Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008 - Greased Lightning...

As bitter as I was in my last post about Thanksgiving and the Turkey With No Brine, I do have to admit, my Tia roasts a pretty good bird. There. I said it. Though I will also argue that stuffing the stuffing in the bird makes it mushy and gross and stuffing should be baked independant of that.

But I'm also a non-traditionalist food snob.

And I think I make a pretty mean ham. Even if I do think I over cooked it a little (or over-heated it, since the dern thing was pre-cooked), and nearly reduced my mother to tears when she found out that I was planning on doing it without pineapple and cherries.

Thanksgiving 2008

Man, she went nuts. And told me I had to go to the grocery store right that minute to get pineapples and cherries because if i didn't then the world would end or something. Luckily, I got to the grocery store around 10AM on Thanksgiving, which is enough time to make parking a head ache (I avoided the lot completely and did street parking) but not bad enough that I wanted to stab someone in the canned fruit aisle.

While there, I sucked it up and bought some fresh cranberries too, even though my family will be heathens and still go with the jellied can stuff.

Still, did anyone else feel like this holiday crept up on them without notice? Usually we can see this one coming a mile away, but this year it was here and gone in the blink of an eye.

You could tell we weren't ready for it. My mother, in charge of only greanbeans and corn, was so delighted she had nothing to do this holiday she decided not to even worry about a green bean casserole and just threw a bunch of butter in it. My sister, in charge of the bread, came over with only four packs of twelve for three families, and ended up having to cook two batches of cornbread to make up for it. My aunt, in charge of mashed potatoes, forgot to bring the gravy. My other aunt, the hostess (and non-turkey briner), forgot to suck out some of the Turkey juice and ended up with grease in the oven, which meant it caught on fire.

Which meant we spent about twenty minutes standing outside while my uncles tried to fan out smoke, and the bread that my sister brought ended up... well... smoked.

Thanksgiving 2008

Which meant the yams weren't cooked. So no yams this year.

And in the midst of all that, my five year old cousin decided it was a good time to ask the group what sex was.

This with a nun at the table.

Thanksgiving 2008

All in all, another great Thanksgiving, even if no one was quite prepared for it.

Except for maybe Thalia, who spent most of the turkey time standing around my uncle's legs as he carved the turkey, hoping for a slice or two.

She got greenbeans from my cousins instead.

Thanksgiving 2008
view the rest of the pics here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'd Be A Lot More Thankful If I Could BRINE the darn turkey...

I'm not going to kid myself. I'm never going to be on Top Chef, and I seem to have an anti-green thumb that results me killing any herb I try to grow out back (my basil is fighting but the fight, it's losing).

Even so, I love to cook. I've always loved to cook. Even when I was a little kid and thought 'cooking' meant being able to boil water and make the Top Ramen by myself, I've always just ... enjoyed food.

This lands me in trouble for a number of reasons, in a number of ways.

1. I'm Mexican.
Well, Mexican-American, and though my Mom is Texas-born and raised, my Dad is very much a Mexican man. This means that, although Mom did like to branch out, a typical dinner for us included Mexican staples: something fried, something carb-y, and tortillas (also, you haven't lived until you've heated up a fresh warm tortilla and lathered it with peanutbutter and jam. Yum). Sounds fattening, but Mexican's LOVE to cook. And they know what they like. What does this mean? Well, there generally isn't much a welcome wagon for that upstart young kid who wants to do things a little differently.

Case in point: Grilling. I love grilling. I want to grill more. I can't. Because my dad grills. The problem when he grills though, is he likes to turn the meat over and over and over until it's overcooked and (still tasty) dry. I also one time handed him a soaked cedar wood plank in which to smoke some salmon fillets and he looked at me like I had lost my damn mind.

"What the hell am I going to do with this?!" he asked me, and thrust it back at me.

I thrust it back. "Put the salmon on it."

He glared at it. "It's going to burn."

"No, I soaked it."

"It's wood!"

This went on for a while until my Mom (who has always tried to encourage my culinary endeavors - except when I make a nice lemon butter sauce for a crab ravoli, or over salt something), told him to let me do it.

He grudgingly did. And then made me stand by the grill with a hose in case the whole thing went up in flames.

2. I'm chubby.
My metabolism, it is not so nice to me. This means that if I want to eat half of what I aspire to, and keep my shape, I must work out for an obscene amount every day, and run.

I hate running. It's so boring. And I know from whist I speak. I ran a damn marathon. Didn't make me feel accomplished at all. I felt lik a chump. Also? It hurts.

I've realized I will never be a skinny bitch, but it would be nice not to be a lazy overweight one.

Still, it's very hard to come home and be content with grilled salmon (no salt) when my mother has just fried chicken and fries.

3. I'm a snob.
Seriously. I'm one of those really annoying people who can't handle Hershey's chocolate anymore unless it's M&M's because it doesn't taste like chocolate. Who'll insist loudly to anyone who listens that white chocolate is not chocolate (it's made from COCOA BUTTER, dammit). Who'll be okay with paying eighty dollars for a kobe steak I can't afford because it's fricken' KOBE STEAK, and gets an immense food orgasm from anything organic (even if it goes bad two days later).

Combine these three and I become an extremely irritable person around Thanksgiving: the food holiday.

Why? Because I have a dream. I have a dream of a moist juicy turkey. Of stuffing made with real cornbread and cranberry sauce that isn't splotched from a can, but is instead carefully crafted from REAL cranberries, with some sugar and cornstarch and just the right amount of heat.

Of a gravy made from a roux and those drippings from the turkey.

Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the short cuts at some point. I like Stoeffer's stuffing as much as the next person, but I just think it would be nice to even get the chance to be able to do something a little different for the holiday.

My mother, dear that she is, always tries to curb my little chef-y aspirations by giving me teeny assignments. Dessert one year. Cranberry sauce the next. Sweet Potatoes the year after.

This year? I thought I hit the motherload. Now, I realize this is a silly aspiration, but ever since I fell in love with Alton Brown and Good Eats, I've had an insane desire to brine the turkey.

I know. It's hardly the most grand aspiration, but to be able to eat a moist turkey without drowning it in gravy that came in powder form on Thanksgiving would be like ... Christmas.

Imagine my happiness when I was told that this year, I could do it. I could make the turkey. My face lit up. I poured over the brine recipe and mentally worked together my checklist of how I was to prepare this bird. I mentally envisioned my family members (and there's a hella lot of 'em) exclaiming they had never loved a turkey like this before.

My dreams came to a crashing halt when my aunt got wind of this and shut it down. "I always make the turkey!" she complained (which is a total lie), and just like that, I'm making the ham.

The HAM.

I don't even LIKE ham. Well, not the big honking slices, at least.

My dreams of a brine or even a good salt crust were dashed. And I'm making the dumb ham.


Screwit. They can eat their cranberry sauce from the can, and make their sweet potatoes from the can too. I don't care.

My dreams will not be dashed. One day I WILL brine the turkey.

Tradition be damned.

Until then, I shall content myself tonight with a pound of crab meat and freshly made crab cakes.

And my aunt can't have any.

Oh, right. Happy Thanksgiving and all that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How I Met Your Mother's '50 Reasons To Have Sex'

If it's one thing that How I Met Your Mother soars at, it's figuring out how to incorporate this whole new fangled internet thingy. The people behind the show are genuis at taking a nugget of a throwaway joke in a story and then just running with it.

Witness: Barney's Blog - Barney is awesome. And he puts his awesomeness into words. When he utters the words, "This is SO going in my blog!" You can bet it will.

Witness: - put together by a waitress who Barney bedded and gave her the fake name of 'Ted' (his actual best friend). The website comes complete with a scarily long twenty minute song called 'Ted Mosby Is a Jerk'

Not a Father's Day apparel - When Barney finds out that a woman he bedded with a pregnancy scare is NOT pregnant, he creates a holiday in honor of the moment. The next day, 'Happy NOT a Father's Day' t-shirts and mugs litter the internet.

Robin Sparkles - When Robin reveals she was a Canadian Pop Star in the nineties, we're witnessed to two amazingly cheesy music videos she released. Also online? Her official Robin Sparkles Myspage page. On her friends list? Tiffany.

The latest to make it onto the interwebs? Lily's 50 Reasons to Have Sex, from last nights episode 'The Naked Man'.

How many of these have YOU done?


If I haven't mentioned it before? How I Met Your Mother is awesome.

Watch the latest episode online.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The B**** of Living (In 19th Century Germany) - Spring Awakening @ The Ahmanson

"Well," I noted to my theatre going best friend as we settled into our balcony seats at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, "This may be the first time we're older than most of the people in here."

"It's Spring Awakening," she responded, flapping open her program and settling down. "It's the new Rent."

Fitting, I thought, as I eyed the crowd of young teens and twenty-somethings crowded together chattering excitedly in the 'cheap seats' (which for theatre, is an 20 bucks). Rent, the celebration of life and study of AIDS in the Bohemian slums of Alphabet City during the nineties, was a cultural, controversional phenomeon that lasted on Broadway for ten years. The rock musical based on the opera 'La Boheme' featured drag queens, lesbians, drug users, and the plea to ignore conventional shame and live for the moment and who you truly are.

The exploration of shame as dicated by society may be one of the few things that bridge together Rent with it's perceived successor, Spring Awakening.

With music by artist Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening reimagines the original play of the same name with some added rock numbers, which serve to express what these sexually repressed kids stuck in the onslaught of puberty in 19th century Germany can not.

At a critical point in their lives, these adolescents struggle to come to grips with their newly discovered sexual urges. Because their world is lined with strict morality and expecation, there is no one they can turn to to understand them but each other, and the result is tragic: the blind leading the blind.

There is handsome Melchior, almost too brilliant for his own good. He has discovered the truth in books, and has developed his own ideas about sexuality, government and shame. In his teenage arrogance, he takes under his wing a far less confident lad named Moritz. Moritz, struggling to pass his classes and aware of the consequences that will befall him should he fail, unravels in the face of his increased sexual distraction.

Their old childhood friends Ilse and Wendla face extreme opposites. Sheltered Wendla is naively curious and innocent. Protected her entire life, she does not understand why she cannot wear her too-short girl dresses and begs her mother to explain to her about where children come from, but is rebuffed and therefore remains ignorant. Ilse, however, beaten and sexually abused as a child, has become a outcast.

These four characters, along with their classmates, fumble with the urges they cannot ignore but can never speak of to the adults meant to protect them and keep them from harm. Their pain and wonder is instead released through song, accompanied with angry guitar riffs or a haunting melody plucked out on a piano.

Unfortunately, the silence of the adults, and each teenager's desperation to understand and cope with their own changes fit together to create a tragic ending for the four pair of childhood friends.

Yeah. It's not the cheeriest musical you're going to find (Rent, with all the aids and the dying, still ends much more happily). Instead Spring Awakening instead seeks to transcend the time period to speak to every person who has grappled with the frightening onset of puberty and it's accompanying shame. It seeks to speak what has not dared be spoken.

It's raw and frank and seeks to prove it with bared breasts and bared butt, and a lot of cursing and rage. Because that's what it's like to be a teenager.

I was fortunate to catch a production of the smaller, less known play that preceded the musical a few months ago, and as a result, found myself torn. While Spring Awakening is powerful, I preferred the less preachy, darker quality of the stage play than the musical, awesome soundtrack not withstanding. Still, it's a musical worth seeing for the amazing performances and frank reminder that being a teenager can be a literal hell. As an adult in her late twenties, I find myself not missing it. I can barely figure myself out now, but in high school?

Forget it.

Sadly, Rent has finally closed its Broadway doors after it's long run. Shockingly, Spring Awakening is soon to follow, a victim of a slow economy and a slough of strikes that have hit Broadway. Catch it while you can.

Just don't bring your parents. Or your kids. Unless you're ready to answer every question this show asks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chuck vs. the Predictable Route *SPOILERS*

In the mass confusion that is the new television season, Chuck on NBC has always been my shining beacon of hope. When the writer's strike was finished and everyone got back to business, there were three shows that I was relieved made the cut and were returning: Chuck, How I Met Your Mother, and Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles.

Of course, because the universe likes to laugh at me, when these shows were scheduled, they were scheduled all on the same night, in the same time slot, on different networks. My DirectTV DVR is a life saver, but not even it can record more than two shows at once. The result, a lot of scrambling and attempting to watch television shows online. But one show I never thought to miss? My dear Chuck.

Why? Superb writing, layered, thoughtful beautiful characters, and more inside jokes for the inner nerd than you can shake a stick at. Throw in some extremely well choreographed fight scenes, guns and the occasional farce, and you have a fan in me for life. The show, based on the absurd (but awesome) idea that the CIA had it's main computer downloaded into a hapless nerd who must now be protected by a gorgeous CIA handler and a militant NSA agent, has always balanced the perfect pitch of drama and fun.

But, alas, even this show has given me a Sad. Which perhaps isn't too fair of Chuck. It is, after all, a sophomore show coming off a stunted first season, working out it's own kinks and wrapped up in the dilemna of what to do when your lead characters share that Moonlighting/Lois & Clark kinda romance that dictates you keep them apart for a long as possible for fear of making for boring tv.

The result has been an uneven season, with some slightly out of character moments that push the interactions off kilter, and make a rabid fan go 'hmm'.

I 'hmmed' when Chuck reencountered his lost girlfriend Jill, and in his infaturation with her, promptly forgot about his mutual love with beautiful handler Sarah. But I went with it. While I've never been the hugest fan of Jordanna Brewster, she was the best thing about spy-farce D.E.B.S., and had an easy chemistry with Chuck that proved likable and fun. She also represented a real threat to Sarah and Chuck's relationship, and an opportunity for growth for Chuck. Could Chuck learn to see past his own blinding emotions to realize he could move past the girl who broke his heart and appreciate the woman who loves him for who he truly is?

We'll never really get the chance to find out, because in it's latest offering 'Chuck vs The Fat Lady', it was revealed that Jill, Chuck's college girlfriend and reignited flame, was a Fulcrum Agent and a bad guy.

It's a disapointment. Who didn't see that coming? Well-executed, sure, but also a bit of a cheater's way out. Break a love triangle by making the third girl EVOL. Does everyone have to be a Fulcrum Agent? Just how many ARE there in Burbank that Chuck keeps tripping over them everywhere they go?

Maybe I'm not giving Chuck enough credit. Maybe there's a big geeky plan and this will just be another layer to a complicated reintroduction to Jill. An explanation of how she ended up in Fulcrum and in Bryce's bed following her college break up with Chuck has yet to be addressed, and perhaps this is all a lead up to that.

I hope so. If not, that was just too easy.

And yes, I realize that's a little obsessive, but a show like Chuck is a homage to the nerd, and if you throw in the nerd jokes, the nerds will come.

And nitpick the hell out of your show.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Snowing In LA! Oh wait... that's just ash...

"What's burning?" you ask. Oh, that's just Los Angeles.


You walk outside, and the smell of burning overrides your senses. You smell the smoke, clogging up your nostrils and making you pop an extra Zyrtex. You see it darkening the sky like a really bad smog day and creating crazy colors at sunset as the pollution bumps off the ozone. You see it in the flecks of ash that mock you cruelly like faux snowflakes as you open your car door.

It would be ironic if it weren't so terribly crazy and sad.

The air pollution was enough of a concern for me and my allergies to call off the weekly hike at Runyon. I suppose that was fine for me. I consider Runyon my weekly exercise in discovering how horribly out of shape I am, as I walk around the trail and discover sweaty demi-Gods racing up the hill next to their pooches, wrinkled frowns of concentration on their faces as they hold their weights or water bottles and careen past me for the second or third time. And they do it in their sweatshirts. SWEATSHIRTS. In 90 degree weather! What is WRONG with them?

Then again, nothing should surprise me anymore.

I'm living in a land of limitless scope: where ash takes the place of snow, where a dirt road in a hill less than a mile away from Hollywood Boulevard is considered a nature trail and roughing it, and where I look out of the window of my building at work one evening and discover the magnificant sight of red car lights blinking up and down Santa Monica Boulecard as the shouts of thousands of protestors making their way down the street float up to my ears on the twenty-sixth floor, campaigning for civil rights.

It turns into the kind of week where you forget what it was like to be normal.

And then you wonder why you would ever want to waste time trying to be normal, and concentrate instead of worrying about whether or not a hawk is going to sneak into your backyard to eat your chihuahua.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is the City. Nature is supposed to stay away.

I suppose this is the problem when you've got a pops who used to grow up on a farm and has a green thumb. Even if you live in smoggy, congested Los Angeles, you're going to have a little bit of a farmer's paradise in the backyard. It's a necessary evil. Thanks to my father, we have avocados, plums, figs, persimmons, pineapples, chilies, lemons, oranges, tomatoes, jalapenos, and God knows what else growing behind our house, which, I have to admit, can be very nice.

It attracts a lot of wildlife to our backyard that we normally wouldn't see in the city, and it's not uncommon to see a menagarie of birds and squirrels in our trees, fighting to get to the fruit before we can.

This morning, however, I got a close encounter of the natural kind that was both breathtaking and frightening.

Running late, I was jogging into the backyard to go to the backhouse for a frozen meal for lunch. We do this because our freezer in our REGULAR house is stuffed, and so any frozen meals get regulated to my grandmother's freeezr because she has the room (I know. It's fascinating.). On my way, I passed underneath the avocado tree, and was startled when I heard the massive flutter of wings and branches above me.

I glanced up and stopped dead in my tracks. On the lowest branch, no more than four feet above me, I was staring straight at a hawk. A huge hawk. A beautiful, majestic bird of prey.

Hawk in Los Angeles - Urban

"Oh my God," I found myself breathing out loud. "You're a long way from home, aren't you?"

Immediately, I backed away, and scrambled into my house for my camera (Because I'm a geek, and the first thing I thought was, 'This is SO going in my blog!'), but when I returned, the bird was nowhere to be found.

Saddened, I began to circle the avocado tree, and stopped short when I came across a mess of feathers and flesh on the ground. I glanced up, and again, on the lowest branch, I discovered the picked over, freshly eaten carcass of a pigeon, feet attached.

Bird of Prey

Naturally, I took pictures. There's something wrong with me.

But it was at that time when I heard the jingle of a collar, and I looked back to the house and realized my Chihuahua had followed me out.

My little chihuahua. Who, at 6 pounds, is a fat chihuahua, and yet, still no bigger than a pigeon.


"Oh..." I breathed. "Crap."

This is the problem. My dog is an indoor dog, but she absolutely LOVES the backyard. She loves to sit out there and sun herself, to bark at squirrels and birds, and every morning she goes out first thing to take care of business.

Because the backyard is closed off from everything, at times we just let her roam out there with Lucy, our poodle.

Finding a hawk in our backyard is the equivalent of discovering a serial killer in your kid's playground.

Thalia went about her business, and I stepped up the search, walking around my backyard in my work clothes (a snazzy sweater and black pants with Harley boots, cause I like to keep it real) and my camera, and moved over to where my dog was peeing, and glanced up.

Sure enough, there was the beautiful, dangerous, killer bird, cocking it's head and looking down with interest at the fat teeny dog moving happily around.

I reached up and with a flash, took a picture. It took offense, and with a graceful expanse of its wings, soared above us over the backhouse and out of the yard.

Concerned about the potential horrible death my dog would face should the hawk decide it was an easy meal, I gave my dad a call on my cell phone and related the news. His response?

"Oh. So that's what's been killing the birds. I thought it was the cats."

Reassuring, Dad. Reassuring.