Thursday, January 31, 2008

"...and they all look just the same..."

During my workday, I have the sometimes-dubious opportunity to visit a lot of homes in a lot of neighborhoods. A lot of diverse neighborhoods. They run the gamut from the ghetto to the upper-upper class. From the meanest, shabbiest one-room apartments to the upper six-figure homes.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, as it were.

I happened upon (what I consider) a ridiculous one today.

Now, I can certainly understand one wanting to live in a new home. Personally, I prefer the older home with a little character. But to each his own, I suppose. And I can understand one wishing to get away from the "inner city" and all it's problems.

Having said all that, why in the world anyone would wanna live in a maze of a subdivision where every single house was nearly identical is just...well...Dunlap...uh...I mean, it's beyond me. I don't get it.

I mean...whatever happened to individuality? I shit you not...these was depressing to just drive around. The colors of the homes ran the gamut. From grey to a couple different shades of beige.


I felt like writing a suicide note by the time I got away from there.

Good do those people find their way home at night? It felt like friggin Stepford.

I bet there are pods in the basements.

And while I know these homes were probably in the low to mid-six figure range, they If the one I was in was a good example, (and it probably looked exactly like it's neighbors) it was cheaply made.

Ticky tacky boxes sums it up perfectly.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Overheard conversations


Me: Hello?

Ziggy: (who is calling do you spell "bidet"?

Me: (instant mental picture of these big, burly, dirty steel mill workers sittin around in their coveralls and steel-toed boots, discussing bidets)

Me: B I D E T

Ziggy: That's what I thought. Ok, see ya at 11!

I don't even wanna know....

More (comfort) food for thought

By Jove, I think she's GOT it!

My mom was a gooood cook. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to pay attention, cookin wasn't exactly high on my list of priorities. She'd try to teach me and I, being a teenager, just wasn't interested. At all.

She was a good cook. Trouble is, she very rarely used a recipe. So now that I am interested, she's gone and there's no written record of the great meals that, I'm sure, her mom taught her to make.

Occasionally, I'll try to recreate some of her dishes. Some of the "comfort food" that I fondly remember. Her from-scratch Red Velvet Cake. Her home made chicken and noodles. Her roast beef hash. Her fried pork brains. Uh. Nevermind. That was one dish that I just could never get excited about. It wasn't so much the was the texture. And her gravies...Oooooo! She did awesome beef gravy. And white "fried chicken gravy". And sausage gravy.

I've had some mild "successes". I've had more "not even closes". Over time, I've become convinced that some of the ingredients just don't taste the same as they did back then. But I've kept tryin.

Thankfully, she did manage to teach me about gravies and roux before she was gone. I think I'd be safe in sayin I could give her a run for her money in the homemade gravy department. I do killer sausage gravy and biscuits, if I do say so myself.

I can do homemade noodles almost as good as hers. If I could find some homegrown eggs and a homegrown, freshly slaughtered chicken, I might get the whole chicken and noodles thing dead-on.

I can almost get the flavor of her roast beef hash, but I can't get the texture right. See, she used one of those old, cast-iron meat grinders. She'd grind up the leftover roast, along with a few raw potatoes and a big ole onion and bake the whole mess. It was awesome.

The Red Velvet Cake? That was one of the "not even closes". I dunno. Lard just doesn't taste like it used to. On top of that, I've told ya before...I'm just not a baker.

One of my favorite dishes was somethin she called "Hungarian Goulash". It was kinda like beef stew...except not quite so many vegetables. Just beef, carrots, pearl onions and potatoes. It was in a red, tomato-ey, sort of sweet-sour sauce that was delicious. I've tried several times to recreate that one and never had much luck.

The Zigster and I were talkin about what we considered "comfort foods" the other day, and I got ta thinkin about that damn Hungarian Goulash. So I thought I'd give it another whirl.

And I think I've got it! 'Course, I added a few "extras"...but the sauce is just damn near it. Aaaaand, I wrote it down while I was experimenting.

The Stew
2-3 lb. chuck roast, chunked up
6 new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 1 lb. bag of frozen pearl onions
3-4 carrots cut in large chunks

1 green pepper cut in large chunks
2 portobella mushrooms cut in large chunks

Try to cut up all the veggies in approximately the same size...they'll cook evenly.

The Sauce
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 T crushed garlic or 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped fine
1/2 C dark brown sugar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T sweet Hungarian paprika (don't use regular paprika...won't be the same)
1/3 C ketchup
1/3 C barbecue sauce

Salt and pepper the meat, brown in a little oil, throw it in the crockpot (don't add any liquid...the meat will release enough) and cook on "High" til slightly tender. Mix the sauce up and throw it in with the meat and cook another hour or so. Add the potatoes, carrots and onions and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender. If you add the "optionals", add 'em when the potatoes are almost done (the peppers and mushrooms will cook up fairly fast). Turn the crockpot down to "Medium" or "Low" and let it hang out a while.

This is a one-pot meal, so just serve it up with some crusty French bread or a nice sourdough.

Now, I'm pretty sure mom never used ketchup or barbecue sauce. In fact, I don't remember even havin bottled barbecue sauce back then. (Yea, I'm old.) So I don't know what she used. Maybe she added a little more brown sugar and some apple cider vinegar...I dunno. But my recipe is pretty damn close.

Mmmmmmm...comfort food. What's yours?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Close encounters of the feathered kind

Ok, so it's not really that close. But it's closer than I've gotten all season.

While the photos aren't great, ya hafta consider I was tryin to work the "zoom" feature on the camera. In my nightgown. Barefoot. In 15 degree weather. In the snow.

Thank gawd none of my neighbors were home. I'm sure they'd have thought I'd gone insane. Ok, insaner. They know me pretty well. heh

I just can't get over how....enormous they really are. I was sittin on the chaise lounge, lookin out the window at the frozen river and I saw a shadow go over the deck. I thought it was a friggin airplane.

Oh, and in case ya can't tell, it's an
  • American Bald Eagle
  • .

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    Food for thought

    In the last five or six years, I've really gotten into cooking. I find it's a great creative outlet. It also lets me use my imagination as well as fulfilling my sense of adventure. I'm always trying something new. Mostly it turns out great. Other times...well...ask Ziggy about my portobella mushroom polenta sometime. heh

    I lay the blame for my newly-found love of cooking squarely at the feet of The Food Network and it's cadre of foodie personalities. Having watched some of them for several years now, of course I have my favorites...and I've made a few observations.

  • Paula Deen
  • - "Looka here, y'all!" Now here's a woman I'd like to chat up over a coupla margaritas. She licks her fingers while she's cookin. She feeds her dog tidbits, drops shit and burns herself. Yea, she's down-home and corn-pone, but she's a cook. I've probably accumulated (and tried) more of her recipes than anybody else on TFN. In fact, her
  • Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole
  • is on the menu for this evening. (I'll letcha know how it turns out.)
    Ziggy and I are kickin around the idea of makin Savannah our vacation destination this year...and her restaurant is on my list of touristy-type places.

  • Ina Garten
  • - Love her style. Like most of her recipes. Can't stand her wimpy, bumbling husband Jeffrey. I bet he likes to be slathered with lemon curd, tied up and flogged with a whisk.

  • Giada DeLaurentiis
  • - Everyday Italian...well, not so much. Today she made
  • Osso Bucco
  • ...out of turkey. That's just...wrong. And she has entirely too many teeth for her mouth.

  • Sandra Lee
  • - "Semi-homemade", huh? Like that's some wildly innovative idea. Good gawd. Every time she says, "I'll just pop this into the oven", I wanna just pop her in the face with a cast iron skillet. She's just kinda....creepy. Besides that, I just don't trust skinny cooks.

  • Rachael Ray
  • - Well, I used to love her but it's all over nowwww. I bet she douches with EVOO. Geeze, chickie...take a Quaalude and chill. She has...what?...six shows on now? Plus her own brand of olive oil called...what else? EVOO. Plus her own brand of cooking utensils. I'm just waiting for her to implode. In 30 minutes, of course.

  • Alton Brown
  • - Love this guy. He's part cook, part Mr. Wizard. Particularly loved his "Feasting on Asphalt" series.

  • Emeril
  • - BAM! Right in his big, ole doughy face. Used to like him...until he became just a tad too...chi-chi.

  • Tyler Florence
  • - I don't catch his show as often as I used to, but I've always liked him and his recipes. Besides that, he's just...cute.

    You won't find
  • Anthony Bourdain
  • hangin out with the likes of Rachael Ray or Sandra Lee on the Food Network. He's far to...urbane for that. But his "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel is one of our faves. As is
  • Andrew Zimmern
  • and his "Bizarre Foods". "If it looks good, eat it!"

    Funny...that's always been Ziggy's sentiment, too. heh


    The Shrimp & Rice casserole. It's fabulous, though it needs a little salt. I did tweak the recipe just a bit. I didn't have any wild rice on hand, so I used Jasmine. I added maybe a coupla teaspoons of Old Bay and the shrimp I had seemed a bit skimpy, so I added maybe a cup of lump crab meat. After that, it seemed a I added maybe a half cup of heavy cream.

    Mmmmmmmmmm... Creamy and cheesy and shrimpy.

    Monday, January 14, 2008

    Monday morning rants and raves

    It's Monday. And it's yucky and gray and cold...spittin snow. What better time to bitch a little, eh?

    Yes, he's magnificent. A wild, regal creature that was once quite threatened. But he's made a great comeback. And I know what a thrill it is to observe him in his natural habitat. And, believe me, I do understand that you want to experience that thrill of seeing one (or more) in that natural habitat.
    While this area isn't exactly thick with 'em, there are quite a few right now. It's "prime time" for eagle watchin here.

    But the thing is...see...I'm lucky enough to share that natural habitat with them.

    And because of that, I must say...

    Don't come down here in your damn humongous yuppie-SUVmobile, block the whole fuckin street and sit there in the warmth of your carbon monoxide-spewing yuppie-SUVmobile (because, gawd forbid, you might get cold and gawd forbid you might hafta do something like...actually walk somewhere) so you can watch these magnificent creatures in comfort.

    I it just me, or does anyone else see more than a little irony in that?

    And another thing...

    Ya know the reusable tote bags that have become soooo politically correct? Ok, so I bought three. But don't go gettin any ideas about me gettin soft in my old age. Ya know where ya can stick "politically correct", doncha? Aaanywho, I love 'em.

    They're sturdy. They hold a lotta shit. And they're waaaaay easier to carry than those damn plastic bags. "Saving the environment" just happens to be a nice bonus.

    But this isn't really about those nice, sturdy totes. Exactly.

    It's about the baggers at the stores.

    Over the last several years, I've noticed that it's's that catchphrase again..."politically correct"...for some grocery stores to hire the...ah...shall we say, mentally challenged to be baggers.

    Now, I'm all for letting those who are developmentally handicapped earn a living. If there's something productive they can do, then hellyah...more power to 'em. Way ta go! It's wonderful. They should be treated exactly like everyone else.

    And they should be trained like everyone else.

    Like how to pack those nice, sturdy totes.

    Oh, and Mr. Store Owner? Don't go gettin any ideas that I shop there because you're like this beneficent, magnanimous employer that hires the handicapped. I know why you do it. You do it because it's politically correct. And because you want the public to think you're this beneficent, magnanimous employer.

    But lemme letcha in on a little secret.

    I don't shop there because I think you're all beneficent and magnanimous. And I sure as shit don't shop there because you're the cheapest.

    I shop there because it's handy. Period. And, in fact, if you don't start training these people on how to fill up a damn grocery bag, I'll just find someplace that's a little less handy.

    Better yet, I'll start goin to a "bag yer own" joint.

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008


    Good gawd...I've resorted to cat-blogging

    Hello. My name is Stewie. I'm neurotic, schizophrenic and obsessive-compulsive. Oh. And I also have pica.

    I've been a cat lover since I was a teeny-tiny kid. I've owned...oh...lessee...probably somewhere in the neighborhood of ten cats throughout my lifetime. Maybe more. Probably more. Most were wonderful companions. They did normal cat stuff. Ya purring. And meowing. And snuggling. They liked being loved on. They acted like they actually liked me.

    Not this one.

    Stewie doesn't purr. Stewie doesn't meow...unless he's frustrated. Then it's only one or two MAOWWW's. I could count on one hand the times he meows in a week. Stewie absolutely does not snuggle. In fact, I think he'd prefer to not be all.

    Once in a while, he forgets himself and allows Zig or I to pet him. But only for a minute. And more often than not, after a brief scritch or two, he'll get this crazed look in his eyes and go all Mohammed on my ass and attack. I KILL YOU!!!

    At any given time, both my and the Zigster's hands and arms look like they've been run through a paper shredder.

    His favorite place to hang out is on top of the bathroom door. Unless we have the ladder to the loft in place. Then he'll hang on the ladder.

    (Aren't you lucky? I was gonna post a few more pictures, but Blogger's uploader thingy just took a big poop.)

    And about the pica. Plastic. Christmas ribbon. Anything sparkly finds it's way into his gullet...and usually right back out again. Along with whatever kibble or stinky cat food he's had recently. Lovely. He's completely obsessed with that Glad Press & Seal crap. All I hafta do is open the drawer where it's kept and he's right there. He looooves it.

    Kitty treats? Nosireebob! Just gimme a wad of that stuff.

    I try really hard to keep him from eating some of this crap...I keep warnin him that if he doesn't stop, I'll wind up havin to give him an enema. And I'm pretty sure neither of us would enjoy that.

    I dunno...he's just I've ever had.

    Do they make Kitty Prozac?

    'Course, I'd hafta wad it up in a piece of that Press & Seal stuff to get him to take it.

    Sunday, January 06, 2008

    Not that this validates Al "Wingnut" Gore's claim, but...


    Less than a week ago, we had three inches of snow and it got colder than a well digger's ass in Alaska. As in single digits with wind chills below zero.

    Today it was 72.

    Ah well. It's Illinois, after all.

    Thursday, January 03, 2008

    Love means never having to say...

    ..."No, I'm sorry, but I simply won't change the dressing on your ass."

    There’s nothing more will put you out,
    And enfrown your Happy Face,
    Than when a Zit should chance to sprout
    Upon your Private Place.

    Do go read the
  • rest
  • . The honorable Elisson...he's a poet.

    Didja ever have a ginormous abscess pop up on your lower, inner buttcheek, dangerously close to both Yes, Vagina...there IS a Santa Clause and the planet Uranus that feels much like a golf-ball sized, MOLTEN BALL OF NUCLEAR WASTE in that most delicate tissue, causing much gnashing of teeth and cussing of words and making the simple acts of sitting or walking (and sometimes simply being) not only damn near impossible, but incrediblyfuckingpainful?

    And didja ever hafta ask your beloved spouse to keep you fully (and frequently) informed of size, location and appearance of said MOLTEN BALL OF NUCLEAR WASTE because no amount of bodily contortion will enable you to see said MOLTEN BALL OF NUCLEAR WASTE, either with or without the assistance of a hand-held mirror?

    "Look at my butt." "Will you look at my butt again?" "Is it gettin bigger?" "What does it look like?" "Look at my butt, again....please?" "Hey...c' normally like doin this!"

    And further, didja ever hafta go to the doctor, assume the most indelicate of positions whilst trying to maintain what little dignity you have left whilst said doctor stabs said MOLTEN BALL OF NUCLEAR WASTE with lidocaine, followed just a minute too soon (no, it wasn't quite numb yet) by the slicing open of said MOLTEN BALL OF NUCLEAR WASTE, ("OW! OW! OW!"...followed closely by "Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh!") followed by much manual epression, ie: squeeeeeeezing of said MOLTEN BALL OF NUCLEAR WASTE, all while being berated by said doctor for not going to the emergency room (on New Year's Eve...yea, right. Happy New Year!) sooner?

    And even further, didja ever hafta ask the above-mentioned most beloved spouse to perform frequent dressing changes (yea, this means using tape) to that most delicate tissue that now holds just a molten ball of nuclear waste (No caps), along with a small amount of very fine, but still...firmly

    Aaaaand, didja ever hafta take an industrial-strength antibiotic that's notorious for it's particularly uncomfortable side-effects, the most common being diarrhea which, naturally, will only serve to make the whole above-mentioned, incredibly painful (and totally hypothetical, of course...ahem) situation topple right on over to the totally, exquisitely unbearable?

    Nah. Me neither.