Sunday, December 23, 2007

Where Are the Chunks in My Yogurt? And Pioneer Woman

Normally I'd never post at this time of day, on this day. You know, 12:48 pm, Sunday, December 23rd. I'd be having dinner after church, or making dinner after church, or avoiding the dessert table at the church potluck for 10 minutes only to succumb to somebody's blueberry crumble.
But I'm on antibiotics that are larger than several eastern European countries, and so I rested, and "pushed the fluids."
My larger problem, for the moment, is my yogurt. In a medicated haze, I drove to the store yesterday in a feeble attempt to replenish the larder. I grabbed what I thought was yogurt with fruit in the bottom. Turns out somebody stole the fruit. That or else I got the wrong one. This yogurt is the consistency of Bath and Body Works body wash, with roughly the same smell and color. If I wanted to eat body wash, I'd buy body wash. Give me chunks of blackberry, slices of strawberries, mangled blueberries. Anything that designates that This Is Fruit. Alas.
A secondary conundrum was the Case of the Missing Olive Oil. I awoke, brewed coffee, and, since I'd slept all morning, decided to head straight for lunch. I cooked some pasta, but What? No olive oil.
An Aside: my roommate Angie loves olive oil. She moisturizes her skin with it. She puts in on her wounds. She douses pasta in it. So sometimes when I need it in the kitchen, it's in her bedroom. But last time I made spaghetti I used too much, so it's possible she hid it in an attempt to conserve it for her cuts and abrasions. Come to think of it, she cut her finger doing dishes the other day. I bet it's in the bathroom.
Now for the larger point I'm making that you wondered if I'd ever get to: Pioneer Woman. Before I go any farther, you must promise that if I recommend her, you'll keep reading me. It's just that I love her website, and if I love it, you'll love it, and if you love, what if you forget the warm coziness of the big red couch?
But recommend her I must, because she makes me laugh on a daily basis, she holds "name that photo" contests regularly in which she gives away gift certificates, she provides recipes that I've tried and fallen hard for, and she's beginning to attract national attention with her pioneer ways. So, after Christmas dinner, when the grandkids are playing video games, the guys are watching football, and the dishwasher is digesting your dishes, scoot on over to Ree's For a great Christmas morning recipe, check out for an amazing cinnamon roll recipe that my other roommate Emily made one time that was sinfully buttery and surprisingly addictive. I myself have made Ree's "The best lasagna ever" recipe, to rave reviews. She's a woman who moved from the bright lights of LA to the dusty roads of a ranch for love of her now husband, Marlboro Man. They now have four kids on the cattle ranch. Did I mention she's a talented photographer as well? Pictures of mustangs, calves, and recipes in progress give vivid detail to her pioneer anecdotes.
I wish I had a pioneer woman cinnamon roll right would take away the sorrow of the missing fruit and olive oil...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tidings of Comfort and Joy (and Christmas cookie platters)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Oooh, Christmas. Oooh, wedding. Aack, mutant killer-bee cold/sinus infection, aack, moving and holidays and wedding and moving and medication and wedding and holidays and moving and...
Here's the curly mound of ribbon atop your present, like the ones my mom makes, bundles of cascading curling ribbon bouncing joy into your gift.
Manger moments, if you will.
1) Hearing our Episcopal priest sing hymns to me over the phone Sunday. Our marriage is being baptized into being at a beautiful, sacred Episcopal church, and the good reverend has counseled, encouraged, and breathed rich blessings into our lives as we prepare for the wedding. This was never so clear as the recent Sabbath when I couldn't make it out to service due to illness - again - missing my beloved Advent services, and had to finalize wedding plans over the phone with Father Jon. Scripture verses, candle details, all scratchily communicated over the phone, and then it came to hymns. Processional, check. But what about recessional, and the "gradual," which is the hymn sung when the Gospel text is read? He had a few suggestions, and since I don't have an Episcopal hymnal, lying under several blankets in a bed I had not vacated for several days, dayquil leaning drunkenly on the bedside table next to the all-important kleenex box, stuck inside, a "shut-in" temporarily, I leaned my head back on the pillow and listened. Verses traveled the airwaves, classic old hymns. I had a personal one man choir for several minutes, and it fed my soul and my bones and my mind. I chose the recessional and the gradual. I could not go out to Christmas. Christmas came to me.
2) The six year old lost his first tooth. TA-DA. His mom, he and myself were eating spaghetti for supper, watching a movie, when he popped up. "MY TOOTH CAME OUT!" It's been loose for weeks. A scared expression flitted briefly over his face, which I hastened to erase. "Wow! Cool! That's awesome! Let me see!" My housemate and I peered into his mouth, where, front and left, a bloody hole now existed, which he purposely gurgled and made it flow. The NEW tooth was already coming in, elbowing its way from behind. "If he has to live with three women, at least he should have more than one tooth fairy!" I whispered to his mom later. "I hope the tooth fairy leaves me a thousand dollar bill!" he pronounced, which his mother quickly extinguished. Later, when John came over, John, Angie and I pooled some one dollar bills, crept upstairs into his room, and made the tooth/dollar switch. He got three whole dollars. The next morning, he exclaimed to his mom, "I almost have enough for a brick!"
His class at school is "buying bricks" to build a school for kids in Africa.
The kid gave his first ever tooth fairy money to help build a school for kids in Africa. I said, "that makes me want to go slip MORE money under his pillow!"
We had assumed the tooth fairy loot would be socked away for future Lego set purchases, which is usually his major expenditure.
So now an African school has one more brick, and he has one less tooth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Santa at the polls

With Santa Claus traditionally stationed at the North Pole, one wonders if his civic duties will include manning the polls in the upcoming primaries. He might have vested interests in reindeer preservation bills or international imports and exports (does his sleigh stop at customs?). Perhaps, instead, he'll cock an eyebrow at politicians claiming to be on the Nice List. Which of the candidates has received coal in their stocking on recent Christmases?
There are several issues topping my list this year for What I'd Like In A Candidate. Perhaps I should send Santa a bureaucratic, political wish list this year. Romney's out; not because he's a Mormon, but because I don't agree with his views; Giuliani, I have mixed feelings about; McCain, now, this surprises me, but from debate segments I've watched on YouTube, McCain is one of my top choices. Huckabee was also but now he's annoying me. Tancredo is more or less a joke, attempting to ride the coattails of the immigration controversy.
Friends who know me well have asked if I'll vote for Hillary because she's a woman. Now, as much as I like the idea of a Madam President, a commander in chief who you can stop and say, "nice earrings" to, I have enough common sense to know that the solution is not to elect a woman for the sake of a woman. I disagree with her on many topics, though not all, but when it comes down to it, I don't trust her. I'm not convinced she would act for others' good over her own. She has too many legal questions trailing behind her for me to believe that she wouldn't do whatever it took to save her own hide.
In my opinion, the Democrats would be foolish to run Barack Obama, and I think they know it would not succeed; perhaps Barack could land a VP slot, but even if Middle America is ready for a black president - and they should be - they are not ready for someone whose name so easily tongueties news anchors, who I've heard mistakenly say, "Obama bin Laden." It's the fate of the draw: people with school mascots of Cornhuskers or Razorbacks are not going to spring for an Obama.
Will there be a Clinton/Obama ticket? I wouldn't be surprised. I'd feel comfortable with a Giuliani/McCain ticket. Italian meets Scotch/Irish.
And now, the kicker: everybody wants my vote. They want my business at the polls, so to speak. Overall, I'm not too much of a target: Caucasian, but female. And that's where it gets interesting: will women - overall, at large - vote for a woman? Of course I posit that one should vote for the best candidate, male, female, white, black, Hispanic, I don't care: who is the best? I do not think that Hillary is the best. And it is the season of informal fallacies, those logical no-no's that pop up in campaign ads: vote for such and such, he goes to church (so did Ted Haggard); vote for such and such, she has ovaries (that makes a huge difference in her values and belief system!); vote for so and so, he saved his kids' hamster (therefore he'll make a good president???); vote for whatshisname, he voted to save the elderly (but did he tack on a ridiculous amendment?) and on.
The other day I was thinking about "the black vote," "the Hispanic vote," "the female vote." I was getting rather insulted by it. Instead of constituents, we're seen as targeted demographics to woo to a product. It's handy in an analytical, strategic sense; subcultures have important common identifying factors about themselves that emerge as larger trends. I get that. But what about values-based voting? What if newscasters reported on "the humanist vote," or "the Nietzschean vote," or even "the atheist vote"? Television has launched political debate from ideas to faces; from values to marketability; from integrity to personal anecdote. Reagan managed to portray, as few else have been able, the merger of these elements: he put a kind face to ideas, communicated his values clearly and winsomely, and underlined his character with self-deprecating stories and humor.
One time I heard a communications professor relate a story: as an advertising guru, a company brought him in to consider using his services. They expressed what they wished him to communicate about their product and services. They also told him about the troubles they'd had with a situation that hurt confidence in them, related to some dishonesty or less than honorable practices. He finally looked the boardmembers in the eyes and said in no uncertain terms that he wasn't going to lie for them; they were confused. He went on to explain that if the underlying issues of ethics and honesty weren't dealt with, all the advertising in the world wouldn't soothe their clients, and moreover, he didn't want to misrepresent something as reliable when it simply wasn't. He told them what things would have to be in place for him to feel comfortable representing them in advertising. At this point, he was certain that this was one gig he wasn't going to land. After dismissing him for quite a while, the board called him back in. "You showed integrity, the thing we've been missing, and you're absolutely right about this situation. We need someone like you. As a matter of fact, we'd like you to consider being the new president of our company."
Now that's leadership.


The Christmas titles will continue. Despite the fact that WWIII has been waging between the good all-American cells and the insidious invading germs in my throat, sinuses, chest and ears, I nonetheless am feeling The Urge. Despite the fact that in T-minus ten, nine, eight, I'm getting married and doze off for naps wondering how many extension cords I'll need at the reception, I still feel The Urge. Despite the fact that magazine deadline just wrapped up, a mini version of Finals that comes to my job every two months, The Urge jumps around corners to startle me into giggles.
It's The Urge to bake and wrap. I want to whip up thick, cakey gingerbread, peppermint something something, I want to smell the smell of wrapping paper and new Scotch tape. The closest I've come to either of these is purchasing Havarti cheese and slicing it over round sesame crackers and stuffing a couple small gifts in gift bags. But it's enough to get me going. Next week I have to take an eggnog cheesecake to an office Christmas dinner. I've never made one before, but I found the recipe and instantly felt that this was a destined meeting, me and eggnog cheesecake. We'll see how it fares. I've also decided to try another new recipe, a biscotti recipe involving dried cranberries and white chocolate.
Then I found this recipe for circa-1981 bacon holiday appetizers, and I think I might have to try it, too:
Oh, in the midst of things distracting me from The Urge, I also helped out a friend's friend with a final project for a media class, which means I'm appearing in a short film (less than an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond) which also, incidentally, housemate Angie and I thought up, brainstormed, she wrote, and then I starred in. When it's in a semi-complete form, I'll post it. It is, of course, comedic. I ended up with several bruises, chafed...well, never mind, and my cold got worse, but it should be fun. It's maybe 8-10 minutes long.
Because I have The Urge, I'm manically snacking on washed-and-ready-to-eat sugar snap peas, which keep me chewing and busy without gallons of butter, sugar, chocolate. That will come later with the cheesecake, and biscotti, and bacon appetizers.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Stocking Stuffers

Here's an assortment of "Things I Like". Consider it a tray of goodies from which you can pick and choose, cruise by later, nibble from again, then ignore for three hours before finally succumbing to its creamy, chocolately goodness.

1) Cepacol cough drops. They numb your throat when it feels like Dorothy Hamill has been skating figure-8's over it.

2) Gifts that keep on giving: items for home and hearth that arrive from faraway places and line the pockets of impoverished women, men and children: giving gifts that benefit individual families and villages through their purchase is satisfying for the giver and receiver. Here are some of my favorites...
Handmade Rwandan baskets woven by Hutu and Tutsi women, side by side, at Macy's:*1*24*-1*-1
Handstitched Sari Bari blankets made by women escaping brothels in India:
Jewelry, crafts, and nativity sets:
Organic freetrade Over the Rhine blend coffee - ships the day it's roasted!

3) Dictators of the world moustache buttons, which my friend Emily demands for Christmas, and rightly so; why hasn't anyone thought of this sooner?

4) This trailer for an upcoming movie, "Be Kind, Rewind"

5) The fact that Rachael Ray just commented on tv chef Nigella Lawson's new favorite snack, bacon chocolate. BACON CHOCOLATE. Heeheehee. How can two wonderful things like those NOT be put together?

6) Online Christmas shopping. No malls, no parking lots, no lost gloves, no cranky cashiers. The comfort of my own couch. You don't even have to brush your teeth. And with the price of gas, what's a couple bucks for shipping? Besides, there are piles of unique gift ideas online with just a little google browsing.

7) Propel fitness water. It gives you the good stuff of Gatorade - electrolytes, for the layman - that your body loses during exercise, but without the sickly sweet taste of Gatorade. Light flavoring makes it perfect for workouts or, in my current status, staying hydrated during a bad wintertime cold.

8) Who said hygiene isn't fun? The other evening sitting in the living room, friends and I raised our eyebrows and laughed at the six year old's bathtime antics we could hear all the way down the stairs. Apparently there was a storm at sea. I shrugged. Made sense. Many were the childhood times one of my toys nearly drowned in a torrential bathtub hurricane. His mother was not so amused, picturing the subsequent neighborhood flooding on the floor that might occur as an aftermath. It reminded me of the time in college my roommate got boats for the tub. I'd been whining for some for months. Come on, people, you can make tunnels through bubbles!

9) White noise. It's a Pavlov instinct for me now - space heaters, air filters, they all put me to sleep almost as successfully as Nyquil.

10) Nyquil. Wow. Work your magic, baby. (cough, cough, splutter)

11) Real mail. No ads, no bills. Real mail. Makes every day feel like..well..Christmas!

"Things I don't like":
1) Unlit Christmas trees are forboding to me, almost like the way clowns are to some people.

2) Sickness dishes. Who has time or more importantly energy to do dishes when you're sick?

3) The way water tastes sweet in the middle of the night or morning before you brush your teeth. It's not unpleasant, but it's...weird. Almost unnatural.

4) Dumb gift ideas that talk shows think are good ideas. A five pound portable telescope?

5) The fact that I don't have a talk show. Come on, I bet I'm not contagious...

6) The housing market. Seriously, housing market, you're messing up the economy and putting us all in a near recession that will springboard somebody's presidential campaign as they manage to emphasize domestic policy rather than foreign policy.

7) Iced over windshields. But I don't WANT to scrape my windshield in the morning. Mornings are rough enough as it is without the capricious weather gods laughing at me bumbling around a car with no gloves because I usually can't find them or forget to put them on while I almost spill coffee on myself and wonder why the defrost works so slowly.

Well, that's my naughty and nice list of things I like and don't like. Merry Christmas.