Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Joshua has got his visa for Thailand!  There is actually a possibility that I may be really, really, getting rid of him.  As you can imagine, I am thrilled to pieces.  Of course, this being Joshua, the preparations for this departure will quite probably be dragged on WAY too long, but as long as it all ends with him actually, truly, LEAVING, I can live with that.  I will give him any help he needs...such as shoving him out the door.

Meanwhile, this is the story of my life...I got an envelope in the mail today from the City of New York Department of Finance.  I groaned, logically assuming that it was a fine of some sort.  Joshua, you see, has never mastered the finer points of separating garbage, and I am constantly pawing around in the trash taking the tin foil and plastic bottles out of the trash and putting them in the recycles, while taking the wadded up paper towels out of the recycle bin and...you get the picture.  He is also usually fairly unclear on what day it is, so that I have to make sure he's not taking out the bottles on the wrong day (something he does frequently).  Not to mention the fact that he has to be told EVERY SINGLE WEEK that he cannot put cardboard boxes in with the bottles.  (I love Thailand.)

However, lo and behold, out popped a check for $400!  This, of course, was the property owner's rebate thing - unfortunately (why me, God?), it was made out to my father.  This makes life somewhat difficult, as the gentleman died in 1992.  Admittedly, I have his ashes, but I hardly think I can get those leftovers to sign much of anything - besides which, the notion of reanimating my father is fairly awful.  I wasn't all that fond of him when he was ALIVE, for God's sake.  Lest you accuse me of undaughterly thoughts, I may add that the feeling was entirely mutual.

So I called my trustee (you see, the house is owned under the Philip W. Callard Trust, which is how the confusion arose) and told him to please put $400 in my account and I'll mail him the check.  Let us piously cross our fingers, considering that my finances are in their customary state of extreme desuetude.

Meanwhile, I was reading the big Gourmet cookbook while I ate dinner, and came across something that drives me up a wall (which I know I've mentioned before, but this is a truly egregious example).  They had a recipe for Chicken and Dumplings, and the headnote said something like, "A true classic, never to be equaled" - well, something along those lines - followed immediately by "The shallots and white wine we added merely gave it a gloss."  Well, damn it, if it's a true classic, why the hell are you throwing shallots and white wine at it?  I don't object to the addition  per se, because of course there's a gravy involved, and I've never met a gravy that wasn't improved by shallots and white (or red, depending) wine.  I object to calling it a true classic and then proceeding to mess with it in any way.  Call it "our take on a classic," for heaven's sake.

I was listening to WQXR tonight (Joshua was out and not competing with the radio), and I heard a scrap of opera, and for some reason I began wondering why people tend to assume you don't know your own mind and taste.  I am not an opera fan.  Because I am intelligent and informed, I know music from many operas.  Why on earth do people persist in saying to me (when they find out that I can identify Madame Butterfly or Carmen or something else equally familiar), "Oh, you see.  You really DO like opera!"  No, I don't.  I wouldn't move an inch from my chair to listen to opera.  Just because I can identify some of most well-known music on earth doesn't make me a fan of it.  Really, it's like saying I'm a fan of tripe because I know what it looks like.  Honestly.

I think Joshua wants his computer back.  I will now go to my toasty bed and pray for appearances in my bank account tomorrow - which would certainly end MY year on a high note.  Although I must say, the prospect of losing Joshua has certainly gone a long way in doing that!

Love, Wendy

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Almost New Year!

In case you care, I am typing this on Joshua's Mac, which I just hate, being a PC girl.  However, my house is falling apart around me - my monitor died and so did my clothes dryer, so what the hell...I'll take what I can get.

We had a lovely Christmas, thank you, and I hope yours was the same.  I got, among other wonderful things, an immersion blender, Denis Leary's book, which is hilarious - and wonder of wonders, an electric blanket, which I've been screaming for because my bedroom is so damn cold in winter.  Yay, I'm all cozy!  And Sarah replaced my bathrobe, which had begun to become a hissing and a byword...I loved it, but it was ten years old, falling apart, and covered in the ghosts of a million dinners, due to my happy habit of just wiping my paws on it while I was cooking.  Next year, somebody should buy me an apron.

And I cooked and cleaned and cooked and cleaned, and...Joshua enlivened the scene by deciding, on Christmas morning when I was trying to cook breakfast for five people, to cook his own breakfast at exactly the same moment.  We all felt this was extremely unnecessary.  I felt that it was grounds for murder, but I was stirring some eggs at the time and didn't have time to get around to it.

Anyway, this is a necessarily short post because I want to go downstairs (don't even ask about the router problems that make it impossible to operate Joshua's computer anywhere but my bedroom) and do nothing in particular for a while.

Love, Wendy

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Case of the Giggles

I started to giggle this morning and I haven't stopped yet.

I was sitting at the kitchen table with Joshua, both of us reading the morning papers, when he sneezed and then snuffled. At which he yelled at the top of his lungs, "Stop that, damn it!" And all of a sudden the thought struck me - I am sitting at the kitchen table with a man who is yelling at his own nose. I don't know why this struck me as hilarious, but it did - and still does (if I had sound, you could hear my residual giggles).

I'm in a good mood all around. I got all the in-law and niece and nephew shopping done, wrapped, and in the mail (priority mail, of course, otherwise the poor beasts would be celebrating the arrival of my offerings some time in February). Now all I have left to do is: get three more presents, get them wrapped, buy all the food for Christmas Eve, Christmas breakfast, Christmas dinner, and whatever else we need, and clean the house. By Wednesday morning. Of course. I'll get it done (I always do), but I hate the thought. Next year I'll start in September. (This is another traditional facet of our Christmas celebration - I say it every single year. I don't DO anything about it, you understand, but I certainly SAY it.)

And now for something completely different. The other night I decided to gather up all the recipes I've been yanking out of magazines and put them in my homemade recipe book - the one which has all the recipes I'm certainly going to try one day. (Hey, sometimes I even make some of them.) I made the decision to do this because the house needs cleaning, naturally, and by gathering all these things up and pasting them in the book, I could make believe I was doing something towards cleaning while sitting on my ass - I'm good at this sort of thing. I make detailed lists, too (something else one can do while sitting down, you note) - I mean, if it's written down, it's done, right?

The recipe book (a looseleaf notebook) is fascinating. You can follow it along from when Sarah was little and growing up (there's a recipe for Impossible Cheeseburger Pie - I can't imagine what made me think I'd EVER make it), and lots of recipes for nice (cheap) family meals like Swiss Steak and pasta casseroles. Then suddenly things get more elegant and sophisticated (that would be when Sarah's grandfather died and we bought our house and had some money). It was around that time that I started clipping recipes for Roast Tenderloin with Shitake Mushrooms and whole braised fish. I had some vague notion that we were going to have elegant four course dinner parties, I think - this idea was just as silly as it sounds.

What fascinates me is that I never seem to be able to recognize that I already have about six recipes for something. There's one pasta casserole (I think it's ziti with bacon, tomato and ricotta - very good, too) that I must have six or eight copies of, at least.

And whenever Sarah gets near the recipe book, she laughs at me. This is because I have probably every recipe known to man for fried chicken. You have to understand that I have never in my life made fried chicken. I make sauteed chicken constantly - literally to the point where people politely request some bread and butter, for God's sake, anything but that damn chicken. But I have never fried chicken (unless you count the oven-fried with cornflakes, which I love). And I LOVE fried chicken.

Here are the problems. First of all, just about every recipe I have ever seen for it calls for a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan. I don't own a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan for the very good reason that I can't LIFT a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan. Now if I can't lift a cast iron frying pan up at the store when I'm thinking (as I often do) of buying one, I sure as hell can't lift a cast iron frying pan full of hot grease without causing a disaster of truly epic proportions, quite probably involving the fire department. And secondly, since I am a person who can speckle myself with hot butter while frying an egg, I really don't think I should get anywhere near anything with a recipe that starts out, "Put two inches of shortening in a well-seasoned cast iron frying and let it get almost to smoking point." This way lies madness and probably third degree burns.

And while I'm on that subject, what the hell is with that instruction - "let it get almost to smoking point?" How, exactly, does one figure this out? Can you perhaps just ask the grease to ring a little bell to announce it's almost there, or perhaps tug on your apron? (Oh, all right - I do know about a little bubble around the edge.)

These things are sent to try us. I suppose I will either have to conquer my fear of hot grease and cast iron eventually or just say the hell with it and go to Popeye's when I feel the urge...the latter, I think.

Anyway, I am going to laze around for the rest of the night, go off to my nice job tomorrow (the only one this week, of course), and then seriously consider housecleaning. I'm damned if I'm going to shop on Saturday or Sunday - since I know what my last bits of shopping are I can do them on Monday which will be SLIGHTLY less horrendous than the weekend, then the groceries early on Tuesday. So there.

Love, Wendy

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bizarre Feline

So I took a break between writing the last post and proofreading it to go to the bathroom. While I was thus involved Tarbaby the cat came in and decided to join me by using his litter box. I hate to say this, because Tarbaby is a good, if occasionally over affectionate beast, but my cat is decidedly strange.

My upstairs bathroom is very small. So Tarbaby finished his business in the catbox. What does a normal cat do? A normal cat promptly scratches up litter and covers the evidence, as it were, right? (I may add that the litter box is scrupulously cleaned at least once a day.) Yes, well...I don't have a normal cat. Tarbaby proceeded to scratch: the bathroom door, the wall outside the box, the opposite side of the box, the rim of the box, and finally, reaching out, the floor. None of these locations contained anything remotely resembling what one would have thought would be the object of the scratching. (Although the floor occasionally is, when, as mentioned in an earlier post, I believe, Tarbaby decides to use the litter box backwards...i.e., standing on the rim with his rear pointed in the wrong direction. One would think a cat of his age would have outgrown trying these trick shots.)

Now that I think of it, I have had far too many peculiar cats in my time. There was Clancy. Clancy was an enormous black and white tuxedo cat whom I acquired because a friend had two elderly cats and was given Clancy when he was a kitten, and he terrorized the two seniors. When I had had Clancy for a couple of months, I took him to the vet. I thought he was either blind or had inner ear problems, because I had, up until that time, never met a cat who walked into walls and fell off tables before. The vet kept Clancy overnight and ran all sorts of (very expensive) tests on him, and returned him to me the next day, saying, "Well, what you have here is a very healthy one year male cat who's extremely stupid." At which point Clancy purred, smiled, perambulated to the edge of the examining table and promptly fell off it. He also had a habit of getting into the laundry hamper, pulling out Matthew's underpants, and dragging them around the floor, moaning voluptuosly. That was a little strange.

And Bigfoot. Bigfoot was another enormous cat, gray and white. Bigfoot appeared at our door one rainy night around Christmas, walked in and announced that she lived with us now. We tried to put her out again, and we hung signs all over the neighborhood, and we checked with all the neighborhood vets - and by the time we were finished, we had gotten to know Bigfoot (so named because she had six toes on each front paw), and realized that nobody in their right mind would choose to live with this beast. (I mean, when she ended up at our place, she still had stitches from being spayed...somebody REALLY got exasperated - and was wantonly cruel, I may add.) She had the worst personality of any cat I've ever met in my life. She would jump up in your lap (and you'd sag in your chair because she must have been 20 pounds at least - she was HUGE), you would give her a scratch under the chin, and then she'd bite the hell out of you. Sometimes she'd try to purr, which was disturbing because she had evidently never mastered the trick of it. She sounded precisely like a very old car trying to turn over. Not a nice kitty rumble...more like, UR, UR, UR (gargle), UR.

Then there was the half Siamese whose name I can't remember who had been an abused cat who woke me up every night trying to get at my eyes - poor beast, I had to have her put down after the vet said she couldn't be rehabilitated.

Do you think, somewhere in my future, there's an actual, normal CAT? I dream of kittens...but I really couldn't do that to poor old Tarbaby (after all, he must be nearly 15 now), who's already somewhat traumatized by the lack of his brother Blackfoot and our lovely Gypsy - who actually WAS a normal cat. Maybe there's hope.

Love, Wendy

Deep Sigh of Relief

Aaaaaahhhhh. I managed to get the money for Christmas, through the good offices of my wonderful child. (It has to do with family money and trust funds and stuff and whose fund actually HAS money at the moment...all very dull and legal so I shouldn't bother about it, if I were you.) So as soon as it comes through, I am off to:

The Apple Store (a place which makes me feel about seventeen thousand years old), for iTunes cards for my four adolescent nephews.

A shoe store - my niece Ruby requires dark high top Converse, size 3-1/2.

A store which sells some sort of Magic cards - don't ask, my nephew Alex requires them. (Thank God for sister-in-law Kath, who spelled this esoteric desire out in reply to my desperate email.)

Bath and Body Works, because Alex's sister Maya requires various unguents, as what normal teenage girl does not?

Then there's my mother-in-law, the wonderful Ben, who is getting a surprise (certain people named Ben who read this blog need not think I've giving the secret away that easily...ho, ho, ho). Also her usual present and one more thing that I think she will love.

Joshua will get some damn thing or another, although God knows what - I can say what I like here, because A. he doesn't read the blog, and B. I don't actually think he knows what a blog is. I convinced him to get an ATM card, now that he finally has a bank account. He didn't want to get one because of his overwhelming paranoia. He kept insisting that "they can find him" if he has a card. I had to gently inform him that he happens to be on public assistance, i.e., government disability. How on earth could he possibly be under the impression that no one could find him?

The ATM card came up because yesterday he came upstairs to insist that I had to go to the bank immediately (to put a check in) so that I could pay him back the $20 bucks I'd borrowed from him because he wanted to go to the grocery store. This is extremely wrong on several levels. One, of course, is coming up to bother me to begin with. Two is even asking for the damn twenty in the first place, given his extremely odd attitude toward paying me anything like what I've spent on keeping him for the last few years. Three, he has some thousands of dollars in the bank and is now in possession of said ATM card, so all he had to do was go to the store and pay that way. Four, of course, was his explanation of why he needed the money - it was a long walk to the bank. Have we all noticed that nothing was said about making ME walk to MY bank? Of course not. When I mentioned the ATM card, I got such an uncomprehending look that I gave up on raising the subject just then (because I hate confrontations). Now I have to teach a 61 year old man how to use a bank card. Jeez Louise.

Sorry, I digressed from Christmas in there. Okay. back to a much nicer subject.

Anyway, with my gorgeous child's infusion of cash, coupled with my underemployment payments, all of Christmas will be properly in place (particularly given the low lobster cost this year). So I am happy and Christmassy and altogether thrilled. And we will have our roast beast and flaming plum pudding for Christmas night. And I think I'm going to stop hunting the elusive perfect recipe for Christmas morning breakfast (this happens EVERY year...I am always hunting something that will take 15 minutes for a table full of hungry family that will be absolutely spectacular, and I never find it unless it involves pate de foie gras dusted with beluga caviar or something equally unattainable) and just do my good scrambled eggs with little cubes of cheddar cheese scrambled in with them so it gets all melty and bacon and maybe, if I REALLY feel good will towards men, some nice home fries with onions cooked separately to begin with, so that when you mix it all up you get nice crisp edges.

And (yes, yes, you know how I am about these things), when we come variously down- and upstairs on Christmas morning. Ben will say, "Now we'll open one present each and then have breakfast and THEN we'll open the rest of the presents." I have heard this every Christmas of my life for more than 25 years now. It has NEVER worked. Not ever. And in the same fashion, on December 23rd we will trim the tree, and after our (rather drunken looking these days, poor thing) angel is set on the top, I will go to the top of the kitchen stairs and say, "You know, I think this is the prettiest Christmas tree we ever had." And THAT line is what my grandmother said every year. Without these things, it is NOT Christmas.

And tomorrow I'm going to do the ironing! Well, usually I do manage to get it done piece by piece early in the morning as I'm on my way to somewhere requiring ironed clothing, but that's not really very satisfactory because it's one more step in the morning. So I try to schedule it around something really neat to watch on TV. And since I have no job tomorrow (otherwise known as old news), I was looking through the TV Guide to see what might amuse me in the afternoon, because that's when the light is best for ironing in my bedroom - and lo and behold, my beloved TCM starts with Gigi at 10:45 am, followed by My Fair Lady, followed by the King and I. I am only the greatest musical freak on earth, so I think I'll iron veerrryy sllooowwwwlllllyyyy - because actually what I've got to iron is about five pairs of slacks, which is half an hour tops. Well, I wear the pants with turtlenecks (yeah, yeah, it's a uniform of sorts, and it saves me from thinking, which is a thing - thinking, that is - that doesn't work too well for me early in the morning), which means all I actually have to do is make sure the legs are properly creased and smooth. This is like three minutes per pair of pants. After that I'm just going to sit down in my desk chair, put my feet on the end of my bed, and sing along. Tra la!

Love, Wendy

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beware of Senior Citizens!

I give up. I just give up. Today's New York Post (always good for a laugh) had a story about an item that had just lost a fight with some government agency involving health to be listed as a medical device.

It was a 9mm handgun designed to be easy to fire for people with arthritis.

I think this is wonderful. What a terrific present for Granny to find under the tree! "Look, Grandma! You know those pesky kids who're always chasing their ball into your yard? Guess what you can do now, even with that terrible arthritis! I knew you'd be thrilled!"

And I would dearly love to know what on earth made the manufacturers of this little gem try to position it as a medical device to begin with. "Well, Pa's psychiatrist says that his depression would be MUCH better if he could just blow away all those people who annoy him, but it's so difficult for him to hold his old 45 with his arthritis..."

Obviously a product whose time has come.

In other news (this in the NY Daily News), officials in Prague are concerned that the economy is just ruining their country's ability to be a sex tour capital. Prague? A sex tour capital? I mean, according to all reports (I've never been there), Prague is a gloriously beautiful historic city, more than well worth a visit. But SEX TOURS? I tend to put Czechs in with Germans as rather proper and somewhat humorless people (yes, yes, I know...don't start screaming at me in comments, we all have our prejudices and anyway I'm partially German so I'm sort of allowed). I just somehow don't connect sex tours with Eastern Europe at all. (Paris, now, and London...oh, I could tell you stories for days.) Anyway, I'm confused by this...but this is hardly new and different - there's a whole LOT of the modern world that confuses me.

That is all my news, since I've been doing absolutely nothing of any interest to anyone, including me. And if I don't get some damn work pretty soon, Christmas this year is going to consist of me handing out sweet smiles and IOU's and asking people to chip in for the cost of the macaroni and cheese while I try to hang Christmas ornaments on some old celery sticks in a vase.

There is one bright spot - my under-employment came through (well, I am sort of employed, so obviously under-, not un-) to the tune of $294 a week, which is very welcome...this means that when, as it looks this this week, my entire take-home is $96, they will make up the difference to $294 (less tax, of course). Maybe this doesn't seem like much to you, but on the other hand, have you ever tried living in Manhattan on $96 a week?

Love, Wendy

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oh, I Give Up

I just had an email from WebMD (no, I don't know how I got on their mailing list) which has a list of all the foods you're supposed to avoid during the holidays. As far as I can remember, they are:

Turkey skin
Sweet potato casserole
All hors d'oeuvres
All mixed drinks
Buttery mashed potatoes
Cakes, cookies, and a special mention of pecan pie

I'm fascinated. Are there actually people who follow these rules during the holidays? (Except, obviously, in cases like severe diabetes and things like that.) And if there are, and you inadvertently invite them to a holiday party (well, you wouldn't do it on purpose, would you), what on earth do you DO with them while everyone is eating? Hand them a plate of raw celery and a glass of water?

Love, Wendy

Christmas Is At Our Throats

I have just watched (on TV, of course) the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. I watch it every year, along with Charlie Brown Christmas, the Grinch (the animated one with Boris Karloff, naturally), and when it's on, the only version of Christmas Carol - the 1951 version with Alastair Sim. (This, by the way, should you care to see it - and you should - is actually called Scrooge. Sometimes it turns up in the TV guide like that, but sometimes it turns up as A Christmas Carol, so go by the date. If it says 1951, that's the one you want. Trust me.)

I must, however, complain. I am the worst traditionalist you ever met in your life when it comes to Christmas. If I'm going to watch a Christmas tree being lit, I want it accompanied by massed choirs and people singing actual Christmas carols - sung the way they're supposed to be sung, not jazzed up and tricked out. This year's broadcast featured Miley Cyrus singing Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, which - would you believe - was actually better than Beyonce singing "her version" of Ave Maria, which was a song about something else altogether except that she sang Ave Maria every so often. Just those two words. The song seemed to be about female empowerment or some damn thing. That's not Ave Maria. And Harry Connick, Jr., whom I adore, messed up a Christmas song so horrendously that I can't even remember which one it was now. Don't get me started on the Jonas Brothers. who were singing something about "All I want for Christmas is the girl of my dreams." (Whatever happened to my two front teeth?)

Faith Hill, God bless her, sang an absolutely straight and lovely version of Joy to the World with a real choir! And the one and only Tony Bennett sang Winter Wonderland. By the way, speaking of Mr. Bennett, what ails people? There were all these crowds, they were listening to Tony Bennett live for God's sake, and every time the camera panned behind them, they all turned their backs on him to wave at the camera. Really, people - if Tony Bennett is singing live in front of you, PAY ATTENTION.

However, the Rockettes did do their kicks at least. I was terribly afraid they weren't going to be on this year, but thank God they turned up right at the end after the tree was lit. I always look forward to them - I mean, what's more New York Christmassy than Rockettes?

And now I shall settle down to getting our Christmas put together - and I assure you it will have every single thing we have every year - a huge tree with our old and idiosyncratic collection of ornaments (you have no idea what odd things we put on our tree...there's that thing that Sarah made in kindergarten or first grade or something with popsicle sticks and yarn, which is totally falling apart, and those three short lengths of shedding silvery stuff, and some weirdly shaped clay ornaments that we got somewhere, and the little red apples and cherries that I bought for my first Christmas tree in New York some forty years back...the list goes on), our annual Christmas Eve Lobsterfest, our roast beef and flaming plum pudding Christmas dinner...and it will be just lovely.

And Santa Claus or somebody will bring me the money to do all this, right? Actually, I think I may have a little bit of luck in the lobster department this year. I saw an article the other day saying that the lobstermen were extremely upset because the price of lobster was dropping (I mentioned this a few posts ago in re having found a cooked 1-1/4 pounder for sale for $10), so Chinatown may have good prices this year. I'm sorry for the poor lobstermen, but quite pleased for me if this proves to be the case.

Now I'm going to go eat something and hop into bed with a book. You may all start dreaming of sugarplums now...and if you're going to sing Christmas songs, do it properly, for God's sake.

Love, Wendy

Monday, December 1, 2008

There Were Too Enough Green Beans

Well, we didn't have the crudites, and we didn't get any Brussels sprouts, but Shai and his friend Chris brought cheese and pate...and there were actually fewer people than I expected, so we had plenty of green beans - and for once, no leftover beans, thank heavens. As a matter of fact, there weren't all that many leftovers - just about the perfect amount. You enough, enough for sandwiches the next day and for Mom to nosh on through Sunday.

So everything worked out just fine, and we had a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you. How was yours?

I got paid for my movie gig - and not only did I get the extra $25 for no room on the bus, but we got an extra $42.50 for the lousy food service - you know, the one with no hot food and NO COFFEE. I was talking to my friend Caesar, and he was appalled to find out there was no coffee - he said in all his years of working under SAG, he'd NEVER seen a set without coffee. I may be new at this background actor stuff, but even I knew that was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Meanwhile my cousin gets more damned irritating by the day - in the last two days, he's made me want to kill him twice. On Saturday, he came up to the kitchen just as I was running around the corner for the Sunday Times, and I said, very clearly, leave that Arizona watermelon drink alone, because I just bought it and I want to drink it. So I came back with the paper - and would you believe that the drink had been opened and some poured out? (This is the same sort of thing that was making me crazy last summer - I'd be sitting at the computer and he'd come up to ask me to turn on the air conditioning - when it wasn't needed - and when I said no, he'd turn around and turn it on as he went downstairs.) Then just tonight, I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking some club soda somebody left at Thanksgiving, and he took the bottle, poured all of it into his glass, and THEN said, "You have more of this, don't you?" Um, no, I don't, and normal people say, may I have some club soda - they don't just grab the bottle and ask later. You schmuck.

Well, back to obsessively checking my email for casting notices - I just wanted to check in and say something or other before all my posts turn into hysteria over Christmas and my lack of money for it. Which I assure you they will, any second now.

Love, Wendy