Thursday, July 29, 2010

That Perfect Bread

I am not a baker. But, lucky me, I don't have to be. I have found the PERFECT bread - That Perfect Bread, to be exact. It's Rustic Italian bread from Whole Foods. When I first moved to Austin, I could have mentioned Whole Foods to an audience as wide as my blog readership and most of you would have said Whole What? Nowadays, Whole Foods stores are all over the place, so you can all go get your own Rustic Italian, and I highly recommend you do so. I have two ways I especially love to eat this bread.

(1) In a grilled cheese. Instead of delaying your gratification, I'll go ahead and tell you how to do that while I'm here. (a) Heat pan. (b) Rub the end of a stick of butter in the pan until there's a thin, sizzling butter puddle about the size of the slice of bread. (c) Plop the bread down on the butter sizzle. (d) Add your favorite cheese - grated works best, and I usually use cheddar or something similar (or slices work well, too). (e) Add the top piece of bread. (f) When the bottom piece is getting there but not done, lift the sandwich up with a large spatula. (g) Repeat step (b). (h) Carefully turn sandwich over and plop it on the butter sizzle. (i) Grate fresh Parmesan (Reggiano is the best) over the top piece of bread. (j) When the now-bottom piece is getting there but not done, lift the sandwich up with your large spatula. (k) Flip the sandwich over, Parmesan side down. (l) Grate more fresh Parmesan on the side that is now face up. (m) When bottom side is done (browned sufficiently), flip the sandwich and finish the remaining side. (m) Enjoy your tastes-like-you-got-it-at-a-bistro-in-Europe-grilled-cheese. YUM.

(2) Grilled, as an accompaniment to other grilled items, with no butter, oil, or anything else smeared on it. Pure and simple. Grill slices until there are gentle grill lines on it. Once it's got a crispy texture to it, it's done. As a finishing touch, take one raw clove of garlic and rub it over one side of the bread. The bread will have a sandpaper effect and will get a fabulous garlic infusion simply from rubbing it with the clove. The best garlic bread ever, and still healthy to boot.

I am sure there are plenty of other fabulous uses for Rustic Italian - find your own, it won't be hard.

Here's how it looks in the store - there are two versions, well three, really. First is a pre-sliced sandwich loaf. Second is a mini boule, which, as you can see, is ONLY 99 cents. Third is a large boule. If you buy the boule kind, they'll slice it freshly for you upon request. We happen to have both the sandwich kind and a small boule at the same time simply because hubby and I went to Whole Foods separately and redundantly each bought versions of Rustic Italian.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

That Perfect Song for This Imperfect State

So this one is a personal one, so if you're looking for a tip on that perfect hot spot in Dallas, or that perfect thing to prepare for your guests at the party you're planning, this post isn't it. Try back next week, and I'll probably be in the mood to oblige. What can I say, That Perfect gets personal sometimes. You've been warned.

So I've been listening to this album in my car to and from work lately, and there's this one song that keeps just resonating with me. It's speaking to my two greatest conflicts lately, and so I just keep listening to it, allowing it to justify my feelings, almost.

There are two things that are bothering me in the most incessant way. Yep. I'm a little disappointed to be writing this post because when I set out to create this blog, I intended it to focus on positive things, in large part to help distract me from the first frustration I'm about to discuss. But it is what it is, and I am who I am.

Okay, so frustration number 1 is this insanity called thoracic outlet syndrome with which I've been recently diagnosed. To summarize, nerve pain, burning, weird coldness/numbness/strangeness, and insane muscle tension, which all varies in intensity, all through my left side from my ear on down, with the most troublesome spots in my neck, jaw, ribs, and shoulder. I am not sure what caused it - how I sleep, how I sit at a computer, how I snuggle my son when I rock-cuddle with him, how I do who-knows-what... or maybe it's a result of a number of mechanical imperfections in my posture... or maybe I was just doomed to it because of how my body decided to form itself. Who knows. What I do know is that for the last year, I've been fighting it, trying my damnedest to conquer it, or at least name it. I guess I have a name for it now (after thoroughly determining that I'm in quite lovely health otherwise). The worst of it is the nerve pain that no pain killer touches. Sometimes I can function through it, and sometimes it is the most painful trial to just be. When there's days I literally told my husband I could not take it anymore, guess what my choice was... take it some more or take it some more. So I did. I have. I am. I am trying to be normal, to be myself through it, but I liked the version of me better before this problem crept up on me. Nevertheless, I push through it all day everyday, which is the hardest when I'm at my job, in a suit, smiling, thinking intently, typing quickly, carefully deciding all matter of things. I thoroughly enjoy using my mind, stretching it, but I hate when my body interrupts that. So I continue to try to elevate mind over body. I was advised that surgery would probably be the best option at this point, but I simply cannot fathom nor accept losing body parts that would be required as part of that (a rib and some muscles)... cannot evict those parts of me. But, honestly, my first reaction to being told (a) there's a surgery for this and (b) that the doc recommended it was: GOOD. Finally. I'll feel okay one day. But, after sleeping on it (well, on the other side from it) a few nights, I resolved that I just cannot comfortably settle into the idea of surgery. I want relief, but not at that price. Not yet. Simply, I am trying everything else first before I go that far.

Frustration number 2 is that my son is now just over 2 years old, and I wanted him to have another sibling at least on the way by now. I do still intend to give him that, to grow our family by another little miracle, but I need to get frustration number 1 under control before I can do that. It's logical and responsible to wait until all the tests that need to be run have been run, all the xrays that need to be taken have been taken, all the medicines that need to be tried have been tried, before I decide to grow another little person. I loved being pregnant with my son. I mean, loved it. It was the most incredible, intimate, awe-inspiring experience in the world. The best thing I have ever done, hands down. I'm mentally and emotionally ready to do it again, but my body, failing me as described in frustration number 1, is making me hesitate. And I am approaching that mommy deadline - the point at which it becomes more dangerous to create new lives. I know people do it all the time, but I wanted... I planned... to do it before now to do it with as many odds on our side as I could.

So, you're probably wondering what in the world is perfect about any of this. Me too, in a way. Sometimes perfection strikes in the imperfect. Well, it does me, anyway. It's That Perfect Song for This Imperfect State.

My whole life I have related to song lyrics in a deep, resonating way. I tend to tie my experiences to songs and let them capture personal moments and tunefully personify the narrative I am living. It just happens, when I am not even looking for it. If the two frustrations didn't especially connect with you, maybe that act of bonding with a song will.

So this song that I've been soaking in, that hits those frustrations perfectly, is Have You Got It In You by Imogen Heap.

It takes a be always on form...
It takes a lot.
I may be not - all the time - all I've got...
Maybe not.

Been one of those days...
Safety first, don't push...what's the hurry?
One nerve remaining, waiting on one look....have you got it?
Have you got it in you?
Have you got it in you?

All at once, not a whisper, no word.
Then all at once...
Let me have it all, let me have it, battle on,
Easy target,
Look can we just...just get it over with.
It's getting worse, against all the odds...
It's getting worse.
Guard down, floor's yours, last man standing can we, just get it over with.

Been one of those days...
Safety first, don't push...don't push me...what's the hurry?
Cause there's one nerve remaining, waiting on one look,
One look now...have you got it?
Have you got it in you?
Have you got it in you?

Blue blue day make me blue...
Head down, quick! Take cover, big girl in a mood.
Blue you, make me anymore blue?
Long spin shout power clean right out of your suit.

One more, one more, one more, one more

Been one of those days...
Safety first, don't push...what's the hurry?
One nerve remaining, waiting on one look...have you got it?
Have you got it in you?
Have you got it in you?
Have you got it in you?
Have you got it in you?

Who knows how long this link will be good, but here is the song:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

That Perfect Night Light

Stubbing toes. Forgetting which doors were closed. Stepping on a Hot Wheels. Kicking the cat (causing the inevitable screetching cat yelp for which you feel so terribly guilty). Tripping on a laptop power cord. We've all been there... treading gently, slowly in the dark, trying to save our toes and moving along, ever so gingerly, in a thick blackened room so as not to wake anyone else up (especially the baby, if you have one - man, don't wake up the baby)... and boom. In the dark. In the middle of the night. Or maybe it hasn't even been a mere 15 minutes since you've first laid down. You've caused something to be either loud or painful. Or worse: both. And all you wanted to do was go pee. Or get something to drink. Or make sure the back door was locked.

We bought a whole slew of these cute little LED night lights, which come to life only in the dark, at Ikea some time ago. I just love them. They're subtle enough that you hardly notice them in the room generally, but they're just bright enough in the dark so as not to feel like a real light is on yet they guide your way like little whispering spotlights on the floor in the night. I forget how much they cost, but it's minimal -- something like 2 or 3 dollars. They look clean and shiny - almost like little robots - and they'll last forever since they're LED. Love em. Really, imagine a light whispering a clean little guiding whisper in the dark, and that's what these do.

Monday, July 12, 2010

That Perfect Margarita

I know you've been waiting for it: That Perfect Margarita. Honestly, not much explanation is necessary. Hubby makes these. They're perfect.

Step by step instructions:

(1) Start with a container that can be shaken.
(2) Add 2 oz. tequila (good tequila such as Sauza Hornitos or Patron Silver)
(3) Add 1 1/4 oz. Triple Sec
(4) Add a healthy splash of orange juice
(5) Add 6 oz. of Dr. Swami & Bone Daddy's Margarita Mix
(6) Add juice of 1/2 lime
(7) Shake vigorously.
(8) Rub Triple Sec on the rims of 2 glasses
(9) Roll edges of glasses in Kosher salt
(10) Fill glasses with crushed ice
(11) Pour frothy shaken margaritas into glasses and thoroughly enjoy.

Here's the one I had yesterday.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

That Perfect Colored Pencil

I know most of my readers don't draw, but surely this post will stick in your head when one day (a) you're inspired to draw something (whether you show anyone else or not doesn't matter), (b) your child is so inspired (or at least has to color a map for a social studies project and then may decide to experiment with his or her drawing supplies after the homework is done), or (c) not sure... but this is worth writing about anyway.

That perfect Colored Pencil is unquestionably Prismacolor. These are awesome little colorful sticks of wonder. A beloved art professor of mine at UT creates the most detailed, amazing large-scale drawings with Prismacolors, and a visit to his home in my undergraduate years for a party introduced me to them and is what inspired me to buy my first Prismacolors. And now, I wouldn't use any others.

They are brilliant, true colors. And their blender pencil (which has a semi-opaque yet clear "lead") allows for awesome blending. I have learned over the years that if you buy cheap art supplies, they feel cheap: the colors are all wrong and the textures they have or create are flimsy, runny, or have some other negative quality you just can't work with. Another example is when I used to frequently buy oil paints. If you have any familiarity with oil paints, it's like the difference between napthol red and cadmium red medium. Or ultramarine versus cobalt blue. Or lemon yellow versus cadmium yellow light. (In each case, the latter is the really real color, and the former is the imposter.) Or, for those with slightly more basic art supply knowledge, it's like comparing the dime store crayons (or the freebie restaurant crayons) to Crayolas. I am certainly not an advocate of spending money where unnecessary; however, I will shout all day with all the enthusiasm in my bones about the merits of spending your money well - on quality things, on quality experiences. If you have any inclination to draw, the experience and the end result with Prismacolors will certainly provide the most quality for the time and money. Now, if only I had the time these days...

Here's a quick sample of a drawing of mine done exclusively with Prismacolors just to show you what you can do with colored pencils (they're not just for coloring maps in jr. high anymore)...