Monday, January 31, 2005
Oddly sexual? The other night, for the first time ever, I went to a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. Have you been to a Krispy Kreme? Of course you have, because I think I was the last person to have never been inside a Krispy Kreme. I had eaten their doughnuts before: at people's houses, from kids selling boxes they got from 100 miles away -- 100 miles away! -- to sell as a fundraising thing, and I think once even at a free hotel breakfast buffet somewhere in Florida. But we got a brand shiny new Krispy Kreme shop here in town just a month ago (it was quite the anticipated event among some people who live around here, let me tell you), and the other night we were shopping and wanted something dessert-like, and there it was across the parking lot, all neon-y and bright. So we went.

Did you know that when the "hot doughnuts" light it on in the window, they give you a free doughnut? Yeah, you probably knew that too. Why didn't I know that? How come no one ever told me? I like free stuff! Anyway, we walked in, and I was a little overwhelmed. There was the plexiglassed-in doughnut-making area, surrounded by a little step-up level so kids can see and I can see. I appreciated this, and to tell you the truth, I really enjoy watching food being made, especially in mass-production form like this. Henry Ford would indeed be proud. It kind of reminded me of when a White Castle opened near where I grew up and inside it was a little window you could look through and see the guy making the sliders.

And then there are all the doughnuts lined up in the case, all shiny and glazed and puffy and oddly sexual looking. On the counter was a stack of paper Krispy Kreme hats, and we took turns trying one on and laughing at each other. It's like the Burger King crowns from the '70s and '80s, only less cool somehow. And just as we were figuring out which shiny and puffy doughnut we wanted, someone came along and started handing out free doughnuts. The "hot doughnuts" light, it turns out, was on! So I got a free doughnut. It was hot and good and really sweet from all of the glaze, and it made the latte I had seem really unsweet by comparison. But it was free, and you can't knock that.

But ultimately, I can't get all that excited about this kind of thing. I like doughnuts, but I don't crave them. If there were, say, a new sushi place in town, and they were giving out free sushi every time some light came on, I'd be outside their door like a starved and beaten orphan waiting for someone to hand out a spicy tuna roll. But doughnuts don't get me that excited. Sure, they're good, and sure, I like them, and sure, mine was free, but it's just a doughnut, and a small plain one at that. After I ate it, it just seemed that the whole world found something amazing in these doughnuts and I was completely missing what it was.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Very little to say today. I think this is the time of year when the cold starts to get to me, and I start seriously wishing that I were on a beach in 85-degree weather holding a coconut filled with booze.

Is a coconut an open container?

Monday, January 24, 2005
I've never been one of those people who feels the need to express herself through designer checks. I kind of feel like checks are there to take care of financial transactions, and that if I want to express myself, I can find other, more creative ways to do so. I've always had plain checks. Sometimes they've been blue, other times they've been yellow, but never have they had Looney Tunes, Harley Davidson emblems, Thomas Kinkade pictures, or anything else that might show bill collectors what kind of personality I might have. They don't care, I figure, and even if they did, I don't care to share that kind of information with them.

So last week, I realized that I was almost out of checks, and that I needed to reorder some. It takes me a long time to go through a box of checks because I pay so many of my bills online, but I was out and needed some for rent and the one or two bills that I can't pay online. I usually do my check ordering online, but I had moved since the last time I ordered checks, so I had to call.

When I got the customer service rep on the phone, I gave him my new address and said that I wanted simple, plain, solid-colored checks with nothing extra on them. He countered this by asking stuff like, don't you want our brand new Disney checks, and what about our brand new Thomas Kinkade collection? And I said no, plain yellow or blue please. And then he said that they were having a special on Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation checks, and for the same price as a plain check, I could order these and have a portion of my payment donated to the foundation to help breast cancer research. I asked if they were plain, and he said yes, they're just plain pink. I'm not really a pink person, but it did seem like a good cause, and he did say they were plain, and I was afraid that if I didn't get the breast cancer checks, that one day I would be diagnosed with breast cancer, and on that very day the Susan G. Komen foundation would shut down from lack of funds because unfeeling scum like me didn't do something as simple as ordering pink checks to support breast cancer research. So I said okay. Okay, send me the pink checks. The plain pink checks.

Well, I got them today, and they are not plain. Oh, they're pink alright -- a sickly pastel pink the color of chewed bubble gum and cheap underwear. And there's a stupid design and roses on them. Fuck! Now people who get my checks will think I'm some sort of stupid girly girl who likes pink and unicorns and rainbows and wearing lace in my hair. (I do like roses, but not pink ones really, and not on my stupid financial documents!) And I got like 100 of them. Do you have any idea how long it will take me to run through all these? Do you?

Please: if I ever have to write you a check, don't take it as a reflection of my inner self. I was conned. I think I'll see if my landlord will accept PayPal.

Friday, January 21, 2005
Maybe it's because I wanted to do something with the butternut squash that had been sitting on my counter for almost two weeks, or maybe I was feeling inspired by The Amateur Gourmet, or maybe I'm a little too mired in Alton Brown worship lately, or maybe I was procrastinating, or maybe I just had a little too much time on my hands, but whatever the reason, last night I decided to try to make Alton Brown's Butternut Dumplings. I usually make my famous (with my father and a few friends and in my own mind) butternut squash soup when I have a squash on the counter, and sometimes I'll cut it into chunks and roast it and eat it with pasta, but I guess I felt like trying something new, and when I saw Alton make this on Good Eats, it looked tasty. And the recipe was straightforward enough. I like squash. I like dumplings. I like Alton Brown. I like to cook. What could go wrong?

Nothing went wrong. Not exactly. But what I thought would be a fun little dinner project turned into over three hours of floury mayhem. I'll tell you all about it. I got all of my ingredients and prepared them like I was supposed to, which was basically roasting. Then I put everything in a bowl and got ready to add flour. The recipe says a cup and a half, but I must have put half a bag of King Arthur in there before I had something that I could come close to rolling out! Did Alton measure something wrong? No! No?

Yes. Most definitely yes.

And as you might imagine (or even if you might not), adding all of this flour gave me an enourmous amount of dough, which I then had to roll into snakes and cut into dumplings. Maybe it's a skill that guys are better at than girls, but I am no damn good at rolling snakes out of clay, dumpling dough, or anything else, probably including snakes. So that took a while, and all the time I had to add more flour to keep it from sticking to the board, and I got flour everywhere: on the counter, on the floor, on my clothes -- everywhere. I'm not the neatest baker in the world, but I do have some experience in bread-making and usually have some control over my dry ingredients. But this was a mess.

Finally -- finally! -- I finished rolling and cutting the dumplings. I had almost 300! And, they were probably bigger than they were supposed to be, since I couldn't roll them out as well as I probably should have. But it took forever. These had better be some fucking fantastic dumplings, I thought as I cut the last one. I froze about 200 and went about cooking the rest. I boiled them in batches, dropped them in ice water when they were done cooking, and then sauteed them in a little butter with sage and thyme. And...they were okay. Not awesome, not good, but okay. They were better once I dumped a ton of parmesan cheese on top, but because they were a little too big, I thought they were a little too heavy, and the squash flavor wasn't as intense as I had hoped it would be. But they're definitely fine for eating, which is a good thing, seeing as how I have over 200 of them in little zip-top bags in my freezer. If I invite you over for dinner in the next few weeks, you're probably getting some.

Next time, I'm just making soup.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
A letter to the people at VH1:

Dear people at VH1,

While we still stand by our position that it's really too soon to rehash a decade that's barely five years in the bag (it's embarrassing!), we reluctantly admit that we're enjoying I Love the '90s Part Deux. There's something about making fun of all the stupid shit we used to like and do that's wildly entertaining. We think that something is brutal honesty. But we digress.

So yes, we're enjoying the jabs at Nelson and stuff, but we think you might have gone a little too far with one of the items on your "'90s things to make fun of" list. In the 1993 episode, you brought up the horrible Midwest floods under the "Newsflash" header. I remember those floods, even though I wasn't living in the Midwest at the time. I was living in Buffalo, and it was the summer, and my insanely nice friend Chris was urging his friends to donate money to the Red Cross to help out the nice people in the Midwest. I had a little crush on Chris. He had a severe receding hairline and is probably bald now. There we go digressing again.

VH1, it's wrong to laugh at and poke fun at tragedy. You know this! You were brought up right! People lost their homes and everything they had due to an act of nature. And act of GOD, some might say. They did what they could, and they pulled through on what some would call a will to survive. 1993 was a crappy year for them, just like 2005 is shaping up to be a pretty nasty year for tsunami victims and 2001 was a crappy year for Americans. You wouldn't make fun of the tsunami, would you? Or the 9/11 attacks? Well? Would you?

VH1, we understand that humor is often the only way to get through a bad situation, but once that situation is gotten through, humor shouldn't be used to make light of it. Maybe we're taking this a little too seriously, but maybe you're not taking it seriously enough. Don't make fun of other people's misfortune, VH1. It might embarrass us to be reminded that we used to sort of like that one Nelson song, but you should be embarrassed by this. Please be nice. Thank you.

Your pal,

P.S. We never ever wore a fanny pack. We always knew they were completely stupid.

Monday, January 17, 2005
After staring at it on my bookshelf for the better part of five years, I finally got around to reading Don DeLillo's first novel Americana. Although it is usually considered by people who think they know lots and lots about books and high-brow culture in general to be DeLillo's worst offering, I figured the man's a good writer and I should therefore give his freshman effort a whirl. That, plus the description on the back indicated that it was about filmmaking, and lately I've been thinking that I should read more novels having to do with filmmaking. Anyway.

So I read it, and at first I couldn't understand where all of these snooty book critic people were coming from. The first 100 pages or so is an amazing exploration of 1970s competitive big-city office culture, with lots of neuroses and power games and odd detail. And of course, the writing is so good and comes across as so effortless that you just want to smack Mr. DeLillo for being so sharp in the first 100 pages of his career.

But then it gets weird and goes from a smarmy New York network office to this disjointed, Kerouac rip off, bad bohemian, counting-the-cars-on-the-New-Jersey-Turnpike-all-come-to-look-for-America mess. Sure, it's punctuated by a few good paragraphs here and there, but mostly it seemed like a night-sea journey that doesn't quite make it out of hell.

So after my initial skepticism, I'd have to agree with the general consensus that Americana is, perhaps, not the best reflection of what Don DeLillo can do, although it is, to reiterate, eerily well written. Yes, White Noise is good, and I thought it was better than Mao II, but Underworld was by far my favorite. And no, it has nothing to do with the movie Underworld, even though I got my hopes up that it might be when the movie came out. Same thing with the movie White Noise. Watch: someone will make a movie called Americana, and it actually will be based on this book, while movies called Underground or White Noise should have been based on DeLillo instead.

Friday, January 14, 2005
Long week. Not enough sleep. Very brain dead. Homer sleep now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
My new favorite site, and everyone else's, it would seem, is The Amateur Gourmet. It's food, it's comedy, it's fresh content, it's making me wonder why the hell I don't post more photos and make little silly movies for this site. Someone give this man a book deal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Today, Apple came out with some new products, and for the first time ever, I don't want any of them. Maybe it's because they're aimed at general consumers rather than video professionals and Mac nerds, or maybe it's because I already have better versions of all of the stuff they've announced, but whatever the reason, I don't have that familiar gotta-have-it burn in the middle of my abdomen that always follows a Steve Jobs keynote. I do think that the Mac mini is a good idea on paper -- for the consumer with a crappy tower but a working monitor, it's a great replacement machine at a very competitive price. (Did you hear that, mom?) And it's small and cute, but of course that doesn't mean it will sell well (G4 cube, anyone?). I'm less certain about the iPod shuffle; it's a good price, but you can't just choose a song; you have to let it randomly select one, and while I don't know about anyone else, I like to be able to pick my music. Maybe I've been spoiled by my regular iPod, but nonetheless, the all-shuffle, all-the-time feature would get a little annoying. As for iWork, I hope it sells, but it's hard to compete with the Office juggernaut. Ultimately, they're all decent products, but I'll keep my G5, cinema display, 10GB iPod, and Word.

Monday, January 10, 2005
Although there's no mention of it on the official website, Biosphere 2 is up for sale! How cool would it be to live in that thing? Or even better, turn it into a restaurant, or an art gallery, or a nightclub, or a bed and breakfast! This might be the coolest space on the market ever. Yeah, they'll probably turn it into some stupid research laboratory, and make it all science-y and stuff, but really: the menu and drink list possibilities are endless. "Yes, waiter, I'll have an eco-tini and the confinement burger and fries with a side of bio-ranch." I wonder what they want for the place.

Sunday, January 9, 2005
This could be bad: After finally getting rid of the four idiots and one obnoxious dog who used to live next door to me and having four seemingly nice girls move in, there may be trouble ahead. Why? I think those four seemingly nice girls got a dog. I've been hearing barking on and off all night, and when I came home this afternoon, a dog barked at me from inside their window. It's like the dogs are in cahoots with the bats in this neighborhood, and they're all out to get me.

Speaking of, bat update: nothing, even though I've been sleeping with one eye open. (Though I've been told I sleep with my eyes open no matter what might be flitting around.) Regardless of the lack of bat activity, I'm sure as hell not going into my basement after dark. This has forced me to revise my laundry schedule, but aside from that, as long as there are no bats in my apartment, I'm okay with staying upstairs after the sun goes down.

Thursday, January 6, 2005
Evil goo, you hurt my esophagus. About a week ago, I was having a conversation with some people, and of all things, we started talking about hot chocolate. One person said that when she drinks hot chocolate, she likes to put a big spoonful of marshmallow fluff in it. That got me thinking: I haven't bought marshmallow fluff in forever! So, a few days later, when I was at the grocery store, I bought some. I bought the big container,'s a better deal. A pound of fluff, and it's less than two bucks! Can you beat that? I don't think you can.

Please: if you are my friend, and if you care about my health and well-being and general wellness, or even if you're not my friend, but you're just a passive reader, and are even marginally interested in these things, please do not let me buy fluff again. I have a serious problem with sweets, and since Monday, I have eaten half a pound of fluff. Half a pound! Of fluff! Not half a pound of broccoli, or raisins, or bran flakes, but fluff! Sweetened white goo! And I haven't had it on a sandwich, or ice cream, or even in hot chocolate (well, just once, but I didn't like it so much in there). You know what I've had it on? A spoon. I just eat it out of the container, and I can't stop, even though it gives me a nasty stomach ache. It's not even a stomach ache, because it's too high in my abdomen. It's like an esophagus ache. And, on top of that, I get these crazy sugar highs right after eating it, but they only last maybe 20 minutes or so, and then when the sugar wears off, I can't keep my eyes open, and I nap for like 45 minutes and wake up feeling doughy.

Now I don't know what to do with all of this fluff. I have half a pound left, and I don't want to eat it, but if it's in my house, I will eat it. It's like a curse, I suppose. And I don't want to throw it out, because that would be wasteful, although I've resorted to that in the past with candy that I couldn't stop eating. So, if anyone wants half a pound of fairly fresh fluff, let me know and it's yours. I use a clean spoon every time, and if you've ever seen me do dishes, you know my spoons are very very clean. I admit that I occasionally double-dip the spoons, but I am quite healthy and brush my teeth frequently and even use Listerine. Fluff anyone?

Tuesday, January 4, 2005
Today was good! I got a ton of stuff done. It was like I didn't stop moving all day. I didn't even sit down to relax until 10 pm. It gets better, though. After coveting a bunch of music on the iTunes store but finally deciding I should pay off my credit card before I buy any more music, I got an iTunes gift card in the mail! (A late birthday gift from my brother -- thanks, Evie!) And, to top it all off, I drove over to Ann Arbor to have dinner with a friend, and we went to my favorite sushi place in the whole world, and she bought!

You know how on those cable networks that are all stock market, all the time when they say that if January is a good month for the market, then that year will be a good year for the market? I am hoping that a good January for me means a good year for me.

Monday, January 3, 2005
I usually buy organic salad at the grocery store. I'm not an all-organic, all-the-time kind of person, but the salad in the bags and the loose bulk mix seem to go bad really quickly, whereas the organic just seems fresher. The store sells romaine mix, arugula, and mixed greens in the organic section, and I always get the box of mixed greens. It seems the most colorful, and all celebrity chefs agree that color is healthy. And for the most part, it's pretty good. I'm not crazy about the frisee (that weird, feathery, throat-tickly thing that finds its way into every salad I have ever eaten), but I like all the other greens. There's one leaf mixed in that I like better than the others: it's peppery and fresh and really good, but since I could never figure out what it was, I figured I'd just have to have it sparingly and between bites of alien frisee.

Anyway, I stopped by the local megamart last night to pick up some salad mix, and they were out of organix mixed greens; all they had in the organic bin was arugula. So I reluctantly bought a box and figured as long as it was fresh and green, I was meeting my nutrition requirements, even if celebrity chefs might diagree with me. Today I put some of my arugula in a bowl for lunch with some other stuff, took a bite, and realized that it was arugula that I liked so much. And all this time I just blew past it, not knowing all along that it was what I really wanted.

The lesson in all of this? Mix up the routine. The other lesson? I should really get a fucking life. I'm writing about salad here.

Sunday, January 2, 2005
For the new year, another installment in the fairly infrequent series of interviews with myself:

Happy new year, Amy!
Yes, yes, happy new year. 2005 already. Five years since the Y2K hysteria. Hard to believe.

Right. So. How was your new years celebration?
Quite tame, but still fun. As you know, I don't normally make a huge deal of the calendar flipping over, but I did have fun. Had some drinks, had some kisses (all from one person), shared a cigar.

A cigar? You know what they say about girls and cigars...
Can we, for once, just not go there?

Sure, sure, sorry. But let's talk about 2004. It was a pretty good year for you, no? You made a film.
A documentary, and technically it's on video, but yeah, I finished Dishes and I'm pretty happy with it. And I've shown it here and there and at some festivals, and people seems to like it too. And I've sold some DVDs to boot, so all in all, yeah, it was exciting and fun, and I even got to sign some autographs. Pretty fancy for a shy kid like me.

Kid? Didn't 2004 mark a personal...ehh...milestone of sorts?
Yeah, I'm 30 now, so I guess I'm no longer a kid, even though I won't be able to buy booze without showing my license for probably the rest of my life.

Some say looking young's a good thing.
Some say lots of things

They certainly do. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, your 2004. You traveled a lot this past year, didn't you?
I sure did. More than ever before, in fact. In March I went to Pittsburgh and West Virginia. I had been there before, but the road trip was fun. Then in April I went home to New York for a week; also fun. At the beginning of June, I drove all the way to Ft. Lauderdale by myself! Talk about empowering: when I pulled in to the hotel in Florida, I got out of my rental and did a Rocky-esque victory dance. On this trip I tromped through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, a tiny corner of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and stayed near Atlanta for a few nights. And then at the end of June I went to Phoenix, Sedona, and Vegas. I experienced the phenomenon that is dry heat (dry, yes, but 108 is still freakin' hot) and got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time (amazing). Then in July I went to Northern Michigan for a week and visited Mackinac Island for the first time. Then I took not one more, not two more, but three more trips back to New York this fall! A lot of family time, but my mom appreciated it. And I went back to Mackinac Island for a long weekend this fall, and did a quick weekend in Chicago in December. Whew!

That is a lot of running around. Has it affected you at all?
Well, I did have the summer off, so that helped. But no, not in any negative sense. I actually feel great.

And you lost some weight in 2004?
Right, but let's get one thing straight: I was never heavy (or as my brother puts it, zoftig), but there might have been some junk in the trunk, and I probably wasn't eating as well as I should have been. So I made some changes: cardio work outs four times a week, Cybex twice a week, and as few pre-packaged and processed foods as possible. So, I cut out most candy, which was really hard, and I eat a lot of salad, but I've lost at least a whole clothing size, and on most days I feel like I can really kick some ass.

I'm sure you mean that figuratively. And speaking of kicking ass, you made a fairly sizeable kickass purchase this summer.
Hell yeah I did. I got a rockin' Yamaha Vino. It's black and shiny and when I take the restrictor off, look out, because it will go a blazing 40 miles per hour. Oh, and I got a helmet, too. You know how sometimes you do something and you think, I was totally meant to do this? That's kind of how I feel about riding my little scooter. I don't think I'm Harley material, but I'm okay with being scooter material.

So all in all, 2004 sounds like it was good to you. Any down points?
Of course. I did make the decision to not move back to New York after all, which disappointed some of my family for a little while. And I was kind of flipped out about turning 30, but that passed. And I did have a scare in mid-May when I had to pick up a date from a nasty car accident, but it all worked out. Not too many down points. Very unlike me.

So off all these things, then, was there a high point?
Even though 2004 was surprisingly good to me, by far the best thing that happened to me was meeting the most amazing person in the world and somehow (who knows how?) convincing him to like me back. A big high point, to be sure, and it kept me consistently happy for the better part of last year. Hopefully, it will keep me happy for a long time to come. Also very unlike me. But also very very very good.

You really can't ask for more than that.
I wouldn't even know where to start.

You know, we don't do this enough. This self-interview thing, I mean.
You're right. You're not as annoying as you used to be.

Neither are you.
Thanks, I think. We'll talk again soon.

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