The Patron Saint of Pictures*

So, as I mentioned before, this place is kinda text-heavy, so I’m going to lighten it up with some pictures.

This is Ramona, my 1-year-old Puggle/Chihuahua/insert-small-breed-here mix.  This was taken a couple of months ago, during her first significant snowfall.  She absolutely had a ball — this was taken a couple of seconds after the fun had started to wear off and the cold was starting to set in.  We went back in the house shortly thereafter.

This is Erida, my cat named after the Greek goddess of hate (for a variety of reasons, but most notably because she’s a screamer and her screams will easily incite vast multitudes to bloodlust, much like her namesake did during the Trojan War).  She’s actually a very sweet kitty, though (she is so, Mom!).  She likes to lay in places where she obviously doesn’t belong, such as in this 1930′s Fire King serving dish that I use as a fruit bowl.  She even dragged the towel in there herself, just so she bask in the sunshine coming in the kitchen window.  It’s sad, really!

This is a flower.  Duh.  Specifically, it’s a daffodil, with some statues and a fountain in the background (Fountain Square Park).  I don’t know why it looked better in black-and-white, but it did.  Maybe it’s all the statuary.  The original color version was just too . . . loud?  This was one of about a million shots I took that afternoon, from about a thousand different perspectives — each and every one of them with that darlin’ puppydog yanking me off balance.  Did you know people driving around Fountain Square will look at you funny if you’re laying on your side in the (more-than-a-little damp) grass in a public park, with a camera attached to one arm and a squirmy beast attached to the other.  Come to think of it, that is a pretty odd sight!  The shot was totally worth it, though!

Coming sometime soon (like, a month from now, probably), I’ll try my hand at an original recipe!  There’s bacon, so how can it be bad?

TTFN

*St. Veronica is the patron saint of photographers.

The Patron Saint of Noise*

I’ve decided I’m not going to apologize for infrequency of postings when I don’t have any readers.  When I have readers, I’ll worry about it!

I haven’t posted much recently, because I don’t want a blog to be just an outlet for angst and frustration and negativity (that’s what a diary’s for), and I have had a lot of the above in the last few weeks.  Instead, I picked out a random happy topic – we’ll see where it takes me!

 

My Favorite Sounds

By

Me

 

  • The “mrrrrp” sound Erida (one of my cats) makes when I call her name.
  • The sound of traffic passing by on the highway – other people hate this noise, and I don’t get it.  It restoreth my soul.  It reminds me of traveling at night in the car, something I will always love.  On the rare occasions I work overnights, I will step outside for a little while so I can listen to it and let it soothe me (and, trust me, if I’m having to work nights for someone, I’m in need of a little soothing!).
  • The “taptaptaptap” noise my dog’s toenails make against my floors, as she follows me everywhere, because heaven forbid I leave a room without her!
  • The Doctor Who theme ringtone on my BlackBerry.  I miss my BlackBerry so hard – I had to quit using it because I couldn’t hold a signal inside my very old brick-and-plaster house, which meant I had to carry on all conversations of more than two minutes in duration in the front yard.  If anyone knows of a killer app to improve radio strength, that would be awesome.
  • A good thunderstorm.
  • The dryer, especially when it has something with heavy buttons a-tumblin’ inside.
  • The theme music to Super Mario Brothers, original version (also a ringtone on my BlackBerry)
  • The hollow needle-in-groove background noise when playing records.
  • The soft “click-click” sound my stove burners make – it sounds like cooking, which I think I’ve established is one of my favorite pastimes.
  • The unmistakable sound of a wooden bat meeting a pitched baseball, the collective intake of breath while the crowd waits to see where it goes, and the ensuing cheers, groans, and/or claps.  Come on spring!
  • Bagpipes.  Fife and drum corps.  Cannons.  Black powder rifles.  Yep, I was raised by historic re-enactors.  (Remind me sometime to tell you the story of the time I, a nice agnosti-Jew, saw the face of Jesus in the clouds at a French & Indian War encampment.  It’s high-larious!)
  • Dialects from other places, like southern Louisiana, or Scotland (I had guests from both places check out today, and I could have listened to them all day).
  • Neil Diamond.  Yeah, it’s a little disturbing how deep and unholy my love for him is.
  • My friend J shouting “P Squared!!!!!” at the top of his voice whenever Patrick Paterson (of the now-out-of-the-tournament Kentucky Wildcats) makes a basket.  I don’t think I should tell him this, though, as it would only encourage him to greater heights of loudness!
  • The nice, solid sound the doors on my 1962 Buick LeSabre made when they closed.  I don’t get to hear this sound any more, as the car was a money pit and I sold it to some wannabe gangsta who had visions of hoopties (is that how you spell it?) dancing in his head.
  • Passionate music – give me Tchakovsky, Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Berlioz.  Just don’t give me chamber music.  Down with Debussy!
  • Trains.  Train whistles, clattery train wheels, train crossing bells.  Trains. 

And, because this place is a little (a lot) text-heavy, I thought I’d close with some pictures, but they’re enormous and have to be resized, so I’ll throw some pictures in here tomorrow.

Toodles!

*I have no idea!

The Patron Saint of Relocation*

Holy crap! Has it really been two weeks?  Sorry!  I’ve been busy with work (yay, we’re busy again!), and dentists and dental paraphernalia.

So, after my set-to with my landlord at the end of January, I have decided not to renew my lease.  This is very hard for me, because even though I really have outgrown the space I have, my apartment does have some distinct advantages.  The ginormous half-covered front porch that’s mine, all mine.  The 105-year-old plaster walls that hold heat in the winter and hold cool in the summer.  The tall ceilings. The original windows. The giant fireplace mantel.  The oodles and oodles of natural light in the kitchen.  The original (though non-functional) push-button light switches beside the front door.  The original built-in bookshelves flanking the archway into the kitchen.  The charming little bathroom tucked in under the stairs.  The convenience of being close to the campus (Free wireless internet in good weather!  Giant library in the back yard!).  The ridiculously low rent.

 But the same advantages are disadvantages as well.  The porch, while awesome, is not exactly a useful living space.  The 105-year-old plaster walls also have some alarming cracks and buckles, and they’re nearly impossible to hang pictures on.  The tall ceilings make heating the place a physical and economical challenge.  The original windows also make the place drafty, limit where I can put furniture, and cost a fortune to drape because they’re large and oddly-shaped.  The mantel is awesome, but I think I’d rather have the wall space, and/or the permanent gas heater I’ve never once used taken out of the hearth.  Natural light in the kitchen is awesome, but I’d like some natural light elsewhere in the house, and I’d like some useful wall space in the kitchen, as well as less of an opportunity for the neighbors to accidentally observe naked squirrel wrestling.  The push-button light switches do not actually mean there’s any overhead lighting to be had, and the rest of the randomly-functioning electrical outlets spring up out of the floor because the house wasn’t fully electrified until sometime in the 1930’s – and not well.  The built-in bookshelves are awkwardly-spaced (made for early 1900’s books, not early 2000’s books – and I have a lot of books) and the archway is a roomy 23 ½ inches, which severely restricts what I can put in or take out of the kitchen (seriously, I don’t know how they got the appliances in there).  The charming little bathroom also only has a minuscule shower stall that I suspect has a crack in the floor and for which I had to buy a shower head extender bar so that the water wouldn’t spray me in the face at a 90-degree angle.  Being so close to the campus means there is always people out and about (except for four weeks in the winter and a couple of weeks in the summer), most of your immediate neighbors are kids, and don’t even get me started on Fall Rush, Pledging, and Homecoming at any of the five Greek houses I can see from my front porch (though I will reluctantly admit that Drunken Firecracker Baseball is a mighty entertaining spectator sport).

And, despite its billing as a one-bedroom apartment, it’s really more like a studio with a big-ass kitchen.

But it’s a bargain!

* * * * *

So, now I’m casting about, looking for new places to live.  I don’t know if I want to stay here in the big city, or if I want to move to one of the surrounding (much smaller) towns.  And, if so, how much am I willing to spend for the privilege of having to get up earlier and drive back to the big city for work?  How much more am I willing to spend for how much more space?  And utilities – am I willing to go back to an apartment community just to have the utilities taken care of?  And of course, I don’t go where my dog and cats can’t.  And do I want old-with-character (like I have now) or do I want new-with-less-maintenance-and-decorating-problems (like I used to have, and somewhat, kinda, sorta miss sometimes)

But, as many of you know, planning is not my strong suit.  Instead, I intend to start getting things organized or packed away (for a move at the end of May).  I mean to seek out various new habitable spaces well in advance of the final date, and actually go visit some of them and talk to the landlords.

But I won’t.

I’ll instead do one of two things:

  • I will dash into the first place I find that looks reasonably safe and comfortable and is in my price range and sign a lease that day without examining any other options (or even really the apartment I’ve just committed the next year of my life to).
  • I will drive to several different neighborhoods and surrounding towns, for several weeks ahead of time, looking for nice places.  I will buy newspapers, take down phone numbers, do craigslist and other classified searches.  I will, of course, do nothing with the information I have gathered.  I won’t do much packing, either.  Instead, I will, on a whim, agree to see an apartment I know I probably won’t want, hear the angels sing when I set foot inside, and sign a lease that day, without examining any other options (or even really the apartment I’ve just committed the next year of my life to).

 

What I will do, though, is start bribing my help crew with promises of pizza and beer.

*this one’s a little unclear – St. Joseph, maybe, or Our Lady of Loreto?

The Patron Saint of Valentine’s Day*

Stream-of-consciousness ramblings from my morning at work

 I’ve always been single for Valentine’s Day.  Always.  And it’s never really bothered me.  It kind of comes under the heading of “holidays other people celebrate but to me just mean good candy.”  You know, like Christmas and Easter.  I’ve never understood the people who go fall into the pits of despair over the lack of a valentine, but on the other hand, people don’t understand what it is about New Year’s Eve that makes me want to jump off a

 Thursday, I attempted a fist-bump with my dental hygienist while heavily under the influence of nitrous oxide.  The reason for said fist-bump remains tragically unremembered; however, I do remember that the fist-bump went completely off-center and I punched her in the wrist.

 I like working Saturday mornings – there’s not usually a lot going on, which gives me time to update this here blog, catch up on episodes of Chuck, and look for more gross recipes (not that I need to look – they find me all on their own).  All I really have to do is keep half an eye/ear on the front desk and the phones to help the helpless whenever they so require.

 I realized yesterday that I’m missing a round 4-cup Pyrex baking dish with matching red plastic lid.  Yes, I am one of those freaky people who can’t remember how to properly fist-bump, but I can remember how many Pyrex dishes I own.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this dish may be languishing somewhere in the car, with the remains of some long-forgotten lunch festering within.  This is why I own Pyrex dishes – they are easily sterilized.

 I’m hooked on smoothies right now (maybe because of the aforementioned dental work), and I enjoy putting stuff in them that make my coworkers gag.  Such ingredients include spinach.  Funny, I don’t get the same reaction when I use cauliflower as a base – it doesn’t look as gross, I guess.  I’ll tell you a little secret: the first time I made a spinach-based green smoothie, I had to put it in a lidded cup so that I couldn’t see it while I was drinking it.  But I’m over that now.  Mostly.

 I really, really hate not having discretionary money.

 A ten-cent Euro coin somehow made its way into my possession on Thursday morning, before I left work to go to the dentist.  I still had it in my pocket when I got there.  Because I was clutching it somewhat obsessively inside my pocket while they were poking around in my mouth, and because everything went relatively well, I have come to consider this coin my new good luck charm.  I’m considering getting a hole drilled in it and using it as my new pendulum (because, really, when am I going to have the opportunity to spend one-tenth of a Euro?).

 My new upstairs neighbors (in the deee-luxe apartment I didn’t end up moving into) have vacuumed more in the past three days than I think the previous tenants did the entire time they lived there.  It’s slightly annoying, but I’d rather listen to vacuuming than the incessant reggae that the previous tenants liked to blast.  All. The. Time.

 Work-related pet peeve: when people just pitch their keys on the counter (or worse, over the counter onto the front desk) to check out even though I’m standing right there!  Hand me the keys!  Use your words when I ask you your room number and ask if everything was all right in your room!  The proper response to “good morning,” “thank you,” and/or “have a great day” is not a grunt!  AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! (ilovemyjobilovemyjobilovemyjob)

 Fashion-related pet peeve: people who ever thought/still think it’s OK to wear sweatpants with words across the bottom in public.  Also their parents, who seemingly approved this outfit prior to them all leaving the house together.

 I have a cast-iron bladder, but smoothies make me have to pee.  A lot.

 People, it’s Valentine’s weekend – our Jacuzzi rooms were booked like a hundred years ago!  It comes on the same day every year – plan accordingly!

 Have a lovely Valentine’s day, everyone!

*St. Valentine, duh!

The Patron Saint of Gross Recipes*

I love to cook.  A lot.  But even more than I love cooking, I love recipes.  It’s nothing for me to hit several recipe websites in a given day, or read a new cookbook cover-to-cover, even if I have no intention of cooking what I find therein.  In fact, most of my own cooking usually doesn’t involve recipes — I have this theory that only Type A types require recipes, and if you knew me, you’d know that I’m definitely not Type A (I know logically this is silly, a sweeping generalization, most likely untrue, and possibly a little insulting).

Anyway, when I was probably about 12 or so, my mom and I found this awesome cookbook from the Fifties at the Goodwill or a yard sale, called something like 101 Ground Beef Recipes, and there was a recipe in there for (I kid you not) Banana Meatloaf, complete with banana-bread-style spices.  I did not know it then, but it was the genesis of the Gross Recipe of the Day/Week/Month email.   

At this point I would like to make the following disclaimer:

            These are recipes for finished products that I believe to be inedible, or that I believe the lucky recipient of said recipe will find inedible.  There are foods that eat that my friends won’t, and vice-versa.  Gross recipes and any commentary thereupon are not meant to pass judgment on anyone to whom such recipes may seem appealing.  SohelpmeGod.

Anyway, that was a really long lead-in to today’s doozy of a gross recipe, courtesy of Bobby Flay (who, in my opinion, mostly looks at basic recipes as merely a blank canvas just awaiting the addition of more chilies).  I found it buried in my recipe bookmarks, and immediately emailed it to my mom with the subject line “I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.”

Crispy Squash Blossoms with Pulled Pork and Ricotta

Original Recipe Here I don’t recommend clicking, as the FoodNetwork website is clogged with adware and popups and general annoyances.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
Braised Pork, recipe follows
Salt and pepper
20 squash blossoms
Canola oil or peanut oil, for frying
Rice Batter, recipe follows
Black Pepper Vinaigrette, recipe follows**

Directions

Place the ricotta in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl and let drain in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Discard liquid.

Combine the strained ricotta and shredded pork in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Fill each squash blossom with the pork-cheese mixture and twist the top of the blossom to secure the filling while frying.

Fill a large, heavy saucepan halfway with oil and heat on the stove until the temperature reaches 360 degrees F.

Dredge each filled squash blossom in the rice batter to coat completely. Fry the squash blossoms in batches until lightly golden brown, turning once. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Drizzle some of the black pepper vinaigrette in the center of a serving plate and place 2 squash blossoms on top for each serving. Serve hot.

Braised Pork:

1 (2-pound) pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 cups your favorite BBQ sauce
2 cups rice vinegar
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place pork cubes in a medium roasting pan. Stir together the BBQ sauce, vinegar, and onion and then pour mixture over the pork and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with foil and cook in the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Let cool in the braising liquid, then drain the liquid from the meat and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Rice Batter:

2 cups cold water
2 cups rice flour
Salt

Whisk together water and flour until smooth and season with salt. Let sit 10 minutes before using.

Black Pepper Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons honey
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and honey in a blender. With the machine running, slowly add the oil until emulsified.

**To be fair, I think the black pepper vinaigrette looks pretty good.

Another disclaimer: as I type this post, my coworkers are eyeing me somewhat askance because I am drinking a smoothie made with yogurt, spinach, cherries, and a banana – something I think is quite yummy that they think is gross.  Just proves it takes all kinds!

*The closest I could come was the Patron Saints of Cooks/Chefs – Lawrence of Rome, Macarius the Younger, Martha, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, and Pascal Baylon.

The Patron Saint of Hospitalitarians* or What I Do

The Patron Saint of Hospitalitarians*

I am a hospitalitarian. The fact that my spell-checker has marked this word with a squiggly red line indicates that this may not in fact be a word.

I will therefore define it now.

Hospitalitarian – (n) One who is employed in the field of hospitality management, including but not limited to hotels, restaurants, and tourism.

Despite my lifelong interest in all matters tourist, I never thought I’d be working in hospitality management. I had planned to be a teacher (which I did for a while), and architect (calculus did me in), a historic preservationist (which I still would do in a heartbeat, if there were stable money in it), and a social worker (I would be in jail now, or some other state-run institution).

I started teaching out of college – I was a glorified substitute teacher, moving from school to school, working mostly with middle school kids with literacy/language acquisition problems. I loved the kids, but I hated pretty much everything else about it. So when the school year ended and my program’s funding was uncertain for the next year, I decided to go ahead and get a temporary job, just in case. I wound up getting as a job as a front desk agent/night auditor at a hotel in my hometown.

And my life was never the same.

I loved it. I loved meeting new people who would be in my life for but a few short hours or days. I loved getting peripherally involved in the extremely dramatic lives of our housekeeping staff. I loved the overnight shifts, during which I had about two hours of actual work and about six hours to sit on my ass and read. I loved getting sloppily hit on from the other side of a five-foot-tall marble desk by drunk people coming out of the bar (one of only two bars in our county). To a lesser extent, I even loved the complainers, mostly because I discovered I had a knack for talking people out of the clock tower without having to give them too much in return.

I’ve been in this business for nearly eight years. (With an 18-month hiatus in the middle, when I pursued careers in retail management and call center customer service – never again). It’s as much a part of who I am as my extraordinarily curly hair and astoundingly bad taste in automobiles (single model year! foreign! known to have a bad electrical system! can’t turn off the wipers! can’t turn on the wipers! stock tire size only available special order!). This is not to say that I don’t ever come home from work muttering “ilovemyjobilovemyjobilovemyjob” through clenched teeth (wonder where the dental problems come from?). It’s stressful. Once you get into management, the hours are terrible, and so are your worries. Your work doesn’t stay at the hotel when you leave for the day. The complainers can really get to you when they start making it personal or won’t let it go after you have fixed their problem – and you can’t scream back or yell at them.

And I wouldn’t be anywhere else. (At least not for the same money – I’m not an idiot!)

* Amand, Goar, Julian the Hospitaller, Martha, Martin de Porres, Theodatus

The Patron Saint of Dental Pain*

Last week, when I and my landlord decided I was not movin’ on up to the dee-luxe apartment directly above me, I reminded myself that the world unfolds as it should (wisdom from Miss Judy), and that I simply wasn’t meant to live there. (Of course, this calm objectivity settled upon me only after I pitched my hissy fit.)

Well, the universe spoke. See, the universe, being much smarter than I, remembered, as I often do not, that I have spectacularly bad teeth, which periodically require hundreds of dollars in dental work. The universe doesn’t want me spending my hard-earned money on an extra room and a walk-in closet and larger kitchen with extra counters and cabinets and private rooftop access when there are more important expenses to cover! So when I woke up in the middle of the night two nights ago, consumed with the kind of pounding, inescapable pain that can only mean “dental abscess”, I knew right away.

This is going to be a bad couple of days.

Yay.

*Saints Appolonia, Christopher, Elizabeth of Hungary, Ida of Nivelles, Kea, Medard, and Osmund

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