Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Call me Mary

Or maybe not. Because I've had more than a little lamb this week. I'll wait for you to stop groaning.

OK. It started when I read last week that fava beans are in season. That meant a trip to Berkeley Bowl.

Lamb and fava beans.

And I guess Poulet kind of had some influence because they made me remember another recipe I've been meaning to try. And what does lamb have to do with chicken? Well, for the month of April the Friday special at Poulet was a chicken tangine with apricots and pine nuts. I would have posted a photo when I had it but by the time I thought of taking a photo the food was gone.

Braised lamb with apricots and herb dumplings.

2 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 pounds lamb, cut into 1" pieces
12 oz. pearl onions
3 cups button mushrooms
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth (Well, the recipe says one but I used a whole lot more.)
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 tbsp herbs (I used rosemary and oregano.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat oil in casserole on stovetop. Add lamb and cook until lamb is browned. Remove lamb from pan with slotted spoon and keep warm.

Add garlic, mushrooms, and onions to pan. Cook about five minutes.

Add lamb back to pan. Stir in tomato puree, apricots, wine and broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover.

Place covered casserole in oven and cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally and add more broth as needed.

Mix shortening, flour and herbs together for dumplings. Add enough water to form dough -- about 1-2 tablespoons. Roll dough into small balls.

Increase oven temperature to 375. Remove lid from casserole and add dumplings to pan. Do not place too close together because they will need room to expand. Cook for another 20-25 minutes.


A word of warning. I don't really measure -- except for the stuff that went into the dumplings. And in the future I may not even measure exactly for those because I'm pretty good at eyeing measurements.

One of my coworkers said that it all sounds wonderful but she doesn't like lamb. I suggested that she try the recipe with beef instead. Or maybe I will. Because I once more have empty space in the freezer.

And it has been sad to read during this past week about all of the people going hungry all over the world. But like I've always said, if you show up on my doorstep, I will feed you. After all, I am the chick who will gladly buy a homeless person a meal. Like the guy at Safeway last fall (or was it summer) who was in line in front of me. Right before the cashier was going to ring up his stuff, the guy asked me if I could pay for his food. I did. And then there were all those kids who had forgotten lunch money when I was teaching ... Because I can be a soft touch like that. Because I don't think that anyone should go hungry.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Being an Empress

Part of the reason why I was doing all this stuff in my home was for myself. Part of it was that I knew that my college roomie, Kate, was coming for a visit.

Kate arrived on Thursday afternoon. And after a quick change, we headed off for opening night of the San Francisco Film Festival. The opening night film was French. If you ask Kate, she will tell you that it was a porno. It's strange that I have known Kate for over 20 years but I learned the most about her over this weekend. More about that later.

So Kate didn't enjoy the film but she loved the party. We discovered that in the two years since I dropped my film society membership that Skyy was no longer the official vodka but that Grey Goose was instead. We quickly grew to love the combo of Grey Goose pear with lime juice and Sprite. But our real love of the evening were the blue cheese grits with tomato marmalade from 1300. Kate loved them so much, she wanted to take the whole pan home with us.

Friday during the day was spent in recovery, especially for Kate. But I had planned an evening out for the girls -- Kate, Emerald, Jade, Zombie Mom, Buzzgirl and Fluffycat. Great food. Great drinks. Great conversation. And great photos taken by Zombie Mom on my camera.

Saturday was a mellow day. A stop a Poulet to pick up lunch then off to the hills to stroll through the Botanical Garden at Tilden. After that a stop to see my real parents and a quickie tour of Point Richmond.

Saturday night? Dinner at Cesar. Everything was great but dessert? Made me want to lick my plate.

And now I need to rest.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Trying new stuff

So now that my sleep pattern has once more become a pattern, I've been busy doing things like cleaning. I have made list upon list of tasks that needed to be done. At first, not much got done. Perhaps this had something to do with the irregular sleep patterns. But then I had a reason to clean. More about the primary reason in another post. The secondary? The new furniture. How could I have new stuff delivered to a messy home? And I've really been scrubbing stuff so it's my hope that after weeks of hardcore scrubbing that I'll be able to do maintenance easily. I guess this is all a result of the organizing that I did back in November and December. Oh, and let's not talk about all of the stuff that I have dumped. I even dumped the burned magazine rack. The beauty of living in Berkeley is that I can put stuff like that out on the curb and it's gone within hours.

But I've been making some other changes as well. While I may be considered thin, I am in horrible shape. Evidence of this is the fat layer that has started to develop across my midsection. Yes, it is there. The reason why you don't see it is because I know how to camouflage with the right clothing. But I forgot to do so when I went to brunch with my mother recently. Her reaction was, "So. Am I going to be a grandmother soon?" Thanks mom for saying what has been going through my mind over the last few months.

When I posted my last post, something that I had written a couple of weeks ago, it was in lieu of another post that I had written at that time. Because I was disgusted with myself. And I came really close to sticking my finger down my throat. Because, hey, that worked in the past. But then I started thinking about the treadmills at work. (Yes, there are three treadmills at work.) And when I went into work on Monday, the replacement for my old position sent an email to all the women. The guys in the office at work are doing a "Biggest Loser" kind of weight loss challenge. We women were banned because they said that we were already thin. But we're not in shape. So today at lunch three of us women spent 30 minutes on the treadmills. I did a mile and a half. Not bad for a smoker who hasn't been getting regular exercise in at least a year. I'm hoping to up it to two miles in that same amount of time. So that I can burn some fat.

My mom tried to discourage me on this at first. Perhaps because she remembers the former me. I pointed out to her that if I do crunches and weights, all that I will end up with is muscles under a layer of fat. The only way to get rid of the fat was to do some cardio. Because I'm built like my dad's family. And as they age, they put on fat around the midsection -- and the face. Nowhere else. Just those two places. Picture that. A woman whose midsection has become a size 12 or so but whose body elsewhere is a size 4 or 6. So not right in my opinion.

Don't ask me what I weigh. The only time I get on a scale is at the doctor's office. And even then, I try not to pay attention. Instead I look at how my clothes fit. And many of them have been pretty snug in the waist lately. So I'm going to be walking at lunchtime until they stop feeling that way. And then I'm going to keep on doing it so that I won't go back.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Feeling like myself again

Now that I seemed to have finally reached a "normal" sleep pattern, I'm starting to feel a lot like myself. Me without sleep? A real shrew. I still won't say "good morning" at work because I still believe that a "good" morning is one during which I don't have to go to work. Might be why the operations manager calls me a spoiled brat. I tell him that he can kiss my ass. My friend, Marin, tried to warn me a couple of weeks ago that I had not been around long enough to respond in that way.

Thing is I know his type. He likes to dish it out and anyone who can serve it back equally while doing his/her job competently instantly wins his respect. In fact, he was one of the folks singing my highest praises when I got my promotion. When I worked in his department, we ate lunch together almost every day. I know about his family and he about mine. He is the only person who actually saw me cry in the office after my stepmother was hospitalized last month. And I have learned that he and his wife are the parents of one child -- a daughter who turned 21 last week. She is in college in the San Diego area, as I was, and she can turn her daddy around her little finger pretty much like I could. The lunch time conversations that I have had with her dad have made him a little less hopeful. In a recent conversation, he asked me when I was really independent. When I told him mid to late 20s with the explanation that I chose to hide out in grad school after undergrad, he cringed. Apparently his daughter has been talking about going to grad school.

What really makes me happy to feel like myself once more is the fact that I have the energy to clean up my sty of an apartment. It could be better but unfortunately there is the change of seasons and Boris has been dropping his winter coat across the carpet like nobody's business. It is disgusting. Over the last couple of weeks, I just could not find the energy to deal with it all though.

And because I'm feeling more like me, I've also found time to listen to a lot more music. Like this one. It is a fave of mine from back in the day.

My favorite lines?
"And I can play some ole stuck-up rapper role
And get foul every time you lose control
But that's not my order of operations
So I should win an award for lots of patience
'Cause that's all a fella can have
With a girl who's shootin' up his world like Shaft"

'Cause I kind of have a temper. I've just learned to control it over the years. Really.

Of course, what I would really like to be a part of my life soundtrack is the following.
"Wait a minute...
Something's going wrong.
Someone's on the phone,
Three o'clock in the morning, yeah
Talkin' about how she can make it right, yeah.
Happiness is when you really feel good about somebody.
Nothing wrong with being in love with someone, yeah.
Oh, baby, love and happiness."

Because the Reverend Al, just like Stevie, can never steer you wrong. Why did I ever get rid of that guy who loved the good Reverend? Oh yeah. Because he treated me like a two-bit ho. Might be why I now have a problem when a guy tells me that my butt is cute (because it is). Good thing that I have control over my temper. Otherwise, there may have been a hot pot of grits involved.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New look

Not the blog, silly. My apartment.

This week I took the big plunge in my apartment redecorating. That's right. I finally got my new sofa and chair. Now I just need to either re-upholster my desk chair or get a new one -- in black. And I probably need some stuff for the walls as well. (Yes, that's a hint, Stacy.)

All in good time.

After talking to my aunt earlier in the week I realized that I needed to purchase the new cat tree as soon as possible. So Boris would have something else to claw besides my new furniture. This was the result of my shopping.

And because Saturdays used to be about quizzes, I leave you with this.

Your Slogan Should Be

Have You Ever had a Bad Time in Dagny?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Various stuff on a Friday evening

After a hard week at work, I headed out to get my 'do done. I have found that Fridays after work are the best time. Less disruptive to my schedule. In the past I went in on Saturdays. But that doesn't leave me free to go to Sacramento for the weekend, if necessary. And yeah, next weekend I'm heading up there. Hopefully to hit the nail salon with my stepmother. Because she's blind now -- I mean really blind according to the doctors at the UC Davis Medical Center where she went earlier this week for a full day of testing on her eyes -- and keeps fucking up her nails when she runs into stuff. Yet she keeps telling my dad that she doesn't need someone at the house with her 24/7. And she's telling her friends that my dad is spending too much money. This coming from the woman who loves shopping at the dollar store. Oh, and when she first married my dad, she was still buying Velveeta. EWWWWW! Bottom line is that she has always been rather cheap. But yeah, she's blind and has lost at least 40% of her hearing and people are supposed to leave her at home alone during the day while my dad is at work. Sure.

But back to me. I headed into San Leandro after work. And while I was at the shop, my hairdresser was also doing her niece's hair. They shared some dark news with me. Apparently, Neldam's Danish Bakery will be closing this year. NOOOO! Growing up, all of my birthday cakes (Strawberry Rum Cake, in case you wanted to know.) came from this place. As did my cousin's wedding cake. They are the bar to achieve in baking, as far as I am concerned. And they have been around so long that you start to take the place for granted. I know that I will start going there frequently in the coming months. Hell. I love the place so much, I might just have to stage a protest.

And then I had to give the niece a ride home from her aunt's shop as the niece too lives in Berkeley. She's in her senior year at Berkeley High. I felt obliged to chat with her during the drive. And talking to her, I was reminded of why I used to love teaching so much. She wants to go into cosmetology, like her aunt. And she wants to one day own a chain of shops that are multi-ethnic/multi-cultural. She pointed out how most salons are still so segregated and that there must be an end to this. We discussed racism in our society. And then I dropped her off near the Whole Foods -- which she swore was her favorite place of all.

And then I continued along Shattuck. And my heart skipped a beat. The old Eddie Bauer store had lights blazing. Since Eddie Bauer left, the only activity in that spot has been in October when the place has become a Halloween store. So I slowed down to take a peek. It's now a new branch of Cody's Books. I wanted to scream -- in delight. I have been heartbroken since the original location on Telegraph closed almost two years ago. And now to have it within walking distance? Be still my heart.

Except for the family health issues, I am starting to think that 2008 is going to be a very good year.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thank you, Lisa.

So Lisa gave me this what feels like an eternity ago and now I'm finally responding. Probably because shortly after Lisa announced that I was one of her award recipients, she announced that she had cancer once more. And I was floored. So much so that I could not even write a comment. Lisa, please know that my thoughts have been with you this whole time. I just can't hear the c-word anymore right now. Hearing it makes me shut down because then I'm reminded about all that is going on around me presently. Because yeah, my aunt is still going through chemo more than a year after the last recurrence of her ovarian cancer. She's almost at six years now of battling this disease. That ovarian cancer is a bitch. And then there's my stepmother who probably will not see the end of this year.

And now the rules ...

• Give credit to the originator of the Excellent Blog Awards: Kayla at Project Mommy
• Give the award to at least 10 Bloggers

So here's my list.

Zombie Mom because she's how I found Lisa in the first place.

Hilly because we all need some snark in our lives. And when I grow up, I want to be kind of like her.

Jill because she is obviously my sister from another mother.

Neil because I still like him despite his new hair cut.

Nat because she makes me rethink the living in a place in which it snows.

Heather because she often reminds me of myself ten to fifteen years ago.

Stacy because I love her photography.

Fluffycat because I love reading about her dating adventures. But lately there hasn't been much dating going on. Hmmmm.

Cookiecrumb because she is just too cool for words. I really want to be her when I grow up.

Lisa B because maybe I really want to be her when I grow up.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Getting positive

I felt bad about posting that negative post after the one about peace. So today, let's get back to the positive.

This past weekend did not suck completely as far as customer service is concerned. Actually, I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time.

As Zombie Mom stated in the comments to the previous post, I did stop by the Zombie household on Saturday night. With two bottles of wine. And the kids were asleep.

I must say thank you to Stephanie at the Andronico's on Shattuck. Stephanie is a wine steward in the store. (Yes, the store has wine stewards.) Frequently when I go in, she is patrolling the wine aisle. And she is always ready to answer questions and to make recommendations.

On Saturday, I was going to buy a pinot noir that she had recommended previously. Since she wasn't busy at the time, I decided to ask for other recommendations. Once I said that the wine didn't have to be from California, after telling her the most I was willing to spend per bottle, she quickly recommended a Spanish wine and a French one.

The Spanish one was good. The French one was fantastic. I think I wrote down the name of the latter. I hope I did. And each bottle was under $15.

So even though Andronico's can be a bit pricey at times, I continue to return because of Stephanie's wonderful recommendations. Oh. And because it is the only place that I can find the cat food that Natasha likes.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Being lazy made me highly irritated

As you all know, I made up a wish list about a month or so ago. A number of the items on the list were electronics. Last week I decided to purchase a couple of said items.

You would have thought that I had learned after my first purchase last Tuesday. I placed the order online to be picked up at the store closest to where I live. I placed the order around 1:00 PM and went to the store around 6:00 PM to pick up the item. After waiting in line, I discovered that the item had not even been pulled yet. Excuse me? Does not the site say "24 minutes"? I guess that's only if they really feel like it. I placed the order online so that I wouldn't have to spend time in the store standing around, waiting for the item to be pulled from inventory. I received an email later in the week asking me to rate my experience. I let them know that I was not pleased.

Saturday I decided to be lazy once more and placed an order for another item. The item had been pulled this time but the salesperson? Surly and rude. As soon as I left the store, I called their customer service line to tell them that I was once more displeased. The person to whom I spoke explained that there was no one in the department that handled such matters at the time and that someone would get back to me. I am still waiting for that response.

I did receive a response to my survey answers today though. Basically I was told that I needed to claim the $24 gift card at the time of my initial pickup. What I really loved was how they closed the email with, "We hope this information was helpful." Ummm. Nope. Not really. Because at this point, I don't think that I will shop at Circuit City anymore since I expect a bit more in customer service. And because I don't like the return policy at their main competitor around here, I think this means that I will do my electronics shopping from online vendors in the future. Because at this point both Circuit City and Best Buy suck in my mind.

Update: They are now mailing a $24 gift card to my home. Guess I have to find something else to buy. *sigh*

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I first saw this home several months ago. Every time I pass it at night, I think to myself, "I should take a photo." Then tonight I saw Nat's post that I believe was inspired by Hilly's post. Whatever the case, I ran for the door. Wearing PJ pants. I figured all would be well as I was parked close to the front door. And when I returned? Well, it was so late. And on my return one of my neighbors was standing on the stoop, smoking a cigarette.

"You lost your space."

Not really. I ended up parking in the space I've been in most of the week.

But lost? I have lost too many things to even begin counting.

My cousin's husband should be home from the Middle East in the next week or so. And she'll probably forgive his cheating ass. (The last time that he was stateside, he gave her an STD. Because how else do you say, "I love you"?) I must applaud my cousin for her personal growth. In the past, she would have gone all Lorena Bobitt on his ass.

But the photo is so un-Lorena. It's about the people that I believe that we could be. People who aren't like the society in Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talent.

Bottom line is that I would love to see a true peace in this world. I mean some of you may irritate the hell out of me. Doesn't mean that I wish you ill. (Your thoughts toward me -- or at least my perceptions about your thoughts -- I'll address in another post.) But in the meantime, let's just co-exist.

And while writing this, I suddenly remembered for the zillionth time this week, that this week is the anniversary of Martin's death.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Oops! I did it again

So today at work, I found out that next week I will be getting a small raise. It's not much. To me it's all about the gesture. Because it was only about a month ago that I got the promotion with the huge raise. I called up my dad when I found out.

After making me repeat my news several times, he finally asked, "Didn't you just get a raise?"

"That was a month ago."

"What kind of scam are you running there?"

Yep. It feels really good to be appreciated.

Oh, and I've been meaning to post this for days.

Boris approves of the new rug as well.

Can't wait to see the cats' reactions when I get the larger rug for the living room.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Second time around

I take inspiration from Nat. It kind of bothered me that some of the titles from that previous post were never guessed so know I'm reposting with some hints a la Nat. I hate leaving things undone.

3. "Insanity runs in my family... It practically gallops."
Hint: 1944. Comedy based upon a Broadway play. Sexy leading man.
Arsenic and Old Lace guessed by David.

5. "I would like a nice, powerful, mind-altering substance. Preferably one that will make my unborn children grow gills."
Hint: 1995. Comedy starring one of the queens of indie film.

6. "How do you tell a child that she was born to be hurt?"
Hint: 1959. Definitely drama. I still have to grab a box of tissue to view this one.
Imitation of Life guessed by Buzzgirl

11. "The whole point of having an answering service is to call them once in a while and see if you've got any messages."
Hint: 1971. Thriller with one of the most badass actors ever.

12. "In my hunt for food I had become the hunted. This time I survived, but I was no longer alone in my universe. I had an enemy, the most terrifying ever beheld by human eyes."
Hint: 1957. Sci-fi. Well, actually Cold War hysteria disguised as sci-fi.

15. "The entire British empire was built on cups of tea, and if you think I'm going to war without one, mate, you're mistaken."
Hint: 1998. Comedy/Thriller containing quite a bit of male hotness. Well, at least in my opinion. And some subtitles.

So come on now. Let's wrap this up once and for all.