18 September 2008

Step One: Don't piss off Mother Nature

You know how sometimes when you were a kid, you may have intentionally backtalked your mom? Just to see if you could get away with it, cause you knew she would never actually do anything to you, because she is your mom and she loves you?

DUDE. Mother Nature? Is so not like that. If you sass her, she will smack you DOWN.

Since early Friday evening, I have been living life without power. If you had suggested to me a week ago that I could make it one night without the cool comforts of air conditioning, I would have laughed in your face and told you that you were crazy. I basically AM global warming, okay? My house is an icebox. But, thanks to Ike and some downed power lines and transformers, I have been living power-free this past week. And honestly? It ain't that bad.

No, seriously. Hear me out. Okay, so, sure, you can't do a lot of the things you're maybe used to, like washing your clothes or blowdrying your hair or eating any food that doesn't come out of a tin or a box. And it's best not to mention how you feel on Monday nights, knowing the rest of the world is watching Gossip Girl and you are watching mosquitos feast on your skin. But living without power is, in some strange way, incredibly freeing.

Dig my daily routine:

1) Wake up from state of semi-slumber, due to the stillness of the air in my bedroom and the fact that the mold is making my allergies go beserk.

2) Shuffle way to bathroom in the dark. Turn on battery operated paper lantern and light candles.

3) Take shower, which would be sort of romantic and softly lit, if it weren't so cold.

4) Dress. Try to match stuff.

5) Feed cats using light from a flashlight beam. Stub toe. (my toes are really hurting, fact.)

7) Comb wet hair.

8) Drive to work.

9) Blow dry hair.

10) Be happy to be at work, because there's air conditioning.

11) Try to consume one meal made with fresh ingredients. Pretty much give this up for a bad job every day, since not much is open, and those restaurants that are open aren't serving full menus.

12) Go home while it's still light out.

13) Sit outside in front yard (under tree that may end up going through my bedroom window) and read. Visit with my neighbors and their puppies, as everyone is hanging around outside.

14) Drink lots of wine. (PRO TIP: Wine does not go bad.)

15) When the sun sets, go to bed.

That's it. No other responsibilities or chores; no working late into the night, no tv or internet or even staying up late to read. No cleaning or laundry or any of the number of chores or hobbies I use to fill up my nights because I always feel vaguely guilty for "not getting things accomplished." If my daily routine were any simpler, I'd be in a coma.

Someone asked me today how I could stand to live without power, and as I was explaining that it wasn't really all that bad, what I was struck by was how quickly I'd slipped into my new lifestyle. It's second nature to debate whether a store or restaurant will be open now. I know I'll have to dedicate a few hours' time in order to get gas or ice. I've got a million ways to jazz up triscits and wheat thins now. I've only been living in this surreal half-life since Friday, but already it seems normal to me. It made me wonder about the resilience of humans as a species and how good most of us are at picking up a new routine, new niche, new life. Maybe that's why, despite sometimes our best efforts, we are thriving as a species. It's our ability to survey the situation, file it away and ask, "okay, what next?"

All that said, as I drove home tonight and saw the lights in the neighbors' windows, I felt my heart sing with joy. Getting power restored just in time for the America's Next Top Model makeover episode?? I am like 99.9% sure that's scientific proof of a higher power.

12 September 2008

this must be how tina turner felt

There are tons of things I don't like about living on the Gulf Coast (the heat, the humidity, the . . . okay, mostly the heat and the humidity), but one thing I love is hurricane season! Yes, yes, I know that hurricanes are destructive and bad and I shouldn't wish that they come our way, but . . . I secretly do. And now, as long as the massively large Hurricane Ike stays on track, Houston will actually get a hurricane! For like the first time in a coon's age! Amazing!

So here, in case you are wondering, are all the great things about hurricanes:

6) Getting the day off work. My work actually closed the building for Friday! That never happens! Of course, it was our Off Friday and not many people were working anyway, and of course I've been working since I got home tonight, but still! Hurricanes are like snow days but with less chance of frostbite.

5) The names. Every storm which reaches Tropical Depression strength becomes a "named storm," which means that NOAA gives it the next name in the alphabetical rotation (or, in the case of the year of Katrina and Rita, runs out of names and starts assigning them Greek letters.). Sometimes, if you get lucky, they name a storm after you! I've lived through seeing two storms named Erin - both talked a big game and then petered out because it was too lazy to continue. Tell me large formations of oceanic low pressure ridges don't know their namesakes!

Also sometimes NOAA goes crazy on the naming for the year and you get things like Tropical Storm Eduoard. I really wish they'd start taking a page from Hollywood's book and then we could have Tropical Depression Apple and Hurricane Kal-El. Actually, it'd be way better if all storms could be comic book references instead.

4) The weather. I don't know if you've heard this about Texas and the rest of the South, but, um, it gets kinda hot during the summer. Like, "break into a sweat walking to your mailbox"-type hot. Hurricanes drop the temps a good ten degrees and bring tons of fun thunderstorms to watch out on your porch, or from the safety of your plywood-covered windows.

3) The comraderie. Remember how, after 9/11, everyone was really nice to each other? For, like, a few hours? Until the threats against the Muslim communities started? Tragedy brings communities together. When confronted with a giant force of nature (or otherwise), you have no choice but to band together and realize that, as humans, we are merely pegs in the giant cribbage board of Fate. I think that's a proper analogy, anyway. I never actually learned to play cribbage. Plus, it's pretty easy to bond with your fellow man when you're stuck in the checkout lane at wal-mart for five hours with the rest of the yahoos in your town, just to fill up on bottled water. Which leads me to:

2) The hysteria. Okay, okay, the pre-hurricane hysteria's not a good thing when you're stuck in evacuation traffic or can't go to Target to get the latest Jemma Kidd makeup collection cause all of Houston is freaking out over how many bottles of water and D-batteries they have personally stored in their garage. Plus, everyone knows that the only good store to hit up during a hurricane is Spec's, due to the number one, GREATEST thing about hurricanes, which is:

1) HURRICANE PARTIES! Look, when you're faced with the certainty that your power will blow and all your food and beer will be ruined unless you consume it quickly, your only option is to band together with your friends and neighbors and glutton yourself on food and booze. My friend Suzanne's husband owns a restaurant near my house, and during the Hurricane-That-Wasn't (Rita), he lost power at the restaurant for three days. What other option did he have but to liberate all the steaks from the restaurant's fridge and have a bbq? You don't want that sort of thing going to waste, after all! There are starving people . . . somewhere else.

So, I say, bring it on, Ike. Or, shift east to Lake Charles at the last minute like the coward you are. Whatevs.

10 September 2008

"barring cupcake-related disasters, the day actually is going quite well."

I know. I know. I don't know how it's happened, people, but I've actually sat down for more than two minutes and decided to write for this blog again. Prepare for trembling earth.

So, it's autumn, obstensibly. The leaves are changing - or at least that's what many movies and New England tourist guide pamphlets lead me to believe - kids are going back to school, and the weather is turning cooler. Actually, the weather here in Texas was nice for like ten minutes this past weekend. But now we've been beset by another heat wave which will apparently push Hurricane Ike down south further to Brownsville. BOO.

Autumn is my favorite time of the year, and it all kicks off on the second week of September, i.e. today, i.e. the offspring's birthday. She turned five this year, guys. FIVE. Was it seriously five years ago today that I was holding a newborn m'elle in one arm and a turkey sandwich with spicy mustard and a coke in the other? (Look, they don't feed you during the whole "giving birth" thing, and it is pretty exhausting business. Once that kid popped out, all I wanted was caffeine and tryptophan and a whole lot of drugs.)

m'elle just started pre-school at her brand new school, so today we had a lunchtime party for her birthday! It was a good chance to meet all of her classmates, most of whom are usually not there when I drop her off or pick her up from school. But before I take you on a visual journey of the sprog's classroom, let's talk about something that's really important.


I kicked it old school this year with the birthday cupcakes and made ice cream cone cupcakes. These were huge in the 80s; in fact, I'm like 90% sure that my own mother made them for my fifth birthday party at school, which is also the day that little Trevor Jones cornered me outside the girls' bathroom and gave me my very first kiss. (Best. Birthday. Evs.) No boys better be kissing my kid outside the bathroom at school, but these cupcakes ARE pretty tasty, so they may inspire acts of love. Forewarned is forearmed, folks.

Magnolia Bakery's Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers. Set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the chocolate, mixing until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Tasty, non? I topped them with Magnolia's vanilla buttercream icing, which proved nice and pearlescent, thus making the cupcakes look a bit like homemade ice cream. See?

Unfortunately, my baking skills do not extend to my transportation skills, and all the cupcakes fell down and were pretty much ruined. But thanks to store-bought icing (ugh), sprinkles and my ability to talk on the phone and type with one hand while refrosting cupcakes with the other, the day was saved! On to the party!

These kids? Are amazing. They sit next to m'elle in class and are total hams. Christian, the little boy, has Derek Zoolander as his personal life coach, I think.

m'elle, on the other hand, is not that amused by their childish antics, since she is now five. She does, however, sport amazing pizza-face that sort of makes her look like her very favorite movie character of 2008, The Joker (apple didn't fall far from the tree, what can I say?):

This is Titi, alongside Christian. His job today was to be the Caboose. That means he goes to the end of the line and makes sure everyone walks quickly. (There are also other jobs; m'elle's job today for instance was to be the Helper, which means she gets to help the teacher pass out worksheets and pencils. Exciting stuff!) I am like 88% in love with Titi and want him to be my bestie:

And here's m'elle's whole little class (plus her awesome teacher, Miss Nicole)! Aren't they adorable in their uniforms?

Oh, and speaking of the entire class, DIG THE NAME BOARD:

Can you spot the most amazing thing you've ever seen? There, at the bottom left? That's right! THERE IS A CHILD NAMED KANYE IN MY KID'S CLASS. I wonder if I can convince him to do an entire concert about aliens and robots who only come alive to the strains of "Gold Digger."

But possibly the coolest thing to happen for m'elle's birthday was the card that mere made. Posh Pants has blogged about it on poshdeluxe.com, so you can check it out there. BACON!! On a birthday card!! (In case you don't know, m'elle loves bacon. In fact, at breakfast, I usually have to take it away from her and tell her she can only have it if she finishes the rest of her meal. Like some parents might say about dessert. That kid should be super-grateful she goes to a Christian school, cause pretty much all other major religions are just not going to work with her lifestyle.)

I know I've gone on (and on) about the kidlet today, which I normally do not do on this blog, but one's fifth birthday is a pretty big day. Never fear, though, I've got six weeks' worth of discussion on politics, tv and dirty indie boys saved up in my head, so it's back to business as usual. Hopefully not six weeks from now.