Monday, May 31, 2010

That's What I Need

I sing in a choir at the Episcopal cathedral in downtown Chicago. You may not know this, but the Episcopal church gets its name from the Greek "episkopos", meaning "bishop". That makes sense, because it seems in the Episcopal church, there are all varieties and levels of bishops; insignificant, little-bitty bishops, medium bishops, and Huge Important Bishops.

Yesterday at church, the Ultimate, Supreme, No-Ifs-Ands-Or-Buts Bishop was ordaining a new priest. You could tell that Really Important Stuff was going on because the bishop was wearing his pointy hat thing and carrying a very ornamental crosier in his left hand. (That's the curled, staff-like thing that they hold while doing Really Important Stuff.) Here's a photo of a bishop holding a crosier:

When the bishop would process to do something Really Important, like reading the gospel, consecrating the elements, or ordaining the new priest, he'd grab that crosier and carry it along.

I watched him from the choir loft, carrying out his regal duties, and I thought, "That's what I need. I need me a crosier. A crosier is what's missing in my day-to-day activities."

I need a crosier to carry when I walk to and from Whole Foods Market to shop for groceries, especially when making a Julia Child recipe. An acolyte to incense the path in front of me wouldn't be bad either. Julia deserves such respect.

Wouldn't it be cool to carry a crosier when you're walking in procession to the gate of your departing flight? I'd bet American Airlines would think twice before bumping me and my crosier from a scheduled flight.

Carrying a crosier at work would give my job a little more panache. I could use it when I walk down the hall to make photocopies. Maybe if I had a crosier to carry when I went to the gym, I'd go more often.

But where does one obtain a crosier?
Is there a place like "Crosiers R Us"? Maybe there should be.

Next time the Big Bishop is there doing his bishoppy things, I'll ask him where I can pick one up.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Balcony of Extra Terror

My apartment building is getting a little face lift -- just having the outside of it cleaned and repaired. Anyway, I got off work early and the workers were right outside by 50th floor balcony on their suspended scaffolding. Cool! They posed for photos. This photo is really for JP who, for a long time, has referred to my balcony as the Balcony of Terror.

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Fun at Whole Foods

Last night, Miss Healthypants and I went on our usual dinner-and-grocery-shopping-at-Trader-Joe’s evening. That may not sound like the most exciting thing, but we really have fun grocery shopping together. Hilarity usually ensues.

Last night was no different. I needed some fish bones-and-heads in order to make fish stock for a Julia Child recipe I’m trying out. There was a Whole Foods Market nearby and I figured that the fish guy would be able to give me all the fish remains I needed. (He did.) I also needed some mussels for this recipe so I got those too. The fish guy was nice enough to put them on ice and pack it in a big plastic bag for me.

There’s lots of really cool food items to marvel at there at Whole Foods. Miss Healthypants, being from Wisconsin, was particularly enamored with the cheese section. Then we found this display case of Himalayan salt plates which were really expensive.

Various natural soaps had to be sniffed. I explained how to make your own kefir for much cheaper than WFM was charging. We spent quite a bit of time there.

Finally MHP asked if it was time to go. I said, “We’re fine, but don’t forget, I have mussels on ice. Oh my god, that sounds like a gay hockey team!!”

We continued to shop with hilarity. Soooo much fun.

Here are the mussels on ice that caused such a ruckus.

And the lovely fish frame that I was so happy to get.

I seriously doubt that many people have as much fun as we do at the grocery store.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Falling in Love

Oh, the joys of having really good tools to work with! Enough cannot be said about this.

Recently, I was preparing a Julia meal for eight at my friends’ house and they had just bought a Global 8-inch chef’s knife. “Here, see what you think of this knife,” said my friend, Steve. I picked it up, sliced an onion in half and fell in love. It sliced through chicken thighs like they were soft butter. While preparing the meal, I found myself giddy every time I got to use it.

Later, they surprised me with a generous gift card to the shop that sells Global knives – this was for doggy-sitting for a few days.

Yesterday, I finally went to the shop with the gift card for I wanted to buy a medium-sized saucepan and a stainless steel sauté pan. I had a good chef’s knife; good, not great. Fortunately, the store didn’t have the pans I was looking for but there were the Global knives in the glass case. I picked up the 8-inch chef’s knife and got that giddy feeling again. I had to have it.

After I got home with my new baby, I looked up reviews of the Global G-2 chef’s knife. I figured that good-old Wusthof and Henkel knives would still be the ones to acquire, but I was wrong.

My new Global G-2 from Japan has rocked the knife world. Take a look at this comprehensive review. It was at the top of the rankings in every category.

Sure, you’ll spend some money for it (about a hundred bucks), but I’ll fall in love and get giddy every time I use it.

You can’t put a price tag on that.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Morning Scene - Dinosaur Encounter

This morning, I was walking to work and, as usual, pretty oblivious to my surroundings. Then, all of a sudden . . . holy crap! . . . . a dinosaur raised up! -- right in front of me, maybe four or five feet away. It really startled me! It was a person in a very lifelike tyrannosaurus rex costume, probably advertising the Field Museum of Natural History.

I shouldn’t have been frightened of a T-Rex. Scientists have determined that they were scavengers, not predators – much to the dismay of 9-year-old boys everywhere.

I had my camera and U-Tubed it for you. Pretty lifelike, huh?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Don't Ask . . .

There's a lot of talk about the military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" being repealed. Many of the right-wing nuts are saying that allowing gays in the military will affect "troop readiness" or something like that.

What I find really sickening is that they think that one man loving another will somehow impinge on another man’s ability to kill one.

Something's gone terribly wrong. . . .


Monday, May 24, 2010

I Love My Kitchen

When you have a teeny tiny kitchen like I do, workable space is at a premium. My kitchen measures 10' x 6', the wraparound counter tops take up 2 feet of that space, so the floor space of my kitchen is actually only 8' x 4'.

When working in such a limited space, one must become pretty clever at creating the most efficient use out of what you've got. Fortunately, I was able to use a brilliant idea from Julia Child.

She liked to have things incredibly organized and handy, so her husband, Paul, installed pegboard on one wall of her kitchen where she could hang pots, pans, and utensils.

Here is her impressive wall of culinary armory.

I took a look at my kitchen and noticed that I had an unused wall where I could do the pegboard thing, too. After shopping around online, I found panels of galvanized steel pegboard in various colors. My kitchen is basically yellow and blue so, naturally, I went with red pegboard.

Being that my kitchen wall is made of concrete, I had to make a trip to the "man store" (Ace Hardware) for a quarter-inch drill bit -- And borrow a drill from a friend. But after some careful measuring, I was able to successfully mount the unused wall with pegboard.

Yes, the color scheme may look a little bit like a daycare center but, after all, it's my kitchen and I like primary colors.

Cabinets were cleared out of pots and pans and I even treated myself to some new stainless steel utensils. I can't begin to tell you how good it feels to walk into my little kitchen and have all my babies surrounding me like this; all visible, within reach and ready to leap into action.

Tall people will also appreciate this layout. Julia stood six-foot-two and I nudge the underbelly of six-foot-three. No more stooping down, crouching in cabinets for that elusive sauté pan!

So, again, thanks to Julia. Not only for her work as a cookbook author, but for ideas that make my kitchen a happier place to be.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Morning Scene - Canyons and Caverns

I stood right in the middle of Wabash Avenue to get this photo but I really wanted to get it when I saw this scene. Tall buildings create a canyon with walls reaching up into the fog juxtaposed with Wabash Avenue creating a dark cavern under the EL - - that is Chicago.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Unhappy Ending

My case of plantar fasciitis is flaring up again. My foot hurts real bad.

A friend of mine who’s a medical professional recently told me that she experienced a lot of relief after having one of those really intense Chinese foot massages. That sounded appealing to me. I’ve found myself rubbing my foot and thinking that a really tough foot massage would rub the fasciitis right outta my plantar.

So, last night I googled “Chinese foot massage Chicago” and up popped lots of results.

Hey, neat!

Most of the establishments had customer reviews, too. Here was one nearby with a good review.
“Clean surroundings”. . .
good. . .
“very professional staff” . . .that’s nice . . .
“be sure to request the happy ending” . . .hey,

No! I don’t want ‘happy ending’! Eeew.

Let’s see. . .oh, here’s another one with a good review. . . .

“The massage therapist really knew what she was doing” . . .
oh, that sounds good. . . .
"very reasonably priced" . . .
okay, that's good, too. . .
. . . “the happy ending cost just a little extra”


The google kept hurling happy endings at me, right and left. It was horrible.

I just want my foot massaged. Just one of them. I don’t want anyone even remotely near my happy ending.

I don’t even like movies with happy endings. Boy-meets-girl. There’s a conflict. It gets resolved and they ride off into the sunset. Boo! I want to hear about a real love story: Boy-meets-girl. They move in together too soon. It ends in a protective-and-child-support order.
That’s a movie. No happy ending!

Isn’t there a way to google something and have it not show anything with a specified search-term? Like, “Chinese foot massage [-happy ending] Chicago”.

I would try that, but I’m on my lunch hour at work. It probably wouldn’t be conducive to my career advancement to be entering “happy ending” as a search term in any form on my work computer.

Is there such thing as a foot massage with an unhappy ending?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Calm Down!

Every day, I pass by a CVS Pharmacy going to and from work. And twice a day, I notice their advertisement in the window depicting a woman rapt in ecstasy over how wonderful and fantastic CVS Pharmacy is.

It’s as if she’s saying,
Yesss!! CVS Pharmacy is so incredible, I can’t STAND it!!”

I see this advertisement every day, twice a day, and it bugs me.

When I see it, I think to myself, “Calm down, lady. It’s just CVS Pharmacy.”


If she’s this ecstatic over a CVS, I’d hate to see what would happen if she ever went to a Walgreen’s.

She’d probably explode.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Play Something Different!"

If you’ve ever spent any time in subway stations, be it in New York, Boston, or Chicago, you’ve no doubt seen musicians of various sorts down there. Some are impressive, others, not so much. They always have a means of donating money; an open guitar case, a cup, a baseball cap.

Anyway, I’m sure all Chicagoans are familiar with this one woman who plays the guitar, the violin, whistles a melody – all at the same time. Oh and she also has tap shoes and a tambourine. She was down there a couple of days ago and I snapped a photo of her for you to see.

She’s been there for years, usually in the Lake Street station. I’ve lived in Chicago nine years and she’s been there all this time. Like I said, she plays a 12-string guitar, a violin, and whistles and taps all at the same time. Pretty impressive, right? Tourists certainly think so. She usually has a crowd of them standing around and I imagine she rakes in quite a bit of cash from them.

But I’ve heard her performance year after year, and I’ve noticed some things about it that really make it not so impressive.

Whenever she does play the guitar and violin at the same time, she plays the same song. She only knows one song.

She’ll do some picking on the guitar, a melody in the key of A minor. Whenever she plays the guitar and the violin at the same time, she really doesn’t. She whistles a melody, accompanied by the guitar and it only has two chords in it, A minor and E major. (I don’t even play guitar and I can play those.) Then, in between chord-changes, she screeches the bow across the violin on the open E string. (An E is in both the A minor and E major chords, so it sounds like she’s accompanying herself.)

Her whistling consists of this haunting melody but there’s this one high note that is always way out of tune. For nine years, that out-of-tune high note has bugged me.

Her tap dancing only consists of a simple triplet pattern during a four-measure break in the song.

So here’s how it goes. She’s whistling her melody with the out-of-tune high note with the following accompaniment:

Strum, strum-strum, strum strum (that’s the guitar)
eeee! eeee! (the E-string on the violin)

Strum, strum-strum, strum strum
eeee! eeee!
Strum, strum-strum, strum strum
eeee! eeee!
Strum, strum-strum, strum strum

Tappety, tappety, tappety, tappety
Tappety, tappety, tappety, tappety, tap.

Guitar interlude . . .

Strum, strum-strum, strum strum
eeee! eeee!
Strum, strum-strum, strum strum
eeee! eeee!
Strum, strum-strum, strum strum

I’m sure if anyone from Chicago is reading this, they can attest to the above description of the one song she plays.

The fact that Chicagoans have heard this song, over and over, for years was made very evident one time. I was down there and she was playing away, impressing the tourists. All of a sudden, some guy yelled out, “Play something different!!!” It really echoed very loudly in the crowded subway station.

Sigh. . . .

Okay, that guy was me.


Oh my gosh! I found a clip of her on the U-Tubes. It contains a lot of interviews with her and stuff, but you can hear exactly what I was describing above at the 9:00 minute mark. You'll see what I mean about the out-of-tune whistling. (I'm know. I'm a snurd.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Geometry Quiz

Pythagoras is rolling in his grave.

Friday, May 14, 2010


You know how at a conference, some vendors hand out lame things advertizing their company? There's the ubiquitous keychains and pens.

Here's a pen I got. Yawn. . .

But wait!
It's not just a pen.
It's also a flash drive!

How utterly cool is that?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Channeling Julia Child

I just launched my new blog!

It's a wonderfully creative and original blog (or rather, it will be once I write something) about cooking recipes from Julia Child's, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It's called "Channeling Julia Child."

Original. Now that's a laugh, but I don't care.

I thought about naming it something like "The Jonathan/Julia Project" but I didn't want to be a copycat.

You can read my new blog here.

Thank you.


Driving in Chicago

I recently saw a list of The Ten Most Difficult Cities to drive in and Chicago was on the list.

I will readily concur with that.

Besides being the third largest city in the country, there are three things that make Chicago challenging to drive in:

1) The EL
2) The Chicago River
3) Bullets flying through the air.

Okay, I made the last one up.

First of all, the EL: A driver must be able to NOT crash into the EL supports which are huge, steel beams embedded in the middle of the busiest streets. Merging from one lane to another is difficult enough in downtown traffic. But Chicagoans have to contend with giant I-beams sticking out of the street, none of which have any markers. They’re just there. Thousands of them.

Next, the Chicago River winds its way through downtown and has 25 drawbridges crossing it.

These drawbridges have to be a certain height above the water, thus causing the need for a tangle of double-decked streets on either side.

Double-decked streets are confusing enough, but actually, there are numerous triple-decked streets to negotiate as well. The top level will cross the river over a drawbridge, the lower level is for through-traffic on either side and the lowest level is for delivery access to basements of the big buildings.

For example, here is a triple-level intersection of Stetson Avenue, Lower Stetson Avenue, South Water Street and East South Water Street. (South Water Street runs east and west – got that?)

With the maze of lower-level streets, it’s really difficult to tell where you are since you’re unable to see any buildings as reference points. GPS devices and cell phones don’t work on the lower levels, so you really have to know where you're going. One wrong turn, and you’ll be down there for hours, eventually ending up in the basement of the Sears Tower.

Here’s a handy, utterly confusing map of triple-level streets for you.

Then, when you do finally make your way up to the upper level, BAM!
You’ve crashed into an EL support.

So, here’s some advice if you’re ever traveling to Chicago:

Use the EL.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Morning Scene - Trump Tower


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Julia Blog

I am toying with the idea of creating a separate blog just for my Julia Child forays. I fully realize that that’s been done already by that Julie person who got her blog published and made into a movie – a blogger’s dream, really. Congrats to her.

IF I did do a Julia blog, mine would be different.

First of all, I’m a boy, so there’s that.

Next, I’m not cute and perky like Amy Adams.

My Julia blog wouldn’t be peppered with references to a spouse, a cat or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I want none of those things in my apartment.

If I screw up a recipe, (which I have), I’ll simply figure out what I did wrong, acknowledge that Julia Child is, indeed, a supreme deity, and fix it.

Case in point. Coq au Vin with mistakes and shortcuts:

Coq au Vin, second attempt, after following Julia’s Inerrant Word:

If I do create a Julia blog, I seriously doubt that I’ll prepare any recipes with liver, kidneys or brains. I’ve tried liver, kidneys and brains and I don’t like them. They make me gag and I doubt even Julia could make them appealing enough for me to enjoy.

When I was a kid, my grandmother used to make a tomato aspic that contained scallions, peas and celery. To me, it was like eating a giant, cold, blood clot. With peas. So, the aspic section will probably be skipped as well.

I’m pretty adept at boning chickens and turkeys, so I doubt that the boning of a duck will intimidate me as was portrayed in the Julie movie.

Sure, I would hope that lots of readers would enjoy my Julia blog, as I really would try to make it as entertaining as possible. A book and a movie deal would be nice, too. Jeff Daniels can play me. (See? Not cute and perky.)

I may have mentioned this before, but back in my thirties, I was a real live monk in a real live monastery. Although monastic life was extremely monotonous, there’s a part of me that misses it; I was surrounded by beauty and holiness and something bigger than myself.

Holiness, beauty, something supernatural:
Julia’s work could bring all that back.

What have I got to lose?

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Coq au Vin - Reprised

Today after church, I got bored. Being that it was Sunday, I reached over for the Good Book to meditate upon it. (i.e. Mastering the Art of French Cooking.)

I was re-reading the recipe for Julia's Coq au Vin and realized that I had left out a couple of steps when I made it previously. She calls for boiling the bacon, rendering out the fat and then frying it in butter. I had simply fried it like we would for breakfast. She had also called for a half tablespoon of tomato paste and I forgot to put that in.
Dang it! 

I was bored. I missed doing the Julia thing. So I made another batch of Coq au Vin. This time, I followed her instructions explicitly; even boiling the bacon, rinsing it under cold water and frying it in butter. (Sigh - - I'll even admit that in my last attempt, I didn't saute the mushrooms in butter properly. I just moved them around in the pan, not letting them brown.) I was a bad, evil person, thinking I could tamper with the literal meaning, the intended interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

This time, I took my time.

I got to flambé the Cognac again. That's always fun.

Another thing I noticed is that Julia wrote that Coq au Vin could be made with any wine: red, white, even Riesling. Normally it is made with red, but I got to thinking that the bitter taste may have come from using all that red wine.

It was just as well. I didn't have the requisite 3 cups of red on hand, but I did have two of the red and a cup of the leftover Sauvignon Blanc from the fricassee.
Bingo! That worked.

Can you believe this turned out even better than the last time? It just goes to show you that Julia Child has done her homework. No matter how good of a cook you think you are, follow her inerrant word.

I think this is the best thing of hers I've made thus far. 

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Coq au Vin

After last week’s big Julia Child meal, I thought I might feel the need to take some time off. After all, that was a pretty heavy-duty Julia encounter. But would I want to quit the Julia endeavor?

I did not! By Wednesday, I was really anxious to see what Julia had in store for me.
Turns out, it was her famous Coq au Vin. (Rooster cooked in wine sauce)

Mind you, I’ve done the Coq au Vin thing before. Bacon, wine, chicken. Been there, done that. It often ends up tasting bitter and the sauce, limp.  Not a fun game.

So, let’s start over with Julia’s Coq.
Trust me, when you taste it, you will go

“Oh .  .  . My .  .  .  . 


I’m sorry, but you will take the name of the Lord in vain. It’s a given.

Here’s how you do it:

Read the recipe thoroughly. Reverence it.

Remember my pet peeve about bay leaves? One bay leaf does not add any flavor whatsoever. Buzz two handfulls of bay leaves in your coffee grinder. You will suddenly realize what bay leaves smell like! Use a quarter teaspoon in this recipe.

Stir 2 Tbs of flour into 3 TBS butter and set aside.  (Butter & flour = easy as pie.)

It calls for six ounces of bacon.  A packet comes to 16 oz, one pound. Each slice equals one once (My God, when will we ever switch to Metric???) Really, just divide the packet into three portions.  Freeze two.

Fry the bacon. Meanwhile, boil the pearl onions so you can de-oinion them.

Saute the chicken in the bacon fat. (Julia’s recipe calls for a 3-lb chicken cut up. Yes, this tastes wonderful, but I really don’t like dealing with chicken skin, bones, and gristle. Opt for 2 lbs of boneless, skinless, chicken thighs instead.) Although this recipe was originally developed to use an old rooster past his prime, it's not like likely any of use live in a French farmhouse. Use store-bought chicken.

Saute the onions in butter, then cook them down with chicken stock until syrupy.
Saute the mushrooms in butter.

After the chicken has been fried in bacon fat, flame that sucker with ½ cup of cognac. Don’t be afraid! Flames are fun. Flames make food taste good!

After you have spoken with the building's automatic alarm people assuring them you're not on fire, add the onions to the chicken.
Then the mushrooms.

Then the wine

Bring to a boil and stir some of it into the butter-flour slurry. (This is so that it won't go lumpy when added to the rest)

Add the butter-flour slurry to the simmering chicken. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Serve over white rice or noodles. Be prepared to exclaim totally inappropriate things when you taste this at the dinner table.
It's that good.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Solution

I’ll readily admit that I don’t watch a lot of sports, especially the competitive ones. Frankly, I fail to see the intrinsic value of winning a game. So, you got the ball across the goal line more than the other team.


That contributed to the betterment of society. . . . How?

It was a good thing to do . . . . because?

I have seen portions of a few games, though. So, from someone who really has no vested interest in competitive sports, here are some solutions to these games that I think could be worthwhile.

Soccer: The field is much too big. It’s bigger than a football field. There just seems to be a lot of running around with few goals being made. Final scores are usually something like this:

Paraguay: 2
Uruguay: 1

Goals occur about as frequenly as a solar eclipse. When they do happen to take place, the entire nation of Brazil breaks out into riots for a month. And they weren't even playing.

Basketball: The court is way too small. These guys are seven feet tall and it takes them, maybe, three running lopes to go from one end to the other. Scores are way too high and are usually something like this:

San Antonio Stirrups: 104
Dallas Cowbucks: 102

Why not switch playing surfaces between soccer and basketball? Then, these giant basketball guys would really have to work at getting the ball in the hoop. And while we’re at it, raise the hoop to 20, maybe 25 feet high. No more of these giant guys hanging and swinging from the hoop like a psychotic chimpanzee. (We’d also have to see less of their hyper-masculine posturing after making a goal.) And while we’re at it, get rid of those baggy, floppy shorts and return to the tight short-shorts they used to wear. We’re here to be entertained, after all.

Hockey: The puck flies about at the speed of light. It’s also so little -- I can’t follow it at all. All of a sudden, the crowd cheers and there’s the elusive puck in the net-thing behind the goalie. Solution: Have you ever seen the Canadian sport of curling? Those “rocks” are like 40-pound pucks. Have the hockey players use those instead. After maneuvering one of those around with a hockey stick, they might be less inclined to knock each others teeth out. More of us would be able to follow the game, too.

Baseball: The pitcher throws the ball at something like 98 miles an hour. The batter hits it across Lake Michigan, or worse, line-drives another player, rendering him unconscious for the rest of the season. Solution: Have them use teddy bears instead of baseballs. It's the perfect solution. Bunting a teddy bear would also give the game enormous comedic potential. Children could then sleep with a teddy bear signed by Derek Jeter.

Football: It’s much too violent. You have 250-lb guys smashing into each other as hard as they can. In any other situation, such activity would be a felony. In basketball, if you even slap another guy’s wrist, the referee calls ‘interference’ and lets the other team throw the ball in the basket unhindered. Solution: Apply the same rules to football. If you bump into another guy, the other team gets to kick the ball through the goal while the opposing team has to sit quietly at the other end of the field.

While we’re at it, have them use a teddy bear instead of a football. Short shorts wouldn’t be a bad idea either. A lot more women would be right by their husbands on the couch every Monday night.

After all, we’re here to be entertained.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Holy Crap!

Sea-Monkeys cost $13.95 now. Can you believe this???

I remember filling out the form, folding it around a dollar bill and a quarter, and waiting three months to get my Sea-Monkeys. I was ten years old. Now they're $13.95?

I wonder what happened in our economy, in the supply-and-demand of Sea-Monkeys that would cause this undecapling in price? (an eleven-fold increase)

Is $13.95 equally as accessible to today's ten year-old as a dollar-twenty-five was to me in 1969?

Well, that was forty years ago, after all. But still. . . .

The mama Sea-Monkey still looks like Helen Crump from The Andy Griffith Show and the daddy Sea-Monkey still has his tail strategically placed. Some things never change.

But $13.95??

What a total rip-off.


The Wish List

Here are just a few things I wish for:

1. That teabaggers who oppose government-run healthcare would automatically be ineligible for Medicare. (More benefits for me.)

2. That the U.S. Mint would create a coin worth $1.01. Wouldn’t that be cool?

3. That there would be a reimbursement for unused lip balm. I can never recall actually using a whole one. Ever.

4. That iTunes had a “F**k Off!” button for updates. It seems I can never log on without them having a new version to download.

5. That there were recycling bins for unused and forgotten Awareness Bracelets.

Okay, that’s pretty much it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Morning Scene - Spring in Chicago

I bought a new camera this past weekend and it's really groovy.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Julia Meal

Julia Child still continues to amaze me. After preparing six recipes from her book for a dinner party yesterday, I cannot begin to comprehend the amount of work that went her opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Composing the recipes, testing, re-testing, perfecting them -- that amount of work boggles my mind.

Here’s a recap of last night’s meal.

First, I stopped by Best Buy and purchased a new camera on my way to Jack and Steve’s place who were hosting the dinner. Steve, ever the electronic guru, promptly programmed the camera for me. (I didn’t know they had internal dates and clocks -- imagine that.)

Our friend, Karen, brought some lovely Roquefort and Wisconsin Gruyere along with champagne for us to enjoy while everyone arrived. She also supplied some incredible wine pairings for the meal.

I got to their place at noon -- dinner was at 7:00 pm. Steve was a wonderful kitchen-angel, cleaning up behind me and keeping things organized. I would put down and balloon-whisk and within minutes, Steve had it washed, dried and returned to the balloon whisk-section of the appropriate drawer. The kitchen would have probably looked like a meteor crater had he not been there.

He also sets an incredible table. Thank god -- it's something I've seldom enjoyed. 

Since this was a Julia Child dinner and a French one at that, it seemed that I was constantly at the sink separating egg yolks.

Two dozen yolks were used in this meal.

Dear, sweet Portia was at her usual post by the kitchen door, ever ready for a treat.

First, Fonds d'Artichauts au Mayonnaise (Steamed artichokes with mayonnaise) 

Julia’s mayonnaise is made by hand, whisking oil into egg yolks, drop by drop at first. Then in her page-long instructions, part of which she instructs you to whisk at the rate of two strokes per second, she lets you know that “the crisis is over” and you can whisk in the oil a bit more rapidly. The stuff is amazing.

Here is a serving of the main meal:
Fricasée de Poulet a La’Ancienne  (Old Fashioned Chicken Fricassee) Chicken cooked in white wine and a cream-egg-yolk sauce.
Tomates á La Provençale (Baked tomatoes with fines herbs)
Asperges au Sauce Maltaise (Asparagus with orange-flavored Hollandaise)
Steve made Julia's Petit Choux au Fromage (Cheese Puffs) which were passed around.

The dessert was really a showcase.
Bavarois aux Fraises (Bavarian Cream with Strawberries)

It involved making an egg-yolk and cream custard, then whipped cream, then egg whites, then a strawberry puree, adding some gelatin to the puree, folding it all together and letting it set up in the fridge and serving it with the strawberry puree. Again, this was one of those recipes that showed off the main ingredient -- strawberries. It really was an incredible dessert.

I didn't take photos of the steps along the way for I really didn't want to mess something up. Custard can curdle in a second if the heat's too high. Mayonnaise has a crisis point while making it. And I'm really not adept at doing two things at once.

One principle of cooking that was reiterated is that you have to continually taste everything as you go along the way. This is crucial.

Case in point: As instructed, I had added some grated orange peel to the hollandaise, tasted it and said, "This tastes rancid!" The oranges I had been supplied with were the most beautiful, juicy, tasty oranges you would ever want, but it turned out that the peelings had absolutely no orange flavor at all; just a burning, acrid taste.

I started to dump the whole thing and make a plain hollandaise or maybe head in a Bearnaise direction. A few drops of lemon juice and a pinch of sugar straightened it out though. But that just goes to show you that you should taste everything as you go -- even grated orange peel.

Again, I have even more admiration for Julia Child. How she found the fortitude to test and perfect the hundreds of complicated recipes contained in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I'll never know. (And that was just the first of many cookbooks the woman created.)

When I see the work that went into this book and the drive it must have taken to produce it, I cannot help but wonder how she did it. As far as I'm concerned, something supernatural was behind it all. . . .


The next morning -- I awoke in time to get ready for choir rehersal. My stomach was a bit queasy from all the rich food. The plantar fasciitis was killing me from having stood so much. Leg muscles were sore from striking a continual egg-separating pose.
Pepto Bismol with a Valium chaser straightened everything out.

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