Fourth Wall

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I don't have the money to go to New York,

but I'm going anyway.

I'll be out of work for three weeks... Melanie had the gall to go on a vacation (first week) that would cause her back to freeze up (second week) right before my trip to New York (third week). Melanie is fine, but six days of horseback riding has left her in bed, drugged up on pain killers.

The weather has been beautiful, so I've spent most of my time outside in my garden, rather than blogging or writing (my apologies, Vanessa!). I expect normal fog when I return, so I'll get back to business then.

For my reading, I'm taking Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet, edited by Ruth Reichl, Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters, Katherine S. White & Elizabeth Lawrence (Emily Herring Wilson, ed), Jamaica Kincaid's My Garden (Book):, and Richardson Wright's The Gardener's Bed-Book. All this and the copy of The Imitation of Christ that I take everywhere. Other than the books, I'm traveling light, leaving as much room as possible for shoes.

Mom and I are both taking notebooks, hoping to get some writing done. I'll see you all on my return.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

How does a kitty take her inhaler?

Rather unwillingly.

I know that this is not what Patrick had in mind when he loaned me his digital camera, but the picture was too good to pass up. I wish that I had had a camera this morning, when the fog was so thick and low it hid the entire building of St. Cecilia's, and then had the gall to creep in the door like incense.

My dad is going to kill me for posting a picture of him in his pajamas. And yes, Genevieve has asthma.

Friday, August 19, 2005

News must be slow.

The front page article of the SF Chronicle is on fog. Why it happens, where it happens, and that there's quite a bit of it around.

Come on, people. We live in San Francisco. August fog is not newsworthy.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Happy Feast of the Assumption!

Or Dormition, if you swing eastwards. We're celebrating here with yellow cake frosted in buttercream, with a big blue "M", pink roses (for Mary's beauty) and white lillies (for Mary's purity) all done on top.

Today was a good day to stay in bed. The fog was so heavy in the Sunset ("They call it the Sunset because the sun set one day and never came back") that you couldn't see the top of St. Cecilia's and the five-minute walk from the Muni stop to mass made me very wet. I cheered myself by having breakfast at the Squat & Gobble Cafe, where I learned that Muhammed (the waiter who always flirts with me) is from Jordan. That explains why I couldn't place the accent. He was excited to learn that I am studying history, because his father is a history teacher.

Meme follow up: I've received complaints that I have "violated the spirit of the meme" and "shanghied" people into doing this. I'm not particularly sorry. Patrick would have asked, anyway. Vanessa and Anna already did it, and Nick... well, okay. I'm sorry, Nick.

I thought of a better quote for Patrick: "You see, I want to destroy anything that hurts you. So it's like,'these shoes--they're going down!'...but you won't let me."

Geoff: Did I meet you at swing dancing? How embarrassing. Did we dance? Was I any good? (don't answer that). I thought that I probably met you at the Breck table, through Nick.

The conversation about the standard occurred in the elevator first quarter. I was taking Euro Civ and learning about the Florentine "Standardbearer of Justice".

Anna: 1. Slow down, dear. I worry about your manner of rushing around in a panic. I'd like to make you a cup of herbal tea and let you calm down for a bit. 2.I'm going to go with a comic strip: User Friendly. 3. Root Beer Floats 4. Amanda: "Can I have the salt, please?" Alice: "No." (pause) "Anna used it all." Anna: "I don't believe in cholesterol!" 5. Was it that same day when I first visited room 606? I probably saw you rushing around the math building before then. No, I think I met you at the Michelson House table, some time before Patrick and I were dating. That's probably it. Those weeks are really blurry in my memory. 6. A horse. Specifically, Coltrane, a liver-colored Thoroughbred who was the grandson of Seattle Slew and was always in a hurry. 7. What would you concentrate in, if not math?

(Error correction: my first memory of you, Nick, is also from the dining hall, on Ash Wednesday. You walked by with Vanessa. I thought you looked a great deal like Patrick. I'm sorry, I know you hear that often.)

Okay, okay, okay. Now on with the pie recipe.

Aunt Maude Dodd's Peach Supreme Pie

Mom writes: "My family is Irish-Scottish-Welsh-Swiss-German and settled in a river valley in southern Pennsylvania. Everyone thought that our Aunt Maude, whose maiden name was Maude Node, would marry into a more elegan-sounding name, but we gave up on that when she became Maude Node Dodd. When I was a kid I thought Maude Dodd was a nursery rhyme character, but then I met her! She also made great oatmeal cookies. This is my niece Laura's favorite Pie."

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2 generous cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tblsp butter
2/3 c Crisco
4 Tblsp water (Alice's note: ice water is best)

Work the first four ingredients together with your fingers until the shortening is well incorporated into the flour (I use a pastry-mixing wire thingy because I can't stand the texture. AH). Sprinkle water over the mixture. Gather crust into two balls, sprinkle with flour and refrigerate while you slice peaches.

Peel and slice 6 large or 8 small peaches
Add one cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, two grindings of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of almond extract, 1-2 Tblsp of flour (Two if your peaches are juicy. FP), 2 Tblsp of cream or half and half.

Roll out pie crust. My mother (that's my grandma--AH) says you have to flip it three times-- sprinkling with flour each time--while you're rolling it out. Don't overwork it or it will get tough. (We make a lattice on the top, but a solid crust is also fine. FP) (I have never, ever, managed to flip a pie crust three times. Don't worry about it. AH)

Fill pie with peach mixture. Cover with the top or a lattice.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Turn down oven to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until the peach juice is bubbling up through the lattice (or steam holes in the solid crust--FP) and looks as if its thicker and more jam-like than when you put it in the pie shell.

(Be careful to test your oven with a thermometer, especially if you live in an apartment, or the Shoreland. Shoreland ovens are usually hot. AH)

(Leftover crust, as my granddad Hutton and my father could tell you, should be sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and baked for an extra treat. AH)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Family History

For many years, I have wished for a recipe box like that which belonged to my grandmother-- a pretty wooden one with tabbed dividers for sorting cards. You don't see them around very often, especially on the West Coast. Today, however, my wish came true when I went shopping at Williams-Sonoma with my mother and grandmother. Unlike Grandma's, which held 3X5 cards, this one is made for 4''X6'' cards. It has a magnet to keep the lid closed, and has a "Pasta" divider where Grandma's had "Casseroles" and "Pickling". "Appetizers" has been replaced by "Hors D'Oeuvres".

Food is really important in most families, and is especially important in my mother's. Coming from a small town (Alexandria, Pennsylvania), the women of the family could be quite competetive and catty. I believe that the debate on whether one ought to press sand-tarts with one's thumbs or roll them out continues to this day. (Uncle Walter was enlisted as a judge every Christmas, and recieved large boxes of the cookies. He finally announced that, as they were his favorite, he would be an idiot to judge-- it would cut his supply in half.) I have spent the afternoon immersed in such stories as I page through old family cookbooks and Grandma's recipe box.

Some things break my heart-- like the card Grandma kept in her box with the name and number of the company that repaired her garage door, back when she could walk and lived in Palos Verdes. Aunt Ann, when she was still happily married and a young bride, sent her mother elegant recipes worthy of her new status as a diplomat's daughter-in-law ("Coq au Vin--(Chicken with Wine)", proudly writing her married name as the source. My favorite is the card added by a Second-Grade version of my mother, for Ice Cream Cookies, which lists "1 tasogs Vamilla" as an ingredient. There's also a recipe for the infamous "Bee's Kiss", referred to by family as "the Bee's Knees" due to an unfortunate error by a tipsy great-grandmother.

Some cards are infuriating, like the card for Potato Salad that begins "Boil potatoes. Let cool." Yes, but how many potatoes?

Mom's college recipe book is pretty interesting, too, and not only for the half-dozen variations of granola. The cover has the word "Recipies" stenciled on the front. Ann misspelled it when she was preparing to leave for college, and so bought herself a new one and left the typo to her younger sister. The first item in the book is some helpful advice on college life from an older brother. "Advice from Johnny: Beer stew: for use of stale beer." A college friend typed a recipe for Oatmeal Diamonds, noting "Read whole recipe before starting..." after which her boyfriend scribbled "if you don't this message will self-destruct, wreaking havoc amidst your spoons and knives." There's a page of Mom's Russian 210 homework (September 20, 1970), as well as driving instructions to her friend Laurie's house ("turn left, 930-ugliest bldg you've ever seen on rt. side of st. park where possible"). Both Mom & Grandma have over a dozen recipes for Christmas cookies, as well as pies and breads.

My father's mother is not such a good cook, in many ways. While Grandma Phillips just had a big family to feed (and catty in-laws), Grandma Hutton grew up on a farm where she had to help prepare huge meals for the workmen. She finds cooking from scratch a chore to be avoided at all cost. That said, she always makes me a (really good) chocolate pie. Her fried chicken, as well as her ham meat balls, are delicious, and sweet pickles from dill are one of my favorite things.

My investigation makes me interested in your family's food history. (I know you have one--especially Vanessa and Anna.) What does (or did) your grandmother make? What recipes do you make? Which ones can you share? Which ones can you not share? (I'm pretty sure that I'd be disinherited if I shared the Phillip's family chocolate sauce recipe.) Which foods have stories?

My family's history-- food and otherwise-- took a sad turn last week when my Uncle John Miller passed away. He wasn't really my uncle, but my grandfather's best friend and cousin. They grew up together in Alexandria, playing pranks like knocking over someone's outhouse on Halloween night, or tying someone's porch furniture to the top of a covered bridge. They were both devoted Republicans, and each canceled his subscription to TIME when it ran JFK on the cover. ("He was the president," says Mom.) John was always very good to my grandmother, and remained so for the over twenty-five years that passed between the death of my grandfather and his own passing. I met him once, when I was five, and nicknamed him Uncle "Have-Some-More" for his generosity at the table. We miss him, but, Mom says, "I keep thinking, 'Oh, maybe he's with Daddy'". Pray for both their souls.

Pie recipe to follow. I'm getting up early for mass tomorrow, and it is time for bed.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Real-Life Conversations, 2005

Alice: He's like an annoying little brother.
Andrew: Even more annoying than I am?
Alice: You're more of an annoying twin brother. He has the particular weenie-ness of being a year younger.
Andrew: Thanks. I think.
Alice: I also love you like a twin brother.
Andrew: And I love you like an annoying twin sister.

Patrick: I've been in Berkeley a week and I haven't seen either a nudist or a major protest.
John: Oh, I've had one of each.

If you're out there, Matt, I'm trying to send you a happy-birthday e-mail, but Mail won't send it. E-mail me.

Happy (Belated) Birthday.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Blessed be God...

...even when we cannot comprehend his works.

You may have read this article (and this follow-up) about Susan Torres. Her husband, Jason, was at Seton with Miss Pretz. Thanks be to God that our prayers were answered and her daughter is alive and healthy.

I know prayers for her mourning family and the new baby, Susan Anne Catherine, are requested and appreciated.

Tomorrow I am waking up at 5:00 am to go to a Native American welcoming ceremony of the Maori artists whose work will be on display at the Yerba Buena Center. This is the sort of stuff you get invited to when your mother works in the arts. Therefore, I am going to bed. Goodnight.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

You read it here first

Wonkette weighs in on Liberality.

Other blogs I've been reading:

43 folders

bread coffee chocolate yoga (Yum!)


Thinking Christian

Crooked Timber

This should go without saying, but I only read these blogs-- I don't necessarily agree with everything they have to say.

After all, I probably read your blog, and I don't necessarily agree with everything that you have to say.

I don't know...

if I should laugh or cry.

For a summary and some discussion I direct you here.

Note that our hero is holding an Apple laptop.

(I really, really, hope that this is a hoax, but I have little faith in a species that brought forth the Left Behind series. Not to mention The Da Vinci Code.)

Bad Music for Going A Wife-Ing

Or, Ian's "Better than Homework" mix.

n.b: Katie says, "Pat, that's like saying, 'Better than Vomit'." With that image, shall we proceed?

1. the Mountain Goats, "No Children." The refrain in this divorce song contains the lyrics, "I hope we die. I hope we both die." Need I (to be cliched) say more?

2. They Might Be Giants, "Lucky Ball & Chain," another song about a failed marriage. The "ball & chain" is the ex-wife.

3. Jolie Holland, "The Littlest Birds." Not an overtly bad song for going a wife-ing, but rather sad and gloomy.

4. Great Big Sea, "The Chemical Worker's Song." Doesn't the title say it all? Just in case it (ahem) doesn't, I quote from the chorus, "and it's go, boys, go. They'll time your every breath. And every day you're in this place you're two days nearer death."

However, the band does have a) a bodhran and b) hot Canadian accents.

5. Toadies, "Hell Below, Stars Above." Again, I quote, "Stars above are smiling down/ever since you put me down."

6. The Crystals, "He's A Rebel." Not so much bad wife-ing as bad lexicography. "He's a rebel and he'll never be any good/He's a rebel 'cause he never ever does what he should" (duh?). The first verse defines this rebellion as shuffling his feet. (ooh, sexy!)

7. Logan Whitehurst & The Junior Science Club, "How Ya Doing, Emily." This song, in its saccharine cuteness, appears to have wandered onto the wrong record. That said, I love it. It isn't bad wife-ing music, particularly, but it seems to lack all or any testosterone. Here's a review of the album. This song demonstrates what I imagine Ian's wife-ing expeditions must have been like (not that I think Ian isn't masculine... he's just so cute. Cute like a puppy. Cute like a puppy with a nine-foot bullwhip in his dorm room.)

8. They Might Be Giants, "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)." Depends on your opinion of They Might Be Giants. This song always reminds me of the Urban School Chorus, which sang it for a concert. It also reminds me of Nick, who is so Greek Orthodox he always calls it Constantinople.

9. Ricky Martin, "Livin' La Vida Loca." Personally, I prefer the cover from Shrek II. Honestly, guys. "She'll take away your pain/Like a bullet to your brain"? Are you sure you are going a wife-ing to the right girls?

10. I recuse myself on this one. Okay, no I don't. What the heck?

11. "Love will never comfort you." (I actually like this song a great deal, but it's not good wife-ing music.)

12 Bob Seger, "Rock and Roll Never Forgets." Okay, if you're courting a woman in her early thirties. I guess.

13. Loren Jan Wilson, "Kissing God." Check out his website. So, so U Chicago.

14. "All I wanted/All I needed/You gave me none of the above. My will is gone now/I can't believe it/but I don't want to fall in love." Later, "you will surely find/that love is not just blind/but that it's also deaf and dumb."

15. Crazy Town, "Butterfly." Guy just out of jail lusts over his girlfriend.

16. Bryan Adams, "Summer of 69." Really cheesy, but not particularly bad wife-ing music. Unless you're Patrick, who can't stand the cheesiness.

17. America, "Sister Golden Hair." "I ain't ready for the altar but I do agree there's times/ When a woman sure can be a friend of mine."

18. Lawrence Arms, "Brickwall Motivations." Starts out with the command, "don't break too many hearts" and goes downhill from there. That said, I love this song.

19. The Juliana Theory, "If I Told You This Was Killing Me, Would You Stop?" Any song with the phrase "now you're drowning in your own saliva"...

20. Warren Zevon, "Poor Poor Pitiful Me."

21. Outkast, "Heya." "I don't want to meet your Daddy/ I just want you in my Caddy."
(Please note: having seen Mr. Thompson dance to this song, I can die happy. Miss Hughes says, "Simeon waited to see the Christ child. You just had to see Geoff dance?")

22. Queen, "Princes of the Universe." Ian has claimed this as his personal theme song. See above comment in re bullwhip.

23. The Verve Pipe, "The Freshmen."

I have to confess that this song reminds me so strongly of High School it makes my heart feel like it's breaking. "For the life of me I cannot remember/ what made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise/for the life of me I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins/ we were merely freshmen."

With all this said, I leave you with an example of a good wife-ing song from Ian's collection:
"You are so beautiful/you should be guarded by monkeys."