Sunday, October 29, 2006

Good weekend

What a nice weekend. First, there was the news that Bernice's growth wasn't anything to worry about; there was no malignancy. Yay!

Second, as I blogged about last Monday, Byrne was here this weekend. It's always nice to have friends over; it's especially nice when the friends help you cook! And cook we did. Friday night, we had Jess' famous shrimp scampi, and Byrne and I created a zucchini-tomato Italiano-thing on the fly that was very good.

Saturday morning, I made some simple cheese omelettes for breakfast, and the three of us went to get haircuts. Then we went shopping for Saturday's evening meal. Byrne had seen a recipe that Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) had made as a quick fix for herself as she created another dinner for a crowd. It was a simple chicken breast still on the bone, with herbs and cheese stuffed under the skin (in our case, it was homemade mozzarella in olive oil with sundried tomatoes and parsley) and then brushed with the oil from the cheese and topped with coarse flaked salt and freshly-ground pepper, baked for 35 minutes in a 350-degree oven. We also bought items for a bruschetta-like appetizer using Boboli mini pizza crusts and Boboli sauce, with some of the mozzarella and sundried tomatoes and parsley. Finally, we bought vegetables to oven-roast in olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper and thyme: mushrooms, yellow squash, cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppper, and eggplant.

The meal was incredible and the prep was not that difficult. Yum!

After dinner, I threw together a batch of chcoclate chip cookie dough and Byrne and I scooped out cookies onto baking sheets and baked them. They were pretty addictive.

Today, I made a fresh asparagus and mushroom quiche with caramelized onions for breakfast, then we went to a dedication ceremony at the library in honor of Jess' mom. They had planted a tree earlier this year, and recently purchased a bronze plaque to go in front of it that bears her name and an inscription. Following the dedication, we attended a mini-concert of the classical guitarist duo Brasil. The concert series is an annual event for breast cancer awareness supported in large part by donations from Jess' family. The talent that the library books for these concerts is pretty amazing. Last year and this year, the artists playing the library held concerts at Carnegie Hall.

After the concert, it was back home for a late lunch of barbequed brisket sandwiches, after which we watched a little television and then put Byrne back on the train to Queens.

When I came back home, a little more holiday baking was in order, so I threw together a batch of chocolate peanut raisin clusters. They were phenomenal! There's nothing like salty peanuts mixed with sweet chocolate and raisins. We'll take them and the other candy and cookies we make to work with us at the holidays. For now, though, they go into airtight containers in cold storage.

All in all, a very nice weekend!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Poor Bernice

Poor Bernice. She had to go to the vet today to have a growth on her head removed. It was just above her right eye, about the size of a pea under the skin. Whie they had her on the table, they decided to take another little growth that has been on her eyelid for awhile. Both required stitches. So tonight, she is having to wear a cone so that she doesn't pull open the wounds by rubbing them with her paw. She is not very enamored of the cone normally, (we have to put her in it sometimes because she nibbles the fur off her paws) but she really is unhappy with it right now, because the stitches are itching and the wounds are painful, so she will attempt to rub the wounds once in awhile with her paw, albeit unsuccessful.

She has to keep the stitches in for ten days, so that will mean 10 days of the cone for the obessive-compulsive Bernice; we feel bad for her, but there's no way around the necessity of the cone. Meanwhile, it's 3-4 days of pins and needles for us as we wait for the cytology report. Hopefully, it will be fine.

Workin' for the weekend

Byrne is coming over this weekend, and so I thought we'd better do some housecleaning before he gets here. I recently bought a new Bissell 9300 Steam Cleaner at Costco to replace our old Hoover, and Jess put it together and put it into action. With three dogs, the carpet gets rough treatment, and even though the carpet's not quite two years old, it was looking more like four or five years old.

We had stains that had been set in for some time, and we had attempted to clean them several times with the Hoover without success. A double-hit of brilliant yellow dog vomit (yeah, gross, I know) wouldn't come out with the Hoover, it would only fade. There was also some black spot of something that wouldn't budge either. The reviews of the Bissell I had read had spoken highly of its cleaning ability, and it was reviewed especially highly by several pet owners. Still, I was surprised that it got out every old stain we had, and it made the carpet look like new. And the cleaning solution smelled great, too.

There were a few drawbacks. One, the Bissell left the carpet wetter than I would like. The Hoover was far better at getting the water out of the carpet. Next time, we'll use the Bissell to clean and the Hoover to extract (it still runs, just doesn't clean well). Two, it was somewhat difficult to get the Bissell to begin operating after the water tank was put on or changed. Three, the water tank isn't as big as the Hoover's, so you're constantly changing it. Four, the clean and dirty water tanks are in the same chamber. The clean water is in a bladder that is surrounded by the dirty water. That, to me, is a dopey, dopey design. But it cleans like nothing else!

At any rate, the house will be clean when Byrne gets here, carpet and all. That is, if the dogs don't spoil it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Fun at Dubya's expense

So we had fun last night. I caught a train into the city to meet Jess after work for dinner and a show. We didn't have a lot of time to spend on dinner, so we dashed into Chipotlé, a fast-food Mexican place. Now, understand that New York doesn't have that many Mexican food places, and when you do find one, it's either expensive or not great (or both). Being from Kansas originally, where Mexican food was good and cheap, this is annoying. I kid you not! In fact, I know a college president here on the island who used to be the president of Kansas Newman College in Wichita. When I asked him if there was anything he particularly missed about Wichita, he quickly responded, "Mexican food...there is no good Mexican food here!" and we got a good laugh out of that because I told him I had found exactly the same thing.

Anyway, back to the Mexican food place (geez, do I get off on a tangent, or what?): It was a lot like Moe's Southwest Grill except much better. I had the crispy tacos with "Barbacoa" style meat, which is brisket that has been soaked in chipotle and adobo seasonings, along with cumin, cloves, and a bunch of other spices. They were topped with green tomatillo salsa (which was quite spicy) and cheese and lettuce, and they were good. I was pleasantly surprised. Everything was very fresh; it was practically health food for a fast food joint. I was less impressed with the guacamole, but that takes a lot to impress me. I'm really picky about good guac, and this was just okay. Jess really liked his burrito, with seasoned chicken and a corn salsa. And it was inexpensive - for the two of us, it cost about $20. Them's cheap eats in the big city. Okay, now I am sure my good friends Brad and Bob from Wichita are reading this, and I wonder if they think that I've gone completely insane in the absence of real Mexican food here...I know they have Chipotlé outlets in Wichita, so I will be interested to see what they think of them. By the way, Brad makes some great Mexican food.

After the meal, we headed off to our show, Bush Wars, a satirical musical based on the Dubya presidency. It was really nicely put together. Nancy Folson and Jay Falzone's little show should last through the rest of the idiot's can only hope. Jay Falzone also co-directed, choreographed, and performed in the show. In its third performance since its opening night on October 4 at the Actors' Playhouse, there wasn't a single hiccup in the performance.

There were a number of good laughs and since the premise was Dubya, what's not to laugh at? Of course, you have to laugh, because if you don't laugh at what a fool the man and his cabinet has made of America, you'd cry. The singing was good and harmonies were tight, something that a lot of these little off-Broadway shows lack. The numbers were parodies of other songs, some of the best being, " the Name of Us," "My Way," "Be Our Guest," "The Institute of Marriage," and "When the Saints Go Marching Out," (the latter one being about the Katrina debacle and the Superdome).

At the end of the show, the cast came back out for one last musical number that was a nice little cherry on the whipped cream - a tune that expressed appreciation for the ability to satirize things even as serious as the presidency without the fear of being locked up for it...which was a classy ending (Proud to be an American). Oh yes, and the little keychain countdown timers that they had for sale after the show, which count down the number of days left in Dumbya's term, were a nice little closing zinger.

Ooh, and the best part of all? An absolutely charming, adorable, and quite handsome Chris Van Hoy, who should make it to the Great White Way soon if there is any justice in the world. Actually, the entire cast was great, and Jason Levinson did a terrific Bush (from a Jewish guy...gasp!), but Chris was just [swoon] a doll. Unfortunately, you won't see much of him on the show's site, and he doesn't photograph as handsomely as his appearance in the flesh.

If you can't stand Dumbya (and what truly self-respecting American can't?), you gotta see this show.