Monday, June 29, 2009

If you like pina frittata ...

This past week I, uh, can't remember anything that happened because my rowdy 23-year-old cousin came to town and wiped my entire brain clean. The next time she visits, I am going to have to train for it.

I also ran two running events in the course of a week, meaning I ran 18.4 miles in things that resulted in a T'shirt, and 0.0 miles when there wasn't a T'shirt involved. My athleticism clearly requires compensation.

In other news:

Pesto Potato Frittata: Holy crap did I break this. It turned into green baked eggs with chunks, burn, and regret in it. My most serious error was not using a nonstick skillet. Silly rookie. I didn't stand a chance.

I'm going to try this again, though, because all the flavors -- pesto, red peppers, eggs, onions, potatoes -- tasted good together and the idea seems excellent. The execution was piss poor.

The entire time, the song "If You Like Pina Frittata" was stuck in my melon. Anyway, this blogger posted the recipe. I love when that happens.

Thai Noodles: This one comes from Ruth Riechl's book "Garlic And Sapphires," and it is a simple comfort foodish meal of noodles, scallions, and egg with fish sauce, rice vinegar and sugar, served with red pepper flakes and sriracha sauce to taste. It was nice and mushy, like mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese. I opted out of adding pork and shrimp in favor of tofu sauteed in peanut oil, which means the food was 100 percent white, decorated with just drops of sriracha.

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but it would probably be better with meat. But the idea of manhandling shrimp for 20 minutes and then futzing around with pork seemed exhausting.

I also learned that I am not capable of using a wok. I ditched out for a regular pan mid-meal.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl: In the 1990s, Ruth Reichl was courted by, and eventually became the food critic for the New York Times -- albeit reluctantly. On her first tentative trip to the food capital of the world from her home in Los Angeles, she is recognized by her seatmate. There is seemingly a bounty on the potential critic's head from the NYC restaurateurs who live and die by the NYT's star-system. Not to mention, the boisterous recognizer wants to see what Reichl is going to do with the crappy airplane food that is...more In the 1990s, Ruth Reichl was courted by, and eventually became the food critic for the New York Times -- albeit reluctantly. On her first tentative trip to the food capital of the world from her home in Los Angeles, she is recognized by her seatmate. There is seemingly a bounty on the potential critic's head from the NYC restaurateurs who live and die by the NYT's star-system. Not to mention, the boisterous recognizer wants to see what Reichl is going to do with the crappy airplane food that is set in front of her.

"Garlic and Sapphires: The Life of a Critic in Disguise" is Reichl's story of trying to maintain anonymity in a place where her life story is required reading for restaurant employees.

Full review here.

Them (a.k.a. Ils) This French horror flick came with commands to watch it now, from Audra of Art To Choke On. She has revealed herself to be a person whose movie advice I can follow. This movie was absolutely terrifying. The premise is similar to "Funny Games," in which a couple in a big house is being terrorized. Much of it is just a person running from an unseen someone, through this house's mazes. My entire body felt like it have been doused in Ben Gay.

Will someone explain to me why foreign horror flicks are so much better than the shit put out here?

Also, this one can be streamed instantly on Netflix. Wee! Best invention ever.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Now introducing Bergen West ...

My cousin, Bergen West, made a surprise visit to Duluth last night. Seems she had a rental car and an itchy accelerator foot, so she and her best-friend-forever headed north.

"What kind of things are you into?" I asked when she called, looking for entertainment.
"Well, Jenny likes hippies," she said.
"Where are you now?" I asked.
"Pizza Luce," she said.
"You're off to a good start," I said.

From there, I sent her to The Twins Bar to see Prince Paul. Later, we all met up at Quinlan's.

Things Bergen West had crammed into her bra so she didn't have to carry a purse:

1. Two cell phones
2. Money
3. IDs

Bergen West -- whom someone kept calling "Perkins West" -- met every boy in the bar, but found it lacking in her target demographic. Facebook photos of my cousin reveal her as a fan of the motorboat, but I only saw her do it once last night.

"Can I tell you something," Bergen West would say, like she was going to reveal some amazing life truth. There were plenty of hugs and cries of "We're FAMILY!" We brought the show back to our house for records and burnt pizza. By then, Bergen West had taken to calling me "Christina" and Chuck was ""Chuck." "You know my name is really Christa, right?" I asked her. They left as the sun came up.

It was a good time. I'm still chuckling. I'm a lot older than all of my cousins, so this one-on-one time is very fun for me. Usually they were born, and then I saw them at holidays but at, say, 13, had nothing in common with a 3-year-old. Then I went to college, then I left Rochester. Now, as they move into their 20s, it's fun to see what they are like. Bergen West? She's a handful. The good kind.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Involuntary ouch bubbles ...

Last night I ripped myself off the couch, paused the Kardashians, and traded in my green sweatpants for a sports bra and ran my first 5K at midnight.

I was a late entry. After the half-marathon last Saturday, I wasn't sure how long it would take my limbs to stop tingling and actually function -- instead of dangling from my body like decorative, ornaments. Turns out it always takes two days to feel better. It seems funny that one day the word "Ouch" bubbles out of my face involuntarily every time I move. The next day I don't even notice that I'm walking up stairs.

This is an ideal run. I love midnight. It's so much better than those morning races -- a circus of anemic bags of bones lubing their nipples and trying not to accidentally slit their wrists on jutting hips. I don't trust morning people one bit. Especially not the kind who hop out of bed and onto a starting line. Its ... showoffy.

I had no idea what to expect, but knowing that Duluth gets drowsy after the 10 o'clock news, I figured I'd be one of 42ish runners and I mentally prepared myself to come in last place. I used to come in last place in the first cross country meet of the season every year. It was an alumni event, and I like to think I was doing the class of '67 grads a favor. Granted, they usually won, but you rewrite your history, and I'll rewrite mine.

So there were like 575 people at this thing. Young, old, walkers, sprinters, me, Blitz, Bubbles, and that good old fashioned smell I recognized from when I was athletic: Sweaty shoes. God bless it. REO Speedwagon playing over a sound system. A common fumbling with safety pins. That catty inner monologue that says: "Oh, Jesus. Please let me beat that woman dragging an oxygen tank."

Logistically, this is a pretty informal event. Consider 575 people packed onto what is relatively a thin strip of Lakewalk. It's hard to jostle into position. And it's dark, meaning you're one bum-stride from ACL surgery. The start is narrow and so is the end, so times are more of an estimation.

But damn if being cheered on by drunks hanging over the railing at The Rex and Baja Billy's isn't golden. Running throw pockets of beer breath. No sunburns or heat strokes.

I had no idea how I'd do. Let's just say I won't be getting any calls from Champion, asking me to be the spokes model for their sports bras. But I just wanted to make sure I finished in less than a half hour, which I did -- hauling my ass to the end in about 29. I was schooled by both Blitz and Bubbles, and I'm guessing about 350 other strangers. But it was totally fun. I've gotta start doing this stuff more often.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I don't want to wrinkle my pretty dress ...

Me: I'm thinking about getting pads to wear while I'm roller blading.
Chuck: That's a good idea. And you can just use the helmet you bought for biking.
Me: [Blinks and looks of confusion] Helmet? I'm not going to wear a helmet.
Chuck: Why not?
Me: I'm thinking like wrist guards and knee pads.
Chuck: Why don't you want to wear a helmet?

And here I'm stuck. There is nothing that I can say that won't sound like that old woman in those 80's PSAs for wearing seat belts. "But I don't want to wrinkle my pretty dress," she crowed. The next scene she's just a pale bag of bones, wires sprouting out of her like a human outlet strip. "Let me fix your dress for you, mom," her seat belt endorsing daughter says, ironically, smoothing the threads on the comatose body.

I have no idea why I don't want to wear a helmet, but it has something to do with a hot head and a cumbersome accessory. And besides, what if the other kids in the neighborhood make fun of me.

Me: It's not like I'm going to crack my head open rollerblading.
Chuck: Until you crack your head open.

I can skate. I've probably only wiped out twice in my life: once in college when I fancied myself a trick skater, and once last year when some little phucknuggets spread a branch out on the path and then waited to see what would happen. [I hunted those little rascals down and gave them mean looks.]

I can see wearing a helmet for biking. All that takes is imagining what it would feel like to get my head run over by a city bus. But I skate on trails. No buses, no hills, no walls, no anvils falling from the sky. ... No helmet.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Meant for some other lucky lady ...

I got a misdirected text from one of my friends today. Is there anything weirder than watching someone's smooth moves? Portions have been blurred to protect the innocent (my last name) and the complete opposite of innocent (cough, rhymes with Snot Crod, cough-cough).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cat-atonic ...

It had never occurred to me to buy Toonses his own bed. He seemed so comfortable in makeshift sleeping spaces: On top of Chuck's backpack, in forts made of jackets that had fallen from the coat rack, atop the piles of New Yorkers and bank statements on the dining room table.

Recently, date night found us buying a vacuum cleaner, and Chuck upped the ante on domesticity. "We should get Toonses a bed," he said.

Pshaw. He'd never use a bed. He hasn't had a bed in 11 years, and look how well he's turned out. Damn cat is like a drunk, making do with his resources. Scrawling out across the floor in a 2-foot-long tomcat-colored boa, using a single high-heeled shoe as a pillow.

Cat beds are for cats, not for the fur-faced monster we are growing. So we got him something suitable for a German Sheppard.

It took him a few days, but now he never leaves his little bed. He stands in it, yelping orders like it's his throne. He sacks out in it for days at a time, opening a blurry eye just long enough to mime the equivalent of: "Get your effing camera out of my face."

I think the bed gave him mono.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pretend I'm her. Amanda ...

This past week was wickedly busy, and I saw four people I'd not seen in, like, forever. I barely made an iota of food, and read less-than half of a book, and then I ran, well, ran-ish a half-marathon and now I have as much control over my own sore limbs as a marionette. Thankfully, it only hurts when I move.

This week will be quiet with meals taken at home, words typed on a screen and books eaten with Tobasco sauce.

In other news:


Zucchini-Tomato Gratin from Vegetarian Times: This was a good mix of tomatoes, zucchini, kalamata olives, basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, that tastes summery and fresh, like everything that touches Basil. It seemed super labor intensive, but that's only because I didn't buy pitted olives, so I had to strip down a bunch. Mine was soupy, operator error I'm sure. I may not have sweated my veggies well enough. I also tripled the garlic, which is my standard MO for any recipe. But it was fan-frickin'-tastic. Anyway, this blogger posted the recipe. Thanks, stranger!

Saul and Patsyby Charles Baxter: Saul and Patsy are in love. (Maybe too much so, according to Saul’s mother, who thinks it’s show-offy to be so in love and that it makes other people uncomfortable). They live in a small town in Michigan, off a dirt road, where they have moved from the east coast because of Saul’s whim to be a teacher.

Another charming novel by Charles Baxter. Sigh.
Full review here.

He's Just Not That Into You: The greatest thing about this movie: With the iPhone 3.0 upgrade, I was able to rent it from iTunes and watch it on my phone, in bed. This brings to mind the image of a 12-year-old boy listening to the Twins on a transistor radio. I bet that within 10 years, doing this will be sort of quaint and archaic. But, today, in 2009, it's a delicious way to watch a film that I would never subject Chuck to.

As for the actual movie: Zoiks. Awkward. It does nothing to further the idea that men and women are actually likable. I did like the clip from "Some Kind of Wonderful," which has long-been one of my favorites. And the blip featured is my favorite part.

Moonlight - The Complete Series This is the Silk Stalkings of vampire TV. The totally hokey story of a vampire private investigator, who solves cases with his keen sense of smell, but doesn't have any of those pesky vampire-ish ticks. For instance, he's only slightly irritated by sunlight. Meanwhile, he has an interest in a young Internet reporter, whom he saved from his vampire wife 20 years earlier. He also doesn't have any of those humanoid ticks, which would make it icky to fall for someone he knew when she was 4-years-old.

The best worst moments are when he takes a strong whiff of air, similar to the way Dennis Hopper huffs gas in the David Lynch film "Blue Velvet."

This show is so awful that I'll totally watch it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

DNF ...

I knew the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon was going to be brutal when I went outside this morning at 4:30 a.m. and the air was thick and swampy, like a headlock in the wrong person's armpit.

In the days preceding the run, I realized a) that a person could die doing this; b) that I hadn't even considered not running this year, for the first time in like ever, and that I could always pull a DNF [Did Not Finish] if I wanted to. It's not like I have something to prove. I'm not going to be spotted by a sideline talent scout who says, "You know, she lopes a little, but I see something we can work with in her form."

At mile 4, I decided to drop out. This was stupid. I hadn't yet eased into anything that even resembled a groove. I'd been tired at Mile 2, and every step from then on was like Quasimoto slow dancing.

"I'm done," I said to my friend Lil Latrell, in from Kansas for the race.
We exchange well-wishes, and I hobbled off to the shoulder of the road.

When you are suffering during something like this, you look around and all you see running past you, are: the old, the overweight, the dyslexic, the girl you refer to as "The Clomper" from the YMCA, and the amputees. It's like a circus side-show filled with people who are better runners, regardless of that gaping boil, oozing wound or legal blindness.

The problem with quitting at Mile 4 is that there is nowhere to go. I could drag myself into a medical drop off, but it's not like I was having an asthma attack or sun stroke. I mean, I had my period, but that's only a viable illness to an elementary school nurse. I was simply stricken with "Hot damn it's hot, and I did not prepare well for this event." It's hard to get sympathy or ointment for that. And Mile 4 is still on the outskirts of town, meaning I'd still have to cover 3ish miles to get to civilization.

So I started running again. And walking. And running. And stopping at every water stop, and running through every sprinkler, and cursing every asshole with a cowbell. I took a shot of Ultima, the official drink of the marathon, and it tasted like Vodka.

At about 5 1/2 miles I saw Latrell in the distance and caught up to her.
"Psyche," I said, running up next to her.
She was having hip pains and a case of the damn-its-hots, too. So we stuck together, running a mile, walking .25ish, running again. And soon enough we were at the halfway point, and then we were downtown, and then we were just three miles from the finish.

It seemed my DNF was not going to take.

We saw Latrell's family on the sidelines, Moccasins, and Chuck was at the Luce corner. We managed to be running for each of these sightings. HaHa, suckers. Tricked you.

Then the wheelchair racers started rolling past.
"Well, sure," I said to Latrell. "They don't even have to run."

On the homestretch, I looked at my friend and said "Let's pass some of these people." We cranked it up and left tens of people in our dust, and crossed at the exact same time. By then, I thought the whole thing was uproariously fun, and my nose started to do the cry-tingle.

"That was fun!" I said, exhilerated. Truly believing that.
Latrell glared at me.
Our time was like 2:31ish. Way slower than last year.

Then we were herded toward the free food. Jenny O turkey sandwiches. So damn good, despite it's blatant lack of liquid. Potato chips, water, raisins. A strawberry. And the greatest food of all time, Cotton Candy Dip n Dots. I had no idea. Turns out I like those a lot.

I almost fainted waiting for my bag of clothes.
Then we had to walk 5000 miles back to the car.
Then I took a long, long, nap, embedding the pillow with my stinky face.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

So then that happened at Subway ...

I was having a regular old 6-inch ham and turkey with cheddar on Italian herb and cheese day. I snagged a strategic table (as close to the back of Subway as possible), even taking the direction I would be facing into consideration (the least amount of customers within my sight line).

I opened my sandwich, opened my book, began eating, and took a bite.

Less than two nibbles and a page later, I was assaulted by the most awful of fouls. An elderly man, pushing a walker, lowered himself into the seat across from me. At my square of a two-square table. I had to fold the edges of my sandwich wrapper to make room for him AND his 6-inch meatball sub or whatever.

In a world filled with obsessive compulsions, I have one debilitating neurotic tic and it is exclusive to Subway: I cannot look at someone who is eating a sub. I don't care who you are, at some point your mouth is going to fall open and I'm going to see your rolling tongue coated in mayonnaise.

You're going to laugh and I'm going to see a black olive clinging to a molar.

A sliver of spinach wedged between your teeth.

You're going to lick that stream of sweet onion sauce off your arm.

And without fail, there will be shredded lettuce somewhere on your face. Most likely the corner of your mouth, but there is also the potential for it to creep into your bangs.

But mostly it's the mayonnaise, which is coated on every sandwich as though it has a 45 SPF.

From the second I round the corner near the sandwich shop, I have to lower my head and avoid eye contact with anyone in the windows. I have to find a seating arrangement where I am least-likely to stare off into space and accidentally land on someone eating a foot-long Tuna Fish sub and laughing. LAUGHING! Lettuce spraying like confetti, tomato chunks with the velocity of paintball bullets.

(I just gagged).

I don't have this problem at any other restaurants. (Although, I can't even walk through a food court let alone eat in one).

So, the old man ate. I knew if I didn't keep things tight, I'd have front row seats for a marinara blood bath. I played lalalalala in my head so I wouldn't hear his saliva softening the food, and kept my eyes pressed to my book, chin on my chest. When he had finally balled up his wrappers, I agreed to a little conversation:

Him: You just keep studying. Studying is good for you. Course I haven't been in school for forty years. Stay in school.
Me: I'm just reading. I've been out of school for a long time.
Him: Every day I get up and study one thing.
Me: [quizzical head tilt]
Him: Scriptures.

Even if I'm just walking past Subway with no plans for dining, the wrong gaze can put me off their food -- cheap, Jared approved, convenient -- for six months. Those images are powerful. And they linger. In fact, I just broke Subway right now by thinking about it.

Confessions at 1:23 AM ...

A few months ago I bought this notebook and a 3-pack of these really great mechanical pencils. I was going to start writing a novel, maybe short stories, by hand. On college ruled paper. In cursive.

I thought this would make a really good story when I was doing readings in Athens, Ohio, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Plainview, Minn.

"So, I wrote it out long hand," I'd say, a little bit shyly. People would gasp. Then I'd make up some bullshit about the organic nature of writing without the distraction of a cursor and Facebook and my Google reader. But really, it would just be so that I'd have that story.

It's so interesting when a blogger publishes a book, and then all of a sudden their site becomes a list of cities and lost luggage and what they drank with who and where. They're all: "No time to blog. I have a reading in 15 minutes at Barnes & Noble in Richmond and my hair looks like shit and this shirt makes me look fat. More later! With photos!"

Yeah, I haven't been writing in that notebook. But I might start writing those posts regardless.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Road kill art for everyone! ...

This past week I made a conscious effort to read less. I was starting to feel like my head was crammed with too many words. I was chain-reading, lighting a new book off the butt of an old. I'm not sure what I did with my free time. Some of it was spent playing mahjong solitaire. (This week I'm going back to books).

Our downstairs neighbors seem to have moved out, taking their yippy dog and tickle fights with them. Now, sadly, there is nothing to complain about.

My friend BriGuy is in town for a few days. He moved in one of those early-2000 years that all blur together and smell like Busch Lite and Hamburger Helper. He will always have a place in my heart for introducing me to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We made him go to the Pio, which of course is no longer called The Pio. He said it was like a homely girl next door that grew up to be a model -- but you weren't sure that was a good thing.

I went to my friend Blitz's house on Sunday for an open house, and saw these antlers hanging in his tree. Long story short: He actually took a hacksaw to road kill. I can't think of a single thing in the world that he could do that would be more out of character. I'm going to make him divulge each and every gory detail during our 2-plus hour run on Saturday, which I will again be pretending is a parade since I stopped training in about March.

In other news from the past week:


Spicy Potato and Kale Soup: I prefer to call this "meat soup" because the best part is finding a mini medallion of spicy Italian chik'n floating in a sea of kale and hidden under a potato rock. I think I can change the name, because I mixed it up a bit and used a different kind of potato and didn't peel it and used more kale and more meat than it called for.

This was so good. I never eat broth soups. I felt I was on vacation in a prison.

Saag Tofu: This one made me a little nervy. In the final stages, when you mix a spice-doctored nonfat yogurt with the spinach and tofu there is an overwhelmingly yogurty smell. But the mustard seeds wage a war against it, and the result is a nice fake-Indian dish. I liked it.

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett: I took enough creative writing classes in college to know exactly who Jincy Willett is talking about when she introduces Tiffany, the student who combs every piece of writing for evidence that women are being portrayed in a way that is demeaning. I also recognized the doctor, who plunked down a dictionary-sized novel-in-progress on the first day of class, and Carla — little talent, but in the front row every semester, parroting back -isms from the professor.

Willett’s most recent novel, The Writing Class, is a satirical poke at those dozen-or-so people who meet once a week to workshop stories, turned murder mystery.

Full review here.

Cloverfield Is there a greater scene in any movie than when these 20-something dolts rush outside in the early stages of loch ness-esque invasion and the statue of liberty's head comes skittering down the road toward them? Having now seen this movie twice, I will probably never watch it again. I can't decide if that is good or bad.

Hannah and Her Sisters: Gah. I love this film. I freakin' love Woody Allen. Who else has such a powerful voice that every single character in every single movie sounds like his incarnation? Be it Mia Farrow or Scarlett Jo?

Weeds - Season 4 While it is Kevin Nealon who makes this sing, I absolutely love Mary Louise Parker. She has the ability to always look like clothes just fell from the sky and landed on her body, but still be naked. She's fascinating.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

To do list, a retrospective ...

If, on Friday night, I had penned the following to-do list ...

1. Sleep 15 hours of painful sleep, after having been disproportionately affected by cheap wine;
2. Eat an orange, reminding self that the amount of work that goes into peeling this fruit is greater than the amount of enjoyment that comes from eating it;
3. Watch "Hannah and her Sisters," and have conversation with Chuck about Woody Allen's powerful voice and how all of his characters sound like him: Nasally neurosis;
4. Order pizza from Bulldog while silently cursing that this transaction cannot be completed entirely completed online;
5. Catch the tail end of "Cheaters." On this episode, the philanderer does a dead-sprint from the confrontational cameras, and hides among the cases of beer on the bottom shelf of a convenience store;
6. Overhear primary organs screaming for water. Indulge them with upward of 16 glasses of water, served in a mason jar with a handle. A vintage piece from Norm's Beer & Brats;
7. Watch the first episode of Bravo's "NYC Prep." Do shots of water every time someone mentions that they are from the Upper East Side;
8. Watch an episode of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here." Oh, Spencie;
9. Receive unsolicited IMs from Fannie's 7th grade boyfriend that say:

"u r a crazy bitch arent u" and "phsycho (sic)" Thank Jesus that my dearest friend did not marry this juvenile delinquent.

... then I would have achieved 100 percent success.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Townies (a novella with even fewer words: Novella-ette) ...

Oh summer in Duluth. I'll see your seagull fecal and put my lunch RIGHT NEXT TO IT!

I spilled mustard and horseradish from a hot dog purchased from a food vendor designed to look like a beached boat and spent the whole day smelling like the county fair. Weee! Mustard crotch! (Mustard upper-inner thigh just doesn't have the same ring to it.)

There he is. That's my guy. And, yes. I did get capture my own reflection in his welding mask on purpose. It's art. And I wanted to see what my shirt looked like.

Obligatory photo of Chuck making a photo. Dude goes nutso for old film cameras. I think we should take the idea and make it a lifestyle. Get a land line. Buy a Thighmaster. Maybe have a "Night Court" marathon?

Friday night=Wine, fashion mags, The Kardasians. I feel weird about Bruce Jenner. Like, maybe when I was 7, I first understood the appeal of twitch muscles. Or maybe I was just at an age where celebrities were first registering. Which explains why I've always thought he was married to Mary Lou Retton.

Another night when the label dictates the purchase. Cripes. What a cliche. I'm drinking the equivilent of chick lit.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On buying wine for my boyfriend ...

Me: I got you two bottles. They are in the fridge.
Chuck: Which one is "trouble"?*
Me: Oh. You'll know. It's the one that is packaged for Swedish male go-go dancers.
Chuck: The one that looks like it's from Ikea?

*this is the code name for the cheaper bonus bottle that seems like a good idea at the time, but you later regret unscrewing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

bug eyed ...

This is Bubbles after five hours in line. And it is probably the best photo I've ever taken.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Some thoughts on Taleggio cheese ...

Well. Last week seems to have been well-rounded, filled with food, reading, and small doses of socializing. Still no running. In fact, have forgotten exactly when the half-marathon is. This week? Next week? I should find out, so I can plan for appropriate day-after-chafing care.

Anyway, here is how I spent my past week week.


Pesto potato salad: I like potato salad, even if it does seem like a good way to poison fourth cousins at a pista-family picnic in some one-softball field town like Kellogg, Minn.

In fact, I had a conversation about potato salad with Chuck that I could have predicted verbatim.

Me: Do you like potato salad.
Chuck: Yes.
[Pause. I know what he's thinking right now. He's thinking of sun scorched mayonnaise, and the only crapper is a blue plastic rent-a-biff. The kind where, when you're done, you use the complimentary hand-sanitizer on more than just your hands. Then you spend the rest of the day tossing bean bags, both literally and figuratively. That's a Pavlovian response to old-school potato salad. Me? I'll eat my own gum right off a sidewalk.]
Chuck: But can you use Vegannaise?
Me: What if I used pesto instead of any kind of -aise?

He simply applauded.

I got this one from Smitten Kitchen, and it was fantastic. I halved the recipe, and it was still waaaaay too much, though. And of course, her photos are better. She could make a worm and shittake sandwich look awesome. Mine was more like half-mashed potato pesto. But damn it was good.

Risotto with Intricately Layered Hearts: [from the book I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti]. Is there any cheese weirder than Taleggio? My God. It's absolutely disgustingly good. One of those cheeses you try to get from the plate to your mouth without touching so your hands don't taste smell like you just excavated crumbs from your belly button.

I've never made a risotto before, nor have I eaten it, so this was definitely an experiment. Sauteed onions, add a cup of arborio rice and a shot of white wine, begin ladeling hot chick broth, stirring until it's absorbed, continue for like 25 minutes. Top with artichokes and add the Taleggio cheese cubes. [A little goes a long way.]

This is a bit like a gourmet mac and cheese. And the flavor is whoa. We had it as an entree, which was a mistake. It is obviously a side.

Warning: I'll be making a lot of foods from this book in the upcoming weeks.

Chickpea Stew: I've made this one before, and in fact, for the sake of ease, I'm reusing the same photo. It is chickpeas, butternut squash soup, red pepper, onion and a carrot served over couscous. It tastes trickier than it is, and it is a great leftover.

Summerhouse Tuna Salad: [by Melucci] This mix takes Tuna salad to an exciting new level. Seriously. Tuna, red onions, capers, tomatoes, olive oil and basil. So fresh and summery.

You know what Basil is? Basil is mandatory. Basil is your friend who gets along with everyone, makes them feel good, and breathes life into a party.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci: Typically when I read a book, I dog-ear pages with great sentences or ideas I like. With Giulia Melucci’s unfortunately-titled food memoir I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, these notations were never about a turn of phrase — they were about a turn of the proverbial spatula. There are at least a dozen recipes in this book that I plan to test.

This easy-reader — six hours, cover to cover — is about Melucci’s relationship history, and what she was whipping up for the series of gents who have come and gone. Mostly pasta, sometimes fish. A bit of meatloaf. Blueberry muffins, Yorkshire Pudding, and Risotto. Fresh vegetables, red pepper flakes, slivers of fresh Parmesan cheese.

With an Italian background, Melucci’s knows her way around red sauces and mozzarella. She also adapts recipes from Epicurious, Bon Appetit, and friends, and comes up with cute autobiographical names for her meals: No Nookie Gnocchi, Ineffectual Eggplant Parmigiana ( which didn’t save her relationship with Marcus), Fuck-You Cakes, Real Estate Roast Chicken (celebrating the purchase of a condo), and Welcome Back to the Big Apple Apple Muffins, when her Scottish boyfriend returns from Europe.

See full review here.

Prague: A Novel by Arthur Phillips: I deserve a big, fat, chocolate-covered "I told you so." Arthur Phillips' "Prague" is, interesting-wise, the exact inverse of his most-recent novel "The Song is You," interesting-wise.

Damn if I didn't fall hard in the early chapters, which find a handful of 20-something ex-pats in Budapest in 1990: John, the laid back, love-lorn accidental journalist has followed his brother Scott, a formerly obese exercise-hound who's desire to shed pounds equals his desire to shed his past, Emily, a plain-old Nebraska good girl who cannot tell a lie, and Charles, the flesh-pressing leader of the troupe and the Canadian, Mark, who is on the surface, compulsively studying nostalgia, while quietly going insane.

Part I hyper-exposes them as cliches of the 20-something world travelers in a way that made me swoon and giggle and love each of them despite their know-it-all, on-top-of-the-world bravado. Part II shifts focus to the elderly Imre Horvath's past in relation to Hungary's past, and the publishing house his forefathers built. Good God. The whole thing reminded me of that awful semester in college where I ended up slogging toward a C in a history class I hated. Unfortunately, Imre Horvath's chapters are crucial to the next two sections of the book, business relationships and more history, nearly impossible to focus on, given the circumference of my permanent yawn.

Full review will be here.

True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Series): Wow. This is either the best or the worst show I've ever seen. Speaking of Taleggio cheese. It's a lot like that. Lots of gluttonous stink. Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in Louisiana who falls for a vampire, during the vampire rights movement. Meanwhile, people are dying all over town. She's got a slutty brother, an alcoholic best friend, and a boss who likes to sniff things.

So hokey. So good. So bad. The scenes are way too long, and it is the final five seconds of each episode that carry you into the next boring episode, which ends with five fantastic seconds. This goes on and on and on.

Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason This is the one where BJ goes from cute and quirky to pathetic. Why couldn't Bridget Jones and Hugh Grant's character just be friends? Getting romantic has never gone well. Just friends. Think about it. Also, if that "Like a Virgin" scene in the Thai prison isn't the worst thing ever.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day of the devil ...

Three years ago today, 6/6/06, I was still running with a crowd of Pharell and beer pong fanatics. It was a period of gross arrested development that tasted like a $2 jug of sangria served at room temperature, which, incidentally, is what we were drinking at my former roommate's birthday BBQ.

The night started early and included some bad behavior. 20-somethings puking in the back yard, I threw a drink in someone's face. Chaos erupted around me. I had found alcohol zen: The more bruised and purple my lips became from the drink, the more sober I became. My roommate had passed out at about 7 p.m. in the tiny tent-like bedroom without electricity where I allowed him to live.

After his friends had either a) stormed off into the night or b) left for slightly more risque outings or c) slipped into a coma in a lounge chair tilted to a dangerous angle in the backyard, I went inside to ding around online. In those days I was scouring MySpace for evidence that single, attractive, adult men who remembered Wham! still lived within 15 miles of my craptastic apartment in the Hillside. Not necessarily to date, but just to know they were there. It was a little like the game minesweeper, although I'm not exactly sure how.

My favorite was a black and white photo of a man sitting outside with a French Press coffee pot in front of him on the table. Chuckers McChuckerstein. I knew who he was: One of those Ripsaw guys. I closed one eye and wrote him a simple note on MySpace: I want to meet you.

The next day, I got his response: 3 a.m.? Are you drunk?
Me: Yes. But I still want to meet you.

And of course, we did. Months later, after I'd read and reread his blog posts, corresponded with dozens more witty emails, and looked for him everywhere I went. That was 6/6/06: Evil date breeds love.

The other day I spent the entirety of Central Entrance, on my way to Cub Foods, thinking about the little things I like about Chuck. In order to save you your gag reflex, I've chosen a simple one: I like the way he bags groceries. He has long, blueish fingers. I think they look like ET's. In a good way. He grips a package, like totally palms it with his entire blueish hand, and without looking at the bag, tosses the product in haphazardly. Doesn't matter if it's tomatoes or Annie's Mac. He has a recklessly accurate toss. It's cute and vaguely dangerous.

Anyway, I plan to tell this anniversary story every year, until it takes on a mythical, urban legend quality.

Also, today is my favorite person I've never met's birthday. Happy Day, Jodi! [Unfortunately, I'm posting this on 6/7/09 ... which means the anniversary has passed, and so has Jodichrome's birthday.]

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bad cop ...

At four months old, Taquito has a gigantic bulbous head and patches of velvety blonde hair. Her ears are elfin, and she drools like a leaky faucet. The adult hand can almost circle her entire torso. She is adorable.

My former landlord dropped her off for an impromptu two-hour babysitting gig on Wednesday night. She was folded into a carrier, and he passed her off to me on the sidewalk. She looked quizzically amused, like any second she was going to burst out laughing. She smells so good.

I sat with her on the couch, mostly just looking at her tiny face and laughing. Making sound effects and wiping spit off her chin.

"We are sitting here, with a baby, watching the 10 o'clock news," Chuck said. "Pedestrians."

Suddenly she got excruciatingly tired. It was like when you're at a bar and you say Hi to someone who seems sober, and then a half hour later, that person falls off their stool. Taquito turned red and was screaming and shaking her little fists. I could not stop laughing. This mini tantrum? Hilarious.

She fell asleep in the car on the way home. My former landlord took us to the bar. I watched her heavy head roll from side to side, and her lids droop. Finally I had to palm her noggin because the jostling looked so uncomfortable.


I have to say, the North Star bar may be the place-to-be on Wednesday nights, when the Thespian is hosting karaoke. When we walked in, he was singing "9 to 5." The place was a mix of Pioneer Bar regulars, Quinlan's people and girls from the roller derby team.

Someone did a pretty awful version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
I sang "Don't Stop Believing."
Chuck sang his old standby "Hit Me Baby One More Time." [Heroic, actually. The words were jumbled on the karaoke screen, and Chuck had to sing them from memory. That's my boyfriend. Impressive.]
I sang "Let's Hear it for the Boy." [God I'm sick of myself.]

It was $6 beer night. I'm not convinced I got my money's worth. But, damn, that was a fun place to be.

Tuska almost came to fistacuffs with a wobbly tot when she said to the girl "That's a cute outfit."

"What do you mean," the girl slurred, accusatory.
"I mean, I like your shirt," Tuska said.
"MY BOOBS ARE HANGING OUT AND I'M WEARING WORK JEANS!" the girl screamed, squinting.
"Remind me to never compliment anyone ever again," Tuska said when we walked back inside.

We arranged a cab-share to Quinlan's with the Thespian, and four minutes later he was being whisked away by a roller derby girl wearing a T'shirt from a high school she didn't go to, with the armpits ripped out. Bastard.


We made last call at Quinlan's and did everything possible to avoid eye contact with a very moody regular, who had stopped Chuck in the bathroom to scream:


The Thespian and the roller girl showed up. Our cab won that race.


We came home and watched "Footloose," which Chuck confessed he had never actually seen. Lori Singer's premature tribute to manorexia. And nothing comes between Wren McCormack and his Jordache jeans. God I love that movie.


The other day I finally met one of the young college students who lives downstairs. I tried to be extra friendly to try smooth over the part where they got in trouble for playing 8 hours a day of what I call "Tickle Fight," a game that involves running from one end of the apartment to the other end in high heels. Shrieking and falling down and opening doors and running into walls, then incorporating the dog for bonus decibels. Chuck, who has to sleep during these athletic bouts, gets to be bad cop. Me? I introduced myself. Good cop.

"Hi, I'm Chad," he said. [Name changed to reflect his generic nature.]
"Hi ... Yeah, I've met PeterBrady," I said [Name changed to reflect the girl's voice, which sounds like Peter Brady's when he was singing with the Silver Platters.]
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I'm always coming and going. I'm not around a lot."
"I hear ya," I said. Meaning, "Got it." Unfortunately, he took it to be a noise reference.
"I suppose you do," he said.

And there I was: Bad Cop. Doh!

Beast of burden ...

Chuck: Apparently Toonses really likes the smell of Ben Gay.
Me: Toonses likes anything gay.

[Okay, I didn't really say that. I mumbled something about him him chewing on my head whenever I use Aveda products. Chuck doubled back and inserted the better punchline but let me take credit. I'm not convinced I wouldn't have come up with it. Toonses does seem to have romantic feelings for Chuck. Anyway, it works better if I pretend I said it.]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Free to pee, you and me ...

I was two strides and one full bladder from a public bathroom when I ran into an acquaintance.

Not the sort of person I know well enough to, for instance, belch in front of and say "Hm ... I'm getting pesto. That's weird, I don't remember having any pesto today." But also not the kind of person I with whom I could play no-eye-contact, blank-stare, amnesia with, either. [Although, I can't remember his name ...]

He's all: Hey, Christa [weather, baseball, whatever]
And I'm all: [Purposefully wistful and obvious glances at the sign marked "Ladies" with distracted nods.]

I know I pee a lot. I pride myself on peeing a lot. You've never seen someone so proud of how often she pees. So it's possible he thought this trip to the restroom was less of an emergency, and more of a cry for help.]

He's all: Blah blah dogs-are-a-nice-pet ...
And I'm all: [Actually caressing the bathroom door with my fingertips.]
He's all: Ho! Ho! Ho!

And I couldn't help but think: I'm actually touching this bathroom door. If this were a game of tag, I'd be home free. I'd be more than home free. I'd be home pee.

Finally I broke free by pushing the door open, which seemed to break his conversational flow. I sprinted inside, and as the door closed, I noticed that he had turned and walked into the men's room.

It looked more like a decision than a necessity. And maybe that's why he didn't understand.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The house on sandwich-spread street ...

I seem to have forgotten everything that happened this past week. Thank God I sometimes write this shit down.

How I spent my week, plus bonus photos.

jerk seitan: I got this recipe from Georgia, a blogger in LA who has invented two great things: 1) Scenes from her lunch break, which includes the cover of the book she's reading and her shoes; 2) Domestic Tuesdays, where she posts a meal she made the previous week. Although she got this recipe from a vegan roller derby librarian.

Anyway, I've been jerk-sauce-curious since my last trip to the Whistling Bird where I failed to find a way to sneak a keg filled their super-secret jerk sauce out of the restaurant. And I've been seitan curious since some sort of weird encounter at the Whole Foods deli.

This was pretty decent, a mix of jalapeno, garlic, green onion, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, safflower oil, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, although it felt a little over the top dumping that much soy sauce into anything. But it was a nice blend of spice but not ridiculous [well, until I poked myself in the eyeball with a jalapeno finger. Like I always do.] I think I used too much apple cider vinegar, because the whole house smelled like sandwich spread. I'd make this again. And Chuck liked it.

Now even more jerk curious and seitan curious.

I made this with sweet potatoes, too, because I'd never just had sweet potatoes. That needs to change, stat.

I liked this post by Sandra from Everything and Nothing. It was kind of a kick in the pants to get back to blogging the way I used to enjoy blogging. [Although that would mean, at its worst, with a plastic bottle of peppermint schnapps a few few inches from my mouse.]

She says:
... I've noticed that most of us are pretty "tapped out" on the blog topics lately. Not that any of our lives are boring, but we've hit ruts. ... Remember when you started your blog? We all started because we enjoyed writing, and we liked finding the humor/angst/meaning in our daily minutia. ...

Totally something to think about. It was like trying to get in the mood to work out by watching "Bend it Like Beckham," or watching that Prefontaine biopic. Then, she followed it up with a great story about a haunted apartment.

Also, I love it when Chuck write-writes, which he did this past week, about the song "Dancing in the Dark." [Which firmly planted that song on a loop in my brain for about four days].

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman: I have a creepy literary couple crush on Waldman Chabon Inc., that started when I found Ayelet Waldman’s old blog, a controversial piece of online real estate where she confessed to all sorts of things that riled up Oprah’s audience. Namely, that she loved Chabon more than she loved her children. We have that in common. I, too, love Chabon more than I love her children. . . granted as soon as Zeke or Rosie or Abe or Sophie craps out a few novels, this is subject to change.

I have no concrete reason for loving this couple. I liked Wonder Boys, Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Kavalier and Clay. And I have liked Waldman’s novels. . . although not as much as I’ve liked the essays on her blog and at She is a sassafras, that one. Smart, loud, oversharing, opinionated, funny, quirky, and contradictory. Together, I have only the image of them that exists in my head. Rooms filled with books, and a Thesaurus tossed like a football between the writers-at-work. Laptops, wine, Sunday newspapers, dinners with gay memoir writers who are so interesting, that they end up vacationing with Waldman Chabon Inc., in Europe.

Full review here.

Jenny and the Jaws of Life: Short Stories by Jincy Willett: I have an unrequited beef with Jincy Willett that dates back to weeks ago when she wrote in the NYT's Book Review that Sarah Dunn's flaming piece of chick lit "Secrets to Happiness" was not, in fact, chick lit. This, of course, led to me researching the reviewer to find ways to extract from her the $23.99 she owes me for lying. Unfortunately, when I can across her own list of novels and short stories, I was surprised to find that Willett's stuff looked like stuff I might want to read.

With her most recent novel "The Writing Class" in that awkward pubescent phase where it is about to morph from hardcover to soft cover, I wasn't able to find it at any of my local bookstores. I did find "Jenny and the Jaws of Life," a short story compilation from the 1980s, re-released in modern times to include a testimonial from David Sedaris on the cover. I was all "Game on, Jincy." [What a great name, by the way.:]

She redeemed herself. Tenfold.

Full review here.


Here I am on the DTA.

Here Chuck sings "Dirty Love" at the Gopher in West Duluth. I never knew his voice could get that low without him being possessed by the devil.

Here I have my first hot dog of the season from Crabby Bill's, home of the hottest hot hot horseradish. The woman in the Captain's hat has 101 jokes about how hot it is, including, but not limited to: "THAT MUCH HORSERADISH!? I'll be watching for the red flames!" Too cute.

This is my friend RichNam taking a self-portrait in front of the old Red Lion sign, which was hanging ceremonially on Chuck's Fannie's fence at the Memorial Day BBQ.

And then here is Chuck, getting his photo taken next to the same sign.