Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Taste-ing Tuesday

There's a new cooking challenge show on TV which started last week. The theory behind "The Taste" is that each thing the judges have to work with is a single spoonful of food. They don't know who made it. They don't know what's in it. They don't get the five-minute edited backstory that the audience sees. They just have that one taste to try to decide whether the cook moves forward in the competition or not.

I fully admit that I decided to try to watch the show because it has Nigella Lawson as one of the judges. And... well... I think she's amazing. It also has Anthony Bourdain as one of the judges. And... well... I'm watching it anyway. (Sorry... I know there are people who love him - including some close friends of mine - I'm just not one of them.)

But, anyway, the concept of the show, added to the fact that Christopher and I did a ton of cooking for our gathering last weekend, got me thinking: If I had one hour to make the one thing in my kitchen repertoire that most perfectly defines me, what would it be?

I make a darn fine pie crust, so maybe that would be involved, but what would go in it?

Would some kind of cookies be better? Or maybe scones? And how would those go in a spoon?

Maybe some comfort food would work to describe me - but I don't really have any of my own recipes for that. I mean... I have lots of borrowed and/or adapted recipes, but I don't develop many of my own.

In some strange ways, it seems like these are the culinary version of an "elevator speech." You know, the "How would you introduce yourself to a prospective employer in only the time that it takes for you to ride together in an elevator?" thing.

There's a difference, though, between describing what you do and who you are. I can tell people that I work as an editor, proofreader, and copywriter. And even if I say that, in my free time, I like to cook and bake, they won't know that I also like to dance in the kitchen - or that I once burned my thigh on a hot cookie sheet on my bed. (Long story.)

So... Yeah... A life summarized in a single spoon. I'm not sure how many episodes I'll be watching, but I do know that it certainly got me thinking.

Question: What would your spoon (literal or metaphorical) hold?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Sound and the...

I had the strangest sensation this afternoon. On a day when the forecast was for freezing rain or snow, I leaned outside and saw... nothing.

Okay. I know that seems like not a bad thing, because it typically would mean that there was nothing falling. But I could hear something.

It sounded like sand falling on the hardened snow, but there was nothing to be seen.

About half an hour later, I looked outside and the entire sidewalk was covered in what looked like ground-up diamonds.

In other words, the world had been covered in sleet - probably an eighth-inch to a quarter-inch deep.

I think there's probably something profound that could be said about many invisible particles eventually becoming a whole to be reckoned with - but that's probably just more sound than it's worth.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Flowers

When I lived in Paris (many years ago for about 9 months), one of my favorite small splurges was to stop at the corner shop that sold flowers once each week (or two) and buy a bouquet to take home.

I shared a very small apartment, so even just a few flowers could make a very big difference. Most of the time it was daisies - which are fresh and sunny, and also tend to last a while.

Now, all these years later, the grocery store closest to us has nice flowers, and so I pick them up for the house every couple of weeks. Typically, though, now I'm picking up roses, because the roses are 10 stems for 10 dollars, and there's something incredibly decadent about buying roses for the house every few weeks.

Christopher and I are hosting a gathering of sorts tomorrow night, and so I was in the store looking for flowers. I had thought I would get some carnations and roses, since they make a nice arrangement, but the carnations were all shades of orange or pink - not exactly what I was looking for.

Then I walked back around the corner and noticed the white daisies with their yellowy-green centers. They were almost the same color as some yellow roses with tinges of green which I had noticed in amongst all of the "normal" rose colors.

So tomorrow night's arrangements will be a past/present combo of daisies and roses, with just a hint of spring thrown in in the middle of the coldest week of winter.

Sounds about perfect to me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Changing It Up

Birthdays are strange things. They really don't change anything, and yet we mark them each year.

Christopher's birthday is today. He's going from a young'un in his 30s, to... well... a young'un at age 40.

That's the kind of silliness that birthdays make us all look at. I mean... He's still the same number of years younger than me. He's still the same person. But the change from 30s to 40 can be a big deal.

For my 40th, we actually ran away to France and England. It was great. And it was, in large part, great because we were celebrating places I'd been, but also looking ahead to where we wanted to go in the future.

I think that's probably the best way to look at birthdays - with both a backward glance and a forward eye.

Granted, even so, it's easier to say that when the birthday being celebrated is someone else's, and my own is still 4 months away. After all, I said I like the idea - I didn't say I was always great at following through.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bitter... and Cold

According to the weather guy on TV this morning on one of our local stations, the current weather is a "bitter cold."

In response, the traffic guy asked what was next: Would it be angry cold? Hostile cold?

When I posed that to some other people, today, the response I got most often was a suggestion that our weather is, currently, a "passive-aggressive" cold.

And I think that's probably right.

It's the kind of cold that doesn't want to be bothered with you, yet doesn't want to leave you alone, either. It doesn't want to actively annoy you, but it causes no end of annoyance, even so.

Christopher commented a couple of weeks ago that there's always a major cold snap before his birthday, but they hadn't, yet, predicted how cold the start of this week would be. No one had said that it would be the coldest weather we've seen in 4 years - or that we'd be spending between 36 and 48 hours below zero between last night and tomorrow.

Of course, by the time we're done with this, we'll all be feeling that satisfaction of having survived that I mentioned over the weekend. (Click here, if you missed that.) But, I have to admit that right now I'm really ready for it to be done.

What was that countdown to spring, again?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Don't Hate Winter

I really don't hate winter. I don't.

It's one of the seasons. And I like the fact that Minneapolis has all four seasons.

Fall wouldn't be so urgent if we didn't have winter. Spring wouldn't be so exciting if we didn't have winter.

We wouldn't have anything to say "Just wait until winter" about on hot summer days.

The problem, I have realized, is that I also don't really like winter. What I do like is being able to say that I have survived it.

It's a badge of honor to get to work on a snowy day and be able to tell people that I did.

It's strangely exciting to look at a weather forecast that is predicting 48 hours or more all below zero and think "we can do this - after all, the next day it's going to be a balmy 10 degrees."

So, no, I don't hate winter. I just wish it didn't stick around quite so long - which is a frustrating thought in mid-January.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Feed a Cold

I have always wondered about the "Feed a cold, starve a fever" adage. Mind you, I have no idea where it came from, nor do I really have any desire to research it.

I've also heard the corollary of "Feed a fever, starve a cold," which makes an equal amount of sense to me.

And yet, when I posted a question online, today, asking people the best course of action when confronted with a cold - this is NOT the same as the flu, I know that it's not the flu because I checked all of the 2013 flu symptoms online on reputable websites and was assured that it wasn't that - the answer was pretty clear.

I know that a cold is one of those things that just "is." There really isn't a way around it. You can stock up on vitamins and herbs and tea and all that stuff, but if a cold has you in its sights, there's a very good chance you'll be catching it.

For me, my cold started as a sinus issue about a week ago. Then, on about Monday, I started to feel the sinus thing moving into my throat. This happens about once every couple of months, so it wasn't a surprise to me.

But then the throat thing started to move south, and I started feeling it in my chest. No coughing. No sneezing. No fever. Just a weird feeling in my sinuses/nose/ears/throat/chest.

In other words, the start of a cold.

So I've been pumping up the vitamins and minerals and wearing a heavier scarf. But I've got some stuff going on in the next 10 days that I can't be sick during, so I decided to reach out to friends and family for some suggestions.

Happily, most of the comments were actually sort of helpful. Or at least not too snarky.

Hot and sour soup, whining, a few brand name medicines, and nasal flushing all made the list.

Mainly, though, what I've come away with is that I need to eat and drink more - particularly Brandy and carbs. Which is lucky, considering that the other repeating suggestion was to sleep more.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Feeling Pretty Bright

We've all learned that I'm not a fan of the Check Engine light on my car. Well, I'm very happy to say that there is a different light that I'm not afraid of. 

Last night, when I started my car to come home from work, 

Hmm... it seems that a lot of stories have been starting that way - makes me wonder if I shouldn't just stop going to work...? Anyway...

Last night, when I started my car to come home from work, I noticed that my left headlight was out. I didn't have time to get to an auto parts shop on the way home, so I put it off until tonight. (Thankfully, the days have gotten long enough that I now drive at dusk, so although I ought to have my lights on, at least one light is better than two.)

This made tonight's goal a stop at the shop for the headlight bulb. And, thankfully, I had good traffic so that I could get there, make my purchase, and get home all at a decent time for the pup. 

I've replaced my headlights before. The catch is that one of them is really easy to do, and the other is not so easy. And I never remember which is which. 

I'm very happy to say that the left headlight is apparently the easy one. I had the old one out and the new one in all in about 5 minutes. 

No, I'm still not sure why one of my brake lights only gets "extra bright" from time-to-time. And, no, I don't have any idea how to fix the short in the light on my dash that makes it possible to see my gas gauge at night. 

But, yep, I've got both headlights functioning again. Woo-hoo!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Letting the Sleeping Dog Lie

It has been a very social weekend around here. A lovely brunch, two very fun dinners, and a trip to Costco. We have been tearing it up.

More importantly, though, the pup went with us to dinner tonight. She spent the evening making a new friend with a Goldendoodle (who, ironically, is black) who is only about 7 months old - but twice our pup's size. And more than twice her energy.

We're used to ours being the dog with the most energy. But ours is not a dog who really likes the company of other dogs. She prefers people. (She was like that when we adopted her at the age of 6, so we figure we're not going to change that.) And being around an actual puppy... well... that was apparently exhausting for her.

Right now, she is completely asleep next to me on the couch, atop a piled up afghan. When I reach over and scratch her ears, she moves just enough to make sure I get the best spot, but otherwise doesn't even open her eyes.

This is the way weekends are supposed to end, though, isn't it? You go out and be social, you have a very nice time seeing people and running errands, and then, tuckered out, you settle in to get your sleep and start a new week.

Definitely going to let the sleeping pup lie - in the hopes that she'll return the favor at about 5 tomorrow morning.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

No News is...

Alright. I fully realize that it may be the head-in-the-sand theory of maintenance, but I was overjoyed this morning to start my car and notice that the Check Engine light had turned off.

Considering that it had come on while my car was parked outside during our weird Thursday night rain, and then stayed on during the warm-ish dampness of Friday, I'm guessing that had something to do with it.

Especially since, after last night got cold and dry, today the light was off.

So, considering that we seldom have two days of rain in the middle of winter, I think I'm going to ignore the non-lighted light for a bit.

Fingers crossed.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Fight or Flight Light

I don't know if I've mentioned, recently, that I kind of hate dealing with car stuff.

I like having a car. I enjoy driving (well... I don't love commuting, but who does?). I don't really even mind things like filling the gas or getting the oil changed. And I kind of love going through the car wash (which I think stems from the fact that going to the Robo Wash in Sioux Falls was a big deal when I was a kid).

But you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned liking to work on a car.

Don't get me wrong - I learned enough in school (yes, I once had to take an auto shop course for a quarter in high school) that I know where things go and how they work. And I watch Top Gear with Christopher, so I've picked up a bunch of jargon from that. I've just never wanted to work on an engine. And since I know plenty of people who don't like to proofread what they write, I figure we're even. It's a symbiotic relationship.

The only problem is that, if I make a comment online about a missed apostrophe, that doesn't cost anyone any money (usually). But if I have to take my car in to have something looked at, that can get expensive. Fast.

Which is why, when my Check Engine light came on while I was driving home from a work event last night, I felt a shudder go through my system. (Not the car's system, mind you. Mine.)

Oddly enough, except for the fact that the engine has been sounding... well... different since I last had work done (last October - some transmission work - so different sounds make sense), the car has been running fairly well. My gas mileage has even been up.

Hence the shock and "fight or flight" reaction when that light came on on my dash.

I plan to take my car in sometime in the next few days to have a diagnostic run and at least get the light turned off. We'll see how much I feel like I need to flee once they tell me how much turning off that little light might cost me.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What the...? Wednesday

It's been a while since I posed a bunch of (mostly) rhetorical questions, so here we go:

1) Why do people drive in the fast lane at - or below - the speed limit?

2) What makes people think that yelling and screaming (or emailing someone completely unrelated to a situation) will result in a faster/better result than simply being civil?

3) How come the people who really deserve to be sent off to live in isolation always seem to be in the spotlight?

4) What do you do when you get a hole in a sock, but the other one of the pair is fine?

5) Who removed the change machine from the vending area at work?

6) Where can you get a good Philly Cheesesteak in the Twin Cities?

7) When is it okay to start having spring fever?

8) Why does a person with questionable knowledge of a field of study decide that a brand new (and untested) theory is book-worthy?

9) How do you make a cavernous room with fluorescent lights seem cozy?

And, finally, for those of you who have known me long enough to know how much I hate this line:

10) Do I dare to eat a peach?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Les Movie Le Monday

It'll come as no surprise to most of you that I went to see Les Miserables this past weekend. Or... well... it may be a surprise that it took me so long to see it, I guess.

While I was really excited to see it - I'm a huge Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman fan - I was also a little nervous about it. I wasn't sure how much "Hollywooding" would have happened to the show. And I really wasn't looking forward to seeing (or, rather, hearing) Russell Crowe in it.

So I bided my time to watch some of the reviews come out (mostly from friends of mine - not from professional reviewers), so that I could have my expectations mitigated. And then I went this weekend.

Now, I have to admit that I saw Les Mis on Broadway a number of years ago in its nearly four-hour-long glory. I was in the cheap(-ish) seats way up in the balcony, and it was hard to tell which character was which, and I really didn't get into it until people started dying. Which just happened to be about the same time that probably 1/4 of the people in the balcony all had to get up to leave to go catch their busses. So... Not the best experience.

Even so, I wanted to see the movie. And with my expectations appropriately lowered, I headed out.

Here's the thing you need to know (which was explained to me a week or so ago by Christopher): You can't go to it expecting a Broadway musical. You have to go to it expecting a movie.

What he didn't explain was that, once you get your mind wrapped around it being "just" a movie (which helped, I have to admit, with sitting through Crowe singing a few clunkers), you find yourself totally enthralled by the movie.

Yes, the plot is intense. Yes, the scenery and costumes are incredible. Yes, the cameras being two feet from people's faces at all times got to be a bit much at times.

But the singing. Holy crap. Watching those people on screen sing "live" (not over-dubbed and singing to a pre-recorded track), and doing full songs in what appear to be single takes. That was powerful. (Because I haven't, yet, said it enough: Anne Hathaway is amazing.)

I believe I've admitted, before, that I am a movie cryer. It just happens for me, and I deal with it. Luckily, I found myself 20 minutes from the end of the film trying to figure out when one of my favorite songs was supposed to show up, and so I didn't get too emotional - but I did shed a couple of tears, and I watched a number of people mop themselves up before going out into the light of day.

Is it the best movie of all time? No. Is it an amazing example of how a Broadway musical can transfer to film and still have incredible impact? Yes.

Rating: A. (I'm so close to giving it an A+, but Russell Crowe just took that one percentage point away.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In Another Life...

Today, I had another of those strange moments that I have from time to time. (For the record, I also had a strange moment while trying to figure out where to put "today" in that first sentence.)

Here's part of it - this is the part we have talked about before: I often find myself wondering what my life would be like if I had made a different decision along the way. So I wonder what my life would be like if I had taken a semester away at a different school in college, or if I hadn't shared an apartment when I lived in Paris.

The other part of it, though, is even a little stranger. You see, I apparently have one of those "You look just like..." faces. At times, I've also been told that some aspect of my personality is just like someone else that the speaker knows. Frankly, I don't usually know how to take that, so I just say things like "He sounds like a great guy," and then let it move on.

But, since this has been going on for at least half of my life (I believe it can be Carbon-dated, but I'm not sure), I have also been known to see other people and think "That would be me if I had done..." or "If I had gone to that other place, I think that's what I'd probably look like..."

Well, I had one of the latter kind of situation today. Except that I didn't really get that not-quite-deja-vu feeling, because I wasn't ever really out-of-body about it. I saw the guy who looked vaguely like me, doing something I could have seen myself doing, and I thought "That's where I'd probably be now if I hadn't taken that other job..."

I know a lot of people who feel kind of remorse or regret for making their choices over time. I think I'm lucky, because I see these other people and I can be happy for myself and my choices and/or happy for the way their lives (aka "my other lives") are turning out.

And, even better, the version of me I saw today had really good shoes - which I may just have to see if I can find somewhere...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Past as Prologue

Spent tonight out to dinner at the home of a college professor of mine. (Yes, from way back when when I was in college. When woolly mammoths roamed the campus and we had to rub sticks together to make our computers run.)

Christopher and I see her about once every 3 months or so, and on nights like tonight the gathering includes various other former students of hers.

Ironically, earlier today I was talking to someone about how few friends of my own I have in the Cities. Most of the people we socialize with are either mutual friends of both Christopher and me, or friends of Christopher whom I've come to know over time.

This group, though, is "mine." And it's kind of fun to have that. It's fun for me to have a group of friends who come from my past, and have known me for 20+ years. It's the same thing that Christopher has with a lot of the people we usually spend time with. But, in many of those cases, I'm the newbie - even after 7 years.

I especially like hanging out with groups like this, though, since, over time, they've also come to know Christopher, so we all can sit and chat in large or small groups and talk about things we all have in common - or that we don't have in common - and, suddenly, find that almost 3 hours have gone by, and we really should leave to get home.

And, yes, I admit that I'm being selfish about this. That I should recognize that the same thing goes on when we're hanging out with Christopher's friends. And that both ways are equally good.

But it was a rough day, today, and I've been feeling like a lot of the year's potential has been getting sucked away. And that infusion from the past... well... somehow it made the future seem more possible.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Unplugged New Year

You may have noticed that I haven't blogged for the past few days.

I've also been out of cellphone range. I've avoided social media. I've even limited my time checking my email.

I blame a lot of that on the fact that Christopher and I (and one of Christopher's sisters, and the pup) went to my parents' for the long New Year's weekend. But I can't blame it all on that, since they do have a computer and I was able to at least pull up my email once or twice when my nephew wasn't on it playing some game from the Disney channel.

But, mainly, I was really enjoying the not-overly-connected-via-electronics time.

Instead, since for much of the time we were there there were 12 people in the house, we spent time connecting non-electronically.

We put together a 1,000-piece puzzle between Saturday and Monday. We played cards. We walked the dog around the block I grew up on. We did a driving tour of the town, visited the museum, and threw some snow at each other.

We painted and baked cookies, and navigated the treacherous paths of cooking meals for 12 when there are just a few food issues involved (an allergy to onions, an allergy to mushrooms, two aversions to olives, and an allergy to dairy, just for starters).

We also talked, laughed, and got stressed when it was time to go - on the surface because we were packing and having to travel, but we all know it's because we don't have the entirely family together as often as we might like.

I'm gradually getting back into the technologically connected age. (Obviously.) And I'm sure that by the time I get to work, tomorrow, I'll be back into the 21st century.

But there was something really nice about the most-watched screen over the weekend being the one in front of the fireplace. And it was certainly not a bad way to wrap up the old year and start a new one.

Cheers to it!