Archive for January, 2010

Valentine’s Day Desserts

January 31, 2010

or Love and Cream Cheese

Here it comes, another Hallmark holiday. Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t. God knows it has possibilities to be sublime, or really tank. In the past, when I bothered to celebrate it, I did the traditional stuff … heartfelt, romantic notes and poems, chocolate, music, thoughtful, sensitive, meaningful gifts, etc. You know the drill. These days, the only thing I do is make Mr. GG a “Coeur a la Creme”.

In my family, food = LOVE. And cream cheese is one of my essential food groups. I put it in desserts, appetizers, vegetables, and just about anything you can think of. I’m talking stuffed mushrooms, decadent mashed potatoes, cream cheese brownies, spanokopita, cheese balls, and cheesecake. For starters.

Personally, when it comes to romance, I like a nice champagne. Veuve Clicquot, if you really want to make me happy. However, if you want to impress a significant someone, I highly recommend the following recipes. The first one is foolproof.

Claudia’s Cherry Cheesecake

1 8 ounce brick of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 small container of Cool Whip (and don’t even bother to buy the reduced calorie stuff – I mean it!) Remember, you have to let the Cool Whip defrost in the fridge for several hours or overnight… plan ahead
1 can of cherry pie filling
1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust, preferably Keebler.

Put the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a bowl and whip it up until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and mix that in. Then dump the thawed Cool Whip in and blend it all.

Take the plastic cover off the graham cracker crust and pull off the sticky label on the inside of the lid. Carefully spread the cream cheese mixture into the crust with a spatula. If you get too vigorous about this, you can break up the crust, so be gentle. Then open the cherry pie filling and dump that on top of the cream cheese mixture. If you want to get fancy about it, use a fork to scoop out the cherries and make pretty designs on the surface. Make sure you use all the red goo in the can, though. Then take the plastic cover from the graham crust, flip it over, so the convex side is up and put it over the whole thing. You will have to crimp the foil edges up over the plastic to really seal it. Sometimes the red goo oozes out at this point. Wipe it up with your finger and then swipe your finger through the dabs of cheese mixture left in the bowl. Yum.

Let the cheesecake sit in the fridge overnight if you can. If you are pressed for time, let it chill at least 4 hours.

For a little more effort, you can make a similar, but way more sophisticated dessert. It has to sit in the fridge overnight, too, and you should make the Melba sauce to pour over it the day before. Traditionally you make this in a ceramic heart shaped mold with a perforated bottom (I bought mine at Big Lots, years ago), but if you don’t have access to one, then you can use a colander or sieve or big strainer. You also need to buy some cheesecloth. Oh, and the sauce calls for a jar of currant jelly. A lot of stores don’t carry currant jelly, but I am giving you two weeks notice here, so you have time to score some.

Coeur a la Creme

12 ounces of softened cream cheese
2 cups of whipping cream, the heavier the better
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Beat the cream cheese till light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and incorporate that. Slowly add the whipping cream, and beat the whole thing till it all looks like whipped cream. Add the teaspoon of vanilla.

Prepare your mold, or colander or big sieve. Dampen a couple of sheets of cheesecloth in cold water – enough to line your mold, and fold the ends over the top. Squeeze the water out of the cheesecloth and line your mold, and then spoon in the cheese mixture. Fold the ends that are dangling over the edge of the mold across the top. Put the mold on a plate, because stuff is gonna drip out of the thing. I think it is called whey. You know, like Little Miss Muffet? Curds and whey, the spider thing with the tuffet? If you use a big strainer, set it over a bowl, so the handle keeps the strainer off the bottom. Refrigerate overnight.

Melba Sauce

This stuff is like raspberry crack. The recipe makes a lot, but you will use it over ice cream or pound cake, or you can fold it into whipped cream to make a dessert called Raspberry Fool. It keeps a really long time. I don’t know exactly how long it keeps, because we always use it up in short order. Except for that time I forgot it behind the pickles and sauerkraut in the back of the fridge. I don’t know how long it had been back there, but it was still good.

1 10 ounce package of frozen raspberries
1/2 cup of red currant jelly
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of grated lemon peel (use a microplane grater, if you have one)
dash of salt

Thaw the raspberries. Put them in a covered saucepan and simmer about 15 minutes or so, until it makes a lot of juice. Then get a fine strainer, and press the stuff from the pan into a measuring cup. You want to get as much juice as possible, without any seeds. Throw out the seeds and pulp left in the strainer. You should have somewhere around 2/3 cup of juice in your measuring cup. If you don’t, add water. A lot of times I use way more than 10 ounces of raspberries, just to make certain I have enough undiluted juice.

Put the juice in a clean saucepan and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve, and then add the jelly, lemon peel and salt. Simmer over low heat, stirring pretty constantly. When the jelly dissolves, and the mixture is smooth, take it off the heat. I always let it sit for a bit, and skim off any bubbles or foam that rises to the top. Then, put it in an airtight jar or covered container and refrigerate.

To assemble the Coeur a la Creme, just before serving, peel the cheesecloth off the top of the mold and gently upend it onto a plate. Then remove the cheesecloth from the rest of the cheese. There will be a fine gingham looking pattern all over your dessert, but that gives it character. If you want to get really special, garnish the mold with a few perfect raspberries and maybe a sprig of mint.

If you want to go all nouveau cuisine on me, drizzle some Melba sauce over the dessert plate before you scoop out a chunk of Coeur. Or pour the sauce on after you plate up the cheese stuff. Or heck, do both. Myself, I always serve a small pitcher of Melba sauce on the side, so people can adjust things to their own taste.

If you serve up either of these recipes, there is a slight possibility that you could end up with a marriage proposal. But even if you don’t, the servee will definitely feel the love.

Adverse Effects: Assessing and Mitigating

January 30, 2010

Part 1: Assessing

Who knew that archaeology was gonna become a metaphor for my entire life? Just goes to show….. something or other. Beats me. But in order for you to understand how I have applied scientific methods to my own life, I’m gonna have to give you some background. Settle in for yet another reference to land management before I get into life management.

Remember when I explained about surveying and digging, and how our team goes out and finds and records sites? Well, I bet you’ve been asking yourself ever since, what do they do with those sites? My response: It depends.

It depends on what kind of site, where it is, who used it, how many similar sites exist, and a bunch of other details, unique to each site. If it’s a Really Big Deal site, like George Washington was born there, or the biggest lithic quarry in the northwest, or the venue for the Donner Party dinner party, the site gets preserved and interpreted and you should probably visit the place when you’re in the area, because it’s part of your national heritage.

If it is a site of lesser importance, say a pioneer cemetery, or the remains of a longhouse, or an abandoned mineshaft, then it may be important on a local or regional level, and tell you how people in the past used the resources, made their living, etc. And if it’s a fairly commonplace site, like where a Native American sat and knocked some rocks together to make an arrowhead, leaving behind a few scattered flakes, well it depends. On whether he used the local rock, or some imported cobble from hundreds of miles away. Because that would tell you something about early trade routes. Big bison kill site? That means there were enough buffalo around to drive over a cliff, and the locals were plentiful and organized enough to get the job done. Effigy mounds in the cornfield? Ditto – you’ve got manpower, a social hierarchy, something to haul dirt in, and a gracious plenty of dirt. If you really care, you can look up the criterion for entry into the National Register of Historic Places, and see how these things stack up on a sliding scale of relevance.

And even if a site doesn’t tell you much now, science may improve enough to figure stuff out when the technology is better. Say, for instance, your great-grandpa’s uncle saw Davy Crockett take a whiz on a bush in the wilderness. And he just happened to tell somebody where that bush was. And next thing you know, it’s a family tale, passed down for years, until some young scientist decides to research Davy Crockett’s travels. When he finds out about the bush, he mounts an expedition, and carefully excavates all around that bush. If the bush is gone, he uses pollen and soil samples to prove a bush of that species, did grow there at one time. Unless he finds the tattered remains of a coonskin cap (not likely, due to the urine speeding up deterioration, there in the piney woods) or there was a stone with “Dave Waz Here” carved into it, and the print just happened to match Mr. Crocketts’, our scientist isn’t going to prove much. But say, a few years down the road (or maybe now, seems like the folks on CSI have some pretty magical equipment), you can extract pee molecules from dirt, and then you find out that this pee had digested animal protein in it, and after careful analysis, you determine it is bear. Then you find a diary that says on a certain day, ole Davy “kilt him a b’ar” in that area. And roasted it, and made pulled bear for all the guys, using his special 11 herbs and spices. Now you are talking. What if you compare the DNA in that pee to descendents of Davy’s, and it matches? Ding, Ding, Ding. Jackpot! Science. Gotta love it.

If by this point, you are mumbling, “Who cares?”, then you can just mosey on off to some other blog. I care. If you have stuck around this long, make up your mind. You can wait it out, or you can Google “nutjob”. Or “Heinrich Schliemann”. Or “penile enlargement”. Whatever. Go on. Scat!

What I am eventually going to get at, is that you need to see the forest and the trees to get the whole picture. The microcosm and the macrocosm. Ontology recapitulates Philogeny. And probably Yoda had a pithy saying to encompass this, too.

Wow. This is getting way esoteric. Maybe I should stop here. Next time, we can get into Mitigation. Or damage assessment. Or, as it applies to me personally, “What to do when the horse is out of the barn, the bridge is burning, and your rolling stones are absolutely coated in moss”.

See you next time.

Chinwagging with Fuckwits

January 29, 2010

Mr. GG went on a detail to Australia last year, after they had those horrible fires, so that he could help assess damage to archaeological sites. He was gone for a month and everything that could go wrong on the domestic front, naturally, went wrong in his absence (more about that later).

For all my pain and suffering he brought me a box with a kangaroo painted on top. And some chocolates he picked up in the airport on the way home. But my absolute favorite thing he came back with, was the phrase “chin wagging with a fuckwit”. Apparently that’s what the government types in Australia say when they explain what they were doing with the guy in the next cubicle. Man, that is so beautifully succinct. So precise. I immediately grasped how this phrase could be applied to situations that occur almost daily in my life.

Naturally, I went overboard using the phrase, giggling like a maniac, and explaining the whole story to anybody who would listen. When I’m on a roll, my sense of appropriateness (already weakened by time and circumstance) vanishes. So a good many people who found the phrase (and me) in poor taste were forced to endure my version of wit and humor. Needless to say I managed to embarrass myself, Mr. GG, and several persons of the Mormon faith in the process.

Almost a year later, that expression has made it’s way into my permanent lexicon. But it needs wider exposure here in the states. So I am telling you guys, hoping you too, will use it, and maybe people will forget all the times I said it, and just assume it is a piece of current slang they haven’t come across yet. Help me out here. In fact, we could do that chain letter thing – you know, send this phrase to 10 people you know, and they can send it to 10 people they know, and, well you get the point. I bet RIGHT NOW, right this very minute, you can think of someone who fits the description of a fuckwit.

Thanks for your support.

Visiting the Farm

January 29, 2010

My brother and sister-in-law live on a farm. They’ve been married even longer than Mr. GG and me, so they are pretty well settled in. They raised their two sons in an old farmhouse, quite a ways from town (both those boys grew up to be lawyers), and after the boys left home, they built a new house on the property. My brother designed it, and my sister-in-law fine tuned it and decorated it, and that house looks great all nestled into the landscape. Their home is snug, and energy efficient, and there is a deck off the kitchen that overlooks one of the ponds. They used boards from the old barn on the walls of the family room. Everywhere you look there are interesting books, knickknacks, family pieces, and photographs.

My brother is a genius. Well, sometimes when that old sibling thing gets going, I call him an idiot savant. Because he is a….. gasp…. Republican. But he is my brother and I love him, so I forgive him. Just like he forgives me for being ditsy, a bit neurotic, and a …. gasp …. Democrat. Really, my brother is a genius. He can fix or build anything. He has machined parts for tractors in the Smithsonian. He collects steam tractors and bulldozers, and backhoes, and other heavy equipment. He fixes them. His shop is so big, he had to build an industrial size shed to hold it all. His technical library would make some universities weep.

I love visiting the farm. There are ponds, timber, and barn cats. My sister-in-law has one of the greenest thumbs ever, so the yard and gardens are amazing. On top of that, she is one of those gifted people who can make a focal point out of a broken chair and some graniteware pails. Very Martha Stewart. There is no point in hating her for this, she can’t help it. And besides, sometimes I steal her ideas. Oh yeah, she’s a great cook, too. Some people.

My brother and I had a pretty idyllic childhood. We grew up in town, but we spent weekends and vacations visiting relatives in the country or fishing in the north woods of Wisconsin and Canada. We fished and hunted and often had a tub of minnows or tadpoles or crawdads in the yard. We had family wienie roasts every fall. We had a huge garden at my aunt’s farm and we learned to pick tomato worms off plants, dropping them into a can of kerosene. We had to pick and snap beans for canning. My dad used to wake us up on nights when there was a thunderstorm, so we could go out and collect earthworms. He kept the earthworms in a can in the fridge till our next fishing trip. We had a rowboat at the lake. We collected morels, hickory nuts and wildflowers in the woods. We gigged carp. Every year we freed a clutch of quail in my uncle’s timberland.

Oh yeah. Happy Days.

Well, I grew up and moved away from home, but my brother stayed in the area, and I think he pretty much expanded or recreated our childhood. When I visit, I hike in the woods, sit on the deck and watch fish jump in the pond, and if I get up early enough, I can see deer grazing on the hill across the pond before the mist burns off. My sister-in-law has trained their border collie to do a zillion tricks, so he is always good for some entertainment. They let me pick morels, or hull black walnuts to make brownies. I always check to see if I can still handle a fly rod. They stock the pond with bass and perch, and if he’s in the mood, my brother will drop everything to catch a few for the barn cats who follow him around.

Because of my brother, the Baby learned to fish and shoot a gun, and find out what poison ivy looks like. He showed her hedgeballs, huge green warty looking fruit from the Osage Orange tree. People in Illinois put hedgeballs in their basements to repel mice. I think the Baby lugged a hedgeball to show and tell in Idaho. He let her name cats. Well, sort of. Their cats tend to be orangish, and my sister-in-law was calling one little guy “Ritz”, because he was the exact shade of the cracker. My brother thought that was a stupid name, so he told the Baby she could name it. After exchanging a sly look with her aunt, the Baby ruminated and told him she thought the cat looked like a “Princess Snowflake”. Sooooo. Ritz, it was.

I love visiting the farm. I love my family. In fact, should Armageddon arrive, I have informed them that we will be making our way to Illinois so we can move in with them and live off the land. Right now my brother is checking into solar energy so he can get off the grid. I told you he was a genius.

First Dates

January 28, 2010

Warning: This episode contains scenes of extreme author humiliation. Reader discretion advised.

Let’s take a trip in the way back machine. Set your dials for…. High School. I want you to know this is not easy for me. I pretty much blanked out this portion of my life. In fact, I had to use self hypnosis to get back there. While I was under the influence, I checked around to see if I had any lost memories of alien abduction. Because that would have been easier to deal with. Nope, no probes on space ships, but I did manage to recover some of the High School Hard Drive disk.

I was a late bloomer. Really late. My friends and I were pseudo-intellectual high school nerds. And this was a Catholic high school. We were told kissing a boy was a mortal sin. Not that I had the opportunity to sin.

Well, the late bloomer thing. I was awkward. I was flat chested. ProActiv had not been invented yet. My social skills tended towards being clever and pretentious. Really, really, not a good time for me. Man, I just had to stop right this minute, and cringe. Okay, shaking it off….

My first date….. arghhhh! It was arranged. Arghhhh! My dad was a big deal in local politics. One of the guys on the local Democratic committee made his son ask me out. The son and I were not friends. Not in the same clique. Just barely in the same universe. And he was shorter than I was.

I don’t remember where we went on that date, or what we did. Some things are better off forgotten. I do know that there was no kiss goodnight. Eeeeewwww. We shook hands. And never went out again.

Now we enter a really blank period. I know my friends and I cruised Main St., and went to football games, and sometimes met up with guys in large crowds, but it is pretty blurry.

The next time the fog lifts, it is right before the senior prom. My friends were going. They were going with the some of the guy pseudo-intellectual clique. So one of the guy pseudo-intellectuals asked me out. You know the important thing here was the dress, right? That’s all I really cared about. And, of course, being able to say I went to my senior prom. My dress rocked. My mom made it. It was a white cotton pique empire waisted, puff sleeve creation with yellow velvet ribbon trim. Mom bought me a white rabbit fur stole to wear with it. I went to my mom’s stylist at the beauty parlor. I had my hair in an updo with curls. But none of that mattered. All for naught.

You see, two days before the prom, my date (may he burn in hell forever), asked a sophomore to go steady with him. He gave her his class ring and everything. It was a very small school. Everybody knew. Everybody. This experience in humiliation pre-empts all further memories from that period. I know I went to the prom. I know I wore a really cool dress. And that is it. That is all my brain lets me remember.

If you all want to take a moment here, that is okay. I need one, myself.

About ten years later, I found out my prom date was managing a McDonalds. While this afforded me some comfort, it was not nearly enough. Okay, the mists of time are wafting back over this memory, and I hope I never have to look at it again.

Well. Deep breath. Snapping back to my real life, now. I survived (cue the Gloria Gaynor song here). Between then and now, I went through the whole “kiss a lot of frogs” experience, but I ended up with Mr. GG (cue the happy, upbeat, triumphal music at this point). And, to quote Mr. GG, “So far, so good”. No. I will make my own summation: “So far, really, really excellent”. Don’t you just love happy endings?

Duck Tales

January 27, 2010

When we lived in Boise, we had ducks. It wasn’t something we planned. We already had cats, and some friendly squirrels who’d climb up the back door, sit on the knob, and chitter at us till we forked over the peanuts.

But one afternoon, I’m at work and I get a frantic call from the Baby. Her grade school incubated a clutch of chicks and ducks for a class project, and all of them got adopted out. Except one. She couldn’t leave that orphan duck there. She couldn’t! Surely I understood! It was the last duck standing. All alone, with nobody to care for it. She HAD to bring it home. It deserved it’s chance at a good home and a fulfilling life. Mom? Mom! Mother, pleeeeeeeeease!

So I come home to find this darling little bundle of feathers quacking away in a plastic gumdrop jar (And by the way, to the teacher who allowed all this to happen: I forgive you). Baby and I put Duck in a cardboard box, put screening over the top, and call the feed store to find out what kind of duck chow we need to get. We get the duck chow, and some bedding. We find a bowl for water. We are stunned at the amount of excrement one itty bitty duck produces. Mr. GG comes home to find our kitchen a mess, with wire snips, 50 lbs of duck feed, and mesh screen scraps all over the place, a quaking and quacking duckling in it’s box in one corner and Baby and me trying to keep the cats from sitting on the screened box, terrifying the poultry out of its tiny mind. Forget dinner. I think we ordered pizza that night.

That night found us all watching TV with Duck happily perched on a washcloth on Mr. GG’s shoulder. I have the pictures to prove this.

Well, Duck became part of the family. She had her own house outside, but she came in our house anytime we let her out for a constitutional. She and the cats learned to co-exist, and she and the squirrels used to fight over peanuts. I loved Duck, because we flood irrigated our yard every week, which meant we had lots of slugs. All I had to do was say “Slug!”, and point, and Duck came waddling fast as she could, and scarfed that slimy thing down.

Having animals is a sure fire way to learn about the cycle of birth and death, and eventually Duck came to an untimely end when a raccoon got at her. We were all devastated. I really mean that.

So we were Duckless in Boise for a while, till a friend of the Baby’s had a Peking White duckling that needed a new home. It was getting bullied by it’s siblings. Well, hell, we already had the house and the feeding equipment, so we took it. That duck bonded to me. It would follow me anywhere. To the point where I actually got on the internet and found out some people put diapers on their ducks so they could live inside. I wasn’t gonna go that far …just saying.

Pretty soon, Big Duck needed a new pen. So Mr. GG and I trot off to the feed store to buy some fencing. Unfortunately this was in the spring, after Easter. You know what’s coming, don’t you? You saw this one as soon as Easter came up. But it wasn’t me. I did not cave when we saw that huge trough full of cheeping poultry under the heat lamps. Nuh-uh. It was Mr. GG.

We get back home with the fencing and 3 (THREE!) new ducklings. Life as we knew it got way more complicated.

…To be continued….

Mary’s Rolls

January 27, 2010

I grew up in a little midwest town during the “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” era. It was, as they say, a different world then. We wore hats and gloves to church. We actually went to church. Kids rode their bikes everywhere, over the brick paved streets. Even after dark. Nobody tried to kidnap us. And as my parents became upwardly mobile, they acquired a cleaning lady. A “colored” cleaning lady. Don’t give me any grief about this, because back then, that is the way it was. We didn’t know any better.

Mary, the cleaning lady, was a very unique person. I lost track of her over the years, but she was a very important part of my childhood. Recently she died at the age of 105. I wish I had told her that I remember her fondly.

I talked to Mary while she ironed (unless she was watching her soaps), and listened her stories. Sometimes when my parents traveled, Mary would come and stay with the 4 of us kids. She had a deep faith, and encouraged us to be good children (fat chance, Mary. But for you, we tried). One of my sisters helped Mary study for her GED when Mary was in her 60s.

When my Dad died in 1968, one of the first people at our house was Mary. I don’t know how she found out, or who she cancelled on that day, to come be with us and take charge of our house and our kitchen and all the details that Mom was unable to handle, but Mary was there, a little piece of stability and peace for our family. None of us will ever forget her loving, familiar, and unexpected presence that day.

Lots of times, we talked Mary into forgetting the ironing to make rolls. Mary made the best rolls in the entire universe, and my brother and I would snitch the dough when she wasn’t looking. I suspect she knew all along, though, and let us get away with it. I watched her shape that dough into cloverleafs, and fantans, and Parker House rolls, and sometimes into cinnamon rolls. She taught me to make those rolls. I had to stand there and make notes and estimate measurements, because she cooked by guess and by feel. Those rolls are an important part of our family tradition, and are known as “Mary’s Rolls”, to this day. I have made them wherever I have lived (Colorado, Idaho, Utah) and there are friends who ask for “Mary’s Rolls” whenever they visit. Now, the Baby in Massachusetts makes “Mary’s Roll’s”.

If you want to sample these ambrosial baked goods, here is the recipe:

MARY’S ROLLS

Melt 1 stick of butter in 1 cup of milk.
Add 1 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve.

Let cool.

Meanwhile dissolve 2 pkg of yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons)
in a little bit of warm (not hot) water – about 1/4 cup or so. Let it sit while you are beating eggs, to make sure it is gonna rise.

Beat 3 eggs. Add milk/sugar/butter mix.
Add yeast mix.

Add 3 cups of flour (a little at a time) until smooth. This makes a sponge. Cover and let rise until double.
Beat sponge down, and add flour (a little at a time) to make a soft dough. This is usually around 3-4 cups for me. I use the Kitchenaid bread hook, but you should knead it till it is smooth. Cover and let rise until double.

Beat it down, and knead.
Shape into rolls. If I make the Fantans, I roll the dough, brush it with melted butter, cut it into rectangular strips – about 2 inches wide – and stack 5-6 strips on top of each other. Then you cut the stacks into sections about 2 inches long and place them on end in a greased muffin pan. You can pinch off small balls (roll them like for Snickerdoodles) and put 3 in each muffin cup (known as Cloverleafs). You can also cut them out with a biscuit cutter and fold them in half (Parker House rolls). Or roll the dough out in a large rectangle, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar – and raisins, if you like ’em – then roll the whole shebang up like a jelly roll, slice, and place the spiral slices in a greased pan. But not too close together, because you need to leave room for them to rise. Once again, cover the little devils and let rise till double.

Baking is kinda iffy for me. In my Utah kitchen the rolls do best at about 400 degrees and bake about about 15 minutes. You have to watch them to see if they are brown enough. That means hang out in the kitchen and keep an eye on them till you see how your oven performs. When they are golden, remove from oven and as long as we’ve come this far into cholesterol land, go ahead and brush melted butter over the tops. You need a lot of butter to make and consume these rolls. Go ahead, though, I guarantee it is worth it.

You may have the will power to let them cool before you start eating them, but nobody in my family does. If you made cinnamon rolls, and really want to gild the lily, whip up a glaze of powdered sugar and milk, and drizzle it over the still warm rolls.

Ahhhhh. Doesn’t that make you hungry? And the smell of these rolls baking is a sensory overload all its’ own. If you pass this recipe along, I would appreciate it if you include the story of Mary. You need to celebrate the important people. Pass that on, too.

Chick Flicks and Bruce Willis

January 26, 2010

I like action movies. In fact, it is one of the things Mr. GG finds endearing about me. (One of the many, MANY endearing things, I remind him. He grunts in response. I should know better than to discuss my finer points during the MacNeil report on PBS). But this man has never gone to a chick flick in my presence. Cause I don’t go to them. Okay, I did watch the “Sex and the City” movie with the Baby, on TV, but Mr. GG was out of town.

Most of my friends know that if they recommend a movie, the first thing I’m gonna ask is “Does it have explosions?”. I love explosions. By now my friends will say stuff like “Little Miss Sunshine” is great. No explosions, though”. I give them my “what’s the point?” face and they generally let it slide.

I don’t like to go to sensitive, thought provoking films. I’m all about the gratuitous violence. Go on all you want about social relevance, but really?, excuse me?, what compares with Bruce Willis crowing “Yippee-ki-ay, Motherfucker”, as he nails a hideous villain? Or the poignancy of Mel Gibson woofing at that big ole dumb dog in “Lethal Weapon 2”? Right before he blows somebody away. That, my dears, is the kind of immediate gratification that I crave. Maybe my moral compass is skewed, but I love it when karma falls hard and heavy on those who deserve it.

And, I think Bruce Willis is hot. The Baby and I have had some intense discussions about this, but I pull rank, and imply she has not developed a sophisticated palate in leading men yet. Although we both have a thing for David Boreanaz. And, excuse me? Anybody with an X chromosome is programmed to adore Johnny Depp. If you don’t, well, they make hormone treatments you can take to get you back on track.

I will occasionally watch other kinds of movies. My all time favorite movie is Robert Altman’s “Nashville”. And I adore a 1940’s Fred MacMurray comedy called “Murder, He Says”, about a census taker who gets involved with a bunch of murderous hillbillies who glow in the dark. The Baby got me to watch “High Fidelity”, but came to regret it, since I kept rewinding to the scene at the end where Jack Black sings. And I watch “Strictly Ballroom” every year or so. Mostly for the Cyndi Lauper song, and the dancing scene at the finale.

And when the Scifi channel runs a monster marathon, I am ecstatic. Giant squid, sea snakes, Sasquatch, basilisks, sharks run amok, cave dwelling creatures, oh yeah! When the Baby was young, she used to watch Japanese monster movies with me. You know, Godzilla, Mothra, Gorgo. In fact, one of our favorite games was re-enacting the scene in Gorgo where the monster mom and baby reunite. We’d clomp around the house, with our arms extended in front of us, making monster noises, and stomping down the pen where Baby Gorgo was trapped, so we could clumsily embrace. Mr. GG used to shake his head at us, and find someplace else to be. We’d clomp after him, grunting and making more monster sounds, which we found hysterical. Ah, those halcyon days of childhood. Sigh.

Anyway. Bruce Willis doesn’t make enough movies.

Feezer Facts: Baby Tales Part 1

January 25, 2010

Everybody thinks their kid is the cutest ever. I worked in Daycare, though, so I’m here to tell you there are some ugly babies in the world. Nothing against those babies, you understand. Maybe they all grew up to be Calvin Klein models. Since I worked at a University Daycare, we had a lot of foreign students, and it was a very multicultural facility. And every Japanese baby I ever saw was adorable. I hoped that when my childbearing time came upon me, I’d have a cute little Japanese baby. However, since there are no Japanese genes in either of our families, we had a regular little dark eyed, dark haired moppet, and against all the odds (having us for parents, I mean), she turned out gorgeous. And smart. And funny. As I may have mentioned, the Baby is 26 now, and I’m sure the best is yet to come for her, but she entered into one golden period during her preschool years.

Mr. GG was in grad school when she was born, and he was a hands-on kinda Dad. When she was fractious or fussy, he would read to her. He was all about multi-tasking, though, so he would pick her up, grab his anthropology book, and start reading aloud. I’d go in the bedroom and find the two of them lying propped up against the pillows, with Marvin Harris’s “Cultural Materialism” on his lap, and both of them bored into a stupor.

A year or so later, she was sitting at her little yellow table I got with Huggies coupons, scribbling away with her crayons on scrap paper. I will never forget the day she held up a page, beamed at me, and said, “I write my thesis!”. (What she actually said was, “I wite my feesis!”. But still).

Of course she played with all the normal stuff, and her favorite bear was a panda named Spoony. Mr. GG was taking a course at MIT one summer, and he brought her back a panda puppet. She promptly named the puppet Spoony Junior, and informed us that both pandas spoke a language called Bamboo-ii. Apparently the puppet learned it at MIT.

The Baby learned to read when she was 4, and I insisted the public library give her her own card when she was 5, since she could write her name on the back. This actually backfired, because one time, I was browsing the children’s section, and she was sitting with a book on her lap in the reading pit, and it turns out it was a children’s book on sex. So, we had to have that discussion way earlier than I’d planned. And she would read the headlines on the tabloids when we were waiting to check out at the grocery, so we had some entertaining conversations about Martian babies, Batboy, Bigfoot and such. I used to let her pay for stuff at stores, so she could see how money worked. This led to the Baby minting her own money. She took round orange stickers and drew smiley faces on them and kept them in a metal bandaid tin. I have no idea where that came from. She called them “Cheer Dollars” and made us buy our own possessions with her counterfeit currency.

And then there was the time Mr. GG came home from work, and found a kitchen chair blocking the refrigerator. He was not too happy, and chastised the 4 year old Baby for leaving it there. But she stood up for herself. She stood there with her hands on her hips, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Dad, let me expwain de facts ob de feezer. I’m wittle. I can’t weach the popsicles. I need a chair to weach”. You could see that she was disappointed in her father, for not noticing the obvious. From time to time over the years, I have been known to say to Mr. GG, in a very patient, very patronizing tone, “Let me explain the facts of the feezer”. He gets the point fairly quickly.

After I started letting her pay for things, she got very interested in all the great things that could be bought in this big old world. So I explained about bills, and rent, and electricity to run her record player, and buying gas so we could buckle her into the carseat and go to the park, and so on. It might have been a bit much for a 5 year old, but she obviously grasped enough of it, because we began to get crayoned bills from “The Cute Service”. She informed us that this was money we needed to pay HER. To be good, and eat her vegetables, and to pick up her toys, and be cute. It was a telling moment for us, our emotions were all over the map. We were proud, yet appalled. Should we encourage this baby entrepeneur, or nip this little blackmail scheme in the bud? In the end we compromised. We paid her in “Cheer Dollars”.

The Sleep Olympics

January 24, 2010

Mr. GG woke up screaming today. No, I do not look that bad in the mornings. I rolled over, ready to pat him, and say “there, there” and gently bring him into a state of wakefullness. However, it was not a bad dream. Furbutt tried to haul herself up the mattress on his side of the bed, and clawed his elbow by mistake. She forgot to check before she crawled into bed. She thinks his side of the bed is her side of the bed, and she hates it when he is occupying her bit of prime sleeping real estate. She loves to jump up, knead the down comforter enough to reveal those cozy flannel sheets, and settle in with her head on his pillow. This cracks me up, because I am generally already on my side of the bed when this happens. Mr. GG has pointed out many, many times, that I could discourage this behavior. But why would I? Once Furbutt settles down, arranges her tail and puts a paw over her nose, she starts purring up a storm. This creates the kind of white noise that sends me off to nappyland almost immediately. Not that sleeping is generally a problem for me. Au contraire. Sleeping is one of my best things.

When I was a teenager, my Catholic school was trying to make us conscientious citizens of the world, so some of us went to St. Louis to volunteer in the ghetto for a summer. The nuns put us up in an empty apartment in the ghetto, where somebody built bunk beds out of 2 x 4’s and plywood. After a hard day saving little black children, drinking koolaid and eating macaroni, we would retire to our apartment and listen to the noise of sirens, loud music and the cacophony of city sounds. Once my head hit that lumpy mattress, I was out like a light. One night somebody tried to break into our apartment of teenage middle class white girls, and I slept right through it. I also slept through the part where the nuns came in and nailed our windows shut. So the legend was born.

I slept through an earthquake in Illinois. In case you didn’t know, parts of Illinois lie across the New Madrid fault. I also slept through an earthquake in Idaho. Okay, so it wasn’t a big one, but it woke plenty of other people up. I sleep through fire trucks at the neighbors, severe thunderstorms, and sometimes the late night talk show radio programs Mr. GG listens to.

Put me in a vehicle on the passenger side, and within an hour or two, I am snoozing away. And I automatically fall asleep when we drive across Nebraska. Once we hit that state line, my self defense mechanism kicks in, and I sleep through the boring parts. And they’re all boring parts. Driving makes me sleepy, too. Mr. GG has a rule that when I yawn 10 times, I have to let him drive. Just thinking about that makes me yawn.

So far, I haven’t figured out any way to parlay this sleep thing into anything productive. Unless those Vancouver folk instituted a sleeping competition. If sleeping was an Olympic event, I’d go for the gold. I’m pretty sure I’d place, probably bronze. It wouldn’t make good TV viewing, though, so it probably wouldn’t attract a lot of prime time sponsors. Which is okay. Because I might, once in a blue moon, just sometimes, you understand, drool. So unattractive. I don’t want my 15 minutes of fame to be when Bob whats-his-name interviews me on the post-games program and shows clips of me drooling. Really don’t want to discuss it. Not gonna mention it in those athlete bio commercials leading up to the big games either. So, probably I won’t be doing a lot with this particular talent of mine, but that’s okay. I have lots of other skills, and I plan on exploiting them instead.