Saturday, December 27, 2008

Where were we?...

...Oh yeah, Lolo had gone to the emergency room...

Well, of COURSE, Sam waited there until 6:30 for some acne-faced intern to tell him that the baby had rheno-pharyngitis and to go home. REALLY? We could have told him that. He said to give her Tylenol (well the French equiv). Whatever. The hard part was that we did give her the Tylenol and um, the fever went away (of course) and when it came back, it wasn't as high and except for the snot, she's nearly better.


What a week, eh?

Sunday night, we had our sushi party. I got everything ready ahead of time. I julienned the avacadoes, cucumbers and fake crab. I toasted sesame seeds. I cooked a kilo (dry) of rice in my new rice cooker. I made sushi vinegar with salt and sugar and seasoned the rice. I mixed up a fresh batch of wasabi and set out a jar of pickled ginger. I set the table with bamboo placemats and silk-stockinged chop-sticks (I even had a set of four "cheater" chopsticks) and freshly laundered white napkins. Everything was perfect. I had even found organic nori earlier in the week and was just tickled pink about it.

Flavia and Gilles got here first and brought an AWESOME bottle of rose (ro-ZAY) with them. The neighbors, a couple of their guests, and all their four kids got there a fashionably late and just in time to start rolling the sushi (the other four of us had already started drinking appetizer drinks--a litchi liqueur mixed with fruit juice and whole litchi's in the glass--and so were ready to get to the main eating.

I unveiled the rice and everyone did an "ooooooooh." Just to get a check of how many people needed instruction, I said, "Okay, now, who here already knows how to roll sushi?"

It was there that everything fell apart. My neighbor's guest lady said, "MOI!" and jumped up to the table and started rolling. My neighbor smiled and said, "Yeah, my friend is an expert." I stood there with mouth agape. What I had planned was an organized demonstration of sushi rolling starring yours truly. What I got was this presumptuous chick blocking everyone else's view. THEN, she has the NERVE to say, "Uh, can I add some water to this rice cuz it seems a little dry." I'm sure my eyes bulged out of my head. WHAT? Add what to whom? I said, "Uh, well, um, uh..." Then, I watched as she put WAY too much rice on her sheet of nori and then proceeded to MASH it down into the seaweed. Cardinal sin in maki making. You don't CRUSH the kernels, yo. You respect the rice, dammit!!! So, I try to ignore her but I can feel myself trembling as I talk over her and try to show the rest of my guests (who are at this point completely disinterested in the sushi rolling because they can't see it) how to PROPERLY roll. And I do, and much to my pride and pleasure, my roll turns out perfect. My turn to be snooty, I guess. Expert my ass. I even made a successful California roll or two.

Overall, everyone did get a chance to roll one or two rolls each. I could have made another 500 grams of rice and it would have been the perfect amount. But the good news is, though everyone LOVED the sushi (and raved about the presentation of the table, etc.), I got to eat it again the next day. I just whipped up some more rice in my new cooker and broke out the leftover fixin's from the day before. Sam and I had a HUGE sushi lunch all by our lonesome!!!

As a side note, the neighbor came by and said that they had all thoroughly enjoyed the sushi night together (even though she had made a crack during the evening about American culture or whatever... I won't try to relive it for you because it will just piss me off all over again). That's good. We'll all get re-schooled when my Japanese friend gets back and teaches us how to make other kinds of sushi. I won't jump up and claim I'm an expert, I'll tell you that.

Tuesday was Lolo's first whole day at school. And since Lily was there all day and Ryan was on vacation, Sam and I took our big five-year-old out for lunch. We went to our favorite bouchon and had our favorite dishes (Ryan eating a steak hache (um, basically a bunless hamburger) and fries). Ryan did really well. He sat there and ate all his food with his fork and then thoroughly enjoyed his mousse au chocolat for dessert. Afterwards, he BEGGED me to take him on the metro. So, we walked to the Place Bellecour (stopping in a toy store to buy a wooden trinket or two) and watched the ice skaters turn around and around the temporary rink. But Ryan DESPERATELY wanted to ride the metro... more than watching the skaters. We hopped on the metro, got off at the tramway connection, took the tramway to the mall and caught the trolleybus home. Ryan was in mass transport heaven! I asked him if he'd like to get off the trolleybus at the other entrance of the parc and walk through the parc to get home, but he was exhausted at that point. Normally, he would have totally been all over the opportunity to run from one end of the parc to the other.

Wednesday (Christmas eve), Sam watched the girls so Ryan and I went out again since I needed to pick up a few last minute things before everything closed down. We took the bus to the street where the chic-chic stuff is sold. We stopped into the bookstore and bought the older neighbor daughter a cookbook. Then, we went to a toy store just to look. We were actually in search of a new wallet for Sam, but even though we were in the chic-chic area, there weren't any leather stores for dudes. So, we walked to the mall and looked all over at wallets. The only one I found that I knew he might like was 75 Euro. HUH-UH! So, we went into a nice menswear store and bought him some nice suede gloves for when he has to take the kids back and forth on the bike (it's been pretty cold nowadays). Then, afterward, we went back to the chic-chic neighborhood. We ducked into the organic supermarket to grab a few cans of REALLY YUMMY vegetarian pate, but when we got up the register, the lady rudely told us she was closed. Well, I wasn't going to wait in line behind five people at a very slow register just for a few cans of pate, so I went and put them back and hauled ass out of there. Ryan started complaining that he needed to pee. I think he was faking, because by the time we got to the chocolate store where we were supposed to buy the high end truffles, he had forgotten all about it. And when we split a small pitcher of the purest hot chocolate you can find (it's not even sweetened), he perked RIGHT up!

As a side note, going into that chocolate place is the only time in the past ten years I have been made to feel like trailer trash again. They are SO rude and snooty in there. REALLY rich people go in there for coffee and because I'm in there in jeans and a tee-shirt and my Target winter coat, I get the snooty treatment. *eye roll* Back in the States I would just huff and say, "Well, then, they won't get any more of MY money," but the funny thing is, they don't give a shit if I come back in there again. In fact, they'd probably prefer that I not. There's no personal power here... not even purchasing power.

That night, Sam and I stayed up late, rolling out pasta and putting it into the freezer. I had made a lot of dough earlier in the week and hadn't rolled and cut it yet (though, I did make some fairly successful beef/spinach ravioli's with my new rav maker!!!). Then, we wrapped presents while watching 80's music videos (HIDEOUS... for some reason, watching them makes me blush as though I were walking through a crowd naked or something). We let Santa come in with his key (shhhhh) and drape the kids' costumes ON the Christmas tree--Ryan got a knight costume complete with foam sword and shield and Lily got a fairy princess costume complete with wings and wand...I had voted for the fairy princess with the conicular hat because Lily loves it, but Sam bought the one he liked *eye roll* a little too girly for my tastes). Santa also brought Ryan a wooden sword and shield for outside use, as well as a kit full of wooden tools--including screws and screw drivers... all of wood!!! Lily got a cloth doll that was to be our trial run. She has, of late, much to my chagrin, expressed an interest in dolls but I didn't want her having one of those plastic ones with the scented heads. BUT a custom, hand-made, all natural cloth doll costs a pretty penny. I wanted to make sure she wasn't going to drag it around or ignore it completely (which is kinda what she did, actually). She also got a menagerie of farm animals. These were the only plastic things we got because they were made in Germany and seemed to be of high quality. I caved, okay? We got Lolo a wooden pull-toy that doubles as a xylophone and a wooden farm puzzle-maze.

All three stockings had chocolate papillottes (traditional yuletide chocolates with little "fortunes" in them... they're really just wise (or wise ass) quotes from famous or annonymous people), chocolate Kinder mini-eggs and three small wooden toys.

When Ryan got up in the morning he said, "What did Santa do to my TREEEEE?" He ran over to it with his brow twisted, ready to complain about the mess until he saw that it was the long-coveted knight costume. "WHOOOOOOOAAAA!!!!! Santa ROCKS!!!!"

We had been nervous about our no-plastic-this-year experiment, but were pleased to see everyone dancing around the living room floor. Strangely enough, all three kids took turns with(well, that and fighting over) the wooden xylophone pull-toy. It was a big hit.

With presents out of the way, I hustled into the kitchen to make two batches (read: 5 dozen) chocolate chip cookies, two dozen no bakes and a dozen and a half Christmas shaped sugar cookies with colored sugar on them. Wellllll, since I turned on the oven but didn't set the temp right, I kept wondering why the damn cookies were burning after only four minutes in the oven. I have Sam yelling at me about how we're going to be late, once again, for lunch at his sister's house, me screaming back, "Go, then, asshole!!!" It wasn't until I put my batch of sugar cookies in and after two minutes opened the oven door to BUBBLING cookie dough, that I noticed the oven was sixty degrees (that's a lot in Centigrade) too hot!!!! *eye roll* i salvaged what chocolate chip ones I could since those are the only ones French people see as genuinely American cookies (they even call them "cookies"), put them in my favorite cookie tin and loaded up the kids.

Lunch was yummy. A starter of a "cake" (meaning loaf, of course) of scallops (I think... noix de St. Jacques... I don't know what that is in English, but basically, it was fish, mixed with beaten egg, milk, herbs, etc. and served cold). A section of boiled leek decorated with a long piece of chive tied in a knot, two cherry tomatoes and some lamb's lettuce. The sauce was a home-made mayo sort of thingy that was really good.

The main course was roast lamb in an AMAZING mushroom sauce served with potato puree (not mashed pototoes, but actually pureed potatoes).

This was all washed down with a red bordeau and a red from Spain (probably Rioja, but my brother-in-law didn't say).

Dessert was the traditional buche (Google it). There were three or four of them. There was also fudge and then my cookies. They loved 'em.

The kids got more presents. Ryan got a wooden helicopter that was just frickin' AWESOME. Lily got a set of antique-looking wooden blocks. And Lolo got a wooden bead maze. They also got presents from the other aunt, but I can't recall what they were right this second. We got the usual big box of chocolate and plant from the parents-in-law and a vibrating massager called a Bobo. We gave out extremely expensive boxes of the chocolate from the snooty choco store (ten truffles cost us 12 Euro... you know how small a truffle is?... I'd liked to have licked one of those truffles just to see why they were so expensive... LOL) as well as the home-made cards I had made telling them of the donations we had made for them (I put a wreath on the outside, a message on the inside telling them what we had donated and explaining how Heifer International works and a picture of whatever animal we had gotten them). No one was really very impressed with our donation thing. You know what I have to say? Tough shit. We bought them ridiculously priced truffles because we KNEW they were going to react that way. When I think that the $60 we spent on that frickin' chocolate COULD have bought another trio of rabbits for a family or small village... *grunt* No, I'm not going to think about it.

What matters is my conscience is clear. We donated to a couple of things back in Charlotte, too. A pair of boys who needed Christmas and a family who needed some food. We only ended up donating a total of $550 to Heifer International... Were it up to me, we would have tripled that, but well, we have the Farm Fund to think about, right?

Today, we presented the neighbors with their presents. No real excitement from their end either, even though we gave them an even BIGGER box of ridiculously-priced chocolates.

I'm telling you, I'm pretty much done with Christmas. This year really ruined it for me. The materialism. The "I got a Wii!!!" Blech.

Sam bitches about me being a purist. An extremist. It's not my fault, you know? It's all the materialism around me that makes me so. The turning your nose up at a gift I actually put THOUGHT into like a cookbook and went out of my way to spend too much money on because I thought it might touch you. Blech. I could have helped a FAMILY with that damn money.

I'm done. Next year, my kids will get one gift each from Santa and I'll give the rest of the money to people who REALLY frickin' need it. And I don't mean who need it so they can have PILES of stuff under a tree. But who need it to stay fed and keep warm. I'm all about buying kids a toy. But I don't think any kid needs to have an extravagant Christmas... In fact, I think it's all the extravagant Christmases that have created this shitty materialism of which I speak. Christmas is supposed to be the celebration of the birth of a little naked baby born in the most modest of circumstances and the gifts brought to Him from rich KINGS and wise men... Magicians, whatever. It's not about the presents you are pouting about you didn't get!!! Grody!

Anyway... So... today... I'm sick again. Yep. Again! I've caught what everyone else had. Do I get to lie around and feel sorry for myself and have other people do the cooking, the dishes, the laundry? Nope. Do I get to moan on and on about how bad my whatever hurts? Nope. I can't even catch a nap because SOME adult who lives with me can't keep the damn kids quiet for even half a goddamn hour!!! *sigh* Oh, alright, so, he took the kids to the park for a couple of hours yesterday. I appreciate it. I really do. But DUDE, he stayed in bed for TWO days while I forced myself and the kids to tiptoe and whisper around the apartment. It always happens this way.

What makes me most mad about it is that I wanted to RUN tomorrow. I think I might end up waiting until after breakfast and at least go walking. I'm telling you, after I get better from this, I'm not kissing ANYONE. I may not let anyone NEAR me until the day I leave for Houston.

Okay, so, I had some pasta dough still in the fridge. I also had some leftover ravioli filling. Sooooo, I made a bechamel, defrosted a red sauce and built myself my first home-made, from scratch, all-organic, free-range LASAGNA!!! I turned my beef/spinach ravioli filling into a sort of pesto (thinned with white wine) and did a layer of that, topped with a little bechamel and cheese, then I did a layer of red sauce and fresh parm cheese, then I did a layer of thinly sliced zucchini and emmental cheese, then another layer of the rav filling/bechamel/parm. It turned out BEAUTIFULLY!!!! We didn't eat it yet because it wasn't done when it was time for dinner, but we'll eat the heck outta that bitch tomorrow.

HOWEVER, when I got to the tip top of my lasagna pan, I still had some noodles left over. I had already blanched them, so I couldn't store them. Instead, I just cut them with my chef's knife and turned them into a sort of fetuccini. I took the couple of spoonfuls I had left of bechamel, poured in some milk to thin it again, added some of my home-made eggplant-zuke pesto and a little salt and turned that into a sauce. I took the rest of the paper thin zucchini I had sliced (ahem, my food processor had sliced) and threw them into a hot pan with some olive oil and minced garlic. So, I had a bed of fresh, home-made pasta, drenched with creamy pesto sauce and topped with JUST rightly cooked zuke slices and sprinkled with cheese. DUDE... for an ooops meal, that shit was GOOOOOD!!!!

Before you even ask, just let me tell you that I have NOT heard from the Agent of My Dreams. And Yes, I'm aware that I sent out my full manuscript on September 26. I waited until December 26 to finally email him and ask what's up. I'm scared to find out. I won't go into all the intricacies of my paranoia about this. Suffice it to say, I'm antsy and scared and a teeeeeensy bit despondant.

I have been reading, though. I finally read the last Harry Potter. Good stuff. I also read Copper Sun and it freakin' ROCKED! As did the lasted Augusten Burroughs book ("Wolf at the Table"). I'm not sure what I'll read next, but it feels good to read again... Wish I could say the same about writing.

Okay, I should cut this out. I know I did it again... waited a week to blog. I'm sorry about that. But you know how it is. It's either a matter of finding time, energy or words. It seems like it only happens once a week that all three are aligned.

All I can say is I'll try... maybe that should be one of my New Year's resolutions.

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