Monday, December 10, 2007

best. time waster. ever.

And I do mean ever. ever.

This is going to make you feel soooo dumb. I promise. Unless your name is Austin Gray, and then you will think that perhaps this whole game was invented just for you to show off your mad level of geography genius. Honestly.

Friday, November 30, 2007

double switch

I was going to blast out of NaBloPoMo with the Other 50, but that is going to have to wait. I have had A Day.

7:40 am Oversleep a tiny bit, which is novel, construction workers running late and only start milling around outside close to 8. Okay with that. Throw on slob clothes. Wrestle with conscience and decide that must go to work today and will be fine to leave the dogs in the backyard with workers, with whom they are now good friends. Workers say this is fine, they will be careful about opening and closing the gate.

8:45 am Meet Austin at Berry Hill Animal Hospital to pick up Precious Baby Mischa. Die a little inside when they hand us papers that say 10 day house arrest (for a puppy?! what are they thinking?) and a receipt for $255 (WHAT?!). Want to cry when they bring the Little Girl out and her belly is shaved and she's so happy to see us that she is wiggling and whimpering. Load her up in car and head to work. While starting car, think, "Why does it take so long for my car to start when I turn the key? I'll have to get that looked at next week."

10: 16 am Make exciting double date with Favorite Sarah and Ben that may or may not involve the new Pizza Hut Double Deep Pizza and our couch. Admit that if Sarah and Austin sat too close to each other on the couch, I would totally be okay with it if they ended up making out. Don't think Ben will really want to make out with me, though.

11:12 am Miss three consecutive calls from Dallas, the very very young foreman on the house construction (son of construction company owner). His message is panicked, announcing that the "brown dog" (Bridgette) escaped from the yard and they have her cornered in an alley. Says she is growling and snapping at them when they try to reach for her. Rush home to help them coax her back, leaving Pitiful Sleeping Mischa in care of coworkers. Well, rush home as soon as my car finally starts.

11:33 am Arrive home, run inside to grab the leash and a collar, and discover that Workers have no idea where Bridge is, and she is in fact not so much cornered as loose in Shelby Bottoms park.

12:01 pm Call off Workers from searching and send them back to work. Go into Rick's Market (Coldest Beer in Town) to give them my phone # and ask them to call me if anyone comes in saying there is a yellow dog in their carport, snarling at all overtures of friendship. Crazy Tanned Neighborhood Crack Lady is in Rick's chatting with Whitehaired Lady behind counter. Whitehaired lady is understanding, approves of me coming to her, agrees that people are always coming into the store saying, "There's a dog out here." Indicates Crazy Tanned Neighborhood Crack Lady, "She's always walking around. She'll keep an eye out for you." Crazy Tanned Neighborhood Crack Lady smiles and nods encouragingly.

12:12 pm Decide to give up the ghost and head back to work, with the hope that Bridge will eventually return home to be with her Best Friend Ingrid. While driving out of the park, spy brown blur crashing through brush next to road. Stop the car, call out in an excited voice, "Bridgey! Bridgey, it's you!" Bridge comes running out of the woods, excited, straight to me, tail wagging. She puts her nose in the palm of my hand. I veeeeerrryyy subtly reach my hand around to grip her shoulder (and haul her like a sack of potatoes into the car, if necessary) and she bolts. Back into the woods, I can just see her through the trees and I know I can't go after her or she'll keep running. Call Dallas and have him come sit (silently) on the side of the road to monitor Bridge's movements and drive home to load up the car with the Biggest Ingrid.

12:25 pm Sit on side of road with Ingrid until eventually Bridge starts to approach. Very calmly get up and turn around to walk home. Ingrid is having a blast. Bridge doesn't mind walking with us if she thinks I'm not going to grab her. Call Workers and have them leave the gate open and clear out of backyard. Walk both dogs into yard and slam gate shut behind us. Want to cry from relief. Refrain from taking aggression out on Bridge. Workers are very relieved. Dallas says, "God, I was so nervous about the butt chewing I was going to get from my Dad tonight." Leave dogs locked inside for the rest of the afternoon.

12:46 pm Call Dad and tell him whole Dog Saga. He's amused and gracious when I blame him and call Bridge "His Dog." He cheerfully acknowledges that he would have been no help in catching her even if he had been within 30 miles of the situation.

1:12 pm Arrive back at work and process checks that arrived in today's mail. Put together today's deposit, hurrying to get everything together and to the bank before 2. Getting hungry. Want to give Kristin big hug when she offers to bring me a sandwich.

1:39 pm Run out to car with Mischa to take deposit to bank. More blank clicking noises when key is turned in ignition. Then smoke wafting out from under hood of the car. And smell of burning plastic. Look at Mischa and say, "This is what it looks like when I'm about to have a freakout." She tilts her head. Go back in office, slam keys down, complain to anyone who will listen, wander around office in huff.

2:10 pm Finally gather thoughts enough to call CarMax and have car towed to their service department. Call extended service plan company and argue about rental car reimbursement policy. Extended Service Plan Company Man is both reasonable and correct. Give up fantasies of driving hot rental car for weekend.

3:40 pm Tow truck picks up car. Realize am now stranded at work with pitiful puppy with shaved tummy, and big messy grownup dogs locked in house.

4:02 pm Have remarkably reasonable and productive negotiation with sister re: Family Christmas Vacation and Dogs, and whether or not those topics can coincide peacefully. Also discuss hypothetical sister tattoo ideas. Does not go over as well.

4:48 pm Arrange ride home with Brandes, guardian angel of desperate rides home with post-surgery puppies.

4:52 pm Spray air freshener in bathroom to be polite. Spend next fifteen minutes listening to Weird Computer Coworker complain about how bad the air freshener smells. Loud. Without stopping. Complaints. Want to point out worse alternatives.

5:12 pm Spend last twenty minutes in the office scrolling through I Can Has Cheezburger slide shows. Feel much better. Laugh out loud.

5:23 pm Have text message exchange with Chris Crofton about possibility of organizing Evel Knievel Memorial Poetry Reading.

5:33 pm Picked up by Brandes. Realize trying to carry too much stuff. Including puppy.

6:31 pm On couch surfing YouTube with puppy on my ankles and kitty on my lap. Realize it's all going to be okay. Eventually evict puppy and kitten to go into kitchen and start chopping vegetables for Favorite Sicilian Pasta. To which we add sliced sauteed andouille sausage tonight, just to be gross and delicious.

7:43 pm Settle down with dinner, Boo, many pets, first season of 30 Rock from Netflix. The day drains out of me as I'm filled with laughter, joy, comfort, home.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

curse of the mute

One day left in NaBloPoMo, and I can't make myself even finish my 100 things from Tuesday. I don't have anything to say. Another day stuck at home with lazy dogs and hammers and classic rock on the radio outside the back door. Carpenters arrived at 6:45 this morning and left after 4. With no painting even started inside, and still two sides of the house left to finish.

Really, I just miss my little black pup. We can pick her up at 8:30 and Austin suggested we get there at 8:29.

Happy Birthday, Best Badness!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

house update

This week started like the last five: without a word from contractors. No gutters, damaged siding and cracked plaster in the blue room, still. Then yesterday morning I got a call: they had finally stopped trying to find siding to match the pale blue (faded from baby blue, my guess) of our house. So we got to pick out a new color for our house, with very little notice. While waiting to meet a guy at the house with some color samples to choose from, we drove around the neighborhood and looked at houses we like, and decided to go with a darker color, since we already have white trim. And lose the black shutters.

We picked a sage green. Then a few hours later they call and say that green would take 6 to 10 days to get in stock, and they'd rather start the work immediately. More samples delivered to our house at 7:30 am today, and the final choice was only slightly lighter/more gray than the original option. They started ripping siding off the front of the house immediately. I left them working on the front and side and went to work for a few hours, then had to head home in the afternoon to bring the dogs in so they could start on the back of the house.

The front is done and looks great. There is still part of the east-facing side of the house to finish, and the back and then the west side will be done tomorrow. They're also bringing blue paint (Royal Breeze by Behr) to finally fix the blue room. I warned them that it took us three coats. So I'll be working from home again tomorrow, getting caught up on contracts that have been neglected for a month, while there are workers climbing all over the house and hopefully finishing up by the end of the day.

Here is the sad part: Mischa goes in for her lady parts operation early in the morning... and they keep her over night. I have to pick her up Friday morning and I'm taking her to work with me so she can rest and not rough house. This all makes me want to cry. I don't want to be home all day tomorrow without her, and I can't stand to think that she's going to be weak and pitiful when I see her again. I keep hugging her too tight when I think about it, and she squirms and looks at me like I'm crazy.

And Dad is picking up Big Ingrid tomorrow and taking her back out to his house. Bridgitte is going to stay and we'll see how the little girls do, just the two of them, for a while. I think they're going to have a good time, but if any of the bad behavior starts, or if Ingrid seems unhappy out at Dad's by herself, we'll reassess. Just having the two small(er) dogs will make our lives easier over xmas, when we're gone for over a week, first to Kansas and then to a cabin at Center Hill Lake with the sisties/husbands/Mom/Kam. We have a tentative housesitter lined up while we're gone, and I can't TELL you what a relief this is. The thought of scheduling 8 days of petcare with friends, or sending the dogs elsewhere, or even kenneling, was too much to even deal with.

Now if only I can figure out a New Year's Eve plan that somehow makes everybody happy AND get the Book Club Christmas Party details nailed down, maybe I'll be able to take a deep breath and possibly pick up the next guilty Scottish historical romance that is collecting dust on my bedside table.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

100 Things (part 1 of 2)

Nobody has tagged me for a meme yet. Ahem. So I'm just going to do one that I've seen. And maybe tag some folks at the end and you have to make it all the way through to know! Or, you know, scroll down.

1. I was born in Los Gatos, CA, which means "the cats" in Spanish. I feel that this obviously influenced my future as a pet obsessive.
2. My middle name (Mae) came from my father's mother (Hazel Mae) and my aunt on my mom's side (Dorothea Mae)
3. If I hadn't been named Delaney, I was going to be Jessi.
4. When I was a kid I named all my stuffed animals after fabrics. Grosgrain, Velour, Cashmere, Gingham...
5. I also had a unicorn named Una, a flat brown dog named Walden, and my favorite dolls were Rosie and Dolly.
6. I worked at Sonic as a cook my senior year of high school.
7. While working at Sonic, my favorite thing to eat was a chili pie with a limeade.
8. I invented a chicken salad while working at Sonic, by frying and chopping a chicken breast and making a plate of lettuce with the honey mustard sauce as a dressing.
9. And occasionally I would fill a cup with the chopped Heath bars (for Blasts) and eat it with a spoon.
10. I worked there because the boy I liked worked there. The best days were when he and I were assigned to make onion rings together. It was really sexy.
11. The only movie I ever walked out of: Blade.
12. The first movie I remember seeing as a child: Mary Poppins. It was coming on the Disney Sunday Movie, and before the movie I snuck into Casey's bedroom and climbed up into her crib and took the Triaminic orange liquid medicine and took a swig. I thought it was candy. Thus began my lifelong habit of inappropriate treats (and high levels of them) during movies.
13. During my freshman year of college, I had been waiting with excitement for weeks for Interview with a Vampire to play at the double screen movie theatre in town. Opening night I went and stood in line with all the hip kids (well, both of them, and I was too scared to talk to them) and when it came time to buy the ticket, I opened my mouth and said, "One for The Santa Clause please." To this day I don't know why I said that. But I stuck with my gut and went in and watched The Santa Clause with an auditorium full of chattering kids and I admit I really enjoyed it. I saw Interview later that weekend with my boyfriend.
14. I made Casey tell me the ending to The Sixth Sense because I never plan on seeing it but want to know why everybody talks about how shocking the ending is.
15. I also made my friend Dani tell me the scariest parts and ending to I Know What You Did Last Summer, so I could watch it for the Ryan Phillipe eye candy without freaking myself out.
16. In my entire life, I think I have mowed the lawn twice. I hate it. I have always managed to negotiate or bribe my way out of it. When we were kids, I would trade one of my sisters an entire week's worth of chores in exchange for a single lawn mowing.
17. On the other hand, my favorite chore growing up was unloading the dishwasher.
18. I think that is tied in to the fact that I love unpacking after traveling. I do it as soon as we come home. Putting everything away in its place = gratifying.
19. When I clean the bathroom, I sing a song about Scrubbing Bubbles being my best friend.
20. We didn't get an allowance when we were kids. We got paid for chores. 10 cents for unloading the dishwasher. Fifty cents for vacuuming the house. A quarter for cleaning the catbox. My friend Margaret used to mock this system. In fact, she still mocks it. She can't believe 10 cents was any kind of motivator. But for me, 10 cents was a box of Red Hots. Totally worth it.
21. In 2nd grade, we had a fundraiser for school where we sold chocolate bars. I ate all the chocolate bars and hid the box and the order forms in my stuffed animal cart. I eventually got in big trouble.
22. We would give our neighbor Johnny money to buy cigarettes if he would also buy candy for us at Lovett's Market. We weren't allowed to go up there so he would take one of our bicycles and our very specific orders for Lik-M-Aid and banana Now-N-Laters.
23. One of the first times our parents left us alone at the house, Jenny and I snuck and rode our bikes up to Lovett's (to buy candy). When we were getting off our bikes, we saw a filthy tiny orange kitten coming towards us across the parking lot of the gas station. We squealed and then a car ran over it. We turned around and rode straight home and cried the whole time and didn't say a word. I remember sitting in my bedroom with a fan on my face and I couldn't stop crying, and I couldn't even tell my parents what happened because we weren't supposed to be at Lovett's in the first place.
24. My parents used M & Ms to bribe me during potty training.
25. I don't like peppermint candies. I never have, but my father's habit of leaving them, half-sucked, in random places around the house did not further them in my affections.
26. My sisters and I played a very random wrestling game when we were kids. Two of us would stand at opposite corners of the room (always the upstairs living room) and the third would be the referee and pretend to ring the bell and then we'd wussily pin each other to the floor and giggle a lot.
27. Once Jenny and I got in a food fight that involved flour and, eventually, lotion.
28. We liked to pretend to be bartenders and slide beverages or food down the table to each other like Sam on Cheers. Once I slid a plastic cup of yogurt too fast, and it hit the wall and exploded.
29. We played a game called Shadow Pictures in the summer. We would use dried red mud as chalk and trace our shadows from the streetlights onto the asphalt.
30. Our family had a tradition of doing jigsaw puzzles on New Year's Eve.
31. I saw John Wasdin pitch a perfect game for the Nashville Sounds in April of 2003. I went to the game after a really lame day at work, by myself. After 5 perfect innings, I called my dad and told him what was happening, and checked in with him after every inning. At one point he asked if we were all at the game, and when I told him I was there alone, I thought he was possibly going to cry from sheer pride. I kept score at that game, and have always meant to have Wasdin sign that scorecard (last year he was with the Oklahoma Redhawks).
32. I've seen games at 10 major league parks and three minor league parks, as well as at least three spring training games.
33. I learned to keep score to keep myself busy during Brandes' hardball league games. Left On Base is my favorite statistic.
34. I prefer to sit on the first base side, midway up the stands, just past the first base coach (Section G Row 11).
35. I think intelligent, well-researched heckling is possibly the best thing about baseball, and therefore the best thing about sports, period.
36. I am more likely to choose to eat at Red Lobster than fine dining on my birthday.
37. My future mother-in-law once complimented me on my ability to efficiently disassemble crab legs. It might have been the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
38. I stole a red plastic crab tool from the Red Lobster in Jackson. It had a sawing blade on one end and a scraping scoop on the other.
39. I brought the crab tool with me to another Red Lobster, years later, and forgot to remove it from the plate when they cleared the table. I am still in mourning for this remarkable tool, but I like to think about how mystified the dishwasher was that night.
40. Turns out I don't need the crab tool anyway. I can eliminate a pound of snow crab legs with just a fork and my bare hands. And a big vat of clarified butter, of course.
41. My favorite ice cream when I was a kid was Purity Strawberry.
42. Once I tried mixing Purity Strawberry ice cream and cream cheese. I don't remember why I did this. It was not good. I think that is when that stopped being my favorite flavor.
43. My favorite flavor now is Movie Star at the Pied Piper Creamery on South 11th St. It's a lemon ginger custard and is so good it will make you roll your eyes back in your head.
44. I wore a pair of ice cream cone shaped earrings to the Basement last night and got compliments from two people.
45. I recently threw away an unopened gallon of Breyer's Peanut Butter Twix Ice Cream that had been in my freezer since my 29th birthday party (sorry Ali).
46. We had to go to bed after The Cosby Show, but my parents would let me lay on the top stair and listen to the theme song from Cheers before I had to go in my room and close the door.
47. The only time my Grandma Jansen ever spanked me was when she caught me watching Gilligan's Island in her bedroom after she had forbidden me to watch any more tv.
48. My family bought our first VCR in 1984. It was a Betamax and my dad took it back and exchanged it for a VHS after he realized that you couldn't find any tapes to fit the Betamax.
49. I ate dinner with my friend Cynthia and her family when I was in 2nd grade, and I was appalled that they kept the tv on in the living room (during Dallas) while they ate in the dining room. This was not how it was done in my house (and still isn't to this day).
50. When Garth Brooks did the live concert broadcast in approximately 1992, I screamed myself hoarse. Watching it on television.

I guess since I'm going with this pattern of five facts about each subject, I could use suggestions for the next 10 subjects so I can finish...

And I'm not really going to tag anybody. I'm the only person on the planet who genuinely enjoys stuff like this.

Monday, November 26, 2007

just to be safe...

...better put up a mini-blog in case we get home too late...

um...

...so we're heading to The Basement to see K.S. Rhoads (free show, you should come) with lots of friends. I (once again) tricked Austin into going out to eat instead of staying home and eating leftovers. Because I think if I sit on this couch for ten more minutes, I'm not going ANYWHERE tonight. I hate that I become the hibernating zombie in the wintertime, and also that it has already started. It's dark, it's cold, it's windy, it's rainy. WHY would I leave the house?

And so that we leave the house and don't try to come back, I've scheduled an optimistic little grocery trip between dinner and show, and it's cold enough that everything should stay nice and cold in the car, right?

So I guess I'd better pack it up and kick these poor dogs back out in the cold. Speaking of, I think we're going to try locating a housesitter for the week of Dec. 22 to 30 to wrangle the animals and keep things safe. Know of anybody? We've got cable.

Austin just asked me what I was blogging about, and I said nothing, I have nothing really to talk about. He suggested Tetris and then The Dogs. Like I haven't already completely exhausted those (shallow) subjects.

Sorry.

P.S. But I toldja, DJB.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

promised recap

I guess I can't sit on my duff any longer. I mean, I can. I most likely will. But I'll do it with the computer in my lap, and make myself focus before I lapse into another haze of sloth.

Thursday, we cooked and cleaned all day. That was the night I forgot to blog til past midnight, and that sure took the wind out of my sails. So boo on that.

Friday I had my schedule so well managed that I didn't even have to be in the shower until 9. I had tried to figure out how to make my oven racks stop sticking when I pulled them out, and Dad recommended spraying them with Pam or other oil. I suppose this should have set off an alarm bell in my head, but I trust my dad (ahem) and sprayed the shelves down before bed. I preheated the oven (for the roasted red onions) Friday morning while I got out the food processor, and soon enough the kitchen was filled with smoke and a bad oily burning smell. Right, cause the Pam oozed down the sides and pooled in the bottom of the oven and proceeded to smoke and burn. Dumb. I went into a minor panic and Austin the wise and calm recommended that I turn off the oven and clean it out. So I did. He's very smart.

So after that slight snag, I was off and running. THEN the damned apple pie crusts were WAY stickier than I had anticipated, and the Everyday Food recipe estimated 45 minutes prep to roll out the crusts, fit them into the pie pans, peel, core and slice about 15 apples into 1/8 inch slices, toss them with the other filling ingredients and fit the crust around the edges. Yeah right. So I was a little over a half-hour late getting the pies into the oven. And then one of them browned faster than the other, so I thought I'd remedy that by putting the pale one under the broiler for a few minutes. Which was evidently a few minutes too long. I ended up with one lovely golden pie and one black crusty that is still on my countertop and is probably going to end up being dog food (just kidding).

That was it for incidents. Megan and Ryan arrived at 12:30, and everything went beautifully for the rest of the day. The rest of the immediate family arrived early as well, and in the kitchen, we're just a well-oiled machine. Cranked away at everything, scarfed a peanut butter sandwich at 3, and had dinner out on the table somewhere around 6, which was the late end of the time I was aiming for. We ended up having 21 and one-third guests (one-third being Special Guest Star Elijah, the ice-breaker and equalizer) and, of course, more than enough food. We (brilliantly) made go-plates of all the leftovers, instead of trying to find room for tupperwares of each individual dish, so most people got some to take home and we still have a workable refrigerator.

So the house was clean and empty again by midnight, and I basically slipped into a coma of accomplishment and exhaustion. I think this must be the day I'm the most tired every year. I have been prepping for the Thanksgiving feast for weeks now and it kicked into pure adrenaline by the day of. I spent yesterday in a totally pointless shlub mode. Okay, and today too. I also haven't been able to force myself to eat a scrap of leftovers. I tricked Austin into going to Sitar for lunch yesterday, and cruised on movie popcorn and candy for the rest of the day (what?). Today we went to Broadway Brewhouse (and it was not good) to see Badness and RedBeard. Tonight I forced myself (read: Austin forced me) to reheat my leftover pasta from dinner on Wednesday. The idea of doing anything useful with those plates in the fridge makes me sort of weak and droopy. I've never been much of a leftovers person. Except tuna casserole, of course.

Now I'm stuck in the living room with Austin and Tim and Eric Awesome Show and I think I'd better get ready for bed. This is the area where our senses of humor do not coincide. Another example: Xavier the Renegade Angel that comes on before Tim and Eric. Seriously.

Tomorrow: report from The Mall.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

pop talk

Let's see, what have been my favorite movies from this year?

1. Hot Fuzz-- seriously, this was probably the hardest I've laughed all year. Just brilliant.
2. Ratatouille-- perfect! just perfect. Pixar just keeps getting better and better (although maybe they'll never top The Incredibles, one of my favorite movies of all time.
3. Michael Clayton-- beautiful, mysterious, tense, absorbing, and such a troubling view of our modern society. Tom Wilkinson WILL win the supporting actor Oscar this year, I swear it.
4. The Darjeeling Limited-- this movie just thrilled me, more than I expected. Of course it's Wes Anderson, of course it is stylized and colorful and quirky and you spend half of the movie with your head tilted wondering, "Where is he going with this?" But I think he especially hooked me with Darjeeling because it is a pitch-perfect portrait of the three-sibling relationship. I was very aware that the older brother (Owen Wilson) was quite nearly a caricature of my own role that I play with my sisters and family at large. "From 8:15 to 8:55 we are going to sit around the dinner table and talk about things that are important to us."
5. As of tonight: Enchanted-- Delicious! So cute. Highly recommended, and take your kids because they're going to love it.

I'm still in a coma from all the frantic activity of the last two days. We can talk about it tomorrow. Rock chalk.

Friday, November 23, 2007

copout with 8 minutes to go

This made me laugh so hard that I had tears running down my face, sitting at my boring desk at work.

Married To The Sea
marriedtothesea.com

Reports tomorrow from Thanksgiving feast. The feasting and feasting!

not that it's surprising at all...

...but I forgot to blog today. Now it's past midnight, and I guess that means I lost. Boo on that. I've been cooking and cleaning all day, and will be cooking and all day tomorrow as well. I got the La Bete Noir (chocolate flourless tart) finished, the Overnight Salad in the fridge, Cheddar cornbread and cranberry relish are finished. Bread is torn and drying for stuffing. Turkey is in Alton Brown's brine. I have the schedule all planned out (to every five minutes) of what I'm doing from 9:30 am tomorrow until 6:15.

I have nothing to talk about. I should have saved that extra "Why I'm an Asshole" blog from last Friday (two in one day that day, so doesn't that count for something?) for this week. Dumb.

I'm going to the movies all day Saturday. I can't wait to see Enchanted.

Going to bed. See some of you tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

loquation

I have been reading enough NaBloPoMo submissions to know that is it OK if I just check in briefly tonight.

Assuming I can do ANYTHING briefly.

And knowing that if all I'm doing is putting words on the screen so I can just suck it up and go to bed, it is unlikely that I'll get any of the coveted blog comments.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll. I retreat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Father:Daughter::Cookie:Car Accident

*Editor's Note: There is just not another word for cookie. I would like to tell this story using some gracefully substituted synonyms, but they don't exist. If I called it the British "biscuit" you wouldn't know what I was talking about. Please just know that I know the word "cookie" gets used way too often in tonight's post, and my English teacher-daughter side is bristling at the uneven composition.

My dad is famous for his cookies. My whole life, this has been one of his true culinary masterpieces: the chocolate chip cookie. He's a great cook, fearless and inventive and kind of a maniac in the kitchen, spatulas flailing and garlic skins on the floor. But the cookie, it's his major achievement. He says he regularly gets invited to parties knowing full well that, really, only his cookies were invited, and his attendance is just tolerated. He has had friends write songs about his Cookie Man-hood.

A defining memory of my childhood, and certainly pertinent to my own baking/cooking/sweet tooth tendencies, is making cookie dough with Dad after we'd cleaned up the dinner dishes. It's basically the Toll House recipe on the back of the chocolate morsels package, with some key adjustments that are, obviously, top secret. We never thought far enough ahead to soften the butter, so he'd throw it in the microwave and a tiny bit would inevitably melt. A little shortening, brown and white sugars, eggs, vanilla, etc. all whirled together, then flour and baking soda, a little salt. I always campaigned to be the one to add the chocolate chips, and tried to sneak in more than we needed. As if that is possible. After the dough was assembled and the first batch was in the oven, it was time for "bocas," which is what we called the rolled up bite of dough that was popped into our mouths on command. We only got one boca each.*

I have Dad's recipe, of course, and have made his cookies occasionally in the years since I have become the Official Baker for the Masses. Casey makes them more often than I do. But it seemed like, lately, I couldn't make them the way I remembered from childhood. Specifically, they weren't chewy. So Dad and I have been talking about this, brainstorming, putting our combined baking science knowledge to the test. This is what we do, sometimes we try to catch up and I feel like I have nothing significant to say, and then sometimes he calls to check in and we end up on the phone for an hour and a half, talking about dessert. We threw around ideas like adding more eggs, less flour, the ratio of butter to shortening, brown sugar to white. I wondered if we should adjust the temperature, and he said, "Well, you don't want to cook them too hot, then the outside will get done and the inside will still be soft." BINGO. The proverbial light bulb went off. That is EXACTLY what we want to happen! So I tried it: added another egg to his original recipe, skimped on the flour, slightly more brown sugar, and cranked the oven up an extra 25 degrees, pulling the cookies out 2 minutes earlier. Eureka!

I called Dad in triumph and got his answering machine. "Dad, it's Delaney, I did it, call me back!"

My phone rings a minute later and it's him, I answer singing, "Hiiii," I'm skipping around the house with joy at my baking accomplishment. His voice is tense. He says, "What's happened?" I say, "I did it! I made the cookies chewy!"

He says, "You weren't just in a car accident?"

"Noooo."

He sighs, sounds weary, beaten by a phantom terror. "I heard, 'Dad, it's Delaney, I need you, I was in a wreck.'"

"No, Dad. The cookies."

And here's my Dad: he shakes it off. He says, "Oh, great! What did you do?" and we make arrangements to transfer said cookies to him in the next few days for his own taste-testing approval.

I've made several batches since that first triumph, and I think I've still got some adjustments to make. They're very flat, and the last two batches have done a weird thing where the insides look layered when you bite into them. How can I make them not flat but still soft? That's going to involve leavening, right? Or having the dough cold before I bake? Hmm. It's a lifelong quest.

Oh, and I made cookies for book club, and had to make one tray without chocolate chips. At Austin's request. Because he is odd, and sometimes I am reminded that he and I are very different people.

*Another future-parent anxiety: am I going to let my kids eat raw cookie dough?

Monday, November 19, 2007

the bitching, the moaning...

I find that during this month of daily blogging, the thing I'm talking about the most is... daily blogging. Okay, not talking so much as whining. Like this was anything other than a voluntary experiment, and like anybody on the planet would care if I quit today. I'm not going to, and posts like last night's make me think that I should keep going as long as I can, past Nov 30, keep pushing until the habit is more fruitful and less forced.

But what I want to know is, WHO decided November was the month that we all had the spare time for finding significant thoughts to blog about every day?! I'll tell you who, whoever They are: They don't have to do anything on November 22 other than show up at Their Aunt Janice's house and mutter about still being seated at the kids table well into Their late 20s. They sigh about the two-hour trainride, or having to sleep on an air mattress in cousin Leslie's room. They bristle at Their family's continued lack of understanding about the tenets of the vegan lifestyle, and that They aren't trying to hurt their Nonna's feelings when They refuse turkey for the sixth year in a row.

They certainly AREN'T putting themselves through the (again, entirely voluntary) paces of planning a twenty-one dish extravaganza feast for 17 people. They haven't spent the entire weekend trying to plan out where 17 people are going to sit in Their suddenly-tiny house. They don't have several Google documents sorting out which dishes are going to go on which serving plates and the specific order that each step of each recipe will need to be completed and at what exact time. They aren't having anxiety dreams about a back-talking turkey that insists on still being frozen at 3 pm on Friday. And they haven't been spending the last several weeks not bothering to do a scrap of housekeeping, with the excuse, It's all going to get dirty again before Thanksgiving, so They'll just do a death-con deepclean on Thursday* and in the meantime feel queasy every time They consider just how much scrubbing, dusting, vacuuming that is going to entail. And They certainly aren't missing Their #1 sous chef** with a feverish panicky itch, and occasionally bugging her on IM to run menu pairing theories by her that are probably making her die a little inside that she won't actually be here to enjoy the fruits of La Bete Noir decision-making labors.

The truth is, you know I LOVE this. This is the kind of stress I thrive on, the pressure to complete a project that is entirely complete-able. And the end result is something that I can look back on with pride for the next 362 days. I just wish I didn't have to work this week, duh. What a waste of perfectly good listmaking time.

Now back to picking out the high points from seven different stuffing recipes and rewriting the whole thing at least twice.

*(the level of filth in my house would seriously make you question whether I can somehow infect you with grubbiness just by reading this)
**this is not meant to imply that I am anything less than THRILLED at the prospect of having Megan join me in the kitchen this year. She just knows she has big galoshes to fill.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Portrait of a Childhood, Vol 1: The Woods

The image of a bullet hitting the floor in a ubiquitous movie trailer suddenly reminds me of how much time my sisters and I spent playing with spent shotgun shells that we found in the woods.

We literally spent years of our lives in the woods. We knew every inch for a square mile around our house at least. In the summers, we'd be off in the morning after breakfast and not come home until Dad whistled for dinner. In the fall, we shuffled paths through the fallen leaves. There was an unfinished house on the ridge, only frames and foundation, where we'd assemble dream house fantasies. There was a field on the opposite ridge, past a barbed wire fence (which didn't stop us), where I imagined riding a horse or running in a white gown towards a lover. There were creeks on either side, which met at a pond below the turnaround at the end of our street. We waded and found skipping stones, invented a fairyland (Lynker) on the banks, found tiny shells and occasionally a crawdad or discarded copperhead skin. These were our treasures, squirreled away in boxes under the springs of our mattresses.

It wasn't a desolate area, where we lived. There were dozens of houses on our street. But we were at the end, and felt an exclusive ownership to the surrounding hills. We had names for everything, most of which were probably wrong: mulberry bushes, Indian money, oysters and waterskeeters. I ripped up cattails and used the down to make a (highly unsanitary) pillow for Dolly. We had shredded canvas sneakers just for creekwalking, and further up the creek on the western side of the street, there were pools almost deep enough to swim in.

Directly behind our house, there was a shell of a car at the base of the hill. The glass was all broken out, the roof caved in, most of the upholstery rotted or cracked. We told each other brutal theories about a family dying in whatever accident had left the car there, covered in brambles and rust. We found the broken windshield glass, in perfect cubes, throughout the gravel in our driveway and under the grass, and collected it, pretending to have baggies full of dirty diamonds.

We knew which sticks could be hollowed out and made into whistles or wands. We were terrified and fascinated by cicadas and praying mantis. There was a blue heron that lived in the pond one fall, and a pair of white ducks with red eyes another spring. There were tulip poplars with perfectly aligned branches that we could climb twenty feet in the air.

One summer we were playing in the pool at the base of the waterfall that flowed from the southern end of the pond. The water was clear down there, and deeper, less algae, less reeds and tangles in the shallows. I only remember being there with Casey. Across the surface of the pool, coming towards us in a rapid, twisting whirl, was a cottonmouth. It moved as if I was pulling it towards us on a string, its jaw wide open, fangs bared, white spongy interior exposed. I do not remember even the moment it took to recognize the danger, or the decision to run. All that I remember is literally hauling Casey up the waterfall like a sack of potatoes, before she knew what was happening.

My not-even-a-parent-yet overprotectiveness is aghast when I look back. I can't believe we ran around like that, that close to the water, to the wildlife, to the hunters in the wintertime. I think that I would never let my kids out there. I am not questioning my parents' judgment. They were right, we were perfectly safe, and knew how to get home quickly if we were scared. Our imaginations were enriched by having so much territory at our disposal. But now I wonder if my own current existence is so homogenized that I would never allow such adventures for my family. So much of it seems dangerous or filthy, ticks and nettles and invisible creatures that crashed away in the underbrush as we climbed up a hill.

We went for a walk around Dad's house this spring, and I hung back from the others and sat down next to his creek, examining the ecosystem for the first time in 15 years. As you all know, I'm just not the outdoorsy one anymore. My motto is, "I love not camping." I scoff at people who offer stories of going on a nice hike. I haven't sat on the always-damp ground of a forest and stared at the countless movements in every square inch in a long time.

If I do raise kids, it will probably be in the city. We love Nashville, I love how I see people I know everywhere I go, but still have (pretty) good grocery stores within 10 minutes of my house and the big fireworks show on 4th of July within walking distance. But what will my (hypothetical) kids be missing if they don't grow up with a pond, a field, a mysterious unfinished house and crashed car to explore? On the flipside, what did I miss by not growing up in the city? I think I know the answer to that: very little.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Moment in Song, Vol 2

MamaSnee complains tonight about two songs that have been getting stuck in her head. Thank you, MamaSnee, for giving me something to talk about when it's getting way too late to have not blogged today:

1. Fly by Sugar Ray. I don't know why this song enters my head, particularly as often as it does. Maybe when I'm thinking about something I do "every morning" and then it goes haywire? I don't know. I hate that I know every word to songs like this just because of the quality of radio programming in West Tennessee in the late 90s.

2. Strangers in the Night (instrumental version). This is the song that my brain turns to when it's in neutral. "Doo-bee doobee dooo...." if you can hear what I'm trying to say. I don't whistle the way some people do. I CAN whistle, I just...don't. Some people whistle when a song is in their head, or when they are zoning out. I sing, to myself, "Doo-bee doobee doo....exchanging glances..."

3. Some other lame late 90s song that turns into Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio when I'm singing it to myself. See, the whole point of this post was that when I get one specific song in my head, another unwelcome one like Sugar Ray (Sublime? Smashmouth? Something like that...) at some point I realize I've stopped singing that song and started singing, "...cause I ain't never crossed a man that didn't deserve it..." I can't tell you why, even when I can remember what the first song is. Damn, this has turned into a terrible story. (**EDITED to add: I remembered! It's What I Got which is indeed by Sublime. Here is what happens: I don't cry when my dog runs away. I don't get angry at the bills I have to pay. I don't get something when my mom smokes pot, skips the bottle and goes right to the rock... (which THEN morphs into "Revival" by Me Phi Me off the Reality Bites soundtrack)... Here me now the waves are splashing, love is laughing... and THEN into Gangsta's Paradise. Seriously.)

I also, sometimes, get bits of my Dad's songs in my head. Songs he hasn't sung for years, like Fool's Gold or Do You Ever Even Miss Me or I've Been Waiting All this Time for You. I only remember bits of most of them. I remember singing some of them for him when I was sooo young, younger than 5, too young to know what the words meant. And sometimes it makes me think about songs like they are people, who go away. I still have a song (Favorite Place) by my high school boyfriend's band (Planet) on one of my earliest mix tapes (Delaney's Faves Volume 1) (which also features Boys II Men and Candlebox) and I think, that was a great song. They weren't a great band, but it was a song that you could sing along to. And for years now, that boyfriend is gone, that band broke up, that song only exists on high school girlfriend mixtapes, a terrible grainy recording made in a garage, and it makes me feel lonely for it. Like the song got banished to outer space with all the garbage and comet shrapnel, and nobody will make it real anymore. It's sort of a velveteen rabbit soft spot for me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

important ways in which I am, generally, an asshole

I am a very generous person. I said yesterday, in reference to Badness' birthday present, finding the perfect present for someone is better than getting presents myself. I think that at least 40% of my love of food is associated with sharing food. I bake for other people, I like to hand someone a bite of something sweet and see their faces bliss out. I love hosting, I love providing food.

But when you ask me, "Ooh, that looks good, can I have some of that?" before I have offered it to you, I am guaranteed to respond with a very stiff, "oh. I guess." Even if it is something I brought to the office with the purpose of sharing it. Because I'm a jerk and I like being able to PRESENT something, and because I hate moochers, even when I am regularly a mooch myself. And I guess, like the great and powerful Lucille Bluth, I get off on being withholding.

And while I'm on confessions, and this is definitely related to my issues with sharing, here is another way I'm an asshole, and particularly my major flaw as a manager: I play favorites. I mean, of course I do. Everybody does, right? This was, obviously, most significant at Hatch. I worked with my sisters most of the time, and of course they were my favorites. But they were also really, really good employees, some of the best during my tenure. If they had been slacks, would I have still favored them? Probably. It was worst with interns. I would invite the hip, funny interns to come out to dinner with us, but not the lame ones who talked too much. That's terrible, right? And I'd be sure the ones I liked got the jobs they wanted, at least part of the time.

Just one more reason for me to not have children. Seriously.

pre-road trip

I'm leaving work at 2:30 today. Heading across town to pick up The Boo, go to The Bank, pick up Casey and Trent and then Patrick, and then driving a packed car down to Sewanee, the University of the South, for my sister Jenny's first opening at the art gallery for which she is now director. That's pretty cool, right? Look at my successful sisters. I'm just in awe, all the time. Somehow their success makes me feel ok about not doing anything meaningful at all. Instead of feeling jealous or inferior, I just figure, this is their time. They have worked so hard for this. I haven't worked hard for anything. So I'm just proud of them and figure I'll come around to finding something to work hard for, eventually.

Speaking of, my freelance baking fell apart. So no freelance for me right now, and that's hurting me financially, a little bit. So if you need anything BAKED or edited? or something, call me. I'm good.

I packed up some CDs for the road, and one that I grabbed is Song and Dance, Man by Mike Plume Band. Anybody out there ever heard them? Damn that's a good album.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

more listmaking, the joy

Things I have to do Every Day:

1. Daydream about food.
2. Put on mascara, concealer, eyebrow powder, earrings, deodorant and clean underwear.
3. Read or do a puzzle before bed (no matter what, no matter how sleepy I am or how late it is, I always at least pick up the book and make an attempt. I've never been able to fall asleep straight away, which is probably connected to me never being able to fall asleep in public, in class, in a movie theatre, etc. Only on planes. There's a little Delaney trivia for you: I never once fell asleep in class. Not in high school, not in college, never).
4. Check my email (okay, I do this pathologically, like ALL the time. I know you do too).
5. Drink a minimum of 6 liters of water.
6. Say, "Hi!" when any pet comes up to me. This happens a lot.
7. Talk to my sisters.
8. Check toothpastefordinner and marriedtothesea (the latter is actually becoming my favorite).
9. Put away everything that I brought home from work with me, as soon as I come in the door. My purse, my cat bag, any groceries that were in the work fridge, Tupperware, the mail. I unpack it all and put it in its place even if I'm going to go retrieve it the next morning and take it back to work.
10. Say, "Sweet dreams, my boo," and have "Sweet dreams" said back to me, before falling asleep with my stuffed dog Cashmere (10th birthday present from Grandma Jansen) tucked under my arm.

Things I wish I didn't have to do Every Day:
1. Take my contacts out before bed.
2. Fuss with my cuticles (I keep a cuticle trimmer both in my vanity table at home and in my desk at work. My cuticles are a neverending source of trauma for me).
3. Have a fight with Mackenzie over pillow territory.
4. Drive to the building next door to check the mail at work.
5. Pay an average of $3.34 towards my student loans (1/30 of my monthly payments. This is a stretch as far as saying it's a daily activity, but I really am constantly aware that I should have a. kept up my grades and therefore my scholarships, b. had a reason to go to college other than that I was supposed to go to college, or at least c. graduated. Paying student loans is, for me, the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket every day. It is pretty much a retroactive waste of money).
6. Wash my face.
7. Think, "I should wash my car."
8. Repeat myself.
9. Check my bank account (okay, I really don't mind it. I mean, even if I was wealthy beyond my wildest dreams I would probably still balance my checking. But it would be better if, when I checked it, I was pleasantly surprised, instead of always just saying, "oh.").
10. Spend a lot of time trying to find a phantom hair that is tickling me under my shirt, at the back of my neck, or behind my arm.

Boy, this NaBloPoMo, it really forces you to dig deep into details that nobody cares to know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

if you write it down, it's bound to get done...

Here is the To Do list in my back pocket:

Thanksgiving:
Shan's fridge
Clear our our fridge - beverages (which is underlined twice)
Coolers
Menu
Grocery list
Recipes collected
Schedule

Book Club email:
NYE
new book
party
classics

blog
Ratatouille
wash makeup brushes

menus:
12/23: Jordan and Vanessa
xmas: recipes, grocery list, utensil list
nye brunch: menu, guest list

Pork chops
Quiche

In a box by itself:
Judith
Jeffrey
Voyager
recipes
puzzles
Fargo
30 movies in 30 days

There is also the name and number of the contracting company who still haven't come to fix our siding, attach our gutters, repair the plaster in the blue room. Sigh.

But you know why I'm not complaining, and also why I'm not doing any of those things on that list right now? SUUUSHIIII, that's why. Tonight is three-sister date with Stacey Jo, honorary Gill Geek for time immemorial, and we're meeting at Samurai in a little over an hour. I might just go sit on the sidewalk of Elliston Place and hope that Chu comes out with bites of white tuna and handrolls to feed my obsession.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Proud Parent of an Adult Family Manners Graduate

Mischa's puppy class graduation was tonight. She did very well (alarmingly so) at the Loose Leash Walking trial, including giving several successful "sit"s when we stopped (genius), and she did ok at staying in a sit, staying in a down, etc. Gave a high five when asked, touched her nose to the palm of my hand when asked, and really was very focused and enthusiastic.

We know that having the big dogs here has probably done as much for her behaviorally as the class did. I mean, we learned TONS in the class and it was sooo worth the money and I highly recommend it to everyone. But I think we also just have to know that boredom and loneliness were contributing to the most of Mischa's behavior problems. Now she is just exhausted in the evenings, after running laps with her mouth around Bridgette's head all day. Before she was a complete spaz and wouldn't leave us (or poor patient Charlie Murphy) alone when we got home from work.

So what does that mean now? I think we've officially decided that Ingrid is going back out to Dad's after he gets home from Florida. She's more comfortable out there, I've said it many times. And probably Bridgette should go as well, right? Of course. For one thing, she is a Destroyer of Yards. She has found every random bit of plastic in the yard (bowls, tupperware that once held dog food, planters) and shredded it. She digs. She has TRAMPLED my lavender and I'm worried it won't recover. She should stay with Ingrid, they are good friends and Ingrid is a good mentor for her. But Mischa is in loooove with Bridge. The truest love. I'm very worried about how Mischa will respond when her pretty yellow friend goes.

So the way I see it that we have three options:
1. Send both big dogs back out to Dad's and deal with the consequences with Mischa, making more of an effort to keep her active and applying all the training we've learned in class to help her make the adjustment.
2. Send Ingrid back to Dad's and keep Bridgey and see how that goes for a while.
3. Send both big dogs back out to Dad's and get a new dog (I can't believe I just said that out loud...).

I guess the phantom option 4 would be to keep all three dogs up here, but I don't know if Dad will stand for it, or our grass.

Ingrid is snoring happily in front of the door. Bridge is in the middle of the floor, almost under the coffee table, and she's extra pretty when she sleeps. Mischa is SACKED out after all the excitement of graduation (liver brownies! a diploma! pictures with Mom and Dad!) laying across my (Guinness-slippered) feet. Charlie Murphy is on his throne (formerly Mackenzie's throne, but whose fault is that?). Kenzie is in the doorway of the bedroom, vocally pointing out several discrepancies in her food-bowl fill line policies. Corvinius is licking the blinds in the blue room. Because he is Odd.

I have been working on the be-all, end-all post about how I'm feeling right now regarding children and parenthood. Having the house full with all this animalia, and being very happy about it, makes me feel like my current position (kid free for the foreseeable future) is the right one. This is a good place to be.

P.S. I'm thinking of holding a benefit/fundraiser/donation campaign to finance a Return Move to Nashville for Badness and the Redbeard. I miss my Sous Chef, and christmas cookie season is upon us! I'm going to issue a release demand to Chicago and see if I can't get their indentured servitude canceled.

Monday, November 12, 2007

You are what you eat

Here's the truth: two straight days of Super Nintendo does not a fascinating blog make. I feel like a clam, like a sloth, like all of my creativity and cleverness (and that's assuming a lot about myself, that I am either clever or creative in real life) has been sucked out by countless hours prone on the spare room bed with a controller in my hand. Now I see why we weren't allowed to have a gaming system when I was young (the SuperNES that I'm playing now was purchased in the summer of 1993, when Mom was getting her Master's degree and needed some form of bribery to keep my sisters out of trouble). I would have been a total braindead slacker, or at least more of one than I already was.

I swear I'll post something interesting tomorrow. If it doesn't rain it's Mischa's graduation from puppy school tomorrow night! Genius dog learns how to give high fives and not jump up when we come in the house! Or at least that is the conclusion we are hoping for... Having the big dogs here has certainly mellowed Mischa, both physically and emotionally. I'm really proud of her.

Back to Bowser's Valley. Don't judge me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

gotta go save that princess, don't interrupt me

I totally didn't go see Mike Doughty at 3rd and Lindsley tonight. I even bought a ticket in advance.

Instead I stayed home with Austin and Jenny and Patrick and ate good food and played Nintendo. We made Curried Couscous with Roasted Vegetables and Cilantro Yogurt, yum yum. It gets better every time I make it, I think it's been the biggest breakthrough hit meal of this year. Cilantro Yogurt would be good in a bowl with a spoon, let alone with lots of spicy things smeared around on the plate with it. And then Double Hot Chocolate Pudding for dessert, with cayenne and Dutch-process cocoa (direct from the Netherlands, thanks Sherraden) and chopped Ghiradelli bittersweet and cinnamon and espresso powder. Four hours later, I'm thinking, Geez, why am I not sleepy? Oh. Caffeine-loaded dessert, duh.

Now I'm listening to Austin talk on the phone to his brother (one of my greatest joys in the world) and tossing out a wuss-ass blog so I can get back to the blue room and keep hacking away at Super Mario World (or whichever version it is, I never remember, the one with Yoshi).

And I'm not even pissed at myself that I skipped that show tonight. I went out last night (to see the Long Players at Mercy Lounge, which was, of course, amazing, but boy was that a weird crowd, all those old people out after 9 pm when it was like 40 degrees out. It has been a long time since I have thought, I'm too young to be here.) and I had way more fun tonight piled up in bed with Jenny screaming and cursing at the video game and remembering all the retarded names we had for the Mario enemies when we were little. I am sure I'll address it more later, and I still feel superstitious talking about it, but I'm so glad J & P have come home to Nashville. It makes everything feel less urgent somehow. More normal.

Oh, and there are lots of lame things about my job, at least one of which is my boss being totally random and inconsistent, but sometimes that comes around to be a good thing, like when he decides to give us Veteran's Day off, a day that no person who doesn't work for the government, or who didn't actually fight in any wars, deserves to take off. But I'll take it, for sure. My plans are to (still) wash my makeup brushes (I swear it) and run the self-clean cycle on my oven so my turkey won't start any fires. Thanksgiving oven fires = bad. And to dig around in my garage until I find the 86 page Super Mario cheat guide that I printed off the internet a couple of years ago, so I can figure out how to beat the secret in Donut Flats 2.

I didn't promise you anything insightful tonight. Sorry. Gotta go spin jump on some koopas.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

carving out the time

I should be making a grocery list. Or washing my makeup brushes. Or changing the sheets over to the dryer. Those Saturday chore things, from the list in my back pocket.

Instead I'm piled up on the couch with the Boo and a puppy draped across my ankles, alternately working a book of word puzzles and then going back to composing and deleting first paragraphs to possible blogs.

Really all I want to do is think about Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday, and I've been lucky enough to spend several Thanksgivings recently with my family in California, and I'm sad that I can't be there this year. My Aunt Paula and I would plan for months and trade menu ideas and cook for two straight days and then collapse after dinner and hope someone else (meaning Mom) would do the dishes. This year, we're hosting (which is one of my favorite things) and I've been making menu notes in my Palm for weeks. I've been going through magazines, ripping out recipes, storing gravy-making notes and cranberry compote flavor combinations and brainstorming where we're going to put all this food and all these people. This is the time of year that I start thinking that maybe I should install another refrigerator in our garage, and also maybe invest in a double commercial oven, which is, of course, never going to happen. Thanksgiving is like my fantasy holiday.

I've made the same turkey every year for at least the last 8 years, it's a Two-Hour Turkey (found on Epicurious, I think?) and it is absolutely killer. And foolproof. Two hours of turkey time means I can get the bird done reasonably early, keep it under foil until it has rested and is cool enough to carve without scorching my fingers (ok, Dad's fingers), and have plenty of oven time left for side dishes. Here's the genius part for this year: we're having the big dinner on Friday instead of Thursday. Jenny and Patrick are spending Thursday with his family, and this way Casey and Trent can spend as much time as they like with his folks, and I can cook and clean all day Thursday and cut the labor down for the actual day of feasting. We're having friends come in addition to the core family, and I'm just so excited about all of it, particularly about Megan's offer of donating sous chef labor. I love having people in the kitchen with me, it gets sort of lonely in there sometimes.

So now it's just puttering through the next two weeks until the big day. Here's the rest of the tentative menu:
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green bean casserole
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Red Onions with Rosemary and Parmesan
Stuffing
Macaroni and cheese
Roasted Cauliflower
Rolls or cornbread
Cranberry relish
(bites before dinner):
Carrots and celery (with ranch dressing)
Black Pepper Almonds and Pecans
Cheese and Crackers
Dad's Chip Dip (Dad: can you bring chip dip?)
(dessert):
Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
Pumpkin Bread Pudding or Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Apple Crumb Pie

Menu notes: the last several years, I've tried fancier mashed potatoes. With caramelized onions and goat cheese, or with garlic and leeks and mascarpone. But lately I've just been making simple, straightforward fluffy mashers with cream and butter, and it's really the best. So I'm not messing with this dish this year.

The green bean casserole is, yes, the recipe off the Campbell's cream of mushroom soup can, or the French's French Fried Onions can, or whatever. And it's the one dish that Austin requests every year, and I always roll my eyes, and he always points out that it is all gone by the end of the meal, and he's always right.

I started doing the roasted sweet potatoes with red onions a couple of years ago, instead of a sweet approach, and it's really amazing, and can be made ahead of time. It's just as good at room temperature as it is warm.

I still haven't settled on a stuffing plan. Casey has made a batch of Stove Top in addition to whatever fancy stuffing approach I take every year, and I occasionally wonder if maybe she's right. I have lots of good ideas for great stuffings, which involve a mix of regular bread and cornbread and cinnamon raisin bread, dried cranberries and dried blueberries, toasted pecans, chopped apples, and maybe a partial batch with andouille sausage. But maybe I'm just going to dump a box out into a pan and add vegetable broth and a pat of butter and no one will notice or complain (and at least one sister will rejoice).

I understand that macaroni and cheese is probably not a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, but I noticed that this menu was suffering from a shocking lack of cheddar, and this will solve that problem handily.

I'm not entirely sold on the roasted cauliflower yet either. I might just make that as a standard side dish with a regular dinner some other time. I do want to try it, though.

I make the same cranberry relish every year, with ginger and cardamom and dried cherries, and I'm always glad that it doesn't all get eaten because it's my favorite part of leftovers.

I'm most pleased with the dessert selection. It's traditional flavors but a different approach to them. I have never made an apple pie before (I really don't make many pies), but this one looked so pretty and lush in the Thanksgiving issue of Everyday Food that I'm just going to go for it. I can make a pie, right? And based on my recent discovery that I'm really good at making cheesecakes, even if they aren't my favorite, I think the chocolate cheesecake will be a good crowd pleaser. Every menu benefits from a chocolate option. And I will take a vote between the pumpkin creme brulee (with maple) or the pumpkin bread pudding (with caramel bourbon sauce). Anybody out there have a preference?

You might notice that this isn't exactly a gourmet production. I go pretty traditional for this holiday. No fennel, no chanterelles, no chipotles. That's for the rest of the year. Thanksgiving is for comfort food, lots of it, spread all over the table and the kitchen and filling the house with warmth. I just can't wait.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I have enough pets already...

...let alone Pet PEEVES!

How's that for a segue? Wocka wocka wocka.

Work related pet peeves:
1. People who staple their checks to their invoices. Don't put staples in checks. Duh.

2. Bill payment envelopes that aren't as big as a Quickbooks check. I'm trying to pay you people! I should not have to do origami just to mail you a check!! I'm looking specifically you, Chase Visa. YOU!

Not work related, necessarily:
1. Bad drivers. I am SO lucky to work approximately 9 minutes (3.6 miles) from home. And I'm never going anywhere during rush hour. I'm still at home in the morning, and I'm still at work in the evening. I really do not have to deal with bad traffic, and Nashville has its fair share. But I'm telling you, it's a good thing I don't, because my road rage shows no end. Jenny and Patrick pointed out that drivers in Nashville are much worse than in NY (which you think of as having crazy drivers, right?) because in NY, you know that if you do anything stupid, someone will HIT you and KILL you and it will be YOUR fault. In Nashville, people just amble through red lights, turn left from the right lane, abuse the suicide lane, wander around in blind spots, because they KNOW that other drivers are just going to get out of their way. I remember my dad, when he was teaching me to drive, telling me about defensive driving (I barely heard him over the roar of my own eye rolling). I had to assume that EVERY other driver on the road was just about to do something stupid, and therefore prepare myself for avoiding the entire situation. I thought, at the time, "Geez, I can't pay attention to what every other car is doing, all the time! They aren't going to do anything wrong. Besides, I have cassettes to change and lipstick to put on. I don't have time." But it turns out, he was RIGHT. I think about this all the time. That car at the cross street in front of me? Guaranteed to pull out in front of me. The car entering the interstate on my right? Guaranteed to want to merge to my left, whether or not I'm in the way. I'm kind of amazed at how right my dad was. Should I tell him? Probably not.

2. Body hair removal. Ya'll know I'm a glamourpuss. I'm never going to go all granola on you and stop shaving, I promise. But seriously. Why does this have to be something that is going to take up a significant portion of my shower time for the rest of my life? I know, there is always electrolysis. I'm never going to be able to afford that. In the meantime, I'm so BORED with shaving my underarms that I can't even put it into words.

3. Inappropriate punctuation. My mom is an English teacher. I'm a little sensitive to the world of grammar, at least more than the average yayhoo. But quote marks around words that are not being quoted, and apostrophes in words that don't belong to anyone or aren't being contracted, drive me up the wall. The day I interviewed for my job, I found the office (in a big warehouse in an industrial district) and the name of the business was on the front door in quote marks "Business X". You can imagine how I reconsidered opening that door. And how I have reconsidered it, daily, since then. There is no such thing as chicken wing's. The only appropriate use of washer's is if you were talking about something that belongs to said washer. Misused commas (and even colons and semicolons) are forgivable; most of the time you can see that the writer thinks they are clarifying something with that comma. Bad punctuation: it's a disease, particularly of East Nashville signage. I'll post some pictures someday.

4. Animals in clothing. Most of you know this already. I have big issues with costumed animals. I believe that this stems, initially, from my much bigger issues with monkeys. Don't like them. Not comfortable with them. Don't think videos of monkeys (monkies?) doing human things are funny. Don't think posters of monkeys wearing three piece suits are amusing. I really don't think that monkeys in the jungle are okay, but it's not my right to judge them in their natural habitat. But when people mess with monkeys? That's when I start to have a real problem. There was a monkey with a music box at the wharf in Monterey, when I was a kid, and if you gave him a penny he'd take it from you and play a song. I'm sure I found this endlessly amusing when I was 4. Now I just think it is unnatural, and beyond that, I PROMISE you that is NOT how that monkey would like to be behaving. I get sadder when I see a dog with a homeless man than when I just see a homeless man. That guy can't take care of that dog. And inevitably the dog is wearing a jacket or a bandanna, probably as part of a panhandling racket ("Look how cute my dog's outfit is. Gimme some money for beer."). I hate it all. The horses with carriages downtown, wearing sunhats. That horse doesn't want to wear that hat! I know I have friends who put their animals in Halloween costumes, and I forgive you, but please don't show me pictures. I can't take it.

5. Fake sugar. I can pick it out a mile away, in anything, and I won't eat it. No diet sodas, no snacky cakes in green boxes, no chewing gum that makes your mouth cold, and no sugar-free ice cream (honestly). I know that high-fructose corn syrup is making our nation (and me, eventually) obese, but surely Aspertame and sucralose are even worse. It is an ARTIFICIAL ingredient and it will make you eat too much of whatever it is you're eating because you just don't get enough pleasure from a small bite. Blech.

I just ended up on the phone with my mom for like an hour and ran out of focus on this topic. I'm sure I'll think of other things to say, and that's not nearly my standard fake sugar rant, so hang in there for me. We've still got 21 days of the NaBloming to go.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

oh right, about that tree...

Thursday October 18: the first really major storm this fall. You know it's been a horrible drought in middle TN, and I know in many other areas as well. On the news, they've been warning us that the drought may cause some trees that look otherwise healthy to fall in high winds. I saw this information on the news Wednesday night, the 17th, and I spent some time in the backyard that night, when I was outside with Mischa, examining the trees around our house, trying to spot any weak areas, particularly the huge tree between our house and Kyle's, our next door neighbor. During the storms around the same time as Hurricane Katrina, in August/September of 2005, a limb from that tree fell that was the entire length of our house. It landed perfectly between the fence and the west-facing wall, and did no damage other than pulling down a clothesline. But this was a big limb. I'm only telling you this because it is pretty odd that I was even thinking about possible tree fallings. I mostly don't think about our trees at all.

So Thursday night, it was getting late, almost bedtime, but Austin and I were still up, watching the Nashville WX weather updates. We were in a tornado watch, and trying to decide if we really needed to box up the kitties, grab the pup and head downstairs. They were saying things like "wind damage likely" and that made me think, oh, cool, we're in the clear. That's no bigs. It wasn't really even storming that hard, and looking at the radar, it looked like just patches of red, mostly yellow, moving fast. Then there was a crash. It shook the roof and the floor and Austin and I jumped to our feet, yelling. The sound just kept happening, thumps, crashing, metal scraping, heavy brushing sounds against the roof and walls. It was still happening when Austin ran into the blue room and saw sparks flash outside the window. The lights inside barely flickered, and then there was silence, other than the storm outside that had come up so fast we barely had registered it. We threw on bathrobes and ran outside to try to see what was happening (note to future self: not always smart to run outside in torrential rains/possible tornado weather). The tree between the houses had splintered, with only one tall but spindly branch remaining, and the rest had fallen on our house. We had to run all the way around the front yard to get around the fallen tree to see the damage.

It could have been SO much worse. This tree could have crashed right through our roof, instead of doing (reasonably) superficial damage. It could have come through the windows, or landed on a car, or caught on fire. The most inconvenient aspect of it was to our poor neighbor Kyle, whose power and cable were out for four days. It didn't take any of our utilities out, they all run to the back of the house. We let Kyle run an extension cable from our garage, so he at least had tv and fridge for the weekend.

The day after the storm, contractors came and covered the hole in the roof with a tarp, and we were told that the tree would have to be removed before any further repairs could be made, or even a reasonable estimation of what had to be fixed. The siding on the front and side of the house was damaged, the gutters were all pulled down and the roof was, of course, in serious need of repair. You could see through the hole into the attic (before the tarp). Inside, the corner of the room where the tree hit (the blue room, which is our spare bedroom and Austin's closet) was split up the seam, and some of the crown molding had split away from the ceiling, but it all looked pretty simple. The tree had also taken off about half of the beloved (very pretty) pear tree from the front yard, but it looked like no damage to the trunk.

Fast forward over a week, when a tree removal crew finally shows up at 9 am on a Saturday. It had rained almost every day during the week, so no crews were out working. We had started to get used to having the entire front of the house blocked by fallen limbs. It gave us some nice shade and lots of privacy. We joked that it was a brilliant landscaping decision. But we had to say goodbye to the shade, as well as to most of the pear tree (they trimmed it down to basically nubs). The crew was remarkably efficient and conscientious, and left our yard spotless. They removed the rest of the tree, which was hovering in a threatening way over the neighbors' roof. The trunk was so big they had to shave down the sides to fit it into the grinder.
Another week passed once the tree was removed with no sign of contractors, still just a big hole in the roof. The house looked so ghetto, with gutters and siding still hanging down, big glamorous blue tarp, and that corner of the house now strangely naked and exposed. I called our landlord on Friday afternoon, asking about progress, and didn't hear back from him all week, after he said he knew nothing and would check in with the insurance agent. This morning I was getting dressed and Austin was in the shower when we heard footsteps on the roof. Oh. I guess the contractors are here.

Now it's after lunch, and I'm still holed up in the living room with the dogs. That's my main responsibility today: as Dad says, Ingrid eats contractors. I'm glad I'm not really trying to work from home (nothing too pressing going on over there) because the cacophony of saws, hammers, shouting and banging is distracting. To me at least. The dogs, remarkably, don't mind in the least, and have been sleeping happily, sprawled out on various pieces of furniture. I haven't been told how long this will last, only that the damage was not as bad as they thought, no broken rafters. From what I can tell, we're getting a new roof. I'm not sure what's happening with the siding yet.

Oh, you're waiting for the punchline? Well, actually, here's the joke: Thursday the 18th of October, Austin finished giving Richie all the information he needed to apply for a mortgage. We've been talking for over a year about buying this house from our landlord (who has already said he would sell it to us), and we finally started to move forward last month. We were waiting to get more information as far as mortgage costs and home inspections, but then a big tree fell down and set us waaaay back. Now what? Assuming the contractors don't turn up some structural skeletons in the closet, it's still the same house, right? I mean, sans one shade tree. But what if the new roof puts the value of the house out of our price range (everyone I've put that question to has shut me down, saying that's a non-issue)? I guess, right now, I don't know how our plans might be changed. Maybe this won't affect them at all. But still, what are the odds? It makes me feel a tiny bit superstitious about it now... maybe every step we take towards signing a mortgage, something else is doing to fall down. Maybe we should just drop it and be commitmentphobe renters for life.

Oh, and because we live where we do, our neighbor Frank is out there right now, scavenging aluminum from the wreckage. Mama Snee has said it better than I have, but bless East Nashville for being a small town stuck in a big city with a wider range of characters than you would expect from either place.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

close call

I spent at least 74% of today reading Recaps of Gossip Girl episodes I've already seen on Television without Pity. I seriously am still laying on my stomach on the big brown couch reading the last one and Austin is already in bed which means I'm in charge of convincing the dogs to settle down for the night. I am a total waste of space.

We made pigs in a blanket (with big crescent rolls and andouille sausage and pepperjack cheese) for dinner. They were good but I could hardly finish one.

Last night was Book Club. I sort of don't want to talk about it too much because the awesomeness of it is something that could pale if everyone knew. We talk a lot, in book club, about how sorry we feel for everyone else on earth because they aren't members. The group is 17 girls strong now (although one important member is now located in Chicago and has to check in via email instead of in person, which of course makes me sad). 17 girls is maybe almost too many. Seriously. But we pile up in a different person's house every month, and bring mountains of food and gallons of wine, and legitimate, genuinely, enjoy each other's company. We don't talk about books THAT much, or at all, like last night. But we tell stories, catch up, just the basic girl bonding time that I've spent a lot of my life without (sister bonding time being something entirely different, but the best part is, my sisters are in book club too! So we get sister bonding time and girlie book club bonding time and really, I'm sure this whole thing has gotten too saccharine for words. Sorry).

I feel like I should have remarkably witty smartass things to say, since that's what I've been reading ALL DAY, but instead, I'm just going to call today's NaBloPoMo entry what it is: feeble. You know you love me. XOXO.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

violation

I mentioned the panel discussion I went to at the Country Music Hall of Fame on Saturday. It featured Scott Miller, Chris Knight (both singer-songwriters), William Gay and Silas House (both novelists), and was generally a discussion about music and writing and the places they meet. The writers were talking about how music influences their work, and the musicians were talking about literature and how it inspires them. It was a really great experience. They all played songs or read excerpts, and it was a great pairing of Southern artists who share some history in different ways. William Gay read part of a biographical essay he'd written about Bob Dylan, and it was touching and funny and a beautiful depiction of an era I can only imagine.

They also took questions from the audience. Someone asked, when they write about people they know, do they ask those people for permission first? And Chris Knight answered that none of the people he writes about would recognize themselves. They all talked a little about how much of their real lives they are willing to reveal, and Scott quoted someone else (I should look it up): "Reality don't rhyme." He says you write about what you know, but you take poetic license in transferring it to song (or words).

This weekend I read Which Brings Me to You, by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott. I really enjoyed it, it was a quick and slightly guilty read, a novel written in the format of a man and woman getting to know each other through letters. The letters were "confessions," mostly of the sexual/relationship variety. Pretty intense, a little bit graphic, and very detailed in truth. And I know it is fiction, but I'm also guessing that a lot of this book is based in real life, on real experiences, on real people from these authors' lives.

When I'm reading good fiction, I usually end up mimicking the language and style (unintentionally) in my subsequent writing. Just like when you talk to someone from Minnesota and find yourself saying, "Ya! I knoooo!" So the things I've been thinking about writing this week have been rather confessional in nature. I think about what I would say if I were to write an essay about the first heart that I broke, or the first time I cheated. I wonder if I have the right to write about those things, who I could hurt by going there, the men who I was dating at those times, or my Mom, who probably doesn't want to hear about it. There are a lot of things I think I can't write because I don't want my mom to read them. Truths about our family, or about things I've done that I regret. And those are the things that, I think, I write about the best. Do you know what I mean? That is the creative gray area where I find it easiest to use my own language, my own style.

My mom is a really private person. There are aspects of her past that are locked up in a box, and that has always fascinated me, because I know I'm just not, naturally, that way. I wrote once about that feature that I share with my father, the "artist's death wish to rip open our ribs and show the world our blackened, smoke-spun entrails" (I was in college when I wrote that, I was a little wordy). I very rarely keep secrets, particularly not my own, and I'm not shy about discussing personal details. My father, as we all know, will always say the thing he shouldn't have said. The thing that makes you say, "I really wish I did NOT know that, Dad." And it's mostly humorous, he's a quirky guy, and an amazing writer, and brave in the way only writers are.

I guess my point is this: what should I allow myself to say, out loud, to the world? Should I be more aware of private information, of other peoples' lives? Should I say the bold thing and stand up for it later? Should I start the anthropological self-study that I have always threatened, to start picking apart the web of similarities and differences between my sisters and me, how we ended up the way we are? I think they probably don't want me to do that. It's against my nature to be secretive, but that isn't the same thing, is it? Secrets and discretion, not the same. Privacy and hiding, not the same. That's what I remember about my childhood; we lived in privacy, we were not hiding. There was no avoidance. Just effort withheld? I wonder what I really mean here.

Many members of the blogosphere put a lot of effort into privacy, maintaining their anonymity and that of those around them. They use initials or nicknames, they don't put their own name in their URL (!), they don't post photos. And I understand why they don't, but I've just sort of not felt the need. You people know who I am, right? I'm not keeping any secrets, that's what I tell myself. I use my family's real names, I provide pictures of my home, I use details from my real life that aren't that hard to find. And now, today, I sort of wish I didn't. I'm realizing that there are probably people out there, in the big bad world, who I don't want to know where I live. Who I want to pretend are just not out there. My Myspace profile isn't private, I've put links on blogspot to my online photo albums, I hope I never have to regret this. Today I'm on the fence.

The best writing that I've done in my life, the writing that has made me want to not move away from that aspect of myself, has all been, to a word, biographical. I'm not a fiction writer, and when I tried, I just wrote the truth. But what have I done in my life to justify a biography, a memoir? I'm only 30. I'm not famous, or accomplished, or well-traveled, or particularly interesting in any of my experiences. All that I'm doing is journaling, documenting, observing. We live in an era where everyone keeps diaries again, and anyone can read them. I used to write lies in my diary when I was a little girl, tall tales about boys I had kissed or money I had found, and then be certain to leave the diary where my sisters would find it, and tell myself that they were secretly in awe of my wild, false accomplishments.

Now I'm blogging, and I'm doing this NaBloPoMo thing, and as with writing classes in school, the writing is there for me now, more and more every day, the words and the ideas are more accessible if I keep them towards the surface, need them daily. I'm trying to find the right place for them, the right use, to press the righteous truth to the forefront, and not fall back into the show-off little girl, with her lies and manipulative placements. But I also don't want to betray anyone with a truth that is theirs to hide, and I don't want to later wish that I was in hiding and safe behind a nickname, safe from anyone who would misuse my personal life, or misconstrue my habit of sharing with a desire to be shared.

It's dark outside, and I'm still at work, and I've got to run home and scoop up my dog and take her to puppy class and then rush to Book Club, for the best of Girl Time. I'm not sure that I have even said what I mean here today, but I'm glad that I'll have the chance, tomorrow and the next day, to keep looking for it. Thanks for letting me do that with you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

hog rally

Yesterday we drove out to Dad's and picked up the Big Dogs. Dad and Lynn are heading to Florida for the Frank Brown Songwriters Festival for a couple of weeks, so Ingrid and Bridgette are coming to stay with us. This is probably just temporary. We've talked about bringing them home to stay, that was the idea, just banishing them for the summer, and we were hoping that Mischa would benefit from having canine company. But Dad's really in love with Ingrid, moreso all the time, and Leiper's Fork is a lot more her speed than the East side. So it seems more likely that we've just got a couple of four-legged houseguests until Thanksgiving.

The car ride home from Dad's was pretty chaotic at first. I forgot that Ingrid will hang her head out the window if you open it for her (Mischa doesn't do that). Otherwise, Ingrid would rather drive. We got home to much rejoicing. Mischa loves other dogs, especially when they come to her house. Bridgette and Mischa have spent most of the last two days with each others' heads in their mouths.

I didn't make it home from work today in time to get them all inside before the rain. By the time I opened the back door for them they were three solid puddles of hysterics. I think it was the first time Mischa has ever been outside during a thunderstorm (because she is absurdly spoiled). It took three beach towels (one and one half for Ingrid) to get them down to just rather damp, but everybody has settled in nicely and right now there are three snoring, gassy dogs in the floor.

So, sure, there are too many animals in our house right now. But everybody is having a great time, and Mischa seems especially well-adjusted right now. She still spends some time on the couch cuddling with us, but right now she has her head leaning on Ingrid's back. It's a lot of sweetness.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

so far...

I forgot to mention that we ate lunch at Judge Bean's yesterday. And it was great. The fries were hand-cut and especially good, and the beef brisket was probably the best I've ever had. It was a nice treat. And then dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Nolensville Rd (a what? on where? crazy!) with Megan and Ryan, and then back home to admire the Challenge the Zodiac board game I got at Goodwill for $2.

It is remarkable. It's clearly a prototype, complete with promotional brochure inside the box (that's sure to sell a lot of product). The object of the game is to "increase your knowledge of the planetary system and obtain as many Earth Symbols as possible." You have game pieces (the aforementioned Earth Symbols and also Planet Symbols, which look, of course, like rocket ships) and you roll dice and move around the board, similar to Monopoly, and depending on which square you land on, you have either a Sun Card or Planet Card read to you. The cards have descriptions of either planetary influences or personality traits, and you have to guess which planet or sign is being described. The descriptions are very long:

Emotional, romantic, sweetest sign of the Zodiac. This sign is definitely not a leader but a follower. Needs strong discipline and positive thinking. Like their opposite sign, they must beware of alcohol and drugs. Very sympathetic. Highly sensual. Very vulnerable; hard to get to know because they hardly know themselves. Attention seekers. Loyal, unselfish and generous. Best partner: Water and Earth signs. What sign am I?

The correct answer is, of course, Pisces, yours truly. There is another card that informs me that my Quality is Mutable and my most likable trait is Compassion. Oh, and my key words are "I believe." The best part is the section of the Rules detailing the end of the game: "Play may continue until all the Earth symbols are dispersed. Or, the game may be terminated at any time upon players discretion."* They can't even pretend that you are going to want to see this game through to its completion.

I hate that Austin's scanner is not working because I REALLY want to scan in the promotional brochure for this product and share it with you. Honestly, I don't know how any of us have had a single successful party without this game. Here's the kicker: this was NOT the only copy of this game at Goodwill. I bought it because there was an entire endcap display of at least 30 copies of Challenge the Zodiac, still wrapped in plastic. I can only assume that the inventor (one Patti Rockburn, who is photographed in all her big-haired, acid-washed denim-with-leather-fringe glory in the brochure) went bankrupt and donated her assets to Goodwill for the tax break. Which, of course, makes me a little sad. Because I'm very sympathetic. Patti, she said so herself.

*All punctuation, grammar, subject-verb agreement and shifting tense errors are courtesy of the inventor, not me. I copied this out word for word.

P.S. I am thrilled to announce that Challenge the Zodiac is available on Amazon for a mere $7.99. What a steal off the original asking price of $29.95! So if you have already rushed out to the Berry Hill Goodwill and were crushed to learn that their stock of the game has already been depleted, breathe easier knowing that Amazon has your heart's desire plus shipping and handling.

P.P.S. Austin made chili tonight, and it was delicious. As always.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Halloween Ghost(dog) Story

So Halloween night, Austin and I pulled together our costumes (he was a mime, I was a buttery nipple shot). We left the house around 8, with the intention of going to Carmen's house for the costume party and eventually moving on to the 5 Points Pub Crawl. We were running a little bit late, but it was ok. We put Mischa in the back yard, kicked the cats out of the front room, set the alarm, drove away from the house, heading down 19th towards Holly.

I was wearing false eyelashes, which maybe diminish my eyesight a little bit. I saw something moving in the road, and said, "Is there an animal ahead of us?" I realize it's a dog, and it's running down the street in the same direction we're driving. I see a pink collar, a familiar shape of brown backside, black body. I said, "Austin, oh my God. It's Mischa."

Austin leaped out of the car, I drove slowly down the street, calling for her, freaking out. Austin was running full strength down 19th (in mime makeup, striped shirt, beret, dress shoes). At different points we were both running, both driving, calling the whole time. We saw the dog run behind someone's house and almost had her cornered, and then she took off again through another backyard. By this time we were at the corner of 20th and Holly, which dead-ends into the golf course. And we couldn't see any movement, for about 15 minutes we just rode in circles, trying to shine the headlights into the park, driving around calling out the window. And I was thinking, We have lost our dog. She's gone. She's not even going to know how to come back. We spent all this time falling in love with this dog and she's gone. How are we going to go to sleep tonight? I kept saying, "I can't believe this. I just can't believe this." Like a mantra.

After we'd been searching for about a half hour, I said,"Let's go back to the house and get a flashlight and come back and retrace our steps." We drove home, pulled up next to the house, and there is a familiar nose peeking out of the chain link fence of the backyard. Mischa is at home, where she belongs. And apparently has been the whole time.

We just sat there in the car staring at her through the fence. I could have cheerfully strangled her, and she hadn't even done anything wrong. Apparently we've been harassing some stranger's dog all over Shelby Bottoms. Austin says, now, after the fact, that he knows it wasn't her. I still feel like maybe it was. Maybe she jumped the fence, let us give chase, then doubled back and headed home and someone (who read our address on her collar) dropped her back in the yard while we were still driving in circles. I know that is unlikely. But I stood within 6 feet of that dog in someone's front yard and I swear I would have known if it wasn't Mischa. This dog had the same markings, the same ears, the same sleek shininess, the same PINK COLLAR. And the same extremely annoying habit of letting you get near to her and then taking off again right as you grab for her collar.

So we locked Mischa up inside (just to be safe) and headed to Carmen's. By then the party was in full boozy swing, and it took me forever to calm down, to get my head out of the near-disaster it turns out we just WEREN'T in. Austin's eye makeup was smeared from running. After a while I settled in, and the party (and subsequent adventures) was a lot of fun. I was a buttery nipple shot because my other girlfriends were also shots: Shannon was a White Russian, Megan a Purple Hooter Shooter, Carmen a Redheaded Hooker, Leia was Sex on the Beach. I posted the link to pictures yesterday. Austin was a killer mime, while Chris Grainger might have been my favorite costume of the night (a redneck football coach or something, but it was just so NOT Chris, it didn't look anything like him, it was very bizarre to look at his face and realize it was him).

We walked to Rumours East and then to 3 Crow, which was such a mob scene it took ten minutes to get from the front door to the back. I bailed after that, headed over to Mercy Lounge to see Trent play a showcase for Americana Music Week. That was a great show, high energy, much hilarity from Supe and Mike Webb in (sort-of) costumes. I was getting body glitter on everyone I hugged, I hope I didn't get any married men in trouble. Home and in bed by 12:30. Very successful Halloween, after all, and I'm really glad Mischa was in her bed at the end of the night, even if maybe there was no chance that she wouldn't be.

Oh, and remember me saying that it wasn't long before she decided she should sleep in our bed with us? Yeah, not long at all. That was last night, and it took an extended negotiation session to settle her back in her spot in front of my closet. Austin got up with her about 7:30 this morning, and at some point between then and 9:30 (when I woke up), she came back and slept with me. It was sort of nice.

I'm getting into this NaBloPoMo challenge. When have I ever promised you I'd talk about something and then actually DID? I'm probably not going to bother discussing the pumpkin patch/orchard trip, since I shared some cute pics from there and that is sort of all I wanted to address about it. But I have lots more I want to discuss now, thoughts I jotted down during a panel discussion at the Country Music Hall of Fame today (featuring Scott Miller, my favorite) about musicians and writers and the creative process and inspiration.

Happy 87th birthday to Mary Frances Jansen, my maternal grandmother, my abuelita. I miss you, Grandma.