Friday, September 28, 2007

Circling back around

A few updates on previous posts:

Remember the plant in my front yard I puzzled over a few months ago? I learned last weekend that it is, in fact, a canna lily. I think a couple of you suggested that, but now it's in full bloom and a green-thumbed girlfriend of mine confirmed. Check it out now -- in most parts, it's not even dead!

Update No. 2: Remember when I accidentally bought a $5,000 trip to Cancun? Well, as of about 25 minutes ago, the trip is booked, set for early June. Funny, any queasiness I had about that price tag melted right away when I saw the American Airlines confirmation e-mail littered with the words "first" and "class."

And speaking of price tags, let's fondly recall when I went to the hospital for food poisoning and was literally stabbed in the back. Got the bill for that little excursion. Turns out a five-hour ER bed rental, one lumbar puncture, a couple X-rays and a morphine drip will run you around $23,064. That's right, five digits of sheer agony. Wonder how much Dr. Psycho's cut was. No mention of the crippling, six-day post-lumbar headache -- maybe they threw that in for free, since I was such a good customer! Now, I had insurance, so after my $100 copay I'm in the clear. However, there's some suspicious wording on the one-page bill that says more than $21K of this is "in excess of the allowed expense for a participating provider." So that means I paid $100, the insurance company paid around $900, and the rest? Poof! I dunno what kind of crazy voodoo math shit that is, but thank you, American Health Care System, for keeping me out of it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This food will make people happy!

What's nice about cooking is, you don't really have to be GOOD to be fabulous.

I wouldn't describe myself as wickedly good in the kitchen. My dishes are fairly successful half the time and an outright failure every so often, but now and then? I nail it. Here are a few recent hits: two absurdly easy party ideas and two dinner entrees.

The first dish is called ...

I made this for our housewarming party, and the guests flipped out. Get two pounds of red grapes and cut them into clumps of two or three grapes. Put them in a big bowl, then pour an entire bottle of champagne over them. I used Moet & Chandon White Star (much to my husband's horror -- but I don't regret it!) Cover and chill in fridge for 8-10 hours. Go in a couple times and gently rearrange the grapes so all the fruit has time to soak in the champagne. Drain, put on a plate, and you're done! The marvelous thing is that you can actually see the grapes plump up as they absorb the champagne. Everyone went nuts for these juicy little babies. One problem: Sitting on a plate, they just look like .... grapes. So you might want to put out a sign that says something like "This fruit may get you drunk!"

Next up, also from the housewarming:

Merely five ingredients: Beefsteak tomatoes (I used maybe 6); white bread (four loaves; crusts cut off); bacon (one package); mustard (dijon) and mayonnaise (don't you EVEN buy non-fat.)

Mix 1/4 cup mustard and 1.5 cups of mayo. That's your spread. Then assemble sandwiches with tomato slices (one per sandwich if your tomatoes are big enough), a little spread and bacon. Cut into triangles. Voila! When your guests eat this, their eyes will roll back in their heads. (Thank you to Epicurious for both of these recipes. Good ol' Epicurious!)

Now, let's have dinner. Generally I'm a very health-conscious cook and I make dinners that are serviceable, affordable and low in fat and calories. Tasty, but not a lot of excitement. But last week I was feeling inspired by an extra carton of heavy cream in the fridge, so I created the following dish. Let's call it:


I used: Two nice-sized salmon fillets; chicken broth; basil; heavy cream; asparagus; bowtie pasta; parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, butter.

1. This is so easy. Smear cold butter in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Lay salmon skin-side down, then pour in enough chicken broth to almost cover the salmon. (But not quite.) Salt and pepper the fish, then lay entire sprigs of fresh herbs right into the broth between the fillets. (I used lemon basil from my herb garden! Dill works great, too.) Put uncovered into 400-degree oven for around 15 minutes, or until salmon is fully cooked. When the fish is cool enough to handle, remove skin and break salmon into chunks. Set aside.

2. Bring large pot of water to boil. (I did this while the salmon was cooling.) Add cut asparagus (inchlong pieces) and cook until tender but firm. Scoop out asparagus with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Add pasta to asparagus water and cook until it's how you like it. I used a half-pound of bowties.

3. When pasta is almost ready, melt a chunk of butter in a large skillet. Add asparagus, one small carton of heavy cream, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper. When sauce begins to thicken, add cooked pasta, salmon, more chopped fresh basil, and parmesan cheese. Let it cook a few more minutes until it's nice and thick. That's it! Go on, try it. It's delicious! And quite pretty.


This is a delicious dish I created from thin air, which is rare for me, since I'm normally a strict recipe-follower. I was thinking one morning, "Man, we have nothing to eat for dinner!" But then my mother-in-law brought over a huge bowl of cherry tomatoes from her neighbor's garden. Inspiration! Everything else I had on hand. Here's how you do it:

Ingredients: 1.5-2 lbs halved cherry tomatoes; 1 diced red pepper; crushed red pepper; garlic; balsamic vinegar; olive oil; fresh basil; capers; kalamata olives; parmesan cheese; penne.

1. Mix tomatoes, red pepper, a couple teaspoons of crushed red pepper, 2 minced cloves of garlic, splash of balsamic and 1/4 cup olive oil in a 9x13 baking dish. Pop into 375-degree oven for 45-50 minutes, and stir once or twice during baking.

2. Meanwhile, cook pasta (about a half-pound) in boiling water. When it's to your liking, drain and put back in pot. Pour in the tomato mixture, along with a handful of chopped fresh basil,1/3 cup capers and 1/2 cup halved, pitted kalamata olives. Mix together and let it thicken up over low heat, maybe 5-10 minutes. Serve with fresh grated parmesan cheese!

I hope you find a good occasion to try one of these recipes, and let me know how it goes!

Monday, September 24, 2007

A URL that says it all

How I wish that had been around when my dear friend and former roomie Jeff was obsessed with crab legs. He'd steam up an entire pound of legs, gobble them up, then leave the stinky crab bones laying around the kitchen and living room. He isn't a dick, but MAN, that drove me bonkers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

That's not really supposed to happen on your birthday

This morning my husband served me a mouthwatering breakfast of homemade cinnamon french toast with raspberries and strawberries, plus four strips of thick-cut bacon and hot coffee.

Then in the shower I had a lengthy water fight with a daddy longlegs spider the size of my palm.

(He lost.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Shame on you, you great big meanies.

On the drive to work today, I was flipping through radio stations when I heard something that piqued my curiosity, because it sounded like a regular old commercial, but you could tell it was really just a DJ pretending. The DJ had picked up the phone to call what seemed to be this random woman. Here's how it went:

DJ: "Hi there! I'm Sue from Sue's Flower Shop, and I'm conducting a survey! And if you answer just a few questions for me about flowers, I'll give you TWO FREE TICKETS to a Raiders or 49ers game!"

Woman: "What? Really? Oh, wow ... OK!"

DJ: "OK, first question! Yes or no: Do red roses remind you of romance?"

Woman: "Uh .... yes?"

DJ: "Great! Now, second question: Would you rather have flowers delivered to you because of a special occasion, or just out of the blue because someone thinks they have fallen in love with you?"

Woman (with laughter): "Both!"

DJ: "Ha! Ha! Ha! That's fantastic! OK, you just won two free tickets to a football game! So, which team do you want to see?"

Woman: "RAIDERS, BABY!!!!"

DJ: "Oh! Ho! Ho! Sounds good! Now, what's the name of the person you'll take with you? I need to tell the people at will call who will be using the extra ticket!"

Woman: ...... "Oh ...." (giggles) "..... well ..... " (giggles again)

DJ: "What's that? Whaddaya, have some kind of secret romance or something?!?! Huh? What's going on?!"

Woman: "Well, yes ... I mean, no. Well, I mean ..... we're ... close friends."

DJ: "A-HA!"

Woman (sheepishly): "Yeah ... we met on MySpace."

DJ: "Well, lookee here! Good for you! Hey, maybe a football game will be great way to lure a man's heart! Now we're going to write a card to your new sweetie! What do you want us to write on the card?"

Woman: "Um ..... OK, how about this: 'I'll take you to the black hole ...' (giggles uncontrollably) ... and then put 'if you promise to be faithfullllllll' -- be sure you put lots of L's at the end of that. It's an inside joke!"

Next the DJ starts to say something, but all of a sudden you hear this man's voice cut in from another phone line. A very angry voice. He starts yelling "HEY! Who is this guy, huh? HUH???? Are you guys SEEING EACH OTHER?? C'mon, I wanna know!" Then he rants and raves and froths at his lunatic mouth, while the poor woman on the phone is going "What? Is there someone else there? I hear a man's voice ... what's going on???"

It's all very confusing until the woman recognizes the man's voice, and you can hear her voice actually fill with fear. Evidently angry guy was someone she knew who was trying to scam information about her new MySpace friend. The woman goes "What is going on here?!?" And the DJ starts cackling, and explains that she is a radio host from, I don't know, K-SUX maybe, and the woman shrieks "ARE WE ON THE RADIO?!?!?!" "Yes!" the DJ chirps. The woman screams "YOU GUYS SUCK!!!" and slams down the phone.

Now, I like a good prank as much as the next guy, OK? When I was little, every April Fool's Day, we always pranked each other all over the place. My two little brothers loved to TP my bedroom. My mom taught us how to put a big bucket of water on top of a door so that it would rain all over my dad when he came in. Ha, ha. Hilarious, all. But does the public humiliation of this woman -- with an assist from the psycho ex-boyfriend -- go a little too far? And I don't know, maybe this dumbass DJ didn't know she had a stalker on her hands. But don't you think you'd want to be a little bit cautious about tricking a woman into telling you about her love life while some heavy-breathing nutjob -- and, oh yeah, the rest of the Bay Area -- secretly listens in?

And in case that doesn't churn your guts around enough as it is, take a look at this. It's footage of a prank played last week, involving a scoreboard marriage proposal at a Yankees game on behalf of a guy who was NOT about to propose to his girlfriend. Gah! It's horrifying! (OK, fine. I laughed like seven times watching this video. But not at the really, REALLY mean parts.)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Babe in toyland

Just in case he wakes up and needs to play RIGHT AWAY.

Monday, September 3, 2007


This Saturday I:

  • Took Chickenbone to a dog park.
  • Went to Target to purchase dog food, boxed cereal, a flat of bottled waters, a box of thank-you notes, and assorted cleaning supplies.
  • Then headed to Trader Joe's for red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini and fresh baby spinach; frozen salmon, dover sole and marinated mahi-mahi; organic free-range boneless/skinless chicken breasts; bananas, raspberries, strawberries and plums; and a carton of milk.
  • Stopped at PetSmart to buy a box of stuffed squeaker squirrels and a 10-pack of poop bags.
  • Ate a grilled bratwurst at Top Dog.
  • Accompanied husband on long-planned "date night," which began at the Tapestry Arts Festival in downtown San Jose. Purchased delicious-smelling homemade soaps in mint, bay rum and california citrus (from a fellow who looked a little organic and free-range himself, if you know what I mean.)
  • Beat the heat with a couple late-afternoon cocktails at the Caravan Lounge, a grimy dive bar with just enough questionable clientele to keep things exciting.
  • Ate dinner on the outdoor patio of the Poor House Bistro, where we tapped our toes to the music of a live blues band while feasting on barbecue shrimp, sausage bread with dijon mustard, and a pitcher of cold PBR.
  • Headed to the local theater to get our pants scared off by "Halloween," then took the bus home at around 11 p.m. Realized with horror (har, har) that to get to our house from the bus stop, we had to walk past a hospital. An abandoned hospital. Abandoned, except for a hunched-over half-naked homeless man on a bench who was so thin you could see his teeny spine bones dotting the skin on his back. Not making this crap up.

And on Sunday I:

  • Stripped the bed, flipped the mattress, then made up the bed with crisp, clean sheets.
  • Sorted the laundry and started a load up in the washer.
  • Went for a rather grueling eight-mile run in the Los Gatos Creek Trail.
  • Ate lunch, an avo-turkey on dutch crunch bread at Togo's.
  • Cut back the six Dusty Miller plants in my front yard.
  • Picked cigarette butts and other tiny pieces of garbage out from the bed of tan bark where the flowers live.
  • Trimmed the rose and lavender bushes.
  • Pulled the rosebush straight with a piece of string tied to the house.
  • Edged both the front and back lawns while Sal mowed.
  • Swept 14 or 15 pounds of peppercorn-tree droppings off the driveway.
  • Unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. Scrubbed the kitchen sink.
  • Went to Safeway to buy a six-pack of root beer, vanilla ice cream, pink plastic tumblers and neon-colored bendy-straws.
  • Headed to a barbecue at the home of friends, where we ate grilled chicken and vegetables, salad, corn on the cob, with those frosty root beer floats for dessert.
  • Came home and folded and put away six loads of laundry.
  • Watched the season finale of "Entourage."
  • Collapsed.