Archive | October, 2010

The Muscles from Brussels broke my sink. Make that Mussels from Whole Foods..

31 Oct

Friday we had my friends Mike and Betsy over for a joint birthday dinner. Her birthday is the 21st and mine’s the 30th, so we combine them each year for a nice night out. This year we decided to stay in, but to make it festive, I wanted to get a bit experimental in the kitchen.

The tricky thing is that Betsy is a vegetarian, which isn’t where my mind immediately goes when I’m thinking of new flavors. I like a protein that was once breathing on my plate. So I got crafty and decided to make steamed mussels for the first time.

And because I’m an overachiever (and somewhat indecisive), I decided to make mussels two ways – one in a Curry Cream sauce, the others a more traditional sauce of fresh tomatoes, wine and parsley.


So a few things for people out there who have never prepared mussels:

From the moment I purchased them at Whole Foods (a ten minute walk from my house), I felt like I was carrying the Nuclear Football. The guys at the fish counter gave me good advice – don’t tie the bags shut, keep them on ice or put them in the fridge, rinse them but don’t submerge them… etc. – but it was like getting instructions on my first babysitting job ever. There was SO MUCH to remember, I was convinced these mussels would die on my watch.

And yes, there’s some irony for you. I am going to kill these mussels, but I don’t want them to die before I’m ready. Seems a bit sadistic, no?

So I rushed them home, and put them in the refrigerator. Through the bags, I could see that they were opening in what I imagined to be some final gasps of breath. (I don’t know why, but I started thinking of the shells as mouths.) I was a bit alarmed that they were suicidal, so I broke out the computer and googled “will mussels die in my fridge?”

I couldn’t find any kind of confirmation, so I just started prepping ingredients and pacing. When Alan arrived, I was a Stress Cat. “But you don’t understand!” I greeted him. “I am afraid the mussels are DYING as we speak! This is going to be a disaster!”

Alan assured me that restaurants wouldn’t serve mussels if they were that trigger-happy, which offered me some reassurance that they might not die prematurely, or that if they did, I wouldn’t accidentally serve a bad mussel and kill someone.

Just before Mike and Betsy arrived, I decided we should clean the mussels. Mussels have “beards” – hairy fibers that hang out of the shell. Although most cultured mussels are already debearded when you buy them, there are a few stubborn suckers that insist on making YOU yank the beard off, which is not fun and not for the weak handed.

We then scrubbed each mussel individual (the car wash) and gave it a good “thunk” with our finger to make sure it would snap shut. Those that weren’t tight got pitched. We were through the first 50 mussels when Mike and Betsy wheeled in. In retrospect, while Betsy is fine with seafood, she probably was somewhat horrified to walk in and see us confirming that each creature was still alive. (For our next trick, well throw lobsters in boiling water after letting her pet them.)

The mussels turned out great. Restaurant quality – and there was only one mussel that failed to open, so Whole Foods gets a thumbs up for the quality of their catch.

The only failure of the night was my foresight. We scrubbed and debearded the mussels in my sink. When we were done, I rinsed the beards down the garbage disposal without thinking.

Until this morning, when I noticed that the water was slow to drain from my sink and I went to run the garbage disposal. And it made no noise and smelled hot. Damn. I’m going to guess some bit of shell was attached to a beard and has jammed up the gears.

In an attempt to manually solve the problem (and prevent my house from smelling like compost when I return from Chicago later this week), I stuffed my hand down the disposal (while it was off, of course). I pulled out pulped tomato bits, parley pieces, onion, and some chunks I couldn’t identify, as well as some of those tell-tale beards.

I’m pretty sure I now know what a veterinarian feels like when he goes in up to elbow to deliver a calf.

Actually, now that I think of it, maybe this is why Betsy is a vegetarian.

A Non-Pithy Post: Welcome to the World, Natalie!

28 Oct

Dear Natalie Ellen,

I learned via a text message from your mother that you arrived in the world this afternoon. From your mom’s perspective – it was not a moment too soon. She’s been ranting for the better part of a week that she was ready to have you.

In fact, just yesterday she publicly stated that she was going to “plead her case” to the doctor. I, on the other hand, have been hoping you’d take your sweet time and come on Devil’s Night so I could pass the cool birthday baton to you. For your sake, I’m glad you arrived today!

But enough about your entry into the world – I’m sure your mom will never let you forget it, so I’ll leave that to her.

I want to tell you about the family you’re joining. Your mother is my oldest friend – we’ve known each other even before we started nursery school together – so I think I can paint a fair picture.

First, be prepared to be photographed. A LOT. Your mom comes by it honestly and can’t help herself. When you get irritated by it, ask if you can watch one of the old VHS tapes of her playing softball, swimming or at a dance recital – and then you’ll realize it could be much worse. And if she EVER tries to make you take piano lessons, ask her to play something for you first. I assure you: that will end the conversation.

Second, let me tell you now: You WILL be a Spartan fan. Some of your favorite childhood memories will be of tailgating with your parents in East Lansing and hanging with the children of your mom’s college roommates. You will learn from an early age how to “Sparty On!” and you’ll be able to sing the fight song before you enter kindergarten.

Her text from the hospital said, “We’re all doing fine. I’ll be home for the big game Saturday!” (For the record, MSU is currently ranked 5th in the nation and is 8-0 thus far this season. You’ll appreciate that when you’re older.)

As for your grandparents on the Dickinson side… they were like second parents to me for much of my childhood. They took me on my first trip to Cedar Point in second grade – when I was still too short and skinny to technically ride the Gemini. Your grandpa rode that ride with me and held me in the seat the entire ride. That’s the kind of guy he is – he likes a good time and wants the people around him to have a good time too. (Oh, and there’s the time when I completely ruined the cream colored upholstery in his new Oldsmobile Cutlass – because I’d gotten grease all over my ass at a McDonald’s – and he didn’t even raise his voice when he saw the damage.) That one is a very cool cat.

And your grandma – who doesn’t like to be called Grandma because she’s entirely too young for that – is one of the craftiest people I know. Had it not been for her sewing skills, I would’ve been fated to dress as a ghost every year for Halloween because my mom couldn’t sew. Instead, I always got to wear your mom’s costume from the year before – a dog, a dinosaur, a witch, a clown, a tea bag… (I know, that last one doesn’t quite, fit, does it?) She also taught me to cross-stitch and how to make a “Triscuit pizza” in the first microwave I ever laid eyes on.

As for your dad… make him your ally. Your mom is a pretty tough customer, but your dad has mastered the art of giving her what she wants and getting what he needs. That’s a subtle art, and you will undoubtedly need to call on it – especially when you’re in high school and hate your curfew. (If he sometimes embarrasses you because we owns binoculars and goes birding, let me tell you: you will one day find that AWESOME, so go with it.)

Your brother? Well, I’m sure initially he’s not going to be your biggest fan because you’re new to the scene and stealing his thunder. BUT, about the time you hit middle school and kids are jerks, you’re going to be VERY glad to have Nolan hovering around ready to kick some asses. Oh – and when he’s 21 and you’re not yet legal – you’re REALLY going to appreciate him.

There are so many stories to tell; I could write for hours. But you have years to hear the other stories, and trust me – the older you get, the better the stories we’ll tell you. One day you’ll fully appreciate what it is to be the granddaughter of a BOM. Just wait for it.

In the meantime, just know that you couldn’t be luckier. The world welcomes you and I can’t wait to meet you.


“Auntie” Alison

PS~ It is a LOCK that your mom is drinking a Miller Lite tonight to celebrate, if I know her.

I hate to break it to him, but I’m already taken…

27 Oct

Remember how impressed I was with the single-mindedness (if not the creativity) of this guy:

Well, apparently he has competition. Look who hit my blog’s spam filter this week:

While it might be a bit of a stretch to compare someone hawking car rims via my blog to courtship, I think we’re probably all in agreement: Suitor #1 is going to get my business.

Why? Here’s the analysis for the slow learners in the crowd:

“I Like Car Rims” is sort of like that stammering shy kid who had a crush on you in seventh grade. He might even be mildly autistic and can definitely only focus on one thing: CAR RIMS. If you have a date with him, you know what you’ll talk about? CAR RIMS. And if you go to dinner, you know where you’ll go? A drive-in, so you can look at CAR RIMS.

In short: he might be boring, but his innocence is sweet.

On the other hand, you have “Car Rims” – he’s a fast-talker, can’t wait to just get down to business. His introduction to you doesn’t even start with a gentle icebreaker. No – he walks into the room, large and in charge, shouting orders: Ghost ride that whip.

Not only is it bossy, but it kind of sounds dirty. Well, Mr. Car Rims, I will NOT take your suggestion – I will not be riding a whip or whipping a ride or anything else you might suggest. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Now if only someone could tell me why Car Rim aficionados like my blog. It’s not like I write about cars. Or rims.

I guess some people just scream SPINNERS! Yep. That’s me.


I do… believe that would be a good joke!

26 Oct

I didn’t post this past week because I went to Miami for a work conference. Alan tagged along because we scored a cheap flight and why WOULDN’T he stow-away for a weekend somewhere fun?

There will be follow-up posts that cover the following topics:

  • The $20 mandatory resort fee
  • People expecting tips for something I’d rather do for myself
  • Accidentally tipping our server $35 because he added gratuity to our tab and didn’t disclose it – for buffalo wings
  • The awesome chicken and black beans we had at a Cuban hole in the wall
  • Breasts
  • The quality of our hotel room – and my fear of losing the security deposit

You have been warned.

For now, I’ll keep it simple with this first post…

Yep. Kind of like this. But not quite.

Saturday we attended a wedding on the beach. By “attended” I mean: the wedding was set up, and our chaise lounges were the closest non-wedding chairs involved and no one asked us to move. (In our defense, we didn’t realize the wedding was in motion until it was already underway – we thought it was a rehearsal until the guy pulled rings out of his pocket… in no small part because he was ALSO holding a bouquet of flowers, which was odd.)

Anyway – there we sat in swim trunks and a bikini (one each, not both on both of us) witnessing their vows, and when the bride kissed the groom, we clapped.

So that’s fun, right? Well, even more fun is what I was thinking BEFORE the wedding took place…

After they built the altar (billowy gauze with ferns around it in front of the ocean), I leaned over to Alan…

“Do you have your phone?” I asked.

“No. Why?”

I gestured at the altar. “How hilarious would it be if we took a picture of us there and posted it to Facebook with the caption, ‘Guess what we did this weekend!?!'”

He looked at the altar. He looked at me. He shook his head at my perverse idea of a gag.

I kept giggling, right up until the real couple walked down the aisle and tied their knot.

I know: what is wrong with me?

Sure, you’ve heard of a Dutch Oven.

20 Oct

Wait. This *doesn't* scream "yoga" to you?

Remember that tubby kid in in sixth grade gym class who accidentally farted when the class did sit-ups?

Yep. Well, I’m here to tell you: he’s now 45-years-old and occupied the mat next to me at yoga tonight.

We started the class by warming up with some toe touches – and I heard him fart. I wish I was more mature, but instead, I snuck a peek around the room, trying to make eye contact so I could lift my eyebrows with a “did-you-hear-that-shit?” kind of look on my face. Alas, the other women were more mature.

Miraculously, I held it together. (Perhaps because no one was encouraging me to behave like I was ten.)

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