Benefit

That’s what I’ve been working on.

This weekend, if anyone is in or around Reading, PA, I’ll be in a benefit for the theatre that is responsible, in a large part, for who I am, and really, my very existance.

Genesius Theatre. It’s good to be home.

Click on the link above for info about my beloved theatre.

The show is Fri. 2/29 & Sat. 3/1 at 8PM. Sun. 3/2 at 3PM.

Click here, for tix, should you wish to come on down. It would be lovely to see you.

Back to learning the lyrics.
k.

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Gift

Been so long; post’s so short. Here’s a gift.

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Happy Anniversary!!

To Jamie and I.

8 years. Who would have thought it possible; I certainly never thought it would happen.

Funny what happens in your life when you stop looking for something to happen.

Tonight, dinner at Rene Pujol. It will be wonderful. And then, who knows.

Revisit the start of it all on Jamie’s site.

Happy day! I love my husband.

There are those in the gay community who poo-poo the whole idea, saying that we should not mirror the straight community. I say, “Fuck ‘em.” I’ve never been too keen on the whole “community identification superceding my own humanity” thing. And I’d write more on that, but I’m at work and need to get back to it. So I’ll just say again, as the late, great Bob B. did, “That’s what makes the phone book.”

And now, back to work,
k.

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Happy

Happy New Year!

I’ve previously mentioned the Christmas Eve bayberry mojo.

And now, here is the New Year’s Eve mojo tradition. A quick internet check shows nothing about my family’s traditional NY Eve mojo. My guess is that it is a mix of PA Dutch and Scottish tradition, or just something that got started long ago by no specific ethnicity and just got handed down until its precise origins were lost.

At any rate, my family’s tradition: in a small bag – I use a sandwich bag because that’s what my parents used, probably something nicer like a cloth bag would be looked on kindly by the gods, or maybe the humble nature of the sandwich bag is some kind of positive statement in and of itself – one per each member of the household – no “one bag is good enough for all” stuff here, everyone must have their own – place:

  • A penny or some humble coin if your monetary system has no penny. “So that you may always have enough money.”
  • A piece of coal. “So that your home may be always warm.”
  • A bit of flour wrapped in paper. “So you may always have food.”

Why is the flour wrapped in paper? So it doesn’t get all messy in the bag, silly. My family’s traditional flour wrap has been a piece of paper towel, again, not particularly pretty, but humble and certainly serviceable.

Once these items are gathered in the bag, it is hung on the front door of your house (or apartment) to welcome in the New Year’s s(S)pirit. This is to be done on New Year’s Eve and must hang there until the morning of New Year’s Day.

And, like the bayberry candle that burns though Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, I understand that this is superstition. But neither the candle nor the NYE bag has let me down thus far and so, I’ll repeat, I’m not messin’ with the mojo.

And they pile on, I have acquiesced, adopted and even grown used to, Jamie’s family’s, “the Christmas tree must be taken down before New Year’s Day”, and he’s happy to have our ratty New Year’s bags hanging on the doorknob for the neighbors to wonder about.

I guess life is so dramatically random that even in this “advanced” modern age, sometimes it feels good and necessary to fall back on a little tradition, a little “magic”.

Have a safe and happy New Year!
k.

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Size

Apparently does matter. At least to Nath.

“Your new theme is so hard to read. The text is too small. Make it bigger,” says she.

Now personally, I like the text the size it is and I can’t believe that her eyes (ses yeux, fatiguĂ©, blasĂ©…) are any worse than my 45 year old bifocal-ed orbs. But we all view the world through different lenses, so be it. Ok. Done.

I’ve searched for, found, and ta da!, added the “change font size” widget by Ferran Rodenas.

Thank you, Mr. Rodenas, you have made a lovely French girl – not me silly; Nath – very happy. Now she can pump the pixel size from its delightful 13px to a very frightening 22px if she so wishes.

And they say I’m a cranky curmudgeon. The things I do for you kids. ;)

Nite,
k.

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Zim

Zim has some very valid points in his comment to my last post and I think they warrant a response post. First, go read his comments if you haven’t done so already.

The Christmas Spirit; I’ve found as I get older, that so many things conspire against it. In no particular order:

  • Rampant commercialization of the season. This commercialization has so removed the “magic” of the season, that youthful innocence that lets us dream and believe.
  • As tie-in to the above: The expansion of the season. When I was young, there was no Christmas anything until Santa arrived Thanksgiving Day on the Macy’s float. Nothing. Thanksgiving Day was the kick-off to the Christmas season. Now you start seeing Christmas things in stores or advertising as early as August. It’s this time-frame dilution that helps make it a far less anticipated, special event.
  • The removal of Christ from Christmas. Regardless of your particular spiritual belief, this point applies: simply substitute whichever symbol of charity, sacrifice and unconditional love into the above sentence. Christmas is, in the end a construct; historically Christ was not born on Christmas. Christian holidays, all religiously based holidays, are sociopolitical constructs of the current ruling party/religion. The birth of Christ is celebrated on this particular day because it was easier to usurp an already existing celebration: you can’t cancel the Solstice festival, the Saturnalia, etc., but you can change it to your purpose. But in the end, each permutation is a celebration of life and this basic understanding of the season has been lost.
  • Loss of contact with fellow human beings. As the world becomes seemingly more and more connected, it actually seems we are all moving apart. Phones keep us from talking face to face. Cars keep us from walking, where we might chance to meet. Computers allow us to sit in our homes, safe in our cocoons, to virtually connect, but is that a real connection? Without truly being among your fellow human beings, how is it possible to be human?

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the material aspects of the season; giving is a demonstration of an aspect of the spiritual model. Giving, that is, without any expectation of return, giving to show your love, your appreciation of another human being.

As I’ve written in a previous post, I do think it is important to do some regular, unconditional giving. It can be monetary, but it doesn’t need to be, it can be a donation of time, donation of goods, etc., simply some acknowledgment that there are those less fortunate, more needy, than you. And here, I’m not saying, “Be a martyr to humankind,” but rather recognize that we all depend on each other.

In that vein, I urge more “green-ness” in everyone’s life. We continue to dismantle the delicate symbiosis with our Earth. This practice of “green-ness” is another face of giving and respect. We need to protect and care for the planet on which we live. The Earth will certainly survive despite our shenanigans, but she may, no, will refuse to support our existence if we continue to divorce responsibility for our action from their consequences.

In the end, if we want to keep the “magic” of the season alive, we need to embrace our loved ones, and the world, in our hearts, care for and respect those around us and also the world in which we live. And always remember, as our ancestors found as those fearful days, ever shortening, ever dying, turned, became slowly longer, ever less inexplicably dark, we can go forward from darkness to light, from fear to joy. But we will always be more able if we go hand in hand, our hearts warm and our minds open.

Thanks to you, Zim for prompting this bit of philosophizin’.

Nite,
k.

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Thankful

You see George, you really did have a wonderful life.

I think often, we forget how really wonderful life is, I know I do from time to time. I get caught up in the minutiae of the daily grind and forget what is truly important, truly wonderful: the magic of being alive. It really is a gift. To throw out another appropriate movie quote, Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.

Drink in life. Eat up every last morsel. Savour every last moment. Life is too glorious not to.

So catching up. Thanksgiving was odd, but lovely. Jamie, as I mentioned in the last post was sick. He got up long enough to enjoy our dinner, or enjoy it as much as someone without a sense of smell due to clogged sinuses is able.

That weekend, our friends John and Karen came in from London for a week’s visit. We kicked it off by going to Peter Luger’s Steakhouse, a fav of ours. Luckily, Jamie’s ick had subsided enough for him to enjoy the evening and taste the food.

Then later that week, on Thursday, J & I went to the 75th Anniversary Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. And it was. Spectacular.

We go every year. We love it. We love the over-the-top wackiness of it. We love the live camels on stage and the hokey holiday–ness of it all. But this year, being the 75th Anniversary, it was even better than usual. It was all about the Rockettes, who are indeed, always “featured”, but this year they were truly the stars of the show. They even got their own holiday souvenir martini glass

RCglasses

filled with, of course, the Rockettini, which was basically a slushie with really high proof rum poured over it.

All during that week after Thanksgiving, along with show-going and friend-greeting, we were getting ready for our first (annual) holiday party. Lots of food, liquor and mixers bought. Some food prepped here. And that Saturday, 12/1, from 5 ’til, well, I’m told that it went on until about 1:30AM, a grand time was had by all.

We spread it out over such a long period as:

  1. We have friends with many different work schedules or kids or other engagements, so this allowed them to drop in/drop out.
  2. Our apartment, though lovely, wouldn’t fit all the invitees comfortably at one time.

It all worked out beautifully. Except, of course, for my being done in by a nasty drink introduced to the party by our friend Suzanne. She had recently edited a drink book and this, unfortunately stuck in her mind; I certainly will never forget it. It is a wicked little concoction called a Duck Fart. And it does smell, not that I’ve actually ever had the pleasure, but I imagine it would be similar, like a duck fart.

It, however, is really tasty. It is layered in equal parts of Kahlua, Bailey’s and Jack Daniel’s. It goes down smooth and hits hard. And so, I ended about an hour or so before the party did. Ah well, a good time was had by all.

In the following two weeks, I had the joy of going through a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. A little holiday treat, that. My last physical turned up a bit of anemia and we’re trying to figure out what’s up with that. Nothing showed up in either of those tests, so we’re on to more. I get the next round of results after the holidays – easy tests, just blood-work. Somewhat ironic that they needed to take four vials of blood to see what’s up with my anemia…

As my reward for going through rather unpleasantly invasive tests, I gave myself the gift of theatre. Jamie & I went to PA to the theatre I grew up in, Genesius, to see “The Belsnickel Scrooge”, a PA Dutch take on “A Christmas Carol.” We loved it. It is so amazing to be reconnected with that theatre.

While in PA, we celebrated Christmas with my folks and our dear extended family members, Sue and Liz. We don’t get to see either my parents or S&L often enough.

Oops, forgot, on the weekend between my c’scopy and my e’scopy, we went to visit Jamie’s Mom in FL for her birthday. We had a great time visiting with her and Jamie’s sister, nephew and his new girlfriend. It was nice to get away from NYC for a bit, although I couldn’t wait to get back to the more seasonal weather. FL is nice, but give me seasons. I don’t care how many decorations you see, if it’s 80 degrees, it just doesn’t feel like Christmastime. This is, of course, coming from a confirmed Northerner, however, Jamie feels the same way and he spent most of his life in FL.

Anyway, that brings us up to the week past, which was filled with Christmas hubbub and such, including a wonderful holiday concert on Saturday featuring Karen Mason, an amazing singer and a lovely person. I worked with her years ago on “And the World Goes ‘Round: The Songs of Kander and Ebb”, back in the day when I was doing backstage stuff. She has such amazing control of her voice and such an amazing energy. She’s just, well, amazing.

She was briefly joined by Greg Edelman, Liz Calloway, and The Accidentals (a tight jazz acapella group) – all were great.

Oh and before the concert, we went to see Sweeney Todd, the film, not the theatre piece. It was magically delicious, go see it.

And that brings us to tonight, Christmas Eve.

We went to NJ to our Godson’s for the evening. Met the little fella and his mom at the train station – he loves trains – then headed to the 4 o’clock Children’s service at their church. Very nice service; Jamie & I both forgot how much we like the practice of going. We’ve decided to check out our local church soon. We both miss the brilliant eucharist at our old church, unfortunately, the emotional/spiritual toll of that place was too high so, the search continues.

After church, we went to their house and met up with the G’son’s dad and sister, Aunt and friends and we all shared a delicious dinner.

Then back to the city in time for me to light my bayberry candle. All these superstitions… I don’t know if it’s a PA Dutch thing or where it came from, but it is tradition in my family to light a bayberry candle on Christmas Eve and let it burn through the night into Christmas day – it must burn completely away. It’s said to be good luck, and like Jamie with his “the tree must come down on New Year’s Eve”, I ain’t messin’ with the mojo.

So here I sit writing, now officially Christmas day, while Jamie sleeps, dreaming of the early morning present opening to come.

So many opportunities we’re given. So many wonderful things to do and see and experience; just look back over just my last four weeks.

It really is a wonderful life.

And now, now that the candle has reached a point of safety, meaning, as it burns merrily in the sink, if it falls, it’s short enough to pose no danger of toppling out onto the floor, but rather just rolling around in the sink, I can guiltlessly go to bed. Jamie is very, very, nervous about the candle. Very. But it’s safe now, and I’m tired, and he’s going to get me up at first light for Christmas morning present-opening, so in the Christmas spirit I say,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
k.

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Chestnuts

Are tedious. I learned this last night. Last night, as I was peeling them for the stuffing that is at this very moment in the oven inside our turkey.

Jamie has written about our Thanksgiving dinner. Although somewhat smugly. Ahem…

Indeed, I have been loathe to go against the food experts and cook my stuffing inside my turkey. The recipe we’re using, however, makes it easy to cook it inside the turkey, to maximize the flavor, and yet easily remove said stuffing for continued cooking to temperature after the bird is removed. Indeed, compromise.

I don’t know about the green bean casserole happening today. I’ve been doing all the cooking this year, as Jamie has come down with one whopper of a cold and has been laid out since yesterday. I’m hoping against hope that I’m not visited by the same bug. Fingers crossed.

But yes, the chestnuts. I’ve never peeled chestnuts. Everything I read, pre-peeling, seemed to indicate that it was indeed a laborious, hit-or-miss kind of thing with, very often, crumbled, rather than nice, whole, nut meats.

I decided to try the 1896 recipe that I found on About.com. It worked beautifully. No crumbled nuts.

It’s still not easy though, prying the shells off the suckers; imagine hot splinters shoved under your fingernails over and over and over again and you’ll get the gist. My thumbs are achin’.

I’m sure the chestnuts will be delicious in the stuffing. I’ll enjoy it immensely and keep it as a fond memory as I’ve no intention of ever peeling chestnuts again.

The cranberry salad. This is an anticipated treat in my family usually prepared by my Aunt Marcia, and since she’s not here to prepare it for us… While I’m not at liberty to share the recipe, I can assure you, and Jamie, that there are no oysters or chives to be found. It’s delicious. It better be ’cause I did make a hell of a lot of it, although not the 18 pounds Jamie has indicated. By the time we finish it up though, it might just seem that way.

So last night, after I finished mutilating my thumbs, I took a needed break from the kitchen and headed outside.

Oh it was lovely. It was about 11PM. It was misty, very misty, with the light of the street lamps diffused in a beautifully cinematic way. I headed down our block to a little garden area notable only as it offers a break between buildings and an unobstructed view out over the park.

And there I stood looking out into the night sky. Alone with my thoughts. And it was one of those beautiful nights, so quiet, full of anticipation, “holiday nights”; everyone is inside preparing or sleeping, dreaming of tomorrow.

And then it rained. But not rain. I was standing under a wonderful old tree whose leaves had all gone yellow. A lifetime ago, I’d have been able to tell you what kind of tree it is, but it’s one of the many things that I’ve forgotten over the years; funny how that goes. At any rate, there I was, in that gauzy mist-light in an amazing drizzle of yellow leaves. I must have stood there a good 10 minutes marveling at it all, the leaves gently falling all around me.

I love magical moments like that. That’s what is brilliant about life; you never know when those kind of things will happen. You just have to stop and be amazed when they do.

And then I went back inside and continued cooking… until about 2AM. Whatever, I’m a late-night person. Always have been. I’ve been totally acting against my nature with my current job that requires me to get up at 6AM; I can do it, but really I’m not meant to, and by the end of the week, I’m worn out from it. But I digress…

So today, I’ve been taking it slow; Jamie’s still feeling like crap, though less so than yesterday. We were going to put off Thanksgiving until tomorrow but I didn’t want the turkey to sit in the brine that long. So I’ve meandered in the kitchen today, really all that was left to cook was the pumpkin cheesecake – had batter left over, made cupcakes, yummy! – and finishing off the stuffing for the turkey. Everything else was done last night.

Except for the imported, organic green bean casserole (see Jamie’s piece for that one). We’ll make that tomorrow.

For now, the comforting aroma of roasted turkey wafts enticingly ’round the house. It’s almost time to pop the sucker out of the oven to rest while its companion dishes fill the oven void to warm up to dinner temperature.

And on that note, it’s time to baste!

Happy Thanksgiving!
k.

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Fred

Well, really Fred II.

He’s, or rather, it’s, my bread starter.And I’m starting his (’cause after all, it is a living thing that must be cared for, much like a pet, so it is far more of a “he/her” rather than an “it”) birthing process tonight. And in 6 days, I’ll have a very weak, hungry, but very much alive, starter.

Ironically, a few years ago, I discovered that I have a wheat intolerance; no, I’m not celiac, I’ve simply discovered that wheat/gluten products make me bloat, make me feel run down. You can tell by looking at me when I’ve indulged my delight of bread, I get, well, puffy.

So for quite some time, I was very strict: no wheat, no oats, nothing with gluten. I cleared my pantry of all my flours. I cleared my fridge of… Fred I. Well at the time, he was just “Fred”, not “Fred I”, but now that Fred II is coming into the world…

Ironic why, exactly? I was, am, a baker. No longer professionally, but still passionately. There is little more satisfying than starting out with some powders and liquids and conjuring up a crispy crusted, fluffy centered, delicious bread. The various aromas created throughout the process are enough to send me to heaven: First the deep, muskiness transforming during its time in the oven to a blissful, I’m at a loss for words to describe the amazing smell of bread baking, but I can say that just thinking about it now as I write, my heart is beating faster and my head is light. It is one of the most comforting smells in the world.

And I gave it all up.

And then, last January, in Paris, I had bread because, c’mon, how can you not have bread products in France? And what I discovered is, I didn’t puff. In fact, it didn’t seem to affect me at all.

My guess is that I’m not necessarily intolerant of the wheat/gluten, but rather all the processing and chemicals to which American bread products are subjected.

I’m intolerant of the adulteration.

So since when we were buying appliances for our new home I convinced Jamie to let me buy the convection oven that I’d always dreamed of, it seems incredibly stupid to not bake bread. And while it is true (he said immodestly), I’ve learned to make a mean loaf of gluten-free bread, it is simply not the same. Not the same in the production. Not the same texture in the pre-baked state: batter rather than soft fleshy-ness. And not, at all, the same smell.

And lets face it, having a convection oven at your beck and call and not baking is like having a Ferrari and driving in the slow lane. It’s denying the machine its nature.

So I’ve paused in my writing and put Fred II together. So simple. And I have to thank Julia Child and Nancy Silverton for the particular starter recipe I use to create my Freds.From Julia’s “Cooking with the Master Chefs” series, I present, for anyone hankerin’ to start their own “Fred” or “Ester” or whatever you choose to call your frothy, bubbling new pet: Nancy Silverton’s Bread Starter (I’m condensing-you can follow the “Cooking with…” link for a video of Nancy making it in Julia’s kitchen.):

  • 2 cups bread flour – she recommends a hard wheat flour-I’m using King Arthur Organic All-Purpose, no processing or chemicals added
  • 2 1/2 cups tepid water
  • 1/2 pound stemmed red grapes
  1. Stir together the flour and water in a glass or plastic container. Don’t worry about small lumps, they’ll dissolve.
  2. Tie the grapes up in a double layer of washed and rinsed cheesecloth.
  3. Crush the grapes lightly.
  4. Swirl the grape bag around in the flour/water mix.
  5. Submerge the bag in the mix.
  6. Cover the container tightly with a lid (if it has one) or with plastic wrap.
  7. Let it sit there for six days at room temperature, stirring once a day.
  8. Don’t do anything else with it. Just let it come to life.

Nancy Silverton: The bag of grapes will gradually appear inflated, and liquid will begin to separate from the flour base. The mixture will begin to taste and smell slightly fruity and the color will be strange. That is as it should be. By the sixth day, the bag of grapes will have deflated, the color will be yellow, and the taste pleasantly sour: the fermentation is complete. The starter is living but weak, and it needs to be fed.Feeding the starter:

  1. Remove the grape bag and squeeze the juices back into the starter. Discard the grapes.
  2. Stir thoroughly and transfer into a clean container.
  3. Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup tepid water.
  4. Stir well.
  5. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until it bubbles-3 to 4 hours.
  6. Cover and refrigerate.
  7. The next day, repeat steps 3 – 6.
  8. The next day, day 3, repeat steps 3 – 6.
  9. Your starter is now ready!

I didn’t say it was a fast process, nothing worth it ever seems to be, but it is so very worth each and every one of those nine days. And after this first big production, it gets much easier, you just need to do the three day feeding process each time you want to use it. To clarify, you will not be using all the starter in a recipe, unless, of course, you’re baking a hell of a lot of bread; more power to you.

And now, like Fred II and, indeed, Jamie (who’s been asleep for hours), I’m off to bed, to dream of delicious, crusty pillows of delight!

Ok, so I really, really like bread; so sue me.

Nite, k.

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Theme

As in the look of the site.

I’m still not happy with it.

I know what I want. At least I know the look I want at the moment.

I guess I’m going to have to buckle down and start learning how to code my own themes.

I used to hand-code everything. Years ago. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept up on the latest specs of HTML. Okie doke, guess I’ll have to do a quick refresher on that, too.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this theme, in fact, I really like its clean layout and design. It’s quite lovely.

It’s just not me. Well, of course it’s not, I didn’t create it. Adding in some of my own pics is not going to make it “me”.

This learning process will probably take a bit. I guess, then, that I’ll keep on switching between other people’s themes for the time being, adding just enough “me” to make it a bit “mine”.

Wish me luck.

Nite,
k.

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