Time for a Remodel

I’m truly in a quandry.  As I look back over the past year, so much has changed that no one would notice but me.  I’m speaking of my blog world, and not the real world, which is so chaotic right now.  I’d like to say that I believe I can impact change on the latter, but for as much as I harp, I’m not close to being a blip on the radar of change. With respect to cyberspace, that’s different.

There’s been a shift of my interests there,  and when I think carefully about that shift, it seems that it’s been coerced by the group that loves to look at, think about, and cook great food.  It’s compelling, and I imagine at times that I have some small shop with a large window in front that people can walk by each day, gazing at what I’ve put out for them, to tempt them to stop and look a bit longer, or perhaps even walk inside and stay for a while.  The key word would be imagine.

I once imagined or even longed for a shop of my own one day, but I’ve decided that having an imaginary shop is much less expensive, and perhaps just as rewarding considering I do get to decide what to prepare, and enjoy it myself.

But as I’ve said before, it’s quite time consuming keeping that shop, and so this place is pushed aside.  And when I have time for neither, this is the space I want to fill.  Often the other is more of a compulsion, a responsibility, a job.

Writing here has never felt that way.

I’m not quite sure how that happened, but I find it all very interesting — interesting enough to wonder about something.  What if the two were combined?  Others have done it.  And as I read through the many food blogs I enjoy, I notice that because their writers only keep one blog, they are more inclined to write about other facets of life and living.  It’s nice. 

But I was thinking of something different.  Certainly it’s been done before, and a perfect example of someone who does it very well is Pioneer Woman.  I’ve always thought that having a single place that contains a space for everything that keeps my brain occupied would be perfect, but have always been limited by my knowledge of how all of this website business works.  Finding time to write, cook, photograph, and learn how to set up and manage an involved website would be quite daunting for me, but I think I could do it. The only aspect of it all that’s holding me back is being unsure about whether the two can actually coexist.

In the long run, I think it would help me be a bit more humane to my readers here.  It must seem at times as if I’m schizophrenic, ranting about politics, moaning over my pets, or snarking about whatever unfortunate person is being lambasted in the press.  Somehow, I think that if each of those personalities could fit into its own box, it would be so much more neat and orderly.

Labeled.  You know how I crave labels…

So think about that.  You know, give it a good three or four seconds of your valuable time and let me know what you think.

In the mean time, I have to get my real world shaped up.  I may not be building a lodge like Pioneer Woman, but this place certainly needs some attention.  I’ve long complained about the damage our pets have done to the carpet, and have finally decided to have someone come out to give an estimate on floors.  I want to get rid of all the carpet so I can enjoy my aging pets who will continue to leak, drip, and drop their various and assorted bodily unmentionables regardless of how much I dab and complain about it.  No more carpet would mean no more dust, fuss, or muss.

The challenging part of this is that our bathrooms need to be done as well.  Needing to be done can be defined as taking out all the early ’80’s fake burnished gold metal that seems to be covering everything, ripping out the shower since it’s feeble at best, and the tile since it’s really good at growing mold that I don’t want to know the scientific name for or what it’s doing to us.

So if we have the floors done first, then have the bathrooms done, the work on the bathrooms will mess up the floors.  If we wait to do the bathrooms first, then the carpet continues to be the disgusting eyesore it’s become. 

In a nut shell, I don’t want to have another blog about being any kind of a weekend warrior when it comes to remodeling or redecorating on a budget.  But it’s one of the things my brain spends time on, so it could have its very own space for you, kind reader, to skip if you’re not into the Martha side of life.

Just thinking, that’s all.

Good thing it’s free, right?

Okay, back to work.

It would be so nice if it was all free!

Brain Malarkey Cooked for Us

Screw the memes I have to do. (I really WILL do them. I promise. And my fingers are NOT crossed behind my back.)

But the MoH and I had the perfect recipe for a Monday. We went to our local cook’s haven, Great News in Pacific Beach and spent the evening with Brian Malarkey.

What?

You don’t know who Brian Malarkey is? Feh. Where have you been? He was one of the finalists on Top Chef this year, and the recipient of Chef of the Year from the San Diego Restaurant Association. Of course he should have won Top Chef, but that’s beside the point. WE got to enjoy his magnetic personality, sense of humor, and great cuisine tonight. Here. In Paradise. It was so worth it. IMG_5180.JPG

The sky was clear, the air clean, and the Pacific stretched as far as the eye could see. That orange glow was shimmering just above the deep blue horizon. Gorgeous. But a tad cool. Okay, so about 50 degrees F.

But I forgot my camera. So how convenient that we were an HOUR early and I could whiz home to get it and then slide into my seat and look forward to a couple of glasses (well…three if you count the one the MoH didn’t quite finish) of Two Buck Chuck. And the MoH says after the class, “That was pretty good…what was it?” “Koolaide,” I replied, “and you’ll be sorry in the morning.”  The MoH does not imbibe.

IMG_5172.JPG The menu for this cooking class was “Asian Inspired Malarkey.” Brian is the executive chef at The Oceanaire here in San Diego. Of course, we seemed to be the only people in the audience who hadn’t eaten there, but that’s because we’re busy paying taxes. We love to eat out, but only do so on special occasions during the year. Actually, we thought we’d enjoy The Oceanaire before this Monday’s class, but time has gotten away from us lately. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to improve our record in that department, getting out to try local food more than we do. I know. Quite the novel concept. Where would San Francisco be without all those Food Bloggers sampling local faire? S.O.L.

Ahem.

The menu Brian and his right hand man prepared for the 50+ group this evening was lovely:

Kumamoto Oysters on the Half Shell with an Asian Inspired Mignonette Kumamoto Oysters on the Half Shell with an Asian Inspired Mignonette

Sesame Crusted Big Eye Tuna with Ocean Salad and Micro Wasabi Sesame Crusted Big Eye Tuna with Ocean Salad and Micro Wasabi

Shiitake Mushroom and Ginger Soup with Bean Sprouts and Cilantro Shiitake Mushroom and Ginger Soup with Bean Sprouts and Cilantro

Japanese 7 Spice Petite Filet Mignon with Ginger Butter Japanese 7 Spice Petite Filet Mignon with Ginger Butter

Green Tea Ice Cream (from a local vendor whose name I regrettably did not get)

Y.U.M. Truly. We’d never had oysters before. Clams, yes. Mussels, yes. But oysters? Um. Nope. So this was big. And I appreciated what Brian had to say about them because the information helps when you slurp something live into your mouth and do notice the slightly briny “Mermaid’s Kiss” with a hint of cilantro as you swallow the creature and smile.

I did not get a stripe on my arm for this accomplishment, but I FEEL good. DAH-duh-DAH-duh-DAH-duh-DAH.

The Ahi Tuna? Oh. My. Sesame seeds all ’round and seared and then sliced and served with a compound butter. Goodness. I love Ahi this way. But what really made it was the “ocean” salad we waited for while Brain took questions (mostly from the MoH) about his Top Chef experience. The seaweed, thinly sliced and plated under the ahi was perfect. Fresh . Crunchy. Amazing. Totally. I have seared ahi with sesame seeds, but would never have thought to have the seaweed. Who knew? Delicious. It has to be THE reason why I’m a morsel and not a lithe waif. *Make a note to strike the Barefoot Contessa like I didn’t already know this.* Just kidding, Ina. Could you send me a pound of buttah, please?

IMG_5174.JPG And Brian’s Top Chef experience details were interesting, too: He didn’t get to speak to his wife for FIVE weeks. They take away your wallet, your keys, your cell — everything. And then, if I’m getting this correctly, they send frequent letters reminding you of your obligation to remain silent on the outcome of the show. With respect to the filming, each day, there’s either a quick challenge, or a main preparation. In Brian’s opinion, the only quick challenge that mattered was the one that took place at the French Culinary Academy (I’m sure I’ve gotten this incorrect). And speaking of culinary academies in general, in his opinion, those interested in his line of work would be better served volunteering for a few hard days with a chef, then signing on to work in that kitchen (if you passed the chef’s scrutiny) and learning from the ground up. You’d earn money as you were learning, as opposed to paying nearly 50K going to an academy. Sounds good to me. Maybe in my next life since I’ve essentially learned by trial and error, reading, by example, and anything else that counts for the last 40 years or so.

Other points of interest in the evening: Brian recommended many local places to find great ingredients, and fresh food. I did know of a few, but a couple I can’t wait to schlep to are San Diego Coffee, Tea, and Spice which concocts the spice mixtures Brian used, and Specialty Produce which is where the chefs in San Diego get their goods. Now how could I have NOT known about this? Unbelievable. I’m there this coming Saturday.

News at Eleven.

Anyway…it was a lovely evening. The worst part about it was the ending, and finding out that it was still Monday, instead of Friday, which would have been perfect.

An early birthday present for the MoH with more to come later in the week.

What’s up with these December babies, anyway?

Gluttons.
IMG_5182.JPG

The End of NaBloPoMo: The Heidi Chronicles

So I’m officially a NaBloPoMo failure. I figured I would be when I never realized in the beginning that Thanksgiving was actually in November…whatever. But I was rolling along, and then when Wednesday hit and I was up until after midnight (looking longingly at the clock watching that minute hand creeping ever closer to the magic hour which would cast me into the ranks of blogging quitters and thinking that I could run upstairs and just squeeze out a fake post to keep in the game….)

But NO.

I let my faithful followers down. My NaBloPoMo compatriots. *heavy sigh*

I was too tired. I was whipped. I was everything but perky in the waning hours of the day, sitting in my chair, enjoying the wafting scent of spiced candles and final bottle glass of wine before retiring for the night. Staring at a chic flick I’ve seen a million times so I wouldn’t dream of scanning lists of ingredients in recipes, and filling small white porcelain dishes for mise en place or whatever the heck that’s called. Watching the time evaporate, ending my quest for NaBloPoMo fame.

It just wouldn’t be a class act to slam out a crappy post at 11:57pm.

But the dinner tables (yes, that’s an “s” on the end of tables) were set, the flowers arranged and the candles organized just so. The old linen napkins were lightly starched and softly folded.

The  Primo Seats

The  Not so Primo Seats

Nary a cat yack stain was visible. Well, maybe one because Freshness, Her Royal Butterballness Barf-o-rama on wheels in disguise did summarily regurgitate her afternoon snack upon my freshly cleaned carpet. Just. Once. To let me know she was still in control of my destiny.

Dumb ass cat. Lovely pet that she is.

Blackness & Presh-Ass, The Yack Star

But I digress.

We fell into bed for a night of tumultous passion exhausted sleep (we, because the MoH seriously pitches in during the holidays, lovely man unit that he is) with windows open (yes, in Paradise, we’ve still not shut our windows for the winter) and covers nicely fluffed.

Paradise:  Overcast, but warm.

Ready to begin again at seven-freaking-ay-em the next day.

But there was plenty of bubbly on hand throughout the day for mimosas and champagne cocktails, or just a plain glass o’ bubbly.

Thank. Goodness.

And thank Mr. and Mrs. Diestel who grow turkeys somewhere in the Sierra Nevadas for our lovely bird whom I immediately named Heidi when I saw her cozied up in that little box all tricked out with handles.

Heidi the Turkey

She performed well on the day most revered by this foodie — the super bowl of Food.

Oh. My.

If there was ever a question that a bird should be ordered by phone ahead of time, fresh-not-frozen, heavily discounted because your son works there WOOT!, artfully brined, and lovingly basted each half hour by the MoH, this was it.

Simply droolworthy.

And the guests were jolly, filled to the gills with the tasty fare.

The highlight of the evening was the iChat session with family in VA which broke into a bawdy session of, well, you’d have to know my family to understand. Suffice it to say that we all seem to have a fixation with the posterior portion of the human anatomy and it’s only a matter of time before a parade of buttocks fill the screen. I do think it must have something to do with not having a proper number of opportunities to share on Show ‘n’ Tell day in kindergarten. Thank goodness for the Internet and family members who are only a sign-in away. We aren’t for the faint of heart.

The VA iChat Visitors

They sort of resemble that Chumbawumba album cover, don’t they?

But the sink backed up, we ran out of counterspace, and I believe there was not a dish in my kitchen left unused. The stacks of dishes and pots, bowls and platters, wine glasses and utensils riveled Dr. Seuss’ buildings in Whoville.

But I survived.

Barely.

Sorry I haven’t been by to visit…I have serious catching up to do, and tagging to unleash on unsuspecting neighbors in Bloggsville. Be warned.

Life is grand, isn’t it?

Dear ustream.tv Gurus…

November 19, 2007

Dear Whomever thought of ustream.tv:

What a completely cool idea. Yesterday I had so much fun being on “TV” while I was working in my kitchen. Who knew? Does this mean I’m a closet Giada or budding Rachael? A potential Bobby or possible Mario? If you’re even thinking of swallowing this, pigs are circling over your head as we speak. But still.

ustream.tv broadcast

Setting up a broadcast on ustream.tv was the means to an end. I have quite a few cyber baking buddies, and because we’d planned to cook together yesterday (quite the feat considering I’m on the Left Coast, a couple are in the Midwest and East Coast, and one lives in Argentina. And the plan was to have used Yahoo for instant messaging.

Right.

And I have swamp land in Florida. For sale.

I won’t go into the sordid details of why this never actually happened other than to say that I, using the web version and in Beta, somehow did not fit in. So rather than collecting my baking pans and calling it a day, logged on to ustream.tv and launched my show, “Kelly Cooks.” I’m not there right now because my tongue’s still hanging to my knees after yesterday. Jeez.

It was completely hilarious. And not unlike blabbing with friends or family sitting on the other side of the bar while I cook at a party. In fact it felt exactly the same.

Of course there was no clevage, or giant sets of teeth, no Eee-Vee-Ohh-Ohh. In fact, sometimes, there was no food, or no face. And never both at the same time. The camera is at the top of my screen so making it point in a particular direction isn’t an art. Yanno? I don’t exactly live in a television studio, and that wasn’t the purpose of the broadcast anyway. It was to chat with friends while I cooked, remember?

And I got to chat with Helen of Tartlette which is the most amazing dessert blog you’ve ever seen. And Jerry of Cooking By the Seat of My Pants, who has several blogs (I don’t know how he does it…) and is also caught in the throes of organizing his place like I am. Jerry’s trying to get me to cook by the seat of my pants, too. And he’s encouraging me to drink wine while I’m doing this. This reminds me a bit of running with scissors, but I can, and do. Frequently. But I was on tv, yanno? You have to maintain some degree of hoity-toityness, right? And let’s see, who else? Breadchick of The Sour Dough and Ben of What’s Cooking?. And if I remember correctly, Sara of I Like to Cook. Of course practically my whole fam damily in Virginia, because I called them and asked if they wanted to see me make an ass out of myself on tv and of course they said yes and could they have a front row seat. So they hunkered on down for the duration on several computers. And it was quite the duration. Nary a cyber tomato hit me. Imagine that! Rotten pitchers, that audience of about…oh….I’d say about 10 whole people. Actually, the stats say there were 326 drive bys views.

So what did I make? Cinnamon rolls. Homemade pasta with roasted peppers and herbed goat’s cheese. I’m completely pooped. Totally. Multitasking has been taken to a new level. It was hilarious trying to remember what I was doing while trying to read the questions and comments written the the chatbox. But it wasn’t too bad. At least I didn’t pulverize the English language like Dub-Yah does…did? Does he still do that? Whatever.

A hot bubble bath smelling somewhere between a fig and a grapefruit, a novel, candles (to see my book because the light’s not great) and more wine were seriously in order after all was said and done. Ahh….such is the life of a web tv drone star.

So thanks, ustream.tv gurus. I had a blast meeting new people as well. I’ll have to be a bit more organized if I do this again, but I don’t know how. Plus, I had to carry my beloved Mac down to the kitchen, so that was an annoyance to others in the house, even thought they didn’t actually complain. I would have. And my niece said I should have some kind of sign that states what I was cooking so each time someone new entered the chatroom I didn’t have to repeat what I already said.

Perhaps a sign that hangs around my neck? A chalkboard. Park someone with a hook off camera for dragging me off screen when things get truly pathetic, lapsing into, “A guy walks into a bar with a monkey…” while I’m whipping egg whites. Yes, like that.

I’ll let you know when I do it again. Heck, I’ll even give you advance warning so you can make sure you’re not anywhere near a computer. Bwhahahahaha!

Sincerely,

Me

p.s. One kind viewer/chatter said that there is also something called stickcam which allows the viewers to be heard and seen as well. I’m going to check that out. And Yahoo? Well…feh.

Kelly Cooks

Well, after a ridiculous morning trying to set up an instant message conference with some baking buddies and completely failing (yahoo and apple most likely have a sheriff out looking for me considering the number of reports I filed for the errors and unexpected quits and failures to launch downloaded software…) I’m now broadcasting.

So if you’re completely bored today, or are not a football fan, or if your team is losing and you’re in complete despair.

Drop on by.

I’m making something in the kitchen. But don’t expect me to explain anything. That would be too much like walking and chewing gum at the same time…

And give me some feedback about this ustream.tv business. How does it work and all. Yanno?

What day in NaBloPoMo are we?

Kelly Cook

Go ahead. Click it and see…

Writing until the cows come home

November 10, 2007

Dear NaBloPoMo,

My tongue’s not quite hanging to the ground yet with daily blogging, because I’ve missed very few days since I began last March. I do have the ability to write my way around any situation while standing on my head and singing Yankee Doodle. Or something like that. But I have a tendency to not write both days in the weekend because my house really does need to be cleaned occasionally.

The other reason I may not write on the weekend is because of my food blog. It takes some time, and I enjoy spending time there with other foodies. And I fear that I neglect that world far too much compared to this one. And foodies are such a lovely bunch of people. I truly enjoy them.

So today, I’m deferring to said foodie haven Sass & Veracity for today’s qualifying post. Even though this actually counts as a post.

Besides, my post there is for a very worthy cause.

And thanks to Mike at Port 16 for the idea.

Have a lovely Saturday!

Me.

Loving magazines & Martha Stewart

I have nearly every Martha published… A few people around Bloggsville have been going through their magazines for a variety of reasons. No, don’t run and hide. It’s not another meme. But I’m always fascinated when people are on the same wavelength — especially if it isn’t meme driven.

I’ve been thinking about magazines quite a bit because I’ve gotten to the point where as much as I now have the time to enjoy them (they used to be a decadent distraction in my life I’d indulge myself with) I don’t. Most of my subscriptions have been for cooking magazines, and because much of the content is available on the Internet now, I’m feeling guilty about the paper stuffed in my mailbox each month.

Years and years of them… I’m also feeling a bit uncomfortable about the problem I have throwing magazines away. Of course, they’re recycled in the end, but that isn’t the problem. It’s having to go through each one more time to see if I need to: 1) save the whole edition; 2) tag specific sections; 3) tear out recipes to try; or 4) just get rid of it. And they just sit. Waiting for me. Waiting in baskets, on tables, on bathroom counters, and in stacks mixed with catalogues and mail.

So many possibilities, so little time and energy… For years when each school year ended and I actually had a week or two before special project work began (for school, not my leisure) I’d sit down with my magazines and have quite a bit of fun watching old movies and wallowing in the possibilities that each magazine contained. It was a cathartic process that helped me mentally conclude one year, and sort of erase my hard drive to prepare for the next.

The process helped me plan projects that needed to be done around the house, too. It helped me think about things to organize, get togethers with family to celebrate birthdays, decorations to make for special seasons, and dreams to put on a list of things to do some day when there was more time, less work, more energy, and more money. Ahhh…dreams…

Many of the projects involved gardening because we had quite a large piece of property. There was never a dull moment deciding what type of garden to put where, which seeds to plant or what perennial to become emotionally attached to. Seriously. It’s easier to think of organizing a small piece of the planet instead of the pressing grind of aspects of life that seem beyond our control. The promise of food to cook, a garden to take care of, and a house to decorate and organize has always been my idea of heaven. Truly.

Martha Stewart Living No. 4 So it’s no wonder that I am someone who loves Martha. Yes, The Martha. My family lovingly refers to her as Moth-rah. I think the MoH came up with that one, but I’m not exactly sure. I know what you’re thinking, but yanno? I just don’t care. I don’t care that she was in jail. I don’t care that it’s been said she’s not a nice person. I just don’t care. And for those people who do? Get the hell over it. Because Martha helped me get through some very difficult years. She’s seen me through a new marriage, raise two boys into adulthood and a third into a teen, has inspired me to create two beautiful homes, and fill them with the aroma of something delicious to eat. She’s helped create many days with memories of working with my mom in our yard, planting, clipping, and admiring our hard work. Martha is the reason I was able to hang on to remnants of a life long desire to create anything and everything connected to what the MoH calls “fluffing my nest.” If Martha ran for president, I’d vote for her and I’m not kidding.

It all started with her Weddings book, given to me by an old friend before the MoH and I were married… Or was it her Entertaining book?

My oldest issues of Martha… I have nearly every Martha Stewart Living magazine published. Really. I don’t know how I missed out on the beginning, but my collection goes back to Number 4: Autumn of 1991. That was before the RT was born. You know I’m not the only one who keeps them, right? It’s kind of the same for those who save National Geographic. Every time I decide I’m going to throw them out, I just don’t get around to it. Or can’t bring myself to do it. Anguish at the thought. I have given some to my middle son for school related projects, and he’s *Martha lovers, please cover your eyes…* cut out some of the photos, but he’s returned the magazines. He gets it.

I used to watch her old television show, but it’s been years. And I’m not sure why I don’t watch the new one. I could DVR it, but never think about it. Maybe it’s because all those other people are on now, and it isn’t just Martha and her obsessive compulsive drive on the most minute detail I could spend an entire half hour of time fascinated with. Totally.

When I was very young, my idea of a good time *everyone groans and settles in for yet another maudlin trip down morose memory lane* was to go through the Sears catalogue and make lists of furniture I’d purchase for my some day house. I was fascinated with color and texture, with shape and design. The idea of putting it all together perfectly to suit a mood or a personality or lifestyle is like being able to put together a gigantic puzzle. It’s the same with gardening and cooking.

Ironically, I don’t get the same satisfaction performing the same ritual with fashion. It just doesn’t interest me. It never has. *Oh, really, dear? We couldn’t help but notice…* But the clothes in my closet are organized by colors. That counts, don’t you think? *Yes, as a sign of someone with one foot firmly planted in looney land…*

I miss having my head in the world that kept me from going stark-raving mad with stress from work. And I value more than I can ever say, what I’ve learned from digging in and trying new things, and for having family and friends who’ve indulged me my wannabe obsessions.

They’ve graced me with comments of, “Martha Does Live Here,” and I’ve taken them as a compliment, knowing full well, that Martha’s businesses run due to the creativity and drive of an enormous number of very talented people. So I supposed I should say they saved me. But without Martha, they wouldn’t have had the same opportunity.

At this point in life, if I regret anything — any one thing — painfully, it would be that I did not gain my education in a world filled with textiles and color, design and shape. That I did not choose to immerse myself in an environment organized with samples and cuttings, layouts and portfolios. That I chose instead to keep those passions as hobbies or distractions instead of a livelihood. *very, very heavy sigh*

Okay, so that’s more than one. But still.

It’s that time of year, and the first in so very, very long that I will be able to immerse myself in all the what ifs and begin to wonder instead…

…How.

Thanks Martha.

Love,

Kelly

p.s. I’m sorry I don’t even have a Jack-o-lantern on my porch this year. I guess I didn’t rally the guys hard enough. Does it count that we have a few on the dining table with some autumn colored flowers? Just checking.

p.p.s. I’m a NaBloPoMo-Ho (see pink lips above) and that all starts tomorrow. I’m going to focus my writing on letters to people. Which people? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see. If you’re interested, send me some ideas of what you’d like me to blather on about. Or would like to challenge me to write about. Keep it clean, though. Okay?