the gregarious homebody

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I Feel Just a Little Bit Dirty

After much anticipation, tonight was finally the night. After months of waiting. After months of discussing what we'd wear, what we'd see, where we'd sit. It was finally here. We were going to the Allentown Fair.

To see the Jonas Brothers.

In anticipation of the concert, my Handsome Husband brought home the only accessory I thought I'd need---ear plugs. I knew the place would be filled with girls--some in the throes of puberty, completely amped up on hormones, serotonin and maybe even pheromones (it's sweaty on that stage!). I was ready to deal. I was NOT going to be a fuddy-duddy and ask girls around us (M and best friend E included) to please don't scream in my ear.

Little did I know that I'd be screaming too. Here's why:


Now I'm not a complete perv. I know that this child is only 19. I also realize that, if HH and I wouldn't have been using reliable protection when I was 18, I am old enough to be this child's mother. I get that.

But look at him. He's adorable. That hair. Those eyes. Those forearms. Those eyebrows! I totally get why all those girls were screaming. It feels like not so long ago that I was absolutely sure that Bono was singing to me, that it was just us alone in the Spectrum in Philly during the Unforgettable Fire tour.

Huh. Look at that. Very similar hair to JJ...

All I could think then was that if Bono met me, he would absolutely love me just because I loved him. I was never a crier at concerts, but I felt everything very deeply--every song was about my life in some way.

So I'm admiring Joe, reminiscing about my own teen obsessions and watching the reaction of the girls around me and I admit that I even said "He's hot" at one point to my 9 year old daughter. But I soon realized that my biggest attraction to him and to the brothers in general was that they seem to be so nice. They're adorable, they're in very nice physical shape and they are nice. They seem to genuinely appreciate their fans, they bring their 7-year-old little brother out on stage and they talk nicely about their mom.

So I realize that I'm not some kind of Cougar having a midlife crisis. Nope. I've just got a maternal crush on Joe Jonas. I think he's adorable and I can see that girls would find him sexy but I'd rather be his mom than anything else. Whew! Thank god.

Judy, I know you know what I mean.

*Editor's note: Lynn, after hearing the "maternal crush" theory: "Just keep telling yourself that, Jen."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Food Meme

Stole this from Blackbird via Domestic Ali. Please feel free to join in.

1)Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you have eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at Very Good Taste linking to your results.

1. Venison - Yes. A loooong time ago. A "steak" marinated in pineapple. Weird.
2. Nettle tea - nope
3. Huevos rancheros -YUM. Haven't made it in awhile.
4. Steak tartare - Only when I taste my meatloaf mix. To me, it's like sushi but much less impressive. I go to restaurants to pay a lot for cooked food.
5. Crocodile -
6. Black pudding - Haven't but would like to. I'm thinking if I like rarish steaks, why not some blood sausage?
7. Cheese fondue - Our New Year's Eve ritual.
8. Carp - Excuse me, but isn't this what's in my neighbor's pond?
9. Borscht - Yep. At a great place on the lower East side. The real thing.
10. Baba ghanoush -YES! One of my favorite dips. Delish when you cook the eggplant on the grill. Extra smokilicious!
11. Calamari - Love it fried just right with spicy marinara (good bar food).
12. Pho - It's my new chicken soup! So long Jewish penicillin! It makes me feel like I'm doing something good for my insides and it's delicious (Bethlehemites, go to Pho Vung Tau and get the number 9)
13. PB&J sandwich - Duh.
14. Aloo gobi -Not yet. LOVE Indian food.
15. Hot dog from a street cart - You gotta have a dirty water dog at least ONCE in your life if you go to NYC.
16. Epoisses - Huh?
17. Black truffle - Sadly, no. Although actually something so expensive that is a fungus annoys me.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - Hello, Boone's Farm?!
19. Steamed pork buns - One of my favorite dum sum items. Delicious as Christmas Dinner for (nonkosher) Jews!
20. Pistachio ice cream - It was my favorite as a child. That and "French" vanilla. I think I liked them both because they had ghastly amounts of food coloring in them.
21. Heirloom tomatoes -Yup.
22. Fresh wild berries -I must have...did I?
23. Foie gras - I tried it once at my most expensive restaurant meal ever. I HATE liver, but this was delicious. However, I found it was soooooo rich that I couldn't eat more than a tiny bit (and this is usually never a problem for me).
24. Rice and beans - Of course. Excellent cheap student food. AND delicious!
25. Brawn, or head cheese - Ugh. No. C'mon people, it has "head" in its name!
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - OUCH! Yes. Once time in college I made little homemade pizzas and one of them was going to be spicy so I cut up Scotch Bonnets without gloves and then rubbed my eyes.
27. Dulce de leche -Mmmmmmmmmm....
28. Oysters - Only the smoked kinds in a tin. Stories of my dad eating them raw ("You don't even have to chew, Jenni! They just slide down." didn't exactly encourage me.
29. Baklava -One of my favorite desserts. And I make it often because I found a really awesome easy recipe that doesn't require brushing each and every phyllo leaf, and yet it is flaky and delicious.
30. Bagna cauda - It sounds weird but it's something I've always wanted to make. Salt cod dip, right? I've had the package of weirdly dry cod in my hands at least twice and then put it back out of fear.
31. Wasabi peas-snack yummy!
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl - Where does one get this?
33. Salted lassi -there are so many things wrong with this. I love Indian food (see #14) but salted yogurt that is thin enough to drink and isn't a fruit smoothie. Shiverrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....
34. Sauerkraut - Duh. I'm from PA Dutch Country!! And I actually craved it when I was pregnant the first time. I used to eat a quart of it cold and listen to people wretch as they walked past the bakery door. Good times....
35. Root beer float - Another one of my favorites. I once drank two in a row at a soda shop with Shawn.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - YUCK.
37. Clotted cream tea -Oh yes. And as I imbibe, I pretend I'm British.
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - Unfortunately yes.
39. Gumbo- Yes. But I do not dig the slimy okra. Sorry Louisianna.
40. Oxtail - No, but I'd like to . I'm an ass girl.
41. Curried goat - Again, I'd like to. There's a halal butcher in Allentown (Al Halal) that sells goat and I'm too intimidated to buy one. Plus, they're cute.
42. Whole insects-WHY?
43. Phaal - WHAT?
44. Goat’s milk -Yes. And no thanks to again.
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more - Nope. But I do love the smell of it.
46. Fugu - I find life exciting enough without risking my life to eat something.
47. Chicken tikka masala -You bet!
48. Eel - Once. See number 100
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut - Can you believe it? No!
50. Sea urchin -No, but I'd do it if Anthony Bourdain was with me.
51. Prickly pear - nope
52. Umeboshi - Huh?
53. Abalone - Nope.
54. Paneer - LOVE the mutter paneer.
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal- I am proud to say no (not that the 100 cheeseburgers and fries I've eaten--before Supersize Me--wouldn't add up to a couple Big Macs...)
56. Spaetzle -Yum. I love starch in butter.
57. Dirty gin martini -Nope.
58. Beer above 8% ABV -Don't know what this means. But I love me some raspberry Belgian beer.
59. Poutine - I think not because I don't know what the hell it is and I'm too lazy to click on it.
60. Carob chips -Back in the day when--I kid you not--I baked for my college's co-op (yes, it was that kind of school) and made some pumpkin chip bread. Carob should be saved for "chocolate" dog treats.
61. S’mores - About a million!
62. Sweetbreads - Something that I'd like to try; see number 50.
63. Kaolin - Is this some kind of chemical?
64. Currywurst -That just looks made u.
65. Durian - Another Bourdain food! I really would like to try it but I fear its limburgerness.
66. Frogs’ legs - Don't see the reason to eat something so small. I don't even like chicken wings.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake --Yes, yes, yes and of course!
68. Haggis - No. But I think I would. Maybe. or not...
69. Fried plantain -yUM!
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette -I love soul food but not this.
71. Gazpacho - loads of times.
72. Caviar and blini - Another expensive food I don't "get." Some would say I haven't had the right kind. Not invested enough in things that are "an acquired taste."
73. Louche absinthe If this is the freaky green booze that Johnny Depp drinks in From Hell, I wanna try some! It's legal now but expensive and I'm disappointed to hear that it doesn't actually make you nuts.
74. Gjetost, or brunost - Sounds Scandinavian. Not sure.
75. Roadkill - Again, WHAT??
76. Baijiu - HUH?
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - One of my secret loves. The crust is so lard-like and it's covered in a sugar glaze. What's not to like?
78. Snail - I'd rather just eat a stick of butter and a clove of garlic.
79. Lapsang souchong - Too smoky!
80. Bellini - I'm sad to say no. Sounds yummy.
81. Tom yum - LOVE it. Second in line to pho.
82. Eggs Benedict - LOVELOVELOVE. I even like the diner kind with canned hollandaise.
83. Pocky - LOVE Pocky but am a purest. Regular chocolate is the best!
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. nope.
85. Kobe beef - I'd rather get the massage than pay for my meat to have one.
86. Hare - no thanks.
87. Goulash -Yum!
88. Flowers - Duh. Ever eat broccoli?! I am toooo funny. (Sorry) Actually I like nasturtiums (nice and peppery) but anything else is just to pretty up a salad.
89. Horse - This is just wrong.
90. Criollo chocolate - No idea.
91. Spam -Loved it as a kid. Sunday breakfast staple, fried until crispy.
92. Soft shell crab - Tastiest insect ever!
93. Rose harissa - "Rose" should never be a flavoring.
94. Catfish -delicious bottom feeder. Don't eat it now that I know it's a bottom feeder.
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox-Yes, but I don't like it. I KNOW! When I got my Jew card it was one of the requirements for membership, but somehow I slipped right in.
97. Lobster Thermidor - I like my other favorite sea bug simple. Butter please.
98. Polenta -Better than mashed potatoes!
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee -not a coffee drinker. Wish I was.
100. Snake - What a way to end this! Is that really necessary???

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You're So Vain

Yesterday's first full day of work ended with a bang. Or a boom. Well, actually a fucking fireball! I was lighting the pilot light on the griddle with the gas on like I always did in my old kitchen and BOOM! A ball of fire flared out at me. Did I mention that my face was right in front of it so I could see what I was doing. Anyway, I flew back, knocking several things over and patting out the fire that was in my hair, people. M was there and ran over to me. My first words of comfort to my daughter?


Not, "Mommy's okay" or "Don't worry." Nope. I was worried about my friggin hair. And it was not pretty. The left side of my bangs are gone, my left eyebrow is only half there, and my eyelashes could best be described as stubby. But thanks to M's quick thinking (a 9 year old was more together than I was and immediately got me ice), I only have some slight blistering on my neck. Oh, and I now know that the smell of burnt hair makes me feel like barfing.

M nursed me and told me it was okay that I cried (I very professionally burst into tears when one of the girls came down to see what happened) and told me she wished she could drive so I didn't have to drive us home.


Today my left eyelid feels like I have a sunburn and it's almost ridiculous to put on mascara (but you know I'll keep trying), but I was really really lucky. When I told the maintenance dude what happened, he said "Oh yeah. The fan is really strong on the ovens. You shouldn't turn them on to light them."


And when I told him I felt I was "lucky" I only lost a little hair (meaning I was lucky I didn't LOSE MY FACE), he said "Oh yeah. Same thing happened to another woman in one of the frats. SHE had to wear a hat for a couple months."


Who knew cooking for a sorority could be dangerous? My worst fear was of getting caught in an estrogen-laced cat fight. Or getting burned by words.

Now I have a fear of pancakes.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nothin' Says Lovin'...

Everyone always asks my husband why he isn't 400 pounds since he's married to a chef. Every single time, his response is the same. "Are you kidding? I'm lucky if I get the burnt bits!" Sadly, this is true. Before I went back to work full time-ish, I would bake/cook occasionally for people I knew and friends-of-friends. It didn't bring in much money but it kept my name "out there" and gave me a little creative outlet. I don't do this anymore (except for family and very close friends), but my kids still ask, when I've made something particularly yummy-looking "Who's it for?"

My poor family assumes they're going to just get the burnt bits.

So I made a real attempt to make a LOT of homemade meals this summer and to bake things just because. It feels good to do it because they are so obviously delighted and it's probably saved us some moolah too, since we are often of the "let's get a pizza" mindset.

Alexis, I blame you for this!

But now I'm back at work. And after cooking 2X a day for 51+ girls, I don't exactly jump for joy at the thought of cooking dinner again for 4 more people. I sometimes even feel resentful of having to do it ("Boy would I love coming home to the smell of dinner cooking!" was uttered sarcastically quite a few times last year), but I know that it only makes sense for me to do it because I'm home earliest. I realize it but I knew I'd still think it. This summer I realized that I needed a plan.

These were sooooo good. Vanilla Butter-Glazed, Chocolate-Glazed, and Cinnamon Sugar.
Easy-peasy recipe from A Passion for Baking, By Marcy Goldman

Lucy gave me the idea but considering the fact that it's exactly what I do at work, I realize what an ass I am (and disorganized at home) to not have figured it out myself and applied it to my home life. "Lucy's Plan" is to make a weekly menu based on what's in the cupboard and/or what I've just bought. Revolutionary. I've also decided to base my home menu on the one I'm preparing at work so I can prepare them together. Genius.

Clearly, I am not a brain surgeon.

This basic little elemental plan will be BIG, I think, because it'll allow me to come home from work with at least the beginnings of a home-cooked meal, with time to put my feet up, hear about the kids' day, and greet my husband with the good smells of dinner instead of the grumblings of a bitchy wife. And my family will feel loved and taken care of.

Instead of just settling for the burnt bits.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Middle of Things

I started work, in a very small way, yesterday after having 4 months off. I know, I know, cry me a river, but I LIKE being at home. If I could figure a way to stay home and make money that didn't involve telemarketing or getting my kitchen dirty, I'd do it. I just love having all my stuff around me, having a little routine and not thinking about what I'm wearing. Luckily the latter part of that also goes along somewhat with what my actual job requires. The most "dressed up" I get at work is wearing a pair of fun chef pants and finding a funny t-shirt (this year's favorite: Mr. Potato Head dressed up as a hippie with "Baked Potato" under it).

So anyway, I started work yesterday by unpacking my kitchen. The sorority I work for moved into a house that used to belong to a fraternity that got kicked out of Lehigh last year. The house is beautiful. It's not one of the classic old frats with the columns, etc. It was probably built in the 60's or early 70's. But it's open and airy and the girls chose beautiful colors (I even got my requested yellow kitchen!). And anyone who saw it when it was a frat will appreciate just how beautiful it is now. To say the place was shabby and REEKED would be kind. Yuck. I love boys but massive drunken parties and preserving beautiful architecture don't mix.

So it's beautiful, the kitchen is incredibly well-appointed (a place for everything and everything in its place--YAY!), and the girls, especially the Juniors, are happy to see me. Everything is good. A new year is exciting and full of possibilities. Great!

I wish I could be really happy about it.

See, I have this problem of hating the beginning of things (ANXIETY) and the end of things (sadness). I never like to be the first one to arrive at a party and I hate when my last guest leaves from a party of my own. I love the middle of things.

I try not to show this to my children because I don't want them to be afraid of new experiences or regret that something has ended. I'd like to be the kind of mom who helps her kids to enjoy the moments in life, to revel in the excitement and to feel the sadness and not fear it. So I'm trying not to think about how great it'll be when I establish a routine, when I know all the sophmores' names, and when it's finally December, halfway through the year. Because if I keep thinking like that, it'll suddenly be May, the end, and I will have missed all the fun in between.

Friday, August 15, 2008

*Back to the Brothel

let the drinking begin
It happens to me every Summer. In the beginning, I start out feeling guilty that I have all this time to myself before the kids start their vacation. So I vacilate between frantic project planning (not doing) and utter lack of movement and copious movie watching. I want to do everything I can think of that I won't be able to do when the kids are home too. Not that I couldn't do all these things; my kids are getting older and pretty okay on their own. It's just that I feel like I should be Camp Director or something, planning fun (and ocassionally educational) events for us to do.

pretending to observe nature on an Educational and Fun! outing

Then THEY'RE HOME. And don't get me wrong, I love love love them and even really like them, but they require so much nagging. Only when they are *old* and parents themselves will they understand that it's annoying for the nagger too. I cannot tell you how many times the phrases "Put your dirty clothes down the shoot" and "Wipe the grape jelly off the counter" or that old chestnut "TURN OFF THE TV!!" have been uttered.

Muttel is an optimist

So I start to wish I was back at work. NOT for a solid week, mind you. Just at my leisure. I love the idea of waking up and thinking, okay, the kids are annoying today, so I think I'll work for 8 hours. Tomorrow? Nah. I'll probably sleep until 11:00. Of course no job, save possibly hooking, would allow this so it is just me wishing. This is the I-sort-of-wish-the-Summer-was-over-but-not-really-just-that-the-kids-had-school phase. During this time I also start formulating menus for my job and cooking/baking up a storm. These could also be called The Fat Ass Days.

Nothing says July like sour cherry pie

Then August rolls around and I panic. Oh my god it's almost over! Oh my god I haven't finished planting the new flower bed/painting the basement steps/going to the pool/thoroughly enjoying my children's company! WORK STARTS SOON!!!

And the regret sinks in.

What does all this say except that I might need to up my 40 mg of celexa or actually call the therapist I keep procrastinating about? It says that I need to start trying to live in the now. I know that sounds so crunchy, so self-help book, but it's true. I've always been a planner who panics about getting something done and so either becomes a total vegetable and does nothing or gets herself so amped up about time ticking away that I don't enjoy the doing.

This is something I really want to work on.

So please, enjoy the pictures from this Summer. I'm going to try to just relax for these waning days until I go back to work. While I've got a lot to look forward to there (will a certain Junior have sex in my kitchen again this year? how many girls will be taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning? will the girls bring lots of young man-meat for Mrs. Robinson to ogle?), I'm going to hang out with my Handsome Husband and my kids, see more of my BFFs and maybe step out into the garden a bit to pull some weeds.

*No, I don't actually work in a whorehouse, but I found it interesting and annoying to find out that the reason why sorority houses are "dry" is because there is a law that if more than a certain number of women live together it is indeed considered a brothel and therefore cannot serve alcohol. How archaic is that?

2008 was the Summer of Ice Cream
thanks to David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

some excellent thrifting (total:$3!) was done

Gibson the Hunter, with dead vole

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Little Shalom in my Home

There is a idea in Judaism that I really loved when I learned about it in my adult bar mitzvah class a few years ago. This idea revolves around making sure the people in your life, specifically in your home, have comfort, that their happiness is paramount to something even as important as absolute truth. For instance, you might tell your spouse that you loooove the new shirt he bought you even if it's completely not your style. You recognize his intention in buying you something and keep the peace so as not to hurt his feelings. Or you let him ramble about something his mother said that completely annoys the crap out of you too, but you just listen because after all, she is his mother and he's the one that gets to say she's a jackass.

Now I am someone who believes in expressing myself (duh) and I'm someone who holds the truth dear. I hate lying (and tell my kids that lying about something they've done that was wrong is even more wrong than doing it). And I think that bottling up your feelings is uncomfortable at best and toxic at worst. But too much expressing can be toxic to the people who constantly find themselves hearing your expressiveness.

This philosophy, Shalom Beit, which literally translates as Peace in the Home, also extends to omissions of truth, to keeping things positive, in an effort to keep that peace.

Why the Judaism 101 lesson? Because lately I think I've been doing a LOT of ranting on my blog. Now, when I started this blog, the Important Person in my life understood that it would be mine, all mine. That it would be about my thoughts, my feelings, my stuff, my truth. And that if he was going to read it, he'd better be prepared. And he has been great about it. It's me that thinks that I've gone too far over to the negative place.

The blogs I love to read and do so daily are a real mishmash of categories. Some of my favorites are really homey and warm and fuzzy like this one. Others are sarcastic and cutting and really really funny like this one. It doesn't take a psychiatrist (although let's face it, maybe I could benefit from one's perspective) to understand that the reason for my liking these seemingly disparate blogs is because they're parts of both sides of my wacked-out personality. And I'm thinking that I'd better figure out how to express a combination of these two sides of me rather than let The Dark Side constantly win.

Two of my favorite bloggers manage really nicely to combine asserbic wit with a love of things like kids and canning and warm fuzzy socks. Finny and Jules, I take my hat off to you. They may mercilessly make fun of someone, but it's usually themselves. Or Finny'll throw f-bombs at the bugs and weeds in her garden instead of at some of the bugs and weeds in her family.

This year is going to be a big one for us, here at home. My baby boy is going into the final stretches of becoming a bar mitzvah and there are likely to be some challenges arising out of the planning and execution of this event. They don't call these crisis rites for nothing. And while I'm quite sure I'll be hurling some whoppers every once in awhile to get it off my fucking chest, I'm also hoping that there are a lot more fun stories to talk about without threatening my very own shalom.
behold, the bar mitzvah boy

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Ugly Stoop is *Famous*!

I have the dubious honor (*dubious* only because of the ugliness of my stoop) of having my stoop featured on Holly's fabulous blog Decor8 for today's Reader Question. I've been doing so much on the inside of my house but really want the front to reflect some kind of style. It's just so bleak. I've gotten some good ideas from comments but still wonder what color to paint the white walls on the porch (a warm taupe? something bolder?) and if I should (although one reader suggested it might look like I started to paint my whole house and didn't finish--a valid point which confuses me further!).

Anyhoo, take a gander at Decor8 and my stoop. If you're interested in home stuff, I guarantee you'll lose an hour on her blog, living your life vicariously in the beautiful (and not-yet-beautiful) places featured.


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