Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Squash is my New Muse

My friend C. recommended this recipe enthusiastically - I was a little sceptical. Pumpkin just is not that tasty, you know? Unless it has submitted to the civilizing forces that make into into pie filling.


But then this squash came into my life, courtesy of another friend, Marilyn. Hmmm... OK, I know a sign when I see it. Forces beyond my control wanted me to try the recipe. Except that I just glanced at the basics and then kicked up my heels and did my own damn thing. It was liberating. Ooooooohhh. She's such a rebel.

So, the thing needs to be hollowed out, a la Jack-o'-Lantern. This is serious business, calling for a serious knife. Cut the top off your squash. I have to tell you that, the moment my knife pierced the skin of his squash, I was TRANSPORTED by the fragrance of it. The flesh of this variety is...FLORAL! FRUITY! Oh, my God! I get to eat this?!? I was running around the house, holding it under everyone's noses. "Get a load of this! Can you believe how it smells?!?" "OK, Mom. Were you going to cook it or just stab it?" Right. On task.
Cut the top off and use a spoon to hollow it out. Resist the temptation to carve a face. That was last month. Here's what I ended up with.

Rub the flesh with smashed garlic cloves, season with salt and pepper. Then open the fridge door and stand there for a minute, looking in. Hmmm...What can I throw into a squash? My eyes lit on some slightly wilted green onions and leftover peas/mushrooms from Thanksgiving. My advice would be to choose any kind of cheese you like, and then just mix in stuff that you like with that cheese. Eyeball your available space, then mix up equal parts starch and cheese. I did stale bread cubes and Swiss cheese. Then throw in anything that goes along. Here go the peas...

I also threw in the green onions, half an apple, a handful of walnuts. I opted out of any meat. Now, if you're feeling guilty about the cheese, shut up and open a bottle of red wine. I don't want to hear any crap, especially because I'm about to slather the mixture in full cream. Drizzle it on while tossing the filling around. You want it to be moist, but not soaked. Cast sidelong glances at your husband who is watching his cholesterol. He'll die happy, I promise.

Put its hat on and put it in a 350 degree oven on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Go away for about 90 minutes.

Yes, I know - there's a lot of stabbing going on at my house. What! I had to test that it was done. And it WAS.

And that's all there is to it. Scoop out stuffing mixed up with the squash and dish up! Nate had five servings.

Then let your imagination run. Cheddar with bacon? Would Chevre be too soft? Brie / raisins / walnuts? Mozzarella and sausage?
I want another one of THESE squashes, though. I need Marilyn to fix me up. She's coming over for supper next week. I'm going to call her and say that, if she can give me another one of these, I'll cook it up for her.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Frozen Articulators

Thanksgiving was fun this year: we discussed meditation and danced to "Can't Touch This". Or, at least I danced to "Can't Touch This". I want MC Hammer pants, now. The only mishap was the inside of my oven bursting into flame. I amused the panicked masses by opening the oven door and blowing out the flames, like a giant birthday cake. We did have to open the windows for a few minutes, though; and it was pretty chilly out.

How's that for a segue? Because what I really want to comment on today is how it felt to try running fast while feeling my lungs crystallize. I pre-registered for the Cottonwood Heights 5k last week, observing that the average temperature for this day is 37 degrees. How would it be to run wearing nothing but tights and a sports-bra? And to actually sweat? To visualize my heated muscles loosening as they powered up the big hill? But it was 9 degrees, so instead the only vision available to me was of myself plunging desperately across the snow-crusted tundra; stumbling as a howling wolf pack, their breaths steaming, close in upon my helpless form. Hey, whatever gets me through.

Two undershirts, lucky shirt, two hoodies. Stocking cap, neck gaiter. I know my pain points: fingers, thighs, back of neck. Not much I could do about the back of my neck, but I put Hot Fingers in my gloves and pinned one to the inside of each pant-leg so they pressed against my quads. If I could have, I would have taken 400 Hot Fingers and pinned them together to make a body-suit. Think chain-mail.

Then came the tough moment at the Start line. Unable to run wearing all that shit, I decided to ditch a hoodie. Neck gaiter? Or no neck gaiter? Aw, I'll be fine. Ditch the neck gaiter. So I lined up with 1,800 other idiots. First my lips went numb. I would try to purse my lips a little to blow air out and after a bit, they just stopped paying attention. Next it was the tongue. Bye, bye tongue! See you later! I tried sort of tucking it under itself. It's really hard to swallow your tongue and run at the same time. Are you imagining me with my tongue lolling uselessly out of my mouth like a demented cow? Maybe that's how I looked; but I have no idea, since I couldn't feel a damn thing. But then my uvula (you know, the dangly thing in the back of your throat) also checked out. That was new... The second I crossed the Finish line, I slapped my hand over my mouth to warm up the air I was breathing. Talk to me! Talk to me! Wake up, lips! Can you hear me?

I went back to the rec center to warm up a little before I tried to call Si, but even then, I got on the phone and said, "aiunycamimuh?" [Translation: "Hi, Honey, can you pick me up?"] Home into a hot shower; cup of tea; cozy sweater. No good. I've got almost no voice at all. Glottal frost-bite: who knew?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Think Too Much

A friend told me today that I think too much. Hold on while I just cut THAT out.



Ah! That's better. I'm all empty, now. Whoops. Shit. I'm thinking AGAIN!

Well, this is a long-bemoaned Kate-design flaw. First observed by V., my best friend in college, who asked me if I could just please live in the moment for a moment? Then by a co-worker, who said, "You fret." (I thought that was a little mean.) And most frequently and famously by my darling and now departed Edie, who summed it up as, "Quit mind-fucking yourself." Followed by, "Go get a gin and tonic."

Here's the deal. I like to solve problems. Quickly, even. I am a fully posable action figure. When it's something like an injury, a broken zipper, a swamped rowboat, a broken cake, I'm good! When it's people and no action is currently required...I think too much. [Look out! Here comes the self-justification... comin' at ya.... NOW!] Well, hell, yeah! Because my actions cause reactions; because I want to be wise! Sensitive! Live a considered life! Ergo, I ponder.

[Another self-justification...three..two...one...] It's bad to speak ill of the dead, but Edie could be...a little...abrasive.... Any of our mutual friends out there care to weigh in? To love Edie, her friends had to accept an occasional (or frequent) bludgeoning. And now we all miss it, of course.

[Oh, no. Here come the little-voice-that-dares-to-speak-the-truth. Bitch! I HATE her.]

I ponder for the same reason I used to stand on the high-dive while my friends called, "JUMP, for Chrissakes!" But if I tell her I'm pissed off, will she say... If I accept one iota more than I have a right to, will I... And furthermore, will jumping off this metaphorical high-dive make my butt look big?!?

I will keep working on this (hopefully while NOT giving it a moment's thought).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pinata Season

Winter has arrived, although the promised "blizzard"? The reason I cancelled classes tonight for the first time in eight years? Was that dinky little snow-shower IT? I used to live in Big Cottonwod Canyon, so it takes a lot of snowstorm to impress me.
At any rate, I'm beginning to realize that it is almost time for the holidays and with them comes the dreaded pinata season.

I used to think that I struggled with pinatas because I was not sufficiently familiar with Mexican culture and therefore missing out on some sort of pinata etiquette. This misconception was partly fueled by Diego Rivera. How can something this beautiful possibly be evil? Well, for starters, Diego Rivera was not urged by the children in the painting to "Get a Batman one! No! Dora the Explorer!" Every year in which I can't think of something more wholesome to do at our Adult Education Christmas Party, I am the Pinata Czar... Uh, -ess. Naturally everyone brings their kids and Kate, idiot that she is, imagines a Rivera-like pinata activity. Let me tell you why it's not. Just in case you haven't yet been stupid enough to try this.
1. Rigging the thing. It weighs about 12 tons. After years of pretending that we had NO IDEA how that ceiling tile at the neighborhood church hall got destroyed, we finally figured out to remove a couple of tiles and rig the pinata to the structural stuff underneath. Now we have NO IDEA how the structural stuff got destroyed.
2. The pinata bat. I used to think that there was such a thing: the right tool for the job. One that couldn't permanently maim someone. Uh-uh. The possibility of being maimed is all part of the pinata experience. We use a mop handle. One of my many jobs is to try to keep the bystanders (especially the ones holding the babies up for a better look) BACK! BACK! WOULD EVERYONE PLEASE STAND BACK! No, they won't. The kid who has a turn, particularly if s/he actually makes contact with the pinata, will start whacking like some sort of crazed axe murderer. It's supposed to be my job to disarm this windmill of death after a few whacks. I do this by going in low: I crouch, then SPRING, expertly tackling the child.
3. Turn taking. Forget about it. No matter how formidable I am, the kids will clamber, nag, tug, elbow each other in the face, whatever it takes to have the next turn. Any child under seven who thinks s/he is going to get a look in will only have a chance if they have an older sibling to be the fixer.
4. But the finale is the worst. You would think these kids had never seen a Tootsie Roll in their lives. Monkey piles four children high, over a mini Snickers? The best year was the one when the rope was still attached to the pinata while it was on the floor being savaged by the roiling masses. Mark, faithful rope-man, was trying to intervene in the melee, which he did by walking into the fray and lifting out children one at a time, with the end of the pinata rope still held absently in his hand. What he didn't realize was that one of the kids had the rope wrapped around his neck. So every time Mark waded into the pile, he was pulling the rope tight and strangling the kid. Who totally deserved to be strangled. Finally he figured out why the kid was being yanked into the air by his neck every time he approached, and let go of the rope. Profuse apologies to the parents followed for the ligature marks on their son's neck, to which they simply replied with a shrug, "Ah, that's pinatas for you."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Running Into Rain

Miserable weather in Salt Lake today. Two of the five words I still remember from German paced back and forth in my mind all day:

Schlechtes wetter.
Schlechtes wetter.

It lends itself so much better than the English equivalent: This weather sucks!

Still, I went for a run. I don't like being cold, so I put on my long-john shirt under my usual stink-bomb running shirt and dug out a little pair of knitted gloves. When I first climbed out of the warm truck and started stretching, I was not thrilled. My neck is particularly fussy about being kept warm. The rain slipped down my back.

But about three minutes after I started, I was suddenly transformed by one of those crazy moments of grace, in which you feel as if you are in exactly the right place at the right time. I ran to meet the rain as it fell - collided with it. My face slicked with moisture, I ran fast, without tiring. I stepped on a rock that rolled out from under my foot and sent me skittering. My ankle did not care. I jumped puddles with a flourish, just because I wanted to.

The last half-mile is all downhill and I stretched my stride just a little, trying to get another inch or two out of each step. I spread my arms out to the side and flew down the hill - I'm a bird! I'm a plane! I grinned at the guy walking his dog and stuck out my tongue. The rain pattered on my skull and my body steamed.

So, there it is. For a few minutes, my happiness was perfect. I keep promising myself that this is who I will be all the time. After I recovered from the mastectomy, I said I would remember to be grateful for the gifts of strength and motion. (That's one problem with a blog - I believe I committed myself in writing...) After Edie died, I promised myself that I would live in the moment more - she was always bugging me about it: ponder less. And especially, now that Dad is gone, I keep swearing to myself that I would try to remember to find a little more fun, a little more human connection in every day. Uh... Hmmmm.....

Pretty much, I suck at self-transformation. Particularly at the pondering stuff. Edie would be exasperated if she knew. But I had twenty solid minutes today when I was everything I have been wanting to be. Not bad for a lousy day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bored as a Captive Monkey

Introducing Grandpa Mario, as we call him at my school. He is a 70-something gentleman from Colombia - he and I ADORE each other. I do not have a bigger fan. Every time Mario encounters me in the hallway, I will receive hugs and kisses and flowery compliments, such as (translated from the Spanish) "My love! My beauty! How is my precious darling today?" Who else calls me "precious darling"? He will occasionally visit me in the adult education office to chat. With everyone else, I encourage English as the language of random bullshitting; but Mario sees himself as my Spanish teacher. We talk about his childhood and about his various fitness kicks. He claims to keep up his (really good) physique entirely from isometric exercise. He likes to hear about my running.

Today, he taught me a fabulous new phrase. This is typical of our teaching/learning style. He was venting some of his frustration about work, and said that he was:

Mario: Tan aburrido como un mico amarado.
Kate: As bored as a WHAT?
Mario: Un mico! Mico!

[I dive for the dictionary.]

Kate: Ah! "Mico" is "monkey"!

[We both indulge in monkey noises for a second, cuz why not?]

Mario: [in Spanish] You didn't know the word for "monkey"?
Kate: [in Spanish] You know, Mario, it's not a word I use every day around here. OK, so: "I'm as bored as a somethingsomething monkey....."

[I think about this for a minute. No! What?]

Kate: Amorado!! Amor- Love? Shit! An enamoured monkey?!?
[I make a pitty-pat motion above my heart]. Mario! How can an enamoured monkey be BORED?
Mario: No! No amorado! AMARADO! [At this point, Mario grabs both of my hands in an isometrically enhanced grip and deftly ties me up in my own telephone cord.] Amarado!
Kate: Aha! [trying to wriggle free from the phone cord] HOSTAGE monkey!

The dictionary recommends "captive".

"Bored as a captive monkey." The only problem is that I will never use this phrase, cuz I'll never be bored as long as I'm getting tied up at work.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sorrowing and Pain

Home field advantage! 21,000 fans! How could we possibly fail to knock out FC Dallas (those wankers)?

But the truth? They brought their A-game tonight. I have to admit that FC Dallas were on FUEGO. Our guys couldn't keep posession. At one point, a guy in our section leapt to his feet and screamed over at the Dallas fans' section, "HEY, DALLAS!! HOW COME YOUR GOALIE BLOCKS LIKE A LITTLE GIRL?!" Sara was not impressed: "What's THAT supposed to mean?" And the Dallas goalie was god-like, in all honesty. So we ended up with a nail-biter...

(Nate wouldn't let me publish the tearful picture.)
And finally, a silent stadium filled with gloom. That's it for Real Salt Lake until next year.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Today's Piss List

1. One of my students is trying to blackmail me to the tune of $1,800. [Un]fortunately, because of language barriers, I can't figure out why or how.

2. I am suffering from acute PMS, which, combined with the easy availability of Halloween candy is causing a serious lapse in discipline.

3. A particular big-name stakeholder has changed the criteria for funding this year. And although I sat on a conference call today and listened to the stakeholder's 45-minute explanation, I still do not understand what the hell they want. Neither do they.

4. My hair has been sticking straight out behind my right ear from four days, and will not lie down.

5. I had to go to Nathan's parent/teacher conference at 8 AM this morning. I am not able to create complete sentences until about 8:30.

6. My program has almost no materials budget for this year. That is why Ray's computer needs a new hard drive; why the CD player is broken; why the shipping for the new text books was much more expensive than I thought it would be; why the printer needs a new "Maintenance Kit", whatever the hell that is.

7. All attempts to scale Mount Paperwork have been foiled by one fire on the mountain after another, all of which need to be stomped out before any more progress can be made.

8. My summer clothes are still hanging in the closet. My winter clothes are still in trash bags up on the closet shelf. I wear the same pair of pants over and over rather than take the time to get out my warm clothes. I am in denial.

9. I hate my house - it's ugly. And my street- it's noisy. And my fingers - they are bony. And my hormones, which are the cause of all the trouble. I'm going to bed.