Thursday, December 28, 2006

It's always over too quickly

Wow, is it that time of year again? Why yes, it is! It’s time for Post-Holiday Disappointment, Shame, and Remorse. Disappointment when you opened a box containing a tarnished “Almost Gold” rope necklace your cousin found in his attic and re-gifted to you…Shame for getting drunk and loudly mocking giant inflatable lawn ornaments in front of your aunt only to learn of her fondness for, and judicious installation of, giant inflatable lawn ornaments in her own front yard… Remorse for wrapping a half-empty bottle of Avon Skin-So-Soft and giving it to your grandma.

No, those things really didn’t happen to me this Christmas, but I wish they had, because they would have been sort of funny and given me something interesting to write about.

My holiday season was kind of like a Hallmark card: cheery, only a little nauseating, but ultimately, a bit stiff. I say "stiff" because I pulled (or ripped, it really seems more like a complete rip) an important-feeling muscle in my lower back the night before a three-day celebration bender with family, much of which entailed riding in automobiles with poor shocks, excessive bending, impossible twisting, carrying of heavy packages, and repeated lifting of a chubby, wriggling, barking dog.

No, I have little reason for remorse, shame, or disappointment this holiday season. I received everything I wanted: a new teakettle, a decorative outdoor thermometer, good health despite consuming an excess of dairy, heart-warming new memories with friends and family (even though we arrived at my grandma’s after the drinking game had ended), and firm reassurance that my own moral compass is well-calibrated. All that last one took was a reading of Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

Ladies? Mothers? Sisters in arms? Married or single? Don’t worry, there’s something here for everyone. For those of you with husbands, this book will help you fall in love with yours all over again and bring you to your knees to thank the merciful lord that you are not single and running into men like Mr. Max in bars. For you single women, let this book serve as a warning, perhaps a roadmap that will help you forge a battle plan should you run into a character like this.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In other news, I finished Amy Sedaris’s book. Does she have an official fan club? Because I want to join. Not only that, but I want to run for president of that fan club. I didn’t even mind that my back screamed in agony every time I laughed. It was worth it. Buy this book, savor it, and make yourself a Fuck-it Bucket and an eye burrito.

Sidenote: did you know that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was conceptualized and funded in 1965 by the Coca-Cola Company? My reaction to this news was to cast my eyes skyward, jaded and disillusioned, and utter, “A crummy commercial?”

And finally, a special thank you to Tammie for the key lime pie recipe AND the key limes. (How awesome is that?!?! Key limes direct from the sunshine state from a very cool blogger!) Unfortunately, I took this as a cue to attempt a meringue topping, which began to sweat brown droplets of sugary condensation and slide off the entire surface of the pie in a most unappealing manner after a few hours in the fridge, so I didn’t take a picture of it. It still tasted like Mardi Gras, fitting into your skinny jeans, and the last day of school combined.

Which is to say, GREAT.

PS: scone recipes from the last post coming soon!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bake it Like a Polaroid Picture

This weekend I caught Betty Crocker fever. It differs from the Fever for the Flavor for a Pringle only in this: you must create—through a highly scientific combination of flavorful ingredients and careful, timed heat application—the calorie-dense morsels you crave.

Anyway, welcome to my holiday baking post. I call it “Scones, scones, scones, scones, SCONES!” (sung to the melody of Sisqo’s “Thong, tha-thong-tha-THONG!”)

I even have photographic evidence that I was Martha Stewarting it all over the kitchen. Behold, MY SCONES!

No, these are not triangular omelettes. They are freshly baked orange cranberry scones, recipe courtesy of Starbucks.

Cherry Cream, right from the oven. Yes, the cherries look like lesions. But I can assure you--they most certainly do not taste like lesions.

(Chocolate-almond in Extreme Close-up Mode. Four eggs, people. And whole cream.)

(Lemon-Poppyseed. And please, get your m ind out of the gutter. That's ICING.
Note two missing scones with icing-like chalk outline. This serves to indicate deliciousness. And mayhem.)

The Cajones of these Scones. Full of calcium, good for bones! My favorite Monkee? Davy Jones!

(God help me, the rhyming! I can’t turn it off!!)

Lest you believe this baking frenzy was the result of a head injury resulting from a smash to the face with a metal folding chair sustained via my new weekend hobby of amateur cage wrestling*, I should fess up that not only were these bastards easy to make (easier than cookies? Yes, loyal and clever reader, easier than cookies. Way.), but they are also gifts.

(Hey, officemates reading this: Guess what you’re getting!!!)

I’m happy to share recipes with anyone interested. But if you ask my taste buds, the almond-chocolate chip and cherry cream scones would win first prize in a Best Path to Large Hips competition.

And finally, for those of you curious about that mysterious Tom & Jerry beverage I invoked last week, here’s photographic evidence that I wasn’t messing with you (though I also find that to be mighty enjoyable).

Here it is!!! The legendary plastic tub of ...

... frozen egg goo!!! Note the critical ingredient I finally caved in and purchased, in the assist.
No, it's not the bag of C & H sugar. That asshole totally snuck into the shot.

And here you have it. The Tom and Jerry winter beverage, seconds before being sent on its merry way to my lower intestines.
Yes, that is freshly grated nutmeg because I'm kind of controlling about these kinds of things.
Thus, mealtime with my Children of Christmas Future should be fun and trouble-free.
Don't you think the five eggs add a nice, festive touch?

This is probably going to be my last post until after Christmas, since I’ll be strapping myself into a fun ride called Three Days of Celebrating with Friends and Family. So until next time, happy holiday of choice!

PS to my dear scone recipients: should you find a dog hair, or curly longish brown hair in your scone, I accept full and complete responsibility. That shit can happen when you bake without a hair net and your dog looks like a mop and sheds like a late-spring dandelion.

* An intentional entry in my quest to write the sentence containing the most prepositional phrases.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Post to Defenestrate

Here’s a tip I wish I knew in school: if you write something ridiculous, there is a 79% chance your instructor will bring it home, read it aloud to his family, and they will choke on their Chex Mix laughing at your expense.

My Dad recently read us some of his students’ responses to various writing assignments, and because I have a mildly impaired sense of decency, I’m going to recycle them and share them with you. Mostly because my job can be about as exciting as a trip to Carpetland, and nobody wants to hear that noise.

Let us begin with one student’s take on 9-11. Remember, these are college freshmen:

“My mom always said, ‘you’ll always remember where you were when you heard the news of 9-11…’ I still remember. I was in fashion / interior design class and my teacher was like, ‘a plane hit the world trade center’ and she had the radio on and I was thinking, ‘what the hell is the world trade center?’”

But wait! There’s more:

“Things I’ve learned so far in college (an assignment): If your roommate is annoying, defenestrate them in September. In February, they are thirty pounds heavier.”

(‘Defenestrate,’ which means “to throw out of a window,” was the vocabulary word of the day.)

And, another:

“My favorite oxymoron is ‘rap music.’”

I like that kid’s style. Now here’s another student’s response to a journal assignment:

“What is the real meaning of life? Fuck if I know. I’m only 18. Life seems like a waste of time.”

And my favorite:

“Today was an amazing day. I’m not pregnant.”

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Yes Virginia, Reality IS Often a Pale Imitation of our Fantasies!

Though I’d recently stocked the house with Christmas knick-knacks and swag, I wasn’t feeling the ol’ holiday cheer until yesterday, when we put up our tree. (I was going to say, “erected” the tree, but I didn’t think the baby Jesus would approve.)

Here’s a photo of the end result, although I’m not sure I’m in love with this year's theme of "hodge-podge of totally unrelated items:"

Every year I have visions of decorating the tree while It’s a Wonderful Life glows in schmaltzy black and white glory in the background, or maybe I’m listening to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas CD--the gold standard for holiday music as far as I’m concerned. As one who worked retail (TOY retail) for seven Christmases past, I know my holiday music, and I have very strong opinions of such. The hippopotamus Christmas song? Akin to having knitting needles plunged repeatedly into my ear canals while being force-fed head cheese in the ninth circle of hell. (I have the same visceral reaction to Elton John’s best-known Christmas ditty—and I like Elton John.)

Back to my decorating fantasy. In these holiday visions, I’m sipping a delectable eggnog or piping hot Tom & Jerry when I take a break from draping lights on the tree. Large, fluffy snowflakes tumble outside the window. A cheerful fire crackles in the fireplace, and J and I share memories, chuckling fondly at tales of Christmases past.

Now let’s look at what really happened. Listless brown snowbanks melted into the gutters outside. My vision of crackling flames will have to wait until we either move to a home that has a fireplace or we decide to burn the kitchen table and chairs. The television was tuned to Comedy Central, which was running back-to-back episodes of Reno 911. It’s no Christmas Carol or Miracle on 34th Street, but it was a step above Christmas 1988, when my brother, sister, and I decorated the tree while watching Deliverance. (Nothing sets sugar plums a-dancing in your head like having “Squeeeeal like a pig!” on a horrific mind-loop before bedtime.)

I did pour myself a glass of eggnog in my futile attempt to capture that elusive craft-magazine Christmas vibe: Southern Comfort “Vanilla Spice,” which tasted like a glutinous, throat-constricting batter of pancake mix, corn syrup, and artificially-flavored vanilla pudding. My taste buds wept inconsolably until I promised to whip up a Tom & Jerry. We’d actually purchased a tub of the frozen drink base earlier in the day, but since I'm kind of cheap, I decided against buying one of the key ingredients (brandy) because, “We have a whole bottle of rum at home. It’ll taste fine with just that.”

So I poured boiling water into a mug containing a tablespoon of frozen Tom & Jerry mix and added some rum. Well, a lot of rum. To make up for the missing brandy. I whisked the mix into a frothy approximation of delight and grated some fresh nutmeg on top.

How did it taste? Hmm. Have you ever tasted sweetened nail polish remover? Neither have I, but I’m pretty sure it would taste like my Tom & Jerry last night. My dear husband, who felt our alliance had been tainted when I admitted to hating the pancake batter eggnog that he just had a religious experience over, could only smile smugly and say, “I knew it would taste like crap.”

Sadly, I drank half of it—stubbornly—before my digestive system raised the white flag.

There’s a show on right now about a guy trying to survive in the wilderness on snakes, beetles and twigs. This is my cue to write out Christmas cards, so I’ve got to run.

May your decorating, shopping, wrapping, card-writing, and baking be merry. If you need help, here’s a cheery picture of Donna Reed to get you in the holiday mood.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Do I Smell Old to You?

I turned another year older this weekend. It sort of snuck up on me, and the next thing I knew, I was being held hostage by the Specter of Old Age. It held a gun to my head with one liver-spotted hand, breathing hot old-person smell down my neck, threatening to change every CD in my car to “Now That’s What I Call Christmas, Volume 3!” or Josh Groban’s latest stool softener if I didn’t face facts: I am one year older and have no business wearing short skirts, ironic T-shirts, or Winnie the Pooh footy pajamas. An alarm will blare should I feel an urge to watch MTV, eat extremely sour candy, or say “Dude.”

Note the first piece of evidence in my compendium of aging: the presence of Flintstones-era CDs in my car, as opposed to the more Jetsonian iPod.

Now, I hardly had to look at the calendar yesterday to know I was officially a year older. I merely had to examine the evidence in the Specter’s dossier on my gradual cellular breakdown:

Exhibit A: As of one week ago, I own a compost tumbler. Because this is not an item I would have owned at age 22, I feel it’s safe to present as further evidence that I am getting funky-old.

Exhibit B: I got my first skin tag last week. It arrived to coincide with my birthday, of that I’m convinced. So in denial was I that I concluded it was simply a zit. Picking ensued. And now what do I have? A bloody skin tag. Thanks, Specter of Old Age.

Exhibit C: I recently purchased my first pair of binoculars, and they’re not for spying on the neighbors. They’re actually for bird watching.

Well, okay, maybe just a little spying on the neighbors.

But the birthday itself was fun. I celebrated with both friends and family and stuffed my face three days in a row. Let the post-binge remorse begin! I don't yet have a baby formed with my own DNA, but I have one helluva food baby made from ice cream cake.

Hey Star Wars fans (how’s that for an abrupt shift in topic?), here’s something fun: this was filmed at one of my favorite Wisconsin grocery stores, Willy Street Coop in Madison. I think I enjoyed episode three the most.

Finally, if the blog is quiet for a few days, it means I am either suffering from a work-related neurotic episode or working on my next novel. Mostly, it’s the latter. I’m trying to write from two very different alternating points of view, and it’s making me feel schizophrenic. It also sucks the clever out of me, so most of my original or mildly entertaining thinking is being diverted at the moment. At least it seems entertaining at the time, and especially after a few glasses of wine. So I could be wrong.