Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cheers to you!

Loyal readers, please accept my apologies for not blogging for so many days (though LAP picked up some of my slack. Thank you, LAP). The truth is that I was so busy enjoying the holidays with family that I didn't have enough time and energy to write. The hubby, bubby, and I were on an eight-day tour of Midwestern love. We started in Chicago; traveled to Terre Haute, IN (home of the Honey Creek Mall and federal death row); drove from Terre Haute to Salem, IL (birthplace of William Jennings Bryan); headed back to Terre Haute; then traveled to Fairfield, OH (City of Opportunity, NTB); and finally made our way back to the Windy City just in time to sit in a little bit of Bears traffic on Lake Shore Drive. Holiday road trips can be tough (at least if you are forced to travel with an "inefficient packer" like me, just ask my husband about all the fun he had loading the car and then driving it with zero visibility), but I would not have traded a moment with the family and friends with whom we celebrated the holidays. What's more, it was an absolute joy to see the bubby enjoying his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The bub still has no idea why he received presents, but he mightily enjoyed opening them. The coming weeks are sure to bring reports of the fun he is having with some of his loot.

Since this is a season of gift-giving and blessing counting, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you who take the time to check and read this blog. I started it on a whim (credit for its name goes to my youngest brother, The Intern) and it has proven to be a richly satisfying and rewarding endeavor. Though a lifelong lover of words, I have always thought of myself as a reader more than a writer, probably because reading has almost always been pure pleasure for me whereas I often find writing frustrating and time intensive. As most of you know, I have been in graduate school since 2001 and have written hundreds and hundreds of pages of the mostly frustrating and time intensive variety since then.* Starting the blog has been an opportunity for me to have fun with writing and my voice. Blogging has also changed my outlook on daily life, especially the challenges of motherhood. Though always a glass-half-full-type person, I now find myself, more than ever, looking for the humor and the joy in the world and people around me. With the name, "Not to Brag," I had planned to use the blog to report on accomplishments that might be worth bragging (or not) about. I never imagined I would be shouting my love for Lean Cuisine pizzas from the rooftop, reporting on the bub's bowel movements, or finding a forum to vent my long-held frustration with male attitudes toward fashion. That's the best thing about life though: those moments when our lives exceed our own imagined versions of them. Hands down, the best thing about starting a blog has been the feedback I have received from those who read it. To all of you who leave comments, send me emails, or pass on your compliments via my mom, I thank you. I feel closer and more connected to friends and family than ever, NTB.

I am thrilled to report that two of my dear friends (both of whom are far better writers than I) have started blogs--check out the links to Beyond Pickles and It's A Small World After All to your left. I love seeing life through their eyes and am delighted whenever new posts are on offer. Maybe starting a blog is something you might be thinking about for 2008 . . . I would love to read it. I'm planning a New Year's Resolution post for Tuesday. Until then, thanks again to all of you for reading. I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and I wish for you, in 2008 and always, more health, happiness, fun, humor, and joy than you even imagined . . . and plenty to (not) brag about!

*Academic writing does have its satisfactions and shining moments, I will admit, but they are hard won.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Head for the Arches

I know you are probably in MEP withdrawal (I am). She’s been traveling to visit family over the holidays with “limited access to email” (a favorite line in the out of office responses I’ve received for work.) So, here I am as a temporarily fill-in until she has a chance to post again. I’ve decided to write about one of my favorite things: McDonalds.

I love it. Really I do. I will go ahead and give my disclaimer that yes, I know it’s bad for me. I know there are healthier fast food alternatives, but that doesn't keep me from choosing my cheeseburger with no pickle and onion, french fries, and diet coke time and time again. I do try to limit the fast food intake of my children, but as MEP herself has pointed out, she doesn’t want the bub to be denied such things as fast food or else he will be a nerd who overindulges to the point of looking ridiculous once he is exposed. Makes sense to me. (I look forward to the day that Apple Martin is photographed biting into a quarter pounder as Gwyneth has said she’d get her kids McDonalds “over my dead body.” Yes, Apple, there are snacks other than hummus.)

As far as citing specifically what I enjoy about McDonalds, I’ll list my top 3 things:

1. French fries: When the batch is made properly, they are hands down the best fries around. Consistency can sometimes be a problem, but the gamble is worth it.

2. Fountain soda: For some reason, the pop at McDonalds tastes better than it does anywhere else. I can’t explain it, but hopefully some of you know what I am talking about. A former coworker told me something about refrigerated trucks…I don’t know or care why it is (I lack intellectual curiosity in that way) but my diet coke just tastes better when it comes from the McDonalds tap.

3. Soft serve: Cones, sundaes, and (gasp) McFlurries. The first two are tasty and a great bang for your buck. The last is a lovely addition to the menu. I will say though that I’ve had to send mine back before (much to the embarrassment of my husband) because a half-full butterfinger McFlurry just doesn’t cut it when you wanted a whole one. (side note: I was nice about it and so were they)

Really, though, I believe my love for McDonalds runs much deeper than the offerings themselves. Many happy childhood memories include McDonalds. For instance, some families went to Bob Evans, Perkins, maybe even home for a nice post-church breakfast, but not us. You could find us in the back corner booth of McDonalds every Sunday. We lingered and chatted for a while after 9:30 mass, then moseyed over to McDonalds just before 11am. With this strategic timing, those wanting breakfast could still order it, but lunch (always my choice) was just minutes away. I knew we had been there a lot when “Grandma” (as her name tag read) once recited my order to me as soon as I stepped up to the counter. It was a simple little tradition to look forward to and, as my mom has since pointed out, it made Sunday morning more relaxing for my parents.

How many people can say that their first date was at McDonalds? Or, how many people would admit that? Ours was by accident (if it wasn’t an accident I don’t want to know that). My now husband and I were on our way to a sporting event and it started raining once we got off the exit. We ducked into McDonalds to have lunch and let it pass over. By the time we were done, the rain had stopped. (It should be noted that said date ended up lasting 11 hours and thus he was forced to purchase another meal plus some snacks for me.)

Even at ages 1 and 3, my daughters have their own McDonalds memories in the making. I was driving in the car with them last week (trying to get the younger one to sleep…don’t judge - it was a rough day) when J. asked if she could get a little cone from McDonalds, like the kind Papa gets her after dance class. I asked her to explain further and she said that after her weekly dance class that Grammy takes her to, Papa meets them at McDonalds and always gets she and N. a little cone after lunch. I can completely picture this scenario with my dad at the counter asking for "a couple of those little cones".

Were Oakbrook, IL not such a far commute from Cincinnati, OH, I’d be working at corporate right now. I’d love to analyze what part of the country eats the most Big Macs, learn the procurement process for the Happy Meal toys, find out just who out there actually enjoyed the McRib, and “not brag” to fellow employees that the owner of the McDonalds just a couple miles away from me invented the Filet O Fish. As I don’t plan on moving anytime (no worries, mom), I will just rely on the insider knowledge gained back in the 1st grade when our field trip involved taking a tour of the Fairfield, OH McDonalds on the VERY WEEK THAT I WAS LINE LEADER. I couldn’t have planned it any better.

In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy McDonalds and the memories it seems to provide until my waistline comes up with a new plan. For now though, I’m lovin’ it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Everyone telling you be of good cheer . . .

This is the most wonderful time of the year. I truly believe that. However, it can also be the busiest and most stressful. All fall, I've been eagerly awaiting the holidays season, certain that the bub would be so much more excited and delighted than he was last year. And, he has been. He loves watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, pointing to pictures and figures of Santa and saying "ho ho," derailing the train that runs around the base of our tree, kissing his Big Bird and Cookie Monster ornaments good night, and playing in the snow. I anticipate a lot of smiles to come, but I find myself, this year more than ever, feeling an intensified sense of hope/pressure to maximize the holiday experience. Isn't it my job to help the bub start making Christmas memories?

Newly-Made Holiday Memory #1
So the holiday plan for today was simple: go downtown to see dad's new office and then have a nice holiday lunch as a family. I gave it my all. I got the bub all suited up in his gray flannel pants, his turtleneck, and his choo choo holiday sweater vest. He not only agreed to wear the double-breasted little British boy wool coat my mom bought him but also wore the matching, velvet trimmed hat that went with it. I left in plenty of time but then found that the garage in my hubby's office building was full. I am not that familiar with the Chicago Loop (the business-type area downtown where the hubby works). Tedious story made short(ish), I had to drive around for thirty minutes to find another garage, frustrated by one way streets, aggressive pedestrians, and my own lack of geographical prowess. I call my hubby twice--illegally because I have again "misplaced" my hands free--to get some recommendations (not to bitch though, I'd never do that) and he doesn't pick up. But we make it.

After a small tussle solved by a pack of fruit snacks, the bub is secure in the stroller and we're heading to the office. As we head to the 28th floor, the bub drops two fruit snacks, the last two. I pick them up and have every intention of handing them back to him, but I want to wait until we're out of the elevator and out of sight of the guy who was in it with us. I'm not sure why I cared what this stranger thought about my "two second rule," but I did. Unfortunately, the bub did not know my game and started crying for the snacks. The hubby meets us outside the elevator doors and finds the bub transitioning into a mini-meltdown. The bub pulls himself together though and then parades through the office. We're not there long, but the bub manages to throw about a hundred business cards around daddy's office and nab a rice krispie treat from the office pantry.

Due to the parking delay, my dream of a sit-down lunch in a restaurant with cozy ambiance and some holiday decor was not destined to come true. We tried three places with no luck and settled for the most expedient option. That's right, I got the bub all dressed up and paid $19 to park for a holiday lunch at McDonalds. NTB. Granted, he does love the food, he dug the Strawberry Shortcake figurine that came in his happy meal, the price was quite reasonable, and we managed to nab a table near the Christmas tree. You've got to love a tree decorated with McDonalds gift cards and chained to the wall (would someone really steal a four foot Christmas tree from McDonalds?). Can you believe I forgot to take a picture?

Newly-Made Holiday Memory #2
Last Friday afternoon got particularly long. In the interest of passing the time and trying to be a supermom, I found a sugar cookie recipe and discovered that I had the necessary ingredients. The bub and I made the dough and a nice mess, and then I realized the dough had to chill. So, it chilled and when Saturday afternoon got long, the bub "helped" me cut out the cookies. I baked several dozen cookies cut from miniature holiday cookie cutters and even made some icing. And then, I put the cookies in a plastic container and placed them on top of the microwave. They have remained there un-iced ever since. So tonight, the hubby says, "Are you going to ice these?" I answer honestly, "No." "Why not?" he queries. "Well, have you tasted one. They're not good. They're salty." That's right, too salty. Not too hard or too soft but too salty. The hubby samples a few and then says, "You know what these taste like . . . those Tostitoes with lime chips." Enough said. NTB.

Monday, December 17, 2007

God Bless Richard Nixon

Obviously, enjoying food with family and friends is a treasured holiday ritual, especially for a girl like me who has always loved to eat and who has a tendency to develop food obsessions (the fluffernutter, Burger King ciniminis, cheese weavers, and Lean Cuisine pizzas, just to name a few). Thanks to my mother-in-law, I developed a new food obsession a few years back. My husband's family affectionately dubs this delicacy "green stuff," but its official name is Watergate Salad. I would eat and enjoy it even if it were called "snot." I am writing this post to make sure my mother-in-law keeps it on the menu this holiday!

There about a gizzilion recipes for Watergate Salad, but the one I dream about includes these key ingredients: instant pistachio pudding mix, mini marshmallows, cool whip, canned crushed pineapple with its juices, chopped pecans (if I have them), and shredded coconut (optional, but I tend to opt for it for flavor and texture). I'm sure I had green stuff at sometime in my childhood, perhaps at a family reunion, but it clearly hadn't left an impression on me. When I was re-introduced it again a few years ago, it was a revelation. I just love it.

As I neared the end of my pregnancy with the bubby, my Watergate Salad obsession intensified. In December of that year, we hosted my husband's nephew, niece, and her boyfriend for a holiday dinner. Even though my husband is not fond of green stuff and even though he was fairly sure his niece and nephew were not huge fans, I made it anyway. Then, I systematically polished off the leftovers over the course of three days. Because I could not travel for the holidays due to my pregnancy, my husband's family came to us for Christmas a couple of weeks later. In the spirit of tradition, I had to make some more green stuff. Then, I had to eat those leftovers too. When my parents came to stay with us a week later in anticipation of the bub's January due date, my mom went to the Jewel for me several times as we tried to get prepared for the bub's arrival. I have a distinct memory of asking her to secure the ingredients for yet another batch of green stuff. The bub was born (right on time on his due date, NTB) before I had finished my container of Watergate Salad. When my husband left the hospital to shower and take a short nap, I made sure he brought some green stuff back with him to the hospital. I polished off the container in one sitting as he and my mom looked on in semi-horror. "That was supposed to be two servings," I remember him protesting. But I heard green stuff promotes lactation! If only.

So last night I made some green stuff. I just started thinking about it and the holidays and I just couldn't wait. The bub helped me stir and was pretty generous with the marshmallows he added. It's not my best batch ever, but it's difficult to really mess up so I am still enjoying it. Then, I thought I'd so some research about how Watergate Salad got its name. My husband and I speculated and agreed that it must have been served at the Watergate Hotel, but apparently that was not the case at all. Kraft (the inventors of instant pistachio pudding) came up with the recipe that they called Pistachio Delight and take no credit for the name Watergate Salad. There were apparently several cookbooks with Watergate in the title, but they don't include the recipe either. The name was once traced to a Chicago Tribune food writer, but that lead was a dead end as well. So, in short, it's a mystery.

Over the course of my research, I did find two delicious tidbits concerning Watergate Salad that I couldn't help but share. The first contained this explanation linking Watergate the Scandal with Watergate the Salad: "Today some might think the reason for the name of this recipe is that someone had to resign. Not resign as in 'I give up the Presidency.' It's more like someone said 'Oh, okay, I'll eat this whole bowl if I have to!' This recipe became popular during the Watergate Scandal of the 70's and it's easy to say it's because it was full of fruit, marshmallows, and nuts. After some research into some of the history, sure enough there's some good reasons for how this recipe came to earn its moniker." As the kind of person apt to resign myself to eat a whole bowl of something, I was charmed by this explanation.

The second explanation came in response to a question about why a salad and a cake (yes, there's also Watergate Cake with Coverup Icing, but I haven't gone there yet). The answerer responded that her mom "said the name stuck because the salad was full of marshmallows, bananas and nuts and covered up with fluff - just like the Nixon administration. Everyone took it to parties and everyone was talking about the scandal. It just happened." I am trying to picture a bunch of adults in the 70's digging into bowls of Pistachio Delight while discussing politics, and it's amusing. Why, I wonder, isn't there a Lewinsky Salad or appetizer or something? Perhaps there is, but I'm just not invited to the kind of parties where it is served. NTB?

Here's wishing you all your favorite foods this holiday season. I'm off now to enjoy a little Watergate Salad before bed. NTB.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'll wash my hair with snow . . .

So we've had our second big snow of the year, and though there is a lot of white stuff, it all seems pretty manageable. We are extremely thankful for our garage, NTB, as it means we don't have to scrape our windows nor search for parking amidst snow drifts and cars whose owners have decided to just stay put. I am likewise thankful that my husband considers it part of his patriarchal duty to shovel snow. Yesterday, he even got the bub suited up to help him out.

As do all little kids, the bub looks pretty darn cute in his snow suit. He can barely walk and when he falls down, he can't hoist himself up. He has little boots that light up when he stomps the snow. He really gets into stomping snow. The highlight of his outfit yesterday was his gloves. I couldn't locate his mittens so I improvised with a pair of mine. He was walking around with two cream-colored udders attached to his arms. Due to the glove situation, the bub and his dad were unable to get a snowman built but they did throw snowballs. I got to enjoy it all from inside the warm house, occasionally going to the window and knocking until I got a wave.

The most amusing thing is the report bub made when he returned, rosy-cheeked, from his time outside. It was concise: "Dad sha poo." Sha poo is apparently his version of shovel. When my hubby headed outside this morning to shovel once more, the bub narrated from inside: "Dad sha poo. Dad sha poo." Each time he says it, I conjure a fleeting but real image of my husband outside actually shoveling poop, and it cracks me up.

I hope all of you are well and that if you have snow, it is more beautiful than dangerous. I also hope that none of you actually has to shovel poo.

The bub outside during the season's first snow.

Help! Help! (Note that his mittens were still locatable earlier this month.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Movies for Wrapping Presents . . .

Back in the days when DVR did not exist and one was reduced to flipping channels if she wanted a little entertainment, I watched a lot of movies. Not new or rented movies but VHS favorites in my personal collection. Back in those days, I also did a lot of puttering, "wasting" hours on decopaging, scrapbooking, and organizing things in binders (actually, I still compulsively organize things in binders). I turned on my favorite movies as I puttered and usually listened to them more than I watched them. Truth be told, I had the movies on for company more than anything else. You could probably guess the titles of some of these film companions, but I won't make you: Four Weddings and a Funeral, You've Got Mail, Notting Hill, The Cutting Edge, The Breakfast Club . . . you get the picture.

There is also a list of movies that I consider ideal for providing companionship if you want to spend a cozy afternoon or evening wrapping Christmas presents. Since I fear that my own days of endless free time in which to putter and wrap are over for the next few years, I am passing the list along in case anyone has some free time, some tape, some paper, and some gifts (snacks too).

So here it is. MEP's List of Movies for Wrapping Presents (in no particular order):

1. While You Were Sleeping:
The always-under-appreciated Bill Pullman is so darn adorable in this film, and Sandra Bullock is charming as well. Plus, you've got to love her landlord and his thick Chicago accent ("Hey, I know karate" and his use of the term "underwears"). I watched this movie for years before I moved to Chicago, and I am even fonder of it now that I live in the Windy City.

2. When Harry Met Sally: Obviously, this is not a Christmas movie, but there is a Christmas sequence, complete tree dragging and Billy Crystal leaving a funny/pathetic message for Meg Ryan

3. About A Boy:
Also not a Christmas movie, strictly speaking. However, Hugh Grant's character has a deceased alcoholic father who penned a holiday song ("Santa's Super Sleigh). I never cease to be warmed by the final holiday scene of family-of-choice togetherness. No man is an island indeed. Or so says John Bon Jovi.

4. Bridget Jones's Diary: The movie starts and ends with Christmas. Colin Firth in a reindeer jumper. Colin Firth in a suit. Colin Firth making blue soup. Colin Firth as successful barrister. Colin Firth walking in the snow. Etc.

5. Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea: My love for all things Anne-with-an-E definitely deserves its own post. And, to be clear, these films (and the books that inspired them) are not to be enjoyed only at Christmas. Ten years ago, I lent my copy of Anne of Avonlea to the girls I babysat for. I never got it back and for years afterward, I would remember that they had the movie and feel sick to my stomach and kind of resentful (it seemed petty though, to go down the street and ask for it back when I was like 25 and they were still in grade school). My husband pulled out the best Valentine's gift ever a few years back and gave me both films on DVD, plus a third new movie that features Anne and her family during WWI. Anyway, these movies are great for wrapping presents, rainy days, and feel-sorry-for-one's-self days.

So, did I spend this evening wrapping presents and cozily watching movies? No. I ate dinner, wrote this blog post, watched my husband fix the umpteenth train derailment beneath the Christmas tree, and worked on my Christmas cards. However, my husband is going out for a guys holiday steak dinner tomorrow evening, and I can smell the scotch tape already. NTB.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I think I can, I think I can

Over Thanksgiving we took the bub to see the model trains in downtown Cincinnati. He fell in love. He kept jumping up and down saying "Choo choo" and "Wow." He went through the line at least four times and only ate one of the proffered cookies (a sure sign that he was taken by the trains). Ever since, the hubby has been talking about getting the bub a train to go around the bottom of the Christmas tree. We found one yesterday at Toys 'R Us and decided that for $31 it was worth bringing home.

With the bubby's close supervision and "help," the hubby managed to get the train up and running before naptime yesterday. The result: complete delight and excitement. "Choo choo" was the most-used word in our household this weekend. By last night, the bub had figured out how to turn the train on by himself. Best news of all, he does not seem to tire of the train. Sure, he occupies himself with other favorite activities like coloring, begging for "teets" ("treats"--unfortunate pronunciation, I know), emptying his bin of Mega Blocks, requesting "show show," practicing his tackles with dad (a new phenomenon that deserves its own post), and trying to open and play with my laptop . . . but, he continues to come back to the train.

Of course, I love to see the bub so excited. I'm thrilled that he is enjoying the train so much. I never imagined I would complain if one particular toy commanded so much of his attention. Certainly, I have spent many a dollar at Toys 'R Us and Target hoping for just such an occurrence.

But here I am complaining. When the train is going--and anytime the bub is awake and anywhere on the first floor it is going--it sounds like Grand Central Station around here. That little sucker is loud. So loud that one cannot watch a television program unless the volume is past level 25 (I usually watch tv with the volume at 7). So loud that phone conversations are a challenge. So loud that I can barely hear myself think. My cousin and I spent two years living in an apartment directly in front of the El tracks. This little train seems louder than that.

We have figured out, however, a sure way to get the bub back into the living room if he has wondered into the kitchen or back room. We just turn off the train. Sonar ears reports to the tree within seconds to turn it back on. We also have discovered that the train can be an excellent bribery item. When the bub balked at eating his dinner this evening, his daddy disconnected the track from the power source. We stood firm on our "no choo choo until you eat" initiative, and it worked. Sure, we had to tee up an episode of Barney as well, but the kid ate and ate well.

So tomorrow is another day, and I'm sure there are plenty more passengers to get from A to B and more coal to be delivered. I'm sure there are more smiles to be witnessed and more "choo choos" by which to be tickled. Perhaps the phenomenon will wear off soon or perhaps we'll never be so glad to take down a Christmas tree. I guess I'll just try to enjoy the ride. NTB.

Above is the bub enjoying the trains in downtown Cincinnati, just like his mama did when she was a little girl.

The bub and his dada admire their handiwork.

Clearly, this train is nothing to brag about. But, the bub does love it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Odds and Odds

Here are some recently-witnessed oddities:

1. The Celery Stalker: When at the Jewel purchasing the ingredients for the Split Pea Soup, I needed some celery. I had a hard time getting to it because another shopper (female, late sixties, burgundy coat) was standing in front of the celery. But not just standing . . . she had opened a package of celery and was ripping pieces of it off. I didn't watch closely but I assume she was discarding the grubby ends and whatnot. The question is not what she was discarding, but why she was doing so. Last I knew, celery was sold by the package not by the pound (but is it legitimate to remove parts of produce sold by weight that you do not like so as to save money? I have my doubts). Perhaps had I stuck around longer I would have witnessed her taking her chosen stalks/pieces of stalks and repackaging them. I should have just asked her. In the future, I will inquire when I witness such oddities.

2. The Internet Surfers: Despite having a blog, I am really not all that tech savvy. With the help of my husband (a Computer Applications and Finance major, NTB), I was able to install a stat counter here on NTB. Every once in a while (okay, every day), I like to check to see how many hits NTB gets. The stat counter has a cool feature wherein you can see how someone arrived at your blog. Most of my readers type to get here. Pretty straightforward. Every once in a while though, I can see evidence of an internet search that brought a new reader to NTB, however briefly. Thanks to my recent post about the awesomeness of candy cane pens, I have probably had twenty people visit my blog who used search terms like "candy cane pen" and "candy cane peppermint ink." I did have one visitor whose search term, "candy cane escort," was perhaps seeking something entirely different. Who is this Candy Cane and where might she escort you? Not to a study lounge or final exam is my guess. My commentary on Daisy Fuentes bedding has also made me a good match for a surprising number of people seeking more information about "daisy bedding" and "Daisy Fuentes bedding." Who knew? You might also recall my post about Sandra Lee and the conversation it inspired between me and my pal and fellow blogger Actchy. I doubt though that witty repartee about Food Network personalities was what one visitor was seeking. His (I'm assuming a he) search terms, cut and pasted in the interest of accuracy, were: 20pictures&hl=en&start=10&sa=N
That is funny.

3. The Check Writer: This last one is not so much an oddity as a pet peeve. I was shopping on Black Friday with my mom, sisters, and sister-in-law. We were in the Macy's shoe department. Very busy. Very crowded. Long lines. A young woman goes to pay for her shoes and writes a check. I don't get that. I write checks for some of my bills, but I never write a check in a store. Why? Because it's a pain, what with trying to remember the date, fish out your driver's license, and write the correct amount. I can see wanting to pay directly from one's checking account instead of say, charging something on a credit card, but isn't that the beauty of the debit card? I realize I should be more sympathetic and that there may be people who don't qualify for a debit card. But then again, I don't see a real difference between authorization to write checks and authorization to use a debit card . . . except that a debit card takes a fraction of the time. This may be another situation in which I am just being unreasonable. I'm big enough to admit that. NTB.

Have you witnessed any oddities lately? Do brag about them by leaving a comment.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Kitchen Confidential

Loyal readers know of my recent attempts to become a better maker of soup with the help of my friends Rachael and Sandy and the many magazines to which I subscribe. I thought I was over the soup phase and indeed had planned to move on to something new, like a category of meat, but I'm just not in the mood to enter a pork phase just yet. So, if you can stand it, I have two more soup adventures to break down, a kitchen triumph to celebrate, new food products alert, and some culinary television updates. Here goes:

"Baked" Potato Soup* from Southern Living: I have long been a fan of potato soup and after a cold, snowy, and wet weekend in Chicago, this "Baked" Potato Soup sounded perfect. Better still, it was a slow cooker recipe so it required very little hands on preparation (except for the peeling and cutting of the potatoes). The only wrinkle was that the recipe called for Chicken Broth with Roasted Garlic, which the Jewel did not have (obviously, Kroger would have). In the spirit of my friend E's improvisational cooking, I used regular chicken broth and added a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup with Roasted Garlic. All in all, I thought the soup was a great success. I couldn't find the recipe I used online, but here's another to try. If you're desperate for the one I used and you know me, email me and I'll pass it along.

Split Pea Soup from Cooking Light: My hubby is in New York doing more work so tonight was the perfect night to make a soup he would hate (or at least refuse to try). I followed the directions fairly closely, but this soup was not a total success. The flavor was fine, but my celery did not get tender and thus my soup had a crunch factor I was not expecting. Not a total failure though.

Kitchen Triumph: The credit for the triumph goes to the hubby not me. A few days before Thanksgiving, I bought an industrial package of sliced mushrooms and used about a third of them. The day we were leaving town for the holiday, I had the foresight to throw them in a freezer bag and then into the freezer. I congratulated myself on not just leaving them in the fridge to rot. We returned home from Thanksgiving to find a strange new phenomenon: our ice-maker was no longer making ice. Why? Because I had thrown the bag of mushrooms a bit too close to the ice maker and a corner section of the bag had become ensnared in the ice apparatus. I guess I don't need to say that the hubby was not pleased. Each time he went to the freezer to get some ice, the sighing would ensue. One might have thought I purposefully threw the bag of mushrooms into the ice-maker. A few days ago, talk of having to defrost the entire fridge and freezer to extricate the bag began. I was silently panicking because such an event would push the aggravated sighing quotient over the roof and would also be a real pain in the ass to execute. In desperation, I suggested my hubby take a knife to the mushroom bag. NTB, but it worked. I woke up this morning to a full ice basket.

Wildtree Products: A friend invited me to a Wildtree Tasting party this Sunday. I seldom get invited to such parties (Pampered Chef, Southern Living At Home, Party Lite, etc.) but I actually like them. I don't feel pressured to buy anything (though I usually do) and I love chances to hang out with other women and eat food. I was the first to leave on Sunday not because I was not having fun but because I feared I might single handedly polish off the beer bread and dill dip (just some of the items on offer) if I did not remove myself from the situation. Who knows what will happen when my own beer bread and dill dip mixes arrive.

Culinary Television Update #1:
One of Emeril's shows has finally been canceled. I have nothing against the guy, but if I turn on the Food Network and see his show, I immediately change channels. I'm just not into the "bams" and the "kickin' it up a notch." His food never looks like something I would make.

Culinary Television Update #2:
There is going to be a Top Chef holiday special on Bravo on December 6th. Can't wait to see Padma again, just hoping she is not dressed as an elf or something.

Apologies for a semi-tedious blog. Hopefully I'll be back to my witty (NTB) self soon.

*I'm not sure why the quotation marks, except that the potatoes aren't actually baked.
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