I’m hopping on the hipster, green, gardening trend and getting myself an indoor composter. Here’s the one I chose for the Rock House upstate in the Catskills. I know nothing of composting but always feel awful bagging up rinds, coffee grinds, eggshells and rotten veggies when we pack up from a week at the cabin to head home to NYC. Since there are just two of us and it’s only a weekend home, I figured a 5-gallon composter was big enough. BUT: It turns out that compost can spontaneously combust. WTF?! Why does everything require an asterisk and at least eight hours of intensive research?*
I still can’t have chickens or a goat since we don’t live there full-time which makes me very, very sad. I suppose I could be that lady who rides the bus with a live chicken except that I can’t carry it along with the dogs, parakeet and my overnight bag. Someday I’ll get a baby bjorn that can accommodate all my livestock. Till then, it’s composting, raised bed gardening, building bat housing and feeding birds, deer, beavers and raccoons.
*Including this blog.
With all the talk of cicadas coming out of a seventeen year slumber emerging from the earth, I can’t help but think of my maternal deaf grandmother. She was traumatized at the mere sight of their crusty brown exoskeletons, so surely the onslaught of trillions must have her convulsing in her grave.
During my childhood, I spent summers staying with her and Grandpa at their two-bedroom Tulsa home. Once the magic of cable television wore off, I staved off boredom by playing pranks on my sweet, gullible, good sport, grandma. My budding acting skills were honed as I terrorized her. I would ring the doorbell and pretend an axe murderer was trying to break in and the phone lines had been cut, or I’d push over the swing set in the backyard and act as if my cousins or the neighborhood kids were trapped underneath with broken limbs.
My favorite prank was finding the empty shells of locusts clinging to trees and bushes and place them where I knew Grandma would grab before looking: The kitchen faucet, the television remote and the steering wheel of her car. The jerk of her hand as if she’d touched a hot stove coupled with a blood curdling scream was pee-in-my-pants hilarious. The meanest placement was on the toilet paper roll knowing she would have no choice but to either not wipe or gather the courage to remove the critter on her own. Bless her sweet heart.
I never thought to do this.
Why would I?
After kicking off my gardening project, I drove home from the cabin so I could take my protege Jeaniah to a preview screening of “Epic” at the Museum of the Moving Image. When I picked her up, she and the other Hour Children kids were having a craft day with volunteers from the Kabbalah Center. We made jewelry, got professional photos taken and planted some flower seeds which took about 20 seconds. Throw some dirt in the peat pot, add some seeds, top with more soil, add water and voila. Four days later they sprouted.
It was a great reminder of what I said in my earlier post: gardening is much more simple than the Internet would have you believe. Don’t be afraid! Jeaniah wanted me to keep both of our pots so I can plant them at the cabin. I plan to find a special spot for our little flower pots to grow together. It’s lousy with symbolism.
Anyway, on to the movie. We were excited and surprised to learn that the director of “Epic”, Oscar winner Chris Wedge, was at the screening and would participate in a Q&A afterward. COOL! The movie is about a teenage girl who is transported (shrunken to the size of an insect) into the forest where she helps the “Leafmen” battle the dark forces after the forest Queen is killed. The movie itself was in 3-D and, damn, animation these days is simply breathtaking. I got dizzy a few times “flying” with the Leafmen on their hummingbirds that they rode like horses. So clever. Check out Metacritic for comprehensive reviews, but we gave it our thumbs up as did the other kids in the audience.
We also enjoyed the Q&A with Mr. Wedge who was really casual, funny and gracious with his time. Jeaniah seized up with shyness when it came to asking for an autograph, so I asked on her behalf. We wanted to get it mostly as proof to the kids at school that she’d seen the movie before it was in theaters. Last time we did this (a preview of the “Croods” which was okay), no one believed her. So, this time we kept her program and autographed ticket stub for her to use to “show off”. Take that, non-believers!
Christian met up with us at Pizzeria Uno and during our drive home he told her about my undying love for David Lee Roth. When he showed her pictures of Diamond Dave, she burst out laughing and said, “He looks like a GIRL!”
I spent way too much time defending my love and trying to find a better picture. None were to be found. He’s pretty ridiculous in all of them and yet…sigh.
I can’t wait for the day I meet her husband and can tease her about how she wore Justin Bieber perfume.
Growing up, we dug up rows of dirt, plopped in some seeds and had fruits and vegetables a few weeks later. The Internet made it all seem so complicated. After all the research and over-thinking, it was time to get my hands dirty.
I had a few days at the cabin and took the plunge on beginning my landscaping and gardening projects. I spent part of a day gathering rocks that I stacked at the base of the cabin, covering the concrete and creating a raised flower bed. Once it was in place, I filled it with soil from the woods mixed with bags of plain topsoil and two bags of high quality, fertilized soil. Then I planted some hostas that I purchased from Home Depot. Hostas are hearty, low to the ground, spread over time, and are great in the shade. I think this is the perfect spot for them as long as I can keep the slugs away.
Behold the before and after:
I was so happy to accompany my pal Liam on his first race, a 5K on Roosevelt Island. I ran a 10K soon after his race started and we met up at the finish line to walk home for a celebratory brunch. He’s been following the Couch to 5K program that so many people swear by. Judging by how well he did –never stopping and clocking in at a 13 minute mile pace — I’m endorsing the program, too.
He was beaming afterward and we’ve already signed up for the next race. (I dare you to run a race and NOT want to recapture the feeling ASAP.) He and I will be running a 5K & 10K again on Memorial Day and welcome any and all to join us. It’s an ice cream social, too!
Found this yummy recipe via Oprah. It’s from Megan Johnson, chef at Casellula Cheese & Wine Café in NYC.
- 2 cups Pepperoncini peppers
- 1 cup cornichon pickles
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 1 tsp. red chili flakes
- 1 tbsp. crisp white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
Throw all ingredients in a food processor and pulse / grind / chop / whatever till it’s the desired consistency. It has some KICK and was amazing on our burgers. I can’t stop thinking about it, so it’s a good thing I’ve got about a cup & a half left!
By now I’m sure you’ve seen the news from Cleveland, Ohio that three young women Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight who were missing for nine, ten and eleven years respectively, have been found alive.
During an epic interview with local news reporters, neighbor Charles Ramsey had this to say about his kidnapping neighbor Ariel Castro, “You got some big testicles to pull this off, bro.”
“I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms” is just one of several amazing quotes Ramsey gives. The interview came after he came to the aide of Berry who bravely initiated the escape from captivity with her six-year-old daughter at her side. (Yeah, do the math, that daughter is the product of her captor or one of his two brothers who are also in custody.)
“I figured it was a domestic-violence dispute,” Ramsey said. And he helped anyway.
Now that is a motherfu*king hero right there. Thank God he didn’t just look away when he thought it was a domestic situation like so many people do. Bro should get some hefty reward money to buy some of those newfangled wraps from Mickey Ds!
I had screamed and begged for someone to call 911 the night Dad attacked Mom. No one did. Yet within the week we were evicted for “excessive noise disturbance.” So my neighbors DID hear my cries and chose not to intervene. They didn’t even place an anonymous call to 911. I wrote about it in my memoir (excerpt below) and to this day my heart races and blood pressure rises when I think about the cowardice and selfishness they displayed.
If you hear or suspect any abuse of any kind, you can anonymously report it. SIMPLY REPORT IT. Charles Ramsey? He ran to the porch, smashed the door, pulled the woman and her child out and called 911. To him I’ll echo his own words:
“You got some big testicles to pull this off, bro.”
Excerpt from BURN DOWN THE GROUND Chapter 14 – Excessive Noise Disturbance:
I was back with Rob for only a week when Mom dropped another bombshell: “We’re going to be evicted.”
“Excessive noise disturbance. Come on and help me pack.”
My blood boiled. I had screamed and begged for help the night my father smashed our porch light, punched holes in the walls, and broke down our front door. Not only had the neighbors heard my cries for help and chosen to ignore me, but they had complained?
Defeated, I packed up my room for another move. I was loading up boxes of books and letters when I came across a pile of college brochures and scholarship applications. Before August 15, I had planned on attending a university to major in aeronautical engineering as homage to Mom, admiring her for her work with helicopters. Aeronautical engineering could be my backup plan in case my acting career didn’t pan out. The paperwork had been overwhelming and asked detailed questions that I didn’t know how to answer, like what my parents’ income was. On the rare occasions Mom inquired about the process, I brushed her off. She never went to college, so she wouldn’t know how to fi ll out the forms any more than I would. “I’m working on them,” I answered and that was that. They remained incomplete.
Who am I kidding? I angrily hurled the blank applications in the trash and emptied the rest of my room. I felt hopeless and just gave up. I should have asked for help, but I didn’t know how.
I screamed out loud at “Jurassic Park” more than once but so enjoyed seeing it again for the first time in 20 years, especially in 3D. At one point Jeaniah & I were cringing and squirming and gasping so much I said, “This movie is STRESSING us OUT!” She laughed and said, “Yeah, but I don’t get it. If you’re gonna bring dinosaurs back, why would you make meat eaters and poisonous ones? Why not just stick with herbivores?”
I mean, really?
I drove back to NYC for one day and making time to see my two favorite Big Apple ladies. First I’m picking up my protege Jeaniah from school to see “Jurassic Park” in 3D followed by dinner with Jenn Dodd. Then it’s off to the RUBBER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD! That’s Akron, Ohio for three whole days. I’m so excited to perform in my friend Eileen Moushey‘s play alongside some of my dearest, funniest, funnest acting buddies for the first time in about 15 years.
Then it’s a jaunt to Philly to perform 1812 Productions storytelling show raising money for Women Against Violence before I head back to NYC to see my buddy H. Alan Scott & take him to record an interview with Chemda Katg. Follow that up with another week at our cabin, throw in a 5K race, an appearance at the SouthCarolina Book Festival, a 10K race and another date with my protege and holy, wow…
May: I love you already!
The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. So, I’m giving Facebook the big middle finger and taking my gardening posts elsewhere. The Internet is a huge time suck (weird, right?) and varying opinions leave me up in the air.
Example: Some have said how impossible ferns are to transplant and how I should propagate from spores only to have others say that propagating spores is near impossible and I should just transplant. Lesson? Trial, error, time and patience will win. I just need to gain the confidence to try, err, wait and try again, if needed.
I spent some time clearing the weird patch of patio at our Rock House. I ended up with 66″ x 51″ patch of rocky earth that eventually stops at about 15″ deep when I hit the solid slate, giant boulders that the house is built on.
I’m going to first try transplanting ferns in a straight line up against the house and fill the rest in with the rocks that I dug out. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try ferns again because they’re native (we have 4.5 acres COVERED in wild ferns) and I truly believe moving them 20 feet is gonna work at some point.
Meanwhile, hostas are sprouting on our walkway. This is our third spring owning this cabin and in spite of the hostas being trampled, eaten by deer & dug up during an installation of a French drain, they’ve sprung back each time. I love hostas and they’re obviously low-maintence. This and their hardiness makes me excited to move them to an area where they can actually thrive. Until then I’m going to build little wire cages around them so we don’t smash them again.
Also, there’s a strange bush or tree growing by the outbuilding that no one can seem to identify. It’s not pictured in three very extensive gardening books and a horticulture expert drew a blank, too. So, I’ll keep my eye on it and decide whether it’s worth keeping, moving or killing. God complex, anyone?
Was a guest speaker at Illinois State University sponsored by the Deaf Redbirds and St. John’s University.
My niece turned 10 years old! As my gift to her, I’m treating her to a trip to the Big Apple. I filled a box with some NYC trinkets and a homemade boarding pass so she’d have something tangible to open and think about before the actual trip happens. Happy birthday to her!
Tomorrow is “Take Your Mentee* to Work Day”. Since I work from home and have an unconventional life and schedule, I figured I’d show her a little bit about publicity and the daily newspapers and then spend the day learning about other worthwhile stuff.
Searching for things to do, I was frustrated that so many museums and exhibits are still out of commission from Sandy. I was especially disappointed we can’t visit the “Bodies” exhibit. It is moving to Discovery Times Square so we will hit that soon enough, but the others? Who knows.
Instead, I’ve decided to take her on an adventure through Lower Manhattan focusing on the plight of the immigrant. We’ll ride the subway to the World Trade Center, view the 9/11 Memorial, take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island up close (both are closed due to Sandy damage), walk through Chinatown and Little Italy as we make our way to the LES for a tour of the Tenement Museum.
At least that’s the plan. NYC is unkind lately. Let’s see how the craptastic NYC weather treats us (cold and biting wind, I bet), how my wallet fares even with the free ferry ride (empty, surely, the Tenement Museum is ridiculously expensive but since Ellis Island is shuttered, it is what it is), and what memories we make (with googly eyeballs and smelly unidentifiable things for sale all over Chinatown, this has got to be a goldmine).
*Protégé. The word is protégé. “Mentee” sounds like an immature manatee or a dental hygiene product. My lady is neither of those things, she is befitting of an elegant word from the 1700s, not one made up in the mid-1960s when people were dropping acid.
Christian has lots of amazing things happening and it’s been a while since I’ve pimped his stuff. This is especially negligent of me since he has been so generous about hawking my memoir while on the road.
So, about my handsome, talented, kind, smart and funny (duh!) husband:
1) He’s filming a new one hour stand up special, tentatively titled DOUBLE SHIFT AT THE ASBESTOS FACTORY on April 4th at the Wilbur Theater in Boston, MA. There are two shows at 7PM and 9:30PM. Both are free and open to the public, so if you’re in the area GET TICKETS.
2) He started his own podcast called “Audio Spackle” to honor his love of music of all kinds. His savant-like powers of recalling music trivia are what won him a car on a game show and help our team of two win a ton of trivia nights against groups of five and bigger. He’s my ringer. If you like music, you’ll probably dig his Audio Spackle Twitter feed, too.
3) He’s headlining in NOLA for the first time this weekend March 22nd & 23rd (GET TICKETS) and will be at Austin’s Moontower Comedy Festival April 24th – 27th. I’ll be traveling with him to Austin and swinging through Huntsville to visit Dad in the clink. That’s sure to be a fun trip. He’s always traveling somewhere, so if you want to stay informed of if/when he’s in your town, sign up to his mailing list. He’s not a spammer, promise.
4) He’s co-hosting a new travel show with Custom Nation sponsored by Smart Car. This is the reason I was able to tour San Francisco and jog across the Golden Gate Bridge while he was working. They’ve already uploaded a bunch of videos for Austin, so if you’re in the area & looking for something to do check out Christian’s adventures. New York, San Francisco and one more city TBD should all be posted soon. Till then, enjoy Austin! Oh, hey, just in time for his trip their for Moontower…how about that!
Spoke at Rutgers University as part of their Mark Conference.
And have her star as me in the movie of my life. Seriously. Everything she said, the faces she made, all of it was so “me”. She nails the same tone I strike in telling my stories and answering questions like, “What was it like living in a shack because my trailer was repo’d?” It sucked. DUH! But make a funny face and laugh and on to the next question. I love her.
Think it! Become it! Visualize what you want and deserve and manifest it, people!
I’m back in fighting mode…well, let’s be honest, I’m moving at a pace faster than a sloth. Geez, who are you my mother? So, anyway, I’m running again after over a year-and-a-half of book publishing bullarkey and the ensuing tour which I loved. Loved a leeeetle bit too much say my jeans that split apart at the ass crack during the most inopportune time ever — as if there’s ever an opportune time for flabby white cellulite to poke out like sausage escaping its casing, but that’s another story.
To put my money where my mouth is (Wait! My mouth was on food…hmmm. Flawed cliche.) and to meet my 2012 New Year’s Eve goal to “always have a race” I signed up for two in NYC. I’m not a fan of the NYRR (they make terrible PR choices and their very well-paid top management is to blame, plus their races are damned pricey), but the first race is relatively affordable, a good warmup for my 2nd race, and for a good cause (who doesn’t hate butt cancer?). The second race is an exciting course in Brooklyn which needs the love as its shoreline was damaged from that bitch Sandy.
I promise I won’t post all of my training and bore you with stats or make you feel bad if you’re not feeling like moving right now or ever. Instead, if you want to follow (a/k/a stalk) me on Runkeeper.com, I’m letting it all hang out…sausage casing be damned. My profile is here and, yes, I’m at 158 pounds and aiming for 145. I’m already down 12 pounds since last fall (My tour was THAT good. Damn you, Madison, WI! And I didn’t work out or diet from November till late January so I’m pretty stoked that I stayed steady for the holidays!)
I perform better when I’m in “put up or shut up” mode. Hell, that’s how I wrote a book. I told everyone “I’m writing a book!” and then had to manifest that shite.
So yeah, I’m running some races, bitches! Catch me if you can!*
Because I’m at the cabin for the weekend and am afraid of getting complacent while holed up in front of the fire and ice & snow outside, I decided to do some other type of cardio workout besides running. Enter Bob #$%&*@! Harper. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD I HATE/LOVE HIM FOR WHAT HE DID TO ME. I highly recommend these two DVDs, but unless you’re in really fit shape start out with his 25 minute workout. TRUST ME. I’m hobbling around like a $10 hooker on 8″ platforms. I. Am. WRECKED.
For many years, I’ve also enjoyed Jennifer Kries’ pilates workouts. They’re much less strenuous but no less effective when it comes to toning and core conditioning. For me right now, though, I’m working on getting my stamina and cardio health back up to being able to run. Enter this S.O.B.:
*You can. Please don’t hurt me for the smack talk. I promise, I’m just kidding and trying to PUMP US UP!
P.S. I don’t care if you think I didn’t need to lose weight or if you think I’m fine how I am. My clothes don’t fit and haven’t for a long while…since Comix closed, I’d guess. I have nice clothes, and I’d like to fit into them again.
My friend Jenn taught me that a tortilla makes for a great pizza crust. Using a multi-grain wrap makes it an even better choice. Using Pizzeria Uno’s cheap and healthy Mediterranean thin crust pizza as inspiration, I concocted this quick and easy dinner with tomato sauce, baby spinach, feta, Greek olives, and halved grape tomatoes.
So some pals wanted more instruction. Okay, so put on more baby spinach than you think necessary…even more than you see below. It shrinks dramatically when cooked.
Yes, you can add onions and capers or anything else your heart desires. The cook time doesn’t really change.
I baked mine at 425 degrees for about 25 – 30 minutes. I wanted the tortilla crispy and the toppings hot. I ate it once after only about 15 minutes because I was starving & in a hurry. The tortilla was still very flexible so I was able to make it into a wrap. It was okay, but I prefer the crispy tortilla.
You can’t really go wrong unless you burn it which won’t happen if you’re paying attention. Set a timer if you’re prone to zoning out.
I’ve been feeling pretty worthless and insignificant lately. Past my prime? My biggest accomplishment behind me? I don’t know. I just have nothing really to look forward to or work toward. I’m not the same “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” kind of gal. I’m more “I’ll sleep [eat, drink, watch TV], because I have nothing else to do” kind of blob.
Normally, I’d move on to the next adventure. Find another city, a new career, something else. But here I am, stuck in the supposedly greatest city of the world feeling lonely, bored, aimless. Feeling used and forgotten. Washed up and dried out. Done.
Maybe I just need a quick trip to Paramus Mall.
Wanna shot? Yeah, no.
There is no debating, I do not want to party with the fools who’d buy one of these. Not here in San Francisco. Not anywhere.
San Francisco introduced herself to me with crystal clear blue skies and a swanky hotel in Union Square.
Now that my book tour is over, I’m back to working on adapting it into a full-length theatrical production and a solo show. Think my Moth piece but about 45 – 60 minutes with light and sound cues and visuals. Anyone interested? Let’s meet!
Since leaving the 92YTribeca, I haven’t been able to commit to any gigs or new clients because of my book tour and speaking gigs. So, to make a few bucks and get out of the house during the time between tour dates, I’ve worked as an extra (or “background” as some prefer) on a ton of TV shows filming around NYC. I even booked an AARP commercial. I was not the RP, thankyouverymuch. I was a jogger that the RP was checking out. That said, I did get a callback for a menopause relief medicine. See also: definition of “bittersweet”. /ˈbitərˌswēt/
During a meeting with a commercial casting agent I was told I’m “a big girl” & “older”, had a great look that was perfect for soccer mom roles & pharmaceutical companies. It was a weird few minutes of feeling bloated, old and ugly, but hire-able because I’m photogenic and not morbidly obese. I can’t imagine embarking on this journey when I was an insecure 20-something. Now I’m a totally secure 40-something who just needs to lose weight, get Botox and a tan. This feeling is strongest after I see myself onscreen. Blech!
At least it wasn’t me who Wardrobe point to and said “Okay, so you’re my ‘lady of the night’. You look great.” She was *not* a “lady of the night”, simply a bar patron. Oops. Oh, schadenfreude, you make me feel so young!
But I’m having fun, getting paid when I’d otherwise be day drinking. During down-time on set I’m able to watch tons of “Cheers”, read dozens of books, and meet great people from Liza Minelli and Annie Potts to other everyday folks like me. I’m not loving New York City much these days, but where else but here could I truly swing this odd balance of freelance entrepreneurial gadabout?*
*Seriously, tell me, because I’d like to move there.
Finished Season 4 of The Wire tonight and now I’m depressed and trolling for Wednesday’s Child looking for a kid to adopt like Petfinder.com. Except Petfinder.com is more user-friendly, updated and not filled with broken links. Poor kids. Time to get back to watching Cheers.
My protégé Jeaniah and I had an awesome date at the Big Apple Circus! In fact, I think this was our best date ever. We were both in great moods, excited for the show and had lots to talk about as we rode the subway to Lincoln Center*. The big tent itself was set up in Damrosch Park. We got our complimentary tickets (thanks again Marianne Ways!) and hit the concession stand where we loaded up on drinks, popcorn, Sour Patch Kids and cotton candy.
J asked, “What color cotton candy do you want?”
“It all tastes the same, so what color do we want our tongues to be?”
She and I both looked at each other, smiled and said in unison, “BLUE!”
Our seats were awesome –we were on the aisle just four rows from the ring!– but being in the round and only about 1,800 seats there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The theme was LEGENDARIUM: A Journey Into Circus Past and it was spectacular! Every act was cute, charming or downright thrilling, but we definitely had favorites.
One such favorite was Zhang Fan who performed a slack wire act. I’ve never heard of such a thing and was mesmerized. He made the tight rope seem like child’s play. That rope is taut & still. The slack wire is just that and it’s constantly in motion. On this wavy, swinging wire, he carried out spectacular tricks like doing forward & backward somersaults, balancing himself with a ladder, and riding a unicycle. Upside down. On his head. Pedaling with his hands. Can’t believe it? Check out this photo of him I found online. What an incredible athlete. Olympians should train for the circus. Yowzah!
I also enjoyed the juggling tango dancers. A husband and wife team that danced a beautifully choreographed tango all while the husband juggles balls and clubs. I’m not sure a kid can appreciate how much trust must be there for this act to be possible, but I was awed. I wouldn’t trust Christian throwing clubs all around me, let alone while we’re dancing a tango! But since Christian says I dance like a Sims character, we can safely assume this will never, ever be tested.
Our favorite performer, no question, was the contortionist Elayne Kramer. Or as Jeaniah said, “I loved Elayne and her flexibility tricks.” The girl was a jellyfish. She can’t have any bones! She folded herself backwards and on top of herself and even held herself up with her mouth (see photo). That’s what blew Jeaniah away. I was screaming, “NO WAY! NUH UH! GET OUT!” every five seconds but was slack-jawed when it came to Ms. Kramer’s final trick. Turned upside-down (you know, how one does), she shot a bow & arrow with her feet. Yeah. You read that right.
Not only did she shoot an arrow, she was aiming the arrow at a balloon, and hit her mark. Holy. Wow. I don’t have a picture of it but found this one online. Incredible, isn’t it? It’s one thing to be born without a spine, but this is skill, people. Strength, training and skill!
Back in Queens, we stopped at my place. Jeaniah wanted to see our apartment**, meet my parakeet and make geodes. I showed her my wedding dress and she tried on my fascinator and had the dogs do tricks for treats. Before I drove her home, we hand wrote thank you cards to Marianne and the Big Apple Circus publicist who gave us the free tickets. Back at her place one of the other kids in the group home said, “You’re her mentor? She talks about you 24/7!” [Sideways huge smile face.]
It was a day we won’t soon forget. We can’t recommend the Big Apple Circus enough. Thank you to everyone who make the show possible. We are still floating!
**I asked Jeaniah if my apartment was what she excepted. She said, “No. I didn’t think there would be this many rooms and I thought you’d have more…what do you call them?”
She gestured with her hands like she was holding little things.
“Souvenirs, collectibles, trinkets?”
“Yeah! Because you travel all the time I thought you’d have more stuff.”
What can I say? I hate clutter and the dust that goes with it.
It’s like 2013 wants to make sure I keep pinching myself (or perhaps I’ve developed a disorder like trichotillomania or something) but this most lovely, fun, varied week will be capped off by the debut of Season three of Downton Abbey tonight at 9PM EST. (Search for “Masterpiece Classic” on your DVR rather than “Downton Abbey” if you want to tape it. Wish someone had told me that after very frustrating, confused searches over an entire week, so you’re welcome!)
New York Magazine outdid itself with an episode-by-episode breakdown of the past two seasons and major plot points for each character. I told my protégé Jeaniah that I was looking forward to the show tonight, and that I wasn’t sure she’d like it but that I love it. “It’s set in 1910s and ’20s in this big, beautiful mansion and all the ladies wear gorgeous dresses and jewelry and they all talk in British accents and…”
“And sip tea like this?” Jeaniah asked as she curtsied with an imaginary teacup with her pinky finger sticking up and a pompous look on her face.
Lest you think I’m all high falutin’, tonight I’m equally excited for the return of The Biggest Loser (or, as Christian calls it, “The Fattest Fatty”) and Jillian, one of the original and best trainers. I’ve cried during the opening sequence. Love seeing people work hard, tackle their demons and achieve goals. The show is at its worst when it lets it get too “reality TV” when contestants get hateful and let the color of money cloud their vision. Jillian keeps it real.
I’m sure Mob Wives would be more “yang” to the “yin” of Downton Abbey but my stomach churned at seeing a 10-second promo for it. That’s the best 10 seconds they’ve got? Shee-it, I can see that from my fire escape around 4:15 AM every Sunday morning when the Latin nightclub downstairs stops serving. You can do better, Tee Vee Producer. Tsk! Tsk!
On Friday, my good pal Liam McEneaney stopped by my apartment so I could record a few stories for his new podcast. I’m not sure when my spots will air, but I’ll post when they do. The podcast is part of his “Tell Your Friends” brand which includes awesome live shows (last night’s show had Gilbert Gottfried at the Bell House) and the feature-length documentary “Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film”.
The film is a beautifully shot and well-edited documentary on the alt comedy scene which stars my funny husband Christian Finnegan along with Janeane Garofalo, Jim Gaffigan, Kurt Braunohler & Kristen Schaal and so on and son on. You can stream it online, buy clips, the soundtrack or the whole thing at Amazon.com or iTunes and a few other places.
Check out the trailer here:
But it’s not. It’s today.
Today, I climbed down some precarious steps into a basement in Bushwick to record an indie / alt rock music video. I was there to film b-roll chorus footage of me and two other ASL signers for my pal Mike Doughty‘s music video of the song Sunshine off his new CD The Flip is Another Honey.
Hot and thirsty, I took a quick swig of my drink. Mike saw me guzzling from the bottle and asked, “Is that…chocolate milk?”
Yeah, I guess most 42-year-old women don’t drink chocolate milk and definitely not from bottles with cartoon rabbits on them. But, this one does! MMM! And she signs, too!
I used the rest of my day to run errands and relax with my dogs as tomorrow is going to be a long and exciting day. <Whisper Voice> Don’t tell her, but I’m treating my protégé to a showing of the Big Apple Circus! </Whisper Voice> This is all in courtesy of my friend and superstar booker/producer Marianne Ways and the generosity of the circus. It means a lot to my Hour Children protégé to experience things like this, so big heartfelt thanks to them for the guest passes. We will be sure to write a review.
Christian’s not into most vegetables, so I was looking for a side dish and found this one for Mexican Pasta Salad. We’re fans of anything with jalapeños, lime juice and cilantro so we gave it a shot and loved it. We ate it with grilled pork chops and a green salad covered in our homemade Ginger Carrot Dressing. Delicious! The next day we added some grilled chicken to the leftover pasta which made for a filling lunch.
One box of spiral pasta (I use whole grain pasta)
2 cups frozen corn (or 2 ears of corn on cob)
2 jalapenos seeded and diced
2 scallions chopped
2 limes juiced
olive oil (to coat pasta)
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
— Boil the pasta per directions on the box, drain and drizzle olive oil over the cooked pasta so it doesn’t stick together.
–While the pasta is boiling, roast the corn, jalapenos and scallion in a pan on medium heat with a tablespoon oil. Stir and cook until corn is golden. You’ll need a lid, because the corn pops! Fun!
— Add to large bowl: pasta, corn, jalapenos, scallions, beans, cilantro and juice of limes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
*Next time I’m going to add some halved grape cherry tomatoes and an extra jalapeño.
Some of you may have noticed I blogged a lot of recipes on over the last week. This isn’t a sign that I’m aiming to be a food blogger or Susie Homemaker. I’m just trying to compile our favorite recipes into one easy-to-access place. We’ve bookmarked, emailed, and searched for recipes but then when we want to make them again we have to check five places, or can’t remember how we modified it or are in the grocery store with only our cell phones.
For easy recall, I’ve created a virtual recipe box to bookmark: http://kambricrews.com/category/food-drink/recipes
More to come, like the Mexican pasta salad we made as a side dish for last night’s dinner and had as leftover for lunch today. Muy delicioso!
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels (optional…I’ve done with, with celery instead and without altogether)
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with chicken broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.
Chow down on its own or as a side dish. Yummmmmmy!
How easy it?
So easy even your 5-year-old could do it. For the busiest of bees or if you want to introduce cooking to your young ‘en or anyone with a fear of cooking, this is the recipe. It’s foolproof, easier than pie and mmm, mmm good!
You just need a crockpot and the following ingredients:
1.5 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breast (is there any other kind?)
2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup (no water, just the regular condensed soup)
1 can chicken broth
2 cups frozen carrots/peas*
1 onion diced
2 tablespoons of butter
1 can of Pillsbury biscuits
Place the chicken, butter, soup, broth and onion in a slow cooker. Cover, and cook for 5 to 6 hours on Low. Then, about 90 minutes before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. I dunk them and then about 45 minutes into cooking the dough, I dunk and stir them again. So, total cook time about 6.5 to 7.5 hours. If you don’t want to wait that long then, I’d cook it for about 3.5 hours on high then another hour or so for the dough.
Serve in a bowl on a cold winter’s day and let this stick-to-your-ribs meal warm you from the inside out!
*Optional, but definitely don’t bother with celery. I didn’t think it added to the flavor or texture and only watered down the meal.
For lunch today, I finally worked up the nerve to try out my food processor that I bought specifically to make Ginger Carrot Dressing. It was delicious and easy. Honestly, if I had known cooking was so easy, I may have tried it years ago.
I used this recipe found on Epicurious.com:
- 1/2 lb carrots (3 medium), coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped shallots
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup water
Pulse carrots in a food processor until finely ground (almost puréed). Add chopped ginger, chopped shallots, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt and pulse until ginger and shallots are minced. With motor running, add vegetable oil in a slow stream. (I have never done this. I don’t even know that I can because my machine’s safety function requires the lid to be on and locked.)
Add 1/4 cup water and blend until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Thin dressing with additional water if desired.
Makes about 2 cups that will last up to about two weeks in the fridge.
UPDATE: I’ve made this twice since this original post. Christian thinks it could use a little more “kick” or “tang”. Vinegar perhaps? I’ll tinker with it. That said, we’re in our 40s and our tastebuds have been burnt off to worthless nubs. The recipe is perfect as-is, he’s just looking for a boost. Perhaps we’ve had a bit too much in too short a time and he’s growing bored. Is this a reflection of our marriage? Should I seek counseling or just add more vinegar? Hmmm.
I made some yummy and easy chicken pot pies using my Chicago Metallic Pie Mold. For pie crust, I got a box of Jiffy & followed the instructions. I rolled out the dough and using the plastic mold, I cut out four sections to fill the pan wells and four for the tops.
For the filling, here’s the recipe I used/tweaked. Note that this made enough filling for about 7 to 8 pies. So, next time I make it, I’ll probably cut the portions in half.
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cubed
2 cups frozen carrots and green peas
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
3 springs thyme
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
Pre-heat oven to 425.
Add chicken, carrots, peas & celery in a pot & fill with enough water to cover. Boil for 15 minutes, drain & set aside.
In a separate saucepan, cook onions in butter until translucent. Add in flour, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Carefully stir in chicken broth and milk. Let mix simmer on med-low heat until thick. Remove from heat.
Pour the chicken mix into pan wells then top with the hot, creamy mixture. Cover with top pie crust and seal edges.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until filling is bubbly and tops are golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
For two years in a row, Christian (new comedy special debuts 4.15.14!) and I haven’t swapped gifts in the traditional sense. But last year he did get me a rolling pin and this year the Chicago Metallic Pie Mold I’d been dreaming of. (Update: that pie mold is no longer sold, but here’s a link to a set of 4 individual pans.)
If you’d told the 20-something-year-old me I would’ve wanted these as gifts, I would’ve beaten you with said rolling pin and made a nice meat pie out of your innards to bake in my new pan. Lo! How times have changed.
In a recent post, I talked of my latest obsession is how to recreate Panera Bread’s yummy egg soufflés while at our cabin, since there is no Panera within a hundred miles or so.
I found a few knock-off recipes online and pulled the basic common elements and made my own. I’ve made ham & asiago, goat cheese & spinach, sausage and cheddar, and cheese blends with and without onions & jalapeños. They were all amazing! Since Christian doesn’t like eggs, I made a few with just sausage, onion and cheese for a hearty meat pie.
1 8-ounce tube Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough (I suppose you could make your own dough. Go for it!)
7 eggs, 1 reserved*
4 tbsp of half & half (or 2 tbsp heavy cream & 2 tbsp of milk or half & half…really just 4 tbsp of whatever milk/cream concoction you want or have on hand.)
3/4 cup of shredded cheese (any flavor / mix of flavors you like)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of diced ham, sausage, or bacon or whatever meat or veggies** your little heart desires.
UPDATE: I’ve used Pepperidge Farm’s puff pastry sheets for dough and like it much more. A little lighter & flakier and uses less dough for each pie.
— Preheat oven to 375F. or 400F if you’re using puff pastry
— Unroll the crescent dough but do not separate the pairs of triangles. Instead, pinch along the perforated seam so the 2 triangles become a square of dough. So you’ll wind up with four (4) squares. Roll out each square of dough a couple of times to make a 6″ x 6″-ish square. (For puff pastry, 1/3 of a sheet rolled out & cut in half makes two pies.)
— I spray the pan with non-stick spray and put one square of dough in each compartment.
— Mix 6 eggs, milk, and heavy cream in a microwavable bowl. Egg yolks should be completely broken and mixed in. Add shredded cheese and salt and mix again.
— Microwave the egg mixture in 30 second increments on high, stirring after each increment until you have a sort of solid, slightly runny scrambled egg mixture. (About 4 times-ish in a 1,000-watt microwave.)
Basically you’re cooking the eggs just enough so the dough at the bottom will cook, and the dough at the sides and top won’t fall in.
— Stir in your meat or veggies. For veggies, I sauté them a bit before adding.
— Fill each pie with your mix.
— Fold dough over the egg mixture.
* Optional – Break and whisk the remaining egg and brush over dough before popping it into the oven. This makes the dough brown to shiny, golden color. Pretty and makes it look “done”, but totally not necessary. So if you wanna save an egg and aren’t trying to impress anyone, feel free to skip this. I’ve included photos of what the difference looks like below.
— Bake for about 20 minutes (15 for puff pastry) and then it’s bon appetit time!
**I made a spinach and goat cheese soufflé and added both ingredients after the microwave process.
Pictured from L to R:
Puff pastry after baking with no egg wash,
Crescent rolls with egg wash (egg soufflés in top pans and chicken pot pies in lower ones),
Christian enjoys his sausage, onion and cheese concoction, and
A cross section of his meat pie. Heh.
During Spring 2011, our first at the Rock House, I worried to Christian:
“I think something’s wrong with me. I find myself staring into the woods for long spells. I’m not even thinking of anything…just staring at birds, squirrels, trees, leaves, nothing. For hours.”
“You know what that’s called?” He asked.
I stared blankly at him.
I guess I would draw the old “Happiness Is…” naked cartoon characters here in this photo.
For multiple reasons, we usually travel over the Christmas holiday. In fact, we had just returned from an amazing trip to Peru when we signed the papers on January 4th, 2011, to purchase our little cabin in the woods. But for our first Christmas as homeowners, we wanted to spend it in no other place. We got a tree, made sugar cookies from scratch, and played tons of Scrabble and Monopoly. It was perfectly peaceful and simple.
The year 2012 proved to be exhausting –in a good way– for both of us. Between my book tour and Christian’s TV and stand up work, we found ourselves traveling more than staying home. So, again, we wanted nothing more than a couple of weeks in the woods at our Rock House. We were so lazy, we didn’t even put up a tree (we did hang fresh pine garland, stockings and some twinkle lights) or swap gifts.
Instead, we bought this mini pie pan (two egg soufflés and two chicken pot pies I baked are pictured at left) and stocked up on a bunch of new games like Mystery Rummy (Jack the Ripper), Blokus, Mr. Jack in New York, Carcassonne, Mexican Train dominoes, Lost Cities and new jigsaw puzzles.
Are we humbugs? Not really. It’s just that every morning waking up in the Rock House –no matter what the season– is like Christmas morning. There is a feeling of lightness here. The freedom to do nothing. I don’t have to be anywhere. I don’t want to be anywhere. This is it.
Since we’d no place to go, I sang, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”
Three was the magic number it seems. I enjoyed three snowfalls for 12+ inches of snow, three jigsaw puzzles, three seasons of Cheers, season three of “The Wire”, and three books (The Other Wes Moore, Hands of My Father, Just Kids).
Over a week of being disconnected (I didn’t post a thing on Facebook, didn’t read the news & contemplated closing my Twitter account) and not being able to come up with a single goal for 2013, I finally updated my status to say, “Stick a fork in me.”
I’m done. I have nothing to look forward to, to work towards, to want or need. Will this feeling change? Probably. But until then, I’m left to wonder how and why I tried so hard at anything.
So perhaps the cartoon should read:
a terrible thing for ambition.”
Either middle-aged, middle-management white males of Grand Rapids aren’t getting laid enough or I’ve found a new target demo. I am HOT in GR! Like “grown men walking into poles” hot.
I checked into my room at the Amway Grand Plaza (yes, the Amway. I haven’t heard of them in years but they’re inescapable in GR.) which is grand, like the name implies and like everything else in the city, and sprawling. They really need to install a map kiosk like in a shopping mall. Even after two nights there, I got lost trying to find my room.
I was a sweaty mess in my jogging clothes after having gone for a run and had a confused look on my face. A man who worked at the hotel (I assume as he was wearing maintenance type clothes but no name tag) cut his conversation short on the house phone and offered to help direct me. But he wouldn’t just tell me exactly where the main lobby was. He gave short vague answers like, “You’re headed the right way,” and kept asking where I was going. “The main lobby, just tell me where the main lobby is.”
At one point he asked for my room number. Now, I’m sure to him he knows the hotel like the back of his hand and having my exact room number would tell him which tower (yeah, they had towers, like we’re all Rapunzel or something. Crazy big!) I needed to be in and which elevator bank within that tower would take me to my room. But, dude, here’s the thing: No matter how nice you are, how helpful you think you are being and how innocent you know you are, if you have a penis don’t ask a woman who is a stranger to you for her room number. I said I’d trace my steps and start over and thanks anyway and left him standing there. I’m 99% sure he was not a rapist but that 1% is what keeps us ladies always on guard. I can hear his argument at the imaginary rape trial now, “I thought we had a date. She gave me her room number…”
Eh, you know how the victim-blaming story goes. So, anyway, back to Grand Rapids! The hotel gym had a full size pool, hot tub, tanning beds, tennis courts and, my lordy, I wanted to move in! My room had a balcony with an incredible view of the river (What river? Why the Grand River, of course.) and the gorgeous fall colors. I was so happy to be traveling all over the midwest & northeast during peak leaf changing season. This picture just doesn’t do it justice. I could also see native golden boy Gerald R. Ford’s Presidential Museum which I decided I needed to visit simply because of how close it was to my hotel.
My first day there was to give a speech at Grand Rapids Community College as part of the Diversity Lecture Series. I had a quick breakfast and returned to find that housekeeping had left me a note and a voice mail. I had the “do not disturb” sign on my door but apparently they couldn’t believe that I didn’t want service because they called again! I’d been here one night! What could possibly need to be cleaned?! So I said sure, I needed service and had the housekeeping lady zip up my dress instead. Now THAT’s useful!
Sidebar: don’t kill anyone in a fancy hotel. They do wellness checks and just won’t leave your room alone, “do not disturb” sign be damned. I’d recommend the Best Western on Highway 105 in Montgomery, Texas. I stayed there five nights and not once did they call. There were no security cameras, lights, nothing. That is SIX days of getting to Mexico time, people!
Dress zipped, I met my host from the college for an early dinner and to go over the itinerary of events. The speech itself was held at the gorgeous Fountain Street Church. I’m not a religious person –I think most organized religion is a little too cult-like and abhor anyone who selectively uses Bible passages to justify vilifying and/or discriminating– but I could see myself attending this church. It’s non-denominational and reading their mission made me want to hug an evangelical and say, “It gets better.” That’s me pictured on the left sitting in the preacher’s (? preacher, minister, I dunno what you call them) chair and a big rainbow stick. Not sure what that’s for but it made me happy the way rainbows should.
My host said I was joining a distinguished list of speakers of the series and warned me not to get intimated when I saw the church’s green room. I thought she was pulling my leg until I laid eyes on the photos of Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Gerald Ford (duh) and so many more. I was almost embarrassed to add my name to the list. Almost.
The church was filled to the rafters and the speech was an A- (a technical glitch where the laptop with my PowerPoint suddenly died prevents me from giving it an A+ but it was pretty fun). I met some truly remarkable people, especially those working with the college and the diversity series. They love their jobs and make a difference and dammit to hell I’m getting choked up again!
I’m so glad I elected to spend an extra night there because it allowed me to take in some sights and sounds of this lovely riverfront city. I visited the lecture series’ corporate sponsor Steelcase (WOW! I want to go to design school just so I can work there. The building and people were amazing!) and gave a short presentation and Q&A. Afterward, I had the day to play tourist.
I ate a quick burger at Flanagan’s Irish Pub. I’m sorry to say I didn’t try out more local-centric restaurants in GR like I did in Madison, but I wanted a greasy fat burger and pubs are good for those. They didn’t disappoint. Happily stuffed, I walked to my first stop, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).
The GRAM had a special exhibit called Real/Surreal which compared works of realism vs. surrealism with most of the paintings on loan from NYC’s Whitney. DOH! Along the way, I caught a glimpse of this building reflected in another. I don’t know if they planned it this way but it looked like a life-sized, glued together puzzle picture. I couldn’t get over how perfect and real it looked. Talk about Real/Surreal!
But they also had on display some of the winners of this year’s ArtPrize. Man, did I luck out on seeing these. Without these pieces, I think I would’ve felt the museum trip to be a bit of a bust. Instead, I was bowled over by “Elephants” by Adonna Khare, a giant penciled mural overwhelming with it’s detail and humanity and, my lord, how does one person possess so much talent?! Please, please check her and her prizewinning piece out. You won’t be sorry.
Excited to learn about ArtPrize and in love with “Elephants”, I asked the security guard where I could find more winners. He directed me to “Origami” by Kumi Yamashita. This gem tricked me at first. I was directed to find it and walked passed thinking it was just a bunch of square papers on a wall. Oh, how wrong I was. It’s so clever in its simplicity and very thought provoking. I thanked the guard and laughed with him how I thought it was stupid at first.
Then he asked, “Did you see me?” Wait. WHAT? He’s one of the origami pieces? GENIUS. Click on this link, and you’ll understand what I mean. So cool.
Thank you to GRAM and ArtPrize for introducing me to these talented women artists. Never in my life have I left an art museum so excited to share my experience with anyone. If you have a chance to go before December 31st when the ArtPrize pieces will no longer be exhibited, I highly recommend it.
Finally, my last stop on the grand tour was of the aforementioned Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. It takes only a few hours in Grand Rapids to realize that they looooooove Jerry. He is the pride and joy of this town. His name is plastered on everything. I’m surprised there’s not a Ford Fun Park or a burger named after him. After learning about our 38th president and getting a free ruler with my gift shop purchase, I, too, loved Jerry. He seemed like a really nice guy. I guess it is his museum and burial site so what are they gonna say? I couldn’t tell you since I’ve not been to Nixon’s. I started openly weeping at the section covering his death and funeral.
Sidebar: Is crying a lot a sign of perimenopause? Because if you haven’t noticed, I’m crying or getting choked up at everything?! That said, I found myself transported to my early youth. I remembered vividly watching news reports of Nixon’s impeachment and Ford’s ascent to the highest office. I love our country, and the process, while flawed, does work.
I left the museum feeling immense pride and even more grateful that our country wasn’t created and founding fathers didn’t live in the late 60s/early 70s or else we’d forever be barraged with its clothing. Egads.
Holy mother of god, you guys. I need to buy a pair of stretchy XXL pants and move to Madison, Wisconsin already. Every meal is a gastronomical orgasm! I even ate a pickled turkey gizzard, y’all! It look like the wrinkly vagina from a cadaver, but I’ve eaten tripe so figured this couldn’t taste much worse. It wasn’t. It tasted like dark meat. Who knew?
[Picture at right: Beefeaters and company. Not a euphemism.]
My first day in town began with breakfast (cheese & sausage quiche & Wisconsin Amber from Capital Brewery) at Marigold Kitchen. Afterward I took my shuttle driver’s advice to use the Wisconsin State Capitol as a shortcut to get to my destination, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. I breezed in and wandered the halls. “Huh,” I thought. “Haven’t they heard of terrorism and mass murderers? Where’s my full body cavity search? I demand to be delayed and felt up by a stranger! Someone touch me in the name of security!”
As I meandered aimlessly, I heard a voice echoing but couldn’t make out the words in the cacophonous stone and marble building. It sounded like someone giving a speech, so I followed the disembodied voice’s direction until I found the source. A man in full marine dress blues was speaking in the rotunda to an audience filled with others in military dress uniforms. I did what anyone should do: I acted like I was invited, grabbed a program and took a seat. As it happens, it was a ceremony in honor of Veterans Day and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was the keynote speaker.
It’s not often one finds themselves inches away from a state leader, and stranger still that never once did I go through any security checkpoint. Given how hated the Governor of Wisconsin is in Madison (and the whole state?), I found this doubly surprising. I guess with all the soldiers around us, he was purportedly safe.
The governor gave a thoughtful speech in honor of the Wisconsin veterans that have served this country. “163,” he noted. “The number of Wisconsin men and women who paid the ultimate price in service of their country since 9/11/01.” We had a moment of silence, which made me start crying. If you’re not choking back a lump in your throat during any moment of silence I have to wonder how silent are you being, really? Shut out everything and think –truly think– about what the men and women before us have done to give us the liberty and justice we have come to expect. Like I said: Lump in throat.
I watched as First Sergeant Timothy LaSage was honored and Larry Stanczyk was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the Vietnam War on July 11, 1969. Then as the crowd dispersed, I took photos, shook the Governor’s hand (his real hand! What if I were a spy?! Don’t spies go to Wisconsin? How about UNION spies?!) and left for my original destination: the Veteran’s Museum. How apropos.
After the museum, I enjoyed a pint of Hopalicious by Ale Asylum at The Coopers Tavern where I flirted with my bartender, a Jeffrey Dahmer doppelgänger. I always thought Dahmer was kinda cute, but I guess no guy would take it as a compliment so I kept that part to myself. After settling the tab, I visited the Wisconsin Historical Museum. It was okay. I was a little tired at this point and museums start to be a bit of a drag when you’re by yourself. Sharing a learning experience is part of the fun. I was surprised at just how many inventions and pop culture things got their start in Wisconsin. That’s all I took away from that. Oh, and there’s a huge section on Native American stuff which is in every museum ever so I kind of skimmed that and now I have more White Guilt than before.
After that, I shopped along State Street where I stocked up on postcards and nerdy writing/journaling stuff (!) at Anthology (bummed I was missing their free workshop the next day where they planned to make these fun travel/adventure folder thingies. Yes, that’s exactly what they called them.) & dark chocolate covered cherries & salted caramel (!!) at Kilwins. I finished my jam-packed day with an organic burger (!!!) at Graze where I met Christian Finnegan‘s buddy from his NYU days. More amazing farm-to-table culinary delights, friendly people, affordable prices and lovely experience had me trying to figure out how to move to Madison without ruining Christian’s career.
Then, as I waited for my hotel shuttle, I saw this sidewalk sign (see left) for a jeweler and thought, “Gross, Madison. You almost had me but this is really gross.” I wish I’d had my Sharpie with me, dagnabbit.
The next day was not as packed since I had to perform that night as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. It started out with breakfast at The Old Fashioned. I’d heard they were good for fried cheese curds and more than one person said they’d de-friend me if I didn’t try them while in Madison. I ordered ham and eggs with a side of fried curds and a bloody mary to start. There was so much food in my drink, I wasn’t sure I’d have room to eat much else.
But then my plate arrived, and I vowed to get fat in the name of GOD and AMERICA. Wow, wow, wow! I was only three bites into my meal when I decided that I would eat here again before I left for NYC which meant within the next 18 hours or forever hold my peace.
Cheese curd needs to work on its PR/marketing image. Curd sounds repulsive. I eat cottage cheese but “curd” makes me think of discharge from an infection. In reality, fried cheese curd is like miniature mozzarella sticks only made with better, different kinds of cheese. They’re pictured on the lower portion of my plate in the photo at right.
Around this time is when I befriended an ex-Marine (’73-’76) named Peter who was celebrating the Marine’s 237th birthday by drinking a gallon of Beefeaters. He was recovering from prostate cancer, on his way to visit his daughter, bought me a bloody mary and introduced me to turkey gizzard (again, not a euphemism).
After we parted, I wrote a bunch of postcards and wandered the largest farmer’s market in America where I loaded up on fresh, homemade jerky which was the only thing I could expect to stuff in my suitcase that wouldn’t reek, rot or take up too much room.
I got to the hotel and posted the above photo of my eggs & ham touching off an Internet storm (okay, a slight breeze) of people warning me that being fat is not good and to change my dieting habits. Ummm… SCUH-ROO YOU! A little tipsy from my two bloody marys I made a video about how you should not be fat because that, apparently, is the worst thing you can be EVER. Here it is:
I napped, sobered up, showered & dressed for my main event: a 45 minute presentation at the Rotunda Room of the Overture Center. If I may bitch a little (more), I was pretty annoyed at the onset. I got to the venue to meet with tech early per instructions since I was going to have a slideshow. The Overture Center’s cafe was closed even though there were three shows going on, my books weren’t available for sale at the “book store” and they didn’t even have it on the list. ($@#%^*& !!!!!!!!!!???????)
I was also directed to the wrong floor, so was annoyed, hot and winded after running up and down three flights of stairs when I finally found the Rotunda Room where the tech person wasn’t there. So I said F this and went outside to literally and figuratively cool off. I spotted a bar across the street and downed a glass of Pinot Grigio and headed back to muscle through what I was now expecting to be a huge waste of time.
Thank whatshisface I was wrong. Tech showed up (I was totally fine to go without the slides, but nice that it worked out), a few minutes before showtime a man from the book selling company showed up with books that they promised to add to the pop-up store for the remainder of the festival, and there was a huge, SRO crowd. The event itself went swimmingly though I do think my being overheated and annoyed affected me. I’d give myself a B-minus.
The best part for me was meeting Facebook-turned-in-real-life friends Stu Gilkison & his wife Jessica. They graciously treated me to a post-show drink & snacks (again, the food here is crazy good. A simple appetizer of stuffed olives had my eyes rolling in the back of my head.), and even gave me a ride back to my hotel. As we walked to their car, we passed Coopers Tavern where they are regulars. Luckily, the Dahmer doppelgänger was tending bar. They agreed: total twinsies.
Bonus: We made a pit stop to view Holiday Fantasy of Lights, a cheesy, drive-through Christmas display. Sure, I suppose it’s a “fantasy” if what you dream of includes five minutes of looking at a Lite Brite. The world needs to legalize marijuana before this can be considered entertainment. Priorities, people!
If you turn your radio dial to a pre-set AM station, there’s holiday music to accompany your “tour”. The fact that it was only November 11th and Thanksgiving was over two weeks away kind of made the whole thing surreal. Seriously America, it’s okay if you enjoy Thanksgiving first. Everybody just RELAX for a GODDAMNED MINUTE!
And though I snark, it was fun. A wee bit too much fun, in fact. The next morning I was hurting but happy dreaming of a white Christmas. As I packed, I got weepy (again) at the thought of leaving. (Why can’t I live everywhere and do everything?) I mean, I cried watching a clip from Saturday Night Live as Anne Hathaway & the SNL cast sang a parody of “One Day More”. Seriously.
Since my book tour and promotion is coming to an end, I’ve been a little bored and wondering what I should do next with my life. I’ve been a publicist, producer, paralegal, paraprofessional, promoter…so obviously something that starts with “P”. But I’ve also been a writer, blogger, actress, teller, data entry clerk, vice president of a bank’s commercial collection department and a secretary. Basically, I’m up for anything and keeping myself open to possibilities which, hey, that starts with “P”!
For a brief moment, I thought, “I should take a cooking class!” Then I remembered I’m not a Meryl Streep character. If anything, I’m more like Diane Keaton in Baby Boom minus the baby. (Hmmm….maybe I should adopt or inherit a kid?! Okay, someone take away the bottle, because clearly I’m drunk for even thinking that.)
But as the daughter of a carpenter and having dwelled in the woods, I have more intuition and practical skills than Ms. Keaton did in that movie. My only bonehead mistake thus far is flashing an old man my “flower” and not holding one nostril as I attempted a farmer’s sneeze yesterday as I stacked my wood pile. This resulted in a jellyfish like blob that dangled from my nose which I wiped off with the sleeve of a sweatshirt. No worries, it was Christian’s so I was fine with that. (Hey, Christian, you might want to wash it before you throw it on again.)
Meanwhile, I am enjoying cooking at the cabin. Time in the woods means I must plan and cook meals for myself since takeout isn’t an option and restaurants are pretty far and expensive. Plus, I have a lovely kitchen that I’m getting to know how to use. My crockpot has been a good friend (1 pot for cooking + cleaning = brilliant!) and grilling in nice weather has been equally delightful. But after two years, I’m starting to spread my hot glued Martha Stewart wings and try new recipes.
My latest obsession is how to recreate Panera Bread’s yummy egg soufflés since there is no Panera within a hundred miles or so. I found a few knock-off recipes online but the problem is how to cook them. So now I’m salivating over this Chicago Metallic Pie Mold. I can make the Panera soufflés, chicken pot pie, individual dessert pies and who knows what else?!
Add to my Christmas wish list along with a wood stove steamer. It took me three winters to discover that I could add moisture to the air by heating a pot of water on the stove. I threw in a few cinnamon sticks for aroma and now want to make tea with the cinnamon water. I don’t even drink tea but that’s what this place does to me! It makes me open to “P”ossibilities!
Performed a 45-minute solo show presentation in Madison, Wisconsin as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.
Down to my last few logs leftover from last winter, I dialed a number from a roadside sign advertising firewood. A few hours later, seventy-two-year-old Max showed up in his big honking monster truck at sundown and drove off the edge of the driveway. Any further, and we’d have a big problem. I stepped into my rubber boots, grabbed a windbreaker and raced out of the house. I flagged him down and said he could park right where he was since we would be unloading the wood on the bottom level of the house.
He wanted his truck facing the opposite direction, so I looked on helplessly as he plowed his way to the top of our driveway, turned around, came barreling back down, and skidded to a stop.
Watching him behind the wheel reminded me of when I was eight-years-old, and I drove my cousin’s four-wheeled All-Terrain Vehicle way too fast with skinny little arms steering it. ATVs –like Max’s truck– are unwieldy in the wrong hands! Dad had plopped me on to the ATV with no protective glasses or helmet, just a quick lesson on how to make the thing go. I had shot out of the yard like a funny car drag racer and three very blurry seconds later Dad was disentangling me from a briar patch. After a quick inspection revealed no damage done, Dad apologized for neglecting to teach me how to stop. He showed me the brakes, and off I was again flying through trails till I ran out of gas.
Max had simply graduated from an ATV to a two-ton truck that he drove way too fast with arms too frail. As he backed the truck off the edge of the gravel drive, the very wet earth gave way. I hollered that he should stop. “Let me just get the truck level,” he insisted. Back and forth he rolled, “leveling” the truck and tearing up the edge of the drive and making deep ruts in the mud. As if he sensed my anxiety he said, “Don’t worry, this is a 4-wheeler. I can get this in and out of anything.”
Ya know what Confucius should also say? “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This is my yard, dill weed!
Using a cracked plastic paint bucket as a step, he hoisted his old, arthritic body on the third try into the back of the truck and proceeded to unload the half cord of firewood at the end of our long walkway. (See photo at left to give you an idea.) The last load of wood we’d had delivered came with two young bucks carrying arms full to a pile they neatly stacked outside our basement door. Max was not a young buck and probably could not handle such strenuous activity. I would have to haul the logs to the house and assemble a stack on my own.
I took a deep breath and reminded myself that he’s elderly, the damage is nothing a shovel won’t fix, and I could use the exercise. So rather than leave him out in the quickly darkening sky without help, I stood in my thin windbreaker and dress, and chatted with Max as he unloaded one. single. log. at. a. time.
When one log went errant, I squatted to pick it up and quickly realized my mistake. In my haste to stop Max from getting his two-ton truck stuck in my ditch, I had run out of the house without putting on my leggings. Showing an old man your snatch has got to be Step #1 in the woman’s version of the book How To Win Friends and Influence People. It happened in a nano-second but I’m sure that even in the dusky night with the eyesight of a seventy-two-year-old, a heterosexual male’s brain is able to compute in a fraction of that time the image of a lady’s beaver. And after spending a week in the woods, a beaver is probably what my gal looks like.
His eyes darted back up faster than I stood and we went along chatting away as though we were none the wiser. Among the things discussed:
— He and his wife just returned from spending the night at Mount Airy Casino where she played the slots and he played poker. The casino puts them up, gives them steak dinner and they have real games unlike the closer Monticello Raceways.
— He has three sons and a daughter. Of the four children, only one bothers to call or have anything to do with him. “They can’t be bothered.” [Insert sound of my heart breaking.] The daughter has three children (a 12-year-old and 9-year-old twins) and is the only one divorced. She and her cop husband split because she cheated.
— A recent Kinsey study shows that women cheat on men far more often than previously reported because people lie on surveys.
— Estrous cycles of animals rule their sexual appetite. Because a woman is almost always in estrous, her sexuality is much more fluid. Take deer for example…(I tune out a little at this point because I know about the sex lives of deer and a few logs went bonkers, and I didn’t want to flash the gash again.)
— He “very much believe[s] in God” and he believes in Evolution “because you’d have to be a moron not to. I mean, it’s just common sense when you look at everything.”
— Since humans think we should all live no matter what and so true evolution can’t exist, genocide has served as a man-made thinning of the herd. On his theory he said, “I can’t talk about this stuff around these parts or I’d be run out of town, but I feel like I can share this with you.” [SEE! I told you I should consider running for office!]
I helped Max turn over the metal crate holding the last few logs and he packed up his bucket to leave. He was headed home to his wife whom he’d left sleeping in her rocking chair. Usually she prepares a three-course meal (salad, dinner, dessert), however, the trip was so exhausting and they ate so much at the casino, they were having an early supper of a simple bowl of soup.
As he hopped back behind the wheel he said, “You have my number. Call me if you need any help and if you’d like to join me and my wife to a trip to the casino, you’re welcome.”
“As long as you’re not driving,” I thought.
Max continued, “I know that we’ve just met, but I feel like I’ve made a new friend.” [Step #1 is #1 for a reason. Friend WON!]
Max was gone and my previously broken heart was mended and filled with love.
This morning, I was tempted to call Max to say, “Hey, you offered to help. Well, can you help me load the logs into a pile?” I would’ve been joking, of course, but I didn’t want to make him feel bad. So I put on my big girl panties (literally and figuratively ) and got to work. Here is the result of my morning’s labor.
Was the keynote speaker for the regional conference of the Association of Late-Deafaned Adults (ALDA).
I feel like today’s NY Post should have it’s own exclusive “In the Papers” segment with Pat Kiernan.
The cover is a heartwarming story of an NYPD officer Larry DiPrimo buying socks and a pair of $75 boots for a homeless man. So touching, right? People all over the country have been so incredibly moved by his selfless gesture that the Post devoted the cover and two full pages to the story. All I can think is, “Giving a shoeless homeless man pair of boots is very kind, but the man is probably mentally ill and still on the streets…but go ahead and put the bandaid on open gash.” Pfft. I know I’m being a buzzkill but I can’t shake the cynical, pessimistic thought. Luckily the bum seems harmless unlike some of the lunatics that roam city streets. But, yeah, kudos to the officer. Nice job, dude. I hope they enjoy their fifteen minutes before the Post digs up some salacious info on one or both of them (hope you never sexted anyone, bro!) and rips them apart.
Then there’s an article on Lindsay Lohan‘s latest run-in with the law. Oh LiLo, did Britney not teach you anything? Nothing surprises me here. That the Post would devote two full pages to the once promising actress’ ongoing trouble tornado (Officer DiPrimo, take note! Nothing pleases the Post more than to tear down what it helped build.) or that Lindsay socked a lady in the face. What would be a surprise is she actually had to serve time. It helped straighten up Paris and Britney. Girl needs help. Incidentally, the precinct where Lindsay was taken is the same one I picked up ArIes Spears from when he *allegedly* forcibly touched a lady at the comedy nightclub Comix.
Finally, there is an article covering a bizarre incident during the sexual abuse trial stemming from charges that a 12-year-old girl was molested by a leader in the Hasidic Jewish Satmar sect. I’ve always found Hasidic Judaism stranger and more cult-like than other religions which are all pretty strange and cult-like when you slice and dice them. Hasids are almost as strange as the time I saw one of my Dad’s extended family writhing around on the floor of a church moaning and crying and panting like she was being shtupped by the Holy Ghost. And, ladies, let me tell you, the Ghost had found her G(lory) spot. I felt the same way watching it as when seeing a clip of a hidden camera show or celebrity sex tape and thought, “I shouldn’t be seeing this.” Shudder.
Anyway, back to the case. The case is full of twists and turns and stunning revelations worthy of gang or mob trials like witness intimidation and that the girl’s father secretly recorded his daughter having sex and other creepy stuff. Today’s report is that four Hasidic men were charged with photographing the unidentified girl and posting it on social media sites. One of the accused photographers? His name is Lemon Juice.
If every news cycle were this interesting, Kiernan could have his own national talk show.
New York, I’m very disappointed in you. This subway ad has remained unmarred for three whole days. I might just have to take my Sharpie and show you how it’s done. For educational purposes only, of course.
Kambri Crews — Giving new meaning to “twisty moustache” since November 2012.
Last night I accompanied my friend Larry to Donna Karan‘s loft / studio space to see the world premiere of some musician I’ve never heard of and doubt you ever will either. The space was incredible, with an art exhibit featuring the work of Stephen Weiss, Donna’s late husband. He was a talent for sure and seems to be very much loved and missed by his family. There was an outdoor garden with a giant felled tree turned into a beautiful bench, free & yummy cocktails provided by the Russian Tea Room, and a notable guest…some guy named Sir Anthony Hopkins. Just your average Tuesday night.
Ummm, yeah, it was a fun “only in New York” night watching how the other half lives before we left to enjoy something more our style: Burgers & bangers & mash at a nearby pub.
I made some out of this world guacamole using a recipe I found online and tweaked a bit. It’s so, so good I wanted you to have it. Hey, why not pair it with my Chicken Tortilla Soup!
- 3 avocados
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 medium red onion, diced
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced. But I actually use the equivalent of one small Jalapeño pepper from a jar because my hillbilly grocer never has fresh japs.
- 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon of minced garlic (or one clove if you’re mincing it yourself, which I don’t know why you’d do that!)
In a large bowl place the peeled, seeded and scooped avocado and lime juice. Toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, jalapeno, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve. Enyoy!