Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

I'm not going to drag my feet this year. I promised myself I'm going to be on time, even if I'm the first one there and my hosts are still getting dressed when I arrive. New Year's Eve is a variation of one of those anniversaries I wrote about before. I mean, who doesn't have New Year's Eve memories, right? Not really an anniversary, but a night that marks certain times in our lives like no other.

When I was a kid I remember staying home with my grandma and watching the glittery ball come down in exotic New York City--hell, any city was exotic to me. And the next morning I would get up and there would be confetti strewn from the back door through my parents' bedroom to their bed, where they were sleeping much later than usual. Obviously they'd been someplace exotic too, to come home with confetti in their clothes and hair.

As I got older, I went to parties of my own. Some of them I even remember. Then, when the kids were growing up, it was hard to get a babysitter so if LtColEx was in the country, we usually spent the night at home--no grandmas to watch the kids and no confetti. When the kids were older, we'd all go to a party at our church where we played games, sang karaoke, danced, and toasted the new year in with champagne and good friends.

Then came a few bad years--although it only takes one really. My marriage had already been flushed. I was just watching it go down the toilet. LtColEx informed me he had plans for the evening. He didn't tell me what he was doing, just that it wasn't with me. I wasn't about to ask, but I knew with whom. Elvira wanted to have a party so I told her she could. I couldn't go to the church party by myself and answer a bunch of questions with equivocations. Nobody else knew about the flushing....yet.

So a couple of Elvira's friends came over and they were playing pool or watching movies, eating popcorn and drinking fake champagne in the family room. I was sitting in front of the TV in the living room, not really seeing or hearing whatever was on the screen. I was feeling sorry for myself. Really sorry. I would still feel sorry for myself except for what happened about 10:30 that night.

The phone rang. It was one of my besties G. "Where the hell are you? We've been waiting for you to get to the church. It's boring here." I told her I'd let Elvira have a party and I was staying home. I could hear her relaying to her husband J. "If you're not coming here, then can we come there? We've got the girls with us." Their two daughters are a year older than Elvira and they grew up together.

I could have said no, but I didn't want to spend the rest of the night feeling sorry for myself and trying not to cry in case the girls walked into the room. LtColEx was going to be mad because I wouldn't be able to explain his absence. I told them to come on over. They were already in their car by the time I said yes.

So they got there, and their girls joined the other girls in the family room. I grabbed a bottle of wine for us ..... And waited for the question. Finally it came. "Where's LtColEx?" G asked. "He's out," I said. "Out? Where? What do you mean he's out?" I couldn't look at them. "I don't know where he is. I know who he's with, but I don't know where he went." ......    ........ ......  The girls were laughing in the other room. I was trying not to cry, but having little success. "That's why you didn't come to the church? You're here alone? Why didn't you tell us?" They were shocked. We'd all been friends for years. "I couldn't," I said. "And I can't really talk about it now." I still couldn't  look at them. Tears were hitting the carpet. They got it. They both came and put their arms around me.

"I brought my guitar," J said. "Let's just play some music." I  nodded. We played some music. We drank a bunch of wine and ate popcorn. And talked but not about that. The girls came in and out, laughing and cracking jokes. We all watched the ball come down at midnight with our arms around each other. And then they stayed for a couple hours longer, and we sang along to some music videos with the girls and drank some more wine and played some more music. When they left, I felt almost OK.

I don't believe in either heaven or hell, but if there are angels, they are the people who love us and who show up at just the right time, not even knowing they're needed. They got me through it, and I doubt I've ever been more grateful for two people in my life. It almost makes me believe in a benevolent, interfering deity.

But New Year's Eve has still been difficult--in my head. After all of those years decades of marriage, it's still .... I don't know. Awkward when the ball goes down and all the couples turn to each other and kiss and hug. Even though I have several parties to choose from this year, and lots of people who want to spend the evening with me now, I'll have trouble getting out the door. Again. I know it's silly. Silly and even ungrateful. And it's not that I want to be married. Emphatic no to that. It's just one of those nights when it's hard to be alone, and that mostly has to do with history, so I don't give in, but I struggle. Last year I didn't show up until almost 10:00, and people were getting concerned, which was then embarrassing. One guest shouted out, "Reticula's here. Now the party can start!" I felt like a dick. (And she probably said that to everybody.) I had a great time for the hours I was there. It still felt awkward at midnight, but I'm a good actor. It didn't show.

But I'm feeling it again this year--the reluctance. It's one of those things I don't want to give in to though. Really don't. I want to go to the parties I'm going to--hell, I wish I could hit all of them--and I always have fun once I get there. So I'll go heat up my curling iron and get dressed up and go out. And midnight will be awkward, but many moments are awkward. It won't be the most awkward moment of this week, that's for sure!

What did you do for New Year's Eve? Do you have a tradition? Has your tradition changed over the years?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Holy Milk

Like it? Click it!

Please direct your attention to the Facebook like button just to your right and down a wee bit. See it? Now click it. Click it hard. Mmmmm. Now wasn't that satisfying? Don't you just love a good click?

Oh, I know what you're thinking. Of course it wasn't a cookie, silly, but you never know where just a click of the button will lead you. It's like a promise. Just a tickle of a promise. A moist little lick of a promise. Just the barest scent on the breeze of a promise.

If nothing else, you will now get notices on your Facebook when I post a new missive of wisdom, and you might even get some little extras that don't quite make it to the blog. And you will make me very happy and next time I see you, you might get a cookie--if you're very very good*.

Now aren't you glad you clicked?

* Certain restrictions apply .... But you don't need to worry about the rules. Just do as I say and everything will be wonderful.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cookies are so 2011

I was in cookie mode much of December ..... oh, you had to go there, didn't you? .... I baked, gave away and, to the utter dismay of my ass, ate dozens of cookies this month. All of them were from new recipes--thank you, Pinterest. I also whipped up a couple of barks instead of making actual candy. It's fast, easy, and reliable. (Sorry, Grandma. It was too rainy to make divinity. Next year.)

I'm not including every recipe I tried. One, like the black raspberry galotte, made from the raspberries I picked while earning myself a nasty sunburn last summer, isn't ready to share yet. Why, you ask? It's simple, really. The galotte dripped as it cooked, in spite of the foil I put under the rack to catch drips. It dripped into the bottom of the oven and then as I was baking a boule (bread) soon after I took out the galotte, the juice caught on fire in the bottom of the oven. When I opened the oven door to deal with the fire, the parchment paper I was baking the boule on caught fire as well, making not one, but two fires in the oven. That's not a story about cookies though, so I'm not going to tell it. I will however share that I smacked the bread in anger right before I threw it away. One of my guests said, "It's just not Christmas if you don't spank the bread." Best quote of the day.

Here, as promised, are the recipes I tried this season, along with adaptations and notes,* because I rarely do it just like I'm told to.

A plate of cookies and bark ready to go to a community Christmas dinner put on by a local seafood restaurant.

2 2/3 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar for about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until smooth. Mix in baking powder and salt, then the flour until it’s blended in.
3. Spread evenly in the prepared pan, smoothing with a knife. Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle the mixture over the top of the batter.
4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the surface springs back when gently pressed.

Note: This was the most popular "cookie" I made this year. They're fast and easy, and they taste amazing. I baked three pans of them and passed the recipe on to friends who also made them. While the taste is similar to a traditional snickerdoodle, a thick bar like this can't mimic a cookie. No, the recipe doesn't call for cream of tartar. If you want to keep with tradition, use cream of tartar and baking soda instead of baking powder.

1/2  cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice.
3. Stir in all dry ingredients (except powdered sugar) slowly until just combined.
4. Pour powdered sugar on a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
5. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte (not melty or shiny). Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. 

Note: Proving those Mormon women can cook something besides Jello, these are my current favorite lemon cookie. Might as well just double the recipe. It's worth your time to use fresh lemon zest and juice. The dough will be too soft to roll into balls in your hands like a snickerdoodle. Just plop a spoonful into the powdered sugar and gently roll and coat it. Don't overbake. They will firm up as they sit on the hot cookie sheet and rest.

Lemon Crinkle cookies

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use dark)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fleur de sel or ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.
3. Beat butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla extract; beat for 2 minutes.
4. With the mixer off, add the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on and off low speed (pulse) for a second or two about 5 times so that the flour mixture gets incorporated. Then mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, just until the flour disappears into the dough (the dough will look crumbly).
5. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide it in two. Shape each half into a 9-inch log. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you don’t need to defrost before baking – just slice the logs into cookies and bake 1 minute longer.)
6. With a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into ½-inch thick rounds. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them. Sprinkle a small amount of extra salt on top of each.
7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 minutes – they won’t look done, and won’t be firm, but that’s how they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Notes: Hard to believe I didn't lead with chocolate, isn't it? These are trendy as hell, what with the salt and all ( have no idea what the fuck fleur de sel is and I don't care), and they're so yummy, as long as you don't over-bake them--unless you like them crunchy. They really should be doughy when they come out for the best texture though. They continue to cook on the sheet after you remove them from the oven. If you want to see a prettier photo, go to the website. I didn't try to make mine rectangular. Life is too short.

Elvira said these look like poop. Or coal. So that's what she got in her stocking Christmas morning--poop and coal. Santa loves you, Elvira, but don't mock Mommer's cookies.

½ cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons shortening
White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Spread cherries on paper towels and drain well.
3. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.
4. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1½ -inch rounds.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
6. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.

Note: This is my least favorite of the cookies I tried this season. In fact, I don't intend to keep this recipe. However, other people loved them, so try them and see. I'm not a fan of the white chocolate, so that's a strike already. I also had trouble making the dough come together. I finally added some cherry juice to bind it. If I were going to tweak these, I might try them with dark or bittersweet to see how I like that combination. Drake and I also decided we liked them better without the dip. They're not as pretty, but the dip detracted from the cherry flavor. They are pretty though, and provide color balance against chocolate cookies on a plate.

4.5 oz shelled salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2.5 oz dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
7 oz dark chocolate bar (I used Hershey's Special Dark)

1. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe measuring cup; microwave on high 1 minute or until chocolate melts, stirring every 15 seconds.
2. Add nut mixture to melted chocolate, stirring until just combined. Spread mixture evenly on a jelly-roll pan or cookie sheet lined with foil; freeze 1 hour. Break into pieces.

Note: This "candy" is super easy. I doubled the recipe to fit an entire cookie sheet, so don't expect 7 ounces of chocolate to make a panful. The recipe doesn't specify what kind of cranberries to use, so I used unsweetened from the heath food store. Next time, I'll try Craisins. They're sweetened, but they also have a brighter flavor. I ran out of pistachios, so I chopped up some salted almonds for about 1/4 of the recipe. They tasted fine.

1 pound high-quality bittersweet chocolate,  chopped
1 cup chopped/crushed candy canes, divided
½ cup chocolate wafer cookies (such as  Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers), lightly crushed
1 ounce high-quality white chocolate, melted

1. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Stir bittersweet chocolate in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Or melt in a glass bowl or measuring cup in the microwave. Stir in ¾ cup chopped candy and the crushed cookies.
3. Spread over foil. Sprinkle ¼ cup candy over mixture. Drizzle with melted white chocolate. Chill in freezer until set, about 30 minutes.  Break into shards.

Notes: This recipe originally came from a much more complicated dessert on the Bon Appetit website, where they call this candy cane brittle. I don't know what they're thinking, but it's not a brittle (think peanut brittle.) It's a simple bark. Crush the candy canes in a plastic bag so they don't go all over the place. Drake smashed them with a meat mallet. Or you could use your food processor. I didn't have plain chocolate cookies, so I used Girl Scout Thin Mints. I crushed them between sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin, and then removed most of the frosting that stuck to the paper. If you want to be lazy, don't drizzle the white chocolate. It's purely aesthetic. I also ran out of bittersweet chocolate, so about I used about 1/4 dark chocolate. Either will work.

Candy Cane Bark

That's it. You are unlikely to set your kitchen on fire with these recipes, so go ahead and start making cookies for the new year. They're all relatively easy, and they make a nice variety together on a plate. I took some to a friend's birthday party, to our final performance of Scrooge!, and to a caroling party. I also gave some as gifts and donated a tray to a community dinner for a friend who can't bake, but wanted to give to the dinner. And then I served them at my own Christmas dinner.

Cookies. You know I love cookies, right? (Still waiting. Patient, I am.) Seriously, if I could make a living baking cookies, I would be all up in the cookies all day every day. Mmmm hmmmm.

* The website for the original recipe is linked in the title.

The Weight of Santa.....again

Happy Holidays, no matter what you celebrate or don't celebrate. Whatever your reason for the season, I hope you ate lots of cookies. As for me, I cooked a big dinner today and ate way too much of it. I have a lot to say, but no energy to sit here and tap on this keyboard. So I will simply share again this post from two years ago--it seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote this, but the story still warms my heart.*

The Weight of Santa (from December, 2009)

Christmas is over. This year happened to be a pretty good one. I've enjoyed some wonderful Christmases and suffered though others that were almost unbearably painful. This year I passed the first one that found me living alone. It was different, but that's not what I'm thinking about tonight. Yesterday one of my Facebook friends wrote about wanting his son to believe in Santa Claus for one more year. I can understand that desire we have for our children to keep their innocence, their belief in a Christmas spirit who shares his generosity with other kids all over the world, asking only cookies and milk in return. And it reminded me of one of my "selfish mom" moments, when I....well, here's the story.

That Christmas LtColEx was on a remote tour to Korea. He'd been gone almost a year and a half--six months in Washington DC, followed immediately by a year-long stint in Korea to which his family wasn't invited. Drake was ten, Elvira was four, and by the time LtColEx came home, Elvira couldn't remember when he used to live with us. We didn't have email and phone calls were rare. I won't bore you with the details of how difficult that winter was--flu, record snowfalls that stranded us at home, spending all day together homeschooling with no relief at 5:30 and too little adult contact. I'll just say it's really hard to keep somebody's space open in your life for that long, and that's the reason 75% of marriages end after just a one-year remote tour.


As Christmas neared, I did everything I could to make it special and, at the same time, normal for the kids. After they went to bed, I sewed a big, faux suede cape for Drake and painted wooden eggs to look like dragon eggs (one cracking open) for Elvira. They were going to go in her stocking and, knowing how much she would love them, I wished I could share the suspense with someone who would understand. It was lonely work being Santa that year, and, anyway it's a special feeling when you're chosen to share imminent surprises, right? I remember how mature I felt when I came out as a Santa disbeliever, and how much fun it was to be in on the secret and help play the Santa game with my four younger sibs.

Like I said, Drake was ten, so you would probably expect I could let him in on some of the Santa prep. And I would have, except he still believed in old St. Nick. If he had been most kids...hell, if he had been his sister....I would have suspected he was saying he believed just so he'd still get presents. A lot of kids think if they tell anybody they're on to us, they won't get any more Santa presents. But Drake wasn't like that. He's just never learned how to play those games. As far as I could tell, he'd never even questioned whether Santa existed or not.

And yet, how could he not have doubts? He had friends. Surely they talked. I thought he had to know. At his age, how could he not? Unless what they said about homeschoolers was really true, and we were hiding our kids from the real world, not letting them be "normal," whatever the hell that is. I was—fuck it, I'm just going to admit this--kind of embarrassed that he still believed some fat guy in a red suit slipped down our chimney and left filled stockings and Legos by the tree. And I really wanted to show him these cool eggs I was making and bring him in on the fun of playing Santa.

So one night a few days before Christmas as I was tucking him in I thought I was going to get my chance. He started the conversation. "Mom, Scott Murphy (a kid in his scout troop) said there isn't really a Santa. I told him he's wrong, but he said I should stop being a baby."

"Oh, yeah. What else did he say?" Finally somebody had let the kitty out.

"He said you and Dad are Santa and you're the ones who put the presents under the tree. I told him my dad can't put presents under our tree this year, and I know I'll still get some. And I told him Santa always eats the milk and cookies we put out for him. I don't know why he would say that. He's such a jerk sometimes." Not going well. Such indignation. "He's wrong, right, Mom? There really is a Santa Claus?"

This seemed like my chance. I was afraid he'd really get teased if other kids knew he still believed at his age. Still.....I loved his innocence, his belief in heroes and people who do good just because they can.

"Would you want to know if there wasn't a Santa? Would you want to know if I was the one putting the presents under the tree this year?"

A pretty broad hint, I thought, but I didn't expect his reaction. He started crying. "No!" He could barely get the words out he was crying so hard. "I wouldn't want to know if Santa wasn't real because that would mean all those kids all over the world aren't really getting presents for Christmas. And I know a lot of them don't even have enough food to eat the rest of the year, so they need to get presents for Christmas." He was sobbing, in his own little super-hero world, worrying not about whether he'd stop getting presents from Santa, but whether all the other kids in the world would have a Christmas. Not really what I expected from a ten-year-old boy.

I lay down beside him and put my arms around him. "Don't be silly," I said. "Of course there's a Santa. How could there not be a Santa?"

He finally calmed down and said, "That's what I thought. Scott Murphy is just wrong and I feel sorry for him."

"I do too," I said. And that Christmas I played Santa all by myself for my two excited, elf-believing children. Elvira thought the dragon eggs were real and patiently waited for them to hatch. Drake flew around the house in his cape fighting bad guys. There were children all over the world who didn't celebrate Christmas, who didn't have enough to eat, much less presents under a shiny evergreen tree, but for one more year I kept that secret to myself. These are burdens our kids will share soon enough, and I've always been ashamed that I forgot for even an instant how short that time of innocence is.

The next year, Drake no longer believed in Santa Claus, and I wished, just like my FB friend, that he'd had one more year of believing Santa really existed. I wish I had one more year too.

* If reposting is something naughty bloggers do, don't tell me. I already struggle with the size of my tiny e-peen. I won't make a habit of reposting. Promise.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas week rambling

What a week! Am I right? I thought once Scrooge! was over I'd find some free time to zip in here and write something rude dirty pornographic profound, but instead Santa's elves tied me up with strings of Christmas lights and spanked me with candy canes I spent most of the week getting ready to celebrate the reason for the season: Christmas carols, presents, Christmas dinner, and cookies. Lots of cookies--baking, that is. But the next post is about cookies; this one is not.

Just so you'll believe that I'm not malingering, here is a brief synopsis of the week.
  • With less than a week to go, I finally got both kids here at the same time to decorate the tree. Lots of memories in those ornaments. They go back over 30 years. I love the ones with photos of the kids when they were  little. I wish I'd made a photo ornament every year for each of them. On the top of the tree is the paper angel with a photo of me on the face that I made in kindergarten. It sat on top of my grandma's tree every year when I was growing up. I thought it had been thrown away after she died, but my aunt had it and gave it to me years later. Coraline tried to help by grabbing and stuffing everything she could reach into her mouth. Next year we'll have to put the ornaments only on the top half of the tree.
Fuck Martha Stewart. This is not her tree.

  • I wrote a few weeks ago here that we were going into hell week for Scrooge! and I felt like I needed a massage and a soak in a hot tub. Two days later another Scrooge! cast member gave me a gift certificate for a free massage from a licensed medical message therapist!* I know, right? Turns out her name wasn't Sven, and she was a crazy fucking sadist but she had a very firm touch (which I asked for). She found every single pressure point on my body and stabbed flaming, hot pencils into them. It hurt, but in a good away .... like when she stopped torturing me releasing my pressure points, I felt tremendous relief from the pain she was causing. After the hour was up, she told me my back had been so tense it felt like I had rocks and pebbles under my skin instead of muscles. I'm pretty sure she didn't mean I have a sexy hard body. She definitely worked out some kinks though. I'll be going back to her once I heal from this massage. I needed that.
  • For the past many years I've hosted a Yule ritual and dinner at my house. For several reasons I don't need to go into, this year I didn't. I was out singing Christmas carols at an outdoor mall last week as a fund-raiser for one of the local community theaters when a new friend asked me if I was holding my annual ritual. I explained that I didn't plan to celebrate this year. By the time I got home that night, she had sent me an invitation to attend a ritual and potluck at her new apartment*. I took my sorely relaxed muscles, a pot of vegetarian white chili, and a  homemade focaccia and enjoyed a meaningful, intentional observance of the darkest day in spite of myself. And maybe let go of a few things I needed to drop.
  •  After I left, I joined a bunch of theater friends for "shake off the post-play blues" karaoke. At one point we had nine people crammed around a table for four, but it was like loaves and fishes. As people showed up, somehow we found more room and more chairs in a crowded bar. It's hard for me to believe that a year ago I didn't even know most of the people at the table, or I didn't know them well*. Lots of photos showed up on Facebook that night. ....You are the dancing queen ....
  • As much fun as karaoke was though, the next day my voice was trashed. Not from singing, but from talking over the commotion in a loud bar for hours. Normally I'd just let it rest, but the music director for Scrooge! had asked me to sing with his choir on Christmas Eve. I couldn't resist the opportunity to sing with a pipe organ and a brass band*. Thursday was the only time I could rehearse with them, so rehearse I did, and I dragged the Diplomat along with me. The choir members seemed impressed that members of the Scrooge! cast had come to sing with them. I'm sure they were less than impressed after I croaked my way through the three songs we're performing. Or maybe they didn't even hear me over the brass band in front of us and the pipe organ behind us. I certainly couldn't hear me. In fact, I can only assume I was singing.
  • And yet after the choir rehearsal I hurried to a caroling party at the home of Steampunk Cindy and Grogilingus**, so I could sing rasp Christmas carols in the rain*. It's the first time I've carried an umbrella while I was caroling (where's the fucking snow?), but about a fourth of the party--fortified by mulled wine and sugar--braved the weather to entertain those neighbors we found at home. We rewarded ourselves with more sugar and more mulled wine when we were done. I'll go to the gym next week. Really I will.
  • I have not sung a note today. Like a big fucking diva, I'm saving my sweet soprano for tomorrow night's Christmas Eve service. I didn't even sing in the van on my way to and from Kroger, which was as crowded as a fucking tribble reunion on the Starship Enterprise, and about as much fun. While I waited in a very long line at the checkout, I pulled a bottle of wine off the shelf and split it with the guy behind me and then stashed the empty bottle behind the magazine display took out my new Kindle and read a Stephen King book. If King hasn't written a horror novel about shopping the two days before Christmas, he should. If you have to go out shopping tomorrow, I highly recommend getting drunk before you leave home and carrying a flask for fortification,  which is legal as long as you keep your blood alcohol level under .08 while you're driving simply carrying along a book or magazine to read in case you have to wait in line. It's quite relaxing.
  • Tonight I'd hit the limit. Instead of accepting an invitation to go out with friends again, I stayed home and baked several dozen cookies and stirred up a couple of kinds of candy. More on that, including recipes, tomorrow. Drake has been home since last Friday, and this is the first night we've had a chance to just hang out. The turkey is thawing for Christmas dinner, and thanks to my shopping trip I have 5 pounds of butter and a gallon of whipping cream in my fridge, but I don't have any presents wrapped yet. Go ahead, Stephen King. Try to top the horror of going to bed the night before Christmas Eve without a single present wrapped. Even the Master of Horror himself can't beat that.

Tomorrow I promise I'll write about cookies--after I wrap the presents. I would trade cookies for present-wrapping. Any takers?
    * Fuck November, the gratitude month. I have much to be grateful for in December.
    ** Yep, that's his nickname, and I didn't even give it to him. He tied a cherry stem into a knot in about 20 seconds flat at another party this past weekend, which made me want to experience multiple cookies with him .... except for his lovely wife who understandably wants those cookies for herself.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Is that Cookie Monster under my skirt?

    Yesterday we danced and sang through our last performance of Scrooge! And now comes the inevitable post-play letdown. I'm going to miss the sweet hugs from the little girls in the cast, the crazy girl talk in the dressing room, the many cookie innuendos--both intended and not*--the outings after rehearsals and performances.** I could have done one more weekend of shows before I got tired of it, but that would have meant a matinee on Christmas day. Even Scrooge wouldn't approve of that.

    It's such a privilege to perform in a play. Again I'm grateful for the new friends I made and for the friendships that deepened over the weeks. Again, I've come away with my heart full of cookies love for this amazing community that has taken me in over the past year. Oh, I sound so smoochy and mushy and moist, don't I? Bah! Humbug! I need to write about something that will lighten my heart. I need to......I know! I'll share a little behind the scenes secret, with photos .... of my ass.

    Theater is all about magic. It's smoke and mirrors and tape and paint and screws. Sets are made out of paper or plywood and painted to look like real buildings and walls. Props may not be what they appear to be. For "Master Harold" ... and the boys, Harold had to throw a brandy bottle and break it. Of course the theater board wouldn't let him throw a real bottle, and stage bottles made of sugar "glass" are expensive, so we used a plastic bottle painted brown and a crash bucket (a lidded 5-gallon bucket half full of broken glass). The actor was supposed to throw the bottle through a doorway that led offstage. Somebody was supposed to catch the bottle while I made a glass-breaking sound with the crash bucket. It took several nights of experimentation to get it right. The first night the cork popped out and brown paint sprayed all over the floor and me. The next night, one of our fixes included white glue in the bottle, and the same thing happened only with glue. The night after that, I got a mouthful of kitty litter, white glue and brown paint when the bottle exploded in my face. The final night, the bottle simply dropped to the floor and imploded, like a giant hand had crushed it. But every night the audience heard that bottle break after the actor threw it into a wall.

    It's a lot of illusion. The blood isn't real, nor is the booze in our cups. Sometimes our costumes are taped or pinned on; some we buy at Goodwill or a Halloween store or drag out of a grandmother's attic. We wear wigs and makeup to change our age or to make us look sick or crazy or dead.  And some of us are wearing things under our costumes nobody in the audience would ever imagine. Fortunately for you, my dear readers, I snapped off a few photos backstage of people's crotches to show you what you're missing when you're sitting in front of the stage.

    Here's what Scrooge wore under his nightgown--and under his business suit in the first few acts of the play. Marley seems to like what he sees.

    I promised I wouldn't show his face, but he didn't trust me. Or he just likes to pull his gown up over his head. I'm not sure.

    One of the problems actors, especially women, struggle with is finding a secure place to put the battery packs for their mics. I didn't have to worry about a mic for this show, because I'm a loudmouth redhead used to talking to the back of a big room full of college students. And I was singing soprano with two other women. When we hit the long, high B flat at the end of the curtain call, dogs from the outlying suburbs showed up howling at the door of the theater and had to be beaten off with sticks. I definitely didn't need a mic. But most of the other women did. Some hooked them to the back of their bras; others put them on their waistbands. But the most secure place to put one is ..... Why don't I just show you with photos.

    Wearing to to the side

    Packin' it vertical in the red-light distric

    The audience never knew these proper Dickensian ladies were packing electronics in their crotches, unless they looked close enough and caught a glimpse of a red light winking from between modest thighs under a light-colored gown. They also didn't know what I was wearing under my plain, brown skirt.

    One of my fellow lady cast members didn't want my crotch to feel left out, so she bought me something I could wear under my skirt, something that would make my crotch glow with good will and cookies!

    Me want cookie!
    This is the one and only photo of my ass you'll ever see. Ever. ***

    I could give many more examples of the behind-the-scenes magic of the theater, but I don't want to give away too many secrets. I would hate to think you're looking at the actors' crotches throughout the entire performance ruin your next play by causing you to wonder what's real and what's not up there on the stage. Because the truth is, it's all real--both what goes on in front of the audience and what goes on behind the stage. We all see what we want to see, and we all want to believe in happy endings.

    So my suggestion is this: If you want a happy ending, forget the Christmas pudding and the stuffed roast goose, and don't look too hard behind the curtain. Just eat cookies! Cookies!

    * I have so many cookie stories from this show. And yet, here I am still waiting for my cookie. I'm sure I'll get it someday. Some people are just slower than others, and they have to take the long, rocky path to get where they're going. I can wait.
    ** Frankly, the eating out and partying afterwards is making me fat. No amount of singing and dancing will work off bar food several nights a week. And a few of my fellow cast members gifted me with cookies. Real cookies. The kind you bake and eat. I'll be forcing myself to the gym next week to work those off my ass.
    *** There's no telling what I might do for a cookie though.

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Occupy Scrooge

    Several people have complained about my sudden dearth of posts here. I'm a bad blogger. I admit it. I really suck. Scrooge! and the holidays (and the resulting parties and parties and parties) have taken over my life. I am working on several new posts that I'll finish and post right after the show closes tomorrow ... next week when I'll have more time probably after Christmas, but who knows? Dolores is an inconsistent muse, and she really does want me to post photos of my new underwear soon.

    Since many of you reading here can't come and see me in Scrooge!, I want to direct your attention to a cool Scrooge-ish video produced by a theater friend. The cast is made up of other talented local theater friends who worked for food. Enjoy it. Occupy Scrooge.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    The Weight of Keywords

    Blogger has a handy, but hardly accurate, little stat counter. Like most stat counters, it's only useful for trending: which posts are viewed most often, how many pages are viewed in a day, and how people find the site. One way to do the latter is through keyword searches, usually through Google. Let's say somebody searches for "lick a vagina cupcake" on Google, gets my blog as a list of potential sources of information on vagina cupcake-licking, and decides to click into my blog. I see on my stat counter that someone came to the post about decorating a vagina cupcake by using that keyword search.

    A lot of the keywords are funny. For example, a surprising number of people want to know w
    hat to do with men's junk in bike shorts. People, this is a problem! In fact, so many men share this concern, I'm considering doing some research myself so I can write an informative post on how to tuck the junk.

    I also get lots of searches for various dildos:
    • unusual dildos (x 100)
    • makeshift dildo walmart (I'd start in the produce section)
    • cold hot dildo metal (tell it to the brothers Grimm; I don't want to know)
    • dildo porn kilts (I love a man in a kilt, but this one has me stymied. I wouldn't want to reach up "there" and find a dildo)
    • dildos you can buy at walmart (use it to poke out your mind’s eye after you see those People of Walmart buying cheap Chinese dildos)
    • for a day dildo (just wash it before you bring it back to Rent-a-Dildo, mmm-kay?)
    I also get lots of keyword phrases with the word "vagina" in them. I don't know why really, but here's a sample:
    • tucked up inside vaginas (this one seems incomplete to me. What is tucked up inside? An umbrella? A handkerchief? Extra quarters for the parking meter? I know it's not a cookie, but read on. It might be a cupcake.)
    • i wanna date a vagina (maybe I could start a dating site for vaginas to hook up)
    • lick vagina (x 100, this one. Again, maybe I need to post a tutorial---no, I'm sure a tutorial would be useful. From what I've experienced heard, some people could use instruction on how to give a chinchilla a cookie.)
    • is it advisable to lick d vagina (only after you aks d ownah firs')
    • how to keep my vagina rejuvinated? (hey! .... nevermind ....  that was my keyword search)
    • i shoved a cupcake in my pussy (that was probably easier than getting it out again. Try a cookie next time.)
    • i'm celibate talent out of vagina (maybe an English teacher checking for plagiarism, this one. Sounds like syntax I might read in a student's paper.)
    • squid inside vagina story (someone was probably disappointed to find out Squildo is a dildo, not a squid)
    • squid dick missile (only assuming this one was aiming for a vagina?) 
     Another popular topic is the Sybian, which does not surprise me a bit. One searcher was obviously looking for another site with this one: "me trying out a sybian blog." (Wait! A whole blog on just trying a Sybian? Once you’ve tried it, isn’t the trying over? After that it’s just a “me sitting on a Sybian” blog, right? Hmmm. I wonder if they'd comp me one if I blogged about it.....).

    And then there's the Silk 'n Sensipil and Epilady searches, like the one for "silk 'n nipples" and "epilady testicles." (I want to put a warning out there: don't get an Epilady close to the boys, men. It will rip them out by the roots. Trust me on this.)

    And there are random searches like hippie farm sluts, gay nipple torture blogspot, when did men discover the clitoris (that’s like saying Columbus discovered America or the Christians found Jesus), date had an impressive penis (I didn't write about that. I would love to, but I'm so much more discrete than that I didn't.)

    Lately I've seen a lot of searches that have to do with  standing naked in front of a classroom. I want to poke out my mind's eye whenever this one comes up, and it's often--like daily often. Is this a fantasy or a nightmare for people? And about moms standing naked, often in front of windows. Again, fantasy or nightmare? For some reason "mom nude in front of window" comes shows up a lot, as does "naked middle aged mom." More on that in a minute.

    In the past few weeks I've seen a bunch of searches about masturbation -- because I said I wouldn't talk about that -- like this one: why is masterbation never talked about (because I can’t talk when I'm  uh huh...uh huh ..... ahhh….ahhhh. ….aaaaahhhhhhhhh. What did you say?). Or this one: alone again naturally masterbation reference (or maybe just alone again because you're masturbating again? Naturally. And you can't spell.)

    Most of these keywords make me laugh, and then my muse, Dolores, and I have fun thinking up responses. Some of them aren't so funny. Like an uncomfortable number that are about masturbating with someone who "starts with an m and ends with an m." And see, that's when we who have given birth say, "Stop that right now or you'll go blind .... and you'll fucking deserve it!"

    On some rare occasions, one will come up that's so disturbing I wouldn't speak it aloud to my closest friends. I definitely wouldn't put those words together in one post. Those most often have to do with young people, innocent people. Those really piss me off.
    Today one showed up that made me so sick, I can't even look at my stats. It will roll away eventually. But the image the words brought to my mind won't go away. In fact, I've felt sick to my stomach all afternoon, since I saw that combination of words on my screen. A combination of words bad enough I would love to be able to find out who did that search and report it to a former friend and police detective who is a pervert hunter. Or find the piece of shit myself and .... well, listen I strive to be a nonviolent person. I do. But I can kill an animal for food. And there are perverts out there I could probably dispatch the same way. Yes, that's how bad this keyword search was. And I can't get it out of my mind. It's haunting me.

    In case it's not apparent from what I've written here, I'm not shocked by much. I was a social worker in a former life, a counselor at a women's resource center. I counseled survivors of spousal abuse, rape, child sexual assault, incest. I've heard lots of stories, both then and since then. The depths of human depravity rarely surprise me. Obviously I'm not immune yet though, because I've struggled this afternoon to get this one away from me. It hit way too close to home.

    I know an argument can be made that I get the keyword searches I get because of what I write about here sometimes. Fair enough. Although in my defense, I'd have to respond that what I write is not pornographic, nor is it particularly provocative, at least not in a way that's meant to cause the blood to rush to the lower regions. (Unless, however, you really are turned on by the idea of naked, middle-aged, g-ma teacher types like me, and then you should definitely let me know so I can ..... well, to be honest I'd think you were mocking me. Nevermind.)

    In any case, my interest in sex has been with me as long as I can remember. I was the first-grader who spied on my parents and re-told my dad's dirty jokes at recess. I was the one who told all my girlfriends that a guy sticks his thing in a woman's [something we didn't have a name for] and pees in her when they have sex. I was the 8-year-old  who sneaked off with her uncle's Playboy joke book to try to figure out how a grown, naked woman would fit into a martini glass. Sex is just fascinating to me, but I kind of dread the keywords I'm going to see now that I've put this combination of words in a post .... and yet I refuse to censor myself just yet. Some of them will inevitably be hilarious.

    But I don't want perverts here -- and when I use that word I'm talking about the searches I won't copy here. I don't want pervs seeing my words. I doubt most of them stay more than a second, just long enough to see that this isn't a porn site, but I don't want them to dirty my blog. No, I can't do anything about it. Keyword searches are random information* that I'm sure some bloggers use to their benefit, but I'm just not that sophisticated, so to me, they're just interesting.

    I'm going to go to Scrooge rehearsal tonight and forget all about that horrible little group of words I saw this afternoon. Eventually it will fade away, both from my stat counter and from my mind.  Sooner rather than later, I hope.

    In the meantime, I need to think some more about that Sybian blog. Hmmmm.

    * Somewhat random. I could see what city that search comes from using a more powerful stat counter.

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    December 4 is National Cookie Day!

    I never know what people will text me these days.

    So, dear readers, did any of you enjoy cookies today? Did the cookie baker in your life surprise you with a whole batch of hot, moist cookies? Better yet, did you have a cookie fest, invite your best friends and good neighbors?

    One of my fellow Scrooge cast members (who is also an Octette sister) baked peanut butter cookies just for me today and brought them to our four-hour tech rehearsal. They were so yum.

    Later backstage a couple of other readers, my sister and I had a good giggle when one of the male cast members said he ate a sandwich but he had his cookie first. Just like a man to have his cookie first, we said, but he didn't get it. Not my fault he doesn't read my blog.

    I hope you all enjoyed cookies today, whether you knew it was a day of celebration or not. As for me, I'm looking forward to a grueling week of rehearsals and opening night Friday night. I'm looking forward to getting my van back, because it broke down Friday night after rehearsal and I'm relying on the kindness of a friend who's been driving me around. And I'm looking forward to the start of the holiday season: parties, shopping for my kids, planning Yule and Christmas dinners.

    What about you, any good cookie stories*? Hee. Looking forward to anything fun in the next few weeks?

    * C'mon now! You know I'd tell you!

    Saturday, December 3, 2011


    I'm entering the last month of the year feeling too busy and at the same time, stuck. It's easy to just let big scary projects float--like buying a house and a new car--while I pursue my adventures and have fun playing with my friends. My mom used to say I was always afraid I was going to miss something. I don't think she meant it as a compliment, but it's true, I suppose. I want the full experience, all of it.

    And yet there's this stuck feeling .... maybe it's just winter coming on, the pull of the dark. I don't have time to stop; I don't want to slow down, but sometimes I'm dragged into resting for a bit.

    It's one of those nights when I wish I had a massage therapist named Sven on retainer--one who makes house calls--or a hot tub on my back porch or even better, both. I'm tired and most of my muscles hurt for some reason.

    Diplomat thinks the enigmatic bartender from last night's after-rehearsal adventure poisoned us, but I can't imagine he would. Although when I was paying my tab, he did pour a couple of different shots of something for himself, me, Diplomat, and an Ethiopian with perfect English. One tasted like vile rot-gut and the other was sweet like nectar. Not sure what was in either drink, but the effect was .... unusual. Maybe I just need to stop flirting with bartenders ... .... Nah. Not going to happen.

    Tomorrow we start tech week for Scrooge, or hell week as it's also called, and Friday we open for a two-weekend run. It's going to be intense. And then when it's over, Christmas will be on top of us, and then shortly after that, winter quarter starts.

    I don't know how I can feel stuck when so much is going on, but I do. I just wish I was stuck on Sven's massage table with a big vat of bubbling water waiting nearby for me to fall asleep in it.

    This is what I'm listening to tonight, Waking Life by Schuyler Fisk. I'm going to learn it once I've got some free music time.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Snippets from Elvira

    Today I offer you a few snippets from my Facebook message box, courtesy of my daughter Elvira.

    1. In case you were wondering, it's not a good idea to try to exfoliate your face with duct tape. It didn't work. I thought it would but it just gave me a lingering burning sensation.

    2. I've been reading Coraline the original Grimm fairy tales…They're really not as fucked up as people make them out to be. Poe is waaaaay worse.*

    3. Lol, at work they won't let me pick up ice buckets. Really? I guess they don't understand that it's way more strain on those muscles for me to poop than lift something. Especially since the doctor put me on extra iron. Sorry I'm telling you about poop.

    4. I gotta learn how to do that. We could turn your parlor into a fortune telling studio and  have a mother/daughter thing. I have the look for a fortune teller. I could wear a lot of sparkly scarves and earrings .... I'll throw bones on a table and speak in an accent. And wear blind looking contacts. It'll be fucking awesome…We could advertise. We could put a sweet looking sign outside your house! I'll paint it! THIS IS THE BEST IDEA EVER!**

    5. I'm excited to do things like go to the zoo and walk around the woods. Things that aren't that exciting to me anymore will probably be way more exciting with a little kid who's never seen or done all that stuff. And I hear that children say unintentionally offensive things in public. I'm excited for that too.***

    6. I'd rather chance arsenic than yoga.

    P.S. Elvira doesn't know I'm doing this. If she gets upset, I'll just remind her about those stitches I had to get when she was born. Works every time.

    * In my defense, I read Poe to Elvira when she was six, not when she was four months old.
    ** In response to my recent tarot posts.
    *** Oh, do I have stories about that! And one of them is about the color of poop.