Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I don't want to name names here but

Things I have seen on the side of the road since leaving California (that were still alive): Ostriches, cows, horses, donkeys, goats, camels and at least one little dog running alongside a dude cycling on the side of the freeway.

Things that I have seen on the side of the road since leaving California (that were less likely to be alive): Deer, opossum, and things that may have been a cat, an armadillo, a porcupine and some kind of cougar type thing.

Number of tumbling tumbleweeds that I have run down accidentally: 4.

Number of tumbling tumbleweeds that I have run down out of sheer spite: 2.

Number of rest stops I have visited across the US so far: How many you got? Because I am sure I will need to use each and every one. And hey, by the way West Texas, what the hell is up with the open-air restrooms? It’s bloody cold out there in the middle of the prairie. That was one chilly toilet!

It’s warmer in Louisiana but since I am still headed north, it is bound to get colder. Huntsville, then Norfolk then New Jersey. So far so good.

P.S. I don’t want to pick favorites here but East Texas is a little more pleasant than West Texas. And it’s warmer. AND the rest stop had HEAT LAMPS! Get your act together before I come back West Texas or we will have to have a talk!

P.P.S. I am doubting internets from here on out. If you gotta get in touch, try texting or calling.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The stars at night, are...obscured by thunderclouds actually.

An awfully big adventure or an awfully big mistake? Not sure yet. Held up due to snow in Flagstaff, hustled out and south the next morning, 250 miles out of the way just to see if we still wanted to do this. Decided we did but now Texas seems really big. And wet.

So far: snow? Check. Freezing rain? Check. Crappy misty drizzle? Check. Creepy motels? Check. Cold weather? Check. But also, seeing new things? Yep. Saw Juarez, Mexico. Man is that a crazy place. Seeing Texas for the first time ever. Yep. Pretty interesting.

Would I do this again? Hmmm…ask me tomorrow. Last night we stayed in a paper-walled motel next to a guy who liked late night television. We were pretty worried about being stuck in the snow and some of us ate too much at dinner and weren’t feeling all that well.

At the moment I am just futzing with a crappy wifi connection and wondering why I am not asleep yet. Tomorrow we will get up early and see just how far we can get. I am hoping to get the rest of the way through Texas and well on our way to our first “real” stop, Huntsville, AL. A girl can dream, cant’ she?

Monday, December 18, 2006


Currently holed up in an Econolodge in Flagstaff, Arizona, waylaid by snow. But we only stopped a few hours early and better safe than sorry they say. And hey, even though I don't like snow, it's sure starting to feel like Christmas around here. BRRRRR.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ready to vacate.

I am blowing this pop stand on Monday, so here are my holiday wishes to you and yours:
if you need me, you know how to find me. And if you don't know how to find me...well, you probably don't need me. I will be probably be unplugged for most of the vacay too, so don't bother with your new fangled e-mails and interwebs, we don't cotton to that kind of thing in the pine barrens.

Happy Christmas (or whatever you want to be happy)!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

2006 Christmas CD cover...
with apologies to Apple.

I know I should have done this cover about four years ago. I am just a little slow and not all that clever.


Tired? Me? Well, I do have this twitch over my eye that makes me look slightly (more) insane. I have been going to bed before 1 a.m. because I can’t keep my eyes open (but then, man, are they open once my head hits the pillow, which may explain the tired). I did fall asleep at my desk very, very briefly yesterday. And last night, on the way home from work, I drove right past my exit.

Yeah, I’m kind of tired.

BUT! The truffles are made, the burbon balls are made, the shopping is done, the presents to be presented on Saturday are wrapped, there are TWO large trays of brownies just waiting for parties. It’s getting there. Now all I need to do is clean the apartment, pack my bags, pack the presents, get those last two perishable presents, make sure the cat is taken care of, finish sending out cards…

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Dear Chocolate Gods (QUETZALCOATL, MOCTEZUMA, EK-CHUAH, et al),

Thank you. Lesson learned. I get it now. I will always pay attention when I am tempering chocolate and things will be just fine.


P.S. Come by for some Guinness truffles, I hear they are good!

Yep. It worked this time. I paid attention and I did it old school and the chocolate didn’t seize and I don’t mind telling you that I actually felt sick as I was tempering it. I was so worried that it wouldn’t work…again. But I now have 5 or 6 dozen beautifully dipped chocolate truffles. Which I don’t even like. But my mom and sister-in-law like them. So they make good presents.

I actually don’t like to eat them and I don’t like to make them, but somehow I can’t NOT make them. Originally, when I first started making them years ago, they were intended as a gift for a friend who loves Guinness. I made a batch for him and he never showed up to get them. I gave them to my family to spite him. Turns out he had been in a car accident and was in the hospital. Oopsie. But now it is…I don’t really know how many years later and he STILL has never had one of the truffles. But everyone else seems to like them so I keep making them. I am a sucker for the “ooohs” and “ahhhs” they provoke.

I also made some coffee lollipops the other day. I have not done a lot of hard candy making so it was an experiment. The flavor is lovely and despite the fear of pouring hot sugar all over me, it went well. No burning occurred. I did hand pour them though so they are rather unwieldy. Next time I will invest in some lollipop molds so they stay a more manageable size. The strange thing was that when I mentioned to people that I had made lollipops several of them said, “How do you MAKE lollipops?” Dude, they don’t actually grow on trees beneath the Big Rock Candy Mountain. I promise you they don’t. I am a little disturbed to find out how little some people know about the origins of their foods.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

We don't need another hero...
We don't need to know the way home...

On Monday my Christmas holiday will start. Here’s the interesting part…the husband and I are driving cross country to New Jersey for Christmas. This is tending to polarize our family and friends. Half of them say “Cooool.” And the other half? Well, generally their comments have included swear words and the suggestion that we are mad. Personally, I don’t see the big deal. “What if you hit bad weather?”, the naysayers…say. Then we pull over, attempt to wait it out and if worse comes to worse, we turn around and head back to California. We ARE traveling major roads here. There is lodging available and we fully intend to use it. There will be no short cutting onto unblazed paths. There will be no unnecessary risks taken. We intend to stay as sane and sensible as possible. That said, there is totally a “Beyond Thunderdome” sensibility behind all this. We both know that there is the possibility that “Two leave, one comes back.” I have been advised that if it throw him out of the car, to throw his bags out with him. That way it just looks like he is a hobo.

But honestly, I have taken many a car trip and I rather like them. In this case it will be nice to actually move while in a car as opposed to sitting in traffic for looong hours. I am looking forward to seeing some states that I haven’t seen before. And we think we have planned the time well enough that hey, if we really want to pull over and see the world’s largest ball of twine, we can. In any case, I have never enjoyed the holiday flying panic and in the long run, if everything goes well (because it ALWAYS does, right? RIGHT?) this shouldn’t really be any more expensive than flying once you factor in the cost of shipping of gifts, paying extra for heavy luggage, the cost of a garage for the car that we leave at the airport, the possibility of a rental car…all that stuff really adds up, and people who don’t travel at Christmas tend to forget all the mitigating factors of frustration.

Wish us luck. One of us will be back in the new year. I am hoping it’s me.

But hey, I am still here until Monday, I can still back out…

Monday, December 11, 2006

Temper, temper.

I was going to say that I had a weekend of bad candy-making mojo. But in retrospect, that’s not exactly true. I successfully made bourbon balls without first drinking all the bourbon. I made some beautiful coffee lollipops. Some adequate matzoh toffee (which contained no alcohol whatsoever) and I made the truffle filling for Guinness Stout truffles…but I did drink the rest of the Guinness…candy-making is a grown-up thing in our house. However, when it came time to dip the truffles in their beautiful little chocolate coats I managed to make one and one half pounds of chocolate seize. Carpe chocolem…seize the chocolate.

Seizing chocolate sounds good, no? Sounds like “grab all you can before you get caught”. Handfuls of chocolate for everyone. What it really means is that your beautiful, glossy coating chocolate has gotten a little, tiny drop of moisture in it and is now a dull grainy mass. Useless as far as dipping is concerned, but perfectly edible otherwise. Problem is, I need to dip truffles. And to get the proper consistency of chocolate, you need to temper it. Temper is the right word, let me tell you. I have sorrowful little good temper left. But these truffles WILL get dipped, oh yes they will!

In between candy making related temper tantrums, I did do a little Christmas shopping at the Felt Club Christmas event, which was ok but really turned out to be a vehicle to get me into a gelato shop and have some excellent vegan gelato. Vegan gelato…who knew?

So that was my weekend. Messing up some chocolate, eating some gelato. Thanks for asking. Oh…wait…you didn’t. Oh well. On to bigger and better things. Successfully tempered chocolate. Nicely wrapped gifts. Presents made with love and care. Well…let’s just say “presents made” and not assume too much else.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christmas Playlists.

Yvette asked what some of the playlists on my Christmas mixes have been and I looked around but only found a few. For the first year of two I made a different mix for each person, but that got old real fast. And, as you will see by these examples, I do go in for the most traditional of Christmas songs. Also, a few are classics that tend to get used over and over. It’s just not Christmas without my beloved Shane McGowan (of the Pogues) singing “Fairytale of New York”. Oh and that thing where the dogs bark “Jingle Bells” that’s a favorite too.

This is a the playlist for a cd I made myself a few years ago:
  • December Twenty 5- The Flashcats (this is an amazingly bad song. It’s a take off on “Mambo Number 5” by Lou Bega. But damn it’s got a catchy tune.
  • 2000 Miles-The Pretenders (Such a pretty, sad song.)
  • Fairytale of New York-The Pogues feat. Kirsty Mac Coll (Probably my favorite non-tratitional Christmas song. How can you NOT love a Christmas song featuring verse “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot”?)
  • Merry Christmas (I don't want to fight)-The Ramones (I miss you, Joey Ramone!)
  • Another Rock 'n' Roll Christmas-Garry Glitter (Um, this was before all that creepy stuff came out about him…)
  • Space Christmas-Shonen Knife (Rock!)
  • Santa's Beard-They Might Be Giants (Another classic of the non-traditional variety.)
  • Careless Santa-Mono Puff (I don’t think I have ever heard another Mono Puff song…)
  • You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch-Whirling Dervishes (I love the Grinch, this ALMOST does justice to the original song as recorded by Thurl Ravenscroft, not Boris Karloff, who did the narration.)
  • Christmas Scat-The Muppets (OK, the truth is that I do not love puppets, but I do love Muppets. And I only recently found out that a friend of mine worked on A Muppet Christmas Carol (which this song is from) and I got all giddy.)
  • Christmas Day-Mxpx
  • I Wish It Would Be Christmas Everyday-All Star United (This one is happy and poppy. Not at all my style.)
  • You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch-Cast (The original recording. Brilliant.)
  • Blue Christmas-Bright Eyes (I have since decided that I am not that big a fan of Bright Eyes. But this one song is ok.)
  • Happy Christmas-John & Yoko (My second favorite non-traditional Christmas song.)
  • Do They Know It's Christmas? -Band Aid (Did you know they recorded a follow up to this last year?)
  • The First Noel-Billy Pilgrim (I like Billy Pilgrim. That Andrew Hyra has a good voice.)
  • 25th December-Everything But The Girl (Aw, Tracey Thorn can make me cry.)
  • Santa Baby-Madonna (I like her cover well enough but you haven’t really heard this song until you have heard it sung by Eartha Kitt. There is actually a follow up to it called “This Year’s Santa Baby” that is quite funny.)
  • Jingle Bells-Bing Crosby (A most excellent version. I think it also includes…the Lennon Sisters singing back-up… maybe? I’m not sure.)
  • Cool Yule-Louis Armstrong (I’ve always liked his rusty voice. It’s so cheering.)
  • All I Want For Christmas Is You- Olivia Olson (From “Love, Actually” which is kind of a depressing film in some ways but has a character with my name so I got to hear Liam Neeson say my name several times. The character is married to Alan Rickman in the film but I don’t think he says her name even once. Believe me, if he did it would totally be my ring tone.)
  • The Rebel Jesus- Jackson Browne (This is a really beautiful song that really says more about Christmas than almost any other song I know. It’s told from the point of a “heathen and a pagan” and points out that Jesus was a rebel in his own time and would not be thrilled with some of the modern aspects of a holiday entwined with his life.)
  • Christmas Is All Around-Billy Mack (Bill Nighey sings this in “Love, Actually” and damn if it doesn’t make me laugh every time I hear it.)
  • Sled Get Trunk- The Prisoners (Recorded by some friends of mine. One of the best Christmas songs of the past ten years.)

Last year there were two mixes. The “Peace On Earth” Mix:
  • Little Drummer Boy (Up the Khyber)-Hoodoo Gurus (Man, I love me some Hoodoo Gurus!)
  • Christmas Love-Luann Olson & Pigs on Corn
  • O Christmas Tree-Russell Malone
  • O, Little Town of Bethlehem-Young Fresh Fellows
  • What Will Santa Claus Say When He Finds Everybody Swinging?- Louis Prima
  • Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer-Billy May & His Orchestra
  • Baby, It's Cold Outside- Doris Day & Bing Crosby (I feel kind of ashamed that I love this song. It’s totally about a date rape in progress. It’s sounds cute but it’s incredibly sinister.)
  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town-Dave Brubeck Quartet
  • Here Comes Santa Claus-The Skip-Jacks With Esquivel & His Orchestra
  • It's Beginning To Look Like Christmas-Bing Crosby
  • Feels Like Christmas-Cyndi Lauper
  • It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas-Pet Shop Boys (Have I ever mentioned that I have a crush on Neil?)
  • Sleigh Ride-The Brian Setzer Orchestra (OK, have I mentioned that I have a crush on Brian Setzer?)
  • Here Comes Santa Claus-Clockhammer
  • All I Want For Christmas Is You-Olivia Olson
  • Santa Baby)-Kylie Minogue
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing! -Sufjan Stevens
  • Everything's Gonna be Cool This Christmas-Eels
  • Kings of Orient-Odds
  • O Holy Night-The Brian Setzer Orchestra
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas-James Taylor (Yeah, I’ve got one on James Taylor too. Obviously I am easily crushed.)
  • Jingle Bells-The Singing Dogs

And the “Bah Humbug” mix:
  • You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch-Cast (So you can see the repeats starting)
  • Please Come Home For Christmas-Holly Cole Trio (If I could sing, I would totally want to record this song with The Prisoners.)
  • Fairytale Of New York-The Pogues (Still my favorite.)
  • Forget December-Something Corporate
  • I Hate Christmas Parties-Matthew Thiessen And The Earthquakes (Ah, this one is a fairly recent discovery. Really good and really depressing.)
  • Santa's Beard-They Might Be Giants
  • I Won't Be Home for Christmas-Blink 182
  • Christmas Blues-Holly Cole Trio
  • Christmas Is Going to the Dogs-Eels
  • Father Christmas-The Kinks (I may have once had a crush on Ray Davies, but that was along time ago.)
  • That was the Worst Christmas Ever! -Sufjan Stevens
  • Last Christmas-Fonda
  • Blue Christmas-Elvis Presley
  • The Winter Song-Eisley
  • 2000 Miles-The Pretenders
  • Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) -Death Cab for Cutie
  • Yellin' At The Christmas Tree-Billy Idol
  • Sled get Trunk-The Prisoners
  • Christmas Sucks-Tom Waits & Peter Murphy (I still have a crush on Tom Waits though…his voice…sigh.)
  • t'was the Night Before Christmas-Henry Rollins

There you go. Nothing too traditional but I try to keep it entertaining.

Monday, December 04, 2006


These are some cd covers from previous years Christmas compilations. I started making them so I could listen to exactly the songs I wanted to and not have to skip over the stuff that annoyed me but it has since become kind of a challenge to make a mix that other people will enjoy too. The music leans heavily towards the type of Christmas song you are unlikely to sing in church. Or, at the very least, a style you are unlikely to sing in church.

Last year there were two separate cds. The “Peace on Earth” version of happy, pretty songs. And the “Bah Humbug” version of not so happy, not so pretty songs.

This year’s mix need only be burned now. But who knows when I will actually get to that?
I like to cook. And I like to think I am a pretty good cook. For the most part, I like everything I make. And I am pretty skillful with recipes. I can adapt and create and what have you. I know what things taste like (unlike people I know who will bite into asparagus and say, “Wow, this is good broccoli! …seriously) and how flavors and clash or complement one another. And most importantly for me, I know what flavors I like. I know what to avoid to make something taste good to me. So technically that is all that matters, right? I can cook well for me.

But I do a lot of cooking for other people and sometimes I wonder. Are they just saying nice things to appease me? This weekend I made my first ever German Chocolate Cake as a gift for some friends. I had tasted all the components and they were fine but I was unsure how they would all be together. The friends seemed very excited about the cake and I tried to be honest yet gracious by saying that I had never made one before and let’s not get all excited until we taste it, people.

Personally, I thought it was kind of nasty. Everything was made just fine but apparently, I am not a German Chocolate Cake kind of girl. Same thing with lemon cake, which I also made this weekend. I guess it was ok. But when you make something that you have no real interest in, how do you know? I can tell it was moist enough and flavorful, but it’s not really a flavor I care for, so it doesn’t really taste GOOD to me. But everyone else seems to like it.

I sometimes worry that I am not a very good cook at all and people just take pity on me for trying so hard. It’s probably a foolish worry but it’s there all the same. I’ve never seen anyone spit out any of my food and I haven’t found any in the bushes around the apartment yet either (not that I look…really…). I guess I am just terribly paranoid. But then watching all those celebrity chefs can do that to you. When Martha tells me that green peppers are great, I’d better believe her…right? And when Alton tells me that I am a terrible person for preferring dried black pepper to fresh ground, then I’d better reconsider my stand. But I don’t. I know what I like and while I am not afraid to experiment, I am afraid that other people won’t agree.