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Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife? Heck, No! I Covet My Neighbor’s Vacuum.

It seems I have reached a stage in life in which I really want a vacuum.

And…I guess it makes sense as I have become increasingly domestic in recent years…but I’m not sure I was expecting *this.*

It all started with these little fuzzball characters that I glued to my clock radio…which I got in, like, junior high. There were originally about five of them. And my mischievous cat, in various acts of play, managed to remove all but the one that looks like an elephant that I got at Marine World/Africa U.S.A. — also likely in junior high.

And…I got a new patchwork mailbag purse for my birthday, but this one has a wonky shoulder strap and it recently broke again, but I was out of crazy glue…so I had to buy more crazy glue and then I guess I went a little — ahem — crazy and was lookin’ for stuff to glue and, after reattaching the number 9 to my Last Supper Hologram clock (also a victim of the cat), I saw my poor clock radio with only one lonely fuzzball character and two pair of feet where  his brethren used to stand.

Related: Periodically, I take a ruler and a flashlight and fish out whatever said cat has managed to lose underneath my dresser, couch and armoire. So…I figured if I did this again, I might find some of my missing fuzzball friends to glue back on my clock. And, boy, did I…in addition to a zillion hair ties, countless cat toys, a single pushpin, two pieces of junk mail and a postcard from my friend Jonathan. And dust. And cat hair. But — shame alert — not just, like, a normal amount of dust and cat hair. It was more like dust and cat hair were plotting together under said surfaces to overthrow me. And if I had waited any longer, I might have ended up a cautionary tale under a headline in the New York Post like, “Dust Might,” or “When Sally Met Hairy.” I was horrified…and got rid of as much of it as I could…while also wondering if my friends had been talking behind my back about staging an intervention.

And I admit I have tossed around the idea of getting a vacuum in the past…but I always concluded it was one of those cost-prohibitive things and that I could just sweep until my massive book deal.

But I felt in wake of the terrible discovery of what lies beneath my furniture that the vacuum went from an idea to an imperative. And then I began wondering how and when I became the type of person who really wants a vacuum. I guess age is the answer?

I have a big birthday this year…which is part of my life panic, I guess. So much was supposed to have happened by now…but who knew that it would also usher in a new life stage in which vacuums make me happy?

I found one on Target.com that wasn’t *too* expensive…and for a brief, shining moment, I was really excited as — for whatever reason — I am on some sort of I’m-getting-hitched mailing list and I’ve been getting all sorts of mail about planning my wedding…including — drumroll — an invitation from Target’s Club Wedd to register for ten items in exchange for a $20 gift card. (Although, unfortunately, it expired last weekend, so I totally blew it. Although morally I am batting 1.000, I guess.)

So. No vacuum yet. But, as noted, I still want one. This is the face of maturity?

I remember when I reached the point at which I felt I was too old to have posters — I felt I had graduated to framed art. And so I ended up taking a Van Gogh and a Monet from home that I had in my bedroom in high school. And they worked for awhile. But…I don’t really feel they fit anymore now either…and I feel a little silly with them up. I’ve  been browsing Etsy lately and falling in love with various pieces of art…but it seems like everything I find that makes me think, “I can’t live without that!” is in Europe and therefore prohibitively expensive to ship.

Part of me also really wants one of those Warhol-esque canvases with four prints of the same image in different colors. Part of me thinks it would be completely amazing to hang something like that in a prominent place in my apartment — not unlike Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives — but the rest of me is only brave enough to do something like that if no one ever comes into my apartment ever again. Sort of hard to explain that it’s an inside joke with myself and that the intense narcissism is what makes it funny…although, then again, it’s my damn apartment and I guess I should do whatever I damn well please here.

However…I also sort of feel like Here’s-Me-In-Four-Different-Color-Schemes would only work in the height of Year of Lisa fervor…and — not sure if you’ve noticed — but I’ve tried to tone it down a little. I’m still trying to focus on the book and to hustle to come up with enough freelance assignments to keep me afloat and to be happy…but am maybe slightly less in-your-face about it. And I’m slowly but surely trying to tackle the clutter in my apartment — also a Year of Lisa goal — but I killed my shredder in the act. So. I may have to add “shredder,” to the list, too. But, luckily, a friend is going to Costco soon…so I may be able to kill two birds with one stone. What an efficient and tidy supporter of small artists I am turning out to be?

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If I hadn’t been writing about Frank Bruni, I wouldn’t have known it’s Ann Coulter’s birthday…

So…I got home last night around 8:00ish and all I had consumed was coffee and water on the planes (I had, like, the perfect amount of time to get from Terminal A to Terminal C in Dallas…without a ridiculous amount of waiting time *or* having to run with my cat-in-a-bag…but it *also* meant I didn’t have a chance to procure sustenance). So. All of this is to say that I was pretty hungry by the time I got back to my apartment…but I obviously didn’t have anything on hand. (Except milk that didn’t spoil! Like magic! Coffee was SO GOOD this morning!) So…SeamlessWeb! (And, like silver white winters that melt into springs, it is one of my favorite things…)

And, you know what? I really wanted Thai food, so I ordered Thai food…and the Thai place near me is one that the Bartender liked a lot, but ordering from there didn’t make me sad *at* *all* (See?? Progress!)…*and* I saw this thing with peanut sauce on the menu that I *had* to order because I was reading Frank Bruni’s latest book on the plane(s) — Born Round…in which he discusses what it’s like to be the proverbial fat kid with an endless appetite who grows up to be the restaurant critic at the New York Times…and I’m only up to his stint at the Detroit Free Press, so I certainly don’t know how it ends yet…but he *did* have a torrid relationship with cold noodles and a peanut-y sauce that he discovered during one of two internships at Newsweek…and so when I saw the peanut thing on the menu, I couldn’t not get it.

And…Frank Bruni is fun to bring up because…I had a coworker once who knew a guy who works at the Times…and who was being relocated to a bureau outside of New York and so Frank Bruni threw a going away party for said coworker’s friend at his apartment. And…I was lucky because my coworker said I could come with him…(as if, after meeting me, Bruni would be instantly enchanted and ask me to be his #2. Or something.) So…what a strange moment it was to be in Frank Bruni’s apartment…and marveling at, you know, the framed photos of him with George W. Bush and whatnot…and my coworker and I were in his living room because there were fewer people in there (read: none. I am nothing if not antisocial…)…and Frank came in to talk to us for a little bit and that Lisa Kudrow show — The Comeback — was on in the background and I remember Bruni talking about how he thought it was an underrated show…and then his phone rang and he excused himself…and he came back and said something like, “I have this friend and I’m not sure if she’s going to show up, but I really hope she comes…and if she does, you’ll all know who she is.” And so we said, “Who is it?” and he said, “Oh, I can’t tell you that! But you’ll know as soon as you see her.”

So…fast forward a little bit. Doorbell rings. And who do you suppose it was? Why, none other than Ann Coulter! (Ack! I just Googled her and it turns out that today is her birthday! Weird, right??) And, folks, she was the most freakishly skinny blond woman I have ever seen in my life…

My old coworker *swears* that Ann Coulter proceeded to hit on him…but *my* memory of the exchange is merely that she said, “You look familiar,” or the like. And — who am I to judge? — perhaps in old, skinny, blond, conservative ladyspeak it’s the equivalent of, “What’s your sign?” (And, who am I kidding? If Glenn Beck said something comparable to me, I’d be tweeting all over the place.)

And, I mean, sadly, that’s basically the end of my story: I went to a party at Frank Bruni’s place once and Ann Coulter showed up. And peanut sauce makes me think of him now…which made me think of her. Which turned out to be on her birthday, of all days. That’s it.

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Filed under birthdays, dishes, eggs, entrees, feminism, Palin, parties

Sad(der) Lisa and the Case of the Missing Books

I’ll preface this by saying I know everyone is sick to death of hearing about the Bartender. And I know I need to figure out a way to finally, officially let go and move on with my life. And — other than the fact that his bar is right around the corner from where I live and I have to walk by it/him virtually every day — I don’t know why it’s over two months later and I’m still struggling. I guess part of it is that it was the first time I really thought I was on to something good in a long, long time…and he’s somebody I care about. A lot. It’s hard for me to just turn that off and pretend it never happened.

But…I bring him up again — for what I will (try to) promise will be the last time — for two reasons: (1) It always makes me feel better to write things out; and (2) I have found no one really gives a hoot when I blog about food anyway.

My oldest childhood friend will be here tomorrow…and we have several days to pal around in New York before Costa Rica on Thursday…and I am hopeful I will return from this adventure with a new lease on life. Maybe we can perform some sort of ritualistic exorcism that will make me forget he exists. And/or maybe the guy who cut my hair was right and in another week, my life will change forever — even on the man-front.

Until then, I will write, I guess.

There were MANY things the Bartender and I did not have in common. Politics was one of them. He claimed to be a Republican…but I think he was much more moderate than he let on. Let’s face it — I have pretty strong opinions about woman-y things and I really couldn’t stand to be around somebody who told me I should be seen and not heard and the like. Granted, he had a McCain/Palin poster in his apartment, but I think part of his conservative fervor was also that he wanted to set himself up as a counterpoint to the young, urban, liberal hipster archetype.

The Bartender was also very opinionated and liked to talk a lot. In fact, once he told me on my little red couch that he liked our conversations because we didn’t argue — we had friendly debates that made him think about things in new ways. (But I will have to watch myself when it comes to making comments like that or I’m going to get nostalgic.)

And…one of my J-school professors is really into social justice-y topics and wrote a book called, “Denison, Iowa,” on — you guessed it — a year in the life of this Midwestern town. I’m not Amazon, so this may not be an entirely accurate recollection, but, basically…my memory of it is that Denison‘s claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of Donna Reed and so for many, many years it was this wholesome, traditional Midwestern town with wholesome, traditional Midwestern people and wholesome, traditional Midwestern values…and then a bunch of meatpacking plants popped up and immigrants started moving there for jobs and the social dynamics of the town changed considerably. So…my professor spent a year living there during this period of flux and sort of sat back and watched all these changes and the related drama. He illustrated it all with a number of characters in town like the young Latino guy who wanted to start his own business — and so there was all this intrigue about whether he would qualify for the loan in the end…and there was, like, a retired schoolteacher who had lived in Denison her entire life and who started teaching English classes at night…and there was also, like, the crooked cop who hated everyone who wasn’t white. That’s basically the gist.

And so — because the Bartender and I were allegedly on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I was curious what he’d think about this book. So…I let him borrow it. But…when I gave it to him, I said, “My professor wrote this, so I’d really like it back…” and then, half-jokingly, I added, “So, you know, if anything happens while you’re reading this and you decide you hate me and never want to see me again, will you please just, like, leave it in my mailbox or something? I really want it back.” And, of course, he looked at me with a big frowny face and said, “Nooo! That’s not going to happen! You worry too much!”

But sometimes the worrier is right and — sure enough — something happened and he decided that he hates me and never wants to see me again. But not before I let him borrow yet another book…which I’ve been saying is one of my favorites, but I’m not positive that’s entirely true. I just like it a lot and would like it back, too. And you’d better believe that even in the middle of our hours-long, tear-filled, “I don’t understand why you ‘can’t'”-goodbye, I let him know that I wanted those books back. He promised he’d get them to me. That was August 20.

I sent a reminder or two. Nothing.

Then…there was the whole end-of-birthday debacle in September.

So. I decided I would give him a good month-long cushion of no Lisa and then I would make one final plea for those books.

And — this is how crazy I am — both our final fight and my birthday are even-numbered days, so I thought, “Maybe if I wait until an odd day, I’ll have better luck!” Plus, November 5 is Javier Lopez‘s birthday and I figured I could, like, channel Javy for strength.

But before I actually had a chance to send him anything that day, lo and behold, I was on my way to meet the Greeting Card Emergency guy and I saw a man walking towards me with a Yankees hat and a cigarette and I thought, “Ohmygod, is that the Bartender?” and then he adjusted his backpack and I realized that, yes, it *was* him and so I got out my phone, but I had no new messages and then we passed by each other and had an eight-word conversation — “How are you?” “Fine. You?” “Fine.” “Books?” “Okay.” — and I turned the corner and my legs turned to jelly and I hyperventilated a little.

I got a new phone post-Bartender and his number is not in it. I had all these messages from him on the old one that I couldn’t bear to delete, but…my memory was full and so every time I’d get a new message it would say, “Memory Low! Delete messages now!” and I would say, “I don’t want to delete any messages!” and so my solution was to just get a new phone. No messages from him in there. No reminders of him.

But I still have that old phone. So…I figured there was no harm in retrieving his number and using the “use once” feature to send a message to that 347-number that I cannot save again. It was perfectly friendly — just to acknowledge that we’d seen each other and it was fine and — I know this is beating a dead horse, but — I’d really appreciate getting those books back.

So, later that very same day, I wrote him something along the lines of…”Hey — I hate to be a pain, but my professor wrote one of those books and the other is one of my favorites and it would mean a lot if I could get them back.” And that’s probably all a normal person would write, but I went on to say that besides making me really happy, I would imagine getting rid of the books would be cathartic and then he’d be free of it all and wouldn’t have any reminders of anything unhappy…and I said that I hoped all was well and that I seriously meant it because I never wanted anything but the best for him…and to prove that very point, I told him how happy I was that Pettitte pitched such a good game and that Matsui hit so well and the Yankees won, in part because I knew how happy it must have made him.

No response. No books.

So…I waited for another odd-numbered day (I hope I do not get, like, institutionalized for admitting that) and sent another message: “Please, T, please? Those books? I’m leaving the country on Thursday. Can I have them back before then?” (If I have to go pick them up at his bar, it would be great to have my oldest childhood friend there with me to figuratively hold my hand…)

But, again, nothing. Radio silence.

And, okay, I guess I have a reputation for being a clingy girl and understand that maybe he’s worried that responding will only fuel the fire and it’s easier to just press “delete” and pretend it never happened. But…it seems to me that the nice thing to do would be to say, “Okay,” or “Sure,” or SOMETHING — even leaving the books in my mailbox in the dark of night. After all, he gets off work at 4:00 AM on the weekends…

And I know I threw a lot of crazy his way, but I was also really good to him — I dropped off pie on National Pie Day because he had to work and couldn’t come to my celebration and I made him cheesecake and planned an elaborate dinner (with meat!) when he was hurt and out of work and poor and sick of eating rice and beans…and I sent him postcards from all of my travels this summer and I spent a small fortune on Yankees tickets for his birthday because he turned 30 and I wanted to do something big and because he hadn’t been to the new stadium and I wanted him to see it. And, you know, I did those things because I care about him and wanted to make him happy, not for future leverage in case I didn’t get my books back…and I was really happy to have somebody to care about and to be able to do those things for, you know? But I don’t understand how it could have devolved into this. My worst nightmare is someone saying, “I can’t love you,” and walking out the door and disappearing forever…and that’s exactly what happened.

I’m not holding out hope he’s going to knock on my freakishly small door and say, “I made a huge mistake!” But it seems pretty rotten to me to just ignore me. I could understand if I was texting him with, “I miss you! Please take me back!” or “Screw you, you manwhore! And give me back my goddamn books!”

But I’m not. I’m trying to be civil…and since I was the one who was so horribly hurt in this escapade, I thought being friendly and nice now would be kind of olive-branch-y, you know? Like, saying, “Yes, I know I was a huge mess the last time you saw me, but I’m basically okay now!”

So…last night, I was debating what to do…and then I got a call from an old coworker saying, “Hey! I just had dinner in your neighborhood — are you around?” So…I met him around the corner from my apartment and he said, “Where should we go?” and I said, “Anywhere but here!” and nodded toward the Bartender’s place. So…we walked up the street to another place…and we talked and caught up and drank…and he really likes my stories, so he always laughs and tells me how funny I am (last time he praised my comic timing — how about that??)…and I hadn’t seen him in awhile, so it was really nice. And…I don’t know how many beers later, I was telling him about trying to get my books back and we had already been out for a good, long time, so we were getting ready to leave…and as I was pointing him to the Subway, the neon lights at the Bartender’s bar shone brightly in the distance and I got all nostalgic and my old coworker said, “We should go in and have one last drink there!” and I said, “Oh, I don’t know…bad things happen when I go into that place…” and he said, “Come on — it’ll be good for you. And I’ll talk to him! I’ll help you get your books back!” And whenever I’m willing to go there, I should always remember that it means I am in no shape to be making decisions like that. But I agreed to go.

It wasn’t particularly crowded…so we were able to get two seats at the bar. The Bartender was behind the bar, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. He’s a pretty jealous guy…and, in hindsight, I realized I’ve always gone in there with girlfriends…and so I guess it could have looked like I was on a date or something and that I was rubbing it in his face.

He was wearing a Yankees World Series sweatshirt…so — see? I was right. He *was* really excited. And his stupid boss came out at one point and saw me there and was LOVING the fact that I was there with some guy and that the Bartender wouldn’t acknowledge me.

And, really, I’ve made a complete fool of myself at that place SO MANY times because of him. So they’ve  probably come to expect it of me. And, really, comparatively speaking, this time wasn’t that bad. I didn’t talk to the Bartender. But my old coworker did. And he came back to me and said, “You’ll get your books on Monday. But we should probably go now.”

And then I wanted to know what my old coworker had said and what the Bartender had said…and my old coworker was saying that, you know, he’s no good and I need to move on…blah, blah…and somehow I ended up crying on the sidewalk outside again and blathering on about how I don’t understand how you can just throw somebody away…and that he was always so good with my cat and that even when the little monster bit him, he’d be so patient and kind and call them “love bites,” and I feel like I’m depriving my cat of a father figure now…(see how much sense I was making?)

I’m very stubborn. I need to just accept that I’m never going to understand this and that I’ve already wasted too much energy trying to figure it out. And, I mean, some good came out of the Bartender situation — I was finally able to look at my life and what I actually have control over and realized how important it is to me to finish my book…and I’m so close! I’m almost there! And I know my poor little heart can’t go through something like this again…so next time I have to be really, really careful and — like my friend says — protect it.

I just feel a little more sad than usual today about the whole situation. And it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get these books back. But I don’t understand why things are the way that they are…and how caring about him became this horrible, unforgivable thing…for which I have now been banned from his life.

So…even after that makeover, I’m not sure if I really am New Lisa after all. I am hoping that Costa Rica and my oldest childhood friend will change that. (And, if nothing else, I will try to find solace in knowing that my hair looked damn good last night.)

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Filed under Alaska, baseball, birthdays, books, Brooklyn, cheesecake, feminism, Iowa, Javy, Palin, pie

Lessons From Julia

Sometimes I have ADD with books and I start them, but if they don’t suck me in wholly and completely right away, I get about halfway through and never finish. I have a number of these books lying around my apartment. And…since I am in the midst of “looking for my next job opportunity” and have been going a bit stir-crazy, a friend suggested I do things I wouldn’t normally have time to do. So…I’ve been watching Destinos obsessively (although I am still a bit reluctant to actually practicar espanol con mi amiga mejor porque es de Colombia y tengo miedo que voy a decir cosas tontas)…and reading said books…including — I know, I know… — Marley & Me, which my mother gave me about a million years ago…and which I am sure the literati would ridicule me for reading. But! I thought it was sweet…and a good example of a journo writing what he knows (and getting a handsome payday — if only we could all be so lucky)…and it struck a certain chord…which I’m not sure it would have done a year ago because I still had Fatty.

But…the *other* book — and the whole reason for this entry, mind you — is Julia Child‘s My Life in France. I stopped reading at some point during her initial time in France and never got around to reading the end. (Then I got a kitten who mercilessly attacked the spine of the poor book and now it is very sad-looking, indeed.)

I was struck by a lot of things Julia said (including, “Balls!” Who knew Julia Child said, “Balls!” when she was mad?).

In my initial read-through my favorite part was that she never apologized for anything when she first started cooking — even when the food was bad. She said it wasn’t fair to the people who came over and who had to *eat* the bad food because then not only did they have to choke it down, but they would *also* have to make her feel better about herself…and that really wasn’t fair. (Which…wow! I apologize for everything! So much so that the friend who offered advice about what to do with all my free time told me that I cannot apologize for ANYTHING on Pie Day…and every time I *do* say, “I’m sorry,” I have to buy her a book. [She’s an avid reader.])

My favorite part in the *second* half of My Life in France was when she talked about first taping her TV show. She said that they couldn’t do it live, but she still liked to tape it all in one fell swoop because she always sort of got into a rhythm and, this:

“One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.”

Things *always* go awry with me! So…I find it totally comforting that things went awry with Julia, too. And maybe I can chalk up all my baking crises to a  learning curve…and I’m really en route to becoming something. Maybe?

In anticipation of finishing My Life in France, I got the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking…but now I feel like I *have* to have the second volume (though it’s hard to find!) as well as From Julia Child’s Kitchen. Which is one more reason I need a bloody job. (Balls?)

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The Year of Sweet Potato? And What’s Ground Mace?

I’ve been really into Twitter lately and I’m afraid my blog is suffering — whatever baking news I spy more often than not gets slapped up on Twitter before I have time to flesh it out here.

But! I suppose real-life baking episodes will always have a home here. So…this is the perfect venue to say that I’m still planning to make sweet potato pie this week (even though I am also freelancing for FundFire and Ignites Europe and I am supposed to write some real estate press releases on top of my Martha gig…oy) in honor of both Obama and my friend Matt’s birthday. (He had *said* he wanted pumpkin…but I asked how he felt about sweet potato as I feel like I have to make one now that Obama is President-Elect and he said that would be fine. [By the by, I also still have a lot of damn apples.])

But…sweet potato pie is not something I grew up with…so I went to Epicurious and found this: Sweet Potato Pie. 4 forks! And 98% would make it again. So…sounds good. But…ground mace? I had never heard of that. Thankfully, McCormick has an encyclopedia on its Web site: Mace, Ground.

They’ve opened a lot of grocery stores in my neighborhood lately…so I hope I won’t have any trouble finding it. (But you know what I did have trouble finding in my neighborhood today? Carpeted cat toys. My poor cat is not dealing well with being by himself all day…so I figured it would be good to get him something he can climb on. But they’re so expensive! So…I may have to endure the humiliation of hauling one of those things home on the Subway from a big box store…)

So…I think Thursday will be a sweet potato kind of night as my work for Ignites Europe will be done by then. I will also be able to use those crust leaf cut-outs my mom bought me last year. I haven’t used those since *last* Thanksgiving…and seem to recall there was some sort of trick you had to do to make them look particularly leafy. Hmm…

Coincidentally…I am still not sure what’s on tap for *this* Thanksgiving…or what kind of pie I will make. Maybe this will be the year of sweet potato?

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Filed under birthdays, Brooklyn, pie, pumpkins