Wednesday, May 12, 2010

turn, turn, turn

So, is it summer? it depends on what indices one uses.

The weather outside would suggest "no"--49 degrees is not exactly "pack up the wagon for a trip to the beach" weather. The coolness also means that it's not summer clothing weather...because There Will Be Jackets for a little while. And the calendar backs all this up, as it has summer officially starting on June 21...a long ways away.

However, my life (at least the internal chronometer section) revolves around school, and if the Spring semester is officially kaput (and grades are in, online course presence is shut down, stragglers are dealt with, and my office is abandoned), then it's summer in the only way that really matters to me.

However, it didn't really feel like summer until this morning. That's because I was able to start reading theory for the first time since...well, last summer, I suppose. I'm reading a pretty heavily theoretical text to boot. And now, I know it's summer deep in the fibers of my existence...because my mind is starting to click, abandoned synapses are once again firing, and once again, I'm feeling engaged to something other than extinguishing student fires. There's a part of me that's also kind of scared and wondering if I still have what it takes, but that's what my summer is: a combination of intellectual curiosity, mental engagement, and slight mental paranoia.

Beats a sunburn any day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rosanna Rosannadanna would be proud

There are certain days where events snowball into cataclysmic episodes of suckitude.

I woke up with a moderate to-do list, but I still expected to get all my chores done in time to do a bit of reading...I have a friend who's been bugging me about feedback on his dissertation. I checked the e-mail, ate my yogurt, and decided to make a cup of coffee before I delved into the salt mines. Of course, this was issue one, as it took me about 15 minutes to find my French press...and panic/anxiety is not really what you need if you're trying to start the day off on a positive note.

The house cleaning was uneventful, and I finished right at lunchtime. I was looking forward to a nice serving of red beans and rice. However, I miscalculated my food supply, because there were no more leftovers in the fridge. Mild disappointment (red beans and rice is my favorite dish), but I popped a few pounds of popcorn instead.

While I was eating, the UPS guy dropped off my latest guitar gadget purchase, which included a neat little practice amp...which would've been cool, except for the fact it was broken directly out of the box.

After lunch, I decided to assemble our new Ikea shelf. Now, I like the concept of cheap furniture, and Scandinavian design always sounds just a little dirty to me. However, in practice, "furniture in a box" really only serves to tick me off. I get angry, frustrated, and feel like less of a man. Assembling my own furniture without fail precipitates a chain of annoyances and disasters. I also lose faith in there being anything other than a vengeful, prankster deity who's more than a bit of a vindictive jerk.

I found out immediately that the shelving unit had no the rough-cut wooden boards that made the four side rails had to just sit directly on the floor. Of course, this means a trip to Home Depot, a place which makes me suspect Dante got some of the details wrong in Inferno. After wandering around the cavernous building and purchasing supplies, I get halfway home before I realize that I only bought four rubber feet when I need I turn around in a parking lot and return to the home improvement hell store.

I get back home and start in on the assembly. Everything's pre-drilled, and I have good Ikea directions, so this will be a breeze, right? Well, no. Within a few minutes, I split one of the shelf supports right down the damn middle.

After much chest-thumping, wailing, and cursing, I eventually patch the board with a carriage bolt and nut, and, two splinters later, I finish assembly...only to find out that Ikea, the Swedish bastards, only include half of the wall-mount hardware. Cue Home Depot trip three.

I finally get the damn shelving unit installed and start on the next chore: cooking for the week. Because spousal unit and I are hardly ever at home together, Monday has become "let's bust out lotsa meals for the week's lunches and dinners" day. I butcher a chicken, separate the leg quarters, and place them on the broiler tray for roasting (later to be used in salads). I then go into a cabinet to grab the salt, but a caper bottle falls out. I try to juggle the bottle and do save it, but the glass kosher salt container falls out, lands on top of a glass measuring pitcher, shatters both vessels, and spreads salt everywhere, all over my freshly cleaned kitchen.

I curse poetically and with verve before cleaning up. I then rinse off the salt-encrusted leg quarters, dry them, and throw them into the oven to cook. I also throw a head and a half of garlic in foil, drizzle on a bit of olive oil, seal up the pouch, and then throw it in the oven, alongside the roasting legs and thighs. I then cube the chicken breast meat and prep veggies for a stir fry. Just as I finish my stir-fry prep, my roasted garlic (destined for pasta-land) is ready, and, wouldn't you know, when I go to pull it, I burn myself on the oven door.

Luckily the rest of the day was relatively free of disaster...because one more thing, and I would probably have to curl into a fetal position and whimper.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

dining euphoria

I am married to a wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous person who is the sweetest individual in existence. She does, however, have two very serious flaws. First off, she seems to love me a whole bunch...which is nice and makes me reguarly do a happy dance However, as much as I enjoy her love, it does demonstrate her extremely questionable taste and general low standards.

Secondly, my spousal unit does not really like meat. Oh, she likes dishes which have meat in them, and she does make a really mean meatloaf (something I, for some odd reason, simply can never pull off). When it comes to whole hunks o' animal, though, she's not really a fan.

This means that there are many beast-related meals which I dearly love yet cannot have. At the top of the list, though, is steak. Oh, she'll eat part of one from time to time, but she prefers her steak cooked about 25 minutes past well...and at that level of doneness, what, really, is the point? Other than fixing shoes or patching roofs, that is.

I can generally handle the steak void in my life with relatively good humor. I wouldn't be eating it all that regularly in the first place...after all, I'm not exactly in the steak tax bracket. But every so often, darling spousal unit leaves me at home alone (generally on parental unit visitations), and I can indulge my inner carnivore by eating a piece of cow that's the size of my head.

Today was one of those glorious steak days. I went to the grocery store to pick up my steak (and quite a number of other items, but the steak is most important). I was gonna do my usual top sirloin, but they were the exact same price as porterhouse...which makes utterly no sense to me, but I'm not complaining. I found a nice, evenly cut was not quite the size of my head, but I soldiered on...I gotta watch my girlish figure, you know.

I cooked the steak simply...salt and peppered, in a NASA-hot cast iron skillet, to a nice medium rare. While the steak rested , I made a pan sauce with stock and red wine, which I finished by mounting some butter. I diced some potatoes, tossed in a few garlic cloves, boiled in salted water, drained, added some cheddar, leftover Stilton, a splash of milk, and a bit of butter before mashing. I diced some zucchini, tossed it in some flour and breadcrumbs, and fried it in some olive oil.

It was, of course, glorious. I love me some steak, and I love cooking my own. Not only do I get to control the doneness, I also get to control the eating environment. After all, if you're at a fancy restaurant, you generally cannot get away with gnawing on bones.