Sunday, March 29, 2009

Worst Place to Meet Dudes. Ever.

Admittedly, I did not attend Oprah Winfrey Presents The Color Purple - The Musical About Love in order to meet a guy (Note: going forward, this blog will be referred to as Deb Ellis Presents I Love Nachos Too Much - A Blog About Stupid Stuff). But while I was enjoying the splendid music and phenomenal voices in the show, I couldn't help but notice that the men attending the musical fell into one of two camps: 1) Men seemingly dragged against their will by their wives to the show and 2) Men who like other men. With the possible exception of a nursing home, the Ordway Theater on Friday night may have topped the list of worst places to experience the human mating ritual. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Rainbow Runs Through It

The Mississippi River is on fire right now, roiling and foaming as if beneath it the earth is quaking wildly. Gordo and I went for a walk this morning and saw the lock, normally tranquil and patiently waiting for boats that need its help to get through the falls, bubbling and churning from the force of the river pouring into it. The massive strength of the river caused a mist to float above the surface and a rainbow to appear. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Purse

My ladies at the care center probably didn't miss me, but I hadn't seen them in a couple of weeks due to the devastating effects of the world's worst cold that I suffered last week. I didn't think it felt right to spread my germs to an immuno-compromised crowd, so I skipped it last Wednesday, and I missed them. Bernice (whom I affectionately refer to as Beaker) was extra spry tonight and wasn't sitting in her customary wheelchair, even if she was still hooked up to an alarm that goes off if she tries to stand up from her chair. She was completely receptive to my questions about the weather and she even mentioned the weather in Fargo! I can't tell you how surprising it is when my pals refer to anything current. It's like the old gal comes back temporarily, visiting in place of the confused elderly lady I'm used to. I love those moments. Lorraine was feisty tonight, trying to leave the table without her walker, which is a no-no because she could fall and because she really needs to eat. She yelled at the nurse and even though it wasn't loud, because she's not capable of yelling loudly, it was sharp and mean. I visited with the gals at my old table, telling Dorothy how much I liked her denim dress and then listening to her talk to me, but feeling like she was in a different conversation.

I made my way over to my usual table and nestled the puke pink vinyl-covered chair in between Angie and Mary and made small talk. Angie smiled and stroked my long hair like she does every week, complimenting it and making a big deal about how beautiful I am. It's like any other dinner with friends for me, really. I teased Mattie, the Tina Turner look-a-like, that perhaps it was going to be a fish dinner night. I know fish is her least favorite and she always eats everything but the soggy breaded patty. Sure enough, one second later the nurse dropped the covered dish in front of her and revealed a single fetid brick of processed fish alongside some unrecognizable foodstuffs. Mattie and I laughed knowingly with one another as she dug into her starchy vegetables instead. The nurse dropped a tray of food for Inez in front of her, across the table from me, and Inez immediately pushed it away, gesturing wildly something we couldn't comprehend. Inez is deaf and mute and I can honestly say I have never had any idea what she's attempting to express, except that it seems repetitive even though I don't know sign language. She pushed the tray hard across the table and it landed in front of Leola who thought it was her dinner and started to dig in almost before I could stop her. Each resident has their own special diet, so they cannot share meals or someone could choke. Inez was so visibly disturbed that I was concerned she was going to break the window behind her, or hurt herself with her wildly flailing arms that were inadvertently striking herself in the face and neck. Finally a nurse had to take Inez away, promising that she could eat later when she was feeling better. When I left later, Inez was sacked out on a couch at the end of the hall. I don't think anybody knew what she was upset about. 

I tried to lighten the tone in the area and as I offered pureed fish patties alternately to Angie and then to Mary, I teased Rosalie about spilling her rice into her purse. I have no idea why Rosalie felt she had to have her purse sitting open in her lap, but she did. She laughed when I suggested she could have the rice for dessert later in her room. Meanwhile at the next table, a nurse helped Gudrun eat and attempted to speak to her with a few words of Swedish, Gudrun's native tongue. I offered the only Swedish I know, the words for "thank you" and "you're welcome." Rosalie really took notice of my use of another language and made a few comments before excusing herself after I named her president of the clean plate club. That one always gets a laugh, it's my go-to joke! I finished feeding Mary, who was incredibly hungry, and Mattie pondered aloud why Mary always repeats the phrase, "A one and a two and a three." I offered up that perhaps Mary is a big Lawrence Welk fan, because he was known to say the phrase on his television show in the old days. Mattie was fine with that explanation, she's pretty easygoing that way. As we cleared trays and unsnapped clothing protectors, a nurse wheeled in a television and popped in a VHS tape for the folks to watch. It was, coincidentally enough, an old episode of the Lawrence Welk Show, a tribute to the music of Nat "King" Cole. I was mesmerized. Women dressed in long, flowing orange gowns with hair teased up to the ceiling sang about love next to men of varying heights in polyester suits. The program was only thirty-five years old, but it looked one hundred and thirty-five years old. I couldn't walk away. Dorothy was snapping her fingers to the music and Doris was transfixed. I wondered if they were mentally transported to another time and hoped if they were that it was a good one.

I donned my fleece jacket and grabbed my purse and started walking out of the dining room, waving goodbye to all my pals. As I passed Rosalie's room, she called out to me. She sat up on her bed, holding her purse in her lap, the same purse filled with rice from the evening's meal. She looked at me, her eyes pleading, and asked me if I could teach her to speak English. I told her that she was speaking perfect English, that she didn't need English lessons. She looked like she was searching for the words, as if she really wanted to ask me something else but that this was all that would come out. She pointed to her purse and said, "What do you call this?" I told her it's a purse and she said that's what she needs me to teach her. My heart sank as I wondered if she was reaching out for someone to simply replace the words that were leaving her head much more quickly than she had learned them as a child. She continued to sigh with frustration and tell me she just wants me to teach her English. I told her I'd be happy to teach her, that next week when I return she could ask me anything she wanted to and I'd help her. But I'm not even sure what she was asking, and I'm not certain she knew either. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Allow Me To Explain My QVC Problem

Say what you will about dorks who sit home mindlessly watching QVC and ordering silly items they don't need, but I'm one of them. In my defense, I don't spend hours in front of the boob tube, glued to QVC, drooling over the talking heads hawking Diamonique fake jewels or Joan Rivers selling bedazzled bumblebee broaches, I only tune in for the cooking shows. That still doesn't make me cool in anyone's book, but I'm just trying to say I'm not a total QVC goof. I'm just a partial QVC goof.
There is nothing goofy, however, about the pineapple slicer I ordered recently and tried out at work for the first time today. I was tired of paying too much for pre-cut pineapple and I've never particularly enjoyed dissecting the fruit myself. As you can clearly see, this kitchen gadget kicks ass. It pulls out the good, sweet yellow part and leaves the core behind. You may quibble about the fact that it leaves a bit of fruit flesh around the edges, but I would challenge you that you probably cut off more of the spiny peel than you think you do when cutting it up with a knife. Plus, with this pineapple slicer, you end up with an intact pineapple shell to use as a vase for flowers, or perhaps to hold cut-up fruit, or sliced in half lengthwise and heaped full of warm pineapple fried rice. Or perhaps you could fill it straight up with a delicious pina colada and several straws to share amongst friends. I actually don't see myself doing that, but you could. And all for the low, low price of $14 and some odd change. All hail the pineapple slicer! I heart QVC.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Steve Hultmann, bad boy tiger cat, and the original Kliban cat, frequently mistaken for a meatloaf.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Four Things I Know For Sure

I've come to some important decisions this week as I sit hunched over my iMac, editing together my Mexico photos into one cohesive DVD while suffering the effects of a devastating cold (at least according to me):

1. A life without taste buds is not one worth living.
2. Puffs tissues with the scent of Vicks VapoRub are the bomb (thanks, mom!).
3. I would happily drink an entire bottle of Vicks Formula 44 if there wasn't a good chance it could kill me. Vicks Formula 44 sleep is awesome.
4. The possibility that I will ever become a film editor falls somewhere between slim and none. Editing is for the birds. Bite me, editing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Where's Hakeem?

I came home from work early to sleep off this nasty cold I've contracted and couldn't find Hakeem because he's such a petite flower. Oh, there he is. You can see why it was so difficult for me to spot him.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


It's a dangerous thing that I routinely keep baking ingredients in my pantry, ready for any chocolate desire that might come up. Today I finally made a dessert that I've been planning to try for the better part of a year but just never got around to. It's a recipe I read about on the website of Chicago's famed chef of Mexican alta cocina, Rick Bayless. I'd never seen the final product, so it was difficult to picture what I was in for, but I'm glad I made the effort.

I'm a freak about my mise en place, the setup of all my ingredients ahead of time. I've made too many mistakes in the past trying to prepare each step as I go to know it doesn't work for me. So I measure out my vanilla, weigh my flour and sugar, and sift my ingredients before I start mixing. It's so much less stressful and I find it almost meditative, oddly enough. The chocoflan (also called impossible cake) is baked in three layers in a deep round pan and then flipped onto the serving plate after cooling. When the layers are poured in the pan the flan layer goes last but in the end it comes out on top. How, you say? I don't know, ask Alton Brown. That is why it is called impossible cake, I guess. It's impossible to know. 

I poured the goat's milk caramel, purchased at the Mexican market, in the prepared pan first, topped it with the light-as-air chocolate cake batter and lastly gently poured the liquid vanilla flan mixture. Then I baked it in a bain marie (a chicken roasting pan filled partially with hot water, but bain marie sounds so much more chef-y!) and, after cooling, carefully flipped it onto the serving plate. I don't own nice serving platters so it sort of looks like it's being served in a hub cap, but that didn't detract (much) from the final presentation. 

I ordered my guinea pigs--er, my parents--to come over to test it out and it was received with rave reviews. Now, to be fair, they usually rave about all of my cooking and baking. But this time I think they really meant it, because it really was spectacular. Gorgeous, creamy, light, and caramel-y. It didn't sit heavy in our stomachs like so often a dessert can do. I'm pretty sure this one will be making an appearance at the Easter table this year. So if you're part of my family and will be in Willmar this Easter, get ready. The amazing chocoflan is coming!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dogtown at the Peacock

I know, I know, I've been absent. Call me too busy for my own good. Call me creatively blocked. Just don't call me late for happy hour at the Peacock Lounge in Northeast Minneapolis because they have Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale on the menu for a measly $2 a bottle. I thought the only thing that came out of Petaluma, California was the star of Heathers, Reality Bites, and an unfortunately timed security camera at Saks Fifth Avenue, Winona Ryder. But the Lagunitas Brewery has proven me wrong and given the world a refreshing malt beverage worth noticing. This pale ale is warm (but not in the European warm way) and rich (but not in the Oprah rich way) and satisfying (kind of in a George-Clooney-and-me-on-Lake-Como-in-Italy satisfying way) and all for $2 till 7pm on weeknights. At least there's one bright spot in this lousy economy, and it's down at the Peacock. Go and get yourself some.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's That Time of Year

We could all pretend that this day doesn't come every year or so. We could live our lives behind a veil of secrecy and hope and pray that nobody finds out our deepest shame. But I prefer to live my life openly, with honesty and pride, or at least with hot, fluffy biscuits which are not so easily found in this part of the country.

So thank heavens for Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel, you ask? There's one in Minnesota? Why, yes, there is! The one and only in our fine state rests lazily along 35W in Lakeville, just a short chartered jet flight from my home, looking like the discarded set from Steve Martin's movie The Jerk. Hee Haw rocking chairs and oversized checkerboards line the country porch that beckons you like a friendly, warm bowl of grits. Step inside and it's like entering the gates of heaven, if heaven is full of appliqued grandma sweatshirts, rooster cookie jars, Yankee brand sugar cookie candles and battery-operated hamsters running in place on plastic wheels. Ok, that last thing was pretty cool. I mean, they look like real hamsters running on little wheels!

Apparently Minnesota is hungering for Cracker Barrel because we were put on a list and told the wait would be about twenty-five minutes. I don't think it had been that long when we were called, but I was so entranced by the Moon Pies and jars of fried apples and snack size Chik-O-Stix candy that I couldn't be trusted to keep time. My cousin Megan was equally enthralled, as always, with the general store, and happily modeled some of the items that I now know will be on her mental birthday wish list. Shh...don't tell her I know, I want it to be a surprise!

The maitre d', sporting a comely denim ensemble, led us to our table near the front window, where Megan could gaze out at the porch rocking chairs and oversized families and I could admire the wall art, old-fashioned framed pictures of enormous black baby prams and grape Yoo-Hoo soda. As requested, our flustered older waitress brought us a piping hot plate of biscuits with individual single-serving butter containers, just like grandma used to serve 'em when grandma worked in food service. Some biscuits are flaky and layered and I love those, but Cracker Barrel serves them fluffy and salty, and I love those, too. No need to be a biscuit snob, there's something for everybody. To me, what happens after that initial biscuit (or two) is unimportant. At that point the place isn't much different than a Perkins or Denny's, except for the awesome general store, of course. My scrambled eggs and French toast slices were absolutely fine, but let's be honest, we came for the biscuits. Oh, and we each left with a battery-operated hamster running on a plastic wheel. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lime + Coconut = Together Forever

Yesterday I had the good fortune of scoring a nearly full bag of key limes left over from a photo shoot at work and I was determined that they weren't going to go to waste as I never bother to purchase them on my own.

So tonight I came home from work and immediately began zesting the tiny limes and then juicing them. It is amazing the amount of juice you can get from these little gems. I already had the recipe in mind, one I'd been thinking about for a week or so that I'd seen on one of my favorite food blogs, Lime Coconut Cake. And if that weren't good enough, the taste of limes and coconuts, add to that lime rum icing. What could be better? It's practically a trip to the Caribbean without the spendy airfare. The cake was putzy to put together, creating my own self-rising flour and toasting the coconut (which I always overdo), but the result was worth every minute of trouble. This is a spectacular cake, moist and pretty and bursting with flavor that dances across your palate.

Lime and coconut, will you marry me?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Los Flamingos

It's cold outside and I've slept poorly for days and my body is racked with pain from a particularly harsh personal training session yesterday (it was free but that doesn't make it any easier to accept my intense agony). My furnace has just been fixed after several days of not functioning properly. I took this photo at our hotel in Acapulco recently and even though it is not representative of the Mexico I think about most often, it is gorgeous and warms me inside and out.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dust n' Bones

Guns n' Roses made some awesome music back in the day, but still I've never purchased a CD or even a single track of their catalog. The radio and TV always seemed to provide enough of their music to quench my Guns n' Roses thirst. So it is with some surprise that I have found I LOVE a local Guns n' Roses tribute band called Dust n' Bones. Dust n' Bones performed at half time during the Minnesota Rollergirls roller derby bout at Roy Wilkins last night. Our pal, Nickie (a.k.a. Lil Hellion), is a member of the Garda Belts team and her boyfriend, Erick, is the Axl Rose of Dust n' Bones. The bout was exciting and fun from our rinkside seats, and then we watched as Axl changed costumes several times during the performance and listened to Erick's voice, eerily close to the real thing. After the bout we returned to Station 4, the official bar of the Minnesota Rollergirls, for a longer performance by fantastic Dust n' Bones. It feels weird, but I'm a reformed Guns n' Roses fan!