Friday, September 30, 2011

Threading the needle

No, no, no, that's not accurate, it's mcuh more like threading the face, which feels like a needle.

Yes, I finally tried threading -- a practice that has been done for centuries in countries such as India, Iran, Iraq, and other Arab countries. According to Wiki, in ancient Persia threading was a sign that a girl had reached adulthood and become a woman.

Yes, hooray at me, finally an adult! Well perhaps I shouldn't go that far. But I will say without hesitation that I am less hairy. And I like it.

Here is the Wiki description of threading, which cracks me right up: Practitioners use a pure, thin, twisted cotton thread which is rolled over usually untidy hairlines, moustaches and other areas of unwanted hair, plucking the hair at the follicle level. Unlike tweezing, where single hairs are pulled out one at a time, threading can remove an entire row of hair, resulting in a straighter line. As a larger area of hair is removed at once, however, it can be relatively painful.

The bolding is mine....usually untidy, isn't that cute? And relatively painful, that makes me laugh too, I mean, relatively painful in relation to what?

Some of the reviews I looked at today likened the pain to child birth. One woman claimed it was worse. But of the 30 or so reviews I took the time to read, good ol' Marilyn's was my favorite:

I had the upper lip threaded and I have been through immense pain in my life but that took the biscuit. It was extremely painful but results were fantastic.

Again, bolding mine. Took the biscuit? Genius.

And I do have to agree with Marilyn, there was serious buscuit taking. The threading of my upper lip took me right back to my Lamaze breathing, or lack thereof. I had to pull my face away repeatdly, and my eyes were tearing throughout the breif process. The eyebrows were uncomfortable, but the lip, well, ouch. It's sensitive.
But yes, yes, Marilyn, the results are fantastic.

Just look at the woman in the photo below; although she looks way too relaxed for this to be real, those are some choice eyebrows, right?

Too bad they weren't offering the bejeweled eyelids at the salon too, I probably would have opted for those as well. Instead, well instead I treated myself to the always welcome, never painful henna tattoo.

Hope you find time to torture pamper yourself this weekend too...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lil' Oscar Love

We had ourselves an unplanned, spontaneous Lil' Oscar Cooler Lovefest a couple of weeks ago.

Lil' Oscar Love, baby.

Now, Mistah and I, as everybody knows, we love Oscars. Love them! But really, who doesn't love a Lil' Oscar? Nobody, that's who. They're impossible not to love. Everybody loves them. But everybody doesn't love that the apostrophe is in the wrong place.

I mean, clearly, Li'l would be better. Or maybe Li'l'. Hmmmm, yeah, okay, that's awkward. But still. Lil' is just wrong. My friend Eileen is dead against it.

But the apostrophe issue aside, a deck full of Lil' Oscars -- and their accompanying parents masters owners -- well, that just makes for good times.

Everybody, grab your Lil' Oscar!

Now pick 'em, up, folks . . .

And . . . smile!

What made the afternoon even more superawesome was Mom was in da house . . .

. . . and everyone knows how much Mom loves a Lil' Oscar.

Sigh . . . oh how we bask in our Lil' Oscar Love.

But honestly, how hard is it to put the apostrophe in the right place?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

lesbo meatloaf

Last week my sister shared a link to an article in the New York Times about an interesting take on meatloaf inspired by the lebanese staple kibbe, which the author describes as "little football-shaped savory treats."

I glanced at the recipe and reflected for a moment about how dearly I love kibbe, and how it's the one thing that everyone in my little family loves from the plethora of options in our regular big family lebanese meals. I lamented that we could never have kibbe at home, because mom has to make it and you need the big yellow bowl and the orange spouted mixer and the big silver pan and of course the tiny serving spatula.

And then do you know what I had? I had what the experts have long referred to as an AHA! moment. I took a closer look at the recipe and then I slapped my forehead with a hearty Homerian "d'oh!"

I could make kibbe!

I could, and I did.

And you can, too!

There aren't many ingredients, the only thing I didn't already have in the house was bulgar wheat, which was easily found in the ethnic aisle of the grocery store. There was also a bag in the healthy baking section, but I prefered the type with indecipherable arabic exclamations. I followed the recipe almost exactly, but in hindsight I would make several changes.

Shall we?

You need one cup of the bulgar. Rinse it and then cover with cold water and soak for 20 minutes before draining well.

This is the first of many moments when the smell of my childhood smacked me squarely in the schnoz.

While the bulgar cooled its heels for those 20 minutes, I prepped the other parts of the recipe. 

The next step in the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of grated onion. Grated? I thought. Really? Hmm. I don't think I have a grater, and if I do it is undoubtedly buried in the deep, dank recesses of the garage because I only have 2 cabinets and 4 drawers and there is no space for superfluous items like graters when cheese already exists in grated form. This was going to require some strategy.

What does every chef worth her salt do when it's time to think strategy?

1. Hydrate.

2. Improvise.

3. Put the drained bulgar, a pound of ground beef, grated onion, 1 tsp cumin and a dash of cayenne into a bowl with salt and pepper. Mix well with  your hands to distribute the seasoning. With a wooden spoon, beat in about 1/2 cup ice water. The mixture should be smooth and soft.

The bulgar was still soaking, so I started with the grated onions and spices in the bowl, then I sliced up the rest of my onion because the recipe called for 2 cups of 1/4" sliced onion.

That's a lot of damn onions, and I couldn't imagine where it belonged in my kibbe.

I didn't have time to worry about that nonsense though, because my bulgar was ready to drain and mix in with the other stuff.

Smooth and soft. And again with the childhood in schnoz.

Meanwhile, I was instructed to fry those 2 cups of onions until they softened. I hadn't measured, and it really did look like a lot of damn onions so I paused to take stock.

Too many damn onions.
2 cups of damn onions.

But still I eyed those damn onions suspiciously, because they just didn't belong! In all of my vast expertise with passive observation and active eating of kibbe, I  had no frame of reference for these mysterious sliced suckers.

So I chopped them.

This was marginally more acceptable, but I had yet to be entirely convinced. Still, I soldiered on, seasoning the onions and then reducing the heat and adding 1/4 cup of the meat mixture.

Continue frying, allowing the meat to get crumbly and the damn onions to brown nicely, another 10 minutes or so. Then stir in 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts and taste (yum) before allowing to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in the front yard, this was going on:

A tree fort, complete with big leaves for seats and surfaces for one's snacks.

And ingenious contraptions for easy access to fluids.

But I had no time for such folly! It was time to construct my masterpiece.

Lightly oil a shallow 9x13 inch baking dish, then press half the remaining meat mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan.

Spread half the damn onion-pine nut mixture over the meat.
Add the rest of the meat to the pan, patting and pressing it with wet hands to make a smooth top. If desired, score the top with a knife to make a traditional diamond pattern at least 1/2 inch deep.

Oh, it's desired.

The fundamental problem with this recipe is that there isn't enough meat! Where's the beef?! The layers were way too thin, and I could barely cover the damn onion stuff with the top layer. That's not at all how it is supposed to look. It should be meat, meat, meat as far as the eye can see.

Once I put the kibbe in the oven to bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, my thoughts turned to side dishes and what could possibly be worthy. I didn't have it in me to tackle the labor intensive tabouli recipe, but I wanted a  veggie. The other veggies on our lebanese table are squash and a delicious sort of stewed grean bean dish called lubi... I had no squash, but I had green beans and a can of tomatoes, and lots of damn onions already sliced and partially sauteed.

What could possibly be the harm?

I also started some rice pilaf, and soon the kibbe was ready to come out. The recipe said to bake until the top was golden, then spread with the remaining damn onion-pine nut mixture. I did as I was told, but it looked so weird!

Apparently, I was shaking like a leaf at the weirdness. I scraped most of them off. But still.
But look how lovely this experiment turned out!

And get a load of this, would ya? No, not the mismatched placemats, silly. The feast!

It was a resounding hit. I can hardly wait to make it again, and next time those damn onions can kiss my Lebanese ass.

Here's the original recipe

And here's how I'll do it next time:

Baked Lebanese Kibbe
Time: About 1 hour 20 minutes

1 cup fine-grain bulgur
1 2 pounds lamb shoulder, ground fine ground beef
1/4 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground, or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan
2 1 cup sliced chopped onions, 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Greek-style yogurt, for serving.

1. Rinse the bulgur well, then cover with cold water and soak for 20 minutes. Drain well.

2. Put the drained bulgur, lamb, grated onion, cumin and cayenne in a large mixing bowl. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well with your hands to distribute the seasoning. With a wooden spoon, beat in about 1/2 cup ice water. The mixture should be smooth and soft.

3. Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and fry gently, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Raise the heat and add 1/4 cup of the lamb mixture. Continue frying, allowing the meat to get crumbly and the onions to brown nicely, another 10 minutes or so. Stir in the pine nuts and taste. Let cool to room temperature.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a shallow 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then press half the remaining lamb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Spread half the onion-pine nut mixture over the meat. Add the rest of the meat to the pan, patting and pressing it with wet hands to make a smooth top. If desired, score the top with a sharp paring knife to make a traditional diamond pattern at least 1/2-inch deep.

5. Bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden. Spread with the remaining onion-pine nut mixture. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool, with a dollop of yogurt.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

...and puppy dog tails

It has been a crazy couple of weeks; nothing truly awful has happened, but there have been little annoyances stacking up, one after the other: a family lice outbreak, followed by black-out induced server crashes that fall to me to deal with, followed by dead car batteries, followed by home computer problems, blah, blah, blah. This morning the office lights are all either out completely or flickering like anemic disco balls. Does nothing function properly anymore?

Anyway, I'm sick of the multiple irritations life seems to be throwing my way, so we are going to look at puppies this morning. Yes, I said puppies. And we will smile. And think about all of life's many wonders, like, babies, and Holly Hobby and Amish people and such.

Checking out the brand new ramp to the big wide world fenced yard

Inaugural use of ramp

A bit of confusion about which way to go on ramp

Lunch time

Play time

Aw! Now don't you feel better?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Madame Mantis

The Praying Mantis is Connecticut's state insect, which, you've got to admit, is supercool.

And the other night, one paid us a visit . . .

. . . and landed right on Giant Cacti in our kitchen.

She used the cactus needles as rungs to climb up her new discovery.

One of the most interesting thing about Praying Mantises -- besides them flying into strangers' houses at nights -- is their reproduction habits:

The infamous reproductive process in many praying mantis species is marked by a post-sexual cannibalism of the male by the hungry female, and is an ongoing subject of research and legend.*

That's right. They mate, and then the female bites the male's head right off his fool body.

Who, me?

Yes, me. So watch what you say, suckah.

You'd never know it; she looks so calm and regal in silhouette.

But she's fierce, and she's awesome and she's all woman.

Plus, she makes a fabulous drop-in visitor.

And a spectacular new friend.

Madame Mantie

And one self-respecting State Insect.