Sunday, December 21, 2008
The best part though was being invited to bake a million, okay a dozen, different kinds of Christmas cookies with my dear friend Sandy. It was a perfectly Christmassy Saturday in her and Jack's beautiful home. As we baked cookies, Jack and his daughter Katy put up their Christmas tree in the living room. Our soundtrack was the holiday albums of the divas: Dolly Parton, Better Midler and Diana Krall. It isn't Christmas until you hear Dolly sing "We Three Kings" I tell you!
We made Gingerbread men and women, my favorite being the three-eyed Alien Gingerman in the corner:
We made Jack's favorite macaroons and delicious wedding cookies (referred to as "Nut Balls" on Sandy's mom's recipe cards):
We made several kinds of nutty cookies, including these hazelnut cookies dipped in chocolate:
I laughed so hard the whole time I was decorating these Mafiosa Snowmen- one is Robert De Niro and the other is Joe Viterelli (a.k.a. Jelly from Analyze This):
But my favorite cookies of all are the Ginger Rosemary cookies:
Sweet and savory at once, and they smell like rosemary heaven. Enjoy the recipe- my Christmas Cookie gift to you!
Ginger Rosemary cookies
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup molasses
Crush rosemary with a mortar and pestal or a bowl and the back end of a knife. YOu don't need to grind the rosemary, just break it into smaller pieces.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, rosemary and cloves. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add the 1 cup of sugar; beat until fluffy. Add the egg and molasses; beat well. Stir dry mixture into egg mixture.
Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (1 heaping tablespoon of dough each). Place about two tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl. Roll balls in the sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart; add sugar to the bowl as needed.
Bake in a 350-degree oven about 10 minutes or until light brown but still puffed. (Do not overbake.) Let stand on cookie sheets for 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 24 cookies.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
It hit the ceiling. It hit the walls. It hit the cabinets. It hit the ceiling fan. It hit the kitchen floor and part of the dining room floor. It hit the cat and my slippered feet. It hit every single food item from the cabinets out on the counters. Everything smelled like rotten mango.
I cleaned with bleach. I was frantic due to thoughts of botulism. Every urban legend I'd ever heard about food poisoning was filling my mind. Several hours later I'm fine, the cat is fine, we are all fine.
I learned that yes, a bacteria caused the can to bulge, but that botulism needs an environment less acidic than mango. I wish everyone's concerns could be on the level of mine. How lucky I am. How spoiled. How blessed.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
In years past I would get a Poinsettia and decorate it for my home in Atlanta. Because I spend Christmas in Chicago every year it made sense not to have a tree. The tree at my parent's house is beautiful and filled with ornaments bearing their own stories and memories of our family. I was surprised that in my first tree in my home ever, that my little stories came by simply and that they were stories unique to my life in Atlanta.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I wake up around 5am every day. Usually its because of my cat Eek standing on my chest meowing loudly for me to let him outside (a horrible, horrible habit that I cannot seem to break him of), or my chronic light sleeping and insomnia that doesn't allow for more than 3 consecutive hours asleep. This morning though, I woke up to Christmas songs in my head.
Listening closer, I realized I actually could hear music. It was pure, impeccably in-tune whistling. It was Jingle Bells, and it was of course, Carwash. After completing Jingle Bells, he didn't miss a beat going into Silver Bells. Then it was Joy to the World. I laid in bed and drifted back to sleep to his singular perfect notes floating through the air.
One night, as my friend and I were pulling out of my street to go to dinner, I saw Carwash sitting in his usual plastic chair on the sidewalk in front of my neighbor's house. To my surprise, he had a barbecue going in front of him. He was hanging out and cooking sausages! He was alone and clearly enjoying himself. My friend and I laughed hard; this sort of scene is exactly why I love Atlanta so.
When I got home later that night I chatted with him for a minute. He commented on the beautiful night sky and the stars we rarely get to see through our thick city smog. I couldn't help but think of Oscar Wilde writing:
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
When I asked Carwash how he was doing and how his night was, he simply replied, "Blessed."
This morning when I was leaving for work I saw Carwash on his bike which he has decorated with a sprig of holly (possibly from the bush in my front yard) across the handlebars. When I asked him how he was doing this December morning, he replied again, "Blessed."
Monday, December 1, 2008
From left to right behind Jim in this picture: Congressman Lewis, music executive Kevin Liles, T.I., Jeezy and Ludacris.
I love Jim's and Luda's smiles in this one.
These men were surrounded by a large showing of Georgians from the state legislature and the community. I don't know that this has happened before at the Georgia State Capitol, this combination of people in such an sxciting, powerful show of support all out on a cold evening. It actually gave me hope and made me feel that change is indeed possible.
Don't forget to vote for Jim Martin for U.S. Senate and Jim Powell for Public Service Commission tomorrow, December 2, 2009!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I know I’m not the only one who is reveling in Yule anticipation either. From the Facebook status updates wistful and longing for the beauty that comes with the coldest time of year to my favorite paper Creative Loafing’s hilarious DIY Atlanta Christmas suggestions, folks seem more than ready for the most wonderful time of the year.
So for all of you out there that can’t help but grin at the Christmas songs already playing in some shops, and those of you feeling more Grinchy, here is my to do list for December to help celebrate and get you in the spirit of the season. I would welcome company so if any of these strike your fancy, let me know. I’d also love to hear other ideas!
• Ice-skating outside – either in Atlanta at Centennial Park or Chicago at Millennium Park.
• Go to an Evil Santa party.
• Decorate a giant Poinsettia (my tree tradition) at my Atlanta home.
• See David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries at the Horizon Theater.
• Consume lots of creamy after-dinner drinks. Think Baileys on the rocks, Grasshoppers, White Russians. Maybe Tequila Rose on New Years Eve.
• Abstain from the rampant seasonal consumerism and make as many of my Christmas gifts as possible.
• Listen to Twisted Sister’s Christmas album, aptly title “A Very Twisted Christmas” while wrapping gifts. The best is their version of the 12 Days of Christmas – “On my heavy metal Christmas my true love gave to me a tattoo of Ozzy.”
• Shovel snow with my mom at night while flakes land on our already wet-gloved hands.
• Sing the Alleluia Chorus of Handel’s Messiah in harmony with my siblings on Christmas Eve.
• Go to Binny’s (the local booze store) with my Dad to shop for our New Year’s Eve Party. “One of each, good man!”
• Make a million kinds of cookies with Sandy.
• Make a Christmas/winter-themed playlist.
• Stare at hundreds of Christmas lights every day.
And finally, my only Christmas to-don't:
• Not slip on black ice and break my elbow like I did last year.
For Love and Loss, 11" x 14", acrylic, paper, and beads on canvas.
I painted this for my little brother Emil earlier this month for his birthday. I started out doing something totally different but this is what happened (perhaps he'll get the original thought for Christmas). The words on the scraps of paper that are sort of bursting out from the sides of the heart are from DeVotchKa's song "Dearly Departed". It's about the dark and light parts that come together to create deep love. I'm really happy with this piece which is a bit unusual for me. Most of the time I focus on some part that I couldn't get right and can't get past it. This one though turned out just right, and better than I had hoped.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
1. Wednesday Addam's soliloquy stopping the Thanksgiving feast in Addams Family Values:
Wednesday: Wait! We cannot break bread with you.
Amanda: Huh? Becky, what's going on?
Becky: [whispered] Wednesday!
Wednesday: You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, you will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller."
Amanda: Gary, she's changing the words.
Wednesday: And for all these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground.
2. Charlie Brown making toast instead of turkey in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:
Charlie Brown: I can't cook a Thanksgiving dinner. All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast.
Linus van Pelt: That's right. I've seen you make toast.
(later) Peppermint Patty: What kind of Thanksgiving dinner is this? Where's the turkey, Chuck? Don't you know anything about Thanksgiving dinners? Where's the mashed potatoes? Where's the cranberry sauce? Where's the pumpkin pie?
3. Grandpa Simpson's explanation of the Walking Bird (The Simpsons "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy"):
... Anyway, about my washtub. I'd just used it that morning to wash my turkey, which in those days was known as a walking bird. We'd always have walking bird on Thanksgiving with all the trimmings: cranberries, injun eyes, yams stuffed with gunpowder. Then we'd all watch football, which in those days was called "baseball"...
4. Pugsley Addam's "Eat Me! I'm a Turkey" song from Addam's Family Values (as part of Gary's vision of course):
Camp Children: Eat us! Hey, its Thanksgiving Day! Eat us, we make a nice buffet! We lost the race with Farmer Ed, eat us 'cause we're good and dead. White man or red man from east, north or south, chop off our legs, and put 'em in your mouth!
Pugsley: Eat me!
Camp Children: Sautéed or barbecued!
Pugsley: Eat me!
Camp Children: We once were pets but now we're food! We won't stay fresh for very long! So eat us before we finish this song! Eat us before we finish this song!
5. The Friends Episode when Monica puts a turkey on her head to cheer up Chandler:
6. Beverly Hills 90210: Brandon Walsh decides to invite Jack, a homeless veteran, to his family's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Jim, Brandon's dad, is a bit wary ("Did you ever see such a literal interpretation of the Golden Rule?") but then gives in when a bath and fresh clothes let the real, respectable Jack shine through.
7. The Family Guy episode when they spoof what John Goodman's family would look like at Thanksgiving:
Lois: You know some people would be happy to have this food, like John Goodman's family.
8. The Ice Storm, the Thanksgiving angst scene where Ms. Ricci has yet another diatribe about the plundering and pillaging of the red man by the white man:
9. and thanks to William's suggestion, pretty much all of Planes, Trains and Automobiles as Steve Martin and John Candy try to make their way home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. A ton of great quotes are here.
10. And from Mica, Home for the Holidays:
11. From Kori, the Thanksgiving episode of Everyboday Hates Chris when Chris gives a speech to his class about how he is grateful that he is not Native American:
12. From Tiffani, the infamous Gobble episode of South Park:
Monday, November 24, 2008
I had an incredibly difficult time being quiet and not laughing as she came down the stairs. Later Michelle told me that she had been hoping that I was her surprise but when she saw the fort she got worried that her surprise was actually this device from the SkyMall catalogue that allows you to hang from your ankles. (Apparently even after nearly 7 years of knowing each other I still have a lot to learn about my friend...) But she was really happy that it was me and not the Inversion Stretch Station.
The best thing that happened this weekend was that I got to meet Michelle and Michael's son Phoenix for the first time. He is an absolutely delightful 5 month old who smiles and chats all the time and is clearly in LOVE with his amazing parents. He even maintained his sweet disposition while having his first cold ever - (courtesy of a sick playmate at daycare named Salvatore, who I imagine to look like Maggie Simpson's arch-nemesis Baby Gerald).
Michelle and Michael's family is complete with Little Cat, also known as the Hall Monitor. She patrols the house checking on the baby, the parents and the leaves falling outside the window on her neon-colored toenails.
I am amazed at how much Michelle and Michael are able to do in addition to caring for a very young person. They whipped up all sorts of delicious food all weekend long. For dinner on Saturday we made think, savory Spanakopita, an abundance of sauteed beets and homemade pita bread with zaatar. Thankfully Michelle did the kneading with the pita bread because I can't handle the way flour feels- it's like nails on a chalkboard to me, ugh.
It was a beautiful dinner, complimented by a game of "would you still be my friend if..." (They did not want to be my friend anymore if all I ever ate ever was plain hot dogs, no bun.)
The cherry on top of the weekend (not the spoon this time guys) was stopping to get the new Guns N' Roses album Chinese Democracy. We were worried that it was going to be sold out and that we were going to have to go searching at various Best Buy stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area- I mean my god, we've been waiting 17 years for this! I asked one person beside us if he wanted his picture taken for posterity next to the display; Michelle asked the store manager if they brought in extra staff to deal with the crowds. (If you're not laughing right now then you just might be as lame as the snow queen manager who didn't crack a smile at our hilarity.)
I love my friend Michelle so much and am so grateful to hubby Michael for making this weekend possible. Since this is the second year in a row that I came to Minneapolis on the weekend before Thanksgiving, we decided that we should make it an annual tradition. What a wonderful trip to look forward to!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I am in the midst of a beautiful secret as I fly 30,000 feet in the air towards Minneapolis. My eyes flit between the shadow of the plane floating on the tops of trees and the Atlanta skyline growing smaller. I’m always amazed how far away you can still see the glint or the Georgia State Capital’s gold dome.
My seatmate is subject to my urge to tell my secret. I surprise myself by exhibiting uncharacteristic plane-friendliness as opposed to keeping my eyes down and my thumbs punching out texts till I’m forced to turn off my phone. The poor man looked a little frightened when I joked about how we should all probably stop eating french-fries in response to the captain’s statement that we carrying unusually heavy cargo. He glued his eyes to his bible when I added, “Wait till the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Captain!”
Ok, I get it. Not everyone is excited as me that I am about to surprise one of my favorite people on earth with a visit in celebration of her birthday.(Why else would I journey somewhere that boasts a morning temperature of 7 degrees?) Michelle’s lovely husband Michael called me a couple weeks ago and asked if he could fly me out to surprise her – um yes! A series of cryptic emails with titles like “the eagle has landed” later – he also apparently has me listed under an Asian name in his phone- and I am on my way to see my dear friend and meet her new son for the very first time.
I love Minneapolis. Coincidentally, I visited Michelle on this same weekend one year ago; it was that weekend that she told me she was pregnant, 5 weeks along at that point. We had a marvelous time on our weekend defined by art, delicious food and great friends; the highlights included seeing the original painting “My Dress Hangs There” by Frida Kahlo, a heart-and-soul-warming dinner with Michael and Michelle at a cozy Greek restaurant, being an audience member of a taping of Prairie Home Companion and standing at the base of the Minneapolis’ magnificent sculpture, Spoonbridge and Cherry.
I have been daydreaming all day about what Michelle will say when she sees me. I simply cannot wait to tell this secret. I’m wondering if I can try to take a picture of that moment…
Friday, November 21, 2008
The three male and three female sharks are at home in the 6.3 million gallon habitat alongside the whale sharks and manta ray. The new sharks range from five to eight feet in length and weigh between 56 to 237 pounds. They are large-bodied and display a mouthful of sharp teeth that protrude in all directions, even when the mouth is shut. Despite this, they are a docile, non-aggressive species.
They are beautiful and terrifying! I cannot wait to see them - I'm planning on going next week - but I just might have nightmares before and after. Check them out on this video for yourselves:
Oh that classic Jaws music will always send chills up my spine.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Tonight, at the Variety Playhouse in my hometown of now almost 9 years, I was just three people away from Andrew Eldritch, AKA the Sisters of Mercy. The last time I saw this man was in 1991, with Gang of Four, Public Enemy, and Warrior Soul at Poplar Creek in Chicago. This means that tonight, I was inches away y'all... normally not such a big deal because I usually don't engage in such star-fuckery... but this was the Sisters of Mercy.
This is a band that has been defined by it's elusiveness. And its not just cuz of their extremely impressive fog machine that put our Carnival of the Dead fog to shame. Can you imagine that it has been 17 years since I last was in their presence? When I last saw him Andrew Eldritch had long hair! (as opposed to tonight's shaved head.) I become a teenager instantly at the memories of less than an hour ago. They skillfully and instantly make me a drama queen.
I couldn't have been more delighted to have at my side my sister Kristi who was also indulging her goth inner-child. The show we saw tonight was grounded in their Floodland album, highlights including First and Last and Always, This Corrosion, Dominion/Mother Russia, and Lucretia, My Reflection. (My inner drama queen gasps as I type these sacred names)
Can I help it if the Sisters of Mercy, the quintessential goth band, makes me smile as much as the Grateful Dead does?
Absent the women's choir that is so present in the album version (and 1991 tour version) of their songs, tonight the audience sang along with the crucial parts. The harmonies and chants rang through. Y'all, I am way too cool to sing along with bands live, but for some godforsaken reason I relished the opportunity to do so with the Sisters. It felt perfect.
It was an amazing night- complete with Something Fast and even Vision Thing. Those of you out there that are similarly gushing know what I'm talking about. But perhaps even you haven't experienced it just three people away from the source. Be still my teenage heart!
Monday, November 10, 2008
It made us smile so wide to see this and to think of the intention and gratitude behind the gesture. Ela wondered aloud how many other ancestors' resting spots at this moment also bore physical proof of Change in the United States. On days like today, the realization that we are living history is as close as damp leaves.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Underneath a star-filled approaching-midnight sky (see OPI nail lacquer Russian Navy), I listened to the stories of the proud mother of two of the stout men that make up Bang Camaro. I can’t help but grin quietly while my hot tub-wet bangs curl on my forehead.
The lovely weekend rolls out, full of delicious food including Sandy's deftly discovered real whipped cream/crack-filled fresh-baked donuts, Georgia barbeque and collectively built homemade meals with gallons of wine. Note: as tempting as it was, we did not eat the Confederate Hotdogs.
All the while the backdrop was the beautiful mountain:
the brightest reds, oranges and yellows that define autumn:
and breathtaking sunsets, preludes to crystal clear glimpses of Orion
all framed and embraced by beautiful people I am so lucky to be welcomed by.
I would love your help in spreading the word. Check these out:
1. The Southern Center for Human Rights is looking for a Lead Community Organizer.
2. Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty needs a Coordinator.
3. The Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana is seeking a Youth Advocate.
With your help, I think we're going to find dynamic people to fill these positions and continue the struggle for justice in the south! Thanks so much for sharing this with people you know who would be a good fit.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! We were going to write to you last night and wish you a happy All Hallows Eve eve but decided we would wait till the big day. And today is the big day before the BIG DAY of the CARNIVAL OF THE DEAD rolling into town! We simply cannot wait for you to see the show.
Be sure to check http://www.carnivalofthedead.com/ not only to get your tickets, but also for the extra secret directions to the Carnival location. Okay the secret is luminaries. Follow the luminaries.
Come marvel at the FIREBREATHING DIVA at 11pm. While we're certain your intoxication alone will sufficiently scare others, don't forget to dress up for the not-so-typical costume contest at midnight! (Be sure to hang onto your hobo costume after Halloween in case the financial bailout doesn't work.)
With a love that echoes through the ages,
Sara, Mica, Becky, Ela, Kristi, Carrie and Malissa
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
A few days later you realize that every time you pass the dining room table you grab a Baby Ruth to eat on the way to work, a Butterfinger to tide you over till dinner, a Snickers to compliment your otherwise boring lunch of a veggie sandwich and apple slices, a Reese's because Rock of Love Charm School is on, an Almond Joy because the phone rang...
2. To listen to The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack on repeat in your office while you work for days. You sheepishly pause it when your coworkers come by to discuss important matters, but since its Wednesday they've totally already got you figured out.
3. To wear all black everyday accented with spider-based jewelry.
4. To daydream about Carnivals.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
When I talked with Auntie Hadar on her birthday on Sunday, she told me how hard she had been working for the Obama campaign. "Every day! 9am to 9pm!" she told me with amazement-- though she assured me she took the day off for her birthday. She spoke proudly about "all the young people" (which likely includes people from age 10-49) who would arrive in buses from across Illinois every morning and then disperse to small towns in Wisconsin to door knock.
According to my sister Reem, after voting, Jiddu and Auntie Hadar went to Sam's Club to celebrate by eating samples. Apparently they were given lots of extra samples because like any skilled organizer, Auntie Hadar always carries lots of Obama buttons to give out.
I couldn't be more proud!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
One of the first murals we saw was called "Solidarity: Breaking Down Barriers" and was painted by youth in the Mission. It was dedicated "from the heart of the Mission to the barriers around the world that separate our families... la lucha continua!" Here are three pictures of it:
We saw several pieces by this artist whose name I regrettably cannot remember. This piece is called "The Immigrant" and it shows a man leaving his wife and homeland for the blank TV stares of the United States.
Ultimately the immigrant is able to find his own community here, surrounded by friends and watched over by the gods of his homeland.
This next one was painted by the great muralist, Susan Kelk Cervantes, and is on the Cesar Chaves Elementary School, a lovely and welcoming school that fully integrates deaf children.
The Clarion Alley Mural Project is at least 20 individual murals that run through the alley between Mission and Valencia, parallel to 17th and 18th streets. One mural after another took my breath away. This one shows Archbishop Oscar Romero, bishop of the Poor, surrounded by community and milagros:
I loved this paint bucket heart milagros, a perfect symbol for the murals:
This alley mural shows New Orleans after Katrina. Each of the little pictures shows all sorts of things that were lost in the Storm.
At the beginning of the alley, the Virgen de Guadalupe was painted to offer protection.
If you find yourself in San Francisco for some period of time, I cannot encourage you enough to go visit the Mission and take this tour offered by Precita Eyes Gallery and get to know the district through the eyes of its artists. Read more about our San Francisco trip in my posts about the delicious food and sea lions.