Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grease Redemption

As part of the admissions process for HC's Shakespeare conservatory this summer, HC had to pull off an intense audition at Julliard in NYC. Given that the sum total of my Julliard experience consists of watching Save the Last Dance four times my sophomore year of high school, I was completely ready to help her prep. Just in case though, we brought in a professional. He is a good friend of the family and a talented actor.

Last night, in celebration of HC's successful audition (followed by successful coursework in England), we invited Mr. Actor and his wife over for dinner.

It was a culinary disaster.

I mean, people had fun. There was wine. But in my mind, food is the party and this party was kinda...gross.

One problem was that I tried to go too seasonal and healthy. I know what you're thinking. There's no such thing as "too" seasonal or "too" healthy. WRONG. I made pesto with basil from my garden. I made baba ganoush with eggplant from a local farm and parsley also from my garden. I made a creamy sauce packed full of pureed fresh vegetables generously portioned it over whole wheat pasta. All the propaganda I've soaked in from The Omnivore's Delimma and Top Chef has told me "the ingredients speak for themeselves!"

Well. Ingredients may just speak for themselves with grace and tact when they're being translated by Alice Waters, but mine were a bit mouthy. They were speaking alright, but it was all garlic to me.

Tonight, I sought redemption. I needed something that could reestablish my kitchen zen, center my inner cook and rectify last night's measly meal. I needed something YUMMY.

So, I busted out the Christmas gift that has been haunting me for going on eight months now. Its box has been sitting in my pantry since December, adding a little danger to paltry pantry lineup of dustbunnies, an unusued fondue pot and a cantankerous ice cream maker. Every time my eyes skimmed over the label "CoolTouch Deep Fryer" a little shiver ran up my spine.

I carefully unpacked the box. It had a lithe, brushed chrome exterior with a shapely ergonomic handle and voluptuous time and temp indicator. The circular glass viewing window is reminiscent of a boudoir keyhole, or the business end of a telescope focused on Venus. The insides gleamed with the unadulterated promise of hot, bubbling grease.

I heated the oil. The trimmed chicken was piled carelessly in a red bowl nearby and I waited eagerly for the green "ready" light to turn on. Then, six by six, I fried those wings. Tenderly, I covered them in a chipotle barbecue sauce. Lovingly, I eased them onto a plate.

Eyes closed, I took a bite.


So good.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Trading Up

P and I made the drive down the John F Kennedy International Airport this afternoon to pick up our long lost teenage girl.

I can't say how proud I am of the way HC handled the incredible opportunity she earned, studying Shakespeare for three weeks at Wadham College in Oxford. As she emerged from the crowd of other travelers at the arrivals deck of the British Airways terminal, I couldn't help but notice how confident she looked, how beautiful, how calm.

Our drive home (via a much needed pizza stop) was filled of HC's lively descriptions of the fun and education packed weeks. It sounds like she had a blast. She's really come into her own.

Half an hour before we got home, I turned to look at the back seat. There were my two girl, both slumped toward opposite windows, sound asleep. One, wearing a onesie and pink tutu, holding a puppet in her hand. The other wore her brand new rugby shirt emblazoned with the prestigious Oxford crest, and held a cell phone in her hand.

Not too different, really. Just trading up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Which I Hit Some Bumps, and a Top 5 List

When we had a sort of surprise guest spend the night a few weeks ago, I threw the guestroom into a temporary state of together. How does one have a "sort of" surprise guest? It goes a little like this:

P: I guess I better get the litter boxes cleaned out.

Me: (not listening) Yeah.

P: Did you put sheets on the bed down there?

Me: (dawning alarm) What?.... Where? Why?

P: My colleague is coming tonight.

Me: WAIT. WHAT? You told me he was coming sometime in the next two weeks!

P: That was a week ago, and he's coming tonight.

Cue panic.

So the poor man got to sleep in a room that has one royal purple wall, one bright turquoise wall, glow-in-the-dark stars stuck on the ceiling and lyrics to pop songs scrawled on the windows in multicolored chalkboard markers.

Today, my intent was to begin the rehabilitation of once-teen, now public, bedroom. Unfortunately, my good intentions were routed by the joint pincer attack of more guest surprises (this time just for the afternoon) and having bought the wrong materials yesterday. In short, my progress was rather pathetic. And I'm starting to feel desperate.

Therefore, I present the following Top 5 List of songs I found through thorough scientific analysis. Of my memory. That I can think of right now. Anyway the point is, they win the award for Most Pathetic and Desperate Songs Ever Made.

5. Don't You Remember, by Adele
What's a song list without Adele, anyway. She's all the way down at number five because it's such a good song that GIRL, I REMEMBER. WHY. I. LOVE. YOoouuuu....so it's less pathetic. Shhhhh, Adele, it'll be ok. Actually, don't shhh. Keep singing.

4. In fact, sing Someone Like You because I didn't want you to hog the Top 5 List but that song is totally pathetic and desperate too. So hog away.

3. Jolene, by (do I even have to say?) Dolly Parton
Parton me, but this might be one of the most humble songs sung by sure-fire diva ever written. Especially when you consider that it is addressed to another woman, not just beggin' to a man. Anyone can beg a man. It takes some desperation to up and beg to another woman.

2. I Who Have Nothing, by Ben E King
I know, the version I linked doesn't look like the tall black man you were expecting, but I just can't help but like this version is all it's pomp and drama. Being from American Idol just makes it that much more desperate and pathetic. Just kidding. Maybe.

1. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, Dusty Springfield.
...just be close at hand. You don't have to stay forever, I will understand. Believe me, believe me, I can't help but love you, but I would never tie you down. Seriously! This has to be the ultimate desperation song. Alright Dusty. You sure can sing, but this is going a bit far. Allow me to introduce you to my good friend, Dignity. You two need to get to know each other a little bitter. I mean better.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Little Advice, PLEASE, Before I Do-It-Myself...

Before I jump airhead first into this project, I'm going to ask "Teh Interwebs" for some advice.

By interwebs, I pretty much mean the 2 knowledgeable people who read my blog (I'm talking to you, UG).

The deal is, I'm redoing the guest room, and I'd have something flashy in mind for the walls.

I got a really cool fabric from Ikea that I'd like to use as a decor on the walls to give them a neat color pattern and texture. First, I was thinking of building some sort of frame, stapling the fabric to the frame and then hanging the frame on the wall like a piece of art.

Problemo Numero Uno: this isn't one piece of fabric we're talking about here, but nine, and in a pattern that I can't with confidence say will line up properly on the frame. I imagine it gaping open, and that's just not ladylike.

So, I briefly considered trying to make a sort of padded thing akin to an upholstered headboard that would hide any tacs needed to keep the fabric together. Briefly considered, and quickly rejected.

Now, I'm looking at the technique of "starching" a fabric to the wall. Essentially, you get or make liquid starch and use it as glue for adhering the fabric directly to the wall without any frame or anything. Sorta like wallpaper, except that it comes down easily with a little water.

Problemo Numero Dos: Everywhere this technique is described, it is sold as something for people in rental or temporary properties who need to be able to remove it easily. But I want it up for...well, presumably ever. Is that ok?

Secondly, my wall is stupid and textured. It's made of concrete since it's in the basement and I assume it's a valuable part of the foundation? Anyway, it's been painted many times, but the texture is still definetely there.

I've looked in to DIYing wall-texture removal and it doesn't look fun. Or pretty. Or fun.

What I mean is, I don't wanna do it.

Is it expensive to have done by someone else? Can I just ignore it and hang the fabric over the texture? Is butter a carb? Do these jeans make me look fat?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Serious Waffles

My darling HC has been across the pond for two weeks and won't return for another. How I miss my energetic sidekick!

In her honor, I share with you the following story:

Friday afternoon, nearly dinnertime. Sunny day, mid-summer. HC and I venture in to one of our favorite haunts, Goodwill Enterprises in search of a "theater skirt" required for her then forthcoming venture into the wide world of *Will's wit. We wandered distractedly into the housewares section. Both our eyes fall upon a veritable Alladin's lamp of kitchen paraphernalia: a circus shape waffle maker, new in the box.

Me: OHMYGOSH. Should we get this?!

HC: Um, yes! I think so.

Me: Did I tell you my sister was appalled to discover that I didn't own a single waffle iron?

HC: That's true.

*slight pause*

HC: Although... is it wise to have our only household waffle iron be a circus shaped one? You won't be able to use it if you ever need serious waffles.

The last thing we did together before she left for her Shakespeare Conservatory in Oxford, England (sob! she's such a big girl!) was to make circus shaped waffles. She needed a packing break, and we needed some serious waffles.

*Shakespeare, that is.

Post-Party Recap

On this rainy post-party Sunday, I thought I'd post some details of my last party of the summer. Needless to say, I meant to post one of these recaps for each of the parties this year, but typical disorganization got the best of me.

Yesterday we had about 15 people over for "Cocktails al fresco" to raise funds for a local non-profit. I spent the whole week leading up to the party working my tail off with Fred outside, whipping the landscaping and courtyard in order. Believe me when I say it was a serious battle with some hardcore hand-to-weed combat.

Meanwhile, C and I also formulate and executed (sounds so professional, eh?) a stellar menu.

Since it was just an afternoon event didn't have to plan a meal. On the main table we had:

vichyssoise, aka cold potato and leek soup, with white truffle oil and chives,

campari and watermelon tastes,

plus white bean salad, pea and mint salad, and the non-alcoholic drinks (lemonade, iced tea, water).

The centerpiece was made of branches from the broken pear tree that I've been putting to good use before they croak, and some discount plants (creeping jenny and woolly thyme) I picked up that morning that were long and trailing, creating a cool effect. Here are some of the sweets I made -
chocolate dipped apricots in sprinkles and coconut, yummmm.

The main event was the birthday cheesecake that I decorated with fresh fruit. Yes, it says 424. Happy Birthday, Virginia Dare!

On the "coffee table" aka firepit that we cleaned up, brought inside and put a tray on, was the cheese plate. I decorated it by putting a lantern that I bought in Turkey upside down in the middle.

Outside, we had paninis and quesadillas. The bar was outside too, down where there was a pretty view of the river.

Everything looked awesome, I just wish I were a better photographer!

Autumn Falling Already?

Yesterday's fundraiser went off without a hitch, and, if I do say so myself, the house and food were great. C and I pulled it off! Next year we need more women guests, maps in the invitations, and more, more MORE people, but I really have no complaints.

The weather was perfect. After several weeks of hot weather, it was low 80s in the sun and cooler in the shade. People lounged around the patio all afternoon drinking and discussing and generally enjoying each others' company.

Then, this morning, I awoke to clouds and drain. And CHILL. Everyone in church this morning was wearing a sweater! It's only August 14!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Almost two years ago, I posted an entry dedicated to two loves of my life: P and my pear tree.

This year, I'm sad to report, one of the two lost a limb.

It's ok, he has three others to spare.

In my grief I've decided to clean out the entire courtyard and start fresh. The last three days have seen much digging and hauling and groaning and straining under the weight of full grown trees being uprooted, moved, and re-rooted.

Believe me when I say, it is hard work...watching them through the window.