Thursday, January 31, 2008

Build Your Own Uncle Tom’s Lincoln Log Cabin

Did you know that Linclon Logs were created by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John Lloyd Wright (I always wished that Frank had named one of his sons Floyd Lloyd Wright, which would add child naming skills as just another reason why my choice to not breed was a good one)? When I discovered this fact (about Lincoln Logs, not my child naming skills), I was even more shocked to discover that “Lincoln Logs originally came with instructions on how to build Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well as Lincoln’s log cabin.” Lincoln Logs were created in 1916, so the Civil War would have been relatively fresh in the minds of Americans. I suppose that from a emancipation point of view, one would be just as happy to build Uncle Tom’s cabin as Lincoln’s (one was the title to the fictional book written by “the little lady who started this big war,” the other was the home of the man who supposedly spoke the words “so you’re the little lady who started this big war.”). Now I’ll never be able to look at Nephew’s Lincoln Logs without having some internal dialogue about states rights. As if I needed one more odd piece of information to cogitate on.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

If I Had Just Stayed in Bed Today…

I sit here, drinking what’s left of the cooking wine, writing this epistle with a bandaged toe, a bandaged finger and a throbbing chin.

It all started this morning at Sunday breakfast with Mum saying that a woman had approached her yesterday at the library inquiring about the meaning of certain things in dreams. This particular woman had a dream in which she heard a rooster crowing. Her husband happened to have been ill, so she was afraid that this crowing in her dream was a sign of foreboding for her husband and wanted to be prepared if it did indeed mean something bad. Mum said that she would ask my Sister (Sis has dabbled in dream theory for fun in the past), and get back with her. Well, Sister didn’t know what a dream with a crowing rooster in it meant, so she looked it up online. Of course, we all thought that to hear the cock crow thrice was symbolic of a betrayal (let’s thank the Bible for that gem); but to have roosters in your dreams only symbolized goodness (according to the online dream dictionaries that we consulted this morning). We all talked a bit further on the crowing thrice business, but then forgot about it altogether.

Around Noon, I decided to try and nap (I woke up at midnight last night with a stuffy nose and sore throat and had been treating myself all morning with saline nose flushes and saline throat gargles and I was tired, damn it). Forty-five minutes later, when I realized that I just wasn’t going to go to sleep, I decided to get out of bed and conduct my weekly washing of the bed linens. As I was pulling the chair at the end of my bed away so that I could strip the bed, I ran over my foot with the base of the chair. Thinking, “Well, that sure smarts,” I looked down at my right foot, fourth toe, and blood was squeezing out from between the toenail and the flesh to which it was supposed to be attached at an alarmingly slow, yet very determined rate. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that half of my toenail had peeled back. I sort of pushed it back down and limped downstairs to find a bandaide. Nephew was immediately by my side to look at the wound and say very sympathetically, “Auntie has a boo-boo.” Yes, indeedy, I did. I accepted my small dose of kisses from him, so as to feel better, and decided to start prep work on the dinner I was making; it seemed quite safe business to do. Since this was a dry run for Iron Chef Cajun: You and Whose Army 2008, I decided to break out my new knife that Sis had gotten for me over the holidays. It was a beautiful knife, and I needed for it to become an extension of my right hand so that I could wield it in a manner that was befitting a knife of its caliber, especially for the Cajun smack-down against Kansas Slim. As I was working my way through the Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking (I was finished with the onion and celery, so I must have been on the bell peppers at the time), I quite accidentally chopped smack into my finger, through the nail and all. I was stunned. It didn’t hurt (that’s how sharp this knife was-obviously a whole lot sharper than I). No blood until I pushed on the nail to see how deep it went (why do we do things like that?). It went deep enough. My remark to everyone standing within earshot was, “Well, I just cut myself.” More doses of kisses from Nephew so that I would feel better, and back to cutting. I joked out loud that I really should’ve stayed in bed.

The dry-run was going well, despite the bad beginning (sorry Mr. Snicket). The roux had gotten through the various color stages that normal people refer to as peanut, mahogany and deep mahogany (I refer to these stages as, “Wow, it’s changing color…"to "Holy moly, it’s really turning into a cool shade of reddish-brown," to "Crap, I-could-muck-this-up-at-any-moment-if-I-have-to-go-to-the-loo mahogany." I added the vegetables when the roux had reached the perfect shade of mahogany-brown and let them wilt while I washed and dried some dishes. As I was drying my favorite coffee mug (a lovely orange Halloween mug with cavorting jack-o-lanterns and ghoulish holiday greetings), the mug broke away from the handle. I jerked my hand that was still holding the handle back, and caught myself under the chin. It was “Mugs Gone Wild.” With the handle still in my right hand, the mug body crashing to the floor, I was stunned yet again at another sign that I really should have stayed in bed today. I limped into the living room where Mum was playing Lincoln Logs with Nephew, and bleeding from the chin, stammered, “My mug just cut me…” and held up my chin for Mum to see. Nephew came over with his “concerned doctor” countenance stamped upon his face (he’s quite used to this now), and said, “Awwww…are you okaaaayyy?” No, I’m not, thank you for asking though. Two kisses, and call me in the morning...Three bloody injuries, and I’m not leaving this bloody house this evening for fear of more injury.

Franken finger, Franken toe, and Franken chin…all I need are the electrodes under each ear…the finger sucks most of all. I have to wash and dry my hair with both hands, and finger injuries always result in strange hair-grooming complications (like hair-product enhanced inflammation, or strands of hair becoming weirdly embedded in the wound, like a tornado-directed pine needle becoming embedded in a two-by-four). I may have to go unkempt for a while. As the Poet once asked on a summer afternoon, “Have I ever really been kempt?” I suppose that none of us ever were…

The Chicken Salad of Broad Street Tour

I was just composing an email to a friend of mine, detailing some of the better places on Broad Street at which one may have lighter meal. Since there are very few establishments where a person can do that (most folks gravitate to the twice fried chicken wings from Jefferson’s and the five pound lunch plate at The Courtyard), over the last year and a half, I’ve managed to narrow the pickins’ down to three. And all three eateries feature chicken salad in various form or fashion.

Nelson's is a hometown favorite; an old fashioned, wooden floor dime-store where you can find horehound candy and handkerchiefs next to sewing notions and hoop-skirted antebellum dolls. And sadly, Nelson’s is no longer called Nelson’s. It is called Gadsden Variety. I wish them the very best of luck with that name change. Don’t they understand that in the rulebook for small towns, rule number one states that “never change the name of a business that’s been in business for more than twenty years under one name?” Regardless of the devastation of the name change, Selena manages to make huge batches of straightforward, no frills chicken salad early every morning to serve the huge lunch crowd they have at Nelson’s everyday. If I get chicken salad at Nelson’s, I usually have it on (horrors!) a croissant and I get a side order of (horrors!) pasta salad (two words for you, “lottsa onion”). I usually feel somewhat bad after eating at Nelson’s because I carb out and feel icky the rest of the day, which brings me to my favorite place to get chicken salad, The Grind on Court. Their chicken salad is really healthy and fabulous. They use a little bit of poultry seasoning in their recipe and scoop it out on a large bed of field greens. Then, they bring it to you with a poppy seed dressing and tiny cheese biscuits. You have a nice choice of libations too. If you are a connoisseur of blue-flavored icy drinks as I know some of you out there are, they have a fantastic blue raspberry slushy concoction that is so good, you’ll give yourself brain freeze while sucking it down. They also have some nice wines that they sell by the glass, and by the bottle for that matter. But the bottles at The Grind look dusty in a neglected way, not dusty in a wine cellar way, which means bad in my book. The redeeming quality of the sad wine state at The Grind is that they are located next door to The Stone Market, which has some very nice wines (and some very funny cocktail napkins, which I love to buy as hostess gifts). Last, but certainly not least on the Chicken Salad of Broad Street Tour is The Downtown Tavern. Barbie makes a killer mess of chicken salad that features red grapes and chopped nuts. She serves it with two kinds of crackers, wheat and butter and it goes really well with a glass of Yellow Tail cabernet sauvignon (well, it goes much better with a glass of chardonnay or reisling, but I always seem to want a glass of Yellow Tail cab when I walk through those doors). It doesn’t matter how busy Barbie is (and she’s forever being left alone to run the whole joint by herself, so she’s always busy), if she has any chicken salad made up in the back and I order some, she will manage to get it for me. She’s just that kind of a server.

Reading: Rolling Stone and everything that has to do with the evolution of library technology. It is for my 501 class (well, the tech stuff is, the Rolling Stone is for my mental wellbeing).
Listening to: Lady Sovereign, Lily Allen, Kate Nash, Cat Power and Feist.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

May I Play You a Song While I Clear That Plate Out of Your Way?

Was treated to New Year’s Eve in Birmingham and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. Thanks Sis and Bro-in-Law (and M&D)! Being a TSO neophyte, I didn't know what to expect from the show (I enjoy their holiday music, but I don’t listen to them on a regular basis). I was happily surprised with the variety of musical genres they performed. Lots of classical compositions, with some modern variations and…tons of hair…more tresses than you could shake a blowdryer at (on the women AND the men). The band gave an exceptionally energetic performance for two and a half hours, treated us with a New Year's Eve countdown, confetti and a balloon drop, and then proceeded to perform for at least another hour. The last couple of numbers were performed with surprise guest guitarist, Tommy Shaw from Styx.

And did I mention the freakin’ hair on the band? It was as if all the women had stepped out of an 80’s Whitesnake video and the men had stepped out of…an 80’s Whitesnake video. Damn, but there were some serious flowing locks on those guys. I’d like to know the total dollar amount that the band spends on hair product per year. While singer Tommy Farese introduced the band, he joked that one of the male backup singers looked like Fabio (Oh Mr. Farese, you kidder!! You, who sport a coiffure so extraordinary, that in profile, you resemble Little Richard. I was so terrified that your hair was going to catch fire during the show’s pyrotechnics, at times I had to look away). And when Tommy Shaw came out on stage, his fifty-five year old head of hair was just as grand and mane-like as it did in the 80’s AND in the 90’s when we saw him perform in the same concert hall; still looked like a Wella Balsam commercial-shiny, and with such bounce! I momentarily wished that I had worn my hair curly and teased, but I think that would’ve resulted in us having to pay for the seat behind us due to the extra room my hair would’ve taken up. Still, just to have been mistaken for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra band member would’ve made it all worth it.

On our way home this AM, we stopped into a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. While lamenting the long wait for food that we could’ve gotten back home, and the fact that I had just lost a bet to my brother-in-law that Cracker Barrel wouldn’t have the vintage candy Squirrel Nut Zippers, I noticed that the busboy looked sort of familiar. Now, I use the term busboy loosely here as he was, without a doubt, over the age of fifty. As I stared at him, the voice of Rob Thomas singing Smooth began to fill my head and then those blessed guitar riffs of a master…it hit me! The busboy looked exactly like Carlos Santana! After having the surprise of a guest guitarist at the TSO concert last night, I thought it only fitting that the busboy of Cracker Barrel turn out to be Carlos Santana. And I proceeded to have a short daydream about Carlos Santana moonlighting as a busboy in an Alabama Cracker Barrel and how cool it would be when I told my friends about how he played his 1970 hit Oye Como Va for us on the guitar while we ate our hard-scrambled eggs and turkey sausage patties. I came back to earth when I realized with a start that I now had some Squirrel Nut Zippers in my possession. Since I’m not a big fan of eating candy, I’ll just admire them in their package.

Listening to: Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Hot (no kidding)
Reading: Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard FariƱa. & A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines.
Watching: Food Network’s biography on Rachael Ray.

And they're all mine...