I'm getting really tired of our dining room. It's messy and cluttered all the time because clearly we *want* to use it for things, but it's not a practical room at all. Case in point: the chairs around the table are always weighed down with jackets, coats, and sweaters. And I'm tired of it.
I decided to hang a shelf! It's not that big, but it has two small double-hooks, thus enabling us to hang four items. Plus, we already own it - no money to spend!
First, let me explain that on the back of the shelving unit are two keyholes, spaced 16 inches apart, which meant I had to put two nails in the wall, spaced exactly 16 inches apart and level to one another. By the way, I don't own a level. I went to Jake's workroom, grabbed the hammer and two large nails (though the shelf itself is relatively small and light, I thought large nails were better because the shelf would be weighed down with jackets). This was my first mistake.
The first nail went in without trouble. I inserted the head of the nail into the keyhole in back of the shelf and held it up to check the height and to check where the next nail would need to go. I penciled the wall in several places and set work with Nail #2. Again, no problems. Triumphant, I hung up my shelf. Umm, or I tried to anyway.
Nail #2 was about a centimeter too far to the right. *sigh* Not a problem. The hole will be behind the shelf anyway, right? I pulled the nail out and started hammering it in the proper location. I hammered and hammered and the nail... went nowhere. It didn't move. There was a stud right where it needed to be. Thinking that I was somehow stronger than the stud, I proceeded to hammer the hell out of that nail. And the nail did move, only not how I wanted it to. I managed to make a hole in my wall, about a centimeter in diameter. Back to Jake's workroom where I got the spackle and putty knife.
Because I've never hung anything in my life, I foolishly decided to try again with the nail. This time slightly higher and to the right (I would move Nail #1 after properly installing Nail #2). No dice. Ok, a little to the left? Nope. More spackle.
Determined to fix this problem, I went to google and found this. They were hanging a shell just like mine! Turns out what I needed was self-drilling anchors. We didn't own any of those. I grabbed the baby, and we headed to Home Depot. I even remembered to take the shelf along, just in case.
Home Depot was uneventful - I found the self-drilling anchors on my own and gladly spent the $1.68 to bring them home with me. Once home, it was baby's naptime, but the wall I was working on is the wall in front of his bedroom and thusly his crib. I promised him that once Momma was done, he would have his nap. He sat happily in his highchair, munching away on his organic crunchin' blocks, sipping his milk, and watching his possessed mother go all Captain Ahab on the dining room wall.
The self-drilling anchors were not nearly as self-drilling as the name implied. I went back to the workroom for the power drill. I didn't think it had much charge, but I was sure it would do the job quick enough.
Wrong again. The drill was as ineffective as the screwdriver had been. And then the drill ran out of charge. I plugged it in and put the baby down for his nap.
By this point, my dining room table was covered with a small bucket of spackle, the putty knife, the hammer, two nails, and the small package of self-drilling anchors, not to mention today's mail, two of the baby's jackets, and one lonely plant. I sat down at the computer and did nothing for an hour.
Finally, after the baby woke up, I resumed my battle. This time I put my weight into the power drill, now charged, as it screwed the self-drilling anchor into the wall, and suddenly... suddenly! It moved! It went in the wall!
The second anchor gave me almost as much trouble. I had the brilliant idea to give it a start by hammering one of the nails just barely into the wall to create a guide hole, then drilling the anchor in. It totally worked.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, my shelf of triumph:
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I'm getting really tired of our dining room. It's messy and cluttered all the time because clearly we *want* to use it for things, but it's not a practical room at all. Case in point: the chairs around the table are always weighed down with jackets, coats, and sweaters. And I'm tired of it.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
First, if you haven't read Story of O and you plan to, skip the book's introductions - they give away parts of the book (including the ENDING). The "known" facts: Story of O is a book about a woman who becomes her lover's sex slave. As such, she is subjected (among other things) to whipping and is taught to be available for him and anyone he chooses for oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse. Your average chick lit, really.
I don't feel expressly qualified to discuss Story of O at length, but there are few things I feel the need to mention, if only to help myself sort them out.
Regardless of how the reader personally feels about the things done to O and the events that transpired, the question I kept coming back to as I read the book was one of consent. René and Sir Stephen each on several occasions remind O of her free will to, well, give up her free will. We could assume that O was completely sane and cognizant of what she was agreeing to, that she wanted this, in which case there is no question of consent and nothing else to say. Still, her masters are always vague and on at least one occasion (at Samois) she is asked to consent to something very permanent of which she is deliberately only partially informed, that she will be marked anywhere and anyhow Sir Stephen has chosen.
Can a person truly consent to such a thing? She may not have wanted to run away and indeed eventually seemed to relish and take pride in her condition, but why? I read the book trying to read between the lines and find her desire or rebellion, but her primary reactions were almost always rather matter-of-fact. Instead, like the abused child who bullies at school, she starts taking it out on Jacqueline, a friend whom she sometimes seems to love and wants to protect and other times is so frustrated by that she can't wait until she (Jacqueline) is subjected to all the same tortures to which O herself has been subjected. Was this sadistic tendency always within O, or is it a reflection of the sadism of her masters?
Finally, I can't leave this topic without addressing the obvious theme of objectification. Assuming O's consent (which she of course technically gave throughout), she cannot truly be objectified. Yes, objects are possessions, and O was a slave, owned by Sir Stephen and branded with his initials, but by calling her an object, you ignore her subjective choice to become property, and you therefore suddenly become the one objectifying her. That being said, her masters certainly treat her as an object, but that's what their intention is the whole time - they don't actually care about her feelings on the subject and would probably rather she did feel objectified and humiliated, without express knowledge or choice in the matter. I mean, how often do you tell an old lamp that you are selling it in a garage sale? Then again, how often do you derive pleasure from that? Whether we are to feel sympathetic toward O, I'm not sure. The entirety of the work seems not to be up for discussion so much as presented, just as O seems to experience it, as matter-of-fact.
I realize that was brief and inconclusive, but how conclusive could I possibly be? I feel a little that I'm coming at this from the wrong angle entirely, that maybe my questions are assuming the book to be something it's not and that's why I have no answers. I'm interested to hear from anyone who has read the book and has, well, any sort of opinion on any facet of it. Let's discuss!
Posted by the a is for annie at 12:05 PM
Monday, February 26, 2007
Don't you love it when two of your favorite things are strolling down a metaphorical street, happen to notice each other for one reason or another, and sort of tip their hats to one another? In this case, indie rock and NPR's This I Believe series collide: Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips believes we create our own happiness and is apparently really proud of the 11 years (!) he spent as a fry cook at Long John Silver's. You gotta admire that. You can read or listen to his essay here.
Also, I can't believe I forgot to mention this, but I guest-blogged a few days ago over at alog in response to the Question of the Month, "Tell me about your Hallmark moment." I used it as an excuse to talk about how much I love greeting cards.
Lastly, I started Story of O the other day and plan to finish it today/tonight if my sniffly nose and watery eyes will allow me (I have a cold). Once I'm finished I'll write more-ish on the topic, though with a book like this, it's often the sort of thing I dislike saying much about since I'm sure somewhere in literary journals, theses, and all over the internet, other people have said the same or better things. We shall see.
Posted by the a is for annie at 2:17 PM
For your viewing pleasure, Patti Smith (yes, the Patti Smith) singing "You Light Up My Life" on some kids' show c. 1980 (?). The producers of the show, perhaps sensing the absurdity of such a performance at the time and the ironic glee with which hip indie kids would watch it decades later, even got the Academy Award-winning composer of the song to back her up on the piano just to add to the sheer awesomeness:
This is so completely awesome I'm having trouble finding the words. First the frighteningly-square host talks to her briefly, then they take some questions from an audience of kids who are way too excited about Patti Smith. I mean, had they heard much or any Patti Smith ever? Lord knows I grew up listening to Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and Tom Jones, but my best friend grew up on Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. My husband tells a story about being a kid and singing along with Cat Stevens' "Hard-Headed Woman." (As the story goes, his mother asked him if he knew what a hard-headed woman was, and he responded, "You are!") Plus, his dad's got one of the best record collections I've had the pleasure of browsing. Moral of the story: not all parents were as unhip as mine (not that there's anything wrong with Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, or Tom Jones).
More I think this illustrates that you can't be all hip all the time, and that's fine. So if Patti freaking Smith can belt out "You Light Up My Life," then I can clip coupons and still maintain my indie cred. In fact, I think it makes me even indie cred-ier.
Posted by the a is for annie at 10:56 AM
Another year and I didn't win anything.
No, wait, you mean I did win something? You mean that for the first time in the history of our relationship (going on 7 years), I beat Jake with more correct guesses on the Oscar ballot than he? That's right - I got 13 categories right compared to his measly 7. Suck it, bitches.
Best Picture - It went to The Departed. I had randomly picked Little Miss Sunshine because it looks more like something along the lines of the movies I tend to enjoy. That should have been my big hint there, I suppose. (Jake picked The Queen, so he was totally wrong too.)
Best Actor - Forest Whitaker, no surprise, bla bla. Jake had picked him as well.
Best Actress - Helen Mirren, again, bla bla. We both picked her as well.
Best Supporting Actor - Jake's one good pick of the night - he totally had Alan Arkin, and he was right. I had Eddie Murphy, and I'm really glad Eddie Murphy didn't win. Speaking of one-trick ponies...
Best Supporting Actress - This was retarded. People may be celebrating Jennifer Hudson's win right now, but it's one of those things that film buffs will look back on in shame. And what was with not thanking Simon, Paula, and Randy? Bad form, Jennifer. Boo. (Jake chose Cate Blanchett to win this category - part contrarian, part wishful thinking, I believe.)
Best Director - Hey, did you hear that Martin Scorsese won an Oscar finally? Did you see that it was handed to him by three other dinosaurs of film? Meh. I haven't seen The Departed, and maybe Scorsese really did do a fantastic job directing. But is this maybe just a little bit of making up for all those times when he maybe should have been given the award? Remember when Al Pacino won for going "hoo-ah!" for an hour and a half? Yeah. (Jake had Clint Eastwood picked for this one - silly Jake, Clint already has like half a dozen Oscars at home, and we're totally bored of him and of any and all films about WWII.)
Let's see, what else can we talk about? Oh yes, Best Original Song - Jake and I had each picked a different Dreamgirls song to win, and despite the fact that I lost this category, I was really thrilled to see Melissa Etheridge win it. Not that I'm like some huge Etheridge fan (though I do have two of her albums), but it's nice to see a song that's not (a) from a Disney movie and (b) some huge production with lots of melisma and dancers in the background.
Otherwise: Al Gore was funny, Nicole Kidman looked stupid, the Italian guy was cool, it was nice to see Jodie Foster, and those silhouette dance people were pretty remarkable, even if they were part of the reason the show kept me up after 11 pm. Oh, and Will Ferrell and Jack Black were hysterical, but that's to be expected. I did wonder though why they didn't mention in their song about how comedy never gets nominated the one comedian there who had taken a dramatic role and been nominated - Eddie Murphy. Meh, I've heard he's a pretty poor sport anyway. Until next year.
Posted by the a is for annie at 9:53 AM
Sunday, February 25, 2007
In case you hadn't noticed, the Academy Awards are tonight. The pre-game show has I'm sure been going on for hours on the E! network, and it's apparently set to start at 6:00 pm CST on ABC with the Barbara Walters show (sponsored by Vaseline - "when you're just not a good enough cameraman to create a soft focus on your own"). You can print out your own ballot here.
As for the movies up for awards this year, I have seen zero. None. Nada. Nil. Not one movie. So, based on what I've heard other people are saying, what movies look good in the tv previews, and what titles sound pretty, here are my picks:
Best Picture - from what some critic was saying the other morning on Good Morning America, this is a toss-up. So, what the hell, how about... umm... Little Miss Sunshine, because it's the movie I'm most likely to see anytime soon.
Best Actor - I'm told Forest Whitaker is a shoe-in for this. I'd rather see Will Smith or Leonardo DiCaprio get it though, mainly just because I've actually seen some of their movies.
Best Actress - Helen Mirren for The Queen. Yes, I know I'm really going out on a limb with this one. Oh wait, you mean I'm not? You mean not even the honorary Oscar is this set in stone? Wouldn't it be cool if there was a huge upset and somebody else won? That would be so cool. But if not, that's cool too. The Queen looks like a pretty good movie.
Best Supporting Actor - I think I heard Eddie Murphy is supposed to tag this one, so there you have it. I don't really care. Djimon Hounsou might be kind of cool to win this, he's like a real actor and stuff, not just somebody who did a knock-off James Brown impression.
Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson, the girl from American freaking Idol. I mean, I know the award is for the best actress in a specific supporting role, but really? You're going to give an Oscar to a one-trick pony? Whatever. I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time.
Best Director - Again, the GMA critic the other day said Martin Scorsese. I could care less. I didn't see any of these movies. I can tell you though that I hope Clint Eastwood does not win. I do, however, hope he brings his mom, the only living person older than he is. (Wait, is she still alive?)
Best Documentary - Again, remember I have seen NONE of these movies. And I'm betting neither did 85% of the Academy voters (with respect to this category), with the exception of An Inconvenient Truth, which I'm sure will win. Just please, Al, don't say you're running for president. Please, please, please, don't run for president.
Short Film - Animated - One last category, just because I have to note that I am shocked Wallace & Gromit wasn't nominated. Wait, they didn't make a Wallace & Gromit short this year? But, but, they've been making Wallace & Gromit shorts since before film was even invented. They win this category every freaking year. Maybe they'll make a special write-in exception and grant the award to a previous Wallace & Gromit short.
So that's it, kids. The rest of the categories I don't care about, and yet, I'm super excited. I love the Oscars despite the fact that in my life I've only seen maybe 10 Oscar-nominated films in the actual years they were released.
Posted by the a is for annie at 4:05 PM
People, I am *loving* the new of Montreal record, Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer?. A few days ago during a show in Vegas, Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal performed NAKED. The photos are completely awesome (and decidedly not safe for work), and oddly not as off-putting as I expected them to be.
So what's better than Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal naked? Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal explaining why he was naked.
Posted by the a is for annie at 3:49 PM
Friday, February 23, 2007
I was obsessed with R.E.M. in high school, and in an attempt to illustrate the massive effect/affect (I have no idea which) they've had on my life, consider this the first in a however-many-I-want series on the completely ridonculous influence a band I hardly ever listen to anymore has had on my life.
We'll start with the hair I never had: I once saw a picture of Peter Buck with parts of his hair dyed purple from henna, and I immediately wanted that (the look *and* the man - I was head over heels for him). Trouble was, I was a cashier at a grocery store in a small Indiana town, and they frowned on outrageous hair styles. Next I moved to San Francisco - land o' free expression, right? Nope, not at the crappy office job I had, or at least I thought at the time. I bet I could have gotten away with it. My boss was an aging hippie who liked to hire, well, a strange mix of people. We really were an odd bunch. I'll talk about them some other time.
Anyway, then several years later back to the Midwest where I had just about everybody fooled into thinking I was a well-mannered, conservative administrative assistant. It wasn't until they wandered into my cube that they got a taste of my out-of-control awesome taste in music. (Which reminds me - I was listening to some awesome new-to-me stuff on The Red Sun Band's myspace page this morning. Go now! Read this pointless crap later.) I did however chop it all off at one point and for a while was sporting a totally hot, perfectly mussed short haircut. Unfortunately that went away after I went for a trim and the stylist clearly forgot that I was, what, like 22-23 years old at the time? She kept giving me this middle-aged church lady cut. And yet I continued to go back to her for over a year. WTF was I thinking?
It's been almost 10 years, people. I still want purple streaks in my hair. Also, I've been thinking I really want a nose or brow piercing. Unfortunately it's a moot point because I am limited by lack of funds. Oh well, a girl can dream...
By the way, I have no idea where I saw that picture of Peter Buck, but if anyone out there has any ideas or has the picture, I would LOVE to see it. Thanks!
Posted by the a is for annie at 4:08 PM
Thursday, February 22, 2007
So not that I'm spying on you, dear reader, but well, yeah, I'm kind of spying you. But now I'm telling you about it, so we're cool, right? Anyway, I've got a StatCounter thingie set up here, and it's telling me that a lot of people on the internet are googling Amish Friendship Bread. And that's fine, but a few warnings: first, Amish Friendship Bread is not all it's cracked up to be, though really how much was it cracked up to be in the first place? It's a yeast starter in a ziploc bag that sits on your counter for days before multiplying and eventually driving you out of house and home. It's like a bunch of damn tribbles. Secondly, don't you have more interesting things to do out there than google Amish freaking Friendship Bread? What more information are you looking for, people?
So instead of Amish Friendship Bread, I would like to direct you to a few of the following sites that I've discovered recently and found really interesting, none of which have anything to do with Amish Friendship Bread (that I've noticed):
- Found Magazine You know when you find a slip of paper on the ground randomly and it says something like "shirts, pants, nail gun" and you're like, "A fucking nail gun?" Well anyway, these people collect those little gems, and it is absolutely fascinating.
- hi! monkey.net I don't know how I didn't think of this. I've got an entire house full of anthropomorphic stuffed bunnies (well, two bunnies, one small pig, and one tiny hedgehog), each with his own unique (and in at least one case, batshit crazy) personality. But anyway, I didn't think of it. This little monkey went and made an adorable website for himself in which he explains (adorably) how to write a proper thank you, how to make panda cupcakes (all without harming actual pandas), and gently reminds you to use oven mitts if you're not made of terry cloth like him. All very helpful.
- PostSecret I wish I had a deep, dark secret to adorn on an artfully handcrafted postcard because if I did y'all. Seriously. I would be all over that. Mine might go something like, "My [boss/lover/gardener] is motherfuckingbatshitcrazy." But is it really a secret? Anyway, then I'd have to think of a clever way to decorate a postcard, and my inferiority complex is far too consuming to allow me to express my creativity like that. Oh, also it's way more fun and probably less painful to just read other people's secrets.
- BBC Language Portal Have I mentioned that I'm learning French? 'Cause I am totally rockin' the French language here lately. I can order the hell out of a ham sandwich, bitches. What's that? You already know French? Yeah, well, do you also know Spanish? German? Mandarin? I didn't think so. Go expand your mind and shit.
Posted by the a is for annie at 3:49 PM
More tales of domesticity. Let me know if this bores you. But seriously, where have all the Baby Pea Blends gone? Birds Eye makes one, and Jewel carried it. Freshlike (who, it turns out, is owned by Birds Eye) makes one, and Pick 'n' Save used to carry it. And now not only have Pick 'n' Save and their dirty owners Roundy's decided not to carry Freshlike's Baby Pea Blend, but they went and bought up all the Jewels around here so now no more Birds Eye Baby Pea Blend either. Jerks.
It was the perfectest, easiest way to avoid chopping vegetables for a stir-fry: peas, carrots, snow peas, and baby corn. Seriously, people.
Posted by the a is for annie at 3:26 PM
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
So I called three companies recently (one yesterday, two this morning) with questions/comments/complaints. The first call was to the makers of the generic Target diapers I buy for my son - three diaper tabs had pulled off while attempting to change him, and you know, I paid for a box of 92 diapers, not 89. So now they're sending me a coupon! The customer service lady didn't say exactly how much the coupon would be for, but the since the diapers round out to about 15¢ a piece, all I really need is 45¢ off my next purchase. (This is not an uncommon problem with any diaper - when I was buying Huggies, the same thing happened on multiple occasions, and they sent me coupons as well.)
Then this morning in preparation for a playdate I was putting a frozen vegetable lasagna in the oven and had a question about the instructions (do I take the lid off for the last 15 minutes, or do I take the lid off and cook for an additional 15 minutes?). The nice man was kind enough to answer my question (just take the lid off for the last 15 minutes), and just for calling, he's sending me coupons! Whee!
The last call was to the customer service at PediaCare. Yesterday I bought a decongestant for my son, and on the inside of the box was a coupon for my next PediaCare purchase. Except the coupon expired in December. So I called, and now they're sending me a new one. Score.
Coupons are often a scam. They make you buy something you wouldn't ordinarily. However, I totally call the companies of the products I use when I have a problem or question because I'm a giant coupon whore. I even got a free roll of aluminum foil once from Reynolds (like a $7 value) because the side of the roll I had was smashed and therefore the aluminum foil wouldn't roll out without ripping. I have even called companies just to ask for coupons, and they're mostly happy to oblige. One company I called wasn't offering any coupons at the time (whatever that means), but the lady was still really nice, and I'm still glad I called. I'm all for letting companies know when something is wrong, but they also deserve to know when they're making a good product.
Posted by the a is for annie at 11:25 AM
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Certainly seems that way. Last fall my favorite band went on hiatus while drummer Matt Eccles went back home to New Zealand (I have heard to be part of Tim Finn's touring band, but I'm not sure of the veracity of this rumor). Since then there have been scarce updates on the band's myspace page, and this is how they describe themselves:
Hi there, we are on holiday.... We are a band from Auckland, New Zealand and are currently living in London, England. We have been together since 1999 and have released 2.e.p's and 2 Albums. We have a 7" available in the U.K. through izumi records and are currently on holiday in search for some greater meaning to this strange existence.Frontman Liam Finn updates his myspace fairly often and just the other day, this little note appeared:
I am currently in the studio making a record. it's going well thanks... almost there, just a few noises to add, then some mixing and whalla!If it was a new Betchadupa record he was working on, wouldn't he have posted that on the band's myspace?
And let's not forget this cryptic message from the official site (posted October 22, 2006):
there are a few new projects on the horizon which we're all terribly excited about. hopefully we get it together to tell you all about them as soon as they come about! all very mysterious.....I have no idea what that means. So will they be back? They do have that snazzy new logo sketched out (though as I recall that first appeared last year before Eccles left for NZ), and there are those two unreleased tracks posted on their myspace ("The Money" and "The Point" - again, both of which appeared before Matt's departure). I suppose it could go either way at this point, and to those of you who suggest that I send a message to the band and just ASK whether or not they're breaking up, let's just say that I am far too chicken shit to do something like that. Also, I'm not sure if they know the answer to that question yet. However, should someone from the band see this post, please feel free to confirm/deny/update/inform. Not that I suppose it matters a whole lot - Liam Finn basically is Betchadupa (no offense, guys, really I love you all), there would be no band without his songs, and a Liam Finn solo album will frankly be just as acceptable to me as a band effort. Mostly I'm just looking for some new music from him. (I haven't spent nearly enough money lately on importing albums from acts without a U.S. record label. I must be slacking off.)
betchadupa love you and we will be back!
Hope no one takes this as dirty rumor-mongering or anything. Just asking a question in a public forum without, um, even attempting to get any information from the source. Crap.
Posted by the a is for annie at 10:24 AM
All around the world today, people - mostly Catholics but also some non-Catholics who want to join in the fun - are engaging in all manner of debauchery. This includes the Poles, who on this day instead of drinking themselves into oblivion and showing their titties to the world, eat paczkis!
For those not in the know (and despite being of Polish Catholic descent, that included me until recently), paczkis (pronounced "potchkeys") are a lot like jelly donuts, only better. According to the Wikipedia article, Poles made paczkis to use up all the sugar, lard, and fruit in the house before Lent. Traditionally, they ate these wonderful creations on Fat Thursday (six days before Ash Wednesday), but because of the French influence (!) of Mardi Gras, they're now generally eaten on Fat Tuesday. After all, when Jesus went into the desert for 40 days, he didn't have any delicious paczkis to eat, and as such, neither should you.
Anyway, as I was saying, I had never heard of them until a few years ago, shortly after my husband and I moved to Milwaukee from San Francisco. He came home from work on Fat Tuesday telling me about these jelly donuts someone had brought in, and how happy he was to have eaten a prune-filled one. As a (non-practicing) Ashkenazi Jew, he was quite familiar with the (insanely delicious) prune-filled hamantaschen his grandma made. Turns out prune-filled paczkis are also super delicious. Ok, so fast forward three years to today. Somehow I managed to never eat a paczki until this morning (I guess the people in my office weren't as generous as his).
My son and I stopped at a local bakery (one I've been meaning to go into for two years, but what do I ever have to go into a bakery for?) which was all decked out in red fabric draped on the windows, doors, and even the bare trees outside. (I have no idea of the significance of this, but it's not usually there so I took it to indicate paczki participation.) We went inside, stood in line and bought the two paczkis you see in the picture there: one prune (broken open), one custard.
I haven't had a jelly donut in years because I don't particularly care for their generally sickeningly sweet fillings, so maybe I'm off in my comparison between them and paczkis, so correct me if I'm wrong - paczkis are larger, with a lighter dough and much more filling inside. How have I managed to live in Milwaukee for 3 ½ years and not had one of these? Clearly this was a gross oversight.
Anyway, that's my son midchew, eating his first paczki (note the prune filling is everywhere). He was absolutely thrilled, and his enthusiasm was really adorable, but as I found out shortly after this picture was taken, prunes are sticky, y'all. Not easy to clean off him or the highchair. Guess I'm glad Paczki Day only comes once a year.
Happy Paczki Day, everybody!
Posted by the a is for annie at 9:15 AM
Monday, February 19, 2007
I'm letting the French in. In an effort to be more French, I've been thinking I should learn to embrace cheese. Yes, cheese. And no, not actually embrace. More like eat.
My feelings on cheese generally range from "suspicious" to "moving to a different state." I eat shredded cheddar on my tacos and baked potatoes, and I spread cream cheese on my bagel (and that I resisted until I was nearly 19). Cheese on pizza I'll eat because it doesn't count as actual cheese unless it's an inch thick (which I wouldn't eat if you paid me to).
So anyway all this talk of le fromage has me feeling some peer pressure (in a good way) from the French to eat some cheese, but I know myself and that can't mean camembert and brie just yet. This is going to require baby steps. We looked at the Laughing Cow wheel at the store yesterday, but it was $4, and after paying like a dollar for it when he was in France, Jake couldn't bring himself to pay like 50¢ a wedge. (Americans think they're so fancy for eating it, but it's apparently French Cheese Whiz.) Which is fine because I'm not sure I'm ready to move on to actual French cheese yet, crappy Cheese Whiz stuff or not (for the record, I won't eat American Cheese Whiz). So my first adventurous step toward being a cheese snob? Medium cheddar.
And already I'm planning to get Sharp next. Hold me back before I hurt someone!
Posted by the a is for annie at 7:19 PM
Hey, look! It's a picture of me! With my hair pulled in front of my face! I have these annoying short hairs on the side of my face (they never get much longer than 2-3 inches) that I pulled forward to get an idea of how I'd look with bangs. So like that, only I think I want to go thicker and longer. (Heh.)
And if I get bangs, will I be forever fighting with my uber-strong genetically-programmed center part? Is there a way the stylist cuts the bangs so that goes away? Am I engaging in wishful thinking?
The fancy beauty school around here does cuts for $8.50 (with free shampoo and scalp massage!) with free bang trimming in between cuts. Master Cuts blows, and the girl never listens to what I tell her. I'm embarrassed just admitting I've stepped inside a Master Cuts. Once upon a time I used to go to a real salon. So I figure the fancy beauty school is a good place to go since they have actual stylists watching what they do at every snip, right?
Posted by the a is for annie at 2:22 PM
Yes, I know there can be no Day 20. However, as you may have noticed, I never did post about Day 10, which was rather anti-climactic for all you readers, I'm sure. That picture was taken on Day 10, just before closing the oven. (Yes, Mom, my oven needs to be cleaned.) In the intervening 10 days, I have even completed an entire second cycle of Amish Friendship Bread (and currently have one yeast starter available to anyone who wants it...).
And now having done this twice, I think I can nearly call myself an Amish Friendship Bread expert. Sure, I don't have more than the most basic idea of how yeast works or any of the other ingredients for that matter, but at this point, I think Amish Friendship Bread could throw whatever it wanted at me, and I could handle it. Example: after baking my chocolate-variation of Amish Friendship Bread yesterday for the hour specified in the directions, I stuck a toothpick in, and it was woefully underbaked. I gave it an extra 10 minutes, and voila! Perfecto. Yeah, I'm that good.
I will do one more Amish Friendship Bread cycle (it's going to be pistachio this time! what what!), and then I think I'll (attempt to) give it up. It's fun, but how long can I do this, really? However, giving it up means finding four people to take starters from me, which I don't think I'll be able to do. I will have to research online how to END this cycle once and for all.
Day 3 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 8
Posted by the a is for annie at 11:18 AM
Friday, February 16, 2007
As I rather briefly mentioned in yesterday's post, learning French is way fun. I've been doing this online course through the BBC website, and I'm about half way through. It's a lot of fun, and it gives me a chance to use my hella awesome French accent, which you can't hear obviously but trust me, it's good. Anyway, at this stage, if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to, I could hella order a beer (je prends une biere, s'il vous plaît). Or a glass of wine (un verre de vin). Or even a whole BOTTLE of wine (une bouteille de vin). Perhaps you've got plenty of wine, and what you really need is, um, a kilo of tomatoes (un kilo de tomates)? I can order that too. Impressed? I thought so.
Over dinner of roast chicken (le poulet rôti), I could inquire as to your marital status (vous êtes mariée?) and whether you have any children (vous avez les enfants?). Are you Scottish (vous êtes écossais)? Welsh (gallois)? (It's a British website, remember.) And what is that you do? (qu'est-ce que vous faites?) After dinner you can take a taxi (un taxi) back to wherever it is that you live (vous habitez où?). This will all be very useful one day, I'm sure.
Still, I don't mean to make fun. I mean, obviously you've got to start with the basics (most of which I remember from high school) before you can move on to, say, Candide as originally written in 18th century French.
Strangely in one of the conversational lessons, while trying to decide what to order at a restaurant, "my friend" supposedly says, "Je n'aime pas le vin rouge." I don't like red wine. Riiiight. Find me ONE French person who can honestly say that, and I will seriously pay you $50.
Posted by the a is for annie at 2:46 PM
Thursday, February 15, 2007
A few reasons why today sucks:
- I haven't showered in four days, and despite the fact that I was given ample opportunity to do so this afternoon, I didn't. My hair feels gross, and it's no one's fault but my own. I am retarded.
- Someone on Amazon is selling the out-of-print version of The Barber of Seville I've been wanting for months for $29.99. Twenty-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. That's good, by the way. Previously I've seen it for over a hundred. And what sucks about that, right? I'll tell you what sucks about it. What sucks about it is that I can't afford to buy it. Unless they're giving it away and paying me to take it, I don't have the money for it.
- Wanna know what else I don't have the money for? Stupid Sam's Club. Stupid Sam's Club stupid membership is stupid up and it costs 40 stupid dollars to stupid renew. I went over a whole price comparison with the stuff at Sam's vs. Target and the grocery store, and between the prices for bread and chicken breasts, it more than pays for itself over the course of a year. But that's still $40 that I have to shell out. Also, we're out of bread, so I need to go do this like today. *sigh*
- But hey, I totally paid off the car today. That's good, right? It's great. Except that I am totally worried that after weighing the pros and cons of paying it off vs. keeping our money in savings, what if we were wrong? And worse, what if something goes wrong with the car now? I'm so fucked.
- For dinner tonight? Leftover "Flavorful Old World Sausage Supper." Flavorful according to the people who created the recipe and who have apparently never tasted anything more flavorful than plain potatoes in their lives. The picture makes it look really good, but don't let that fool you. Also, if you make it, make sure you have a ginormous pan to cook it all in. But who knows, maybe in the couple days it's been in the fridge, the flavors have gotten more intense, but I feel this wishful thinking.
- Also, I'm putting on winter weight. When will it warm up? When can I take my child outside?
*It was his first time having chocolate! I couldn't just give him anything! I had to give him the good stuff, homemade with love!
Posted by the a is for annie at 3:32 PM
Thursday, February 8, 2007
You know how it totally sucks to have something and then to break that something and then to have to go to the store and buy a new something? Well, the nice people at Williams-Sonoma have made that process suck one step less.
That's right, kids: if, as an example, one of your melamine mixing bowls is chipped, you can take in the set, despite the fact that you received it as a wedding gift 3+ years ago, and get a whole new set. For frees, yo, and without any hassles.
Posted by the a is for annie at 3:19 PM
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Remember the caveat about letting out any air that gets into the bag? The way I understood it, I was supposed to let out any air that got in the bag due to me opening the bag, which I only did the one time on Day 6 when I added all those ingredients. Turns out, as the yeast eats the flour-sugar-milk-y goodness I so lovingly added, it farts. And though those farts smell deliciously like beer, farts are made of air. And ziploc bags are air-tight.
Now, in the instructions when it so simply and concisely noted,
If air gets in the bag let it outdid they mean: remove the air that you let in there? Or do they mean: let any and all air out, including the air that the yeast farts? If I open the bag and let the air out, will it somehow affect whatever yeasty processes are going on in there? If I leave the bag sealed and let the air build up, will the bag eventually pop? And even if it doesn't pop, is the air somehow bad for the yeast?
Remember when I said that Amish Friendship Bread was kind of like a chain letter but yummy? Yeah, turns out this whole air conundrum feels a lot like "send this to 8 of your friends in the next 8 minutes or you'll die in 8 days." Only in this case, there's going to be exploded batter all over my kitchen. Or will there? Maybe that's what the chain batter wants me to think.
Damn you, Amish! Damn you for the psychological torment you have unleashed!
Day 3 | Day 5 | Day 6
Posted by the a is for annie at 10:23 AM
You know how I know the roads are slippery? Forget the giant electronic freeway signs that usually say things like "Time to Hwy.45 - 8 min" but that this morning say something like "Caution - Slippery Freaking Roads" (I'm paraphrasing). I know the roads are slippery because this morning it took me over an hour to take my husband to work and drive home, a trip that usually takes about 20 minutes, all because of the dozen or so car accidents I saw, plus many more cops on route to car accidents.
I even saw my own cousin pulled over at the side of the road, as what I can only assume was the head of a four-car pile-up. I was in the far left lane at the time and started to make an attempt to get over to where he was, but there were three lanes and a lot of cars between us, and the drivers of all those cars were rubber-necking his accident and probably not paying attention to the Corolla wanting to change lanes. He appeared to be physically fine anyway, and I didn't see any major damage to his car, though he did looked mighty annoyed. I emailed him when I got home to let him know I'll back up his late-to-work excuse. :)
The moral of the story: Use caution! Roads are apparently slippery!
Posted by the a is for annie at 9:15 AM
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
The other day an international group of scientists got together and made it official: "No seriously, global warming is for reals, yo."
And the Bush administration finally agrees, says the Secretary of Energy (whoever the fuck he is). Still, it's too early to, you know, do anything about it. Besides, doing stuff would require, like, thinking. And then getting up off the couch and doing whatever we thought up. And that's hard.
The Daily Show reports:
Posted by the a is for annie at 1:23 PM
Monday, February 5, 2007
In Which I Give Thanks to Yeast
Finally! We do something besides mush the bag. Today, we add stuff to the bag. Then we mush it.
After a healthy breakfast of leftover stir-fry and pan-fried noodles, I set to work. First, let me just say that upon opening the bag, I was greeted by the most heavenly scent of beery goodness, owed exclusively to the yeast. So thank you, yeast.
I added my three ingredients, one cup each of flour, sugar, and milk. Yes, milk. Once again, I think we owe a hearty thanks to the yeast, because y'all, that is the only thing I can think of that's preventing the milk from spoiling and stinking up my house while the bag sits on the counter. (Refrigerators are a no-no - remember, it's Amish Friendship Bread.) You science-types can explain the process to me later.
Ingredients added, I resealed the bag and set to mush. However, my instructions specifically warn me:
If air gets in the bag let it out(Apparently the Amish don't believe in punctuation either.)
This turned out to be a pesky little problem. Smoothing air out of a bag full of batter? Without the batter also escaping? It was a very delicate situation, touch and go there for a while, but I prevailed! As far as I can tell, my bag is air free.
Day 3 | Day 5
Posted by the a is for annie at 10:30 AM
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Does that image look familiar? Well, it should. Two days have past since I began this Amish Friendship Bread journey with you, dear reader, and in those two days, well, nothing has happened.
I shouldn't say "nothing" - do my eyes deceive me or do there appear to be a few more air bubbles? Probably it's my expert bag mushing.
Tomorrow is a big day for our little experiment - er, yeast starter - tomorrow I add several ingredients to the bag and, umm, I don't know, I guess the contents of the bag will then be bigger. What I do know is that there will be more bag mushing.
Baking is five days away! We're halfway there!
Posted by the a is for annie at 10:37 AM
Saturday, February 3, 2007
Jake was outside shoveling snow in -17 degree wind chill this afternoon. This level of domestic commitment, I decided, deserved a tasty, belly-warming reward.
Since I didn't have any instant hot chocolate, I pulled out The Joy of Cooking for a hot chocolate recipe. We decided to be adventurous and try the Italian Hot Cocoa, described as having "an almost puddinglike or chocolate sauce consistency." That thick happy goodness, I learned, is achieved by including a teaspoon of cornstarch with the unsweetened cocoa powder and sugar. Though skeptical (cornstarch isn't what I would call "yummy"), I soldiered forth and about 10 minutes later was rewarded for my faith in Joy. And now you can too!
Stir together in a medium, heavy saucepan:
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
Stir in thoroughly and set over low heat:
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. water
1 c. milk (I used whole.)
Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the mixture is thickened and coats a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in:
1/8 tsp. vanilla
The recipe recommends substituting the vanilla with 1/2 teaspoon of Kahlua or Grand Marnier as well as topping with nutmeg or cinnamon (we used cinnamon and though it smelled nice, decided it didn't really add much) and whipped cream or marshmallows (either of which we totally would have used had we had them). We like to doctor our instant hot chocolate with a couple drops of peppermint extract, and I'm sure that would work very yummily with this recipe as well.
And there you have it. Perfect for a cold winter's day. You can see just how thick the cocoa was in this picture after drinking its yummy contents.
Posted by the a is for annie at 5:16 PM
Hooah! We did our taxes this morning. That's right: 73 days until April 17 and we. are. done.
Our refund is much better than anticipated, especially since we owed the Feds like $500 last year. [Insert joke about spending refund on cocaine.]
You know, they always say only death and taxes are inevitable, and I've always taken issue with that claim. I mean, people refrain from paying their taxes all the time. True, they are often later caught, tried, and incarcerated, but they did evade them for a while. And there are ways of being tax exempt. Or I don't know, you could live on your own sovereign island. Death, on the other hand, much harder to avoid, but if you do it, let me know and I'll feature you on my blog!
Posted by the a is for annie at 2:38 PM
Friday, February 2, 2007
Ok, I swear this is the last time I'm going to post one of these recuts from youtube, but When Harry Met Sally is my hands-down favorite movie of all time, and since I've seen it so many times I could probably act it out on my own, I'm always looking for something new about it. Here it is reimagined as a dark, erotic thriller:
Posted by the a is for annie at 1:16 PM
The other day (two days ago, in fact) a friend offered me a yeast starter for Amish Friendship Bread. Think of it as a yummy chain letter. In order to let the yeast do it's yeasty thing, it's a ten day process. Supposedly the Amish are the only ones who know the recipe to start it (damn those Amish and their dirty Amish secrets!). Just before you bake it (on the 10th day), you separate 4 cups of batter into four separate ziploc bags and gift them on your friends.
Don't feel bad that you missed Day 1 and Day 2's progress - like I said, it's a 10 day journey, and it looked on Days 1 and 2 much like it does now. Instructions for the first three days:
Day 1: Do nothing.Days 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 are identical to Days 2 and 3. Par-tay.
Day 2: Mush the bag.
Day 3: Mush the bag.
I can remember my mom doing this a couple times when I was a kid, but I honestly don't remember how the bread tastes or what it looks like. I also remember her eventually refusing the batter from friends because it can go around several times within one's circle of friends. Anyway, I promise to keep you updated on the thrilling excitement of watching yeast rise (at least I assume that's what's going to happen - it's going to get bigger, right?). Seven more days to go!
Posted by the a is for annie at 9:52 AM
Thursday, February 1, 2007
For someone who claims to love music as much as I do, I own an embarrassingly small amount of Stevie Wonder. Specifically, I don't own Songs in the Key of Life which seems to be the Stevie Wonder album any self-respecting music fan should own. The only excuse I can offer is that it's on my list but unfortunately never at the top. Despite this oversight, I do have an mp3 of "Isn't She Lovely" (don't ask how I got it), perhaps one of the catchiest songs in the historie of musicdom.
Wait, did I say "catchy"? I meant downright infectious. I defy you to listen to this song without tapping your foot or swaying to the music.
Stevie Wonder took a potentially schmaltzy subject (a father's overflowing love for his newborn daughter) and made it accessible, cool, and still sincere. I don't even have a daughter and the song nearly brings me to joyous tears every time I hear it. Hell, I don't even believe in god, but it makes me want to sing a hallelujah to Jesus that this child was born. (Go ahead and laugh.)
When my friends' daughter was born last October, I emailed the mp3 to her proud papa. Cynic that he is, he didn't seem to appreciate it nearly as much as he should have. Adam, how could you not love this song? Seriously.
Posted by the a is for annie at 9:52 AM