Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween.

I know it’s not the time for it, but this is where I would like to be today. Europe’s largest urban mall opened today in London, and all my favorites and more are located together under one roof. I can’t imagine it will ever replace the pleasure of popping into the shops along the various high streets, but it looks pretty fabulous all the same. I fully plan to devote an afternoon to its exploration on my next visit in 2030 or whenever I next swing it.

I know I haven’t posted here for a few weeks, but hopefully you’ve been reading Rocky Mountain Liberal, my other blog. I’ve managed to be pretty prolific over there; what on earth will I do when the election is over? Hopefully I won’t be crying into my cups over being forced to live through another Republican administration, in which case I will still have plenty to write about but it will probably just sound whiny and defeated.

So it’s Halloween, in case you haven’t noticed. Eeyore is still small enough that we won’t be taking him trick or treating this year, but we will probably at least dress him up for answering the door for others. His “costume” isn’t much – my stepmother bought him some little mini-scrubs at the hospital where my dad had his recent heart surgery (he’s doing great) that say “Doctor in Training” on the back. He happens to own some of those revolting Crocs, which I did not buy him, and since hospital workers often wear them so they can just hose off the blood and guts, so shall he.

I’ll be sure to post a picture of him, as well as of the “Eternal Forest Tree Bark” I made for a Halloween party at work today. The recipe for this ghoulish delight came to me in a dream, but I can’t say the taste lives up to what I had imagined. It’s basically peppermint bark, but I used food color to tint the white chocolate orange, then instead of candy cane shards I used toffee bits. The whole thing is a little much, really, but the point was pretty much just to have something orange, and at that I succeeded. I’m sure it will all be eaten, since anything anyone ever makes and sets out on a table at work unfailingly is gobbled down. Even weird vegan shit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cooking for Two.

I had read that a way to keep spice in your marriage is to do things together that are outside your regular routine. So last night, R. and I went on a date to a cooking class. As we drove over, we both sighed that we wished we were just going out to dinner and then back to watch some TV – a sign that doing something different was definitely a good idea. As we parked, we could see that the brightly lit kitchen where we were heading was full of people milling about:

Kate: “Yuck.”

R.: “Look at all those people. Do we have to talk to them?”

Kate: “No way, man, we’re on a date; let’s just talk to each other.”

R.: “Why are we doing this?”

But we walked in, got our menus and sat down, and proceeded to have a most excellent time. Not only did we learn a new cooking method, a patented process called “Glorious One-Pot Meals,” but I discovered that what I had read about romance was true. R. looked, well, hot with his messy haircut, gray long john t-shirt, jeans and an apron. I liked watching him get into preparing our dish, chopping garlic and tomatoes and brushing olive oil on baguette slices for the crostini. I especially liked seeing him relaxed and distracted from the awful economic news of the last few weeks, which has consumed our household like a flesh-eating bacteria.

As the night went on, I found myself hanging all over him like a lovestruck teenager; grabbing his elbow or sticking my face in his for a quick peck. And hey, so what if as soon as we got home he fell asleep without so much as a kiss good night for me; the benefit of doing something different was clear.

Aside from the lovey-dovey aspect of the evening, the next best thing was the class itself. First, the instructor was awfully cute and engaging as she described this method of cooking she had come up with in response to the discovery at age 29 that she had multiple sclerosis. She decided that one of the best ways to combat it was to eat as healthily as possible, but with no nutrition background she had no idea how to do that. Nor did she have any time to make extensive meals. One night she decided to just throw a bunch of ingredients into a Dutch oven, stick it in the oven at 450°, and let it cook. 45 minutes later she took it out of the oven, and saw that everything was cooked perfectly. She experimented with this way of cooking for awhile, and basically learned that this was a whole new method of cooking– so she patented it.

We made several recipes with her process, but the basic idea is that you take a protein, vegetables and a carb, and whatever herbs, spices, etc. that you want, layer them in a 2 quart, cast iron Dutch oven in their whole state (just cleaned, trimmed and scrubbed, or cut up if you want), then stick them in a fully pre-heated 450° oven. Exactly 45 minutes later, everything is cooked perfectly. Strangely, this is apparently even true if the meat or vegetables you are using are frozen.

I was definitely skeptical about the whole thing, but every single recipe we made was excellent. We made a ginger-citrus chicken dish, honey spiced pork, eggplant parmesan, a Portuguese shrimp dish with quinoa, edamame and tomatoes, a sausage and polenta dish – even a chocolate, coconut and hazelnut bread pudding. What was neat about all the dishes is that the ingredients didn’t seep into each other to make a big, messy stew, but instead stayed separate while still infusing everything with the flavors of all the ingredients. And SO easy: you just clean and assemble everything, toss it in the pot, and there you go. The only thing you really need to make sure of is that your oven is exactly 450°, which apparently is often an issue.

I immediately reserved her current cookbook from the library, and if the dishes continue to turn out well at home, then I’ll order her new cookbook when it comes out in January.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Idle Thoughts.

Most of you kids are probably too young to remember a time when Neil Diamond was played on the radio as more than an example of an oldie, but indeed there was such a time. Now, I’ve never been a particular fan of Neil Diamond, but when I was little my dad certainly was. Neil was always crooning from my father’s turntable, or from the 8-track in the car. I was reminded of Mr. Diamond today when someone sent me a note to say he is on a world tour and that surely I would be going. And… no, but it did remind me of a cheesy story. When I was 6 or 7 years old, for a talent show at school a friend and I did some sort of ridiculous tumbling routine to "Lonely Looking Sky" or whatever it’s called from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. We hadn't really planned it out that well so it was this sort of interminable few minutes of little girls doing somersaults to music on a stage in front of an awful lot of people. I cringe to think about it, but at the same time it sounds kind of sweet and innocent – more so than the idea of today’s little girls shaking their money-makers along with Miley Cyrus.

Speaking of work, as I was rather peripherally, it bugs the shit out of me when someone walks in to my office and walks over behind my desk. My office is set up so that I face the door, so it’s quite an invasion of space to join me behind my desk. There is one person at work who does it every time she comes in, and I’m getting so irritated by it I’m almost ready to say something to her. The only other person I can remember ever doing that to me was a young guy at one of my old law firms, who not only came around behind my desk, but tried to give me a shoulder rub. I told him to get his hands off me, and that was that. I wasn’t the only person he acted that way with, however, and not surprisingly he was canned. I’m not suggesting this woman needs to be canned, but she does need to stay away from my frigging desk.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Life Goes On.

A lot of small things have been going on in my small life:

1. I went to Florida for the weekend to visit my dad. He had open heart surgery about three weeks ago, and he is doing great. I don’t know what I was expecting when I walked in the door, but I was scared he wouldn’t look like himself. I was secretly expecting him to look older, thinner, frail; vulnerable. But I walked into the room, and he stood up from his chair, looking just like his same old self, and gave me a hug. Not a bear hug, mind you, as he is more than tentative about anyone getting near his scar, but enough of one that I felt overwhelming relief.

While in Florida, I was able to have lunch with our blogging friend, Broady. We had a very nice visit, and I even found time to have lunch on a balcony overlooking the water in St. Augustine. That’s the second time in 2 months we’ve been able to hang out, so not bad for living across the country from one another!

2. There have been layoffs at my job, and it has been unpleasant and upsetting. People I know pretty well were let go.

3. I got a new car. In the interest of downsizing, I traded in my 2006 Audi wagon for a 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe. I got it “used,” with a whopping 2100 miles on it. It even still smells new. Basically, the only difference between it and a new car is that someone else took the depreciation hit on it for me. I can’t believe it, but I actually like it better than my Audi, and my car payment is HALF of what it was for the Audi.

4. I’ve been tending to this. As you can see, he is in something of a stage.