Friday, August 31, 2007

Birthday Month

When I was chatting with a friend yesterday, answering questions about my birthday and what did I get and where did Bubba take me and all that, I suddenly became really aware of what a big dork I've become.

Usually talking about my birthday is my most favorite of all subjects because it involves me, my favorite topic, and my special day and all things that relate to me.

You see why I love this.

I usually go on and on about whatever fabulous things I got to do all day just the way I like them and then about the great things that Bubba did because he is the most awesome of all men and then, perhaps, a short (long and detailed) account of all gifts, cards, voicemails, birthday songs, and telegrams received in honor of me and My Special Day.

But yesterday I realized that, in addition to calling it My Special Day like a five year old, I'm also getting to be a really big dork as evidenced by my recounting (with GREAT enthusiasm) of all the gifts Bubba piled up on the table for me to open.

Sure, the pile of gifts part sounds great and normal, but the contents of said gifts were what really had me excited and also had me looking like a rabid weirdo.

I remember the day when I would be excited about getting normal gifts. You know, like a watch, camera, some clothes, a hot handbag, new snowboard - you know normal things. And when I told people about these things, they too would get excited, possibly imagining themselves receiving similar normal and fun gifts which they would love in a normal way.

Those days have apparently passed.

As it appears I have grown beyond desiring normal gifts and into a dangerously dorky area where gifts I will love can only be had from bizarre shops that exist only on The Internets. Because a whole actual store dedicated to diamond head drill bits wouldn't get a business loan from even the most blind and delusional of all lenders.

This is the theme that became really obvious as I sat explaining to my lovely and understanding friend that what made the new sunglasses from Bubba special was not that they were fashiony or expensive but that they were polarized and would allow me to see the fish better when I was out on the river in my waders looking for trout.

And then what exactly I planned to do with two sets of diamond head drill bits and was I sure I didn't mean diamond stud earrings.

Telling people that you've been collecting sea glass for nearly a decade and secretly pining for the moment when you'll be able to drill holes in the little bits and make them into beads for jewelry is not the way you lift the dorky cloud gathering around your head.

It really isn't.

And then I told her that the best of all the gifts, even the drill bits, was the birthday drawer FULL of my favorite garden gloves. Because they are perfect and fit just right and I've had the same pair for so long that the fingertips have almost all cracked and they're starting to smell like my old running shoes that had to be thrown away because of how they smelled. And now I have a DOZEN new pairs! Woo!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that she laughed out loud and looked around nervously to see if anyone else had just heard me proclaim my love to garden gloves.

Seriously though, how hot is this:

I am pretty sure my heart stopped beating for a second when I ripped off the paper. TWELVE pairs of my favorite garden glove of all time? Now that is a gift.

Of course, Bubba had to find some weird place online where they stock these gloves and sell them in bulk and probably also eat their young and spawn in pods, but because none of the nurseries around here have them we are forced to go to extreme measures.

After horrifying my friend with my undeniable weirdness, I tried to redeem myself by explaining that after The Opening of a Thousand Perfectly Weird Gifts, Bubba took me out for a fabulous dinner at a great seafood restaurant so that I could eat the whole sea (he's allergic to most sea faring creatures, so this is really taking one for the team) and get drunk on gin and good wine.

And he had flowers sent to the restaurant and set out on our table so that when we showed up and I said, "Ooh, I hope we get to sit at *that* table with the pretty flowers", it was actually *our* table unlike last time I said this and it was someone elses table and I felt like a douchebag when I realized that those were flowers sent special for the person who was actually sitting there (not me).


But Bubba's a genius and knew that a dinner of a thousand sea creatures, flowers and a pile of perfectly weird gifts would make me a happy birthday girl. And also going to Hawaii next week so that I can remind everyone that I'm STILL IN MY TWENTIES FOR ONE MORE YEAR won't be bad either.

Let us begin the lifetime of 29th birthdays.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Best Tomato Sauce Ever. Yep.

I love that when I ask about new ideas for handling a shit ton of tomatoes people look at me with all seriousness and go, "You know what you should do! You should make sauce!"

You think.


I think my bitterness comes from having made sauce from the garden tomatoes every year and every year being just *this* much disappointed with how it comes out. Not that it has ever been really bad or anything, but just not all I dream of and more. Always a little too runny or too chunky or not chunky enough or a little bland or what's this green thing or whatever. Never *just right*.

What is *just right*? Who knows. I don't know where these standards came from.

But, to give these people a little credit for their new idea and since it really is the best way to get rid of all the tomatoes before they turn into a big gooey yard mess that I'll have to clean up while crying, I decided this season to give it another go.


You know, because the first Try Again was so much fun (read: horrific disaster) that one could only go back to the beginning in order to go in the opposite direction altogether.

Try Again #1 probably would have been fine had I just used the immersion blender in the final steps instead of prying the antique Food Mill attachment from the depths of the cabinet and bolting it on to the front of my mixer.

I'll admit, it was the novelty of using something that my mom had gotten 35 years ago and had quickly stowed away at the back of her own cabinet to never use (sharp, that mom) that allowed me to ignore my inner smart person who was reminding me loudly that this was going to be inefficient, messy, a total pain in the ass and not worth it. Even with all those poignant facts on a constant loud loop in my head, I was still able to blissfully ignore everything and move forward in a haze of delirium which looked a lot like my mom and I cooking together while drinking MGD and talking baseball and not at all like me standing alone in my kitchen yelling swears while red sauce splished and splashed all over the cabinets, counters, sink, floor, me, the dog (she was fine with it).

Which is what totally happened. Right before the stupid Food Mill jammed right up.

Excuse me, but isn't a Mill supposed to Mill things? Shouldn't it just grind up anything it its path and shoot it out the other side?

Apparently I have been misinformed and will have to go consult a better source on precisely what purpose a Mill should serve. (Dictionary says: "machinery that processes materials by grinding or crushing". Um, not always.)

This thing was more like a Food Smoosher. Or a Cabinet Splasher. Or a Big Fucking Mess For No Good Reason Maker.

I'm over it now.

The sauce turned out vaguely delicious. I mean, I'll eat it and it's good and I'll make it again, but next time I'll use the neat and tidy immersion blender (also a nice mom hand-me-down) and avoid the crime scene explosion.

Try Again #2 was much MUCH more successful. To the point where I'm ready to call it quits on ever trying another tomato sauce recipe ever again. Really. It came out that good.

And, guess what else, it was pretty easy and did not require any simmering. I know! That is rad. Our neighbors (our favorite neighbors, in fact, and not because of this recipe although it would be a perfectly good reason) slid this gem into conversation while we were ruminating over just exactly what to do with all the damn produce in our backyards and their farm share. They've been dropping of pints of strawberries, sixers of pretty, pretty brown eggs and heads of lettuce three and four at a time - all the while thanking US for taking it off their hands.

Dude, I told you - rad.

So, you know my ass was all ears (yes) when they said, "Oh, we found this great recipe for tomato sauce and it is SO EASY. And it is also THE BEST tomato sauce you'll ever eat."

Big talk.

I won't lie, I was *this much* skeptical about how good this sauce could actually be. And, important too, how "easy" the recipe really was.

As far as the flavor goes - this is the only tomato sauce (with room for variations that include some spice or cream, etc) I ever want to eat again.

As far as the easiness goes, it's not work-free, but it's also not simmering on my stove for half a day and getting jammed through a faulty food mill, which I will say, is the opposite of easy and pleasant.

At this point, you either want me to stow it OR you want the recipe, so here goes (with my own personal tweaks that make it The Best):

4-5 large ripe fresh garden tomatoes, sliced into 1" rounds
4 good size fresh basil leaves
1 head of garlic, top chopped off
1/3 cup mellow red wine (we used a yum Cabernet)
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
yum extra virgin olive oil (if you don't want to spoon it into your mouth, find another bottle)

To make:
Preheat oven to 450.

Cover rimmed baking sheet with foil and then drizzle foil with some olive oil, enough to slippery the surface. Place prepped garlic head on a piece of foil and drizzle some oil on there, too - and a bit of salt. Wrap the foil around it into a nice package. Put it in the middle of the baking sheet.

Place your tomato rounds in a single layer on the baking sheet around the garlic. Drizzle all the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Slam it all into the oven for 30 minutes.


Pull out the food processor and add all the tomatoes (they'll be a bit charred and maybe a little grabby when trying to peel them from the foil - try hard). Unwrap the garlic and squeeze in the cloves (they'll be like paste - it's cool). Add the wine, basil and salt/pepper as you like it.

Puree the whole mess until it's one even consistency and no giant basil bits are jamming around in there.

Toss it with some bulky pasta (we used farfalle, but penne or a great ravioli would be lurvely), meatballs, gnocchi - seriously, whatever. Or just eat it out of the Cuisinart with your damn spoon because it's so good you won't care that you just ate sauce for dinner while standing in the kitchen.


Anyway, the reason I know this is The Best is because (aside from my own personal Knowing, which is undeniable) I set it in front of Bubba and when he took one bite he looked at me and said, "That's it. Don't change anything. THIS is it. THIS is what I've been searching for. THIS is what I'm imagining every time I order marinara at a restaurant and THIS is what I never get. I LOVE IT."

There was no hemming or hawing or muted requests to add meat or change it in any way. It was perfect.

This was a big and dramatic moment that required a lot of wine to appreciate fully.

And now I know what I'll do with all these tomatoes.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I think my last running update was at eight miles when I'd just been bitten by a dog and had broken two iPods in twenty minutes.

It was quite a day.

Perhaps the trauma from that day kept me from making an update at the nine mile mark, but I'll tell you now that it was as I expected it to be; harder than eight miles, but not devastatingly so, and still full of the same crabby people who know neither how to bid a good morning nor drive a car without sideswiping pedestrians.

Beyond that, I have now crested the Double Digit Mile Run hurdle and can attest to the fact that extra miles always mean extra chances to dodge traffic.

I ran 10 miles on Saturday and did not die. Although I did have a stern finger pointing session with a man and wife (they were both holding the wheel. Yes.) in a minivan who had apparently either never been taught the significance of a crosswalk or were blind to my neon green top and bright orange visor (I try to be very visible when I run. For obvious reasons.)

Geez man.

The original plan with this running "program" of mine, was that I would only increase my mileage on my long runs and only once a month at that. Example: June's long runs were seven miles, July's were eight, August was to be nine and September was 10. Race (ie 13.2 miles) in October.

Well, here's the thing - fear. Fear of not being able to go beyond the 10 mile mark due to disbelief (and sweatless exhaustion) on race day.

I mean, how could I possibly run 11 miles, or 13.2 for that matter, having never actually done it? I need to train! I need to PREPARE! I need to reconsider my decision to commit to running a half marathon because whatwasIthinking!?

In short, I need to either see or do something in order to believe that it can be done. And having never seen myself run more than 10 miles, I am pretty sure that at mile 11, I would stop believing that I could really do it and just melt into a shameful pile right there on the course. So, even though stupid other runners keep talking of this great *inspiration* that comes from racing alongside other sweaty breathless runners that, somehow, grants them endless strength from which they can draw in the final unrehearsed moments of a race, I still need to run at least 12 miles before the race itself to believe that I can actually do it.

My reasoning here is that I *have* seen myself add a mile to an established distance and then not die, so adding one mile to my 12 mile course on race day shouldn't be too much of a stretch. Sure, I probably won't cruise into the finish line looking like I just wandered free of a day spa, but I probably also won't be on a stretcher or openly weeping.

One can hope.

So, this weekend I'll run 10 again and then for the first two weeks of September I'll run 11. Which ought to be interesting since I'll be on vacation and we all know that formal exercise on vacation is a myth and no one does it and I'm not even bringing my running shoes to Hawaii because that would mean I'd have to leave home a pair of flip-flops which is so not happening.

It is possible that I may be running my 12er the first week of October but DO NOT TELL because there is the Taper which I should probably consider.

Whatever. I ran 10 miles last Saturday, and while it would be great to say that it was a "10" reminiscent of Bo's glory as she emerged from the waves glistening in her fit perfection and bizarre-even-for-the-seventies white girl braids, it was a "10" probably more like the Swamp Thing emerging from the lagoon covered in crap and making alarming guttural noises.

I am so a child of the 80's.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dressed like a five year old

The meltdown I had in front of my closet this morning can only be described as total and catastrophic.

Typically I go through my morning routine with not too many dramatic episodes. There is always drama, but it's in my head and I try to keep it there so that Bubba won't know the full depth of my Crazy and leave me in the night before having to witness another one of my classic getting dressed fiascoes.

Thankfully he was up and out early this morning, likely due to the window fan falling randomly from its perch onto the dog's bed immediately below, and did not have to bear witness to my personal Wardrobe Waterloo.


After our morning walk (the dog was not harmed in the casual plummeting of the window fan), Jada and I picked tomatoes and headed into the house to get ready for work. All was going along fine and since I'd already decided during our walk exactly what I was going to wear (this is what I do while Jada poos, I think about which shoes go best with my new jeans. You know.), my Crazy level was at an all time low. Which was notably incredible since I was/am both PMSy and tired.

It all hit a disastrous snag when, after compiling all other items of clothing, my top was no where to be found. You know, The Top. The one without which the outfit can not be made whole.


Stomp from closet to dresser to dresser to hanging clothes in closet to folded clothes in closet to gym bag in the trunk of my car to suitcase I haven't used in two months to dresser to bedroom floor (where the crying happened).


Oh my The Top. It is the very best top. It makes me feel normal when I'm a BLOATED PMS COW, skinny when I'm normal and thuper thkinny when I'm skinny (rare). It is not fancy, but it's a pro. It knows how to hide lumps and bumps and, in some case, alarming bulges. It doesn't wrinkle. It doesn't stretch all out weird by the end of the day. It makes me look tan and fit and not like a cow.

AND I CAN'T FIND IT oh my god where is it?

This went on for a while longer than I care to admit before I gave up, put the chair back in the kitchen (I was standing on it in the closet in order to get a bird's eye view of the closet's contents in case The Top had climbed into the attic) and resigned to finding something else to wear.

For those of you who go through similar bouts of Ihateeverythinginmyclosetandhavenothingtowear-itis, this is a dicey decision. There have been times in my history when this decision has resulted in me working from home with an unidentified ailment so that I can just wear my yoga pants and a tank top instead of having to find Something To Wear To Work.

Today, however, it took a new interesting turn.

After trying on pretty much every single top I own with my jeans (because I was wearing these jeans no matter what) and giving up on them all, I dug way down to the bottom of my bottom drawer of Tshirts and randomly produced a shirt which I had only worn a few times but had, during those few times, brought me unmeasured joy.

I don't know why.

It's just kind of fun. It's a ridiculous shade of teal with a big green bird screen printed on the front and it doesn't match anything. But it fits nice and doesn't look atrocious with jeans.

I put it on and my hatred for the world was momentarily numbed.

I was wearing my favorite jeans. I was wearing a fun shirt. I was no longer screaming and crying.


I can solve my apparel nightmare by wearing all my favorite things. At once. Regardless of whether they match because I love them each individually and if it gets too crazy I just focus on one of them and back slowly away from the building ledge.

Fetch me my best red shoes! (I have some that are not The Best.)

And my cargo jacket!

Ooh. Maybe not...

And my ugly librarian sweater!

Eek. Too ugly...

Alright, no one needs a jacket. It's summer!

There. And we're done. I'm going to wear my favorite shoes with my favorite jeans and my fun Tshirt and I'm going to go to work and act like a professional while dressed like a five year old who's mummy let them get dressed all by their wittle self. And give away tomatoes to strangers.

I either need to stop drinking at work or start, I can't even tell anymore. I will be spending the day, however, explaining to everyone how I managed to get dressed up like this, in clothes that only go together if you're a preschooler, because I'm incredibly PMSy and should not be toyed with.

I will also use this morning's upheaval and suffocating PMS as a valid excuse for my going online and spending $400 on clothes from a shop I had, until now, deemed too pricey for the likes of normal people.

Isn't it nice when you can suddenly understand how certain people go insane? I think so.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sometimes meat is the answer

Poor Bubba, there is precious little meat in our house lately. I mean, I'm not averse to meat. In fact, some people make fun of my meat eating habits going so far as to mimic my dinner orders to insinuate that I'd like my meat with a side of meat please, which is not always true.

Around our house though, I'm so consumed with the glut of tomatoes that I've reworked every recipe to incorporate as many of them as possible, thus forcing out the meaty parts to make room.

Turkey sandwich? Um, no room for turkey. Just slice up a tomato, put it on the same toasted bread and have yourself the Midwestern delicacy known in our house as Tomato Sammich. It goes nicely with quartered tomatoes. And tomato juice. And salsa. And whatever it takes to reduce the tomato basket to nill before nightfall.

Lasagna? No room for ground beef when you jam all the tomatoes between the layers of pasta that are swapped out for layers of eggplant because that is everywhere, too and ew it's nasty when it goes bad in the fridge.

Meat sauce? Where am I going to put the damn meat when I get done manhandling all these tomatoes into the pot? I just don't have a zippy bag big enough to store tomato sauce if we keep throwing in all this filler.

Hot dogs? Ok, we can still have hot dogs. But only because we never have hot dogs (boo) and I don't imagine that chili cheese tomatoes would go over so hot, but please encourage me if you'd like to see a confused and annoyed Mister.

Anyway, I finally gave in during one particularly mournful moment of Man Wishing when Bubba said, of the pie I assumed was perfect in every way, that it would be *SO* much better with some meat. Of some kind. And don't look mad because it's not that I didn't like the pie but I would just like it even more if it were meaty in addition to tomato-ey, ok. Don't cry! Never mind, I don't need meat. I love it. And you. Put down the knife, please.

After I got over the whole "Bubba doesn't love all things I cook unconditionally and without any changes whatsoever" I realized that he might be right. In a scary quiet moment that I have not revealed to anyone until now.


I decided to consult the expert, the original Woman of the Savory Tomato Pie, Farmgirl Susan herself, to see what kind of meat she would recommend. I suggested ground beef, sliced spicy sausage - she suggested crumbled Italian sausage.

Mmmmmm...yes, that might work.

And after a trip to the Good Butcher and a grody moment in my kitchen that involved de-tubing two sausages (puuuuuuuuuuuuke), I crumbled the sausage successfully in the pan and felt very good about the direction in which my revised recipe was heading since it smelled like spicy meat love (whoa porn) in my kitchen and all grossness had passed.

After that, the recipe proceeded as before: load the pie pan with the biscuit crust bottom, schmear on some homemade pesto (thank you friends who gave us a bathtub of pesto from their garden last year), a layer of my sliced tomatoes, some (lots) of mozzarella, The Meat, more pesto, more tomatoes, more mozz, the Parmesan and, finally, the top biscuit crust.

I made a green salad (with more tomatoes, thank you I am good at this) as more of a prop for the dinner plate because, well, having pie for dinner alone can, I suppose, look gluttonous. But pile up a little watercress salad next to it and, Tee Dah, balanced meal. Of course there was also wine.

Sure, this addition of the sausage added a bit to the spillage factor over last year's nearly grease-free version, but MA-donna was it good. I had two slices and then forgave Bubba for originally suggesting quietly that it *might* be a wee tiny small bit more fabulous with meat.

Score one for Bubba.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"When you say 'Tomato', I eat them."

I've gone to the other side with regard to homegrown produce.

Back in the day, before I became the garden dork I am today, I was of the "That's nice mom, sure I'll take another Food 4 Less sack full of whatever is growing out of control in your garden even though I can't imagine how I'll eat it all." camp.

I would accept this muddy sack of produce miscellany with the enthusiasm one might have toward a sack of old clothes. Sure, I could go to the store and buy clothes that I know I like and will wear OR I can just take these random ones that will probably fit me but might take some creativity to actually make use of.

To put it plainly, it did not excite me. Frankly, it stressed me out. I mean, first, who can eat *that* much zucchini (a question I still wrestle with) and what the hell is *this* thing and I can't eat two quart sized bags of cherry tomatoes and oh my word why are these string beans white instead of green?

It was a challenge to, first, find room in the fridge for bulk quantities of produce and, second, to find room in my belly (and Bubba's) before I had bulk quantities of furry mold monsters edging out the wine and tonic water (priorities, people) on the shelves.

And then I became broke. Irretrievably broke and then unemployed.

Suddenly, paper sacks of produce looked like Heavenly Bundles of Free Groceries from which I could extract endless meals in lieu of having to collect change from the dryer vent for a dicey and unsatisfying trip to Safeway where I couldn't buy anything anyway because there's nothing worth eating for $.35.

My mom's homegrown produce became my savior (well, second to Bubba, he's #1.)

I started to covet the random bags of produce my mom would thrust into my arms as I left her house. What bizarre but also good things could be inside? Bags of blackberries? A squash shaped like a spaceship? A new strain of beans I have no idea how to prepare? A sixteen pound zucchini that demands it's own seat for the ride home? Five hundred cherry tomatoes? Cake mix. (My mom was so thrilled with my newfound enthusiasm that she started clearing the depths of the Costco pantry into the bags, too. And I have to say, nothing goes with Japanese eggplant like Ziploc bags and semi-sweet chocolate chips.)

And so it went on, even after I moved into a place (read: ratty shoebox but with a small sunny yard and garage) and started my very first vegetable growing experiments. I'd go to my mom's, she'd send me home with The Mystery Bag, Bubba and I would eat weird vegetables mixed with tomatoes (everything can be mixed with tomatoes) and be happy.

It never occurred to me that one day I might be the crazed woman with a gardening glove tan more concerned with OMG what am I going to DO with all these tomatoes and do you have any recipes that call for 20 lemons because I have six grocery bags full and YIKES. I just thought my mom would always be this lunatic and somehow I'd be safe because they say that in every family "there's always one of those people" and we already had one, my mom.

I'll save you the suspense, in my family, there's two. And I'm one of them. I've officially gone to the OTHER other side having been first ignorant toward homegrown produce, then grateful for homegrown produce and now the forceful provider of homegrown produce.


Yesterday I showed up at my hairdresser's with a bag of tomatoes. I have sent an email out to my team offering to provide them with endless supplies of tomatoes if they want to savor the MOST DELICIOUS HOMEGROWN TOMATOES IN EXISTENCE or whatever just let me know. I have sent Bubba off to work with bags of tomatoes for his coworkers. I have brought them in bags, ironically, for my mom who did not plant tomatoes this year (probably after she saw the Stonehenge Tomato Project I had brewing in the yard). I have even gone so far as to offer to ship them to people in sauce form.

Just to prepare you all, it would appear that August, and perhaps September, are going to be reddish months on this blog as I try to figure out exactly what I DO with a very healthy crop of the best, and most enthusiastically prolific, Better Boy tomatoes.

So, I am at this moment, seeking more individuals like Bubba's angelic coworker who maintain the personal mantra, "When you say 'Tomato', I eat them." as well as any favorite tomato recipes you have on hand. If they call for a dozen+ tomatoes, all the better.

Last week Kelli sent me this recipe for Mellowed Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta which turned out fantastic. I used the advice in the notes which called for using the juices from the fresh tomatoes to finish cooking the pasta in order to give it a LUSTIER flavor.

I love lustiness.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

When Bubba and I were first dating we lived/worked all over the Bay Area, which made meeting up a special kind of painful challenge.

To compensate for ridiculous weekday driving (our houses, jobs, train stations put us at least an hour away from the other person at all times) we'd spend entire weekends holed up in his apartment, limiting our travel to only the most necessary trips out for food and beer, so that we could stew adequately in driveless weekend together time. This strategy suited us well and freed us from having to commute 24 actual hours a day.

Sometimes, though, we'd get to Wednesday and realize that we *had* to see each other.With that new relationship *need* that drives people to do insane things like, say, drive an hour from an East Bay train station at 11pm after a full day of work to a South Bay town an hour away and then stay up all night because I'm going to "have to get up at 4am anyway" just to call in sick when I fall asleep at 3am and don't wake up until 9.

You know.

Anyway, after running enthusiastically afoul of the sick day policy, we had to devise some other type of mid-week rendezvous plan that wouldn't interrupt my employment status while still fulfilling the strong new relationship need to engage in distracting PDA's at every possible moment.

That new strategy included me taking the train to a different station where Bubba pretended that it wasn't as inconvenient as it really was to pick me up and drive to a cute town so we could walk the cute streets and look at the cute shops and have YUM dinner and dessert at a cute Italian restaurant while being so cute in the window that we were actually getting other people laid.

According to Bubba's bossatthetime who, while walking with his wife on said cute street, apparently saw us feeding each other tiramisu in the window of the restaurant in a manner so cute and romantic (and not at all nauseating and annoying as I imagine it actually was) that it inspired a libido-fest back at his executive pad later that evening.

Gross and wow.

Anyway, it was all very cute and nice and eventually this mid-week outing became something of a tradition and, for a good six month span, we could be found most Wednesdays having dinner at Our Place eating Our Dish (a handmade gnocchi of perfect consistency in a delicate and flavorful tomato cream sauce) and feeding each other Our Dessert while keeping Our Jobs. Plus, we were getting more sleep since I'd finally abandoned the Let's Just Stay Up All Night idea.


Then things changed like they tend to do and we got distracted. A year, a few jobs and a few crappy apartments went by and we decided we were going to go back to Our Place so we could indulge in Our Dish because everyone else makes it wrong and who cares because we know where it's good.


Our Place was closed.


We must be on the wrong street, in the wrong town, in a parallel universe, IN HELL.

No. It was really closed. No new location written on a napkin and taped to the front door. No sign that it was ever really there except for the small logo still painted on the window next to Our Table. But otherwise, it was totally gone and we were suddenly forced to scour the now-not-as-cute street searching for another place to be Our Place and serve us Our Dish just like old times and perhaps we'd be so cute again as to get passersby laid back at their shwanky white collar mansions.

Fast forward five years to now when we're married homeowners commuting limited distances to decent jobs and everything is pretty right with the world except for the fact that we still haven't found a new Our Place to serve us Our Dish and everyone of executive class is joining monasteries because they've lost the inspiration to touch each other.

Hello, crisis?

Well, last Friday I thought I'd found the answer.

My issue of Cook's Illustrated arrived in the mail and the featured recipe was Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce. It was ON.

Our new Place was going to be Our House and I was going to make Our Dish and we would swap out Our old Dessert for blackberry pie because that's better anyway and wouldn't it be so cute and perfect that people walking by our house would be forced to the ground with uncontrollable lust for one another. HOT.

(Before I go any further I'll just confirm that I did indeed just tell you that long ass story just so I could justify showing you pictures of something I cooked over the weekend. Good times.)

I first ignored the fact that this was an alternative gnocchi recipe made mostly of ricotta rather than potato and that Bubba generally hates ricotta. After that though, it was pretty smooth sailing considering these recipes tend to be on the complicated and scientific side and ask that I don't just blow off certain ingredients/tools/methods because I don't have them on hand/am too lazy.

First I made up the gnocchi (including basil and parsley from the garden - bonus) and ogled its likeness to actual gnocchi:

Then I made up the sauce (from tomatoes in the garden - bonus #2) and became irritated when it was clear I should have strained the seeds:

Then I set up an elaborate assembly/cooking station that pleased my need for order and assembly-line meal preparation:

And finally I served up Our Dish at Our House to see if I could do it any justice at all:

While we ate, we watched out the front window for porno and decided that it was a fairly good rendition of Our Dish but that I should keep trying to perfect it so that we'd have an excuse to stare back at our neighbors since they find it acceptable to stare at us from the sidewalk while we eat dinner in our house.

Rude. And for the record, we didn't see any neighbor touching.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

October = Fall

Why are people already acting like it's fall when it's clearly still summer and AUGUST of all things?

I bought Hershey's kisses last night at Safeway to make cookies for work (peanut butter thumbprint cookies know no season) and the only ones they had were Harvest Kisses or some such bullshit in orange and red foils.

Harvest? In August? Come on.

Then my neighbor said something to Bubba to the effect of "I have to get the roof on this garage before winter comes!"


People, it is summer. Summertime. You can wear flip-flops night and day without anyone giving you that look, it stays light out real late, you can come home everyday from work and pick tomatoes while wearing shorts. You stand a chance of being tan and maybe even leaving work early on Friday is totally fine because it's summer and who cares!

What is not to love?

Do you love so much having to put on a hundred coats to go outside or when you have to carry a gigantor umbrella to keep the dog covered on walks so that she'll pee in the rain? Do you love having to wear socks and slippers all the live long day when you're home because turning on the heater is a discussion best described as High Noon?


No. No one likes these things. They are horrible, frigid, damp, dark, yucky things that I refuse to believe will be here before I know it so I'll thank you to stop referring to this time of year as "Almost Fall" or worse, "Almost Winter".

Because you know what happens in fall and winter? All the Christmas decorations that have FINALLY come down from the eaves of my neighbors houses go back up.


Halloween tips them off that Holiday Season is coming and every flashing, swirling, blinking piece of crap they've stored up in soggy boxes in their attics comes crashing down in their front yards and they spend all weekend tacking it all up without a care in the world so that we can all stare in nauseous awe at the craptacular they've created on their homes.

Please! I can not bear the sight of crooked light-up candy canes yet! Or the incessant flickering and "Boo"ing of those tree ghost things that my neighbor hangs from the big sycamore two doors down.

Sure - I want to flaunt my giant pumpkin in front of all the neighborhood kids and make their stupid small pumpkins look small and stupid, but I'm waiting until it's ACTUALLY FALL.

Until then, I will be flaunting my flip-flop feet and hand tan for everyone to see. Because it's summer, and that is what you do in summer.


Monday, August 06, 2007

GPS is making me stupid

I guess I don't know how to read maps.

I mean I *thought* I could read maps. Since I'm usually the one navigating via atlas when Bubba and I drive somewhere and we usually end up where we're planning to go without having make a hundred *safe* U-turns or anything.

But I guess I *can't read a map* because I managed to get Jada and I lost in the hills where there were, like, five trails.

I set out to hike around the park on Sunday morning thinking, "Hey, I'll get the dog out and we'll both get some exercise in nature and won't this be nice."

I even consulted the trail map with the ranger for godssake. Granted, I listened to about every fifth word he said since I was distracted by the big scary Beware of Mountain Lions sign nailed up next to the map, but from my angle the trail map looked all simple and what could go wrong.

I should have known the direction our morning would take when Jada built a log cabin about 5/10 mile into our walk, meaning I got to hump a blue bag of doots for the duration. Goodie.

We then proceeded to hike up some decent grades, the strenuousness of which I was not adequately warned, and then plummeted down a drop-off in the trail that had both Jada and I scrabbling to keep ourselves upright without the assistance of our asses.

But hey, we were moving, we were sweating lightly, the views were nice, I was taking pictures and we were en-route. All was well. Then, 1.5 miles into our hike we hit an unnecessarily confusing trail merge where two of three trail markers were of the same name.

As in:

Trail Option 1: Mine Hill Trail
Trail Option 2: something else
Trail Option 3: Mine Hill Trail


Instead of tackling this issue head on, we decided to take a breather so that Jada could rip-off another dog's water (meaning I wouldn't have to pry her portable bowl from my pack myself - lazy) and I could make random dog banter with a couple girls who'd set up house at the one picnic bench in the park.

When they asked me which direction I was heading and I said "Mine Hill Trail" while pointing in the direction of the ravine behind me, I shouldn't have been surprised when they looked at me like that.

In a moment of Navigational Ego Preservation, I collected Jada from her shady under-bench retreat and darted off in the direction of the first "Mine Hill Trail" signpost at the speed of shame. 1 in 2 chance right?


I hiked us for about a mile uphill in the wrong direction before I realized that even though I kept seeing our trail on the signposts, it was clear that this trail was not our trail and I'd better do something about it before we fell into the Lost and Stranded in the World's Easiest to Navigate Park category. Thankfully making the decision to turn around and head back the way we came was made easier by the fact that it would be downhill. Bonus!

Then we passed the two chicks from the picnic bench who were looking all confident and knowledgeable in their trail following and not at all like the bumbling, map-clutching tard I was becoming.

Although when they consulted my map (of course I had to show them the map) they, too, agreed that having two trails named the same was a mite confusing and don't feel bad they'd have made the same mistake.

Who said anything about a mistake?

Anyhoo, Jada and I managed to successfully retrace our steps to the totally unclear trail merge so we could then confidently take the proper trail since we'd already exhausted our other similarly named option.


She built another log cabin, which I bagged and packed, and we hiked without incident down the hill and back to the car. No mountain lions and not really any worse for wear. Except for the faint waft of doots coming from the backpack and the fact I felt like a moron for managing to choose incorrectly in a 50/5o scenario, all was well. We had exercised in nature, man! Wee!

Meanwhile, I ran nine miles on Saturday for the first time ever and without getting lost thankyouverymuch. Likely thanks to the fact that the park service doesn't name our streets. I guess I'm weird in that I expect three different streets to have three different names.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Institches: August (already)

Dear Donk,

You're pretty bold for someone half-maimed from self-abuse.

Good thing you posted on some drunken giraffes, it distracted me from being snotty. And you KNOW I've done that before. Namely, gotten halfway through a project only to realize that the fabric isn't lining up right and whoops I guess I should have figured out what "enough fabric to account for pattern centering" meant.

I'm especially familiar with the decision to leave the seams where they are and come up with a fun reason why the pattern is jacked and not doing what it's "supposed" to be doing.

Why, of COURSE, the little zigzags on this skirt should be going in a million merry directions - it's ART, people. Scary art.

I'll be excited when the day comes and I'm able to summon the energy/brainpower/patience to cut pattern pieces, cut fabric, follow detailed pattern directions, adjust for sizing, do two tons of pressing with a naughty hot iron AND account for pattern centering. It'll be the same day that I have a rock hard six pack and a basement filled with hundred dollar bills.

See? Good day!

Until then, I muddle through and hone my "reasoning" skills, along with an annoyingly smooshy mid-section and stinky empty basement.

But that's not why we're here, is it? No, we're here to talk August Projects. Specifically the one *I* want to do. And because *I* am in the midst of Pieing Season and because *I* have managed to scorch the ever-loving crap out of my hands when removing said pies from my oven because my favorite pot holders keep getting crudded up and thrown in the wash and are never there when I need them oh my god where are my GOOD potholders damn it I think we know where this is going.

Let's call the August Institches Project: Square Potholders

and The Theme: Happy Hands

Don't worry, this is not porno. Just make up your fancy ass potholders in whichever creative way you like and then use them to keep your hands happy - and take a picture.

Perhaps your hands are happiest when they're not clutching a searing hot steering wheel during a Phoenix summer (for instance, Donk) OR when they're easily sliding a fresh blackberry pie from the oven WITHOUT shrieking with fresh hot pain (for instance, Me) OR when re-potting a cactus without getting repeatedly stabbed with a million spines. All ideas, here.

So, there, GO!

And, I like your toiletries bag. Before the slaying of a thousand duckies, I was thinking along similar lines. If you need more stuffin's for your successfully executed baby bags, let me know. I was unreasonably optimistic when planning the Vinyl Disaster of 2007 and pre-purchased some of Johnson & Johnson's baby business.

Ha on you.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

More big times, this time with pie

I'm wearing a skirt which I made myself at work again.

It's a lot less dicey than last week when I lost my Clothes I Sewed Myself virginity with the first self-made skirt, in that I've spent less time worrying about my ass flapping about freely from an unsewn seam. Unfortunately this has freed up my mind to focus on exactly how much jiggling my ass does and how catastrophic it really would be if such a clothing disaster were to take place.


Meanwhile I also baked the first blackberry pie of the season. I managed to pick enough blackberries at my mom's place this past weekend to fill five FIVE pie crusts. And for those of you who haven't been hanging around since last July, this blackberry picking bonanza is a yearly occurrence more important to me than any major holiday other than my birthday month (August) which I'm working on declaring country-wide.

Blackberry picking with mum is about the best thing I can imagine doing when it's a hundred (or in last year's case - 109) degrees outside and there's still no pool (Dad, come on, it's been almost 30 years in that house and still no pool?). And, bless her heart, my mom always plays along even though I'm sure she's starting to dread my arrival for berry picking. Always with the big straw hat and flip-flops - insisting I don't need to wear legitimate shoes, long-sleeves, pants that cover my legs, etc. And then the inevitable shrieking when I tripfallcrash into the brambles and end up grabbing big stabby branches to keep my face from being torn off.

The woman is a patient saint, I'll tell you what.

Every year she cobbles together the old plastic strawberry pints, ancient Cool Whip containers and plastic tubs so well-loved their original painted on labels have worn right off so that we can pick clean the bushes that grow so invasively all around their property. Of course, I forgot (read: was so covered in blackberry juice and my own fresh blood that I had to be hosed down) to take photos of this blackberry bush invasion, but one year I will. It's enviable or frightening depending on who you are and whether you like blackberry pie a lot.

Which I do. And now we have gone full circle and I can show you the first pie of the season:

Tee da:

I decided his name will be Two Face like the character from Batman who has a face that's normal and sexy on one side and a freaky hot mess on the other. I think you will agree that this name is apt as you can clearly see that the pie perfection I so strive for began to rapidly derail about halfway around the pie there.

At current tally, all the pretty pieces have been eaten by Bubba and moi, and only the fugly delicious pieces are left. Good thing I always remember to slide a rimmed cookie sheet under my pies for just such an explosion (except last time, which refreshed the horror in my memory so I won't forget for at least two more times).

The best part of this blackberry season, if the fantasticness of PIE IN OUR LIVES isn't enough, is that I have begun to perfect the sport known as Pieing.

This is when I pick a lot of blackberries during an outing like I explained before, scoop their rinsed selves into zippy bags in One Pie increments, take these bags home, add the other filling ingredients according the Bible (Joy of Cooking) and freeze. I then make (or buy like a lazy ass) a consistent number of pie crusts x2 (top and bottom crust. You know.) and then freeze.

And then, this is where the sporting happens, I nonchalantly wander to the freezer, pull a bag of filling and a pair of crusts out to thaw and magically throw a pie together and bake it in no time flat so that Bubba comes floating into the house like a cartoon weirdo on one of those smell-good waves.

"Is that pie I smell, perfectly wonderful and beautiful even though you just ran nine miles, wife?"

"Why yes it is, fabulous husband who is already holding a fork and drooling in a distracting way..."

And we all say, "WOO HOO!"

It's pie season, and that's big times around here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Brownie Accepted

Dear Donk,


I'm kidding.

Lord knows I'm kidding. I mean, look at all the hairballs on my floors! I can't even put two minutes together to Swiff this joint, much less get on anyone's case for not finishing sewing projects.

Meanwhile, I believe you just crashed into another pointy object while riding around on your bike (you might want to switch to a broom, I find it more manageable - just a thought) and have, thus, injured your sewing fingers. How does one sew with injured fingers? One does not, that's how.

So, forgiven. And I'll take that brownie now. Mine should be almost entirely peanut butter cream with just a thin shell of chocolate cupcake to keep it contained. Yes, that is how I roll.

I agree, the photos in the pool look fabulous - and I'm very impressed that someone had the wherewithal to make more than one. I was not that someone. Obviously. I could barely manage my one bag without hand-sewing my shirt to the bottom.

Seriously though - no more hand-sewing. A machine should be doing this work and I am not a machine.

Anyway, consider me suitably distracted by your peanut butter porn to the point where I am totally unphased by the moving of the August Project Announcement to 8/3/07.


Ok, that's all.

Wuv you,