Friday, March 30, 2007
I had been craving chocolate chip cookies all week, and the other day we got a very (very!) nice engagement present of a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, which I had been wanting to try out. So, last night, when I got home from class, I fired up the mixer and made some cookies. And I have to say, that mixer is really quite the machine. I had heard people rave about them before, and of course I had seen the on the Food Network in those fancy studio kitchens, but I had never actually used one. The Kitchen-Aid was always out of my price range, so I always had one of those smaller, less expensive hand mixer deals, and while I wanted a stand mixer, I figured I just had to get along with the hand mixer, even though I like to bake and could probably have justified getting a stand mixer. But I didn't. I figured I could just get along without one. And I did, but that stand mixer is awesome! You just put the stuff in the stand mixer and walk away. You don't hurt your arm holding on to the hand mixer, and you don't get sugary bits of butter flying everywhere and sticking to the blender and the toaster and the cabinets (and yourself!), and you certainly don't have to worry about the motor buring out. (You may remember that I burned out a hand mixer motor on a stubborn batch of shortbread a few years ago. Or maybe you don't. You probably don't, but I do, and I did.) So I made my cookies and felt just like the Barefoot Contessa, with my fancy Kitchen-Aid stand mixer and my cavernous bungalow on the beach and my BMW convertible and my fabulous gay male friends who bring over enormous orange flower arrangements at cocktail time. Well, the stand mixer part, anyway.
So now we have lots of delicious chocolate-chip and pecan cookies in the house, which would normally be great and last for a few days, but we are leaving town tomorrow. We'll be in New York for some quality family time until late Wednesday, but I assure you that those cookies won't go to waste. I'm bringin' them with me, kind of as a pre-Passover treat. I'll try to write something here before Thursday. And for our Jewish friends, all of us here at amyscoop.com extend our best wishes for a joyous and relaxing Pesach. For our non-Jewish friends, you just have a nice week, and don't be afraid to try the matzo-y treats that your Jewish friends try to push on you so that they don't have to watch you eat that bagel or cupcake or fried ham and cheese sandwich with extra bread. They're not so bad.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
Let me give you several reasons as to why this was not a good movie. First off, and I had this problem with the book as well, Augusten Burroughs (not even his goddamn real name) tends to portray his mother as a source of comic relief, when in fact she has a serious case of mental illness. She is not at all well, but it seems that throughout his story, he takes every opportunity to point out just how crazy she is and how funny her craziness is. She's not crazy -- she's sick, and while some of the things she does (or he says she does) are just plain odd, it's not a joke. The woman has problems. (Kudos, however, to Annette Benning for a bad role well acted.)
Okay, second: the movie was one of those that relied so heavily on music that if the music were taken out, the movie would lose most of its meaning. Like, every time the script reached a point of higher emotion, here came the opening bars of a song by Manfred Mann, or Average White Band, or CSN, or whatever. Yes, it's the early 1970s. I got it. Lame, lame, lame. Okay, what else. Oh yeah: one of the stronger points of Burroughs's book was his descriptions of the quirks of his mother's shrink and his house and family, but that was all left out of the movie. The story wasn't interesting -- the details were!
And finally, I liked Joseph Cross, the actor who played Augusten Burroughs (again, not his real name even), but I did notice that he was exponentially better looking than the real Augusten Burroughs. I guess if you're going to pick an actor to play yourself, you want that actor to be attractive, but jeez! It should be somewhat realistic. And, Cross looked so much like celebrity chef Tyler Florence that at any given moment throughout the very long two-hour movie, I half expected him to break the fourth wall, turn to the camera, and say something like, Okay you guys, now we're gonna make some awesome fried chicken, and it's gonna be totally rockin'.
In review: Running with Scissors book: mediocre. Running with Scissors movie: don't bother.
Friday, March 23, 2007
We didn't get back last night until after 11, and I slept on the bus ride home. It was a yellow school bus, and I hadn't been on one in years and kind of forgot how uncomfortable it is to sleep all slouched down with your knees up against the back of the seat in front of you. Either that, or I didn't get as sore when I was younger. My back's a little tight this morning. But the kids let me sleep, and I guess I'm just glad no one drew on my face or anything like that.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
My earliest understanding of channel 13 is of it being WNET, the PBS station in New York. When I was very young, it was more or less the only channel I watched, as it was the one that showed Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and the Electric Company (even though the opening yell of "Hey you guys!" used to really scare the crap out of me as a three-year-old). Occasionally I'd see The Magic Garden on channel 11, another local New York station, and I was allowed to stay up to watch "The Donny and Marie Show" (please don't ask and please don't mock), but other than those, it was channel 13 and only channel 13. Besides, channel 13 was like the only channel that came in without snow or static on the ancient black and white set we had in our kitchen. Remember when people had tvs in their kitchens? And then they didn't for a while? And now do again, except now they're all shiny and flat-panel-y and hung on the wall(-y)? Anyway, that's been my understanding from such a young age that now, whenever anyone mentions channel 13, I think of Muppets, learning to share, cardigans, and pledge drives, and especially that channel 13 Sesame Street giant tote bag that they gave people who donated money, because I wanted one so badly, but I never understood that they weren't really giving them as gifts in the free, childhood birthday party sense, even though they always said that it was "Our gift to you." I wanted my gift! Anyway, my channel 13 understanding was further reinforced when I was a teenager by the lyric from the Billy Joel song "Pressure" that goes like, "All your life is channel 13 / Sesame Street / What does it mean?" Of course, now I know that Billy Joel pretty much never left New York until he was like 30, but you can see how I never thought to question it.
But around here, channel 13 is an ABC affiliate out of Lansing, and a rather poor, low-budget one. (Actually, all of the local affiliates are rather poor and low-budget, but this one is especially so.) I guess the person I was listening to was making a reference to the channel's shoddy news coverage, but as soon as she said it, the first thing that came to my mind was Oscar the Grouch and Prince Tuesday and Spiderman.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
But I guess it's fine with me if people want to go out and get drunk tomorrow night. I generally make a point to stay in on St. Pat's to avoid the drunken crazies who think they can still drive after eleven pints of Guinness. No one can drive after eleven pints of anything. Oh, and that brings me to what really bugs me about St. Patrick's Day: Guinness. It's dark and bitter and I don't like it. But that's not what bothers me about it; I don't really like lambchops, but I don't get annoyed when people eat them. I guess I don't like the whole aura that goes along with getting a Guinness. It's like, people who order a Guinness are usually Guinness snobs. When they talk about Guinness, they do so with a bloated kind of reverence typically reserved for expensive champagne and small-batch single malt Scotch. When they do this, I roll my eyes. It's just a fucking beer.
But there's more, of course. You can't just open a can of Guinness, or pour a draft of Guinness. No no no. It's like a whole performance. If you're at a bar or tavern and they serve Guinness on tap, they have to pour it in stages, and then everyone else at the table with the Guinness orderer has to wait for their drinks because ooh, ooh, the Guinness is settling and is not yet ready to be served. And then some showy bartenders will put like a shamrock or something on the head of the Guinness, and the orderer of the Guinness will be all like, oh, that's such a perfect pint of Guinness and will make everyone else at the table admire it. And then the person with the Guinness will take that first sip and talk about how awesome Guinness is, and how can the rest of you drink that Corona and Labbatt and, fuck, Bud Light when you all could have had a Guinness. And then the people with the non-Guinness beers will all say something about how maybe Guinness is a little heavy, or a little bitter, or just maybe not what they wanted, and the Guinness drinker will make some kind of hand motion and/or face gesture as if to suggest that the non-Guinness drinkers just don't have refined taste buds, because if they did, they would surely order a Guinness. I hate all that crap.
Oh, and then if you are somewhere where there is no Guinness on tap, but they have it in cans, there's the whole performance of opening the Guinness can, which sounds kind of like holding down the nozzle on a can of Reddi-Whip because of the nitrogen capsule in it that's supposed to help the Guinness form the familiar Guinness head. They have to open the can at the table and pour it in front of everyone, and no one at the table can talk because, shhh, there's Guinness being poured. Then when it's settling, the person who ordered it never fails to point out that oooh, there's nitrogen at work! And then the whole above conversation takes place, with fairly consistent results.
Maybe if I liked Guinness, this wouldn't bother me so much, but gaaaaaah, this whole cult of Guinness just really irritates me. It's not specific to St. Pat's, but it seems to come up more around this time of year, seeing as how Guinness is like the official Irish drink/food or something. Please: if you order Guinness, just be quiet and drink your beer. No one wants to hear how good it is. No one wants to taste it. No one wants you to feign disbelief because your friends didn't order one. Drink it and enjoy it and keep your mouth shut. If you tell me how good it is, I will not share my nachos with you. Yes, I know nachos aren't Irish. Neither am I.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I don't know why the hell I thought it would be good. I guess maybe because I've been hearing my students talk about how much they love the Shamrock Shakes at McDonald's, and how they're so awesome, and how they've had one every day this month, and I guess after a while it started sounding kind of good, and I didn't consider that I was about to take culinary advice from people who drink Mountain Dew for breakfast and think Little Caesers is good pizza. And then there's the whole thing about the Shamrock Shake being a specialty item, and for a limited time only, and all that jazz, and I thought, I'd better get one soon before they take them away for a whole year. A whole year! And then we were out for a walk earlier, because it's so nice out, and there's a McDonald's just a few blocks away, and I wanted something sweet, and in a moment of weakness, I told Paul I wanted to go there and we started walking in that direction.
So I got the shake. I got a small, because no one needs more than 16 ounces of artificial semi-frozen goo. Paul got a strawberry sundae. We sat and consumed our treats. I sipped at my straw. First comment: It tastes like that chalky antacid stuff. Like, kind of minty, but not overly so, and sweet in an artificial way, and creamy in an even more artificial way. But I kept sipping at it, and soon enough I was two-thirds of the way done and starting to not feel great and to question why I thought getting one would be a good idea. Paul had finished his sundae, so I asked him if he wanted the rest of my shake. He took it and popped off the lid (apparently he doesn't like to drink those things through a straw -- too difficult), and that's when I saw what color it was. Oh god. It was so unnaturally green. "It looks like something you'd use to unclog your sink," Paul said. I looked away.
So listen: I am here to tell you that these Shamrock Shakes are no good. Don't be fooled by the juvenile squealings of teenagers, or the whole limited time only scam, or any of that hype. It's all a lie. A Shamrock Shake is just a big cup of chemical goo that tastes vaguely of Mint and sits in your stomach like so much wood pulp. I used to kind of like chocolate shakes from McDonald's, and I have many fond memories of getting them with my mom and my dad and my grandma, but now I don't think I want one of those every again either. And when I was little and got chocolate shakes at McDonald's with my dad, he would always tell me that one day I'd be older and I wouldn't be able to drink shakes anymore, and while I think maybe he was right, I think it's not for the reason he thought it would be. I can't drink those things because they're unnatural and sludgy and just plain not good. Stay away. You have been warned.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Friday, March 9, 2007
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
So of course, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and sure enough, appetizing as a noun is used mostly by New Yorkers, and mostly by Jews, and it refers to any non-meat item you might eat with a bagel. Appetizing does include fish, though, fish being considered dairy (and not meat) in Jewish cuisine. Appetizing also includes cheeses, salads, and any combination of traditional dairy products (sour cream is big), vegetables (onions are big), and fish with gills (the bottom feeders are big, though smoked salmon is always popular) that can be scooped into a plastic container or layered on wax paper and sold by the pound. Fish without gills, such as shellfish, is not considered kosher and is therefore not part of the traditional Jewish diet, though somehow all the Jews I know love shrimp. Heh. I guess a lot of us don't play by the rules.
Anyway, after this discussion, Paul and I were walking around my brother's neighborhood in midtown Manhattan, and we noticed that the bagel shop around the corner from his apartment wasn't just "Tal's Bagels," but "Tal's Bagels and Appetizing." And of course, I found this to be fascinating. Now that I think about it, though, maybe the reason no one uses the word out in this part of the country is because there are no shops that sell those types of foods. Sure, we have bagel shops, and maybe one or two of them make good bagels. You can get cream cheese on your bagel; they love to call it a schmear to be kitschy, but all that does is piss me off. You can also get turkey and tomato, or you can get hummus, or you can get tuna salad, or you can get ham and cheese (on a bagel -- sacrilege!), but you absolutely can't get a pound of herring and onions in cream sauce, and you can't get cole slaw, and they don't know what kippers are, and don't even get me started on why the hell can't I get a knish if I'm more than 20 miles West of the Hudson. They have none of that, so they don't need a word for it. I wish they did have it, and now I am maybe inspired to quit my job and open an appetizing shop. I can call it Amy's Appetizing. It's alliterative, and it works on two levels. (Umm, both as a possessive and as a contraction. See?)
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
So I'm basically transportation-less right now. Paul is giving me rides to work, and today I caught a ride home with someone, and I guess I could ride the bus if I really wanted to. It's kind of reminding me of when I didn't have a license and had to walk or bum rides or bike everywhere. I was able to get around then, and I was probably in much better shape because I mostly walked everywhere I had to go, but now I am realizing how dependent I've become on my car for getting around. Also, back when I didn't have a license (not all that long ago, actually -- maybe six or seven years or so), I arranged my life so that everything I needed was physically close. I lived right near work, and I was able to walk anywhere I needed to go in about ten minutes. Now, I live about two miles from anything except Walgreen's, McDonalds, a liquor store, and a Middle Eastern Restaurant. Yes, that covers most of my needs, but now I have to start thinking about how I'm going to get around if I need to go anywhere else. Like work. Or the gym. Or the wedding shower that's 40 miles away and that I'm supposed to go to this weekend.
It's kind of interesting that this is happening now. My grandma, who just passed away, never had a driver's license, and she either walked, took public transportation, or got a ride everywhere for all 86 years of her life. Granted, she lived almost all of those years in New York City, a place where having a car is more of an inconvenience, but she was able to do it. So maybe this is a good lesson for me: get around without a car. It's only a week. I guess I can do it.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Anyway, it was all emotionally draining in every way, but I'm glad we went. And I will miss her a lot.
And this is weird: we had a few inches of snow while we were gone, and someone came over and shoveled our driveway for us. We assumed it was the friend we asked to feed the cat, but she is not claiming responsibility. Now it's a mystery! Who shoveled our driveway? It seems kind of odd to just call people and ask if they did this, because if they didn't, I'll feel a little uneasy. I hope our mystery shoveler reveals him or herself soon, but whoever it was, it sure was nice of them.
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