Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sensory Overload

Ok, if your Thanksgiving was anything like ours, chances are you're still full. Speaking of which, chances are if you hit the 'Next Blog' link at the top of this page, you'll land on something Thanksgiving-related, so I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say, for the eight of us, we had approximately 70 pounds of food (pre-cooked weight... seriously, I figured it out) which is close to the weight of both of my kids combined... or say, my two dogs and my son... or half of my wife.... or 266.667 Loverboy albums (on vinyl, without the jacket), which are enough Loverboy albums to burn one every weekday for an entire year, if I took off a few holidays.... that'll 'Turn You Loose' you son of a bitch, and your leather pants too.
Sorry about that. Little pent-up hair-band anger.
...and yes, I did indeed get up at four in the morning to go shopping for one of those 'doorbuster' day after Thanksgiving sales. I'm finally one of those people, mock me if you must, laugh if you want to cause chances are I won't be able to hear you while I'm sitting in front of my big-ass new plasma TV I got at four in the morning for less than half price. So there.
We spent the rest of our long holiday weekend doing goofy weekend stuff. Sam had his first playdate with someone from his class, we spent some time at the park and the library, watched a few movies - and the coolest bit of all, took the 'Santa Train' into the city. For those of you who aren't on the SEPTA R5 line, the Santa train is a once a year ride that takes you from the suburbs into Philly on a regular commuter train all decked out with Christmas decorations, roving elves making balloon animals, and a three piece band complete with a tuba roaming up and down the aisles (I only mention that because it is really funny watching a guy playing a tuba trying to walk up and down the aisles of a train filled with kids and balloons while playing an enormous tuba). I have to admit, after getting up at four in the morning, I wasn't really looking forward to a train ride into the city with the kids. Once we got on the train though, I had a really good time. Big goody bags kept the kids occupied, and everyone singing and laughing every time the tuba got stuck on a luggage rack made for a pretty cool ride... I was almost jolly.
One thing we discovered over the weekend - both of the kids are bad at times, but there is one little difference. Most of the time, both of the kids are pretty well behaved. When Sam has his moments, he is bad because he is in a crappy mood and lets you know it... but when Lily is bad, she is just so damn funny it's hard not to laugh at her. Trouble, I tell ya, we're in for trouble.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Frankenstein, the Butterfly Princess, and the Cephalopod



Ok, so lets see... barrels of stuff has happened since last I blogged. Am I going to tell you about it? No. No I'm not. Why, you ask? Well, for one, I don't have that much time on my hands... and two, most of it just isn't funny.
We did have a pretty freakin cool Halloween though. I have to tell you, I love Halloween. Loved it when I was a kid just for pure candy sake, but now it's even better. The kids are hysterical to watch (we had two different Halloween parades to go to, and a Halloween party before we even got to the trick-or-treating part) and I still get candy out of the deal. Neither of them like nuts, so during the mass candy sorting at the end of the night, Sara and I will go through the pile and pick out anything nutty - including the supreme ruler of all candies, the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. My secret plan is to never EVER let them have one until they move out of the house... that way, they won't realize the pure majesty of the Cup until long after they can't take them out of my secret Cup stash. In case you haven't gotten it yet, I really love those things. Some candies come close, but the Cup has no equal... I've actually written in my will that before I am buried I would like to be encased in sweet peanut butter, and sealed with a thin layer of chocolate complete with those sharp little ridgy edges. To sum up, Halloween - hysterical. The Reese's Peanut Butter Cup - delicious.
Oh, yeah, I was so consumed in the Cup I forgot to actually write about Halloween. Since my sister wrote a total of FIVE blog posts about Halloween (yes, you read that right - 5) I don't actually think I can capture the magic like she did, so I'll just tell you - Sam was Frankenstein, complete with neck bolts... Lily was not a butterfly, not a princess, but a Butterfly Princess, which apparently makes me a Monarch. (ha! I've been waiting years to use a sovereign ruler / butterfly joke...) Sara had a big egg costume, and I had a bacon suit (I've also been waiting years to dress up as bacon) Good times...
Jump forward a couple of weeks, and you know what occurred to me this morning? Don't really care what you do, my job is occasionally better than yours. Why you ask? This morning I spent about half an hour cleaning octopi.... sweet. Writing it, sounds a bit odd, but really, if I'm ever in a bad mood, throw a pile of octopus at me and it'll fix everything. Love em... almost as much as the Cup... really. It's therapeutic, cleaning the 'pus. Plus, I get to pick at them after they've been cooking for a while, right when they're perfect... right when the water turns to a dusty rose, and the tentacles that for a while curled up as fierce as they were when they were alive start to relax... mmmmm... lovely.
Oh, and a little bonus photo, a shot of the kids walking ahead of me in the mall.... flippin' adorable...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

All Things Culinary (sort of)

Sorry it's been so long since we've spoken, some times I just need an extra 25th blog hour in the day. Not a whole heckofa lot to report here, just repeating the daily grind over and over. Do have some some cool foodie notes though - for one, I bought a few new knives for work. A Global Slicer and Global Bird's Beak, which are really nice and just glide through anything they touch. Although they look pretty cool, they aren't my favorite knives. Work great, very light, look funky... but don't fit my hand as nicely as the old Wusthof. On the other hand, I bought a Chroma Type 301 10" Chef's Knife and Chroma 301 Filet Knife... and let me tell you, I'm in heaven. Really... drooling, wetting myself, heaven. Ordinarily, I wouldn't blog about something as boring to the rest of you as my knife purchases, but let me just say - holy shit. I actually try to think up dishes that have more stuff to prep just so I can use them more often. A few days ago I brushed the tip of my filet knife against my finger by accident, and didn't even know that I did it until I saw the blood pooling up on my steel table... awesome.... I'm so in love I'd sleep with them if they weren't so damn pointy.
Plus, I finally got around to sending in my membership dues to Slow Food USA yesterday. I'm what you might call an 'afterthought' member. Love the idea of it, and I really do want to be involved, but I join and then get swallowed up by life, and things like Slow Food just sort of hang around the edges of me... I found a Slow Food book at the library book sale a week or so ago, and walked back into our house where we are in the middle of curing some green olives, have a fridge of homemade jams and sauces, drink espresso from beans I roast myself, etc, etc... and I thought, "oh yeah... membership dues..." Anyway, inspired by foodie type stuff in general, I made some grilled frog legs with a jalapeno peach sauce to put on the salad bar at work today... which were lovely, but I got some evil looks from a group of third graders and their vegetarian teacher after my offhand "if I can catch it, I'm gonna eat it" remark. Plus I threw together some little almond tuille napoleons with cardamom cream and raspberries to snack on (don't get too excited, all of the bits and pieces were left over from some catering stuff - I didn't spend my morning constructing dessert instead of actually working).
And to top off a kickass day, while we were finishing up dinner tonight Sara taught Sam the words to Bob Marley's 'Three Little Birds' as it blasted out of iTunes while Lily danced to it in the background... and I thought to myself - man, if I could just bottle them up right now, give up everything else in life to keep them right here, right now, I would do it without a moment of hesitation. As long as I could bring my knives, of course... that goes without saying...



Friday, October 05, 2007

Stanley Kowalski, the Hippo's Balls, and a Cobra Pancake

We have two dogs, for those of you who don't know - Satchmo, a Boston Terrier that we got as a puppy 13 years ago; and Stella, and Jack Russell/Pug mix that we got as a puppy about a year ago. Satchmo was always pretty mellow, and has chilled out even more in the past few years. These days his primary responsibility is table-scrap-clean-up, and farting on my pillow when the situation calls for it. Stella, on the other hand, has decided that in addition to her regular dog-related responsibilities she will attempt to eat everything on the first floor... actually that's not really fair, she doesn't seem to have any taste for things like the DVD player, or my espresso machines, but everything else is fair game. She seems to have a real penchant for small plastic animals (leopards, in particular... I tried one, and must admit they have a nice smoked duck finish) but has an adventurous palate, and her gastronomic adventures have included our phone antenna, the filling from a couch cushion, a red Sharpie, a 1 liter seltzer bottle, and a chunk of the yellow pages from 'Contractors-General' to 'Landscaping', and most recently, about half of the little white balls included in Sam's Hungry Hungry Hippo game. Most of these indiscretions end up being sort of funny - she'll just eat the head or feet of something, or make it difficult to find a contractor - but the balls from the hippo game kind of suck. It's really not all that challenging to race like mad to get the majority of the eleven remaining balls, and most of the time is spent with hippo necks flailing wildly trying for the last two that aimlessly roll around the center depression. It is sort of funny to see a mangled hippo ball randomly find its way out of Stella when I'm walking her, but in case you were wondering, I'm not ambitious enough to clean and put them back into play... now if there was some sort of Kopi Luwak effect, and the game was somehow better after passing through her digestive tract, that would be a whole different story... I was thinking of spreading some peanut butter on some of our credit card bills and whatnot though, instead of putting them through the shredder... seems like a very energy conscious sort of thing to do... Plus, if someone really wanted to steal my identity bad enough to somehow piece together my social security number after Stella has digested them, they probably deserve my money more than I do.
Oh yeah, one little last bit of ridiculousness... Usually, on weekend mornings we have an absurdly large IHOPish type breakfast, which serves a few purposes - If we have pancakes, fruit, bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, bagels, and yogurt, for example - the kids will sit down and eat a long leisurely breakfast with us (which we never do otherwise), we have plenty of breakfast scraps left over that I can pick on during the week, and I get to mill around in the kitchen drinking espresso all morning while I cook without anyone bothering me. Plus, a secret little hobby of mine is pancake art... It started out pretty simply - a snowman pancake, and the occasional happy face made out of three little pancakes - but over time has become an obsession of mine. I can make almost any simple shape, and gotten pretty good at hammers, butterflies, writing the kids names, and even the occasional Taj Mahal. After a good deal of caffeine, I can even make a pretty decent Golden Gate Bridge, complete with traffic, jumpers, and Alcatraz in the background.
When I work on Friday or Saturday nights, things usually run pretty late, and I have the occasional catering gig that keeps me out till three in the morning or so. Anyway, a few weeks ago I was out pretty late, and Sara was nice enough to do the whole breakfast routine and let me sleep in. Unfortunately, Sam and Lily are a bit spoiled by my Richard-Estes-like pancake creations, and Sara was prodded into whipping a few designs out. When I came downstairs, I was presented with her crowning achievement, the jewel in her pancake tiara if you will... the trickiest of all the pancake animals - the elusive king cobra... and now, for some odd reason, every time I eat pancakes I feel a little dirty inside.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Safe at Home

For the first time in about 5 years, we actually went on a trip... just Sara and I... without the kids... the pauses are for dramatic effect, by the way... Really, five years. Everyone I tell this too seems shocked, but for the life of me I can't figure out why. Sam is four and a half, Lily two and a half, we don't have Michael Jackson throw-around money, and we just haven't been able to manage it. My parents came over on a Saturday afternoon and we quietly skulked out of the house, into the car, and drove to New Hope all the while praying our cell phones wouldn't ring. Thankfully, the kids didn't throw up or rob a bank, so we spent the weekend like a couple of giddy newlyweds - getting massages, going out to dinner, having drinks, staying up past nine, it was crazy. My nerves were pretty frayed before we left, and it turns out a couple of absolutely perfect days was all I needed to de-strung-out myself. I occurred to me as I was writing this, I don't think that I thanked my parents enough. We thanked them, of course, but if they had any idea how much I needed to go away, they could have asked for pretty much anything in return and would have gotten it. In the end, we thanked them... and they just took off when they could have even taken my firstborn in return ...
Right back into the swing of things though... and the last shimmering glow of relaxation from two weeks ago was swept away today after work. Had a crummy day in general - plus I have a cold whose only symptoms seem to be congestion and enlarging the section of my brain that controls 'grumpy'. Picked up the kids and felt a bit better even though Sam got in trouble at school, and then got a call on the way home from daycare from my friend Kathy...
Our friend at work has a daughter who is a doctor, newly married, who was in the Army still paying off medical school. A week and a half ago, she came down to the kitchen to tell me her daughter was shipping out to Iraq that day, and then on Wednesday she came down to tell me that she had finally gotten a phone call from her, and she was settling in and getting to work out there. Kathy called because today, right after I left, an army officer showed up to tell our friend that her daughter had just been killed. Gone, in ten days. Just like that.
She asked me to call two other people and tell them, and I had to sit down for a minute on the kitchen floor while the kids were watching TV to get myself together first. It was funny though, because I couldn't even get the words out. When I called, Kate was on her way to IKEA and laughing because her friend was lost, Jen was in the middle of teaching a piano lesson, and I just couldn't get my lips to make the words, like if I didn't say it, somehow it wasn't true.
Tonight all I see in Lily is someone else's daughter, like I'm watching a ghost. I keep thinking that there was a time when her daughter rubbed icing on her face like Lily did tonight, grabbed onto her leg like Lily grabs onto my leg when I'm trying to walk, and held her hand with the same gentle determination that Lily holds mine. Funny thing is, the thing that I see every night on the news affecting families all over the world has just lightly brushed by me, and still has shaken me to the core... today we're safe at home, and she is gone.
Just like that.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Nine Years, Give or Take...


Quite a crazy week, out here in suburbia... I started up at the school again, which was interesting... usually, the first week back is pretty cool, because it is just faculty and staff, so we're only cooking for about a hundred people, and can make whatever wacky things come to mind. As usual though, work is chock full of wonderful challenges (can you feel the gentle ooze of sarcasm?) and we were greeted with a kitchen minus a floor because of a mildew problem they discovered right before opening up for the year. Unfortunately, since I haven't perfected the ability to levitate, we had to quicklikearabbit roll a refrigerator into the hallway, a worktable into the storeroom, and gather up all the equipment we thought we might need and drag it out of the kitchen before they started working... and spent the whole week cooking like Anne Frank, hidden away in corners and storerooms. 'Course there weren't any Nazis, but we did get into the habit of whispering to each other, and I kept a diary that I think will still be as touching and relevant 50 years from now as it is today. One of the highlights of the week was a party that Kate and I catered on Tuesday night, it was a short notice thing for 100 people that we scraped together using one table, a grill, and a few microwaves. About 5 hours and a lot of cursing later we turned out filet mignon, citrus shrimp, eggplant parmesan, antipasto, chicken with marsala cream... and a handful of little appetizers. Good times... Oh, and on top of that it was our anniversary on Tuesday, so I left early in the morning, and didn't get home until Sara was already in bed, not exactly the most romantic moment in our nine years of marriage. Luckily, we found out on Wednesday that Tuesday wasn't actually our anniversary, Wednesday was. After a short discussion about why neither of us can ever remember whether it is the 28th or 29th (and a brief, scolding lecture from my sister who set us right on the date) we actually had nice anniversary after all...
Amidst all of the hustle and bustle around here, we've been doing a fairly decent job of keeping ourselves sane by running the kids ragged. For our long four day weekend we've been all over the map, and walked them to the point of exhaustion through the Tyler Arboretum yesterday. We saw some cool stuff - a butterfly house packed with caterpillars and butterflies; some cool trails and a meadow maze; and more frogs than you can shake a stick at... and best part of all was that everyone in the house slept like rocks afterwards.
Oh, on a totally unrelated note, Sam has started dressing himself. It's great, since we don't have to coax him into getting dressed in the morning, but he needs a bit of fashion advice. I certainly don't want to discourage him, but its hard to leave the house when he comes downstairs wearing Spiderman pants and a ruffled periwinkle tuxedo shirt. I have to admit it does add a little spice to our lives though... it's fun sitting downstairs in the morning waiting to see which one of the Village People the boy will come down looking like...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Party Like Rumspringa

Well, we're back... and aside from the ground-in Lancaster dirt on everything that we own, we made it back in one piece. Turns out that camping was a pretty cool trip for the kids, and they survived relatively well without modern conveniences for a couple of days. Of course, we left the campsite to take them to an amusement park right in the middle of the trip, so we did cheat a bit. As opposed to my sister Julie (who I'm pretty certain only takes along a blanket, flint, and 4 ounces of water for her whole family when they go camping on a sheer rock face of Mt Rainier... and now that I'm thinking of it, my sister Jeanne who would rather poke her eyes out with a fork than go camping at all) we had a pretty substantial load of stuff to bring with us, filled up most of the Xterra, and had a few things on the roof rack for good measure.

Sam, at four and a half, wants to help me with everything. Every tent stake that went in; every piece of firewood we collected; and every mattress, chair, lantern, blanket, toy, and scrap of food that came out of the car was supervised by the boy. I swear, its a miracle I can go to the bathroom without him sticking his head in and asking "hey dad, you want some help?". Lily, on the other hand is perfectly content to run in circles around the campsite and giggle... which is actually about as helpful as Sam, so I can't complain... To be honest, it was camping for beginners. We were right outside of Lancaster, PA - which is the home of endless Amish-style smorgasbord restaurants, retail outlets, farm markets, and really really large people... and I don't mean garden variety large, which wouldn't be worth mentioning... I mean large, like, we could have used them for ballast on an oil tanker large. Being rather portly myself, I felt wee in comparison, so it was a nice change of pace... like being a tourist in Brobdingnag. Sure we slept in a tent, made dinner over an open fire, and had smores, but we were steps away from rescue if things went screwy. We were even next to a playground complete with a huge wooden pirate ship which was pretty cool... and Lily, who is usually pretty reserved, immediately made a friend named Emma - a four year old girl who had a "Future Dumptruck Driver" t-shirt on and bare feet... and kept trying to share her Diet Coke in a sippie cup ("just have a couple of sips so you don't get too wired" she kept saying to Lily). Turned out to be a cool kid though, and Lily and Sam both had fun hanging around with her for a bit.
Sara, on the other hand, said she had a good time, but I'm not altogether sure I believe her. We used to go camping all the time in college, and would venture out miles away from the nearest bathroom or outlet for days at a time - and I don't really ever remember her complaining about a thing, although it's quite possible I was drunk. This trip, however, she managed to maintain a weak smile for most of the weekend as long as she kept her hands washed at all times, and actually seemed to be having fun for short spurts... almost by accident..

All in all, it was good but hectic rushing around with the kids and keeping them from jumping into the fire. By the time 10:30 rolled around I was exhausted, and didn't even notice that my mattress wasn't inflated all the way. I almost forgot why I missed camping so much until I woke up at some point in the middle of the night. Cold air, almost overwhelming dull hum of insects and wind, and the smell of grass and soil... and I'm asleep again. Perfect.
... and as the final two parting shots - the kids helping me deflate the mattresses, and Sara - cold, damp, dirty, and "enjoying herself".

Friday, August 17, 2007

Chain Gang

For the last couple of years, Sara has been pestering me about re-doing our driveway. It was a gravel driveway when we bought the house, and slowly has succumbed to the elements... by mid summer this year, looking for a piece of gravel in the driveway was like searching for fishing bait. By last Monday, weeds had completely taken over and I'm pretty sure I saw a palm viper hiding in there, and I was forced to admit it had gotten a bit out of hand.
So I took some measurements, calculated, screwed it up, called a stone place and had them calculate it, and bought 15,000 pounds of stone. Really. 15,000 pounds. Just for a little perspective, that's the same weight as say.... 15,000 things that weigh about a pound. Seriously, think about it. The deal is, there is a big truck that backs into your crappy driveway, tilts up it's huge bed, and pulls forward so it spills the stone over the length of your driveway. As luck would have it, my phone and cable companies decided to run the wires into my house at just above waist level, so the truck backed into my driveway, lifted the bed and pulled forward about four feet, and stopped to avoid ripping down any wires.
So all in all, two lessons were taken away from this experience - 1. it takes about 4 hours for me to shovel somewhere around 5,000 pounds of stone into a new spot, and then give up and decide to finish on another day... and 2. if you shovel stone for long enough, even your ass starts to hurt. I hardly even remember moving my ass, and it hurts. Odd.
To top off the weekend, we're taking the kids and my sore ass camping for the first time... which is one of those things in life that has no grey area - it'll either be loads of fun, or spectacularly disastrous... I'll let you know....

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Seven Years of Bad Meatballs

You know what I really miss? Mad Libs. Love 'em, but since I'm 37, I don't often get asked to participate in a Mad Lib session. I'm thinking about starting a club.
Anyway, we're back from Seattle, and yes, I did overhear a snippet of the cousins filling in some Mad Libs, in which someone was doomed to seven years of bad meatballs. The funny part was, at that moment I thought "holy crap, I think I've been sentenced to seven years of bad meatballs..."
All in all, the trip was cool - we went on a starfish hunt with the kids - and found dozens of them that were as big as my head, as well as some sea anemones, decorator crabs, moon snails, turkish towel, cancer crabs (which we ate), and all of the regular wacky sea life you might expect. We had some great seafood, took a ferry to Bainbridge Island, went to the Pike Market (as every good tourist should), and had some kickass coffee. Most importantly, the kids had a great time, and we all got to sit down to dinner together as a huge extended family a couple of times, which hasn't happened in god knows how long.
Funny little sidebar - every time we ask Sam what his favorite part was, he'll say "making masks with Julie and Antonia" or "having the potato races with Jeanne"... which is great... but we could have saved a couple of thousand dollars by buying him potato and a paper plate in Pennsylvania.
(I'm just kidding everyone, calm down...)
On to the meatball part - We tried to leave for Seattle Saturday morning on a 7:30 flight, which was ok with me, because waking the kids up early means there is some possibility for nappage, which is like gold on a cross country flight. As meatball-luck would have it, our flight was delayed because the flight crew needed their mandatory 8 hours rest and the plane was late the night before, so we stared out the window at our empty plane for three hours before they were ready to go. Not so bad, really, because the kids were pretty mellow. Finally, we were allowed to board, and after sitting on the tarmac for 45 minutes, we finally took off. (are you ready for the fun part?) In 15 minutes or so, the fasten seat belt sign went off, Sam and Lily started their movies, and all was right with the world...
Until the Captain's voice came over the loudspeaker, "Uh, folks, we seem to be getting some warning lights in the cockpit, so as a precautionary measure, we're going to turn back to Philadelphia. We should be back on the ground in about 15 minutes." ... which was a little disturbing, because we didn't really want to delay our trip, and he didn't say if we would be back on the ground in one, or many, pieces. People were shooting around some nervous glances, and my mother had turned completely white, but all in all I was just pissed at that point. Then, as if the pilot could sense that some people in the cabin were not tense enough, the loudspeaker pops back on. "Good morning again folks, your Captain here. Just so you know, when we land you'll see fire trucks, ambulances, and some other emergency vehicles on the runway, as well as escorting the plane to the gate. This is just a precautionary measure, it's required every time there is a landing like this, so there is really nothing to worry about." At this point, my mother actually turned clear, and I could plainly see my wife (who had now become a sort of greenish-blue color) sitting on the other side of her. He then mumbled something about a smoke warning light coming on, but in my head all I heard was "...if you haven't made a commitment to one particular religion, my copilot and I suggest you do so now. Also, feel free to kneel in the aisles if you have to confess anything important; you're welcome to join the mile high club if you wish; and all the alcohol is free, courtesy of Mr. Crenshaw in seat 9B. Our flight attendants are passing out a short pamphlet on the five stages of grief - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Currently, my copilot and I are in the Acceptance stage, although I must warn you, some of our flight attendants this morning are still in the Anger stage, so we suggest you do not speak to them, or look them directly in the eye. The weather in Philadelphia is a balmy 78 degrees this morning, and the local time is 12:38. We know you have a choice in airlines out of, and directly back into Philadelphia, and we thank you for choosing US Air." So we sat on our doomed plane and waited for 15 minutes to land, and did indeed see all sorts of rescue equipment as we finally rolled in - and just to put a little icing on the US Air experience, we had to wait for over four hours to get our luggage and car seats off the plane, and wait until Monday to get another flight... good times...
Once we got back home from Seattle and things calmed down a bit, I was actually able to sleep for the first time in weeks (why couldn't I sleep? no idea) and thought the bad meatball karma might actually be in my head... and yesterday, I was downright chipper. Until, of course, I heard a terrific crash from upstairs, followed by a scream from my wife. (don't you just love using 'terrific' in a sentence like this? It's so 'black and white movie'...) I dash up the stairs faster than any chubby guy has dashed before, only to see my daughter's feet sticking out from an overturned dresser, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Apparently, in an overzealous attempt to help find Sam's pajamas, she decided to scale the drawer-pulls like Sir Edmund Hillary and pulled the whole thing on top of her. She was fine, but needless to say, everyone else was really freaked out. So this morning, first thing, I went to the hardware store and bought 3,142 brackets that are used to secure I-beams together, and securely fastened everything in the house to the nearest wall, floor, or ceiling. It's been a bit of a hard day, getting used to living in a house where nothing actually moves (It's like we're living in one of those Amish farmhouse museums in Lancaster) but I figure if we can't crash land, and nothing can fall on top of us, we'll be ok. Oh, and by the way... I've been nominated for a Blogger's Choice Award (see the little baloon-y thing at the top of the page?) in four different categories (I won't tell you who nominated me unless you ask), so please take a minute and sign up to vote... you guys are the best...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Long time no see...

A month, eh? Holy crap, it has been a while. I actually started a few blogs since the last one, just haven't gotten around to finishing any of them. Lets see... what have you missed... I have carpal tunnel in both arms - by the way the test for this, as I expected, is completely bizarre. What they do is shock you a bunch of times with these little electrodes, and just when you've gotten used to it, they plunge these long needles into your muscles and shock you from the inside. As soon as you get used to that sensation (which you don't) my doctor said "ok, hold still..." and proceeded to WIGGLE THE NEEDLE BACK AND FORTH. Yeah. It sucked a little. Oh yeah, and I have some sort of back injury which I'm supposed to go for physical therapy for when I have time... which means, as soon as my congressman (to whom I've written a letter already) gets on the ball and spearheads a campaign to make my dream of a 25th hour in the day a reality.
Lily, on a brighter note, is pretty much completely potty trained. We are, however, still in the stage where we have to discuss it all the time. "Did you hear my pee?" she'll ask, "It was loud. My poop looks like a hot dog...." and on and on... The alternative (changing diapers) sucked a whole heckofa lot more though, so for the time being I'm gleefully playing along. "A hot dog? It sure does! You rock!"
Sara and Maria took the kids to the shore last weekend too, from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon which was freakin' fantastic. I miss them like crazy when they're not here, but I fell asleep hella-early on Friday after going out with some of my work friends (awesome)... ran some errands without a timeline on Saturday morning (lovely)... took the dogs on a little overnight camping/fishing trip on Saturday night (delightful)... rolled home home on Sunday all crusted in fish scales and tick repellent (killer)... and hey, know what I discovered? My dogs much prefer lying on the couch to a nice 'man's best friend' outdoor excursion. Apparently, my dogs are pansies. Oh yeah, and Sara had a nice time too...
Lets see... what else... hmmm... I'm busy... Sara is busy... Jason Sippie is getting married... yep, I just about covered it...
Sorry I took so long to write, I'll try to keep up... Oh yeah, a few pictures, some old, some new... First, my Easter Lily, the troubled Bean, the group at the shore, and finally, a wet boy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Unexpected Item In Bagging Area. Please Remove This Item Before Continuing.

We're all stressy over here at the moment, not for one good reason, but a lot of little ones. First of all, my wife can't take the heat. Really, really, can't take the heat. Makes her crazy. Now that I've put the downstairs air conditioner in, things have been a bit better. Still, she gets home around dinner time, huddles in front of the A.C. for a minute or two, and then dashes up to our air conditioned bedroom to change - quick like a rabbit - so that none of the warm air from the hallway can take the chill off of her skin... and then a mad dash downstairs again, and on and on. This is how we spend our summers. My kids have adapted pretty well though, they'll just ask her things really quickly so they can get in all in - cause you never know when the next air conditioner dash might come. If she's eating dinner, and shifts a little bit to the right, Sam will say "momcanyougetmesomeorangejuiceplease!" before she has a chance to spring up. Lily, god bless her, tries, but isn't that fast, and by the time she gets a sentence out, Sara will be upstairs yelling "Joe, I think Lily needs something!" It's really quite remarkable, the speed at which she disappears. She's like a cheetah.
Second of all, Lily started potty training last week, and to be honest, may be wearing a diaper for the rest of her natural life. She gets the concept - knows when she has to go, and tells us its coming - but for some reason it freaks her out. She'll either cry when she sits on the toilet - or she sits there and goes "RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR" accompanied by a "pushing face" and says, "Nope, maybe later." Then of course, she'll go back into the other room and pee on her chair. It's great fun. I know that the first few days are the worst, but she seems really stressed about it for some odd reason, and in turn it's stressing the rest of us out. Even Sam is a little edgy...
I started teaching last week too, which wouldn't be even worth mentioning if it weren't such a change from what I usually do. In the past, I've always taught adult classes, for college kids on up, and this is kids from 14 to 18 years old. Getting along with the kids is easy, but getting used to what they are able to do, and interested in, has been a bit of a challenge. Plus, the classroom conversations have changed from "I found a nice Gewurztraminer in the state store last week..." to "I found some beer from my dad's last 4th of July party behind our shed..." To be honest, I enjoy both of those conversations, so I really can't complain.
On the plus side, this Saturday is Sara's 36th birthday. One of the selfish parts of writing a blog is keeping a record of some of the moments in our lives just for me to look at... I know other people see this, but I feel a little bit like this is just for me. When I look back at the last few years online, I can't help but think about how much fun its been, the good and the bad. In retrospect, almost everything (even trips to the hospital, flirtations with injury or financial ruin) turned into some funny stories... mostly because she has been here with me this whole time. This year, on October 5th, it will be the 17th anniversary of our first date... almost half of her entire life. As crazy and frustrating as she is, there are days I am in awe of her... days when she is gone that I miss her so much it aches... and days when she is here that I can't imagine how I got this lucky. Plus, she's still hot, even though she is getting so, so old...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Petrichor Comfort


In a little break between this work and that work, I have a week off... which means I can squeeze in all of the things I've been neglecting. Some of the things, anyway...
First and foremost (this one is especially for you reg) I've been falling apart in the past couple of months, with some odd thing. So after endless prodding from my wife, I decided that losing feeling in my arms and legs and intermittent crippling pains for a month or two now was a good enough reason to go to the doctor. So far, my 'vacation' has been a checkup, some blood tests, a visit to a neurologist... and in the next few days an MRI; and an EMG - some sort of muscle-needle-poking test I didn't even bother to ask them to elaborate on (but a direct quote from Wikipedia "Because of the needle electrodes, EMG may be somewhat painful or extremely painful to the patient"... weehoo! those are my favorite kind of tests!) ... so I'm not sure what it is, but my understanding is that there will be needles, some sort of poking, and it sucks. I was thinking of having an online 'American Idol' type of poll, where one disease gets eliminated from the list of possibilities every week, until we have a winner. Cast your votes now, this years contestants are lyme disease, carpal tunnel, pinched nerve, herniated disk, and my personal favorite, the ever popular lyme disease peripheral neuropathy combo.
What I've been trying to do this week, to chill myself out a bit between running errands and getting ready for the classes I'm teaching this summer, is force myself to do nothing. Which, if you've never tried, is actually really hard. I was standing in the kitchen this morning, for example, and I found myself cleaning the stove. Really, I was thinking about what I should do before my appointment today, and I looked down, and there was a sponge in my hand. Creepy. Couldn't stop myself.
I did, however, manage to sit down in the tub for about five minutes before I accepted the fact that I just don't fit in a tub. Got to hang out with the chilluns at the park for a while, which was a cool afternoon... and finally did some weeding out front now that our garden is taking shape. The picture is a pumpkin blossom, by the way...
Anyway, don't have any roses out front, but dammit, I'm stopping to smell something.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kiera and the Mighty Turnip

As strange as this sounds, I was at a church picnic the other day... really, a church picnic. Last Sunday, Sara asked if I wanted to come to church with her, and before I knew what was happening, she was packing lunches for the after-picnic. On the plus side, it was a pretty mellow affair with tables strewn across the lawn, and plenty of non-church discussions flowing.
We picked a table where a woman and her three-ish daughter were already eating, purely for show... to appear like we are social... which we are not... In the bustle of settling the kids down at the table, the lunch Sara packed (which was actually a fairly healthy one, as far as lunches go) tumbled out on to the table, each part in it's own little ziplock bag. Faster than Linsey Lohan going to rehab, the kids grabbed the bags with marshmallows and Ninja Turtle fruit snacks in them. Since neither of us were in a mood, we let it go, and said that they could have them if they promised to eat their lunch after.
It was only then, of course, because god hates me, that we noticed the woman and her daughter staring slack jawed in our direction. After a somewhat long and uncomfortable pause, the perfectly blond and perky three year old spooned some sort of kidney bean salad out of her reusable container made of recycled materials and said matter-of-factly "We're vegetarians."
"Of course you are," I said, "because today my kids are eating corn syrup, sugar cornstarch, gelatin, and whateverthefuck a Ninja Turtle fruit snack is made of... and even though you might think one would have to be relatively healthy to qualify as a 'Ninja Turtle' fruit snack (the most violent, and I assume, the most energetic of all the fruit snacks) as opposed to a regular fruit snack, I'd bet my pants there isn't any fruit, vegetable, or even turtle in there. So go ahead, wee little blond child with perfect porcelain skin and frighteningly cheery disposition, let me open your soy yogurt for you (she really had one) while you eat your pasty red beans, cause in my house we're waiting for the scientific community to come around and change their opinion on childhood obesity."
Actually, I just sheepishly mumbled, "wow... a vegetarian... cool". So there we were, munching away at our crap out of bags that pollute the earth, while Kiera moved on to her Tupperware container full of broccoli and other veggies - which were raw, by the way... not even lightly steamed. Suddenly, she stuck her healthy little hand into the container and pulled out what for a moment looked like a marshmallow ("I'm saved!" I thought) and turned out to be A WHOLE BABY WHITE TURNIP. As if the whole picnic was captivated by our shame, someone from ANOTHER TABLE shouted over "hey Ann, does she really eat turnips?". "Sure," Ann replied, "I've found that if she picks something from the farm we go to, she is more invested in trying it."
Could it have been worse? Sure, I was just waiting for someone to say "hey Joe, is that a Ninja Turtle fruit snack? What's in those things?"

Monday, May 28, 2007

Open Sesame



I took this past Friday off and went with the kids to Sesame Place... which, to be perfectly honest, I was dreading. I hate to sound like a bad parent, but the thought of spending a day chasing the kids around a hot-ass water park filled with six foot tall Elmos makes my stomach turn a bit. There wasn't any way to get out of it though, so I tried to make the best of it - and believe it or not, I actually had a pretty good time. We got there early, and were the first in line waiting for the park to open. As we stood in front of the gate looking into the pristine kid-less park with its beautifully sculpted gardens and brightly colored character statues, we were caught in a little blizzard of white fluffy buds from some sort of tree. I have to tell you, it was beautiful. Lovely summer day, manicured park in front of us, and we were enveloped in a sort of Disney-esque snowstorm.
All in all, a great day - the first thing Sam and I went on was the roller coaster, which was a lot faster than other roller coasters he has been on. I thought it was pretty cool, but when I watched the "See Yourself On The Ride!" movie after we got off the look on his face was sheer terror... and we both decided to try something a little tamer. After that, it was all good... everything we went on was so cool he wanted to do it again, and I had to drag him to the next thing. Lily got to see Elmo do a live 'Elmo's World' show - and even though she is a little past the Elmo phase, his shows are like the Red Hot Chili Peppers... the albums are good, but live, he's fucking fantastic. The only bump in the day was when Sam stepped on a huge thumbtack-like thing in a food line, and it went right through his Crocs and into his foot. Luckily, I've had him on a Rambo-esque toughening regiment, and with a little side trip to the first aid station all was well. The rest of the day was punctuated by funny little moments - like the look of sheer unadulterated excitement, wide eyes and massive grin, as Lily spun around on the teacup ride... and Sam saying more than once "This is going to be soooo cool. I am so (dramatic pause) excited".
The other bright spot in the weekend was buying a new grill... I have two at the moment, but the oldest one, which our wonderful friends got us for our engagement party about ten years ago, finally bit the dust. By the time it crapped out, the only original part left on it was the body and cover, and all of the innards had been replaced more than once. It could have been saved again, but I saw a really good deal on an enormous commercial grill, and I just couldn't resist the chance to get a grill that is 116,000 BTUs and is long enough to actually cook me on... if someone had the wherewithall to actually put me on a spit... which might not be a bad way to go... I'm pretty tender. Anyway, to illustrate how happy I am with my new found grill superiority, I've made a list in the tradition of "My dick is so big..." jokes... so without further ado, for your viewing pleasure, my top 50 "my grill is so big..." jokes.
1. My grill is so big we had a drinking contest and I woke up next to an empty bottle of whiskey with the word “rare” seared into my forehead.
2. My grill is so big it’s working with Ruben Studdard on a new clothing line for grills.
3. My grill is so big when I want to make lunch I have to have my agent call my grill’s agent.
4. My grill is so big the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit is now referred to as My Grill Thermal Unit (MGTU).
5. My grill is so big Al Gore is making a new movie called An Inconvenient Grill
6. My grill is so big that Trojans now come in three sizes – Regular, Magnum and My Grill.
7. My grill is so big it made a sex tape with Paris Hilton.
8. My grill is so big it doesn’t return my calls.
9. My grill is so big it has an unpaid intern.
10. My grill is so big it started a nonprofit with Bono called “Burgers for Darfur”.
11. My grill is so big it is on next season’s “Dancing with the Stars”. Its partner is Kim Fields.
12. My grill is so big it got its own little square on the Periodic Table next to Actinium named Mygrillimonium (My).
13. My grill is so big it bought a dog.
14. My grill is so big it was in Heidi Fleiss’ little black book. Its code name was Steve Propane-o.
15. My grill is so big it has its own grill, which it modified to use natural gas and attached to my house.
16. My grill is so big it had an affair with my neighbor’s wife, and he forgave her because my grill was on her “Celebrity Sex List”. The other four were Johnny Depp, Don Cheadle, Mark Wahlberg, and the ‘time to make the donuts’ guy.
17. My grill is so big it’s a Scientologist.
18. My grill is so big it has a MySpace page.
19. My grill is so big it gets junk mail.
20. My grill is so big it was recently reclassified as a ‘dwarf planet’.
21. My grill is so big Lily started calling it ‘dad’.
22. My grill is so big it’s only allowed to fight other grills in Nevada and certain parts of West Virginia.
23. My grill is so big Oprah’s dad is writing a book about it, and when my grill found out it was surprised, and a little bit hurt.
24. My grill is so big it’s filling in for Rosie on ‘The View’.
25. My grill is so big that when it goes to Germany, David Hasselhoff opens up for it.
26. My grill is so big it writes dark poetry for teenage girls, reads it at our coffee house, and they think it’s sensitive (and kinda cute!).
27. My grill is so big it doesn’t get carded.
28. My grill is so big it teaches a scrapbooking class.
29. My grill is so big when it breaks a Craftsman tool it doesn’t even bother with the lifetime warranty, it just throws it out and gets a new one.
30. My grill is so big Florida had to measure it twice.
31. My grill is so big there was a ‘Behind The Music’ film crew in my back yard.
32. My grill is so big it has a moon.
33. My grill is so big it cooked the Mastodon ribs for the opening credits of ‘The Flintstones’.
34. My grill is so big it is starring as Captain Georg von Trapp in the new Broadway production of ‘The Sound of Music’.
35. My grill is so big it employs a full time Fluffer.
36. My grill is so big when they went hunting it shot Dick Cheney in the face.
37. My grill is so big Michael Moore is making a new film called Fahrenheit 425.
38. My grill is so big Marlaina gets tickets to every show.
39. My grill is so big it summers in the Hamptons.
40. My grill is so big George Foreman renamed his sons Mygrill Forman, Mygrill Forman, Mygrill Forman, Mygrill Forman, and Mygrill Forman.
41. My grill is so big it does the crossword in ink.
42. My grill is so big that my smoker is its bitch.
43. My grill is so big it wrote a scathing critique of Finnegans Wake, summing it up as a 600 page crossword puzzle clue whose answer is simply, “my grill”.
44. My grill is so big it has a uvula.
45. My grill is so big it wins the Post’s ‘Style Invitational’ more often than Chuck Smith, Woodbridge.
46. My grill is so big it has a foyer.
47. My grill is so big John Holmes had a picture of my grill hanging in his dressing room.
48. My grill is so big it works in the waste management industry, and does some work with the unions...
49. My grill is so big it’s starring in the new Discovery Channel series “My Grill vs. Wild”.
50. My grill is so big it wrote most of these ‘My Grill’ jokes without me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Voodoo Chicken & Wiener Magic

Here's a little discovery of mine - not really a brilliant one, but a discovery... even in a school cafeteria, a little marketing goes a long way. For those of you who don't know, in the mornings I am the chef in a private school for kids from 1st to 12th grade. Its kind of a unique place - we make up menus for the week, students and faculty order off of the menu when they get to school, and by the time they come in to eat we have their orders ready to go. Since the three of us in the kitchen decide what we'll have, we can play around a bit. Some days hot dogs and fries, pizza, or something equally schoolish - and other days we grill scallops, stuff pork loins, cook alligator, etc... In the past few days we've had a burger day, grilled cheese day, almond crusted pollock with lemon cream day, and jasmine tea smoked salmon with wasabi day... see what I'm getting at? It's a wacky, wonderful place where I can try out all sorts of stuff to use in my catering business.
Anyway, we've discovered that even the kids get into it if you sell them on it. Today, for example, I made a chicken and sweet potato soup with saffron, buttermilk, and a little dried chipotle for kick... and in the past I might have made a sign saying something along the lines of what it was, but since it was 85 degrees outside and I wanted them to eat it, I went with "Big Papa Joe's Voodoo Chicken". Do I have any left? No. Not a drop. The funny thing is, I watched kids come in from recess covered in sweat, look at the sign next to a steaming hot tureen of soup and say, "Voodoo chicken.. cool... gotta get me some of that..."
Suckers.
The other oddity we had today was some little pigs-sans-blanket that we found in the freezer. At some point we were given these wee little hot dogs, and instead of wrapping them in pastry, we made a sweet & hot sauce out of pineapple and chili sauce for them to swim in. Because I despise the wee dog, I was murmuring to Kate all day that she should work her wiener magic to make them palatable. The sign on the salad bar, naturally, said "Sweet and Spicy Wiener Magic"... mostly because it just felt so funny to actually write down. Seriously, name one other job where you can print out a "Sweet and Spicy Wiener Magic" sign. The icing on the cake of my day was actually taking down the sign though... there in my hands was a little 3x5 card WITH THE TAPE ALREADY ATTACHED! Now seriously, how could I do anything but tape it onto some one's back? Call me a child if you must, but look deep inside yourself - you know you would do it too. Don't think so? Try this - make a little sign that says "Sweet and Spicy Wiener Magic", attach some tape to it, and just hold it in your hand for a minute. You'll see, it's irresistible. It almost pulses with potential comedic energy... and almost before I knew it, as if I was in some Wiener Magic trance, I was patting my coworker Meri on the back as I walked by, deftly planting the sign right between her shoulder blades.
"Going somewhere after work Meri? No? Didn't you drive your convertible today? Lovely spring day, you should take advantage..."
"I've been meaning to stop at TJ Max..."
...and with that, Meri turned around and sauntered out, the "Sweet and Spicy Wiener Magic" sign fading out like the sunset as she walked away...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Setting Sail





Fresh off a of busy week, I had a little project to do for a student's art show. A couple of food trays, and a bit of fun to make the table nice - so here a little project for you kids at home if you have a few hours to burn. (Click on the pics to enlarge them...) First, find yourself a nice looking stable melon...



Slice off the top, and do a little scooping...
Slice the top bit up into little sail shaped squares, I used six for the larger front sail and five for the shorter back sail, and sew strong cotton thread through all four corners.

When all of your sewing is finished, line up the pieces in the shape of your sail, and tie the thread to some strong bamboo to make each sail.
Add some masts, tie it all together and find yourself a jolly roger, make a crow's nest... and voila, your own little picnic pirate ship. If you have a few cucumbers and some leftover watermelon skin - you can make a few fishing skiffs for the side with some carrots nets for catching the big ones... or if you only have a sec, a random pyramid of cheerleading chayote squash.
Sara's home, I have a couple of days off, a kickass pirate ship, and all is well....











Monday, April 30, 2007

Epicure in Three Acts

Act I - The Game
About two months ago I started planning for what turned out to be the biggest catering gig I've had to date... not the most people, but the most complicated by far. Seemed fairly simple in the beginning - 200 people, fancy hors d'oeuvres, filet mignon, full bar, etc... same old drill. Soon after my first meeting I got an inkling of what I was in for - I met with the food committee comprised of three volunteers excited to sink their teeth in, an off shoot of a larger event committee made up of 15 people. The event committee's first meeting apparently was pretty short, and the only minutes I ever came across simply said "All in favor of making the caterer's life miserable? Motion carried. See you next Tuesday at 11:00."
So we start to plan, and the jobs pile on... can you make us a seating chart? Table diagram? Would you mind ordering the tables and linens, and while your at it, the glasses for champagne, wine, water, soda, beer... and how about making us a signature drink? Nothing much I can do about it though. A few more jobs, a little more planning, as long as they are happy, life is good.
Before I go on, let me just tell you how much I love what I do. I'll complain endlessly to anyone that will listen, tear my hair out, sit on the couch at 4AM thinking about what I need to do tomorrow, tear someone in half if I'm paying them and they aren't pushing hard enough, burn myself and bleed out to get something done on time, post on this blog... but you know what's amazing? Right in the middle of it all there are moments of such clarity, moments when everything is running perfectly and watching a party unfold is like sitting in front of an orchestra...
Act II - The Offer
Morning of, one of the workers is throwing up... which is not such a wonderful thing, because hurling isn't a quality I really look for in a server during a black tie event. A few calls later, I'm still coming up empty, and Sara says, "maybe we can get a babysitter, and I'll work with you."
Stunned silence.
Halting, nervous laughter as I try to think up a response (this was days ago, and I still haven't figured out what to say)...
Tricky business, this... Sara has a sort of "let me just do one more thing before I go" work attitude. She works longer than almost anyone I've ever known. I can't even count how many nights I've rolled over at 3AM to find her spot empty, and heard her computer clacking away downstairs. She's been back and forth to Miami, Prague, and London in the past months (and is in London again for the week right now) and just slips right back into the groove when she gets back. Do I want her to work with me though? Uh, no. That would be a no. A big juicy no. Just to be clear, no. Why, I'm still not sure... rather, I don't really know how to explain it without sounding like the TV Guide description of a Gordon Ramsay reality show. I guess, I'm not sure I want her to see the person I am at work. At home, I'm fairly lazy. I'll sit on the couch all day if I can get away with it (which I never can). At work, I'm occasionally an asshole. I like nothing better than being able to work harder than everyone else. I want everything to be done the way I want it to be done, I love finding someone green and malleable that I can show things too, and I'm happy to yell at them when they don't do their best. I love to boss around a team, and would rather burn myself than drop a hot pan of something I spent time working on. Love seeing people exhausted, love watching them wait for me to pay them so they can go home, and I love buying them a drink after we're done. On top of that, I like who she is, and I don't want to her to be a part of that world. Almost everyone I know in the restaurant industry needs to be fixed. Need to find a drug addict or an alcoholic? A narcissist, misogynist, sociopath, masochist? Wander into the back of a restaurant. During my busy weeks, especially when I have to hire people, I feel a little bit like I'm leading a double life. On one hand I have this amazing family - and then I go off to this bizzaro world that's like walking into a three alarm fire - where I've been yelled at (and yelled back), been sent to the hospital, watched people drop like flies, have panic attacks, steal lobsters by putting them down their pants, watched people do drugs and drink to excess, leave their wives, and had some of the best and worst times of my life. Do I want you to work for me? No. Wait, lemme think, uh, no.
See? How can I possibly explain that...
Act III - The Sting
I finally get a just-out-of-culinary-school girl to work for me, it's five hours before people are supposed to show up, and I'm already behind. Filets to sear, dressings, sauces, food displays to make - and I'm getting calls from committee members. Can we get more ice delivered? Do I have extra linens? Can we move the stage?... on and on... Two hours later Ken (my favorite, and by far the most dependable food guy I've ever met) shows up, and dives right in... Two hours later I'm pressing a towel into my hand to stop the blood from flowing while screaming into the phone at three servers who decided to carpool and got stuck in traffic (two minutes later I'm devising a plan to make their lives miserable)... and before I know it, it begins. The bar is humming, and food from our perfectly sculptured hors d'oeuvre table is disappearing... and for the next seven hours I'm jogging... Around ten o'clock I take a breath and stand at the back of the room - and here's the rub - three people working the bar, two servers setting up desserts, two in the kitchen breaking down, and I feel like I'm on a first date. For a minute, standing still, everything I've been thinking about for weeks is spread out in front of me, and it's like an orchestra all over again.
Two days later, I finally see the head of the committee, all smiles. "I had a meeting with everyone this morning... and you" he says, "are a rock star."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Thanks" but no "thanks"

You know, I may not be the best writer in the world, and I've certainly made my share of grammatical errors, typos, sentence fragments, etc... but you know what? If you can't write, don't write to me. I know it sounds snobbish, but I really don't care.... Here is the deal, can't complete a sentence? Having some trouble saying something? Never had an english class? Fine, email me, but get to the point. Want to spill your soul to me while asking for some catering advice? Buy a copy of Strunk and White, read it, learn it, live it, and then write.
Why am I acting like an ass, you ask? I am in the middle of negotiating this catering deal, and the guy who I'm writing back and forth to keeps freakin' putting things in quotes.
Thanks for making this "easy" (he says) I'm sure it will be "Fun"... You should talk to "John Edwards" when you have a menu (and the most random of all) I'm sure that "you and Kate will do a great job" for us.
"You and Kate will do a great job"... in quotes? Seriously? I really have to hold myself back from writing - Hey, I have an idea, why don't you make your own fucking "food", because you're driving me "insane" and I don't think that I'll "be able" to meet you in "person" without slapping you across the back of the "head". As it is, every "time" I get an email from you I feel like "stabbing my eyes out with a fork".
Sorry, I'm a little "tense" today.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Enid and the Nor'easter


As an homage to Regina and all of her trademark wiseass 'you're always sick' comments, I'll write a blog since I'm sick...
Amid the increasing chaos of menu writing and staff hiring that I have going on, I seem to have come down with a sinus infection or something... and the whole breathing thing isn't as footloose and fancy free as I'd like it to be. As a result, I haven't been in the best mood. Of course, Satchmo can sense all of my moods no matter how hard I try to disguise them, and has displayed his concern for my well being by becoming increasingly gassy. I should be flattered, I guess, because every time I doze off on the couch at night I am jolted awake by an odor which can only be described as alien - I suppose a dog's version of a cold shower and a slap - and he'll give me a sad puppy look as if to say, "did that help at all?". So as not to hurt his feelings, I've tried not to gag while giving him a reassuring pat on the head.
As stressed and crappy as I've been feeling, there are bright spots every day. Friday was a date night, and Sara and I went out to dinner for the first time in ... I dunno... forever. I had some raw yellowfin which was as fresh as it gets, a perfectly grilled lamb loin with creamy mint and pea risotto, a Cline Zinfandel, and a lovely wife that has been marinating in her own juices for almost 36 years. To top it off, our babysitter worked her magic and the next day Sam asked when she could come back... and at that moment I could have dashed into the street, raised my arms to the sky and screamed for all the world to hear "LET THE CHURCH BELLS RING, THE SIRENS BLAST! OPEN YOUR EYES AND WINDOWS WIDE, LET THE DOGS RUN AND THE WINDS BOW THE TREES! LET THE TIDES RETREAT, THE CLOCK STAND STILL, AND THE STARS WINK MY NAME IN MORSE CODE! STOP THE PRESSES AND SAVE AT LEAST 24 COLUMN INCHES ON PAGE B3 TO PRINT A PICTURE OF MY NAKED BUTT FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE - THEY WANT US TO GO OUT! US! TO GO OUT OF THE HOUSE!" Instead, I went with, "OK, I'll give her a call to see when she can come over".
Yesterday morning was a little bright spot too - two days of constant drenching rains had worn me down, and Monday morning's first glance out the window was a shocker. I expected dreary, but saw our big tree in the back yard completely caked with frozen snow like an enormous craggy twist of white coral staring back at me. Since power lines all around town were coated with ice and torn down by the wind, I had the day off while our daycare miraculously stayed open... so my sinuses and I stayed as motionless as possible and watched Tremors and Tremors II: Aftershocks, a pair of Kevin Bacon classics. As exhilarating as that may sound, I actually felt crappy enough to call the doctor who, as luck would have it, was closed because she had no electricity in her office. By last night I was praying for the sweet relief of death by the time Sara got home, and just barely made the trip back down to the couch while she put the kids in bed. As I was drifting off to sleep on the couch she came downstairs and told me that a woman named Enid at work started reading the blog, and I happily drifted off... thinking maybe there were other Enids at other offices, maybe even Margarets or Bobs, or a legion of Eds waiting with baited breath for the next post...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bacchanalia


I finished teaching my latest semester of wine classes last week, and I'm a little sorry that it's over. It's a pain, to be honest, because it actually takes a decent amount of prep before each week's class - still, I'm sad they're finished. Aside from the refresher course that I get from teaching the class, and the wine tasting of course, it's nice to stand in front of a room of people who pay to listen to me jabber on for two and a half hours every night... even my wife's eyes glaze over after five minutes, so apparently, only people who don't know me find me entertaining... strange...
Another bonus is that it usually reminds me to check on our makeshift wine cellar, which I don't do all that often (what with the two kids and all). Every time I go down there, I kick myself for not taking stock more often. There are a few things that will be ready to drink soon, and more than a few that I moved to one corner so I wouldn't forget about them before they started to go downhill... but most importantly, there are the ones that I love to see again.
The first Barolo I ever had was a 1992 Villadoria - in the back yard of our apartment in philly on a warm spring day before we were married, Sara was wearing a black tank top, we were sitting on our white plastic patio furniture & everything was carefree and perfect - and we have some of them downstairs now... a Villadoria, Viberti, Marchesi, and Giacosa to name a few. There is a '69 Grumello and a '71 Valpolicella that I lugged down a looooong hill in Orvieto along with 10 other bottles - a feat which left me sore for days (and I think might have made my right leg a little shorter). A Pine Ridge Andrus Reserve that is worth more than my life - a wine I first had while I was talking about it to a class... I recommended it to someone as something they should consider for a private wine tasting in their home because I knew it was good and this was the only chance I'd be able to taste it - they went for it, and bought me an extra bottle to boot. So there I was, describing (in detail, in front of 30 tipsy women) the wine I had never tasted, when I finally got to have my first sip, and remembered why I love doing this... black cherry, currant and chocolate. Perfect.
There are 1994 Vintage Calem and a 2003 Fonseca Ports, which will both be perfect when Sam and Lily are in college and we have a moment to ourselves, and probably even better when they have kids of their own and we can giggle at them making the same mistakes we did... and on and on it goes... Beaux Freres, Chateau Laforge, Talbot, Beychevelle... each one tagged, gathering dust and the occasional crumb of masonry from the basement wall. Each one with their own little story, waiting for just the right day to make their way upstairs.
On Friday, with a sushi-boat-to-go waiting upstairs, I found a Saisons Des Vins L'ete that I bought in California a few years ago... and even though I feel like we are light years away from that sunny, carefree backyard in philly... for a minute or two all was right with the world. Things around here seem to change faster than I can keep track of, and I don't remember all of the twists and turns that brought us to this house with a four year old artist in residence and a two year old princess... and some of the wines I don't ever remember seeing before, but I still have some of the same shoes, some of the same dreams, and little reminders of who I used to be sitting around the house. Turns out, it helps to remember and appreciate what you have, downstairs and upstairs, even if I can't remember exactly how they got there in the first place...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Nothing Gold Can Stay, Ponyboy

Odd week - happy, sad, and nerve-wracking things happening over here. I'll skip the last two, just for blog's sake, and mention the good one. Finally came to terms a bit this week with the whole leaving-the-catholic-church thing. To be honest, I'm ashamed to say it wasn't really the biggest deal, not really a big church guy... It did give me pause, however, to admit to myself (and here) that for now, those days are over for me. Faith, my version of it anyway, has remained unchanged.... and for the moment I have left behind what was growing into a seething anger at the politics, hypocrisy, blah, blah, blah.. sure you don't want to read this. Suffice to say, it took a while to slough off the hostility (do I sound too angry?) and move on. So the small part of me that pays attention to these things is at peace for the first time in a while - and thinking for some odd reason of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep". Makes sense to me, and this blog is free, so you'll have to deal with it.
Ok, short little list for my sister - who has blogged these sort of lists before, and is probably bored out of her mind right now - things I have said (since I've had children) that I never imagined I would have said... None of these, by the way, are made up...
1. Why is there a Llama in the refrigerator?
2. You won't eat anything I cook, but you'll eat dried corn with duck shit on it?
3. Will you stop trying to pick my nose?
4. What are you doing with your penis?
5. and the best from today, sure to become a classic, "can I use this thermometer, or has it been in someone's ass?"

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Google Me, It Tickles


I have this thing attached to my blog, for those of you who don't know, called a tracker. It doesn't do much of anything except show me a list of cities that have logged on to ticklecookbreathe, and the date and time they have visited. I put it on there just for funzies, and because I was curious about the amount of traffic I was getting. For the last six months or so I've been checking it every couple of days, and for the most part, I can identify who was peeking in... except for the occasional visit from Salt Lake City or Guam.
After the last post though, things have exploded. I don't know whether it was the Kopi Luwak or Alpha Gamma Civet references, or just the 'crap' joke - but something or other was just the right Google search term to get this blog hummin'. In the past week or so I've been getting hits from all over the country, as well as hit from Santiago, Fujian, Burnaby, Sydney, Shanxi, Barcelona, Rome, and on and on...
So before I write another post let me just assure my faithful followers, I will never post breaking news about Paris Hilton... as a matter of fact, I'll never include the name Paris Hilton in my blog just to get hits, from the name Paris Hilton. As a matter of fact, if Paris Hilton and Britney Spears just happen to drop by to discuss a new sex tape, Brad and Angelina pop in for some Kopi Luwak, or Patrick Dempsey and Oprah need to use my internet connection to search for some Cindy Margolis info - I probably won't mention it. It's just a cheap way to get hits, mentioning Paris Hilton (or Nicole Richie for that matter) over and over just for the sake of writing the name Paris Hilton.
I'll also be true to the art of blogging by not endorsing any products just to profit from your kind attention to my site. For example, I have always been a big supporter of Dulcolax brand laxatives. Personally, I don't use it that often, but I'm glad to know that it is in my medicine cabinet - so on those days when I'm just not feeling particularly regular and I want a stimulant laxative that is gentle yet effective, I know I can rely on Dulcolax brand laxative (the worldwide number 1 selling overnight laxative) to provide me with comfortable relief by the time I wake up the next morning - and with no chalky aftertaste! As a matter of fact, I'm sure if Paris Hilton ever ate anything, she would probably choose Dulcolax brand laxatives to get it out of her system as soon as possible - it's that good. I wouldn't endorse them though, cause that would be wrong... but you're welcome to learn more about this wonderful product yourself by visiting http://www.dulcolaxusa.com/ for more information.
To sum up, I'm glad you're here. It satisfies my gigantic ego, and helps me numb the pain of my countless insecurities to know that you are visiting me for me - and not just news about naked celebrities.... or just because you Googled the name Paris Hilton.... or Dulcolax....
Thanks,
Joe
Paris Hilton Paris Hilton Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton Paris Hilton Paris Hilton

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cuppa Weaselyak


The first step, I understand, is admitting that you have an addiction. There it is, I've written it down for all to see, I am addicted to coffee. The good thing is, I don't often start off my day trolling the streets for a fix - and end it by waking up in Camden snuggled next to a pants-less man named Armando. Usually, I just stay up a little too late looking for good deals on green beans that I can roast, or scanning coffeegeek.com to see the new commercial espresso machine reviews... Tired the next morning? No worries, I can fix that...
I know, it's a bit dorky, but I read a lot of reviews and tasting notes on beans - and every once in a while I come across articles about kopi luwak.... here is the deal... there are these weasel-like mammals calm Palm Civets in Indonesia that love eating ripe coffee cherries but can't digest the beans - which are affected by the enzymes in the digestive tract, and are changed by the time they come out the other end. Poo, that is, in case you haven't caught up. These are such great coffee beans by the time they come out though, that they are hella-expensive, and apparently have created jobs for anyone who feels like following civets around until they poop (a career which really gives your resume a little 'pop'). In Vietnam, they have something similar called 'weasel coffee' which is made from beans that another weasel-like cat has eaten and then thrown back up. This is a much cheaper version of the same sort of coffee for a couple of reasons -
1. There is more of the stuff in Vietnam, and it isn't as popular, hence the lower price.
2. Apparently, it is very easy to convince Vietnamese weasels to join weasel fraternities. The hazing is a bit rough ("chug the beans! chug the beans!"), but having AGC (Alpha Gamma Civet) shaved into your back fur really gets weasel chicks going...
Anyway, after a while I just couldn't take the curiosity anymore, and had to try it. A short search later, I found a weasel coffee dealer in Vietnam that sold in the US (god bless the internet, seriously, how many people in 1970 could find themselves some weasel coffee?) and bought a wee little bag to try.
Finally, it arrived in the mail. I'll spare you my lengthy review, because I'm sure you really don't give a crap (get it? crap? ha! oh my god, I'm hysterical) but suffice to say, it was pretty damn good coffee. Honestly, remarkably different from your average cup of joe. So good, as a matter of fact, that I went against my better judgement and told Sara about it, and then had to quick think up a good answer to "Seriously? You put weasel barf in my coffee maker?" which, apparently, is anything except "and I just ordered a sample of the poo one..."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Little Blue Case


I went through most of this week being frustrated, angry and depressed for some unknown reason. Not that it affected me that much, but it was a noticeable change for me, and colored my mood for a good part of the week. The snow was part of it - I spent the last few days wondering if I would be able to get my car out of the street, and back in when I was gone. Aside from that, I'm not entirely sure what was wrong, but I was more stressed than usual - I suppose an accumulation of worries from the last few weeks that finally caught up to me. Weekends without plans are a crap shoot too - you never know if the days will fly by with art projects and pizza making, or the weekend will be filled with nose blowing and tantrums.
It started on a bloody note - Lily had her third or fourth cold in a row, and by Friday evening I was hauling out our last working humidifier so she could sleep through the night without caking herself to the sheets with snot. Sara had neatly tucked it away on the top shelf of Sam's closet and I had to wrestle it down from between the sheets and aquarium filters. With a little jiggling and one last tug I freed it from some unseen entanglement on the back of the shelf - and the water tank jumped off of its base and fell squarely onto my chin before clattering to the floor. As it sat in the tub filling, I checked out the damage in the bathroom mirror - a gaping dime size slice underneath my goatee that yawned angrily back at me, spilling a line of blood down my chin... perfect start to a weekend.
Turns out it wasn't a bad omen at all though, we had a pretty good time despite the Kleenex and slippery roads. Went out to lunch and painted some pottery on Saturday, and got the kids to bed with a minimal amount of drama. Plus, I spotted my little blue plastic case in the basement as I was rummaging through some things, which was a bonus. I've had it for as long as I can remember - it's a little plastic case that snaps shut and has "Trantec Supercable" marked on the front (whatever that is) that I have used since about the 5th grade to store notes from girls. Nothing particularly seedy or private in there, but it's funny to look back and see torn bits of homework with notes ranging from "Jean asked me to ask you if you are going to the dance" (somewhere around 5th grade I'm guessing) to "I know it's been a hard year, and if you need anything, please know that you can call me anytime and I'll be there for you... oh yeah, and Jean is wondering if you are going to the dance" (somewhere around 12th grade). Most of the notes in there aren't all that special, but the box always was - because there was always something exciting about getting a note from a girl, and the box was a few pounds of creatively folded bits of paper - each one hiding a little secret, or a little crush.
On Sunday Lily seemed to be on the road to recovery, and was in a good mood for the most part, but Sara wanted to leave her at home when she went to church (hooray for me!) and I happily agreed to remain un-showered and stay home with her. Lately, she has been a bit of a mommy's-girl, and always picks Sara over me when it comes to comfort or companionship, so it was a nice change of pace to sit next to her on our bed and watch Diego & Dora without her calling out for mom. After an hour or so of Diego saving a lost myasaurus, a pygmy marmoset, and a pair of wayward tree frogs (all with the help of his constant companion Baby Jaguar, who's only discernible skill seems to be the ability to let out a feeble roar just at the exact moment a feeble roar is required) Lily rolled over to say "Dad, you're my best friend". Just so you know, if you hang around her long enough she'll say it to you too, because she says it to pretty much everyone - but it was just what I needed at the moment. Of course, since we aren't living in a Hallmark store, she punctuated the moment by turning back to the TV, slipped on the covers and slammed the back of her head into the almost-healed gash on my chin with such force that I saw stars and tasted a steel-y flow of blood seep into my mouth. Luckily, her enormous head is like a rock and she didn't seem to notice, but I had to catch my breath and shake off the pain a bit before I could see straight. Despite the searing pain, it was a moment I wish I could have saved in a little blue case of it's own. Things aren't often calm around here, and it isn't that often I get to sit next to her in the quiet, her warm shoulder nestled into my arm, without a care in the world.

 
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