Monthly Archives: December 2006

Murder and the wall

I killed the cockroach tonight.  It was standing on my washing machine, sniffing the side of a jar of apple cider, looking both innocent and prehistoric.  I tried to move slowly towards the rolling pin the dishdrainer, but it sensed my movement and started to run.  Lucky for me, it ran under a cookie sheet.  I pounced on top of the sheet and applied pressure.  A lot of pressure.  I believe there was also some rocking back and forth, as well as just a little exclamation of murderous pleasure.  When I was sure that I had used adequate force, I peeked under.  Crushed cockroach.

My last class of the semester met tonight.  I’m just a little bit gobsmacked that my first semester of grad school is done with.  By this time next year, I’ll be all done with this program.  I feel really good about the work I’ve done, and the friends I’ve made.  I’ve received grades for two of my three courses, and I’ve done pretty darn well, which is a nice feeling.  It’s a little added confirmation that I’m doing the right thing, that this itch to write that I have isn’t just some fleeting interest, soon to be replaced by cross-stitch or calligraphy.

I am grateful that the semester is over.  I’ve felt in the last couple of days that I’ve hit a big, solid, substantial and distracting wall.  I’ve explores means of going over, around or under it, anything to avoid actually dealing with it.  I don’t really understand what’s causing it, only that it’s there and it’s unpleasant.  Tonight I told my mom the wall, and the chaos it is wrecking in my normally well-aligned life.

She simply said, “You don’t have to understand it, you just have to know that it is gone.  Once you know that, it will be.”

Her words made the bubble of emotions that have been living somewhere under my breastbone rise up and fill my throat.  I felt myself start to cry.  I always find it amazing that the things you know for yourself can be so much more powerful when someone else says them to you.  So I’m just going to know that the wall is gone and let myself relax into vacation and home.

Christmas Meme

I was tagged many moons ago to do a Christmas meme (okay, so it was actually only two weeks ago). Since I’m feeling particularly low on creative juices and I don’t feel like delving into the depths of my soul to talk about the unspecified anxiety I’ve been feeling over the last few days, I’m going to do the meme. Besides, there’s something flattering about being tagged for a meme, similar to when you got picked in the first couple of rounds for a team in school (I was always a killer trivia player).

So, Dodi over there at Chicken Butt laid this one down at my feet, and I’m going to run with it.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
I love egg nog. Not the kind that people make from scratch, but the kind that you buy at the grocery store. It’s yearly appearance marks the arrival of the holiday season like nothing else. However, I try to avoid drinking things that you can feel clogging your arteries before the glass is finished, so I’ve yet to have any this year. I don’t believe I had any last year either. At this point I bet my memory of egg nog is better than the reality of it.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?
Gifts must be wrapped and then my mother must spend the hour after all the presents are opened burning the used wrapped paper in the fireplace.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Christmas tree lights must be colored and must be the large, old-fashioned bulbs. In my family we want our tree to look as much like they did in the 1940’s as possible. We even have the candle shaped bubbly lights. However, we aren’t allowed to put lights on the outside of the house, because my mom is Jewish (a deeply secular Jew, but a Jew nonetheless). She feels like that is just one step too far in the direction of Christmas.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope, it could cause some awkward situations with my roommate. My only nod to the holidays in my apartment is the small rosemary tree in the middle of my coffee table and the menorah sitting next to it. I’m heading to Portland on Friday, but I doubt there will be mistletoe there. We are touchy-feely enough as it is.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
We are lazy people in my family. Last year I believe we got the tree up around December 22nd. In fact, we waited so long to get the tree that the tree lot was closed when we went over there, because they figured everyone who wanted a tree had already gotten one. But, they left the extra trees behind in the parking lot, free to passersby. So, we took one. I’m actually a little embarrassed to admit that this has happened to us the last two years running.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
My favorite holiday dish really isn’t a dish at all. It’s the apple. An enormous caramel and dark chocolate covered apple, that is then rolled in chopped, toasted almonds. My dad’s first cousin sent us this thing for Christmas every year for a decade. There was a magical year when the company made a mistake and sent two! Last year it didn’t come at all, which was kind of sad, but the memories are so nice that we really didn’t mind. Although, now that I think about it, I bet I could make one.

7. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
One afternoon, when I was seven years old, I lost a tooth. Deciding I wanted to test out the tooth fairy situation, I tucked it under my pillow without telling my parents that it was there. When I woke up the morning, the tooth remained, no money in sight. I took the damning evidence to my parents, who tried to keep the charade up, but they knew it was no good. I was on to them. It didn’t take much energy after that to suss out the Easter Bunny and Santa. Plus there was the fact that Santa always had my dad’s handwriting.

8. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
We don’t get much snow in Oregon, or really even in Philadelphia anymore. I love as long as it doesn’t last more than three days and if I don’t have to drive in it.

9. Can you ice skate?
My ankles were not built for ice-skating. They burn and ache after ten minutes on skates, so I choose to abstain from that particular activity. Besides, too many people I know have broken things while skating, it just doesn’t seem safe to me.

10. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
The moment when my father and I nearly come to blows (I kid, there is no physical abuse in my family) about tinsel placement on the Christmas tree. I am firmly anti-tinsel, while he loves the stuff. Most years I win, but sometimes I have to concede to him and allow some of it.

Actually, my favorite tradition is Christmas wishing, but I’m saving that particular topic for it’s very own post, so I won’t go into it here.

So, there you have it. A Christmas meme. I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you are inspired to participate, by all means do.

Catching up with the last couple days

Tonight, while filming an episode of Fork You, a cockroach appeared on my kitchen counter. I was not pleased. Thad tried to kill it with a cutting board (which I would have never used for food again) but did not succeed before it disappeared behind the stove. With that exception, the filming went quite well. We made a Quick Fork about latkes for Hanukkah and a longer edition about warm holiday drinks. There’s also an impending Fork You marriage in the works, as our sound guy (Thad) proposed to the woman behind the camera (Angie) this weekend in Rittenhouse Square. After asking him if he was sure, she said yes.

Yesterday I turned the overflowing chicken broth into full-fledged soup. The broth went into a big soup pot. I added in diced onion, little wheels of carrot, slivers of celery and slices of mushroom and the chunks of chicken I had pulled off the carcass. I let it all cook together until the veggies were soft, poured some of it into a jar and took it over to Jamie and Scott’s house for lunch. I spent nearly three hours over there, eating, dancing with 7-month-old Ivy and catching up. It was a joy to have the time to spend with them.

These days, I’m running at breakneck speed towards the end of the semester and my trip home to Portland. I’ve been feeling a little off, not real creative and increasingly vulnerable lately. I’m hoping that vacation time at home with family will help me pull myself back together.

Chicken fat and tragedy

I woke up this morning to a lake of chicken fat a foot in diameter on my kitchen counter.  It spread underneath the microwave and dribbled down the sides of the crockpot from which it had originated.  Let this be a lesson to you.  Never overfill a crockpot when you make chicken broth from the remains of a roasted chicken.  It can result in a huge mess.  On the positive side, at least the broth is mostly defatted.  And tomorrow I will have gorgeous, yummy chicken soup.

On a sadder note, the other thing that happened this morning, far more tragic than a pool of overflowing chicken fat, is that Star C. Foster, aka Sarcasmo died of a pulmonary embolism.  I’ve posted about it on the Metroblog and have tried to gather other posts dedicated to her from across the blogosphere.

Stroking Pup

Standing in the parking garage this afternoon, waiting for my car to appear so I could get to class, I called my mom.  I frequently call her when I’m either in transit, or about to be moving from one place to another.  She answered the phone, and I could tell immediately that there was something off in her voice.

We chatted for 30 seconds, before I said, “Hey, what’s the matter?  You don’t sound right.”  It turns out that our dog (pictured here) had collapsed earlier in the day.  She had gotten shaky, and then her legs went stiff and fell out from underneath her.  They had spent the day at the vet, and the “official” diagnosis (if determinations based strictly on a description from an observer can be official) is that Bonnie had a stroke.  I didn’t even know that dogs could have strokes.  She’s as okay as she can be now, having been given a prescription for pain killers, heart meds and a low sodium diet (that’s going to be slightly hard to enforce, this dog has been known to scrape chewing gum off the sidewalk with her front teeth).

I keep trying to imagine what it’s like to be her right now, inside a painful body that isn’t responding the way it normally does.  My family doesn’t believe in prolonging the lives of animals when they are consistently suffering.  Our last dog developed lymphoma when he was six, and after four months of fairly good, happy life on meds to handle his pain, it became obvious that he was having trouble breathing and that the meds weren’t working anymore.  My parents chose a night when both my sister and I were spending the night at friends, took him out for one last walk in the park, and then brought him to Dove Lewis (the emergency vet in Portland) to put him to sleep.  I know that they’ll handle Bonnie the same way, asking for guidance from her spirit and the universe to indicate when it’s time to end her life, but it’s still sad to think of.

All I want to do is read

The demands on my time these days are pretty heavy (although I don’t know a single person out there who can’t claim this same sentence as their own).  The end of the semester is looming (I just paused in the writing of this blog entry in order to make out a nice, neat to-do list, so that I could see the things left that need to be accomplished), I’m still putting the finishing touches on the packet for our ministerial search (I haven’t talked much about this one on the blog as it’s a confidential process), search commitments are going to take up a large part of the weekend, I have many people to see before I leave for Portland on the 15th of December and I there’s a half-ton of cookie dough in my fridge that needs to be rolled, cut and baked.

I’m seriously considering taking some of the dough back to Portland with me in my luggage.  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve checked perishable food.  Just a few weeks ago, I neatly packed an entire Thanksgiving dinner (minus the gravy, my mom and I decided that that was asking for trouble) into ziploc bags and tucked it into my suitcase just as I was walking out the door.

But with all these things to do in the next week, the only thing I really feel like doing is settling down on the sofa with a book.  I am totally, utterly and completely enthralled by Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.  I picked this one up at the thriftstore several months ago for $.20 (I love places where paperbacks are 6 for $1), and started it back then, but didn’t get sucked in.  I don’t understand why not, except that I believe that there are moments in life when a particular book hums, creating an especially lovely chord with the other notes of your existence and it just makes sense to allow that book to become part of your melody for a time.  Right now I am vibrating in concert with Joseph Kavalier and Sammy Clay, and to them and Mr. Chabon, I am grateful.

Romancing the Frosting

The next installment of Fork You is up. It’s just a short and sweet little Quick Fork, about how to make an easy cookie or cupcake frosting. The recipe is simple, just 2 cups of powdered sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons of milk, 4 tablespoons of softened butter and a single teaspoon of vanilla. Mix and beat with a handmixer until it is blended. You can add food coloring if you’d like (we did) but you are more than welcome to keep it simple and plain white.

Ginger people and stars

An even easier frosting (actually more of a glaze, if you want to get technical) is just a blend of powdered sugar and water (pictured above). I never even measure when I make this one. I just pour a good amount of powdered sugar into a bowl and dribble in a small amount of water, maybe only a tablespoon or so at a time. A couple drops of vanilla give it a flavor other than plain sugar. This one is nice because you can dip the cookies into it, give them a little shake and then leave them to dry on some waxed paper. The excess will run off, and if they are give about an hour to set, they won’t stick together when stacked. I don’t recommend stacking them until the frosting has totally set though, because otherwise you’ll wreck all your hard work (I speak from experience).

The Joy of Cooking

I grew up with the edition of the Joy of Cooking that was bound in turquoise fabric and was first released sometime in the early 1960’s.  It was a staple reference tome in my house, especially in the years before the internet made it easy to find 12 different recipes for the same cake in under 4 seconds.  The two red ribbon bookmarks attached to the binding were typically tucked in next to the quick banana bread recipe (although that has become unnecessary, as so much batter has been splattered on those pages, that when the book is left to it’s own devises, it opens naturally to that page), and the other would be in with the turkey roasting instructions.

It was a wedding present to my mom from her new mother-in-law when my parents got married in 1970.  Like many things that have lived and been loved for more than 35 years, it doesn’t look the way it once did.  The front cover fell off while I was in high school and was reattached with a wide strip of silver tape.  Many of the pages have been enhanced with splashes of water or oil or gravy and don’t behave entirely like paper anymore.
When I went off to college, I wanted my own copy of the Joy of Cooking, and soon acquired a shiny copy of the 1997 edition.  Except that I couldn’t find the right banana bread recipe.  And it was missing all the cute drawings of the overly slender hands doing things like beheading a duck or carving a standing rib roast.  This new book was foreign, like a stranger who called herself mom, but had no relation to the woman who raised me.

I stumbled along with this traitorious book, calling home for recipes when I couldn’t make it cooperate.  But it hasn’t been well-loved, there are no moments in the binding where use and enthusiasm have forever altered it’s range of movement.

When I moved to Philadelphia, I started visiting my Aunt Anne every couple of months or so.  One day, while standing in her dining room, I noticed a short stack of cookbooks.  My eye was drawn to an edition of the Joy of Cooking.  It was covered in a white dust jacket, but when I picked it up and peeked behind the cover, I was thrilled to be greeted by the familiar turquoise binding that I knew so well.

Aunt Anne was thrilled for me to take the book home with me (she stopped cooking from recipes sometime in the late 80’s) and I have had it now for more than four years.  I love the continuity of looking at the same resource recipes in Philadelphia that my parents and I used in LA and Portland.

*This post was inspired by a segment on All Things Considered that aired last Saturday evening.  I was standing in my kitchen, making ever more cookies, when it came on.   It’s nice to know that others are as insanely passionate about their Joy of Cooking as I am.

Cookie Boogie

The Gingerbread Men

There was much running around, cooking and baking done today, for the super-secret next edition of Fork You. Okay, I guess it isn’t so super-secret. We made cookies. Holiday cookies in fact. But there are still many reasons to watch, like that moment when Scott stuck a cookie to his forehead with frosting. Good stuff.

But now I’m pooped. These podcasts are hard work (but fun and totally worth it).