Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Step Away From the Guitar

Sunday was a great day. It was a particularly great day for our kids. We trekked into Manhattan so that my daughter and I could see a play (Wicked) and while we were tucked away in the Gershwin Theater being entertained, my husband took my son to Manny’s Music. I have never been there, but my son worships Manny’s. It is apparently a very generously stocked musical instrument emporium, where they will let professional musicians, adorable 12 year old moppets and unwashed miscreants alike handle a $4000 custom Les Paul guitar. A musical democracy, if you will. When our young progeny walked in and asked the feet on the counter part time sales person cum full time guitar god to play said guitar, he looked at him slightly askance and reluctantly obliged. He then ran Joey down a litany of don’ts and tentatively plugged ‘er in. Once Joey shot off a couple of songs and a few reasonably competent riffs, Mr. Guitargodsalesperson came back with a different attitude. What started as a cautious, keep your sticky cotton candy hands off the glittering ax attitude became an interactive and free flowing conversation about guitars and music, with requisite tips and tricks thrown in for free. I guess they get a lot of pie-eyed Guitar Hero players that want to touch the real thing, so I understand the hesitance. Dave and Joey spent the entire three hours of the play at Manny’s, with Joey making his way through every guitar room in the place, touching and playing as many guitars, both acoustic and electric as he could get his hands on. Somehow this “just browsing” event turned into a “we’ll take one” purchase. By the time Dave picked up Sophia and I on 51st Street, Joey was the proud owner of the sweet black Fender Strat pictured above. Of course, it came with the usual "This is an early birthday present, don’t expect anything else, don’t ask for anything from now until forever" admonishments from Dave and I. And of course, I hope like hell that we stick to it.

Editor's note: (yeah, that's me. I am my own editor, for what it's worth) My husband read this post this morning and started raving that the way it reads, people will think we bought Joey a $4000 guitar. To which I cleverly replied "nuh-uh". However, to make him sleep easier, I am here to say that this guitar cost NOWHERENEAR $4000. ITISNOT custom like the Les Paul he tried and WEARENOT either wealthy or totally indulgent parents. There.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Blurry in the photo. Tasty on the palate.

I was out in the blogosphere the other day, looking for inspiration from web sites and blogs dedicated to cooking and entertaining, and in the process I stumbled on the Noble Pig. And when I say that I stumbled on it I mean that I used the website referral service stumbleupon.com and found it. The very first page that I hit on this site brought me face to face with a creation called "Pasta Pie". This recipe, from the fertile imagination of Martha Stewart, is essentially an upright Baked Ziti made in a spring form pan and sliced like a cake to serve. Clearly, from the snaps above, my pictures of this savory cake came out pretty lame, so if you want to see a nicer version of what it should look like and get the recipe, go here - http://noblepig.com/2009/03/18/when-the-moon-hits-the-sky.aspx

By comparison to the level of theater that this brings to the table, it was ridiculously easy to make. It's one of those recipes that I approached with the expectation of failure. But it was actually very easy to make and after spicing up the meat sauce recipe with fresh basil, parsley, dried oregano and a little extra salt it was very well suited to our tastes. Imagine my surprise when I unmolded it and it actually stayed together. The presentation was a huge hit with the kids and I was very protective of its perfection. As soon as I saw Dave make a play for the knife I swept in with a pincer motion and cut him right off. There was no way that I was going to let him hack into my masterpiece before getting a perfect slice to set aside for pics. To top off this yummy dinner, I made the Butterscotch Pudding recipe from last month's gourmet magazine (http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/2000s/2009/02/butterscotch-pudding ). It is undoubtedly the easiest and best tasting pudding that I have ever had. The recipe is simple, even bullet proof as I have varied the type of milk used and doubled the recipe with identical success in each case. As tonight was earth hour, my daughter kept turning out the lights while I tried to photograph my pudding. I was reduced to grabbing a snap or two by the light of the refrigerator, which Dave caught me doing, making me feel like a complete dork. He snuck up like the ninja that he is and got behind me, mimicking my hunch into the fridge . When I stood up and saw his visage by the narrow slice of light let out from the closing door, I almost jumped out of my skin. Good luck with all the jarred sauce and boxed mac and cheese that you'll be eating when you put me in the hospital with a heart attack sweetie.

I was working from home today and as such was a little time crunched and could not dedicate the time to proper photos. The dismal truth is that the pictures above are actually the best of the bunch that I took (?!). However, even though today's pictures look like hell, the subjects tasted like heaven. This little piggy is noble indeed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


OK, one more time, let's say it all together - awwwwwwwww. I must admit, when my mom told me that she was going to be crocheting stuffed animals, the hardened cynic that camps in the back of my brain popped it's evil little head out of its pup tent and asked, with more than a slight tinge of disgust "why?". But I nodded and smiled and beat back the instinct to verbalize this question and we moved on to another topic. Ever since the woman quit smoking, she is a crocheting machine. Not a visit goes by where she is not adorning our necks with a recently crocheted scarf or poncho, like some crazed Hawaiian airport greeter. And while it's all a little manic, it sure beats two packs a day.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and she presents my daughter with the charming little stuffie that you see above. Of course I took one look at it and kicked my inner cynic to the curb. And even though she handed it to Sophia in the middle of a grungy, smelly bar, it did not lose its shine. Now before you assume that we are a family of barflies or descendants of Hemingway, let me explain that we were at an all ages, booze-free band showcase that my son's band participated in and not a tearful intervention with children weeping for mommy to come home. We may not be Ozzie and Harriet but we're not the Osbornes either.

I hope that when my mom reads this that she does not hold my initial skepticism against me because I weeely weely want a kwoshayed monkey.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Forgive me father for I have sinned

Forgive me father for I have sinned. Not only have I further indulged my shameful obsession with food porn http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_porn) by subscribing to the Tartlette and Living in the Kitchen with Puppies blogs, I have also begun to photograph my own baking exploits. Now let me be VERY clear, I take amateurish pictures of the clumsy, ham-fisted little cakes and cookies that I bake for fun. The Tartlette blog is resplendent with stunningly beautiful and exotic baked goods created and photographed by a professional food stylist and baker. I assure you, the photographs on Tartlette are nothing short of exquisite. My pedestrian little entry above was the created from this month's award winning recipe in BH&G. They were Cream Soda Toffee Cupcakes with a Brown Butter Butter cream. They were tasty little nuggets to be sure. Beautiful and exotic? Not so much.

To add to my mounting pile of shame, I also made the gross misstep of having a couple of glasses of Absinthe at my poker gathering this weekend. Let me be the first to say that this is not something that you should ever have "a couple of glasses" of. I can officially say "Been there. Done that. Bought the tee shirt. (and, sadly) Have the vacation photos." God love Dave, happy little snapper that he is, he was kind enough to capture the moment in photos. Some of my friends have begged me to burn the evidence and for all of our sakes I am inclined to comply. I don't know what genius thought it was a good idea to lobby for the recent legalization of this stuff, but I am a strong supporter of deporting it back to France or Belgium or whatever rotten little wormwood tree it crawled out of.
Lesson learned.
Shame owned.
Moving on. . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Deuces Wild

In every game, there are winners and there are losers. In the game of cookies, my kids are big winners as they are the recipients of a second batch of homemade cookies this week. Chocolate chocolate chip this time. A win that is the result of my taking one more day off work this week than I had planned. The reason that I took the extra day off is that my friends are coming over this weekend for a poker game and I want to get the house in order and bake something special for them. I don't care if win or lose at poker, but if I can get my house clean and spend some time with my friends, it's a total windfall for me!

On the losing side this morning is my husband. Since the sun came up, he's been running behind the dog with a plastic bag on one hand and a wonton soup container in the other questing for a dropping from a performance-shy dog. As long as he is hovering over her, plastic army at the ready, she's not giving it up. My daughter caught a glimpse of him out the kitchen window and asked why he'd want to put a poop in tupperware. I made it clear to her that the purpose of this collection is for Brownie's annual physical at the vet. It's extra important to make that clear in this public forum as I don't want to get solicitation e-mails from the "Dog Poop Lovers of America" or any other deviant hobbyist group. Think I'm crazy? Just spend an afternoon on the Internet and you'll find that there is a fan base for every peculiar behavior that you can imagine (and some that you could never fathom). And while on the subject of bodily functions, my friend and soon to be poker buddy Marianne sent me this link this morning. It is for a (how should I say this?) personal gas filter. Someone will get rich off this I am sure. I can just imagine the phone lines jamming with calls from girlfriends and wives the world over, desparate to be free from the oppression of a dutchoven-loving dude. Ideally, this device would eliminate "Pull my finger" from the american lexicon. http://www.thrillist.com/los-angeles/subtle-butt

At the completion of this entry the oven will be set to self-clean and I will be off to clean baseboards and moldings. One might think that this is the activity of a loser, but to have these items clean, I will ultimately feel like a winner. And at least I didn't pull poop patrol.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Return of the Chinman

When my brother and I were kids, we used to play a game called "Chinman". One person would use a pen (I know. Duh!) and draw a pair of eyes on the bottom of their chin, a nose in the middle and then they would lay on the floor and cover the top half of their head with a napkin or a blanket. Then the other guy would stand near the top of the chinman's head and look down at
the Chinman's head and watch while he or she talked in funny voices, pantomimed chewing or lip synced songs. I can't tell you how hard we used to laugh when we watched the Chinman go. So as you can imagine, when I took this picture in the car last night while we were driving home from my mother in law's birthday party, I laughed until tears ran down my face. And as my children laughed along with me, I realized that I had just passed the torch of stupid fun to them in a big way. I only hope they took just the fun and not the stupid part and use a lip pencil (like above) and not a Bic click to draw the Chinman's features. My brother and I just got the ink marks off last year.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Now you see it . . .Now you don't

I have been working a lot lately and when I work a lot and feel out of touch with my home environment, I get the itch to bake. Baking folds me back into
machinery of home life and makes me feel like I am part of the family again.

As we were celebrating my mother in law's 88th birthday this weekend, I baked a cake. While I was busy with the cake, the kids came to me and asked me to make cookies. Mother's guilt is a powerful thing and before I knew it, I was pulling a Butterscotch Poundcake out of the oven and shoveling Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies in. The cookies were still as hot as molten lava when the kids started downing them. I missed the installation of asbestos lining in their mouths, which could be the only thing protecting them from cookies that hot. As of the writing of this blog entry, there are exactly zero of 36 cookies left. It's easy to blame this on the kids, but I know that Dave eats them too. He is silent and and ninja-like about it though. I'll never see him take a cookie, but they automagically disappear off the plate whenever he is around. Save for the tell-tale crumb or two in his moustache, his subterfuge is fairly effective. His birthday is coming up. Maybe a shinobi-zue would make a good gift.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Drumroll Please. . .

So here it is. The new and very much improved bathroom. It has taken a total of two full months to complete the job but it was worth the wait. So now that we have the benefit of hindsight, let's play a round of what have we learned. I'll start -

1. We learned that every last spec of Funkette influence is out of this bathroom. I believe the pictures above are a big Funk U to them. I had asked myself whether it would really feel good to divest ourselves of all their leavings or if I was just being childish. Well, spank my bottom and send me to bed without dinner because I feel GREAT!

2. We learned that dogs yearn for people. Every time I say "Where's Kenny?" to Brownie, the tail of destruction goes thump, thump, thump. Sometimes, if I am laying in bed petting her, depending on the angle, it goes thump, thump, thump in my grill. Thanks for the head trauma, pal.

3. I learned that a man is only as happy as the the quality of toilet that he rests his backside on. Dave was lost without his power flush and you would have thought he won the lottery when Kenny put it back in.

4. We learned that I have rightfully earned the title "Interior Dictator". This was proven out as Dave and Kenny stood in Home Depot staring down at a defective sink only to look at each other and declare "I'm not bringing that home, make her come here and look at it first." I guess they figured that I would fire poison death rays out of my eyes and reduce them to smoldering piles of ash if they had brought this disaster home. Good choice. Gooooood choice.

5. We learned that with enough water, time and Funkette, wood can be converted from a solid to a liquid.

6. We learned that after one moment of weakness in allowing our daughter to shower in what I have defined as a "Child Free Zone" (Hey, I know it sounds harsh, but it's one of 11 rooms. Grow a set.) that she will harras us constantly to use it again. Be strong woman Be strong.

7. I learned that as long as that shower is working, I will be late for work every day. Shower time has doubled, maybe tripled for Dave and I. It is so relaxing and everything is clean and actually works. I used to speed shower in order to get of the Motel Six box of heinousness. I guess we are making up for lost showering.

8. We learned that if you sit Kenny in front of a set of drums, he can play anything. No exaggeration . . .anything. Some of the best band practice that Joey had was just jamming with Kenny or my brother-in-law Ralph on the drums. I guess Kenny will have to bang on pots and pans as he moves on to his next remodel. However, he is welcome to come play drums whenever he likes.
9. Lastly and probably most importantly, we learned that the impossible can happen. I was pretty sure that the Funkettized bathroom was going to be around for a long time, so when Dave told be that he looked into remodeling the bathroom, I almost didn't believe him. And while I know that we pushed the limits of the budget further than he was comfortable with, I truly believe that he is as happy with the result. I think that he would also agree that we got a whole lot for the money, including fun and companionship and great stories to last a lifetime of family get togethers.

So now that the deed is done (minus a frameless glass shower door upgrade to come later), the big question for me is, what is the fate of this blog? Truth be told, I have loved writing it and the process of (gently) poking fun at ourselves and our lives. I don't expect my memory to improve as I age, so I think I have to keep it around as I need the record. Topics will change and come and go, but the general tone will stay the same. This is me kids. Like it or not. Look out PTA harpies, lazy sales help and sunday drivers, the Interior Dictator is gunning for you and she has a platform. Oh yeah, her eyes shoot poison death rays too!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snowy Monday

I don't know where it came from, but boom, there it was - fourteen inches of snow! Schools were closed, the orthodontist called to cancel Joey's appointment and I set up shop to work at home. I got up around 5:45 and looked out the front door across the white expanse. They hadn't even attempted to plow the streets yet as the snow was still falling at a rapid clip. What does one do when such snowy weather confines them to the indoors? I don't know about you, but I bake cinnamon rolls. And not just any cinnamon rolls, three inch high gooey cinnamon rolls that are tender and buttery enough to put those mall monstrosities to shame ( you know who you are, you rhyme with Finnabon).

OK, the truth is, that I am quite inept at yeast doughs, so when these puppies actually rose, I was nothing short of astonished. The fact that they came out delicious and tender, a mere stroke of luck. I have thrown out more yeast risen items than I have served, though lately I have had a better track record. I guess I have learned the hard way that yeast can't be expired or bloomed in water that's too hot or mishandled in any way or it will let you and your rolls down. There's nothing more disappointing than putting a loaf of bread in the oven and taking a cement discus out. I could probably build a bomb shelter with all of my failed bread. But not today! Today I have retrieved golden and delicious sweet dough roulades from the oven and savored every crumb of their gooey goodness. As over-confident as I am right now, I am sure that my remaining packet of yeast will result in a sourdough disaster that my kids can ride down an icy hill. Quick, to the kitchen before the snow melts!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Man (and Ken's) Best Friend

There is no reason for false modesty on this one - we have an awesome dog. Her name is Brownie and she is the coolest dog in the animal kingdom. For one thing, she is a mutt. And not just any kind of mutt, but a whacked out mix of German Sheppard, Black Lab and Basset Hound. It must be the secret recipe for a great temperament. Unfortunately it's also a recipe for bad hips. Anyway, she loves everyone and with all the time that Kenny was spending with her during the day, she took a special shine to him. It got to be where she would lay in the shower base while Kenny tiled the shower or she'd nuzzle her nose under his arm while he tried to set the toilet bowl. She was basically stuck to him like glue. Our cat Spike was a little more stand-offish than the dog, but after a week or two he was also a Kenny fan.

The one problem that we have with Brownie is that she does not like the vacuum. She barks at it and bites at it as soon as it starts moving. Certainly makes cleaning a challenge. I have tried to calm her by giving her treats and praise if she sits still while I vacuum, but she can't help herself. The vacuum is her mortal enemy and she will not rest until she has slayed it. Given this hatred for air suction devices, we should have anticipated her reaction to Kenny's nail gun. It was like she went on full alert as soon as he started up the compressor. The hair on her back raised up like a Mohawk and she ran to his side to attack the offending creature. As Kenny blasted nails into the wall she wedged her nose in to get at the evil air compression devil. She was snout to snout with it and he couldn't stop her. She was crazed and fully determined to fell her enemy. We panicked every time he fired that thing up, knowing that this could be the time that she eats a nail. How do you explain that particular brand of bad pet parenting to the vet? It's certainly the kind of thing to get "Dog Protective Services" at your door or at the very least, to get hate mail from PETA. Eventually we got smart and put her outside when nailing time came.

Nail gun maneuvers were not the least of Kenny's problems with his new found doggie friend. One day he was spackling the ceiling and he saw something moving outside the window from the corner of his eye. It was Brownie out in front of the house. She had managed to open the front storm door and escape into the street. He quickly turned to run down and get her and in the process, dropped his Spackle knife on his head, point first. Dave came home from a Home Depot run to find Kenny in the kitchen with a bag of peas on his head. Note to self - you really need to remember to fill the ice trays.

All in all, I think he liked being with her as much as she liked being with him, even if she did get under his feet and bite his nail gun and cause him to lose a hunk of flesh from his forehead. I even think that after he finished the job, that she pined a little bit for him. I think the same thing about Dave, it's like he's had a playmate for the last six weeks and now he's back to the empty house and the sound of his own voice. He's even mentioned something about redoing the kitchen, which we have never discussed before. With two kids in braces and college educations to be saved for, it will be a couple of years before we can actually do that. But I am sure that it will be a welcome project for Dave and for Brownie. Come on nail gun, Brownie is ready for whatever you've got!