Friday, August 6, 2010

No ordinary family

There was a blurb on Yahoo today about how Spain had cleared a beach for Michelle and Sasha Obama while they are there on vacation. Really, this it the kind of thing that makes me feel for the Obama girls. I mean seriously. That’s just the epitome of why it would suck for your dad to be the President of the United States.

First, it totally blows the true magic words of childhood – “Wanna play?” when there’s no one there your age to ask. And even if they imported some kids on the beach for her to play with (ack – the thought!), you’d have to follow up with “Who’s that? Oh, it’s my secret service agent, Mr. Dan. Say “Hi!”, Mr. Dan!”

Second, in a couple of years she’s going to be a tween. And if her Dad is still President, and they again clear some beach somewhere, that really drives home that “God, my family is a bunch of freaks!” feeling that every pubescent kid has. And she’d be more entitled than most to that feeling. Also, there’s no chance of a boy seeing her in her bathing suit. And the only way you can really enjoy the agony and the ecstasy of having a boy see you in your bathing suit is if you see him seeing you in your bathing suit. And really, what else is summer vacation for?

Of course, there are advantages. She’s 9, and she’s been to Spain and probably seen things there that most adults wouldn’t have a chance of seeing. And she’s probably one of the safest little girls in the world. And on top of that, she seems to have loving parents who are doing the best to raise level headed kids. But, along with the fact that it’s a pretty extraordinary job her dad has, there’s also a pretty extraordinary downside. It’s actually a wonder that Chelsea Clinton and Amy Carter are as normal as they appear to be.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Requiem for a Madeleine: A wistful reflection on pastries

About twice a week, I’ll take my lunch and go eat in the lunch room. It’s a mini-vacation to get away from my desk and eat in peace every once in awhile. There are two sections: the kitchen area (where there are sinks, microwaves, refrigerators and vending machines) and the seating area which is a big open room with a TV (usually tuned to CNN). For my lunches, I like sitting at one of the stools in the kitchen area. I’m trying to get away, so the yammering from the TV annoys me. My usual seat has me staring into the snack vending machine.

My eye is drawn like a magnet to the bottom shelf. The pastries. One row of Pop Tarts. One row of Cinnamon Rolls. One of some sort of bear claw type of affair. And something called a Butter Horn. A butter horn. A butter horn. My mind automatically whispers, “ooooo, I bet that’s good.” It’s got an icing that shade of yellowy orange that’s not found in nature. About the size of a saucer. Tempting me. Calling me.

But, I just know. It’s not going to be what I think it’s going to be. Yes, I still cheat occasionally on the processed foods. Some are cheats of principle. Smoked brisket is all kinds of bad for me. But it’s worth it. Some are cheats that have consequences. If I eat the box-mix, sprinkles cupcake, I will be pressing a finger between my eyebrows and saying “ow, ow, ow” in about 20 minutes. Sometimes worth it. Sometimes no. And there are some cheats that are just going to be grave disappointment once I actually have them in my mouth. Like a Silkwood chemical bath for the tongue. Not. Worth. It.

Those are the ones that live in my head as some fantastic taste. Star Crunch. Coca-Cola. Planters peanuts. Cheetos. Mmmmm. But now that I’ve kind of detoxed my tastebuds, 7 months down the line, they don’t live up to the memory any more. Some don’t live up to the memory at all anyway. The Twinkie of my childhood no longer exists. They’ve changed formula so many times that it doesn’t even resemble a 1976 Twinkie in taste or texture. Coke does exist in the same form I had as a kid, if I go find a Mexican Coke. But the one that comes out of your garden variety vending machine is just not as satisfying in that Proustian way.

But that Butter Horn. It looks delicious. Glistening under its plastic wrap. Calling me. But I just can't listen. Experience tells me, that now, like the once-beloved who has strayed, I will never be able to experience them quite the same way again. Fillers and preservatives and emulsifiers and artificial colors. You can’t go back.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Scream a Little Louder

Okay, I’m kind of appalled by this story. Ice cream is obviously going the way of the cocktail – all overgrown foodie-faddie. So much hot air blown around that it’s a wonder the ice cream ever sets. $5 for a small cone? Really? Pirates. And that “artisanal” ice cream person who says that ice cream is really complicated? No. It’s not. Frankly, if anyone tells you that they make an artisanal product, check and make sure they haven’t stolen your wallet. Biggest con of the year. People make their own ice cream in the back yard, with stuff they buy at the super market, while simultaneously grilling hamburgers. And have you ever had a BAD scoop of homemade ice cream? Me neither.

I’ve been going through a bit of an ice cream phase this summer, since someone gave me a machine. And I’ve made some kick-booty sorbets and sherbets. I guess you can’t really call it ice cream, since one of the people I’ve been making dessert for is lactose intolerant, and I can’t find lactose-free cream. But the chocolate sherbet I made from David Lebovitz’s blog ( was immense, even though I used Lactaid milk. And the recipe for vegan strawberry ( set a new benchmark for me of what a vegan recipe can taste like. Like summer in your mouth. And the 2 liters of ice cream ended up costing about $10 to make. That includes the bag of ice, since I don’t have an ice maker. Let me tell you, beat the hell out of Tofutti.

Yeah, it’s a little work. Not that much though. Let’s remember, I’m the laziest cook you know. I don’t do complicated. But I can guarantee that with only moderate effort, a cheap ice cream maker and fair-to-middling ingredients, you can make something spectacular on your own.

The Breakfast Club 2010

Looking at the celebrity headlines lately, I’ve been making up this fantasy remake of The Breakfast Club. Except instead of high school detention, it takes place in court mandated drug and alcohol rehab. And, for the full updated effect, you make it a reality show.

First, you got your big roles. Charlie Sheen, in a big update/twist, would be playing Bender (originally played by Judd Nelson). He’s much more the “Criminal” bad boy than the jock his brother Emilio played. I can actually picture him in the overcoat and combat boots, walking across the football field with his fist in the air. Then, of course, we’ve got Lindsay Lohan as our Princess Claire. But wait, you say, isn’t LiLo way too young for Charlie Sheen? Technically, yes. But if anyone has a raft of daddy issues, it’s that girl. And she is probably a little old for him. But he’s a pro. He’ll work around it.

Then, you have the other ensemble parts. Mel Gibson? I think he’s our jock with anger issues. And I can seriously seeing him being the kind of guy who would think it was funny to tape somebody’s butt cheeks together. Am I wrong? I’m also thinking Whitney Houston would be good for our kook, originally played by Ally Sheedy. One, there’s the snow dandruff scene. And Whitney knows a little something about snow. Two, didn’t you originally see that movie and wonder why there were no black people at that school? And, okay, Mel and Whitney aren’t actually in rehab right now. But let’s face it. They’re teetering. And for our Brain? Don’t know. But I’m sure you walk into any high priced rehab and you’re bound to find one or two actors to chose from.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Goody Two Shoes

I get why they use portmanteau words in advertising. You take two words that describe your product, slap ‘em together and you’ve got a new word and your new name. As in, they’re fruity! They’re high in fiber! They’re FrootieTooties! Oooo. Just makes me want to buy a box.

But I never, NEVER get the two words right. Even if they use a bigger letter in the middle to show where the word break is, if there is any chance of breaking it down at the wrong place, I’ll go right for it.

I read this product as Runt One. Shoes for short people? Trainers that actually make you lose muscle mass? I’m tired of being big and tough. I’m looking for a shoe that will turn me into the runt of the litter. Didn’t matter that the font changes at the T. I’m thinking this is a product line that is going to be endorsed by David Spade.

And, by the way, I’m not buying these toner shoes. Not just not purchasing. I’m not buying the concept. No, I’m not going to believe that shoes will magically give me a butt you could bounce a quarter off of. In fact, I’m pretty sure that six months from now there will be a law firm commercial that says “Were you injured by toning shoes? You can still join the class action law suit. Just call 1-800-RICKETS.”

Monday, August 2, 2010

To-Marrow, To-Marrow, I love ya, To-Marrow

It was just one of those weekends where you look around and think, why don’t I always get this much accomplished? I got my place tidied up in a way I probably haven’t seen it in at least 6 months. Maybe even a year. Laundry, donation clothes, mail shredding, cleaned the kitchen floor (man did it need it). I weeded by parents front flower beds (though they are getting to be more of a mostly pretty bushes and only spring flowers beds). I tried out a new recipe for a pickled purple hull pea salad from over on the Homesick Texan blog (tasty as heck).

And I got registered for the National Bone Marrow Registry ( A friend and I’d been meaning to do it for awhile. Luckily, there was a registration drive this weekend. Or semi-luckily. Of course the first listing sent me to an abandoned nightclub in downtown. On the wrong day. Just the kind of crackerjack organization that I’ve come to expect from Dallas charities. But by the time we got to a computer, we found there was another drive the next day.

We met a really interesting guy who was a marrow recipient himself, and who helped up us fill out the paperwork. The cheek swabs only took about 2 minutes. The paperwork about 5. And here’s something interesting I found out – 80% of all marrow donors end up donating through an IV, rather than the older procedure where they tap your hip bone. I wonder how many more people would be interested in signing up if they knew that little factoid. Because, everyone I talked to beforehand said they would consider donating if it weren’t for the post-procedure pain they have heard of. Personally, I’d be willing to donate either way, if I was a match. A little pain isn’t a lot to go through to save someone’s life. It’s not like throwing yourself on a grenade. Now that would hurt. And it would ruin your shirt.

But after talking to our registry counselor, we found out that the National Bone Marrow Program runs on a pretty low budget. They concentrate more on doing the work than raising money. Which is kind of refreshing to hear. But of course, that also means they don’t get the PR that a Susan G. Komen or American Heart Association would. So, even if you don’t want to donate marrow and are looking for a worthy cause to donate time or money to, consider NBMP. You can be very sure they would be very appreciative of either.

TIME: Quotes of the Day