Thursday, September 29, 2011

Skitchin' ...

Scene: Downtown Duluth. Police car pulled to curb, lights spinning like a winning slot machine. Nondescript car haphazardly pulled over in front of cop car. Lanky twenty-something sitting, leaned against a cement planter, feet propped on a skateboard.

Me to skater (Gesturing at the cop car): What's all this? Is it for you?
Skater: Half.
Me: Half? What happened?
Skater (shrugs): I was skitchin'.
Me (Laughing at the visual. And that "skitching" wasn't phased out at the border of 1999. Or heck, 1989): Was it worth it?
Skater: We'll see.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Newsletter: Week 2.5

Dear Hal and Orin,

Well. I'm glad you boys are still alive, because last night I found myself Googling "24-hour online vet" while Orin hunched himself into a ball, sneezing and dry heaving, in position to send clumps of stomach-stained Iams directly into my purse.

It started when Hal knocked over a floor lamp, mistaking it's on-off chain for a tether ball. The shade flew 10 feet, the bulb exploded. The look on your face, Hal, it seemed to say: "I bet this is something we can laugh about already." But only briefly. Then you saw the look on my face and you ran.

I swept up slivers of twinkling paw pad dicers and thought of the many dangers this modern planet has to offer to beings that are no more than three apples tall.

A few hours later you, Orin, found a chunk of bulb I had missed in my cleaning. A half-sphere jagged and open, white powder from the bulb creating a tempting bowl of poison. Of course, you dipped your nose right into it so fiercely and with such purpose that I saw clearly evidence of your past life: You were a coke fiend. A white suit-and-fluorescent-T-shirt, Raybans, topsiders-sans-socks coke fiend waxing hysterical about Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. I joke now, Orin. In reality I freaked the fuck out. Checked your little face for blood specs. Threw away the demon shard. Began monitoring your vitals.

It wasn't looking good. The sneezing. The hunch. The heaving. Your buddy Hal looked worried. He joined you amid a pile of my shoes and scarves and put his little paw on your back. If you would have died, right then, right there, I'd have had a hell of a time explaining it to Hal. (Even though, technically, he killed you through some sort of butterfly effect).

I'll spare you the 10 minutes of unrest, how I almost threw $41 at an avatar that claimed to be an online vet. By then you were back to kitty boxing and wind sprints. And within a 20 minutes, you and your buddy had discovered a new trick.

There is a tiny built-in bench area in the kitchen that is covered with countertop material and is set about two feet off the ground. Something I wouldn't know without the help of you little guys: There is a kitten-sized crawl space. You are able to weasel inside of the bench and chillax without any sort of interference from anything with opposable thumbs and human emotions. You can also get out. For now. But the way you're eating, Orin. Oof. Enjoy it while you can.

Sometimes I think of your predecessor. Hal, you remind me of him most. The lines of your fur, your face, your big clumsy feet. I watch enough "Teen Mom" to know that he was the "unprotected sex" cat. The one I didn't initially want, then gained full custody of when Toonsers dead beat co-owner decided to bang softball groupies in the bed of his Ford. In his later years, of course, Toonses and I came to an understanding. A mutual respect. But there was some resentment about how I spent my 20s sweating over the ammonia reek of sand clumps. You guys, though. You're my fertility drug kitties. The ones I knit booties for in my mind and imagined suckling at my teat. (Of course, Orin, you've opted to suckle at Hal's teat instead).

Hal and Orin, you boys are staring down your four month birthday and your three week anniversary in our little family. And so far you're still alive. But that doesn't mean I don't hold my little kitty mirror under your nostrils when you sleep. No it doesn't.

Master Christa

Go Panthers ...

Quick poll: Anyone else watch 27 episodes of "Friday Night Lights" in the past four days. (Three days. I just don't want to sound like a loser).

Anyway, here is what I've made, watched and read in the past few weeks.


Mushy Vegan-ish Burritos: I tried to re-invent the vegan burrito that I ate at this restaurant in Brooklyn with decent results (minus the fact that I accidentally bought real sour cream instead of fake sour cream. Idiot. Sometimes I get so caught up in being at Whole Foods and cramming Soy Chorizo into my hand basket that I forget that not everything is soy this).

First I fired up some minced garlic. Then I added two cans of black beans, that I squished into something not super pretty. Then I added a shitload of Spinach and waited for it to wilt down and stirred it all together. Then I added Daiya Cheddar Cheese -- one of my new favorite things -- about a cup of salsa, and a bit of sour cream. I mashed avocado on a wheat wrap, then threw down the mush.

Pretty. Damn. Good.

Quick Red Posole with Beans: Ugh. When I wait too long to do these Weakly Reviews I forget how I feel about meals. Eating it doesn't stand out as a memorable experience. I'm going to guess that I really liked this posole because, dude, it has hominy in it and hominy is like my favorite. It makes your teeth feel hilarious. Also: These are all the same ingredients we always use, except in a different order. OH GAH I FORGOT TO TAKE A PHOTO OF IT!

Louisiana Gumbo: This speaks to all your fake meat needs with double dosages of a) soy sausage and b) chicken-ish seiten. Seiten is so hit or miss for me. These huge wing-like pieces of fake meat kind of skeeve me out to work with, even though I know they aren't made with anything gross. I think that I wish I'd browned them up more while making this. It's good, don't get me wrong, but I like my fake meat a little more well-done.

Veggie Pot Pie Stew: I really liked this hearty stew with pot pie flavors. What really makes it is the thickening agent -- flour and water mixed together in a something that the recipe creator refers to as "slurry"-- which gives it a real gruel vibe. Likey like. We skipped the mushrooms. The recipe is from "Appetite for Reduction," my favorite vegan cookbook.

Pumpkin Polenta with Tomatillo (and technically Avocado) Salsa: This is a nice gateway between the end of summer and fall. Pumpkin polenta with a homemade tomatillo salsa (that I forgot to put a hot pepper and avocado into). We had it with fake Italian Sausages.

Mommie Dearest: Movie One of our Mental Illness marathon should have been saved for the finale. One of the best things about it is Roger Ebert's review of it, when it was just released, in which he disses it and says "It left me feeling creepy."

Regardless, it was a totally delicious film.

Sybil  This one stars Sally Fields playing everyone. I remember watching it in class in high school. It is so very long. I always forget that it is based on a situation that came from close to my home town.

Terri: This indie flick is the story of a high school misfit who is taking care of his dementia-saddled uncle and has opted to wear pajamas to school every day. He is taken in by the school's assistant principal and two other socially-challenged classmates. It was ok.


Mega Python vs. Gatoroid: This sci/fi original film stars Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, the former as an improbable activist professor, the latter as an improbable game warden. It's cute that someone sat down and wrote this movie and wasn't at all embarrassed to send it to the sy/fi network so that we could watch it.

It's Kind of a Funny Story: My gah. This movie about a kid who checks himself into the psyche ward and in the process learns a thing or two about love (from Zach Galifianakis) is so, so, so stupid.

Friday Night Lights: The First Season: I guess the world was right. This show is tits. I think it might require an entire post of its own.

The Art of Fielding: A Novel by Chad Harbach: This is my numero uno book from 2011 so far. It's got a small college baseball team frame, but that doesn't ruin it at all.

Full review here.

The Visible Man: A Novel by Chuck Klosterman: If you are a fan of Chuck Klosterman's essays, but think his last piece of fiction was a little bunk and played outside of his strengths, this will change your opinion. This is a pretty good little short novel about a man who has the ability to become something like invisible and he uses that to observe people who are alone to get to the root of who they are at their core.

Full review will be here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mistaken identity ...

We were wrong about Orin, black and white with an oversized soul patch. He was miscast as the cuddly little bugger. Well-behaved. A foil to Hal, reckless and unpredictable, a true athlete, a blur of grey and greenish stripes who has no time for ear scratching and baby talk.

Orin is actually an evil genius.  A cuddly evil genius, yes. But an evil genius nonetheless.

If, for instance, you were settling in to bed and heard repeated crashes from downstairs, it would be Orin who has found a way onto the window sill via office chair then cabinet, has been playing paw-tennis with a 6-inch plastic dinosaur and an All Star Wrestler figurine. It means that Orin is now hiding behind an aloe plant, looking like an old-timey portrait of a dignitary, a single flick from sending the aloe plant crashing to the floor. That look on his face: thinly veiled sarcasm.

If, for instance, you were reading and the door busted open and Hal came sprinting into the bedroom, he's just running decoy. It's Orin who slinks in on tiptoes amid the chaos, slinks beneath the bed.

I assumed that one of the kitties would take lead in the relationship, but at this point they seem to be equal partners in crime. Which is to say that when they collide in mid-air, fall to the earth spinning, then perform three double-somersaults, nipping at each other's faces -- like they do every waking minute -- it's requited. Sometimes Hal chases Orin from the top of the house, down two flights of steps to the basement; Sometimes Orin chases Hal. Sometimes Hal boxes out Orin at the food trough; Sometimes Orin gets his face low and in the bowl and stretches his shoulders all wide-like.

I've only ever seen Orin leap off a box, though, furry arms extended, land on Hal's back and ride him around the living room. Orin also tries to nurse off of Hal's stomach and deigns to clean his buddies ears and asshole. Hal likes to nuzzle Orin's neck, though. These two are just drenched with each other's saliva.

There is something about owning two kittens that makes everything seem like it should end with an exclamation point.

It's easy to see where this is all going. Orin, in five years, a doughy slacker with a philosophy major and ill-fitting Atari T-shirts. It's the power of the soul patch. Hal, meanwhile, is going to stay lean and mean, our champion mouser shrugging off rabid recruiters from rodent infested mansions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Siete! ...

You know, from this angle she really does look like her dad. 

Usually when Former Landlord asks me to babysit, I limp out of it with some excuse that is either true or sort of true. There really isn't a good time to go nose to snot-crusted nose with a wild eyed demon toddler and that is exactly what she is. You would be more surprised if her head didn't do a 360 on her neck, gallons of something resembling chunky Tahitian Treat gushing from her face like the most powerful of lawn sprinklers.

Dear, dear Em.

Historically, if I set foot near the little monster she weeps like I locked her in a room and made her watch "Beaches." I believe that children have freaky supernatural senses. That her tears have something to do with cigarette burns on my soul. Or the time when I was 23 and jumped on a small stage in a bar in St. Paul on New Years Day, sang "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac backed by a reluctant organist, then flashed the room for no reason I can think of, except that "Girls Gone Wild" was getting popular and the vision of naughty coeds had lodged in my brain as a Bad Idea, yet got carried by a current of Tequila over to the Good Idea territory.

Em sees all of that. I really believe it.

Or maybe she just doesn't like me. That happens. In fact, today I was driving along and a car was coming toward me in the opposite lane. From more than a block away I could see a stump-like figure jutting past the top of the steering wheel. When I got closer, I realized the driver was just giving me the finger -- super hard and for a super long time for no real reason. Huh.

About quarterly I'll try again with Em. See if anything has shifted. If her forked tongue has grown together and the scales have been exfoliated from her skin. I do this with mushrooms, too. You are allowed to not like something. But a responsible adult owes it to the planet to occasionally re-evaluate. Mushrooms, for the record, still taste like the dankest corner of the grossest basement.

My Former Landlord had errands to run, so I agreed to watch Cujo for an hour. I knew it was going to be rough. Luckily, I think her cry face is hilarious. And I planned to tell her as much.

So much for that plan. I was greeted at the front door by Miss Congeniality. All gap-toothed grin and wild hair, dizzy over today's episode of Dora. Dare I say, even friendly? It had to be a ruse.

She led me to the kitchen, where we removed thick slabs of duct tape that were holding one of the two refrigerator's shut and performed a yogurt raid. She wasn't even trying to be hilarious when she got it into the hair on the back of her head and slathered it on her legs like lotion. When I got a cloth to wash her face, she skirted away from me and dove head first into a mound of blankets. The joke was on her: When she emerged, she was clean.

I got her to clean the yogurt splatters that were Pollack'ed into the carpeting and throw away the empty container, sat back satisfied and thought: Huh. I'm good at tricking little kids.

I let her perform all sorts of dangerous gymnastics including the word "BLASTOFF!" and face plants into the couch. Then I let her remove the plastic bag from a garbage can and wear that can as a failed hat.  We would've gone outside, but I'm not sure the mangy being has shoes.

An hour later her dad returned. By then Em had taught me to say "seven" in Spanish ("siete"), though out of context. I took my umbrella from the umbrella stand and flew home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cat Power ...

Here Hal does that classic yawn move, putting his arms around a sleeping Orin. 

The plan was to get a tiny baby calico the shelter had named Sandy, and that we were going to rename Madam Psychosis. No plans to love her. I accidentally did that with Toonses, then he went mental spinning in circles, running into walls, tipping over. We had him put to sleep and snot oozed from my face like a DIY soft serve dispenser and I honestly thought I would never, ever stop crying for the rest of my life.

Up until last weekend, I had no intention of getting another pet. I said as much to my high school friends while we were on a pontoon. No way, man. It's terrible.

A few nights later I heard mice. I went to plug in my laptop and found evidence that there had been a turd party beneath the dining room table. Insect-sized pellets clinging to the cord. We set out some poison, which was ignored, and started scrolling through the animal shelter websites. I decided to mentally consider the kitten an employee. Perhaps I would develop a fondness for the guy, like anyone who spends years in your employ. But then we were cooing over pinched furry faces and alert ears. First taken with a little guy named Precious, then forgetting him on impact with Sandy mid-stride, sleepy little mug pointed at the camera.

When we pulled into the parking lot, a woman was getting into the passenger seat of a car. Sandy draped in her arms.

"Noooo!" I said. "Was that Sandy?!"
Chuck nodded.

We forged ahead. Were led to a playroom where about 15 kittens and cats were going apeshit, scurrying around like rabid rodents. Tails high, jumping from surface to surface. Wrestling and nipping at each other and then sprinting under the couch. It was panic inducing.

I used to have a reoccurring dream in which I was stuck in a room full of orange cats varying slightly in weight or length. I had to try to figure out which one was Toonses and which ones were feral alley cats coated in gross. They were skinny bone bags, like snakes with hair.

"This is like your nightmare," Chuck said.

A little grey and black guy immediately caught our attention, all daredevil and lightning, while a black and white cutie nuzzled our shoelaces. There was another grey cat, sleek and grey, faster than the rest. Chuck called him Wildcard. We were left in this room alone for about 10 minutes of pure chaos. How do you pick out a future employee?

A woman came into the room stroking a fatty.
"How many are you going to get?" she asked.

"One," I said, streaks of fur zipping around in my peripheral.
Her face fell. Like, you read that phrase all the time -- "her face fell" -- and it's a cliche and a tired descriptor. But this woman's face literally fell. Muscles slack. Like someone had cranked the gravity a few notches.

She told us we should get two. The adjustment would be easier. They keep each other entertained. Best friends forever, and all that.

The grey one was a given. The prettiest kitten in a room full of kittens. Plus he was interesting, energetic and spontaneous. Prone to wind sprints and gigantic, aerodynamic leaps. And who could deny the little guy at our feet. The orphan with pin curls who has perfected big innocent eyes, climbs into your lap and calls you "mama."

So we got two. Neither are female, so there went Madam Psychosis. They are both about three months old and just more than 2 pounds. They seem to get along okay. Right now they are spooning on the couch. They have taken turns chasing each other from floor to floor. One of them has discovered the litter box -- not sure which -- and the other is TBA. I'll know when and if I put a shirt on and it's got a cat-butt sized stain of wet.

This is Hal:

He is a freaking maniac. He busted out of the carrier and had the entire house figured out within 15 minutes. Slipping beneath a bookshelf, climbing curtains, examining the shower drain. He is a holy terror. When his little buddy finally crashed, Hal paced around the couch trying to keep his eyes open.

This is Orin, who after he slowly got some mojo would not sit still long enough to be photographed:

Orin is more thoughtful. He went through the house inch by inch, examining everything very slowly and deliberately. Then he too went loco and wouldn't sit still.

My sense is that Orin likes to cuddle and Hal likes to stab people in the eyeball.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Check yourself (before you wreck yourself) ...

On my way to the self check-out at the grocery store, this older woman on a cell phone cruises past me. She's talking to her daughter, expressing hurt feelings over a slighting. As I begin running cans of beans through the check out, she settles into the adjacent manned lane behind another customer.

She's facing me. Looking almost right at me. I can practically feel her arthritic claw poking my chest. She says into the phone:

"Oh, no. I NEVER use the self check out. NEVER. It costs people jobs. Using the self check-out. I NEVER use it. Nope. A lot of my friends won't. It costs people jobs. I NEVER. Use. The. Self. Check. Out."

I keep my eyes on her, lest I miss the opportunity to give her the finger.

I slow down what is typically a pretty efficient system, this self check-out. Match my bagging to her bagging, then jump out just in front of her at the exit. Pull my cell phone out of my back pocket and have a fake conversation:

"Oh, no. I never talk on my phone in line at the grocery store. Never! It's obnoxious! Talking on my cell phone in line at the grocery store. I NEVER do it. Nope. A lot of my friends won't. It's obnoxious. I NEVER. Talk. On. My. Phone. In. Line. At. The. Grocery. Store."

Headlock ensues.
Fade to black.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blue hoodie ...

In first grade I had the opportunity to wear my brother's navy blue hoodie to school as a lightweight jacket. This felt like a fantastic luxury, the sleeves long, covering my hands. That's how we wore sweatshirts in 1982. 

I felt so cool on the playground. Plaid skirt wrapping around my knees as I ran the bases. Oversized sweatshirt bagging at the elbows. My two best friends at the time, Fannie and Al, grabbed me. They yanked on the sleeves, then tied them together. Zipped up my sweatshirt, cinched the hood and tied a knot so I couldn't see. 

When the recess bell rang, they ran into the school, cackling bullies. Especially Al and the daily tutorials from her three older siblings. They had a garage fort filled with lyrics and graffiti and nudie mags. She knew every swear word, had busted a Peeping Tom at her bedroom window, and mimed what it meant to hump, shaking her hips like she was dancing. 

I tripped blindly toward the door to the school and was stopped by the playground lady. That was the job title. "Playground lady." She asked me who had done this to me and I wouldn't tell her. My first grade teacher figured it out pretty fast, though. I can't remember if they got in trouble. 

We're friends again. Well, at least Fannie and me. Al moved to Wisconsin in seventh grade and I never saw her again. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ninety-four! Ninety-four! ...

The truth is: I loved high school. Perhaps karma decided enough-is-enough, Miss Halcyon Days, and made college wretched instead. Forced me to make payments on skating through my early-to-mid teens, a world filled with reams of purple and gold crepe school spirit, giggles, mud-caked shins packed into a sweaty-foot smelling school bus chugging home from track meets. We were, admittedly, a Disney version. Mr. Misty Freezes at Dairy Queen, gift-wrapping trees in Charmin, face paint. My biggest complaints would have been acne, curfew and unrequited love. And none of those really deserve an empathetic nod, and "I'm so sorry you had to live through that."

What's most surprising is that we didn't occasionally bust into flash mob choreography, that the story isn't categorized as a musical, downloads available for $9.99 on iTunes.

Every year my friends from high school rent a cabin near Brainerd for the weekend. The roster has subtle changes from year to year, and in fact this past weekend was only my third trip. Now I'm a lifetime member. I've known half of these people since 1982. Strange to think that I couldn't yet write in cursive, adored "The Eye of the Tiger," my prized possession was a stuffed Garfield dressed in jogging attire and I had the capacity to make friends I'd know forever. Kudos, 7-year-old Chrissy!

I get there late Friday night every year, but this year I had an excuse. My friends Radzo and QT had their wedding reception at The Depot. My friend Tuska had married them earlier in the day. I was bummed about leaving. The overlap was cruel. Regardless, the former wore a kicky white dress, red shoes, flower in her hair and the latter had a white suit. They were lovely, a a kind of glowing commercial for young love. I watched the event unfold on Facebook later and wished that thing had been invented where you could be at a wedding reception at the Depot and in Brainerd at the same time.

I was greeted at the cabin door by my friend Dong, who I hadn't seen in close to 10 years. He's the cutest: Bobby Brady face, with calves that remind me of chicken drumsticks from the Renaissance Festival. I've spent much of my life eyeing those suckers and craving BBQ.

Donger eats chips while wearing my high school track jacket, a retro piece of clothing that rides up in such a way that it looks like a halter coat. Once a year, one of the boys likes to wear it. 

Here I am with Fannie Face. 

Most people went to bed, but Fannie, Dong, J-rey and I stayed up and played Family Feud on the iPad (Instruments played on street corners? Items of clothing associated with other countries?) Then Fannie and I sat on a dock for awhile. 

"We should go skinny dipping," she said. 
"No way," I said. 
"It's not like we're going to make out," she said. 
"Just hug?" I asked. 

We stayed on the dock until we were sure the woods across the lake were filled with serial killers and wild boars; the water waist-high in snakes. 

Then we went to bed, sharing a room with my friend Polish and his wife Small Fry. I'm sure this isn't on their wish list of sleeping arrangements. But I like to think it is good practice for when they begin hosting the slumber parties they will undoubtedly be hosting shortly. 

I spent most of Saturday in a cloudy, sun-stroked beer haze. I make an exception on day drinking just this one time of the year. Outside of Gull Lake, day drinking is a piss-soaked, blood-letting, cry-fit disaster waiting to happen. At Gull Lake, it's a Salt n' Pepper remix singing, Bloody Mary chugging, sunburned delight. 

We were on a pontoon by noon, cruising around, listening to music, eating Cheez-Its and getting weird. 

Fannie and Small Fry, dressed as a 1920s movie star, bask in the sun. 

Polish always likes wearing other people's clothes. Here he is sporting Dong's tank top. 

Look at that fun-in-the-sun crew. 

This is probably when the wheels came off: Princess Linda, Fannie and Z getting dance-y. 

It was a hot day on Gull Lake. At one point everyone decided to jump into the water. I hadn't worn swim suit bottoms. I took my F in Advanced Beginners Swimming and minded the pontoon while the water baby freaks acted like they had never before been submerged in liquid. They were little bobbing heads, cackling at the hilarity of wet. 

Eventually I couldn't take it anymore, so I strapped on an orange life vest and backed slowly into the lake in a pair of Princess Linda's shorts that she very kindly allowed me borrow, knowing I would be using them as a sieve for urinations. See? Friends forever.  I dog-paddled around, face poking out of the drink. The neck-high in water terror past quickly and I could breathe again. 

 Here's Z, seemingly in the early stages of a fist bump. 
 This is my favorite photo of Princess Linda. She looks like she might fly away. 
 Ahh. This almost makes up for the time we didn't get to go on vacation. 
 Princess Linda and Donger ... I really did a bang up job framing this one. 

Fannie and I were drinking a mix of Berry Weiss and Honey Weiss in plastic cups. Dong walked past, picked a chunk of ice off the floor of the pontoon, wiped it off on his shirt and dropped it into my glass. 

We went back to the cabin, cleaned up and got ready for a night on the town. This Super Hot Dance Club in the Greater Brainerd Area. We didn't last long in that sea of bachelorette parties and Humpty Dance remixes. I went outside for a second and could not physically drag myself back into the bar. Everyone else filed out soon after. 

Readers: I was in bed before midnight on a Saturday night. 

I woke up this morning to the sound of Princess Linda and Z peeling out of the parking lot, gone before I was even awake. We all followed soon after.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ghostbusters! ...

Chuck: Whoa. Did you see that?
Me: What?
Chuck: This just slide by itself.
(Takes top of coffee grinder and slides it across the counter to demonstrate).
Me: Sweet! You know what that means!?
(In my head: Ghosts. Ghosts. Ghosts. Ghosts!)
Chuck: Yeah. There was water on the counter.
Me: Yeah.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weakly super sized ...

Crikies. I haven't done one of these in awhile. I'm absolutely rich in content. Hold on to your hats, internet faces.

Here is what I've been making, watching and reading, reading, reading.


A few weeks ago I went to my friend D-Rock's wedding, the ceremony was in Leif Erickson Park on what might have been the nicest day of the entire summer. They also had this amazing singer in the dauntingest of high heels perform before during and after. She had this great voice, like Frente, kind of. Our group popped a squat right on the grass. It was all lovely.

Then FScotty and I made off with my friend Dude's son Eli. (Both wondering what we look like holding a child. Answer: FScotty got huge props from his boyfriend, I looked like Rebecca De Mornay from "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.")

Red and White Cauliflower Bake: This is a little bit like lasagna, but made out of cauliflower that is on this really moist and flavor-y layer of seasoned tofu and awesome. Chuck made it and he reports low difficulty level, high pot count.

Wasabi Pea Crusted Tofu with Hoisin Glazed Broccoli: Tofu is marinated in first soy sauce, then dragged through a dust of wasabi peas and nutritional yeast and then fried up. We had it with sauteed broccoli that was doused in a mix of hoisin and water. Zoiks! So good. Status two hours later: Hungry. I just dumped the wasabi dust straight into my face.

Once again: Not a plater or food photographer. Obvs.

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings: For those of you who like to use your imagination, these looked a bit like Gremlins. Particularly Spike. First I food processed a carrots, garlic and broccoli, then mixed in some red miso and soy sauce. Stop here! This blend is whoa. I couldn't stop eating gobs of this as I was making the rest. Continue: Wrap these in wanton wrappers and then steam them. They are best served hot out of the steamer. We dipped them in a mix of soy sauce and wasabi mustard. GO, MAKE, EAT!

Warm Kale Salad: This is what I ordered for my birthday dinner. It's an easy mix of Kale, Onions and Tofu. I sprinkled in some hot sauce, because I'm really into hot sauce like big time. It's very fast and easy and good.

And it was a nice preface for the real treat: The Dairy Queen Heath Bar Blizzard Cake.

Good Hair: This is a documentary starring Chris Rock in which he studies African American hair, wandering around the world to the root of weaves and the importing business. It's all focused around an annual hair competition that requires more than just scissors and a plan: Winning requires a schtick -- and in one case a marching band. This is really super duper interesting, and of course funny with Chris Rock at the helm.

In Bruges: This movie has been recommended by about 150 people and it is fantastic. A newbie hitman makes an error during his first gig that lands him in Bruges with his mentor. It's funny. It's bloody. It's twisted. Loved it.

Another Year: Admittedly I was only half-assedly watching this. It's a lot of talk -- plenty of it uncomfortable -- and little action. But it's good in retrospect. Long, though. And hardly satisfying. A little depressing. But good. I swear. It's good. It's about a woman who works as a councilor, that maternally huggish person you wanna spill your guts to. It follows a year in the life of her and the fuck ups in her circle.

Sucker Punch: The opening scene in this movie is super intense. And then it is like watching someone play a video game. I lasted about a half hour before turning it off.

I'm going to be brief here. This list is a monster. As always all reviews are either posted to, or soon to be posted to, Minnesota Reads.

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter by Mark Seal: Aside from a few annoying little ticks and a bit of repetition in the first part of the book, this non-fiction tale of a man who travels through the United States reinventing himself with recognizable last names is pretty fast-paced and gripping. I can't wait to suck it up and download Lifetime's movie about Clark Rockefeller. I'd read it.

The Glass Castle: A Memoirby Jeannette Walls: Unbelievably wicked coming of age story told by a woman with the ultimate in free spirited parents with some lax ideas about addressing when the kiddies are molested. Recommended.

Half a Life: A Memoir by Darin Strauss: When he was 18, Strauss killed a schoolmate in a car accident. This is about how this has affected his life for the next 18 years. It's a doozy. Recommended.

Paying for Itby Chester Brown: When his last girlfriend broke up with him, Chester Brown decided to never have another and to stick to prostitutes for covering his sexual needs. This graphic memoir tells the story. Take it or leave it.

Kiss & Tellby MariNaomi: In this graphic memoir, sexual prodigy Mari writes about the men and women she has rolled around with between the ages of 0-22. Take it or leave it, but leaning toward take it.

Shortcomings Adrian Tomine: This graphic novel is about Ben, a sort of prickly fellow, the bust-up of his relationship with a girl who is way too good for him and his weird issues about race. Recommended.

Lola, California: A Novelby Edie Meivad: Two girls run wild in the streets of Berkeley, one's father is a guru with hordes of followers. Their story is told while he sits on death row with brain cancer. This might be the best book of 2011 (That I've read). Beautifully written.

Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toibin: Eilis Lacey gets a ticket out of her small Irish town and into Brooklyn, where she starts a new life for herself. This one is meh.