Monday, December 28, 2009

Something akin to conscience

This weekend I experienced something that I think is what people mean by 'a fit of conscience'. Actually, it was more a surge of fear of getting busted, but that's close enough, isn't it?

The Good Liz thinks it's mean-spirited to post the Ultimate Letters of Obscene Oversharing for humorous purposes. The Bad Liz is too busy laughing her ass off at the sheer genius of it to care.

As always, I have strong feelings both ways.

So, a compromise: I am going to post them, because I can't not, but I will take them down before I leave work on Dec. 31st. That will give us all time to delight in their beauty, but will significantly lessen the probability that another recipient (and why do I think there may be numerous recipients?) will stumble across it and rat me out to the author.

So enjoy the season, my twelves of readers! For this, like Russian Tea Cakes and Christmas bonuses, shall not last.

Also, I may have another letter for you tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chillaxmas to the max

You thought Ides of Meatloaf was fun? Dude, you gotta try Chillaxmas!

Assemble in advance:
  • New, festive pajamas for each attendee, washed and dried. Gift wrapping is optional.

  • Six to eight (or ten?) hours worth of snacks, goodies, finger foods, appetizers, desserts, candy, and beverages; ideally foods that don't require cutlery. Pot luck is awesome if you can get away with it.

  • Six/eight/ten hours of group activities. Ideally this would be a movie or TV series marathon, but a new game system will work. TiVo-ed TV episodes and/or old-school board and card games can also be employed.

  • Comfortable (nap-capable?) seating for all attendees in communal entertainment space, with adequate table space for snacks/games.

Chillaxmas Day:
  • Festivities begin around noon on December 25th, after those who celebrate Christmas have done their thing.

  • Pajamas are distributed as attendees arrive and immediately donned.

  • First round of treats are made available in the communal entertainment space.

  • Optional gift exchange.

  • Movie/show/games begin.

  • Treats are replenished regularly.

  • Adult beverages can be included as appropriate.

  • A nap break is optional, but it shouldn't disrupt the flow of the day. The goal is to chillax en masse.

The celebration is over when it's over. Hey, man, no pressure.

Chillaxmas? WTF is that?

It was originally conceived (by me) as a pseudo-Christmas celebration for those (me) who are no longer into the church thing or the Santa thing. It might also be fun to celebrate it on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Or whenever the hell you feel like it, really.

This will be our second Chillaxmas, although last year it didn't have a name. Next year I'm thinking of adding a Festivus Pole. It would be awesome to make Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa Cake* a centerpiece of the celebration, but I would never expect anyone to actually eat it. Plus, I don't think I could bring myself to do that to an innocent angel food cake.

So go forth and Chillaxmas, my friends. You've earned it!

* Oh yes she did!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Longest hour of my life

Or 'Baking cookies with a short attention span'

Christmas! Cookies! Yay! Gonna make the cookies, gonna make the cookies. Cookies!

Dig recipe out of three ring binder stuffed with clippings from newspapers, handwritten index cards, and tons of recipes printed out from online. Finally find the one clipped from the back of the bag of chips. Nothing beats the original. How many times have I made this recipe? Can't even begin to count.

Check recipe for wet ingredients. Butter, eggs, equal amounts of each sugar, vanilla... cream butter and sugar, add eggs, then add vanilla. Got it. Done this a bazillion times.

Go to pantry, get white sugar. Walk back to kitchen. Get brown sugar from cupboard.

Retrieve two eggs from fridge. How much butter? Check recipe. Oh that's right, one cup. That's two sticks, right? Check butter wrapper. Yep, each stick is half a cup. OK. Grab two sticks. Damn, that's a lot of butter. But it makes sixty cookies, so that's like just over an eighth of an ounce per cookie. Not so bad.

Go to auxiliary appliance storage on sun porch, retrieve stand mixer, bowl, and paddle. Unplug coffee maker and plug in mixer.

Gotta cream butter and sugar, right? Check recipe. Shit, butter has to be room temp. Cut butter into small chunks into mixing bowl to increase surface area. Find something else to do while it warms up. Didn't someone have a trick for softening the butter? What was it? Crap, can't remember. Oh well.

Check recipe for dry ingredients. Two and a quarter cups of flour, one teaspoon baking soda, one teaspoon salt. Got it.

Go back to the pantry, pull out the flour, carry it back to the kitchen. Get mixing bowl from cupboard. Dig out measuring cups and spoons.

OK, how much flour again? Check recipe. Two and a quarter cups, then one teaspoon each baking soda and salt. Right. No problem. Got it.

Pull baking soda from cupboard. Two and a quarter cups of flour, right? Check recipe. Right. Not supposed to fluff the flour before measuring. Well, maybe just a little fluff. Measure and dump.

How much baking soda again? Check recipe. One teaspoon. Measure and dump.

Salt... how much? I just had it. Check recipe. Oh yeah, one teaspoon, same as the soda. I should have remembered that. Measure and dump.

OK. Whisk dry stuff together because sifting is for pussies.

Check butter. Still really cold. Shit.

OK, white sugar. Check recipe. Measure three-fourths cup onto paper plate.

Brown sugar? Check recipe. Same as white sugar, should have remembered that. Add brown sugar to paper plate. Try to scoop it into a pile so it doesn't overflow.

Check butter. Still cold. hold hands against side of mixer bowl to help warm it up. This is going to take forever.

How about the oven? Need to get that started. Check recipe. 375 degrees, of course. Turn on oven. Oven runs hot, so dial it back to 350 degrees. Maybe that's too much? Move it up a little. Then back a little. There, that should do it.

Pull out cookie sheets. Walk back to sun porch and retrieve parchment sheet. Fold sheet in half and cut with a knife while holding in mid-air. Love that trick! Line pans with parchment.

Check butter. Shit. Maybe beating it would warm it up. Was that the trick? Turn on mixer, watch butter chunks get massacred. Mess around with mixer speed. Hey, it's working. I think that was the trick.

Dump sugars from paper plate into mixer bowl, scoop up the tablespoon or so that ended up on the counter. Examine for coffee grounds and toast crumbs. Clean enough; add to mixer bowl.

Let butter and sugar get busy. Didn't America's Test Kitchen say that you really had to beat the crap out of it for it to do any good? Somebody said that. Better let it go for awhile. Mess around with mixer speed. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl. Lick fingers. Start mixer again.

What's next? Check recipe. Vanilla. Pull vanilla from cupboard. Does vanilla go bad? I've had that huge bottle from Costco forever... did I move it from the old house? I think so. Was that really three years ago? Damn. No, it can't go bad. it's mostly alcohol. Smells OK.

Is it done creaming yet? Hmmm... better let it go a little longer. What does 'creamy' look like, anyway? Wish they would be more specific. I think someone said it had to be 'fluffy'. Is it fluffy?

Stare at mixer bowl for awhile. Mess with the mixing speed. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl. Lick fingers. Start mixer again. Just leave it alone, for chrissake!

Wander into living room to bother spouse who is busy killing aliens.

Wander back to kitchen. OK, that's close enough. Add one egg. Watch it incorporate. Mess with mixer speed. Add other egg. Mess with mixer speed some more. Stop and scrape sides of bowl. Lick fingers. Scoff at salmonella.

Beep! Oven's ready.

Sheesh, this is taking forever. Turn mixer on slow and add flour mixture. Pat self on back for not making a huge mess. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl. Lick fingers. Lick spatula.

Shit! Forgot vanilla. How much vanilla? Check recipe. One teaspoon. Add vanilla, turn mixer back on really high; really gotta get it mixed in well. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl. Lick fingers. Lick spatula.

OK, something's missing. Chips! How many? Check recipe. Two cups. OK.

Walk back to pantry for chips. Return to kitchen. How many chips? Check recipe. Two cups, stir in by hand... ummmm, no.

Add chips to mixer bowl, turn mixer back on really high but just for a few seconds. There. Close enough.

Turn off mixer, remove bowl. Scrape down bowl, stir by hand for a few seconds. Lick fingers. Lick spatula. Lick paddle.

How big should the scoops be? Check recipe. Heaping tablespoons. Oh that will never fly around here. Dig dishers out of gadget drawer. The yellow one is way too big. The purple (plum?) one or the black one? The purple one is probably a tablespoon. The black one is probably twice as big.

Return purple disher to gadget drawer.

How far apart? Check recipe. Doesn't specify. Portion cookie dough onto cookie sheet, fitting them in as close as possible while maintaining just enough distance to avoid threat of them melting into one giant cookie. Why is it that they never taste the same when you bake them in bar form? Doesn't make any sense, but it's true.

Lick fingers frequently, pick up and eat any stray bits that fall on the counter. Remove and eat build-up of dough around the end of the disher.

Slide first cookie sheet into oven. How long to cook? Nine to eleven minutes. Set timer for ten minutes.

Fill second cookie sheet, trying not to lick fingers quite so often. Try to ensure that there are no cookies with too many or too few chips.

Finish filling second sheet. Eight minutes left.

Tidy up counters, put away ingredients, throw out trash, rinse out mixing bowls.

Three minutes left.

Wander out to bother spouse again. Settle in on the couch.

Beep! First batch is done. Finally!

Open over door. Hmmm... are they brown enough? Maybe another minute? Set oven timer for two minutes to compensate for temperature drop caused by standing there with the door open.

Pull out cooling racks and arrange on dining room table. Return to kitchen and watch timer count down the last 0:43.


Open door. Close enough. Pull out hot cookies, slide in cold cookies. Carry hot cookie sheet to dining room table. Cookie sheet won't sit flat on one trivet. Try to snag another trivet without dropping the cookie sheet or burning self.

Slide parchment from sheet pan to cooling rack. Damn, those smell good!

Return to kitchen. Put sheet pan in sink. Run cold water on it and watch it steam. Check timer.

Shit, forgot to set timer. How long has it been? Five minutes? Three minutes? Hmmm.... ten minutes plus two minus one... oven is hotter now, second batch always cooks quicker....

Set timer for six minutes.

Wander out to dining room to poke at hot cookies. Still too hot to mess with. Wander into living room. Spouse is still killing aliens. Settle in to watch five minutes of something stupid on TV.

Beep! About friggin' time.

Open oven door. Cookies are a little on the brown side, but not burnt. Oh well. Carry hot sheet pan to dining room table. Slide parchment onto empty cooling rack.

Hey, first batch is cool enough to handle! Peel off two cookies. Stuff one in mouth. Cookie dough, hot cookies, and cooled cookies are three completely different sensory experiences. How awesome is that? Eye cookie in other hand. Walk into living room and hand other cookie to spouse. Feel virtuous.

Walk back to kitchen through dining room. Oops, that one's broken. Better put it out of its misery.

How many was this supposed to make? Check recipe. Sixty? Are you kidding me? I got what? Forty? Almost?

Grab glass of water and Tums for stomach ache.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Halfway there

I was born in the last half of the last month of the Fifties. It doesn't take much math to figure out what that means. I am now officially old, and have the AARP application in hand to prove it.

Here's how old I am:
  • I remember when JFK was shot. I was three.

  • I remember getting our first color TV.

  • I remember the first manned moon landing.

  • When I was in sixth grade, we lobbied to be allowed to wear pants under our dresses in the winter. Indiana winters are cold, and most of us had to walk to school. Although it wasn't uphill both ways because there are no hills in central Indiana. We were eventually allowed to wear pantsuits. PANT SUITS! They only come in polyester, you know.

  • In high school, my class was the first to be allowed to use calculators instead of being taught the slide rule.

  • I bought into the disco craze. Sorry.

Physically, I feel fifty; no doubt about that. The betrayal that started at forty has picked up steam, and my body is now constantly finding new and creative ways to mess with me. None of the things I took for granted in decades past still hold.

Oh, and I now have my grandmother's body from the waist down. And not the skinny grandmother, either. Thanks, Dad.

But inside, although I am wa-a-ay more battle-scarred and weather-worn than ten years ago, I don't feel grown up yet. I feel I'm not qualified to be fifty. I swear too much and am not nearly serious enough. I am way too silly to be an adult.

Plus, I'm a newlywed! By definition, newlyweds aren't supposed to be old. They're supposed to be young and have way too much sex, which is another thing fifty-year-olds aren't supposed to do.

The only thing that is really bugging me about this major milestone is despite my bravado, I have to accept I'm already more than halfway 'there', wherever 'there' is. And that kind of blows.

While I await the inevitable, AARP has my back. Did you know has an awesome Games section? You think I'm bullshitting? Check this out:

That's hours of amusement, folks. Mmrrroww!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Guilty Pleasures III: What the frak?

I'm almost there! I'm almost through Battlestar Galactica. This week I started Season 4.5, the last ten episodes. It's been a bittersweet journey, knowing it was ending just as I was getting into it, especially when the final episode aired this spring around the time I hit Season 3. The finale is still sitting on my TiVo and it's taken every gram of willpower to not watch it, which probably explains why I gained ten pounds this year.

Yeah, yeah, I know. You don't get it. Why all the fuss? What if I told you it was packed full of sheer, unadulterated awesomeness? No? You need proof? I got your proof right here (heh, heh). This helpful video from Disc 1 of Season 4.5 will take you up through Season 3 (I think) in just over eight minutes.

Be forewarned, though; you'll never look at your toaster the same way again.

OK, so I lied about the toaster thing. It's still frakkin' awesome.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Paved with good intentions

Got this in yesterday's mail*. Glanced at it and tossed it in the discard pile.

On the way to the recycling bin, I flipped it over.

The photo isn't clear and I really want you to get the full effect so here are the last two paragraphs of qualifiers and disclaimers for your viewing pleasure.
To qualify, you must be the primary source of income for your household and have lost your primary employment between the period of September 2008 and November 2009, OR the primary residence in which your household resides has been the subject of mortgage foreclosure on the first mortgage and foreclosure is still in effect as of claim date.

Please contact store for additional details. Proof of job loss or foreclosure must be presented when claiming free necklace. Limit one per household. Necklace provided on a first come, first serve basis while supplies last. Limited to residents of
[this] County.

Really, Mr. High-end Jeweler? Members of the community struggling in this "downturn economy" can come to your fancy pants jewelry showroom, show your salespeople documentation containing highly-sensitive personal information proving that they are out of work, can't support their families, and/or are about to be kicked out of "the primary residence in which [their] household resides".... and you'll give them a fucking NECKLACE!?

That's swell. I'm all choked up. Seriously, dude, you rock. Although next time, consider giving away 95 necklaces and using the money from the other five to hire a copywriter and proofreader. Please.

One of my favorite parts is the name of the free gift event. I don't want to open myself to allegations of trademark violation, but it describes a specific type of winged heavenly being with, as Merriam-Webster Online puts it, "a cool, cocky, defiant, or arrogant manner."

Oh! Now I get it, the connection between being jobless and potentially homeless and... wait. No I don't. I don't get it at all. Have I gone completely over to the bitter, sarcastic side, or is this one of the most ridiculous marketing gimmicks of all time?

You know me well enough to know I would never, ever do this, but there is a wee, small part of me that is dying to go stand out front of their showroom and scream "WTF were you thinking?!?"

(In case you're curious, the necklace is rather... feminine looking in an, ahem, organic sort of way, IYKWIM. That might just be me, though.)

* Yes, I sanitized it for my your protection. Because I am a pussy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Simple pleasures

Kifed this from Facebook, I think. Had to share.

I fucking love it.