Saturday, May 13, 2006

an excuse to brag about all the great bargains I've gotten at garage sales.

My husband and I are pretty picky about food. True, we were raised in the 60's, so we have an unfortunate taste for crap with lots of grease and salt which we indulge to unfortunate excess. However we both cook and cook quite well indeed, and we both know how real food is supposed to look and taste. Now that might sound odd, but really, if more people knew how much of what they pay for at restaurants came prepared and prepackaged from a food service I wonder if they'd be so enthusiastic about the menu prices.

Well, that's another rant.

Our kitchen is pretty well equipped. My shining star is a beautiful Henckles santoku I got for Christmas last year, which will slice through into another space time continuum if you don't excercise due caution. I am in love with it. Absolutely worth the price (LOTS. I went online and snooped because I am actually Gladys Kravitz and without shame.)

Up until a few years ago we actually kept separate utensils, like a kosher kitchen. The Yummy Biker had his (crappy, substandard, wrong) set and I had my (wonderful, state of the art, correct) set. I would not cook in aluminum or Teflon or use plastic or wood - steel, Pyrex and iron were the ONLY MATERIALS ALLOWED TO TOUCH MY FOOD. He, on the other hand, would just eat off any old crap! I mean, aluminum? Please? Hello? Have a heaping helping of Alzheimers? And I won't even go into Teflon.

Things have since been integrated. Of course now I use an aluminum Teflon frying pan. (Sometimes.) I am going to hell.

We watch food programs and critique the chef's technique. Our daughters boyfriend thought we were nuts because we all sat around as a family watching Great Chefs going 'Ooo, look at his knife cuts! Poetry! Now look at that ganache, is that perfection or what? No! Don't deglaze those shallots with red wine! No!!!" And he was right, pretty much.

One of our favorite things to do is to visit kitchen supply stores to fantasy shop and sneer at things. We long for a Viking glass fronted commercial refrigerator. We turn up our noses at magnetic induction cooktops. A separate unit must always be used for frozen food storage. Convection microwaves are viewed with suspicion. Gas is the lord god of all cooking operations and it is the pinnacle towards which we yearn. We make do with an electric stove in the meantime.

Our house came with an appliance bonus since the former owners had used the existing oven to fire pottery or manufacture crack or something and melted it. Really. Off we trotted to DeWard and Bode's appliance center and back we came with a top of the line electric stove. All kinds of functions, and all run by computer chip! Wow! Of course there was no light in the oven and no window in the door, but hey.

The first big lightning storm we had the chip blew. Nothing...And I mean NOTHING, not the cooktop, not the oven, not the timer, NOTHING would work. Replacement cost for the chip? 300.00 cocksucking dollars more than we paid for the fucking unit originally.

We ended up going to my favorite place to shop, the town of Lynden and it's well-trained consumer clones. Picked up a BRAND NEW 1970's stove that someone had bought and then stored because it didn't match the kitchen ( why not just return it? Why, because it was THEIRS!!!) paid 73.00 for it, took off the tags, gave a quick wipe, and been cooking on it ever since. When it puked an element I got a new one the same day for 30.00. Plus it has a light and a window.

This is why we use a 1960 waffle iron (also brand new, Lynden, unwanted bridal gift that was stored, built to survive a nuclear incident) and a 1922 Pyrex percolator (brand new, Lynden, unwanted bridal gift, stored) and All Clad steel pans (1990's, Lynden, owner bought brand new without realizing they couldn't be used on his magnetic induction stove, stored unused) 1970's crockpot (unwanted bridal gift, Lynden, stored unused)....I had a stolen blender that lasted me for close to 20 years that I bought from a wino. When that finally went to the big appliance showroom in the sky I bought a brand new 1955 chrome blender, built to withstand the rigors of whitewater rafting sans raft with 2 speeds (instant liquid death and flying whirlwind of instant liquid death.... Also from Lynden, also an unwanted bridal gift, stored.) I have two Cuisinarts, one in use, one waiting. (A new Cuisinart is worth the price, as long as you get the restaurant model.) The one in waiting? I got for free. Guess where. Guess why?
It had been used.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

two storms

One of my early memories is of standing in front of the bedroom window looking out at a storm. I was jumping up and down and shouting and laughing. There was a mature english walnut tree in the backyard just in front of me. The wind was twisting and tossing it around like a mop, branches were breaking off and flying away. Then suddenly the whole scene shifts upwards, like the view from a banking airplane, and then recedes...and the venetian blind on the window blasts inwards, followed by glass and curtains and leaves.
This was the Columbus Day storm. It happened in 1962. I was fine.

A heavy, sodden heatwave had been sitting in the Willammette Valley, stinking of smoke and pulp mills. It was August of1968. In the evenings we would sit out under the apple trees at my grandmothers house until way fact, the entire neiborhood used to ramble around on nights like this, smoking and talking, kids riding their bikes, until the early chill fell and made it possible to catch a couple of hours of sleep.
One night the stillness broke and a wind came up and flowed out over the grass in the yard, smoothing it down in a long wave. All the adults looked at each other with smiles, because they knew that there was rain coming soon. They gathered up all the lawn chairs and ashtrays and beer bottles and headed back inside to open all the windows and doors and wait.
I was looking out my bedroom window when a sudden burst of light lit up the dark. It was completely silent. It made me catch my breath and freeze, waiting for a blast, but it never happened.
" Heat lightning," my parents said. I ran from window to window to catch it going off.
People began to come back out onto the street to watch. At first it was flashes of radiance that seemed to come from the entire sky at once, then it resolved in the west as snakes of lightning that travelled across the banked clouds with the eerie deliberation of a spark travelling up a Jacobs ladder. All in silence.
" I want to go up on the rooof of the barn", I said. This was a small one-cow shed with a flat sloping roof in our back yard. My parents agreed, making me promise to come in if the rain started or the lightning began to strike the ground.
From the roof of the barn I could see over the neiborhood treetops. I had the entire sky to myself. Everyone else had gone in.
Incredible dancing ribbons of electricity snaked across the clouds, from one side of the horizon to the other. Some fanned out in their termination like a map of an electric Nile in the sky. Some streaks ran like morse code, intermittent, or a rock skipping on a pond. All in silence. A carnival green light filled whole clouds, reds like faded christmas bulbs, canary yellows, easter blues.
The wind moved this mute storm right over where I lay on the shingles. The clouds were low and fat, and when it was directly overhead all the small fine hairs on my arms and face tingled up in a brush. It smelled like morning. Giant broad bolts of lightening like oak trees washed down a fast river current moved across the air directly above me. It sounded faint, like holiday paper burning in the fireplace.
I rolled down off the roof and went inside, brushing off the crumbs from the shingles. The rain hit the glass door behind me in a solid sheet the instant that it shut. It rained like all the ocean pouring onto the roof of the house for the rest of the night, and I laid in bed and listened to it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Violet Top Shell's Evil Passion

Remember our easily offended little friend, Miss Featherstone-haugh?

If testicles and dead skunks bother you, then you'd probably better leave now. And Stainless Steel Amazon? Just skip this one, 'k? Honestly.
And my darlings, THESE PICTURES ARE NOT THE PEOPLE UNDER DISCUSSION. They are simply the closest thing i could find on the Net. The stories are all true, however.
And so, with a hearty 'Heigh Ho, Animal Faces!" we're off.

My history of significant relationships has not been a real happy one, although a few stand out as memorable to be sure. This is why, when I finally found someone worth a damn I burrowed under his skin and attached myself parasitically to his vital organs in such a way that surgical removal would almost certainly be fatal. True's beautiful.
Beautiful like an episode from the origional Star Trek. (The one with those gross looking flying puke things? when they go down on this planet and everythings all deserted? and one flies down and lands on Spocks back? Yeah. Sweet.) first boyfriend. Lasted three days.
This poor bastard wanted nothing to do with me, really, but he did kiss me in front of the entire student body in Jr. High. That's how I found out that nearly everyone thought I was gay. I had kids I didn't even know coming up to me saying "Way to go! I thought you were a lez!"
This is also when I found out that everyone thought I was Jewish; apparently this conclusion was based on the evidence of a knitted cap with a pompom on it that I used to wear sometimes. Real conversation:
dork: "Way to go, I thought you were a Lez!"
Me: " You thought I was a what?"
girl named Terry who happened to be standing nearby: "Oh fuck no man, she's not a Lez. She's Jewish."
Laides and gentlemen, I give you the American public school system c.1972.

I lost my virtue to this guy.
I mean, not really, none of these pictures are really the person; I don't keep things like that. When I make a mistake I tend to recall it pretty vividly without visual aids. Anyway, close enough. You know, it was the 70's, ok? To his credit, he was a pretty nice guy and really a very talented musician. Once the initial couple of weeks of marathon sex was over with, though, I discovered that he was as dumb as a goddamn rock. So between that and my parents calling his parents and threatening to put him in jail for statuatory rape the relationship was pretty much doomed.

Next there was this guy. I may have mentioned him in passing...

Another musician. Nice enough at first, and quite intelligent as well. Played chess, even. He had what can only be described as an almost freakishly large Beef Bazooka that, when fully deployed, pointed ESE while he was headed S. He was also the most profoundly depressed person I have even met who wasn't institutionalized.
Of course I moved him right in.
That lasted right up until I get utterly sick and tired of him wandering around unemployed and getting mugged by bums because he was stoned absolutely all the fucking time on whatever came to hand. Getting beat up, threatened with a corkscrew and cheated on was no picnic either.

Now this guy was a sweetheart, really.

Crazy as a fricken loon, but a really sweet guy. Ignore the dead animal. He was convinced he had powers of telekinesis and had been handed the reins of the universe by God during an LSD trip in Guam. By this time I was fairly guarded with my feelings so I just jumped him for wild nutty person sex whenever the opportunity presented itself. I highly recommend it, and him too. When I moved I just forgot to pack him.

Ah, the pick of the litter. A single story should suffice here.

This one wanted to go to a church Halloween costume party with a 'killer' outfit. His idea of a 'killer' outfit?
Cutter the Wolfrider from fucking lameass fucking ElfQuest. Used to call me 'Leetah'.
Never mind.
We did his hair up elfie style and bought little rubber pointed earsies and matched the skin tone with some of my concealer and he had a little vest that laced up the front and leggins and a little loincloth and armbands and guess what? He won the costume contest! Yay!
Being it was a church party, I went as a dominatrix.
No, I'm sorry. This is true. It's all true.

And just because I'm feeling saucy...
One of my darlings is making a major move! That was a decision that took a lot of courage. Hooray!
Lesson to all Brit guys: You blew it, doofuses. You simply have to be more direct. Take a lesson from Dougal here. A casual, breezy approach is best.

And that is why Ms. GreatSheElephant, the queen of Switzerland, is moving to Scotland.

Monday, May 08, 2006

keeping up with the jet set

Most of the time I would rather be at home as much as I would be anywhere else. I have everything set up here just the way I like it, right? And I don't have to worry about going into the bathroom and finding something unexpected. As long as I have a nice supply of fresh non-fiction from the library and the weed whacker has enough line I'm good to go.

This weekend, then, was in contrast a fun-filled cavalcade of excess. We checked in with the Playboy of the Western World and were gratified to find a kitchen no longer languishing in bachelor clutter thanks to the caregiver (long may she wave!!!) and did a little shopping for him.

I'm trying to groove my husband in on this task since it's best to be interchangeable for efficiencys' sake, right? But his father makes out a list based on the specials, and then his son follows the list he thinks his father should have written based on what he sees on the shelves and so what ends up in the cart is sometimes a mystery to us all when we unpack it. I've learned to just head into the front room and watch television while they shelve things and go 'What is this? Was this on the list? Whats it for? Do you know?' as though they were cataloging things at the Smithsonian.

We drove around randomly afterwards, just enjoying the day, when I was surprised by the Yummy Biker pulling in to the fancy furniture store so we could shop for a sofa. This was so heroic on his part, since at the same time across the street there was a mini rod run going on. He never pined; he never even mentioned it. What a man! (Back the fuck off, bitch. Back off!)

After we had rambled and sneered at their offerings and barely passed a scant two out of the entire collection, we went over to our favorite section for a cheap thrill.

One whole wing of Smith's Home Furnishings is what we refer to as the 'Mafia Princess" showroom. This area is given over to 'traditional' styles, although I think traditional here is interpreted as 'tradional in the barbarian harems of the planet Gor'.

Ten years ago, when Martha Stewart made French Provincial acceptable again and reintroduced us to gold leafing, this room was a riot of baroque frosting and dainty floral prints. It would have sent poor Martha into a gran mal seizure. This season Dark and Jungly is the theme with a heavy infusion of Indonesian tat 'handicraft' aka 'Exotic Eastern Design Accents.' In 20 years this stuff will be ironic-camp and all the young turk designers will be claiming it as an influence to be shocking. Now it is just sad. No really, sad. All the stained malacca and dark tones make for what resembles a regrettably decorated funeral parlor.

While I looked through fabric selections with the saleslady the Yummy Biker wandered around the showroom bouncing thoughtfully in the armchairs. The saleslady kept a weather eye on him while I flipped through the samples and posed frankly silly questions. Hint for ladies: you can get away with a hell of a lot as long as you have a big biker with you; you will be treated like a queen and your every whim catered to. This is the absolute truth*.

Later, we split a giant submarine sandwich for dinner. And then to bed. I do not know how I handle the sheer pace of this lifestyle.

update: for CB........

Did you miss Shmuggleware?

He missed you.

*Another truth is that you can ride up to any place at any point on the social continuum on a Harley, stomp in wearing full leather, and the help will trip over themselves trying to serve you. Now I know other people have an opposite experience, but this has never been the case with us. Perhaps because out here people realize that you have to be making an income to run a Harley. And probably partly because people are firstly intimidated by the whole leather and dead bugs situation, and then absurdly grateful when you decide not to set shit on fire or sling them to the carpet and punk them with a maglite.
Not that we ever have.