Wednesday, June 29, 2011

SATC 2 (See Also: Greetings from 2010!)

I've never been known for my prompt moving watching or general attention to detail when actually watching one. In fact, it's a running joke in our house that B can study for the Bar, watch a movie, and keep up with multiple games on his phone and still explain to me who "that girl with the curly hair" is running around with a knife. "Don't you remember?" he'll ask lovingly, "She's the one that's the lead guy's cousin and a double agent for the mob."

I, on the other hand, will watch with rapt attention and still not get what's going on until after the fact. Inception? Don't even get me started.

I say all this to say that I'm behind on movies and HBO's free weekend was a huge help... at filling out DVR. B came home and said, "Catch Me If You Can, The Firm, Three Men and a Little have the most random taste in movies." I prefer to call it "wide-reaching."

He busted me watching the intro to Sex and the City 2, which I promptly changed to a baseball game ("Oh nothing, just flipping through..."). I waited until he left the room again and found it on HBO later that night (Hello, 2am reruns) and DVR'd it for later.

Later arrived and B again busted me for watching it, but this time he was suppose to be Bar prepping, so I think he actually appreciated that he had zero interest in what I was doing.

So I settled in for a catch-up with my long-forgotten friends. I'd watched SATC a few times in college, when cable-totting friends would invite us over for a night, and then seen them all thanks to TBS.

I saw the first movie with girlfriends (and a snuck-in bottle of merlot) and we'd had a blast. The whole theatre was bonding, it seemed, and without a single man in site.

SATC 2 didn't motivate me to the theatre, especially when it was panned, but it did pull me in that rainy Sunday afternoon on the couch. Ok, it was 90 and beautiful here, but doesn't it sound easier to stay inside when it's raining?

I watched it, prepared for the worst, and found it just... ok. I understood how people thought it showed the worst of the American traveler; they're staying in a 22K-per-night suite in Indian while serviced by private butlers who can't afford to fly home to see their wives but every three months. We're Americans! We want to flash skin and be pampered! Fine, fine, fine.

But I was more intrigued by the lack of humor in it. B pointed out one line (from behind closed eyes as he napped on my lap), "Why did you buy me a black one? Because it's the color of my soul?"

"How is that funny?" he asked. And I agree-- how is it funny?

These girls, these four women who prompted "Which Character Are You" games all across Facebook and even before there was Facebook, were once known for wit, sparkle, glamour, and, yes, over-the-top exuberance.

They had their flaws and so did the show; as my sister's friend pointed out, we cheered on a heroine who, in the end, was the only thing about the show that never evolved or changed. And while SATC 2 did find truth in new territories (Being a Mom is hard; admitting that it's hard is even harder), it also fell shamelessly into old ones.

A wise man once told me that if a movie entertains you for two hours, you've gotten your money's worth. I won't pretend I didn't enjoy two hours of fun fashion and glorious settings, but I did almost appreciate the growth in myself.

Some things aren't funny. Some things, perhaps, aren't funny to me. So long as we can agree to enjoy a good "falling off the camel" joke (for real), then I suppose it's worth an afternoon on the couch. Plus, it had Miley! I mean, honestly, way to date yourself, SATC 2, but bonus points in my book!

Let me put it this way. Hairspray, Kate & William's wedding, and Dead Poet's Society remain on my DVR; SATC 2 does not.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Have you ever had one of those moments when you think, "Wow. I'm a cook."?

For years, I remember going to the grocery store, dropping $60 (sorry, Mom), then getting home and realizing I needed to go pick up dinner. I had staples, things I was "suppose" to buy, but not a darn thing in the house to eat.

Well, finally, finally!, I feel like I'm getting a hang of "our" routine. I have the staples that apply to us (ok, and things like pumpkin pie spice, which never gets used). I love being able to make cornbread from what we have on hand, or bread for that matter. Salad dressings. Cobbler. Crisps. Cookies. Oatmeal cookies!

Granted, some of this new-found pride comes from the fact that B & I are moving (yes, again) in a few months and have a lot of here-and-there travel in between, so we're officially eating the pantry. We haven't gotten down to multi-night spaghetti yet (and, actually blue box mac 'n cheese is more likely in our multi-night future), but we have started trying to work our way through condiments, frozen meats, and pantry staples.

At the very least, I'd love to have all my flour, sugar, etc fit into the cannisters before we move. Last time, all our spices went into a tub, which went into a POD, which spent a sleepy summer in a climate-controlled storage facility, though not before trucking across town or, on the back end, several states, in 90-degree heat (sorry, spices). This time we'll be more direct, but hopefully less bountiful.

My Mom always advised that I learn to cook things while I had time, which I assume means before I have someone around my ankles asking about paint, cookies, or why there's finger paint on the cookies. So far, we've amassed a decent collection, but I'm more excited that I'm (slowly) mastering ingredients themselves. I know how to use curry (kind of-- trial, by fire, and error on that one), and how to make taco seasoning (a tried-and-true staple in our home). I can make our version of guac, pasta sauce, alfredo sauce, and, well, I'm sure other things.

Finally! After years of loving cooking, I feel like I'm generally understanding it. I am the master of my spice rack, at least for today.

I think I smell something burning....

As a note, this post was inspired by my first attempt at pinto beans. Yes, I bought dry beans and I realize this is no huge success, but I can't wait for B to try them. They're amazing. Granted, they simmer for two hours (winter food, anyone?), but I'm not sure we'll go back to canned. Feel free to throw that back at me later when we run into each other in the El Paso section of the grocery store.

A Southern Girl At Heart

In the past few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about Dad. It's been two years since he died and his birthday would be this coming Saturday. B and I are planning on finding fried chicken at some point over the holiday in his honor!

I've always associated Dad with food, a notion that start when my brother bemoaned the memory of Dad at Sunday dinner. You'd pass your plate down to him to cut up your chicken (we were young, mind you), and back it would come in tiny pieces. Tiny skinless pieces. B's family has a table toll; if you request wine, mashed potatoes, or sauce to be guided your way at the table, you can watch it decrease, be it by swill, scoop, or spoonful, as it moves your way. "Toll!" is the only apology needed.

Maybe it's my love of food or my Odyssean-style hunt for the perfect recipe, but I knew that I was a true Southern girl when I asked for a cookie recipe shortly after a funeral, Dad's funeral. Stay with me. Someone delivered a box of cookies to our house, as is custom during Southern mourning periods.

The bite-size delicacies arrived in a mixed greens plastic salad tub from Sam's, label removed, of course. From first bite, I knew these were the cookies I'd been looking for all my life. At the time, of course, I was simply eating and crying, another Southern specialty, but later, as the weeks rolled by, I remembered, through all the meals, tears, and evens of those crazy days, the chocolate chip cookies that had been so thoughtfully delivered to the house.

Did I mention that the cookie cupid, the deliverer of the divine, was the wife of the OB who delivered me? Faulkner is doing a happy dance somewhere in that eternal South beyond the clouds.

It took me several months and, quite honestly, I had other things to think about, but eventually I wrote a note to the wife of the man who brought me into this world about the cookies she delivered when God took my Father out of it.

Dear Mary,

I wanted to thank you so much for your kindness during the days after my Father's passing. I so appreciate knowing that Mom is in a town full of kind-hearted people who stop by and keep us in their prayers.

I also wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your sweet delivery in the days following Dad's death. Our family shared many a warm memory of Dad over your cookies, something I know he would've approved of.

Even today, when I think of those days after the funeral, my favorite memories are of my siblings and Mom sharing their memories, and your cookies remind me of that. If you don't mind, could you send me the recipe?


And that, friends, is how I parlayed a funeral delivery into a quasi-funeral delivery thank you note into a cookie recipe request.

It took her a few months to write me back, but when she did, she gave me the blessed cookie recipe, which I share now, partly because I'm afraid the stained paper won't last much longer, partly because I think everyone should try it, and partly because I'm afraid B will leave me if I stop making them.

She called it the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and it's close, but just different enough to make all the difference in the world.

1 cup shortening (oh hush, you'll never be the same!)
3/4 sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs

Mix ingredients together in a standing mixer (for speed! When we need cookies, we NEED cookies!). In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp salt.

Add to sugar mixture and blend well.

Add 1 cup chocolate chips.

Bake at 375 for 9.5-10.5 (yes, she included the halves) minutes. She claims it makes 36-38, but that's if you scoop them teaspoon size (which makes excellent mint ice cream cookie sandwiches, by the way).

She left me with one final instruction, "Do NOT over bake!" Her emphasis on the "NOT", you'll notice.

While I'm sure this wonderful lady questioned my questionable letter requesting a cookie recipe she delivered to what was basically my Father's wake, she seemed to understand the long-lingering truth: In the South, at least, emotions are intrinsically bound with food. We celebrate with Sunday suppers, slice cake for anniversaries and birthdays, and set our snacks for clubs, groups, meetings, and more. Nothing binds church women together faster than the call for casseroles, which leaves me feeling less guilty; if we serve others through food, then perhaps this sweet woman, the wife to the very first doctor in my life, got a kick out of serving me.