Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Babes in Mall Land

Despite my long-held desire never to birth children of my own, I have over the past year found myself in the intriguing position of serving as a surrogate parental-type unit to my sixteen-year-old-niece. The shorthand version is that she's had a less than desirable upbringing, and although her father is currently making amends, most everyone else to whom she is related, including the woman who birthed her, is begging off.

Which leaves - ta da - Moi.

On the one hand, who better to hover cautiously overhead with a greater-than-average understanding of the average teenage proclivity towards pouty-lipped, arm-crossed rebellion?

On the other: Good Lord. Why didn't someone warn me about Hot Topic?

I'm the kind of person who resolutely believes that there's nothing so terrible in life that it can't be fixed by lunch out followed by shopping. Whether or not that is an advisable surrogate parenting tactic, much less the basis for an entire life philosophy, work with me here, Party People; it's all I got.

So most of the time I spend with my niece is time spent eating and time spent shopping. And since she managed to receive a healthy little bankroll for Christmas, naturally her first question to me this weekend was, "Aunt Moi? Can we go shopping before I go back to school?"

On the one hand, totally! On the other, I knew our foray would eventually lead us to Hot Topic, a place which, never mind my own teenage punkette history, I find so loathsome, so insufferably tacky, I feel a "Five miles uphill through the snow." lecture coming on just thinking about it.

But, as I have come to discover, if you have a teenager in your life, there is no escaping Hot Topic. One day you're operating under the golden glowed assumption that all retail shopping is a version of the cashmere coddled dreams engendered by Bergdorf's and the next you are lured against your will and with much shock and horror into the incense reeking, music-blarring, darkened depths of Hot Topic.

Really, I try. I try not to feel old; try not to pass judgment on the parade of wary-eyed teens with their lank hair, slack jaws, and pissy attitudes; try not to ponder for the gazillionth time the wisdom of allowing these children to grow up to be our fyoooture.

So there I was again yesterday, trying. And watching. Watching, with a certain feeling of deja vu, as my niece meticulously made her way through racks of belts in her search for just the right kind of faux leather studded belt. Watching, irritation edging over into amusement, as a male specimen of her species made several nonchalant passes by the racks, hands stuffed in pants that were inching themselves slowly down over grungy, plaid-patterned underpants, while trying for the most part to look like he was trying not to look. Suddenly, somehow, courage outweighed angst, and said specimen presented himself fully in front of my niece. "Cool," he said, with a flip of his hair. "Anarchist chick."

My niece, who thankfully remains mostly nonplussed by the quality of male attention that slouches itself her way, simply rolled her eyes, turned her back, and went back to her task. Away slouched the specimen, most likely to hone in on another anarchist chick, although the last I saw him, he was paying an alarming amount of attention to a stack of Twilight tee shirts.

Later, after the purchase of the proper faux studded belt, along with two pairs of black stovepipe skinny jeans from 5-7-9, a neon green top from Pac Sun, and a pair of outrageously over-sized sunglasses from Anchor Blue, we stopped for further sustenance at Dipping Dots. While in line, my niece turned to me, put on a thoughtful expression and said, "Aunt Moi? That poser dude got it wrong. I'm not an anarchist. I don't want chaos; that would be stupid. But I do think our government is dangerous. Don't you?"

Crab apple? Meet tree.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dancing in the Desert Blowing Up the Sunshine

"The one thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked."


Come on.

The only reason this plane didn’t blow up to high heaven is because the “terrorist” was incompetent.

I wonder: What in the holy heck fire have we been spending our money on these past eight years? Tactics that mean nothing, that do nothing, that cannot possibly under any circumstances ensure our safety?

S.B. says our government is making this shit up as they go along, and he's right. First, it was no shoes. Then no water. Now, what? No going to the bathroom? No blankets? No movies? No iPods? No talking? Tinfoil hats? Spin around three times and dance a jig to keep the Boogeyman at bay? Or is the government going to conscript some "green" scientists into inventing teleportation in the next 2.5 seconds so we won't have to fly at all?

The one thing our government IS mandated to do is stand as a bulwark between us an all enemies foreign and domestic. And guess what? They suck at doing it.

And we want to trust these folks with our health care?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Greetings!

Happy Holidays to all of Moi's blog homies. May your days be Merry and Bright, and may your New Year be happy, healthy, prosperous, and free of government intervention! (and tacky Christmas sweaters . . . ).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Best Time of the Year

Is right before Christmas, when K9 gifts all her bloggie homies with the most wonderful prezzie of all: her custom-made CD covers. I've been the lucky recipient three years in a row now, and I think this year's is my most fave of all:

Totally rocks!

2008 CD:

2007 CD:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thick as a Brick

You know the joke, "There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other." Well, I'm pretty sure it's true, and I pretty much consider fruitcake an insult to the fine art of baking. Like our Congress, the traditional mixture of fruit, cake, and nuts results in something not only freakishly unattractive, but also decidedly unpalatable. Both should be thrown out immediately before someone gets hurt.

However. That does not mean one cannot successfully mix these three elements into a batter and create something not only inoffensive, but also divinely edible.

Seriously. I have done it.

Head on over to the Undaunted Baker and see for yourself.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Looks Like We Ain't Gettin' That Kiss First, Folks

The media's job is to sell Ben Bernanke to the folks around you who aren't paying attention. It's to give a smiling face to the man who's forcing your neighbors' children and grandchildren to slave away in ways they can't even imagine yet. This is Time magazine's job. It's what they're built to do; it's who they are; it's what their goal is.

So, don't worry. Be happy:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pretty Young Things

Y'all know how I loves me a boot, right? Well, not THESE boots. Get your Bitch on with a discussion about what just may be the fUggliest things ever made, other than Crocs. And then, please, vow to never, ever, purchase a pair as long as you live. Remember, if we all pull together, we can save the world from ugly ass shoes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Culinary THROW DOWN: Salt of the Earth WINNER

Well, now, who'da thunk it when La Diva announced the topic of this challenge – salt – that this would end up being one of the most educational of all the challenges thus far? From posts that probed the chemical composition of salt itself, to methodical experiments with salt encasing, to tasty historical tidbits, goodness, it was like being back in class, only my brain was fully engaged in the lesson at hand and not the cute boy in front of me or what I was going to eat for lunch in an hour.

Here's how the contenders shook out:

Allison jumped feet first into her second Culinary Throw Down by creating a salt-encased pork loin stuffed with pancetta and accompanied by a spicy horseradish coleslaw. Major points for doubling up on the pork and for incorporating the use of the words "womb," "ass," and "Angelina Jolie" into a cooking challenge. Psyche! to all the Googlers searching for the latest news on the Big-Lipped One's latest movie.

Boxer entertained us with yet another video straight from the PNW Films vaults, this one a three-minute-and-change history on the journey salt takes from nature (whether as deposits in deep dark caves, on the ground, or in the water) to our tables. Despite my aversion to anything having the least bit to do with chemistry (and I bake, I know, I know), my brain did manage to retain quite a bit of useful info from this film, not the least of which is the chemical composition of table salt itself, which, if you say it out loud – NaOOC(2), COONa(2), BR(2), NN(2), and OO(2) – sounds like something an Eskimo might say to you as he is passing chunks of seal blubber around the dinner table.

Buzz Kill chose to bring the brining process to bear on several jars of pickling cucumbers to make for us, well, pickles! If, like me, you stamp your foot in indignation whenever you see yet another limp, lukewarm pickle resting like a desultory afterthought at the edge of yet another desultory sandwich plate at yet another desultory diner, you too will take up the banner of brining and make your own bursting-with-flavor-and-crunch pickles. From scratch. Head on over, Buzz will show you just how painless the process is.

Florida Cracker tamped out yet another humorous post that included not only recipes using said Throw Down ingredient (ribs, ribs, ribs!), but also a reminder that nothing in the culinary world is inherently evil if we all just learn to reign in our piggie tendencies. And, quit eating out so much at restaurants whose "secret flavor ingredients" all tend to be, well, an overabundance of salt. Also, thanks to F.C., I will never, ever again forget to salt my salad before dressing OR look at Bobby Flay without thinking: Nerdboy of the Universe.

Karl gave us a quick rundown on the difference between table salt, sea salt, coarse salt, and kosher salt, before applying his culinary talents to a dinner of rosemary garlic bread, garden salad, and homemade – homemade y'all! – chicken noodle soup. And then proceeded to produce an Internet-wide chorus of Aw Shucks! by snapping a blurred photo of the finished product. Still, I have to ask. Is there a Mrs. Karl? If there is, boy is she a lucky ducky. If there isn't, boy do I have a list of single women who would love to get an introduction to his kitchen.

La Diva, our resident doyenne (and I mean that in terms of experience, not age!) of all things culinary launched into what seemed like a no-brainer – maple-glazed cookies with kosher salt – but which ended up being one of those Baking in Hell Moments when you realize that even six simple ingredients can be totally screwed up in an infinite number of ways. Baking Lesson #345: Never mind that Martha Stewart has put her stamp of approval on a recipe, Chemistry is a Bitch, y'all. So, La Diva simply took a spin on her 4" inch heels and made instead a perfectly tender steak encrusted in a salt womb (thanks for that, Allison).

Sandcastle Mamma's admittedly disasterous previous entry prompted her to take a deep breath and keep things simple this time around. She, too, encased her ingredient in an attempt to see if a salt-encrusted Idaho potato baked up any differently than its nekkid companion. It did not. But her methodical approach and inclusion of plenty of photos to illustrate the process kept me engaged and my brain buzzing: maybe it's the egg white wash that formed a barrier to the salt penetrating the potato flesh? Maybe if the potato were from Washington and not Idaho? Maybe if Martha Stewart weighed in?

Sherry, La Diva's Detroit cousin, is a first time participant (hi Sherry!), who in one weeknight whipped up for our challenge two mouthwatering dishes. As if homemade (?!?!) proscuitto wrapped around salted bread sticks and served with canteloupe wasn't enough to send Moi into water retentive heaven, Sherry tossed more of that homemade (?!?!) proscuitto into a dish that I have come to think of as a kind of über pasta puttanesca. So what if yesteryear's economically strapped ladies of the night most likely didn't have access to clams? Oh, stop it.

Watching Troll complete a Throw Down is much like watching John Wayne get ready to go after the bad guys in a John Ford movie. What he often lacks in finesse, he makes up in sheer force of will and personality. This time, he chose to pay homage to one of his ancestors, William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, by not only cooking something that the gents may have eaten on their journey (incorporating a salted fish, baccala, into his challenge), but also regaling us with wonderful bits of historical information about the expedition from a culinary standpoint.


My decision is not an easy one, because EVERYONE came through with flying colors, presenting dishes and techniques that make me want to spend the entire weekend trying each and every one of them out. And Troll's post especially is near and dear to my heart because I am a Lewis and Clark-ophile.

Listen, Party People, if you haven't read their diaries then at least dip into Stephen Ambrose's excellent Undaunted Courage, because without L&C, we wouldn't be here. Yeah, yeah, Columbus discovered our landmass, yada yada, but Lewis and Clark defined who we are as a people, both physically, as a this here United States, as well as psychologically and spiritually. Their legacy of curiosity, exploration, and bravery is etched into our DNA as surely as anything that defines what it means to be American. They also happily relied for much of their guidance on a level headed, gutsy Shoshone teenager who not only made the 2,000 mile trek with the expedition entirely on foot, but also carrying her infant son on her back. So the next time a woman tells you she can't get anywhere because of a "glass ceiling," tell her to Google Sacagawea.

Ah hem. Sorry. I tend to get carried away on this topic.

So, back to the winner.

Again, not an easy decision. It was neck-and-neck between EVERYBODY, but in the end, ALLISON, come on over and pick up your award! Not only did your post grab me and pin me to my seat with pancetta stuffed pork and horseradish cole slaw from the word go, it also showcases how all good cooks are like Lewis and Clark: healthy skeptics wrapped in game adventurers. We're not sure if it's going to work, but since life's a journey not a destination, we're going to give it the ol' college try anyway and if, in the end, it all goes to hell, there's always take out. Because, folks, this is America. Ain't it grand?

P.S. Miss Allison, your win also means that, should you choose to do so, you will host the next culinary challenge and pick its date and theme.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Culinary THROW DOWN: Salt

When La Diva announced the theme for this particular Culinary Throw Down, I was stumped. I mean, what recipe doesn't feature salt? I was also in the middle of a two-week period of planning, shopping, and cooking for a holiday party, so I have to admit, I didn't give this much thought until yesterday.

Which is when I ate the last of the chocolate truffles I made for Saturday's party, and thought: mmmmm . . . these would be great sprinkled with a little salt.

So I went online to and found this recipe for sea salt sprinkled chocolate coins. Except for the stoooooooopid caramelizing the sugar part, which somehow I always fork up (but made it work), this recipe is easy-peasy and fun to make. The texture is perfect (dense but not snappy), and after the initial hit of mellow caramel-tinged chocolate on the tongue, the salt comes to the fore with a fizzy, Pop Rocks zing.

I won't bother noting the recipe here, since Food Wishes contains excellent written and video instructions. Except, I do have to point out that I seem to be utterly incapable of caramelizing sugar. This isn't the first time it's gone to the hard candy stage before properly browning, and it never, ever bubbles like in the video. So what I usually do is dissolve as much of the hardened caramel as I have patience for and then squirt in a couple tablespoons of Kraft Caramel sauce and leave it at that. Works just fine.

Oh, and while this gent sprinkles them with cocoa, I think it would be much, much more fun to go to Hobby Lobby and buy a cute little rubber stamp with which to imprint each coin. Then, wrap them up in gold and silver foils from, tie six to a bundle with some blingy ribbon, and use them as stocking stuffers or hostess gifts this holiday season.

Head over to La Diva's site to see who else is participating.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Worth Your Weight in Salt

Just a reminder, folks, that the La Diva-sponsored Culinary Throw Down for this month will take place tomorrow, December 9.

Theme is: Salt. Once again, I have been asked to judge and this time will bestow upon the winner the brand-spanking-new award, designed exclusively for the challenge by Miz K9:

Ain't he cute?

When you've finished, post the results on your site, with photos and recipes if you'd like, then head over to La Diva's to say, "I'm up!" I'll be around to check everyone out and will proclaim a winner no later than end of day this Friday.

So, ¡¡andale andale, muchachos, arriba arriba!!

Which, loosely translated, means, "Get crackin' all you salt monkeys!"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

If You Think It's Butter . . .

It's not nice to lie about Mother Nature!

Oh, goody. Now I don't have to feel bad about the fact that almost every car in my garage gets 2.75 miles to the gallon.

P.U. I've been smelling rotted fish parts for years:

A folder containing documents, data and, e-mails purportedly "hacked" from Britain's Climate Research Unit (CRU) may be smoking-gun proof of a worldwide conspiracy to exaggerate the existence, causation, and threat of global warming. And the list of apparent conspirators includes many of the world's leading climate alarmists -- the very scientists on whose work the entire anthropogenic global warming theory is based.

What you folks think? Should we still go to Copenhagen or should Obama reduce his carbon imprint and stay at home? I for one say we quit shoveling the shit and put our energies into things we know are real and that we can DO SOMETHING about.

Edited to add:

Speaking of DOING SOMETHING. Why haven't we? There is nothing, after all, stopping those of us who believe in the Climate Crisis from altering our lives so that we can address the issue. And by that I mean, really, really DOING SOMETHING, like radically changing our lifestyles to the point where, say, we ride bicycles instead of cars, move back into the cities from the 'burbs, grow our own food, stop spending money on anything produced by polluters, etc.

Why? Because we don't really want to DO SOMETHING. That's way too hard. Instead, we want our leaders to blather on and on about how they are going to DO SOMETHING and then we'll turn the other way when they pass a few Draconian but ultimately ineffectual laws and treaties, which only shift the money from the private sector into the gub'mint one, but hey, we can now go to bed at night feeling oh so smug that our Leaders have DONE SOMETHING.

Finally, if our Congress – the majority of whose members believe in the Climate Crisis – were so all fired up serious about actually DOING SOMETHING, why did they bail out the American auto industry instead of letting this "dinosaur" go the way of, well, the dinosaur?

Why, because it's all a crock.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Donde Está Nuestra Libertad?

I swore, just swore, I was going to spend the holiday season ignoring our Federal Goobermint's latest shenanigans, but this one really bites balls.

As many of you know, I don't care if it's the Fundie Republitards or the Limp Noodled Demobrats who are in power, they all smell like rotten eggs to Moi. I believe with the utmost sincerity and the reasoned arguments to back it up that our congressional leaders, our president, and his minions as they currently exist no longer work for our better good in any way shape or form. We are instead on a long and slow but ultimately inevitable march towards totalitarianism, and I for one just don't have the outfits for it.


Wanna know our Fed Gooberment's latest bit of idiocy?

Apparently, because New Mexico has long done the right thing by refusing to comply with the REAL ID Act (basically, a national ID card – yay! Not.) passed during the El Regimo El Busho, those of us who quietly mind our own business in this here Land of Enchantment will no longer be allowed to board a plane starting January 1, 2010 without a passport.

Read about it here but one of the reasons for the REAL ID act (other than storing all our personal info on a centralized database – yay! Not.) is that it's supposed to stem the tide of illegal immigrants into the United States by making it impossible for them to get a driver's license.


Is everybody in congress sleeping with Whitney Houston, because that's a whack-on-crack excuse if ever I heard one.

That's what these folks wonder, too:

The REAL ID Act may satisfy the many anti-immigrant groups that believe every measure no matter how irrational or unsafe for the public should be implemented to stem the tide of illegal immigrants. Of course, the REAL ID Act will have no such effect. Immigrants will continue to come to the United States illegally and when they get here they will not hesitate to drive illegally. After all they are illegal. Is it really going to deter them from coming to the United States that they are now slightly more illegal?

Then again, when does our government EVER pass any bit of legislation that basically isn't tossing the baby out with the bathwater?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mute Monday: Travel

Dim Sum Sunday, Day 2, Turkey Day!

I must confess, I have never made an entire Thanksgiving dinner in my life. My mother always did it, then my mother-in-law if we went to Louisiana. If we stayed in town, we went to a friend's house. She took care of the turkey, stuffing, and gravy, and had the invitees attend to the various deserts and side dishes. I've always been tasked with bringing the sweet potatoes, either because few people like them (!!) or they are intimidated by the process of making them. Which is silly. Making a delicious, steaming pan of either roasted or souffled sweet potatoes is as easy as ordering out.

This year, we drove up north to my hometown to share Thanksgiving with my stepfather and his neighbors. And, yes, once again I brought sweet potatoes.

Here's how I've always made them:

Serves 10 people (1 large sweet potato will serve 2 people)

5 large sweet potatoes
Grated rind and juice of one medium orange
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream (yes, you can use low fat or even non-fat yogurt, but you're not saving yourself much calorie-wise here, so just go with it and worry later)
2 tablespoons bourbon (I always cook with Jim Beam)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 400º F. Wash potatoes and stab with sharp paring knife a couple times on each side. Place in sturdy heat proof pan and roast in the oven 45 to 60 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Cut in half and let cool completely.

Once potatoes have cooled, scrape out insides into a large bowl. Add all ingredients and whip up with a hand held blender until smooth and fluffy. Scape into 13x9 glass pan and refrigerate until ready to eat. Fifteen minutes before serving, reheat in a 350 degree oven, either plain, or with your choice of topping (I made a praline-like topping of pecans, brown sugar, flour, and butter; sometimes I'll add tiny marshmallows because my sweet tooth knows no bounds.)

In addition, you can make a more savory souffle by adding a cup of cubed smoked ham or bacon, a cup of diced green chile, and a cup of grated cheddar cheese.

As for the weather, we tend to have two kinds of Thanksgivings: those warm enough to sit outside and eat and those that dump a foot of snow. This is what we had this year:

Friday, November 27, 2009

We Interrupt This Holiday Weekend Blog

To make a special announcement.

It's my homie K9's birthday!

I send you hugs and smooches, a wish for peace and prosperity,
and virtual art.
And cake, lots and lots of cake.

Happy Birthday, Grrrrrrrrrrrl!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday, Day 1, Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009
8:11 a.m. MST
Weather: sunny and cool.
Mood: Hungry.

I'm valiantly trying not to unwrap one of the containers of peanut brittle I am bringing as gifts to my step father and his neighbors, who are hosting our feastie this year. Dang it, I should have held some back for myself. I have a sweet tooth the size of Alaska and it asserts itself most strongly in the mornings because I am a coffee drinker, too.

Anyway. This peanut brittle? I made it in the microwave. Well, after I burned the first batch. That always happens with any candy-making endeavor on my part, at least until I can make the adjustment between the recipe and my actual equipment (I have the Superman of microwaves and the skinny ass nerd of candy thermometers).

So, yeah. Is there anything worse than the smell of burned sugar? And it's persistent, too; permeates every nook and cranny of the house. Hell, I even smelled it at 1am this morning when we woke up to get Ivan off the bed.

But once I figured out to adjust the times downward, the second batch came out great. Give it a try. Because nothing says, "I love you." or "Thanks a bunch!" than a gift of sweets. Or is that just me?

Moi's Easy Peasy (After You Burn it Once, That Is) Microwave Peanut Brittle

1 cup honey roasted peanuts
1 cup of granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, and salt into a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. CAREFULLY and with super duper strength oven mitts, remove bowl and stir with a wooden spoon. Return to microwave and zap on high for another 3 minutes. Remove again and stir in 1 tablespoon of the butter. Zap in the micro for another 2 or so minutes, checking after one minute to make sure the mixture is turning a deep golden brown, but NOT BURNING. After the 2 or so minutes are up, remove from microwave and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. QUICKLY scrape out mixture onto a well buttered (or Silpat-covered) heavy duty baking pan under which you have placed a heat resistant mat, and spread out to about 1/4" thickness with a flat metal spatula.

Let harden and cool, about 30-45 minutes. Then, place a clean tea towel over the mixture and, using a hammer or rubber mallet, lightly tap the mixture until you break it into bite-sized pieces. Wrap up nicely and take to all your holiday parties. Your friends will thank you, as will their dentists.

To see what everyone else is cooking up this holiday, drop on by
Shamu's Karmic Kitchen from now until this Sunday!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Here We Are Now Entertain Us

Did any of y'all see Adam Lambert's performance on the American Music Awards show the other night? Yeah. Boxer and I have been talking about how the performance wasn't shocking so much as it
was . . . kind of dumb. And most certainly poorly executed.

Adam may think he has license to operate in the shadow of Bowie and Bolan, Ferry and Mercury, Tyler and Plant, but what he doesn't understand is that those fellas weren't just about spectacle. That along with pushing the sexual envelope, they were also astounding musicians with the gift of great vocals. If Señor Lambert were smart, he'd concentrate on honing that voice of his instead of grappling with concepts that are at this point out of his reach. Because right now, he doesn't even have the ability to operate in Madonna's shadow.

Anyway, all this hoo-hah over Adam got me thinking about which men in rock and roll have delivered the most bang for our buck in terms of vocals. Here's my list. The top ten greatest rock and roll vocal performances, male:

10. Roger Daltrey, Who, "Who Are You?"
9. Lane Staley, Alice in Chains, "Man in the Box"
8. Paul Rodgers, Bad Company, "Bad Company"
7. Freddy Mercury, Queen, "Under Pressure"
6. Maynard James Keenan, Tool, "Sober"
5. Lou Reed, "Busload of Faith"
4. Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, "Jeremy"
3. Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, "You Know You're Right"
2. Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, "Outshined"

And the number one, all time greatest rock vocal performance:

Who would you put on your list?