Today and Yesterday and a couple of days after tomorrow

Today my husband David and I got together with my father-in-law Shel, and Shel’s lady-love Linda for lunch. We had dinner together last night at Bahama Breeze, because COUPON. And we’re having dinner with them Wednesday for the purpose of congratulating my niece Naomi on graduating (early) from high school. I’m not sure where we’re eating, but I bet a poo-kon will be produced at the end.

Such an exciting life I lead! We eat out based on whichever of us has the best restaurant coupon!

It’s not that we can’t afford this stuff; we count ourselves lucky on that score. It’s that using a good coupon is one of our little family jokes. We’re not “extreme couponers;” we throw away grocery coupons although we do pay attention to in-store deals. We just keep an eye out for good deals from restaurants and some retail places that we actually visit frequently.

I’ve got a Bed Bath & Beyond coupon that’ll be used for something or other shortly. It’s our go-to place for housewares (kitchen) and soft goods (bedding and towels). I’ve got something from The Container Store that may lapse before I get around to going there; I usually reserve a trip there for Christmas gadget-shopping and my occasional “get organized” kicks.

A couple of months back, we met Shel and Linda at Texas de Brazil because Dad had a coupon good for half off for at least 2 entrees in a party of 4. But when the check came, he realized he’d left the “poo-kon” (my word) at home. As TdB isn’t an inexpensive place, there was dismay and anguish generally. But I saved the day, because I’d received the same email offer and it was still buried in my stack of emails that weren’t important enough to read, but important enough to not delete (most coupon deals I mark as spam and delete, but I give businesses I actually patronize a “pass”).

Last year for Shel’s birthday, we produced an edible “coupon good for 1 happy birthday” That was a pretty good prank, and also delicious. So redeeming it was… a piece of cake.

Murphyola’s and Veda’s Rum Balls

This is one of several recipe cards Mom wrote up to pass along the secret of her famous Rum Balls, which she developed with her best friend, Veda West. .The story of how this recipe was created involved a big church fundraiser, endless taste-testing, taking doors off hinges, and getting plastered. Also the way I heard it, Mom and Veda had to explain to the church pastor why they were so shickered making Christmas cookies in the church kitchen.

My niece Raeanne has the Christmas card they sent back and forth multiple times in later years, with a story about a cheerful bunny making a batch of liquored-up fruit cake, with disastrous (and hilarious) results. This made them laugh like stink each year; Christmas had well and truly begun when the card had been sent back and forth.

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Recipe: Rum Balls Serves : Many
Favorite recipe of: Murphyola and Veda

Use 1/2 recipe for less than a mob!

2-1 pound box Vanilla Wafers, crushed evenly
4 cups powdered sugar
5 cups chopped pecans
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1 1/4 cup rum

Be sure wafers are crushed well, no lumps, and nuts are finely chopped.
Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together. Blend rum and Karo. Add sugar and cocoa to (vanilla wafer) crumbs, then add in the rum and Karo, thorough blending of all.

Can be packed into Tupperware airtight (containers) – to ‘mellow’ – til ready to make into balls 1″ (press and roll firmly). Rolls in powdered sugar – must be kept air tight or they dry out — make out only what is needed – makes a mess. Would use 1/2 recipe.

That’s pretty much the verbatim transcription. Mom seemed to use a dash or emdash for any kind of punctuation. The card is in a little plastic envelope and is a bit messy, with guck on it from being handled with gooey hands. The older versions of this recipe are with my sister Timmy – she says she has several cards, but still had to adjust the recipe a bit for a reasonably-sized batch. My niece Holly Martin, who’s one of the family foodies, commented on Facebook that this didn’t seem to have enough rum! Well, well see, but I seem to recall these things being pretty powerful, so don’t give them to anyone that should not have alcohol, as they are not cooked in any way.

I remember being delegated to crush vanilla wafers in a paper bag with a rolling pin or a meat tenderizer, as Mom never did get around to buying a full-size food processor, although she had a tiny one that was good for chopping maybe a half-cup of nuts at a time. I also remember chopping pecans and repeatedly being told “no, they’re not fine enough, keep chopping!”

David remembers helping Mom to roll out a batch on his first visit to Salt Lake to meet the family, which was in about 1996? Before we were married.

I’ll be attempting to make rum balls this year – I have a smallish food processor so I’ll be making either a quarter batch or a half batch. I bought Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, I have Captain Morgans’s Spiced Rum, and a 12 oz. box of Vanilla wafers, so will probably add in some crushed butter cookies to make up the difference.

Will have to run out to the store for the additional cookies though, cause I ated the first box this week for teatime snacks.

Gators Gonna Gate, Or Why Peter Pan Live Wasn’t That Bad, Really

So last night, the folks on Jezebel were all set to hate-tweet NBC’s second annual live musical theater production. This time around, it was #PeterPanLive, starring Allison Williams, aka Brian Williams’ daughter and some kind of star on HBO or something we don’t watch. Once again, I set up to watch live, or as close to live as possible given that we had to put dinner together, but I caught up via TiVo. And I tweeted, and tweeted, and hung out at Jezebel in the “live blog,” trying to get out of the “greys” (the pending comments).

Today, Jezebel followed up with the five most mockable moments, including this oddity, which was stuck in the middle of a commercial break:

First of all, I’ve only highlighted five moments because Peter Pan Live!, first and foremost, was terribly boring. Not only is it a dull play to begin with, but this one was starring Allison fucking Williams. And, worse yet, not a single fly wire broke during the show. Point being, I really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find five moments that seemed mildly worth the precious time that you and I typically dedicate to Clickhole quizzes. But find them, I did.

via The 5 Most Mockable Moments of Peter Pan Live! .

So I mostly don’t agree that #PeterPanLive was a mockable hot mess for what it was, a musical on live television. Unlike last year’s mess with Whatsername Countrysinger, it wasn’t awful with a few good moments. It was actually pretty good with some awkward bits, uninspired casting. and a less-racist version of the song “Ugga-Wugga-Wug.”

Christopher Walken was weirdly and badly made up, not like his promotional photos had looked, and was moving and speaking slowly (and obviously reading off cue cards and only occasionally camping things up). Also, he had a throne built like a La-Z-Boy recliner that seemed to be ALL THE FAVORITE THINGS for him; he was constantly working the big gold lever to lift the leg rest. Given how little energy he had for dancing, singing, or swordfighting, it may have been written into his contract that he needed a lot of throne time with his legs up. Something was horribly wrong with his eyebrows, so that he looked like Ming the Merciless on Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Still, Allison Williams sang really well, looked disturbingly fey in the part (she has a strong jaw), had sort of British diction, and danced and flew around like a boss.

Wendy looked very mature, as did all the “Lost Boys” but hey, that’s theatre. People on Twitter seemed to be missing Rufio from “Hook” a lot and there was a lot of hooting at the psychedelic croc, but I liked it (and of course it quickly had its own Twitter handle).

They cut some of my favorite stuff, but maybe that’s stuff that was more from the Disney cartoon, like when Peter shouts PIXIE DUST! and makes the pirate ship fly off into the moonlight. And Tinkerbell’s big moment was kind of rushed, and weirdly urgent, since most of the children that needed to clap to keep her alive were asleep by then.

The length of the show was a problem, especially for a show meant to be viewed by children, as it went too late and most little kids couldn’t stay up. There were a few odd things, like the flight wires being very noticeable (especally when the Darling boys first take off).

And yet, I liked it. I liked the set design, I liked the costumes (especially on the pirates), I liked the stagecraft, I liked (for the most part) the camera work. The weird thing is, that the most memorable parts were the weird things that got in the way of the wonder; Peter Pan is a very odd story and it does have some problems for a modern audience, yet people seem to love it anyway. There was shiny sparkly stuff all over, like theatrical Awesome Sauce. It was like the art director decided that MOAR GLITTER on top of bright, intense blues, greens and purples was a given.

“Pixie Dust: They Put That Shit On Everything.”

Yeah, it was shiny. And ludicrously colorful (yet very beautiful, in some shots). And I appreciated the tricks with forced perspective and false scale that they used for some scenes (such as looking over the London rooftops towards the nursery window). The music was vigorous, the dancing was energetic (if a little over-the-top, especially between Lost Boys and Indian braves). There was a lot that was good, and quite a bit that was unsettlingly creepy (if I’m asked to go on an adventure that consists of cooking, cleaning, and making pockets for boys, no thank you).

Of course, lots of people hated it, hooted at it, complained that it was long and weird. But it was never boring, just odd in the way that dreams are sometimes weirdly beautiful.

And I do hope NBC does something like this again next year – but they should either pick something that’s definitely geared and scheduled for family viewing, or do something wild that starts later but isn’t as long. As long as it’s not remotely a holiday theme, since we get enought of that “event entertainment” stuff this time of year, I’d be happy to watch (and tweet) again next year.

Giving Thanks

We brought 2 pies to the family Thanksgiving gathering; we mingled, caught up with family members, got a new recipe (actually more of an ingredient list) and listened to all the chatter.

It’s always a good time lying in wait for cousin Randy’s trays of cream cheese and onion stuffed mushrooms. I could eat a whole tray of those things, they’re legendary. However, the ingredient list I snagged was for a tasty grain salad made with farro and unbrined Italian olives. So yummy.

The after-dinner conversational topics covered the usual ground; how lucky we all are, how busy we all are, health stuff, and a good dose of David’s cycling exploit today – he went riding with a friend and had to gear up so as not to become a popcyclist.

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Here he is, my shrimp with lobster claws (his description). He reports that he was warm enough today, though he’ll probably never be a true winter cyclist. He had to take some ribbing from cousin David, who lives just blocks from where my David was riding today.

Cousin David is pre-diabetic and so there was some information sharing about diet, exercise, and staying on top of things. Other family members are also diabetic, but were not participating, unfortunately.

We enjoyed seeing everyone, but for a few years now, I’ve been taking some time to remember those who are NOT there to gather around the table. Of course I miss my mom and my own family, and I miss my mom-in-law Leah. But there’s still much to be thankful for. But I also wish some other family members had chosen to be there, instead of making it clear they don’t want to be.

Sad.

The Souper Bowl Of Caring Is Full Of Tears

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You may have heard about the Utah elementary school that took lunch trays away from kids whose lunch accounts had negative balances, after a Salt Lake “nutrition manager” came in to investigate why so many accounts were in arrears.

This bean counter is now on leave, and the cafeteria manager and workers are being blamed for handling the directive badly. Yes, they let the kids build up the negative balances, so they could EAT THE SAME LUNCH as the other kids. And then they scrambled to apply what is reportedly district policy, because in Utah authority is generally not questioned, no matter how wrong-headed it may be. Apparently the system can’t identify account deficits until the tray of food is at the register, which is stupid.

That’s Uintah, my old grade school, in the news. I went there in the old building, which was condemned and rebuilt long ago because it had asbestos everywhere. Now it’s being condemned for the actions of asshats in authority.

Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Unified School District has some damage control to do, as this screenshot of their Facebook page has their upbeat “Souper Bowl of Caring” post immediately before their response to the Uintah “Cheese Sammich and Banana of Shame” incident.

Or was it the “No Souper Bowl of Uncaring For You, Hungry Child” incident?

Carrot Cake Recipe : Alton Brown : Srsly Good Eats

Carrot Cake : Alton Brown

So this was the recipe that I started with to take to Mitch and Gloria’s on New Year’s Day. I originally thought I’d bake it as a bundt cake, but didn’t have a pan. However, I did have a springform pan, and I jazzed it up with some chopped pecans and a little orange juice/butter/rum sauce that I reduced down by half. I didn’t really have a recipe for the sauce, just started with about half and half rum and orange juice, with a couple of tablespoons (or more) of butter, with just a little orange zest. I reduced the sauce as long as I could stand it (it tasted really, really good but I didn’t want it to go too long and get bitter).

The cake was a dream to put together, because it all got done in the big food processor. First the carrots got grated in it and set aside, then the wet and dry stuff got mixed and then combined in a big bowl. It called for a 9 inch cake pan and the springform was a little more than 10 inches across, so it was shorter in the pan when it was baked, but it came out of the pan like a dream. I loaded it up with about a quarter of the sauce and wrapped it up in plastic for transport the next day (I put it together New Year’s Eve).

It has yogurt in it instead of sour cream, so it had a nice tartness and a rich mouthfeel. I had dressed it up with the chopped pecans around the top edge and down the sides, and then when we were ready for it, served it with a dab of the sauce down the side. Mmmm, yummy.

Happy Snowy New Year

A cold white blanket of snow covers Burbclavia; we managed to get to the gathering place to celebrate the new year with family and eat yummy chili with all the extras, and the obligatory lox ‘n bagels.

My nephew Josh is in town and brought his girlfriend Ashley; FIL Shel and Linda made the trek and so did my BIL Dan and his girlfriend Tammy. Mitch and Gloria put on a really nice buffet and of course Rosie the pooch princess provided entertainment.

Things got raucous (or at least very loud) when Josh showed us this crazy trivia game called Face Off, where you hold a smartphone up on your forehead that shows trivia; the point is for each player to correctly guess what’s on the screen that everyone else can see. The song category was a flop because those of use who CAN sing or at least carry a tune didn’t know any Justin Bieber songs. Seriously. Justin Bieber? In a few years he’ll be Vanilla Ice with a bad combover.

The carrot cake with the orange/rum/butter sauce was pretty good! It wasn’t pretty, but it tasted amazing.

It’s been snowing all day and the front walk looks like David didn’t run the snowblower twice already. This weekend will be snowy and cold, and Monday the HIGH will be -8F, and it’ll get down to -15F if the forecast holds true.

Wish we’d ordered the fireplace insert when we first looked at it.

Damn. It’s even snowing on my iPhone, in a twee animation Apple has on the current version.

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A Pleasant Good Night

The weird warm weather continues. I’m getting the idea that it might be better to plan for a cool weather biking and walking vacation in late January than count on a cross-country ski vacation. We’re thinking of going someplace in Michigan, but plans are vague yet. After a lazy Sunday afternoon (David did go for a bike ride) we went to his dad’s so David could sign the mat for a photo he’s having framed for Shel. It’s another in a series of landscape photos – kind of high end “my kid’s art on the fridge,” if you will. It’ll look very nice. Afterwards we went to dinner at one of Shel’s favorite places with another family friend. It’s one of Shel’s favorites because they have GREAT coupons.

It’s Donut Day Somewhere, And I’m Having A Moms’ Day Here

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According to the Facebooks, my sister Timmy is enjoying the first major snowfall of the season up in her pretty Idaho Panhandle valley, and my sister Tudy reports a bunch of heavy, wet snow in Salt Lake.

Today must be Donut Day, as we say in the fambly: the day Mom would make homemade donuts to celebrate the first snow of the season. Going to Krispy Kreme would not cut it; Mom used to make a fairly dense deep-fried donut that was a solid dunker, not one of those greasy loops of yeasty puff that Krispy Kreme makes.

I remember as a kid the phone would start ringing when the first flakes appeared; people would call from all over and ask if it was “Donut Day” or not. Mom would not pull out the deep fryer until the forecast was pretty certain for snow, and then she’d wait for that first magical day when it “stuck” and covered the lawn AND the sidewalks. My niece Raeanne and I would both bring schoolfriends home when it happened on a schoolday; “My mom is making donuts today!” or “Grandma’s makin’ the donuts!” and my sisters and cousins and aunt would drop by… there would be a pot of coffee and a fire in the fireplace, and people would just show up, nab a couple of donuts or donut holes and a cup of coffee, and hang out for a while.

She’d make plain, cinnamon sugared, and powdered sugared – that’s it, no fancy stuff.  The batter she made resulted in crusty, wrinkly donuts that had a “snap” when you bit into them; not soft or tender cake, it was a more substantial bite held on to the sugar coating, but tasted good plain, too. Any kids that showed up early were put to work rolling donut holes in jelly sheets and plates full of sugar, and there was lots of laughing and “Hey! No eating until everybody gets here!” jokes.

That rule was frequently broken.

The thing is, I had a major “moms’ moment” earlier while reading my sister Timmy’s Facebook update about the “first snow of the season” and how it was Donut Day in northern Idaho. I started to type out a comment about missing the taste of Mom’s donuts, and Facebook helpfully supplied a link to my “other Mom,” Leah. I had to… just stop for a second and feel the absence of my two moms all over again, while David snoozed by my side.

I should explain that Saturday mornings are generally spent sleeping in, listening to the radio (WBEZ’s Saturday lineup includes Morning Edition, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and now This American Life). I generally have my iPad handy, reading the Internets news and the Twitter and the Feeddler (a blog and news aggregator that I can share stuff with). So I was catching up with Facebook friends and family (Hey! My niece Holly is playing golf in Africa! With zebras!) and sharing silly Finnish videos) when I ran across my sister’s snow post (and my other sister Tudy’s “it’s snowing in Salt Lake too” post) and commented.

I cried a little, very quietly but intensely. David slept peacefully while I looked at Leah’s little pop-up link and thought how much I missed her (she passed in May this year) and my own mom (she passed in June 2006). It seemed like a thing to be blogged; I started to set up the post and all the techy things that go with that, like grabbing a screencap image and hunting down a wireless Bluetooth keyboard to make it easier to type on the iPad. I didn’t want to drag out the laptop, since I still had to at least start the post this way in order to get the image. Blah, blah, techy bullshit blah.

So while writing this up my niece Raeanne (who lives just below my sister Timmy in their little valley) called to say, yes, “It’s Donut Day! I’m makin’ the donuts!” while I was still in the middle of my “moms’ moment” that inspired this post. This makes me have a happeh and a sad, because of course I’m not there to help roll out donut holes in sugar (and sneak some of the “ugly” ones) and laugh and talk with family.

We talked for an hour, catching up. Her daughter Paige ordered her not to make donuts yesterday, when it also snowed, because it hadn’t snowed in Kellogg where Paige was, so it didn’t count. She had to wait for today, and Paige would make the donuts herself.

Now THAT’s tradition.

Ranny has to get ready for a houseful and get all the stuff set out, but we still gabbled on about family stuff and all the little things that you miss out on when you’re not hanging out in the same room, drinking coffee and eating donuts with a bunch of friends and family.

I sure don’t need the donuts (working from home has been a very sedentary experience) but I expect a care package soon, dammit!

Love you all. It’s Donut Day!