Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jane Austen Facebook feed

Thacia Olive sent me this Facebook feed. There's nothing quite like reworking a classic into a new genre....


The day after Christmas, we went to see The Tale of Despereaux and then meant to go home and make turkey soup.

I liked Despereaux. The story begins with a rather nice sea-rat named Roscuro who was beguiled by his love of Soup into climbing up to a dangerous position, from which he fell into the Queen's bowl... so that she fainted and drowned therein... and the King in his grief unwisely outlawed Rats and Soup as well.

This, of course, ruined the lives of his daughter and all their subjects. (Soup was a Big Deal in the Kingdom of Dor.) Just like when the king is good, the kingdom prospers, when this king ruled badly, his kingdom suffered. It wouldn't rain for years. Everyone began taking out their ruined lives on everyone else, and everyone else retaliated, and the Princess is betrayed and-- well, I shan't tell you, but things get Bad, actually sufficiently Bad that I think the movie deserved a PG rather than a G.

Everything might well have been ruined forever but for Despereaux, an unusually small mouse with large ears who simply wouldn't cower, and read books rather than eating them. His imagination was caught by Courage and Honor and Truth, and he became a gentleman. He gets banished for un-mouse-like behavior ("Are you a man or a mouse?") and promptly goes and starts saving the kingdom.

There aren't many movies where the hero's virtue, especially Capitalized and Made a Point Of, is taken seriously. Or where it works in the plot without being silly. (I'm thinking of Shrek.) Despereaux is funny without being made fun of. The characters aren't perfect, not even the beautiful Princess with long golden hair and the voice of Hermione Granger, but the movie has real evil and takes good things seriously. And when things are set right, it begins to rain again in Dor.

It's a proper fairy tale, in the tradition of proper fairy tales. It was delightful finding it at the movie theater. As we walked out it rained on us, and we went home to make Turkey Soup.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I just ran across a list I made soon after moving to Richmond. As of July 22, in the previous 25 days (which would start counting the day of our wedding rehearsal and end two days after Ben and Lisa's wedding) we had stayed ten different places ranging from New Mexico, to Scotland, back to New Mexico, and then scattered across the continental US, for an average of 2.5 nights per place. Our maximum stay in a single location was six nights. That honor was actually split between my parents' house, in two stints, and our bed-and-breakfast in Edinburgh, also in two stints. The second-longest stays, at three nights, was split between our bed-and-breakfast in Inverness and the cottage where Ben and Lisa's wedding was held. These 25 days also included packing up my things and having them shipped to our new location. And then we got to move into a new apartment and learn a new city, where we didn't even know where to find grocery stores.

No wonder I was so tired!

My parents' house - 1
Santa Fe - 2
Atlantic Ocean - 1
Edinburgh - 3
Inverness - 3
Edinburgh - 3
My parents' - 5
Oklahoma somewhere - 1
Memphis - 1
Pigeon Forge - 1
Cottage in Fairfax County - 3
Richmond - 1

Really fun omelette for two

I was experimenting this morning, and came up with a very fun omelette which I thought worth sharing.

3 eggs
a glug of half-and-half
6 or so cooked green beans (leftovers), sliced up small
a sprig of parsley, shredded
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
4 inches fresh thyme, if you've got it, snipped apart
tomato bruschetta
1 Tb butter

Melt the butter in a nonstick frying pan. Mix all the other ingredients except the bruschetta, and pour it into the melted butter. Cook it on medium or medium-low, pushing the edges back so any uncooked egg runs and fills in the space, until it's essentially set through. Flip the entire omelette.

Spread bruschetta over half the omelette and fold the other half up over it. Let it cook just long enough to let the innards get warm. Hopefully the bottom of the egg mixture will be a little brown. You can turn it and cook the other side, if you like. Split it in two and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Of liquor and mouse brawls (or, "I Wanted It For Cooking, Really")

We had quite the day today. My goals were quite simple, really: a frame for Jonathan's "Cyrano" poster; a purse calendar because there's about a week left before the new year; food for Christmas week, including a small thing of brandy for this brie dip I want to try making; and a friend or two for the mouse Maraschino, as she did seem very all-by-herself-ish since Bing passed on and we thought it would be nice for her to have company while we're gone all day.

Things started out well enough. The frame was procured, the calendar was procured, this and that in the food way were procured, two young (female) mice were procured, and we even found a glass soap dish, which we'd been hunting for for months.

So after the pet store packaged up our mice and made us sign papers that we'd be good people to them, we named them Cobbler and Jubilee and went straight home and introduced them to Merry. Merry had none of it. Actually, she viciously attacked them, and they didn't have the sense to keep out of her way and hide. So we carried them all up to the bathtub in hopes that neutral territory would help matters. It didn't. We finally had to pick her up to prevent bodily (mousily?) harm, and even then she sat in our hand, spitting curses down on the trespassers' heads. I don't know where she picked up that kind of language.

Alas. There being nothing for it, we took the erstwhile Cobbler and Jubilee back to the pet store, leaving Merry to simmer down in our absence. The people were very nice and even refunded our $5.23, which I hadn't expected. Apparently we're not the only people who have to give back mice.

And we went on with our food shopping. Wal-Mart had most everything, but no anise for the biscochitos, only one deeply mangled can of Libby's pumpkin for the pie, no chicken bouillion cubes, and, of course, no brandy. So we go across the street to the expensive little gourmet place. They had anise and no Libby's pumpkin. They have expensive little cans of organic pumpkin, but I don't want expensive organic pumpkin, I want Libby's pumpkin. I was quite determined on that. I've used it before, and my mother and grandmother before me, and it works. So there! They also don't have any brandy in their extensive little alcohol section, only beer and wine. So we go to Ukrop's. (This is our sixth grocery stop, if you count World Market.) Jonathan prays, and they have bouillion cubes! This is very exciting because I've looked there before and couldn't find it. One of the workers directs us to the pumpkin and--it's the expensive organic stuff.

So we stand there in the aisle and just laugh. We laugh. We keep looking, and in an entirely different place, they have Libby's pumpkin. HUZZAH!

We also hit the alcohol store next door, which has only beer and wine. Then we go to the alcohol place cati-corner, which has only beer and wine. This is getting peculiar, so we ask the lady if they haven't got brandy? Or cognac, or something like thereunto? She says no, their license doesn't allow it; we need to go to the state-run store just cati-corner, next to Ukrop's and Starbucks.


We go home. It's late. I don't want brandy that badly. Besides, didn't we just go to the liquor store between Ukrop's and Starbucks? I want to make biscochitos to take to Ben and Lisa's party tomorrow. We go home.

And I'm out of flour. AARGH! Six grocery stops, and I DIDN'T BUY FLOUR! While we're home, we google what is up with these stores not carrying brandy. It appears that it's a leftover law from just after Prohibition: in Virginia, only state-run stores can dispense spirits. Fascinating. My New Mexican soul boggled, because I distinctly remember every grocery store back home having That Section where one may procure Jack Daniels or whatever, into which my innocent young soul feared to enter.

So we go back to Ukrop's. We buy flour. We also scope out the strip mall on either side of Starbucks, just to make sure, and by George there is a Virginia Something which appears to contain bottles. Golly.

They had brandy. They had cognac, and gin, and whisky, and vodka, including seven-times-distilled something blue vodka, a giant bottle of which a man trailed by a herd of small children grabbed. (Jonathan is sure one of them said, "Uncle, that's not the one that tastes good!") Another little man picked out his Christmas spirits, humming happily down the aisle. The checkers were very cheerful too, possibly because the very air in there was...thick. And a little tipsy.


Quote of the day

Me (in a flash of brilliance): "See, my hand is peeling, like a sunburn."

Jonathan: "Oh, I thought that related to film. I was like, 'There's a metaphor here. Does it involve monkeys?'"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You have been decorated

Hullo, my worthy readers. I keep having blog ideas; generally at work, where blogging is strictly forbidden. And then I forget them all by the time I get home.

This week at work, we've chiefly been decorating. There's a Christmas decoration contest, and the first day was Monday. So Monday I trot along with $5 worth of garland from Target, and a couple packages of clear and red ornaments, and a string of lights, and a cookie jar full of cookies. I'd been meaning to bring cookies for a while, particularly for John the Conference-Goer, John my supervisor, and Steven, because I gave John the Conference-Goer an almond one the other day and he got all happy. I think they're all single guys and don't get cookies very much. "COOKIE COOKIE COOKIE!"

Anyway, my cube turned out very pretty and classy, and the cookies made me a lot of friends. Bethany, whom I helped train, turned one down because of her diet, but Beverlie from by the elevator was so excited she kept coming back for more, and her seatmate Chad came to try one and find out what all the fuss was about. Dawn was so enthusiastic about the cookie jar, she came back later that week with a cookie for me, and said I'd inspired her, though not too much--this was just a slice 'n bake cookie. She can't make real cookies. The homemade chocolate chip ones she attempted burned. I thought Dawn's slice 'n' bake cookie was pretty good and sympathized with her about the chocolate chip wreckage. Anyway, the cookie jar was duly emptied, and I brought it home again.

The section immediately to my right decorated themselves as the reindeer stable, complete with antler headbands, felt buckets full of "feed," "wooden doors," and a clever sign about "No flash photography" and "Unattended children will be hired as elves." Everybody's nametag got revamped: Matt, whose wedding is in about three weeks, got dubbed "Cupid." Christie over across the way covered her cube walls with brown paper and candy and icicle light "frosting" as a Gingerbread Cube, and shared the candy. (She became popular too.)

Well, this was a competition. On Tuesday the next section over got themselves up as a Christmas village with little doormats for each cubicle. Things escalated. A quadrant over to my left became "Paradise," palm trees, leis, and all. Another section decided to be Candyland. Somebody put up a Grinch theme that plays the "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" song occasionally. Someone else labeled the support column by the printer "The North Pole." Another section, spearheaded by Dawn of the cookies, had a ginormous Santa banner.

And even Ben, in the cube next to mine, became Santa's Workshop. Two little elves by his right elbow have tools, and a "conveyor belt" carries matchbox cars, GI Joes, tiny rubber duckies, and itty-bitty Play-Doh containers up the cube wall, around the edge, and up to his shelf to the "Gift-Wrap-O-Matic", whence a string of tiny packages trails down and into Santa's big black bag. He has a funny sign about "Remember, There's No I In Elf."

On Friday, Julie my new team leader, draggled in late. She commented on the state of affairs with a certain amount of disgust. "Even the tech guys decorated their area. I didn't think they had it in them." Their area was a snow-filled masterpiece with black accents, and little squishy-ball computers on the corners.

I spent my morning break scoping out the other floors' decorations--I wanted to find out about the competition, you see. There really wasn't much--a knickknack here, a lit-up coatrack there. The third floor was positively dark, but then it usually is. I think it's because the extraneous boxes of legal documents get piled there like a young pyramid of doom, but that's neither here nor there.

Well, about this time, there wasn't a whole lot left to decorate on our floor. Rebecca, immediately to my left, and my friend Greer the guitarist, cati-corner from me, were wrapping-paper-ing their cube walls. Greer and I get to talking, and note that Jim who sits just past Greer is gone to New York and
didn't decorate his cube before he left.

Gasp. Well, this is obviously not acceptable. So we decorated for him. She had a white sheet and a string of silver balls left over, and Rebecca had some gaudy sparkly blue and red paper left from her cube. I showed Greer and
her seatmate Sara how to cut a six-sided snowflake and we had a lovely time. Won't Jim be excited to come back and see how festive his cube is? :-)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Parking woes

Olwen and I had a new experience this morning. I couldn't get out of the car.

You see, we have a rather cramped little parking lot, and the blue sparkly convertible I generally park next to was over its line. I park normally: "I can do it!" But I couldn't, of course. I opened the door, thought skinny thoughts, and tried. One foot made it out. I thought skinnier thoughts! I squeezed! I made a serious and determined effort not to get white paint on the blue sparkliness next door! And I was definitely not able to get out.

Ah, well. I moved Olwen over--rather to the bemusement of the parking lot guard--and got myself out and up and to work. The moral of the story is that sparkly blue convertibles ought to stay in their own parking spaces.