Monday, December 31, 2007

Let's close out the old year...

...with some visual documentation. I now present you with my current favorite pictures of me (as depicted by my 5-year-old friend Ella) and Richard (in his passport photo from second grade):

Happy new year, y'all! (You know that Rebecca and I are counting the minutes until it's officially 2008 and we can post our 2007 book reviews. Forewarned is forearmed.)



Thursday, December 27, 2007

Food, Caroling, Beasts: A December Rundown

In the grand tradition of Dan, I am proud to announce that I have just invented what may be the strangest dessert of my career: break a banana into pieces, cook it in a saucepan with a little water until it's soft, scrape it into a bowl, mash it up, add unsweetened cocoa powder and blackstrap molasses to taste, mix, consume. It definitely satisfied some sort of craving, I'm just not sure which one.

Also, I seem to have become a bit of a crazy bread baker. If only Rebecca and I didn't live 1700 miles away from each other, we would have the world's most complementary cooking obsessions. Tragically, bread can't be preserved indefinitely in a glass jar, otherwise I would send you all a loaf...

And now for a few seasonal updates:

A bunch of us had ended up back at Bill & Quincy's house one evening a couple of weeks ago, and started singing for fun out of their caroling books (they're fabulous Christmas nerds and have numerous copies of these little paperback booklets - which always perversely remind me of haggadahs - full of carols arranged in four-part harmony). We were all kind of entranced by the idea of taking our show on the road, but none of us had actually ever been honest-to-goodness caroling before, so we decided to set up a test run. We met for one more practice session a few nights later, and then Bill set up a bunch of ringer houses in his old neighborhood and we made plans to carol for them, with the option of singing for additional people we didn't actually know if it seemed promising. Our first stop was a ringer house, where we were plied with rum and jalapeno-laced peanut brittle. En route to the second ringer house, our confidenced bolstered by the rum (or possibly the jalapenos), we decided to try our luck at a stranger's house covered in Christmas lights. We stood out on the sidewalk and started to sing (as seven-tenths of us are Sacred Harp singers, we weren't worried that they wouldn't be able to hear us). Since forcibly singing at strangers isn't really my style, I kept my nose buried in my music, and so missed most of the audience action. But to the best of my knowledge, it went something like: Incredulous man opens door. Watches us for a moment. Is joined by two naked toddlers. Sits on floor with toddlers in lap. Wife brings blanket and turns out light so they can see us better. Thanks us at end, as do the three people who've come out onto the porch next door to watch us. Really, it was enough to melt the grinchiest of hearts.

Now we were downright cocky, and we decided to stop at one more house covered in lights. Unluckily, it turned out nobody was home. Luckily, the house was inhabited by a kindly pastor and his wife who were just getting home from dinner and drove up behind us right before we started our first song. The pastor told us to wait until they parked before we started singing, and then they came up and stood on their porch and listened to us, beaming. Apparently, it was their anniversary. Aw geez. Also, he asked us at one point where we all sing, and we told him we sing Sacred Harp, and he replied, "I could tell" (?!?!?!). (And here we were trying to be all good and sound like actual choral singers with our round-note arrangements and everything!) After sufficiently recovering from the shock of someone actually knowing what Sacred Harp was, we sang 99 for him, just for fun. After that, we decided not to press our luck and sang for our final ringers. And thus concludeth our first annual evening of caroling. Now that we've got the hang of it, we're excited for next year. I'm not making any promises, but there may have to be costumes involved.

As if that weren't enough, B&Q held their annual caroling party last Saturday. Richard went to last year's and proclaimed it the best night of the whole year. Fortunately, it lived up to expectation. The caroling extravaganza involves dozens of people packed into the living room, where Bill spends hours at the piano and everyone requests carols from the giant photocopied packets that B&Q provide. Throw in lots of tasty food and massive quantities of homemade eggnog, and you've got yourself some quality entertainment. R&I were the last ones to leave, at close to 2am.

On the big day itself, we honored my ancestors by going to see a movie and then going out for Chinese food. The movie was highly satisfactory, the Szechuan chicken less so, but it was a good day.

Other recent accomplishments: We managed to make it through an entire week of dogsitting without our charges getting deathly ill! Now if they just don't die in their first week home again, we'll be 1 for 2... Also in exciting animal news, I got to gather my first eggs! My egg supplier (like a drug dealer, only I get to pay her in bread instead of lots of money, and we also probably won't get arrested if we ever get caught) let me collect six of my dozen eggs from her henhouse yesterday. Did you know that hens actually lay in nests??? It's just like in the cartoons!

In less exciting accomplishments, I've already consumed at least a quarter of all the dill bread I just pulled out of the oven less than an hour ago. There's nothing that inspires you to bake healthy wholegrain bread more than knowing exactly how much refined white flour you're eating with every bite. But damn, is refined white flour delicious.

I'll conclude with a picture of our new canine friends, Ringer and Boomer. Awww.

(Hey Amy, recognize that laundry basket? Proof of soji, proof of soji!)

Monday, December 24, 2007

The jam has landed

Jam central a few days ago.

Those shelves are now lonely and bare, the contents shipped off to friends and relations. The extra jars sold in one day to coworkers, who've been pestering me for months. For the record, that was a grand total of 160 oz for $120 cash money. I wasn't really looking to turn a profit, but I probably recouped most of the expenses of my new favorite hobby, and twas far more rewarding than the average savings bond! If you're not sick of hearing about my jam yet, you can check out more pictures and info at ye olde recipe blog.

Now I give you my best bookstore anecdote thus far:
This evening I sold a book to a guy, charged his card, and happened to compliment his signature, because it was quite distinctive and abstract, unlike my lame pseudo cursive. They guy chuckled, shot me a funny look and left.
Coworker: "Oh, are you a big fan?"
Me: "Huh?"
Coworker: You know that was Jonathan Franzen.
Me: Stares blankly.
Coworker: "You know, author of The Corrections? He totally thinks you were all aswoon over him and are going to sleep with that receipt under your pillow."
Me: checks credit card receipt. "Jonathan Franzen" is clearly printed under impressive signature.
Boh!! Would it have been less awkward if I had actually recognized him and announced that I once started his book but never finished it? Heh.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Speaking of flesh and wine and pine logs...

Too lazy to write real paragraphs, so I'll revert once again to this blog's preferred expository device: the list.

Things I have done lately, in no particular order:

1. Went caroling! It was a thoroughly delightful experience. We were so riding that caroling high. I'll blog more about it when I'm not so lazy. Did I mention I'm lazy?

2. Broke in my new menorah from Jerusalem. It was every bit as poorly-designed, if superficially attractive, as the hole-in-the-wall tourist shop on Ben Yehuda Street led me to believe it would be, but my time and budget was limited, and my sentimental desire to own a menorah from Israel overpowered my Puritan thriftiness.

3. Became an advanced blue belt. I don't have any pictures from this promotion, but I did obtain a shot of myself from my very first promotion back in August. Awww, look at that little white belt... so innocent... so naive:

4. Brought home two dogs that we're babysitting this week. I fear that Richard won't let me give them back next Thursday.

5. Went to Brennen's cd release at the Broken Spoke, which included a wide variety of my favorite things (getting to see Brennen play, eating greasy quesadillas, sitting one table away from the eccentric offspring of country music legends who died of drug overdoses) and least favorite things (having to two-step with strange men, sitting too close to the speakers, getting dehydrated because I stubbornly refuse to pay for bottled water).

That's all I got for now. Me and my dog allergies are off to wheeze somewhere besides this computer.



[Later: P.S. Turns out I do have some action shots from this week's promotions!

Also, I found my address book! Truly a Festivus miracle.]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Little Rebecca Visits the Andes

In which I get a taste of future obsessions.

Thanks to my dad for unearthing my new favorite picture, taken during our family vacation to Washington DC in 1992. Which we visited largely to see this special quincentennial exhibit at the Smithsonian, called Seeds of Change. Something about the botanical and culinary influences of the New World on the Old World. Mostly it blew my mind that no one in Italy ever saw a tomato until a few hundred years ago. And, bonus, I got an early start on learning about terraced potato farming.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither

My dad made me all nostalgic for last year's month o retail work when he sent greetings from the popcorn store. But it's ok, I've moved up in the world. After a cross country move and 5 months of school, I sport the following marks of success:
- I no longer depend on my parents for shelter or transportation
- I live free from fear of snow, ice, and windstorms
- AND, best of all, I control the music. Last year's holiday retail soundtrack meant a default choice between popular country or "Lite FM top 5 xmas hits on repeat" at popcorn, and a corporately enforced choice between christmas music or the beatles at Borders. This year we listen to... gasp... whatever non-seasonal music I damn well want to hear! (with a healthy dose of sufjan's songs for christmas or "christmas with the ratpack" of course.)

Since my last post, some stuff happened.
- got carded buying chocolate AND stopped at a DUI checkpoint.
- received 2 hanukkah cards, 2 christmas cards, and 1 chrismukkah card.
- sold a REALLY excessive amount of books.
- ate an even more excessive amount of sweets.
- made kiwi jam, inventoried and labeled all my jam.
- made beetloaf, which simultaneously used up my leftover grated beets from the latke party and satisfied my lifelong desire to cook like boris (or was it morris?) from freaky friday.
- bought tickets to a concert on May 16th. Yes, I actually spent a day's wages on Ticketmaster. But... Juanes!!!!!!!! Rebecca and I are WAY too excited.
- finally saw my 1 good movie this year! Thanks to a free preview screening of Juno. At which I was instructed to go forth and blog! Look at me, a voice of the myspace generation. (A phrase which, btw, ranks a good bit lower than locavore but still higher than francophone on my linguistic pet peeve scale.) Seriously, if you haven't seen it, it's pretty awesome. A bit overpowering on the movie-made-by-and-for-hipsters angle, but still highly satisfying.
- discovered that the do-nothing tree in my citrus grove is really a lime tree! yum, lime season in my yard.
- bought myself 2 Christmas presents. The Best of the Johnny Cash Show DVD and the annual Best Foodwriting anthology. I plan to spend Christmas day getting a head start on my new year's resolutions, which consist exclusively of: 1) read more books and 2) watch more tv. No, really!

My plans for the near to extended future include
- continuing to sell an excessive amount of books.

oh, perhaps, in my copious spare time:
- procuring and decorating a christmas tree
- singing in SF tomorrow on my one day off before christmas
- making gingerbread to bring to the potluck after the singing
- getting a CA drivers license and registration
- sleeping
- posting book recs
- posting pictures
- making my bed
- mailing out a plethora of holiday cards/presents!
- replacing my sad, sad computer
- making kiwi ginger lime jam

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dear World,

I seem to have lost my address book. This is basically the only way I remember who my friends and family are. So if I appear to have forgotten you, that's why. If you wish to call me to remind me of your existence and/or contact information, that would also not be discouraged.



P.S. Unrelatedly, props to Rebecca for managing to combine two of my favorite things (gay and French) into one fabulous Chanukah gift - an issue of TÊTU. Because the cover had been torn off, it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was... the inordinately high number of advertisements featuring well-sculpted shirtless men should have tipped me off immediately, but my sleuthing skills were hampered by the fact that it came from France, where most of their ads feature shirtless people anyway.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fried food, now with more symbolism

1. Yesterday a Hanukkah miracle really did happen. I accomplished every single thing on my to do list!!! I don't think this has ever happened. It consisted of: calling several people, mailing two packages, cleaning the house, shopping for an excessive amount of fresh produce, and hosting a latke party. I win.

2. The whole point of my latke party was to try some new recipes (cumin-scented beet, and carrot/parsnip with dill), and I didn't even manage to get any pictures of the food! How unlike me. Suffice it to say they were pretty and colorful, but I was disappointed. The flavor was nice, but I clearly haven't mastered the technique of getting them to stay together or cook long enough without burning. On the other hand, the plain old potato latkes came out beautifully, to rave reviews from latke veterans and newbies alike. Though all three flavors got eagerly gobbled up, the early batches not even making it off the stove before getting doused in applesauce or sour cream and consumed. This gusto probably thanks mostly to the fact that I put everyone to work for a couple hours before they got to eat! (Ha, it's a good thing I'm moving now that my friends are on to what my idea of a party consists of!)

3. I did capture some post-gorging moments. Behold.

The festive lights in my brand new menorah! (My very exciting ebay purchse... it's actually the same as the menorah I took to college and promptly lost.)

My favorite thing about Hanukkah? The applesauce. Oh yes, I will not eat latkes without it. And I am an applesauce SNOB. So I whipped up a big batch of homemade.

My mother requested a photo of me in my brand new apron, which I could hardly deny her because she MADE it for me! And matching napkins! Best present ever. (And now I have a guest apron! I love it.)

Ben and Megan, the other 2/3 of the fabled saturday bookstore crew. (My roommates were somewhere around too, but managed to avoid photographic record.)

4. Our new washer just arrived! Commence testing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Hanukkah!

I had exactly one present to open, and I was going to save it for the last night. Then my dad informed me that I'd better open it right away. He promised that, like the fabled oil of the Maccabees, it would miraculously last me for all 8 nights! And it did.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Nothing like some good old-fashioned narcissism... spice up the lag time between work and karate. Without further ado, I present to you:

Things I Am Vaguely Embarrassed To Acknowledge

1. How excited I am that the Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts are starting up again this week.

2. That I'm writing this from the office. (Don't worry, I'm off the clock. No supporters of reproductive freedom in Texas will be billed for the composition of this blog post.)

3. That I scraped open the knuckles on both my hands punching targets last week (FABRIC-covered targets, my friends) and they're still not better.

4. That I still haven't sent thank-yous to 85% of my kickathon donors.

5. How often I check this blog for new comments.

6. That I added a book of Jewish baby names and customs to my wishlist. Don't worry, no buns in the oven for a good while yet. Though that would actually make it less embarrassing, don't you think?

7. That my subscription to The Advocate, the Us Weekly of newsmagazines (which, as I am ever-hasty to point out, was included with my membership to The Task Force), is about to run out, and I am sorely afraid that I've gotten so hooked on it that I just might have to renew, with no subscription to hide behind this year. It would give me the opportunity to write more angry letters to the editor, though, which is always entertaining.

8. That I kind of like wedding planning.

9. How addicted I am to

10. That I felt so compelled to share this inane list with y'all that I made it my second post in two days.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How to Ask a Girl to Marry You

1. Before your ladyfriend goes out of town for five days, tell her that on the evening she comes back, you don't want her to go to karate because you want her to do something else. She will clap her hands and tell you she loves surprises and then demand to know what you have planned. Refuse to tell her, even though this will make her very angry and she will probably start complaining that she won't have been to karate in a week and it's very important that she maintains a consistent training schedule and it's probably not a good surprise anyhow so MAYBE she'll come home that evening but MAYBE she'll go to karate after all because who are you to tell her she can't go and what the heck is your surprise going to be??? Patiently tolerate all this, secure in the knowledge that no matter how grumpy she is, she'll still say yes when you ask her to marry you. Um, probably.

2. While she's gone, build an Incredible Machine in the living room:

3. Luck will be with you, because she will have gotten sick on the plane ride back and decide to come straight home after all. As you're driving her back to the house, she will ask if you brought her aspirin for her headache and want to know (not very nicely) if she'll need to dress up for your suprise, because she's really tired and feels crappy and won't be very good company this evening. Briefly reconsider the question you're about to ask her. Decide to go through with it after all, but only because some of the components that you purchased to build the Incredible Machine are non-returnable.

4. When you get inside, she will crack up at the sight of the machine, and ask, "THIS is how you spend your time when I go out of town???" Decide to interpret this as a good sign. Remember to warn her that this machine has a very high failure rate. Tell her to turn on the ceiling fan.

5. After several attempts, the stuffed monkey tied to the ceiling fan will finally hit the ball bearing, which will roll down the chutes and hit the On/Off switch of the surge protector, which will power up the clip-on fan, which will blow the roll of packing tape into the tennis ball, which will roll down the pipe and knock over the cereal box, which will pull on the twine threaded through a series of suspended pulleys, which will yank the cover off the upside-down box screwed to the ceiling, which will send the tiny clay Katie on her toy parachute with a ring on her oversized clay finger tumbling to the ground:

6. Hopefully she will say yes, because - let's be honest - you don't have a backup plan...