Friday, July 31, 2009

My friends crack me up


Remember when I wrote this on my friend Marta's blog? (I was explaining how to make spinach salad with hot bacon dressing.)

Wash it over and over because it gets really dirty in the garden. Then you let it dry or not, as to your taste. If you have a salad spinner, use that to dry the leaves. If you happened to wrench the salad spinner from your husband’s hands last summer and throw it in the Goodwill basket because not once in the three years since you had met had you guys used said salad spinner, you will just toss the spinach in the colander. Your husband will use the untimely giveaway of the spinner as proof that nothing should ever be thrown away, including the phone bills from the house he owned with his ex wife ten years ago and the tuition receipts for his stepdaughter, who has been out of college since 1998.

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Kim's feet are on the right. She has very elegant toes. Mine are chubby and uncooperative.

I got this in the mail today from Kim my San Francisco pedicure friend who was here last weekend with her husband Luke my friend from grad school. Perhaps Kim thought there was a better way to dry lettuce than to spread it out on a towel on the counter and wait three hours. She might have saved my marriage (how much "I told you so" can a marriage take?) and has given me the right to throw things away again.

For shame, Ole, those are for after the funeral

On Tuesday, Jenny and I picked up our brother at the central Wisconsin airport, then headed to my aunt Rita's house. This was the best place to be because 1) my uncle is a fourth-generation butcher and makes the best sausage in the world and 2) this was where the baking was taking place.

In my family, if you don't work, you don't eat, so we were conscripted immediately to make rolls for the funeral lunch.

The camera-shy team at work -- three aunts and Jenny.


Two of the camera lovers: my sister and my aunt Mary Ann. They are weighing the dough to exactly 1.9 ounces, although Jenny later admitted she just worked on the average and made hers in the range of 1.8 to 2.0, which is Not Right for so many reasons. My mom's side is a bunch of perfectionists, so I don't know where Jen got this slacker attitude, plus Jen is a neo-natal nurse practitioner and she knows that precision matters. Would you give a preemie 1.8 oz of a drug instead of 1.9? I don't think so. Fortunately, the rolls turned out OK.


The finished product. There were five huge bakery trays of rolls -- dozens and dozens. There must have been 150 people at the funeral and there were still rolls left over, yet I was not smart enough to put a few in my purse. I did, however, snag some apple strudel and some lemon bars.

PS You don't know the joke? Here it is. Ole is on his deathbed. The pastor has been to see him to give him the last rites. He is just waiting to die. Then he smells this delicious aroma from the kitchen. Too weak to walk, he rolls out of bed, falls to the floor, and starts crawling: out of the bedroom, down the hall, to the kitchen.

He gets to the kitchen and pulls himself up to the counter. As he is reaching for a fresh out of the oven rhubarb bar -- his favorite dessert in the whole world -- Lena slaps his hand and says, "Ole! Those are for after the funeral!"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Going to the Big House


My sister: Is that what you're wearing to the funeral?

Me: Yes.

Sister: Do you have any other underwear with you?

Me: Yes. Why?

Me: Oh.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This is how a white woman is treated in this country

As my sister and I are driving north of Madison, we pass a state trooper. I had been speeding some, but not much because I am always The Person Who Gets Caught. Even if I were using SH's fancy radar detector that was his birthday, Christmas and birthday present 2008-09, I would still get caught. A second later, I look up and see the red lights behind me. Oh crap. I will never hear the end of it if I get a speeding ticket after SH spent more money than what I think a nice pair of Manolos costs on the Passport. Sheesh.

Me: Hello officer.

Officer: Where are you coming from?

Jenny: (Should we offer her some rhubarb bars?)

Me: (No! Shush!)

Me: Milwaukee.

Officer: Where are you going?

Me [in blatant attempt to play on sympathy]: To Medford for our grandmother's funeral.

Officer: Oh I'm sorry.

Me: She was 97.

Officer: OK. Well, it doesn't look like you have a front license plate.

Me: No ma'am. I don't.

Officer: Do you know where it is?

Me: Maybe. It might be in the trunk. My husband knows. Are front plates required?

Officer: Yes.

Me: Well, he tricked me into moving here from Tennessee, where they are not required.

Officer: May I see your license and registration please?

Me: Yes ma'am.

Jenny digs the registration out of the glove box and not only is the car not registered to me -- "We got married last fall" -- but there are two $20 bills stuffed next to the registration. We all fall silent as we contemplate the implications of the money. Am I supposed to use that as a bribe? Would it even be enough? Why didn't I know about this money before? Is bribery OK if it gets you out of a ticket? How does one even offer a bribe? You'd think I would know having lived in South America, but when several of us were taking the train from Santiago to Temuco and wanted to play cards in the dining car, which apparently was against the rules, and Rich asked another passenger if we should offer a "tip" to the porter who had told us to stop playing cards, the Chilean drew himself up and said indignantly, "We are not in Mexico!"*

Officer: That looks like the registration there.

She runs my license and registration. Upon her return, my sister is very disappointed to learn that I do not have a criminal record.

Officer: Here you go. You need to put that plate on.

Me: Yes ma'am. I'll have my husband do it this weekend.

Officer: I'm not giving you a ticket, but I do have to give you a record of the transaction.

Me: Yes ma'am.

Jenny: Would you like some rhubarb bars?

We all fall silent again as we think about this. Is it a bribe if you offer it after the transaction is complete? Do we really want to share the rhubarb bars now that I know I am not getting a ticket? What if she doesn't like rhubarb? Who doesn't like rhubarb? That's just crazy.

Officer: That sounds so good. But I can't.

Me: Are you sure?

Officer: We're not allowed to take anything.

Me: OK.

Officer: Well, you guys have a safe trip now.


* With apologies to my Mexican readers. But that is what he said.

Gracious hostess #24

What I intended to do with my sister:

Go to the fancy Goodwill place
Go to the Milwaukee Public Market and sample cheese, frozen custard and whatever else
Go to the advertising museum
Have coffee on the lakefront
Play tennis


Yes, my sister had a matching pink velvet jumper that my mother made. I don't know why she's not wearing it.

What we did:

Laundry
Went to Kohl's for underwear
Changed the sheets in the guest room
Baked a cake
Made a casserole
Washed the kitchen floor
Finished loading the dishwasher

Probably the last time I wore a 2-piece
Both photos by my mom.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rain dance

Me: Darnit. The rain has stopped.

My sister: That's because we brought the laundry in.

Me: Do you think we could make it start again?

Sister: Maybe.

Me: What if we put the laundry back out? Or just part of it?

Sister: You mean the Sacrificial Sock?

Medicinal chocolate



My grandmother died on Saturday. We were not surprised -- she was almost 97 and her health started to decline last year. We will miss her, but are happy that she had a long, full life (she raised seven kids and fostered I think five more, cooked with the ladies' circle at church, walked to Mass almost every morning before she picked up the mail at the PO where I used to be able to address a letter simply "Mrs Helen J, Dorchester, WI," kept a gorgeous garden, both flower and veg, made quilts for all her children and grandchildren, and played a mean game of sheepshead) and was independent and living on her own until about two years ago.

My sister just happened to be here visiting already, so she and I will drive up to northern Wisconsin tomorrow for the funeral. (SH is at a work conference where he is presenting a paper, so he cannot attend the funeral.)


My grandmother making strudel.
Photo credit: My mom.

I think I should take some food with us as there will be a ton of out of town relatives and the burden of feeding everyone should not fall on the few relatives who live there. No, restaurants really aren't an option in our family. We are People Who Do Not Waste and we especially do not Waste Money on Restaurants When We Can Cook Ourselves. Not to mention the dining out options in Medford and Dorchester are limited.



So here is the question. Can I get away with making something from a mix? Or does it have to be homemade? How much, if any, would my reputation suffer as a cook and as a Decent Human Being Who Cooks From Scratch if I make a Pillsbury Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from the mix I picked up at the bargain table last week? Would anyone know it was from a mix?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Loose lips

When I was in college, my friend Anita's out-of-town boyfriend would surprise her with occasional visits. Eric would call our other friends and me to make sure that Anita would be free. He would caution us not to spoil the surprise. Heather and Rene could keep their mouths shut, but I would be so excited on Anita's behalf that I would make sly references to the upcoming event, despite the glares that Heather would be shooting my way. Eventually, Eric et al stopped telling me when he was coming because I kept spoiling the surprise.

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If you are my good friend for 22 years like Lenore and you have a party for your 50th birthday, you can expect a fabulous present like 50 ounces of chocolate. I had thought maybe 50 pounds, but then realized chocolate does not weigh as much as I thought.

I have since learned to keep my mouth shut.

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We ate at a tapas restaurant in Chicago. I had way more than my share of serrano ham, but still not enough to make up for the $100 worth of serrano ham that SH and I brought back from Spain in 2006 that Customs snatched from us. Jerks.

Yesterday we attended a surprise birthday party for my friend Lenore. Her husband Rob called us over a month ago to arrange the party and I did not breathe a word of it to Lenore. I even called her on Tuesday -- her actual birthday -- and kept my cool during our 34-minute conversation, even when she told me that Rob was taking her out to dinner on Saturday. I didn't hint that I would see her then. I told her I would wait until I saw her to give her her present and I didn't say, "And that will be sooner than you think!" I didn't ask, "Isn't anyone giving you a party?"

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To make up for my ham consumption, I took it easy on the shrimp.

I was so good. She didn't suspect a thing, or, if she did, it wasn't because I had spilled the beans.

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Shockingly, SH and I are not that hungry this morning. I don't know if all the pork, beef, shrimp, ham, and bacon had anything to do with it.

I hope I get to spend my 50th birthday with good friends like Lenore and good food like we had.

Marriage 101, Lecture 248: Methane

SH: I'm sorry. I will probably be farting.

Me: Oh yuck.

SH: They'll be bad.

Me: You fart all the time. Why is this any different?

SH: Those are beer farts. This isn't from beer.

Me: There are different kinds of farts?

SH: Oh yeah. Beer farts. Steak farts. Sushi farts. Sushi farts are the worst.

Me: Thank you for sharing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 632: Exercise

SH: I am not sedentary.

Me: It doesn't count as exercise to walk down to the basement to get the Pringles you have hidden from yourself.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Chats du jour: Starving

Yes, we torture our animals by starving them, even after the daily Desperation Escalation that starts at 3:30, which includes Shirley lifting her foot to look cute, cocking her head and making her eyes big, and goes until 4:45, at which point the cats surrender, exhausted, starving, convinced that despite their crying and showing us where the food is ("Here! In this cupboard! Open it!") that they will never be fed again, and flop onto the floor, too hungry to move.

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Shirley enjoys the crumbs from the rhubarb bars and the juice left in the Tupperware from the one brat left from last night.

There, they contemplate silently the injustice of a universe where SH and I eat baklava in front of them and try the salsa Kim and Luke brought for us (salsa of the same kind that we bought the last time we were in San Francisco and did not refrigerate because it was in a Mason jar with a canning seal and then when we went two days later to pack it for the plane, had converted into a man-eating bubbling gassy mass that had popped the lid off the jar and no, the restaurant would not give me my money back which ticked me off to no end because nowhere had they advised me to refrigerate the product and it looked shelf stable so what would you have done if you were in a hotel and not at home with a fridge?) rather than feed them. How cruel is it that we eat without sharing? Do we have a moral right to that which we would deny others? are the questions that pass between them.

Then we feed them and they eat, Laverne wolfing her food down in about two minutes and Shirley chewing each bite 30 times and then batting her kibble around some to make it more fun. Laverne watches for a chance to steal some of Shirley's food, but she can't do it while I watch or at least she has learned not to do it while I watch and I watch all the time now.

And as soon as I leave the kitchen, Shirley looks for food to steal, which is why we keep the bread in the microwave and usually don't leave dirty dishes in the sink.

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This should have been with the yellow photos.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 351: The Good Cookies

SH: No!!!

Me: What?

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SH: You can't put my Oreos in the company chocolate.

Me: Why not?

SH: I never buy them. These are special.

Me: But I bake you better cookies than that.

SH: These are special. They can have two of the Biscoff instead.

Thursday the yellow end of the spectrum

I know. I'm being lazy. But it's finally nice outside and I want to take advantage.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chats du jour: Papillon

Laverne wants to be free, free. She wants to be outside and will whine incessantly until I put her out, which is when she starts whining to come in because she hates being on that stupid leash. Because SH is afraid she will be eaten by the giant neighborhood pit bulls that I have never seen, I am not supposed to let her out unconstrained.

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Laverne the panther rolling in the dirt.

I thought I had found the perfect solution: I put her in a playpen. Or, rather, my garden, which has an 18" high rabbit fence around it.

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Laverne the panther eating grass.

For the first several times, Laverne rolled around happily in the dirt, stalked squirrels and butterflies, and ate grass. I could leave her outside, unleashed and unsupervised and be inside in a peaceful, noisy-cat-free house.

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I didn't have all day to wait for her to climb the fence on her own today, so I put her up there. She was not amused.

Then I went outside to check on her and she was in the yard. She had escaped. My only surprise was that it had taken her that long to figure out she could jump over the rabbit fence.

The other day, I went out to weed. Laverne whined that she too wanted to go outside, so I took her with me and plopped her next to the spinach. She stalked, rolled and ate grass and then got bored. I heard a scrambling noise and turned around from the collards.

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Once she was there, though, she remembered what to do.

She was climbing the neighbor's five-foot fence.

She was taking the hard way out.

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And there she goes. Climbing five feet rather than making an easy 18" jump.

I thought she was smart.

I was wrong.

Marriage 101, Lecture 42: Dating and multitasking, or, The shallow end of the dating pool

A friend had this exchange with a guy at an online dating site:

Him: I have a substantial income. You can clean for reimbursement.

Me: Hahahaha

Him: I am serious.

Me: So I would be your live-in maid?

Him: No, my girlfriend.

Me: I appreciate the offer, but as we've yet to... oh, go on a date, I think the idea of being a live-in girlfriend is a little reckless and absurd.

Him: Maybe we should go on a date and see what happens.

Is it that hard to find good help these days? Or is it that hard to find a good girlfriend? I have so many questions about this substantial income guy and his love/cleaning difficulties.

PS Yes, she told him to get lost.

PPS Yes, she can do way better than this guy. She is funny, smart, gorgeous. She is out of his league.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday blue-ish

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Chats du jour: Why I must keep my Milwaukee Roll

It's been an effort to keep my Milwaukee Roll since meeting SH because we both hate food so much. I've had to force myself to eat cheese and chocolate and frozen custard. Kopp's Chicken Buffalo sandwich. Fried cheese curds. Fried macaroni and cheese at the state fair. Pretzel rolls. Apple fritters. Rhubarb bars. Peanut-butter stuffed pretzels. Vietnamese sandwiches from Lee's in San Jose. Cuban sandwiches from the place in Tampa by the airport. You get the picture. Sheer hell.

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I wanted a photo of her kneading, but she wouldn't cooperate. She was too happy being scratched behind the ears.

But I do it for the cat. It's all about Laverne. If I didn't have pudge around my middle, what would she knead? Really. If I had a six-pack, she would have no way to express her happiness! joy! oh I looooove you! keep feeding me! sentiments. Wikipedia says: Though cats will sit happily on a hard surface, they will only knead a soft or pliant surface....

I don't want a hard surface. It would be distressing for Laverne. Hence I must sacrifice. It's not like she has anywhere to knead on SH. Or skinny Shirley. I'm it.

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Just to confound things, she insisted on curling up in my lap and purring, which she never does. Never. At least, not when I want her to. Her favorite time to sit on me and purr is 2 a.m. She has also been known to climb between me and my book and insist on attention, but again, that is part of the "I want you only when it is inconvenient for you" strategy.

I think she was trying to convince me to give her the evening snack in SH's absence. It's not enough for her that I clean her litter box, change her water, let her in and out of the house on demand and feed her twice a day? Now she has to have a snack? That's where I draw the line.

PS Yes, I am wearing a sweatshirt. In the middle of July. Why do you ask? Isn't that a normal summer thing?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday red

Sh left this morning at the crack of dawn, which is not his favorite time of day unless he never got to sleep the night before, in which case dawn is fine. But to get up that early? That's just wrong. Doesn't bother me so much, but I'm diurnal compared to his nocturnal, a difference that causes far more stress in our relationship than our political and religious differences.

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I tried to put these photos in a slideshow, but blogger won't let me.

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I have spent the day cooking (OK, the 90 minutes after the gym) in preparation for Luke and Kim and my sister's visits at the end of the week. We are going to have brats, pretzel rolls, German potato salad, and rhubarb bars on Thursday and steak, blue cheese macaroni and cheese and chocolate-bacon cupcakes on Sunday. Strata Friday morning for breakfast. I was able to do a lot of the chopping and grating now so that when our company is here, I can enjoy them and not spend all my time in the kitchen.

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I have roasted red pepper soup* in the freezer for my sister to have instead of the mac and cheese because poor thing she is lactose intolerant, which was horrible when she and I went to the cooking school in Italy to celebrate her completing her master's degree and she could eat neither the cheese nor the gelato. That lactose intolerance might be what kept her from gaining eight pounds over ten days like I did.

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Then I walked to the bike store again. My neighbor cleaned out her garage yesterday and was going to throw away her old Schwinn. I told her I would take it if she didn't want it and see if it could be fixed, which it could but am I willing to pay $140 to repair it when I can get a slightly better quality used bike for $150? This is my dilemma. Along with whether I bathe today or just say to heck with it my husband is gone so why do I care if I am stinky with nasty hair?

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* No, I did not get red pepper soup all over the ceiling like I did the time my friend Lenore came to visit me in Memphis and we made the soup and I thought it would be just fine to put the hot soup in the blender to puree it. Guess what? Hot soup makes the container expand and the lid not fit tightly, which would not matter if you kept your hand on the lid the way your mother always does. If, however, you just hit "on" and then walk away for a second, the lid will pop off the top and you will have roasted red pepper soup all over your kitchen. I now own an immersion blender.

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Monday hijacking

Go to my friend Marta's blog to see what I wrote for her. It involves food and SH, two of my favorite topics. Then read the rest of Marta's stuff because she is funny and sweet and always has something interesting to say, although she has the same off-limits topics that I do so a lot of the Really Good Stuff is left out. Someday, though, she and I are going to start our Double Secret Probation Blog and we will Tell All.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 865: Save Big Money at Menard's

What SH had on his CF-approved shopping list:

1. Brand-name AA batteries for my camera
2. Superglue

What he returned with:

1. Store-brand batteries, which are cheap because they are CRUMMY
2. Superglue
3. A broom
4. CD storage tower that holds 532 CDs and it has feet! if the carpet gets wet!
5. Two cans of Pringles, one Blazin' Buffalo Wing, the other Screamin' Dill Pickle
6. Spray grill cleaner
7. A 2x4

Gardening tip #42

Sunflowers?

Need sun.

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Marriage 101, Lecture 1002: Your final destination, part 2

After watching the preview for Sunshine Cleaning.

SH: I know you're looking forward to cleaning out my parents' place after they die.

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Shirley with her bud Death.

Me: I'm not doing that.

SH: But what if I have to? Aren't you going to help?

Me: We'll tell Salvation Army to come get everything.

SH: But there might be stuff I want to keep.

ME: What, like the eight-year old Pittsburgh newspapers in the closet of the guest room?

SH: No. But I'll have to go through everything in case there's something I might need someday.