Tag Archives: fail

Fantasy vs Reality: The Dinner Party

At about five o’clock this afternoon, I got out the ingredients to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. I processed the pumpkin last night, and was excited to bake the first pumpkin pie of the season. I mixed up the crust ingredients, rolled them out, filled a pie pan. I mixed fresh pumpkin with egg, evaporated milk, spices, and brown sugar, and popped my pie in the oven to bake.

Meanwhile, Dan prepped the seafood gumbo and got it to cooking while he mixed biscuits, and baked the biscuits as soon as my pie was out of the oven. Our friends arrived around 6 PM, and we had a leisurely evening of drinks, food, and socializing.

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At about five o’clock this afternoon, about half an hour after Dan had gotten out of a cold shower, I got out the ingredients to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. We’d already determined after looking at the hot water heater that it wasn’t an issue with that, so with a sinking feeling I went out to check on the propane tank, only to find that the dial on the top of the tank read zero. Back inside, after doing a load of dishes in cold water, I began to mix the crust ingredients, only to realize that hey, not only were our hot water and our heat tied to the propane, but the stove and oven were as well. There was no way we were going to have pie, or seafood gumbo, and after a minute of trying to think of what we could make using only the microwave or the toaster oven on such short notice, we gave up.

I called my mom to tell her about the issue, and she suggested calling the energy company. They had a dedicated emergency line for after hours issues, and I spoke to someone who told me she’d have a driver call me back shortly. Meanwhile, Dan mixed up some guacamole so we’d have SOMETHING to feed our guests, and Sara and Ron arrived while I was still trying to figure out exactly what was going on with the gas situation. After speaking further with the driver, I had to call my mom back to relay our options ($150 for a weekend delivery, plus the cost of the gas vs. waiting ’til Monday and only paying $50 because of some new law that requires certain testing done any time the gas runs out.) After we got all that figured out and squared away, we went across the street to the diner and we all ate moderately tasty food.

After dinner, we came back to the house and had some chocolate, listened to Simon’s band’s album, and watched the cats play with toys. But I spent the entire evening mortified that the promised home-cooked meal and pumpkin pie from scratch became roast beef sandwiches and fish&chips at the diner. On the bright side, the guy from the energy company called again to tell me that because of a paperwork error on their part, they’d waive the $100 part of the $150 fee and we will have hot water, heat, a functional dryer, and a functional stove/oven at again at 9 AM tomorrow.

Full circle

I never remember how much work it is to move until I do it. Packing, organizing, getting rid of stuff we don’t want, shredding/destroying all that junk mail with personally identifying information (like those awful fake check things that credit cards send), and, of course the cleaning – it’s all hours and hours and hours of unfun work. We spent weeks trying to get rid of things for money and then a couple of weeks trying to get rid of things for free, and some stuff still ended up in the alleyway or given to my cousin across the street or our upstairs neighbors.

My last day of work was a Monday, and that evening I packed and organized and cleaned while Dan deposited the cats at his parents’ house and retrieved his dad’s big truck for hauling things. Tuesday, we loaded up the truck with boxes and assorted things four times, and Dan drove it up to the place where our 9 feet of trailer to be hauled by ABF lived, unloaded it, and played a life-sized game of Tetris to figure out how to fit everything into the allotted space in the best way. While Dan was out doing his bit, I stayed in the house doing more packing, organizing, and cleaning, fielding emails from craigslist from people who for sure wanted the stuff we were selling but never showed up to buy, and feeling totally weird because we were LEAVING the place we lived for over four years, and the state I’d lived for nearly 8 years, and the state Dan had lived in since before the age of two.

We worked late into the evening on Tuesday, and got takeout pizza, and saw Julie and Steve for a few minutes, but were otherwise too tired to do anything. Wednesday we were up early and spent nearly an hour trying to figure out how to get the couch through the front door. After removing the feet, we finally got it, but it took some serious doing and both of our brains and brawn to accomplish. We did two or three more truckloads of furniture and random assorted stuff, and then Dan came back to help me with the remainder of the cleaning. And oh, internet, there was so much cleaning to be done – carpet shampooing and wall scrubbing and all manner of other surfaces that needed to be cleaned. (I was ridiculously glad that we’d already done the heavy kitchen cleaning like the oven and the greasy walls/cabinets and the fridge and all the blinds in the house the weekend before.) I scrubbed and wiped and washed and generally kept my hands in graspy claw position or squirt bottle trigger pose all day long, with the exception of when I helped load the truck. We were due for our walk-through with the landlords at 5 PM, and of course it rained that day (OF COURSE) and then the mop broke and we were just terribly behind and so we had to call them and tell them to push it back until 6. (I cleaned the laundry room floor, the kitchen floor, and the hallway floor ON MY HANDS AND KNEES WITH A RAG AND SIMPLE GREEN due to the mop incident.)

They showed up sometime after 6:30. We still had to drive up to the truck center and finish playing life-sized Tetris with our stuff and tie it all down with rope but of course we had to wait for them, and then they wanted to chat about something or other, but finally Jenny wrote me a check for our pro-rated rent, we shoved all the stuff that would be going in the car with us into the truck (much of it going into a pillowcase that seemed to triple in size; the more we put in the more it held) and got goodbye monkey hugs from the 9-year-old next door and got in the truck and drove north.

It took us until after 9:30 to finish loading the truck. I stood on things and lifted things and shoved things and finagled things and silently thanked myself for all the times I’d gone to the gym to lift weights in the last several years, because if I wasn’t regularly lifting 40K pounds in a variety of ways using a variety of muscles, I don’t think I would have been able to do everything I had to do in that dark truck in the rain late at night after days of lifting and twisting and bending and cleaning all the things. Finally, we managed to get everything into our allotted space, and tied down with rope so as not to have it move around too much, and finished the drive up to Dan’s parents house. When we got there, I’d stiffened up and felt 120 years old, but we had one more job to finish – we’d traded beds with one of their guest beds, and so we brought our old mattress and box spring out of the truck and into the guest bedroom. The kitties were noticeably wigged out, and we each took some painkillers, ate some dinner that Dan’s mom had kept warm for us, and fell into bed, completely exhausted.

We got up before 7 the next morning in order to get all of our stuff out of the truck so Dan’s dad could go to work, and it took us about 2 hours to figure out what all we’d be able to fit in the car, what would need to be mailed to us, and what could wait until spring when Dan’s newly-retired parents come to visit us in California in their 5th wheel. After several calls to our vet, we’d finally gotten our hands on some kitty valium and hoped our car ride wouldn’t be too miserable (if Loki can emit 3 fluids in a one-hour car ride, what can he do in 10 hours?) So we dosed the cats and shoved ’em in their carriers, made one last stop to Target and Petsmart for some road supplies, and officially began our trip to California around 10 AM.

Somehow, the kitty drugs and the kitty calming spray we’d picked up seemed to do the trick, and Wyoming and Utah passed with only one poop incident, no pee, and no barf. There wasn’t even much yowling after the first hour or so, just two really high kitties. I didn’t take any photos, since we’ve done the drive several times, and mostly we just listened to music, checked on the cats, and only had to stop a couple of times for gas/pee/$5 footlong. I’d planned to do some knitting on a baby blanket for an October baby, but my hands and forearms hurt so much from the overuse of the previous days that I couldn’t even grasp the needles without yelping in pain, so I did nothing but do my best to entertain Dan, who did all the driving. I tried to get the cats to drink some water and use the box during one of our stops, but neither of them were interested in either option, so we just let them be until we pulled into the Motel 6 in Wendover, UT, checked in, sprayed some kitty spray in the room, and let ’em out. Luckily, the drugs were wearing off right around that time and so they both spent time exploring, eating, drinking, and using the box we set up in the bathroom.

We set out early on Friday for the remainder of our drive, only to realize that the car was making a funny noise and the lights were sort of flickering, which scared us. Serendipitously, Wendover has a plethora of places to get your car looked at, since it’s right next to the Bonneville Salt Flats (where people come to drive cars really really really fast). We had to wait until 8 AM for one of them to open, and when it finally did, the guy poked around under the hood and declared us OK to drive. “One of the police cars in town was doing that for years,” he told us, and surmised that our alternator (the one we just had replaced), while functional, was responsible for the noise and the flickering. I figure that once one of us is employed that we’ll have it swapped out again for a different one.

Friday’s drive was quite a bit hotter than Thursday’s, and because we didn’t get an early a start for the actual drive, the cats were drugged for a good chunk of the morning that wasn’t drive time. They protested quite a bit more toward the end of the drive, when our only accessible atlas steered us in a weird direction when we were trying to avoid rush hour traffic on highway 101. We ended up coming up the back way, through Napa Valley, and across to Geyserville on 128, where construction stopped us for 10 minutes at one point (after we’d been in the car for over 10 hours, and the kitty valium had worn off, and the sun was in our eyes and it was still really hot). Finally, just as the sun went down, we made it to Cloverdale.

So here I am again, sitting in the Cloverdale Public Library using the free wireless. It’s hot; yesterday it was in the mid-90s here, and I am more than ready for summer to be OVER. I haven’t lived here since 1996, and I’m kind of having a difficult time not feeling like a failure. We tried to make this move for over a year but had no luck finding jobs, so we hope that being here will make that part easier, even if we are currently 90 minutes away from where we’d like to be living. We’re doing some things to help my mom fix up her house and yard in order to get it in saleable or rentable condition, and the cats seem to be enjoying exploring the new space. My mom left some of my things from high school and earlier times (dolls, stuffed toys, my baby book) in the house, which I guess I’ll have to decide what to do with when we leave. We’re both going to be job hunting like mad after we finish the painting portion of our time in the house, and our stuff will arrive sometime this week, after which we’ll have to rent a truck for a day to clear it out of the trailer and haul it up here. And in a couple of weeks, I’ll be doing flowers for a high school friend’s wedding, which I’m really excited about. For now, it’s kind of like we’re camping in a house – we don’t have TV or internet, and we have two chairs which are only sort of comfortable to sit on. The table isn’t really an eating table, and we’re limited in our cookware, but we’ll make do with what we have. And so far, we’ve been playing a lot of gin in the evenings.

Anybody out there who’d like to put out some good thoughts in the universe for us, that we find jobs in the Bay Area soon and get to move into a place of our own, they’d be much appreciated. In the meantime I’ll be exploring the county where I grew up, and trying to find the good in our situation. At least we’re in California now, right?

Snack fail

So someone has been bringing in these assorted “100 calorie packs” of snacky things like cookies and crackers to my office, and I thought that today I might sample one, just to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve spent my 7+ hours in the gym this week and been eating mighty healthily these days, and it’s Friday, so why not, right?

For the record, the 100-calorie pack of “oreo thin crisps” tastes nothing like Oreos. They taste sort of like chocolate graham crackers. And now the inside of my mouth feels funny in kind of a bad way. SO not worth the 100 calories. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of Oreos to begin with (I like the chocolate cookie part, not so much the sweetened crisco filling), but damn, yo. Those things taste like ass.

I think I’ll have to make up for it when I get home by having a slice of homemade oatmeal molasses bread with butter on it.

Why I always read the recipe before I begin

When I was in college, I lived in a student run co-op house for two years. It was a great arrangement; your rent went for room and board and in exchange you had to spend a few hours a week working at some assigned task. The house I lived in had 27 residents; it was one of the smallest in the UC Berkeley co-op system.

Breakfast and lunch in the house I lived in were on one’s own. There was plenty of food available that one could prepare for oneself, and a full industrial-sized kitchen. But six nights a week, dinner was prepared for the residents who would be around. Each semester, the occupants of my house would vote on when dinner would be served (generally this revolved around when the local Fox network was airing The Simpsons), and to be a cook once a week (always with a partner) was one of the best jobs one could be assigned for one’s work hours. There was always a regular meal and a vegetarian option, and one could sign up to have a plate set aside if one were going to be out late and want a dinner waiting up one’s return. It was a pretty good setup, all things considered.

The first semester I lived in the house, I was lucky enough to be assigned a cook shift once a week (my other shift was cleaning the oven/stovetop once a week, which sucked ass). As cooks, we had to make up and submit menus to the Kitchen Manager, who trained the cooks as needed, ordered all the food, and planned when each menus would be served. I knew how to cook, since I’d been doing it for 8 or 9 years at that point, and I had a great time trying to figure out how to turn a recipe that would normally serve five into one that would serve 25. (The answer wasn’t always to multiply each ingredient by 5, btw.)

My fellow Tuesday night cook was a pretty Persian guy named Bijan, who was used to flexing his muscles and flashing his dimples to get girls to drool over him. He didn’t know how to cook, but the Work Manager that year had the hots for him, so she gave him a cook shift. So Tuesdays I taught Bijan how to cook and generally made him do the chopping and other prepwork because he didn’t know how to do anything else.

Cooking with Bijan was fun most of the time, but I learned over the semester that I had to kind of watch what he was doing a lot of the time, because he liked to experiment, especially when we were making something that he thought might be “improved”. He had a habit of adding Chinese five spice or hoisin sauce to things that really should not have been seasoned or sauced such. One time we were making marinara sauce, and he added several tablespoons of cinnamon while my back was turned “because I thought it might make it spicy.” But the most awesome time, oh, the best time, was the Cream Puff Incident.

The dinner we were making that Tuesday night was well underway, and Bijan said he wanted to make something for dessert. I tossed the cookbook at him and told him to go to town, but to read the recipe before beginning. “Of course,” he said, since I thought he’d already learned his lesson from previous culinary failures. “I’m making cream puffs,” Bijan declared.

Somehow I lost the coin toss and ended up whipping cream by hand with a whisk, because our house didn’t have a hand mixer and neither of us wanted to clean the industrial stand mixer. So I spent 20 minutes or half an hour hand whipping the cream while Bijan made the puff parts. They went into the oven and came out a few minutes later, looking great.

Finally, my arm aching, I triumphantly finished whipping the cream for the cream puffs and they had cooled enough for each of us to try one. I cut two in half, filled the middles with whipped cream, and as we bit down on our respective cream puffs we looked at one another in horror as we realized we were eating cream-filled salt dough.

“Bijan,” I said, “did you read the recipe?”

“I did!” he swore.

I looked at the recipe. It called for 1/4 teaspoon of salt. No way there was only 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt in my cream puff alone. I pointed this out to him, and he realized that he must have put in 1/4 CUP of salt, not 1/4 TEASPOON.

I do not have to tell you the huge difference putting 1/4 cup of salt in any dessert-type baked good is from 1/4 teaspoon. Needless to say, the puffs were completely inedible. I put the remains of my hand-aching hard work in the refrigerator and we served dinner without dessert.

After dinner, one of our housemates found the whipped cream and somehow decided it would be a good idea to start a whipped cream fight, so the next half an hour involved 10 or 15 people flinging the product of my labor at one another, making a huge mess. I did not assist in the cleanup, since I figured I’d done my part to aid in the fun by whipping the cream in the first place.

I never let Bijan bake anything during one of our shifts again. And that is why I always read a recipe all the way through before I start cooking or baking anything.

3 successes, one EPIC FAIL


Today was my work softball team’s bake sale. I decided to go all out and bake a whole crapton of stuff, because I really wanted to help but also because I like an excuse to bake stuff that I won’t end up eating. After I decided what to bake and took stock of our supplies, I sent Dan to the store with a list and got started on my first project, dark chocolate cupcakes.

When I had finished mixing the cupcake batter I realized I had enough batter for twice as many cupcakes as I had planned, and only one muffin tin, so I decided to bake the rest of the batter in a regular round cake pan. This was perhaps not the best plan, especially since I’d already put the cupcakes in the oven, but I didn’t want the batter to go to waste (and figured I could come up with some way to dress up a single layer chocolate cake to make it desirable for bake sale patrons).

I also made rice krispie treats (had to look up how to make them, since it had been so long!) and found a great recipe for lemon bars on Smitten Kitchen. I hand juiced and zested the lemons, and I think that made a big difference in how they turned out.


The cupcakes came out just fine (and I made some tasty buttercream frosting to go on top), and the lemon bars and rice krispie treats turned out great as well. The cake, not so much. First, I must have way overfilled the pan, because it overflowed. Second, it took a lot longer to bake than I expected. Third, I think it must have been a little underbaked or maybe all the oven opening got to it, because when I tried to get it out of the pan a huge chunk stuck to the bottom. I thought maybe I could fix it with a crumb coat and then frost with the rest of the vanilla buttercream, and had reserved a little bit to turn a different color (to make stitching and write our team name on it, making the cake look like a softball) but I ended up needing all of it just to get the top of the cake to stick together. And it looked like absolute shite. I was out of butter so couldn’t make more frosting. And it was late and I was burnt out. Plus, we were out of red food coloring. Ultimately I made the call to just skip the cake and bring the other stuff.

The goodies I baked ended up being a big hit today, and we made $160 toward our league fees. Hooray! (And at home there is a supremely ugly but probably very tasty dark chocolate cake. At least it’s a small one this time.)

Second Harvest

Did you hear about the lady who got a court order to preserve her murdered son’s body so she could harvest his sperm?

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And why did she want the sperm? So she could use it to impregnate a surrogate and get some grandbabies.

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As someone who is interested in reproductive issues in general, I find the ethical dilemmas surrounding fertility and parenthood to be endlessly fascinating. I even wrote about it once after reading a (kind of old) book on the subject. Sadly, this is not the first I’ve heard of someone wanting to harvest the sperm of a dead son in order to get grandchildren. When I read this news story, I was a bit taken aback for a while, and had to figure out what I thought about it. My reaction (in this order) was:

shock
disgust
pity for the potential grandchild
pity for the dead kid

In no part of my reaction did the feeling of “This is a great idea!” come up. I’m sorry, but violating your child’s dead body in order to possibly carry on your genetic line is NOT OK. It’s just not. Even if you have tons of money and resources to throw at a surrogate and a child, what gives you the right to bring a person into the world who’s got one dead parent and one stranger for a parent? All to appease the sensibility of a neurotic grandparent? No. It’s not OK. It’s not ok to take the sperm from someone who never consented, or to take eggs from someone who never consented, and make a new person who is going to be born into a psychological mess.

The way I see it is that you get your own shot to make kids. If you have kids, and they don’t end up having kids (for whatever reason – they die, they don’t want kids, they can’t have kids, whatever), TOO BAD. You raise children to become adults who make their own decisions about whether or not to reproduce. You are not automatically entitled to grandchildren, even if medical science will allow it.

Does this woman know whether or not her son would have wanted children? I know ultimately it shouldn’t matter, since after he died what was his body just became a collection of cells. I am glad the woman opted to donate her son’s organs so that other people can have better lives. I am NOT glad that the courts decided she should be allowed to take his sperm in order to make grandchildren for her.

I’ve heard of similar situations, where the significant other of a dead/dying man wishes to harvest his sperm in order to have his child. I find that to be kind of bothersome as well, but at least there was theoretically a decision made by the couple beforehand, or some discussion, as to whether or not to have children. I can understand wanting to have a living reminder of a dead partner. But once you’re a generation removed, I’m sorry, but no dice. No person’s DNA is indispensible enough that it should be postumously used to fuel someone’s desire for grandchildren.

If you’re really that desperate to have grandchildren, have you ever heard of this program called Big Brothers Big Sisters? Or considered becoming a foster parent? Or doing some other sort of service work with children who need parental figures? Because there are a heck of a lot of kids out there that need people like that already. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. This, on the other hand? This I can only see as lose. It’s lose for the dead guy (who didn’t get to have any reproductive choice). It’s lose for the potential child who will never know his or her parents. And it’s lose for the grandparent who, lets be honest here, is grieving over losing her own child and is just looking to replace him with an updated model.

So, lady who just harvested her son’s sperm in order to get grandbabies, to you I say: FAIL. You are wrong. This is not OK.