Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Road Trip

In an attempt to forgo Wendy's (why does anyone go on a road trip if not to eat fast-food?), I spent today for fast-food distracting snacks. I wanted to buy a whole pound of beef jerky but am trying not to eat too much CAFO meat or too much salt. So I bought proscuitto.
I am not entirely sure these are different things.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pho for Ali redux

We made Pho for dinner. Even Max ate it like a mad dog. BUT in this recipe, which I haven't used for awhile because I usually make it from memory, I neglected the mung bean sprouts. I had daikon radishes from the CSA I used instead--which worked just fine--but in case you want to remember next time, here's the recipe, fixed.

For the broth:

4 oz rice noodles.
4 cups Beef Stock.
3 tbsp Nam pla (Asian fish sauce)
5 star anise
6 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 rounds of ginger
1 tsp. ground pepper

To accompany:
1 pound very lean sirloin of beef.
small onion, sliced thinly
jalapeno, sliced
1 lime, quartered
Sriracha Sauce
Hoisin (optional. Makes it too sweet, I think).
Bean Sprouts.

Freeze the sirloin for a about an hour so you can slice it thinly.
Soften the noodles in a bowl with hot water.

Combine stock, water fish sauce and spices in a large pot. Simmer broth for one hour (this should reduce the stock enough that you don't need more salt but if you do, add some.)

Slice sirloin as thinly as possible and pop it in the hot broth. Garnish with limes, basil, sriracha, onion and jalapeno. And hoisin if you must.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This semseter

I've posted only five or six times in the past five months. The normal reasons: too busy, nothing much too say, one nasty-ish comment that made me gun-shy, busy, Facebook. I have also been trying to write new stuff at least occasionally to send out so whatever time I do take to write, I do it in Word instead of Blogger. But now that the semester is mostly over, and the Christmas shopping is mostly done, and the 2-foot tall blue Christmas tree has been plugged in, and Max is asleep and Zoe is at her grandma's making gingerbread cookies and Erik is watching another Clint Eastwood Western, it seems like a good time for a wrap up.

This was the first year that Erik had a regular 9-5 job. He's worked a lot since we've been here, but it's been a more varied kind of work schedule. But in some ways, the consistent, and constant, work has been more relaxing. Instead of trying to get childcare here and there when both of us had to work, we've had very consistent work schedules which has made life more routine than it's been since I left Portland for grad school. I went to grad school so I didn't have to be to work by 8:30. Now, I'm at work by 8:15, most days and up by 6:40 every day.

Mondays, I was home with Max, working and playing and mostly managing to be prepared for Tuesdays marathon advising center-teaching-teaching day. Wednesday, since Max went to day care anyway, I was in by 8:15 again. Wednesdays were supposed to be my writing days but my office is next door to my students' office so when I'm in, everyone knows. These became long advising days, which was awesome in a lot of ways, but not in the I-need-to-write-something ways. Also, when you're on campus and in the hallway, everything's a mini-meeting. I administrated on Wednesdays. Thursdays were identical to Tuesdays and Fridays, which should have been writing days were really Zoe-has-short-days days and so now I have the kids at home and we might as well go bike riding.

So, I was at school more than I've ever been. I got a lot of stuff done school related. We will probably get to turn our MA into an MFA, thanks to my constant meeting and emailing. I think I organized 17 hours of meetings to make this happen. From meeting with my area, my chair, my dean, the VP at Distance Learning, the Vice-provost, the associate dean of the grad college and the dean of the grad college, I believe I've learned how to get things done at the University. Talk to everyone until there's a buzz big enough that people already believe that whatever plan you were planning is already in the works. Then spend the next 45 hours filling out paperwork (actually, I filled out the form fast the Wednesday the graduate studies committee and the faculty passed it and I found out to get this to happen by next Fall, I had to have it to the curriculum committee by Friday). I kind of like this stuff and I'm afraid for liking. Do I like administrative stuff really or do I just like it because it's immediately gratifying, compared to the long slog that is writing submission and rejection?

I worked more consistently this semester and therefore, was less stressed out. This is probably how I'm supposed to do it. But I did miss regular writing and regular exercise. The good part about my old life is that I was "running" every day. Now, I'm lucky to go on Mondays and  Fridays. The good part about my new life is that Zoe learned to ride her bike without training wheels in July and by September, she was riding in the woods behind the house. The days that may once have been writing days became riding days and that was not so bad.

I did make some progress on the new book project but only because I'm writing shorter things. I was able too to trim a 40 page essay to a 22 page essay and that got accepted so not zero writing work was accomplished  this semester. I wrote a few poems that I should send out but compared to the last couple of years, the writing has taken a backseat. This is sad in someways but also, not so sad. There's a lot of writing already in the world and my friends are writing awesome things and my students are writing awesome things and maybe next semester, I'll sneak into my office at school through the window so no one knows I'm there. Or get a carrel at the library. Or go back to writing at Late for the Train, which has coffee and a nice, albeit fake, woodstove. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas card

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving has been awesome. Much turkey (20 lb locally grown from Valley View Farms, brined. Cooke in 3 hours. What's up turkey? Why did people used to get up at 5 a.m. to put the turkey in the oven?), much pie (not enough sugar to compensate for roasted pumpkins), much stuffing (two kinds, cornbread and green chile and regular mushroom, onion, celery--thanks Mary Anne!) and possibly the best gravy ever (Thanks Grandma and mom for teaching me how to make gravy. If there were gravy-making contests, I'd enter). Besides food, we have gone on two bike rides (and I hope for a third today), cleaned the house, shopped for a mountain bike for Zoe, bought two (two! Christmas presents, none on Black Friday), eaten ramen noodles for lunch on Thanksgiving Day and sushi for dinner on Saturday. Erik's raking pine needles and putting away the outdoor furniture. But I've spent most of the weekend revising the nonfiction manuscript. It's due to the publishers on Wednesday. I'm freaking out. (I forgot there was sex in it. Sorry mom!). I'm reading Joni Trevis's "The Wet Collection" and Maggie Nelson's "Bluets" and hoping my book is as good (it's not like those books at all). I'm happy to find some common threads besides the purposefully constructing one. Lawn mowing mostly, but a recurring motif nonetheless. It is different publishing nonfiction in book form than in lit mags. I'll tell you who doesn't read lit mags. My mom or my mother-in-law. But they read books and this one has highly inappropriate sexually material. I cut some of it out but still. It's one of the points of the books (boundaries/dams/giving way/holding back) so most of it has stayed. I've also fixed most of the ridiculous phrasing and typos and possibly made some of the tangential metaphors clearer. I look forward to editorial feedback from the press. I want this book to be as good as I can make it, even if it freaks my mom out.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

33 Flavors and then some

I typed this all up and then Firefox crashed. I hate my computer. But I love my sisters who made me and sent me notes leading up until my birthday so I will retype them (OK, Zoe retyped half of them) and indicate whether or not I did the job that the sisters suggested.

1.      Cry for no reason and let them eat cake! (Yes. I’m pretty sure I did this.)

2.      Remember your terrible twos. Do something bad today. (Probably.)

3.      Take today to recognize the exploration of a three year old. What’s that? Why? (Always!)

4.      Try to drink a forty. Just try. (Nope.)

5.      Happy 5th! Kindergarten, riding bikes, and knowing your numbers and letters. Best celebrated with a long walk, a game with the kids and at least an hour reading your favorite book. (I tried to do most of this. I’ll finish the other 45 minutes of reading this week).

6.      On the sixth day, perhaps it would be best to drink a 6-pack. Since I know this is not your cup of tea, spend 6 minutes doing absolutely nothing. (I’m working on it.)

7.      Seven DEADLY sins. Seven wonders of the world. You choose! But do one of them. (I live close to one of the seven wonders, does that count?)

8.      Eight lords of leaping! Take a leap…and do something you have always wanted to do. (I went on a mountain bike ride in the forest behind the house with El and Rick and Zoe with Max in the baby seat for 5 beautiful miles.)

9.      Listen to the Beatles White Album. (This is when the trouble began. I only own the White Album in album form. Our iTunes is somehow locked up on a non-working computer. Erik’s working on it).

10.  Listen to Led Zeppelin’s Ten Years Gone today. (Listened just now!)

11.  Eleven! Eleven! Today you need to make a wish. (Made a wish. Also. On Veteran’s Day, 11/11/11 I looked at my clock and missed 11:11 a.m. by 1 minute. Wished anyway.)

12.  Celebrate your womanhood today and do your toes, get your hair done, make it a great day! (Not so much. But I will make a hair appointment this month!)

13.  Triskaidekaphobia celebrate your bat mitzvah. (When I think of Bat Mitzvah, I think of Magda’s and her mom, Jackie Osherow’s stir-fried green beans with lemon and almonds. So I celebrated by eating green beans.)

14.  It is important to listen to Metallica today, don’t ask…(I did it. I still didn’t get it. But I did it.)

15.  Quincerara Day. Buy a new dress and make it a night to remember. (Val brought me a new dress when she came to visit. Does that count?)

16.  Watch 16 Candles. (It was on HBO!)

17.  Senior Prom! Relive it. (I didn’t go to senior prom but they have adult prom in Flagstaff in June at the Orpheum. Perhaps I’ll try to go.)

18.  Graduation Day. Use this day to celebrate everything you have accomplished since graduation. Make a list! (I’m no good at lists but Zoe is typing this list for me since I got so mad the computer crashed. I think that counts.)

19.  Nineteen is the end of an era. Watch gone with the wind. (I still have never seen it.)

20.  This is half time. Celebrate the :20 (I think this is a pot reference but I could be wrong.)

21.  Drink, drink a lot and don’t care about tomorrow. (I got this on a weekday.)

22.  Make twice the wish you made for 11. (I did. Twice.)

23.  This is a lucky day! Focus on the great things that will happen today.  (I did this too.)

24.  Take 24 hours off. Call in sick, make an excuse and do whatever you want. (Oh P. You’ll see soon. Moms don’t get days off.)

25.  Quarter life crisis. Write a letter to yourself at 25. (Dear Nik, I can’t believe you left Portland for grad school. It was a good move but the word Portland still makes my mouth water.)

26.  It’s two weeks to the big day, presents should start. (They did. Val sent me another present. Didn’t I get a dress from you? Opening it tomorrow!)

27.  Watch 27 Dresses today. (Put it on Netflix.)

28.  Watch 28 Days Later or watch 28 Days. (I gave up zombie movies and rehab movies at my last birthday.)

29.  In honor of the 29th day of February, take today as an extra day. Act as if you have an entire day to do whatever you wish. (See #24).

30.  Look for all the photos from your 30th birthday. Smile at all the ones which you look exactly the same. (This is an awesome charge. Now I need photos from the Dirty 30 party. Miss Paegle? Mr. Burger?

31.  31 Flavors. Eat some ice cream! (Does butter count?)

32.  32 Flavors and then some! Eat more ice cream. (More butter. Plus, awesome Ani reference.)

33.  One week until birthday. This should be a great day. Go to dinner with friends. (Stop counting damnit.)

34.  Redecorate! Find something you can change in your house for under $3.40-$34.00 and do it. (Copper from thriftstore polished and reorganized into decorative alcove!)

35.  Get yourself some new shoes. (I did this one! Thanks to mom’s gift. They are awesome.)

36.  Drink 4 glasses of wine and call me in the morning. (See #s 29 and 24)

37.  You deserve it! Drink 3 glasses of wine. (That I can manage.)

38.  (Stop counting)

39.  (I said, that will do.)



Thursday, November 03, 2011

The last bite

I just ate the last bite of the veggie lasagna I made last week. It was possibly better than the lasagna bolognese I also made. Before I forget what I put in it, here's the recipe.
1 lb. mozz.
no boil noodles
squash of some sort
tomatoes (semi-ripe)
For bechamel:

This entire recipe, save the lasagna noodles, milk, butter and flour was made from items garned from the Flagstaff CSA.

I received a ginormous squash at the CSA. I put it out with the Halloween pumpkins and thought I would leave it on the porch steps for a month or two until its collapsed form no longer could fake decoration-status. But why not use it? Lo though I hate peeling sqaush, this one was so big, it was actually kind of easy. I used about half of it and contributed the rest to the squash heap of history. I sliced it into thin half-rounds and boiled it in salted (and a big sugared) water until it was al dente. Then, I sliced parsnips and cooked them in butter because there wasn't enough butter in the bechamel which I was making on the side and not the fancy, clove-stuck onion and bay leaf way, but the butter, flour = roux, whisk in some milk way.
Then I layered.
First bechamel. Then, noodles, then squash, parsnips, sliced tomatoes, torn arugula, mozz, then bechamel, noodles, squash, parsnips, sliced onions, sliced tomatoes, torn basil mozz, then bechamel, noodles, squash, parsnips, arugula, mozz, then noodles, then bechamel, then topped with mozz (and maybe some parm).
Cook for 1 hour while at a neighbors' party.
Possibly better than the bolognese (with CSA pork and ground beef) version I also took over to a different party that evening. Possibly.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Except for Darth, I've never actually seen anyone die. My dad and grandma, I just heard about over the phone. There was still the collapse and the wailing but from the minute the person died, I started to get better.  When I was waiting for Box to die, I dug in. I told my friend, I feel like I've always been sad and will always be sad. I'm wondering what kind of coper I am. I vacillate between callous apathy: "Box is dying" to histrionic "I do not know how I will go on."
Box was the best cat in the whole world. I am biased but when I got him at the Humane Society, there was a list of Humane Society workers who wanted to adopt him. They, though, had already adopted so many animals that they were at the policy limit. Box would have been my first adoptee since I started working there so I got dibs. I don't know how exactly everyone knew he was the best cat--on the breed they typed him "orange tabby" and "exotic" so maybe it was his strange, swirly markings that drew everyone but I actually think it was the way he meowed.
He was a loud cat. Every morning he woke us up saying Ma-ma Mow and then shrieking like an unoiled door hinge.
He ma-ma mow-ed up the stairs following me to get dressed and ma-ma mowed while I took a shower. If I took a bath, he'd poke his head up over the side and ma-ma mowed at me there. And then pretended he wanted to get in the tub but obviously didn't. I guess all cats do that--just like all cats take up the whole bed when you sleep, love to sleep on cardboard.
Box was dangerous. He'd bite your toes if they were out of the covers and your hands if they were outside of your sleeves. He would knead your leg like a loaf of bread if you sat still too long. Zoe would play games with Box, dragging the string all over the house. He would follow her anywhere.
He had a lot of friends in the world. I can hear Lynn's voice saying "Box" all gravely and commanding. Ander and Megan were the only house-guests who would pet him while he ate. My mom let him stay with her over Christmas break and summer break and scratched him on his forehead. My nephew Cam, whenever Box had an owie from tangling with the neighbor cats (or possibly raccoons), would ask, "What happen Box."
I don't know. How can I convey how good he was? I'm already running the montage in my head. He loved to be outside. He was so orange against green grass. He stalked everything but ravens who stalked him. He liked to sleep in the sun on the deck and run across the 1/4 acre of grass on the house on green street.  I spent half my life looking for him when he wouldn't come in. He was allowed to go outside but not to stay out all night. I was up until 2 a.m. once looking for him on 9th Avenue, opening can after can of Fancy Feast so hear the can open, he would smell it and come running.
Erik and I had to trap the mice he would bring inside from the field next door. He was a fighter but not a killer and we swept traumatized mice into empty Kleenex boxes to return to the field next door.
He slept with me every night, no matter where I slept. He was almost the kind of cat you could trust to take camping--he would go but always come back.
Last night, I thought he'd died and I held him on my lap. Then I realized he hadn't so I took him into bed. We shared my pillow and he stayed warm, I hope. I kept waking up to check if he was breathing. I thanked him over and over for staying in the bed. I didn't want him to die cold and alone.
When the sun came up, his chest started to convulse. Then, he finally stopped breathing.
I don't know how to say how Box-y he was.  There are a hundred pictures of him in my head and images of him pulling up on his paws to look in windows or on chairs or over the bathtub but I think what really made him Box was how very loud he was. His purr sounded like a Mack truck. The house, even with Zoe singing ABC's and tickling Max, is quiet today.
I don't know how to say it well. I love that cat.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


It was spring, 1998--the spring before I left Portland for Salt Lake and graduate school. I don't know why he crawled up the front steps of our blue house. We already had four cats living with us--Rhett's cat, Smile, and my three cats, Jelly, Phaedra and Box. Maybe he could smell that we were a cat-loving people. He was skin and bones. His eyes were pools of blackness. His breathing was thick. We pulled him in the house and fed him bowl after bowl of cat food. We thought he was just hungry. That He was just the world's thinnest, stray gray tabby. We fed him some more. We named him Darth, after his heavy breathing.

Rhett's friend Noelle took him to the vet. He supplied her with fluids we could give him intraveneously. He also gave us a diagnosis. Cancer.

When Noelle got home, he seemed sicker. Diagnoses always seem to do that. We installed him on the futon in the front room. We put water and food in front of him so he didn't have to move. We learned how to insert the needle under his skin and thought, we could be nurses if we wanted.

A couple weeks later, I hosted my friend Rebecca's wedding shower at the house. I made Jello, as a you-live-in-Utah-now-and-I-will-be-there-again-soon joke, while Darth wheezed. We had other Utah food too--possibly pigs in a blanket. As we ate, our friend Julie's daughter, Calista, wondered what that noise was. She went over to Darth. He breathed at her. And then he didn't. I don't think this was the best shower I've ever thrown. It might have been the only shower I've ever thrown.

We buried Darth in the backyard, under the cherry tree that listed neighbor-ward. It happened so fast. A few days. Only two bags of fluid.

15 years later: When my sister left from her visit Monday morning, I looked at Box's eyes. He had Darth-eyes. He was thin as a stray. I fed him can after can of Fancy Feast but he wouldn't eat. I called the vet. He came immediately. His kidneys are failing, he said. I gave him fluids, electrolytes.

I said, can I give him fluids? I had a cat named Darth once. I think I remember how to do it.

He said, let's give it a couple of days.

I am slow. I thought, "let's give him a couple of days" meant "let's see if he gets better on his own." What he meant was, "This probably isn't going to work. Let's not put carts before horses or fluids into seeping cats."

Box ate a little bit of cat food this morning. He jumped up on the bed last night. Maybe he'll rally. Kidney-failure isn't cancer but they don't do kidney transplants for cats, even if that cat has ocelot-like markings winding through his orange fur, kneads your leg whereever you sit, purrs like a train, plays tiger in the grass with wayward leaves, or sleeps every night at the back of your knees.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Today was the last day of the Flagstaff Farmer's Market. Even though I will be able over the winter to procure most things through my CSA and their market, I still stockpiled like the rapture people had called and said, no, this time, it's really it. I only had $20 cash but I also brought a brand-new checkbook. From Whipstone farms I bought the usual turnips and carrots, since Zoe eats sliced turnips and carrots in her lunch. I also bought from them kale because I'm not sure when greens season begins at the CSA. Once it does, it's nonstop greens--tatsoi, bok choy, beet greens, kale (this is the first part of a rap song that I wrote for the CSA. "Onions, turnips, rutabegas, dill" is the next line. One day, I'll finish it and force the volunteers who work at the CSA store to sing along with me. Because they don't do enough) and a head of red leaf lettuce the size of my head. $10.
I spent $54 dollars at the pork place because my 1/4 share of pork won't be ready until November ($110). I bought 4 pork chops, 1 pound of ground pork and a pork shoulder. And eggs. Green, olive, beige and blue-colored eggs. From Moonrise I bought $6.85 worth of tomatoes (brandywine, roma and a box of cherry) plus the pork share, to be delivered, soonish.
I spent $13 on coffee from Manuel Santana and 1.85 on a pomegranate and an onion. $28 dollars at Flying M for massaged* meat--flank steak, ground beef, short ribs and $15 at the chicken place for a chicken and 4 chicken thighs. The cost is a lot more. $10/lb for the pork. About the same for the beef. $4/lb for the chicken. But Erik and I are going to experiment and go out zero times in the next two weeks (well, start back last Monday when we went to Karma sushi and spent $73). So zero times in three weeks. And you'll see that the expensive meat is still less than one night of sashimi. Zoe and I made a menu for two weeks (which we forgot to put fish on! Include halibut or salmon in here somewhere! Why doesn't anyone sell rainbow trout at the farmer's market?)

So here's our tentative plan for the next 2 weeks.
Sunday: Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, turnip greens.
Monday: Roasted veg: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, celery root, and butternut squash soup.
Tuesday: Hamburgers by Erik
Wednesday: Pork chops, kale.
Thursday: (Oh, we should have fish here since the menu says, ground pork--that's too much pork in a row, free range and massaged or not.).
Friday: Spanikopita, tzikia, hummus (hopefully, Beya et. al can come).
Saturday: Beef ribs and brocolli
Sunday: Pozole (hopefully, friends can come. Or switch with Saturday).
Monday: Pizza on the grill
Tuesday: turkey tacos
Wednesday: Flank steak
Thursday: Cauliflower pasta? (Maybe. Val arrives. Menu will change with her preferences!)
Friday: Souffle and fish
Saturday: I want to have pre-Thanksgiving. Erik has misgivings (ha!) about it. He wants his tongue to be surprised by Thanksgiving but I think you can't have too many Thanksgivings.

And, that is all. We'll still have Short ribs, ground pork and chicken thighs in the fridge. Can we make it one more week? Would we want to? If I don't spend any more money on going out in October though, my birthday month might be full of delicious escapes.

Also. I'm making granola right now with flax, wheat germ, wheat bran, oats and almonds so I can save money on cereal. But last time I was at Safeway (see September post), all Quaker products were on sale: Cinnamon Life (Zoe's fave), Oatmeal Squares (what Max and I like) and regular oats. Why can't Quaker products always be two-for-one ish?  If they won't put them on sale, Quaker man will have forced me to bake my own granola, which is messy and a little burny-smelling.

*Massaged is the word we used to use with Zoe when we were talking about grass-fed, non-CAFO cows when she was 3. It's still easier although the beef is not Wagyu. That's for my next adventure: All food from D'Artagnan!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Lo though I have pink doughnut frosting all over my favorite shirt thanks to "I am Max and I have to get out of the shopping cart now" man (who followed the "I am Max and I need to have a doughnut to be bribed to stay in the cart" man), and lo though I only have 1 more hour of this free time, and lo though Erik is at work, I am feeling that today, anything is possible. Part of this has to do with good news but part of it just has to do with a sunny September day. It feels Oktoberfesty. It feels like you can sit in direct sunlight and not broil. It feels like. Max is asleep right now. This is huge because we just made Max give up the bottle. I don't know why we did this. To challenge his already-fragile sleeping patterns? No. Because his doctor said it would get harder the longer we waited. And it's already hard. The first night, no sleep between 12 and 3 (his regular waking up times for a bottle). Last night, a little better, but I fear only because he slept so little the night before and took no nap. But he's actually been quite pleasant about the whole tortuous event. He's a pretty classy baby who can sign for milk but can say the word cookie.

Zoe and I went on our longest backwoods bike ride yet. There are so many trails behind our house but I forget that mountain biking is pretty hard. You have to look ahead, look down, and try never to left-hand brake. That's a lot for a little kid who just learned how to ride a bike. Now she's at a playdate with our awesome, carefree neighbors who don't feel it takes 3-4 weeks to set up a playdate.

Erik is almost done painting. Almost. 4 more weeks. I'm not sure people understand the method behind Erik's painting process. I'm not sure I do. It involves a lot of caulk, a lot of sanding, mudding and cutting in. It takes forever. But it looks awesome when it's done. He's also putting down new base molding. Pine. Polyeurethaned at my request. I really can't give him a hard time about the construction zone in the dining room.

My house is kind of clean. The laundry's kind of done. I could grade but I think I'll go write a response poem and then maybe work on an essay that some magazine might take some day. Or maybe I'll write that review. Or maybe I'll write a blog post that reads like a list but is meant to have the point that today is he kind of day that everything is right--the sun, the vultures, the dog sleeping on the porch, the glass of ice water with lemon, the quiet mountain town (that is not quiet all summer long), the big mountain in front of me that maybe we'll hike up tomorrow, and the mountain behind that that might have a couple of boletes hiding in its crevices, the caw of the raven, the promise of Chinese chicken noodle soup for dinner, because it's September and even though I can sit in the sun right now, tonight it will be cold enough for soup.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to work

That is better. I'm tired. Exhausted. Etc. I'm home with the chitlins, thinking of emptying the dishwasher, but overall feel more balanced. Morning rush, maddening computer issues, program ad issues with Writers Chronicle, advising issues, talk in the hallway, showing off the new bathroom, more computer issues, office complaints, rushed lunch with Erik, meeting with smart grad student, email email email (now that computer issues are resolved), read Julie's fabulous poem, log microorganism footage, try to assemble a reasonable time-code list for Erik to make trailer, call Max's day care, find out Max is still asleep, rush to get Zoe, think about Julie's poem, run through the rain to pick Zoe up, drive slowly to get Max, wash out spilled coffee in car and come back here to contemplate emptying the dishwasher.

More exhausted than I've been all summer. Also. Less apoplectic. Strange.

Our offices just reopened after their remodel. I saw mine for the first time and almost cried. I had thought I was getting this cool new office--large, open, and close to the exits--but in the remodel, they bricked in one of the windows to make an up-to-fire-code fire-escape. Lame! Give my windows! The people can use the regular stairs if the building's on fire!!! Or, rather, put in the fire-escape but make it like one of those cool New Yorkie kind that clangs up and down, and, if you're a really great and fast and tall criminal, you can jump and escape upward by pulling down on the iron ladder. I wouldn't mind watching that out my window.
So now I have only one window. But one is better than none, my smart grad student who has no windows in his office told me.

So I will learn to live with it, put gigantic pictures of Max and Zoe on the wall so I can start to crave the return to summer, full-time domestication and all.

(The "C" on my keyboard is kind of wonky. If there are missing "c's" where there should be "c's" forgive me because while I do feel "back," or, rather, "bak," I don't feel very proofready.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The domesticization of Nicole

It isn't normally like this. Or, it wasn't. Last summer, the system was the same. Zoe had some school. Max had none. In between, Erik and I took the kids camping, hiking, and to Salt Lake. We haven't been camping but we've been to Salt Lake and hiking. But, and this is the key to the change, Erik hasn't been with us.
I knew when he got a job, things would be different. It is not as fun not having him home. But I didn't realize that lack of fun would translate into a lot of domestic chores and a lot of stay-at-home-momness that has been great but has been constant. Erik broke up the constancy. Or, is it just because we were doing things all four of us that it seemed more like a summer adventure, even if we were just going, like we did yesterday, to the grocery store.
I've done super fun things with other moms but that momness leads to more mom and kid activities and more thoughts and talks about childcare and naps and potty-training which is not the talk I had last summer with Erik which was more the talk about how many tents do we really need to own? (Four was the answer last summer. This summer's answer? Zero). Play dates and how to wash bottles has occupied more of my mental space than ever before.
I don't know if there's a shoving-out happening--that I'm avoiding working, or if this is a great break from work, but, as the school your impends, I don't know how my brain is going to stop commenting on the number of sparkles on Zoe's dress and how to start talking about, well, see, here's a big problem, I can't even think about what I'm supposed to be thinking about. Poor brain.
Of course, the other big component of the grand domesticization (sp? I'd like to blame poor summer brain but I never can spell made up words) is the kitchen remodel which involved:
Garage cleaning so everything in the kitchen could fit in there.
The cleaning out of the closets to go with the garage sale that goes with the cleaning of the garage.
The closets and all other open spaces were filled with kitchenware.
The empty spaces in the kitchen were filled by carpenters and tile-folks and long conversations about the height of shelves.
My summer of charcuterie turned into the summer of construction sausage.
But now it is all better.
And tomorrow, I'm going mushroom hunting with Max and Z. Erik can't come. He has to work, but maybe we'll bring home a surprise.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Anxiety of Influence

Joyelle McSweeney wrote a smart piece about influence bringing back the fluidity in the word influence. Influence flows into art and from art it flows back out. There are political and social repercussions to this--both good and bad--the worst being the idea the small fingers of children in China working to make your laptop as a true influx on your writing--the best being the good writing that flows out vibrates at the same frequency as life, Chinese working-children and all.

Since this is apparently my blog about personal dithering and not about small hands of children (unless they're my own children's), I've been thinking about my difficulty with influence--specifically, that I crave it. I go out of my way to look for other peoples' input in ways that might be too extreme. For instance, Zoe's school. Flagstaff has way too many charter schools, making it way too easy to become mired in "what's best for my child" coupled with "the hardest school to get into must be the best for her." I post on Facebook, asking for input. I ask my friends. I ask strangers at the park, "hey, where does your kid go to school." None of this really changes my feelings--that her current school is good and the playground is extra-sweet (which seems the most important elementary school element, from my own experience). And yet, when I turned down one of the charters, thanks to input but also my own instinct, I still wandered the countryside ask, "where does your kid go to school. What do you think of charter schools?" Influence for the sake of influence.
Or, for Zoe's birthday, playset in the backyard or no playset? We don't have a fence. I imagine every kid in the neighborhood falling to their death off the ladder. Lawsuits and broken children. And yet, it's Zoe. It's what she wants. So I go around asking friends with kids, "Do you have a playset? Do you have a fence?" What inevitably happens is that I feel like a jerk not only for not having a playset but also for not having a fence.

Dr. Crazy just wrote a cool blogpost about literary criticism and being daring--writing what you know you should write, not just what people will applaud and praise or give you tenure for. She says her most daring writing has been her blog, where she has written what she wanted to. That is, I imagined, also how she made such a large community of blog readers--by doing what she wanted, not aiming for goals posted by someone or some other entity.
Which leads back to writing and sending my writing to people. Do I really still not know when a piece is finished? Must I send too-early drafts just in an attempt to create that community? I want people to read with me--to read in that way of collaboration and development but this just leads to me asking too many questions for what I think I already know is the real answer. I take too many opinions under advisement and then I write toward that goal or some other advice and I end up sending my kid to three different schools and with a fence around a playset that I'm still not sure I should own.

It's one reason it's better to teach writing than to take a workshop. You still get to talk about writing and elicit influence from yourself and your other students but you don't take it home at night and have dreams about strange hands moving your typing around, as you say, "This?" or maybe, "this?" The worst writing is nervous writing. I should save my nerves for Zoe.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google Plus

I do not think that I need another internet-distraction device. But Google seems a powerful force to try to stand up to. I don't like confrontation. I prefer to just submit and be assimilated. Hence, my Google Plus enveloping. However, I also find it confusing. I just got a post from Mary Anne within the and am trying to figure out how to post there. Perhaps it's just confusing enough to keep me going.

In other news: Two rejections on the same essay in the same hour. However, one of the rejections wrote, "thank you for sending it. I found the story very moving," which was very sweet but ALSO very confusing. If it moves, publish, no? I guess I should know better, since I send rejections of stuff I like that just aren't right for journals I edit, that it just wasn't right for that magazine. I guess and audience of one editor is still pretty good odds for essays these days.

I also wrote 3 new poems thanks to Brigit Pageen Kelly, by way of Steve Fellner, who reminded me I loved her.

It's been raining here like it's PDX. Very strange. Lovely really. We went down to Sedona for heat and swimming and lovely times and then came back to watch the lightning storm. I like living at 7000 feet elevation. I also like that Sedona is close and Sam is close too.

And, what other news: Oh. The kitchen project starts a week from today. Erik pulled down a wall, scraped ceilings, mudded those ceilings. This week, I have to clean out the cabinets so we can take them down. Contractors arrive on Monday! I'm most excited for the glass-tile backsplash and gigantic farm-style sink but new cabinets and one fewer wall will be fabulous as well.

Max stayed up until 10 last night but then he woke up only once. Perhaps he's just a night owl. I hear him hoo hooing in the other room.

Now, Mary Anne, does this show up on your Google plus?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hello from Domesticity Island

I keep wondering what's going on with this summer and it finally occurred to me--it's been the summer of house. Erik got a new job this month (yay Erik) and also went to Poland with Robin (yay Jewish festival) and also committed to remodeling our kitchen this summer (yay Spearming tile backsplash). Lo though we are paying a very nice contractor to do most of the work, Erik's work ethic required that he at least do all the scraping of ceilings, mudding drywall, painting and tear down (also. Budget helped require this). So Erik has been beyond busy working. Also, this work impacts me and my work since Max has no childcare this summer and Zoe has intermittant camps. This is my doing, I think. I wanted to spend time with the kids after the semester of head-spinning overworkedness. But kids full time plus teaching this summer, for the first time (I'm still recovering and still grading too) plus Brady Udall's visit and the chicken jello party plus, my mom came to town for ten days plus Erik's parents moved here last week. Plus a July 2nd party means I have a pretty clean house (almost. Getting there anyway) and yet have written zippo in over two weeks.

This domesticity has dominated. Mom cleaned out my hallway closet and we started Max's room. After the garage sale, I thought I was done throwing stuff out but then I hit the office. The office is no more. I've never been so happy to have nothing in an entire room. Soon, the bar stools will be there but I want to keep that an open space. Sadly, all open space here seems to become quickly occupied with toys and art projects but that is the name of the no-child-care game, I suppose (and knew, already, but every day, there is toy and art project doing and undoing). Zoe's room we cleaned today. The porches, thanks to my mom's visit, meaning the whole inside of the house was cleaned by noon of the party day, I swept and even against my don't-use-water-unless-you-must beliefs, sprayed down.

This is the first minutes alone in over six weeks. Max is at his grandma's. Zoe is at dance/gymnastics camp. I'm waiting for the JennAire fix it person (for the 2nd time. This summer has been a lot of waiting too--waiting for the window guys to fix the window, waiting for the hutch guy to buy the hutch, waiting for the contractor, waiting for the cabinet guy. Do you know that SubHumAnz song called Reality is Waiting for the Bus? I don't think this is what they meant). Is it possible Fall Semester will be more of a break than summer?

I haven't written as much as I'd hoped this summer but today is the first day of my summer research grant so I should best get on it. Erik and I interview Eric at Page Springs on Monday for our segment on Microclimates. That's part of my writing project for the summer. I would also like to remember how to write poems. I tried. I think I failed. Heck, I'd be happy if I remembered how to write blog posts.

The wind has finally stopped but now the rain has begun so I will be typing inside instead of outside, between domestic chore of laundry folding and toy-picking up and art project doing and undoing.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A lull

It is summer. I should not be having to fend off being a basket case. But this week, and possibly most of June, threaten to turn me into wicker and weave me into an empty container. Or some mixed up version of a strange idiomatic expression.

Teaching fiction is fun. It is so much easier than teaching poetry or essays. There are rules! Obvious conventions. People have read it before. But still. I have 5 ESL students. Their writing can be amazing but some of the conversations are quieter than they would be otherwise. Two people didn't show today. At some point, I think 8 students, I stop breaking even and start getting paid less. How's that for trying to be an entertaining teacher. I wish someone were recording me. I'm pretty sure I'm teaching at 110% capacity for fear of losing students. Also. For fear of disappointing the one student who drives up from Phoenix every day.
The Brady Udall workshop isn't full. It's 75% full. That's pretty good. But, I got an email from his son at 3 today, just as I was getting ready to get Zoe, that the airline had overbooked Brady's flight and there was little hope of getting him up here before the workshop started at 10 tomorrow. Fortunately, our amazing business manager figured out a shuttle plan and, if all goes well, he'll be on it. Now, I just have to stay up late to pick him up from the Amtrack station where the shuttle drops airline victims off.

Also. I think this was a bad idea that, after it's over, it will be a good idea: I'm hosting a reception for him at my house instead of taking him to dinner on Friday night. So far, I've made two terrines--a smoked chicken in gelee and a asparagus, mushroom, and lebneh cheese wrapped in leek terrine. Tomorrow, truffled potatoes and tabouleh. Friday, zucchini frittata and spanikopita. Friends are bringing other snacks. I have big cheese from the evil Sam's Club. And pita chips. And hummus. I hope that's enough food. Maybe I should make salmon? Advice happily taken. This should be for about 15 people. It will be good once it happens and I am excited for the summer of terrines and chacuterie. I think I need to entertain more, not less, so I remember it's not the end all and be all of events.

Other stresses include camp for Zo, Puente de Hohzo waiting list for school next year, last week's garage sale, selling of hutch, plans for remodeling kitchen, fires in the east of Arizona that make me nervous about fires in Northern Arizona, Max's falling off the stairs and hitting his head on the concrete, Erik's job, and the lunching, dining, and workshopping of the Udall, should his shuttle actually arrive. Also, Erik and the kids are going to Torrey for the weekend. I will be lonely without them although I'll be too busy to see them.

Is there writing in that list? No, there is not.

Dear Self: Please remember next summer that summer should be summer.

Stupid, overbooking it self.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To do Lists in June? Say it ain't so

Some people, I'm usually one of them, have the some offer. Usually, even by now, the High Altitude Summer Writing Institute is over. But this time, I'm hosting it in June. Did I mention Brady Udall is the guest writer? I'm a little geeked out about it. But it's still work. I have five more spots of the workshop to fill. I rented the big auditorium so it will be really dorky if no one shows up for the reading. The good news is, Seth Muller ran a huge article in Mountain Living Magazine and will run something in the local paper. And KNAU might run a spot too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. This year, a lot is on the line. If this one garners attention, it might not be so much work next year. I think I will have established a tradition. We'll see.
But, I'm also teaching this summer--a five week course in June in fiction. I'm kind of pre-exhausted but also kind of excited. I never get to teach fiction.
I'm also doing my regular administrative work which will be included on the list that shall follow this preamble.
My sister Val just left so I feel like the vacation part of May is over and it's time to get ready for June. We cooked so much food--and so much bacon--that I think we'll be eating leftovers for a week. But, for a short run down on the food adventures, I will list them here before I get to the boring list that is work I must accomplish.

On Friday night: 4 pizzas made with Pizza Bianco's dough recipe (remember, 4.5 cups flour not 5.5, 4 tsp (not 4.5 tsps yeast for altitude and extra crispiness). Cheese pizza with New Jersey Pizza Co mozzerella, pepperoni with Boar's head pep, pancetta and tomato and mozz and, finally, boursin, mint and caramelized onion pizza (Sam introduced me to this. It's unbelievably delicious. Really. I didn't believe it. And I was wrong).

Saturday: Val made waffles for breakfast. For dinner: Filets with foie gras and black cherry reduction. Baked potatoes. Broccoli. Sweet D'artagnan. Thanks again for mailing me such decadence.

Sunday: Val made pancakes for the kids and I made hashbrowns and eggs. For lunch, I think Val and I just ate pate (again, the D'artagnan. Thank you). For dinner Val and I made: Carnitas which involved cooking pork shoulder along with oranges, oregano, a touch of milk and brown sugar, and salt for 2 hours. After that, baked in the oven for crispy caramelization. Grilled corn in the husks. The little silks disappeared. Thanks Val for that new inspiration!

Monday: Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Who ever makes that at home? It was lovely. Blender hollandaise was a little runny. Delicious smashed onion and cheddar hamburgers made by Steve and Erik. Don't forget the pancetta! (I have to say that all the radical deliciousness was Valerie. She thought of the corn on the grill in the husks. She thought of pancetta on the pizza. She even made "crostini" by cutting up some ciabatta bread and letting it sit in the sun. She wanted to make her own corn tortillas and I just couldn't muster the strength to go buy the tortilla press. But next time I find one, I'm getting it for her.)

What is that disease you get when you eat too much fat? Gout? Gall bladder? Just fat? Fortunately, we made up for all this fat eating by hiking down to Walnut Canyon, walking to see the Prairie Dogs, taking the kids to the Aquaplex. I went running this morning. I should go again this afternoon.

The agenda is long though and running twice a day is not on it. In the next two weeks I have at least one grant due, one garage sale to have, one syllabus to write, one party to plan, one trip to Torrey to miss but I imagine I still have to pack the kids' clothes for, and two manuscripts to submit.

So, with no further ado. The list:

Clean off hutch
Finish MacArthur grant (not the genius one. You can't apply for that).
Refill Prescriptions.
Cut Max's hair.

Make labels and signs for garage sale.
Call Dyanne for big garage sale signs.
Zoe's end of school barbecue.
Electronic Tenure File Meeting.
Email CAL list for Brady Udall.
Pick up dishwasher.
Call about tile backsplash.

Pull tables over for garage sale.
Advertise garage sale in Craigslist.
Go through dresser drawers and armoir.
Stage garage for sale.
Email Brady Udall workshoppees--remind them where, when, etc.
Plan Udall reception for the next Friday. Greek food? Angie's bringing shrimp. Thanks Angie!

Finalize garage sale.
Try not to think about bad weather ruining garage sale.
Make pizza for Beya and Brian.

Suffer the garage sale. Hope to sell huge hutch. Everything else, bonus.

West fork hike?

Teach (did you see I didn't put the syllabus making in there. I'll do it on Thursday!)

That list is missing some things but I feel that now that it's covering at least 50% of the things I have to do this week, I can go take a nap. Not really. Tuesday is almost over. I haven't written my 500 words nor finished grant. Max is asleep. Time is awastin'.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A venting

I shouldn't do this but I'm feeling very relieved to be getting back to writing my food book now that I've taken a few months to let it go and get over a couple of rejections. I've been working on this thing for so long that this new version feels truly new. I just wrote an email to this woman, Ana Maria Spagna, whose book Potluck, returned me to the idea that actual books of essays do exist. I feel like I've been pounding my head (read: this book) against a wall trying to create an increasing narrative, trying to make it read like a novel, trying to keep being funny, while using less of an 'I' point of view, while simultaneously changing the book thoroughly while refraining from changing the book too much, while making it more about Mormons, more about the apocalypse, more about the environment, more about food.

Today, I (now I'm self-conscious starting a paragraph with an 'I' but this is the blog world where the I is free to be you and me) am letting the book be essays. It may never be as commercial as everyone kept promising it would be. It may never even get published but I am happier with it than I ever have been. I have lists! Meta-narrative! Letters to people and to the editor! I don't know if it's funny or too I-ridden or uses the subjunctive tense but it makes sense to me now.

It's not perfect. I know I'm the kind of person who needs an editor. There are loose ends but for a book about a narrator growing up in Utah, not eating tuna casserole, who is worried about animals and yet still not a vegetarian, who has a hard time saying no, who thinks that humans adapt the world too much to them and don't adapt enough to it, I think that it holds together in some very esoteric way. I hope the book doesn't read as digressive. I hope it reads not too frilly or fancy. But I also feel, at least right now, that if I do have to go back in and revise yet again, it will be fun, not hopeless.

I'm pretty lucky. I was able to write almost 2 hours a day for the first half of the semester. Then, toward the second half of the semester, still about twice a week. Now that school is out and grades are in, I'm back to every day. Even when I teach summer school this summer, I hope I can write while the students are writing. I'm looking forward to Brady Udall's visit. My friend Karen is going to take the workshop with me plus help me entertain Brady. Max and I played blocks and cars and trains and some weird lets roll around on the floor game and Zoe is almost done with Kindergarten so we can swim and swim and swim the rest of the summer away (well, as soon as it stops snowing) and I'm putting in another order to D'artagnan for more truffle butter and pancetta. Super summer all the time.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ramen Noodle Chopped

In college, my friends and I doctored our ramen up with soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha. I don't think we used any of that powered stock. Maybe just a tiny bit. Good, quick, college-memorial food requires MSG.
Really. Ramen are delicious. Are they deep fried?
Crystal is bleeding all over the kitchen. Delicious.
Pickled peppers, smoked turkey, ramen and endive. Hey, that's what we had for dinner!
Once again, Amanda thinks the peppers with the cayenne is too spicy. I say, at least the soup doesn't taste bloody.
Marco--big chunks of turkey leg? Salad. Not too wow.
Shehu--the left-whole cardomon seed problem. It seems overblown.
Some other guy with a salad. Under impressed.

Crystal the injured woman is chopped for turkey skin. Turkey skin? Over that dude who just crinkled the ramen on top? I hate Chopped. I might boycott blogging the rest of it.

Chocolate Frosting. Flat Iron Steak. Chard. Celery Root.
This is too easy. Chocolate frosting--sauce. Maybe some wine. Chard. Too easy (will the judges mention that the stalks are just as good if not better than the leave?). Once I made a celery root, gruyere, apple and dijon mustard salad.
Amanda says to Ted who complains about the canned chocolate frosting with emulsifiers, "you want to play it down as much as possible." How much do you want to bet that someone gets in trouble for playing down the chocolate frosting?

And Chris indeed comments on the double-like vegetable of the chard. Yay Chris for predictability.

I sense Shehu's joy of cooking will be his demise. Also. Ted complains at him about borrowing a burner. Lame Ted. Let the people work together. Oh wait, then he takes pleasure in the apparent-demise of his teammates. Perhaps he will prevail.

During the commercial break, allow me to opine about what is alluring about Chopped. There's something about the life gives you lemons business to it, of course. There's also the attitude. That if you complain about the lemons, you reveal your true character. And, if you're too confident, you will lose. But, strangely, if you're under-confident, you will also lose. The idea that speed is the crucible into which you will demonstrate taste, presentation and creativity is more of a boxing event than a cooking one. Which is why there are so many injuries on Chopped. But the truth is, even though women are the ones most likely to get Chopped, the whole process is so much like making dinner. Last night, with Max on the counter and Zoe chopping mushrooms and cuisinarting the cabbage and carrots for coleslaw, I had about twenty minutes to put the whole dinner together before Max melted down or I collapsed from hunger. By the end though, we had chipotle turkey burgers with tarragon mustard mayonnaise coleslaw and English muffin buns. It wouldn't win for presentation or creativity but it tasted good and came from whatever I could find in the fridge. Chopped is the fancy version of what my every evening looks like--which makes my every evening feel a little fancier.

OK. Where was I? That's right, arguing with the judges.
I always cook my stems with the chard.

Marco got chopped for his sloppy disaster of a plate--he neglected to put the chocolate sauce on and tossed his chimichurri sauce like he

Bananas, pomegranate juice, phyllo dough and white miso. Easy peasy. I made a pomegranate reduction for something the other day. Not desert.
Granita by the guy whose name I haven't bothered to learn because he's obviously going to win.
"Phyllo dough is beyond wack." He's all mad. They're telling him not to get mad at phyllo. If you're going to get mad at something, I think phyllo deserves it. Pre-flakey dough-y like substance.

I love it when they title the dishes by what's in them: banana with miso dough and pomegranate juice in phyllo dough, Shehu names his dish.

Banana sushi with pomegranate sauce is the title for will-be-the-winner dude although he gets schooled about how to use the blast chiller. That whole granita bravado seems to have bitten him in the ass. And yet, Shehu's over-saged entree can't be forgiven.

Tryg! That's the guy's name. No wonder I ignored it (sorry if your name's Tryg).

Spoiler alert. I was wrong. Tryg goes home. Shehu's sage is forgiven. There is sage amnesty on Chopped. Tryg does complain! He cites the inedible sage. This has never happened before. Such hubris. What did I say about over-confident? Just as deadly as under.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sick Blogging Chopped

We are battling what might be the most heinous disease on the face of the planet. Food blogging might be riddled with inappropriate references but I will try to get it together.
Jules, I think, is his name, thinks all the other contestants on the show have been yahoos. I kind of have to vote for him now even though there's a woman chef. She's a food stylist. i don't have high hopes for her. I have high hopes for the guy who can butcher a whole pig.

Did you know you must use every ingredient in the basket in some way? Ted. He's full of old news.

But here we go: appetizer: Firm tofu, scotch, dragon fruit, and pickled herring.
"My heart sunk" says older gentleman. (Oh. Steven). That too is a cliche. Never a good sign. Isn't firm tofu scotch herring salad with some dragonfruit an option? Salad is the go to plate.
He doesn't like pickled herring. How is this possible? Ulli says (who seems kind of Scandinavian) claims that pickled herring is good for hangovers. She prefers tequila to scotch. When this disease is gone, I'll have to look forward to experimenting with the pick-me-up of the pickled herring. She's making salad. More surprise.

Jules name is actually Joe. He is making slaw. Slaw is another word for salad.

Chris Santos, who has made small plates big business, the judge, claims this is a TOUGH basket.
Amanda Freitag thinks that dragonfruit is the scary ingredient.

Old Boston versus NY story between Steven and the other guy. Name to be revealed later.

Steven loves scotch. I feel Ted should tell him that drinking the ingredient isn't the "using it" they had in mind.

Oh no an injury.
Am I waiting for blood?
Is Chopped the gladiator of Food TV?
Joel stuck his hand in the blender and nicked a finger. "The glove is full of blood," says Scott.
There's no blood in the blender? He told Ted, he got his finger out of their quick enough that there's no blood in his green blender sauce. This seems unlikely. The judges seem nervous.

Seared tofu with pickled herring topped with dragonfruit salad. Scott says the scotch doesn't mix. With the blood!

Ulli's trying to talk Chris into eating the dragonfruit rind.
Oh. My sick kid is happy and trying to type. I'm glad he's happy but I want to finally figure out this other guy in the glasses name at least. I have no idea what he made. Salad?

"Quickest 20 minutes of my life," says glasses Boston guy. Original.

They like Joel's tofu. I like tofu too.
Steven lacked texture.
Ulli cooked nothing. Raw. Isn't salad raw?
Jamie! That's his name. He made the flavor work.
Oh poor Ulli. I can tell. She's on the chopping block. Her uncooked salad, versus the salads with some heat applied, plus arguing with Chris about Dragonfruit rind, plus hiding the scotch from Scott plus being a woman equals please take your knives and go. Whoops. Wrong show. Still. Pack.

Surprise. Ulli is chopped for her unnuanced dish because she didn't develop the flavors. With heat. Remember future Chopped-goers. Cook the food.

Entree round: Sugar coated fennel seeds, violet mustard, rump roast, asparagus.
I could live on those fennel seeds. Pasta!
Steve: Seared roast with hollandaise.
Joel: Fennel & Panko Beef Milanese
Jamie: Pounded Viennese Steak. Or Vietnamese steak. I type too slowly and Max wants still to show off his moment of good-health with his clicking fingers.

By the way, Erik and I aren't sick yet. We had lamb chops with tarragon mustard, spinach and quinoa for dinner.

Joel, pounding his steak, is like a "Pitbull off his chain," according to Jamie. The metaphors of Chopped are replete with nuance. Unlike Ulli's dish.

Hollandaise sauce all over the pots Steve. And then he catches his napkin on fire. I'm not seduced.

Now Jamie says that "Joel is like a ping pong ball." Beware the mixed metaphor.

Jamie took the fat cap off of the roast to saute something in. Fat cap plus sauted something = I AM seduced.

Steven hasn't even opened the fennel seeds. Wouldn't you make a sauce--reduce them in some liquid to gather up the sugar and then let the fennel add the flavor? Then. Butter. Delicious fennel sauce. Erik and I are 100% into this pasta that uses the fennel bulb, fronds and fennel seed. Plus pancetta. It is our 2011 pasta. By July, we'll be sick of it but for now, I bought a pound of pancetta in L.A.

This violet mustard business is so Chopped. It's just mustard, people.
Steven's hollandaise sauce blows their minds: Butter slowly sweated garlic and shallots. Depth of flavor. But fennel seeds were just tossed on--especially Chris's whose were tossed on after time rang.

It is Vietnamese! Transported, says Amanda. But. Overcooked, tough meat and ugly plate. And overcooked asparagus. I'm thinking tossed fennel seeds might trump fennel seeds.

Scott is making fun of Joel. "Raw red onions. My favorite." Joel admits that after the first slicing of the meat with the breading that the breading became soggy but he just had to go with it. I think the judges like the admission of guilt. Blood and confession make them happiest. They're Catholic in their love.

The judges complain about blue meat but they don't mean it. They love it rawer.

Steven's metaphors are 100% baseball--one foot on home plate, if they send me home it won't be because I put up a bad pitch. Perhaps if he channeled the Ninja, he would catapult himself to the next level.

Joel is chopped. How is this possible? The soggy breading? The cutting of the meat? His inability to wax metaphorical?

Oooh. Extra slam from Amanda: Even though one of the contestants left an ingredient off, we still had to chop you. Double chopped. Like pork. That's how much you suck.

Ribiola Cheese, mission figs, Robiola Cheese, shelled pistachios and taco shells. (Two Robiola cheeses? Oh that's my bad typing.)
Steven: if you can't make a crust out of taco shells perhaps you should go give Joel his overcooked, tough beef back.

Napolean? I have to agree with Jamie. A napolean is the salad of dessert. Stack all the ingredients on top of each other. Jamie says it's a "culinary school short-cut." Now I know.

Carmel with pistachios equal a brittle. Delicious. And yet, Jamie. I can never follow what he's doing. Then Steven gets the blowtorch out
"Points deducted if you burn down the Chopped arena." Finally, they admit their coliseumloving ways.
Steven has forgotten about his pistachio brittle.
God. I really can't get behind either of these folks. Steven: forgetful. Jamie: forgettable.
Oh. Nice cut: Steven's face when he recognizes he forgot the brittle. I imagine Erik dreams of such authentic video-graphic moments.

Stuffed figs. Fun! Says Scott: "I love the way you think."
But Amanda, who also hates really hot peppers, does not like to work to pull the taffy off her plate. Chris says it's not sweet enough to qualify as dessert.
Steven forgot his pistachio brittle but he did put pistachio oil in the sauce which counts. And the napolean: the taco shell was soggy. When is a napolean not soggy? It's meant to sog.

There's a great deal of equivocation on the part of the judges but I'm not invested in either. Perhaps Max, who went to bed but got up again, should type.
Steven! No! Now I care. Steven had personality. I could remember his name. He loved baseball metaphors. Jamie and his mixed metaphors and his forgettable food.
I think I'm always a little sad at the end of Chopped. They only time I was happy was when Madison won Chopped Champions and his daughter came out into the "arena." Perhaps one day we'll have a kid's Chopped. If she were feeling better, she'd play right now. She'd kick 5 year old cooking but with her pumpkin bread making skills.
But, for now, she's giving me the look that says, mom, I wish you didn't poison me with the viruses. Make it better.
Well. At least I'll go make her bed.