Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bad Apple


I love biting into a cold Gala apple. I love the firm crispness, the crunch, the mild sweetness. A Gala apple straight from the fridge is my favorite snack, especially when paired with a hunk of pepper jack cheese or a handful of Melba toast. It's a rare twenty-four hour period that passes without seeing me indulge in this choice treat. The thing about Gala apples, though, is they get mealy when they’re overripe. And as we all know, there is nothing in the world as unpleasant as a mealy apple, especially when you were expecting something much more delightful.

I was happy to see last year end. I can’t claim it as the worst year of my life but it certainly was a trying one. Emotionally trying as I let go of old feelings and grappled with what was left, physically trying as I spent more time in hospitals and doctors’ offices in the past twelvemonth than in the previous five added together, financially trying as all those hospital visits translated into piles of hospital bills, and just harder as a good portion of my support system disappeared to the other side of the country in one fell swoop. Ahem. (looks pointedly eastward)

December turned out to be the rotter of the year and by mid-month, I was desperately looking forward to a new year and a fresh start. Ah, the best laid plans and all, you know. January has been like an old Gala apple. I grabbed it eagerly, anticipating that sweetly familiar crunch, and instead got a mouthful of dry, crumbly bits. It was, in short, disappointing. So now, the bitter taste of a mealy month still fresh on my tongue, I look hesitantly at the coming year.

Unless you live with me or happen to be one of my very limited intimates, you’re probably surprised to read this as I require much cajoling to talk about my feelings and even more when those particular feelings are unpleasant. Also, I am queen of masking stress and disappointment with Fun Kim. Fun Kim is always cheerful and in love with life. I love Fun Kim. I love being Fun Kim. I love the people who bring out Fun Kim, who accept her and want her around. But, more than that, I need Fun Kim. I need her to let me know things are going to be okay. I need the release of stress she brings.

Lately, though, the jovial fa├žade is beginning to crack. In the nearly two decades I've been employing this particular coping mechanism, I've never found it more difficult to dredge up the energy Fun Kim requires. One recent occasion may demonstrate what I mean: minutes before several friends were due at our house for a game night, I was unloading all my problems via a phone call home. I became so distressed at one point that I lost the ability to speak and my father, the most patient and kindest of men, listened as I quietly wept into the receiver for the better part of ten minutes. After a fresh coat of mascara and a nerve-steadying Diet Dr Pepper, Fun Kim was back in full-force and ready for the next round of Scattergories.

I'm finding myself tossed betwixt feelings of frustration that my life doesn't seem to be headed the direction I'd like and amazement that I, just a single person, could be so astoundingly and lavishly blessed. That’s how it might be for a while. I’m going to be as happy as I can muster and enjoy whatever this year is going to be.

To those dear few who've been by my side through all this, anything I say would be inadequate to acknowledge the kindness you've shown me so I'll just say this: I will never forget it.

And to all others (old friends, new friends, acquaintances, commenters, stalkers, lurkers and the like), sorry I've been more Sylvia Plath than Lucille Ball lately. Thanks for sticking around. Knowing someone is out there means the world to me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Newly-Discovered Evidence

This picture is proof that I have been fully incapable of making a normal face in front of a camera from at least the age of six.




Also, let's all take a moment to admire my mom's awesome hairstyle.



You are welcome.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Relativity

Back when I lived in Dallas, I would grab a sweater if the temperature dipped the slightest bit below 70 degrees. In fact, it wasn't unusual to find me in a cardigan in 90-degree weather.

Now that I've lived in Utah for a few years, I've become much less wimpy. The other day it was a balmy 44 degrees and I was walking around in flip-flops and a t-shirt, sipping an icy Big Gulp and yapping about "this heat wave!"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rated PG

There were recently two gentlemen in my bed.



My, my! What would the bishop say?

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Year's Resolutions



1. Have a better attitude about work.







BWAHHAHA! I'm a riot!



2. Go at least one month without injuring myself to the point of needing medical attention, recuperation time or special recovery equipment. The plan has been shot for January after my ill-conceived "let's see if I can balance on this ball in the middle of the kitchen" game.


3. Procrastinate less. (Let's all note my resolutions are being posted halfway through the month. Ha! Irony, folks.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The key to extraordinary happiness: brisket

Oh, um, all you vegetarians out there might want to skip this post. Yep.

Dear heavens. Brisket is like when heaven smiles graciously down upon you and then drops ten pounds of succulent, dripping meat unto your waiting plate. Oh, yes. It is that good.

So go off to the store and get a brisket. Note: do not get a piece of meat labeled "Corned Beef Brisket" as such a thing should never touch a human tongue. Get a genuine beef brisket. Mine was about 11 pounds, but just get what you need. (But, really, get a lot.)

Okay, so you have a brisket.


Now what? Well, first thing's first: turn on some country music.


Okay, now put that thing on a big rimmed baking sheet because There Will Be Blood. (Ha! I'm hilarious.) Cut away the packaging, grab a knife and roll up those sleeves because we're a-going trimming.

Whoa, whoa. Not too much, now. Brisket is a tougher cut of meat so you really want to leave a decent layer of fat on it. My cut had a good inch-thick fatty layer but we only want about a third of that. This type of fat isn't like the soft fat marbling in a steak. This stuff is what's called the fat cap (gross) and it's mostly hard suet so it takes a little patience. Just get your knife and make some shallow slashes across the suet and start shaving off a bit at a time. But, really, leave a pretty good layer on there. Make sure to take out any veins or tough spots while you're at it. You will probably have a good bit of trimmings. It will probably gross you out.

See?


Now comes the fun part! We're going to do a spice rub on this guy. Mix together a few spices; I use chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard and cumin. I don't have strict measurements here but it's probably a very generous teaspoon of each, maybe two of the chili powder, onion powder and garlic powder. Use what you like (and by that I mean you should use what I use because my spice rub is awesome).


Add to those spices half a palmful of kosher salt. Do not, for heavens sake, use table salt! Respect the meat, people.

Mix 'em up real good and sprinkle half the mixture on each side, rubbing it in all the little nooks and creases. Resist the urge to do a face-plant into the meat.

Let the brisket sit for a minute while you go wash your hands and blow your nose because, let's face it, you know you just inhaled chili powder up into your sinuses. Oh, it hurts so good.

I had to cut my brisket in half to fit in a couple 9x11 pans, but if you regularly cook for Andre the Giant's whole family you might have something big enough to accommodate the whole thing. Place it in the pan(s) fat-side down and pour on a simple braising liquid made from some Worcestershire sauce (about 1/3 cup), a couple teaspoons each of vinegar (I used red wine) and Liquid Smoke and about a cup of water.


The step involving spilling two tablespoons of Liquid Smoke on your hands and therefore smelling like a barbecue pit for an entire day is optional. I chose to include it.

If your pan has a cover for it and you're organized and know where those things are in your kitchen, put the cover on. If you're me, use aluminum foil. Pop those suckers in the fridge and let 'em hang out. Now tell yourself to go to bed because you have to work in the morning. Instead, take a "tired-face" picture of yourself.


Look at the clock.


ZOINKS!


The next morning, take that baby out. There are lots of ways to cook a brisket but, unless you have a smokehouse out back, you're probably looking at braising in your oven or slow cooker. If you're lucky (like me!) your slow cooker isn't designed to hold an entire cow so you might have to get creative with fitting it in.

For the slow cooker: Place your meat in the basin fat-side up (that is very important) and pour the liquid in your pan over it. Put the lid on and set it the cooker on low for 6-8 hours. It might be tempting to crank the heat up so shorten the cook time but, folks, it is worth the extra time. Seriously. You can't rush good lovin' or good cookin'. Sit back, put your feet up and let it go.

For the oven: Flip your meat over in the pan so it is fat-side up (I'm not kidding about that). Add an extra cup of water to the pan. Cover the pan tightly with double-thickness aluminum foil. Put it in a 250-degree oven for 6-8 hours. It's tempting to peel back the foil to take a peek at the meat while its cooking but resist! We want to keep all that steam & liquid in there.

The meat is done when it's fork-tender and no longer pink inside. I like to shred my meat for sandwiches, so I just take a couple forks and pull the meat apart while it's still warm.

Your next step is to invite over some hungry men:


and eat up.


Barbecue sauce (not) optional.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Do you ever have irrational thoughts?

Like, "There's a serial killer in my house!"

Last night I was doing laundry in the basement at 3 am* when I started thinking how scary it would be to meet a serial killer and then I started psyching myself out because I was convinced there was actually a serial killer in my house at that very moment and what's more he was standing right behind me! So, to avoid capture and because I'm a rational human being, I raced up the stairs to my bedroom, locked my door and dove into bed. Because pillows and blankets are the best defense against murderous villains.

Or villainous murderers.

And so I'm shivering with fright in my bed when I come to the gross realization that I will have to leave the security of my room to go out there! With the murderer! To brush my teeth!

The fear of plaque overrode the fear of serial killers so out I ventured. And survived.



Later, as I drifted off to sleep, I wished for one day I could just have a normal brain.



*I'm slightly insomnia-ish.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Honestly, folks.

"What are you doing?" Robin asked last night when he called. And thus my dilemma was born.


Do I tell him? Do I fess up? I mean, I'm an honest person but do I really want to tell my friend, "Well, I'm in my bedroom watching old *NSYNC music videos on my laptop to see if I can still do all the dance moves to Bye Bye Bye and I'm pretty surprised at how much I've retained in the decade since learning it"?



I decided to go with the boring but less deeply embarrassing, "Oh. Uh, nothing."