Monday, February 28, 2005

Change of heart

I'm over Constantine Maroulis.

There's a lot of stunning talent on American Idol this year, and he's just not performing at a high enough level to be a contender.

Meanwhile, Bo Bice is kicking everyone's ass. Chills, I tell you, he's giving me chills.

Might as well make a Top 5 prediction:

Bo Bice
Nadia Turner
Carrie Underwood
Mario Vazquez
Aloha Mischeaux

And the best quick bread goes to...

We were eating our pre-Oscars dinner last night when our guest offhandedly mentioned that if he had leftover ham, he'd have ham on biscuits the next morning at brunch. The s.o. and I exchanged meaningful glances.

"Thanks," the s.o. said to him, smiling.

The idea percolated in my head later that evening as we were eating zabaglione and engaging in a Marsala-fueled critique of the nominees' and presenters' clothing, acting skills, speeches, etc. The boys tore into the ham again during the wee hours, but they still left plenty for biscuits, and for a bevy of split-pea soups and the like in the future.

I make great biscuits. I came by it honestly--I had to work at it. There was a time when my biscuits sucked and weren't worth eating. But over time I've learned that biscuit dough is a little like pie dough. There is a certain very specific way it has to be handled, and if you do exactly that, you'll have excellent results every time.

My biscuits are squarish, which the s.o. jokingly says is "wrong, just wrong." There's a reason for it, though, which is that I don't own a good round biscuit cutter. Contrary to popular opinion, you cannot simply stamp out biscuits with an upended drinking glass; the dull edge will crimp down the sides of the biscuits and they'll end up flat. Your biscuit cutter must be knife-sharp so it frees up the layers, and that's why I use one of those big rectangular kitchen scrapers with a sharpened edge to cut mine.

My biscuits are also half whole-wheat flour, which I suppose is wrong in some people's view, too. I certainly wouldn't make strawberry-shortcake biscuits that way. But I like my regular breakfast biscuits to have some nutritional value to them. And I promise you they are just as delicious and fluffy as white biscuits.

Although we do live near Athens, Ga., my biscuits are not made from the Grit's famous whole-wheat biscuit recipe. The recipe they printed in their cookbook is either missing some crucial secret ingredient or is too persnickety to be executed successfully by most mortals. Even at the restaurant, the biscuits are only really transcendent when a guy named Chuck is in the kitchen. He has the touch.

So here's how to do it. And in case you were wondering, we decided that the worst gown of the night was Hilary Swank's Guy Laroche, which looked like a choir robe held tight to the front of her neck by rubber bands. (It was almost as bad as Diane Kruger's Marchesa horror from the Golden Globes.) On the other hand, we thought Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet looked especially nice.

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for the countertop
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and, with a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour in the buttermilk and stir with a fork just until the batter pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Flour the counter lightly with all-purpose flour. Flour your hands. Lift out the wad of dough and, without messing with it too much, pat it into a squarish shape about an inch thick. Pick up the end of the square that's closest to you and fold it to the top. Pat it to flatten it slightly, then turn the resulting rectangle 90 degrees and fold it over exactly once more. (If you know how to make croissants, you'll recognize this as being a similar technique, although much simplified; you're doing this to align the butter into layers.)
Now pat and adjust the dough into a neat rectangle about 3/4 inch thick. Again, don't mess with it too much. The less you work it, the better.
Cut the dough into 12 or 16 biscuits. If you are using a scraper to cut them, feel free to razor off the sloppy edges so your biscuits will be more aesthetically pleasing.
Place the biscuits close to each other, but not touching, on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and just cooked through. Remove from the baking sheet immediately so they don't overbake.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


If you're older than 25 or so (or even if you're not, really), you might want to give this internet radio station a listen. A lot of it is great, and a lot of it is pretty obscure. (For example, I had forgotten that groups such as Fun Boy Three even existed.)

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Exotic canned good makes good

The one thing that is most noticeably American about my kitchen is the sheer amount of food in it. I love to grocery shop (it's not a chore for me; it's something I look forward to), and if I see an unusual ingredient I'm fond of, I have a compulsion to buy it right away, whether I need it or not.

This occasionally leads to flabby vegetables that have to be thrown out or made into stock, but more often it leads to adventuresome cooking and eating when I ponder, "Okay, what the hell can I do with this?"

Thus it came to be that there was a tin of guava paste in the pantry that had been there for kind of a long time and really, really needed to be used up. I have been known to make Cuban-style pastries with guava paste, but I haven't done it in a long time and couldn't foresee doing it. So I decided to serve a few little cubes of guava paste with the cheese/fruit course of tonight's dinner. And in the meantime I invented this, which I think is the absolute most delicious smoothie of all time:

1 frozen banana, broken into small chunks
1/2 c. nonfat plain yogurt
2 Tbs. guava paste

Put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Makes 1 smoothie.

A foolproof way to tell you're still asleep and dreaming

Someone informs you that Apple has released a new color of iPod, called "Liver Fantasy."

What the hell?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Dinner recipe

Well, this made me feel better!

3 Italian sausages (we use the lower-fat turkey kind)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced thin
14-oz. can diced tomatoes, with liquid
14-oz. can Great Northern or cannelini beans, partly drained
1/4 tsp. fennel seed, chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 to 2 tsp. red wine vinegar, to taste

Preheat the broiler. Prick the sausages with a fork and place them on a foil-lined broiler pan. Broil, turning once, until sausages are well browned and cooked through. Cut each sausage into about four pieces. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion, garlic, and green pepper. Saute until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid is somewhat reduced.
Stir in the remaining ingredients, including the sausages. Bring back to a quick simmer, stirring, then slap a lid on the skillet and reduce the heat to low. The dish is done when the flavors are combined and the vegetables are soft.

Dept. of self-sabotage

Sometimes it is so frustrating not to have the eyes and nose of a dog.

Silver and I are walking at the edge of the woods. She pokes around in the pine straw at a leisurely pace, and I have to keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn't find a pile of deer shit and eat it.* The dog across the street starts barking, but I don't pay it any mind because that dog is very bored, what with being tied out all the time, and it barks at a lot of things.

Suddenly Silver tenses up and stares fixedly into our side woods. I stare in the same direction, but I don't see anything. I walk with her to the top of a little hill, hoping (by following the arc of her gaze) to triangulate exactly where the object of interest is. Still nothing. I squint. Dammit, I have 20/10 vision with my contact lenses in, but I can only see tree trunks and privet.

Silver stares as only a border collie can stare. "Wuh," she says quietly--that noise dogs make when they're fixing to bark but haven't quite committed to it yet.

"What is it, girl?" I ask, and then I roll my eyes at my own stupidity. This is not Lassie. I shrug and lead Silv back up to the house.

I haven't been too bright today, all in all. I started out feeling great but then acted contrary for no reason when the s.o. and I were at the thrift store. I kept at it until I succeeded in ruining our fun. Everything he found, I'd say that we couldn't afford it without going to an ATM, or that we didn't need it. And then of course the whole way home, I kept bringing it up and self-flagellating and continuing to dampen the mood. Lovely.

So rather than subjecting anyone to a continuation of the eternal "I suck" litany, I present you with the farm report:

Arugula - Up in great quantities - woo hoo!
Lettuce - Just barely up.
Peas - have so far failed to thrive since sprouting, and I am beginning to wonder if they are rotting in situ because of the soggy soil.


*Notice I didn't say anything about wishing for a dog's sense of taste. This past Christmas I got my dad's onetime girlfriend a recipe notebook with cartoon dog chefs on it. To me it was funny, because dogs really, really don't care what they eat. And yet for some reason I am still flattered when our dogs beg for, say, my Chinese sesame cabbage. "They like it!" I exclaim.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Oh yeah...

A navarin of lamb from Jacques Pépin's Simple and Healthy Cooking, which I always involuntarily pronounce "Sample and Hell-tee Cookeeng," and you probably would, too, if you had spent as much time as I have watching Jacques' show on PBS. I love Jacques Pépin. Not only is he a font of knowledge, but he's goofy and smiley. I think of him as the French Fred Flintstone.

His navarin--at least his lowfat one--is a little odd in that it doesn't have turnips in it, which I thought was a requirement. But I secretly don't like turnips all that much (I grow them for their delicious greens, and for their self-esteem value--i.e., they grow like scary radioactive weeds, so by virtue of their inevitable success they make you feel like a Real Gardener), so no complaints here. Two thumbs way up.

Friday has suddenly taken on a cheerier and more leisurely character because a key interviewee for my article has been sick and hasn't called me back. The editor has given me additional time to interview him and then finish writing. Cue music from Ferris Bueller's Day Off...

Gosh, that sounded irresponsible. Joking! Joking!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

February was never like this

Spring has sprung. The early flowers are up all along the rural highway. There is one place in a town called Maxeys*, about 10 miles north of here, where there's an old pink dogtrot house with a little woods next to it. The woods are full of naturalized daffodils. It reminds me of a field of tall yellow daffodils at my grandparents' place when I was a kid.

Also in Maxeys, the farmer(s) at Green Acres Farms have freshly manured the fields. I keep forgetting to put the car fan on "RECIRC" when I drive through there, but it's not so bad, really.

I was worried that the torrential rains had washed away all my seeds, but today I found that my radishes had survived and sprouted. You know how you look and look in the dirt and can't see a thing, and then you see one sprout and all of the sudden they're everywhere you look?

Today was so lovely (70 and sunny again) that I went out in short sleeves for the first time this year. I drove into Athens and ran errands:

New battery for the Accord - check!
Deposit check at ATM - check!
Craft store - check!
Big Lots - check!
Wine store - check!
Bakery - check!
Real grocery where they can identify the produce - check!

At the grocery they had watercress. Watercress! Good, fresh watercress, too, not the flattened, yellow watercress you see sometimes that already smells like decay. I've been waiting months for it to appear. I grabbed it and a head of butter lettuce so I could make my favorite salad of all time.

The s.o. is as enamored of the watercress salad as I am. We both take seconds--so what if we spoil our dinner! I see this as one of many signs of our compatibility. Let's put it this way: Once upon a time when I was married to my ex, I took that same salad to an Easter brunch with his family and every one of them turned their noses up at it. Great people, but no taste. That was the brunch where I was introduced to the Swedish-American dish known as "sandwich loaf." It's Wonderbread with the crusts cut off, layered with ham salad, egg salad, etc., and then "frosted" with mayonnaise so it resembles a cake. Gak! Please let me never see such a thing again.

Spring also brings American Idol.! The house! Tonight was the results show from the first week of voting. Super emotional. I'd say the viewers pretty much voted off the right people, with the possible exception of Sarah Mather, who simply sang the wrong song for her talents (Earth to Sarah: If you are a delicate Victorian beauty, do not choose a song that requires raunchy soul).

I still have high hopes for my boy Constantine, although earlier this week he was so nervous that he kept lapsing into Tourette's-style grimaces and winces**. He's gotten over it now--he's all smiles and smoulders. Something very beneficial has happened along the way: The producers have drummed up a faux rivalry between him and the other "29-year-old rocker guy," the also-excellent Bo Bice. Psychologically, that's cool, because the little girls will pick a favorite and vote for him. I think it will benefit both.

I should finish painting the pantry, but no, I'm lolling around, paging through my new Sunset and Vogue magazines. The s.o. is listing eBay items, as he does. We are both looking forward to morning, too. Don't think I would have visited the bakery without getting a breakfast pastry. The s.o. is lucky--Big City Bread cuts its raspberry coffeecake into pieces that are too big for any sane person to eat alone, so I share mine with him.

* Supposedly the only town in Georgia with a possessive name, except that it's not a possessive anymore because they dropped the apostrophe. I hate to be a grammar nitpicker,, wait, I don't hate to be a grammar nitpicker. That's how I am, dammit.

** It reminded me of the first chapter of Infinite Jest, it was that painful. I can't believe I just wrote that in a footnote.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Fish tale

I'm hesitant to blog this, because non-foodies are going to think that this blog has suddenly become All Food All The Time. It won't stay that way, I promise. Surely my life is fascinating in myriad other ways. Um, or not. But I like to pretend it is sometimes. Anyhow...

Recently we bought a couple of tins of smoked shellfish--one of mussels, one of oysters. They were on sale for 99 cents each, probably because no one was buying them. My thought was, well, shoot, there's got to be a recipe for this stuff out there somewhere.

There was.

A half recipe, made with neufchatel instead of cream cheese, then spread on little toast pieces and baked with cherry tomato halves on top, made a wickedly good appetizer.

Then I cooked a couple of whole catfish according to the "Gary Fooks' Chinese Sea Bass" recipe in The River Cottage Cookbook. It was weird how little they tasted like catfish. They had no muddy aftertaste (or, as the s.o. joked, "none of that characteristic PCB flavor"). It was either the ginger that was tucked inside the body cavity during the steaming, or maybe fish farming has finally succeeded in breeding the river out of the river cat. (Not sure that's a desirable thing.)

Anyway, thumbs up to Hugh F.-W., and/or to his friend Gary. The fish was served covered in oyster sauce and fresh herbs. My mother called just at the moment when I was pouring a drizzle of smoking-hot peanut oil over the entire dish to sizzle it. I let the phone ring. I really wanted to talk to my mother, and I knew it was her (not because I was expecting her call, but because I somehow always know when it's her), but the fish wouldn't wait.

She called back after dinner. (I knew she'd do that, too.) She and my stepdad had spent the holiday weekend in Philadelphia and New York City and were driving back to Ohio. I was pretty jealous until I remembered that I'd been in Savannah last week, which is almost as good. Almost.*

They also went hunting for pheasants somewhere out in the country, and came back with a coolerful of them. Mom's a crack shot. She's so petite** that I can't figure out how she withstands the recoil. I chalk it up as one of the great mysteries of life.

TV: All of the Ohio news tonight is food-related. In an Akron pizzeria, a guy was beaten severely because someone cut in front of him in line and then overheard him complaining about it on his cell phone. Elsewhere, in a school cafeteria, "a baked potato became a dangerous weapon." Welcome to my home state. You live it, you love it. Reach for my dinner and you'll draw back a nub! (I guess now I know where I got it from.)

* It's amazing what a large gap there is sometimes between "almost" and "totally."

** She wears size extra-small hip waders when she goes fly fishing. I didn't inherit her build. I didn't inherit her aim, either, if my tentative experiments with pellet guns and tin cans are any indication. I sucked at Girl Scout archery, too.

The many lives of a potage parmentier

What a lovely day in central Georgia. We were promised 70 degrees and raining, but it seems yesterday's violent thunderstorms (complete with two sessions of marble-sized hail) drained the reserves, because what we have today is 70 degrees and sunny. I would be outside all day, but I have a lot of interviews to do for the article I'll be turning in on Friday. So I'm stuck (most of the time, anyway) to my desk.

The s.o. is watching Dania Jai Alai on his computer, and I can hear a soft "whack-pock-squeak-pock" coming from the speakers, interrupted every so often with the announcer talking about trifectas, superfectas, etc. Our vacation in Florida can't come soon enough.

Those of you who frequent my other blog, Manor Menu, may have seen that I have decided to move the food-related content over here. My reasoning is that food is a massive part of my life--the one thing dearest to my heart, probably, other than family and dogs--and that it seems awkward and pointless to sequester it the way I have been. It made sense at first, when Manor Menu was an unadorned record of everydamnthing I ate, but now that I am more selective and I chat about the food, it's silly.

("C'mon, three! Let's go, three!" the s.o. is cheering.)

Also, lately it's become increasingly difficult to know where to write about events. For example, the zucchini incident would have been just as appropriate over yonder as it was here. And I have even omitted talking about things because I wasn't sure where to put them. This week I devoured John and Karen Hess's The Taste of America on the recommendation of the lovely Bakerina, and it was (if you will forgive the expression) a lot of food for thought. It mourns the fact that most Americans have forgotten what real food tastes like--a point that was proven many times over by the unknowing cashier at Ingles. That's been on my mind a lot.

I have also been reading Mireille Guiliano's bestseller French Women Don't Get Fat, and while it didn't tell me much that I didn't already know, it was a charming read that reinforced all the things I've been doing right lately and gave me inspiration to continue on. I highly recommend it. Her main thesis is the opposite of what most diet books preach: Instead of limiting your foods to a certain few bingeables, you should explore as many tastes as possible and revel in little teeny bites of exciting, perfect, decadent food. Eating half a rotisserie chicken for lunch every day (which, I am informed, a publisher of mine does in order to stay Atkins-appropriate) is a sure way to sabotage your appreciation of food and make things worse in the long run.

She's nuts about nuts, this Mireille person, and she spends a lot of time talking about freshness and quality. Stale, borderline-rancid airplane peanuts aren't worth eating, in her opinion; freshly shelled Oregon hazelnuts are another matter completely.

That's why even though the grocery store staff are incompetant, my visit the other day did give me a ray of hope. I was just leaving the produce department when I saw a thirty-something mother with her daughter. The little girl had picked up a plastic bag of pecans and was asking her mother, "Mama, do you like nuts?"

"When they're straight off the tree, yes, I do!" said the mother, smiling and gently putting the package back on the shelf.

A person who knows fresh from packaged! A person who would give the Hesses and La Femme Guiliano a reason to smile. She doesn't prefer the facsimile to the real thing.

So before the title of this post becomes completely irrelevant, I'd better at least mention the leek and potato soup I made yesterday. No use talking about where I got the recipe, since Deborah Madison and Julia Child agree on almost every detail. You take a couple pounds of peeled potatoes and a couple pounds of trimmed, sliced leeks, and you simmer them until they are soft. Then you puree the whole mess, season it, and drizzle in a little cream.

Mine wasn't exactly like that, though, since I had boiled down the carcass of a Psycho Chicken the night before. I had all this delicious broth, and a bunch of little chicken pieces-parts. So I strained out the bits of meat, set them aside, and used the broth to simmer the vegetables in. Then, after the pureeing, I stirred the chicken bits back in. It was awesome.

As soon as the s.o. and I got up today, we knew that it was the perfect day for a brunch on the back porch. The soup would figure centrally in it--that was all we knew.

I needed to cut down the old winter sorrel out in the herb garden in order to encourage the new leaves to grow, so I took Julia Child's advice and stirred in a bit of julienned sorrel as I heated the soup up. Anyone who's not into sorrel yet, get online and buy some seeds at whatever seed place you prefer. It's stupid-easy to grow, and it's perennial. My favorite herb/vegetable of all time, or at least a close competitor.

Meanwhile, I laid out some thick-cut bacon in a jelly-roll pan and stuck it in the oven at 350 degrees. The s.o. and I like bacon. He especially is passionate about it. You know the dog-treat commercial where the dog sees only bacon, no matter what Rorschach blot he's shown? I think he feels a little like that.

I brought some water to a very low boil and poached two eggs. I floated one in each bowl of soup. Meanwhile, I toasted two slices of crusty bread.

I don't think I even need to say how good it all was. There's still more soup. I wonder what form it will take on tomorrow...

Damn, now I have to get back to work. I have a long, handwritten fax about a challenging marine canvas project that I need to decipher, seven minutes from now.

Monday, February 21, 2005

By request

Not the best photo, but here you can see Cairo making use of his new dog stairs. The s.o. used scrap materials from around the house--complete with old paint, etc.--to build the stairs.

We intend to paint the wainscoting a greenish color and stain the risers, but at the moment I can't bear to take the stairs away for a day to do it!

Woo hoo!

My peas are sprouting!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

I am appalled

About a week ago I went to the grocery store and purchased, among other things, a smallish bunch of cilantro. I was standing in the checkout line, absentmindedly watching the prices tally up on the register display, when I noticed that the checkout girl had keyed in my cilantro as asparagus. I pointed the error out, and the girl asked me, "Well, what is it, then?"

I was a little shocked that she didn't recognize the cilantro. I would give her a break if I thought it was an herb solely used by snobby foodies like me. But there are a lot of Mexican-Americans in our area. Surely they buy cilantro every day. I wonder if their receipts tell a different story.

Anyhow, it didn't matter in the long run. In fact, we benefitted. After we got home, I found that in the confusion, the cashier had forgotten to ring up our bottle of red wine. Free wine!

So today I went back to the store for some more provisions. Squashes were on sale, so I bought both yellow crooknecks and zucchini. Lo and behold, the cashier was befuddled by the zucchini. I saw her furrowing her brow and tracing her finger up and down the produce code sheet.

The bag boy noticed, too. He assumed an air of superiority. "Know what that is?" he asked her.

"No, what?"

"Okra!" he announced proudly.


Am I to understand that here, in the heart of soul food country, twenty-somethings are unable to recognize okra unless it has previously been chopped, breaded, deep-fried, and frozen for their convenience?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Even though fresh potatoes are one of the cheapest foods available, I have noticed that the meat-n-three across the street uses canned ones. All of their vegetables are canned.

We are so screwed.

The misidentification of my zucchini left me breathless. All I could do was stammer, "No, it's not!" The checkout girl and the bag boy looked at me expectantly, having no alternate theories.

I recommend a mandatory Produce Quiz Bowl weekly for all Ingles employees.

But in the end, what would probably work best is what I said on my way out the door. "Y'all need to eat more fresh vegetables."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

A mighty fine day

Yes, I got my books from Amazon. At last. I bet the mail carrier isn't used to being greeted with "Oh, thank God!"

But the real reasons today is a mighty fine day are threefold. The first is that today we ate vegetables from our garden. How is this possible, you ask? Well, carrots are biennial, and I found several stragglers underground when I turned over the soil for a bed of radishes. There were about two handfuls of stunted little carrots (the soil there was, admittedly, too clayey for them to reach their potential, which is why I'm moving them to a loamier part of the garden this season). I scrubbed them, threw them in the food processor with a cored Rome apple, and stirred the resulting shreds together with golden raisins, plain yogurt, a bit of Miracle Whip, and a dash of lemon juice. Voila! Carrot-apple-raisin slaw.

The second reason is that I was gardening in the first place. Planted today:

another variety of lettuce
sugar snap peas

So naturally I am feeling rather accomplished, and quite sore, especially in my lower back.

My final reason for regarding today as extra special is that the s.o. built a little set of stairs for Cairo to climb onto the bed with. Our sweet three-legged Cairo can't make it on his own, but he desperately wants to. So we decided to give him a leg up (so to speak). He took to it pretty quickly and is rather proud of himself. The stairs are not only useful, but they are gorgeous--sturdy wooden steps with wainscoting on the sides and heart-pine risers. Just one of the many reasons why I love the s.o. so very much.

Friday, February 18, 2005

What have they done with my Amazon package?!

USPS Shipment Details
Your item was accepted at 12:14 pm on February 10, 2005 in LEXINGTON, KY 40511. Information, if available, is updated every evening. Please check again later.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tired but happy

I spent Monday and Tuesday at a conference in Savannah. The way I see it nowadays, if you're living in the south, Savannah is probably the place to do it. It's such a European-style city with all its cobblestone streets and tree-lined squares. It's old and beautiful and haunting, like New Orleans without so much touristiness and crime. Wrought iron railings, stone statues, cafes, seafood. How can you go wrong?

I attended a lot of conference sessions, but I also walked through the city streets for hours. I found the Goodwill to end all Goodwills, and I shopped till I dropped. I got some Vietnamese food. I ate a few fried oysters and some peel-n-eat shrimp. I came home and tallied all my calories and was appalled, because I was actually being rather careful but it didn't seem to help at all. Still, it was worth it, every minute.

Now, having put out most of the administrative fires that were waiting on my desk (aren't they always?), I am getting back to normal life. It was sunny and 55 today, so I turned over the soil in several of the garden beds. The s.o. cut a couple of poles and helped me install the pea trellis. I raked one bed smooth and planted lettuce and arugula. Sure, we're moving, but when? There's probably lots of time to harvest spring vegetables. And if not, then some buyer gets really lucky.

I saw my first lizard of the season today. I was walking Silver at the edge of the woods and spotted a little Carolina anole scampering up a tree. He had turned himself a lovely pale shade of grey-brown to match the tree bark.

The weather report calls for more of the same weather: Coldish at night, sunny and 50s in the day. I hope to see some lettuces soon, and to have time to plant radishes, peas, spinach, etc.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Happy Pre-Valentine's Day

Normally, being a freelance writer is about as flexible as jobs get. But tomorrow morning I happen to be driving to Savannah for a conference. That means I'll be missing Valentine's Day with the s.o. Since we knew in advance it would be happening that way, we went out to dinner tonight.

The Chinese/Japanese restaurant down by the lake is really better than an Asian restaurant in rural Georgia has any right to be. We started out with an Alaska roll. Then we worked our way through the best pu pu platter we've ever had*, which came with a teeny little flaming hibachi that I was afraid I'd catch myself on fire on. Then we split a seafood entree, which was full of big sea scallops and broccoli and shrimp and crab and asparagus. Then we each ate a piece of eel sashimi. The waiter brought out orange slices and almond cookies for dessert.

It was delicious. Romantic, too, even when the waiter walked around to all the "Happy Valentine's Day" mylar balloons and pushed the buttons that made their little electronic innards sing love songs.

This is what Valentine's Day should be like. No overpriced gifts, no false expectations, no hype. Just two people who love each other spending a little quality time in each other's presence.

* Yes, better than the one we had at the Mai Kai during last year's Spring Training vacation. That's really saying something.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

It's that time again

My early pick for this season's American Idol: New Yorker Constantine Maroulis. I like his odds because he's totally comfortable in his own skin and onstage. He has an extensive background in theater (e.g., leading roles in national productions of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Rent) and is the singer in a rock band. His voice is warm and he has a great range.

Oh, and I think I forgot to mention: He's so impossibly hot that his mere existence drives me insane. (Oops, did I type that out loud?)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Chirrup, chirrup

Thanks to heavy rains this week, which have caused soggy patches everywhere...

Thanks to 60-degree weather today...




Did you know that the first track of Hank Williams Jr.'s infamous Family Tradition album is "To Love Somebody"?

For some reason, that completely blew our minds.

Is this the version Slobberbone were covering? I should ask them.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

So sue me

Okay. So I know that the choice of Paul McCartney as the entertainment for the Superbowl halftime show was prompted by the worst possible motivations. The promoters wanted someone safe as milk, who wouldn't show a nipple or say a bad word. They wanted someone who was the opposite of edgy.

But I still loved it. The part of me that adores pyrotechnics thrilled to the sight of fireworks set off in time with "Live and Let Die." The emotional sucker in me teared up to the starry, feel-good rendition of "Hey Jude." And dang it all, Paul can still really put on a show after all these years.


There goes any street cred I might ever have aspired to have.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Pursuant to previous things

1. I am still sick, sort of. I thought I was getting better, but then I relapsed. But I figure as long as I'm not coughing up anything gross-looking, I'm okay, right? Mainly I just have a runny nose and still can't sleep without decongestants.

2. The productivity tools appear to actually be helping me. I've been getting tons done, both on my job and on the house, and haven't neglected the reading of my usual blogs or the perusal of my usual TV shows, either. *grin* It feels nice--and extremely unusual, I might add--to be ahead of the game on all my writing assignments. I really need to cultivate this.

3. My diet is going really well. I'm eating as close to perfectly, nutritionally speaking, as I ever have in my life. (Props to Fitday, which helps me remember to eat that extra piece of fruit or that much-needed serving of legumes instead of, say, even more chocolate than I already usually eat.) I am within half a pound of my goal weight and appear to be plateauing there, which is absolutely fine with me.

4. [Boys, tune out now while you have a chance! This is something you will probably wish you hadn't read if you read it.] I have had my period forever. Absolutely forever. Like, a month. I normally have some, er, patchiness, because I have a Copper-T IUD (ladies, e-mail me offblog if you are curious about what this is like...doctors in the U.S. are reluctant to recommend them because of the Dalkon Shield ugliness a few decades ago, but they are very safe now and I think they are a much better option than taking gratuitous hormones every day). But I always have a definable period and a definable not-period. Not so this month. It's as though someone took my regular period and stretched it out over 30 days. Both the s.o. and I are rather disgruntled about this. No PMS, though, at least. Always look on the sunny side.

5. I got F. to work for me again this week, and I am going to visit the bar owner in a few days and quit the bartending job altogether. I'm tired of my sleep schedule being thrown off so much. I worry about the drive home--so late at night, and with me in such a groggy state. And I guess I've gotten to the point where, if I'm gonna go downtown, I want to be free to goof around and go wherever I like. I have enjoyed bartending, and I'm really glad I picked up the skills. I've made wonderful friends. But I think it's time to start hanging out with them on a purely non-work basis. I need to devote my work energy to writing and editing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Check out these brilliant anti-procrastination tactics!

I've already set my home page to this. It amuses me.

The fine art of small talk

Me to the woman behind the counter at the meat-n-three: "Don't know why we keep getting this nasty grim weather."

The woman behind the counter at the meat-n-three to me: "Well, it's winter."

Okay, what I meant was...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Exercise in futility

I was irked. It was January 31, 2005, the arbitrary end date of my lose-ten-pounds diet. Had I reached my goal? There was no way to know.

My scale had stopped working. Several days before, it had started working only intermittently. Now I couldn't get any reading at all. It read "Lo" when I stepped on it, which I assumed meant the "lifetime battery" was low. Fuming, I got on the phone, dialed the number on the back of the scale, and pushed ones and twos until I got a person on the other end.

"Taylor Scales customer service. How may I help you?"

I cleared my throat. "Um, yes," I began. "I purchased a Taylor digital scale with a lifetime lithium battery about a year and a half ago."

"Yes," the woman replied, not encouragingly.

"Well," I continued, "the battery is dead. The screen reads 'Lo' when I step on it."

"The battery has a shelf life of one to two years," she said.

"But on the scale and the package it came in, it clearly says it's a lifetime battery," I protested.

"The battery has a shelf life of one to two years," she repeated.

"Apparently you didn't expect me to live very long?" I sputtered.

Silence. Then more silence.

I stammered, "Okay. Let's assume that a lifetime is one to two years. My problem is, the store where I bought the scale doesn't carry replacement batteries, because the batteries are supposed to be lifetime batteries."

"Any Radio Shack," the woman stated flatly.

"Is there anything you can do about the fact that my lifetime battery has expired in less than two years?"

"The battery has a shelf life of one to two years."

"But is there anything you can do..."

"Any Radio Shack."


I went to Radio Shack. Tomorrow I'll weigh myself and I'll see how I did.