Charlotte Need Not Have Worked So Hard On That Web

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Gentle Reader,

So I was talking to some friends the other week about how they needed to come out to the Ranch, and had a rare moment of clarity-the next weekend was Memorial Day, they’re from NC, NC does Pig Barbecue, and I have been wanting to do Pig Barbecue for quite some time.  I immediately suggested they come out for Memorial Day, and they said, “Sure!”  I’d like to think I told them they were going to be culinary guinea pigs, but I don’t think I’m that ethical.  Eh-whatever, they all lived.

I am, however, pretty respectful of culinary tradition, so I did want to do this in a way at least vaguely reminiscent of NC Pig.

So to start with, before I ever looked at a recipe or technique, I picked up a 9 lb. pork butt.  Figuring I’d wing my way through this.  I also picked up a bottle of ketchup because last time I tried to make a thin sauce, I ran out of ketchup and didn’t want to make that mistake twice.  (This plot device is called “foreshadowing”.)

And THEN I began consulting my sources.  And while I didn’t do anything wrong, per se, pork shoulder is apparently the preferred cut for this preparation.  Lessons learned.

Also-my go-to reference for any meat is nearly always Alton Brown’s “I’m Just Here For The Food”.  And this is particularly true for pork, but my copy is currently in storage.  Which is very sad.

So anyway, the night before the big day arrived.  Most places advise applying your rub up to 12 hours in advance.  But that would have required planning.  I managed to get the rub on five hours in advance, which I called good.  You can go nuts on a rub-coffee, pepper, cayenne, tears of blind virgins, it seems like everybody has a secret ingredient. I am leery of relying on external ingredients.  The meat should stand on its own (J-this is the first part of the answer to your most astute question about sauce.) without the rub.  That being said, I’ve had rubs that take it to the next level.  Transcend, really.  Since I’m trying to figure out my own rub, starting from scratch, I decided that for this time, I’d let the meat flavors stand alone, see what those were, and then tinker from there.  I sprinkled (LIBERALLY) salt-plain old kosher salt-and garlic powder, because though I wanted the meat flavors to shine alone, I also know that nearly any meat, particularly large, “miscellaneous” cuts of meat, benefits from liberal application of salt in advance.  (Usually in the form of a brine, but here I wanted drier meat to go into the smoke, so I put the salt on there and called it a dry brine.)

And then I contemplated what time this thing needed to go into the smoke.  So I backed it up, and made a little time chart.


In case that isn’t clear, I wanted to eat in the 4:00 zone, so I had to get up and put the beast on at 4:00 in the AM.  No greater love hath man than this or whatever…

Having never done pork in the Big Green Egg before, I could only go based on what I read for pork butt, and I’m here to testify that the pig had fun with me and cooked about an hour fast during each phase of the cooking.  I’ve taken note, Sir, for next time.  Paybacks…

Anyway, I got up at four and built my first ever non-Girl Scout-sanctioned fire.  And I’m not just totally sure I did it right.  Daddy has what I call a “curling iron”, though he failed to see the resemblance, to start the fire with, and so I held the curling iron up to the charcoal lumps until the thing was spitting out sparks and the coals were orange.  Since my hand was in proximity to the coals (the curling iron is short, like all good curling irons) I didn’t really want to hang around until it made the leaping fire I was used to seeing on the Weber grill.  So I have no idea if the fire was right or not.  (Plus, it’s been A WHILE since Girl Scouts so I don’t remember our fire lessons…)

But the main point is that the fire never got above 300 degrees.  Which was good.  Low heat is going to be your friend on these big cuts of meat that have lots of different sub-primals kind of running every direction through them.  Because with all of those different culinary characteristics in the mix, you want to cook for a long time, and low, in order to break down enough (say it with me now) connective tissue to make the meat tender.

So then it came time to add some smoke to the fire.  Depending on the wood used, they add interesting flavors to the meat.  But that would have required me to be capable of coherent thought at 4:00 in the dark and I think we all know that calling my thoughts coherent is generous, even at 11:00 in the morning, after coffee and a full night’s rest.  I looked in (one half of) the cabinet beside the BGE and didn’t see anything besides the lump charcoal.  So I figured that this pig was just going to have to be lacking that certain je ne sais quois.

(Later, Mama showed me THE OTHER HALF OF THE CABINET, where the different wood chunks are.)

Pig went on, uncovered in a foil pan because I didn’t want flare-ups to char the outside of my meat, the BGE was closed, and then I went back to bed.  But not before setting my alarm to wake me up every hour to check the temperature gage on the BGE.


If your smoker or other outdoor cooking device lacks one of these?  Get one.  You need to be able to check and take steps to regulate your temperature without opening the lid.  It’s what separates us from the animals.

To regulate your temperature, there are usually vents at the top and the bottom of the cooking device.  More air=hotter flame.

So anyway, it was supposed to cook/smoke until it was 165 degrees inside, around noon, at which time I was to drain the pan of the juices (Save those!  If you went plain and simple with your rub like I did, they will turn into the most scrumptious pan sauce.  AKA, “Served over tomorrow night’s dinner”.) and then use half a cup of apple juice and cover tightly with foil for the last few hours of cooking until it reached 190 degrees internally.  (I detest apple juice and pork, it’s totally unimaginative and so I used the REALLY CREATIVE white wine and I eyeballed it rather than measuring.  But follow your own bliss there.)

(I don’t have pictures of the actual pork because I forgot…)

But the pork had other ideas, because it got to 170 degrees internally around 10:30.  So he went back to finish up the last few degrees a few hours early.  But this is illustrative of the point that while you want to cook low and slow, in barbecue, temperature controls.  Don’t be smitten with the clock.  But keep the temperature of your heat low.

Anyway, after the pork came out, it rested for half an hour-ish until we couldn’t stand it any longer, and then we began shredding.  It should, if you have done it right, fall apart into shreds with nearly no effort on your part.  But take two forks and place them in your hands, back-to-back, and hold them near the pork to make it look like you expended lots of energy on this.

Here’s where a photo would be totally gorgeous and useful, but I don’t have one of the finished cooked pork.  It looked INSANE, trust me.  Glistening, shred-y, pork-y.

Anyway, then it was time for sauce.  Upon further research, I learned that many NC sauces were not the thin tomato and vinegar creation I envisioned.  Indeed, many sauces had no tomato whatsoever.  And while I can accept a thin and vinegar-y sauce as completely delicious, one without tomato of any kind is blasphemy of the highest order.  So I set about creating a thin, vinegar-heavy, with some ketchup, slightly spicy sauce with some richness.  My expectations were totally reasonable.

I pulled out the ketchup, the brown sugar, the molasses, the red pepper flakes, the salt, and the pepper.  And then I went to get the cider vinegar.  You know how they say vinegar doesn’t go bad?  True, but it does begin to regenerate the mother after awhile.  (If you don’t know what that is, research vinegar some.  It’s fascinating.)

Apparently we need to use our cider vinegar faster.  🙂  Anyway, I solved the vinegar issue by pouring it through a tea strainer and caught most of the mother, and it’s not like a little bit of mother ever hurt anybody.

So I wound up with a base of 1:1 vinegar/ketchup.  Then I threw in about four heaping tablespoons of brown sugar, “enough” salt, several hits of ground black pepper, and four glugs of molasses.  The molasses was key to developing the richness and smoke.

And then finally, the red pepper flakes.  NC uses a LOT of them.  Some of us prefer our heat to have a bit of flavor and purpose, so I wanted to dial it back a notch.  I didn’t photograph how much I used, but my ring in my palm is actually a really good approximation:


And honestly, it could have used about half again as much and been glorious.

All of the sauce ingredients cook together on the stovetop until syrupy.  Pro tip:  Do NOT stick your face in the top of the pan and inhale.  Hot vinegar fumes have a way of bonding to the insides of your lungs and making breathing difficult for awhile.

And now I’m heading back to bed as the left half of my face is swollen and hurts.  Thanks for sticking with me through my essay on pork, and if this root canal (Thanks, Internet!  They were able to schedule me for Monday!) doesn’t fix things, I’m just going to start going at my teeth with a hammer.  At this point, I’m pretty sure dentures would actually have been cheaper.



What? Oh, I Can’t EVEN…

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Gentle Reader,

So two days before my birthday, I had what I thought was going to be my last expensive trip to the dentist for awhile.  Three fillings, a crown, a night guard (because in addition to the fact that my teeth seem intent on driving us into insolvency, I also grind my teeth at night with such force that my back teeth are cracking) (I swear on my monogram that I had excellent dental care for the first 33ish years of my life…apparently a three year break, DURING WHICH TIME I BRUSHED, WITH PASTE, EVERY SINGLE DAY, TWICE A DAY warrants this kind of penance?), and a cleaning.  It was a long morning, but fortunately fairly painless.  They turned on the telly, Niles Crane and I bonded for four hours, done.  I did wave the white flag before they started cleaning my teeth, though, because I was over it.  O-V-E-R it.  Whatever, they brought me in the next week for that.  Fab.

Tangentially related true story:  When Justin Timberlake was singing about Bringing Sexyback?  He was talking about a night guard.  Seriously, try it.  Don’t hate the player, hate the game.  (end sarcasm)

So when I went back in for the cleaning, I mentioned that even though I had already had a ten day course of antibiotics, and it had been awhile since the crown and the fillings and the root canal, it was still hurting.  A lot.  They said, eh, give it a few more days.

During which time it grew worse.

(Good heavens, I just realized I’m talking about my teeth again.  I promise, pig post will happen tomorrow.  And maybe a bonus recipe next week because I know my dear friend M loves my food posts.)

(Aside for her-pulled pig on top of risotto?  Delicious.  But don’t sauce the pig you are putting on top of the risotto.  That would be weird.)

Anyway, I have cried over food many, MANY times.  The Thanksgiving Dinner in 1997 where we spent it in the hospital with a very much alive Daddy with a new heart.  The Christmas Dinner in 1997 where we spent it at Mattito’s with a newly-sprung very much alive Daddy with a new heart (and a most excellent bottle of champers).  Nearly any steak I’ve had here.  The goat cheese salad I had in Bayeux in 2008.  Pimento cheese with Miss Lenora Pope in October, 2005, reminiscing about my Papa Jack and Gamma, newly reunited in Heaven.

But I’ve never cried over cheap Chinese Hot and Sour Soup before, until last night.  And y’all?  That should NEVER happen.  So into the dentist I went today.

And he found out that another one of my teeth is…ick…I can’t even type that word.  A worse word than “inf…”  Can’t type that one either.  You get the idea.  Let’s keep the blog peppy and perky (for today, at least).

So back to the special dentist and anesthesiologist I go.   And here is the (entirely First World) catch.  We leave kinda soon to go some place (Napa) for an extended period of time that is 50% about EATING.  Good things.  Multiple times per day.  Over multiple days.  (The other 50% is about the beverage that accompanies said eating.  But the wine is served room temperature which so far doesn’t cause me to cry from pain.)  And the last time I went to Napa, I had another dental issue that caused me serious pain whenever I ate or drank.

I.  Want.  ONE.  TRIP.  JUST.  ONE.  TRIP.  To Napa.  Where my teeth.  Aren’t.  Messed.  Up.

(First world, entirely, people.  I acknowledge this.)

So I politely tried to explain this to the Special Dentist people.  Who cannot possibly see me until after we get home.  Unless there is a cancellation.

Gentle Reader, would you please think good thoughts for an admittedly Very Terrible White People Problems miracle, there?  I have a date with Thomas Keller and his fried chicken and I want to be at my best for him and his thighs.

And General Interwebs Searching For Opportunities For Tomfoolery, do not worry, you don’t know when we will be gone, there will be no sign of it here, and someone will be living at the ranch while we are gone.  Plus we have Scout the Ranch Cat/Trained Killer and Cody, her flunkie.

Anyway, to wrap this up, this is what they give you when eating makes you cry:


And my question is, “What are the little red dots?  Flavor crystals?”  I think I’ll just swallow them whole, thanks.



A Duke Goes To A Day Spa

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Gentle Reader,

I had great plans to detail the GORGEOUS pig that was roasted, sauced, and eaten over the weekend, and to discuss the latest trends in children’s activities today, but there was a storm front that came through and collided with some hormonal hijinks and left me with a giant migraine.  So instead, I’ll show you some pictures and then sign off and spend the evening with the last three “Elementary” episodes of the season (so that I can finish up my post about the State of the Television).  Tomorrow dawns anew.

Anyway, so the other night, Mama and I took a ride in the golf cart (Y’all knew that we all have golf carts and a popular pastime around here in the evenings is to go ride around in the golf cart looking for the various critters around here, right?  If not, you’re up to speed.) and we found Duke and the zebras…

Here is Duke, sporting what I am pretty sure is a seaweed wrap in his antlers.


And, you know, PART OF A TREE…

(Seriously, the boy knows that he is in charge and handsome and is not worried about us in the LEAST…)

And then we saw the zebras.


We now have 18 zebras…9 Mamas, 1 Daddy, and 8 babies.  The last one FINALLY happened last week.  It was a girl.  And I asked what the final “boy/girl” breakdown was on the babies and was told that it was as yet undetermined but that they were trying to s*x the babies.  So then I asked the inevitable question, and now know how to s*x a zebra baby.  But it involves getting much closer to the business end of a zebra than I ever care to, so I think that is another career path that is closed off to me.  And since this is a polite blog, I won’t describe the process here.  But zebra vets are underpaid, people.  VASTLY UNDERPAID.

And with that, the television awaits.  Back tomorrow with details about the pig.  (Deer, zebra, pig, WHAT HAS MY LIFE BECOME????)



In Which I Quote Niles Crane

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Gentle Reader,

So the other day I went into town to have wine lunch with a friend.  It had been too long, and it was so lovely to catch up.  She’s in the marketing business and we were talking about writing and advertising and whatnot.  (I’m fascinated with this because my chosen profession is interesting to practically nobody, and also-“Mad Men”.)  And then we talked about the blog and what I’m doing now.  And, to be blunt:  I’m very much of the opinion that the “American Idol” phenomenon (and its progeny and ilk) has created some serious delusions of adequacy here in our fair land, and so let me state upfront:  I am by no means a writer.  (I don’t know what I am, but that’s really not an interesting post to read, so we’ll talk about what I’m about to talk about instead.)  I enjoy writing here on the blog, and I think I’m hilarious, and I am tickled that anybody wants to read this (PLEASE tell me that there is at least one soul, WHO DOESN’T SHARE MY DNA, that reads this…whatever this is…), but a writer that does not make.

That being said, I really do like this, I enjoy it, and lately, it’s been useful in thinking through some of the craziness of the last, holy cow, it’s only been three months.  Lord.  Anyway, my friend asked me if I had monetized the blog.  And I believe we all know the answer to that.

So we talked a little bit about that, and then the other night, I watched the “Frontline” special called, “Generation Like”.  It’s all about the monetization of the FB, the Twitter, the YouTubes, et al.  And people, I got entirely skeeved out.  The sheer amount of personal consumer data available to the determined company boggles the mind.  I don’t really want to enter that foray.  And it kind of makes me twitchy and like I need to go take a long shower using several bars of soap.

I am still trying to sort out my thoughts on all of that and really have nothing else to say right now on the subject, but it is relevant to our discussion here because in the process of talking about the blog and the FB and all of the new and fancy things you can do with social media we talked about The Ask Button.  (I am assuming you have at least heard of it, because if I have?  The only person alive who hasn’t yet is Mama and she’ll read this and be up to speed.)

Apparently this button allows you to ask your FB friend about his or her relationship status.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a solution desperately in need of a problem.  But, as Niles Crane once said, “How thrilling to be present at the birth of a new phobia.”

Because once we started talking about it, I began to wonder if somehow I had clicked on this button by accident?  Have I somehow accidentally propositioned all of my FB friends?  I’m friends with a couple of under-18s, am I facing lifetime registration because I don’t know how to operate FB?  (Look, I have Labradors because Collies and Poodles and higher-order dogs are too smart for me, I get lost going to my own house at night, and I cannot cook rice–EVEN WITH A RICE COOKER.  Never overestimate my talent.)  Do all of my FB friends think that I have some kind of lurking crush on them?

Aside:  How come we don’t throw Crush Parties as grownups?  Those were SO MUCH FUN in college.  And everybody, even the long-term attached, has crushes.  Not only romantic ones.  We need to bring back the Crush Party and show the Jaeger-bombing undergrads how a real party does.  Civilized, beginning at 8, ending at midnight or when the lampshade hits somebody’s head, home in time for Letterman on DVR.  No mascara residue-filled Walk of Shame in the morning!

Anyway-all that to say that if you have gotten some kind of random ask from me, I’m not trying to FB stalk you, and if I’ve bombarded you with Candy Crush stuff…see above and click delete as appropriate.

Have a fantastic Memorial Day weekend, I’ll be back Tuesday with an update on the creatures.



The Hazards Of Inflight Beverages

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Gentle Reader,

So I’ve been meaning to talk about something very serious here on the blog for a few months now but somehow, I’ve always had other things to say.  (And by “other things to say”, I mean “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE TO SAY BUT HERE ARE 1,098 WORDS TO PROVE IT”.)  So I’m seizing the day.

On my (sudden, unexpected, way-the-hell-too-soon-I-need-to-go-back) return flight from Moscow, several things happened (several things other than Cooper going to heaven, I mean) all of which added up to a perfect Wordie Storm.

1.  The Singapore Airlines people came through several times with drinks, before we even took off, due to the de-icing process. (apparently a huge snowstorm came in from the time I left for the airport and the time I got on the plane, because Moscow traffic is notorious and you have to leave the day before your flight or something like that just to be sure you make it on time)  (which?  I’m a nervous flyer, and on the other end of this flight I had to drive for another 3 hours so I couldn’t Valium the weather problem away…so I was in need of distraction and liquid courage)  Not wanting to be rude, I gladly accepted the nice flight attendant’s hospitality.

2.  Then, the nice flight attendant came BACK through a few times with more drinks after we took off before the first meal (I have no clue what meal it was “supposed” to be because we were late taking off and time differences are confusing.) and so obviously, wanting to be more civilized, I switched to wine.  For health.

3.  Then meal service.  Again, it was for health.

4.  Fish, on an airplane, even Singapore, is a bad decision.

5.  Then I remembered it was Valentine’s Day.  Somewhere-I have no idea what day my body thought it was.  Time differences.

6.  I had already left cards for my people at the ranch, but I decided that Mama sounded like she was kind of at the end of her rope and maybe she needed a special treat.  (This was all before what we now know happened in the next month.)  So I started trying to think about places I could stop either in Houston or on 45 back up to the ranch.  For reasons unknown, it was hard to focus, even on shopping.  Finally decided on my favorite British store on Rice in Houston, some tea towels or a fun teacup.

7.  Figured out how to work the inflight movie itty-bitty screen, Despicable Me 2!  Woo hoo!  Needed movie beverage(s).

8.  The Singapore Airlines flight attendant uniforms look SUPER COMFY, and if I weren’t an apple-shape, I’d be tempted to apply just for the uniform.

9.  The male flight attendant (who was hilarious, BTW) came through with the duty-free announcement.  I promised him I’d look through the catalogue if he’d bring me another beverage.  Amazingly, we both kept our promises.

10.  I found a beauty line I had never heard of before, but was described interestingly in the catalogue, and seemed fairly reasonably priced, and had a bonus set.  Plus, it is a Japanese brand, and I’ve heard excellent things about some of their lines and have never tried them.  (I can remember all of this after drinks, but I can’t remember where the darn mall is in a town to which I am related to nearly half of the residents.)  I grew intrigued.  Decided a fun evening of trying new beauty products with Mama was a nice Valentine’s treat and would save me from having to stop once I landed.  Asked Male Flight Attendant (I wish I remembered his name because seriously, he deserves recognition.) if they had those in their stocks and he said they did.  Sold.

11.  Turned my attention back to the itty-bitty screen and started watching Shawshank Redemption (an oldie, but a goodie).  Needed a couple of beverages.  Airplane air is drying.

12.  Hiccup.

13.  After as refreshing a nap as can be had while stretched out over three seats under a recycled blanket, I got up to stretch, and Male Flight Attendant and I were chatting.  He remembered my name, first and last.  How friendly!  He was still quite funny and really genuinely interested in how he could make my flight more comfortable.  Solicitous is a good word.

14.  Returned to my seat with a Diet Coke and a banana, and began watching 30 Rock.  (It seriously is the longest 12-hour flight ever.  In the history of time.)

15.  Began to wonder about the whole remembering my name and the excellent customer service.  Was, understandably, confused.  Was he on commission for the duty-free stuff?  What the hell did I buy?  Double-checked the price.  More than $20, but I mean, his kids weren’t going to be able to go to private school off my purchase or anything.

16.  Second meal.  Diet Coke and hot tea.  I had a drive ahead of me.

17.  Saw the cover of the catalog…”Prices listed in Singapore dollars”.

18.  EEEEEPPP!  What’s the conversion rate?  Isn’t Singapore’s economy doing REALLY well?  I bet their economy is the only bright one right now.  Why don’t I ever pay attention to the boring news? is a LEGITIMATE SOURCE OF NEWS, people.

19.  Plane lands.

20.  The next month happened.  I didn’t keep track of all of the beverages I consumed during that time period, but IT WASN’T ENOUGH. (But they weren’t inflight beverages so that’s neither here nor there for our purposes.)

21.  Finally, the other night, I remembered the line, grew curious again.  Then something shiny happened, or some such, and I finally got back to it tonight.

The line is called La Neige (menfolk: trust me, I’ll keep this brief) and I’ll reserve judgment and review until I have used it enough times to do anything.  But it isn’t super-emollient or rich.  And lately, my skin has been a little wonky, not knowing what it needs.  So this might be a good thing to have in the batting order especially with summer happening.  A little more research says that several of the products are near-cult status in Korea and Japan, which is one of my weak points.  Tell me something is cult-favorite, and start counting the profits.  I’ve only just (reluctantly) let myself be talked out of the Eve Blom cleanser because nearly every single review of the Ren Purity Balm says how vastly superior that product is to it.  (Plus, the Ren is half the price for twice as much.)  (I’ll be happy to talk about that if anybody cares to read about it.)

Anyway, if you click on the link, you’ll notice an amusing little red bullseye on the site.  Yes.  The line that I paid for in Singapore dollars and at duty-free prices, under “luxury beauty” in the catalogue, is featured exclusively at high-falootin’ Target.

To be fair, my duty-free purchase of same included a donation to clean drinking water charities in Japan, so…TOTALLY WORTH IT.

And with that…



I’m Ready For The Second Thing

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Gentle Reader,

So this last week, Mama and I have been celebrating our birthdays and Mothers Day.  Last weekend, we drove down to Houston for a quick trip.  (Wait–a “trip of short duration”, not a “quick trip”.  One makes a lot of sense, and the other is a convenience store with THE BEST fountain drinks, which would be a very silly reason for which to drive for three hours.)

It was good to see my people.  As one of the Cousins puts it, my family has reached critical mass in Houston and so normally whenever we go I try to see everybody.  But I knew this time if I attempted that, I would be exhausted and overwhelmed, so we pared down the list significantly.

(Before you say it, I know.  I didn’t see you, and I’m sorry.  It is not a reflection of your importance to me.  I heart you.  It’s just that things are funky right now and you deserve better.)

Saturday, we got in around noon, had some revelatory pimento cheese (with what seemed to be charred red onion and then white cheddar, which sounds blasphemous but it.  Is.  Epic.)  and then a (while we’re on the subject of blasphemous food preparations) chicken salad WITHOUT MAYO.  It had cilantro and basil (maybe?) and olive oil, and it was nothing shy of awesome.

And after lunch we went and I got a mani/pedi from my favorite nail lady ever (seriously, she shapes them perfectly, and though I don’t go frequently to her, she remembers me and that I like my nails really short and she remembers Daddy–and somehow knew he had died and gave me a huge hug, which is really above and beyond the call of customer service, right there….) while Mama and my Aunt C went for massages.  Afterward, we shopped.

True Confession:  Houston has VASTLY awesome-r shopping than Dallas.  There.  I said it.  Prove me wrong here, people.

Went to the Russian grocery store, which is clearly in between shipments right now, as their selection of stuff was a bit thin.  So I made do with some (fresh, still-hot) khachapuri.  Bucking up under adverse circumstances and all…  🙂

And then to the British grocery store, where I got some Fairy soap (the only acceptable dish washing liquid) and Curly Wurlys and a Labrador mug.  They had no Fox’s Creams, which made me sad, but also made it easier to justify the Labrador mug.  (Which I need nearly as much as I need another hole in my head…)

And then we met up with Cousin A, her husband C, and their Young Sir, W, for dinner.  And then I slept like a wee babe.  For eight whole hours.  (After getting back to Aunt’s house…I didn’t fall asleep IN the restaurant.  Just clarifying.)

So then the next morning, we all (same crew as dinner) met up for Mothers Day brunch, where I had some mushroom…they called them…something…I’d call them pelmeni…with a gorgonzola honey sauce.  And it was so delicious and different that I may or may not have kept dipping the tines of my fork into the bowl and kind of using that as a spoon for just the straight sauce.  Mama said I couldn’t lick the bowl, so I really had no other option, you see.

After brunch, we went to Cousin A’s husband’s shop.  I always enjoy seeing what he does.  Because it is beautiful and he has such a gift and passion about something that is so different than how my brain goes.  Go see his stuff on the site–and he knows how to build an excellent professional bridge playing table, if you’re in the market for one of those.  I can attest-boy does good work.

So after a solid half hour of being mesmerized by this delicate and simple table and chairs (really, you gotta go look…) Clark showed me my birthday present.




(Mama wishes to tell you that she raised me better than this and that you are right to judge me for the unmade bed.)


WAAAAY better pictures and description here.

And then he told me that Daddy was the one who commissioned the box.

In the “Mako Takida” episode of “The Blacklist” (A little television show–have you heard of it?  I believe I’ve spoken of it before, right?), Reddington tells another character who faces a huge loss:

“There is nothing that can take the pain away. But eventually, you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares. And every day, when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think about. Until one day… it will be the second thing.”

I am still waiting on the Second Thing.

(But Clark, the box is stunning and I’m so lucky.)

Anyway, onward and upward, this past Saturday Mama and I shopped (I know, again–really, were either of us in our right minds, we wouldn’t shop this mu…Nope…Even I can’t say that with a straight face and mean it…) and then tried to watch the “Rosemary’s Baby” remake, and made it through half an hour before deleting that one from the DVR.  Did anybody else watch that?  Did we delete it just before it got…not boring and weird?  (I’d say, “good” but I think that bar is unrealistic in this case.)

And then yesterday, we got up and I had a piece of cake for breakfast, and then watched some “Designing Women” (the Logo channel has THE BEST programming, for real) and then had some more cake, and then went into town and met up with my friends C (who is approximately twenty minutes pregnant, and I’ve decided it’s a girl) and A, A’s mom, and their male-childs.  We talked and C had some cake to counteract the smell of the chili that A heated up, and then we ate Italian food, the boys played Minecraft and taught me to play it (and by “taught me to play it”, I mean, “I stood there and watched them play it and I was still trying to figure out how all the buttons on the doohickey worked while they were blasting at something and declaring a winner”) and then had some more cake.

In case you, too, aren’t so hot at maths, that’s three pieces of cake for me, two for the pregnant lady.  So clearly, I was BLAZING BOLD NUTRITIONAL PATHS yesterday…

And that was how we celebrated our birthdays this year.  Thank you all so much for your sweet notes and posts and checking on us!  I am indeed lucky.



The Name Of The Game Is “Distraction”

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Gentle Reader,

So this afternoon is my date with the Special Dentist.  And I’m enjoying my delicious clear liquid lunch (Herb-Ox bullion are cubes of salty goodness, FYI.) of chicken broth and Walmart-brand Crystal Light and counting the minutes until time to down the Valium.

I’m not gonna lie.  I am scared.  1.  Dentist.  2.  Microscopes.  3.  HAVE YOU READ THE PATIENT CONSENT FORM????  The form was authored by an “H. Lecter”, which I think should have been my first clue.  4.  I have trust issues.

I know that the anesthesiologist does this professionally and has a vested interest in making sure I come out of this alive just like me.  But I am surrendering control of my body to complete strangers and won’t know it if something goes wrong.  (Yes, I know.  I’m not ultimately ever in control, but go with me here.  I’m still not medicated.)

Anyway, this a list of some random First World Issues that I thought I’d talk about rather than watch the clock tick.

1.  We’re up to seven baby zebra.  One more to go.  The male is very skittish right now so he could bolt if anybody got too close to the herd, which could set off a stampede and trample a baby, so we’re giving them LOTS of space and I’ll get pics in a few weeks.  But the babies are currently hopping around and the older ones (toddlers?) are enjoying kicking their legs and running in circles.  In the meantime, meet Duke:



Duke is the one sporting a roll of plastic sheeting in his antlers.  The head on the left is one of his harem.  Duke is one of our Pere David deer (I don’t know how to do the accent grave in WordPress…) and the only male in their herd.  (The Pere Davids are exotic deer and thus are protected in our annual harvest, so I feel it’s okay to give them names and get attached.)

I’m pretty sure that the Honey Badger is Duke’s spirit animal, because he just doesn’t care.  He goes wherever he wants, and does whatever he wants, and generally looks as drunk as Miley Cyrus.  He’s uprooted sprinkler systems, bayonet-ed outdoor playsets, and generally about once a week, we’ll hear the neighborhood news that “Duke’s got a [insert specific object here] stuck in his antlers.  If you see him, try to help him out.”  He’s had lawn chairs stuck in there (we had to cut some of his horns to get that one loose), lots of seaweed, some plastic netting (ironically used around fruit trees to keep the deer from eating the fruit), plastic sheeting, and after one particularly epic New Years party, a lampshade.

And though we all kvetch mightily about him, the reality is that if anybody ever did anything to Duke?  There would be blood.


(Thanks for the pics, Suzy!)

2.  I can stand the wine room no longer.  It started out organized (“organized”) by varietal and region, loosely.  And then it grew like last season’s bangs and got awkward and gangly and stuck out weird if you tried to pull it back with bobby pins.  So we have vintages mixed, newer with older, appellations mixed, vineyards mixed, and it is crazy-making.  I need to take everything out and make a complete inventory again and organize them, and come up with a system for managing in and out.  I’ve got a good source for “drink or hold” information, but I don’t think our collection is big enough to warrant a subscription to a cellar managing software.  (If it is, we’re clearly not drinking enough.)  Strangely, Pinterest is silent on this vital issue.  (“vital”)  So I’m asking you, my reader  (who presumably wants me to continue to enjoy vino because some of my best stuff has come about due to the consumption thereof) if you have suggestions?  Mostly, I’m looking for like a signage system that is easily shift-able to account for the changes in our cellar mix.

Below is our room–


The jugs of water there are only because we have well water and we learned last summer that it is important to have back up water in the event that the well gets wonky.

So it’s a small space, and easily cluttered.  I need some signage ideas-I had envisioned little chalkboards glued to clothespins to label things and pin to the top rungs of the rows (so, “Cabernet”, “Phelps”, “Bordeaux Blends”, etc.) but I made a mock-up of one, and it wasn’t everything I dreamt it would be.  Observe:


(This could be because I was envisioning words written in pretty script with neat little borders, and that’s dang near impossible to do when you are trying to write with chalk.  And also have forgotten cursive.)  So anybody else have any ideas?  Pinterest failed me here.  And I am disappointed.

3.  I’m trying to find a really good tomato soup recipe.  I’m looking for one that has a lot of tomato flavor up front.  Not too crazy on the basil (some is okay, La Madeleine’s needs to chillax on it a bit, though), and I don’t want it to be too creamy, because that can make it almost cloyingly sweet in a not-good way.  And I want it easy.  I had one last week that used harissa spice blend instead of basil.  And LO, IT WAS GOOD.  I’ve had fresh tomato soups (mostly in Napa) that are sensational, but I’m looking for a soup that uses canned or jarred because fresh tomatoes are only here in the summer.  And summertime in North Texas is NOT the time I want a hot and steamy bowl of creamy soup.  So really, my demands are quite simple, no?  😉

Anyway, in this area, Pinterest has proven too bountiful.  Everybody has a tomato soup recipe, it seems.  Tell me I’m not the only one on this quest?  Anybody have a recipe that meets these easy requirements?  😉

Now the valium has hit, and Imma go take a nap now.