Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Everyone seems to be doing Gratitude Posts this Thanksgiving, so what the hell--I'll give it a shot.

I'm grateful for the post-modern broken home where being together as a family is still on everyone's agenda.
The boys and their father....

The daughters-in-law, who may look serious at the moment I took this, but it was a break in the non-stop laughter and talk.

And the mother-in-law in the mirror.

The granddaughter building a magnificent gingerbread house with Aunt Julie...

Oh, and the pecan pie (among others...)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Of Hair and Other Such Man-Made Disasters...

This is not the first time I have written of such subjects. See here and here, if you will. My quest for a decent haircut NOW THAT I LIVE IN ELK GROVE has taken me on another journey. This time I went to a stylist recommended by two friends of mine. I like their haircuts. They touted this stylist as one who is au courant, not to mention up to the minute on the latest hair tricks and styling whatnots. They also said her salon was a bit...well, I didn't really hear what they said. I was so taken with an au courant stylist within a five mile radius. Not to mention one who charges $35 a cut.

The salon: took me a while to find it. Kept driving by it because it is in the back of some huge government building where they pass out visas to barely legal aliens, or some such thing. When I finally found it--and it was in the back, down a long lonely corridor--I passed two women on their way out. They had perms. Those kind of perms that makes one's hair frizz and kink and resemble rusty brillo pads. But I persevered, because I trust my friends and they both swore by this stylist.

And they were right. She is absolutely au courant, having just taken a class in texturing from some Hollywood bigwig. She textured the absolute shit out of my hair. I thought texturing was the new word for layering. But I think they use the word texture because whatever they're doing to your hair gives it a really weird texture. In the normal course of events, I have really thick hair. It's very shiny, healthy, and is a point of pride being my crowning glory and all that. Here's what it looked like in high school--okay, the face is different, but the hair, really the hair is pretty much the same, with the added bonus of a streak of silver.
I no longer have this hair. I, who used to be the envy of all thin-haired girls, now seem to have thin hair myself. I have been textured into near baldness. My ponytail droops, a hundred hairs shy of its former self. And now way could I wear my hair down; there are no more thick waves to flip up at the ends. Well, there is on one side, but the other, near baldness. My glorious silver streak has been textured into salt and pepper. When I get up in the morning and see myself as I brush my teeth, I'm scared. I look like a hag. Frizzy and frizzled and thinning and--oh woe. Oh woe. I've already cut the back myself. Grabbed two handfuls of hair and chopped of an inch or so. It is marginally better. By a very slim margin.

When I spent that six weeks in the hospital after having a cerebral aneurysm, my hair showed the consequence of all the drugs and disaster. This time, I didn't have to spend six weeks in the hospital to get a similar look. And I only paid $35.

Yet again and still forever, I am twisting my hair up, shoving a clip in it and thinking--oh, well, who was I wanting to impress?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jane's Award-Winning, World-Famous, Best-Ever Pecan Pie

I'm reposting this recipe from a couple of years ago. It is the single most Googled post from ByJane (although French Pedicure and Tidy Whities are running a close second and third). I notice that this year all the cooking sites and magazines are offering tips on how to make Thanksgiving in this time of foreclosures and economic funk. I would like to point out that the only truly "expensive" part of a pecan pie is the pecans. And my pecan pie demands that you NOT use whole pecans. Chips, bits and cracked up nuts--these are the ones that are the cheapest to buy, and these are what Jane's Award-Winning, World-Famous, Best-Ever Pecan Pie requires.

The awards were all self-given. But truly, this pecan pie is the best ever. I make it every year at Thanksgiving and every year, people go nuts (!) over it. It's truly easy and almost foolproof. I tried to find a photo of it from T'givings past, but I think it disappears too quickly to be memorialized. One year I made two, but that was the year an alleged gourmand* came and inhaled the second one all by himself (gourmand = pig, as far as this fellow is concerned.)

Okay, gather 'round while I give you the secret to Jane's Awarding-Winning Best Ever Pecan Pie: it's in the pie plate. Don't use a regular pie plate. You have to use a fluted tarte pan with a removable bottom.
and you'll need
1 unbaked pastry shell (You can make your own, if you like, but Martha and I, we prefer the Pillsbury pre-made dough.)

Now, take your pie dough round and lay it on top of the tarte pan. Gently, gently pat it down in into place, so that there is dough in all the flutes. Cut off the excess bits all the way around. Place the tarte pan on a cookie sheet for ease of handling.

Now, go forth and make the pecan stuff.


1 C granulated sugar
1-1/4 C dark corn syrup
4 large eggs
1/4 C butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 C pecans, broken
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

1. Oven gets preheated to 350.
2. Cook sugar and corn syrup in a pan until the sugar dissolves.
3. Beat eggs lightly and pour into syrup mixture gradually and keep on beating while you do that (or else the eggs will scramble in the corn syrup).
4. Add the butter while beating (I cut it up before hand into bits so it melts easily)
5. Stir in the pecans.
6. Stir in the vanilla (did I mention that you should never ever use anything but Real Vanilla as the Imitation stuff tastes like shit and why would you want to spoil your cooking thusly?)

Here's the second part of my secret: You're not going to use most of the syrup. Yes, it will pain you, as it does me, to throw that which you have labored over away, but that's the trick of the trade. So, to continue

7. Use a slotted spoon to transfer all the pecans to your waiting pie crust.
8. Ladle the syrup onto the pecans until it just tops the crust.
9. Balance carefully on your way to the over and bake for about 45 minutes or until set.

Cool pie. Remove the pie on the removable tarte pan bottom and place on a serving plate. Maybe put a doily under it. Maybe not.

Serve with whipped cream (the real stuff, not the aerosol shit). Portion numbers depend on how big you slice it, but this is an 8 or 9 inch pie.

*Said gourmand is no longer in the family, but he is still, I think, running a major American cooking school.

Whew! That was not easy. My hat is off to cookbook writers. It takes less time to make the damn pie than it did to give the instructions. Next year, photos will accompany each stage.**

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marriage, Death, Kids and Family

1. Twenty years ago today, I got married. Not to the English actor; this was to the California country boy who I met in a bar in the foothills of the Sierras. We didn't meet cute or neat or however Hollywood calls it. I was in the bar with friends; he was there for a beer after work. I can't say I was bowled over, but I kinda thought I knew him from somewhere. So we talked, and he thought so too, and I gave him my number. He called that same night. We went out the next weekend. I still wasn't bowled over. There wasn't that instant chemistry that I knew from other relationships. There was just something about him that I couldn't stay away from. It wasn't sexual. I didn't understand it then; I just went along with it. Three years later, we were married. Now, twenty years later, we're not. I am better off for not being with him now, for all sorts of reasons. But that something about him that drew me to him then? It still exists. I don't know why. I still don't know what it means. I guess I just have to live with it.

2. This summer my cousin got married. He and his wife were expecting a baby in the new year. Last Sunday, they were having a meal in a restaurant. My cousin got up to pay the bill, turned around to look at his wife and watched the life leave her eyes. They couldn't save the baby either.

3. Today I had a conversation with a young woman I love who has two children. First, much talk about the cousin and his wife. Then much talk about the young woman I love and her pregnancy. Then I sang Happy Birthday to Son #1 and listened to Son #2 babble to me. Then the young woman asked how I was, and I started to tell her. She is one of the few people in my family who hears me. But #1 and #2 were hungry and cranky and wanted their mom's attention. So before I really got into anything important to me, she had to get off the phone. The feeling I was left with was not unlike what happens when you've been making out with a guy, he comes, and then says I gotta go, finish yourself. I know the young woman I love didn't mean for me to feel that way, but I did.

4. This afternoon I went shopping for light bulbs at the hardware store. I love hardware stores, but today, today it made me miss my dad. He kept me furnished in tools and up-to-speed on how to use them. I still have the love of all the gadgetry, but without him, I'm not sure what to buy. He was another of the few people in my family who could hear me. And my mom. As I wandered around the lumber department, I thought of how my parents had spoiled me. Not with gifts or money or any of those things. They liked me and they wanted to know what I was doing and thinking and wanting and knowing. So they spoiled me for this time when there really aren't very many people around who feel that way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Night Sky Facing West, Elk Grove

I suppose all West-facing skies are gorgeous. I can't imagine that it's just the ones I see from my backyard. One after another, they are glorious and I've taken shot after shot of them. I don't get tired of looking at the pictures and I don't get tired of looking at the reality. If there is nothing else that says to me this world is bigger than my life, then these West-facing skies do the job. This one is another shot just from outside my backdoor. With my crummy camera. Would it be any more glorious if I was working with something good?

The next two are also West-facing, but I took them down the street a bit at the railroad tracks. Can you see the train going by?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Past is Still Too Much With Me...

The strain of remembering my illustrious past, not to mention digging out photos of same, was too much for me. I have had to recline on my camp stool these past few days and fan myself.

What an image, no?

Like this skirt?

What about this one?

Actually, they're the same skirt. Tis a reversible number that I bought last year at a CAbi party.

Never heard of CAbi? Carol Anderson By Invitation--get it, CAbi??? Think of it as Tupperware to wear. You get invited to the party by someone you know who puts out some crackers and fruit, a bit of wine and cheese, and allows a CAbi salesperson wheeling giant clothing racks to turn her home into a Lohmann's sale. Hoards of women, the invitees, descend on the clothes and strip off to try them on in whatever room is available. It's exciting. Really. And also exhausting in some ways. The sight of all those women trying on this that and the other made me DETERMINED TO BUY SOMETHING. Anything. Like the above-pictured skirt.

Actually, the skirt really is quite pretty. It's some sort of filmy, floaty fabric and descends in tiers to what I believe may be called a handkerchief hem (or maybe not--someone with a better sense of such things might know better). I had great fantasies of it being the foundation of my winter wardrobe--until I tried it on.

It looked like shit. On me, that is. On someone else, it would look terrific and would indeed be the foundation of their winter wardrobe. So I'm selling it on eBay. Go have a look. Bid it up. Save me from myself.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Come All You People Now, Smile on Your Brother...

A Story in Several Parts, not to be sung:

1. Not so long ago in a town far, make that: a long long time ago in a town not very near, I was a young bride. Not so much a blushing bride because this was post Sexual Revolution, or at least the start of it, so when I married to my college sweetheart, I was neither technically nor actually a virgin. However, I was a Nice Jewish Girl who aspired to matching Garland sweaters, A-line skirts and circle pins. I married an actor, an English actor,and post wedding, we hied to England so he could go to drama school.

2. The actor, a fine and handsome young man as you can see, was admitted to that bastion of British Acting, The Central School of Speech & Drama (known also as the Central School of Screech & Trauma). I, as befitted a young wife of that time, worked as a secretary. All of you post-feminists should know that back then EVEN WITH A DEGREE IN PHILOSOPHY, secretarial positions were the zenith of one's expectations, unless one was a teacher, which I refused to be (a story for another time). So, by day my hunky husband lounged about the halls of Central, mixing with all manner of other hunky people. And I toiled on Great Titchfield Street, typing the inanities of Mr. Platt, Vice President of Foreign Operations for Associated Dry Goods.

3. Was I a happy camper? Noooooooooo. But it is beyond the scope of this simple blog post to elaborate and enumerate all of the reasons why. Suffice to say, I was dependent on my mate for ALL of my social needs. Fortunately for me, people seemed to like him (he was quite hunky).

4. One of the people in his year at Central was Dave Clark, of the Dave Clark Five. You know, that Dave Clark Five. Not the Beatles, certainly, but the DC5 was hot shit to some. Dave was seeing the wrong side of his career as a teen heart throb, so he enrolled at Central (one presumes he did not have to audition) to try and get up to speed on an acting career. And Dave, Dave really liked my hunky husband. Consequently, I, that is we, spent an amazing amount of time with Dave and his posse. Ah, the stories I could tell....

5. This particular album photo was actually the cover for a single the DC5 put out sometime in the '70s. "Love One Another" was the song, and Dave thought it would be a cool idea if all you people was actually his friends from Central. We traipsed off to a recording studio somewhere and for an entire evening sang over and over and over again
"C'mon you people now,
Smile on your brother,
Everybody get together,
Try to love one another
Right now...."
over and over and over again. Dave and Mike Smith and the others of the DC5 did the verses. We were the chorus, and while we were singing our blessed little hearts out, someone was taking photos. Did I know that we were going to be featured on the cover? No, I did not. I had come straight from work and that outfit I'm wearing? It's a sweet doubleknit suit, pleated white skirt and navy jacket. My hair? It's up in a secretarial top knot; you could probably find a pencil in there if you looked hard enough.
6. When I look at this photo, I think what a fish out of water I was. All those drama students and me, the secretary. But you can tell that I sang away for all I was worth, and as I recall, a fine time was had by all. I think we even made an appearance on Top of the Pops, so the DC5 could promote the record. For that, I was dressed more appropriately, but I don't have a photo (and I don't remember what I wore), so you'll have to take my word for it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembering The '70s...

I was actually more of a Beatles fan, but you see that girl in the front with the white skirt? That's me.

Is this a story I have to tell?

Friday, November 07, 2008

My Drug of Choice: Chocolate

I use it as an upper when I need some extra energy. I use it as a mood elevator when I'm bummed about whatever. And every night before I turn out the lights, I let several pieces of chocolate melt in a mouthful of milk as my sleeping pill. I am, you might say, a chocoholic. I am also quite an expert on the topic.

However, I am not selfish so when MomCentral sent me five big bars of Ghiradelli Luxe Milk chocolates to try, I did not hoard them all for myself. Instead, one evening I took them over to Knitique, my local yarn shop, and enlisted my fellow knitters in a Chocolate Tasting. You can see there in the background the project I'm working on: a gorgeous sweater for 5 year old Kaitlyn that may be finished in time for her grade school graduation.

I broke the five bars up on separate plates with their wrappers hidden underneath.
and sent them 'round the table. I don't think I expected the seriousness with which my fellow knitters took the job at hand. Here are two, (Sharon Jane on the left and Debbie on the right) debating the merits of several bars.
The results were as follows:
  • Favorite of all: Ghiradelli Duet, a sandwich of milk and dark chocolates. I don't think my tasters realized that milk chocolate was involved because they all expressed amazement that it was so "smooth...and didn't bite like dark chocolate usually does."
  • Least favorite of all: Ghiradelli Crisp, milk chocolate with "lightly toasted crisped rice." My tasters did not think the rice was lightly toasted enough. Comments were "the crispies take over the chocolate, as does the toast flavor....salty, sharp and hard on teeth."
  • Split verdict: Some liked the Ghiradelli Almond; some felt the almonds overwhelmed the chocolate (however, this was the only one where there was no samples left at the end of the tasting). Others preferred the Ghiradelli Hazelnut, expressing surprise at the smoothness of the hazelnuts and the way it blended with the chocolate.
  • No Opinion: Ghiradelli Milk. What can you say about milk chocolate? It's a winner every time.
I brought the remains of the evening home (just so I could make sure my notes were correct, I assure you) and tonight I will return with them to Knitique for the monthly Knit n Nosh. We all thank you....

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Brain's Connected to My Femoral Artery...

When I had that ruptured cerebral aneurysm six years ago, I got lucky because the neurosurgeon who would normally have gotten my case was on his honeymoon. So another guy, the radiologic neurosurgeon got to ply his trade on me. That meant a number of things: My head wasn't shaved and my skull wasn't sawed open to fix the aneurysm. Instead, the doctor pushed a wire with a titanium slinky at the end of it into my upper thigh (well, okay, it's my groin, but that sounds so, I don't know, dirty or something), went into my femoral artery and snaked the whole business up into my brain, where the slinky was deposited to fix the aneurysm. I had no scars. My glorious hair was intact. And my recovery did not include the rigamarole of brain surgery.

I thought of this the other day when Mom Central sent me some information about minimally invasive gynecological surgery. Did you know that according to US News & World Report 85% of all hysterectomies are still being performed with the old slice 'em open and clean' em all out abdominal surgery instead of the well-proven laparoscopic procedure that leaves the ovaries and cervix still there? That was the case with my friend Wendy last year. She had a history of heavy periods and major PMS. The doctor convinced her the cureall was to have everything removed. She did and she was in the hospital for almost a week and off work for a month or so.

I wish I'd known then about AAGL, an association of laparoscopic surgeons, who have a web site that offers a lot of information about less invasive procedures for gynecologic procedures, so that I could have sent Wendy there to at least find out what her surgical options were. Her doctor, being a cutter, gave her no choice. As my doctor, being a cutter, would have given me none with fixing my aneurysm. How do I know that? He told me so.

Doctors do what they're trained to do; it's up to us not to take their word for it.





Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote YES on Prop 2

I was going to write a well-reasoned, journalistically sound, philosophically adept (and adroit), not to mention incredibly convincing post about why everyone in California should do as I'm doing: Voting Yes On Proposition 2.

However, to do so would require that I carefully consider the opposition's point of view. This I cannot do. I know what they're saying; it just pisses me off so much that I tend to start flailing about and screeching obscenities.

Okay, let me see if I can calm down a tad. But first, an illustration:
Proposition 2 is the "standards for confining farm animals" initiative. It's basic tenet is that cows raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be kept in cages that allow them to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. That means that right now, these animals are being kept in cages that restrict their movements.

Like that pig above, the one with a bunch of piglets feeding at her. Here, have another look:See those bars. Their purpose is to stop the sow from standing up. Because she might step on one of her wiggly little piglets. And that would be very bad for the economy, because that piglet is MONEY IN THE BANK FOR THE PIG FARMER. Not to mention cheaper bacon and pork chops in the stomachs of American consumers. When I queried the UC Davis vet techs at the State Fair where I took these photos, they seemed quite proud of this contraption. Before someone came up with this pig prison cell, you have no idea how many wiggly piglets were lost to mommy-stomping.

I am voting YES on Prop 2 because I am absolutely certain that our humanity, and therefore our success as a nation, is tied to the way we treat animals. The connection between violence to animals and violence to humans is well-established. We're understanding that where our family pets are involved, but farm animals? Nope. Why bother about some dumb animals. Dumb doesn't mean stupid here; that phrase is using the archaic word for inability to speak. Those pigs can't cry or complain. Animals can't communicate in our language so we feel quite comfortable in doing with them as we wish. Until recently we did the same to human infants. Since they were pre-verbal and thus assumed to be without memory, we performed surgery on them without anesthetic. Now we know better. The inability to communicate in spoken language does not equal the inability to think, to feel, to need, to want.

Okay, now I'm going to be calm and speak to the opposition's arguments: I can't. They have everything to do with food production and food prices and California's egg industry. Frankly, my dear, I give a shit about any of that. I'm far more concerned with the production of our morality, of working to recreate an America that is not the font of corrupt capitalism (hello, Wall Street..hi there, sub-prime mortgages).

There is no question that this election is a watershed one for us as a nation. We have the chance to return to being a people of hope and promise, to be the country the Founders imagined when they saw this land as the City on the Hill. Vote to give us back our humanity.
Do it for this pregnant pig.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NaBloPoMo? No! No!

I'm not doing NaBloPoMo this year. I simply haven't the lust for whatever NaBloPoMo is supposed to give me. Certainly not the prizes because I never win anything--and I didn't in the past two years. I suppose I have gotten some traffic from it, but these days I'm all "Traffic? Meh!" I may be one of the few nonBloPoMos this year because I've gotten some group grope emails from Eden Kennedy in which she talks of Ning being overwhelmed, as is she, with the response. So go elsewhere to read the daily posts of my fellow bloggers. Here you will only find the daily posts of those of us still doing Blog365...well, almost daily.