Archive for October, 2006

October 31st, 2006

» blue man

I’m drowsing through my morning tea (Hobee’s today; I try to save it for special occasions like Halloween or when I’m feeling crabby or days I eat oatmeal), doing a little work, reading a few websites, and there’s this sort of knocking at our office door. I look over and through the windows running the height of the door I see this guy. This blue guy.

His head’s all blue, his face, his hands, and he’s wearing all black with these black thick-rimmed glasses. When I look over his eyes are wide and he makes some robotic gestures and I laugh, trying to figure out who the hell it is — if it’s just some random passing goofy guy from another office or one of M’s friends — and then he opens the door and I figure it must be the crazy friend of M’s who’d called just a bit ago, only the guy says “Greetings, Earthling!” and I realize it’s my dad.

He came in so I could help him duct-tape his shirt to his blue gloves — and to show me his costume, I’m sure. And it just occured to me that he might’ve stopped at my sister’s work too, and I so hope he did because I think he’d completely trip the kids out. I asked him if my mom knew he’d done it, and he said she’d helped him.

Some days I am so, so tickled by my family.

October 30th, 2006

» weekend wrap-up

So sleepy. Usually I love fall Daylight Savings because you get this wonderful extra hour — the last two years I used it to sleep off Halloween parties, but I’m not sure where it went this year. Eaten, perhaps, by my inability to sleep until 8 a.m. no matter what time I go to bed.

Jo and I deviated from tradition this year and went to Maria’s party, which involved tasty food and much less alcohol and much more Pictionary and a pumpkin full of lighter fluid & fireworks, and was delightful. (And I don’t say that just because my team won at Pictionary. I really would’ve called it a tie; at the finish line we battled it out with Jo’s team through god knows how many rounds, so it was really just luck of the draw. …of the cards, not in a horrible punning way.) I went as Red Riding Hood, because I only decided on Friday to go and it was the only thing I could think of to make on such short notice. All the hood patterns I found online were some combination of complicated and baffling, so I wasn’t entirely pleased with how it came out, but I didn’t end up wanting to put it up at all so it didn’t matter.

I spent most of yesterday making tamales. Everything I read about them promised they were this arduous all-day affair best done with lots of people to share the work, etc etc, and I couldn’t quite believe they were that difficult — though I also know how much time it takes to roll sushi and make parathas and dolmades. In all my experience so far, individually-wrapped portions equals lots of time spent wrapping.

Verdict: it probably would be a very fun activity to do with other people who like things like standing in the kitchen for four hours on a Sunday afternoon. But it was also nice on my own; sort of meditative, leisurely. I finished listening to Mrs. Dalloway and, out of anything new, started Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell again. I made fillings and soaked corn husks and made masa dough (such delightfully easy work with the new mixer), and then spread and wrapped and tied and spread and wrapped and tied. And then I steamed them in the pressure cooker, which cut 40 minutes off the finishing time. And then I finally tried one, and they were delicious. It might’ve been partly knowing how much work had just gone into them, but standing in the kitchen eating this heavenly warm fragrant corn-sweet tamale straight from the husk was a toe-curling affair.

I made three fillings (and happily the book described three methods for rolling, so I tried them all): black bean, corn with carmelized onion, and adobo. The adobo is far and away my favorite — it’s a paste/sauce/thing made from dried chiles and it’s unholy tasty. It’s not hot at all, just — flavorful. Voluptuous. All rich sweet chile and vinegar and these whispers of cinnamon.

So now I just have to keep out of them until Wednesday, which is family dinner night. I’m doing the Dia de los Muertos thing, and I was going to do pan de muerto, the traditional ‘bread of the dead’, but it calls for an unconscionable amount of eggs. So instead I’m using unconscionable amounts of butter to make Maya’s Day of the Dead Cookies, which are shaped like skulls. And no good pirate can pass up an opportunity to make skull-shaped cookies.

October 23rd, 2006

» bull in a china shop

In the last year or so I have gained pretty much zero pounds. I feel pretty much seven thousand times fatter, though. Tonight, at least.

I realized this evening that I have exactly zero sweatshirts that fit me. Zero articles of clothing perfect for crawling into when it feels like the whole world is sad or bad or just tired. (I have some flannel pajamas and some sweaters and these wonderful black stretchy yoga pants and any number of things that feel comforting sometimes to slouch around in, but there is a particular mood that only a sweatshirt will answer, something so-soft inside. I used to like roomy sweatshirts, believed there wasn’t such a thing as a sweatshirt that was too roomy, but there is. It’s not comforting any more when you’re hanging half out of it, needing to shove and tuck and fold and rearrange when you move. A sweatshirt needs to be close. Cuddling on up, saying Well *I* don’t think you’re disgusting.)

I hate doing stupid things. I hate them even more when they’re the result of disorganization. I hate it when I use my credit card for little things, to pay for parking or a few dollars at a convenience store, and I’m in a rush and tuck my receipt away and then forget, later, to go back and write it in my check register. That’s the scale of money-related stupidity I’m okay with. To forget a few small charges every few months; I balance my checkbook often enough to catch them quickly, to still remember that Yes, I spent that and then forgot to note it.

Tonight I went grocery shopping and forgot my entire wallet. I only realized it halfway through the checkout, opening my purse and staring into its too-meager contents. Thankfully I’d gone to Whole Foods, too lazy to go further afield to Cub, and so I managed a seven-minute round-trip home and back. The sweet, cheerful guy bagging my groceries was the same guy who so concerned himself over the dissatisfying taste of the frozen yogurt Bryce and I got a few weeks ago. I wonder if he remembers that I was the lady who wanted to exchange a pint of frozen yogurt because it just wasn’t that good. Next time I’m out by my bank I’m going to get a little extra cash out to keep in my glove compartment, in case I’m ever that brainless again.

My neighbors in one of the houses out back have a gigantic tacky inflated glowing pumpkin in their yard, and a handful of huge plastic skeletons hanging from one of their trees. I’m unbelievably in love with them for it. Normally I don’t go in for things like that, for big illuminated holiday displays, but damned if it wasn’t something I needed to see tonight.

It made me think of the neighborhood I grew up in, and trick-or-treating, and the one house where every year this guy would dress up in a big gorilla costume and wait for kids to ring the doorbell, and then come tearing out from around the garage, bellowing and waving his arms. My sister and I had seen it happen to other kids and were so terrified that we never went trick-or-treating there. We couldn’t've been lured even if they’d been giving out entire candy bars. (I still remember the glorious year that one of the couples down the kuldesac were out that night at a party and so left an entire garbage can full of pop out. I don’t remember if I picked strawberry or grape, but it was dizzyingly marvelous to’ve gotten an entire can of pop while out trick-or-treating.) Anyway, sometimes it feels like that’s a nice metaphor for my whole life. Scared of a man in a gorilla costume.

I joined the gym across the street tonight, and stupidly was too shy to ask for the joining fee to be waived. I’m sure they would have. But that’s all right, I suppose. There’s only so much room for worrying in my head, and this new bit doesn’t seem to’ve fit in anywhere. I am going to give it a month and see how often I use it, because really between doing tapes in my living room and riding three or four times a week, I don’t know that I need to be spending the extra money for what boils down to, for me, a treadmill.

I’ve decided I am going to cook through Camellia Panjabi’s The Great curries of India, something I’ve been thinking about doing for ages. I’m hoping to do a recipe a week; there are fifty curries, so that’d take me through to next fall, which is kind of a crazy thought. Apart from having less than a year of cooking Indian under my belt, I think the biggest hurdle is going to be apt replacements for all the meat. I know a big part of cooking is playing, trying things out, but there is such a tradition in Indian cooking of carefully-balanced tastes that I know I don’t know enough about, that I know I will inadvertantly trample all over. Since I don’t know anyone to teach me better, I also don’t know anyone who’d eat my food and find me out, so there’s that. Up this week: Rogan Josh, a mildly spicy curry from Kashmir. (With my other big hurdle, which is my curious reticence to buy most things milk-based [an impulse I'm not ready just now to examine further]. So I’ve bought my first container of soy yogurt, and lord knows how it’s going to muck with the consistency and taste compared to the traditional full-fat cow yogurt called for in the recipe. Falala. Whole Foods also didn’t have black cardamom or mace, much to my surprise.)

Entirely unrelated: I need to quit chewing gum again. My jaw is killing me.

October 20th, 2006

» #9

Excitement of the day: the #9 envelopes have arrived.

#9 envelopes, if you were unaware, are utterly brilliant. They are just slightly smaller than #10′s, which are standard business-size envelopes, but they’re still wider than standard paper (8 7/8″, to be precise). So what does all that mean? It means we have return envelopes. Return envelopes that I don’t have to feed tediously through the printer and then fold in unprofessional thirds to tuck in outgoing envelopes.

When we ordered them I tried to express to my boss how important they were, how wonderful, what a Good Thing they were. He didn’t seem to understand, really, or be nearly as excited as I was. So I just content myself with the thought that scattered everywhere out there are legions of support personnel who would hear about this recent improvement and nod and nod and nod, knowing.

October 19th, 2006

» the classics

Have I said yet how much I’m adoring Madeleine Peyroux? I love her bluesy jazzy smokey warm old-worldsey thing. Listening to her feels like being curled up in a huge armchair in front of a big window with a Sunday afternoon rainshower outside and a steaming creamy mug of tea at your elbow and a favorite book in your lap. Or being at a little table in a dimly-lit restaurant, all soft easy intimacy and candlelight winking through wine glasses.

A month or two ago I also happened upon 99.5, the local MN Public Radio Classical station. Like The Current before it, it’s lured me away from audiobooks and my ipod with its lovely commercial-freeness. There’s a refreshing abundance of actual music, particularly during my morning and afternoon drives, and the talking is generally brief and interesting. It eliminates the three things I usually detest about radio: commercials, irritating DJs, and the same handful of songs played to death. They’ve just started up their semi-annual (?) fund drive, and I find myself strangely tempted by their stainless steel water bottle, a thing I’ve been wanting for months and months — but which I can get for $100 cheaper in any number of other places. Which isn’t really the point, of course, but then there’s Peru.

Speaking of: to skydive or not to skydive? It’s become our thing (after just two times [and apparently 'beautiful beautiful beautiful' is my recurring impression, huh]), but Peru is so full of things we couldn’t do here, like sandboarding and that whole hiking to Machu Picchu thing, and we’ll only have so much time and money. Decisions decisions.