Monday, November 30, 2009

Historical inaccuracies I have passed along as truth ...

On Thanksgiving Day, we were all sitting in the Brother Pista family room when my dad threw out a pop quiz:

"What was our code word?" he smirked, and looked at us.

I've written about this before. The code word was part of our family safety plan. It was to prevent us red haired freckle faces from hopping into any old windowless van willy nilly just because some guy with a mustache boasting the efficiency of a Swiffer Wet Jet wanted us to help him "find his dog" or "enjoy a handful of Jolly Ranchers."

We could only ride with the sicko if he knew the family code word.

Remember: Kidnapping was to the 1980s what Fanny Packs were to the 1990s.

I raised my hand and blurted out "OREO!" Next question, please. And make it tricky this time. Oreo. I don't remember why the code word was Oreo, but that was the idea of code words: Something no one else would ever guess. It was an illogical code word for children who never even saw cookies on the premises.

Unfortunately, Brother Pista shouted out a different word at the same time: "JOY!"

That word made me wince. I would have thought it was almost right if I hadn't know that the real code word was Oreo.

"Joy?" I said, scrunching my nose. "No. It was Oreo."

I've been playing this nostalgia game for a long time, recapping my life history on the Internet for almost five years. I'm a fantastic archivist. I pride myself on it. When someone remembers something that I don't remember, I just assume that they are drunk.

My mom's middle name is Joy. If she knew that I told you that, she would be about as excited as if the melon-sized butt bruise photo from my 27th birthday showed up on a billboard on Hwy. 52.

My dad indicated that my brother was right. Joy. Even then I could not bring myself to believe that I was wrong. What an easy code word. Why not just use our dog's name, or the last four digits of our phone number? Sheesh.

After all-but high fiving Brother Pista, my dad finally looked at me and said, "Oreo?"
"Why would our code word be 'Oreo'?" Brother Pista asked.
"Yeah," Ma Pista said. "We didn't even eat oreos ...?"

Even Chuck was looking at me. For the duration of our relationship, he has always assumed I knew what I was talking about when I said our family code word was Oreo. Now he was probably wondering if I even knew how to triple jump; if I'd ever seen Kelsey Grammer drunk.

"I'm pretty sure it's oreo ..." I gave it one last shot, a lot less confidently.

"It was Joy," my mom said.


We were nearing Sandstone, Minn., later that night. Chuck and I had been in the car for hours and hours and hours. I was starting to see orbs, and didn't even notice that we'd given the same CD about 18 consecutive spins.

"Oreo!" I said. I remembered.

Oreo was a code word. It was used like this: During high school boys basketball games 1990-1994, Princess Linda and I would sit within the sight line of the boys on the bench. For four years, whatever boy we liked most probably played on that basketball team. We would watch the game, and take turns watching the bench. If, for instance, I was looking at No. 54 on the bench, and noticed that No. 34 was looking up in the stands at Princess Linda -- whose turn it was to watch the game -- I would whisper to her: "Oreo."

It was all very covert and exciting.

I still have a code word with Chuck that means "Let's leave this place where I am uncomfortable and/or bored." It's more like a code phrase, though. I'm not telling, though. I might still need to use it.

Massaging the bird ...

Thanksgiving, I believe, is the cruelest of holidays. Who put this crap on a Thursday? A day where the only obligation is to hold the steering wheel steady and avoid a sharp right into the White Castle drive thru in Hinckley. Blocking my throat to keep those delicious grease ball burgers from forcing themselves down my throat. Yet it requires waking up two hours earlier than normal, and resuming my day-to-day life 24 hours later.

Chuck and I left Brother Pista's house with a plate of leftovers, which were consumed with the ease of liquids later that night. The next day I got to thinking about gravy and stuffing and rued the sparse veggie-bore-ian contents of our fridge. Rich in lentil this-and-thats, poverty stricken in the ways of Thanksgiving foods.

I texted Chuck with what I thought was a brilliant idea, only to remember Ma Pista subscribed to this brilliant idea years ago when our family split time on T-day between the Grandparents Pistas and the Grandparents Smittleys: A fake Thanksgiving dinner for me and mine. This, of course, requires more preparation than any meal I've ever considered. I usually bat about 66.666 percent on meals that include more than one component.

Recipe hunting for things from the turkey kingdom gave me the willies. Each recipe included a part where the cooker must pull skin away from the meat -- sometimes this includes the word "membrane" -- season the meat, pat skin back into place and massage the bird. I looked at about 900 recipes, and could not find a way around this.

I prepared myself for one big fat disgusting day. A cage fight: Me versus salmonella poisoning, with a bonus scene reminiscent of an Emergency Room on Halloween.

When I got to Cub Foods, I found my cheat: Precooked Jenny O Turkey breasts. Put in a pan, season and baste, cook until it hits 170 degrees. I could get through this without even touching the bird. Score. The rub: It was gross.

Most of this meal turned into a gigantic, time sucking, money wasting failure. My multitasking skills are nil.

Pumpkin Cheesecake.
Boiled Beets. (self explanatory).
Mashed Potatoes. (Also self explanatory).
Gravy. (from a jar).
Rolls. (Pre-made).


Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya: I used to hate when my mom made jambalaya -- I think it was the measly pieces of earring-sized pink shrimp -- so I'm not sure where this hankering came from. I suspect it has something to do with a meal taken from a Cajun food cart during a music festival this past summer. (You really put your colon in your own hands when you eat shrimp from a cart in the hot sun). Anyway, this one is just chicken, sausage, green pepper, onion and garlic, a shitton of Cajun seasoning and rice. It was okay. Definitely itched the Cajun food itch.

Fun fact: Much like the word "mushroom," I also always ignore the word "celery."

I made a version of this Apple and Brie Beggars Purse. It was too sweet.

Spanakopita: Hate, hate, hate working with phyllo dough, but love, love, love spanakopita. My two errors were corrected by VNick via Twitter: Make sure the dough is thawed, and cover it with a damp cloth. Both of these make a ridiculous amount of sense, and might make me curious enough to use phyllo sooner rather than later. Anyway, this is easy, aside from the part involving the dough. Chuck said it looked like I was trying to wallpaper.

A mix of spinach, onions, green onions, ricotta cheese, eggs, and feta, spooned into the layers of dough and cooked. Yum. I served it with a couscous salad and some dolmas from the co-op. Dolmas now hold the distinction of being something I am not at all interested in ever eating again. I don't know if it is the leech-like shape of the grape leaves covered rice, or the overwhelming flavor. It was ick.

The Machinist: More interesting than this movie is the death defying 250 calorie a day diet that Christian Bale adopted to prepare for the 2004 role, dropping his overall body weight to a digit I whizzed past in junior high. His rib cage and spine look like percussion instruments, and his pelvis is hollowed out like a bike seat. At the end of the film I wondered "Was it worth it, Christian? This is hardly an award-winning film." (I love Christian Bale. I can probably tell you more than you'd ever want to know about him).

Into Temptation: This film, set in Minnesota, centers on one of those cool, liberal Catholic priests who becomes obsessed with a woman after hearing her confession. How she went from the roughest of upbringings to the oldest of professions. Our hero doesn't know much about her other than that she is stacked and that she wears a cross necklace. He searches for her in the dregs of Minneapolis, earning himself VIP status at a sex shop. This whole film is really good, with touches of good humor. The final flashback does everything possible to ruin all the good that came before it.

Also: A secondary role is played by Minnesota actor Brian Baumgartner, who plays Kevin on The Office. He does a really great job as a priest from a wealthier congregation, which kind of ruins the character he plays on The Office. His character on The Office is weak sauce.

This one streams on Netflix. Giver 'er a whirl.
Lakeview Terrace: This movie is a perfect example of how sometimes the villain can be more likable than the person he is terrorizing.

Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr: Mary Karr’s third memoir Lit is her own personal VH1 Behind the Music-style story, picking up the tale around where Cherry ended and stumbling into the place where The Liars Club became something Karr could sign in bookstores for fans waiting in a line that winds around the block. It’s all the stuff that happened after adolescence, seeping into the part where she committed her tumultuous upbringing to paper.

First she has to shake the drink. Totally, totally liked this one.

Full review here.

Kevin Kling's Holiday Inn by Kevin Kling: Kling writes about traditional holidays like Christmas, Mother's Day, and the Fourth of July, but he also tacks on regional holidays like Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, ice fishing season, and the Minnesota State Fair. And then there is just some stuff for fun, like how he learned hobo law spontaneously riding the rails to Seattle with a buddy to settle a bet about whether inland seafood could compare to crustaceans on the coast.

This book by the storyteller, National Public Radio commentator, playwright and poet is a real charmer. Full review will be here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I say delish, you just say ish ...

Last night I enjoyed this delicacy: Oysters on a cracker with a dollop of Tabasco Sauce. I had to wait until Chuck was at least 7 miles from home before indulging. He thinks this is gross.

Me? I don't even care that oysters look like mushrooms and have the consistency of snot. De. Lish.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Things that go through my head as I consider whether I want to go out drinkin' ...

Stop me on any day between Monday and Thursday and suggest going out to a bar this upcoming weekend and I'll look at you like you just asked me to carry something that weighs more than a purse.

Ab-so-effing-lutely not

I'm a weekday teetotaler, with no intention of ever again letting my brain go blotto. In fact, if there is a reason I might have to go out that weekend -- a birthday party, a going away party, the rare visit from an out-of-towner who expects me play a version of myself from 2003 -- I resent whatever evil pressure is planning to separate me from my very soft sweatpants.

I spend a lot of energy on Fridays seesawing between: Do I want to go out? or Do I want to stay in?

FACT: I prefer to go out on a Friday night to going out on a Saturday night. It takes me approximately 36 hours for my body to remember how to make water after a night out, and a similar amount of time for me to stop mentally adding "... and melted cheese" to any sort of craving -- food or otherwise. I refuse to take this sickness into a Monday morning.

Around 2 p.m. on Friday, I start seeing everything covered in confetti. The mood is light. Everything is funny. I should go out tonight. The streets will be teeming with chaos. Observed chaos is as crucial as inhaling.

"What are you doing tonight?" I'll ask JCrew.

"Meh, I need to do laundry. I can't go out," she'll say. What this means is that she has no intention of wearing pants. When I imagine JCrew at home alone, I imagine her sitting pantless on tan carpet, trashy television on in the background, a glass of wine in the foreground. She knows how to live.

She's totally right. It's a good night for an antisocial retreat.

"I kinda want to go out," my mood shifts around 6 p.m. It's so rare that I actually blow dry my hair and wear a cute shirt. It's sounds exotic and appealing. Like role playing within my own gender designation.

Here JCrew bends a bit. She's not opposed to a cold drink in a dark bar. "Call me if you decide to go out," she'll concede.

If it were socially acceptable, I'd find a way to slip out of my jeans in the car. As is, I waste critical leisure time debelting, unbuttoning, and yanking in those first few minutes when I've entered our home. Seeing Chuck always makes me want to stay home. Going out is really only super fun when he goes out, too. But he works on weekends. And sending him frequent, misspelled text messages filled with exclamation points and vague phraseology is never as much fun as having him there.

Home it is.

Then something will happen, like this weekend. Whiskey Marie was in town. Now that is a good reason to go out. That gives me permission slip to take a ride in Wyld City, and a person to blame for my unmoderated shenanigans. I text JCrew with the info. She sounds a little more interested.

Although, here I sit in sweatpants.

It's fun to go out, see people, cut loose.
I hate playing invalid all day on Saturday.
I just got this super cute shirt I want to wear. Prove to people that sometimes I wear things that have been laundered.
I don't want puffy beer face. I'm sick of that. And drinking is going to make me want to order pizza on Saturday, which means puffy beer face plus puffy pizza face.
There really is nothing on TV, and precious little saved in TiVo.
I could write a review of Mary Karr's "Lit" if I stay in.
A beer would be pretty dang good.

Ultimately, it came down to this: If I stay home, I can drink that delicious oolong tea we have. The whole lemon, sugar cubs, tea-drinking scene. And we probably have the ingredients to make sugar cookies. I could listen to music; stare at the Internet until one of us blinks.

*I will occasionally go out on a Wednesday night, but only if I'm not expected anywhere at all on Thursday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The curious incident of the cat in the shopping bag ...

Today I bought two sweaters from the kind of store where the sales associate clacks away at the cash register on pretty nails before wrapping your purchases in tissue paper, as though the garments are made of glass.

This was not only fun for me, but also for Toonses, whose two favorite things in the world are, in no specific order, shopping bags and women's clothing.

We were in the kitchen when we heard the crackling sound. Something like a roaring bonfire, electrocution, or snowballs being made out of grocery sacks. There was hissing and guttural groans like a train skidding on icy tracks. A deep bass that would render Michael McDonald obsolete. Chuck and I booked into the living room, and caught the freakish 30-pound antisocial fur ball rounding left. Two new shirts in his wake, the bag billowing behind him like a parachute.

Toonses sprinted up the three steps to a room I call "The Shit Closet" the storage area where we keep his litter box, which has the added bonus of a special ledge behind a drape where he does his pubescent sulking. It's where he goes to count the seconds between thunder and lightning, and where he goes when we play music by Velvet Underground.

By the time I caught up to the cat, he was perched on that ledge, and the shopping bag was still attached to him in a way I didn't understand. I moved toward him and tugged on the sack and he bellowed all low and satanic-like. I screamed and backed away. I ran down the steps.

"Can you do it?" I asked Chuck. "I think the handle got looped around his neck."

I cowered into the wall when Chuck went into The Shit Closet and performed the shopping bag removal.

I'm not sure what I thought Toonses was going to do to me. He doesn't have claws and with that gut, he can't jump very high. He's never developed a taste for human flesh.

"You looked like you were going to cry," Chuck said.
Hogwash. But I was totally freaked out.

Later I checked on Toonsie in The Shit Closet. He hissed like a crabby old lady and threw me a glassy-eyed glare. And when I later moved the shopping bag to a new, higher location, he stood at attention until Chuck pet him -- which Toonses recognizes as a rare treat.

Toonses seems to blame me for the entire incident. He's been pretty skittish all night. I'm not sure what will happen when I wear one of those shirts. He's so moody like that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A brief list of things I was not allowed to do when I was growing up ...

I sometimes complain about the "Dukes of Hazard"-sized chasm in my 80s pop culture knowledge. We were not allowed to watch this show because my dad did not want us associating policemen with weaselly idiots who should be thwarted for sport. Occasionally we would sneak in a bit of an episode. I remember little more than the spandex jeans of the Duke boys.

I find myself saying "We weren't allowed to [fill in the blank]" under odd circumstances. Most recently, "We weren't allowed to have a basketball hoop that was not regulation height." If you had asked me at age 10 to tell you about my parents, I would have said they were strict.

A brief list of things we were not allowed to do when we were growing up"
1. Watch "Dukes of Hazard."
2. Have a basketball hoop that wasn't regulation height.
3. Watch MTV.
4. Hang out behind gas stations, elementary schools, or at the mall. The phrase "hang out" was pretty much a deal breaker. "Why are you going to the mall?" "To shop," was fine. "To hang out" was a no-go.
5. Wear Vans.
6. Be a Punk Rocker for Halloween
7. Wear dangle earrings.
8. Wear dark nail polish.
9. Own "Like a Virgin" or "Purple Rain."
10. Eat sugar cereals.
11. To have a pen pal who was a stranger, or otherwise give out our address and/or phone number.
12. Miss an incredibly stifling curfew by even more than 30 seconds.
13. See R-rated movies.
14. Say the word "sucks."

At the time, I thought the whole thing was pretty abusive.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Neighborhoods filled with perfect weirdos ...

What you are about to witness is a lot a words. Tread carefully. Here is how I spent the past week.

Braised Sausage with Chilis: Hmm. So this was good. But I think it has more to do with the kickass sausages I used than with everything that the sausage floated around the Red Wine Vinegar and 12 ounces of dark beer with: onions, red pepper, jalapeƱo, mustard, and garlic. The recipe calls for it to be served over rice. I opted for corn meal mush instead, keeping it Southern, sans rice. I pretty much hate rice. I got this one from Louisiana Cookin,' a magazine I picked up with a mad hope that it would have a gumbo or jambalaya recipe. *This recipe is close, but not the one I used.

Tempeh and Eggplant Potpies: I can't believe this was actually good. Talk about flying blindly into a recipe, not understanding how the tastes are going to work together, and then creating something more good than not good. Steamed eggplant and tempeh, mixed with sauteed onions, capers, fennel seeds, some tomato sauce and red pepper flakes. Topped with doughy mix. Mmm.

And man. Did we need the veggies.

Curried Red Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew with Garbanzo Beans: Spicy mush of stew featuring chickpeas and red lentils, with a dollop of yogurt. I liked it. I liked it a lot. Very easy. It reminded me of one of those food periods we went through where every food I made was orangeish and/or featured chickpeas.

Spicy Cheddar Bread
: Look! I made bread. This is just bread the usual way with cheddar cheese and red pepper flakes. I have been using a recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian cookbook for about 9 years.

On Writing by Stephen King: There is a place in my brain that had seized up and was unable recognize writers who produce book after book after book. It was nothing I ever thought about, just on some subconscious level I had created an equation that quantity diminished quality.

In my adult reading years, I have completely ignored Stephen King. There’s more to it than just his feverish pace. I read a handful of Stephen King books when I was a tween, so it was like “Psshhh. How could I like something that I liked in sixth grade?”

I have since combated that argument with two words: Beastie. Boys. If three dudes in hoodies and sneaks from Brooklyn can rock my world for upward of 20 years, why not Stephen King?

Great book about writing, but also about King. More here.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novelby Jonathan Safran Foer: Put on your hip waders, folks. I’m about to heap an enormous amount of praise on to Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel.

The star is 9-year-old Oskar Schell, perhaps the most likable protagonist to ever land on a page. To quote his own business card, Oskar is an inventor, jewelry designer, jewelry fabricator, amateur entomologist, Francophile, vegan, origamist, pacifist, percussionist, amateur astronomer, computer consultant, amateur archeologist, and a collector of rare coins, butterflies that died natural deaths, miniature cacti, Beatles memorabilia, semiprecious stones and other things. He doesn’t have a fax machine. Yet.

I loved this book. It is unlike anything I've ever read. Full review here.

Grey Gardens (HBO): Love this story of recluses Edie and Little Edie Beale. My favorite part is that Little Edie dances like Fannie McFanster. We've been quoting this movie for days.

Harold and Maude: Saw this one at a midnight show at Zinema. The young grim Harold takes up with the 79 year old sassafras, Maude. So funny. The Cat Stevens soundtrack will strip the grooves in your brain.

Orphan: Troubled couple adopts pleasant Russian child who tries to kill everyone. All the people you want to die will die.

Most of the houses we are looking at are pretty similar on the surface level. Wood floors, an arched entryway between the living room and dining room. Two levels, unfinished basement. The kitchens vary between dishwasher and no dishwasher, with the latter being a deal breaker. (I know, I know. We can buy a dishwasher. But I know us, and I know how we function. I know that we would bitch about not having a dishwasher for seven years until it became a routine, and that routine became more important than actually getting a dishwasher).

The first house we looked at this week was pretty cute, with all of my favorite things, including the very-Duluth random deck jutting out of the side of the house. I love this. I like thinking of it as my Rupuntzel perch. We have one now, and I always think of myself sitting sentry. The basement was actually over finished with drywall creating a tunnel-like space to walk through. Like the bowels of a stadium, before a player is belched onto the field. It made it seem too small. Chuck's shoulders actually brushed the walls as we crawled through.

I ran into the Norwegian Wonder a few weeks ago, and she started telling me about a friend who had died. She finished the convo with, "So anyway, here is the address. Her place is really cute." Sure enough, a few days later, our Realtor sends the address to me as a new listing to check out.
This place was adorable, in a hard-to-find Chester Creek neighborhood that Chuck assured me is full of a bunch of perfect weirdos. I cannot wrap my head around a two bedroom. It seems like a waste to buy a house with two bedrooms. But if this exception were to be made, this would be the one.

We looked at was this old barn in West Duluth with a fantastic view of the cityscape. It looks like someone bought it and intended to turn it into a $350,000 home, but never finished it. What you have is an edifice stripped down to the bare bones. Outlets were put in sideways, light switches were upside down. A toilet sitting in a room in the basement. Stripped of appliances. "Did you notice there isn't a refrigerator?" Our realtor pointed out. "Um, no. I guess I didn't." This place was totally haunted -- with a malevolent force, according to Chuck. "Looks like someone left in a hurry," our realtor said quietly. This place gave me the creeps, but I found those creeps to be intriguing. What would our life be like here in this giant echoing home? Chuck said an evil force would turn one of us insane, and break us up. Then there would be the exorcism. Blood pouring out of the walls. Gah. If I were the sort of person who wrote short stories, I would write one about this place and call it "The Shining."

We looked at a ton of places, touring open houses on Sunday. Included in the mix: A gigantic place about $70,000 out of our price range. You probably heard me wailing as I opened doors to find a staircase leading to an awesome attic; beautiful glass doors separating the levels; a kitchen that would reject frozen pizza -- just spit it right out into the backyard mud room. Two matching big, fat bedrooms with amazing windows. Then three more bedrooms just for fun. Gah. It's interesting to know what you can't afford. It's also cruel. "Do you have kids?" asked the realtor, a former local weatherman. "No," we said. "Well, you could comfortably have six to eight here."

I don't remember anything we looked at after that, although I'm told we checked out a few more places. Oh yeah. One had steps leading to a bedroom in the attic that were build at about a 85 degree angle. That seemed dangerous for a girl who sometimes drinks outside the boundaries of what is considered moderation.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fur collars and hat flaps ...

This is my new eccentric writing costume. I think Chuck is getting front row seats to my slow transformation into Little Edie.

Last night we walked down to the Christmas City of the North Parade. It was one of those gross oversights where we forget to weigh our tolerance level against things like marching bands and assholes.

I know that as a childless person, I have as much right to complain about strollers as I do to complain about the way a habit might make a poor nun's scalp itch. I truly do not understand the way some people use strollers as a weapon. A first line of defense against crowds. It's like, "Well, this thing has wheels and a rubber base. I'm going to ram it into your heels. And when you get annoyed, you will look down and see the puckered face of my young child and you will immediately become awash in splendor. Now move over, fucko."

Luckily, I have an extensive knowledge of the city's skyway system. I can navigate it with the stealth of a fattened city rat. (Yet I can never remember that we actually call it a "Skywalk" instead of a "Skyway." More likely, I just don't want to remember what we call it. No one writes songs about the "Skywalk.") We saw one or two marching bands, a giant advertisement for Cub Foods, and some fire dancers, before cruising up, over, and into Grape Vine Cafe, one of my favorite restaurants. I saw enough of the Christmas City of the North Parade to know that there was a pocket of West Superior Street where the air was thick with the smell of cinnamon Schnapps.

Then there was Quinlan's, of course. We spent the equivalent of a work-shift hanging out with a handful of my favorite people: S'fire, Vnick, Princey, Tuska, Carlbomb. It almost wasn't to be. The joint was loaded with a bunch of people dressed like clowns, the brass section of a certain marching band. This equation makes driblets of brain blood ooze from my ears. Confined space, costumes, trombone. I wanted to jam a sweat sock into someone's spit valve.

Photo by S'Fire.

The night remained tame, for the most part. We caught an episode of Three's Company. The one where Chrissy dates a chef, and Jack cooks for him. I woke curiously void of social shame, but in dire need of vegetables, a good book, and the sound of just my own voice in my head. The drinking portion of this particular stay-cation is over.

Tonight I made a healthy dinner starring eggplant, read the first 60 pages of a delightful book, took an exquisite and well-earned nap, then went to the midnight showing of "Harold & Maude" at Zinema 2.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Breakn' too, ouch my bugaloo ...

Chuck and I kicked off a mini stay-cation by attending one of my favorite weekly events: Jody's Keg Party. This happens at a small West End bar, where our friend the Thespian hosts karaoke, while an uprooted bartender from the Pioneer-era sells refillable keg cups for $6. She loads these with equal parts PBR and foam when she isn't busy sharing long and involved stories with each and every person who is parked at the bar.

She has served drinks to enough career alcoholics that the new-agey phrase "over served" isn't even a blip in her personal dictionary. Chuck likes to say this about her:

"[Bartender] has killed more college kids than Chester Creek."

Chester Creek is the death trap that claims a 21-year-old reveler every few years. It's a mathematical thing that includes college student from the suburbs, plus a certain BAL, equals seeing the creek as a short cut. It's all very tragic and "Bridge to Terebithia."

There are some regulars at Jody's Keg Party. Two freshly scrubbed college girls who ignore the beer special in favor of glass after glass or red wine. I can't imagine that this wine is any good. Not at this bar. There isn't, like, a wine cellar. And I doubt there is anyone, aside from these two girls, ordering it. I bet it is from a $3 bottle of Chianti. More vinegar than liquor. Maybe even a cooking Sherry.

After a few, they will perform duets at the microphone. Horribly off-key, screeching versions of songs like "Strawberry Wine," or "Hit 'Em Up Style" by Blu Cantrell. These performances are a fraction more ear-wrenching than if they had simply wet their finger, and rolled it around the lip of the wine glass, creating sci/fi soundtracks.

Wednesday night started out really mellow. Maybe too mellow. We all watched a man in a gray sweatshirt doing a middle age boogie, a dance that required lots herky jerky movements, and lots of pointing.

Sometime after midnight, I remembered that I could break dance. I can do this move where I go into a handstand, then lower myself face first, then chest, then hips and thighs, into a semblance of "The Worm." I did this repeatedly, for a small group of friends.

Yesterday hurt. Today hurts even more. A head banging neck pain, my upper arms feel like I was hauling cinder blocks. My abs are on fire. My pelvis is probably broken. I can't move without grunting. I sound like a tennis player. I'm actually the opposite of a tennis player.

It may be time to quit break dancing. Or I might have to start break dancing every day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A tale of two sausages ...

When I say that we grocery shop like Europeans,it is faux-fancy way of saying that there is no food in our house. We shop meal to meal. It has nothing to do with berets or baguettes. If that is the way you want to picture it, then my work here is done. The truth is a tuque, and me doing something akin to roller skating over spilled debris from a bulk bin of couscous.

Tonight I was able to get home before Chuck went to work, which I hadn't thought would happen. But it meant sacrificing my daily romp through the hallowed aisles of a grocery store Chuck refers to as The Mold Factory -- for good reason. I hoped there was a box of Annie's Mac hiding in the pantry, so I didn't have to settle for Peppermint Patties sauteed in envelope glue. Then! Then I remembered two fat links of andouille sausage brats, left over from last night's dinner. They were the delicious, meaty stars, shining in the vinegar scented sludge of a mediocre meal.

Oh, Gah. Cue saliva.

The one thing standing between me and those sausages: The other adult in the house who would also be wondering what Iams Weight Control Cat Food would taste like served in a cereal bowl with two heaping tablespoons of sugar. When I got home, the sausage were safe. I checked, quietly closing the refrigerator door like it was a precious figurine of, perhaps, a figure skater mid twirl, marks in the shape of an 8 cutting into the fresh snow, her skirt billowed like a tutu and cheeks rosy. Like I said: I quietly closed the refrigerator. I only had to hold my breath for 36 minutes and the brats would be safe.

Well, until they met my incisors.

I greeted my soul mate, hoping he forgot that scene in the kitchen last night when I'd wagged those weinies and said "Hey! Look! You can have these delicious andouille sausages for dinner tomorrow night. I won't be home! So much flavor! How lucky for you!"

31 minutes. Links status: Safe.

Now Chuck was freshly awake. Still on the coffee and pajama pants part of his daily routine. Sitting at his computer. He didn't look hungry. Maybe he wouldn't eat before work today. Maybe he morphed Vegan sometime between phases one and three of his sleep cycle. Maybe he was craving dry lentils and soy sauce.

I played round after round of Bejeweled Blitz, the red shapes reminding me of the sausages. The yellows reminding me of the dijon I was going to bathe them in. The purples, my urgent tongue.

Chuck went into the kitchen to make his lunch. I held my breath. It was 10 p.m. I had 8 minutes until go-time. I held my breath harder. And then:

"I'm just going to eat these last two sausages," he called from the kitchen. "Is that okay?"
My stomach was growling "Noooooooooo!!!!" But my mouth gulped the saliva I was prepping, and said "Oh. Kay." My voice weak. Like a character in a Charles Dickens novel.
"What?" Chuck said.
"Go ahead," I said. Rewind. Cue up that scene from last night in the kitchen again. That perky cheerleader voice saying "Hey! You can have the left over sausages for dinner tomorrow night." Stupid cheerleader. Stupid perky.

He put them on a plate. Heated them up in the microwave. The entire house began to smell of perfectly tanned andouille hide. He came back into the Red Room. Forked what I imagine to be a glistening hunk of meat into his mouth. I could feel that delectable moment where the sausage squirts a stream of liquid. Did he lick his lips? Did he free a hunk from his molar with his tongue? He pushed the fork into another piece. I couldn't watch. I averted my eyes. It was like Edgar A. Poe meets Hitchcock meets Cronenberg meets my stomach -- caterwauling like Toonses when we forget to sprinkle his food with Aderall.

It was brutal. The kiss before he left for work was the worst. His lips tasted awesome. They should make chapstick from that junk. He's lucky I'm not flossing lip out of my teeth right now.

Some of you are probably wondering why I didn't claim one of those sausages. There were two. One, I knew, wouldn't be enough. Not for him. Certainly not for me.

Whatever. I found some prosciutto in the crisper, two eggs and some Feta. That was pretty good, too.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A novel idea ...

Like anyone in the world who has ever submitted an inky blob of alphabet to a page of the Internet, I would like to write a novel. Unfortunately, I read enough to have a better idea of what I don't want to write, than what I do.

1. A character that bears any likeness to me. I spend enough time with myself. And I never want to ever hear someone say the phrase "thinly veiled version of herself." Blech. I'll save that navel gazing for my 12-part memoir series, working title: "The Pista Pages." However, I'm not opposed to plenty of "thinly veiled versions" of everyone I know. And by "thinly veiled," I mean with the sheerest of silk.

2. Out of control, madcap behavior. I use this analogy a lot, but if my novel was turned into a movie, I wouldn't want there to be any scenes set to the sounds of someone going apeshit on a clarinet. There is a difference between funny, and train wreck of hilarity. I'd prefer the former. I've only seen the latter work once.

3. The phrase "chick lit" to ever be uttered within a 120-paragraph radius of anything I write. In order to assure this, my female lead won't wear shoes, eat cheese, or every say any sentence that mentions weight, or lack thereof.

4. A glaring error in punctuation or spelling.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lack of pop culture consumption ...

So this seems like a good place to insert house hunting updates. I figure my Weakly Review is a total skimmer anyway, unless some bold or hyperlink attracks attention. So why not include the deets here.

In other news:


Root Vegetable Curry: There is nothing really special about this. A few of my favorite vegetables, plopped into a makeshift curry gravy that is the color of a trail in April, and served over couscous. I won't not make it again, but if I do, it will be accidental and just because I am throwing root veggies into a curry gravy.

Pear-Berry Clafouti: This was yum. A layer of pear, mixed with raspberries, with batter filling in the cracks. Likey loo. I forgot to add an essential ingredient (butter), and it still turned out fine. Awesome.

Shakshuka: This is poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce, AKA "Breakfast For Dinner" and a classic Israeli breakfast, according to the cooking mag, Saveur. Easy peasy and yum. I totally burned the pita bread I was warming.

New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2) by Stephenie Meyer: Phase two of Stephenie Meyer’s beloved vampire series begins on our self-loathing heroine Bella Swan’s 18th birthday. In New Moon, the gothess is struggling with a Matthew McConaughey-ism: She will keep getting older, while her boyfriend stays the same age

Full review here. Summary: It still sucks, just not as hard.

Last House on the Left (2009): Rookie error. I should know better than to begin watching a movie like this at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I have a barely detectable level of self control, and I was frustrated with my own lack of pop culture consumption this past week.

This film starts like all scary movies start: two deputies are transporting a criminal to a prison. They are T-boned by a pickup truck, things get wonky, and the criminal escapes. Cut to the upper middle class family with shiny hair getting ready for a week of vacation at their cabin in the woods, a resort-like edifice 6 miles from the next resort-like edifice. Their daughter, a former pot smoker turned swimmer with Olympic aspirations, goes into town to hang out with her summer friend and crosses paths with the fugitive and the people who T-boned him to freedom.

This movie is pretty terrifying, filled with all sorts of "Oh, shit. I hope that never happens to me" moments. But it is also over the top in a way that made me really uncomfortable. Case in point: I have never seen such a graphic rape scene in my life. I actually started crying. It was just too, too much -- it's seriously like seven minutes long and filmed from many angles with lots of detail.

This is not a spoiler, but the last scene in the film is so ridiculous that it actually nullifies anything that happens before it. It's like telling a bad three guys walk into a bar joke with a punchline about aliens and unicorns. So: Scary, yes. It's terrifying. Good? No.

America's Next Top Model: Nicole is going to win, obvs. But if Laura wins, I'm going to cry three times as hard as I normally do, and probably send her a homemade piece of fan fiction. She's just so damn likable.

I looked at three places this week. The first was an adorable bungalow with a certain hippie accoutrement that really appealed to me. It also had a fantastic attic filled with places the 7-year-old me that is trapped in this ridiculous body would like as fort space. That's where I would lay blankets, grab a camping flashlight, and hang a bunch of posters of Corey Feldman. Unfortunately, it is just too small.

House number two was pretty standard, and pretty gigantic. The nagging annoyance: Sharing a driveway with one's neighbor. Okay, fine, at least it has a driveway, which obviously means parking, which is more than some homes have. But I just think it would feel a little bit like have rabbit ears made of tinfoil, and using pliers to change the channel.

The gates of heaven opened up, and there was this amazing house. The kind of house where you wear high heels with your sweatpants, and eat the cheese off a plate rather than just gnawing at the hunk. The place was swarming with fancy-schmancy blue hair couples who saw the price plus the neighborhood and went "Well, who do I make the check out to, pray tell?" The Realtor's opening monologue included information on how, for just $50,000 in repairs, this place could be a really good place to live. The upstairs: Mint. The main level: Awesome. The kitchen was awful. It looked like a good place to make microwave popcorn. You know, the really good stuff with extra butter.

I cried the whole way home. Such a great place for someone who knows which direction to turn a screwdriver.

Friday, November 13, 2009

One beer wonder ...

I hate one beer. I either want plenty-of-beers induced stupidity, or I want the smug do-gooder feeling of having had zero beers. I'm fine with either extreme. But if I was yanked off the street for a futuristic reality show and the contestants had to pick: A) one beer a night for the rest of your life; or B) never another beer, I'd choose B.

After one beer, I can feel the effects of beer, and I don't like any of them. My face is saying things, and my brain still recognizes that these things are dulled: perhaps slower, definitely louder than my inside voice. I don't like being hyper-conscious of the stages involved with becoming altered. Does my foot look funny because I'm getting drunk, or did I just break it? Or does it just not look funny at all?

If I know one beer is being chased by another, I can avoid that awkwardness by being halfway done with the second one before the first one sets in, thus guaranteeing that I don't have front row seats for the execution of whatever controls my motor skills.

This is why I don't do happy hour. I stopped at RT Quinlan's tonight. Cork1 was there, and it was on the way to my car. I'm all "I'm just going to have one beer and go home." Chuck, who knows that I hate one beer as much as I hate leeches, had this response: "You're gonna end up doing a workday length bar session."

It is pretty easy to coax me into a second. And even easier to coax me into a third. And that is all the set up for a pretty funny story about the time I spent $86 at Pizza Luce.

Instead I went home and made dinner, completely paranoid that I was chopping vegetables like a drunky. Gah. I hate that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A scientific study of how I watch TV ...

On the 1980s sitcom Cheers, the fiery waitress Carla had an ex-husband named Nick Tortelli, who could practically impregnate her by sneezing in the general direction of her cocktail apron. While the American viewing public knew as well as Carla that he was a sleazy dirtbag, he had a look that he would give her -- his head tilted forward, one eyebrow cocked, eyes squinted -- that Carla was powerless against.

This is the signature look of the character Chuck Bass. Somehow, over the course of more than 20 years, this facial expression has gone from "I hope that man doesn't get me alone in his van," to, "Why yes, Chuck Bass, I will refresh your vodka gimlet, and no, I'm not at all chilly with just these two green olives covering my nipples."

On Monday nights, I watch Gossip Girl. I don't even necessarily like Gossip Girl. If, running opposite of Gossip Girl, was a show that just featured Blake Lively's hair in various states of disarray, I'd watch that instead.

TiVo also records One Tree Hill on Monday night. There is no urgency involved with watching One Tree Hill. I save that for late Friday night.

TiVo is en fuego on Tuesday! The second I hear Chuck begin slicing the banana to put on his sandwich for lunch, I sneakily begin watching The Hills, pausing it every time he walks back into the room, and acting all cool-like "There's nothing to see here, I still read books, you know."

Chuck has an aversion to screaming blondes in oversized sunglasses, which I believe was a rejected title for the show.

Watching The Hills, followed by The City, is probably the highlight of my TV week. There is no irony here. I don't watch it "because they are all so stupid." I watch it because it is good entertainment, set to good music, and blondes in oversized sunglasses scream at each other. In the past, I've let Lauren Conrad narrate my internal monologue. I don't miss her (much). Now I let Kristin Cavalarri do it, and she has been a solid replacement.

Wednesday night is date night. Chuck doesn't have to work, so we try to watch things we both like. We have to be strategic about this: Mad Men while we are eating, Nip/Tuck after we're done eating. I don't know how many times I've stuck my fork into a mushy mound of beany whatever only to see Dr. Christian Troy ram a lipo tube into a tranny's ass, something the consistency of grits clogging up the piping. God forbid we try to watch this show and eat something like chicken.

Nip/Tuck is my absolute favorite show. Somewhere around season two or three, it went off the rails and the writers looked at each other, shrugged, and said "Lets keep off-roading." Chuck likes to compare this show to something like "Lost," where you can watch for three seasons and never learn anything. You would be amazed what can happen in a single episode of "Nip/Tuck." Instead of leaving questions, this show answers more than you could ever want to know.

As for Mad Men, well, I feel weird about saying this, but I think Don Draper can do better than that humorless shrew he's married to. I like it when he cheats on her. This makes me feel like a failure as a woman, until I remember how much I love Peggy and Joan.

If there is time, we watch Top Chef. Chuck isn't invested in this one. He knew enough to hate the T'shirts favored by Mike Isabella. This means he can rarely relate to my snot-fused sob fest when someone has to pack up their knives.

Much like Nip/Tuck, it can be tricky to watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia while eating. You never know when Charlie is going to snort cat food, or Danny Devito is going to pull a sandwich out of a dumpster.

Milk steak over hard.

Modern Family is about the only new show we're watching. I can't pinpoint exactly what makes it hilarious, but it really is.

At some point, Chuck thought he heard me say that I hated The Office, so he unTivo'd it. This is an untruth. I like The Office. Sometimes it's a snoozefest, though. 30 Rock is always solid.

We are so busy on Thursdays.

I spend my Friday nights alone. Just me, a pair of sweatpants, chocolate soy milk and Tyra. I start the night with America's Next Top Model. This is my favorite show in the whole world. It is the reason that I no longer feel disgusting when I wear a ponytail with a weird barrette jammed into my bangs. I just feel like I'm going on a go-see.

Much like Top Chef, there is not a dry eye on the couch when someone gets sent home.

I move on to 90210, followed by Melrose Place. Neither of these shows is good. Neither of these shows are interesting. I think if you were trapped in an elevator with a writer from one of these two shows, he would admit that the scripts are manufactured using a high-tech computerized version of Whacky Mad Libs in which a name appears (Annie) and a situation (abusive relationship) pops up. The writers then wait until they are good and shitfaced, and begin writing around these randomly generated ideas.

I think my brain would go wonky if I watched these shows in the wrong order, or not consecutively -- the way it was in the 1990s. So say we all.

I am always confused after watching 90210. I can never decide if I should get my hair cut to a short sassy bob like Silver, or let it go long and flowing, like Adriana. Sigh.

I double back to One Tree Hill. One episode of this show, which is well beyond its cancellation date, lasts approximately 4 hours. I don't get why I like it. I think the CW leaves it on only for me, to placate some leftover Dawson's Creek nostalgia that I have.

I close out the night with Grey's Anatomy. Again, not a show I'm hugely invested in. Again, a show that usually sends me reeling to bed, weeping.

I try to find a Law and Order marathon. Or CSI something. Or a movie.

My viewing is exhausted.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I was told there would be cookies ...

I was socially awkward before I'd ever seen those two words strung together in a sentence. When I was in elementary school, I was terrified of birthday and slumber party invitations. My parent's would pull up in front of the inviter's house, and about 40 worst-case scenarios would rush through my head.

"What if it's the wrong day?" I'd say.
"What if this isn't the right house?"
"What if they decided at the last minute that they didn't want me to come to the party?"
"What if I'm two hours early?"

I'd beg them to go around the block one more time. Maybe I could catch someone else showing up for the party, and confirm that this was the right time and place.

So the whole open house thing this weekend had me in a weird panic. Since Chuck is a night shift worker, things that happen at 1 p.m. are totally out of the question. He's brilliant at 8 a.m., and he can do 7 p.m., although I doubt he would want to anymore than any of us would want to climb out of bed, into socially acceptable pant-ware, and onto a stranger's creaky front porch.

"But what do I do?" I asked him. "Do I knock? Do I just walk in?"

He talked me through it, and told me there would maybe even be cookies.

Today I was lurking in the front yard of an open house sans an open house sign. The home owner's dog was going nuts, and I was doing some of the wide eyed, hunchbacked poses made popular on Next Top Model.

Worst fear realized: There was no open house here. Just a woman and her children chillaxing. That said, the woman let me come inside and showed me around. The place totally wasn't haunted -- which is code for "one bathroom, a dishwasher, and larger eating space short of awesome." And I kept wanting to say to the woman: "You totally look like someone I would like to be friends with."

Luckily, I knew that would be weird, and didn't.

In other news:


Chilaquiles Casserole: I never know if it counts it as "cooking" if it mostly involves a can opener. But this is a Tex-Mex enchilada-like mixture that was good, but probably not a repeat dish. It's also one of those cases where the leftovers surpassed the original meal. Very easy, though, and good enough.

Banana polenta: This one comes from Top Chef: The Natalie Portman episode. The Voltaggio brother earned huge props for it from Portman, a shiny haired vegetarian, and the recipe is actually super easy: Make polenta, using milk, fold in chunks of banana. It's pretty darn good. Of course, I'm a polenta freak. But I can see this being a regular oatmeal-caliber snack. I didn't take a photo because mostly it just looks like a blob of mush.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola: Very interesting. The last time I tried to make pumpkin ravioli using wonton wrappers, I ended up a weepy mess with a pumpkin-flavored slop. This is a more user-friendly recipe that eliminates the potential for disaster. For instance, when you've made your individual raviolis, put them on a baking pan covered in corn starch. It helps to not let them touch each other, so they don't stick together. My personal advice: Take your time and listen to the Aha channel on Pandora.

There is a lot of flavor here, between the pumpkin and sage mixture and the Gorgonzola sauce. I liked this.

When we were in NYC more than a year ago, we found ourselves traipsing around blistered and starving and unable to find a restaurant that didn't have a pub theme. We stumbled on a small French restaurant in a little neighborhood. I had pumpkin ravioli with a goat cheese sauce that I've been trying to replicate. This was a step in the right direction, and, in fact, I probably could substitute goat cheese for Gorgonzola if I made this again.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy: Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchert are boxers turned coppers who have recently forged a friendship and partnership after kicking the shit out of each other in a highly-publicized, post-retirement boxing match that resulted in huge headlines, cash for the LAPD, and a promotion for Bucky.

They are on the job when the Black Dahlia's body is found in a vacant lot around the corner on 39th and Norton. The torso is severed, and her face has been sliced ear to ear -- mafia style. The body ha...more Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchert are boxers turned coppers who have recently forged a friendship and partnership after kicking the shit out of each other in a highly-publicized, post-retirement boxing match that resulted in huge headlines, cash for the LAPD, and a promotion for Bucky.

They are on the job when the Black Dahlia's body is found in a vacant lot around the corner on 39th and Norton. The torso is severed, and her face has been sliced ear to ear -- mafia style. The body has been drained of blood, and the organs removed. Lee goes from zero to nutso, using the case as a way to resolve the murder of his own sister. Bucky does everything possible to get out of working the case, and instead spends his time trying to undo the crazy his partner is unleashing. At the center of this is Kay, Lee's special lady who is also making bedroom eyes at Bucky.

Full review will be here.

TV Marathon:
Harper's Island: The DVD Edition: Chuck found this one-season wonder about a small island town that was attacked by a serial killer seven years ago. The hero, a Katie Holmes-ish sort, returns to the town for a wedding -- even though one of the victims was her mother. As soon as she gets back to town, people start dying again. This show is a Christopher Pike novel. Awesome. We're on episode four. Totally lovin it.

Raditude Weezer: This is, of course, rankling everyone who ever prematurely wore skinny jeans while listening to "Pinkerton." Listen. This is good, catchy, fun, with extremely specific lyrics. Lil Wayne makes a cameo. There is a song about the mall. A song about a girlfriend. It's pop music. Or maybe it's post-pop irony. Either way, I'll listen to it.

Believe: Wicked guitar and grrl power triumph that you croak along to when idling at stoplights. Totally for girls who are a little bit Miley, a little bit Lita.

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack The Twilight Saga: New Moon: I like to think that all those bands I really like that are on the New Moon Soundtrack purposely made mediocre songs for this album. "Meh," The Killers said. "It's just Twilight. A bunch of teenaged girls will like it no matter what. We could sell those dipshits CDs covered with glitter for $29.99, not even put a song on it, and it would win a statue during the MTV Video Awards."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Driving by slowly and looking at your things ...

Chuck and I are house hunting. So far it has been mostly internet-based house hunting, which is a lot like shoe shopping at Zappos: Click on house-buying site, select 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a price range, and let 'er whirl. Weed out things in neighborhoods we loathe, coo over hardwood floors, question decorating decisions of current occupants, mentally rearrange furniture in a space that in all likelihood bears a faint resemblance to the wide-angle photograph shot by some savvy real estate agent.

"This place is totally haunted," Chuck will say, poring over a ramshackle bungalow filled with snow babies.

One of us brings to the house-hunting table a down payment and pre-approval for a loan. The other one of us brings a sunny disposition and a winning smile.

I graduated from high school with our real estate agent. (Go Eagles!) He showed us two houses this week, one in West Duluth and one in the East Hillside area. The former is still tickling my brain. I can't decide if it was awesome, or if distance has distorted my memory of it. I just doubled back to the online photos, and played the montage over and over while listening to "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin. That house is like a boyfriend that enlisted in the Army.

As for the East Hillside house: totally haunted.

Basically I'm seeing that being a real estate agent is a lot like being CSI: Duluth. He carries a flashlight in his back pocket. We wander the house, opening strangers' closets and making sure there is a dishwasher. Meanwhile, he's on his hands and knees next to one of those huge basement structures checking the font on the label of the furnace and saying: "This company doesn't even exist anymore. And this label was made in the 1960s. This thing is gonna blow."

I'm mentally chopping onions on the ample counter space; he flashes a beam of light to the base boards. "Looks like they didn't quite finish the trim here."

For many years I've thought that I might want to be a real estate agent. I now suspect that what I found appealing was the sound of high heels on hardwood floors, and the idea of a pencil skirt.

So, that is what we are up to here. Wake up, Chuck points out houses he's found. I send emails littered with an uncharacteristic amount of emoticons to our real estate agent. Later I look at listings suggested by CSI: Duluth, and text Chuck with the deets.

The most surprising thing in all of this is that I spent yesterday monitoring whether the home buyer tax credit was going to be extended. That is the most boring sentence I've ever written in my life.

But you know what isn't boring? Open houses tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bedazzled ...

I find myself in a precarious position as a person who loves the vampires, but thinks that the "Twilight" series is a crock pot of simmering shit written by someone who doesn't seem even 40 percent convinced that women should be allowed to vote.

Blah blah blah victim fantasies, blah blah blah stalking, blah blah blah my boyfriend just looked at my carotid artery like it was a Tobasco Flavored Slim Jim. Content sigh.

Unfortunately, every time I walk past the "Twilight" altar in my local book store, I find myself holding book two, "New Moon," in my stupid little hand. The cover is very aesthetically appealing. That glossy black, with a stark bloody flower. The novel is a good weight, a weight that says "there is a story in here," but neglects to add "but Stephenie Meyer is going to break that story by making flat, shallow characters, and by replacing plot lines with 322 ways to describe the color of a handsome vampire's eyeballs."

I should admit on this page of the Internet that I am, right now, listening to the "New Moon" soundtrack. But only for research purposes for this post. And because I like Lykke Li, Thom Yorke, and The Killers.

So the trailers for the second movie are killing me. I love the fanfare of a trailer. Any trailer. All drums and chase scenes and longing glances ... and, in this case, a wolf man. If I had no working knowledge of anything involving bedazzled Robert Smith wannabes, and someone dropped me from Mars and directly into a Cineplex, the trailer for "New Moon" would be incredibly appealing. Sure, it has its "Teen Wolf: 2" moments, but I've never let a little hokey pokey stop me from buying 8 pounds of popcorn, a jumbo vat of nacho cheese and a blue raspberry Slurpee.

This is all just to say that I'm afraid I'm going to probably read "New Moon." And then I'm probably going to go to "New Moon."

Here is my justification:
1) I like to know what the kids are Tweetin' about;
2) I'm never more alive than when I truly, truly hate something.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seitan-ic verses ...

So this is what Chuck came home to the night after Halloween. But he says the photo doesn't do it justice. I fell asleep with dozens of candy wrappers on my stomach, and when he picked a hand full up I opened my eyes, looked at him and said "Embarrassing" before falling back to sleep. This now ranks as my favorite story of all time. I started the night as a gangster and then ended the night as Tracy Gold.

Here's bonus Halloween footage:

In other news from the past week:


Chicken Cordon Bleu: A huge treat in the Pista household was prepackaged Chicken Kiev. Open, microwave, sink fork into, and this stiff breaded chunk of meat would ooze butter and seasoning. A close second: the Chicken Cordon Bleu. Same thing, but it bled white cheese and slivers of ham. Oh Gah.

It's funny to think of prepackaged anything as a treat. Especially since my mom is such a hot chef -- something I never appreciated until I was carrying a cafeteria tray at a small Catholic mistake-iversity in St. Paul.

This recipe is a 35-minute special, and whoa was it awesome. That might be the hormones talking, but lets humor them.

Slightly browned chicken breast smeared with part swiss cheese, part cream cheese, topped with shredded prosciutto, then topped with wheat bread crumbs, olive oil, and herbs. Better than prepackaged? Probably not. But freakin' awesome? Yes. And easy.

And I only had to go to second base with the chicken breast to win it over.

Seitan Satay with Peanut Sauce: I've been battling seitan for awhile now. Usually this involves dousing the wheat-based meat substitute in low-sodium soy sauce. Unfortunately, low-sodium soy sauce alone cannot distract me from the consistency, which is just off. I'm not sure how off off, just off.

And then, of course, we'll do something like eat Seitan while we're watching an episode of "Mad Men" in which the words "dog food" and "horse meat" are mentioned frequently.

This is the closest I've gotten to being satisfied with a dish starring seitan. And Chuck? Well, he thinks we should add it to the list of repeat dishes. We'll see.

The marinade was awesome, a touch spicy. A mix of a bunch sauces and oils. And it baked to the point of random crispiness, which was nice. Like bits of charred steak. Horse steak. The kind used in dog food on "Mad Men." I kid. It was dees.

Cheesy Polenta with Eggs: There really is nothing in this very easy recipe that is not to like. In fact, when I'm trying to find something new to make, I frequently just search for polenta recipes. Aside from that, it's just cheese and onion with polenta that is then baked with an egg and sausage on top, then popped into the broiler for a few seconds to firm up the egg whites.

Breakfast for dinner, bitches.

Michael Jackson: This Is It: The film stars an especially gangly Jackson, who has always seemed to have twice as many hinge joints and three times as many ball and socket joints as the average human. He is Jackson the way Jackson first became Jackson: sequined shirts, glittery pants and a red jacket with shoulder pads. He wears sunglasses almost all the time.

Pretty fricken awesome. Although I haven't gone a day without an MJ classic getting stuck in my head since I saw this. "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," seems to have the most staying power.

Paranormal Activity : Chuck and I went to the midnight show on Thursday night at Zinema 2. It. Was. Rowdy. And super fun. It was seriously like watching a film with your 98 friends. This is totally scary, and I loved it.

The low-budget horror movie stars Katie and Micah, a young couple living together in a two-story house in California. Katie has had an on-and-off again relationship with a paranormal force since she was 8-years-old, something she neglects to mention before they move in together. When she begins experiencing those familiar bumps in the night, Micah drops a load of his paycheck on a video camera, with which, he plans to do the sort of surveillance that is all the rage on "Ghost Hunters International" and "Paranormal State."

Poltergeist : It has been a few years since I've seen this film, and it is way funnier than I remember. It's always weird to see a movie you saw when you were like 10, the age of the kids in the movie, when you are 34, now older than the parents in the movie.

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman: Here’s a confession: I did not read Chuck Klosterman’s entire book Eating the Dinosaur. This slighting came with his permission, nay, his insistence.

Klosterman busts through the fourth wall in his essay about football to suggest that if you aren’t into football, you can jump this chapter: ” … I will understand if you skip to the next essay, which is about ABBA.” And if a reader hangs around a bit longer, thinking, perhaps, “Meh. Who cares. He’ll probably say something about Britney Spears in here somewhere,” Klosterman stops the bus and holds open the door once again:

“If you’d still rather get to the shit about ABBA, you should go there now.”

Friends, I went to the ABBA.

Full review here.

Luck be a lady ...

* I went as a gangster last night after ruling out A) a 1990s Proctor danceline dancer (see Geek Prom 2007); B) a hungover celebrity; C) Sabina from "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." I wasn't married to the idea of a gangster. I kind of hoped that someone would look at me and say "Oh! Blah blah blah Pink Pather!" At which point I'd redefine my costume. But at least two people looked at me and said "Oh! A gangster." So I let it roll. In fact, one guy told me I looked like his uncle who lives in NY.

This means I got to get a new hat and wear leggings with tall boots, something I've been itching to do for years.

* JCrew went as a witch. "I left my broom at home," she said. "That's okay," I told her. "You ride that every day."

* A man at The Round Up asked me if I was married. I said "No, but I have a very, very serious boyfriend." He said "Well, she's a lucky guy." She?

* The scariest thing I saw all night: There was a woman dressed as a deviled egg. White felt with a yellow circle in the middle. When she turned around, she had a sharp red tail. She walked around with a tray of deviled eggs, passing them out to the bar folks.

I'll eat some weird stuff. But picturing this woman unpeeling those eggs, a tub of Mayo off to her right, made my stomach recoil in horror.

* I karaoke'd two songs: "Holding out for a Hero" and "Kiss Me Deadly."

* We went to RT Quinlan's, then back to Frenchy's house for crackers, cheese, artichokes and olives.

* I wiped out walking up the steps to our apartment. Skid marks on my hands and shins. I looked like I was beaten by Pontius Pilate.

* I woke up around 7:30 a.m. when Chuck shoveled candy wrappers off my chest and turned off the light. Later I woke to find my leg stuck to the sheets with either Snickers Bar or Peppermint Patties.