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Monday, July 28, 2014

PACKING AND MOVING -- DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME



Stairway to a heavenly deck
It all started back on a cold, dank Saturday in January.  I picked up a copy of the most recent MDIslander (it was enjoyable then because both my boys lived far, far away, and I am dull, so there was no danger of any of our names appearing in the Police Blotter.  Again.).  An ad for a new real estate listing caught my eye, and when my fella (hereinafter referred to as Aquaman -- rather than what the neighbors call him 'Poor Bastard') came home later that day, we drove by the house, and instantly loved it.  Several thousand deadlines,  documents and dollars later, we are the proud owners of the most perfect home.
 As soon as we got word that our offer was accepted, I started packing things I wouldn’t be needing between Valentine’s Day (the day our offer was officially accepted) and Mother’s Day (approximately when we would be closing).  I quickly determined that such things as decorative martini glasses (not the every day ones), snow globes and the spring wardrobe could safely be tucked in boxes. 

My packing process began as a system that would make Martha Stewart salute me.  Every breakable thing  was wrapped in bubble wrap before being lovingly nestled into a sturdy box with others of its kind.  The box was then securely taped and labeled with the contents and exact destination – for example, the first 12 boxed were labeled ‘decorative martini glasses/2nd floor/ living room/ left corner.   
As those of you who have purchased a home know, the paperwork process does not always run smoothly.  Fairly early on, our banker was frequently and earnestly hopeful that the ‘one more document’ needed from an attorney would be forthcoming and we could close soon.  Of course this same banker is hopeful we will live long enough to make 360 equal monthly payments.  The first few times I, being the impatient type, interpreted ‘soon’ to mean NOW, and continued packing.  After a while, I decided to cease all packing until we had a definite, set-in-stone closing date.  We set up the guest bedroom at the Fabulously Appointed Bungalow (hereinafter referred to as FAB) as a staging area, stacked the carefully packed, taped and labeled boxes therein and went about our normal lives.

When we got the word that our closing would definitely be Good Friday at 3PM, I was somewhat skeptical, but returned to packing, somewhat.  By the morning of Good Friday,   I realized that no one had called to postpone the closing, and it might actually happen.  And (show of hands, who’s surprised) I was not nearly ready for the exodus from the fabulously appointed bungalow.  Oh, mentally I had the Ranch To Be Named Later (hereinafter referred to as RTBNL) all furnished and decorated,  but for a poor white gal I own a lot of crapulence, and Aquaman added a whole lot more when he moved in.  And it all had to be transported to the RTBNL.
Once the papers were signed, the oil in the tank paid for, the key was officially in Aquaman's hand (I tend to lose things like that)  and the champagne cork was popped, the packing process took on both a frantic pace and a rapid decline.  Instead of bubble-wrapping each plate in my entertainment closet, I’d wrap a whole stack before stuffing them in a box- they may be wrapped in bubble wrap, maybe newspaper, maybe an old sweatshirt.  Labeling spiraled from the detailed notations to ‘Dishes/Kitchen', then just 'Wherever' .  You could track my mood by some of the labels; i.e.  ‘HOW MANY F*&%ING COOKBOOKS DOES ONE WOMAN NEED?  It should be noted that I was too lazy to actually draw the asterisk, ampersand and percent symbols so I just used the real letters.   Realizing I would eventually have to unload all these freaking boxes, I started labeling them with random street addresses (so if they fell off the truck they would not be returned to me).  It was about them that my Sharpie privileges were revoked, so the contents of the last dozen boxes are pretty much anybody’s guess.

A sure sign I was growing weary of the packing process was when I opened the liquor cabinet, pulled out 2 open Hornitos tequila bottles – one silver, one gold.  Each had about two shots of the good stuff.  I know you are all thinking ‘You didn’t mix them together did you?’  Oh no, I was lazier than that.  I dumped them down the drain.  I began to regret that decision about an hour later when I remembered I hadn’t yet tackled the Large Lad’s festering pile of stuff in the basement.   Tequila would have made that a far more pleasant experience.
I did find that heavy black trash bags are the lazy gal’s best moving pal.  Sure, they can be used to dispose of things (and are opaque so my fella  cannot see exactly what I have decided I only want to haul as far as the dumpster) but they can be used to pack things such as linens and  coats – and if they are mistaken for bags of trash and end up in the dumpster, so be it.  Marden’s gets new shipments of linens and coats daily.   

I was not allowed to follow behind Aquaman while we made multiple trips to from the formerly FAB to the RTBNL, probably because I said in my outdoor voice that if anything fell off the back of his truck I would just run over it.

 On Easter we got the RTBNL basically set up (TV, bed and coffee maker) so we could sleep there while we finished moving.  While Aquaman worked at the RTBNL, I finished packing and cleaning the  formerly FAB.  Oh look, I chattered to no one in particular.  2 saucers – why are there 2 saucers in the back of the cupboard.  Now there are 2 saucers in an opaque trash bag.  I realized about the time I stuffed a lonely water glass in a camo boot which may or may not belong to the large lad and may or may not have a mate, that packing had hit rock bottom. 

I crammed our remaining possessions in the back of my Jeep – still chanting the ‘be careful it’s a lease’ mantra, steam cleaned my way out through the kitchen, and closed the door on the formerly FAB one last time. 
We’ve made 3 equal monthly payments (only 357 to go!), and we have definitely made progress toward making the RTBNL our home.  Oh sure, there are still boxes to be unpacked, but those are what I call the ‘Christmas boxes’ because I will be as surprised as anyone when I unpack them.  The one I tackled yesterday contained 2 faded throw pillows, a can of tuna,  the tassel from Golden Boy’s high school graduation and 2 boxes of pineapple Jell-o.


Yes, those are 8Track tapes
 
We’ve made a definite dent on cleaning up the yard, we’re adjusting to DirecTV, we’ve got a decent garden going, and are frequently dazzled by the new blossoms from the plants the prior owners so lovingly left behind.  But perhaps the best sign we are making the Ranch our home is that we have already started a junk drawer – complete with 2 dead batteries, a cluster of pens,  most of a pair of reading glasses and an outdated phone book.  All things I found in a box labeled …well that’s not important – I don’t think Martha would be proud.

We want to send a heartfelt Thank You to both Island Housing Trust  and Bar Harbor Savings and Loan for making our dream possible.  No thanks at all go to the Maine State Lottery.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

STUPID BLOG


Did you ever have one of those weeks when you just feel stupid?  Dear lord, I hope so, because I sure don’t want to think I am the only stupid person on the rock. 
Under normal circumstances, I like to think I am reasonably intelligent (I also like to think I am pretty and classy, but those are delusions for another day).  I am a good speller (6th grade spelling champ 3 years in a row!), I can add lots of numbers,  I could figure sales tax in my head til those evil people in Augusta changed the tax rate to 5 ½%.    But recently, I just meandered into a tunnel of dumbness.

It all started Sunday before last.  The weather bunnies were promising it would be one of those stay-inside days, there was a crucially important football game on and I  had recently unearthed a turkey from the bottom of the freezer.  Had all the makings of a Thanksgiving in January.  Before our beloved Patriots had scored, the fabulously appointed bungalow smelled like the holidays, and when I hoisted that golden bird out of the oven, it was pure photogenic poultry perfection.  Then I sampled a little of the golden crispy skin (my favorite part).  It was notably nastily nauseating nastiness.  While I waited for the hulking evil beast to cool enough so I could wrestle it into the trashcan, I fished the label out of the trash – “Best if used or frozen by 11/27/2009.  Well then.   I sort of redeemed myself by concocting a pasta/shrimp/tomato thing with lots of garlic.  It was quite tasty, but there was not nearly enough garlic to get the funk of 4 year old turkey off my palate.  And although I felt really stupid for wasting time and resources (and the stuffing...oh the humanity) on this most foul fowl, I did learn that 4 years is too long to keep something in the freezer, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Still wanting poultry; and not wanting to admit defeat at the wings of a frozen dead bird,  the next morning I took some chicken thighs from the freezer.  I knew these were safe because I had vacuum-sealed them just a couple weeks before.  Little helpful hint:  when vacuum sealing juicy stuff like chicken, it’s a nifty idea to place a folded paper towel on the top of the food- keeps the juices from infiltrating the seal area, and makes cleaning the sealer easier. 

Anyhoo, while my guy mixed himself a cocktail after work that evening, I breaded the chicken thighs and and blathered on about my day,  listened to him talk about his day, and waited for him to take a breath or a sip so I could keep talking about my day.   After the thighs  were all nicely covered in a lovely herby crumb coating, and a healthy (by my standards—the American Heart association may have a different guideline) drizzle of butter, I slid the pan in the oven, and waited for him to take another breath so I could keep talking about me. 

When the chicken was done, I plated it along with mashed potatoes (they had not been used the previous  night) and roasted carrots.  I couldn’t wait to dig in.  Michael was dining contentedly.  I peeled off a healthy (once again my by standards) hunk of herby, buttery chicken skin and sunk my teeth in.  Or tried to.  I could not bite through it.  I tried to tear it apart with my fingers – no go.  I started to panic.  Michael, there is something wrong with this chicken.  Don’t eat any more.  He was savoring his second piece and assured me the chicken was fine.  I waved the tarp of chicken skin in his face.  No, it’s tough, it’s like leather, it’s….got little teddy bears on it. 

Apparently whilst flapping my yap and prepping the chicken, I neglected to remove the paper towel (please refer to helpful hint above) which had enveloped around one thigh and I just breaded right over it.  Yes, I felt stupid, but I did learn that I should focus a little more on the task at hand and a little less on making every conversation all about me.  I also learned that a wet, buttery Bounty towel is strong enough to spend 40 minutes in a 325 degree oven and not be ripped apart.  Let’s go with that lesson, because I really like talking about me. 

Michael took over the dinner duties for the rest of the week, which was probably for the best.  I spent that time being stumped by crossword clues like ‘ 6 letter word for Hebrew Month, and 9 letters and a Sanskrit character for a term meaning ancient Babylonian term for waxy buildup on cloven hooves.  My stupid streak continued.  I thought some music might set things rights. 
After being frustrated by the myriad of remotes necessary to play a freaking Clapton CD through the Xbox, (and  pushing a combination of buttons that may possibly have temporarily screwed up dinner service on the International Space Station) I figured I might as well go for broke and actually read the new lease for my continued stay at the fabulously appointed bungalow.  I am pretty sure I understand the intent of the document – if I promise to pay my landlords money, and not smoke inside, and not burn the place down or trash it, they will let me and my ’eclectic’ collection of crapulence occupy their building and enjoy it’s view of the Open Air debris garden for another year.  Simple enough, but they used  so many words to express this simple concept.  So very many words, and so much punctuation.  Heretofores, whereasses, underroos, and whatnots.  I have rented from the same family for years, and have never read the lease before, just blindly signed it (the same approach I highly recommend when presented with a ‘release form’ before engaging in some boneheaded shenanigan like whitewater rafting down a raging river or walking down a church aisle), so I scrawled my name on the bottom (I believe I signed on the correct line) and returned it to my landlord’s representative, fully aware that I was fully unaware of what I had just agreed to, but it may possibly have involved something about underwear.

Fear not, faithful fan.  There is a light at the end of my dark, dense stupidity tunnel.  Michael and I took a weekend trip to our favorite little getaway spot – Greenville.  Because certainly if you are fed up with the cold and snow and greyness here on the rock, head north.  That may seem stupid, but enough of my friends do it, so that makes it OK. 

We went to a local convenience store to purchase what I hoped would be the scratch-off ticket that would net me enough money to buy my little dream cottage with the spectacular kitchen I’ve had my eye up on there (still in the stupid tunnel).  Anyhoo, while at the store I spotted this.

Just knowing that there is some consumer with an egg issue who said 'Y'all need to tell us when you put eggs in here.  I coulda cramped right up', thereby necessitating adding a label to Grandma's Pickled Eggs warning consumers that the clear mason jar in which you can see the eggs CONTAINS EGGS makes me feel a whole lot smarter about myself. 
I breathed a sigh of smart relief, and then, in my best Beavis or Butthead voice  said aloud 'Heh heh.  Dick's Baking'.

Hey, I feel smarter, I am not Einstein.

 

 

Friday, November 15, 2013

LITTLE DEBBIE GETS A CAR


Rumor has it that 11/12/13 was supposed to be a lucky day.  And for whoever had that date in the  ‘When the hell is Debbie going to retire that Jeep?’ pool it was.  That is the day I finally caved and got a new vehicle.  Not just a new-to-me vehicle, but for the first time in nearly 2 decades a brand spanking new vehicle.  Really – when I drove it off the lot, it had 5 miles on it.  FIVE!

Bye bye old girl
 
What a great feeling it is to just start it and drive.  No more wondering how long after I spring it from Big Al’s yard will I drive it before something starts leaking, squeaking, dripping or skipping.  Now I don’t have to crank up the radio to drown out the funny noise (which was always way more amusing to the mechanic than to me).  Never again will I have to start every conversation with ‘Hey, if you’re headed to Southwest Harbor tomorrow, would you mind dropping me off (or picking me up) at Big Al’s?

While it is freeing, this whole getting a new car thing has been a learning experience, which I shall share with you partly because I am a helper, but mostly because I like to ramble on about me. 

First and foremost, even though sheer volume of splashy flashy full page ads in the paper make the dealerships look desperate enough to sell anyone a car, for many of us, it is not going to be as easy, or as reasonably priced as the splashy flashy ads proclaim.   In my particular circumstance, my credit is less than spectacular, a fact I shared freely and frequently with the sales rep who lost the draw and was assigned to me (we shall call him Skipper).

Skipper calmly and frequently assured me ‘I wouldn’t worry about that’ which I stupidly thought meant  ‘He knows what he’s doing, he’s sold a lot of cars', but what it really meant was 'I wouldn't worry about it because I won't be making the payments'.  I was a little excited when he introduced me to a  fresh-off-the boat gleaming black (or Center of the Universe or Winter Afternoon or Snowman’s Butthole or whatever the hell non-color name they call it) 2014 Jeep Cherokee.  He not only was not concerned about my dicey credit, he apparently glossed over the part of my email in which I explained I did not need a vehicle with all the bells and whistles.  This chariot had it all – heated leather seats, big screen satellite radio which responds to my voice command and verbally responds (two things my kids could work on), illuminated cup holders,  a storage system in the back with nooks and hooks and shelves that rival any Ikea store, more outlets than I have in the fabulously appointed bungalow, an on-board String quartet, blender, minifridge, treadmill…. The list went on and on. 

The drive was enchanting, but even I knew it was out of my range.  I decided to take charge, and be the better negotiator.  I repeated my basic needs: decent tires, seats (not leather, but something a step up from a milk crate covered in newspaper), heat, radio (sure the big screen satellite thing was nice, but the voices in my head might not like the competition from that pleasant disembodied voice coming from the dashboard), room for a couple coolers (work related, I swear), and maybe brakes.  We looked at a couple in the back lot that had just come in, he asked me what my budget was (we shall refer to it as $$$), asked if I could come up with $$$$ for a down payment, and soon presented me with a jumble of figures, all of which made my head spin.  The payment was $$$ plus 115 dollars, and the down payment was $$$$ plus 350 dollars. I was proud that I was not buying into his logic that the fuel savings alone would cover part of the payment, and the rest would be covered by what I am now paying Big Al (both true).  I stood up, put my coat on, snapped up the paper and, in my best stern negotiating voice said ‘I’ll think about it.’

When I finally returned his phone calls Monday morning, I was one tough cookie.  I even tossed in a couple phrases I learned when I used to sit in the back of the conference room during  real estate office staff meetings and play Buzz Word Bingo—see if you can figure out which ones they are.  Look, Skipper, The payment you quoted is well out of my comfort zone (there’s one).  What I can do is $$$+75 dollars, and my original down payment amount.  Going forward (and there’s the other one) I realize I will have to look at something more basic – perhaps that dark blue Patriot (or Liberty or Betsy Ross’ Sewing Kit-- they all looked the same).  And remember, my credit is less than stellar.  No worries.  After he had a heart to heart with his manager, he called back, told me we had ‘nailed it’ and I was on my way to buy a car.  Or so I thought.

I would be so very wrong.  The figure he came back with after I filled out the credit app was $$$ plus 75 dollars plus another 125 dollars.  I asked what, exactly, we had nailed in our earlier conversation.  Turns out, the figure we ‘nailed’ was for well qualified buyers. Which I was not. I was in the category that was …well…qualified?   For some reason my adult filter snapped on and I did not say what I wanted to say.  But I’ll share it with you.

Indoor voice:   Listen Skipper, if I was well qualified I would be sitting at the Lexus store right now sipping a latte and getting a foot massage while smiling cherubs embossed my name on the documentation in gold leaf, not huddled in a cubicle overlooking the Wal-Mart polishing off an Adirondak seltzer that’s been roliing around my car for a week.

Outdoor voice:  Thanks but I guess I will have to continue my search. 

After some back and forth Skipper’s manager (whom I never saw but imagine him to be some  velvet-caped overlord in a crystal cave somewhere behind the maze of used vehicles who delights dashing middle-aged hopes and dreams) agreed to turn over a vehicle to me for a monthly sum that was only $$$ plus 75 plus 60 more dollars.  I agreed, because I was hungry. After one little 'oopsie' the next day in which Skipper tried to convince me I had agreed to a slightly higher amount and had to go through the 'check with the manager' show again, I was ready to sign.


I did make a couple snarky comments about the $399 document fee – please keep in mind most of the vehicles I have purchased over the last 2 decades I have found on the side of the road, and the bill of sale has been scribbled on a cocktail napkin.  This document process was very elaborate, the documentator made it  pleasant and almost worth the admission ticket  (which is a 36 inch long multicolored form in triplicate).  After signing and signing more and making believe I understood what I was signing, I got the keys, and away we went.


You may look, but don't touch.
 
Now for those of you who have never leased a vehicle before, the upside is that the monthly payment is lower than purchasing;  however,  there are a couple of downsides.  First, you are limited in the number of miles you can drive without paying extra.  Now for a gal who drives everwhere (including the 7/10 of a mile to work, and the one mile to the gym)   this may end up being an issue down the road.  The second downside is that you have to take care of it.  It’s stressful.  I haven’t even shown it to my friends yet--it’s cold and flu season, and I can’t run the risk of anyone sneezing on it.  Before I let any of my pals inside, I am gonna have to check them for ticks, and sharp objects and stains and seeds and stems.  No more snacking while driving, which was one of my past times, especially on the 7/10 of a mile drive to the gym.  Of course, my wobbly coffee travel mug will never see those sparkly illuminated cup holders (yes I got ‘em – my needs are basic, but I am civilized).

 To review and praise my sharp negotiating skills – I walked into the first dealership I drove by, planning to start the search to buy a new vehicle for no more than $$$ a month, and 75 hours later I drove away in a brand new 2014 Jeep Patriot (in Granite Twinkle, thank you)  which I am borrowing for 36 monthly payments of $$$ plus $135.  
But at least for the next 3 years, if there is anything leaking, squeaking, dripping or skipping it’s probably me and should be covered by my new health care plan – the next item on my list of things to negotiate.  With my freshly honed skills, I should be able to lock in a plan that covers pre-natal visits, prostate exams, and deworming all for $1,000 a month. 
And in 2 ½ years if I start every conversation with ‘Hey, if you’re headed to….  That just means the odometer has hit 36,005.  Please be kind.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

IT ALL STARTS WITH JUST ONE MINI MOUNDS BAR

Halloween frightens me.  It’s not the soul-sucking, bloodthirsty, pastyfaced ghouls with fangs  and ratty clothes lurking around every dark corner that scares the beejeezus out of me.  Throw in three different kinds of potato salad and a little crying and you’ve got my family reunion.  Its not the Hallmark Channel’s  two frigging months of 24/7  sappy crappy Christmas movies with lost loves, new romances, street-wise orphans, too many rip-offs of Dickens’ Christmas Carol and happy freaking endings that starts right after Halloween.  Okay, maybe it’s little of that.   What really fills my soul with dread is that Halloween heralds a dizzying downward spiral of my already fragile grasp on nutritional wellbeing and potential weight loss from which I will not regain control until it’s too late to fit into a bathing suit.
This annual decline actually starts round about mid-August when the pesky Back to School merchandise is relegated to a couple small sale bins near the exit to make room for Halloween candy—piles and piles of tiny morsels.  Sure, the official story is that the stores are trying to be helpful by making the Halloween treats available early, but let’s be honest.  What consumer’s schedule is so jam packed that she has to make her Trick or Treat purchases 2 ½ months in advance?  And for that matter, what little trick-or-treater wants candy that has been crammed is someone’s cupboard for 10 weeks (although back in the day, my young lads had been known to make a Christmas Eve snack of pastel jelly beans scrounged out of the couch cushions)   We all know the target shopper here is the same one who buys 36 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to freeze for ‘later’.  Check my freezer. Later came before my check to Troop 12 cleared. 
Every year I swear will be different, and every year I fall into the same pattern. The first time I see the display, I mutter something about rushing the holiday season, roll my eyes in disgust and walk right by.  The next time I stroll by a little more slowly.  I still roll my eyes but it's more in the direction of the shelves so I can discreetly check the inventory.  The third time, I casually toss a bag of the mini-Mounds bars in my cart. Coconuts grow on trees, much like fruit, and the coating is dark chocolate which studies done by people I could not pick out of a police lineup say is very healthy, so they can be considered a nutritionally smart purchase. I’ll just store them in the freezer, I say to no one in particular.  There’s plenty of room since the Girl Scout cookies are long gone.

Almost before I realize what I am doing, I am buying 3 or 4 bags at a time. They are so cute and tiny, how much damage can they cause?   As an added bonus, I can fill my 'novelty' giant martini glass with them -- it's a great way to  add a little holiday cheer to the fabulously appointed bungalow.
Gotta get ready for the little visitors. 
 

For all my justification and self-bargaining, by the time Halloween rolls around, I have spent approximately $694 on candy and have exactly Zero candy to hand to the little holiday beggars. If they figure out I’m the one shoving Party Mix wrapped in cocktail napkins (with hilariously inappropriate captions that are completely lost on 8 year olds) in their plastic pumpkins, I can expect a whole lot more than shaving cream and toilet paper on my porch tomorrow morning.

Halloween is just the beginning. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and that is one big feeding frenzy, with a goal to rouse from the post-dinner food coma in time to build a architectural triumph of a sandwich from the leftovers before bedtime. The Christmas magic starts the next day – with rounds of shopping lunches, cookie swaps, gourmet gifts, office parties, cocktail galas, Christmas brunch, lunch and dinner. This is dampened only slightly by the size 4 ‘friend’ who considers body-hugging exercise gear to be an acceptable Christmas gift.  Then we have the New Year’s Eve party with tables of hors d’oeuvre, and the glittering dinner buffet.  Maybe I can pull it together after Superbowl Sunday. Or not.  I am not a fan of football, but golly I am a fan of  the spicy, beefy, chippy dippy spread and chili and wings and cupcakes with team-colored frostings.  The chances of receiving Valentine’s Day chocolates are slim, but they are ½ price on February 15th, and you know what a sucker I am for a bargain.  These discount chocolates usually tide me over til the  marshmallow peeps and chocolate bunnies start calling my name.

But this year will be different.  I swear on a stack of size 8 jeans that were destined for Goodwill, that November first I will regain control of my own calorie intake.  Tomorrow’s breakfast shall be a healthy fruit and yogurt smoothie (who knew my blender could also whip up non-boozy concoctions?).   I am already looking forward to wearing smaller sweat pants Christmas morning. 


In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you this post is a rehash of a guest column I put in the MDIslander about a decade ago.  Yep, it has some original content, but is basically a rehash of the theme.  Total rehash.   Mmm, hash – crispy, greasy corned beef hash  with a cheese omelet and grilled buttermilk biscuit.  Okay, maybe the breakfast smoothie is out, but I will most definitely more than likely probably  have a salad for lunch.  Right after I get back from Goodwill.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

BREAKFAST FOR TWO EQUALS DISHES FOR DAYS

When I said I would make breakfast this morning; Michael offered to do the dishes.  Yesterday he prepared eggs over easy, corned beef hash and toast and I cleaned up all that mess, so this seemed like a fair deal. 

Partly because this morning is gorgeous and sunny, with a hint of that early-autumn crispness that just makes me want to do something functional before the crack of noon, partly because I wanted to redeem myself from last night's martini/Kraft Mac & Cheese epicurean adventure, and mostly because I had all the stuff to make it with (thanks in a large part to my friend Missey, her recreational lobster license and a mother who taught her to share) I decided to make eggs benedict with lobster. 

The coffee was brewing -- fresh ground Dancing Goat from Milagro--and while Michael assessed the new shelf situation in my 'office', I set to work in the kitchen.  First thing was to boil up the lobsters.  While they cooked I made some delightfully flaky biscuits from a recipe I found on Facebook ; I know  - I am hardly ever on Facebook, what luck finding a good...oh, hell.  Nobody's buying that. While the biscuits baked I picked out the lobsters and whipped up hollandaise - not the complicated one that breaks down if you're holding your mimosa in the wrong hand when you stir it, but a very forgiving and tasty blender version, even better with a couple snips of tarragon from my own little garden .  Hell, it's almost good enough to mix with vodka,but then, what isn't?  

OK, the biscuits are baked to golden goodness, the hollandaise is maintaining a happy warmth over a simmering water bath, the lobster is ready for a quick buttery dip in the sauté pan and I am almost mentally ready to poach the eggs.  You should know I can prepare a lovely feast for 50 people with a minimum of tears and throwing stuff, but I cannot poach an egg that doesn't end up looking like a background character from a 50's Sci-fi movie.  Luckily, when Michael moved in, he brought with him this wicked nifty pan with little inserts that you put some butter in, drop the eggs in and have perfectly shaped, runny-yolked cloud of cholesterol sunshine in a few minutes.  I just needed a minute to get comfy with this contraption.  The baby spinach sitting forlornly beside the eggs was looking pretty close to retirement, so I figured it should go out in a blaze of glory and for no apparent reason there was one lone tomato hiding with my lemons and limes that might as well join the party.  Several deep breaths, pots, pans, knives, bowls, spoons, cups, plates and a griddle later, I was ready to assemble breakfast. 

Dang!  Looks like I'll have to clean the coffee pot.  He is such a slacker.
 
Michael was mighty impressed when I urged him to make himself comfy on the couch and watch his favorite fancy race cars in Belgium while I presented him with a plate of flaky biscuits topped with grilled slabs of vine-ripened tomato, sautéed baby spinach, gently warmed lobster, the afore-mentioned perfectly shaped, runny-yolked clouds of cholesterol sunshine all enveloped in a
delightfully savory tarragon hollandaise sauce.  He was not so impressed when he saw the kitchen counters and stove.   Hey-- he offered.

Sure, there was quite a mound of dishes to be done, but in my defense I did save him some time - I used the same sauté pan for the spinach and lobster AND I cleaned the blender.  OK, not so much to be helpful, but because I might have needed to whip up a tarragon hollandaise vodka smoothie to help me through the poached egg crisis.  Or to help drown out the grumbling that seemed to be coming from the kitchen area.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Hey Y'all Food Network Fellas


Dear Food Network Chow Honchos:

If my Yahoo newsfeed and recent interviews are to be believed, there may be an opening on your TV schedule in the near future.  Please consider this blog to be my application for that slot.   My show would be similar to Paula’s in some ways, with some subtle differences.   I think I could be a real asset to your network.  No really, pull up a block of cream cheese and hear me out.  

1.      I have an accent.  It isn’t that long, drawn out southern drawl that makes 4 syllable words out of one, but I do hail from a part of the country where the locals apparently talk funny.  Y’all will be replaced with Ayuh and nicknames will be less saccharine (no more Sweet Pea and Sugar) and more bait related (perhaps Chummy and Slime).

2.       I do not look like I have walked away voluntarily from too many ‘all you can eat’ buffets.  I enjoy food, and it shows.  Not like that overly-perky  little Italian gal with the big rectangular qrin, the head that is a little too big for her body and the cleavage that seems to make it into almost every shot.

3.       I am a big fan of butter.  Also cream cheese, sugar, butter, mayonnaise, bacon, peanut butter, butter, chocolate and butter.  I have devoted many of my cooking years to finding new ways to get those products from the package into my pie hole.  OK, that might have sounded a little wrong, but there is no need to cue that 80’s porn music that plays in the background every time they show that underfed Italian girl giving parsley a rough chop.

4.       I have two grown boys who love mama’s cooking, clean up pretty well, and for a fee, will be seen in public with me.  My youngest (we call him Golden Boy) has developed a keen interest in cooking and has created some delicious meals for his friends and coworkers in his enchanted world far away far away from our little island; my eldest (Large Lad) considers gravy a vegetable, can field dress and/or freeze almost any critter and will spontaneously launch into a,  what people who are not me find hilarious, dissertation summarizing his thoughts on any changes in my standard recipes (Spoiler alert:  He is not a fan.  The first time I recklessly tossed fresh herbs into mashed potatoes he holed up in his bedroom, lived on Pop Tarts and refused to talk to me for a week)   Golden Boy would be a welcome regular.  Large Lad could be a Downeast- Redneck Special episode.  

5.       You don’t have to worry about anyone I know complaining about me dropping inappropriate references about other ethnicities.   The people in my circle have all said way worse, so will keep their mouths shut.  There may be some issue with sexual harassment, but if George Clooney wants to let the world know about my awkward attempt at flirting, who am I to stop him?

6.       I am a real person, which will help me connect with the average viewer.  When you film me shopping for provisions, you ain’t gonna see me tooling around in a shiny SUV, or Volvo or pontoon boat or whatever Paula drives (to be honest, I stopped watching her once she got all shiny and blinged up) and pulling up to a prime parking spot in front of some fancy specialty wine or cheese or candy shoppe.  Nosireee.  You are gonna film me in my 13 year old multi-colored Jeep circling the parking lot (the Jaws theme would work nicely here)  of the local supermarket, bitching about the tourons in the rented RV taking up 4 frigging spots (OK, we may have to edit that) until I finally ditch my car on someone’s lawn.  The sweep through the market will be a constant editing of a beautifully crafted list because half the items are out of stock or past their prime.  Checking out will not include smiling at a starstruck preppy clerk while he hands me an adorable yet sturdy paper bag (with handles)  containing each of my purchases individually wrapped in tissue, like the Barefoot Contessa in the mythical Hampton place.  No, it’ll be me attempting to make small talk with a clerk whose nametag has 14 consonants and who’s entire grasp of the English language consists of ‘Thank you’ and ‘Good Day, yes’  while waiting for me to fish an extra 83 cents out of the bowels of my purse.  I will then sprint to the parking lot in an attempt to get to the car before the bottoms of the 12 plastic grocery bags give out.  In a salute to the older viewer, you can capture the blank look on my face when I realize I have no idea where I left my car.  It is inevitable that the drive home will involve at least one ‘oh shit’ moment when I realize I forgot a primary ingredient and have to stop at a convenience store to find an acceptable substitute.   This will be a handy lesson for the cook who does not live in a house with a self-stocking kitchen, like in the mythical Hamptons place.  

7.       I have developed a list of helpful hints that I am ready to share with my audience—for example:
I can teach views how to subdue these feisty little fellas

                The zest of a lemon or lime can really perk up many recipes.  Taking the little sticky label off the lemon or lime before vigorously zesting it into the other ingredients will make it even yummier and is way easier than trying to fish little bits of zested paper out of a vinaigrette, or your guests' teeth.


                After frying up a buttload of bacon for breakfast (or more if you have company), save the bacon grease.  A related helpful tip--  if you want to save the grease in a coffee mug, make sure it is a different color from the coffee mug you are drinking coffee from. 

                If you want to flick cream cheese off the blades of a soup dildo (I guess the technical term is immersion blender) make sure it is unplugged first.  If you forget, take some homebaked cookies to the ER when you go to get the stitches out.  It really cuts down on judgmental looks and snarky comments about your mental competency. 

There are many more reasons why I would be the perfect replacement for Miz Deen, which I would love to discuss over Jell-O shots (my specialty, and a guaranteed invite to any party).  However, if you have already changed your mind and decided to give dear Paula a second chance, or have filled this void in your line-up with someone who won't be nearly as entertaining as me, I also love vodka and have lots of gay male friends.  Something to keep in mind when Jeffrey finally files a complaint against the  Barefoot Contessa for constantly groping him inappropriately. 
Thank you for your consideration.
Deb Kane

Sunday, April 14, 2013

FOOD FOR THOUGHT


I love to cook.  I also love to eat, but for now lets focus on my love of cooking.  The eating thing will just lead to feeling sad that none of my spring collection fits which leads to seeing what’s in the fridge that will fit in my face which leads right back to cooking.  That’s the quick trip to today’s topic. 

Since I love to cook, I read a lot of those cooking magazines, and watch the cooking shows and such.   I have noticed a trend over the years, because I pay attention.  The trend is that we have changed the way we name foods.  Food names used to be cool. Although I will be the first to admit I don’t understand the logic behind Strawberry slump or apple brown Betty although (I am surprised some PC group hasn’t lobbied Congress to devote far too much time discussing getting that name changed), I fully get Devil’s food cake – it’s chocolately and bad for you and oh so tempting.  Makes perfect sense.    What about  fish sticks?  They were not made from real sticks, hell, they probably weren’t even made from real fish, but I loved ‘em.  Dinners featuring main courses like Shepard’s Pie and Sloppy Joes nourished my childhood.  Although I never met an actual herder of sheep, or knew just how sloppy Joe was,  I ate their namesake dishes and asked for seconds.  

Now whenever I  am in a restaurant that doesn’t have a drive through window, nothing  makes me cramp up more than the phrase  ‘Let me tell you about our specials’ .  OK, I lie a little.  The phrase ‘Oh Kitten, I forgot my wallet can you cover the tab.? And could you add another shot of Jaeger to that tab?’   puts me right  into the fetal position.  But that’s a topic for another  time. 

While the server launches into a hand-clasping dinner special soliloquy worthy of a Tony nomination I frantically try to grasp a few of the key words.  While the server is saying something like   “Tonight we are offering Basil infused citrus marinated Pacific Shrimp impaled on organically spawned rosemary skewers furtively  kifed  from the chef’s maternal grandmother’s neighbor’s  backyard herbal topiary,  and  Xanadu Lava-seared tenderloin of bovine who died in his sleep in a field of daisies, slathered in an reduction of butterfly harvested raspberries  and a thrice gossamer filtered clover honey balsamic vinegar accompanied with  a dollop of garlic scented potato eyes and arugula sprout embryos served on a microscope slide’  what I am processing goes something like this:   Basil – Basil Fawlty – Fawlty Towers.  Towering Inferno.  Shelly Winters was in that.  Winter seems to be hanging around. Little icy this morning.  Microscope slide… I slid off the porch this morning .  Think I twisted my ankle.   So when the server asked what I would be having, all I can say is ‘Yeah, Tony, I’ll have a Stoli martini up with a twist. ‘ 

I should probably not be so critical of this new foodie fad.  To be honest,  I may very well be the inspiration for it (just like Jeggings and ombre hair coloring).   Please savor my explanation,  much as you would a subterranean legume emulsification coupled with an overwhelming amalgamation of the chicken output albumen, syrup of golden kernel  farm-fresh maize and sparkling crystals of highly processed sweetness, cradled between twin slices of pain blanc.  Tthat would be fancy talk for your basic fluffernutter on white bread.

Ya see, back when I was still making an attempt to be a good mom,  one day the principal called me at work.  Well, she called me at work more than one day—a lot more -- but this particular call  fits this particular subject.  Seems my first born was having a hard time concentrating and staying awake in class.  Before I could offer my theory that the teacher was probably droning on about something that he would never use in the real world like poetry or diagramming sentences or  good grammar, she expressed her concern that his predicament was directly related to the breakfast he had eaten.  Did he really have cold Spaghetti-Os  and a Coca cola both right out of the can? “Oh that scamp,’ I  I scoffed nervously.  As the beads of sweat formed on my brow, I started creating.  ‘As I recall, he feasted on pillow soft pasta halos bathed in a mild tomahto  (I actually said To-MaH-To) and aged parmesan  sauce served en tin.  This was paired with an effervescent elixir brewed from the finest Peruvian coca leaves, presented in a chilled ruby cylinder.’  Oh my, you must have been up early to prepare that.  You are the  best mom ever.  She did not say, but I am sure she was thinking it.

While I ponder whether I should embrace this pretentious food movement, that I may or may not be responsible for,  I’l l nourish my brain and my belly with golden buttery-enhanced orbs of flaky salt-crusted crostini, embellished with fluorescent aerated  fromage---ah, to hell with it.  It’s squirty cheese on a Ritz cracker, and it’s darned tasty.