Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hi. I know it’s practically Wednesday, but how was your weekend?

Mine was pretty good, thanks.

M and I went out for a much-anticipated dinner on Saturday night, a belated Valentine’s thing. The dinner was much-anticipated because we’ve been doing some serious penny-pinching and this was the first nice dinner we’d allowed ourselves in quite a while. Also, the chef will soon be leaving for another restaurant and we wanted to go one last time before that happens.

I have a Thing about going out for dinner on V-day, because the restaurants are usually mob scenes (crowds are not my thing) and the bisque comes with a little cream heart floating on top (which really annoys me for some reason), and because of the aforementioned mob scene your waiter barely has time to speak to you (very inconvenient).

And catering to my avoidance of all things mobby, we rejected the weekends before and after V-day, too. So! The 24th it was.

I wore a new dress, a black drapey number with three-quarter sleeves, a sash, and a plunging neckline. "Plunging" as in I really should have invested in some double-sided tape, if only I knew where the fuck to find some. I had to make due with adjusting the fabric every time I inhaled.

After we sat down I looked at the wine list (first things first) and then went to the restroom. When I came back there was a pair of purple sunglasses sitting on my folded napkin.

I’d first spotted the glasses in an outlet store three weeks ago. The love was immediate, as I seem to have a thing for purple glasses. But after admiring them for a while I said, “No one needs a pair of purple sunglasses.” and put them back. Well, M thought I did need them.

(He was so right. I’ve already been in several situations in which purple sunglasses were critical to my survival. Details to come.)

On Sunday we had a surprise snow storm and I spent part of my day cooking. For lunch we had a tuna casserole and carrots and broccoli with shallots and parsley, and for dinner, a delicious tomato-lentil soup with carrots, brown rice, and spinach. All recipes from the newest mouth-watering Magnolia Bakery cookbook. Not only do I love the recipes, but I also love the pictures of Alyssa Torey’s dogs and house so much that I’m giving serious consideration to stalking her.

The non-cooking portions of the day were spent watching movies.

The line-up:

Little Miss Sunshine
LOVED. Loved this movie. Loved the ending. I want to kidnap Abigail Breslin and take her to live with me in Alyssa Torey’s house.

The Departed

Surprisingly, I liked this one a lot, except for all the blood. But I’ve watched five seasons’ worth of the Sopranos, so I’m not really a gratuitous violence virgin. Bonus: cute boys with Boston accents.

M was slightly annoyed because with all the talk of rats I naturally thought of the When Harry Met Sally scene in which Sally says to Harry, “Is one of us supposed to be a DOG in this scenario?” and then, in disbelief, “I am the dog? I AM THE DOG?”. So whenever Matt Damon appeared I'd growl, “I am the rat? I AM THE RAT?". Apparently this gets old after a while, especially since Matt Damon is in practically every scene.

I also have a well-documented obsession with trying to imitate the accents of people on TV, so there was that annoyance, too. “We need moah back-up! Get the cah! OH MY GAD, YOU AH THE RAT!”

M: For the love of Alyssa Torey, PLEASE STOP TALKING.

The Science of Sleep
I’ll admit that I fell asleep for what was probably a very critical 35-minute chunk, but I didn’t get this one. Sorry.

When the movie marathon finally came to an end my eyes were blurry and I’d forgotten how to read. I’ve taken to wearing the purple sunglasses all the time, even inside. I need to protect whatever eyesight I have left. Plus, this way Alyssa Torey won't be able to tell when I'm watching her.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

As my grandpappy, Old Reliable, used to say...

(Just a hunch: I need to spend less time with my dog and more time with, you know, human people.)

This morning I made it to work with minimal traffic pains, much to my delight. Oh, I'll pay for it this afternoon, as Friday evening rush hours are always their own special kind of hell, but I'll take what I can get.

I sat down at my desk, turned on my computer, and checked my voice mail.

A loaf of freshly-baked pumpkin bread (a gift from one of our favorite patrons) was still perched on a table near my desk (although considerably smaller in size than it was yesterday), its pleasing, spicy aroma still draping the room.

Suddenly I stopped.

Sniff, sniff.

Through the haze of nutmeg and cinnamon, beyond the comfortable smell of book glue and old paper, there drifted the faintest scent of…


Sniff sniff sniff...

Follow your nose! Toucan Sam sang in my head as I sniffed under my keyboard, behind my phone, and in the pockets of my sweater.


Pushing my chair back, I dropped to the floor.

Sniff sniff sniff...

In the empty trash can, behind the power cables, around the CPU.

Sniff sniff sniff...

And suddenly, EUREKA!

A single Milano cookie, pale and afraid, hid in the dark shadows under my desk.

Plucking it from the carpet, I sank to my knees in satisfaction.

Ha! I gloated. That’s some nose I’ve got!

And then it occurred to me. Last night I observed my dog doing... sort of... kind of... okay, the exact same thing.

He'd sniffed steadily across the rug, onto the couch, and between the cushions until he'd found his prize: a piece of stale old popcorn. Upon discovery Alex had wagged his stumpy tail, obviously pleased with his superior olfactory ability, and then settled on the rug to enjoy his morsel of a prize.

I looked at the Milano in my hand.



I didn’t eat the cookie. I swear.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Good Reason to Make Sure Instant Messenger is Turned Off When There is Any Possible Chance That Someone Else Will Be Looking at Your Monitor:

I'm at my desk, showing a colleague how to use one of our online databases. Suddenly, my IM box pops into view:

You have a new message from ERECTION HELPER.

Do I:

a) Try to act as though there is nothing inappropriate about the message I just received

b) Suffer major betrayal by my body as my face turns flaming Hawaiian-sunburn red

c) A and B

Donald Trump says: YOU'RE FIRED.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Can you hear me now?

My husband and I used to share a cell phone.

It was really old, and roughly the size and weight of a breadbox. Old Faithful lived in my purse, since I had the longest commute and was more likely to need it if I had car trouble (you know, like that one time when my car totally broke down and yes, I had the phone, but not a single other damn person seemed to be answering theirs). But theoretically, the phone was supposed to be helpful in situations like that.


So a few months ago we decided to bite the bullet and get TWO new phones, one for each of us. (I had trouble deciding which word to emphasize there, since both TWO and NEW were terribly exciting at the time)

The new phones were so wee and adorable, and suddenly I understood the purpose of all those mysterious, rectangle-shaped pockets in my purses (I thought they were cigarette holders). I now know that those pockets are absolutely vital, for these phones are so teensy that you might lose them forever in the depths of your hobo bag. Of course, if you and your partner each have a phone then you can use his phone to locate your phone (which is usually right there in the cigarette holder, duh).

Having two phones is great, because now we can reach each other anytime we want and most of the time, I love this.

Most of the time.

Did you know that my husband does the grocery shopping on Sundays? This is fabulous, since I hate fighting the weekend crowds at the grocery store. Together we plan the meals for the week, then I make out a detailed list that presents the items in the order in which they appear in the store:

Produce (regular and organic)
Organic frozen and dry goods
Dairy I (milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt)
Canned/dry goods
Baking supplies
Cleaning supplies
Dairy II (coffee creamer, cream cheese, butter)
Frozen foods

If I need any unusual ingredients, or things I know M won’t recognize, I point them out and provide any necessary explanation before he leaves. Like, “I need Japanese eggplant, which will probably be near the regular eggplant, but it’s longer and skinnier.”

Occasionally, despite our planning, he’d hit a grocery dilemma. After hemming and hawing for a while, he’d be forced to make an decision that would turn out to be either brilliant or disastrous. Like the time the store was out of baguette and so he decided to get a loaf of Italian, because bread is bread, right?


Joan Crawford: No Italian bread, EVER!!!!!

Now that we have two cell phones, M is able to call me anytime he encounters anything suspicious, confusing, or noteworthy in the grocery store. Here's a taste of last Sunday's expedition:

Call #1: The blow-by-blow

M: Hi, it’s me!

Liz: Hi!

M: I just wanted to tell you that I just now got to the grocery store.


M: Because I had to go to Petsmart first, and there was a long line.

Liz: Okay, thanks for letting me know.

M: I’m parking… right…. now…

Liz: Well, I’ll let you go, then.

M: I got a good parking space!

Liz: Great! I have to go.

Call #2: I was voted Cabbage Monitor for three consecutive weeks in third grade!

M: Do you really need three pounds of cabbage?

Liz: Is that what I wrote on the list?

M: Yes.

Liz: Then that’s what I really need.

M: Isn’t that a lot of cabbage?

Liz: I could have asked for 10 pounds. By comparison, three pounds isn’t that much.

M: You’re right.

Liz: Thank you.

Call #3: Sweet Potato Watch 2007

M: The sweet potatoes aren’t looking so good.

Liz: Oh?

M: Yeah. They’re downright nasty.

Liz: What a shame.

Call #4: Just pick one.

M: What kind of onions do you want?

Liz: Any kind is fine.

M: Red?

Liz: Anything BUT red.

M: I’m glad I called, then.

Liz: When I need red onions, I always specify RED ONIONS. If I don’t specify, any yellow-type onion is fine.

M: Vidalia, or Yellow?

Liz: Vidalia is fine.

M: There are Spanish onions, too.


Call #5: CSI Cornmeal

M: There’s no cornmeal.

Liz: What?

M: There isn’t any cornmeal.

Liz: Do you mean that you see a place on the shelf that says ‘Cornmeal’, but there isn’t any there? Or you just don’t see cornmeal anywhere?

M: I don’t see it anywhere.

Liz: I’m positive that the store carries cornmeal.

M: Uh…

Liz: Where are you?

M: I’m in front of the breadcrumbs.

Liz: Cornmeal is in the baking aisle.

M: But it’s crumby, like breadcrumbs.

Liz: Yes, but it’s in the baking aisle.

M: We’ll just see about that…



Liz: Are you in the baking aisle yet?

M: Well, I’ll be darned.

Liz: Cornmeal is used for baking. Breadcrumbs are like… filler, or a topping.

M: I have to go now.

Liz: So do I.

Call #6: Either way, we’ll probably have simultaneous heart attacks.

M: Do you want fat-free or regular cream of mushroom soup?

Liz: Do they have reduced sodium?

M: Regular. Or fat-free.

Liz: Yes, but is either of those available in reduced sodium?

M: What’s more important to you, sodium or fat?

Liz: Sodium.

M: Okay, I’ll get the full-fat reduced sodium.


Call #7: Maybe we’ll just have high blood pressure.

M: Wait, there’s no full-fat reduced sodium, only reduced-fat, reduced-sodium.

Liz: Even better.

Call #8: The package isn’t big enough to include every possible descriptor.

M: Is it more important to have sweet corn that’s yellow or white corn of unspecified sweetness?

Liz: I can’t even pretend to understand what you just asked me.

M: You wrote, “Frozen corn—sweet white.”

Liz: Yes, I remember that.

M: They have a bag of yellow corn that says SWEET YELLOW CORN, and there’s a bag of white corn that says nothing about sweetness.

Liz: That’s okay, just get the white.

M: Are you sure? It doesn’t say ‘SWEET’.

Liz: I’m pretty sure it will be fine.

M: Okay, if you're sure.

Liz: Please try not to call again unless you have urgent information about the Pinot Grigio selection.

M: I'll do my best.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Spell checker couldn't have saved me this time.

Sweet Jesus, this is the most boring post ever. I just have to be up front about it.

This morning I was putting together a list of Library of Congress Subject Headings for speech communication.

Okay, be honest. Did the preceding sentence read something like this?

"This morning I was putting together a list of blah blah blah blah blah."

It's okay. You can admit it.

If you don't know what Library of Congress Subject Headings are and you're curious, click here. I have to warn you, though, too much reading of this sort can make you comatose.

If all you want to do is stare at pretty, swirling colors on your screen, click here. I have to warn you, though, you may think you're on an acid trip.

In a nutshell, Library of Congress Subject Headings are the accepted words/phrases used to indicate subject matter. For example, you may be surprised to learn that the official subject heading for "cooking" is actually "cookery". Or maybe you don't really care. But in any case, now you can go to the library and do a subject search for COOKERY and everyone will think you're the shit.

Or the librarians will, in any case. They may even scream, "THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!" and crush beer cans on their foreheads, just because you made them so happy.

Or if you want to continue searching for cookbooks all willy-nilly with whatever random words you see scrawled on the bathroom wall, well, that makes my heart hurt just a little.

But I still like you.

The point is, if you know the official, agreed-upon words for your topic, it's easier to search for information on that topic. So this is what I was doing for speech communication: coming up with a list of subject headings that people can use when they're doing research on speech communication.

Still with me? Or are you still here?

So here's the list I'd come up with so far:

Body Language
Debates and Debating
International Relations
Interpersonal communication
Language and Culture
Man-woman relationships
Mass media
Nonverbal communication
Oral communication

Then I went to add "Oral Pleading" to my list. But instead I typed this...

Oral Pleasing

...and sent it off to a co-worker in an email.

A few minutes later she replied:

Wow. Do you think I can get my husband to sign up for some speech communication classes?


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Feed a fever, starve a bad mood

I think I'm done with my snit.

Of course, I'll probably keep snitting privately, especially when someone cuts me off in traffic or when Starbucks neglects to add my specifically-requested "whip" to my soy white mocha, not everyone who asks for soy milk is completely lactose intolerant.

M and I will likely move away from this area at some point, we just don't know when or exactly where we'll end up. About a year ago we each took this online quiz to get some initial direction. In results that speak volumes about our personalities, M's ideal places to live were Long Island (where he grew up) and Virginia (where we live now). My recommended living locations were all in California or Hawaii.

Me no like snow. See?

I emailed him and suggested that we try one of those new-fangled bicoastal relationships so that I could live on a farm in CA and he could shovel snow on Long Island, but he replied, "That wouldn't work for me. I love you too much."

And my computer melted.

My parents are still campaigning for Florida, and M's dad is pushing for Charlotte, North Carolina. We're going to visit him in March so he can give us his best sales pitch.

Meanwhile, I've been reading up on lei making. Aloha!

If you would like to drink and cook along with me tonight, I will be enjoying a glass of Suavignon Blanc as I prepare Vegetable Casserole with Tofu Topping and Cornmeal and Kale Spoonbread with Red Peppers.

After which I plan to consume an entire tube of Thin Mints for dessert.

Bon appétit.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

I want out.

This place is making me weary.

Too many people pushing up against each other. Too hurried, too harried, too important to see anyone else. Scornful sighs; rolling eyes.

It's them. They're the problem.

Fucking immigrants.
Fucking Democrats.
Fucking Republicans.

and on and on.

Drivers speeding up as a school bus tries to change lanes. Honking loudly at the old woman with the Florida plates. Riding my tail, whipping impatiently in and out of lanes. Building condos and strip malls and Super Wal-Mart on every spare inch of land.

Within minutes of my home are at least five grocery stores, seven gas stations, and three Starbucks. I can choose from thirty kinds of fancy cheese, three grades of gas, and 2,000 possible drink combinations.

I don’t need that many choices. Who needs that many choices?

I see designer stores and Hummer dealerships and swanky bars. Wear something, drive something, drink something expensive. You’ll feel better. You’ll be someone.

Buy million dollar homes that don’t look like million dollar homes. Pad them with imported Italian marble and Brazilian cherry floors and $10,000 French arm chairs. Hire someone else to clean it all.

Buy more. Drive faster. Get out of my fucking way.

I’m too slow and quiet for this place.
I don’t want to live here anymore.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


You've likely either read about or experienced the cold snap that's hit much of the country. I'll be the first to admit that it's not as cold in DC as it is in Minnesota, because I've been to Minnesota in the winter. All I concluded from my visit is that I will never do it again.

(I once visited my friend there in December and we were rear-ended as we were leaving the Mall of America. She couldn't even write down her insurance information for the other driver because the ink in her pen was frozen)

(and they have to plug in their cars at night)

(and carry survival kits in the car, just in case)


So no, not as cold as Minnesota, but cold. Dangerously cold, even.

The other day my husband got a call at work. It was the parent of one of his kids. Hi, how are you?

You said I could call if I needed something, right?

Yes, of course. What is it?

We have no heat.

No heat?

The company said it would cost $600 to fill our propane tanks, and I don't have enough.

How long has your heat been off?

Two days.

I'll call you right back.

To the phone he went, calling any local agency he could think of. After several fruitless calls, the Salvation Army came through with $400. A pot of $100 was collected from teachers at the school who wanted to help. The mom said she had enough to pay the remaining $100.

The next afternoon, M paid a visit to see how they were doing. Mom wore several sweaters and her winter coat. Gloves and a hat. Blankets were thick around the baby, her small face barely visible. M's teeth chattered.

What? What do you mean, the heat's still not on?

It's not on. No one came.

M went to his car and called the propane company.

Yeah, we got the order, and the money. But it takes five days to make a delivery.

They have no heat. Come on, man. They have a baby.

She should have planned ahead, then.


There's nothing I can do.

What will it take to get you out to their house tonight?

One hundred and fifty dollars, he said flatly.


One hundred and fifty dollars.

Fine, M said. Put it on my credit card and get your truck out here.

We slept warm in our bed that night.

The next morning I was driving to work. It was a hellish day on the highway. The sky was overcast and no one was feeling generous.

Up ahead I spotted a truck trying to merge onto the highway. Cars pushed forward grimly, bumper to bumper, unwilling to yield. The driver wiped his brow in frustration.

The smooth back side of the truck was emblazoned with the name of the propane company.

For one hundred and fifty dollars I'll let you merge in front of me, I thought. One hundred and fifty dollars will buy you kindness.

My foot sank lower on the brake pedal. My hand made a quick gesture, the kind that doesn't waste any motion.


The driver waved his thanks.

You're welcome.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Come one, come all

I propose that Suzy, Bdogg, Bookworm, and Roxanne and I all start a book club in which any and all comments are welcome, even the single-syllable ones.

Bdogg: Ruled.

Suzy: Sucked.

Bookworm: Great.

Roxanne: Stunk.

Liz: Durrr?

I guess this thing called the "Superbowl" is starting pretty soon. I made homemade guacamole and brownies and I'm pretty much bored with the whole thing now.

Good thing the Puppy Bowl is on. I'm about to spontaneously combust from cuteness overload.


Friday, February 02, 2007

You know?

Is it wrong to have a soy white mocha and a black-bottom cupcake for breakfast? I normally eat a very healthy diet, but this morning I was craving sugar in a major way.

I stopped at a Starbucks on the way to work, where the line was mercifully short. They’ve started writing customers' names on their cups to avoid inadvertent java pilfering. I'm thinking about giving a false name next time, just for fun. Medusa, maybe. Or Shakira.

(the thought of telling the barrista that my name is Shakira is hugely amusing to me)

Is it weird to mourn a book? I finished Michelle Wildgen’s You’re Not You over a week ago and I still think about it every day. I loved it. I wish I could explain why, but I’m very inarticulate when it comes to expressing my feelings about books. This is probably why I’m terrified of joining a book club. I’d stammer, “It was good! Really, really good!” Or, “It kind of sucked, you know?”

As a librarian, I expect more of myself in this department.

My parents have a bunch of audio tapes of me talking when I was around five years old. My dad was an Air Force pilot and therefore frequently absent, so we used to mail tapes back and forth. In one recording my mom is prompting me to tell my dad about my new skirt.

“I got a new skirt today!” I crow. “And some socks!

“Why do you like your skirt?” my mom asks.

“I like my skirt because… I like my skirt because I got it today!

Some things never change.

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