Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Who knew how easy it is to make granola?

Catherine Newman changed her blog around to be about food, and I wasn't sure I was going to be on board, but it turns out I am. I keep checking back for new recipes. It's funny because I feel like I'm checking back MORE now that it's about food.

I don't want to be the fat lady who is more interested in food blogs than human blogs, but in this one case I might be.

Tuesday I checked it and there was a recipe for granola. Scott really misses the granola he got from the Olympia Food Co-op back when he used to live in Olympia, so much so that his friend Mer (remember when her dog ate my underpants?) sometimes mails it to him. For realz.

As a result, I've been thinking of making granola for kind of a while now. I like to keep The Count happy with tasty foodstuffs, after all. I suggested it to Scott a while back and he said, and I quote, "Don't bother."

(Aside: If this were Taste of Home magazine, I would say, "I like to fix my man a heaping healthy helping of homemade granola. It really makes a difference when it's made with love." Which it does. And that magazine generally has excellent recipes. But sometimes it gags me because they say these things without a hint of irony. Where do they find these women? And when they have a recipe from a man, they make a whole page about a man who cooks. A man who cooks? Who ever heard of that?!)

Well, brother, he's singing a different tune now, since I made Catherine's granola recipe. It was really weird. I had just gotten home from work, started dinner and was reading blogs when I saw the granola recipe, read the ingredients list and thought, "I have all of these things. I will do this right now."

It was so easy. I got it ready to go in the oven while dinner was cooking. I put it in and it cooked while we ate dinner. Then it was over, I let it cool and put it in a giant container. And it's delicious! I can't imagine why people buy granola from the store (and until Tuesday, that's exactly what I did).

All I had was flax seeds, so I skipped the others in the recipe. And I was out of butter, so I used Smart Balance (which is probably for the best since butter is basically poison - delicious, delicious poison).

The result is a big hit. I have eaten it myself for about five meals since. I brought it in a container to work and picked up a milk in the cafeteria and had it for my can't-get-it-together-to-eat-breakfast-before-work breakfast this morning. I had it for breakfast yesterday and snack last night. I ate some of it fresh out of the oven.

Okay, that's just four times and only two meals. Still! I would like to recommend the recipe to you is all I'm saying.

(Aside: Yes, I made this in the oven. Yes, the oven still makes a little bit of a smell like an H.R.V. But it's not terrible any more. I think the smell is nearly gone. I think maybe untrained noses can't smell it at all, though mine can. It's attuned to the H.R.V. aroma. I use "aroma" ironically here. It's funny because I can smell it most in the pantry. It seems that the pantry is the place for cooking smells to collect in this house. In my Springfield apartment, it was the hall. In the Holyoke apartment it was the bathroom. Here, it's the pantry. Fine. I accept. And pretty much we'll live happily ever after.)

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Toilet paper's a luxury now!

I don't want to be the guy who just keeps posting links to videos other places, but I have to. I don't have a choice here.

Recently on Saturday Night Live (this season and last), they've been doing these pre-recorded fake MacGiver scenes called MacGruber. So hilarious are these scenes that I laugh myself sick every time. Margaret and I started shout-singing the MacGruber theme song (the "MacGruber!" part during the explosion) to each other for instant laughs.

Sometimes when I'm listening to NPR and the segment is brought to you by the Gruber Family Foundation, I can't stop myself from shout-singing "MacGruber!"

Will Forte is a genious.

Saturday night, poor MacGruber lost some money in the stock market. Oh, humanity! These three segments were interspersed among the sketches in Saturday night's show.

Scott took video of me laughing so hard I was sick from it. Alas, who knows how to get video off a camera? If you see him around, ask him to show you.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

For me to poop on!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dear Senator McCain:

Are you fucking kidding me?

Jennifer Myszkowski

p.s. Shut the fuck up about Joe the Plumber.

(Aside to SNL: Please feature Joe the Plumber Saturday night.)

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Cycle of poverty

My pal Josh Shear has a great post today about poverty.

In my previous job at a hunger-relief agency, we talked regularly about the cycle of poverty. I remember taking a group of potential donors on a tour of the facility and talking about hunger and poverty. This one lady started yammering on about how when she was a younger mother, she made all their food from scratch and went on and on about why can't the people who are hungry make their food from scratch too.

I waited until she was done.

I asked her if she worked when her kids were young. No.

But someone in the house worked? Yes, my husband.

Oh. Hm. I see. And you had money to buy groceries? Yes.

And you had a kitchen with working appliances? Yes.

Did you have pots and pans to cook with? Yes.

What about cooking utensils? Yes.

And did you know how to cook food? Yes.

Pretty soon, she had a different outlook on the situation.

I think that's part of the problem among people who are doing okay. They think, "Well if I can, so can they." One thing that people fail to notice sometimes is that they are just a couple paychecks away from the soup line themselves. It's just a matter of circumstance.

When I was interviewing for the job at the hunger-relief agency, they asked me what the root causes of hunger are. That's a heavy one to spring on a person, and certainly one I didn't have a definitive answer for and still don't. But what I ended up talking about is how I happened to learn how to properly shake hands, a necessary skill if you're trying to get a job, for example. I learned how to speak appropriately to other people, including bosses and peers. I can't exactly say how I learned these things, but I did and they've come in handy.

I was coaching someone before an interview a number of years ago. I started asking the tough questions you dread, but have to be prepared for, for example, "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" The person had not really been employed many places outside food service at the time, and said, "They're not going to ask that."

I said, "Yes, they are."

The person said, "No they aren't."

Pretty soon, the person was storming out of my apartment and days later called to tell me that they had, indeed, asked the question. The person told the interviewer that s/he didn't have any weaknesses.

S/he didn't get the job.

Education counts for a lot, sure, but so much of being successful in America is about these "soft skills" that are hard to quantify. Knowing how to speak in sentences, answer questions, finesse situations, shake hands, etc., makes the difference between working in an office for a decent salary and working at Burger King for minimum wage.

There isn't one answer that will solve the poverty problem in this country. Government programs help - if they're accessible to people and if the people are willing to use the services. Sometimes the fear of stigma is enough to keep a person away from services. No one wants to eat a meal that came out of a silver can that says, "USDA Pork" on the side of it. No one wants their friends to see that can in their cabinet.

It's tricky, poverty is, but we can make a difference. We just have to start.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Comedy Open Mic, we hardly knew ye

It's a sad but true fact: the First Thursday comedy open mic at PACE is done.

Basically what happened is that it wasn't making PACE (a nonprofit theater) enough money. They wanted me to do more to try to make the show money. I cannot afford to do anything more without getting paid. So we had a parting of the ways.

I did that show for seven years, first at Fire & Water and then at PACE, and I never made a single cent at it. I missed only two first Thursdays in that entire time. Once I had Boney fill in for me and the other time I had Ann. Twice in seven years!

I've really loved doing the open mic, particularly giving feedback to the new comics. Sometimes if a comic was new-new, I wouldn't lay into them from the stage preferring to give them a little space to figure things out themselves first. Regularly they would come up to me after the show to ask me why I didn't critique them. I loved writing new punchlines for other comics. Oh, I'd be so gratified to see them actually try the new lines at other shows. Oh!

I'm at a bit of a crossroads. I'm not sure if I should start it up someplace else or just let it be over for now. I really worked hard to create a place that was supportive of new comics and was a place where people could feel free to try new stuff or improve old stuff or whatever.

What do you think I should do? Do you have ideas for where I should start over? Tell me what you think, please.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mission accomplished (surprise, surprise)

Just an update for people who care about my oven situation.

After the ruckus of taking the oven apart multiple times, my father told me I have to just start using it and see what happens.

Friday night I baked off a pie crust using Mark Bittman's recipe. There was a smell, but it was the smell of about ¼ of a hot, rotten vagina. And it was mixed with a smell closely akin to shrinky dinks.

Today, my family hosted a "brownie throwdown". Apparently there's some television program with people who have throwdowns. I know nothing of these things. Anyway, in order to participate, I had to make my famous chocolate-mint brownies. I made them and there was maybe - and only maybe - about a ⅛ hot, rotten vagina smell.

I think that is the sweet smell of success. Although, of all the brownies, mine got the fewest votes, I think because mine aren't crazy sweet but just sweet enough (if you ask me). Also, Christmas is saved. I was worried that if this didn't resolve itself, I wouldn't be able to make any of my favorite holiday treats.

It's a hot, rotten vaginas miracle!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

One thousand hot, rotten vaginas

You may not know this, but I enjoy a small amount of fame in Franklin County. I host a very popular Saturday-morning radio program that many, many people listen to. In May, on that very radio program, I mentioned to my listeners that I was in search of a proper gas stove and they should call me if they had one they were selling.

I got a few calls, but only one stove was white, and since I want white appliances (I suspect that this stainless steel thing is going to go out of style and everyone with their expensive, stainless steel appliances will be sad and sorry), I made a trip out to see the stove.

The people who had the stove were out in the country, and it turned out we had a friend in common. Hooray!

They opened the garage to show me the stove. It was in almost-new condition and they only wanted $50 for it. This was just what the doctor ordered! Just then, the matron of the family lifted the top to show me the inside and she saw a mouse nest.

She was mortified, but said, "If you still want it we'll replace the insulation."

Fantastic. A few short weeks later, my mom, dad and niece met me there with my dad's truck and we loaded the stove up onto the back of the pickup. I paid them extra money since they replace the insulation and were already giving me the stove for a steal. As we were finishing up business, the man told us which insulation was replaced and casually said something along the lines of, "When you first fire it up, you might smell a little something, but it'll burn off in no time."
If this story were a Lifetime movie, right at that moment, there would be a swell of music to indicate foreshadowing.

We moved into the house at the end of June. It was too hot for baking, so I made our dinners using just the stovetop. In early July, however, I really had a hankering for pizza. I made one, fired up the oven and threw it in. I was making a salad when I was suddenly enveloped in the grossest - and I mean grossest - smell I've ever smelled in my life.

It was kind of a cross between Kirkland Avenue (in Northampton, where all the drunks pee and it shows) and the rottenest, smelliest infection your lady parts have ever seen. Times one thousand. And HOT.

I immediately started gagging. I had to go outside. I started barking orders to Scott. "Open all the windows! and "Turn all the fans so they blow out!" Even outside I was still gagging. I called my father. "What do we do?"

He told me that once the pizza was done, we should just leave the oven on for a while at 250 to burn the smell off.

(Aside: The smell was coming from the stove but did not originate IN the stove, so our pizza baked without contamination.)

The smell didn't subside and indeed grew worse as the oven burned on. Sweet god, we didn't know what to do.

The man who sold us the oven told us he didn't replace the insulation on the back because there was no evidence of soilage, but he did replace the insulation on the top and sides. My dad and I thought that maybe replacing the back would help.

Where the hell do you get insulation for the back of a stove? Great question. Turns out the only place that has it is the Internet. It took about a week to arrive, and when it did, The Artist came by, tools in hand.

When he took the back insulation out, there was no sign of soilage, but he put the new one in anyway. It's a miracle, we thought. Christmas is saved!

My father fired up the oven and I almost immediately caught a whiff of something. But it wasn't as bad. I knew that it would increase over time, though, and I opened the kitchen windows, then turned on the ceiling fan in the kitchen.

Suddenly, I was overtaken by the smell of one thousand hot, rotten vaginas. I started to gag. I had to run out of the house. My father had to run around turning off the stove, opening the rest of the windows, turning on fans, and doing all the rest of my bidding. I stood in the driveway gagging.

I couldn't even go back in. I just went to JBo's house. She took pity on me and the one thousand hot, rotten vaginas. Mission Unaccomplished.

I was ready to give up and call the scrap man. I wanted him to take the oven away and melt it down and make it into other ovens for other people.

But my dad, The Artist, was not able or ready to give up. He said, "One more try." I said, "I ain't got one more try left in me, Pops." He said, "C'mon!" I said, "Oh, alright."

He came over last Friday night and took the oven apart. Apart-apart. There were pieces of stove all over the kitchen.

He made me relive the horror. He asked me where I smelled the smell the strongest. I told him. He detached a part of the stove and handed it to me. "Is this the smell?" he asked.

I am a fool. I wasn't even thinking. I just buried my nose right in the piece and breathed deeply. And then came the gagging. Holy sweet mother of God, he found it!

Turns out on the inside of my stove, there are thin layers of insulation between any pieces of metal touching other pieces of metal. If my father weren't taking things apart bit by bit, we'd never have found this horrible, horrible smell.

I started running hot water on it, and just a bit of hot water began to stir up the angry, hot, rotten vagina smell. I was gagging again, as you can only imagine, I'm sure.

Aside: I wonder what it looks like to watch me gag? We saw Ghost Town a few weeks ago. Not a feat of film making, but totally entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. At one point, the main character (Ricky Gervais) was drinking that stuff they make you drink before a colonoscopy and watching him try to drink it made me gag. When he actually started gagging from it, I nearly had to leave the theater.

What happened, we think, is that mice were in the stove for so long that their urine soaked even the most remote and tiny pieces of insulation. Some of the mice might have had terrible lady infections. This is just my guess. When the nice man replaced the insulation, he did not notice these tiny pieces of urine-soaked goodness. And then they became MY tiny pieces of urine-soaked goodness.

Imagine my delight.

Some of the tiny pieces of urine-soaked goodness were attached to parts we couldn't take out, so instead we sprayed them down with Clorox bleach and soaked the Clorox out of the insulation with paper towels. The paper towels came out black. I threw them in the trash. Then the trash became so filled with urine-soaked goodness that I couldn't even go near it for the gagging. Poor Scott had to come down and play trash man.

We got to a point where we couldn't soak any more of the one thousand hot and rotten vaginas out of the insulation any more and we had to call it a night.

The next day, we started soaking the insulation with bleach all over again. You wouldn't believe it, but it wasn't all up. We kept spraying it down and soaking it up, spraying it down and soaking it up. What a chore.

Finally, we got to a point where we felt like we could put the stove back together. By WE, I mean my father put the stove back together.

We fired it up and held our breath and...And...AND...

I wish I had better news, but it still smells, but now it only smells like on hot, rotten vagina. We're making real progress here, friends! My dad is convinced that now all we have to do is run the stove for a while and the smells really will burn off this time.

I'm not so sure. But more than not so sure, what I really am is afraid. Afraid that after all this work we're still going to have to buy a new stove.

My father was really trying to sell me on the progress though. The smell is just the remnants of the bleach cleaner burning off. Yeah, that's the ticket. In fact, he's sure of it!

I have to test it all out tomorrow night, though, as I begin preparations for Saturday night's dinner. Kelsey and Jaime are coming by for dinner and I'm hoping for an incident-free, hot-rotten-vagina-free meal. That's why I doing all the baking the night before. Imagine me welcoming them into our home with gas masks and air freshener!

Will report back.

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It's a small world after all

I got an e-mail this morning from a person who confirmed that the person who commented on that post was actually one of the people from the overheard conversation, and offered irrefutable corroborating evidence.

Color me surprised. I just thought the Internet was fucking with me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

For real? Plus an explanation

The person I claim to have overheard on the way out to the car last month allegedly read my post and left a comment. Read the post and the comment, if you want.


I've gotta call bullshit on it though. I do not believe the actual person I overheard's girlfriend was all, "Hey, this lady on the Internet overheard a generic 30-something fellow in the parking lot at work disparaging his old lady and I think it might have been you! Come read this; it's hilarious!"

And I am briefly filled with the fury and the sadness once again.

Also, I guess those guys, with their swirling vortexes of commitment-phobia, rather deserve a bit of my thanks. I was so angry and sad about the whole scene I observed. I was set afoul by it and had to cry and beg Scott never to talk about me in such a disrespectful way (I'm a catch!). As a result, we had Important Conversations That We Probably Should Have Already Had and Didn't, which means now we're both on the same page about many things. This is good.

I suppose I should mention that my fury is not new, is born of fear, and that I spent quite a bit of time on those fears in therapy some years ago, which is how I can have a proper adult relationship now. It really is a miracle. My therapist is quite good.

I don't think it's fair to place blame anywhere, but I can say that a trusted adult spent a good deal of time warning me about the way "men are" when I was too young of a child for such talk. It left a nearly indelible mark upon me. To say I've had issues is to put it lightly.

It was mostly of a men-think-with-their-dicks, why-buy-the-cow order, which I think is pretty regular stuff adults may say to teenagers to scare them away from having sex. My trusted adult took it quite a bit farther and started on me quite a bit younger and basically gave me a gift that kept on giving: an irrational fear of men and, in particular, of how men treat women once they've had sex with them and no longer need them.

When I was working on it all in therapy, my therapist had me think about good men I knew and use them (in my head, not in real life) to try to break the beliefs I'd accidentally formed. There were mixed results, of course, because the fellows I chose still were piggy humans, said totally inappropriate things with regularity and seemed sometimes to prove that what my trusted adult said was true.


Even so, over time and with much work I have been able to turn in to a mostly normal adult human, which is lucky and not by accident.

Sometimes though, my historic fears rear their heads, sometimes even in workplace parking lots. Given my history, my crying and furious reaction to that conversation may seem a little more reasonable, even if it wasn't reasonable at all.

I'm really lucky to have Scott, who seems to get me and - this is a bonus - is not at all freaked out by me (even though he'd be well within his rights to be completely and totally freaked out with some regularity).

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