Wednesday, August 26, 2009

His Wild Card says Universal, Single-payer, NOW!

My father died last year. And then he didn't die. He is such a tough bastard, it was hard to imagine anything could ever kill him. I'd certainly spent many an impassioned moment trying to will him into oblivion. And he spent decades "scandalizing my name". When possible, I returned the favor.

Last year, a knee replacement turned into a hospital-acquired infection that took on every part of his body. I am serious about that -every part from stem to stern...head to toes. There were multiple surgeries-I lost count at 9, lots of times he was "almost dead", 3 sets of new knees, spinal abscesses debrided and discs collapsed, months of rehab, IV antibiotic therapy we had to manage at home, cath bags I got to carry everywhere and change, wheel chairs, physical and occupational therapy. You know, the shit no one tells you you will be doing all day once your kids leave for college.

My father is a very busy, opinionated, intelligent, hard-working man. He climbs mountains, cross country skis, does search and rescue stuff with Marines. He does not have much talent for sitting still or being unwell. My brothers and I each spent weeks as his carers. This was all the more challenging because he chooses to live a thousand miles from any of us. It was a humbling experience for everyone. It taught me that no matter how many issues I thought I had with the man, he is my Daddy, he has a ferocious will to live, and I love him. All the "baggage", all the dumb-ass stuff he has done and will (hallelujah!) do became meaningless in the face of his being permanently gone.

Forgive me. I know it is getting a bit sentimental. I have a point. Just bear with me dear reader. I know this is sort of "illness as blessing" cliche claptrap. You have heard it before. But honestly, it truly was, in so many ways, a gift to me to be so intimately reconnected with him, to care for him, to advocate for him when he could not do so for himself. A very painful and exhausting and life-changing gift. That staph infection was able to kill his toe nail fungus, but it could not whip him. It tried hard. He is a seriously tough mofo. He is back to hiking, climbing things, watching for fires on remote mountains for fun on his weekends, and working full time as a civil engineer. Feck you staph infection you rat bastard!

I bring this up for 2 reasons. First, my obnoxious father would be dead if he did not have the finest health insurance and the ability to write $20, 000.00 checks every time that finest health insurer wouldn't pony up the money required for LIFESAVING treatment. Either one without the other and he'd be my "late and obnoxious" father. He was in the ICU, looking and acting like a dead man, and the Blues were micromanaging every freakin' step his highly skilled team of physicians tried to take...many of these steps the Blues felt were beyond the terms of his very comprehensive policy. We, his team, did not. But what do we know? The piece de resistance (shout out to the French because you will be hosting said obnoxious, wine-seeking father next spring!) - his INSURERS- were expecting him to negotiate the finer points of saving his own life whilst being completely unable to communicate. Or maintain a blood pressure. Essentially, they had amortized my father and found that it was time to write him off entirely. Crap. Just when I'd found out he was such a terrific deal! WTF?

Here I want to give a BIG SHOUT OUT to Advance Directives. I am telling you loud and proud...get one and put it in the proper hands. Let those highly educated offspring write checks on your behalf with your power of attorney. Let them speak with authority and act as you wish them to. It can save your life or ease your leaving - whichever you choose - not some "death panel" despite what fools scream at town hall meetings. I've seen it happen. I applied said advanced directives myself (lots- o- times baby!It was a breeze after the first go) to a very scary situmacado and it worked a charm! Then he survived and I had to give 'em back. Happily, I still have that "unplug the bugger" card to play!

So, to those of you out there who are happy with your health insurance I say, "Hi Dumb-ass, happy your meds have kicked in." and "So was my father." I am here to tell you (yes I know I say that a lot-I got it from my father), and thankfully so is he, that if he were not a rich, white dude, he would have been a highly insured dead man. I'm serious about this and everyone in their right mind is as well. Something has got to give. Even if our political "leaders" (who are the best money can buy!where oh where is that change I can believe in Mr. President?) are unwilling, the current system is unsustainable. And my child and theirs and even yours will know health security one day. Because we are Americans. We are not animals.

Just sayin'.

And secondly, tonight my father told me that of all his legions of children he always thinks of me as his wild card. "The other 3 are fairly predictable. Whatcha see is whatcha get," he says, "but not you". "Could be a couple of deuces. Could be a full house. You just never know."

How feckin' awesome is that?!

As his only biological daughter (which is a bio-hazard kind of deal and mentioned only to indicate that he has another daughter who is free of his genes and, therefore, a superior specimen), I can't adequately express how delightful that statement is to me. Just beautiful. One of the nicest things he has ever said to me. Thanks Daddy. And thank you for teaching me to swear when I was a toddler. That has provided me with years of entertainment just watching my lovely mother turn pink.

So, dear reader Red Tara I conclude -can you believe it- and I thank you for the link to I am so happy my Dad can say shit to me too.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Don't Touch That Thing or Pandora is Whoa! Interesting!

So, I have a Pandora station for River Deep, Mountain High. I loves me my Ike & Tina. Well, let's be real here. I loves me my Tina. Ike was a disturbed man. And, in a lucid moment Phil made sure that Ike didn't perform on the song, nor was he allowed to visit the studio. He did, however, receive credit on the Dennis Hopper designed cover. Dennis was preparing to be Easy Rider High as we see here:

Alledgedly Pandora confabs with the music genome project to find songs with similar attributes.

So then, Pandora, how does this work? River Deep, Mountain High -beautifully, majestically, overly orchestrated by that crazy lady-killer Phil Spector brings us logically to Sylvia Hall's Don't Touch That Thing from the album Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay.


Because it features a Bahamian woman singing? Whoa! Tina's from Nutbush, Tennessee.

The song repeats this unforgettable chorus:

Don’t touch that thing, your momma’s gonna know.
Don’t touch that thing, your momma’s gonna know.
How’s your momma gonna know? You’re belly’s gonna show.

Endlessly. I can not forget it. Once heard, this song owns you.

Not a violin in sight. No soaring "Do I love you? My oh my!"Interesting.

That "thing"you are not suppose to touch is a penis, dear reader. Honest.

A blog review, at the Washington Post ( here I use italics to indicate surprise. For news-conscious Americans, there are so few dependable sources. I count 4- the BBC, C-SPAN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, but the Post has a problem, so maybe not the Post. After finding this review affiliated with their paper I can say we have 2 strikes, 2 outs, and no one on base. It's that close.), refers to the song this way:

"There are a few dozen compilations on the label that could serve as a perfect summer mixtape, so picking just one song is a tough task. But this slice of Funky Nassau from "Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay" was the first one that came to mind. This song just oozes sun, warmth and the carefree attitude that goes -- or at least should go -- with summer. It's got a meaningless sing-along chorus and a beat that never stops. "

Um, really? "Oozes sun, warmth, and a carefree attitude"? "Meaningless sing-along chorus"? Wait. For realz?

Let's pause. Now breathe. O.K.

Dudes are odd.
Forgive me, but I am going to just call this one: the reviewer at the Post is a dude. I know dudes. I even made one myself. Lovely creatures in possession of "that thing" we are not suppose to touch. Yet so very odd.

Most woman would hear a cautionary tale on this track...about not touching penises...Duh. And then, they would wonder about Sylvia. Did she ever touch one? If so, did her Mama know. If not, well yee haw for self- or birth control correctly applied to the encounter! Not exactly a breezy summertime theme for a song. Unless getting knocked up is your idea of summertime.

"Don't Touch That Thing" celebrates (here the italics are ironic) the fear and chronic worry experienced by every fertile heterosexual female at some point in her life. Because, let's face it, that day comes along sister when you feel compelled to touch that thing (no really, it does happen) and yet, always, Sylvia's words of wisdom ring in your mind. Even if you've never heard her sing them to you. Which is a sad thought for me because she sings a unique and memorable, I fear unforgettable, song. Even if you are in the mood to be a mama. It gives you pause. The whole sex , life, and death thing. The implications should you lose control or consciously decide to touch that thing. It's deep.

It is not, however, River Deep, Mountain High.

You can read another review of the compilation here. All this to prove my point.

River Deep, Mountain High is unlike any other song. There is no comparison. It is singular. Bold and dramatic. An orgasmic frenzy of orchestrated bliss. And complete. And I love it.

Thanks for keeping me wondering, dancing, and ovulating Pandora! As we are such new friends, I am sure this is but the first of many mind-bending encounters. The tip of the iceberg as it were.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

As those born in the wilds of the high Sierra and/or Cascadians are want to exclaim, "Yreka!"

This post is all about Cherry Clafoutis and me.Well, not so much me as the cherry clafoutis. What could be more delicious dear reader?

Once again, my magic new-old pinny makes an appearance- its super pinny powers intact.

Our adventure begins with your intrepid cook hand-pitting cherries...a couple pounds of cherries...with a pairing knife and her thumbnail. Thumb, new-old pinny, kitchen counter, and face all stained red.

Almost as red as my big red kitchen. It was so worth it.

Behold one of the many kitchen altars and icons:

I have never buttered and sugared a baking pan before. I highly recommend it. The effect is almost psychadelic. I will explain directly. But first, let us continue with the recipe at hand.

Did you know that the 2009 Pantone color of the year is Mimosa?I am loving yellow right now.

First live action KitchenAid shot ever.
You can not make it out at all.
You are welcome.

Perhaps if you click on the picture below to enlarge it, you will feel the whippy thrill that is my beloved KitcheAid's best feature.

No? Oh well. It is meant to depict the whipping of the 3 (I used 4 because my eggs were not XL just L, cage free) eggs and 1/2 cup sugar for 3 minutes. Followed by the gentle blending of the rest of the ingredients, which included a heaping tablespoon of this:

because I did not have any brandy - pear, cherry, or otherwise. I splashed in some vanilla too. Maybe a couple of teaspoons. Six tablespoons flour. A pinch of salt. And a cup and a half of cream. Have Mercy! I think everything from heavy whipping cream to 2% milk would work for those of you with healthy arteries playing at home. Then the grated rind of one lemon. Ah my kingdom for a microplane like Martha's!

Rested briefly.

Then poured joyfully into my buttered and sugared blue pyrex baking dish (that I did not lick, despite a horrible compulsion to do so) which I had filled with cherries (about 2 cups worth) and the mere sight of which had the power to send me back in time to Lisa Trumbo's Mom's kitchen where sandwiches were always either Miracle Whip on White or Butter and Sugar on White. If my health conscious Mother had known the illicit thrill I had with each bite knowing how horrified she would be!

But I digress...often.
Baked in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Here it is ta da!


I almost forgot the powdered sugar. That's caster sugar and/or icing sugar to my imaginary friends in the UK.

Viola! et Voila!

There's that lovely pinny again. Thanks Mama!

I dished up a plate of hot cherries and eggy, custardy goodness. Ah, so soothing, the creamy texture, the still slightly crisp, juicy cherries, the sweet sugar crustiness of it all.


I have discovered the perfect recipe for a cool fall- sleep in late, make brunch for someone you love, consume, no devour! with hot, creamy coffee- day. And sigh.

"Fall!?", you, dear reader, may say incredulously. "Certainly Bings are not available in the fall?"

To that I say, "Bah Humbug!" or better yet, as an honorary (read imaginary once again-because I picked horse 4-H instead) Girl Guide, "Be prepared."

I froze a passle o'bings for future use. The original recipe was for a Pear Clafoutis, so I will adapt seasonally once the cherries bag out.

As for today...

I ate 2 more plates. Now I have 3 new things:

1. My new/old Pinny from me mum.
2. A bad tummy ache from over-indulgence.
3. This delectable, new recipe thanks to Alicia and Ina.

So, dear reader, would you like the recipe? Yes you would? O.K. here you go:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nobody here but us servantless American cooks...thanks to Julie Powell

Yesterday my gorgeous Mother and I kept a date we had made with each other at least a month ago. We hopped off to see Julie & Julia. Delightful. Not only because it was a Monday and we were at a matinee together!

The numerous criticisms of the "Julie" part of the film were a bum rap. Who, I mean really think this through, who could compare or compete with Meryl Streep channeling Julia Child at her most delicious in Paris in love with Paul Child and with food? No one.

That said, I adore Amy Adams. If you have not seen Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day you have missed a scrumptiously effervescent performance. I can't think of another actor who could bring Delysia Lafosse so exquisitely to life. It looked effortless. A bubbly, pink confection of yum.

Also, I am here to tell you that those "cobb salad lunch" pals exist in all of our lives, as if you didn't know dear reader. Score-keeping and it's squirm-inducing paranoia have spurred on many a genius (and not too few average types too). Ms. Adams did her real-life alter-ego proud I am sure (Julie Powell says so in her new blog What Could Happen? ). In the film, I especially love the melt-down in the kitchen as she attempts to stuff a chicken with a cream cheese-based stuffing. Oh! And the lobster killing session accompanied by the Talking Heads Psycho Killer. Fabulous! Go see it now! And then read Julia Child's My Life in France .

After the film, we nipped over to Costco for a roasted chicken, dog food by the ton, and organic, fair trade coffee. There we also picked up the aforementioned book to share. Because, as previously mentioned, I am a spoiled child, I get to read it first. Once I've savored every word, I may just tackle the epic biography Appetite for Life. What a title! What a woman!

I appreciate Julie's Julie/Julia Project blog for so many reasons, chief among them being that she reminded me of a childhood spent enthralled with Julia Child. A great deal of my imaginary play centered on creating foods for my own television show inspired by Mother-approved public television viewing (the only tv allowed in our household except Friday night Star Trek and an early hour of Saturday morning cartoons- hello Sid and Marty Krofft!- before it was time to "Go outside and Play!"-the maternal mantra of my youth).

Mimicking Julia, I would instruct my audience in the fine art of making chocolate milk with red hots or dirt and rock pies, green grass salads with sorrel and dandelions scavenged from the yard, and once, ably assisted by my lovely sous-chef and brother John-John, a fantastic, blue soup concocted from the contents of my Father's medicine chest.

Julia Child, Graham Kerr, and later Bob Ross (say Thalo Blue with me in the softest, most reverant voice ever folks) and Nancy Zieman (I never feared zippers again Nancy!) helped form me into a maker of things. Bless them and bless PBS and viewers like you for bringing them to me.

Gotta fly! Baking with Julia is on Create right now and then I'm off to attempt Posie's Cherry Clafoutis as promised.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Scones & A New Pinny!

Happy August!

I am making/baking/cooking something new each week. This has been going on for a while now with mixed results. Crock pot cooking? Not so much. New shelves in the kitchen? Oh yeah! Lemon drizzle cake, henceforth known as lemon explosion cake, necessitated oven cleaning. Silver flower ring with bezel set carnelian. Supa Kewl! So much to learn! Life is beautiful.

Today, whilst simultaneously drinking molasses-thick french pressed coffee and cream, lolling around in freshly washed white sheets, reading Barbara Pym, and watching Martha I decided to take on the English scones Martha's friend in Ireland makes. Kind of strange that an Irish baker makes English scones no? I am sorry I do not know the friend's name. She runs a cooking school. I'm sure Martha has covered that someplace in her Omnimedia empire. You should look it up and then go there. They have real Irish butter. You know how you get about real Irish butter.

I've never made scones, but I do love them. My beautiful Mother always has a strawberry scone (and Tillamook ice cream from the Dairywomen's stall) at the State Fair. So, to some people scones may mean drizzly days and cozy fireside teas, but to me scones scream, "STATE FAIR! COWS! BABY PIGLETS! HORSE SHOWS! QUILTS! THE STATES BEST GREEN BEANS! TRACTORS! COWBOYS AND COWGIRLS! RIDES! THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY of OREGON BOOTH!" (Oh! I am pissed at Senator Wyden. I am one pissed off liberal) Whoa. I am screaming....apologies. I love the state fair.

Having just survived the 2009 summer of scorching heatwave - endless days of 90+ temperatures with 3 or 4 100+ degree days thrown in to test our mettle- I am relishing the mid-80s. Seems almost frosty. Time to put on my new pinny and commence with the baking.

For those of you playing along at home (Red Tara, a.k.a. Red Taffy, my loyal reader!) you can find the recipe here.

As I baked , I was listening to my Vienna Teng Pandora radio station. Perfect. I have to thank the delightful Anna Maria Horner for writing about Pandora on her blog. I am the last person on the innertubes to know about it. It is a miracle! I have stations for every mood, every activity. Who knew technology could be so fabulous?

The recipe was perfectly straight forward. I should have channeled my inner Pioneer Woman and photographed the process. Alas, my eight year old digital camera makes photography a challenge best left out of the baking process. The cutting in of the butter with my pastry cutter was so satisfying. I think I may have used just a bit too much liquid as I had to add flour at the end to make the dough less sticky. I used an egg wash and turbinado sugar sprinkled on top and voila!

There were scones...perfectly sconey scones just begging for strawberries and devon cream! Oh you can almost see my new pinny in the mirror there. Hmmm...It was a present from my Mama and it gives me super-baker spidey skills! For Realz!

As for making/doing/cooking/baking new things...dig those new white shelves! It's all good. The failures make the successes so sweet. Next time I am going to make Alicia's Cherry Clafoutis. I have some gorgeous Bings.

Tea Time!