Friday, April 30, 2010

Big Julia Meal Tomorrow

My Julia Child rampage through Mastering the Art of French Cooking continues unabated. Tomorrow, (Saturday) I’m preparing a Julia meal for eight friends.

Fonds d'Artichauts au Mayonnaise (Steamed artichokes with mayonnaise) Julia’s mayonnaise was the first recipe she ever perfected. Believe me, you have not tasted mayonnaise until you’ve tasted her recipe for it and method of making it. The artichokes are simply a conduit for the mayonnaise.

Fricasée de Poulet a La’Ancienne (Old Fashioned Chicken Fricassee) This time, the variation with tarragon -- one of my favorite herbs.

Tomates á La Provençale (Baked tomatoes with fines herbs)

Asperges au Sauce Maltaise (Asparagus with orange-flavored Hollandaise)

Bavarois aux Fraises (Bavarian Cream with Strawberries)

I will post photos, reviews and wine pairings. I’m awfully excited.

Miss Healthypants is coming over tonight for the leftover daube.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Daube de Boeuf á La Provençale

I’m still on my Julia Child kick. Actually, it’s turning into more of an obsession. After all, ‘too much of a good thing’ is, in my opinion, hardly enough.

Last night’s recipe was Daube de Boeuf which is a casserole of beef with wine and vegetables. Then, I saw that Julia had provided a variation, Daube de Boeuf á La Provençale which included the addition of anchovies, capers and garlic. Anything with anchovies, and I’m on board. Besides, life’s too short to overlook the variations.

As usual, you begin by cutting the beef into cubes and chopping the onions.

Julia calls for fresh tomatoes that are skinned, seeded and chopped. I was tempted to bung in a can of chopped tomatoes, but I followed her recipe. To skin the tomatoes, drop them in boiling water until the skins begin to pull away, plunk them in cold water and slip their skins right off.

Dealing with fresh tomatoes is a tedious and lonely affair. . .

Marinate the beef in white wine along with the carrots, onions, and herbs.

As with many recipes, it calls for one bay leaf.

Okay, let’s talk for a moment about this ‘one bay leaf’ thing. For the life of me, I could never see how one dried up leaf can impart any flavor at all. I’d be willing to bet that if you made a recipe with one bay leaf and one without, no one would be able to tell the difference. Really.

So, I pulverized the bay leaf in a coffee grinder that I use just for spices.

Okay, I got ‘the bay leaf thing’ off my chest. . .

Julia says to marinate the beef for three hours. It was getting late so I let it marinate long enough for me to watch Modern Family. I realize that such blatant disregard for Julia’s work should be a felonious offense, but I hadn’t read the recipe ahead of time as closely as I should and the three-hour marinade came as a surprise.

After the marinating is complete, remove the beef, dust with flour and set aside. Now, you begin layering everything in a casserole beginning with bacon. (Always a good beginning.)

Bacon, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, beef. . .
Bacon, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, beef. . .
Bacon, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, beef. . .

Pour the white wine marinade over it all, enough beef stock to cover and shove it in the oven for 2 ½ hours. Your dwelling will be infumed with a heavenly scent.

Oh, did I tell you that my kitchen still has the original cabinets from 1964? They’re yellow, metal cabinets. At first, they’re the most hideous things ever, but the retro appeal is something I’d never want to part with.

Toward the end of the cooking, you mash together a tin of anchovies, capers, olive oil, white wine vinegar and garlic. Mix that in and bake it for another half hour.

At the end, whisk in butter.

While this dish was not as appealing as the boeuf bourguignon or the chicken fricassee, to me anyway, I could not stop eating it. Nor did a take a photo of the final product. (I can update that later.)

What I love about Julia's recipes is that they always come out perfect. There's never any need to "adjust seasonings" or "thicken if necessary." To be honest, working from her book is the first time I have ever followed a recipe. The woman has done her homework and I love what I'm learning -- about cooking, about French food, and about myself.

There’s plenty of daube left. It makes a huge amount.

My neighbors will be well-fed.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I haven't time to really blog today so here's just some quick-n-dirty updates.

On Sunday afternoon, I was interviewed about synesthesia and it will be featured on the local PBS radio station next month. It was cool.

I'm making another Julia Child recipe tonight, Daube de Boeuf, which is a casserole of beef, vegetables, capers and anchovies. This weekend, I'm preparing a whole Julia Child meal for seven friends and I'm excited about that.

I broke my camera the other day by piling books on top of it in my book bag. Duh. A new one should arrive today.

 And since I can't think of anything to write about, I'll leave you with one of the greatest moments in American history:  And that is, of course, Aretha Franklin's hat.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Subway

Riding the subway can often be an adventurous undertaking, especially during rush hour. Whenever you get that many people crammed into an underground railway vehicle, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to observe all that human behavior has to offer.

If I know I’ll be traveling a considerable distance, it’s always nice to find a seat. Pregnant women are pretty much the only people for whom I’ll relinquish it. Besides, I was recently diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, am now eligible for AARP, and receive regular mailings from The Scooter Store. I deserve a seat. Any vestiges of Southern politeness are long gone.

When I do have to stand on the subway, I’ve learned to adopt a three-point stance. That is, the point at which I’m holding onto the pole in relation to the points where my feet are on the floor forms an equilateral triangle. That way, whether the subway lurches forward or back or side-to-side, I’m always stable.

Then again, some people choose to adopt a different means of stabilization while riding the train.
Which brings me to my other principle of riding public transport:
I always wash my hands after riding the subway.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Betty White's SNL Promo

This will definitely make your Monday a little brighter.

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The CD Recording

This past weekend has been a very busy one. The choir I’m in is recording a CD and we’ve had recording sessions at the church every night. This is the fourth choral CD I’ve been involved with -- the other three were with a big men’s chorus in Dallas back in the early 90s -- so it’s really interesting to me to see how the recording process has changed with technology.

It’s a lot easier and efficient these days. Trust me.

Back in the old days, editing pretty much consisted of splicing tape. Nowadays, digital editing software enables the editor to do lots of tricks. The intake of breath just before singing the first note can be edited down. Last night, we were recording a piece with the big pipe organ. Since the pipe organ was causing a lot of background noise, the recording engineer had us all be really quite so he could record 30 seconds of background noise that the organ was causing. That’s so he could later copy the digital footprint of that noise and edit it out of the final product.

Isn’t that cool?

Still, recording can be a very tedious process. You can come to the end of a perfect “take” and an ambulance will scream by outside. Helicopters will do the same. Everything needs to be put on hold for a thunderstorm to pass. A difficult passage will require a dozen takes, sometimes more. Shoes on a marble surface can squeak or clunk, causing another re-take. (Most of us just wear socks and no shoes.) A soprano’s tummy will growl during the silence just before the downbeat and it’s hard not to laugh.

Anyway, the CD will be available on the iTunes in October.

Do they even have record stores anymore?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Betty White's Funniest Moment

Who doesn’t love Betty White?

Soon, the 88 year-old grande dame of comedy will be hosting Saturday Night Live and I suspect that will be SNL’s most-watched episode.

I’m sure we all have our favorite Betty White moments. Mine is a rather obscure one from Mary Tyler Moore, but it makes me laugh out very loud every time I see it.

In this scene, Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) confronts Sue Ann Niven (Betty White) over her affair with husband, Lars. At one point, Phyllis purposely ruins Sue Ann’s chocolate soufflé by slamming the oven door on it. I don't know why, but Sue Ann kicking the oven door closed with her knee is, to me, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Ever.

I can still remember my mom and me howling over this scene when I was fourteen.

I don’t know how Cloris Leachman ever kept a straight face. I really don’t.
(It occurs at the 2:00 minute mark.)

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Yesterday morning, I was crossing the bridge over the Chicago River and noticed about a half-dozen Canadian geese squawking away down on the surface of the river. They were really kicking up a ruckus. I wondered if any of them could have been our beloved Gertrude and Stanley.

At the end of the bridge was a homeless man, asking pedestrians for money. As I waiting for the light to change, he said to me, “What’s wrong with them black hawks?”

“Those are Canadian geese,” I replied.

“No! The black hawks,” he said emphatically.

“Those are all Canadian geese,” I replied, stressing my point.

“No! Hockey!” he said, making the motion of swinging a hockey stick.

“What about hockey?” I retorted, thinking that he was making a connection between hockey and the fact that these geese were from Canada.

He shook his head and muttered something in disgust. The light changed and I went on my way.

Then it dawned on me. Was the name of Chicago’s hockey team the Black Hawks?

Funny, I thought it was the Ice-Bats or something like that.

The dude definitely picked the wrong guy to banter about sports with.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Memories of Friday Nights

Back in the early 70s, my younger brother and I (not yet teenagers) were allowed to stay up late on Friday nights to watch horror movies. After the news ended at 10:30 pm, the local station out of San Antonio would broadcast “Project Terror” in which a horror movie from the 50s or 60s would be featured.

The intro to “Project Terror” was quite memorable. It began with this cheesy synthesizer soundtrack and a green atom spinning around on the screen. Then, the narrator would announce in a spooky voice:

“Project Terror! . . Where the scientific . . .and the TERRIFYING . . .emerge!”

Here it is. (I can’t believe it was available on the Youtubes.)

Isn’t that great? Watching that opening sequence was always so exciting. It meant that for the next two hours, we’d be unsupervised, late into the night, watching a horror movie and letting our fantasies run wild. Fun stuff when you’re ten and twelve years old.

However, I remember very well the first time we were allowed to do this. (We were probably eight and ten years old.) The movie was called “Them!” and it was about these giant ants that had invaded the sewers of Los Angeles; no doubt, their enormous size being the result of radioactive fallout. The movie’s tension built and built, you never saw the ants until later. But the first time someone got eaten by an ant, it only occurred off-screen – you only heard the guy scream.

My brother and I looked at each other, utterly terrified, quickly shut off the TV and scurried to bed. It was just too much for us.

Gradually, we got much braver and could finish a horror movie with no problem. These usually involved having a friend or two over for a sleepover. Of course, three or four boys under the age of 13 watching a man gouge his own eyes out as in “The Man With X-Ray Eyes” elicited uncontrollable shrieks of pleasure. Mom would appear and warn us to keep it down or the TV would be turned off.

I wonder what kids do these days on a Friday night? Do they have something as simple and pleasurable as “Project Terror” with which to entertain themselves?

I hope so. I hope that thirty years from now, some middle-aged guy will be blogging about the fun memories he made with his brother and friends, late every Friday night.

Oh, and here’s that cool scene where the guy gouged his eyes out. It was on the Youtubes as well.

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The New $100 Bill

The new, redesign of the $100 was just released in a press conference seven minutes ago. Being a self-confessed currency-nerd, I was waiting anxiously.
It will go into circulation in February, 2011.
Here it is:

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Podiatrist

For the past few months, I’ve been suffering a bit from a pain in the heel of my right foot. Driving 900 miles a pop and standing for hours at choir rehearsals exacerbated this condition known as plantar fasciitis. Ibuprofen seemed to help, but taking lots of that every day didn’t seem advisable.

Finally, I broke down, took time off work and saw my doctor, who of course, had to refer me to a podiatrist. I saw the podiatrist yesterday who confirmed that I have plantar fasciitis. It's a common ailment, but still. . . .

Remedies for this condition include the following:

Stretching exercises: One of which involves rolling your foot across a tennis ball. I almost had to laugh at that one. Exercises? About the only time I darken the doors of my health club is to partake of their free shoe-shining service. And does it sound like I would have a tennis ball hanging around?

Medication: I like that. Just take an anti-inflammatory drug twice a day. Sign me up.

Orthopedic inserts: I already have them. They were specially designed for my weird feet by an orthopedic specialist – 17 years ago. It’s time for some updated ones. Sign me up. (Foot impressions were made.)

Cortisone injection: In the heel of my foot. That sounds painful. Of course, physicians never will come right out and tell you, “This will be painful.” Instead, they cloak it with something like, “This is one of the more ‘heavier’ injections.”

At first, I thought about waiting to see what the medication, the orthopedic inserts and maybe even the tennis ball might do. But you know what? I remembered that I had to take time off work to see my doctor, then get a referral to the specialist, take time off work for that, take a train and a bus to get there. An injection, even a ‘heavier one’ in the heel of my foot wouldn’t be as bothersome as what I had gone through to get there.

“Let’s do it. I’m brave,” I said.

He arrived back with the injection. It was a big, scary one.

“Will there be shrieking?” I jokingly asked.

He explained that they would spray something cold on my foot to begin with.

Yes, it hurt quite a bit. Not quite excruciating, but it hurt. . . .
. . . When he finished, he said, “How’d we do?”

I thought, “I was the one getting cortisone injected into a highly sensitive part of my anatomy. I did fine.”

“It could always be worse,” I said.

My foot already feels much better.

You know, turning 50 really has hit me with health issues; something I’ve been very fortunate not to have had to deal with thus far. Within the past year, I’ve done the colonoscopy thing, had a lipoma the size of a grapefruit removed, had a bridge constructed across three molars, and now this. This body needs some tending to.

Maybe it’s time I reconsider that daily trip to the gym.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Back in ancient days ( I.e. before the Internet), I had a pen pal from Iceland. He was a graduate student in Reykjavik and also worked as a tour guide in an ice cave. His name was Guðmundur, but since most people don’t know how to pronounce that funny-looking Icelandic ‘d’ most people called him Gummi.

I tried leaning a bit of Icelandic and it really is one of the weirdest languages to pronounce. Apparently, Icelanders are having a ball hearing the various news anchors try to pronounce that volcano that’s erupting, Eyjafjallajökull.

Not surprisingly, Rush Limbaugh claimed that the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull is due to God’s displeasure with Obama’s health care reform.
(Come on, Rush -- let’s hear you say Eyjafjallajökull. Come on!)

If Icelanders are snickering over the attempt at saying 'Eyjafjallajökull' can you imagine what they must be  thinking of Rush Limbaugh?

I say, if you can’t say Eyjafjallajökull, then you have no business making such claims.

Here’s how you say it and here’s how you don’t:

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Julia Child Rules

My first recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was such a hit, (I didn’t want to the leftover Boeuf Bourguignon to end -- and I’m practically a vegetarian.) so I decided to search her book for something really tasty and “French" for my next recipe.

Fricasée de Poulet a La’Ancienne seemed like the perfect next choice. (Old- Fashioned Chicken Fricasse with Wine-flavored Cream Sauce, Onions and Mushrooms) It involves chicken cooked in mushrooms, onions, and a sauce of chicken stock, cream, egg yolks and butter. An egg-yolk and butter sauce.
Wow. That’s what appealed to me.

Julie, from the famed Julie/Julia Child project, whimpered and failed at this sauce. (She really was a whiney little sylph.) Other writers have balked at this culinary feat. The egg-yolk-cream-boiling-stock concoction is  known to curdle and break.
Cool! Love it!
I could definitely get my culinary man-boots on with this recipe.  I was now Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy, for Julia Child.
I really wanted someone to fist-bump someone as I got out my little six-pack of organic eggs.
“Let’s do it!”  

First, you have to lay 'The Testament' out in a proper place and give it due homage. Please bow your heads. . . . . . um, I’m serious.
Bow your head and reverence the Holy Book (High Anglican rubrics will suffice.)

Open the page and read the recipe thoroughly,
Thrice at least; including all recipe-appendices. 

Note: It is imperative that each page (pictured) should be well-worn and splattered with your efforts (mine.)

If you’re single and a Julia-worshipper like myself, subsequent great-and great-great-nephews should be able to admire evidence of your great legacy that you’ve provided for them long after you’re gone. Do not pass this up.

Saute onions and carrots in butter. Julia calls for celery as well, but I don’t like celery so I left it out. I should be arrested, I realize that.

Cut up a 3-lb chicken for this recipe. I don’t like wings and drumsticks in any “stewed” chicken, so I opted for bone-in, skin-on thighs. They’re tasty, juicy, and cook evenly.
Unfortunately, my market didn’t have any thighs at all. However, they did have boned, ribbed breasts. ("A good cook will make do with whatever is handy," says JC) If ribbed breasts are what you're presented with, then cut the ribs out and away like I’m doing here.

A very sharp knife and a bit of bravery will certainly do the trick. One should always be supplied with both while in the kitchen. (Can't you just hear Julia saying this?)
Many chefs say to bag the leftover chicken bits and save them in the freezer to make chicken stock. That’s a grand idea if you plan to make gallons of chicken stock every week. If you live alone like me, bagging and tossing raw chicken bones down a 50-floor trash chute is advisable.  It's certainly a bit of fun as well.

Julia says to cook the chicken pieces “for 3 or 4 minutes until the meat has stiffened slightly, without coloring to more than a light golden yellow.”
My first reaction was to say, “Sorry, Julia. But yellow chicken in a pan is a pallid and paltry affair. In my opinion, browned chicken tastes better.” But I followed her instructions. (Later, you’ll see why I’m glad I did and you should too.) Dust the chicken with 3 Tbs of flour and ½ tsp white pepper.

Lower the heat under the chicken and boil 3 cups of chicken stock in a separate saucepan. My apartment still has the original 1964 G.E. push-button harvest-gold electric stove and I really love the darn thing

-- I also have a Harvest Gold Trimline rotary-dial wall phone to match. You can still call me on it and I'll answer, just like Bob Newhart, even with an original 312 Area Code.

Add the boiling chicken stock.

Add one cup of white wine (I like a Sauvignon Blanc for cooking --  I recall that Julia does, too, even though it wasn‘t really around back in 1961.)

Transfer all the chicken and liquid to a heavy, enameled casserole. (America’s Test Kitchen says that Le Creuset’s enameled casseroles are the best.) Here is a new one, a seven-quart blue one for $270. You’ll see mine in the photos --  I got it on eBay for 40 bucks. When it comes to snatching cookware, I can be an eBay puma. Grrr.

Mushrooms -- they all say “don’t wash mushrooms! Just wipe them with a damp cloth!” (All TV chefs say this, but have you ever seen any TV chef actually do that?)
Why?  Supposedly, fresh mushrooms will absorb water. So?
I’m going to immerse them all in a heavy sauce. Why not wash off all the dung in which they’ve been grown?
I heartily wash my dungy mushrooms in a clean colander under Chicago tap water.
 Living on the edge. . . .

Pearl onions: This is my 2nd Julia recipe that calls for 18-24 pearl onions. In my first Julia recipe, I spent an inordinate amount of time peeling 18-24 of the little suckers. Here’s a hint that will totally rock your world: (Julia doesn't reveal this until her 1972 edition of The Way to Cook.)
Boil them for five minutes,

and rinse under cold water.
Cut off the root end with a paring knife, squeeze the other end and the onion will pop right out, sans peeling.
Blurp!. . . .Blurp-blurp!

Add the peeled onions to the chicken. And bring to a roiling simmer.

 Mushrooms: For this recipe, just saute them in just a little bit of butter, less than you’d think, but add lemon juice and a touch of water.

Now get ready for the “real cooking.” Here’s the good part, folks:
Transfer the chicken and onions to an awaiting, separate saucepan and bring the chicken-broth/white wine mixture to a simmer. Make sure it's now thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. You know. . .

Then, in a stainless steel mixing bowl, whisk together 2 egg yolks and ½ cup of heavy cream.

Keep whisking. We’re about to do the Classical French sauce thing. Say a prayer to Julia, for She is with you. Meditate upon her Testament and remember that you followed all the previous instructions to the letter. (Remember not to brown the chicken and to add just the right amount of broth and white wine, right?) If you're right-handed, set the egg-cream bowl to the right of the simmering broth.
Then, while whisking continuously, spoon in the simmering broth to the egg-cream mixture, one tablespoon at a time until you’ve incorporated 8 ounces: 16 Tablespoons. If you do one tablespoon at a time, it should take you 16 spoonfuls.Don't add it too fast or it will cook the egg yolks.
You should see the little bit of egg-yolk and cream mixture “blossom” and increase in volume by quite a bit.
Oooh! Like this!

(God! It was like Julia was chorteling along with me). I almost cried.
This sauce worked! It really worked!
Then, I tasted the sauce, thinking it might need salt or something.  
It was then . . . I wept.
I really did! It was so surprising! It tasted that good! Even though I’m from Texas, and I only do the big-salty-tears thing once or twice every six, maybe seven months, tops, the taste of this sauce made me cry.
Wow. That's a new one on me. 

But then, it gets even better. . . .
I transferred the mushrooms, chicken and onions back to the awaiting sauce, simmered it and tasted it.
Oh My Gosh! (Grasping the wall behind me) So that’s what chicken should taste like! Beforehand, I was thinking of adding tarragon and a splash of vermouth to the sauce to make it more tasty and “French.” but when I tasted how “chicken-ey” and delicious this dish was on its own, there was no way I could alter it.

Even though I’d bought store-brand, garden-variety chicken, Julia’s recipe was the most delicious “chicken-ey” thing I’d ever tasted.  This recipe is a true example of how simple ingredients, brought together in a precise manner, can truly elevate the taste of what was intended. In this case, it was chicken. 

Bottom Line: Don't futz with Julia's recipes. Believe me, she's done the work. All along the way, I wanted to "do this" or "change that" or "add this", thinking I knew a lot about cooking (which I do.)

I've read quite a bit of Julie's blog, the one that inspired the Julie and Julia movie. I really can't relate to what she's done. Sure, her work resulted in a book and movie deal, but it seems to me that every one of her attempts at Julia's recipes is presented as an obstacle to overcome.
I, on the other hand, love what Julia brings about in me -- each recipe is a surprising opportunity to create astoundingly delicious French cuisine.
That's it.
Pure, unalloyed pleasure.
Julie uses the f-word quite a bit and, to me, that's just unnecessary, it exhibits literary laziness, and my generation just didn't say that word at all. Julie also seems to whine quite a bit and comes across as awfully self-obsessed.
Whenever I read her blog, I find myself saying, "Just shut the fuck up and cook!"

Perhaps Julie's legacy is that she got me to write the f-word on my blog.
Julia's Fricasée made me cry.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Houston, We Have a Problem

I have a love-hate relationship with pop music.

Love it: There were some bands back in the 70s I was absolutely nuts about. Their 8-track tapes took up a lot of space in my ’76 Honda Civic: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin come to mind. Nowadays, The Killers and Alanis Morissette take up a lot of memory on my iPod. (Along with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin.)

Okay, I'll also admit (sigh) that there's quite a bit of Enya on there too.

Hate it: Performers who lip-synch in concert. Boy-bands and Britney Spears come to mind. Yes, they do a lot of highly-energized choreography and, yes, it’s difficult to sing while doing that. But if you can’t sing while leaping about on stage, then don’t. Do your jumping around, then sing, but please don’t pretend you’re doing both. It’s a counterfeit performance.

Hate it: Rap and Hip-Hop “music”. I guess if you're angry, addicted to tattoos and have no ability to sing at all, then you become a Rap or Hip-Hop performer like Eminem or that Ice-Tray fellow.

Hate it: Whitney Houston: Yes, she had a nice voice (back in the 80s) but no better than thousands of other gospel choir singers. In my opinion, her biggest hit, The Greatest Love of All, was absolutely the worst song ever written. Ever. Don’t believe me?

Let's take a look at the lyrics.

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be.

(A song about children. That’s nice.)
All of a sudden, it changes to:

Everybody's searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs
A lonely place to be
And so I learned to depend on me

(What? A complete change of subject. Now it's about society and herself. I guess she ran out of stuff to say about the children.)

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed at least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all inside of me
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all

(Okay, now it’s a song for narcissistic losers to sing and feel better about themselves.)

So, there we have a mish-mash of themes with the opening bit about the children having nothing to do with the rest of the song. And what does the rest of the song entail? You just repeat the whole thing one more time, and end it.

Horrible, dreadful song-writing.

And poor Whitney. Yes, she’s had her years of drug addiction. Many of us have. Maybe she’s trying to make a come-back, but Whitney, bless her heart, has obviously passed up a few too many stopping points in her career. Here’s a recent performance as she crucifies Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You.

Brace yourself:

Umm, Houston. . . we have a problem. Frankly, she should have been encircled with crime-scene tape.
If Dolly Parton wasn’t the classy lady that she is, I’ll bet Whitney would be sued for millions.

Whitney, dear. A word of advice: If you're going to pass up this stopping point in your career, you might consider becoming a Rap performer.

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Goose Update: It Is Finished

As Miss Healthypants reported on her blog, our goose friends are gone. There was a very concerned voice mail from her last night to that effect.

I hadn’t looked in them in a couple of days and when she checked on them yesterday, there was nothing there in the nest but a pile of downy feathers.

“Were there any egg shells around?” I asked.

“There was goose poop. I didn’t go digging around in that,” was her reply.

This morning, I went to investigate the remains. I noticed that there were a bunch of pigeons feeding in the nest. I shooed them away and checked under the pile of down. (I don’t mind goose poop. I’m a boy.) There were no egg shells.

We think our goose family is okay. Here’s what we know:

1) It was time for the eggs to hatch.

2) Baby geese are mobile and can swim very soon after they hatch.

3) Birds like to eat egg shells (thus, the pigeons this morning.) In fact, it is recommended that you grind up egg shells and mix it in with bird seed. Birds need the calcium for their own egg production.

I just realized that I haven’t washed my hands after pawing through the poopie nest. I shall probably contract West Nile virus now.

The daily goose survey is over.
Okay, now what do I do?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


As a single person, I live a pretty carefree existence compared to other folks who are coupled or have families. However, there is continual example when I definitely feel discriminated against. And that’s whenever I’m walking in public.

Here’s a perfect example: I’m walking along a narrowish city sidewalk and along comes a couple toward me; husband and wife, flaming heterosexuals, side by side -- and they don’t allow any room for me to pass. Does it occur to them that, perhaps, they could walk in single file for two whole seconds so that I wouldn’t have to drop off the sidewalk and walk in the gutter filled with fetid water?


The other day, I was about to trot down a narrow set of steps outside my apartment building. Along came a middle-aged couple about to ascend the steps. They didn’t make any attempt to let me descend even though the steps were wide enough for two people. The man even announced “Scuse us!” as I was about to descend. I had to wait to let them pass.

Have these people absolutely no capacity to be without each other by their side? Is there some coupling pathology of which I’m unaware?

So, what should I do?

Should I be horribly rude and shoulder-knock everyone who refuses to give way? (Not something I would relish.) Should I stop, stand my ground and make them pass around me? (Better, but I’d be stopping an awful lot, believe me.)

Have you ever seen how people quickly clear out of the way when encountering a blind person using a white cane? It's as if sighted people are terrified of white canes.

Hmmm. . . .

Seeing that I’m clearly being discriminated against and clearly disadvantaged as a person-with-singularity, I think the use of a white cane with which to clear my path is definitely justified. (I can get one here.)

I like that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Gay Agenda

We hear a lot of religious wingnuts banging on their high chairs over the “gay agenda” these days. Ever wonder what it’s really all about?


Meeting at the Goose

As you know, Miss Healthypants and I have been checking on our goose family, Gertrude and Stanley, every day now. The planter where she’s laid her eggs is on the river walk, very close to MHP’s apartment building and also to mine.

On Sunday, I made Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon and wanted to give most of it to MHP and Iwanski. After work yesterday, I was talking to her and arranging a time and place for the bourguignon "drop." I had just gotten off the train and, as usual, she was at a nearby Walgreen’s.

“Should I meet you on the bridge?” she said.

“I’ll meet you at the goose,” I replied.

How many other people can you say, “I’ll meet you at the goose,” and they know exactly what you mean?

I’m really fortunate to have a friend like that. Anyone would be.

Here is Miss Healthypants and Gertrude.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Channeling Julia Child

Today after church, I had a hankerin’ to do some serious putterin’ in the kitchen. Being that the church I sing in was Episcopalian, there was, naturally, a Whole Foods Market nearby. And being that Miss Healthypants and Iwanski gave me my very own Julia Child Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my birthday recently, I decided to do some serious Julia Child putterin’.

I knew what I’d need for her Boeuf Bourguignon. I didn’t need a grocery list for that. Here's her recipe.

I arrived home, donned my apron, said a prayer to St. Julia and got to work. Here’s how you do it.

For the beef, please, whatever you do, don’t buy “stew meat.” That stuff is usually beef round which is dry and tasteless. "Shoulder blade" is much better and it’s not expensive. Here are two, 2 lb blade roasts. ($3.99 a pound at Whole Foods)

If you have a really sharp fillet knife, it takes five minutes to cut them up and trim away any tough gristle. Besides, it’s kind of fun, even for a closeted vegetarian like me.

Fry six ounces of bacon until crispy. (That's six slices.) You’ll use the fat to brown the beef in. Reserve the crispy bacon.

Pat the meat dry. Julia says that it won’t brown unless it’s dry.

See? Brown meat. In bacon fat. What a great beginning.

Place the beef in an enameled Dutch oven and stir in 2 Tbs flour. Place the floured, brown beef in a 450 degree oven for 8 minutes to form a crust. Meanwhile, brown some carrots and onions in the bacon fat.

Top the beef with 3 cups of red wine. I much prefer a Côtes du Rhône. (It’s also pretty cool that Julia calls for 3 cups of wine. Being that a bottle of wine is 750 ml, that leaves a half glass of wine for the cook. Perfect.)

Also add in 2 cups of beef stock, 1 Tbs of tomato paste, ½ tsp thyme, the carrots, onions and the crispy bacon. Lower the oven to 325, cover and braise it for 2 ½ hours.

Meanwhile, saute a pound of mushrooms in butter. Don’t crowd the pan or they won’t brown.

See how nice they brown when you don’t crowd the pan?

Set aside.

Now, the pearl onions. A whole pound of them. The little boogers are a bitch to peel, but if you boil them in water for about 3 minutes, the peels slip off in the most cooperative way. (Julia doesn’t tell you that.) After you boil them, slice off the root end with a paring knife, squeeze the other end and, blurp, the little onion pops right out.

Saute the onions in butter, then add 2 cups of chicken stock and boil them down until syrupy. I’m not a fan of onions in any form, but, oh my God, these are delicious.

When the beef is done, Julia says to remove the beef from the sauce, strain the sauce and then return the beef. That seems like an awfully “French” thing to do so I didn’t do it when I made this recipe for the first time.

However, this time, I did. I was standing there looking at this delicious sauce, having completed this French technique, and I thought, “What would make this sauce even more 'French'?”

I whisked in a half stick of butter, a tablespoon at a time.

Bingo! That put it over the top.

Return the beef, fold in the onions and mushroom, and serve over noodles.

This is rich stuff, folks. A healthy, American-sized serving is just “too much.” A modest serving along, some simple tossed greens, crusty French bread and a glass of Côtes du Rhône -- and it’ll be more than evident how Julia became Julia.

Oh, and most of this is going to Miss Healthypants and Iwanski tomorrow.
I just wanted to cook.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Morning Scene - Spring

After several months of freezing, dreary, winter, windy, weather, we finally got a clement, clear day.
I still don't like warm, sunny weather (it's just so invasive and smelly)
But I have to admit that today's cool sunny stuff was sort of nice.
The view is from my balcony.
You can imagine what it looks like at night (which I prefer.)

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Anserine Update

The past week’s weather had presented nothing but cold, grey, wet, misty, days. Even last night on the 9th of April, I walked home from buying groceries through a moisty snowfall.

But this morning was such a dry, brisk and bracing day. It made me want to get out and take lots of happy snaps of our Chicago creatures, namely our dear Gertrude and Stanley. Here is a city-scape of where they live. It was such a sunny day; I couldn’t help but take a photo of it.

Miss Gertrude was striking a fine pose in this morning’s sunlight.

Stanley-the-Manly-Goose wasn’t around. I’ve learned not to ask questions.
I was able to take some very close face-shots of our dear Gertrude. Here is the proud mother.

And even in a questioning pose.

And here is our lovely subject in repose. . . The morning sunlight was really playing on her earth-toned feathers. I hope she realized that.

I'm afraid that in my relish to capture Miss Gertrude in her best image, I may have disturbed her a bit. There was a bit of hissing going on, but I was able to confirm the presence two goose eggs.
Let’s do wish our dear geese-friends the best toward their endeavors. I must admit that after having grown so close to our urban-anserine friends like this day after day, a roast goose at Christmas will always take on a more somber reflection and, I’m afraid, without the same relish.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

I Want This Cat

Even though it's kind of creepy, I would love to have a cat like this.


Goose Update

It was cold and windy today and I seriously considered blowing off the goose survey. I’m glad I didn’t.

Stanley was back, although, now he was standing very proudly right by Gertrude’s side. Maybe he’s in trouble for his night out at the sports bar and Gertrude has him on a tight leash. Maybe the baby gooses are hatching. Could it be?

No, he’s probably just wanting to eat the Cheetos that someone left for Gertrude.

Oh, and I’ve decided that the babies will be named Pippin and Pyrtle.

We’ll keep you updated.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Goose Update

Goose Update: Gertrude is fine, ever vigilant, but Stanley-the-Manly-Goose is nowhere to be seen. That’s the first time I’ve not seen him there. Miss Healthypants did report that there have been times when he's been away though.

I hope he’s okay and is only out searching for a meal for the both of them. Being a guy-goose, he’s probably out with his buddies in a sports bar somewhere. But if he has abandoned her, I hope she at least files for gosling-support.

Here is today’s photo update.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Effective Product Placement


Chicago's Anserine Family

Anserine: adj. Having to do with or related to a goose.

Over the weekend, Miss Healthypants and Iwanski discovered that a Canadian goose has taken up residence in the heart of the city and is raising a family.

I know! Most Chicagoans can’t even do that.

Anyway, the goose has made a nest in one of the planters along the river walk and has been sitting there, non-stop, incubating her eggs. Meanwhile, the proud papa-goose has never left her side and just swims back and forth keeping watch. (Deadbeat dads need to take notice and get their “goose” on.)

Miss Healthypants wrote about it here.

So, after a meeting yesterday, I was walking along Wacker Drive and thought, “I wonder where that goose is?” I looked down below and it turned out I was right by the goose! She must have been sending out goose-vibes or something. The coincidence gave me goose-bumps. (sorry)

It was really sweet how she was just sitting there, nurturing her eggs with the daddy-goose by her side. At one point, she raised up to rearrange her eggs and I could see two of them underneath.

I called MHP to tell her that I had found the goose and we decided to name them. So, we came up with Gertrude and Stanley. (Stanley, the manly goose.) The children will be Pippin and Dumplin’. If there's a third one, the name will be Aflac. (cute, huh?)

Even though it was raining this morning, I took a little detour on my way to work to check on Chicago’s anserine family. There they were, doing their goose thing.

I took the stairs down to the river walk and got right up close to Miss Gertrude. She let me take a couple of photos before administering a little hiss at me, as well she should.

I called MHP at work with the update.

I hope they do well, I really do. It would be a shame if some city workers came along to plant things in her planter, shooed her away and tossed the eggs in the river. We should start a Facebook page to protect this little family. Let’s wish them well.

We will keep you posted, to be sure.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

An Easter Reflection

Earlier this week, a co-worker of mine arrived at work and delivered some horrible news. She had heard on the morning news that there had been a major fire at our beloved restaurant, Lao Sze Chuan. My heart sank.

Of all the thousands of restaurants in Chicago, why did it have to be our favorite one?

I quickly sent out an email blast to my hoards of friends (six of them) who also love Lao. Soon, the reports came trickling in. The news didn’t look good. The fire had started in the kitchen at 5:30 that morning and even damaged the restaurant next door.

A couple of days ago, Jack and Steve and Karen went to eat at one of the sister restaurants, Lao Beijing. I’ve eaten there before and, while it’s also outstanding, it’s not our Lao Sze Chuan.

Jack told me that there was an elderly Chinese woman at the entrance of the boarded up Lao, directing everyone to Lao Beijing. It was as if she was an angel, keeping watch over the tomb until the rock was rolled away.

It turned out that Lao Sze Chuan’s menu is so loved by everyone, that Lao Beijing will be serving everything on it until the Resurrection occurs. Hopefully, it won’t be too long.

Tonight at church, we will observe the Easter Vigil which is a HUGE deal in the Catholic/Episcopalian church. After the forty days of Lent, after the altar being stripped on Thursday night, after the bleakness of Good Friday, we will light all the candles, the organ will peal once again, people will be confirmed and baptized and we’ll sing portions of Handel’s Messiah. The priest will get to consecrate bread and wine again and not just serve the “leftover Jesus” as they do on Good Friday. We’ll be gagging from the copious amounts of incense being used.

Do I believe that Christ really rose from the dead after three days? Frankly, I don’t know. (If I get to heaven, I’ll be sure to ask.)

For me, the fact that Christ-God suffered and died like the rest of us -- well, for me, that’s enough. The story could have ended right there and that would have gotten me hooked.

(Then again, Handel would never have written the Messiah and it’s a pretty thrilling thing to perform.)

Soon, Lao Sze Chuan will be open again. I also take comfort in that.

A risen Christ? I don‘t know. But I do know that the food at Lao Sze Chuan is here, it is incredible, it makes us exceedingly happy.
It is supernatural.

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