Saturday, February 25, 2006

What's Shakin?

I would like to talk about the many wonders of Shake N Bake. I don't think this product gets enough credit in serious food circles. I know, I know, it's pretty much just Italian bread crumbs in a plastic baggy sold for much more money, but Shake N Bake is really the solution to delicious yet stress free dinners. Tonight, for example, I grated some parmesan into my baggy of crumbs. It was like an extra salty slice of chicken parm without the lemon juice, three plates, and hours of labor. Thankfully, I had a vat of homemade marinara on hand to eat with it.

Shake N Bake has proved itself for me as a hostess meal on several occaisions. In college, when I was living in a 300 square foot shanty, I treated my cousin Meredith and her boyfriend Paul to a fabulous meal of GLAZED Shake N Bake and mashed potatoes. She spoke to our mothers as if I had prepared a rack of lamb. Concidentally, her boyfriend Paul recently made her roast lamb for Valentine's Day. I think my early introduction to Shake N Bake spawned this creative cooking endeavor.

I think the best thing about Shake N Bake is that, because it seems fun and "game like," Corey will prepare Shake N Bake as a meal. It's like the fine people at Kraft have discovered a way to get men to flavor meat and serve it to their partners. So for all the doubters out there who think Shake N Bake is a lame excuse for a delicious meal, I suggest you grab some pork, chicken or other cubed meat and stick it in a baggy with flavory goodness and just see how easily you create a yummy creation. Even Julia Child would be proud.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Who'll Stop the Rain?

Last night I was just getting ready to run out the door to rugby practice when I heard plops. Many plops. In my office. How could there be plops of water in my office? There is no fountain in my office! I thought, wrongly. Something happened upstairs to cause water to dripdripdrip right through their floor and through my ceiling. As you can see from the photo, powerful water drills holes through the toughest of concrete. It made a pouch of paint and then burst through like Old Faithful.

I didn't even know what to do, so I called the emergency landlord number. I was mostly freaking out because I couldn't bear to miss rugby practice but didn't want to leave my office during a rainstorm. Kimi was outside beeping and rocking out to Janet Jackson, everything was happening at once. Ron, the fix-it man, said it was fine to leave and that he would take care of it for me. Thank God, because as soon as I got in Kimi's car we could sing "Again" and pretend we both had belly rings and a white outfits just like Janet.

Every single night this week has brought a new adventure. If my football playing students aren't fighting and bashing holes through walls in the writing lab, water is bashing holes through the ceiling of my house. I am almost looking forward to my Verizon battle because I know something exciting will happen. Exciting things happen in threes, right?

I am heavily debating whether to eat chocolate cake for breakfast or drink a 40 of OE before I leave the house to prepare myself for my day. Maybe Ron would like some cake with butterjuice glaze as a token of my appreciation for stopping the rain.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Icing on the Cake

The chocolate cake was a delicious success. I claimed my beggar's coffee from the upstairs neighbors and made a moist, fluffy cake. All was going well. It looked beautiful on the cake platter. I managed to cover it with aluminum foil without ripping the foil or breaking the cake. But then I went to make icing. I can't decide if I didn't boil the milk/flour mixture long enough or whether I got over-zealous with the Kitchenaid and whipped the icing to oblivion. Either way, the icing looks like baby formula spit-up. It's soupy, and full of chunky white sugary bits. Did I let this minor setback stop me from icing my cake? You bet your ass I didn't! I like to call it butterjuice glaze with sugar chunks on top. It still tastes fabulous and Corey and his seven friends will enjoy every instant of it while they are camping and starving on their little road trip this weekend. Mmmm chocolate cake with butterjuice glaze.

In other news, tomorrow is our showdown against Verizon. I am Corey's second in this duel. We have polished our pistols and are ready to face off at high noon. We will use our brand new Vonage internet phone connection to spit poison words and threaten T-mobile to the fiends at the other end. Justice WILL prevail.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Deep Healing Squeeze

I made it through my list. Just now! Although I am sure more worrying could always be squeezed into my life... Speaking of squeezing, I've been a really good girl about picking my face this week. So the ten thousand zits on my chin have grown into adult craters waiting to explode. This morning, I took care of all that and it was marvelous. A perfect ending to a stressful time period.

Corey is going away for a road trip and I have completed my to do list, which leaves me with little to do. That means it's time to bake and cook again! Last night, I made marinara at 1030 at night. It got really good this time, too. I think that adding zucchini is a definite necessity. I haven't even examined Julia's ideas about pasta sauces. I'm still too busy combining different parental sauce wisdom to dabble into other people's ideas.

This morning, I'm baking Aunt Mariann's chocolate cake. I had to run around my building and beg people for coffee. Nobody understood that I didn't want coffee grinds, but that I needed a prepared cup of java. "Who doesn't have a coffee pot??" they all wondered. The answer is US! We hate coffee and we hate how it smells and tastes and looks and we don't have any cupboards anyway, so we don't have a coffee pot. The only reason I agree to add it to cakes is because I know that it all works out in the end.

So in three hours, I will be eating rich, creamy chocolate cake with homemade icing. That might end up being a better source of relief than my deep healing squeeze this morning.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I feel stress this week. I suspect I may just need to write down all of the things I need to do so my face stops exploding in thousands of tiny pimples a la seventh grade horror and my heart stops racing. Seriously, I'm pitting out and picking my face and too tense to even pee. I woke up this morning with clenched fists. I think the majority of these feelings are due to nervousness over having my classmates comment on my writing, but I do have a lot to deal with this week:

1. Find out Corey's progress dealing with our horrible cell phone fiasco
2. Edit the constitution for the Creative Nonfiction Writers' Professional Development Society I for some reason agreed to be vice president of
3. Read and comment on the workshop pieces for tonight's class
4. Write my own workshop pieces to submit tomorrow
5. Write my reflection for the writing course I taught in the Hill last week to which not one person showed up
6. Revise the freaking Book Rags 64 page single spaced monster that I took on as a freelance project before I discovered the book I was analyzing was 783 pages long. NOT worth $300!!!!!
7. Worry about my tax return
8. Worry about missing 3 rugby functions this year due to stupid grad school stuff and 1 to family obligations
9. Worry and pick at my new acne-filled face while trying to maintain a professional appearance as a grown-up engaged woman
10. Practice pack for my trip to LA.

I feel like I should forget all my obligations and play Katamari until Wednesday. Surely two drunken days filled with video game play will alleviate stress?

Friday, February 17, 2006


Why can't I just get services like a normal person? There was the whole year and a half fiasco where I couldn't receive my mail, it was in constant circles between New Jersey and Lebanon and then New Jersey and Pittsburgh and Lebanon. Before that, in college, my mail was going to Katie Rankin in Mt. Lebanon. She still never gave me my back issues of the New Yorker! Hog!

Now I can't have a cell phone. Every month for the last four months, Verizon Wireless overcharges Corey and I by several hundred dollars. Sometimes, they turn off free nights and weekends on our phones just for fun. Last month there were over $500 worth of charges due to that. This month, they did that for a few days and random calls. Like they charged me to talk to Corey, who is in my own family plan. And they charged me to talk to my mom, also an In customer. Hundreds of dollars. Every month. So we spend our quality time either freaking out or on the phone with their shitty customer service people who, after last month, swore they would keep an eye on our bill and make sure there were no false charges this time.

I have left it up to Corey to talk to them this time. We are leaving. We are going to T-mobile unless they give us something to make us happy. If you think about it, we spend at least one hour per month talking to them (not counting angry time and freak out time and preparation for the call plus printer ink and paper) so over four months, that works out to $48 of Corey's time. (Based on his current temp salary)

It would be one thing if we were making $500 worth of phone calls each month. But they are not holding up their end of the bargain! We pay them to give us cell phone service at the rate designated in our contract. We do not pay them to make us spend hours each month calculating and analyzing each phone call to make sure it was IN because their damn computers have clearly stopped working.

Also, they turned off our water this morning. I have sleepy dirt in my eyes and am considering washing my face with milk.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

St. Valentine's Day

This was possibly the strangest non-holiday of my life. For starters, we decided to celebrate on Saturday due to Corey's ridiculous decision to work second shift and be gone all night every night. So after my exciting afternoon interview with Pittsburgh Quarterly (WOOHOO! FEATURE ASSIGNMENT!!!) Corey and I went to the Waterfront to go shopping. Corey just loves shopping. He had birthday money to spend on work clothes. We picked out the coolest stuff and I was just bopping all around Kauffman's looking at mixing bowls and ogling the major discounts when he started to get grouchy.

At first I thought he was being a big baby, but then I realize it was almost 10pm. We had been shopping for hours and hadn't had Valentine's Day dinner or anything. I couldn't believe it. That has never, ever happened to me. I pretty much get in and get out when shopping, except for books. Shopping is for my mom and sisters. And evidentally me now.

We finally sat down to vodka cream sauce at like 11 at night. It was deeeelicious thanks to my sneaking onions in the sauce. I don't understand why my fiance thinks onions are the devil. I'm telling you, food is not good without onions.

The actual holiday kicked off watching Evan pee on his 24 hour ride of love. Corey got up really early and rode with him on Tuesday and the guy's knee was inflamed. He stopped his ride at 2pm instead of 5pm on Tuesday because his body stopped working. I really don't feel like it's smart for a talented and dedicated athlete in training to do that to his body. But he's done now and they made $500. Worth it?

The night was a fabulous non-holiday at the end because I finished two essays and went down to Destiny's non-celebration for chocolate covered strawberries and zinfindel. I told the story of the strawberries at Sami's wedding and we all agreed they are fine when you pay a slave to make them for you, but not worth the production to make yourself. Much cheese was eaten by all as we ticked away the final moments of the night watching Orlando Bloom movies.

Gosh, the holidays are stressful!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Is it nerdy if I gush for awhile that my nephew learned to walk yesterday? Cause he did! Now, when I go visit in 2 weeks, he can run to greet me at the airport. If he remembers me. But it's only been since Christmas and he's evidently a genius, so he probably will. He's so perfect!

In other nerdy news, I am obsessed with watching Olympic curling. And the luge. And the cross country skiing. I think the skiing is the most fascinating. I like to watch the rows of skiiers bob up and down and use their poles. They remind me of little jumping fishies or strange swimmers doing the breast stroke. Did anyone watch the skiing this weekend when this famous guy fell at the very beginning and ten million skiiers tripped over him and scrambled to get up and keep going? There was frantic bobbing up and down then. I was on the edge of my seat. And every second someone is on the luge, I am waiting for them to crash into a wall and fall off the sled.

But on Monday, it happened! (I think it was Monday) This girl totally wiped out and was skidding down the track at 80 miles an hour and managed to get back on board! That was amazing.

My third bit of nerd news is that I think I've gotten bored with knitting or something. I can't will myself to finish my green felted mittens. It's been since December. Can you believe it? Me? Maybe I need to spice things up and do up some socks or something. This is highly unusual. I feel afraid that Katamari has replaced my passion for yarn.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ride of Love?

Corey's friend Evan is sitting outside the Pitt student union riding his bike. He's been there doing it since 5pm yesterday and is going to still be doing it at 5pm today. 24 hours. In the freezing cold. Literally freezing cold. It's like 20 degrees. Corey had told me they would have heaters for him, but all they have is a little space heater. I worry about these kids! I worry!

When I stopped by after class last night, he was in great spirits and had been spinning for 3.5 hours. He had to pee while I was there, so I got to see that procedure. One kid from the bike team went in and got him a Pepsi cup. Someone else held a blanket up around him and he got out his junk and did his stuff while spinning. It took a long time cause he was nervous and cold, but he damn near filled that cup! A large one, too! Women just can't pee that much. I was a impressed.

But after the shock of being impressed wore off, grandma Katy set in again and I just kept thinking about the cold. I know they wear fancy gear to prevent chills and all that, but 24 hours in 20 degrees is just not good. I just hope they earn enough money through this crazy fundraiser to make it worth it.

They made a commercial about it. You should check it out.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

I went to Giant Eagle today to get some produce so Corey can make me pasta with vodka cream sauce for Valentine's Day. They totally remodeled the store. It's now a "marketplace." All the clerks wear white with orange aprons, the walls and displays are painted light brown, and all the signs are written in cursive so you feel like you're in Tuscany rather than East Liberty. Which is all great. But the store is set up like a crazy person went wild and threw food all over the place.

Cheese is in three different places. Three! And cream isn't with the milk. It's with the butter. Is that usual? I can't even remember, but it felt weird. Organic tomatoes are next to the baked beans, while normal canned tomatoes are in the organic Italian section, where there are random refrigerators for homemade sauces. And toilet cleaner? In the back. Next to the bread. It was so trippy. It took me almost a half hour to grab canned tomatoes, cream, crusty Italian bread (near the fresh flowers) and toilet bowl cleaner.

So then I try to get on the bus. I say try because it was full to the bursting point with fat people. I had to take a few steps running to burst through the bulging bellies gathered at the doorway. Two fat women filled a row of four seats. There were fat children taking up entire aisles. Everyone on that bus was fat. And one fat lady had her enormous, Gommy-sized pocketbook on the grocery shelf. So I had no choice but to stand in the aisle with my shopping bags and bookbag with no free hand to grab the strap. And you know I can't stay upright on a moving bus! So I was falling into fat bellies and banging into big fat thighs. It made me sick. I was staring at all the jeans with gaping seams and glad I wasn't a down coat clinging for dear life to a ginormous fat bosom.

This is why Corey working second shift is a bad idea.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Making Glass

Lately I've been thinking of my factory days a lot. I guess it's because I'm living in such an industrial city. Or, rather, a former industrial city. It makes me remember not only my experience working at Bayer but also working with the displaced factory folks when they shut down the Corning plant. I remember the smell of the burning glass and the blank stares of the workers when they finally realized the plant was closing for real. For good. A girl from my program has been interviewing former steel workers. One of them told her that he is really worried that America isn't making anything anymore. Is he right? Is that why I'm so haunted that those factories were shut down?

Anyway, I found myself laying awake all night thinking about Tammy and Kermit and Kathy and Marilyn and all the faceless, nameless men who blend together now as they streamed in one after the other hoping I could find them a job with any sort of comperable paycheck to their factory work. Where are they all now? What jobs could they possibly find in State College? Is it wrong to hope they uprooted and moved somewhere so they could feed their families? Or is that totally ignoring the problem?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I just found out that a girl in my workshop has synaesthasia. We asked her why she used British spellings of things like colour and honour and she said "My u's are yellow." What?? Synaesthasia is a neurological disorder where your senses get crossed. Some people, like Julie, see letters as colors. Her u's are always yellow, her whole life. Each letter is a whole different color. Isn't that trippy?? Some people taste shapes or hear flavors or feel sounds.
Some of the articles I've been obsessively reading say that 10% of people have this sensory disorder. That means an equal number of people taste shapes as are left handed. The articles also agree that synaesthates are more likely to be writers or artists and one even suggested that this disorder changes the way synaesthates process mathematical equations and things. A person who sees numbers as colors, for example, can remember long strings of numbers (phone numbers, pi) and also might be able to see solutions to complex equations based on color patterns!
I want to know everything about this. I wish Julie would write her next essay for workshop about it because this is the most fascinating thing I've ever heard of. I want to know how she discovered she had it and others don't. I want to see a colored alphabet in her version. I want to somehow program MS Word so each letter of text is a different color so I can see how crazy it is to read in technocolor. I'm so fascinated.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Assorted Ramblings

The Steelers won the SuperBowl. My friend Tricia has asked me to clarify that, while the victory was monumental, Earth-shattering perhaps, it was not better than winning the RUGBY national championship her own self. Yesterday's moment was better than if Penn State FOOTBALL would have won the national championship. I insist she did not mention a sport when she first said this, and I ASSUMED she was talking about rugby. Because what Penn State rugby player refers to sports other than rugby? I feel like it's natural to assume all Penn State sports related conversation with ruggers is rugby related unless otherwise specified. But anyway, Tricia is not a lunatic and we both enjoyed the victory last night by running through the streets with the crazies.

Which brings me to something that bothered me all day. How can people stand to run around in the bitter cold with no shirt on? I was seriously bundled in many layers and was a popsicle. I was horribly complainy on the walk back to Oakland. Miserable in fact. Yet there were many persons running around in various states of undress for really long periods of time. They were drunk, you might suggest. I am not a scientist, but I don't think booze makes you actually grow super skin. Why don't they have frostbitten nipples? Blue fingers? Health problems? How does that work?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Butter is Good

Julia Child really knows her party foods. As she suggested, I made stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer for a party this weekend. What a hit! I love how yummy the butter, cream, and cheese tasted when blended with onion and parsley and bread crumbs. Mmmmmmmmm! I only wish the bar we're going to later today would serve some Julia food. Which is more artery clogging: buttered vegetables a la Julia Child or fried chicken, Polish fried foods, and greasy french fries?

Corey and I are walking to the South Side because they have closed all the streets to traffic and the buses can't run. If I don't check in by noon tomorrow, you can all assume I have died of either a heart attack or a stampede in the riot that is sure to ensue later tonight.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Nerves of Jelly

I feel like I spent more hours this week reflecting on teaching and pedagogy and technique and theory than I spent actually doing any of those items or in a classroom setting. In my scramble to get teaching experience while in graduate school, I have taken on more interviews in a one-month time period than I think is smart. Last night, I spent four hours writing a syllabus. Who knew professors had to write those things from scratch?? Also, who knew the professors probably should have read the material they schedule on various days for the syllabus?? SO not only did I have to decide my goals for the pretend course I needed to describe, I needed to read essays and select enough of them to spark class discussion for fifteen weeks. Oy!

Despite all my preparation, I feel completely nervous about interviewing for these positions. It's so strange. When I sit down to tutor or lead a workshop, I am totally confident. I know things about the material my students do not and, like when I coach, I know how to get them to know it and like doing so. But something about not being assigned a teaching fellowship has knocked my confidence out of whack. I feel like the department thinks I am not good at these things. I put so much pressure on myself to make them see that I should be teaching.

As I learned in my metaphor workshop on Tuesday, frustration spins wildly when tilted and makes me dizzy.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Miss May is Back!!

I was feeling totally grouchy and tired today as I slumped to my bus stop. I even saw the 71A coming and didn't bother to rush. Then, when I crossed the street, I saw Miss May! She blew her silver whistle and held back the traffic for me. It was so great. She said she couldn't stand being retired and asked for her job back.

In the past three weeks, May cleaned her house every day until it sparkled and sat around bored. She said she kept waking up at the crack of dawn and putting on her uniform before she remembered that she didn't have to go to work. And also, her husband recovered from throat cancer, so she doesn't need to be with him as much any longer. So she came back!

All the kids brought her candy and made her a banner and cards. Everyone is so glad to see her. I'll tell you what, that street corner just wasn't the same without her. I guess the other guard was okay, but she was no May. I'm so glad to have a crossing guard again! It's like having another grandma. Life is good.