free hit counter Snacks, please!: January 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

From the desk of Christopher Kimball

To: Cook's Illustrated Staff
From: Christopher Kimball, Editor

Re: "Quick Tips"

Dear Staff,

As I sit here at my desk, thinking about my neighbor Jack, who just celebrated his 90th birthday and still chops his own wood, tends his own chickens, and kills winter otter with his bare hands, using a technique perfected in the Vermont Revolutionary Guard, I am flipping through the pages of our publication.

I am not happy.

Who is Linda Moore of Richmond, Va., and why are we sharing her lame-brained tip with our readers? Ms. Moore tells us that when her oven is full, she roasts her garlic in... a toaster oven! (Fellow patriots, this is why the South lost.) My mother, who could bake an heirloom apple pie with a magnifying glass, used to roast garlic in the toilet, employing a single piece of tin foil and a cloth diaper.

And poor Olga of Baltimore, who can not find a spatula to flip cookies. She uses a metal cheese slicer. And frankly, I am not impressed. My cousin's handyman used to fix his leaky pipes with a cheese slicer and a single block of unpasteurized, white Cheddar. Now that was a thing to behold.

Please, let us raise our standards.

Yours, in snow and seriousness,


P.S. I have a letter here from a "Mary Ellen of Arlington" who claims to use strings of empty Chickarina cans to cage wild raccoons. Now that is an inspiration! Let's get her on staff. Immediately.


Not enough baby pictures lately, huh?

Josephine loves peek-a-boo. (See?!)

At the park across the street, there are two toddler swings. Very convenient. But we have three girls!

And Margaret! She's figured out a way to throw her belly across the top of the coffee table, then a dimpled knee. She sits up there, beaming like the queen. And, in the morning, while Lucy eats her raisin bran, Margaret sidles up, leans her weight into Lucy's chest, and tries to steal her spoon. "No, Margaret! I'm trying to eat my breakfast! Get off-a me, you big baby!" Lucy cries. "Aaaiee!" Margaret screams back. Sorta like this:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

She'd be horrified at Jamie Lynn.

Last week would have been my Nan’s 80th birthday. In celebration, I have pulled out a paper that I wrote – “To Live and Lie in L.A.” -- for a media law class in 1994.

“Margaret Pezzente, a 66-year-old great-grandmother, wears butterfly glasses and her hair is four shades of brown, red, black and gray. She stands chest-high at Italian grandmother-height and is round, round, round. A fat purse hangs open from her elbow, full of coupons and baby photos.

“In the check-out line of Waldbaum’s grocery store, she waits patiently. Her cart has a few oranges, a tray of Stella D’Oro breakfast treats and an Entenmann’s coffee cake, a gallon of skim milk for her daughter’s house, 16 cans of cat food for her crazy mother, and her own ‘stupid papers.’ Mrs. Pezzente buys the National Enquirer and the Star every week, faithfully.

“’I read them with a grain of salt,’ she says. ‘I’m interested in the stars. I like to see who is having a baby or who is getting a divorce. But you can’t say everything is true.’

“’It’s a gossip sheet. I read it like that.’

“Mrs. Pezzente is familiar with the Ed McMahon article that appeared April 13, 1993, in the Star. Its author, Janet Charlton, reported that McMahon had boarded a flight to London with a whiskey bottle in hand. He announced to the other passengers, ‘I always bring my own.’ And then, according to Charlton’s anonymous source, he drained the bottle, passed out cold, and had to be shaken awake by flight attendants at Gatwick Airport.

“’Well, he does drink,” says Mrs. Pezzente thoughtfully. ‘It could be true. Let’s face it. He’s got a bad reputation. I wouldn’t believe it [if they had written] he took off all his clothes!

“But he probably did have a few too many and got wacko.’”

Ohhhh, I love it!! The shopping cart was exactly her: Fresh fruit (because she was on a diet) and pastries (because she really wasn't.) And the ‘got wacko’ line! Aieee! That's Nan, all over again. (Does this make her sound silly? She wasn’t silly. She just liked the stupid papers. Oh, come on...who doesn’t??)


Lucy loves raisin bread toast with lots of butter, but she says she doesn't like the stuff that grows on it.

You know, the crust.

Monday, January 28, 2008

How have I offended Thee?

I couldn't sleep in my king-sized bed with feather mattress. In bed by 9:30ish, after shrimp and grits and a single wheat beer, and I watched the digital alarm clock hit 10. Then 11. Am I so unused to fresh-smelling sheets? Or having enough blankets? (Was my sweet Baloo -- all snoring and snuffling and sweating -- too far away?)

I finally dropped off -- with restless dreams of Passaic and Parsippany in my head -- still hoping for the previously mentioned eight hours...and then a goddamn alarm went off at 5 a.m.! Not in my room. Oh no, it was much more mysterious than that. At 5:15, I called the front desk and demanded they check out the fitness center next door. (A mocking treadmill! I know it!)

At 5:25, I called again and suggested they broaden their search. (The midnight shift shows no initative.) At 5:35, it stopped. And then, ten minutes later, just as I breathed a sigh of sleepiness, Sherlock Holmes jolted me awake with a call to let me know he had found the errant alarm two floors above my room. So proud! So irritating! I actually got less sleep than I do at home with two crazy babies, a 3-year-old still mastering the diaperless night, and a snoring bear of a husband.

My morning with the detectives? Very illuminative. Very disturbing. It ended with a series of close-up color photographs of bloody teenage corpses. Ugh. (And still I ordered a Thai-style steak at the Tick-Tock Diner afterward...)

Word to the wise: Gang members do not wear colors anymore. They wear regular baseball caps. Like the Chicago Bulls. And, if you see a kid walking around with their pants pocket pulled inside out, you should be very careful.


Friday, January 25, 2008

With my bayonet glistening in the sun!*

I'm off to New Jersey this weekend to meet a guy that I call Detective. He calls me Honey. We will compare tattoos and weapons, and I'm counting on him to show me a few gang signs that I can confidently toss for free movie passes. And it's all for work! What fun.

It's also the very first time that I will be sans babies/David since 2006. Wow! I'm bringing a book on tape for the car ride: Muriel Spark. And a book for the hotel: Paul Theroux. I'm expecting a lovely dinner, and also at least eight hours of interrupted sleep. Nobody will say, "Mommeee! I have peepee in my jammies!"

I am not one of those grouchy mamas who says, "I need to get away from my children," but I think it'll be okay. (The hotel has a jogging track! And Jacuzzi!)

* You know the song, right? I'm off to Dublin in the green, in the green, with my bayonet glistening in the sun!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lucy wants to know

Why doesn't Cookie Monster have a nose?

And no hanky-panky either!

Why can't our newspaper man throw the Post closer to our door? Torn rotator cuff? No Christmas tip? I hate having to put on my slippers and skip down the Exorcist steps to get it -- especially on Saturdays...

It is my shameful obsession: Date Lab is here!!

"First of all, I was impressed that her teeth were all there."

Aaaah! Run girl!

I'd like to make Auntie Pamela do it, but I'd hate to have her spend an hour with somebody who doesn't like it when the menu has a cheese course.

Last week, it was Michael and Bob. The former looks a little sweaty, but Bob says his dream date is, "That out professional who looks great in a suit, better in ripped shorts and loves to cook in and eat ice cream off my belly." Meanwhile Michael says, of Bob, "He's not drop-dead gorgeous, but most people aren't -- and that's a good thing in my book."

I prefer Michael.

While I'm obsessively entering the duo's attributes into a special Excel spreadsheet, David peeks over my shoulder. "Ew! Who'd go out with that guy?" he says. "Which one?" "Michael! He looks gross!" "I'd pick Michael over Bob any day!" I say. "Bob wants a guy in ripped shorts! You'd go out with Bob?!"

"Nooo," he says.

"Well, me either. I pick Bob. You pick Bob too," I conclude.

"I wouldn't go out with either of them. They're gay men."

"You have to pick one," I insist.

"No," he says.

"Yes! Pick one!"


"It's just a game..."

"Okay! Okay. I pick Bob!
But there's no second date and you can't make me kiss him!!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm running away

Remember the New Year resolutions?

Mission: Accepted.

Auntie Pamela and I have signed onto a cleverly named Couch to 10K program. And, as we approach the conclusion of Week 1, I think we're doing better than Marion Jones. More than once this week, I have kicked off the covers and into low gear.

1) Where are the sidewalks? Is there somebody at the county who handles pedestrian safety? Because they are clearly not doing their job. I have half a mind to write an angry letter to this dingbat...gasp! (David?!)

2) That poor family on Jefferson Street. They probably don't know that their pet hamster has slipped its cage, but I saw it quite clearly scurrying along the edge of their bushes. Poor thing! It's too cold for you outside -- go! Go inside where it's warm!

3) People in north Arlington are lazy lumps of butter. I've met just one of you on the streets before 6:45, and your dog tried to pull my pants down. "Must be the breed," I said (generously). "Oh, you know about the coon hounds?" you asked. "Oh sure. They're very sweet." You nodded, and added, "They're better known for being crazy."

Anyway, so far it's easy. It's only a mile, walking and running, and it's not hard to find 15 minutes in the day to get it done. But next week calls for two miles and... well, that's twice as long. If only I could convince the babies to sleep through the night! That's a whole nother story. But it sure would make it easier to get up in the morning.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

With love, the Elegant Nun

Yesterday, as I dressed for work in an old gray wool turtleneck/skirt combo, David said, "You look like an rebellious nun." Or, he mused, "Maybe an elegant German Girl Scout troop leader."

Sorry, no pictures.

Tuna noodle casserole?

Every week, I spend close to $300 at Safeway. I would like to hope that eventually they will reward me with my own custom cart, but they haven't yet expressed any significant gratitude. (I want a special horn to toot Take Me Back to Mayo in the condiments aisle. Heehee.)

So, here's where I need help. About $100 of it is the super-duper, high-calorie baby formula that my pediatrician demands I buy, plus diapers. That's non-negotiable. But the other $200? I have no idea! It's not like I'm buying snapper every week. (I haven't even seen snapper in the stores in years...) I also don't buy beef, unless it's pot roast, and I don't buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts either. (At $9 a pound, who does?)

Lulu would be happy with salmon and shrimp on alternating days. (Does this mean her brain is craving omega-3's? Am I depriving her of IQ points when I sing, "Beans are good for your heart! The more you eat, the more you fart!") I do think she needs to develop less expensive tastes for such things as my seventh-favorite berry. (After blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, mulberry and huckleberry comes... the wheatberry!)

To consider: Cheese quesadillas? A healthy option?

Anyway, awaiting advice (and recipes), I am.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chocolate giggles

Lucy likes it when I bring her a treat for the ride home from school. (Who doesn't like a treat?) And sometimes it helps hasten her out the door. Sometimes she would actually prefer to play with her pals than hop in the car with me!

So yesterday, I grabbed her jacket from her cubby, swung into the classroom, and found her busy with a purple crayon and coloring book. "Hello my Lucylu!!" She grins huge. And then returns to work. "Come on! I have a treat for you the car!" (Shameless!) So she slips on her jacket, strolls out the door. ("Hey Lucy-Goose! Wait!" She can't leave without a loooong hug from Kyle.)

Inside the car, I hand over an organic chocolate truffle. "Chock-oh-lit!" she cries, and giggles. And I just love that! Because that is EXACTLY how I feel when somebody gives me a chocolate truffle too.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hop, hopping away!

So, I hear that Hops is closing. Which is too bad. In my opinion, it was the best of all those lousy chain restaurants. (My opinion was largely swayed by the free pastries, drizzled with melted sugar, or what purported to be sugar, that started every meal there.) In any case, it was waaay better than Applebee's, the worst of those lousy chain restaurants, where the lemon pasta once made me throw up -- during a school board meeting. Ugh.

Anyway, I am reminded of my second-to-last Hops meal, which was many, many years ago. I was having lunch with a school board candidate who revealed, not long after the pastries were devoured, that she had terminated a pregnancy as a teenager. "Really," I said calmly. (Inside, I said, "Whaaa?! Hello! Why are you telling me this?? We're talking about your candidacy here!!") I did have about three seconds of Pulitzer dreams (I'm kidding, REALLY), and then filed it away under NEVER TO BE SPOKEN OF.

And no, she didn't win anyway.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Weight gain success!

Well, if there's something I know how to do, it's put on a few pounds. So, you should not be surprised to hear that the Josephine Weight Gain Project has proven successful in its first week. She gained 10 ounces! (Margaret gained about six -- and she weighs a whopping 20 pounds now...)

I have been buttering Cheerios and tossing them onto Josephine's tray (where Margaret steals them by the fistful). I've been mixing ricotta with applesauce, spreading cream cheese on bagels, tossing peas in butter, hiding Cheddar cubes in blocks, rolling egg yolks across their line of sight, and saying yes to cookies.

Hello, is that Cookie?

Come on over!!

Is it a gorilla?

I'm trying to teach Lucy a new game, to keep her happy at the dinner table. It goes like this: "I'm thinking of an animal!"

"Is it a gorilla?" she asks.

"No," I say. "It's not a zoo animal."

"Is it a baby gorilla?" she asks.

Let's try it another way. You think of an animal, I tell her.

"Okay!" she exclaims. "It's a gorilla!"

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Heigh-ho! It's off to work I go!

Until I can figure out who exactly reads this blog, all I have to say about work is, it's...fine. So, why do I arrive in my office (promptly, of course!) in such a grouchy mood? Aah. Well, behold the parking garage:

That's my car, the green Saab, blocking in...well, let's count.

Um, 16 other cars?

I would love to park in a spot that I could call my own. My dear one. "Good morning, Mary Ellen! I've been waiting just for you!" It wouldn't require me to guiltily block anybody. And it wouldn't allow any cheeky Hondas to block me in either.

I used to park in the Swedish Embassy garage, which was nothing but civilized. This new garage -- except for the delightful French valet who says, "Good morning, my beauty!" -- is so far down into the Earth that I think I've entered the outer ring of the Inferno. (The place where they put aggressive drivers and gals who do their makeup behind the wheel.) And the stairwell smells like El Salvadoran cheese -- the kind they call "a little soft and a little old."

It's enough to make me want to take public transportatation, but not quite...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Come back to me.

Oh, the movies...The popcorn is much saltier than I remember and I forgot how one must sip cautiously on the giant soda, which all meant I had to step on a nice man's toes on the way to the loo.

Atonement was sad. Very, very sad. I went to bed on Saturday night, huddled under the blankets, full of remote British longing and regret. I could hear that whisper, "Come back to me," leaking behind my eyes. It made them hurt. Ohhhh, tragic love! David said he liked it quite a lot. Actually, what the Barbarian said was, "I like wartime movies... Do you think they actually bombed the Tube like that?"

Friday, January 4, 2008

Conversations with Lucy, cont.

It was still dark when Lucy crawled into bed, squeaking on that darn nipple, snuggling between David and me. "Is oo-boo ettee?" she asks. "Whaa?" I say, squinting over at her.

"Is Boo-Boo etty?" she repeats, clenched her teeth.

"Yes, Boo-Boo is very pretty," I say.

Squeak, squeak. "Anta ook im oo a or oe?" she asks.


"Did Santa take him to the North Pole?" I guess.

"Yes," I say.

So why didn't Santa bring him back for Christmas??

"Maybe he's Santa's helper," I lamely suggest.

Squeak, squeak. (Now, I know I told Lucy that Boo-Boo was inside a raccoon's belly, but apparently she didn't like that answer. This new picture is much more attractive, no?)

Later, she comes into the bathroom, while I'm showering, and hops onto the toilet. (My God. Am I to have no peace??) "I want to go to the North Pole and get Boo-Boo," she announces. "I miss Boo-Boo." Well, I miss him too, I tell her, but we can't go to the North Pole. We don't know where it is!

"Get a map," she tells me.


"My baby pee-pee'd on the floor!" Lucy announces.

"Why?" I ask, horrified.

"She's jus' a baby," she says patiently.

"Well. Where's her diaper?"

"I took it off," she muses. Pause. "She had poop in it."

"And then I forgot," she concludes.

Says David: "Lucy is not ready for parenthood."


"Whaa's that?" Lucy asks me.

"Oh. A white chocolate truffle. Want it?" I ask.

"No. I don't like candy."

"You don't!?"

"No. I'm too old for candy. I jus need a stroller," she sighs.


"Lulu -- have you seen your Dora movie? We need to return it to the library."


"Oh dear, where do you think it could be??"

"Maybe the gorilla took it," she shrugs.


Speaking of...Lucy just ran by.

"The gorilla is chasing me! Oh, no! Go away, gorilla! I'm old and fat!!"

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My eenie-weenie queenie

I try not to be crazy about the babies and their health. (Not too many posts on this subject lately, no?) But Josephinie! Regular snackers will note that my eenie-weenie queenie weighed 16 lb 4 oz two weeks ago, which put her in the Third World section of the international growth charts. Now, after her bout with the Bermuda Triangle, she weighs... even less! And, let's see, even if we adjust her age and say she's really a gestational 9-month-old (instead of a chronological 10.5 month old), where is she on the growth chart? Hmm... I can't seem to find it...Oh, I see...

She's not on it at all!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I Resolve

1) To run a 10K race. Right before Christmas, Auntie Pamela and I mailed in forms for the 10-mile Cherry Blossom race in April. I didn't win a spot, but Pamela did! She must be very lucky. (So why can't she find an appropriate boyfriend? Hahaha!) Anyway, we must have been on crack to think we could run 10 MILES -- but I think 10K is doable, especially if we get new $100 running shoes. I am pretty sure that will make all the difference in the world.

2) To go out (without my children) at least once a month. Because, let's see... Since Lucy was born, I have seen exactly two movies: the fabulous Little Miss Sunshine and the not-bad Narnia film. (In my head, I always thought Mr. Tumnus would have a shirt on...) We will begin fulfillment of Resolution 2 this Saturday: Charlie Wilson's War, Juno or Atonement?

3) To redo the kitchen. More on that later.

Not bad, huh? Of course I want to be a good person, more patient, blah-blah, but I do prefer a more concrete New Year's resolution. Like George Miller and Ted Kennedy, I want measurable goals!