Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tacos Put Out Fires!

Donate that taco!

"In a promotion Taco Bell promised a FREE taco to everyone in America if a player steals a base in the 2007 MLB World Series. The other night Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox did just that. Now America gets their free taco."

And you COULD pick one up between 2 and 5 today. But if you don't want to (which is a personal matter, strictly between you and your taco), you can "donate" your taco (or the price thereof anyway) to the Red Cross for relief for the California wildfires.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Boston! The Musical (A Revival)

The Red Sox won the World Series! Again! Yay!! Wahoo!!! Quick everyone, shimmy dance!

The last time this happened (2004 for those who might not keep detailed records), the city of Boston became Boston! The Musical for a week afterwards. Everywhere I went people met my gaze, smiled, sparkled even. It was like living in the south, but without as many r’s. People who had formerly communicated by grunting and spitting near your feet were now super friendly and said things like, “Hi there! We won!” to total strangers and passersby. Everyone wore Red Sox hats and shirts for a whole week and this was taken as the sign by which fellow chorus-members were recognized. Eyebrows and corners of the mouth up, hands extended – the city was just missing a few sets of jazz hands and high kicks to meet Broadway standards.

Of course, within a few weeks that had mostly died down and the more usual Bostonian reserve had slipped back into place.

But now the Sox have won again. The long late nights of game-watching, and the slow sluggish mornings suffered through yet another layer of baseball jetlag are over. Let the revival of Boston! The Musical begin!

I believe a chorus of Sweet Caroline is in order.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In the Still of the Night

Last Friday was a loooooong day. I was on my feet the whole time, running from one small exhibit to another, installing objects, dashing up to Chinatown to buy fabric, back for more installations. At the very end of the day, just as I was leaving the building, I realized that something we had installed the week before had fallen over. I stayed to straighten it.

Once I got home and had a little dinner, I didn’t last long. I started reading my book but fell asleep with the light on and a cat on either side of me. I awoke when the power went out in my whole neighborhood. It made that sort of winding-down sound you sometimes hear in movie theatres and then it was Very Dark. The sort of dark when you’re not sure if your eyes are open or not. The sort of dark that makes time move more slowly, and enlarges sounds both near and far. It was almost like some sort of hypnotic trance (or so I imagine.)

I bumped my way to the living room window, pulled the shades and looked across the street where the White Trash House was flashing like a disco ball and people were screaming at each other. Apparently the power failure set off the smoke alarms in every room, so strobe lights and buzzing noises made their house more visible (and audible) than anything else on the street. I could see lights in the houses a block behind us, and in houses about 4 blocks away on the other side. But our street was in total darkness.

It was nice to see the stars overhead. Usually I live in a neighborhood that’s too well-lit to permit that.

Looking back, I realize I was a lot blearier than I realized at first. It took me fully twenty minutes to remember that I actually own candles, and only another 10 to find them and get them lit. My cats were fascinated – they’d never seen or smelled candles before. I just never light them.

I called my friend Miss Krafty, who lives up the street from me. She relayed two comforting bits of information: her power was out too, and the Red Sox were ahead 10-3 in the 9th inning. (In hindsight we were too easily comforted by that. The next two games were not inspiring. I do think the city and the utility company narrowly avoided a major demonstration of civil unrest by lucking into a power outage on Friday. If it had happened during the 9th, 10th or 11th innings of the Saturday night game, rioting would have broken out.)

To pass the time I called my sister and we entertained each other for an hour. She told me about her ladybug and the evidently shocking discovery that under their shiny red carapaces, ladybugs have lacy black wings. I love that this was news to her. I can remember her as a serious little girl, collecting snails in our back yard and studying them very closely. I guess she never did the same with ladybugs.

[Aside: I happen to know about ladybugs because for about the past 7 years they appear to have been following me around. It’s as if they’ve selected me for some reason. Other people have personal totems of fierce animals like tigers or bears. I have ladybugs. When I lived in England I had 4 ladybugs who lived in my flat and watched me study. (At first I thought it was just 1 very active ladybug, but I later realized there were several of them.) When I moved back to Texas and lived in a barn, an entire swarm of ladybugs moved in with me and my cat. Dickens was interested at first but soon found them very boring. Ladybugs just don’t dart around or buzz in a satisfying way. He’d rather stalk lizards. And then when I moved to Boston, I walked into my office on my first day of work and found the filing cabinet behind my desk covered with a swarm of ladybug magnets. Ladybugs are the only bugs on the planet I will share space with voluntarily, without complaint. They are the only bugs I encounter that don’t seem to be begging to be squashed by my shoe, or flushed down the toilet.]

My sister and I talked a great deal about shoes, whooping cough (her dog has it – they thought he had a hairball), and my thoroughly adorable nephews. My youngest nephew (turning 2 later this week) is experimenting with inflection to convey size. When he says ‘Shoes’ in his normal voice he is referring to everyone else’s shoes. When he says “shoes" in his itty-bitty high squeaky voice he means his shoes, because his are the smallest. If it’s possible for an aunt to dissolve, simply melt into a pool of loving particles, because her neefs have charmed her so thoroughly, I would long ago have disappeared.

I told Kelsey if Seth ever sees a “Mouse” she could be alarmed, but if he ever saw a “MOUSE” she should move to a new house.

After we’d talked for more than an hour we hung up and I drifted back to my living room windows. It was fascinating in a slow sort of way. I could see people walking up and down the sidewalks with their cell phones out – either talking on them about the power failure, or using the light from their phone screens to guide their steps. I could see flashlights being carried from room to room in neighbors’ houses. And a block over I could see houses with power, inhabitants completely unaware that their neighbors had gone back in time.

I watched for a while and then went back to bed, knowing that the alarm I had intended to set was not going to ring in the morning. I climbed in bed and pulled all the blankets up over me. Dickens tucked me in and found a place to curl up, purring very loudly. I began to drift off to sleep…

Wilkie began to meow. She meowed many long syllables of questions and answers. She experimented with her own itty-bitty voice and inflection. It was almost a cat aria of conversational experimentation with the letters ‘m’, ‘r’, and ‘w.’ She was sitting on the floor right by my bed, engaging in a very earnest and almost musical monologue. Finally I lost patience and told her she needed to get in bed. Pause. She joined me and Dickens on the bed, curled up, and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up to find one of her fetch toys placed precisely in the middle of my pair of bedroom slippers. She wanted to play Fetch in the pitch dark. Extreme sports for housecats.

Monday, October 8, 2007

How to Cook Potatoes of the Trees

As I mentioned last week, I went apple-picking and as a result found my kitchen table graced with a large bowl of very picturesque apples. Trouble is, I don't like apples, so that bowl of fruit was, for me, a lifetime supply of mediocre menu filler. That bowl was a Herculean task with my name on it: get through all these apples. Go on, I dare you. I swear, I heard it taunting me whenever I walked by it. I knew there was no way I was going to get through them all before they went bad. I gamely tried an apple a day for while – I felt very virtuous and healthy but I had to stop halfway through my third apple. I'd reached my limit. Potatoes of the trees are just not my thing, no matter how optimistically I try to change that.

That still left me with apple-overload. The solution came in two forms. First, my friend MKA assures me that freezing them is a way to save apples for pie-making purposes later. So I spent hours peeling and chopping apples so I could store them in the freezer. I suspect there will be a Domestic Goddess Apple Pie in my wintry future. Second, I tried my friend Miss Krafty's Apple-Chocolate Chip Cake recipe. I made it twice, and the second time I made it I really found the perfect combination for my apple-indifferent taste buds. I print it here for your own enjoyment, in case you too find your kitchen is barricaded behind a red abundance of apples and you don't know what to do with them all.

Apple Chocolate Chip Cake

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ c. oil
1-2 Tbsp milk
1-2 Tbsp melted butter, cooled
2 eggs
1½ cups chopped apple
1½ cups chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 325ยบF. Butter and flour a tube pan. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Add oil mixture to flour mixture and beat only until completely mixed. Stir in apple, chips and nuts. Spoon mixture (it will be pretty thick) into pan and bake for 1 hour.

I have to say, it's pretty tasty.

Miss Krafty's version didn't have milk, butter, salt or nuts, and in fact called for a whole 3 cups of apple with only ½ a cup of chocolate. Lunacy. Sheer lunacy. It tasted WAY too much of apple that way. But if you're a fan, feel free to tinker with the recipe – it can take it. Miss K also says she never bothered to make it in a tube pan, so go crazy. Use any pan you want. Just don't try to use real potatoes.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Riddle (sort of)

Question: Can you guess where I’ve been?

I walk into this guy’s apartment. He’s clearly just left. I start looking around, trying to see if I can figure out who he is based on his living room. Let’s see, white couch. Clearly no pets or small children. Bookshelves with frosted glass doors and oddly dated etched patterns on the glass. Lit from the inside – perhaps he’s handy. How do you light a bookcase from the inside? Eh. Oooo, look! Very cool coffee table! It’s white wood with a glass top and immediately under the glass is a shallow drawer divided into wooden compartments. It’s like a coffee table for people who collect stuff!! I would totally fill that thing up in a week: all the vintage buttons I’ve been buying, my tangled mess of embroidery floss, my postcard collection, cat toys, extra AA and AAA batteries… Why is his empty? He’s clearly afraid of his inner collector. I think this guy must be some sort of occasionally hip but mostly nerdy computer guy. It’s too clean in here. Everything’s white and his rug is very plain. That’s how I peg him.

Next I walk into a woman’s bedroom. It’s clearly a woman’s bedroom because one glass-fronted closet is filled with shelves sporting a fine collection of girly high heels. In fact, they are ALL brightly colored high heeled sandals. She never wears flats, apparently, and never fears frostbite. Hm. I don’t know why but I’m pretty sure this one’s a floozy. No bookshelves. Lots of cool sweater and shoe storage solutions though. The bedding is GORGEOUS. All her clothes are grey and sequined. That’s just weird.

Oh, now I’ve found a kitchen. Obviously this is the kitchen where the Japanese family eats. No table and chairs, but instead a plush carpet with a little short round table and puffy floor cushions. Oh, and actual bamboo stapled to the walls.

Another living room, this one filled with every imaginable bookcase. I love bookcases. If I could collect them, I would. And I would have no problem filling them because I also love books. What books do we have here? None of these look familiar. None of them even look like they’re in English. All foreign books. Huh. Multiple copies of the same Swedish-looking biography of a guy who might be named Rolf. Why own 7 copies of the same cheesy looking book? Oh. Maybe this is Rolf’s place.

One last hint: Swedish meatballs, cinnamon buns, and sanctioned voyeurism dressed up as furniture shopping….

The answer: I spent 4 hours at IKEA!

Good times.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An Anti-Explosive Idea

A friend of mine sent this link to me earlier today:


This site is well worth a visit. We all know about the pervasive dangers of forgotten land mines, but few seem to know what to do about it. A brilliant if off-beat person has determined that one of the best ways to defuse land mines is to train rats to sniff them out. The rats have a great sense of smell, and they’re light enough not to set off the explosives.

Also, for you graphic artists out there, the website is itself a little gem of brilliance.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Potatoes of the Trees

I’m just going to say this, knowing FULL WELL that I’m risking derision, disbelief and outright rioting:

I think apples are overrated.

Seriously. They just don’t do that much for me, either crisp and raw or mushy and cooked. Either way, my feeling is… eh. I’d rather have cheese.

Or potatoes.

Once upon a time I was in a community theatre production in Melbourne with my friend Clay. Clay and I were very good. The rest of the cast was… well, we hoped they would learn from our example. One evening, during a rehearsal that didn’t involve either of us much, she and I wandered outside to run lines and ended up having one of those conversations where two friends just get giddy with their own hilarity and start that pig-snorting laughing that just makes it all worse. There was no reason for us to get that giggly but we did. The subject of our conversation was apples. It went something like this.

Me: I think apples are overrated.

Clay: Oh yeah. I mean what’s the big deal. So it’s an apple. Psha.

Me: I like potatoes a lot better than apples. I’d rather have potatoes any day.

Clay: Potatoes are definitely a better food than apples. More versatile.

Me: You know how in French apples are called ‘pommes’?

Clay: Yeah. Where are you going with this?

Me: And they call potatoes ‘pommes de terre’… ‘apples of the earth’?


Me: I think it should be the other way around. Potatoes are more important…

Me and Clay simultaneously: Apples should be called the potatoes of the trees! YES! Potatoes of the trees!

Around this time our fellow cast-mates came out to find us snorty-pig laughing, barely breathing, red in the face, eyes watering – basically demonstrating very attractive, high performance thespian behaviors that they all should have tried instantly to imitate. Instead they looked puzzled and asked why we were in that state. We explained, gasping with renewed laughter, “Potatoes of the trees!!” and they continued to look puzzled.

I told you they were slow.

Anyway. Despite the inflated hilarity of the moment we invented the phrase, Clay and I still maintain to this day (a whole 10 years later, which boggles my mind) that Potatoes of the Trees are simply not as tasty or interesting as plain old potatoes.


I have, however, updated my opinion about apples somewhat. As a resident of New England I have finally been drawn into the annual autumn craze for apple picking and I have to say, it rocks.

Without having tried both, I still think it’s safe to say that apple picking is bound to be much more pleasant and satisfying than potato grubbing. In that sense, apples are definitely superior. (They are also more picturesque, and smell prettier in the uncooked state. See? Look how open-minded I'm being.)

It was a bee-yoo-tiful fall day yesterday. Sunny, crisp, cool, faintly scented with hay and apples. A group of us went to a pick-your-own orchard in central Massachusetts and, well, we picked our own. We drank cider. I picked lovely little small purply Cortlands, gigantic pink and yellow Honey Crisps, small green and red MacIntosh and red starry McKeowns. Of course, by the time I got them home I could barely tell them apart any more and last night I spent some time standing in my kitchen looking at what, for me, amounts to a LIFETIME SUPPLY OF APPLES and trying to figure out how I ended up with all those and what I will end up doing with them. I picked the smallest bag there was – a half a peck for the curious among you – and still. I am way over my apple limit.

I believe it may be time for my once-every-3-years apple pie.

And if you’re local, I may be giving away fresh-picked apples this week. Give me a call. Free potatoes of the trees if you're interested.