Thursday, December 20, 2007

Don't eat too many cookies (I should take my own advice)

Unfortunately, I won't be able to post the iTunes selections until after the holidays. We're heading out tomorrow morning for our drive down to Georgia, where Mike's brother and his family live. We'll stay for a couple of days before driving to Florida to visit my parents.

Yes, Alex is coming. No, the singing snowman is not. Long car trips are traumatic enough for my dog, thank you very much. Keep your fingers crossed that we can keep him in his harness in the back seat for the duration. Last time he figured out that if he threw his body toward the front seat enough times, he could eventually free himself. And he kept beating his own time record, eventually slipping out like a greased piglet in three seconds flat, so that he was actually LAUGHING at me when I made my final attempt to restrain him.

Fine. Sit on my lap and drool on my jeans. If we get into an accident and you fly through the windshield, CLEARLY I TRIED MY BEST TO PREVENT IT.

So I'm off to pack, because of course we haven't packed anything yet, it's only 9 p.m. the night before we leave!

Have a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate. Sincerest wishes for health and happiness to you all. :*

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fla la la la la

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes and the great song suggestions! It’s taking me a while to get through all of them, mostly because lately I seem to have the energy of a garden slug. I’m listening to everything, though, even the songs I already know, and will post my selections soon. You guys rock.

So I took the day off work yesterday with a couple of goals in mind: 1) a hair cut, and 2) Dude, Christmas is in a WEEK, You Are Officially That Person Who Waits Until the Last Minute (Finish Christmas Shopping).

The first goal was blown almost immediately. I drove 45 minutes to the salon during rush hour traffic, only to be told (perkily) by Tiffani Happy Holidays and we’re sorry, but Mary is home with a sick child today so would you like to reschedule?

I’m not angry with Mary for having a sick kid and needing to stay home. But if I cancelled an appointment at the last minute, I’d be charged a fee. Couldn’t they offer me a discount for my next visit or something? A small gesture would go a long way with me, is all I’m saying. I did appreciate Tiffani’s profuse! perky! apologies!, but unfortunately, apologies didn’t make my hair look better, or refund my precious hour of vacation time, or put the gas back in my car.

I’m still suffering from a small case of the mean reds, in case you haven’t noticed. And what better to improve my mood than a trip to the mall, a week before Christmas? FEEL THE EXCITEMENT. FEEEEEEEL IT.

So off I went to the mall, where I got a great parking space (ha!) and where I very stupidly went to Harry & David first (ha?), which meant that I had to lug 3,000 jars of assorted jellies and dips and spice rubs around for the rest of the day.

Next I went to Spencer’s, where the horrified look on the teenage clerk’s face told me that I really have no business shopping in Spencer’s anymore. Who cares? I have enough "PIMP" beer steins and marijuana leaf-shaped belt buckles, anyhow.

I also went to Hallmark because I wanted one of those singing, jiggling, snowman-on-a-sled things. And I got one! And I love it!

Sadly, Alex is less enthusiastic:


Trauma Begins at Home from Liz on Vimeo.

(as I was testing the video, Alex heard it and made a beeline for the office. Now he's sitting beside me, whining as though urgently trying to warn me that the singing dog toys have invaded the second floor of the house, WHY WON'T YOU LISTEN TO ME, WOMAN?)

Anyhow, shopping is finally, blessedly done. I think we've officially crossed every name off the gift list. Perhaps you're wondering what kinds of things we buy for our friends, eh? Yes! I'm sure you want to know!


Wouldn't you like to be the lucky neighbor who gets this fabulous prize?


Or THIS holiday favorite, perhaps?


Hey, don't judge. It’s what they wanted. We give from the heart, man.

(I also gave a co-worker a beribboned roll of Glad Press n' Seal today, and she was thrilled. I'm so glad my friends are easy to please.)

Okay folks, I've got some more iTunes trolling to do, so I'm off. Also, I think my dog is hiding in the bathtub again.

Damn that Hallmark and their terrifying holiday novelties.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, bitch

So yesterday was my birthday. Aside from having to get up early and go to work, it was a pretty good day. Traffic was light, my co-workers surprised me with a carrot cake, and no one told me that I look like Tori Spelling. One of my co-workers also brought me a big bag of her homemade Chex mix, which is like eating crack that has been slathered in melted butter, salted, and baked to a golden brown. I devoured most of it on the way home, shoveling huge fistfuls into my mouth and developing a nice, buttery sheen on my face. I could have gone sunbathing if I’d been in Miami.

When I got home, I went straight upstairs and got cozy with a book while my husband cooked dinner for me. In case you’re wondering, the menu was salad, tomato-mushroom soup with fresh basil, rosemary bread, and baked apples. It was delicious.

All in all, a very nice birthday.

Speaking of Tori Spelling (sort of), did any of you catch Jeopardy last week when they had the Beverly Hills, 90210 category? Frema totally would have rocked it, but I knew a couple of them. When Alex Trebek said, “On ‘90210’, the gang hung out at this joint where Nat dispensed advice with the pie”, I screamed, “WHAT IS THE PEACHPIT!” and repeatedly pumped my fists in the air until I noticed Mike staring at me.

Perhaps I should use some of my amazing brain power to halt global warming?

Anyway, several of the following 90210 items were videos, which featured Tori Spelling reading the clues. I noticed Mike studying her face.

Mike: You know…

Me: DON’T SAY IT.

Mike: …well, it’s not like you’re identical twins or anything, but…

Me: STOP.

Mike: …I can see the resemblance.

Me:

Mike:

Me: You have totally ruined my intellectual high.


Despite the wonderfulness that was Tuesday, Wednesday finds me suffering from an unusual, unbearable, and nearly uncontainable Bitch Syndrome. Suddenly, my sense of humor is gone. I have zero patience. Routine questions that I normally don’t mind answering over and over are driving me batshit insane. A library patron dared to answer her loudly ringing cell phone and I swear to God, red laser beams shot out of my eyes and destroyed it.

I am trying mightily to climb out of shrew mode, but so far I haven’t succeeded. So in the meantime, how about this: I got an iTunes gift card for my birthday and I have no idea how to spend it. Please distract me with some song suggestions? What are you loving these days? I’ll listen to everything you suggest and write a follow-up with my selections. I like all kinds of music, so any and all suggestions are welcome.

I’m off to eat more Chex mix. That ought to help.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?

I stumble back into the house before sunrise, the dog's leash in one hand and the poop bag in the other (thank you, Washington Post). I wipe Alex's paws and liberate him from the leash, but he doesn't immediately race to his food bowl the way he usually does. Instead, he follows close behind as I walked to the coat rack to shed my parka, and then to the hall closet, where I put the umbrella away.

I look down. Alex is hopping from side to side, looking alarmed.

"What's the matter with you, Boo?" I ask. He scurries three feet away and sniffs intently at the ground. I walk over to take a look.

A turd. Right there on the hardwood floor.

Alex looks up, stricken. Poop! In the house! OMFG! Poop!

Well, that's disgusting. Untying the knot in the poop bag, I hear a plop! sound and look down to see a second turd now lying on the floor. Then Alex helpfully runs back to the front door to show me the entire trail of turds that has been marking my path since reentering the house.

I hold up the poop bag and see a gaping hole where the bottom should be. Thank you, Washington Post.

In other news, I cut my fingernails yesterday, then promptly needed a nail to scrape a sticker off of something. Isn't that always the way it goes? The sticker was on my new foot spa, which my mother-in-law bought me for my birthday. I love it. Last night I used it for an hour before going to bed, and when I took my feet out they were an alarming shade of hot pink. All night long I had disgusting dreams about cooking my own feet for dinner.

Over the weekend I attended the holiday centerpiece-making party, where I learned about wires and picks and florist tape and how you shouldn't wear a black sweater when you'll be working with miniature Santas that are covered in glitter. I was pretty proud of mine, although my friend (who used to be a floral designer) told me that it was a little "tight". Apparently this means that I clump all the decorations in the middle of the centerpiece, rather than distributing them throughout. I'm a clumper! I'm the Clumpinator! I fought the clump and the clump won!

She also said that my Santa placement might be a little problematic. You know, from a fire hazard perspective.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Don't you feel the music pumping hard?

I was making coffee this morning (I am officially a Dunkin' Donuts convert. Yes.) when something occurred to me. You know how I hate to eat alone? Part of that emotion definitely stems from from all the things I said in the previous post. My love of discussing the food with someone else, enjoying general conversation, sharing bites, etc. Not being able to do those things flattens the experience for me.

But the way I project sadness onto people eating alone, even when I know it's ridiculous? I'm pretty sure I can attribute some of that to my life as a military brat.

Did you ever have to switch schools in the middle of the school year when you were a kid? Multiple times, even? Do you remember the feeling of standing in the middle of the cafeteria, gripping the handle of your lunch box, not knowing a soul?

Oh, God. Now I'm picturing that scene from While You Were Sleeping. "Have you ever fallen in love with someone you haven't even talked to? Have you ever been so alone you spend the night confusing a man in a coma?" Cue the violins!

Actually, let's just ask Caffeinated Librarian to sing me a soundtrack. That would be more fun.

I'm not damaged goods because I moved a lot, I swear. I made friends quickly and easily in every place we lived. But facing your classroom on the first day in a new school is infinitely easier than facing the cafeteria. In the classroom, things were structured. I was told where to sit, when to talk, and who my reading buddy would be. Lunch time, on the other hand, was a social free-for-all.

I can remember dutifully following the line to the lunch room, clasping my lunch box to my chest and longing for the tuna fish sandwich inside, simply because my mother's hands had touched it that morning. To this day, tuna sandwiches are one of my comfort foods.

See? It always goes back to food, eventually.

So, after waxing poetic about food and its Very Important place in my life, I'm sure you'll share my confusion over what happened in my house last night. Had you climbed onto my deck and peered through the window around 7:30 p.m., you would have seen it. How Mike returned from Arrowine with the wine we ordered last Friday, and a delicious wedge of Corsu Vecchiu cheese. How we cracked open a bottle of the Chardonnay, and retrieved the crackers from the cabinet. How Liz suggested turning on some music. And how ten minutes later, what started as a nice, quiet dinner had somehow dissolved into a bass-pumping, house-rattling, booty-shaking blasting of Salt n' Pepa's Push It, as we danced around with kitchen with our dog.

Cheers.

In closing, I hope you all enjoy your weekend activities. I, for one, will be living out your wildest suburban fantasies as I attend a holiday centerpiece-making party.

Oh yes. I know you are jealous.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A long, rambling post that can be summed up in three words: Food Is Love.

We were fortunate enough to attend an amazing dinner last Friday night with some good friends. It was a collaborative effort between a local restaurant and a local wine shop; each course on the menu was created to be paired with the delicious wines. The best part was that the winemaker came from Tuscany to attend the dinner and talk about each of the wines. It was fun, and really inspiring to meet someone so passionate about his business.

I’ve never been a huge Chianti fan, but I was a fan that night. We ordered a mixed case, if I remember correctly- though I was a bit fuzzy-headed by the time the coffee was served. I can see why they collect the order forms at the end. What a racket!


Mike and Liz: Wheeee! We'll take a case of each!

Bank Account: No! They didn't mean it! ABORT! ABORT!


Seriously, though, enjoying a long dinner with good conversation is one of my favorite things in the world. But my relationship with food goes beyond that.

When we travel, I take pictures of what we eat in restaurants. I'm drawn to movies and books that feature cooking or eating. I'll sit and devour a cookbook like it's a beach novel. The aroma of garlic cooking in olive oil is my favorite smell in the world.

Unless it's fresh basil. I go back and forth.

Some of you may understand this: food is so emotional for me. It’s not just something I use to fill my stomach. It’s an art. It’s a gesture. It’s appreciating everything nature provides, and the ways in which people can enhance it. It’s all tied up in feelings and memories.

I remember when my husband and I were newlyweds, and I was slogging home one night from my exhausting social work job. I had finally reached our apartment and was heartened by thoughts of the dinner Mike was making that night. Lasagna, maybe? Shepherd's pie? And then I walked in and found… something else. I can’t even remember exactly what it was. It was a perfectly acceptable dinner. Pasta and Prego, or some such. A normal, everyday dinner that millions of people would eat on any given weeknight. So you can understand why Mike was baffled when my eyes filled with tears.

“I appreciate that you made dinner,“ I said. “But I want you to put some thought into it! I want it to mean something!”

“What's it supposed to mean?” he asked, bewildered. “It’s dinner.”

No, it’s not!” I burst out, surprising both of us with my vehemence. “When I cook for you, when I cook for anyone, it’s an expression of love! When you just throw it together without thinking about it, it means you don’t care!”

Obviously, I eventually realized that this was my way of thinking. This is how I approach cooking for others. If I like you, I'll happily spend an entire day making crostini and butternut squash-stuffed ravioli and tangy cranberry salad dressing. If I want to send you a sign of my disdain, I will feed you instant mashed potatoes and canned whipped topping.

(but even if I really hated you, I don't think I could do that)

Thankfully, Mike is a pretty forgiving and understanding man. And we're still married. And he makes a mean baked eggplant.

And since food (in my eyes) is a form of communication, food is meant to be shared. This is probably why I hate to eat alone.

To date, I have never, ever eaten in a table service restaurant by myself. This makes me feel mildly ashamed, like I've missed some major milestone of adulthood. But to see someone eating alone fills me with a most ridiculous sadness.

I know that person is probably perfectly content to sit peacefully, reading his book or people-watching. He is probably thrilled to have time and a table to himself. And yet I can’t help imagining myself in his chair, a plate of linguine in front of me, a basket of soft bread to my left, and an overwhelming sense of moving aimlessly through my meal, no one on the other side of the table to anchor the experience.

I like to talk about what I’m eating. I like to share what's on my plate, and taste what's on yours. To exclaim over the peppery bite of the arugula, the perfectly-seared scallop, a surprise of toasted pine nuts. I have been known to moan when I'm really enjoying something. I'm sure that man eating alone is probably goddamned thrilled to not be my dinner companion. Shut uuuuup, he'd probably groan. For the love of God, will you just shut up?

Good food doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. One of my most memorable meals from our recent trip to Ireland was in a tiny roadside cafe near Slea Head. It was just bowls of vegetable soup and brown bread. But I had a head cold, and the hot soup felt wonderful as it slid down my throat. I remember lowering my face into the fragrant steam, breathing deeply. We gazed out the window at the ocean while we ate, and my ceramic bowl was the perfect shade of turquoise blue.

Not everyone gets it. Just as I can't imagine dropping $400 on a double-handled Roseville vase, or investing months in rebuilding a classic Ford Mustang, others may not understand paying thirteen dollars for a bowl of soup, or visiting three stores to find the perfect Clementine oranges.

A friend once accused me of being a show-off. We'd eaten dinner together in a restaurant, and I'd gotten excited about an appetizer we shared. "Like you thought you had to explain it to me," she grumbled later. "As if I'd never eaten tuna before."

I felt awful that she'd seen condescension in my words. But after mulling it over, I decided that she probably didn't know me as well as I'd thought.

As I'm typing this I'm eating a salad of baby spinach, walnuts, dried cranberries, sliced red pepper, and feta cheese. I made the dressing last night, a simple blend of canola oil, mandarin orange juice, and white wine vinegar. I've been looking forward to it all day.

It's delicious. I just had to tell you.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

A Typical Sunday Afternoon

Liz: Hello?

Mike: Hi. I’m in produce.

Liz: I’m folding laundry. And watching TV. Hey, which one is Risky Business? Is it the one where Tom Cruise’s father is a coal miner, or the one where he runs a whorehouse while his parents are out of town?

Mike: Whorehouse.

Liz: Okay… that’s what I thought.

Mike: A lady by the orange display just gave me a dirty look.

Liz: WHOREHOUSE. Say it really loud this time.

Mike:
She’s walking away.

Liz: WHOREHOUSE, WHOREHOUSE.

Mike: What is wrong with you?

Liz: Two cups of coffee. I’m folding the laundry in record time.

Mike: I don't think his father is a coal miner.

Liz: Whose father?

Mike: Tom Cruise's father, in All the Right Moves.

Liz: All the Right Moves! Right. Did he work in a steel mill?

Mike: Yeah, I think so.

Liz: That must be it.

Mike:

Liz:

Mike:

Liz: Wait- why are you calling?

Mike: They don’t have the baby portobellos. You can have sliced, or caps.

Liz: Big slices, or little slices?

Mike: Big slices. Also, big caps.

Liz: Okay, get the big slices.

Mike: Also: herb salad blend, or mixed baby greens?

Liz:
Mixed baby greens. Definitely.

Mike:
Okay.

Liz: I have to go. It’s the part where he dances around in his underwear.

Mike:
I understand. I'll be home in a little while.

Liz: WHOREHOUSE.

Mike: I'm hanging up now.

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