Monday, January 31, 2011

It's all downhill from here!

My husband just got the call. No work tomorrow. First snow day in, well, ever. This means one of two things: 1) The "Blizzard of Oz" won't materialize, after all, or 2) Our marriage will be put to the test in the next 24 - 48 hours, especially (perish the thought!) if we lose power.

A blizzard of Brussel sprouts

 
There's nothing like an official, good ol' fashioned blizzard warning to get the culinary juices flowing.  A well-timed Costco run and supplementary trip to the grocery store mean we'll be slurping hot, heart-warming soups until this "colossal event" is over on Wednesday. Here's what we're having tonight: a creamy soup made from my favorite vegetable and curry, my favorite spice. The most difficult thing about this recipe is quartering the little sprouts.

"In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)"

I didn't know what to expect from The Unicorn Theatre's production (Kansas City) about, well, let me quote the play's synopsis verbatim:
'Set at the dawn of the age of electricity in a well-to-do 1880s Victorian home, proper gentleman and scientist Dr. Givings has innocently invented an extraordinary device for treating “hysteria” in women (and, occasionally, men): the vibrator. His young wife tends to their newborn daughter and wonders exactly what is going on in the next room. This 2010 Tony Nominee for Best Play is based on actual bizarre history.'
But, it was brilliant. Funny, poignant and thought-provoking on so many counts. Highly recommended.

That new internet thing...

This hilarious clip - from the Today show, circa 1994 - is reportedly making the rounds. It reminds us how complicated this newfangled World Wide Web really was, once upon a time:

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody"

It takes a lot of arm-twisting (and, on average, three beers) for me to get my old man on the dance floor. Fortunately, Irv (with his partner, Patricia) have fewer inhibitions and, apparently, a routine, well-practiced on the casino dance floor. Bravo, kids!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy birthday, Kansas!

    Here's wishing my beloved Sunflower State a happy 150th birthday. "Ad astra per aspera" means "to the stars through difficulties," a good motto for any state to have these days.  And one the KU Jayhawks can apply in tonight's all-important clash with cross-state rivals, Kansas State.
  Me? I'll be breaking bread with my new step-family, meeting the kids and grandchildren of my mother's new husband-to-be. I hope we all make a good impression while we're screaming at the TV.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

I saw this video this morning and thought about how difficult it was to get my kids to practice piano in their youth.  See kids?! If you'd only followed the rules, you could be a YouTube sensation today!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A bittersweet trip down Memory Lane

Inspired by last week's road trip to see a couple of college pals, I dug out what I could find of my photos from that era - specifically, my one-year stint in the sorority where I met them. Looking at this 1975 rush picture (that's me, top row/far right), I was struck by how casual - and happy - we all were, and how window treatments have vastly improved in 35 years. The other things that struck me were rather depressing - including the devastating effects of gravity - so I just won't mention them.

A banner book day!

   Yesterday, not one, but three fabulous books - review copies all - were delivered to my door.  (I love it when that happens!) The first was so heavy, the UPS guy was struggling under its weight, his little legs wobbling as he knocked on my door. It was (drum roll, please) Bon Appetit Desserts edited by Barbara Fairchild (Andrews McMeel Publishing), weighing in at a whopping 6.2 pounds, according to my bathroom scale. This tantalizing tome is packed with taste bud pleasing recipes, culled from the archives of Bon Appetit magazine for the last 50 years. While my current moratorium on sugar prevents me from trying them right now, I can literally get a sugar rush from reading titles like "Red Wine and Pear Brioche Tart," "White Pepper Creme Brulee with Fig and Prune Compote" and "California Walnut Pie with Orange and Cinnamon." The book is going for a great rate on Amazon right now and the price includes a year's subscription to the magazine.  Check it out!
   I love the spirit behind "The Good Neighbor Cookbook" by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg, featuring 125 easy and tasty recipes to "surprise and satisfy new moms, new neighbors, recuperating friends, book club cohorts and block party pals in your life." It even contains a section on foods for condolences and community meetings, and instructions on how to organize meal trains and block parties. I can't wait to take "Chipotle-Pineapple Guacamole" to the next neighborhood 4th of July picnic!
   The third book is about how to get more sleep. I'll report on that, as soon as I see if it works.

Monday, January 24, 2011

R.I.P., Jack LaLanne

Before Jane Fonda. Before Richard Simmons, Jackie Warner and those "Biggest Loser" trainers, there was Jack LaLanne. Who among my fellow boomers doesn't remember that belted jumpsuit, that taut face and bright smile, and wavy head of hair? I found this vintage shot of Jack, who died yesterday from pneumonia at 96, in front of a list, presumably, of "bad for you" foods.
Clearly, Jack was hip to the dangers of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. I hereby dedicate this new week of eating sugar-free and exercising daily to the "godfather of fitness." Let's hope he finds a good gym in the great beyond. (Wow. What if heaven turns out to be one big health club? Wouldn't that be a fine how do you do?)

Recipe on request

A reader recently asked me to print the recipe (complete with measurements, imagine!) for my addictive breakfast smoothie. Here it is, per individual serving (since I make them in one of those Magic Bullet-type one-serving blenders):
1/2 cup berries - fresh or frozen that's been thawed for a few minutes in a cup of warm water
1/2 cup Greek yogurt - regular or low-fat
1 T lemon-infused olive oil
1 T blueberry-infused Balsamic vinegar
1/2 packet stevia (sugar or other sweetener to taste)
4 cubes ice
1/8 - 1/4 cup cold water
Blend until smooth.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Busted!

Some dogs like to chew shoes. Others, socks. Mine can't resist a tasty box of tissues, especially Puffs Plus (must be the added lotion.) Needless to say, every day of my head cold from hell has been heaven for Lucy. Except when she gets caught in the act. Then, it's pooch purgatory.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Full steam ahead!

I'm fortunate to have a Steamist steam shower in my bathroom but, for some reason, I've rarely used it. Then, this nasty cold hit and now and I'm all about the steam, baby! Two steams a day with eucalyptus oil, regular doses of Zicam, and gallons of Lemon Zinger tea seem to be keeping my misery to a manageable level.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

50 years ago today

"So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate....
 "Ask not what America can do for you, but what America can do for the freedom of man....
  "With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."
- President John F. Kennedy
  January 20, 1961.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home, just in the nick

Returned from the trip just as the first flurries from a whopper snow storm began to fall. The bad news: I came down with the mother of all head colds yesterday. The good news: It didn't diminish the fun I had with my college pals. We are now officially "caught up" and, as seems to happen whenever I stay at a friend's home, I've returned with ideas of projects to try and products to buy.

In the products department, Thieves foaming hand soap is a must-purchase. I'd never heard of it but, as soon as I tried it, I was in love. Great scent, great feel, and you don't have to slather your hands with lotion right after you use it!
 Our hostess, a newly-retired art teacher and one of the most creative people I know, presented me with this needle-felted pillow she made (sheesh....and all I gave her was a bottle of wine). It's fabiosity has inspired me to start some kind of craft project as the snow falls outside my window. I can be crafty, you know. Maybe I'll make a collage from all my used Kleenex. Hey, it worked for the lint lady.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Road trip!

I've decided the way to survive always-depressing January is to keep moving.  That's why my college pal from Brownsville, Texas, and I are headed to see another college pal in the Ozarks. Nixa, Missouri, to be exact, which is dangerously close to those Branson outlet malls. It won't be quite the adventure Thelma and Louise had, but if we can raise fifteen minutes of hell, I'll be satisfied.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm a tartler who loves to cafune'

and I've never tingoed. Want to know what I just said?  Check out this list of 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World. (I love stuff like this.)

Humiliation, but at what price?

My column today was inspired by the previously mentioned changes to our insurance policy.  It reminds me that maybe we ought to play a practical joke on my future stepfather... a little initiation-into-the-family prank, if you will.  But, at 82 (or, heck, even at 55), there really shouldn't be any jump-out-of-the-closet surprises.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Love, happiness and pork tenderloin.

Dinner with Mom and her fiance' couldn't have gone more swimmingly. The wedding date is set for April 2nd and - despite the fact that it's the same night of the NCAA basketball tourney's semi-final (yikes!!)  - we really couldn't be happier.  Love him. Love her with him. Love the whole "second time around" storyline.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Oh my dog, this is hilarious.

Before and after

All four bar stools (the old walnut tree) are finished and upholstered, 24 hours before my future stepfather (yep, 'still freaky to say) arrives for an intimate dinner party.  At last, I have the "after" photo I've been dying to post...
'Lest you've forgotten what the "before" looked like (I've had a hard time remembering myself), here it is...
You know, it wasn't that horrible. 'Just a little cramped and decidedly "80's." We had good times in that kitchen, many of them with my dad. I've no doubt we'll have good times in the new kitchen with my stepdad. That's the thing about time. It marches on. Good weekend, everyone. Cheers!

Giving it up for lint

I'm lucky if I remember to clean my dryer's lint trap every other time I do laundry.  (I'm even luckier the house hasn't burned to the ground.) Maybe what I need is a project to remind me to de-lint.  Like this one getting fifteen minutes of fame - and a spot in Ripley's museum - created by a woman in Michigan who had an inspiration and, obviously, a lot of time on her hands.

Falling on ice. Never a good look.

I don't know if anyone saw me slip and fall on the ice this morning, but it had to have been a high-larious  moment of slapstick. My aching knee cap? Not so funny. Time to add some "sensible shoes" to my wardrobe:
Yaktrax.  At $19.99, they're much cheaper than a visit to the E.R.  And they look kind of cool, too!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm an Ophiuchus, not a Sagitarrius?!

It's bad enough I just turned 55. Now, thanks to the ancient Babylonians, my Zodiac sign has shifted along with the earth's axis. What the what?!?  And where am I going to find my daily horoscope...on Ophiuchus.com? This is most unsettling.  I was a textbook Sag. But, it does explain some issues I'm having with certain people lately.

Mm-mm-smoothie!

It seems counter-intuitive, but my go-to breakfast on these frigid mornings is an icy cold smoothie made from frozen mixed berries, Greek low-fat yogurt, a sprinkle of Stevia and - my secret ingredients - lemon-infused olive oil and blueberry Balsamic vinegar from The Tasteful Olive.  I've been playing around with different oil and vinegar combos for salad dressings (my favorite being walnut oil with cinnamon pear vinegar), but I never thought to put them in a smoothie until this week. Eureka! Exponential flavor!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wedding bell news!

The secret's finally out: There's going to be a wedding in the family.  No, not my 29-year-old son.  Not my 25-year-old daughter.  Mom's the bride-to-be!  That's right.  My mother, 77,  is tying the knot with her 82-year-old beau, a union which will undoubtedly last longer than 84-year-old Hef's marriage to Crystal Harris, 24. 
The date hasn't been set but, as Mom told her priest, "We're 77 and 82. Tempus fugit!" Meanwhile, I'm planning the bachelorette party. We can't do Vegas, but you can bet we'll be putting Mom in a makeshift bridal veil and taking her out on the town. Where's a Chippendales show when you need one?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Holy six-pack!


And, now - with thanks to my friend, Anne - the next big thing from "Britain's Got Talent."  Amazement at the fantastic physical feats aside, my favorite part is that they didn't use some Lady GaGa or Justin Bieber soundtrack for their routine.  Bravo!!

Humiliated? Not in our house, you don't.

The hubs, who has elected to do paperwork during our snow-in (thank God), summoned me to his office where he delivered the bad news, via our insurance company:  Our personal umbrella liability policy will no longer cover "humiliation" as a personal injury.  To repeat, humiliation is no longer a covered loss. (True story.) "Keep that in mind, dear," he said. Thank God no one sued us after I forced everyone to play "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" on New Year's Eve.

Snow day: Marital blessing or curse?!?

"It snowed!" I cried, looking out of my window this morning. "No commute for you!" My husband stared at the Weather Channel radar, an ominous look on his face.  "Not necessarily," he said.  After an entire weekend of hanging out with me "doing nothing" (meaning going to brunch, shopping, watching sports in front of the fire, and NOT working on some kitchen-related project), he's clearly anxious to fly the coop. How anxious? I don't know yet. But, if you don't hear from me in a couple days, send the cops. Sometimes, cabin fever doesn't end well....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back in the saddle again, sort of.

After two months and a fair bit of negotiation (not to mention, soul-searching, on my part) my column returned to the newspaper today. It will appear bimonthly, providing me with the creative/therapeutic outlet I've enjoyed for five years, as well as a little freelance income.  It's all good.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Most of us are somewhere in the middle."


Godspeed and prayers to Congresswoman Giffords on her long, uphill recovery from yet another violent tragedy in America. The centrist Democrat - and gun owner, by the way - sure seems to make a lot of sense in this MSNBC interview.  But, I guess that's the point, isn't it?  The reprehensible act that took place today was beyond senseless.  How does a 22-year-old get that screwed up and indoctrinated?

What's up with Oregon?

Yesterday, I had my last session with my magical massage therapist who is moving to Eugene, Oregon.  I told her my son is saving to move to Bend (OR) as soon as possible.  When I got home, all relaxed and wet-noodley, I discovered my daughter may be heading to Portland to try and find a job.  What's with everybody suddenly migrating to the Big O? Is Oregon the new black? And, do I need to go there, too?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Belly up to the bar. It's easier.

Sheesh. Upholstering bar stools is harder than we thought. But, the prototype looks pretty, doesn't it?  We've got to improve our corners on the next three but we're getting there. And the walnut is dreamy.

Touch and be touched

I'm touch-y, not to be confused with touchy or touched (although some close to me might vehemently disagree.)  I'm just one of those touch-y/feel-y gals.  I tend to paw people I like when I talk to them.  And I pet the people I love a LOT.  I'm a hugger, a hand-holder, a tummy-rubbing, put-my-feet-on-your-lap cozy-upper.  What can I say? I like bodily contact. This makes some people uncomfortable, I'm sure.  That's why I wish they'd read this piece about the health benefits of touching.  Did I mention I'm getting a massage tomorrow!?  It was a Christmas present from the family. You suppose that means they're sick of all my touching?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bar stools and backsplash tile

The finishing touches on the kitchen are finally (almost) in place.  The tiles for the bar came in yesterday and they look great, reminding me of our trip to Santa Barbara two years ago.
The tiles prompted a trip to the fabric store (always a narcolepsy-inducing experience, for some reason) where I managed to stay awake long enough to find this fabric - at 40% off - to cover the bar stool seats:
I think they'll look great together.  Now, all I've got to do is find my staple gun, cut and cover, and we'll be sitting in style.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jane Fonda: Still kickin' after all these years

    Ah, the first Monday of a new year -- a day rife with good intentions and positive energy.  I felt so well-intended and positive this morning, I not only hit the gym, but came home and gave my review copies of Jane Fonda's new fitness DVD's - "Jane Fonda Prime Time" - a test spin in the living room.
   My first impressions? Well, Jane looks damn good.  (She's 72, you know!) And while she's admitted to having considerable work done on her face and neck, her body is still slammin'.  I first worked out with Jane in the early 80's, via her record album, after my son was born. I still have my copy, believe it or not.
The moves in Jane's newest offering are ramped down for an older audience, but the routines will get your heart rate up, and provide a good workout for people who haven't exercised much lately.  My main complaint is the Muzak-esque soundtrack. While "Jane Fonda's Workout Record" of 1981 featured hits by The Jacksons, Boz Scaggs and REO Speedwagon, the 2010 DVD is like shaking your groove thing to elevator music. For that reason, I doubt I'll spend much time sweating with Jane this year, unless I decide to put that old record album on the turntable.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I feel just like a grown-up!

 It took 55 years, but I finally have a honest-to-goodness bar for entertaining.  The hubs/carpenter fashioned the piece from walnut salvaged from an old tree in our front yard and scrap copper sheeting, and installed it just in time for our annual NY's Eve dinner party.  While we haven't yet put in the hammered copper sink or Mexican tile back splash, it accomplished exactly what I wanted:
It kept my guests on the other side of the kitchen, out of my precious cooking space, unlike the old shoulder-to-shoulder days.
All in all, the evening was a success, my throbbing headache and mysterious blister on the tip of my tongue (huh?) notwithstanding. The girls even performed a little Martha and the Vandellas. This is the only photo I will reveal since, in the rest of them, I have my mouth open like some kind of codfish.
Even Lucy the party dog got into the act. 
Happy 2011, everyone.  I'm going back to bed.