Monday, December 21, 2009

Now Is The Time On Sprockets When We Cook

I have this thing with magnolias. Don’t know why, or where it came from, but I just adore them, and I’m not really a tree guy. Or a plant guy, for that matter. A couple of years ago a curly maple we had in the front died, so there was an open spot, and I drove way the hell down to this nursery I found on the Internet to get a Sweet Bay Magnolia for the front yard. It’s still tiny, but getting there. At the moment it looks like a couple of dead branches sticking out of the snow, but when the spring rolls around and the leaves come out, it’s the first thing I notice when I walk out the door. Every leaf is a thick deep green with a muted blue underbelly, perfectly oval, and defies the wind while the leaves of our other trees flutter helplessly. It blossoms on it’s own schedule, symmetrical and creamy white, with a delicate scent I can pick up before our house is even in view. On perfect summer days, even though our porch is slowly disintegrating and I routinely forget to mow the lawn, having it there makes our house majestic. Which, as you might have guessed, is where my wife and I differ. We agree on lots of things, disagree on plenty too, but are pretty much on the same page. I’ve never really talked to her about the tree, but I imagine she would give me the same look as I do when she insists on making the bed. Never quite understood the point of that…
Point being, I also love a good pan. I have accumulated a lot of them, and like all good things in my life, most have a back story. I have crepe pans from Cordon Bleu and Dehillerin, a frying pan Sara and I bought in Montepulciano, Havard from an estate sale in California, nickel plated copper from Morocco, and on and on. A month or so ago I bought some heavy copper pans made in the 1800s, well used, beat up, and re-tinned at least once judging by the tin slop on the sides. The sauce pan has jagged dovetail marks on the bottom, the Windsor has hammered initials on the side, both are slightly misshapen and crumpled on the edges from over a century of being banged with spoons, and both are exquisite. Having good pans wouldn’t do too much for me without being able to cook in them though, and once I had them I let them hang quietly on the rack for a while while I mulled over my options. Since they are deliciously heavy and spectacular, I needed to re-tin them so I could use them because there was copper showing on the inside. Didn’t just want to. Needed to. I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. The biggest problem was, now that I had them, I didn’t want to send them to just anyone… so I emailed, called, and read reviews and chat boards of every place that re-tinned copper I could find. Finally, I called Rocky Mountain Retinning in Colorado and talked to Dieter. I knew. I knew in the way you can tell if someone will be a good babysitter or not. I knew he would take care of them.
This morning, while I was sitting down at the dining room table, sore from shoveling two feet of snow and lamenting the fact that Lily is stuck at home with strep three days before Christmas, they came. In the same box I packed them into three weeks ago, they came. When I pulled them out, they were ice cold and perfect. Still dented and misshapen, but heavy and full of potential energy, like they came back to life.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Moustache Fights

We've been getting a flurry of packages at our doorstep lately, almost every day they'll be something waiting on the porch when I get home, and I have to admit it's a little exciting. Granted, I know what most of them are, since they are either Christmas-related, or something I've ordered to replace something that has stopped working in the house - a little sidebar for you... everything we own has broken. I think it's a bad karma thing. Our stereo stopped working, so I brought the one I was using in the basement upstairs, and that one broke. My car has a 'service soon' light that won't go away, the screen on my laptop died, Sam's knee stopped working (which landed him in the hospital), our microwave tray stopped rotating, the water dispenser on our fridge, etc., etc....
Anyway, we've been getting packages, which rocks. My favorite so far was Sara's Christmas present to me, which came in a clearly marked box from the manufacturer... so unless she's reeeeeeeeally crafty, knew what was in the box before I even walked up the porch steps. Ha! Even though we live on a little side street, everything gets here without a hitch, unless it's sent by DHL. For some reason, they just can't seem to find us. I get a DHL package about once a year, and every time the delivery date comes and goes, and I have to call them up and explain that there is indeed a street named Woodbine, I'm calling from there right now, and we're not just driving our house around trying to avoid them. Yesterday, they did it again. I got a tracking number, and then an email saying they were having delivery problems. Since we're getting so many little things delivered, I had no idea what it was or how important the contents were, so I called as soon as I got the message. In typical DHL fashion, the woman who answered the phone was useless. "Is this the right address?", she asked, " Can you spell it for me?"... And best of all, "Are you sure you're in Berwyn?". So we went back and forth for a while. Her "google wasn't working", she said, and asked me for directions and cross streets. Then, to add insult to injury, she said they would TRY to deliver it.
Since I hadn't slept much, and was annoyed that everything in the house had decided to self destruct at once, I was a little pissed. To sum up, I said to her in one long sentence without any pause or hint of punctuation, that the post office, UPS, FedEx, and even our 16 year old pizza delivery kid can find the house without any problems and I'm not paying any of them for express delivery and maybe she should get someone on the phone that can find my house since it's a large stationary object or give their drivers maps that weren't written in squid's ink on papyrus in the early 1800s so that they can bring me my fucking package before they send it back to whoever the hell its from or maybe find a person that could write me a check for the delivery charges I paid since they were intent on driving everything I order all over Pennsylvania instead of bringing it to my house which is in the same fucking place it was when they haven't been able to find it every year for the past seven years. Or something like that.
Anyway, a few hours later a DHL truck pulls up to the house, the driver gingerly rolls his antique map up into a scroll, and brings me my package. We chatted for a second because he seemed like a nice enough guy, and when I got inside I eagerly tore the envelope open to see what my little outburst had saved from being returned... and there they were, in all their glory, the 120 fake moustaches I had ordered for our holiday party. Sam chose the 'bandito' style to wear around for the rest of the night, and I decided not to wear one just yet, but to savor the sight of the 119 moustaches left scattered across our dining room table. I just love the holiday season...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Breathe Deep The Wild Air

For those of you who have been following my long series of illnesses, most of which are allergy related, we may have reached the final chapter of this ongoing saga. I had my annual check-up at the beginning of September (by annual I mean every eight years) and my doctor suggested I see an allergist. Apparently, I am an ass to everyone around me for a good chunk of the year, and she thought there might be a solution...
She suggested her top allergy guy (who is apparently everyone's top allergy guy, since it takes two months to get an appointment) who I finally got to see last week. After talking about my issues for a couple of minutes, we got down to the testing stage of the appointment, which was a lot of fun. Not. Before I even got the results, I learned a little something about myself - I'm not a little pain person, I'm a big pain person. In case you haven't been tested before, here's the scoop. First, they do a skin prick test, which means they put a drop of an allergen on your skin, and then scratch you with this sharp little needle. If you're allergic to whatever the thing was, you get a little red itchy spot where they scratched you. Unfortunately they tested me for about 40 things, waited, didn't see anything, decided to try some intradermal tests to be sure, and then proceeded to inject me with allergens in a bunch of different spots instead... which led to my "little pain, big pain" theory. I cut my pinkie knuckle off once while I was boning a duck - one misplaced flick of my new filet knife, and I could feel the blade grab onto the bone in my finger. Cut my leg once too, so badly that I left a trail of blood from the kitchen of the Ritz Carlton through the main lobby, down the pristine marble steps, and on the floor of the taxi that took me to the hospital. Burned part of my left arm once so badly there was a strip of crispy black skin, skewered a lobster tail and the palm of my right hand together, broke my right big toe while working the line at a jazz bistro, and once had to discard an entire bowl of perfectly sliced Spanish onions because I somehow chopped off my entire fingernail into the bowl. And you know what? Every single one of those things sucked, but I'd do them all again before sitting through another allergy test. There's something about the little pricks and scratches, over and over, that just drives me out of my mind. Every little injection was like torture... on the other hand, when you put a knife through your thigh you get that warm flood of dopamine and endorphins going, and it's not that bad. The clean-up sucks, but at least you don't have someone picking at you for twenty minutes. Eew.
Anyway, I bit my lip and waited while they prodded away, and then sat on the table all itchy while I waited to see what which spots would turn into welts. Everything looked pretty good except for one angry little spot with the number '14' written in red marker next to it on my left shoulder. One spot, I thought, can't be that bad. After all, they tested me for everything on the face of the earth, so one thing should be pretty easy to fix. "Did you say you have two dogs?" the doctor said when he walked back in, "because number 14 is dogs."
So after all the prodding and poking, I'm stuck. I would sooner live in a cardboard box than get rid of the dogs, so I'm back to square one - or so I thought. I'm not really a big drug-guy these days, don't really take anything unless I need to, and a was a little sceptical when he suggested I try fexofenadine.. but you know what? Love it. Feel like a million bucks and I can type really fast. I wasn't even logged on to the internet 20 seconds ago, and here we are, four paragraphs in. Wee! I'm on fire.... think I might build us another house this afternoon...

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Ok, I know some of you have seen this already, but I just felt like spreading it around. Man, that was delicious...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Generic Post #103

Oh, it's been so long since I've written. So much has happened, I don't know where to start.
The kids are great, and impress me with everything they do. They're both playing soccer, doing well in school, are exceptionally funny and polite, and are collaborating on an experimental vaccine for malaria the can be made from discarded coffee grounds. Sam is in first grade, so he's reading on a pretty advanced level, using computers and doing math in class, and fills in his afternoons running a charity organization he's started which trains squirrels how to help the elderly open child-proof lids on prescription bottles. Lily is in Pre-K, so she's just getting a handle on writing the alphabet and is still only a stand-in at the Bolshoi Ballet.
My wife is still crazy and has been working ridiculous hours this month, so we haven't seen her all that much. It's a pretty difficult life around here when she's gone for weeks at a time. For one, I feel bad that she's stretched to her limit, and that the kids miss her when she isn't here. Plus, being a single parent is pretty freaking hard. A few days at a time is a breeze, but after a few weeks things really start to falls through the cracks, and I quickly got lost in a sea of laundry and school forms. Not to mention the fact that she is the morning person in our relationship, and having to be the morning person and then not being able to fall asleep at a reasonable hour really made me wish I had a meth lab in the back yard just to get me over the hump.
On top of that, busy days at work for me inevitably lead to the carpal tunnel thing, and it's been hard to do anything, much less come home and type. Back in the day when I first heard of carpal tunnel I thought it was office workers complaining because they were a bunch of pansies... unfortunately, I was wrong about that. I can usually fend off the onset of things by wearing my wrist braces and icing my arms down, but every once in a while it hits me anyway. For those of you who are lucky enough to have avoided it, every heartbeat makes your arms burn from the first joint in your thumbs all the way up to the back of your neck, and there's no way of forgetting about it because it's there, day and night. Unless, of course, you manage to burn the side of your face with a big wave of bacon grease - which I did - and then it's hard to focus on your arm pains. Plus, I look like an idiot who lost a monkey knife fight. And while I'm on the subject, if you haven't been in a monkey knife fight, I would avoid those too. They're smart, and don't have any qualms about going for your crotch or throwing poo as a distraction.
So there you go, you're all up to date. I'm off to ice things down once again, and will fill you in as soon as I can type without the assistance of a bottle of Advil.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Well That Was Fast...

Ok, here's a quick update after the last post -
On Saturday night we had some friends of ours come over for dinner, and just as they arrived and I was getting some food together, the phone rang... and yeah, you guessed it, it was a guy from Friendly's named Steve.
Steve, it turns out, was a pretty nice guy... and it turns out the spoon does have a higher purpose - it turns out that the spoon clips on to the Friend-z blender, and after they put the ice cream and toppings in the cup, the spoon is the thing that does the actually blending. When it's all mixed, they just unhook the top of the spoon and leave it in the cup. Apparently, it's an easier and much more sanitary way to make the things, because the machine is sealed off and the only thing that ever touches the ice cream is the spoon that they give you. Who knew.
Anyway, Steve seemed to gather by the sound of raucous children and margaritas being blended it wasn't the best time to talk, even though I told him I was thrilled to get a call (at home on a Saturday night, wtf?) from Friendly's with an answer.
"Thanks for your letter and for the nice things you said about Friendly's, I really enjoyed reading it," he said, "and I sent it to our CEO Ned Lidvall and the GM, so next time you go in make sure to let them know who you are."
Mmm, Friendly's fame. Sweet.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Open Letter To A Restaurant That Is Friendly

To Whom It May Concern:
After a lovely meal at one of your restaurants yesterday, my son and I ordered ice cream - he decided on mint chocolate chip (he’s a sucker for the classics), and I got vanilla blended with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. When our ice cream arrived, his looked normal enough, but I was given a cup and the most mysterious spoon I have ever seen.
As a chef and a lover of soups, I’ve seen a lot of spoons in my day. On top of that, I know the extraordinary power that flatware can have. I’ve seen my cousin burst into tears by the mere presence of a runcible spoon on the table, and been enchanted by the haunting sound of a toothless man playing the spoons in rural Arkansas. But nothing comes close to the spoon I received yesterday.
Since I am unable to attach a picture of the spoon into the ‘Contact Us’ section of your website, I’ll describe it – It’s plastic (so I brought it home, I hope you don’t mind), and the bowl, or ‘action’ end of the spoon is normal in every way... but here’s where it gets odd... I can’t figure the handle out. It’s rectangular and hollow, with two ventilation holes along the run of the handle, and it has an odd hook at the end, as if it wants to be attached to something. The hollow handle looks like it should be stacked with other spoons, but I can’t see any way that one spoon would fit inside another without cutting off the business end, and the air holes suggest that it might be used as a wee little straw – although I can’t see how this would be practical since you would have to immerse the entire length of the handle to get any suction. Plus, lets be honest with each other, if you immerse the entire spoon your face would be all the way down there anyway, and you might as well just drink it. I must admit, it did remind me of the brief time I spent in a Ninja training camp where we were taught to hide just below the surface of the water and breathe through a short length of hollow reed. I can’t imagine this was the spoons intended purpose however, because I think that your enemy would become suspicious if they saw the bowl end of a spoon sticking out of the water. So much for the element of surprise... foiled by a spoon.
The hook is another matter all together. It’s not really a hook per se, by itself the spoon wouldn’t really hang on anything, and it seems to be more of a clip – as though something would lock into place when it was inserted all the way down the shaft of the spoon handle. Since I can’t imagine that each individual spoon is locked securely into place until someone orders a Friend-z, I’m wondering if our server might have neglected to give me some mysterious spoon attachment. A game perhaps? A tiny ball and string that you have to attach to the spoon and swing into the cavity? Maybe you should consider, if you haven’t already, including a survival kit inside of the spoon’s shaft with one of those little wire saws with metal rings on each end, some matches, and a tiny foil emergency blanket. I would totally buy one of those. What a great stocking stuffer too! Emergency spoons for everyone on my list... Plus if you could modify the hook end a bit so you could fish with it, you might really have something, I’d never leave home without my Friend-z spoon.
I would be happy to send along a picture of the spoon if you’re not sure which one I’m talking about, or if you are at all concerned our server might have slipped in some rogue spoon that was never intended to be served with a Friend-z. That being said, our meal was delicious, even though I am haunted by your flatware. Please let me know as soon as possible what the higher purpose for this spoon is so that I can return to my normal life, unburdened by the mystery of your Friend-z spoon.

(Letter was submitted on 7.30.09... I'll let you know as soon as they answer. Until then...)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Spoons and Barns

Since we moved into this house about seven years ago, Sara has been on an endless quest to turn it into a home. I’m the sort of person that would rather stay here than move, so I’ve been making an honest effort to improve the place little by little. Just to give you some perspective, on any given day she will see a for sale sign somewhere and make a list of the reasons we should immediately move before someone else gets the house – and on any given day I consider all of the reasons that would make me leave this place... Decaying front porch? No, I can deal with that. Water in the basement, stinkbugs in the attic, and mice in the crawlspace? No problem. Crackheads moving into our spare bedroom and poltergeists in the closets? Maybe they can contribute, after all it takes a village to raise a child...
On rare occasions, our desires intersect. When they do, and we are powered by a collective covet, it’s best to stay the hell back. Since we’ve had an actual dining room (and perhaps fueled by pictures in every cooking magazine I’ve ever read that show elaborate dinners attended by quirky & beautiful guests sprawled out over expansive tables) I’ve always wanted a table as a centerpiece. The dining room table we were using had history on it’s side – it’s the table I grew up with, eaten countless meals around, instigated and resolved a lifetime of arguments, and sat behind while I’ve told and heard every story worth telling. What I’ve always wanted was something to make our own history with, a table worthy of countless friends, and a new lifetime of arguments, jokes, and a shitload of food. When Sara said (out of the blue) that she wanted a farm table, I was electric.
One thing you have to do in our house is seize the moment. Plans we make tend to get swept under the rug unless they're fought for, so I started fighting. For the next few days I looked everywhere - furniture stores, eBay, and on websites of carpenters and companies from Vancouver to our front door - and as luck would have it, I happened across Stable Tables about 20 miles away from us. John, it turned out, was exactly the guy we were looking for. His place was like Christmas morning - piles of barn wood, salvaged floor joists, and wide planks of birch and red oak strewn across the workshop pulsing with potential energy.
We talked for a while, looked at wood and finishes, had lemonade, played with his dog Butch, and without any pause, I wrote a check. Behind the scenes John started working, and within a couple of weeks he was lugging it into our dining room.
Before I go any further, I know it's just a table, and a lot of you might not really care what your dining room table looks like. It's ok, I don't play golf. I don't give a shit about college basketball, I don't work on my car, and think the movie 'Mamma Mia' sucks. To each his own. But my table... ahh, my table. Perfect. Perfect because of its imperfections. It's rough and uneven, like reclaimed wood should be, full of character from a past life... and this morning, with my some of my family here, it was just what I hoped for... somewhere I wanted to stay and watch the kids dig through plates of fruit and waffles while I'm planning the next meal, and listen to the same stories my parents have told a hundred times. Most of all, a place where I can close my eyes, hear Sara and the kids, and know that I'm home. Sappy, but I don't care, I don't golf.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Behind The Green Door

On the heels of our trip to Puerto Rico, Satchmo hasn't been doing that well. For the past year or so he has aged really quickly, and a few weeks ago he collapsed. It's not as dramatic as it sounds though - I came home, he woke up and got really excited, and then just sort of fainted. He was down for about a minute and when he came to just seemed to walk it off. We took him to the vet anyway, and instead of finding out why he passed out they found a tumor on his spleen about the size of a peach. To add insult to injury, this seemed to have nothing to do with his collapse, and now we had two problems to figure out.
Since then we has been back and forth from different vets, and some of the news has been better than we expected. The tumor which at first they thought could burst at any moment, seems to be stable at the moment, and even though it needs to be removed doesn't seem like the sort of thing that is immediately life threatening.
Today Satchmo and I went to the cardiologist to see if we could figure out the deal with the fainting, and after he had an ultrasound we found out that one of the reasons might have been the fact that he has pulmonary hypertension. Which, to be honest, sort of pissed me off. Granted, I don't have the hardest life, but I'm stressed. Kids, work, money, life in general - you name it, and I'm stressed about it. Satchmo, on the other hand, has to decide which room to fart in... and that's pretty much it. On top of that, the way you treat pulmonary hypertension in dogs is by giving them Viagra.
Seriously. And now I'm really pissed. You know what good drugs I get? Nothin. I'm creeping up on forty and have new and surprising ailments all the time, and you know the kind of things my doctor suggests? Fish oil. But Satchmo passes out and he gets Viagra - and not only that, but there is a pharmacy in New Jersey that makes Viagra in a liquid form with beef flavoring! Fuck. I wouldn't be surprised at all if his post surgery treatment included bacon flavored cocaine... but god forbid I have a heart attack or something, I'll probably get a brussels sprout salve.
On the positive side, I'm sure his social life will improve. Plus, we might be able to make some extra money by letting him do some porn. Seriously, he's pretty cute, and since he won't be hindered by any sort of moral code, I think he might really enjoy it. I already have a mental list of porn movie titles going...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Up And Away

Finally back from our trip to Puerto Rico, and thought I should share a few things. First of all, it was a spur of the moment thing, and even though we were trying to make it a vacation of sorts for the kids, it wasn't really a vacation for us. We found out we had to go on Tuesday, and by Wednesday we were having lunch at our hotel and had the kids sunscreened up and raring to go.

Luckily, there were plenty of distractions from the task at hand, and right away we were chasing iguanas around the pool and trying to convince Lily that the slide wasn't too scary. If you haven't been, it's an odd sort of paradise down there. Outside of the back doors by the beach the rest of the world melts away. The trees and ocean are beautiful, and it's hard remember what life is like back in the real world... outside of the front door (in San Juan, anyway) people are driving like the world is on fire, and the inner city and resorts fighting for space in a sort of haphazard tangle.

Our drive to the second hotel in Ponce was much of the same - stunning hills and valleys, homes jutting out randomly from the hillsides, and cartoon roadsigns reminding you not to fire your guns into the air at Christmas. You know, for the safety of the kids... and the Hilton was an oasis nestled behind some road construction and an overpass, like it was plunked down without regard for the neighbors.

Sara was gone for most of the next couple of days, catching up with her family and managing her way through her father's funeral, so the kids and I spent the days in an awkward peace. Even though we were trapped at the hotel, the kids were worn to the bone by the time bedtime came around from all of the swimming and running from one activity to the next, which made things a bit easier for all of us. It was odd though, because as beautiful as it was, and as good as the food was (and some of it was really, really good) at the end of every day I was ready to go home - and though she didn't let on, even during downtime at the pool or walking around at night listening to the Coqui, Sara seemed like a shadow of who she was a week before. We were back in San Juan by Saturday, and our last day before the flight home was spent trying to pretend we were ourselves again... plus we got to feel our way though our neighborhood, from the Ritz Carlton to the cockfight ring outside of our bedroom window. And by Sunday night, with the kids fast asleep in the back of the car, we finally made it home, and if I had the energy I would have kissed the ground when we arrived.

I didn't know Sara's father all that well. Aside from the few times we met, most of what I know is stories about what kind of man he was... and from those stories, what I know most about him is the amazing qualities he passed on to his kids. That, and he gave me the best gift I could have ever asked for, my wife.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Grip Slide Breach Barrel Trigger

After a long slow winter, the catering season has officially begun, and not a moment too soon. Is that what I'm supposed to say? Not a moment too soon? Well, I take it back, maybe it started just a moment too soon. After weeks of spring rains and chilly weather, Saturday came with 90 degree weather, which is awesome if you're not working, but not so much with long pants and a chef coat. Don't think I'm complaining about the work, cause I'm not... the money is good, and the jobs are like a 12 hour adrenaline rush, but it would be nice to start slow. That's why the first day of school or a new job is never that bad - you have a little time to work your way into things. Needless to say, on Saturday I didn't have a minute to work my way into things.
To be honest, I was getting pretty stressed by Wednesday. Orders were piling in, and workers were hemming and hawing about the prospect of showing up on a beautiful day to work... and by Friday I was knee deep in event planners who were bickering about the room set up and trying to get me to make menu changes at the last minute. By Friday night things had started to spiral out of control - orders came in wrong, another bar was added to the layout, and in addition to needing another bartender two of our hires backed out... which is why it's good to have friends. After a few hours, a minor heart attack, and a few bribes to a Sysco guy and a sushi chef everything was starting to look up again.
By the way, if you don't have a sushi guy, you should really get one. Honestly, treat yourself. Everyone has a meat guy, a fish guy, a produce guy and a bread guy... but a sushi guy, now that's a fun guy to have. Mine is especially cool because he is completely without emotion. Like a ninja. I missed him for a few days this week, and when I finally caught up with him and told him I needed 450 pieces of sushi trayed up on Saturday morning he raised his right eyebrow ever so slightly... until I said I was sure other jobs would be coming his way, and then he every so slowly lowered it back to standard eyebrow level and got to work.
By Saturday morning it was relentlessly beautiful outside, and I was a ball of stress. Went to the bank, picked up the tasty but emotionless sushi, and got down to work. Kate showed, and we had four hours of final prep work to do, a bit of time to plan our night, and then the hires started showing. First Trina, then Ken and Terri. Colleen and Ann came together, then Jessica (the new girl), then Bo, Sam, Susan, Chris, Sue, Jen, Lori, and finally (14 minutes late by my watch) the other Chris strolled in. Within minutes (I planned ahead! Woohoo!) they were busy as bees setting up the bars and making pitchers of the event's 'signature cocktail', cutting desserts, and assembling my "Centerpiece of Stress" - a 24 foot antipasto table complete with vodka and horseradish marinated tomatoes cascading down from risers, hills of roasted peppers, peppadews, boucheron and brie. Rows of olives and smoked portobello mushrooms snaking their way through flatbreads and sausages, carrots and hummus, tamarind shrimp and prosciutto - all leading directly into a tiny artery in my head and putting me on the verge of a stroke with every passing cornichon. Finally, six hours after I walked in the door, the 270 guests start to roll in and the names of the 22 hors d'oeuvres we have stacked up ready to be tossed in the ovens are drilled into the server's heads.
And for the next six hours, we push.
Then, of course, it's all over and I can't sleep. But I'm free to wander the house while everyone else is sleeping and look for band-aids, surgical tape, Tylenol, and vodka. When I made it upstairs at around four in the morning Lily had taken my spot in the bed, so I curled up in hers under pink sheets and ladybugs. By the time the sun was coming up I was burnt, sore, bandaged, and sleeping. And to be honest, sort of looking forward to the next time...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

4:15 - Chess for Beginners, 5:00 - Introduction to the World of Dating the Opposite Sex

Now that Sam is in kindergarten, or should I say the only kindergarten in a 20 square mile radius that isn't a full day program, there are a few days when I dash out of work to get him at 3:20. Aside from the fact that I'm rushing a bit, I can't complain about the time... all in all it's pretty cool. When it's warmer out we play soccer, go to the library at least once a week, occasionally hit Rita's for some water ice... stuff like that.
For the past year or so, Sam has talked about playing chess, I guess because some of the kids in his school play, and he bugs me to play every once in a while. Since I haven't played since I was in sixth grade we're both beginners, and I had to get a chess book out of the library after our first game deteriorated into a fancy looking checkers match. Then, miracle of miracles, the library started a chess club for kids. Every Monday the high school chess club comes in for an hour and plays the kids, some of whom play really well and some first timers like Sam.
Our first week went pretty well. Sam was gung-ho and raring to play, and for his first game he played one of the guys who guided him through the game, telling him how to move & what moves he should make. The second game was against one of the other instructors who was playing two of the kids at once, and still helped him through the game a bit. I just sat back and watched, trying to focus on the positive - chess is a thinking man's game, it takes intelligence, patience, strategy, reasoning and problem solving... but in the end, as I sat and watched I was fascinated by the high school chess club. There, right in front of me, were eight of the dorkiest people I had ever seen. Sure, they were nice guys... but I couldn't get past it and was silently asking myself question after question... How many times have they seen Star Wars? How many cyber alter-egos do they have? How many of them have "girlfriends" who live in the Niagara Falls area? How many of them played the oboe or could speak Klingon? So, to sum up, Sam had fun, and I'm going to hell.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Beginnings & Bird Poop

Since last time I've been here, I guess you could say I've recovered. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, and I'm honestly surprised at how much a person can bleed without passing out, but aside from some swelling, I'm cool.
To celebrate my new found ability to breathe, I've decided to catch up I everything I was supposed to have done in the last six months but didn't - sounds like quite a party, yes? Luckily, a good chunk of my mental list was little goofy stuff - changing batteries in things, sorting through paperwork, waterproofing my shoes - you know, the things that you probably do every day while I've been sitting on the couch watching reruns of 'The Dating Game'. One of the big things I did was finally buy a new car after hemming and hawing for months. I went with something a little bigger than my Xterra since we had a tendency to fill that from top to bottom and load things on the roof from time to time. I got a Pathfinder, and after it was bought and paid for my lovely wife told me she thought it was more of a 'dad' car since the Xterra was a little sportier - a comment which hurt me more than she'll ever know... but I really like it, and the kids don't want to get out of it since they get to sit back in the third row which is reeeeeally ass-far away from the front seat. The only problem is I seem to be attracting an inordinate amount of birds. I don't know if it's the color, shimmer of new wax, or maybe resembles the shape of a really big Mourning Dove nest - but I'm being shit on all day. Seriously, every time I walk out of the house there is another poo spot on it, and yesterday while I was driving I swear I saw a group of Barn Swallows make an abrupt right turn so that they could fly directly over my windshield.
Another thing we've had in the works for a while was actually planting and taking care of (that's the part we have trouble with) our vegetable garden, and we hatched a plan to keep us somewhat motivated. First of all, we took the kids with us to shop for seeds and had them help us plant them in trays inside. Second, we started a blog so that we would sort of have to keep up with it... you know, once it's out there we'll be forced to show how well it's doing or how high the weeds are. Plus, it's an extra bit of recession-proofing, which can never hurt. Anyway, if you'd like to peek in on it or come by and steal a fresh tomato in the dead of night, you check out the blog here.

Oh, and the kids are fine...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Recovery Post

I have a slew of things to post about - February was full of birthdays, illnesses, surgery, you name it - but at the moment, I'm struggling. I was pretty busy and just didn't feel like writing for the past few weeks, and figured that during my week of post-surgery vacation I could catch up. Here I am though, at the end of my week off, and the thought of typing more than a few paragraphs is more than I can bear. As a funny little sidebar, Sara took some pictures of me in the hospital before the surgery so that I could post them next to some after pictures... unfortunately, I looked at the after pictures on my cell phone today, and they're just way too gross to post. Not that I'm self conscious about my looks, but I had a lot of what the hospital affectionately calls 'seepage'. In the hospital I wasn't concerned at all when the doctor said that I would "have some seepage for the next few days", but it was a different story when I was trying to sleep and realized that he meant I would "have blood running down your face until Tuesday".
Anyseepage, I didn't come to vent, I actually just came to post about my mother's birthday dinner.
First of all, it was my wife's idea... OK, now that I've gotten that out of the way, With Sara as a server, Sam as a pasta machine operator, some classic Abbate conversation, and some help from Taylor Rental, it was one of the best nights I've had in a long time. Hopefully, since the shebang was for my parents (and my mother's 70th, of course) they felt the same way. Anyway, thanks all around - to the Abbates for livening up the place, to my wife for putting up with my anal-retentive table setting procedures, and my parents for, well, everything. So without further ado, here are the pics and the menu, and I'm going to lay down and quiver... oh, btw, my mother made a chocolate pecan pie for dessert which was so good we forgot to take a picture... or we were drunk, either one...

Sam and I frantically making basil pasta

Setting the table just in time

Seared Bluefin Ahi Tuna Loin with
Spicy Sesame Seaweed and Roasted Pepper Coulis
2005 Jekel Vineyards
Monterey Gewurztraminer

Handrolled Basil Pasta with
Acorn and Butternut Squash Ragu
& 24k Gold Leaf
1999 Viberti Giovanni
Barolo Reserva San Pietro

Grilled Red Curry Zabuton Beef with
Baby Spinach and Wild Mushroom in
Balsamic Reduction
2006 Elizabeth Spencer
Cabernet Sauvignon
Proprietor Blend Special Cuvee

Spring Greens with
Ginger Juice Pears & Sweet Basil Vinaigrette (picture taken after my father ate half of it... kinda changes the presentation a bit...)
2007 Pine Ridge
Oakville Chenin Blanc-Viognier

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day of Service

In the red velvet cake of life, the third day of a three day weekend is the cream cheese frosting... and not the cream cheese frosting that your neighbor makes that even though they insist is "everyone's favorite!" tastes like sweetened spackle, I mean the cream cheese frosting that is actually good. I feel a little guilty saying it because I like my job, and should have grown out of it by now, but I just love the extra day. Usually, our weekends are pretty packed, and this one was no exception. We picked the kids up from school on Friday and went right to Beaumont Elementary Bingo Night; got up on Saturday and went to Lily's ballet class, then to Sam's tennis practice, then off to dinner at my aunt's house; got up on Sunday and made chili for the Eagles game/birthday party/chili cookoff that afternoon... and we filled in the gaps with laundry, trips to the supermarket, video store, etc... But Monday, glorious Monday, was a freebie. All we had planned was a trip to the movies. Seriously. That's it. Of course, because the four of us having a relaxing day at home would set the order of the universe askew, we got the shaft once again. By 6:30 in the morning Sam was in our room with a fever and sore throat, so we put the movie on hold and made a doctor's appointment... still, could be worse... It snowed about six inches or so too, as if God looked down and said "hmm, what does Joe hate more than anything... I know! Heights! Wait, that won't work, I can't just put him on top of something... what else, what else.. snow! That's it! Haha! That'll fix that little trying-to-relax-on-a-Monday, left-the-catholic-church-to-become-a-Unitarian bastard!" By lunchtime I was going stir-crazy from watching Sam groan all morning, and since the roads looked pretty clear from my window, decided to run out to buy dog food since we were completely kibble-free. About halfway there I realized what a mistake it was to drive, and honestly wished I would given them some zabuton from my freezer and gone to the pet store on Tuesday. Too late to turn back, I drove on, and just as I got to the parking lot watched a car spin off of Rt. 202, roll up the grassy shoulder, and crash into a fence separating the highway from the access road. Sensing that perhaps this would add some good karma into my day, it skittered across the road and ran down the snowy hill to the side of the highway. As I got to the fence, a couple was getting out of the car and seemed freaked out but otherwise OK. I talked to them for a couple of minutes until a tow truck arrived, but apparently Sadguru wasn’t watching because as I tried to make my way back to the my car, the hill that I had so effortlessly ran down required an ice pick and crampons to get back up. Since they were in my other coat, I spent a good ten minutes clawing my way up the first half of the hill, at which point I briefly considered giving up entirely and letting the gently falling snow slowly cover my substantial frame... dreaming one day people would mention Chris McCandless’ name and mine in the same breath. Luckily, the light from the Petsmart sign gave me the strength to go on, and I slid into our driveway just in time to take Sam to the doctor...
... where we found out the he has strep throat again. As the icing on the cake of my day, after our hour long, three mile drive home, our power went out. For the rest of the night, as our 68 degree house gradually equalized with the 16 degree outside, we watched my laptop and cell phone batteries die, the flashlights grow dimmer, and my iTouch fade into darkness. Eventually, we gave up. Sara and Lily piled into our bed with Sam so they could feed off of his feverish heat, and I went downstairs to blow out the last of our candles and curled up with the dogs on the couch.
Funny thing is, in the pitch black cold of our living room, I couldn’t help but smile thinking about the talent show by candlelight Sara had started to keep the kids busy, the way a feverish Sam couldn’t help but giggle as he jostled for position in our too tiny bed, how Satchmo snored his way through another dark day, and how if I froze to death on the couch they might make Into The Wild 2 – The Suburban Tundra.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Walking To School Barefoot. Both Ways.

I noticed since we've gotten back into the groove of things after the holidays, that everyone seems older.
I for one, am crotchety. I have this weird sinus thing and haven't been sleeping well at night since November - not to mention the daytime, which is punctuated by dizzy spells and bouts of throbbing pain. As a result, I have been buckling my pants well above my waistline, eating dinner at around 4:30 in the afternoon, and have no idea what kids today are thinking with their crazy haircuts, rock and roll music, and universal remote controls. In my day if you wanted to change the channel you had to get up and change the channel, and you were damn glad to catch a few shows before the test pattern came on.
Sam has a plan. He has ideas about robots he'll build, followed up by intricate diagrams and elaborate explanations of how it should function. He has plans to lead a healthier life, which include exercise programs and packing his own lunch. He wants to be a rock star, a chef, and study volcanoes. He talks about conflict resolution, quizzes me with math problems, reads(!), is fiercely competitive but rubs his Buddha in the morning and will gladly show you a yoga move, and gladly puts on a tie without a single complaint. A month ahead of time, he seems to have left being a five year old far behind him, and has his eyes dead set on 18.
Lily, who's creeping up on four, has become a woman of extremes. In the span of a day she is the most stubborn and demanding person in my life, and then is relentlessly affectionate. In her mind there is nothing better on earth than picking out her clothes, putting on high heels and getting her nails done - but she will gladly smear chocolate over her entire head. She seems almost desperate for Sam to love her, hangs on his every word, and the happiest moments in her life are when she can make him laugh... and then, in an instant, she'll take a deep breath and say, "Sam, you're annoying me." and it'll end.
Even the dogs have changed since the new year. Satchmo can barely see a thing, but has held up pretty well considering... I get to see his personality when I get home from work, he'll find his way over and shakes his entire rear half like mad just like he used to when I walk in the door, but these days I'm devastated that I'm the only one who gets to see it. There was a time when he would never back down from a bone, a ball, or a fight; but these days he can't be bothered, or just can't keep up. He'll still move Stella out of the way to sit next to me on the couch, and nudge me with his enormous head in the morning until I scratch him with my chin - but I end up carrying him off of the bed, into the car, and down the steps just like I did fourteen years ago when he was small enough to fit in my coat pocket. Stella has taken it in stride too. She's mellowed out too, no matter what my wife tells you, and has even eased up on Satchmo a bit, as if she was talking about him in a hushed whisper.
My wife, in part because she reads this blog, continues to get younger every day. Oh, and they're laugh lines, dammit.
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