Sunday, March 27, 2011

All Dead vs. Mostly Dead

Look at this. I just bought this little guy today and already he's pawing at the window to escape. I am a known plant killer around these parts. All those plants they say can't be killed? Dead. And definitely not even mostly dead. Nope. Basil. Orchids. Cacti. Bonsai Trees. Tropical hybrids that could even survive the death grip of Walmart stores. All of them are now go-through-his-pockets-and-look-for-loose-change dead.

This one will be different, though. It has to be. The plant is called Baby's Tears, so if I kill this one that makes me a baby killer. And I can't be branded with that title for the rest of my life. 

I am officially naming this guy Rasputin. I think it's fitting to name it after a man who was poisoned, stabbed, beaten, choked, rolled up in a rug, thrown off a bridge, and drowned, and still managed to try swimming in freezing cold temperatures of a Russian river in winter.

Meanwhile, on the list of things that could lead to me being all dead if I went too nuts with it, I enjoyed two puffs on a hookah last night. That's right, Mom and Dad, I smoked stuff! I experimented with exotic drugs! Gosh, hookahs really don't seem to produce that shocking effect, do they? If you've never tried it before you really should. A few puffs really isn't going to kill you or get you hooked. And it actually tastes pretty good. The only way I could describe it is that it tastes like pipe tobacco smells.

Me not being a smoker of anything ever, I only managed to get one or two little measly puffs out. My dance teacher is the expert, and can do a dragon lady maneuver where she inhales and blows the smoke out her nostrils. Definitely sweet and something to make those 1920's gals raise their eyebrows in muted shock at her unladylike behavior.

We sat around talking dancer gossip and watching one of our friends perform. I have performed dozens of times in a group and even in a duet. But I've never performed on my own, let alone improv in a cafe. I watch my friend dance and she is beautiful and graceful. Sometimes I think, "I could do that! Those are just simple moves repeated. I've done that!" But other times I think, "I will never look that beautiful. I will never be that graceful. I would totally trip over a waiter!"
One day I'll find my courage and go for it. Last night, though, my buddies and I kept ourselves occupied with a jumping origami frog and a fly by the seat of our pants target. It was 100 points if you got the frog to land in the middle, 50 for the flower, 10 for the lily pad, and "Dead in the Water" outside of that. The problem is that, unlike hookah, it's really easy to get addicted to trying to jump the frog. None of us wanted to quit after hitting the water. So I guess the little green guy stayed in a perpetual state of mostly dead.

For those who find themselves short on cash, and very easily amused, here is how to fold the frog.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Situations that aren't from Jersey

It's true. I've had absolutely nothing to write about these last few days. Week... So like that acquaintance that awkwardly comes and apologizes for something five years later wondering if it's too late, I'm just going to jump right back into this.

The Bathtub Situation
Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Demonic Bath Water has finally been solved - and it didn't even need to involve chloroform this time! The other maintenance guy came out last Friday to try his hand at it. He said that the nasty black gunk looked just like what happens when water gets turned off and then on again (the water in the holding tank sits a while and has a chance to collect junk). In brave defiance of the water shed, he let the water run for twenty minutes, giving everything a chance to flush out. The tub works again, but just knowing that stuff is somewhere in the water makes me a bit more averse to baths now.

The Hafla Situation
It turns out that this hafla was based on people coming and volunteering to perform on the spot. It also turns out that not many people want to do that - especially when they aren't aware that that's what's happening. There were only five dances. Way less than the usually twelve or more. But we did get to see this beautiful improv piece by... Ahhh! I forgot her name! I need to learn Arabic so I can remember all these dancers. But it was beautiful, and a great example of how to utilize the veil even if it does get stuck on the side of your head.

The Jambalaya Situation
Unless you have the president and his family and his family's family coming over for dinner, do not make the entirety of this recipe. It is an extremely tasty gumbo, but we were eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner because it made so, frickin' much! We had no room in our freezer so we ended up having to chuck the rest of it - which amounted to about four pounds of the stuff. Sad. But amazing while it lasted.

The Camera Situation
Lost the camera Friday. Thought it was in my desk. It was. Found it Monday.

The Calling Bars for Kids Situation
In the next couple of weeks I'm having an acquaintance who flamenco dances come teach for my Latino student club at school. I got this brilliant idea about ten minutes ago for the kids to make their own castanets the week before. Then they'd get hooked and be ready to go in two weeks. The craft involves hot gluing bottle caps to cardboard, so I've been calling bars for the last couple of minutes with the line, "I'm calling from a local school and am wondering if I can get a donation involving beer bottles." There have been quite the awkward pauses on the other end of the phone. In the end, I finally got a hold of the Sprecher's brewery and Katey, the bar manager, was happy to help me out. This further confirms my recent suspicions that anyone named "Katey" is committed to corrupting children, and is extremely awesome at the same time.

The Ostara Situation
Husband: Happy Ostara, Honey.
TBF: It's not Ostara until tomorrow. It's on the 21st not the 20th.
Husband: ...No, it's the 20th this year.
TBF: No way... I'm looking this up.... <does a quick Google search> Damn it!
Husband <with an I-totally-beat-the-witch grin on his face>: ...So are we celebrating Ostara another day?
TBF looking sheepish: Thursday?
Husband: Thursday
... Happy Ostara Everyone!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mother Nature Toys With Wisconsin

This week Madison is getting its first taste of spring. Me, being the impatient child that I am, starts thinking, "Ooh! It's fifty degrees out! That means it will stay fifty degrees right? That means summer is almost here, right?" My coworker is convinced that I'm going to get some strange type of temperature related fever because I'm already down to sleeveless tops (...even though all of us who attended public schools know that schools stay cold until the first warm week of spring. Then they get sweltering hot until the first day of winter. Good old ancient ventilation systems.).

I've been going through my photos pining for the days of no school, bright colors, thunder storms, outdoor movies, concerts and plays, and a million excuses to have ice cream downtown. Madison has been so ugly lately. Don't get me wrong, I love snow. But snow that melts is a whole new ball game. For those who don't live where there's snow, I'll fill you in on what happens when it finally goes the way of the Wicked Witch of the West:

1. It absorbs any manner of liquid and turns a mucky brown. A pain to walk in, and the cause of constant pulls on the windshield spray lever in the car. You can't drive for ten seconds without getting a fresh layer of gunk on the shield.

2. When snow accumulates it's beautiful, but when it finally melts it reveals everything it was previously hiding. A common sight is a half-melted brown pile surrounded by Doritos bags and cigarette buts. Not to mention, once you get out of the city a bit, you get the opportunity to add several more half-rotted deer carcasses to the mix. "Look, Timmy! That's called decomposition!"

3. This is more of an oh-yeah-and-one-more-thing-about-snow-gunk. Snow also absorbs gravel, road salt and grit that flies off the road. Shoes that tromp through this snow pick up all the grit too. High-heeled boots that have almost no traction on the bottoms pick it up, creating an even smoother sole, causing its wearer to have to skate along behind her shopping cart while grocery shopping. (*Note to self: develop secret grocery store that doubles as an ice rink. Equip carts with attached ice skates for shoppers' convenience. ...Work on replacing wheelchairs with sleds. Also penguins could be fun.).

I know the weather isn't going to make the complete changeover yet. So for now, I'll just enjoy reminiscing in my photos and pray that Ostara's weather is warm and lasts.
Nothing like watching the sun go down on Lake Mendota while eating ice cream and laughing at the sailing club get sailor-slosh drunk while they attempt to dock their boats.
During the summer the juggling, tight-roping and fire spinning club comes out. They are the one group of hippies in town that are an absolute blast to hang out with. Do you think they'd let me bring marshmallows one of these times? :P
And people who are just weird and fun. This guy works at the apple stand at the farmer's market on the capitol square every Saturday. Why is he wearing a shirt with Lincoln fighting several bears? That was my question before I took his photo. "Because he's frickin' LINCOLN!" Good enough for me. :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Underworld Emerging...

...through my faucet! I called my apartment's emergency maintenance guy to tell him that I had completely black water filling my tub. There was a pause and a, "Wow...That's a new one. I've never heard of that before." I'm supposed to be heading out to a hafla pretty soon, but I want to stick around and see his reaction when he sees that the demon girl from "The Ring" is trying to get to me through my tub.
Just got back and found a note saying that he did all he could do. Tried the plunger and may have lost his soul in the process. Just kidding. But he did say that the mysterious water is beyond his knowledge of plumbing. The heavy duty guys are coming out next week to do battle with the sewer harpies trying to invade my apartment.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Things They Are A Changing (Also, My Bathtub is Puking Evil)

Cooking Adventure: Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
Source: Bon Appetit
The Kind of... Maybe a Little?... Okay Not Really Bellydance Soundtrack:
Jambalaya by (originally) Hank Williams 
Prep Time: 1 hr. 
Cook Time: 1 hr. 45min.

For those of you who don't know already, the bill banning collective bargaining rights for unions was voted in by our state senate Wednesday night. I heard just after dance practice at 9PM and proceeded to the capitol, where tons of people were driving their cars around the square honking their horns to the tune of, "Tell us what democracy looks like! Beep beep BEEP beep-beep-beep-beep BEEP BEEP!" (i.e. This is what democracy looks like! ... BEEP!). I'm not a teacher, and I'm not part of a union, so I think it was a bit more difficult for me to get as riled up. But I was still quite upset that this bill was passed through on what I would call sneaky terms.

I ended up getting home late and frustrated to take a nice relaxing, warm bath, only to find that my tub was also showing its disgust in the form of black water burped up in three second bursts. Apparently it has something to do with the apartment's water heater, or city water mains being flushed, or something scientific. Luckily, I'm Wiccan, so I can blame it on demons. And I checked. Even though they had one of the most amazing plumbing systems in the world (if you don't count the whole lead poisoning thing), the Romans did not have a god or goddess of plumbing. I guess I'll have to invoke the power of my apartment's maintenance man instead. ...The gods would get my problem solved quicker.

Thursday, while still filled with very depressed local educators and those darn celebrities that are drawn to protests like a hobo to a hammie, proved to be much better for my own moral, as I discovered the healing power of messing with blog design. <dorkyshakespearreference>Ah, html, how I love thee.</dorkyshakespearreference>
Plus, my husband took me back to my Louisiana days with a Jambalaya recipe that would have your heart delightedly gasping for air while whispering, "Totally worth it!"

 - 12 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced 
 - 1 1/2 pounds smoked fully cooked sausage (such as linguiça), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles 
 - 1 pound andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes 
 - 1/2 pound tasso or smoked ham (such as Black Forest), cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
 - 1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped (4 to 5 cups) 
 - 2 large celery stalks, chopped 
 - 1 8- to 10-ounce red bell pepper, coarsely chopped 
 - 1 8- to 10-ounce green bell pepper, coarsely chopped 
 - 6 large skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces 
 - 2 tablespoons paprika 
 - 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 
 - 1 tablespoon chili powder 
 - 1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper3 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles 
 - 2 1/2 cups beef broth 
 - 3 cups (19 to 20 ounces) long-grain white rice 
 - 8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups) 
 - Chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F.
2. Cook bacon in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Add smoked sausage, andouille, and tasso. Sauté until meats start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes.
4. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 1 minute
6. Add diced tomatoes with chiles and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.
7. Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are absorbed, 45 to 48 minutes.
8. Uncover pot. Mix chopped green onions into jambalaya; sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chad Vader Takes on Madison, Wisconsin

Normally I'm not one to burp up Youtube videos, but I'll make an exception to this. I figure that it's like cutting down trees: if I take info. from the Internet I must provide new info. to take it's place. And so, I put up for your consideration this analysis of Nanny Mcphee 2 between my mother and I:

Mom: We watched that movie Nanny Mcphee 2 last night. I fell asleep through most of it, but it was pretty good.
TBF: So how did they change the story line? I mean, in the last one she got prettier every time the kids learned a lesson and finally became beautiful in the end. So does she have a trainee or something in this one?
Mom: No, it's pretty much the same story but with a different family.
TBF: So, she just spends her whole life getting ugly and pretty? That's a pretty bad yo-yo diet.
Mom: Well, but it's better than a yo-yo diet because she gets to have that feeling of accomplishment over and over when she gets good looking again.
TBF: But that's terrible! She's butt ugly for weeks on end and then stays beautiful for, what? A week? That's not a blessing, that's her period! ...But opposite!

So there you have it Internet. Chew on that for a bit. Nanny Mcphee has the worst period ever. And now, Chad Vader.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Face the Wrath of My High-Powered Wand, Mango!

Cooking Adventure: Spicy Mango Soup
Source: No idea. Um... the soup faeries.
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Emerald Alley by Up, Bustle and Out
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cook Time: 25 min

My husband just ran off with the car for a day of roller derbying in Milwaukee, and suddenly I want the car. He'll always ask me if he can use it the day before & I'll say, "Sure. No problem. I can't think of anything I need it for." At it never fails that five minutes before he's about to take off, I think of ten different places I need to go. And right now I could really use the car for a trip out to the grocery store to get me some mangoes.

Lately I have been revelling in the awesome electronic power that is my new kitchen wand: the immersion blender. I've been looking for every excuse I can to blend shit. One day I'm sure my husband will come home to find me sitting on the floor surrounded by various liquids singing, "Hey, honey! Guess which one has the cabbage in it!" The immersion blender is not only sweet because I can take it apart and have it clean in ten seconds, but because... wait... no, that's why it's sweet. But it also makes me realize that the level of power hungry I've become with this thing should never be transferred to an actual magickal wand. It makes me happy that that wand has a cute little crystal on it and is usually used  for drawing circles. Goddess forbid it could actually blend things it was pointed at. I don't think I would be allowed in the grocery store anymore. Pet stores would set up security guards just to watch out for the crazy Wiccan with a magickal blending wand.

For now and forever that power is confined to the kitchen - not to mention the length of the extension cord. This is good because it means I can blend things and only slightly be swayed by evil. I can innocently peel and cut the mangoes, cook them up and fill the kitchen with a sweet aroma, and then proceed to maul them while yelling, "Die mangoes! That's right, who's laughing now? You'll crack soon. And then you will be like pudding in my... um... mouth! Ha ha!"

I'm wondering if this weirdness can be explained by something going a little screwy during my reincarnation process. 

- 2 medium white onions
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 ripe mangoes, peeled & chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp. salt (*I use chicken bouillon in my soup, which has plenty of salt already. If you use bouillon, skip the extra salt.)
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. tamarind paste (*Found in Asian food section of grocery store)
- 1/4 or 1/2 Habanero pepper (Optional)

1. In a medium saucepan saute the onions and butter in oil over medium heat until translucent. About 3-5 minutes.
2. Add the chopped mango and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. You'll know it's done when the mangoes are a little softer and a little darker in color.
3. Add the chicken stock, salt (if needed), pepper & tamarind paste.
4. Stir a few times. When it comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low & cover and cook for 15 minutes.
5. Uncover and remove from the heat.
6. If you are using a blender here, make sure the soup has a chance to cool a bit! Hot soup covered and blended will cause a build-up of steam and pressure that can explode out the top and give you a very painful lesson in physics. If you are using an immersion blender, just blend the soup up in the pot and feel powerful.
7. Once blended, stir in the creamed coconut.

Optional 8. Here's where you can blend in a habanero pepper too. If you have never worked with them before, know that they're one of the hottest commonly available peppers at grocery stores. If you touch it with your hand and then rub your eye, you will be in serious amounts of pain. Putting a whole habanero in this soup will make it almost inedible or a perfect April Fool's trick. A half is for the mildly brave. A quarter should do the trick for just the right amount of kick.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pigeon Diapers

 I know. You read the post title and now this is the part where I cleverly reveal that I am actually using "pigeon diapers" as a political metaphor. Or that it's some kind of anagram. Or maybe I've even sunk so low as to using the old, "SEX! And now that I have your attention..." line. Alas, you are horribly mistaken.

I mean exactly what I say folks. Yesterday I stopped by my good friend's apartment to see her new pets. Now being a vet school student, she always seems to have access to the strangest animal opportunities. For example, one night she was on call because a cow was having surgery and she might be called in to mop up the blood. She also comes from a farm background, and is well-versed in how to pin down and castrate a sheep. So it came as no surprise to me to hear that she adopted two pigeons from the vet school.

Hanging out in a large dog cage converted to a bird cage by the power of dowels, the little guys are actually kind of cute. But that's not what I had gone there to see. Cute schmoot. I wanted to see what my friend had deemed "birdie lederhosen". 

And so, I reiterate: pigeon diapers. Frickin' diapers! For pigeons! And yes, that is a menstrual pad lining the inside. As much love as the creator of the diaper had for pigeons, I just don't think it translates over well in the bird's point of view. Once it's on, the bird waddles around a bit (much in the way a person would if they had to wear an over sized diaper secured around their neck), gets its feet stuck in the bottom, and proceeds to flop forward and whack it's head on the floor until it's readjusted. It poops like crazy in defiance and defense (sometimes missing the pad), and if that doesn't work it starts regurgitating.
Come warmer weather the plan is to move the pigeons out to the farm where they can roam around freely without being confined in their fowl pants, and without my friend having to track them with a bottle of just-in-case 409.

*For those who just can't believe what they're seeing and have to see more, Bird Wear is the company that makes these. You can get them customized too, just in case you love (or hate) John Deer so much that you'd like its logo to emblazon your pigeon's butt!