Friday, December 30, 2005

crazy delicious

I have spent much of the past four days reading Julie Powell's Julie & Julia, which recounts the author's adventures cooking through the entirety of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1 in one turn of the calendar. Although her efforts often have disasterous results, she pushes through, good humor and vodka gimlet in hand. An impressive use of a year, and I am (to a degree) jealous. After all, I would like nothing more than to spend a year cooking lamb stew, calf liver, lobster and crepes-- and if I could do it in Tuscany or Provance, so much the better.
2005 is coming to its not-so-dramatic conclusion. Looking back over the year, I'm rather happy to bid it farewell. While I look about for the next adventure I've been kept (or kept myself) in a rather boring holding pattern: Wake up, go to work, go to class or go to other work, return home, make plans to change holding pattern, repeat. Throw in 2-3 gym visits per week (imaginary or real), one weekly phone call from home, bi-weekly visits with friends, car trouble every 9 weeks or so, the basic turning of the seasons and: "Voila!"-- 2005 remembered.
But, fear not. Given my Pollyanna-esque type-A personality, my melencholy is fleeting. 2005's simple exterior does not do justice to the glittering lessons it's held. For example, I know how to put a car battery in backwards, balance a school budget without upseting tax-payers (too much), make jelly, avoid professional litigation, prepare a tea for forty, comparison shop, navigate awkward conversations (particularly those so deep with subtext someone should have handed you a scuba diving suit before throwing you into the shark infested waters), make Eggs Benedict, adopt a cat, attend the theatre, recognize when I'm acting my age and when I'm pretending to be an adult, write a research proposal, and embrace my love of obscure movies and semi-obscure brit-pop (both part of my charm, I assure you). Not bad.
Now, for the next adventure....

We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~Erma Bombeck

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

blog and bling

I just woke up (4 hours ago) from a 17 hour nap. I hadn't intended to sleep that long when I put down my book yesterday evening to close my eyes for a few minutes. But, here we are. (FYI: during my dream I watched about 10 years of a soap opera entitled Market Days. Escape -- the Pina Colada song that goes, "If you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, if you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain, if you'd like making love at midnight in the dunes on the Cape: then I'm the love that you've looked for. Write to me and escape.-- served as a theme song for each episode which focused on the life and times of grocery story employees and the people they serve. It was really quite amusing).
Christmas went well this year. We managed to clean the first floor of my parents house, install and decorate the tree and entertain my father's mother, brothers and sister-in-law as well as enjoy the holiday ourselves. 2 pots of soup, 6 post-Christmas Day church service noshes, countless mimosas, numerous glasses of wine, and one caramelized sugar hand burn later, I am proud to say that my domesitc-goddess training is going very well (if I do say so myself). Highlights follow:
1) My sister, who "hates" the holidays, asked to make a Christmas cake. I have termed it "Grinch cake" because it featured purple icing and multi-colored birthday sprinkles and was the anti-thesis of Christmassy. However, it was tasty and I hope she'll make it next year (mostly cause it was good and knocked something off my 4 page to-do list).
2) When I had finished all I could with the front parlor (my mother's lair in our family home where our Christmas tree sits annually) I asked for her help. She proceeded to dust the bookshelf, and ask why I hadn't. Mind you, there were 40+ books and personal papers on the floor covering much needed chair and walking space-- things that I have no idea what to do with as I don't really live at home anymore. Finishing the bookshelf, she looked over the books at me and asked what she could do next
**My mother is a dearly beloved reader of this blog.... but she can be hilarious when it comes to housekeeping**
3) As my mother enter the parlor where I had finished decorating the tree I expected to hear oohs and aahs. Instead she called me in to ask if I had thrown out the half-inch long resin corn cobs she had set on one of the side tables (I had). She then explained that she had been saving them since they had broken off of her harvest candle holder so I could crazy glue it back together when I came home. "Mom, did you notice the tree." "Yes. It's decorated. But you threw out my corn husks!"
4) I made Ciopinno (a Portugeuse fish stew) as part of our Christmas Eve dinner this year--a one-pot seven fish dinner (although there are only 5 fish). It was even easier and tastier than I had expected. But, my mother was obsessed with the fact that it called for anchovies. I explained that they melted down at the begining of the cooking process and were not the scary canned fish of pizza fame. This became an important part of the stew's explaination to my mother's parishoners and friends. "Katharine's making/going to make a Ciopinno. It calls for anchovies, which I don't like, but she swears I won't even know they're there." "Did the anchovies melt?" "The stew was great... even with anchovies!"
5) On Christmas Eve, my father introduced me to the parish where he was leading service. "My daughter Katharine is here. She's been to church with me almost every Christmas Eve since she was born." It was very sweet, but then the entire congregation turned to where he had pointed and said, "Hi, Katharine!" in unison. It was a bit like being at a late night 12 step meeting. "Hi. My name is Katharine. And I'm a PK squared." ** That's preacher's kid squared for those unfamiliar with the jargon of the family business**
6) In a moment of tactfulness genius I welcomed my uncle, aunt and grandmother into our home while subtly encouraged them to leave until they were expected. "Hello! Merry Christmas! It is wonderful to see you! What are your plans for the day? Well, that certainly sounds like fun. We're finishing up things here, but you are very welcome to come to dinner tonight at 6:30. I making that soup you loved last year. I don't want to hold you up because that party sounds wonderful. Have a great afternoon. See you soon!" Everyone left smiling, there were no jilted exchanges or hurt feelings and I bought myself an extra 5 hours. Awesome!
7) My sister decided it'd be fun to sing the descant to "O Come, Let us Adore Him" during service Christmas morning. Although she wimped out during the 3rd verse, we both made a 6th verse attempt and made it through without making fools of ourselves. After church my brother and I had the following conversation.
Dave: It's not fair. You got the cooking gene, and the singing gene and all the good genes.
Me: You're a musician and you got the skinny gene. So that's nice.
Dave: My doctor thinks that might be a disease!
7) During Christmas dinner (and my second glass of wine-- after all, my obligations had been fulfilled) I tuned into the conversation to catch the following: "I have to say, that if I hear the words blog or bling in a conversation I immediately shut down and have no interest in continuing to speak to that person." As I bit my tongue (literally) I wondered 1) who had said either of those words? How could you possibly work those into a conversation around a Christmas table where the average age was 47? and 2) please, please, don't let my mother bring up my blog! She didn't.

Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good afternoon!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I have a full life of my own. I have lizards.

The past few days I have been constantly amazed at how very busy I am. Somehow, while taking three classes and fulling the obligations of my graduate assistantship I managed to find time to goof-off, watch tv, procrastinate, catch up with friends, etc. That time is gone-- my multi-colored calander tells me that I will (again) be home for a mere two hours between now and 9:00 tonight. I will have to tape Chrismakkah Bar Mitzvakkah (in all it's wonderful glory). I will probably stay up too late knitting Christmas sweater ornaments (cause I'm a dork). Tomorrow I'll be up at 7 (barring any natural catastrophe) to do it all again.
I wonder where the time I used to do classwork/slack off has gone. But, strangely enough, I like being this busy. I get sooo much more accomplished than the average bear. And I do it in style.
With the arrival of the holidays (whichever you are partial too... I think Christmakkah might be the most genius idea of secular-America. Ever.) there is also the arrival of things you never thought you needed. I am generally of the "less is more" mentality in my housekeeping and decorating, so the arrival of new things sends me into a bit of a frenzy. What will this thing replace? Is it okay if it doesn't replace anything. Is is going to offend someone if I do not keep the gift in my home (because there is no place for it, no need for it, I already have two, etc.)? Is this one of those gifts that the gifter will expect to see displayed in my home or on me? What's the polite way to receive a "way off base" gift? These questions, and others, flutter about my head mainly because space is a tight commodity in my home and suitcase.
Of course, this is the point in the blog that I have to note that the practicality of the gift and its usage aren't really the point. We present each other with presents as a token of our love and friendship; to celebrate and commemorate how very blessed we are. Whatever your faith (however you roll) gratitude translates universally. And there is always room for celebration and thanksgiving, no matter how small your home.
That was a bit more 7th Heaven than I intended... but I meant it.
So, I suppose at the end of the day, the "new stuff" crisis really pales in comparison to the truer meaning of the season. Gifts can be returned, given away (not re-gifted (that's like lying), but handed over to someone who can use them). And there's nothing better than knowing your cared for.
I leave you with the words of one, Seth Cohen:
You can't ruin Chrismukkah. It's got twice the resistance of any normal holiday. I've got Jesus and Moses on my side.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Santa, Baby...

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
I've been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, an '56 convertible too, light blue
I'll wait up for you dear
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Think of all the fun I've missed
Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed
Next year I could be oh so good
If you'd check off my Christmas list
Boo doo bee doo

Santa honey, I wanna yacht and really that's
Not a lot
I've been an angel all year
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa cutie, there's one thing I really do need, the deed
To a platinum mine
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, I'm filling my stocking with a duplex, and checks
Sign your 'X' on the line
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's
I really do believe in you
Let's see if you believe in me
Boo doo bee doo

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring
I don't mean a phone
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Hurry down the chimney tonight
Hurry down the chimney tonight

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I'm always strung at this frequency

My most recent work project has been to help put together a mobile "Stress Relief" Clinic for students to utilize as they approach the end of classes and the uber-dreaded exam period. Coordinating with other departments on campus, we created a safe-haven for the frazzled: aromatherapy, hot tea, chocolate, tips for relaxing at the keyboard and in exams, and more personal massage devices than you could possibly know what to do with-- it is quite the operation when it's all set up.
Now, I am definately the person to organize such a thing. I enjoyed researching various stress relief techniques and working with staff members I don't often see. I relish including Hershey's Hugs and Kisses in the line-up of stress busters: "While they might not have enough Cocoa to actually aid mood elevation, they are a reminder of how important your support system is. Hugs from friends can be a major help on super-stressful days." (I'm quite proud of that, really). I can design media, poster the town, and make phone calls. I am the person for all of those jobs.
I am not, however, the woman to present this wonderful clinic to passers-by.
1) Organization--that's my bag. I stand in awe of those who can approach without invitation. I just can't bring myself to do it. I'm not a sales person by nature; I love the stockroom.
2) I thrive on stress. I accomplished more today, when my schedule was booked solid, than I have in a week (that's not exactly true as it is the last week of classes so I've been very productive this particular week... but as a general statement, it's more true than false). I love having places to be and people to see. When that is missing, I find it entirely too easy to put things off.
3) I am high-strung. Here, I'm not referencing the previous post's "snob"-bery, but rather that I am simple not a relaxed individual. Even when fully relaxed I'm still a bit tense-- it's part of my charm.
Thanks are due:
a) steller organization (that was my very own cyper-back-pat)
b) the wonderful skill and kindness of friends and co-workers who took pity on my poor selling skills and made the program a success.

So, now I'm at home watching Dr. Dolittle. Not that terrible monstrosity they made a few years ago, but the 1967 movie-musical staring the indomitable Rex Harrison. No one can speak-sing like ol' Rex.

Polynesia (the parrot): You could converse in Polar Bear and Python
Dr. Dolittle: And I would curse in fluent Kangaroo
P: If people asked you, "Can you speak Rhinocerous?"
D: I'd say, "Of courserous! Can't you?"
P: You know I can.

It's also quite possible that this movie influenced the forming of my young feminist leanings:

Emma (the much-too-young love interest):
You see a man can be as rude as he likes,
crude as he likes,
lude as he likes, too.
But a girl must be discreet as she can,
sweet as she can,
neat as she can, too.
But that's not the life
that I want to lead.
Normal and formal
and homespun tweed.
I need the freedom
to go where I please.

I don't really get the "homespun tweed" reference, but it's all there. No wonder I was hero worshipping suffragetes at the tender age of 7.

However, it is the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - ish whimsy that I truly adore. So I'll leave you with the following, sung by a Irish fisherman to his too-wise-for-his-age 8 year old companion.

My friend the doctor says
the stars are made of lemon drops
the bigger ones are lollipops and ice.
The colds have shops
up on the tops
that sell you sweets and soda-pops.
What do they call the place? Isn't it Paradise?

My friend the doctor says
that every time it starts to rain
and people run indoors again in swarms--
if your remain
out in the rain
you'll think you're drinkin' pink champagne!--
and you'll spend your life
prayin' for thunderstorms!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A snob, yet ever attentive

Announcement unrealated to general theme of post: 10(ish) paragraphs are all that stand between me and the end of the semester. WhoHoo! I thought, for a few fleeting moments, that this final paper would actually kill me. But it has not, and I will prevail. So there!

In other school-type news, I have been sorted! Ravenclaw is my very own house at Hogwarts. This is not really a surprise. I'm all about intelligence and smart people, I'm a bit of a snob and if Cho were a real person and I was 7 years younger, we'd be friends.
So. Some thoughts on snobbery:
1. somebody who admires and cultivates relationships with those considered socially superior, and disdains those considered inferior
2. somebody who looks down on people considered to have inferior knowledge or tastes

This term has (jokingly) entered into my definition of self recently. I don't think about the social benefits of the relationships I "cultivate" (what a snobby definiation!), and I rarely feel disdain for anyone (except maybe that kid who insisted on hugging me when he was drunk. Not Cool!), so no big time snob am I. However, I do find my propensity to have heightened expectations of myself and the company I choose to keep has begun to interfere with the day to day doings of my life.

I have recently discovered Rachel Ray's line of cookbooks, her ubiquitous presense on the Food Channel and her blitz of the media (Oprah, CBS Sunday Morning, Slade, etc.). And, while every "foodie in training" bone in my body cries out against her use of ketchup and annoying terms like EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), I find I am quite smitten. While I would love to have a $50,000 kitchen, a farmers' market around the corner, and a cast for friends whose sole purpose in life is to ensure that whatever feast I'm preparing goes off without a hitch, this is simply not my life. Rachel Ray seems to understand that. Her recipies are simple, affordable, and reminiscent of my father's culinary style-- homemade and uber-yummy. So, while Nigela and the Contessa will always have a place in my heart, Rachel's finding a place next to my stove. Snobbery: 0. Katharine: 1.

I've caught the travel bug again. A part of me is very ready to head to the nearest airport and buy the next ticket to Europe I can afford (which, would be no ticket to Europe, but the day dreams are helping a bit). Even I sometimes forget that there was a time I left everyone I love and everything I know to adventure abroad in new and exciting places. I want to go back. I want to go somewhere new. And I want to do it as a traveler rather than a tourist. Snobbery: 1/2. Katharine: 1 1/2.

So, snobbery is not winning; I am. And I have the pollyanna attitude and deep belief in socialism to combat it and win. But, there are places I want to see and things I want to do and tenants I cling to that are truly, according to some, the definition of snobbery. And that's okay, cause those who think so aren't worth my time.

Just kidding :).

Actually, come to think of it. Mason is the definition of a snob. He only maked advantagious friendships (at least I assume he does, I don't know that he actually has friends) and disdains those he considers inferior to him (namely, me).