Monday, November 30, 2009

Chasing tail

Oh....not exactly the chasing tail you might have in mind.

A staff member from Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife used a dog to assist in the chase and attempted capture of a male cougar. The cougar apparently lived in Seattle for more than two weeks, forcing the city's largest park to close, before it was finally captured and returned to the wild. This is a very rare occurrence in Washington but someone had to lead the capture.
Note to Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife: Did you discuss this in the interview process?

In addition to the every day job duties, what about chasing cougars?
Why, yes!

But I am certain he thought you meant the other kind of vodka- swilling, tight-shirted cougar and NOT the 8 foot long stalk-and-ambush predator. I don't think fatigues, even if woven from a magical thread meant to make your employee invisible, would protect him from a carnivore that loves to eat what it can catch. What can it catch? Anything that runs less than 40 m.p.h. While attacks on humans are rare, they typically occur when the animal feels cornered or their instinct to chase is triggered.

I am sure chasing a cougar on foot with a dog at your side will only give the impression you come to offer a tummy rub. Better watch yourself. And make sure you have life insurance.

PS: Cougars think dogs are delicious too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Take A Sip Of: Cranberry Ornament



As if you have not had enough cranberry yet? Even so, perhaps you have not quite had cranberry like this. A delicious elixir with just a hint of warm nutmeg…this might entice you to extend your Thanksgiving holiday.

Cranberry Ornament (martini)

Fill martini glasses with ice and water to chill.

Ingredients:

10 oz (1 ¼ c) cranberry juice ( I use light)

2 ½ c vodka

7.5 oz lemon juice

5 oz honey mixed with 1 ¼ c. hot water

5 oz simple syrup*

Cranberries

Nutmeg

Mix the liquid in a pitcher. Pour into chilled martini glasses. Add cranberries and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Mmmmmmm. Try not to have seven more.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being thankful



As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that
the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy




A little pic from the sandy beach of Cabo. To everyone celebrating Thanksgiving, where ever it finds you, and with old traditions or something that will begin as a tradition today,
I hope you have an amazing holiday. There is much to be thankful for...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poor Rob

True Story:
During our sophomore year of college, a girlfriend of mine, KK, went home for a week over Thanksgiving break. Her boyfriend was invited home with her for the holiday. Her parents had agreed to this arrangement only if he stayed in the younger brother's room. Right.

Upon his arrival days before Thanksgiving, he placed his overnight bag and backpack in their entryway. Later, in effort to help him take his bags upstairs, KK picked up his backpack by the bottom. Unfortunately it was only partially zipped and overstuffed with books he would never take one look at during the break. Gravity and weight working against her, the zipper flew open and the contents emptied into the foyer. To which her younger brother, about 12 at the time, spied some contraband and shouted, "MOM, ROB HAS RUBBERS IN HIS BAG." KK was mortified as most 19 year-olds would be. Rob's mortification doubled hers. Her Mom, walking in from the kitchen, spied the bedlam as well and then decided Rob could sleep in the basement.

On Thanksgiving, with a slew of family over for dinner, the group has a great dinner as KK’s Mom and Dad are both fantastic cooks. For the dessert bonanza, her five year old little sister presented a pie she had made as a special surprise. Mom assisted in most of the utensil and ingredient assembly. The 5 y.o. called around the corner to ask the Mom where she could locate the main ingredient, pumpkin, which her Mom said “look for the orange can in the cupboard.” Surprise pie made, she was so proud of her creation. When it was cut open and plated, her Dad was the first to sample. After one bite, the Dad halted all other taste-testers. “Honey, what did you use to make the pie?”

“Whip cream!”

“What else?”

“Punkin!”

“Can you show me the Pumpkin can?”

All eyes at the table ever so curious….the little sister returns from the kitchen with an empty can. Canned pumpkin not the ONLY orange can in the cupboard. Was the surprise the pie itself? Or was the surprise that her sister had made a pie of wet cat food and covered it with Cool Whip?

Thankfully, after the laughter subsided, there were other pies to eat. At least the spilled rubbers in the foyer were forgotten about...

And finally, after dinner and ready to be strewn about the downstairs den watching football and family games, KK’s Mom opens the basement door to let the dog up who had been sequestered during Thanksgiving dinner revelry and Cat Pie a la mode. The dog races up ever so enthusiastically as the family files downstairs. KK’s Father, first in line, is quick to discover someone didn’t leave the guest bathroom door closed and the dog got into and traipsed the garbage can contents about like tinsel on a tree. He was also the first (of many) to discover that certain visiting holiday guests apparently didn’t learn in college that you flush used condoms down the toilet and DO NOT put them in the garbage can wrapped in tissue.

KK instantly wished they were back at the table eating cat food pie. Rob planned to pack his bags and immediately vacate the household. Nothing like observing evidence of someone's active sex life to combat the tryptophan.

What was KK most thankful for that year? When Thanksgiving ended. And of course, in later years, she could appreciate three very memorable stories all of which summarized by her family as the "Poor Rob" weekend. Even long after Rob was but a memory.

I hope your holiday is just as lively.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Indoor facilities are always my preference

I think it safe to say that all of us have been called by nature at least once when there was no indoor plumbing in sight. When we were in high school, this didn’t seem to phase us as much as it should on Friday or Saturday nights when six girls were driving around in someone's vintage Mustang drinking 4 packs of Bartles and James. However, all it takes is a mishap to make going to the bathroom outdoors like bears rather unsavory.

The first time I made my friend pull over on a highway because I was going to wet my pants, I thought how difficult could it be to quickly go potty outside and scamper back to the car? First, mind the headlights of oncoming cars less you think you will delicately just go to the back of the car. So you need to get off on the side of the road. Watch your balance because guess what? Peeing all over your shoe is highly repugnant. Only worsened when you have to remain in said shoe for an unknown length of time and worse yet when all your friends find out.

So I learned my lesson. Nothing like a wet K-Swiss to make me learn to hold it better. But one night our friend LL, she the witness to my tussel with Jose Cuervo, needed us to pull over. On the side of a fairly busy road. I remind her of the headlights which she responds with a “no __________ kidding!” She climbs down a small embankment so not only can passing vehicles not see her, neither can we. After an inordinate amount of time, we wonder where she is. No urban legends of murderers in our woods, we are more concerned she tripped and fell.
Piling out of the car, because young girls do all things in packs like wolves, we peer over the decline but don’t see her. Calling her name she shouts at us, “GET DOWN HERE AND HELP ME.” Turns out, she went southward of a old rotten log and held onto it for balance. This log, not being stable at all, and having no heavy weight to act as an anchor begins to roll over her feet.

In effort not to plant her arse in the ground, she pushed the log, only to slip, and have the log roll right over her. While it certainly wasn’t heavy enough to hurt her, it was long enough she couldn’t move it by herself. Planted ass down in wet earth with her pants around her ankles by a log. With numerous witnesses, each of said witnesses with a great memory and interest in sharing this story.

I think she would have preferred to pee on her shoes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Marshall Fields, look what you started

The very first gift registry was created in 1924 by Marshall Fields. A simple way for brides and grooms to share gift ideas and household needs with family and friends.

The in-store registry gained popularity over the next sixty years until Target Corporation created the very first online gift registry for brides and parents-to-be. Multiple online vendors like Amazon then followed suit with wish lists that could be easily updated at any time. I absolutely love the gift registry. Perfect for our wedding, perfect when were expecting, and perfect when we are buying gifts for others.

What do I not like about a gift registry? Well, I have had no cause to dislike the concept. Until now. We received a birthday party invitation a few weeks ago for a 3 year old girl's celebration. We do not know the family that well. But more intriguing is on the invitation the mother included where her daughter is registered for birthday gifts. Like a specialty toy store and a childrens boutique. And I don't think toddlers generate these ideas.

I admit I have never seen such a thing. And once you have a toddler in school, you know you get a birthday invite about every other week. Is it just me? Because seeing it for the first time, well, my initial response was: Wow, you have got to be _________ kidding me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Take A Bite Of: Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Now this is a pumpkin dessert I can sink my teeth into...
Why this versus any other dessert at the pumpkin bonanza time of year? Because I confess: I am not down with the pumpkin pie. As a matter of fact, I don't care for any kind of pie. But since I love to bake, love big holiday family/friend get-togethers, and love to try new things, this recipe is a perfect fit. Warm cinnamon, a golden crust, and an airy whipped filling = delicious.

You know with the word butter in the title, it has to be Paula Deen. Buon Appetito!

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oh Deer! The good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good: Because never before have I laughed at a deer cartoon. Until now.

The Bad: Who you callin' Bambi, son?

WINTERSVILLE, Ohio — A 7-year-old Ohio boy playing a game of backyard football was tackled by a deer.

Brandon Hiles says he encountered the buck when the ball rolled into woods while he was playing with friends Saturday in Wintersville, about 125 miles east of Columbus. The boy says the buck ran at him and flipped him with its horns, leaving bruises and a gash. His 9-year-old friend Wyatt Pugh beat the deer with a stick to make it go away.

Wintersville Police Officer Art Fowler Jr. says there were actually two bucks in the area gearing for a fight, and Brandon was attacked when he inadvertently got between them.

Serious "Touch Football" I'd say. Nothing like a large buck getting in on the game. And worth mentioning is not only the fact this buck tackles better than some NFL players, but I love that Wyatt Pugh went to task with a stick to save his friend. Talk about a 9 year old with a brave heart and quick reflexes. Now, that is moxie after a mother's heart.

The Ugly: Because apparently, there is a shortage of things to do in Sioux City.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Animal control officers in Sioux City, Iowa, say someone dressed a dead deer in a clown suit and wig and put it on a family's porch. Officers suspect it was a prank, considering Halloween is approaching, but they say it's not funny, safe or acceptable.The deer was discovered Wednesday morning.

Animal Control Officer Jake Appel says leaving a dead animal is immature and illegal. He says officers will dispose of the deer properly. Sioux City police have not opened an investigation.

I would love to know how someone mustered the tenacity to handle this dead animal long enough to put it in a clown suit when I struggled for 10 minutes to simply remove a dead mouse from my garage.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Football doesn't make me want to have another baby

When I was 9 months pregnant, we could obviously not travel via aircraft, so it was the first holiday season I had not spent at home in Seattle with my family. Ever. I decided to do some volunteering on Christmas Eve to help me refrain from being a pissy pants I mean baby keep things in perspective.

Later, JohnnyMac and his Dad, season ticket holders to the Atlanta Falcons, invited me to join them at that evening's home game. As I nestled that tummy of mine, the baby hotel, I had warm thoughts about not only attending previous football games with my Father, but sparkly thoughts about our little child going to football games with Daddy and GMac (Grandpa) in the future.

Club level seats: love it. As we situated ourselves in for a highly anticipated game, each time the crowd roared that little person hibernating in me (we didn't know MiniMac was a boy) would literally go wild. Ahhh...a budding sports fan: LOVE IT!

As the game proceeded, my Hub and his Dad were apparently OH SO VERY parched. I am certain yet another 32 ounce draft will quench that thirst gentlemen. At one point, GMac was doing shots with his friend on the other side of us, who conveniently packed his flask just for the occasion. And for some reason, JohnnyMac wasn't pleased with the Falcons level of play. And decided to talk about it. Which is a side of him I had never seen before. So about every 18 seconds when the Falcons had possession, he would yell out "RUN THE BALL".

After the 10th time, this begin to sound like a fire alarm in my ear. I patted my tummy and said, "Baby, trust me...you NEVER have to come to the games with Daddy and GMac."
My sense of humor only buoyed further as we left the game. I told JohnnyMac I would drive. He told me he was fine to drive. To which I said, "If you want to kill your wife and unborn baby, sure." He wanted to momentarily argue. Why I don't know. But then he tripped. Over a twig. Or maybe off a the 4 inch high curb. Again, seeing many layers to JohnnyMac I had not seen before. Who's navigating us home? End of discussion. After we got home and his Father left, JohnnyMac had in his mind that a fun post-game endeavor would be a "no-pants party".

"No pants-party" is the same party JohnnyMac and I hosted one weekend in NYC. The same party, we as the sole invitees, not only attended but also from which we brought home the ultimate souvenir: MiniMac.

You know what's hot? When your Hub still wants your body even 9 months pregnant.

You know what is NOT hot? Watching same Hub yell RUN THE BALL on a continuous loop for basically three hours. Oh, I mean on a continuous loop stopping only to take additional sips of his barley and hops. And then offer to drive you home. And then trip on a curb. Oh, I love him, I do. But for that day, and potentially some others in the future with several parallels, football doesn't make me want to have another baby. Or even practice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sometimes I like Donald Trump's magic words...

Because we are still relatively junior varsity level in regards to parenting, we refrain from dishing unsolicited parenting advice. Only after having a baby is it confirmed how little you know, further reason not to give all our big thoughts and perspective now. And once you are a parent, you witness and take note of many things that never registered on your radar as a child-free person. With every fantastic parenting move you see is an equal and opposite move. Things sometimes SO ridiculous that I assert even if you just woke up from Rip Van Winkle's crib, you would know this is likely NOT how it should be done.

To the Mom who came upon her approximately 8 year old son looking at mouse ears at Disney, who without a word beat his ass because she spied some hats had fallen to the ground. All the while yelling at him "I HAVE TOLD YOU TO BE MORE CAREFUL" only to have him protest and literally get spanked harder, to which I said, "He didn't do that, some other child did." To which she stopped, and with a shrug said "Oh....sorry" which seemed more directed at me than him. I like Donald Trump's magic words: You're FIRED.

PS: Run for your life Kid.
PSS: Perhaps your Mom can adopt the "inquire first, punish second" model.
PSSS: Maybe they need to sell Valium at Disney.We saw more people on edge and ready to rumble there than at a NHL title game.

To the Dad at the Atlanta Hawks game who gave his toddler son a small inflatable "thunderstick" used to cheer the team. The thunderstick the son twirled around in a spastic toddler fashion before bumping the leg of someone in line. The thunderstick that is made of plastic and inflicts no more harm than an inflated beach ball. The Dad who then yanked away said thunderstick from said toddler and literally balled up a fist, put it in the child's face, and sneered, "You want me to knock you out?" You're FIRED.

PS: Run for you life Kid.
PSS: Take your Mom and your siblings with you.

To the Dad at the park who was on his cell phone and NOT watching his toddler. The toddler who proceeded to wander off into a giant mud bog and roll around. The same toddler who tried to eat dog poop. The same child you exclaimed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" upon your discovery about 15 minutes later. He is DOING what he has been DOING for FIFTEEN MINUTES. Pay attention. You're not fired though because you had to do one h*ll of a clean up job on him, the car and the car seat because you told your wife you didn't need the diaper bag. I know this only because I heard you exclaim this out loud. Moms know things. Better luck next time. PS: Get off your cell phone when you are supposed to be on Dad duty at the park.

On the other hand, to the young Mom at the airport with a four month old baby, a three year old toddler boy. The Mom/baby/toddler stranded in the terminal on the same five hour delay we were, who used bubblegum to bribe your toddler into not losing his mind. The same Mom who then said, "Don't tell Daddy you had bubblegum." We felt for you and you did the absolute best you could keeping up meanwhile looking nervous the entire time. You were actually much more congenial than several other adults in the immediate area. Desperate times call for desperate measures sometimes. Bubblegum fit that bill. PS: Sorry you couldn't enjoy the cocktail we bought you on the plane.

And to the Dad at the restaurant with his 15 year old daughter. The daughter who was especially sweet to MiniMac and told us you two were on a date. To which you replied that she would be sixteen soon and you wanted her to know how a gentleman should treat her when they go out together. I loved this. I saw your earnest and genuine hope for her as you looked at her as you spoke. I think it must be hard when they are flittering so close to adulthood and you still remember bringing them home from the hospital the first day. Good for you Dad. I wish every daughter was so lucky.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teenage Girl Repellent

When I was a youngster, I was a bit of a late bloomer. And by "bit" I certainly mean I was the last one in the door to puberty. In 7th grade, I finally became a woman, or in reality, an already hormonal girl suddenly with a reason to buy feminine products.

My older brother had a friend for whom I had a mad, mad crush. I would always ask my brother about him. And this friend was at our house frequently so I made myself very present during these visits as only annoying younger sisters can do.

One afternoon that summer found me, my brother, and a mixed bag of our friends all lounging about the pool. The cacophony of 12 and 13 year old girls talking about C.Thomas Howell and Adam Ant songs only worsened by the rude commentary and fart jokes of teenage boys.

But my big crush was there. And at one point, he said to me, "I like your swimsuit."

This old thing? I can't believe he noticed me, after all, casually parading in front of him only a few 2oo times. I showed my grace and poise by smiling and politely thanking him shouting OHMYGOD-YOUDO?!?!?!

I sat down in a chair near him and started chatting with him about my brother's Van Halen album of which I had committed all lyrics to memory and thought this trivia would be impressive in an cool, older boy kind of way. He was very kind to me and his bemused look I mistook for a fraction of interest.

Until he leaned over and in a low voice said, "You have something hanging out of your suit."

Me, ever quick on her feet, quickly excused myself asked the single dumbest question available at that moment: Really? What?

He, being so much older and mature, merely answered: I think it might be your tampon string.

I know he was trying to be helpful hence my brother find this out and I be mocked into ruination. I rose immediately giving off a crimson hue of hideous embarrassment.

My tampon string. The mere discussion of it serving as a verbal version of him spraying "Girl B Gone: Teenage girl repellent" all over himself. Had he known that one simple sentence would be the catalyst to me avoiding him like the plague for a minimum of one year, he might have used it sooner.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Retirement community: a good idea for some

Last week, enjoying many a sight in Lake Buena Vista, FL including my child's face light up when he saw Mickey Mouse, I had the opportunity to observe the following:

A man and woman with SEVEN daughters in tow maneuvered about Magic Kingdom. The oldest of said daughters looked no more than nine or ten years old. Near the same intersection we were waiting for a train, Mom and Dad told the girls they had to be patient while they waited for "Grandpa and Grandma."

When Grandpa arrived, he was crotchety as all hell. The first thing he noticed was that all seven girls were wearing identical dresses.

Grandpa to the Mom: Why in the world are they wearing the same clothes?

The Mom (clearly his offspring): Because it gets really crowded here Dad, and this way it is easier for us to spot them.

Grandpa: How am I supposed to tell them apart?!?!?!?!

The Dad (also the son in law): Well, for starters, they have their own faces.

The Mom to The Dad: Brad!

My thought: HAHA...that's VERY funny, Brad! Which was gleefully expressed as I laughed OUT LOUD. The only thing that could enhance Disney World more than the crowds and lines would be a cantankerous Grandpa to boot. Hope you brought your Mickey flask, Brad. It is going to be a long day.

And all the more incentive that "Grandpa" can never come and live with you.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Take A Bite Of: Chocolate Honey Bee Cake

If this is sin, count me in. As if we all won't eat enough over the next eight weeks, lets add a chocolate honey sensation to the mix. From Nigella the Great. And believe me, its just as great without the bees. Buon Appetito!

AND congratulations to Tammy Howard from Keep in Touch with Mommakin, the Winner of the FoodNetwork Favorites cookbook giveaway. Tammy, email me your address!

Now, onto the sin.

Chocolate HoneyBee Cake

Ingredients
Cake:
* 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
* 1 1/3 cups soft light brown sugar
* 2 sticks soft butter
* 1/2 cup honey
* 2 eggs
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 tablespoon cocoa
* 1 cup boiling water

Sticky Honey Glaze:
* 1/4 cup water
* 1/2 cup honey
* 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
* 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Bees:
* 1 ounce yellow marzipan
* 12 flaked almonds
* Special equipment: 9-inch springform tin

Directions:
Take whatever you need out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can come to room temperature, and while that's happening, melt the chocolate from the cake part of the ingredients list in a good-sized bowl, either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and butter and line a 9-inch springform tin.

Beat together the sugar and soft butter until airy and creamy, and then add the honey.

Add 1 of the eggs, beating it in with a tablespoon of the flour, and then the other egg with another tablespoon of flour. Fold in the melted chocolate, and then the rest of the flour and baking soda. Add the cocoa pushed through a tea strainer to ensure you have no lumps, and last of all, beat in the boiling water. Mix everything well to make a smooth batter and pour into the prepared tin. Cook for up to 1 1/2 hours, though check the cake after 45 minutes and if it is getting too dark, cover the top lightly with aluminium foil and keep checking every 15 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely in the tin on a rack.

To make the glaze, bring the water and honey to a boil in a saucepan, then turn off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate, swirling it around to melt in the hot liquid. Leave it for a few minutes, then whisk together. Add the sugar through a sieve and whisk again until smooth.

Choose your plate or stand, and cut out 4 strips of baking paper and form a square outline on the plate. This is so that when you sit the cake on and ice it, the icing will not run out all over the plate. Unclip the tin and set the thoroughly cooled cake on the prepared plate. Pour the glaze over the cold honey bee cake; it might dribble a bit down the edges, but don't worry too much about that. The glaze stays tacky for ages (this is what gives it its lovely melting gooiness) so ice in time for the glaze to harden a little, say at least an hour before you want to serve it.

If you are going to make the bees, keep the pan of glaze as you will need it to make the stripes on the bees.

Divide the marzipan into 6 even pieces and shape them into fat, sausage-like bees' bodies, slightly tapered at the ends.

Using a wooden skewer, paint stripes with the sticky honey glaze left in the pan from icing the cake. About 3 stripes look best, and then very carefully attach the flaked almonds at an angle to make the bees' wings, 2 on each one. They might snap as you dig them into the marzipan bodies, so have some spare. You can easily add eyes by dipping the point of the skewer in the glaze and thence on the bees.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Welcome to Abode One Three

It is a privilege to introduce today's guest blogger, Matthew, from AbodeOneThree. Eloquent and poised, with a phenomenal sense of depth is exactly why it is privilege to have him here. Thank you Matthew for sharing the page with me.


At the age of seven, it felt as though I was never going to be them. It was just impossible to conceive back then; too far removed to even register as a whispered promise, an ominous prediction laced with foreboding. To be them, I would have to grow up. To be them, I would have to be eighteen; be a man. My parents assured me that it would happen in time; that it could not be stopped. They told me that one day I would be taller, older, that I would be just like them - but even at the age of seven I knew that my parents could not be believed. They had already tried to peddle the myth that vegetables were tasty and had been exposed as liars as soon as I had taken a forkful of cauliflower. I was sure that they were equally wrong now. At the age of seven I knew a lie when I heard one – and at the age of seven, becoming one of them felt as likely as choosing to snack on tomatoes as opposed to chocolate.

They seemed only to exist in the upper part of the city, spending their lives on Park Street and splitting their days between the bookshops, record shops and restaurants that defined it in the late nineteen-seventies. I loved that street and even at seven I wanted their lives; craved their identities, their independence. I wanted their intimate knowledge of those buildings, those shops sunk at unforgiving angles into the side of the hill, rooted deep into the tarmac and the paving stones. Back down Park Street, back down that imposing hill sat the other half of the city; the half on the flat, a maze of concrete and pedestrianised shopping precincts that the preceding decades spawned so prolifically. We would always begin our family visits to town down there on the flat; my parents dragging my brother and I kicking and screaming through department store after department store, shoe shop after shoe shop. It was a necessary evil; a means to an end - for if my brother and I managed to avoid fighting, if my parents managed to avoid fighting, if everybody got on and there were no arguments, no fights then there was a chance that we would leave the humdrum of the precincts and climb Park Street. It was a laborious, calf-burning ordeal which we would spread into shifts; split into hikes between shops, all the time moving us upwards, closer to the peak. Finally we would reach the top, stand in the long shadows cast by the university spires and look down upon the flat, over the city that lay beneath us - and it was always worth the effort; always good to be away from the department stores, the concrete and the grime. It was where I felt I belonged.

I would watch them come and go on Park Street, hurrying to lectures, from lectures; meeting friends for coffee or talking in the bookshops. I wanted to be them so badly; torn between wishing my youth away right there and then and struggling to comprehend that the day could ever come naturally where I stopped being too young, too short, too squeaky or too square. I was seven and they were eighteen, I was a boy and they were men - and at seven it felt as though I would never be a man, never. Surely it was too far away to ever come to fruition - too much time between seven and eighteen for something not to go wrong; for the Russians to finally drop the atomic bomb on us or for an asteroid to hit the earth and wipe us all out. Every time on Park Street, every time I saw them I would do the maths in my head: by the time I was old enough to officially be one of them the year would be 1990. That was the future, out of reach in the darkness and hidden from view. It was as alien as the thought of being a grown-up and at the age of seven, in the late seventies, I felt as though neither adulthood nor the nineties would ever arrive.

The fears I harboured as a seven year old would start to be confirmed before many more years had passed. There was indeed too much time between seven and eighteen for something not to go wrong, but the apocalypse did not involve a Russian warhead or an asteroid hitting the earth. When it began, the apocalypse was all my own work; the frenzied and naïve movement of a boy desperate to be a man before his time; desperate to fast-track himself to become one of them and taking short cut after short cut to try and reach where they were as early as possible. By the time it became apparent that I was not going to reach them, I had taken far too many turns into far too many dark alleys to re-trace my steps and it became impossible to find my way out of the maze, back to that seven year old boy to warn him how different things would be if he persisted; how far from his dreams reality would end up.

The boy I was thirty years ago put everything he had into growing up quickly. Inevitably he got his wish, grew up far quicker than any boy should. He would realise too late that this version of the future was not the one he really wanted; realise even later that what he really craved as a seven year old would require him to turn his back on them, accept that his endeavours would ultimately deny him their company. Instead, he would be tasked with finding his own place, his own comfort, his own skin to exist inside. It would take him many years to acknowledge, even more to truly accept – but the years he could not fathom as a child would provide time for him to learn – and learn he would, in time.

These days I look back at that boy with a man’s perspective and I look back on Park Street through older eyes. These days I think about that wide, steep street and see important, happy memories, not a tragic and bitter reminder of what could have been. Thirty years since him and I began our long and slow descent from the top of that hill, I think he would be accepting of how things turned out – but above all, I think he would be content to leave them to their own devices finally; content to leave the ghosts behind, back up the hill, back in the past. Back where they belong.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Team Hypocrite: Game On

Apparently, becoming a parent has also honed my skills of hypocrisy. It developed primarily when our son began to repeat everything said in his presence. Example from one afternoon driving home from school.

MiniMac: Jack is a poo poo head. (Why is this the first "curse" word all children learn at school???)

Me: Hmmmm. What was that, love?

MiniMac: I said Jack is a poo poo head.

I am good at this...I know better than to overreact hence fueling fire and eliciting a response involving only further repetition of the phrase in question.

So as giddy and light as can be, I proceed.

Me: That is an interesting little expression. Where did you learn that ? (sing song sing song)

MiniMac: Ashley Ann said it at school.

Me: Oh DID she? Awwww. Precious Ashley Ann. Well, we don't say those words.

MiniMac: Why?

Me: Because smart people don't talk like that.

MiniMac: Why?

Me: Again, smart people don't talk like that. And it is not nice.

MiniMac: Ok. Smart people don't talk like that.

When later relaying story to JohnnyMac, MiniMac was so proud to tell him smart people don't talk like that!

Moment of pride.

A week or so later while in the car alone, a car pulls in front of me and almost hits another car turning into our lane.

Me: That is ALL KINDS of bold, you ________ _________ d-bag.

Oooops.

Oh, I meant smart toddlers don't talk like that...smart grown-ups can say just about whatever they like when not in the presence of children.

Wait...is this where the expression do as I say, not as I do came from? Eureka.

Team Hypocrite: Game over.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Finding your way

"Excuse me, ma'am," he offered as he nodded toward the window. I didn't notice until I stood to let him pass and he tucked into the seat next to me. The lower half of his leg built by cosmesis rather than what he was given at birth. He wore his standard issue fatigues but the pant leg on one side revealed an artificial limb. His persona seemed old soul. And the fatigues and limb would lend an older, more seasoned appearance than his face ever could. He didn't look old enough to buy cigarettes.

We were flying to Seattle from Atlanta. He had recently returned to the US from a third consecutive tour in Iraq. This time, with a permanent injury coupled with an honorable discharge. As we shared a conversation, I was astounded at the level of calm and ease he used to talk about the real-life scenarios that seemed brutal and surreal to me. When he revealed he had just turned 22, I sensed the formidable sadness in his voice that his "career" as he hoped it would develop, was terminated.

It wasn't the loss of part of his body that disenchanted him, but that commitment to the Armed Forces had been prematurely disrupted. His willingness to serve, to stand, to sacrifice could no longer be engaged by the United States Military.

I asked him how he maintained not only the enthusiasm to rise to be assiduous every day in such an extreme environment, but also the belief that the war was the right action in the grim and very real face of death. He said everyone doesn't. War and the caustic realizations of what it truly means is not the same as reading about it in the news. But he felt he had no alternative. Once you enlist, you are committed for life. He followed with, "Or until you have no choice," indicating his leg.

I certainly could not compare notes or offer anecdotes about "I know how you feel." My greatest imagination could not conjure up what a single and real day in that environment would be like.

"How do you feel about returning home?" I asked.
He was contemplative before answering, "A little lost."

Death could have taken him. Another name on a long roster that goes beyond this war into every corner of every country. While he did sacrifice a limb, he certainly never forfeited his valor, or his ambition. And hopefully that ambition would become bigger, and broader to help him navigate his way. A way beyond feeling irrevocably displaced.

In baggage claim at SeaTac, I saw her before she saw him. The face washed with what only comes from holding your breath for three tours of duty. The look of impatience and searching superimposed over a very real foundation of frantic. She could only be at peace perhaps when she could see him, and hug him with her own arms. When she saw him, she pulled on the arm of the man with her. He couldn't get to the boy fast enough. His son.

When he introduced me, I saw in his parents the awe of having their child back. They were proud. And they were relieved. And the force of it made me relieved for them. A force I would not even begin to appreciate in some microcosmic way until I had a child of my own.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day in the US. Originally called Armistice Day in 1919, the day intended to recognize WWI vets. The holiday changed to "All Veterans" in 1945. And this holiday is pertinent to almost 30 million veterans in the United States. I have my own opinions about war, and its cost. But the freedom that affords me to have and vocalize such opinions was freedom paid for by people willing to go to war. And I have gratitude for that gift.

At 22, Corporal Foster was the youngest veteran I had ever met. Wherever you are, I hope you are finding your way.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thanks AND giving

First: Thanks.

Thank you for the great response to guest posting. Very honored by your comments and emails. Stay tuned this week for the outcome.

And now: Giving

November turns the corner into one of my favorite times of year for cooking. With holiday soirees and family parties, I have plenty of reasons and opportunity to experiment in the kitchen. And it serves as a great time to review my favorite cookbooks and explore new ones.

And one fantastic cookbook is from The Food Network. With over 250 recipes from one of my favorite networks/sites, this cookbook has great tutorials and photos accompanying recipes ranging from lamb to baked eggs with farmhouse cheddar. And don't say you were never inspired to learn to strip lemongrass. You can show all your stripping skills after you read this book (and I do mean the lemongrass!)

So I am sending a copy to one of you. Leave me a comment by Friday and once again, we will employ the magic hat to produce a winner. The magic you create after that is up to you... good luck.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Take A Bite Of: Ricotta Cheesecake


the easiest cheesecake you will ever make. This, using ricotta instead of cream cheese, is still rich but has a much lighter texture. Martha Stewart knows her baked goods. From her Baking Handbook comes this delicious vittle. Buon Appetito!


Ricotta Cheesecake
Ingredients:
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pan
3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan
1 1/2 lbs. fresh whole milk ricotta cheese, pureed in food processor until smooth
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375. Generously butter and sugar a 9-inch Springform pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg yolks, flour, 6 tablespoons sugar, zest and salt until combined, set aside.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on low speed until foamy. With the mixer on high, gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar, beating until stiff and glossy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the ricotta mixture until combined. Gently fold the remaining egg white mixture until just combined. Pour into pan and bake until center is firm and the top a deep golden brown, about 1 hour.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool ten minutes. Place another wire rack on top and invert cake to rack to remove from pan. Reinvert cake and cool completely, top side up. The cheesecake is best eaten the day it is baked but can be refrigerated, covered loosely with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes prior to serving.


Top with fresh fruit, dark fudge sauce, or berry coulis. And even amazing plain!

Friday, November 6, 2009

This speech is my recital

Actually, this poem is my recital. After my tiny tenure at Cambridge I did some traveling throughout Europe. Incredible doesn't begin to explain it. This is something different than I usually post, but I wrote this upon returning to the States.

Untitled

I walk through flowered courtyards of
Dancing shadows of prior love

who hand in hand beneath stained glass
caressed on beds of gentle grass

This fortress quiet, so divine
stood strong and solid over time

to all of those preceding me
who came to live, to love, to dream

and promenade in stone hallways
and languish in the sun-filled days

all along the river clear
I can almost see them standing here

with peace so deep and hope so wide
in this English countryside

I cross the river's Bridge of Sighs
memories do cloud my eyes

all my recent yesterdays
keep me in a daydreams haze

I've touched paupers, princes, kings
dreamed alive a thousand things

my soul, she does feel wonderful
for what's become a ritual

on rooftop watched as punters crept
passion shared while Cambridge slept

hearts ignited and burned for sure
as pipers played in Edinburgh

sunlight streams on meadows full
while pale eyes did search my soul

toward the sky a hopeful call
that goodbye would never come at all

where baths were swirling, steaming, wet
on lips the softest kisses set

sultry nights, peppered black
with moonlight pouring down my back

I danced in Barcelona's streets
laid where sand and ocean meets

serenaded as a stranger sings
inspired by what morning brings

catch the glances, stroll along
cathedral plays her mid-day song

Climb to top of spiral stairs
a balcony is hidden there

I admire the cities graceful frame
he looks at me and says the same

stolen moments in fountain's park
gorgeous gardens still and dark

where new lovers come to meet
wrapped in Verona's midnight heat

longing looks that seem to beckon
last a lifetime, gone in seconds

fantasies becoming real
all around the Glockenspiel

Oh to live in perfect ease
magic blows in German breeze

on castle terrace, through the gate
two hearts hold their breath and wait

when tomorrow wakes to shine
they'll sail down the winding Rhine

to a farewell when they reach the shore
for fate has not allowed them more

walk the path the Seine does run
poetic words roll of the tongue

under Trocadero's looming grace
Romance built herself a place

seems long ago, a few months time
etched forever in the mind

to where clocktower stands guardian
bliss does both begin and end

delicious secrets no one knows
as the circle is slowly coming closed

filled with angels and sinners both
giving peace and forcing growth

oh to live these days again
with perfect moments hidden in

wishes could not have better planned
young woman held in Europe's hand.

JennyMac

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Was Clark Kent onto something?

Yesterday I had an unexpected break before I needed to pick up MiniMac. Already in the car but past the gym, I decided to hit one of my favorite parks for a run in the gorgeous 70 degree weather. Gym bag in the car but no place to change. No problem. I am sure many of you know, most women can discretely change from a ball gown to a swimsuit and back fairly easily and quickly. I pull down a residential street. The street is deserted so I proceed to change clothes in my car. While I see not a soul in sight, I still don't lollygag. Perhaps I should have.

I went to the park which was chock full of other runners and got 3o minutes in before time to fetch MiniMac and return home.

Only at home do I catch a glimpse of the reason I should have perhaps taken more time.

Since I use lipstick that apparently lasts for 225 hours, it was not exactly the ensemble I would normally don for afternoon exercise.

Dark red lipstick: check

Black bra still on under white sports bra and white tank top. And oh so very visible: check

Pearls around neck: check

Just another jogger or a budding call girl? I know its the former but it certainly looked a bit like the latter. The only thing missing was beadhead and smeary black eyeliner.

Note to self: Clark Kent likely used the phone booth walls as a point of reflection when he donned his garb. Little spot check might be a good idea next time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Be my guest....

Through this blogging process, I have "met" some really incredible people. You and your blogs cover the gamut of topics from art to aerodynamics, food and fashion, sex and sass and virtually everything in between. And I love the mix. I enjoy reading so many of your blogs, and would love to change my occupation to Full time Blog Reader. Thank you for your contributions to such a positive experience not only for me, but for so many other people.

JohnnyMac and I have a rather fun escapade on our horizon and I thought it a great opportunity to close my laptop one day next week and invite you to open yours as a Guest Blogger here at Let's have a cocktail.

The topic is your choice. Do what you do best.

If you are interested, leave a comment here before Saturday am. I will pick one of your names from my fabulous magic hat. And then I will roll out the virtual red carpet.

Looking forward to a new twist on this cocktail party.
JennyMac

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Red means stop

Before I get started, go visit my friend PJ's blog for her awesome holiday kick-0ff giveaway. What is the prize? Fab gift card to Amazon. I have started my wishlist already.

Now, down to business.

As I wheel around this over-saturated city of mine, I use music (and absorption of sunshine when available) to increase the odds of a pleasant commute. I must inculcate patience as an ongoing process and what better place to practice than the car, especially during traffic.

While I may be quick to point out foolishness on the road, I am quite congenial about letting other cars in. You know what I mean. A car needs over into your lane, or needs to cross in front of you whilst you have plenty of space to let them. I rarely see a benefit of being one car length further up the road, so I am very welcoming when other drivers need a little room to budge. Do not dare pull in front of me all jackass-ish and uninvited, but by all means, if you see the courtesy hand wave, come on in.

I need the same courtesy numerous times a week, and often, people are gracious to give it. You know who is not gracious? The wretched woman behind me Friday. Let's discuss.

I am driving down Peachtree and see the red light ahead. I stop sooner than needed to let a car out of an office park. No one is moving, believe me, I am far from creating a traffic jam.

Suddenly, I hear a long and labored horn honking. In fact, I heard so much horn honking I think perhaps there was real danger looming. I look in my rear view mirror, and evidently, the woman behind me in her large truck, wanted to send me a message. Well, unless that's Morse Code you are tapping, I can't decipher. So be a lamb and let's just dial down on the volume, ok?

Perhaps she had cloudy pupils rendering her incapable of seeing the large red orb hanging down above the street a mere 80 feet in front of us, but red means stop.

I gave her a friendly wave because at that moment, it seemed fun. And there are only so many hand gestures available. Then the show began. In addition to the horn honking jamboree, she was waving her arms madly. Charades? I would love to play.

Is there a bee in there with you? No? Oh, you are a baby monkey climbing a tree? Wrong again.

Ohhh, I know! Orchestra Conductor!!!! No?

Mime in Central Park? Hmm.

Oh, an ass? YIPPPEEEEE! I knew I would finally get it.

And by the way, when you do that, hold that horn down for oh, 10 seconds at a time, that does not fluster me even a morsel. And did you flip me off? How very Corey Feldman of you.

So I did what any nice driver would do (especially one planning on making a point). When the light turned green I had two options. Move ahead which was clearly what Angrylina wanted me to do. OR, I could NOT move along. As the cars surged ahead, I now had even more room to be a good Samaritan so I let a few more cars out. It was the end of the day after all, and there was a line of about twenty cars waiting to exit.

And as I patiently let a few sneak out, each one waved, and I waved back. All the while treated to a concerto of Ford Motor Vehicle Horn.

The point is, we had to stop for the light anyway so don't be ridiculous. And thankfully, she stopped honking. Much more and I would have had to stop for a cocktail. Come to think of it, she likely worked up a thirst with that flailing arm workout and was in desperate need of a cocktail too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I hate myself for loving you

What is delicious, yet wicked. About 9000 calories, but so tasty you can't stop yourself? Chicken pot pies. I confess. And not the fresh, wholesome kind your Grandma makes either. The frozen kind you bake on a cookie sheet. While I haven't touched one in quite some time, doesn't mean I don't want to...

I consider myself a very healthy eater. JohnnyMac and I don't always agree on what is considered "real food". He thinks its real if it goes in your mouth. I think it is real if I make it myself, OR if it has less than 10 ingredients all of which are easy to pronounce and identify. But that doesn't mean I haven't flirted with many a highly processed food.

As for the frozen pot pies, I remember having the Swanson version as a kid, but one night, JohnnyMac pulled a little Boston Market Chicken Pot Pie out of the freezer. I turned my nose up at it, until I saw that flaky crust (made of mysterious ingredients) and when I had a little nibble, I concede, I rather liked it. If you could eat whatever you wanted with no caloric, cancer-causing or heart-congestive penalty what would you bring back to the table?Add this to the list: Frozen twinkies which are currently banned in our house. The ban is self implemented. Oh did you think JohnnyMac was going to veto ANY junk food? Non. A frozen twinkie is a tasty treat made completely from artificial products but OH so good.

And uncooked cookie dough? With all of your sugary goodness. More please.

A brightly and artficially flavored/colored Cheeto? Gimme.

But, none of those are my dirty secret. One of my favorite things as a kid is a wretched little treat called Top Ramen. After my parents divorced, my Dad actually made this for us as a meal. It was so much fancier than normal because he would mix an egg in it. And I loved it. And admittedly, I have had it a few times as an adult, out of college, out of grad school, and able to afford a meal that costs more than 6 cents. But, at least I made it all fancy style with that egg.

Years ago, JohnnyMac came home and unable to identify by sight what I was eating, he asked me. I told him SOUP. He squinted his eyes at me, then the bowl, and back to me. "What kind of soup?" he asked. "Asian in origin?" I responded none too convincing.

When he saw the wrapper on top of the garbage he stated the next time I mocked his junk food choices he would remind me I was an adult eating Top Ramen. Later that night, he gave me 12 cents. I asked what it was for and he told me so I could buy lunch the next day. I gave him change back.

However, shortly after this exchange I viewed a piece of a show on Food Network revealing the process utilized to make ramen noodles and I haven't touched it since. Doesn't mean I don't want to....