When In Doubt, Throw Some Peanut Sauce On It

The hit of the Friday night Blathering dinner was easily the Thai Noodle Salad, and here is the promised recipe.  Please forgive my vagueness when it comes to amounts and tell yourself that it means that this is easy peasy and anyone can do it!

Start with a big bowl.  No, bigger.  This makes A LOT of salad.

Take a head of whatever kind of lettuce you want, and slice it crosswise in thin strips.  I like to use napa cabbage, but you can use romaine or even green and red cabbage. Whatever floats your boat.

Then add your other veggies – I always use cucumbers, peeled and then with the insides scooped out, then sliced into half moons.  Also good are red/yellow/orange pepper strips, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, thinly sliced radishes, etc.

Next slice up about a half a red onion into thin half moons and throw that in.

At this step, you can also add a protein if you want. I have used sauteed tofu, grilled chicken, and grilled pork, but if you want to make it vegan you can leave the meat out and it will still be delicious.

Then add some sliced basil or mint.  I don’t usually use both, I just alternate with whatever one I have around.  You want a fair amount of it though – several springs of mint, a biggish handful of basil.  Chop that up and throw it in there.

Then add cooked rice noodles.  You can also use cooked spaghetti noodles if you want or even cooked ramen noodles, but then it won’t be gluten free.  Whatever you have around is fine though.  Dump those in there.

Then you need to make your peanut sauce.  This is sort of subjective, but get a medium sized bowl and add a combination of peanut butter, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, honey or brown sugar, lime juice, garlic powder, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and black pepper.  You want to use the most amount of the peanut butter, but play around with adding small amounts of the other ingredients until you get the flavor you like.  I mix this up with a wire whisk because otherwise it can be sort of hard to get it to come together.  Then add water until it’s the consistency that you want – it will start out pretty thick, which is good for a dipping sauce, but not as easy to use a dressing, which is what you’re going for.

When you get your sauce how you want it, dump it over your salad, mix everything together, and top the whole business with ground up peanuts and sliced scallions (green onions).  And then dig in!

*Don’t be afraid to swap things out.  Don’t have rice vinegar? Use apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, whatever.  Play around with the flavors.

*If you’re making the salad ahead of time, keep the dressing and the peanut/scallion topping separate and only mix it right before you serve it.  But make sure to toss the salad even without the dressing so the noodles don’t clump together in the fridge.

*Peanut sauce really does make everything better, if not hideously more fattening.  It’s awesome on chicken satay, grilled tofu, brown rice, dumplings, etc.

Questions?

The Best Ships

At my brother in laws’ wedding, one of his groomsmen stood up and gave the cheesiest toast EVAH:

“There are good ships,
and there are wood ships,
The ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships, are friendships,
And may they always be.”

Mr. E and I always laughed our asses off about that toast, because we’re bitches.

But it was the strangest thing.  This weekend, those lines – words I’ve always mocked – ran through my head over and over and over again.

I wish I could tell you that The Blathering was terrible so you wouldn’t be sad that you weren’t here, that it was filled with awkward silence and eight girls cried and there was a CRAZZZZZY SWAG THROW DOWN, but the truth is that The Blathering was nothing short of MAGICAL.  It was  as if someone made a cocktail of all the most wonderful things in the world and shook them up into one unbelievable and perfect weekend.  There was dancing and delicious food, and wine tasting, and chocolate, and tomatoes, and everyone complimented my cooking and my house and there was late night girl talk and in jokes and never a moment of silence.  I laughed so hard my face hurt, many many times.  There were margaritas and hammock dive bombs and and there was candlelight and gay bars and pink Iphones and tequila shots and the Sacramento girls knew all the best places to go and there were bagels and ham sandwiches and I’m not sure what this says about me, but it was one of the best weekends of my whole entire life.

You girls.  There are just no words.  (Except all these ones I just wrote, yo.)

Also, the ladies of The Blathering left me with a house full of Diet Coke, dark chocolate, and gin, all of which I am using to drown my sorrows as I wander listlessly about my house asking “Where did the Funny People go? When are they coming basaaaaaack?”

It used to be I’d look at certain people – some of the incredible women I have in my life – and I’d think “Her husband/boyfriend/lesbian life partner is so lucky to have her.”  And now I’m old and lame and I usually find myself thinking “That kid is so lucky to have her for a mom.”

But this weekend I just kept thinking “Dude.  I am so damn lucky to have her as a friend.”

Thirteen Things I Probably Should Have Told You Before You Bought Your Plane Tickets

1.  It’s probably pretty obvious from my blog what my politics are, but I’m perfectly happy never ever ever talking about them with anyone.  We can all just get along, and all that.  On the other hand, I tend to rant on ruthlessly about books and movies I hate.

2.  Um, the giggling?  That’s just how I laugh. I’m not doing it on purpose, I swear.  It sounds like normal laughing to me. But please be aware I have been described, in the past, as a world champion giggler. If giggling gets on your nerves, um.  Hmmmm.  Maybe bring some loud mix cd’s?

3.  Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not describe anything you see in my house as “so retro.”  Thank you.

4.  My dog is very sweet and wouldn’t hurt a fly but it is also very very annoying.  I am hoping that Jennie will do some of her jedi mind dog training tricks on her while she is  here, but chances aren’t good that they will take, as Lady B is somewhat…um, let’s just say…not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

5.  It makes me a little nervous that so many churchy types are coming to hang out with me.   I am totally going to have to hide my altar to satan.  However, I think it is crazy crazy awesome that so many women who probably believe all kinds of different things are all going to hang out together and girl power and rock on and all that! Seriously, I kind of get misty eyed when I think about it.  I think you ladies are the awesomest and you are coming HERE! So awesome.

6.  I use the word awesome way way way way way too much.

7.  I tend to pound wine when I get nervous.  Will try not to despite noted presence of 3 CASES OF FREE WINE.

8.  I got depressed last year, I blogged about it, and I totally don’t want to talk about being depressed anymore.  If one more person sidles up to me and says “Soooooo….how are you FEEEEEEELING?” I might lose what we laughingly call my mind.

9.  If you use the word retard around me, we’re going to have to have a semi awkward conversation.

10.  I’m kind of a prude. I once knew this girl in Nebraska who had a VAGINA pillow on her couch and she always wanted to talk about, uh, making the toast, and seriously?  I almost died of embarrassment every time we hung out.  I mean, I guess if you really want to talk about making the toast, you can, but seriously, keep your cha cha pillows away from my couch.

11.  If you don’t like tomatoes (ELI EKD@HL I AM LOOKING AT YOU) please, just pretend, for my sake.

12.  I do not, under any circumstances, loan books to anyone, ever, because I never ever ever ever get them back.  I’m sure YOU would give them back, but no one ever has before, so now those losers have ruined it for everyone!

13.  And now, the worst one of all.

I cannot believe I am admitting this.

Hold me.

Sometimes, at home?  Late at night?  When no one is watching?

I put ICE CUBES in my red wine.

I know. I know. But some things, like the tides and the hands of time, just cannot be helped.   Other things, things like $3 dollar bottles of furlough wine, well, those things need all the help they can get.

And now aren’t you so excited to meet me?  Don’t I sound fun?  People?

Supah Fun?  Right?

Oh well.  I’ve got the tomatoes.  You all in charge of the fun.

BUT SERIOUSLY I AM GETTING SO EXCITED!

And Now We’re Back To Talking About Paint

Well THIS project certainly involved a lot of swearing.   And a lot of primer.

Remember the hallway before?  Good god.

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Also, thank you K dog, for hilariously saying you liked it the way it was.  Let me me assure you all that in person it was truly wretched.  The most common reaction people had to it was to pet it and ask “WHAT is that?”  Or to sneeze.

Anyhoo.

I scraped off as much paint as I could.  Then I sanded the crap out of it with a rotary sander and 80 grit sand paper.  Then I filled the holes and cracks with joint compound.  Then I washed it with a scrubby sponge, water, and 409.  Then I washed it some more.  And then some more.  And then I gave it two coast of Kilz primer, and painted it with two coasts of Valspar Signature Paint in Siamese Cat Flat Finish.

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And I then I put seven trillion hollow wall anchors in the wall and hung all these pictures.  And yes, I framed my thermostat.

Also, please note that Mr. E hates that E with a fiery passion, but I love it so much I have TWO.

Also, please note I don’t have a light switch cover, because I can’t find the one I want anywhere and I am so not paying nine dollars shipping for one, crazy online store of doom!

Also, this was the worst thing ever to try to take a picture of.

Also, at first I wasn’t sure about the color, it’s a VERY light gray.  It’s the same color we painted our bedroom.  Now I LOVE it. It feels very elegant and light, but doesn’t come off as just dirty white.  I’m telling you, Martha won’t let you down.

And the walls are JUST SO SMOOTH.

Totally worth all the swearing and plaster dust.

LOVE IT.

Now I have to go pet it.

Again.

The Rest of the Story

I am not sure why I am having such a hard time writing about this.

It’s much easier to talk about paint, but perhaps that’s not what’s best for the soul.

*******

It’s too early for leaf peeping.

We were in Vermont to see my sister, six months into her new life in a whole new world.

To tell you the truth I mostly didn’t want to drag ass all the way across the country to the middle of nowhere.  When you fly United with a two and half year old you learn just what it means to freeze time.  There’s a part of me that will always be trapped in a two by two window seat wondering where on the plane my husband and son are and composing an angry letter to the powers that be in my head.  And when my alarm went off at 4 AM the morning of our flight I very carefully considered each and every scenario that might allow me to crawl back in bed and call the whole damn thing off.

But this was a commitment that I knew I couldn’t back out of.  There’s something in me that cannot say no to anyone who wants to see my son, any family member especially, and it’s no different for my sister.  She deserves to have us in her life, no matter the cross country treks involved.

Why am I dragging this out so onerously?  Get to the point, Elizabeth.

Vermont charmed me, despite my hard won reserves.  There’s only so many picturesque barns you can throw my way before I fold. My sister has lost eighty pounds.  She has a sunny warm cozy room with a view.  She has a boyfriend.  She makes breakfast every Saturday morning for her house.  She gathers eggs and milks cows and weeds.  She can felt and weave and make bread.  She has friends and family and manners.  Someone braids her hair almost every day and buys her pink sweaters and makes sure she flosses and the happiness beams out of her as though she is lit from within.

My feelings about my sister are complicated, because they are tied up with my feelings about my mother, my friends, my husband, my son, my father, my grandmother, my in laws, and Ben Stiller.

But at some point none of that shit really matters. No matter what kind of complex I’m working on today,  on a farm somewhere in the great state of Vermont, there’s my sister, making brick oven pizza from scratch, pulling up potatoes, picking out DVD’s for movie night.  Happy.

There’s nothing much more to say than that.  At the end of the day, Annie is not a lesson to be learned, or a good story tied up with a neat bow like a package.  She is not a social experiment.  She is not at camp, she’s not at a work, she’s not living out the mentally retarded version of Sex in the City.  She is not making us all better people as we learn how to be special snowflakes.  And who cares?

She is happy.  Happy.  Happy.

And I think maybe she is no longer my story to tell.

This Time of Year

Hmmm.

I spent two and half days trying to think of an interesting or exciting or heartwarming or funny! little anecdote about how I went to Vermont but it turns out Vermont resists such things.  Anyway, I went to Vermont.  Now there’s nothing left to do but wait for my half gallon of maple syrup to arrive in the mail.  Also, I should probably tell you that some lady in the pre security gift shop in the Burlington airport was clucking on sadly about how you couldn’t bring more than 3.7 ounces of syrup through security and I practically had to sit on my  hands to keep from rushing up to her and announcing proudly that I had gone to the post office that morning and mailed some syrup to myself, so I think you can see that all the work I have been doing on controlling my know it all gene has not gone to waste.

Anyway, internet, I need your advice.

Please observe this hideous vista:

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This is the hallway in my house that leads to the bathroom.  Please note, it looks horrible, because in typical shoddy fashion, the house flippers chose to coat every single problem in this house in one layer of crappy watery beige paint and walk away.  However, it turns out that this wall is pretty messed up, so as  best I can figure, before beigifying it up they smeared a bunch of joint compound on it, which means that the paint didn’t stick, and so it started to bubble and peel because of the powdery layer of joint compound underneath it.

And obviously we can’t have that in our freaking hallway, so I’ve been trying to get all the old paint off so I can prime and repaint this nightmare.

Of course, not ALL the paint will come off, no matter how much I sand and scrape, and I’m worried if I don’t get all of it off, you’re going to see the patchiness under any paint I put on top of it.  What do you think? Should I keep on sanding and scraping and try to get all of the paint off, or do you think I can just wash the wall, paint two layers of primer over it and then repaint it and have it all sort of level itself out? This wall is plaster, and I have neither the time nor the funds for any kind of replastering hoo ha.  No drywalling.  None of that sort of biz boz, but other than that, any suggestions would be welcome, unless your suggestions come as thinly veiled histrionics regarding lead paint exposure, in which case I’d suggest you email Mr. E so you can invite yourself to his party.

In other news, there is an expression I’d  like to use to describe scraping paint on a 100 degree day while having major intestinal distress and that expression is “sucks major belotes.” (It’s less crass if you use a foreign language).

At least I am close to the bathroom.  Looking on the bright side and all that.

Also, I was thinking when I was done (I will obviously never be done) that I would hang pictures on this wall, but I can’t decide if all black and whites is lame or awesome.  Also, some of my favorite pictures aren’t black and white.  Please advise.

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This probably says something not very complimentary about my personality, but good reviews are so much harder for me to write than bad reviews.

Anyway.

Catching Fire is the sequel to The Hunger Games, which was one of my favorite books of last year.  And in a lot of ways Catching Fire is even better than the Hunger Games was.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot ahead of time, especially if you haven’t read the first book, but the story centers around 12 colonies and a capitol.  The capitol rules with a heavy hand, and there’s not enough food, and every year they hold The Hunger Games to remind the colonists to toe the line – two names are drawn from each district and 24 colonists have to enter “the arena” and fight to the death.

This is such an interesting and creative and fun and nail biting story.  Mostly because of the insanely creative plot and the stubborn, strong, smart wonderful heroine.  I feel as though I almost know Katniss personally,  she is so well and intricately written.  Everything in these books just feels so real, right from moment one.

The first book focuses a bit more on the ins and outs of the games, and because you are just getting to know this new world, that sense of amazing discovery is a bit stronger – sort of like how hearing about Hogwarts and owls and shopping for wands was coolest the first time, but because all of that “getting to know the rules” is out of the way a bit more in the second book, the plot twists were more shocking in Catching Fire.  There were a couple of moments when I actually squealed out loud, and I can’t remember the last time I read such a nail biter, I really can’t.  I could NOT put it down.

If I HAD to criticize something, it would be that the romantic angle of the books is not as strong as the adventure angle, but I have high hopes that in book three the love story may deepen, and honestly, it’s an adventure book, not a love story, so I forgive that weakness somewhat, especially because the twists and turns are so great, and the plot is so fun.

Should you read it?:  Absolutely.  But make sure you read The Hunger Games first.