Monday, May 30, 2011

Lost Saturday, Made-Up Monday

I’m not a clothes horse. I’m not a fashionista. But I spent an entire Saturday putzing round shopping for makeup online.

Yes. Makeup. I put in a MaryKay order, including all the necessary Sun Protection elements. I say necessary--I'm see-thru white, but as with the effect of my buying crops and camisole tops in early spring, Summer disappears. There was one week in March, two glorious weekends where I burned my t-shirt V and my forearms very slightly. This, because all I had was facial moisturiser with SPF 25 (see below). Ever since it’s been cool and somewhat sunny, at best.

I also followed one of the many Sephora emails I receive as a VIB and have been circling round nude palettes for testing. I have just received the new Ulta Beauty catalogue with coupon (this month: $3.50 of purchase of $10.00 or more), and don’t know what sort of trouble that will lead to.  I compare all the brands across the sites, then all the national brand sites.

Since I started working again, I have campaigned against my natural time-induced panic/anxiety with a systemised morning routine. Most important: Getting hair and makeup done, getting dressed and the hell downstairs to get breakfast, grab my lunchbox and go. 

 Oooohhh all the products I have accumulated --for SCIENCE! --remember all the Liquid Assets Foundation Review products? Yah, I kept a few I liked, but I’m also just finishing up the powdered foundations, as well as mascaras. So I have, well, a lot of stuff.

A lot. Lip stuff has a box that doesn’t quite fit well under the sink, as do Brushes and Tools. Of my four bathroom cabinet drawers, the top is Skincare, Hair Brushes and Hair Doo-Dads. Second drawer is Foundations, Concealers and a couple of highlighter/bronzer things. Third drawer is Eyes and has a two-level removable insert: The top level of which is made to hold pencils and such--all Liners and Mascaras; so the bottom contains Shadows, etc. Trying to pull from this in the morning would make me even more mental than usual.

So I bought an eye-popping black-and-white boxy-shaped travel case and tried to create a Face System. Cargo brand makeup had something similar for a while called the 7in7, and I tried that as well (I was able to grab one at CVS360 on El Monte @ El Camino in Mountain View,CA). If I can wake up, wash, moisturise, then lay out foundation to lipstick and zip through it, I leave the house with a full glam face and a feeling of invincibility.

I’m just not one of those girls--for whom moving their lips while reading Cosmo is a major monthly literary accomplishment. Right?  Fluffy.  Professional Gum Chewers. Or whatever stereotype you can conjure. And yet I have developed this quirk in my Pantheon of Obsession. Not only to be Made Up, but to apply my yen to Collect, Compare and Expound.

****Disclaimer Repeat: Full Disclosure: I have, in the past, been a Beauty Control consultant and am currently one for Mary Kay. I do it solely for the discount and do not sell for profit, the same way I also hold discount/membership cards for Sephora, Ulta, Peninsula Beauty and Sally retail cosmetic and aesthetics shops. I strive to give fair reviews of all products used in this blog, and pay for everything out of my pocket. If ever a product is given without purchase by a shop, Independent Consultant of a direct marketed brand, or manufacturer, this will be *explicitly* stated at the beginning of the review and the product will be highlighted as such.***

I was going to give an in-depth report on Mascara, and this was, in fact, one of the original ideas I had for the this blog. I have since discovered, over seven months, that this was unnecessary. As Mascaras go, I have Two Rules:

1) Stick with a fluffy brush. Stay away from the myriad novelty brushes--everyone has them--they are easily identified as brightly coloured poly/plastic brushes, and a few are the ball or ‘mace’ shaped and I found I was not alone in finding they were nothing but gimmicky. They promise lengthening, separation, a “false lash” effect. In reality, they are extremely flexible so the brush tip wobbles during application, exacerbating another problem with the plastic brush: The surface doesn’t hold on to the mascara. Even after employing the quick-tissue-swipe, the poly surface simply applies the product directly, and in full, to the first bit of lash it contacts. Voilà, gloopy, clumpy lashes and mascara all over the eyelid. The more traditional filament-style brushes offer several advantages, in that they can be constructed with many, many more bristles in several configurations to “Lift and Separate”. This vastly increases the number of filaments which brush and separate your lashes, and the materials hold the product better, dispersing it more evenly throughout your lashes.

LOL @ Silly Claims: 117% Lash Growth? Millionized? Falsies Effect? Yes, it’s because every single spokesmodel is wearing visibly recognisable glamour-length FALSE LASHES IN A MASCARA AD. These new formulas with weird claims are misrepresented from the start (I know, shock and all....but really?!). They feel oily, gloppy, runny and smudgy. They won’t stay put for more than a couple of hours on many people, depending on daily activity and moistness of the individual, plus they tend to flake into the eyes when they do let go. I felt pretty dry this winter, not at all my usual hot tamale/moist self and these formulas still smudged and flaked all over my face like a makeup hit-squad.

The Champs: Sephora Lash Plumper Mascara and Lash Stretcher Mascara; Maybelline Great Lash (My fave Big Brush in Brownish Black-they are one of the few who do a good Brown) and The Colossal Volum’Express Mascaras; Stila Major Major Lash Mascara; Fresh Mascara; Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara.

The Chumps: Rimmel Sexy Curves and Lash Accelerator Mascaras; L’Oreal Telescopic Explosion Mascara (Ball or “Mace”- type brush); CoverGirl LashBlast Fusion and Volume Blasting Mascaras;

**Extra Credit Mascara: As I scanned the monthly mags, my Inner Jerk, Bern, saw an ad repeated in Vogue, Lucky, Elle and a couple others and experienced a rare indecision between apoplexy and perplexion (a real word. Bern says so). To wit: Clinique’s Lower Lash Mascara. Yeeessss. Lower. Lash. Mascara. 


 It boasts a tiny, specially designed brush that promises to carefully separate lower lashes without spreading all the mascara love all over the under-eye area as well as boasting a special formula that will not budge or smudge. For once, as Bern ranted I uh-huhed, shuffling my feet. Really, how freakin’ different can this be? This has to be some stupid scam of the $500 Organic, Alsatian Mountain-Elf Baby-Snot Under-Eye-Cream variety, jah? And yet... I’ve always had trouble with mascara on my lower lashes because A) I went gray at 23, and my brows and lashes finally followed suit about age 30, so I need colour, B) I tend to be a little, well, humid during my day. I have no idea what menopause has in store cuz mama I been a’cookin’ since my twenties. So I was secretly curious while Bern was bemusedly furious.  I plucked up my courage, popped down to Sephora, noodled round with lipstick and eyeshadow, then blurted out before he could hear: “canihavethenewcliniquelowerlashmascaraplease?”. It’s brilliant. The brush works. It stays put. As promised on the tin. NO MORE RACCOON. I’m happy I spent the money and Bern grudgingly admits there is elegance in details.

Some more current Makeup Faves:

Foundation Primers--Mary Kay and Bare Minerals both have easily-applied gel-style primers that immediately feel powder-dry upon application. And they do actually improve the sticking power of even the best liquid and powder foundations. They’re super lightweight, you’ll never know they’re there but for the smooth, longer-lasting finish and greater smudge-proof-ness.

Lip Primers--Urban Decay and Mary Kay: I’ve used Urban Decay’s Primer Potion for Eyes and Lip Primer for some time, and like them both. I tend to have an active lip er...what, Lip Life? I drink a lot of water, blow my nose and still have a bit of a tendency to chew my bottom lip. Can any product really withstand that? Urban Decay does it’s damnedest, and Jedi Jasmin swears by it. I’ll take it as back-up, but I LOVE Mary Kay’s TimeWise Age-Fighting Lip Primer. It feels silkier upon application, and all brands of lipstick layer beautifully and smoothly over it. With colour touch-ups throughout the day it prevents caking spots, feathering or cracking which I do experience after a few re-applications on the UD. I would prefer if the tube were as sturdy and compact in shape as the UD, which has a really kickin’, pocket-size tube for about the same amount of product.

Blushes--Nars and Mary Kay: Nars powder blushes are legendary for brilliant colours and beautiful coverage. They apply sheer and build to a beautiful sexy flush and they leave even the most early-morning beleaguered face looking Renoir-esque. Their most popular shade being Orgasm, my faves are Sin (raspberry-pink) and Deep Throat (peach). I really love them, and highly recommend applying with a kabuki brush--


--first dipping and twisting on the blush, then gently blowing on the brush and bouffing on the apple of the cheek, swirling as you draw the brush back and up diagonally to the hairline following the cheekbone. Mary Kay Cream Blush is a sheer cream-to-powder formula, mine is Sheer Bliss, another raspberry-pink colour. It applies pretty smoothly with fingertips, is very sheer indeed, and it has a party piece that you can try with Nars’ Multi sticks as well:

***MAKEUP TIP: Apply foundation of choice to even complexion. Lightly apply cream blush to apple of cheeks and blend. Apply to center of eyelids only, layering colour until dark enough for desired shadow shade. Leave outer and innermost corners very lightest to keep a bright look. Apply one coat mascara. Apply one coat cream blush to lips as primer, apply lip colour. --OR-- Apply blush to lips at just the center, geisha-style, and apply gloss over for a pixie- look. Voilà, four products, you’re done!

Which leaves me blushing with shame at the sheer amount of stuff still occupying the containment units, despite the post-review purge.  Can I still have this much? Glancing in my closet at the purses, hats, scarves and shoes, Bern howls with laughter till he needs to change his astro-diaper. This once, I leave him to it, this is well without his purview--I really am that girl: I'm a professional.

**All Urban Decay, Stila and national brand products are available at Ulta stores and online at Sephora, Urban Decay, Nars, Fresh, Clinique and Stila cosmetics are available at Sephora stores and Mary Kay products are available exclusively from your Mary Kay Independent Consultant, visit to find your closest representative. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lemons Into...

We’ve had a Friday potluck and two Sunday afternoon birthday cookouts in the last two weeks.  
The first birthday was undefined on the rules of bring-age so I followed what the voice of Emily Post told me:  Take Psycho Donuts.  You should account for this as being the voice of Emily Post in my head.  The recipe is really quite simple, appropriate for all ages and occasions.  
Step 1:  Find a Psycho Donuts near you.  None near you?  How rude of them. Write to their head office immediately.  
Step 2:  Roll up to the shop, they’re open till 9pm even on Sundays.  You should try to forget that fact for most of the rest of the week or you will become a character in the next Ghostbusters movie.  
Step 3:  Step into the shop and recognise friends you haven’t seen in a year who live in Fremont but are down in San Jose for brunch with other mutual friends they haven’t seen in a year.  Talk for a while, as you notice with a hawk-eye the wife coming dangerously close to ordering the last Elvis (raised donut filled with banana custard, topped with peanut butter and jelly, with bacon), at which point I will toss aside the fact she, her husband and young son were all attendants in our wedding and I will take her down.  
Step 4:  Notice there are actually three Elvis doughnuts, snap those up plus a variety dozen and some holes.  
The next Friday’s Potluck required a ‘D’, and so Deviled Eggs it would be!  I grabbed the 1979 Fannie Farmer cookbook I had just acquired and quickly learned that for whatever James Bloody Beard and Marion “Not Richie’s Mum” Cunningham preserved or innovated, THEY LEFT OUT DEVILED EGGS.  Plunging into Joy, after Creamed Eggs Au Gratin and Curried Eggs (which my mother tried one Easter, served over spinach--no points will be deducted for this as that year she also served broiled burgers filled with blue cheese covered in burgundy-shallot sauce), Deviled lay waiting on Page 195.  Because it’s JoC, I’ve already been prepped with all the background and techniques for egg boiling in all stages at the start of the chapter.  
Deviled or Stuffed Eggs are a fairly standard operation, the creaminess of mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  I add Smoked Paprika to nearly everything in the edible universe, and this is an obvious inclusion.  Then, what’s this atop the next column? “Exotic Additions to the Yolks”; including anchovy paste, caviar or chutney among the 15 suggestions.  Oh, and curry.   HOOooooohohhhhooooooo!!!!!!!!!!  So I grabbed a bottle of Penzey’s Sweet Curry Blend on Thursday and giddily awaited the Eggy Armageddon.  
Friday Jedi Jasmin produced, with a flourish, a fine sewing pin and showed me how to prick the top of the shells to relieve pressure and prevent cracking.  Then everyone goes in the cold bath, onto the fire, etc etc... Fill BlubberMade boxes, Transport to party, Lay one box out, Keep one in the car, or you will NEVER get to eat any--these things turn people into animals.  Joy hints at this in the next entry:  “Pop’s Deviled Egg’s”, featuring chili sauce, curry powder, celery salt and dry mustard.  This recipe makes only 8 eggs.  Keep it close, keep it in the family, keep it best in your own belly.
The second birthday was this last Sunday, for which I expended a modicum of effort, as it was Amazing, Amusing Andrew’s Birthday. The Andrew that belongs to Jedi Jasmin, so food was important. I made my Mac N Cheese (which someday soon I will, I promise, introduce you to, for which endeavor I am still auditioning novice chefs--there will be a video!!), and a Strawberry and Thyme Vinaigrette Salad.  


There was a fire pit and therefore S’mores later on, with home-made marshmallows that melted beautifully, impossibly, perfectly between ooo-ey and goo-ey.
But in between, a mountain of lemons lurked. They came with me that morning, fresh from my tree. The Nieces came round early and Jasmin suddenly pops up with a flat of quart jars to make Preserved Lemons.  I said nothing, and rolled with it, but will fly the Freak Flag of Surrender right here, right now:   All the canner’s lore, all the books, all the shows, have PROTOCOL For Canning.  There is Sterlizing.  There is Paraphernalia, there is Standard Operating Procedure.  There is NO TOUCHING.  It is Hot.  It is Involved.  
It does NOT allow for suddenly deciding to throw some lemons and salt and spices in jars even if people have done it for centuries and packing stuff in salt pretty much kills everything anyhow.  IT’S NOT PROCEDURE! I have a DSM-V Standard Diagnosis that says I felt like crying when some people touched the mouth of the jar after it came out of the steamer bath. We followed a recipe from the internet very closely, adding a spice blend I personally mixed from supplies acquired at work.  A Protocol was followed, just not the Clean Room Lock Down variety.
I’m always saying “Keep it loose!  It’s cooking, There is No Perfect!” And inside I was doing mental flippie-doodles.  But it’s just lemons and salt.  In a month, according to the recipe, they will be salty-sour edible sensations.  Or not. We can always just go for more donuts--they’re open late!
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Monday, May 23, 2011


Contest closes tonight at Midnight, Pacific Standard/ DaylightSavingsArePassedOnToYou/ Whatever/ Time!  
We’ve had some really tasty entries so far, so hurry hurry HURRY and tell us what YOU would pull out the good china for and serve on Tuesday Just For The Heck Of It!  What recipe makes you happy every time you even think about making it at the end of a long day?  What’s been your favourite go-to dinner?  

Yes, it might have originally come from a cookbook, a magazine or show, that’s how we
learn!  What most of us don’t realise is how we’ve tweaked and fiddled and changed--and that makes it yours! So HURRY UP!  Did I say that already?  Get your recipe up in the Comments Section in the Joy of China post.  GOOD LUCK, AND GOOD EATING!!  
Rules here:
Chime in and you could win Bragging Rights and a Shorty Trio of Baking Spices OR a 1/2gram jar of high-grade Saffron (acquired myownself, from Penzey's Spices in Menlo Park, California)!
-Entree Period Runs from Monday 09 May 2011 to Monday 23 May 2011. Judging period follows, with winner to be announced on Friday 03 June 2011.
-Entrees must be posted in the Comments section and include your name, email address, and full recipe.
-ONE winner will be chosen by me.
-The winning recipe will be posted with photos and the Winner presented here as an Official Kitchen Jedi!
-Now Get Cooking!
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Fannie Farmer Fairy, OR The Tale of Two Grandmothers

Oh Marion, It was just to much, I know that now.  I have had my Grammy’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook since my mom sent it to me that first broke-ass Navy Wife Winter in Virginia. It arrived in a box full of persimmons from Grandma’s tree in California and a pretty white dish towel. Mom inscribed the book: “Laura--Think your Grammy would get a kick out of knowing you were using her ‘Bible. Love, S ”.  If you are playing at home, this is Mom-ly Thing #34 being Officially Credited to her account.
To explain, that’s Marion Cunningham, keeper of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook flame. Patron Saint #4 of American Cooking Tradition and Lore. It’s a hell of a burden to bear-- the 1979 COMPLETELY REVISED! Edition, has a forward by James *Sainted* Beard hisownself.  She was his Kitchen Jedi, they traveled the country teaching. His mother knew Fannie, who was the very first American Culinary Yoda.  Dem’s some chops right there. The damned things go for more used in shops than the new ones on Amazon. 
I snapped this thing up in an antique shop two weeks ago for $18 because it was really worth it to me.  I wanted this book, and the newer edition as well, which my Jedi Jasmin snatched from under me at Book Buyers in Mountain View one bitterly cold evening after she filled me with Indian food at Sakoon, then gelatto, to slow me down.  What I neglected was reality.  My 1924 edition, containing advertisements in the back for things like andirons at Macy’s, contained the sort of recipe format considered new-wave and forward thinking:
ingredient ingredient
ingredient ingredient
ingredient ingredient
Instructions containing brief beginning-to-end-steps.
Even on the verge of the new-fangled 80’s, you clung fast to two pages of Brains, two pages of Sweetbreads and an entire Shad and Smelts section in the Fish chapter.  I admire you deeply for that.  But the format never changed and there is so much missing--in every recipe, in every section-- background information, the basic science and knowledge of techniques. I love you like my own Grandmothers, but Marion and Fannie, there’s a reason I’m the Joy of Cooking Fairy.  
With every edition JoC gets stronger, smarter, savvier. In that past life as a young navy wife, alone in a tiny unfurnished apartment 3000 miles away from my family for the first time, I had Fannie and Joy.  Fannie was history.  Joy was my then-husband’s grandmother, Daisy’s weapon of choice.  Family legend had it that as a young mother of seven in rural Ohio, they had a farm, but her husband also worked the steel mill.  During a particularly vicious snowstorm, the men were stuck near town at the mill, but Daisy was stuck with seven kids and a freshly killed cow in the barn that needed prompt butchering.  Daisy took her Joy Of Cooking, presented on her wedding day by her own grandmother, her sharpest knife and headed out back.  She opened JoC to the Map of the Cow and went to town  on that sucker.  Husband returned home to wrapped, frozen meat and a wife with a now-knowing glint in her eye.  She was the only one in that family I missed.
The Joy now begins with info on Nutrition, Meal Planning, Home Economics and Entertaining.  Food sections start you off with a brief introduction to the traditions, history and science of what you’re making, and what you’re going to need to know about techniques, ingredients and variations.  For example, what would normally be the treacherous subject of Savoury Sauces, Salad Dressings, Marinades and Rubs explains basic tenants of sauce components  and creation, uses and tools. It then launches into details about the various liquids and starch thickeners for sauces and why/when you should use them.  Thus, you are educated, and therefore confident, in how to make a no-lump sauce or gravy.  The back sections contain Know Your Ingredients--with illustrations of herbs, vegetables and such, Cooking Methods and Techniques, and a comprehensive Index.  This beauty has it all.
Fannie reserves a few conversion tables and helpful substitution lists for the inside covers, has an oddly conceived alphabetical reference in the beginning and leaves it at that.  It is, however, a wonderful, heartwarming repository of American heritage cooking.  I will never forget reading through it like a novel, tucked into a bed so far from home all those years ago.  

The ’24 edition contains charming notes on wondrous new flavour extracts and convenience products, and an odd Table of Measures and Weights the terms of which made sense Long, Long Ago in a Kitchen Far, Far Away.   As I slept, it lay on the pillow beside me next to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s West From Home, the letters she wrote her husband of her trip here to San Francisco for the 1915 World’s Fair.  She was visiting her daughter, Rose, a journalist, and I was captivated by the scope of this other Laura’s life.  At the beginning of my life, I met her when she was a slightly stroppy, tempestuous little girl (no similarity) in a red dress (none at all alike), who lived in a log cabin.  I have a wicked cool Librarian cousin with this as a tattoo: 


Her father soon decided to move on to the new territories opened up after the Civil War.  She spent the rest of her childhood in covered wagons and frontier towns.  There were dust storms, fire storms, locusts and one terrifying starving winter.  Then she married and had Rose, who became as irrepressible and sparkling as she.  On that trip she saw the same Palace of Fine Arts that I can drive 40 minutes due north on Highway 280 to San Francisco, stop, park and touch the columns of.  


She described the glorious nighttime electric lights illuminating the entire city so recently resurrected from the ashes of the Great Quake. From the literal back woods where her father shot bears and made everything including bullets by hand she witnessed Jazz, World War I, planes, trains and automobiles.
Fannie’s first edition was 1896, when Laura (and Daisy’s grandmother) were 20.  These women were extraordinary, strong and grounded.  But they ate some strange stuff and carried a LOT in their heads that never made it to the page, which was a big problem when I was 24, 100 years later.
So Marion, Fannie needs a new voice!  We need you to condense a little less, and explain a whole lot more.  Illustrate, chart those unknown waters with a little more than There Be Pastry Explained In Two Sentences On the Inside Cover!  But thank you for keeping the Stove of History hot, and the Legend of Sweetbreads, alive.  I’m off with to find me a Thymus and some capers...
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


This is where Zombie-Americans have a leg up on the rest of us--Storage.  They don’t need it, Hardware or Software. 
I do.
In Harry Potter’s world, Dumbledore’s beautiful, mysterious Pensieve swirls with the silvery strands of memories preserved; with only a wand tap needed to be completely re-enveloped in the long-ago scene.  
What you do not see behind these glamorous JoC Blog scenes is that your Fairy photographs and notes everything.  I post frequently on FaceBook, yes, but I whip out the phone and snap anything I know I might need any part of later.  Packaging, ingredients, pricing, where to buy, sale dates, book titles, vanity license plates, all the tiny little details I want to remember for later, plus Notes, texts to myself, emails to myself 
Holy Cannoli, I’m an INFO-HOARDER!!   But also a teeeeeensy wee bit forgetful.  My head? Full of Trivia (waving hand round Left Brain) and Jingles (waving round the Right).  Now shake that Boot-ay and do the What’s My Name? Boogie!  Seriously, I remember that Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should.  That Ralph did, indeed eat the Entire Thing, requiring Alka Seltzer.  That you should Reach Out and Touch Someone.  How to Do the Pigeon, how many Ladybugs went to the Ladybug Picnic.  
Won’t you be my Neighbour?  You already are?  For 10 years?  Huh...lemme write that down right.....
Errrmmm.... See, back in the day, I inherited from my father a predilection for those slim businessman’s diaries.  They measured about 2.5” X 6” and generally came in somber business-y tones of navy, burgundy, brown and black.  Inside they held a wealth of vital information such as world time zones, holidays, currency exchange, phases of the moon, milestone anniversaries... You know, Important stuff.  It’s vital--
Trivia.  It’s all trivia, isn’t it?  But within that, every two-page spread held seven-day blocks where you could visually plan your entire week.  Need to plan forward?  Flip two pages and you have the next month.  At the back of the book was an entire section for listing birthdays and important dates. It was the ORIGINAL Little Black Book.
Somehow, when GingerMan and I hooked up, He managed to replace this briefly with a Palm Pre or something that was a dark, clear red plastic with a stylus.  It was very pretty and made me feel very High Tech.  He had also just bought me a mobile phone because I worked late for Barnes and Noble every night and he was worried about me getting home safely.  That’s when my Dad said I had to marry him.
I briefly regressed to my LBB, and then there’s a black area in my memory as to what the heck I did until the iPhone came along.  I went out and snagged one of those suckers the first night.  I don’t care what any one of any of you in the universe says about gadget whoring, techie silliness etc.  You do NOT understand the state of my head.  
The iPhone was obviously created by people who came and studied me like alien abductors in the night.  I don’t even need a magic wand to tap my head, I just tap the screen and my thoughts, pictures, shopping lists, maps, calendars, address book, social media, information retrieval swirl round and suddenly appear.
My dilemma: Having recently re-entered the workforce, in retail specifically, phones are banned on the sales floor entirely.  Which I understand, entirely.  I’m 38 and if a sales associate were jerking round on their phone while I had a question, I might roll up and lean in for the 3-inch stare.  The other day I had a customer who did her entire shopping trip on the phone.  Not talking to someone she was shopping for, which is common, and amusing, just wandering round blabbing, doing the hand-cover-question-whisper a couple times, ending with the Checked-Out Check-Out.  I could have charged her double and she wouldn’t have noticed.  
But I am literally Brainless for 8 hours a day, three days a week now. There are a minimum of 5 times per day I could whip out my iPhone and access information on recipes, spices and other completely focused and pertinent information.  Not. Allowed. So at the least, I need a watch with at least two pre-set alarms and some system for taking and keeping notes while wearing an apron (assuming at times I will have no other pockets).
Where do YOU keep your Brains?  What’s your system?  Fill me in, and I promise I’ll keep your info on file.  When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, you’ll be on the list for my compound.  
Cuz I’m Never Gonna Let You Go, Never Gonna Let You Down.....


Follow the link to the Joy of China Post and Chime in at the Comments Section-- You could win Bragging Rights and a Shorty Trio of Baking Spices OR a 1/2gram jar of high-grade Saffron (aquired myownself, from Penzey's Spices in Menlo Park, California)!

-Entree Period Runs from Monday 09 May 2011 to Monday 23 May 2011. Judging period follows, with winner to be announced on Friday 03 June 2011.
-Entrees must be posted in the Comments section and include your name, email address, and full recipe.
-ONE winner will be chosen by me.
-The winning recipe will be posted with photos and the Winner presented here as an Official Kitchen Jedi!
-Now Get Cooking!
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Monday, May 16, 2011

You Could Be a Winner!

Certain times of the year tend to bunch up in our family.  May means my older sister’s anniversary, Mother’s day and my parent’s anniversary all land on the same weekend.  We took my mom to Alexander’s Steakhouse here in Cupertino.  Alexander’s has a Micheline Star.  I have trained for Olympic level dining: full course evenings of starters-to-cheese with all the amuses-bouches and palette cleansers and matching wines.  I don’t call myself a Foodie, an Expert of any sort.  
I am a Gourmand: “noun: glutton, overeater, big eater, gobbler, gorger; informal pig, greedy pig, guzzler.”
Gobblegobbleomnomnom.  I squeal for the server, moan and roll my eyes and wag my tail with every plate, every nibble.  I plan my dinner like most people plan their long-range road trips.  This time, I decided to forgo the steak (I’ve been working my way round the cow) and have the Tuna Tartar to start, the Caesar with Poached Egg, then the Filet Tartar, Fois Gras Mousse and Grilled Fois Gras as the Main.  I fully intended to cruise right into Dessert and into the Survey of Cheese, but found myself alone on the stinky fermentation front.  Amateurs. So GingerMan and I finished with the S’Mores--Delicate marshmallows, brullèed bananas, thick squares of chocolate ganache and Grahame-Miso daisy crackers.  Oh, and a peanut butter milkshake. Ba-dunk!  That’s me, hitting the floor.
My parents married on the deck of our apartment, with ducks and swans crowding the edge, fully expecting this crowd of people to be toting the motherlode of stale bread.  There was a judge, his back to the swans, with a black binder; my new grandparents, my two sisters and assorted people who exist as ghost extras in my memory.  I was seven years old, wearing a lilac flower-pattern cotton dress with lace edging, white cable-knit knee socks and brown sandles.  Later on, my 3-year-old sister and I were mistakenly given full-whack mimosas.  
The greater family group shifted and re-ordered and very shortly after, I moved away from my sisters to live with my father and this woman who had joined up for the National Guard Stepmother Plan--one weekend a month and two weeks a summer.  Instead she got a full-time kid with scars.  In her hutch you will find the Lladro Mother and Child figure my father bought her that first Mother’s Day.
I wrote of my ambivalence regarding M-Day. Last week, a friend mentioned that post and I dropped that the next blog would feature my RECIPE CONTEST that EVERYONE should ENTER.  She laughed and said she’d leave it to the experts.  I laughed right back and said I’d told The Knitmore Girls, myveryown Jedi Jasmin and Gigi Daaahhhhling the very same thing many times.  So many times, in fact that I finally vowed, a couple of months ago, to enter the very next contest, no matter what.  
That contest was their Mom N Me Contest.  For Mother’s Day.  BAAAH!  Fie!  So I didn’t enter.  I was right through to this bit of the story when I realised that for the two years I have been knitting, I have regaled many with the tale of The Raspberry Jumper.  How my mom knit it when I was about 10.  About Nathania of Purlescence Yarns opening the box of Lorna’s Fisherman, lifting the Cthulhu-like bundles of worsted-weight yarn skeins in magnificent colourways out of the box and not even setting them on the floor before my fibre-twin SarahLaura swooped down and grabbed the bundle of purple and I SQEEEEALED, snatching the lucious, raspeberry pink-to-lavender one.  That was ages ago, and I swore I was gonna knit myself a lovely jumper just like the one my mom made.  
It still seems like an anomalous occurrence--I have Memory Pockets.  I remember things from 18 months old that freak the rest of the family right out, but these things that should be so important remain surreal and often untouchable.  We never really did stuff together, we never had those Hallmark Moments. Our pasts and troubles bent us and sometimes broke us in ways that still keep us distanced.  But she did these little things and they bubble up in my memory.  
For a particularly good Christmas, she and Grandma made rag dolls to look like my little sister and myself.  They acquired these cardboard boxes that looked like pirate chests which I believe were originally packaging for Maker’s Mark bottles, but when opened by five-and-nine-year-olds revealed dolly dresses and little felt shoes and hats with ribbons on the brims. 
One summer she sewed me shorts that were longer and in colours that better suited my skin tone because I was so painfully self-conscious of showing my legs, which I believed to be fat and white.  The summer of 8th grade, she sewed my graduation dress, a 50’s-style pink dress with proper swing skirt, then found a crinoline, hot pink belt and matching pumps.  She also made me the perfect-blue Alice Dress, with two white blouses, to wear while flying solo to visit my sister in Utah.  
Now, The Raspberry Jumper.  I have the Knitting Pure and Simple pattern for a top-down raglan that would have kept my freezing arse warm and happy all freakin’ winter, but I kept saying, for a year--- I’ll find the perfect pattern, with fitting, with shaping, with this, with that....blahblahblah and a yaddah yaddah to boot.  
And I didn’t think of any of my mom’s creative triumphs, her attempts to achieve that which she never enlisted for, and I didn’t enter The Knitmore’s next contest, as promised.
I didn’t enter. I don’t enter. 
Sometimes it’s hard to hang on to these things.  But last week was our 30th Family Anniversary, and I was given a gift of memories.  I was born to a family of chaos and it gripped my mind daily.  In the last 15 years we have sought and tried and learned to hold and love each other.  So maybe stuff Mother’s Day, leave it to the one who blackened it’s name in my heart. 
Instead I embrace Family Day.  We enter Late, but with Gusto!  Mom, here’s to 30 years, and considering how long Grandma held out, about another 30 to go.  You called Monday to say how much you loved dinner, but I won some really nice lavender scrub so I might take you to lunch too.

And so should YOU!  You have a week left to enter my First Ever Recipe Contest, in which you can win your choice of a Three-Pack of Tasty Baking Spices -OR- some High-Grade Saffron!  Rules listed here:

  • Entree Period Runs from Monday 09 May 2011 to Monday 23 May 2011. Judging period follows, with winner to be announced on Friday 03 June 2011
  • Entrees must be posted in the Comments section and include your name, email address, and full recipe. 
  • ONE winner will be chosen by me. -The winning recipe will be posted with photos and the Winner presented here as an Official Kitchen Jedi! 
  • Now Get Cooking!
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Joy of China, Part One: Contest!

Joy of Cooking Sightings! Both at shops GingerMan and I scoped for china cabinets. First, Whatnots & Doodads in Willow Glen, on Lincoln Avenue near Minnesota. Two hard copies of the 1975 edition for $6 each, one two-volume paperback set, also for $6. Second, Not Too Shabby on South Bascom in San Jose. It’s a huge space with multiple venders, I spied this gorgeous copy all the way in the back:

IMG_2905 IMG_2909

It’s a 1943, well-loved and re-taped. Wonderfully gift inscribed, it's $38. As a special gift, with your personal inscription added it would be a touching gift so it’s actually worth it. The rest of the shop is fab.

Shabby is where we finally scored the right breakfront after a year of looking, where the *three* full officer’s sets (e.g. double sets of serving dishes and tea sets) of inherited china hiding in my cupboards will now be accessible. I’m really excited because they’re all completely different, of different eras, but they mix-and-match beautifully and as we’re not anticipating any Popes or Presidents for dinner, look for Tuesday night meatloaf on china from now on!

One set are the Noritake Duetto my father bought while stationed in Vietnam, with delicate gold scrolls. The next are Grandma's beautiful 40's-streamlined leaf motif Rosenthal. Finally, a hidden set of of Haviland from Grandma's friend, tucked into a storage space for 15 years. All of these to be set on our ***finally!FINALLY!!*** soon-to-be-delivered grown-up dining table and chairs! Next thing you know, we’ll get crazy and actually paint walls in a house we live in. Before we move out!

Cool Dinner Time Show: Ebert Presents At the Movies. I’ve watched his shows since I was small. It shaped my view of movies and informed my to-watch list for nearly 30 years. This newest iteration airs on PBS, which is cool. In the last 5 years ABC really jerked the show around, especially after Roger Ebert bowed out for advanced medical treatment, leaving his last cohort, Richard Roeper, to spar with guest critics. The guests were still well-chosen, most notably A.O. Scott of the New York Times. It was lively, wide-ranging, boisterous.

The spirited discussion was balanced between knowledge of classics and a willingness to embrace the new, the fun, the absurd and squarely B-genre. The newest pair are Christy Lemire, who, with quirk, wit and humour, would have fit well with the old guard. But she’s been set (I say with some reluctance) poorly against Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who seems like a squeeky-fresh college grad, chagrined to be saddled with viewing plebian popcorn flicks shot for more than $200,000 by other than obscure foreign directors.

No, that's not fair at all-- small foreign films are great--like my favourite gem I stumbled on by way of Netflix on AppleTV, Mary and Max. It's a beautiful, tender, hilarious story of accidental pen pals between Australia and New York, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as the stolid Asperger's-enduring Max:


and Toni Collette as the compressible, eventually irrepressible, Mary.


Ignatiy is usually obstinate, poncey and derisive. This week, however, She gave Thumbs Down to Hobo with a Shotgun. He gave it Thumbs Up. HAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


So! Cooking Fairies, let’s queue up a movie, break out the china and dish up something great! What would YOU serve on the Wedgewood for Tuesday dinner? Chime in and you could win Bragging Rights and a Shorty Trio of Baking Spices OR a 1/2gram jar of high-grade Saffron (aquired myownself, from Penzey's Spices in Menlo Park, California)!

-Entree Period Runs from Monday 09 May 2011 to Monday 23 May 2011. Judging period follows, with winner to be announced on Friday 03 June 2011.

-Entrees must be posted in the Comments section and include your name, email address, and full recipe.

-ONE winner will be chosen by me.

-The winning recipe will be posted with photos and the Winner presented here as an Official Kitchen Jedi!

-Now Get Cooking!

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