or following the various and sundry protocols.

Now, TFBIM, being an accountant, does.

TFBIM frets herself rather luxuriantly and given her unique turn of mind, doesn't handle it especially well. For a piquant change of pace, she is currently on the dark side of the moon, cycle-wise (a bit of knowledge utterly lost on NOS) and therefore even more assertive. So, in sum, there is a certain atmosphere in the house.

Pretty much every day brings a new interrogation of which the KGB would be deeply covetous. "Did you do Science Packet A?"
"No, you need to study some more."
"Have you finished your project?"
"Why didn't you tell me you had a Grammar quiz?"
"You have to turn in the absentee permission thing to the vice-principal."

Every once in a while, NOS will answer something (for instance, "Uh, no, I forgot.") and TFBIM will look as if she is trying to decide whether an aneurysm or a coronary would best express her displeasure. When you combine the dicier portions of the cycle with the grave displeasure of a child who steadfastly does not do as he is supposed to do, with the added cultural component of having a temperament that skews towards hair-trigger-livid, it makes for a Perfect Storm. It is not difficult to distinguish between TFBIM in this frame of mind and a dewy spring morning.

It pretty much goes on like that.

Every day.

This makes things difficult for me, as I have maintained the only way for a man to be happy in marriage is to have a wife who is not on the warpath. Nothing good, and many things bad, will happen when one's beloved is in a state of foul agitation. The best I can do is make a chocolate offering to the volcano goddess and then bugger off at warp speed.

This is part of NOS' educational process, though. The part of learning to be husbandly.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:08 AM 9 comments

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Light and fluffy.

These days, politics are swarming around. Since I steadfastly decline to inflict the news of same upon myself*, I have had to find ways to amuse myself and think of useful, happy-bunny stuff for the purposes of public bloggery.

Stuff, like, say, My Light & Fluffy Pancakes.

This will serve 6-8 people pretty generously, especially if you start piling, on the plate, things such as bacon or breakfast sausage, eggs, etc., etc.

2 cups combined unbleached all-purpose flour and whole wheat (wholemeal?) pastry flour (I use a 2:1 ratio of plain flour to the whole wheat) The whole wheat flour is important because I like the added, subtle, nuttiness it adds to the flavor as well as the slightly more toothsome chew it imparts. Now, whole wheat can be very gritty, so it's pretty important to use whole wheat pastry flour. If you can't be bothered, just use "regular" flour.

1 T. baking powder½ t. baking soda½ t. salt1 T. sugar2 cups buttermilk (I make my own by mixing 1:1 plain yogurt and milk; fat-free examples are fine in this case, but you will need a touch more yogurt than milk)2 eggs
½ t. vanilla extract
¼ t. almond extract (you can add more, but be careful, this is strong stuff)
½ t. powdered cinnamonHeat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Make the batter.

Stir together all the dry ingredients (if you sift them, then it'll all go easier...but this is not strictly necessary). Beat the eggs into the buttermilk, then stir in almond and vanilla extracts. Whisk this into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to eliminate lumps. Wait a minute or two for the baking powder/soda to interact with the acidity in the buttermilk; the tangier the dairy, the fluffier the pancake.

This sounds like a horrid euphemism, but it's not.

To your skillet or griddle add a teaspoon or two of butter and when the butter foam subsides spoon the batter onto the surface (any size will be fine). After the first batch you can lower the heat a notch or two. Figure on +/- 3 minutes per pancake and then you flip when the pancakes' raw side have had a few bubbles pop, leaving smallish holes.
You can hold these at a LOW oven (+/- 200F or so) for 10 minutes.

Serve to rapture and acclaim.

-J.

* Given my ways, ideologically speaking, and the fact hypertension is rampant in my gene pool

Posted by Joke at 5:31 AM 2 comments

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mixtape Monday, Aug. 25/08


MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes


This week's theme is "The Stuff To Which I Used To Dance."

-J.

P.S. Track #1 is "Just Can't Get Enough" by Depeche Mode

Posted by Joke at 12:00 AM 8 comments

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Where were you in 1981?



Ah, to be 17 again.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:22 PM 5 comments

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Beaten...by a girl.

Lifted from the lovely and gracious blackbird, via the very lovely and extremely gracious Poppy, who got to it before I could. Not that this is a race or anything.
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you have eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at Very Good Taste linking to your results.
1. Venison - At our friends M&S's house. The tenderloin, grilled and some other mystery parts as sausage. Meh.
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros I'm "meh" on these as well.
4. Steak tartare -- yeah, but carpaccio is better
5. Crocodile - I quote Poppy: "no, but alligator? Yes. In New Orleans. Tastes like chicken! But [much] chewier." Note she and I were not in New Orleans simultaneously, at least not to our knowledge.
6. Black pudding - It sounds better in Spanish (i.e. "morcilla")
7. Cheese fondue - My parents gave dinner parties in the Galloping Gourmet days.
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush - Sure. I've even made it.
11. Calamari - I quote Poppy again: "All the time. Fried calamari is the chicken nuggets of seafood [and Italian] restaurants."
12. Pho - I love Vietnamese food.
13. PB&J sandwich - Nevah. Weird, huh?
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle - No, but white truffles, yes.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - Pineapple wine from Hawai'i.
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream - That fake green puts me off
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries - Not in æons, but yeah.
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans - Not to be confused with "beans and rice."
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - Had a raw Habanero, which is its fraternal twin, once. I think I saw Jesus.
27. Dulce de leche - Yep, even made it.
28. Oysters raw, fried, in stew - Also had Cream of Oyster at some point.
29. Baklava - But only in small quantities, as it is ferociously sweet.
30. Bagna cauda - Yeah. It was the first "Northern Italian" foodie fad of the early 1980s
31. Wasabi peas - Meh.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut - Made it once, too. I only like it on choucrute garni or with grilled weisswurst.
35. Root beer float - I hate root beer.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - Cigars go with SCOTCH. [eye roll]
37. Clotted cream At teatime at the Boston Ritz -- now renamed something gawdawful like the Taj Mahal -- s'awright.
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo - In its infinite varieties. I used to date someone from New Orleans. But that's another blog post.
40. Oxtail - Meh.
41. Curried goat - Meh.
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more - Yes, and it was overpriced, not that I paid for it.
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala - That's one of those faux-Indian dishes you pretty much only find outside India, right?
48. Eel - Grilled eel, yes. Suprisingly yummy for something so hideous.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut Meh.
50. Sea urchin - No, but have had the roe
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal I've never had the meal nor the Big Mac.
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini - Dirty martini, yes; gin martini (Beefeater & Noilly Prat 6:1, lemon twist, no olive) yes.
58. Beer above 8% ABV - Probably
59. Poutine - Next time I'm in EPCOT, for sure.
60. Carob chips - Why?
61. S’mores - But not since those bastids at Whole Foods took over Tiny Trapeze and made it IMPOSSIBLE to find the right marshmallows.
62. Sweetbreads - I kinda like these and, as such, refuse to delve into what they are, exactly.
63. Kaolin - (isn't this OJ Simpson's roomate?)
64. Currywurst - This sounds inexpressively vile.
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs - Meh.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake - Real churros (not those revolting theme park/fairground examples) are the best
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain - Even made 'em.
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho - Even made it.
72. Caviar and blini - At Petrossian in NYC during my Wall Street phase. (What's so hot about Iranian blini?) I like Sevruga myself, but now that you can't get Caspian sea caviar, I like the Collins stuff you get in Chicago.
73. Louche absinthe - This sounds like something quaffed by Victorian flavored poseurs.
74. Gjetost, or brunost - Hellnost.
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu - Geshundheit.
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - Uh...no.
78. Snail - Like chewy clams
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef - I think we all know the answer to this.
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers - Lavender tastes like perfume.
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate - This really means Mexican chocolate, which has cinnamon in it. If I wanted cinnamon in my chocolate, I'd put it there myself.
91. Spam - Tried Deviled Ham, though.
92. Soft shell crab - And soft shell lobstah!
93. Rose harissa - Nope, just regular harissa
94. Catfish - I went to the University of [Insert Deep South State here] Meh.
95. Mole poblano - Meh.
96. Bagel and lox - HELL yes, but Nova is better than lox.
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta - I believe we also know the answer to this.
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

-J.

Posted by Joke at 3:12 PM 8 comments

On the other hand, we'll all be befuddled together.

Today, after doing the NTS school run, I had time -- and having a serious request to pray for someone, the inclination -- to attend daily Mass. Normally, the average daily Mass takes, tops, 30 minutes. 15-20 is the norm.

So I went.

Usually, on Sundays, there are 6 Masses on schedule and usually the church is 75% full for each of those...give or take. But for a Thursday at 8am, it's a pretty sparse crowd. This means that pretty much any other person will be well within your sightlines. Mark that.

Anyway, in one of the parts of the Mass* when all 30 of us are kneeling, a woman walks in. By all appearances, a "school mom." And she stands on the side aisle, next to the front pew. This is about 5-6 pews ahead of where I am. She seems to desire speech with the woman seated in that pew's "aisle seat." The woman (again, going strictly by appearances, another school mom) of whom speech is desired, frankly, does not wish to engage in speech.

Aisle Mom is whispering animatedly and Pew Mom is staring dead ahead. This goes on for some time, one whispering with passion, the other pointedly looking straight ahead. After one brief fusillade of unintelligible whispers, Aisle Mom turns and walks away. I could see he face is pink and her eyes are welling up. Her heels click-clack in a melancholy staccato on the marble floor, echoing as she makes her way to the exits, her walking rhythm punctuated by sniffles.

So, basically, I am left with the age old question:

"What the @#$% was that about?"

And if there is a question that vexes me more than any other** it's that one. Worse, I invariably never get to know WTF happened. Two days ago, making my way home after foraging hurricane supplies, the main intersection that takes me on my usual way home was blocked, wherever I turned, by police cars, lights ablaze. A 4-block x 4 block area was cordoned off and no explanation why.

These things drive me mental.

Now, if anyone of you wishes to conjecture about this morning's little Bizarre Tableaux Vivant, feel free.

-J.

* The consecration for any stray Papists reading this.
** Not "Why do good things happen to bad people?" or "What's Heaven/Hell/Purgatory like?" or "Will my wife want to murder me if I buy another car?"

Posted by Joke at 11:30 AM 8 comments

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to normal-ish.

After getting soaked and somewhat blown about by Tropical Storm Fay, we're back to normal, sort of.

Those of you with children of school age (and/or those of you who've happily forgotten what it's like) will sympathize with the frustration to have the first two days of school canceled. So, not only is there a letdown, but you're also cooped up for 48 hours with said children.

My children, sadly being like me, do not handle boredom well. So by the 17 hour, they were cabin feverish and yowling while TFBIM tried to get a rare, non-Sunday crack at reading EVERY page in the newspaper. I myself was so bored, I loitered freely on Facebook for the first time since 1937.

Fortunately, we're back on schedule.

The only hangup is that this is NOS's first year of Junior High and as such he missed "orientation" at Jesuit Boot Camp and while that struck him as brilliant on Sunday night, tonight, (given the fact he'd have precisely 6 minutes to get from Building X to Building Y which includes stopping off at his locker to adjust his backpack's inventory, walking whatever the Hell the distance is and availing himself of the facilities) he wasn't so sure of the wisdom of being so giddy.

Furthermore, he has to take TWO bags, one for the morning block and another for the afternoon block. He has, and there is no other way to phrase this, a cubic assload of books.

NTS, I'm grateful to report, is still approximately three years away from such delights. So he was able to spend the evening merrily YouTubing and loafing and watching videos and attempting to play the piano like one of his favorite Muppet bands from Sesame Street (Chrissy & The Alphabeats). Somewhat like I was, NTS is a pretty self-contained child. As long as nothing in his sphere is malfunctioning, he is happy. So he was making a Hell of a racket on plinking away at the piano, wearing sunglasses. When asked what he was doing he just looked up (much like a cat when rudely interrupted) and said "Rock and roll" with a tone of voice you knew simply ached to append "...you idiot peasant, you."

And then it was back to plinking.

The only thing about NOS going to this new school is that it's rather a hike away. 15 minutes if Armageddon arrives early and traffic is nonexistent, I have NFI how long with the horrendous traffic jams which are the norm. Furthermore, since we missed orientation, we also have NFI what the supply list contains (2 pencils? 60? How many notebooks?)

Things are a lot lighter with NTS, sure; so he has been the very model of sedate relaxation. While NOS & TFBIM went to do a last minute run to cobble together an approximate school supply cache, NTS and self decided to take it easy and go shopping and have lunch.

And that's today's report.

-J.

P.S. I am pleased to report on an EXCELLENT score at the Tommy Bahama store's clearance section: a pair or perforated chocolate leather espadrilles ($18!) and sunglasses each for the boys ($5! I know!)

Posted by Joke at 3:00 PM 10 comments

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mostly sound, some fury.

Tropical Storm Fay has given us about 12" (30cm) of rain. Some gusts. My DSL's been on and off.

All is otherwise fine ovah heah.

UPDATE: The canopy of our gazebo has suffered moderate-to-serious damage.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:50 PM 2 comments

Mixtape Monday, Aug. 18/08


MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Following the lead of the lovely and gracious H&B, I hereby give you my Mixtape Monday, er, Mixtape. No rhyme or reason for the selection, unless "songs I have recently had stuck in my head endlessly" is a thematically valid thing.

-J.


Posted by Joke at 12:03 AM 2 comments

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ask, and ye shall receive.

The lovely and gracious Suse hath asked for bacon recipes as she is staring at a refrigerator containing three pigs' worth thereof.

Here:
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/and-flag-was-still-there.html
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/no-this-is-not-foodie-blog-but-still.html (the variation listed at the bottom of the post)
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2006/11/crockpottery-new-improved.html (particularly excellent when things are wintry)
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2006/08/and-so-to-table.html (ditto)
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/back-on-foodie-kick.html (adjust the spices according to your family preferences)

Hope this helps.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:36 AM 1 comments

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gathering momentum.

I was more or less NOS' age about the time I realized girls were, regardless of how bewildering and confusing, worthy of protracted attention on my part. Ovah the course of the summah, his becoming keenly awake to that has become more, uh, apparent.

Which is fine and to be expected and thus the human race careens merrily toward the 22nd century and beyond. The thing that is weird and worrisome is that I had engaged in a series of semi-functional behaviors as I ambled awkwardly towards eventual marriage, a noble estate. Most of these behaviors, seen from the sober and lofty perspective of someone for whom respectable middle age is nearly at his throat, cause me to wince freely.

NOS, regrettably, has just entered the labyrinth that one day, it is hoped, will lead him to marriage and children and the day when his oldest son begins to make a complete and utter idiot of himself in the hopes girls will pay him due attention. Yesterday my sister's daughter (she's +/- 7 months older than NOS) decided to have an impromptu pool party. She sent word to NOS who has just loitering with his best friend and blissfully pondering what they ought set alight. They accepted and off they went.

Well.

Turns out that La Cousine had some of her school friends there. These girls from all reliable reports are somewhat more...er...developmentally advanced (ahem) than NOS recalled. This, naturally, piqued his curiosity and it was at this point when he decided the shortcut towards adulation from the distaff element lay in the direction of aqua-acrobatics, of the sort only 11 year old boys are capable (or capable of considering to be entertaining) and therefore he engaged in a fusillade of belly-flops, cannonballs, and assorted diving maneuvers which left him considerably worse for wear and, from all indications, not really closer to making a hit with these girls.

I could, of course, pull the lad aside and give him a man-to-man talk but I know it will have no effect whatever. Acting like an idiot to entice girls is something that can only be outgrown* and that only comes with the realization that it's not working.

This sort of realization, incidentally, usually arrives in tandem with the realization of something that does seem to have some positive and desirable result in these endeavors. Embarrassingly for the lad in question -- I know whereof I speak, and let's leave that at that -- the latter realization involves something he had been doing all along but never really bothered to highlight.

Oh, sure, NOS has several advantages I never enjoyed. He is generally considered cooler at 11 than his bookish father was at that same age. He certainly is far handsomer than I was at his age, and more gregarious. He has rather unconventional tastes but yet he likes showcasing them instead of enjoying them solipsistically. He also has infinitely better wardrobe choices than were available to me in the late 1970s; if nothing else, they are far less flammable.

And yet...he persists in acting like an utter goofball before any and all attractive girls that cross his path.

So, in the meantime I am wincing retroactively at the imbecilities in which I engaged at his age AND I get to wince vicariously.

Oy.

-J.

* Many never do, and even they manage to get married...usually more than once.

Posted by Joke at 3:07 PM 5 comments

Thursday, August 14, 2008

This is one of those entries.

There are many times when I sit at my keyboard and I have the entry du jour being juggled by all my synapses and neurons.

Today's entry is of this sort. It involves three of my passions: ardent spirits, brilliant writing and libraries. Four, if you count sleuthwork as one of my passions...which TFBIM does not; rather, she numbers it among my pathologies. But I digress.

You may recall that one of my favorite sorta-journalist/sorta-writers is a guy named David Wondrich. I first ran into his stuff in a now-emasculated* magazine called Drinks. Anyway, a short while back, I got a copy of his very excellent book Imbibe! which details the history of mixology, lingering cheerfully over the lives and careers of a Runyonesque slew of sports, swells, dandies, rogues, bon vivants and other lesser luminaries of the day. (It is VERY highly recommended, especially if you're up to here -- as I am -- with do-gooder, navel gazing "eat local" books.)

The interesting thing about this book is that it posits the rather curious notion that mixology was the first thing at which Americans took the lead, leading even the most Eurocentric scribes of teh day (the day being +/- 1840) to admit that, yes, Americans are a backwoodsian, backwaterish sort who gorge on salt pork and hominy without the slightest chemical trace of elegance, grace, refinement or dignity and whose daily lives are punctuated with the unappealing byproducts of chewing tobacco...but their bartending is peerless and leagues ahead of what may be had in Paris or London.

Of course, Wondrich's prose gives unmatched luster to the subject. His writing style is masculine, but without the stylistic tics of the postmoderns or the bellicosity or "sensitivity" of his priors. It's masculine in a scholarly-yet-boyish sort of way, acknowledging what is sacred and then, gleefully pointing out all those other things which are not sacred.

Even nicer is the array of recipes and their geneology.

So this is when I said to myself: "I really could use another bartending book."

Y'see, I have a few. These can be divvied up into those books which provide practical knowledge and those which are actually readable and nightstand fodder. Of the former, the Williams-Sonoma guide is unparalleled; of the latter any of the old Esquire books from the 1930s will suffice. The problem with these, however, is that many of the recipes are simply out of step with the current thinking in modern dipsomania. Keep in mind, these recipes are from a time when "Fix me a drink." meant, more often than not, "Take a large, tall glass and fill it 1/3 of the way up with rye whiskey and nothing else. Then hand it to me."

So a book with chapters on grogs, flips, punches is not all that practical however entertaining the reading. This led me to say "Oh, why not? I'll get the Esquire book. It's only $15."

Only it's not.

Sure, the price tag may have said $15, but good luck finding it for
less than $40. This is where libraries come in. It seems all the people selling it are hawking ex-library copies. This means the book they are selling for $40+ cost them...what? $1?

As a full-on Adam Smith capitalist I applaud these sellers, but that applause fails to evolve into my showering them with lucre. Just because I don't begrudge the Greater Fool Law means I wish to be said greater fool. Here is where you (especially you library types...you know who you are) come in.

If you see this book at a library sale (what I half-expect Heaven to be like, only with beverages) please let me know.


My mental health thanks you in advance.

-J.

* Anything that I really, really like is in imminent peril of being cancelled, discontinued, altered for the worse, or otherwise ruined. Always.
True story.

Posted by Joke at 1:21 PM 6 comments

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Well, it's new to ME.

One of the weird things about me being a Dad is that, for all the plans and notions and standards I may have, a lot of the time I'm making it up as I go along. Natch, if you sort of stick to general principles, that makes things less difficult.

But sometimes one of my sons does something that is so me that it leaves me bewildered. It is then I remember my mother, in one of the many fits of exasperation for which I was wholly and inexcusably responsible, telling me rather barbedly "I hope one day you have a son just like you!"

Well. Fast forward about 30 years and I'm seated comfortably in my favorite chair and NOS is in his. We each have our laptops out and I can tell, from the background, he is cruising through YouTube. He then asks me a car question and that leads to a brief exchange in which I tout the great Anglo-American hybrid, the Sunbeam Tiger..."you know, NOS, like the one in the Get Smart movie." And I go about my business.

About 5 minutes later I sense that NOS is actually replaying the same video over and over again. It's a trailer from the Get Smart movie.

This one, actually

Only it sounded a bit odd because it turns out that NOS was replaying a segment of the video. As I walked behind-ish him to get to the kitchen I noticed the segment was the one that runs between 1:36 and 1:38.

I'm sunk.

-J.

Labels: , ,


Posted by Joke at 2:29 PM 5 comments

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's the little things.

I really have nothing worth a whole post, but I do have the bloggish equivalent to a zillion sticky notes. So let me declutter.

The Olympics.
Yes, fine, I'm all rah-rah and patriotic when one of my compatriot wins 37 medals and sets 82 world's records. But the fact they are in China really, really, really bothers me. I don't handle communism* well and the whole happy-clappy vibe as they throw dissidents in prison really gets under my skin. When we were off on vacation, I was quite taken with the Holocaust Museum's exhibit on the Nazi Olympics of 1936 and it was, quite pointedly I thought, in English and Chinese.

I have discovered the ultimate healthy eating trick.
As has been addressed before, my work schedule fluctuates with the seasons and, sadly, so does my boyish figure. Try as I might, my genetic predisposition to graze is a force of nature equivalent to a category 12** hurricane.

BUT.

In experimenting with my dental hygiene routine, I discovered there is one mouthwash -- which is riddled with positives, BTW -- that has the craving-sapping side benefit of making EVERYTHING taste like toothpaste. And I mean everything. And for a while, too. It's been four hours and it's still going strong, making my teeth and gums the envy of the civilized world as well as all my fave snacks inexpressively unappetizing.

It's the Crest Pro-Health (alcohol free).

The dreaded phone call.
I have been asked to speak at a conference. The speaking part is not a problem, voluble bastid that I am. It's the attending part.

AND.

To make matters a trillion times worse, it's on the weekend of Sept. 26-27. When we had planned to go up and loiter in Poppyville arrayed in formal garments. So there is no joy there.

Personal growth.
I want to make my own smoked salmon.

Good news.
The counter guy and the cabinet guy will coordinate to see about fitting our kitchen "real soon."

Amazing.
School starts soon. NOS is just realizing there will be NO GIRLS in his class for the next 7 years. We're bracing.

That is all.

-J.

* It's basically socialism -- and we all know my views on THAT -- for psychopaths.

** I made that up. Just go with it.

Posted by Joke at 12:03 PM 8 comments

Monday, August 11, 2008

What? Six only?

Going on this meme thing, here's another.

The lovely and gracious Maddy has tagged me for the "Only Six Quirks" meme. As she bloody well knows, I have impressive, salutary quirks.

Six Rules for Six Quirks:
1. Link the person (s) who tagged you [OK, done]
2. Mention the rules on your blog [OK, done]
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged 6. Wait and see how far it spreads.

I'll have to think of the taggery aspect.

My Quirks

1. I'm fanatical about etymology.
2. I've checked luggage in only TWICE in my adult life. Two times too many, if you ask me.
3. I have never bought a car with an automatic transmission. Even power steering is suspect as a leftist plot.
4. I would drink Kosher-For-Passover Coca-Cola in a blizzard.
5. I agonize about having to wait to go to Confession. Then I agonize about going, until I have gone. Lotta agony there.
6. I can drink espresso and then fall asleep.

[Insert the "I hereby tag..." here.]

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:33 PM 3 comments

Sunday, August 10, 2008

When in doubt, a meme...

Thanks to the lovely and gracious Tere.

This is Me

Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: VERY salt & pepper
--Dyed or Natural: Natural (Dye? MADNESS)
--Curly or Straight: Wavy leaning towards straight. The waviness is tamed via haircuttery.
Right- or Left-handed: Right
Tan or Pale: Pale-ish, but I can tan pretty well
Jeans or Khakis: As I age, khakis.
Country, Rap, or Rock: I rock out
Car: 1992 Alfa Romeo Spider
Place in order of preference--T.V., book, movie, music: Books, Music, Movies,
TV
Your heritage: Spanish & Italian via Cuber
Shoes you're wearing today: White leather Converse Jack Purcell lowtops. I LOVE THESE SHOES
Your weakness(es): Girls who wear eyeglasses and are searing conversationalists. Prosciutto.
Your perfect pizza: Thinnish crust, wood-fired
Favorite color: Midnight blue
Favorite place: The library
Goal you'd like to achieve: To get back to my wedding night weight and stay there.
Your most overused phrase(s): "You are confusing this with a negotiation."
Your thoughts first waking up: "Oh, bloody Hell."
Your best physical feature(s): Smile & shoulders
Your bedtime: 1-2 a.m.
Your most missed memory: Being in my 20s and not realizing what an idiot I was making out of myself
Pepsi or Coke: Kosher-For-Passover Coke (the rest of the world doesn't have to worry about whether real sugar is used in theirs, but here we do)
McDonald's or Burger King: BK
Single or group dates: Single
Adidas or Nike: Avia
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Lipton, but not instant or powdered or canned.
Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate
Cappuccino or coffee: Coffee (Espresso)

DO YOU:
Smoke: No
Cuss: Not around girls
Have a boyfriend/girlfriend: My wife won't let me have a girlfriend
Take a shower: Yes, but I put it back
Have a crush(es): Anne Hathaway
Think you've been in love: Yep. Still think that.
Want to get married: I checked that off my list epochs ago.
Believe in yourself: Uh. Yeah.
Believe in God: Yes
Believe in your government: I don’t believe in any governments, and those people who do scare me $#!+less. Even worse are those who place hope in governments.
Get motion sickness: No.
Think you're attractive: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmyeah.
Think you're a health freak: Not a freak
Get along with your parents: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmyeah…
Like thunderstorms: Only if I'm indoors already

IN THE PAST MONTH, HAVE YOU:
Drank alcohol: Yes
Gone on a date: With my wife
Gone to the mall: No (shudder)
Been on stage: No
Eaten an entire box of Oreos: EW.
Eaten sushi: I've made sushi
Been dumped: No. My wife would never dump me. (Now, shooting me...)
Gone skating: No
Gone skinny dipping: No
Stolen anything: No

HAVE YOU EVER:
Played a game that required removal of clothing: Yes
Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Extremely? Nevah.
Been caught "doing something": Uh, no.
Been called a tease: No
Gotten beaten up: No.
Age you hope to be married: The age I was when I did.
Number of children you'd like: The 2 I've got is nice. I wouldn't necessarily a mind a 3rd.
Describe your dream wedding: Small, intimate, morning wedding. In an old, marble-festooned church. Kinda like the one I had.
What do you want to be when you grow up: Relaxed.

WHAT YOU LIKE IN THE OPPOSITE SEX:
Best eye color?: Whatev.
Best hair color?: Whatev.
Short or long hair: I like shortish hair.
Height: 5’0” or taller
Best first date location: A quiet, slightly foodie-ish restaurant
Best first kiss location: Golf course.

IN THE NUMBERS:
Number of people I could trust with my life: 2
Number of CD's: Extrapolating by my number of binders, 600
Number of piercings: Uh, none.
Number of tattoos: 1. We've been over this.
Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper: 8
Number of scars on my body: 3

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:29 AM 11 comments

Friday, August 08, 2008

Less 80s, more eaties

Last night, after making everyone's eyes roll for a week with repeated playings of Simple Minds and Josie Cotton and other 80s stuff, my TFBIM'd had quite enough and demanded we all go out for Italian food, hoping the generous lashings of Chianti and espresso would make this pass.

Our fave local Italian spot has a spectacular creamy, soft polenta with a light (OK, light-ish) sausage & mushroom ragu. What was killing me was not being able to figure out that little, subtle tangy je ne sais quoi but, after much cogitatin' I have through sheer blind luck, managed to have guessed determined it must be something in the creme fraiche family. Assiduous readers will recall I like making* my own, so this is a good development.

Now, I'm adamant that in this context the polenta must be served bubblingly hot. Otherwise it firms up as the gelatinized starch cells congeal [insert Alton Brown-ish explanation here] and while that is lovely, it's wrong for this thing here. Therefore, cook it last, but if you insist, you can reheat it with some additional dairy...but it won't be quite as nice.

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Lemon juice
Unsalted butter
Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Asiago or Pecorino Romano

2 c. chicken stock (NO bouillion, and if you must used store-bought, try the aseptic-packed low-sodium kind)
1 c. creme fraiche (you could use sour half & half -- sometimes, perplexingly, called lowfat sour cream)
1 c. whole milk (2% will be okay)
1 c. polenta (I like coarse ground in this application)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
¼ lb cremini mushrooms (button mushrooms are OK)
¾ lb hot or sweet Italian sausage, in whatever combination you prefer...I like ½ lb hot & ¼ lb sweet, but you do whatev.

Put a thin film of EVOO in a large non-stick skillet and heat over med. high heat until smimmering (but not, DUH, smoking) and then brown sausages. Try to roll them around and brown as much of the exterior as your patience will permit, the more browning, the better. Throw in a ¼ c. of water and let the sausages cook through and the water evaporates...figure 8-10 minutes.


Fish out the sausage and when cool enough to handle, slice 'em diagonally. (Presentation, people!)

Take the creminis, and if you want a slightly posher look, cut the stem flush and then slice in half. Mince one clove of garlic finely. Strip the needles from one index finger-length rosemary sprig and mince finely. (Rosemary can overpower the Hell out of anything, so be careful.)
Take the pan where the sausage cooked, and bring it back up to a med. high heat, and if you have less than 2 T. of drippings left, add a EVOO and/or butter to compensate. When the lipid in question is shimmering, add the mushrooms, one 3-finger pinch of sea salt, a couple of grinds of pepper and 1 t. of the rosemary. Sauté until mushrooms start to exude water +/- 5-6 minutes. Throw in the garlic and continue for another minute.

Add a ladleful (about ¼ c.) of stock and simmer. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 3-5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Grate up a cup of the cheese. Put your plates to warm (I use my toaster oven on "low") because that will keep your polenta from seizing up.

In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup stock and 1 cup milk and bring to a simmer. Slowly add in the polenta while whisking nonstop. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring all the while. When it looks thickened and cooked add the creme fraiche, 1 T. butter, the cheese and a teeny squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve right immediately, if at all possible.
Put the mushrooms and sausage back into the same pan and reheat. Deglaze the pan with a tiny splash of milk. This will also help make a TINY bit of a sauce. Add a tiny splash of lemon juice. Put the polenta on plate and make a little "volcano" then add your sausage and mushrooms on top. Drizzle with a really nice EVOO and serve right away.
-J.

* 50-50 of full organic sour cream (lowfat is OK) and full organic yog(h)urt (whichever fat content suits you) mixed and left out, covered, overnight. Sorry, Gina...wherever you are.

All photos courtesy of NOS and birthday-gift camera.


Posted by Joke at 11:14 PM 3 comments

Thursday, August 07, 2008

So I was thinking...

Yesterday I had a microscopic work crisis that required my sprinting out a couple of hours by car to deliver some papers in person. Being the clevah boy I am, I had one of those cassette adapters (keep in mind my fleet of cars is ancient) and I plugged in my MP3 list and went away on down the road.

Now, y'see, since there has been something of an 80s thing going on of late (courtesy of the lovely and gracious H&B and Stomper) I was merrily listening to the same stuff I was 20something years ago. Which was good. Here's what happens, though, when you have a couple of uninterrupted hours each way on an emptyish stretch of interstate highway. You start to think.

The seed had been planted ovah at Badger's and I noticed that, dammit, just about every third song reminded me of some ex or another. When you're happily married (as TFBIM has demanded me to be) you don't really call to mind all those times you were 22 (or 21, or 24) and miserable that It Didn't Work Out But We Can Still Be Friends (IDWOBWCSBF).

That said, it could have been worse. In my youth (Father William replied to his son) I once had a double date that went over a cliff in flaming splinters when my friend Z's date was delayed, it turns out, because she was overlong in her car. Weeping. Something she did a lot of, apparently. Not that anyone could (or would) give me a cogent reason why this might be such a desirable hobby in which to engage...but there you are.

Some songs remind me of IDWOBWCSBF, not because of anything more complicated than said song would simply NOT GET OFF THE RADIO at the time. Slap on another 25 years and all I can think about when I hear "Canary In A Coalmine" is the girl who eventually became a [cough] "telephone actress" even though she was quite prim and proper way back when.

The good thing about looking back at being young and miserable when you are almost middle-aged and happy (I was going to type "smug" but in my case, hubris breeds nemesis, so I desisted) is that when a song, say (The Politics of Dancing by Re-Flex) is over you forget about Idiot X and you bounce along merrily until four songs later when you hear another (oh, for example Dancing In Berlin by Berlin) and your mind glides back to Idiot Y, and so the long day wears on.

And.

Next thing you know, you're back home.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:21 AM 10 comments

Monday, August 04, 2008

Admit it, you were wondering...


...when the Hell this would show up.

You're welcome.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 4:18 PM 3 comments

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Oh, what the Hell. Me too.

It seems everyone is giving away stuff in order to boost readership of his or her blog. Why should I be any different, then?

I can give stuff away.

No problem.

In FACT. I'll give something away to EVERYONE who posts his/her email address in the combox in the next 24 hours. (Anyone chiming in after that your odds are good but not guaranteed. I only have half a box of these.)

A nice, BRAND NEW paperclip. Made of high-tensile strength 4340 stainless steel, with knurled undersides, it is ideal for grasping securely multiple sheets of paper without -- get this -- perforating them. The high malleability of this aerospace-grade steel item makes it possible to grasp multiple papers and also allows to be reshaped to its original configuration. This is because the clip has been forged to approximate shape and then, after cryogenic and repeated heat-treatment phases to reach optimal grain orientation, it's machined to its final shape, stress-relieved, shot-peened and magnafluxed.

Furthermore, it has been coated with a flexible, moistureproof layer of polyvinyl chloride, in a vivid red, This way the paperclip may never rust AND the reams of papers (you'll be using this little beauty a LOT) you've affixed securely therewith may be easily located. It can be yours just for posting your email address in this combox.


So get right on that, OK?

-J.


Posted by Joke at 10:57 PM 12 comments

Friday, August 01, 2008

On the cutting room floor


Mixwit

The lovely & gracious H&B asked for the stuff* I left out of the previous mix tape. So here it is. (You've been warned.)

-J.

* The penultimate track is The Neighborhoods' "No Place Like Home" and the last one is "Hey Now" by New Order...for some reason this is not showing up correctly.


Posted by Joke at 11:54 PM 5 comments

Inappropriate crushes: An update.

Anne Hathaway.

Funny. Catholic. Preppy. Reads Ayn Rand. (I can't stand Ayn Rand, but I have a soft spot for girls who do.) In fact, my Inappropriate Crush is so strong, I'm willing to overlook the fact she was in a deadly tedious movie about gay shepherds.

As you were.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:57 PM 3 comments