Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This Almost Makes up for my Mullet

It is SNOWING. Oh, it won't stay, and the flakes are microscopic, melting the instant they hit your hand, but I'm counting it. Snow, in the desert. Genni, I hope you are wearing one of your fabulous coats (have you seen her coats? This woman has fabulous coats).

Also, I just realized the von Trapp family is moving out. Who? The von Trapp family. My neighbors from Austria with the crazy little kid whom I caught trying to discipline my cat. In the comments to that post, Belledame suggested the little girl was merely modeling what she saw at home, and you know something, Belledame? I think you were right about that, because there was a night I almost called Child Protective Services on them. There is "child screaming from exhaustion and temper" and then there is "child screaming because parents are getting their beat on." Before I could decide for sure which it was, it stopped; but I never felt real good about the situation and I'll always wonder whether I should have called anyhow. Sad. Wrong. Terrible.

But oh, I'm so happy they're leaving. I thought they were merely cleaning up to decorate for the holidays, but no! There is a moving van and everything! This is wonderful. Please, please let a couple of students move in who will not be as obnoxious as the von Trapps. Drunken mid-week parties I can deal with. Crazy abused children who tear across the lawn shrieking and chasing bunny rabbits, doubtless to capture, kill, and boil them for supper--those, I don't do so well with.

This is a good day! Today I can pretend I do not have a mullet, even without draping the mirrors in black crepe first.

Peter! Whaaaat's Happening

There! Can we quit crying over my angry quote-hating now? Because I just quoted from Office Space. And I just quoted the most over-quoted lines from Office Space, right after "m-m-my stapler," and maybe the thing about getting to show her your "O"-face. Now you can all point and laugh and shout "hypocrite!" at me if it makes you feel better to do that.

Thanksgiving worked out all right. I took a picture of the wreckage afterwards--the kitchen before clean-up--but then I realized it looks like every other kitchen after the almighty Day of American Gluttony. Which, about that: If you were upset by my quote-hating you will probably also be upset to know that my attitude towards people who have to mention, every year, that Thanksgiving is kind of a big lie is a simple but derisive one. It goes something like, "Hey, I wrote that composition! In eighth grade."

See, I know the Pilgrims weren't such great friends to America's indigenous people. EVERY AMERICAN who did not drop out of school in the fourth grade knows that the Pilgrims weren't such great friends to America's indigenous people. Likewise does every American with that education know that "weren't such great friends" is a massive understatement of the situation, and also do we know that there's something horribly unfair about the way we push ourselves away from the table groaning while people all over the world are starving.

And it isn't that I don't care, so much as it is that the man and I are going to be living off that 10-pound turkey for weeks, and in this house that is officially A Good Thing, maybe even something to be, get this, thankful for. Just because a holiday originates in bloodshed and racism is no reason to mire it there eternally. I believe it can be reclaimed.

Anyway, I am very thankful that I was able to have a good meal, the result of which will be many more good meals to come (I don't pat myself on the back often, but I am damn good with recycling leftovers), and I am very thankful that I live in a country where this is not horribly difficult or impossible to do. I hope your circumstances were similar or even better. That's all.

And now, a trivial complaint: I keep getting calls from someone named "Martha Quinn," calling from "1984." It seems an employee at Supercuts gave me her mullet the other day, and she wants it back.

And I'd give it to her, except every time she calls I find myself telling her all about how she was the VJ I hated the most after J.J. Jackson, and she cusses at me and hangs up before I can get an address to send it to.

So listen, does anyone want Martha Quinn's 1984 mullet? Email me. We'll work something out. It can be my early Christmas present to you.

(By the way, did you know Christmas steals a lot of its shtick from earlier pagan rituals? And pays homage to a very patriarchal God besides? Now ask me if I give a fuck. Just because I'm not watching Elf repeatedly does not mean I don't love me some Christmas.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Slipped my Mind

What with my goofy night-owl work schedule, and my leaving the house as seldom as possible, and my just-in-general scatterbrainedness, it has only this minute occurred to me that if we are to have anything even faintly resembling a Thanksgiving dinner in this house tomorrow, I need to get my ass to the store NOW.

A Jennie-O turkey roast: That's close enough, isn't it?

Best Comment I Have Read in a Long, Long Time

Here. Auguste's, not Prometheus'.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Help Us Help Ourselves: Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic

Lauren has this project* that I'll let her describe:

HUHO (since I am too uncreative to think up a better name): This compilation of how-tos, written by you and me, aims to help people with little in the way of resources and expertise get through unfortunate situations relating to money, finances, and bureaucracy.

It will be an open-source document, likely a Word doc wiki?, that can be edited and added to as the contributors see fit. Not only do I want it to include our stories, but I want it to include details, specifics, the steps in the process, what one can expect, what hurdles one may come against, and suggestions for how to get around them. This should be a pragmatic resource that takes a person in need through all the steps and details of the situation at hand.

As you should be able to tell from the description above, it isn't just a recipe collection--read the whole thing and see if there isn't some other area in which you have expertise you could offer.

But me, I got chicken thighs. And lemon. And garlic. And a recipe I got out of a $5 bargain cookbook at Barnes & Noble. And that's my first bit of advice: Don't shun the $5 bargain cookbooks! I make more stuff out of the bargain cookbooks than I've ever made from books by celebrity chefs.

Here is what I know about the chicken thighs and the lemon and the garlic: It is cheap. It is unbelievably tasty. It scales up or down nicely, but I wouldn't suggest scaling it down because it also is delicious left over. Cold or hot, doesn't matter.

The negatives: It is not a quick recipe, and it is not low-fat. People concerned about the fat content should consider skinning the thighs before cooking and perhaps using a defatted chicken stock. Me, I have to confess I don't really give a shit, because if it isn't one thing killing you these days it's another. Let's eat.


8 chicken thighs
20 [that is not a typo] cloves garlic
1 lemon
2-1/2 cups chicken stock*
5-6 ounces of cheap white wine--a wine glass full--OR 4 ounces apple juice plus the juice of 1 lemon
2-4 tablespoons flour
1-2 tablespoons oil

*Note about the chicken stock: The cheapest way to procure 2-1/2 cups of chicken stock is to make it yourself with the carcass of a roast chicken. But who has time for this? I find stock-making incredibly tedious. So the second-cheapest way to procure 2-1/2 cups of chicken stock is to cheat, by dissolving the flavoring packet from a package of chicken-flavored ramen in 2-1/2 cups of boiling water. Yes, I really just typed that. You're going to infuse the stuff with a boatload of garlic anyway, so it doesn't matter. And the third-cheapest way to get chicken stock is to buy bouillon cubes when they're on sale and keep those around.

Peel 20 cloves of garlic by whacking each clove with a knife to loosen the peel first. Chuck the peeled cloves into your 2-1/2 cups chicken stock which you then heat on the stove to a nice simmer. Cover loosely and simmer 40 minutes. I told you this wasn't a quick recipe.

In a big ol' pan that is preferably NOT non-stick, brown up, with a tablespoon or two of oil, your chicken thighs. Salt and pepper 'em, and paprika's good on them, too. Beyond that they don't need much. The flavor's going to be in the sauce.

Turn on your oven to 375.

When the thighs are browned nicely (they need not be cooked through), remove them to an oblong casserole dish.

Leave the pan you fried 'em in on medium-low heat. Into that same frying pan, sprinkle 2-4 tablespoons of flour and stir it into the pan drippings, which I hope you did not drain off. Whether you use only 2 tablespoons of flour, or 3, or 4 is going to depend on what's in the pan. If you skinned the thighs before browning, you will have less fat in the pan and may only need 2 tablespoons of flour. What you are aiming for here is equal parts fat and flour.

Now chuck in EITHER the wine OR the apple/lemon juice combo and stir with the flour and fat mixture, scraping the pan really well.

And now you can strain your 2-1/2 cups garlicked chicken stock into the frying pan, blending with the flour, the fat, and the wine. It will go together more smoothly than you may think it will, honest; if you blended the fat and flour well to begin with, you will have no lumps at all. Lower the heat on the pan to, uh, low, and turn your attention to the casserole dish of chicken thighs, over which you will place:

1. The garlic cloves you strained out of the stock, and
2. One peeled, sliced lemon.

And over all this, pour the sauce. Cover the casserole with foil or a lid, and slide it into the oven, where it will remain for 40 minutes.

Forty minutes turns out to be exactly how long it takes me to make rice in the cheap electric steamer I've got, so that's what I serve this with, because it's tough to get cheaper than rice. Green beans also go well. In any case I usally keep the veggies and starches very simple, because what comes out of that oven 40 minutes later is some fantastically rich and delicious chicken, in a sauce you could pour over damn near anything, except maybe chocolate cake.


This would all go much faster if you infused the garlic into the stock the day before, but I never remember to do this. And about that garlic: 20 cloves sounds excessive, but the flavor in this dish is not overwhelmingly garlicky, so if overly garlicked food normally puts you off, give it a chance first.


Because I can usually count on the local Grocery Chain putting enormous packs of chicken thighs on sale for $0.99 a pound. These usually contain between 14-16 chicken thighs which means I can make this dish twice if I want to. And I usually want to, because what the hell else do you do with a bunch of chicken thighs?

Lemons are cheap.

Garlic they're practically giving away.

And chicken stock is either free (if you made your own), super-cheap (if you use the ramen noodles trick), or fairly cheap (if you use canned or bouillon you bought on sale). Really, the most expensive thing in this is the wine (or the apple juice, if you use that), and whichever you use, you aren't using much.

*Some of you who cook better than I do need to check it out, because I'm certain you could contribute a recipe or two.

Helen, I am thinking that potato gratin particularly could be adapted for lower income brackets, but that may just be because I'm a little in love with the look of that potato gratin. I'm telling you, it totally wants me.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


This is just a straight-up mean post about something that's irked hell out of me for a long, long time:

What the FUCK is it with people who always have to quote Monty Python? And it's not just Monty Python; there was this animated television series once--oh, wait, it's still on? Seriously?--okay, never mind, just tell me, because I'm through fucking around here: What the fuck? What part of "jokes get less funny the more you repeat them" do these people with the neverending quoting of 10-, 20-, 30-year-old comedy bits not get? Law of diminishing returns, that ring any bells? What is wrong here? Why so stupid, humanity? Why?

Hey, remember Seinfeld? Funny show. Gives me an idea: How about if we all sneer and say "Hello, Newman," every time anyone named anything even a teeny bit similar to "Newman" is referenced. Let's do it even when 20 other people in the thread have already beat us to it. Let's ride that elevator to the top. Wait, is that a cheeseburger you got there? Cheeboiga! Cheeboiga! Cheeboiga! Remember that? Oh, it never gets old. No wonder Belushi needed that eight-ball; you try to be high on life with a bunch of loons yelling "Cheeboiga!" at you everywhere you go and then (this is the best part) expecting you to laugh when they do that. "Laugh," I said, not "punch them all in their parroting larynges."

See, what happened was, I was reading this old post at The Poor Man and like a fool, I figured that because the post was excellent, the comments would at least not suck. I forgot something important, though: I forgot that on the internet, you cannot say "crucifixion" without three dozen lonely wanksters piping up to tell you to always look on the bright side of life. I saw Monty Python's Life of Brian . . . um, shit . . . 20 years ago? That sounds about right. I have never watched it since. I haven't needed to, because in the intervening years I acquired a connection to the internet.

And don't start me on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I never saw a single scene from until I was 30 years old. That's right, 30. Thir-tay. But then my boyfriend found out I'd never seen it and he insisted, you know, because It's A Classic. And he was right: It was so classic that I knew every line. Every line. Some of them weren't even punch lines. I knew about the fucking flesh wound. I knew about Brave Sir Robin. I knew about the fucking knights who say--okay, I'm not typing that. I refuse to add to the problem. No. And listen, you mention the elderberries, especially in reference to anyone smelling of them, and I ban you. Just try me, asshole.

(That reminds me, although I am not sure why: I'm gonna reach in through the internet and kick the next American who types "whilst" in the kidneys. We say "while" here no matter the tense, you fruity poseur. You didn't read anything "whilst" sitting on the toilet, unless you were in fact sitting on "the loo," in which case you were probably sitting on the can in the United Kingdom, in which case you may not even be American in the first place, in which case, can't we just deport you? Americans should not do anything whilst. We declared independence to get away from that shit.)

But back to the Grail: Sure, a smart man would have concluded, "This woman spends too much time on the internet and working with nerds if she can quote from Holy Grail without ever having actually seen Holy Grail." Instead he kept going out with me, and now he lives with a woman who owns truly shitty movies like Hot Shots! Part Deux*. But give me this: I don't QUOTE from it.

What I concluded from the whole deja-Grail experience is, all y'all nerds need to find another hobby besides memorizing Holy Grail, and memorizing Season 4 of The Simpsons instead does not count as "another hobby." Shut the fuck up with The Family Guy, while you're at it, and you can put that Reservoir Dogs DVD back on the shelf, too. I've never seen Reservoir Dogs either. Because, again, why would I need to? I have internet.

I live with a reformed habitual Simpsons quoter. You know how he got reformed? I reformed him. I reformed him by becoming a red-hot castrating bitch every time he started to hit me with the quotorrhea. You recoil! You are appalled! You say I'm always being too mean to that guy! And you are right on that last count, but nevertheless what I say is, living in a Simpons-quote-free household is a hundred times worth losing your respect over, because there is only so often I can hear "When I was seventeen, I drank some very good beer," before I have to grab a dude by the secrets, look him in the eyes, and hiss, "No more, motherfucker." This is not something I do intentionally. It is a reflex.

The only problem with my cure is that it is impractical to apply to the entire internet.

*Look, it was like $5.94 or something at Wal-mart. I will buy almost anything for $5.94 at Wal-mart, because I am a whore who hates Kuraltian America.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I Have Great News

It turns out that playing with a kitten = way more fun than blogging. Like, exponentially more fun.

How's Sally doing? Oh, better, I guess, if you overlook the recent defilement of her sacred sleeping space.

Appropriating_Shane, originally uploaded by ilyka_damen.

But at least she's learned that if she chases the kitten, it is highly likely that the kitten will whip a 180 on her, and chase her ass right back. I felt terrible the first time this happened, but now I just figure she could use the cardio.

More (thankfully non-kitten-related) blogging tomorrow. If nothing else I'm at least going to take a stab at putting up a recipe for Lauren's project, just as soon as I tamp down this sudden craving for green curry.

Mmm, curry.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Every Time I Think Texas Has Nothing Left To Offer Me

Shane, originally uploaded by ilyka_damen.

. . . I'm wrong.

This is Shane, a 14-week-old kitten I scooped up from the Animal Rescue League in El Paso, Texas. I loved them so much--they're no-kill, they don't cage their cats once they're old enough to roam around, and the staff is awesome, which is why I tacked on an extra $25 to the adoption fee.

"Shane" is what the League had named him. I thought about changing it, even though the boyfriend was dead against my first choice of name, "Kurtis Blow"--but he really kind of looks like a Shane, don't you think? I can't seem to call him anything else.

Meanwhile, Sally is off in her room listening to The Cure and penning angry poetry about how misunderstood she is by the world. She'll come around. If she doesn't, I'll see if Lauren can't knit her a big black sweater to mope around in. But I'm not lending her my eyeliner.

Friday, November 10, 2006

How To Feel Like an Asshole

Walk into your local Humane Society, spend an hour petting and playing with and even snuggling kittycats, and then walk back out without one, even though there were over 20 of 'em there and they were all, to a cat, adorable. I can't overemphasize it: This place HAD NO BAD CATS. They were all sweet and purry and playful and gorgeous.

But none of them were for me.

You know what a place like that does to me? It makes me feel horrid for having preferences. But I do have preferences and considering I still have, you know, a whole 'nother cat at home here, I kind of HAVE to have preferences. Like, no females. Sally hates other female cats. Boys she likes, even loves--she and Cocoa were best friends forever and, yes, she's been very mopey since he's been gone--but girls, forget it.

So of course the two young kittens at the shelter were girls. Very, very sweet girls, too--a little medium-haired orange tabby and a feisty all-black tailless one. I considered going home with the black one. She had a great personality. But she also had a very diva-like personality and this would not have gone over well with Sally.

And then I felt like a jerk for wanting a kitten--not a one-year-old, not a two-year-old, but a kitten kitten--but you know something? I have never purchased an animal. My mother bought me a kitten years ago, when I was about 11, and an ex-boyfriend once bought me a kitten from a pet store (I don't think there even are pet stores anymore but if there are? NEVER DO THIS, because holy shit, was that cat neurotic, because you know the pet stores buy them from kitten mills and fill them full of drugs and whatnot).

But me-myself, I have never bought a cat. Nor have I ever adopted one from a shelter. I haven't had to, because the cats have always had a knack for finding me before I can even think about looking for them.

For example, my brother brought home Sally and her brother (he owns her brother, who is also orange-and-white and very, very cute) after a guy at his job brought them in saying he'd found them abandoned by the side of a highway (that is so Texan, by the way). And Cocoa I had from his very birth because I took in a pregnant stray I found hiding behind a dumpster. I intended to give away all the kittens, but he was born with a massive abdominal wall hernia and I didn't think I'd have any luck palming a kitten with surgical needs off on anybody and, well, he was adorable. The mother wouldn't stop attacking another cat I had, though, so she went first to my brother and then to another family.

And I must have half a dozen other stories like that, or more if you count the kittens I made my boyfriend adopt back when he had his own place (they were FELV-positive and are now sadly both deceased), so, yeah: Me getting the kitten hookup has never been a problem.

So the thing is, I think I've been damned good to stray cats over the years, which means I also think that, by gum, if I want to be all fucking particular for once, instead of just taking whichever kitty mews its way into my heart first, then, well, I've earned the right to do that. I have done my time in the trenches with stray cats. So if I walk into the shelter and there are no red tabby male kittens and I really, really, really have my heart set on a red tabby male kitten, and you know, the adoption fee is ninety-five fucking dollars, then--

--then, I still feel like an asshole for rejecting all those other cats. Oh, hell.

Maybe I'll get lucky and one will just show up on my doorstep. It wouldn't be the first time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two Transfers

The transfer of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, and potentially the Sentate*: Good.

The transfer of my cat Cocoa from life to death: Not so good.

He died about 1:30 this morning. He started panting, let out a yowl, staggered around a bit, lay down on his side, and that was that. I suppose it was about two minutes all told from "What's wrong with my cat?" to "He's dead," for me.

At least he didn't have to go to the vet. Like all good cats, he hated going to the vet.

We called the vet this morning to find out what to do with his body. (I live in an apartment, so burial out in the back yard is not an option.)

"Call the Humane Society," they said.

My boyfriend called the Humane Society. They gave him another number to call. He called it. They gave him directions where to go.

"So, wait--who handles this?" I asked him. "Where did the Humane Society tell you to take him, the dump?"

(I am caustic when I grieve. It's how I handle it.)

"No," my boyfriend said. "I have to take him to some place called the transfer station."



"That's the dump. The transfer station is the dump."

My boyfriend swore. I thought briefly about buying a shovel, climbing down into the arroyo--and then I thought about the some kid stumbling upon a half-decomposed cat corpse in a month or two. Or, even better, someone calling the police because "there's a man and a woman out there digging a grave of some sort."

My pragmatic side won out. Rituals and ceremonies and burials are for human beings.

I said, "You know something, honey, he's dead. He don't care what becomes of his body now."

"It's just so wrong."

And it is, but what are you gonna do?

This cat, though, this cat was the reason I used to get so furious with people who say things--utterly fatuous, fact-less things--like, "A dog, you know, a dog is really your friend. But cats don't care. S'long as you feed 'em and pet 'em once in awhile, that's all that matters to 'em. You can't bond with a cat like you can with a dog."

I always want to say to those people, "No, you know what? I can't bond with YOU like I can with a dog or a cat. Because you don't know what you're talking about."

Cocoa used to seek people out who were feeling blue. He always knew if you were upset, or sick, or just having a bad day, and he'd go up to you, with none of that typical feline prancing, flirting, "pet-me" stuff, no; he'd just sit by you, and purr a little bit, and try to catch your eye. And eventually you'd reach over and pet him a little, and you'd feel better. And all the time he'd look you right in the eyes and seem to say, "I know you're bummed out right now, but I'm here for you. Things will get better. You have me, don't you?"

He was far more of a comfort to me than I ever was to him, that's for sure. He was a good friend.

I feel horrible that he's on his way to the transfer station, even though he really transferred out last night.

Thanks, Cocoa. Thank you for 13-1/2 years of being the best kitten I ever had.

*I am putting this gross misspelling down to grief, just so you know.

UPDATE: Oh hell, I forgot some of you could just go comment at Flickr. Sneaky bastards! What're you trying to do, make me cry more?

(But like the picture says: Thanks.)

This is too good not to share (Genni, don't kill me): I get this email from a fantastic local reader, right, and she totally sympathizes about the transfer station business, and then she tells me that this town's preferred method of animal corpse disposal used to be something called, I'm not kidding, the DEAD ANIMAL PIT.

She swears, people. With an official sign and everything, including an arrow pointing (where else?) down. Down, down, into the dead animal pit! Oh, mercy.

Proof that my sense of humor remains as black as fine coffee even in trying times: Don't you think Pet Sematary could have been way better if Stephen King had only set it here and titled it Ded Aminal Pit instead? No? That's just me? Well, fine. But I'm telling you, it would have saved those characters an awful lot of spade work, and the yucca look damned eerie at night.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What Blogging Is All About Really

navel_gazing, originally uploaded by ilyka_damen.

Sally demonstrates, while I ask a marginally more serious question here, but then again I really stole it from this dude.

You Title It

It's not that I have anything to say, so much as it is that I miss this place. In fact, here are my vain-as-hell Top Five Things I Love About My Home Sweet Blog:

1. Raging Moderate does not comment here: This is a guy I go 'round and 'round with at Feministe, and while he is unfailingly polite and courteous, as is the Canadian way, he also drives me up a fucking wall, to tell you the truth. Of course I realize he could well click over here and find me saying that, but I'll betcha I drive him up a wall, too. So I say we're even.

2. Sigivald sometimes comments here: I love Sigivald for reminding me that the girl in this picture lacks denim. And for other things, like generating a wealth of great responses here. Sigivald is good people. He does not drive me up a fucking wall.

3. New Mexico people comment here. You know who you are! I am not naming you because I am respecting always your privacy! (But you have to tell me if you get blogs. We'll start a ring or something.)

4. I know this will sound crazy, but I'm kind of fond of ol' Blogger. It's the AOL of blogging platforms, I know, but I'm getting old, I've always been lazy, and this beta is tons better than the old Blogger. No more "Republish." No more "permalinks don't work, so scroll down to the post titled . . . ." No more (well, not as much) "Blogger is down." This beta, the only faults I find have to do with commenting, where if you comment, it sometimes displays the wrong name based on your Gmail account or something. That's evil, but let's be honest: It affects you, not me.

5. Maybe it's the smallness and the coziness of this environment, but people cut me a fuckin' break here. Too often, probably. But thank you. Thank you for cutting me a fuckin' break once in awhile, even when I say something stupid. Or have nothing of consequence to say in the first place.