Saturday, June 13

*Julie and Julia by Julie Powell*

From time to time, I get so excited about reading a book that I rush out to buy it thrilled at the prospect of coming home to dedicate myself night and day to its pages. Last weekend I felt the familiar pang when looking to get some Julia Child DVDs and the book Julie and Julia kept popping up. It is a story based off a depressed temp who decided one year that the best way to get her life put together was to throw herself headlong into a year of passionate cooking. She determined to do all of the roughly 560 recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking with brains, liver and all. What is not to like? Stories of a woman in Queens learning to butcher meat, extract bone marrow and all sorts of delightful ingredients! So, I made up my bed with the most lovely sheets, turned on my beautiful crystal reading lamp, and burrowed in. It was exactly what I did NOT want it to be. The prose was clumsy, course and reminded me of a teenager who was overly excited about swearing without getting in trouble. There was far too much discussion of her politics and conversations of how Republicans (her former employers) were the scum of the earth. Occasionally she focused on the experiences of actually bumbling through recipes, but often those were glossed over for trite observations and lewd dialog. Towards the end of the book, she actually talks about a interview she held with a reporter from The Times and Julia Child herself discussing the author's Julie/Julia project. She wept as she talks of how in the interview, it became apparent that Julia Child hated her. Julie sobbed and has a chapter of her grief at discovering that her idol considered her a twit. I knew I was in good company! I think she is a total twit too! So, it almost killed me, but I went ahead and finished the book last night so that I could get a new book today and move beyond her terrible, terrible book. So, if the book is given to you as a gift, you don't mind reading a thinly veiled poser's self indulgent journal, enjoy! I just have one thing to say. . . NOT IT!

Thursday, June 11

*We are kickin' it into high gear*

Ok folks! I have had several people ask me about our progress with kickin' debt out of the house. I have gone from the greatest spender on earth to the gal who just had to call my husband in the middle of his dinner with some business buddies absolutely giddy to let him know that I just hit "send" on the final payment on his credit card! (Let's be fair, his name is on the card, but my clothes, furniture and necklaces are on the bill)

So lets do a debt count down:

Last year I had essentially maxed out the following-

1-a car loan
2-an Ann Taylor card
3-a Lowes Credit Card
4-my personal Chase Credit Card
5- CompUSA Credit Card
6-Brian's Chase Credit Card
7-a Bank of America Credit Card

All totaling over almost an annual salary.

They say that the number one cause of divorce is money fights and money problems. Please allow me to personally vouch for that. In November, I went ahead and decided that it was time, as an official adult, to act like one. (Yes, this may have something to do with the fact that I had recently started managing a bank and spent all day, every day teaching others that it is in fact a poor choice to spend more than they make) I finally decided to bid farewell to those days of buying everything I had ever seen, telling Brian that it had simply grown in the closet, or one of my mother's favorite lines, "Oh, I have had that for YEARS!" It turns out that it is even more gratifying to have a happy husband than delightful accessories. So, much to Brian's disbelief, I lined up each of our debts and began shooting them dead one by one. As of tonight, we have paid off all but the Bank of America bill!

It is time to finish strong and not lose focus. So where do we go from here? Well, I work for praise and rewards so I decided that was important to have the last credit card paid off by the end of August as my anniversary gift to Brian. I will pay off our second mortgage as a Valentines gift to us both, and then I have hired a designer to pull together some finishing touches in my house as my birthday present to me. Don't worry. Both she and the furniture will be paid for in cash up front! Sound like a plan? Yeah, lets see if I can keep up the momentum for another 8 months. . .

*Wish me luck*


I have searched out heaven my entire life. I have sought it in home, in nature, in my family. I have battled back and forth between the theory of it, and the reality of heavens existence. Tonight, it is settled within myself once and for all. Heaven is real. It is sold at Williams-Sonoma in a tiny bottle for $21. So go on, buy yourself some truffle oil, drizzle over pizza, and experience heaven in the sanctity of your own four walls.

Wednesday, June 10

*Final Goodbyes*
What if this was the last time? My mother told me of a time she spoke to a cancer specialist who determined that of all the ways to die, he would chose cancer. I was horrified for years after only having shortly lost my grandfather to a prolonged painful battle with pancreatic cancer. It took until I started thinking of the family I began creating to revisit my stance. Shortly thereafter, I flipped. Though his perspective at first sounded so vile, so sacrilegious somehow, in this new role in life, it made much greater sense to me. No, I am not a person who is oblivious to the often horrific pain cancer causes its patients and therefore families. I have known people young and old who have died of it leaving their families. What I will say is that I also know those who have died in a moment. Those fathers who went to sleep, their snores alerting the family to their presence on a mundane day, who an hour later, ceased to be. Which is preferable? What an absurd question. It is one that haunts me though.

When my grandfather finally scummed to his cancer, it was time. We had all prayed that he would finally be able to move on. That he could be released from his broken body. Friends and family were able to spend months asking the questions they deserved answered, saying those whispered goodbyes, creating those final moments. We could sit with him in the bed, read allowed his life's stories, sing to him to bring comfort, quietly serve and honor him. Seeing myself now as a family member over an individual, this is my choice. It gives time for hurt to be mended, resolutions to be made, and plans drawn up. What about our friends and family who disappear from this life? Those who drift away in their sleep? I had always wanted to simply twinkle away. Painless. Instantly. Hmm.

Tonight I awoke disoriented. I was petrified. What if I never saw my husband again, my sibling, my spouse, my parent, my friend? What do I do with my time? What is my legacy for this world? What have I been doing with my life each day to honor those I live for? How have I let them know that I feel only adoration for each of them? How have I demonstrated that each of these people has made my life worth experiencing? Have I taught children around me to love? To laugh? To forgive? Have I demonstrated that true power is found only in the power that we have to serve others?

Yes. . . I am certain that each of you has pondered these things. I am no philosopher, and have no unique perspective to share.
I know that none of this is profound, but at times in life, I have felt such intensity of "the moment" that it has choked me. I know that some who read this may consider it trite, but tonight the possibility of losing a loved one awoke me with shuddering sobs, heartache, and terror. I frantically called my husband over and over again until I awoke him on the other side of the country. I had to fill him with everything I wanted him to know should we be separated. So now what? What makes this any different than any other supposed epiphany? Nothing, unless I chose to make it different. So what am I doing? I am reaching out to all of you and letting you know how true the influence of family and friends in my life have been. I have little interest in acquaintances, those superficial passers by who refuse to be known, or allow others in to know them. I thank each of you for choosing to connect with me heart to heart and spirit to spirit. Thank you for forgiving me my folly, the pains that I have caused, the distance that I have shown.

Life is beautiful. People are my life. You are my life.

Monday, June 8

*Kitchen Drawer Snobbery*

Fine, I admit it! I am a full blown snob. I see people like Sandra Lee using a chop prep, a cherry pitter, apple corer, ice cream scooper, banana slicer (banana bill you know who you are), even on my bad days, I judge garlic peeler folks. Why do I judge such kitchen widgets? I feel a sense of real pride when I take the time to do things by hand. This is the same reason why I judge those who brag about making a homemade quilt when they just machine quilted it rather than taking the four months to HAND quilt!

Pardon me? I heard you! No time to hand quilt, or knit, or cook from scratch? Yeah. Right. Let me just ask you. What do YOU do when watching television? My mother had a policy with me that there was no watching television without doing something with my hands. It wouldn't seem like such a small policy would make a lasting impression, but in one summer, I fell hard for the soap "Young and the Restless" and that summer changed my life. I sewed and hand quilted a huge star spangled quilt for my sister Mary as well as created a dizzying array of cross-stitched tea towels. Sad? Ummm no! I would have done almost anything for those precious episodes. *sigh* Needless to say, still when I sit down to watch some of my favorite shows, I must keep my hands busy so I cook, or write, or make budgets. Hmm. Though this is a pleasant sort of digression, perhaps it is time to return to the topic.

Ok, so why do I proudly tout that I am a bonafide snob? Well because I look down on the salad spinners of the world, the beef branders, the panini presser, the meatball grill basket, the non-stick burger press, the pineapple corer, the olive stuffer, the deep fryer, the avocado pitter/slicer! (Yes, I started off the top of my head and then went on to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog) How do people have room for all of that junk! Want to solve your kitchen dilemmas? LEARN TO USE A KNIFE, GET YOUR HANDS ICKY! I concede that there was a time when I purchased a variety of sad little toys. Toys that took up space in my quaint cottage kitchen. For some reason after several purges my still unopened egg coddler remains, my far too expensive and non functional egg topper, my magic-cake baking strips which despite the label STILL allow the edges of the cake rounds to dry and brown, my candy/oil thermometer which has never touched oil, nor seen me make candy. So now, before inviting something to join my little kitchen crew, I consider it for months!

Let me just give you some perspective on this. I consider almost nothing before bringing it home. I have a larger cookbook collection than the Highland Park Library. A year ago, I turned Brian's messy home office into the walk in closet of my dreams with a whole section devoted just to high heels. So why the hypocrisy? Why do I buy a pair of shoes in 4 colors and it took me 7 years to decided it was time to purchase a handheld citrus juicer? Hmm... I like to think it is because I am a purist and take pleasure in standing back judging the excess of others, but really, maybe it is something deeper. Maybe, I'm just jealous of the gourmands kitchen large enough to hold it all.

Ok, now it is your turn:

Please, let me know the most absurd one trick pony that YOU have in your kitchen .

Check out the vegi-chop! You will never need to use a knife again!

*Mental Health Day*

There is nothing that bothers me quite so much as sick days at school or work. I know that this may seem odd, but it is so unfair! I never really get sick, and so while my colleagues all get a week a year that they can just sit at home vegging out, I go in day after day the picture of perfect health. Don't worry. My mother raised me right. To equalize this, my mother taught up the importance of "mental health days." You must know what these are... those days that you could not be paid to work. Those days where if you are there, you are secretly obsessing about, well today it was the state of my kitchen sink. Oh, and my house was sloppy, my laundry room deserved some attention, and the furniture placement in my front room is just wrong! So I did what I was raised to do. I went to work at 7:30 this morning and then left sick at 11.

I was mentally off today and kept feeling that I was going to throw up (though it is possible that rather than being ill, it had something to do with the fact that I was wearing a turtleneck and occasionally those make me gag). Regardless of the reason, it is time to move on. So, what is on the docket for the rest of the day then? Well, first is a blog post. Gimme a break, I don't do confession so this is my new forum for playing out my guilt. Next I am baking snickerdoodles, and another batch of homemade pizza for dinner as I want to use the leftover pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese. Oh, and it was perfect that I got to come home and see Brian off to the airport and make him a great lunch so perhaps that is karma telling me that I made the right choice? Ok, I know, it is a bit of a stretch! Well, off to baking!

*I recognize that the picture seems a bit off for this post so I will proffer an explanation. When my mind is blurry and overwhelmed, Brian leans his forehead against mine, and every time, life is clearer/better*

Sunday, June 7

Whats cookin'

Tonight before Brian leaves town, I decided to go ahead and make him a rather basic dish to make him lonely for home cooked food. So, for dinner, I ended up making him a beautiful homemade margarita pizza. I am working on preparing things completely from scratch as Mme Julia Child's cooking philosophy has penetrated my heart. The dough is a simple recipe out of my Williams-Sonoma Savoring Italy book (pg 58). I chose to make the pasta sauce by hand, but really to keep it very simple with just some crushed tomatoes, oregano, garlic, a nice chiffionade of sage, salt and pepper. I will let you know how it ends up. After all, there is nothing like simple beautiful ingredients to make a perfect meal~

Ok, the update! The pizza "simple dough recipe" was more a labor of love than anticipated. Hah! This is why I love to practice recipes and then mark up the pages of the cookbook as I go. (Yes, it might be said that I have more notes in my cookbooks than bibles). Regardless, I failed to do something so basic, Mme Child put it in her foreword to her Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The true delight is that I JUST READ AND HILIGHTED IT LAST NIGHT!
It reads:
"We urge you, however much you have cooked, always read the recipe first, even if the dish is familiar to you. Visualize each step so you will know exactly what techniques, ingredients, time, and equipment are required AND YOU WILL ENCOUNTER NO SURPRISES."

Had I done so, I would have known that the dough is kneaded and then rests not just for the 2 hours I anticipated, but after punching it down, it needs to rest for ANOTHER hour! Why I didn't think of this very basic dough rule is beyond me. Anyhow, who doesn't want to eat dinner at a quarter to eleven! There is a rather remarkable comment to report, Brian actually said that it was good! I know that this doesnt seem signifigant, but in the almost seven years that we have been married, I can think of no other time this has occured. All that Brian has essentially ever said, is that the food was "fine". Tonight I got a "good!"

*Marriage is all about little victories*

*Things I live for*

*Cooking for family and friends*Mary's Lemon bars*Any time spent aboard a sail boat*Snuggling intently with Brian every night as we sleep legs intertwined*My nieces and nephews*Reading books before bedtime*Paris*My precious and very closest friends*Pride and Prejudice*Budgets*Sense and Sensibility*My home*Sewing*New paint colors *Martha*Fresh flowers from my garden*Home grown veg*Singing*Travel*Down comforters*Chest walls*The beach*Fine sheets*Books*A made bed*Dinner parties*Dressing up*Ladies gloves*Cheeses*Fine dining*Late night solitude*Phone calls from Nieces*Brian*My sisters*Brunch*