Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Got the Edge

His pants were ripped from knee to knee and he was not wearing any underwear. It was the last thing I wanted to see as I tried to move my busted-up legs. The right foot was twisted, flopping around like a piece of cooked pasta and the left foot was shooting pain from the heel. I was on a behind-the-scenes shoot of the series Stargate in Vancouver and my co-producer and I had a free afternoon. We rented a snowmobile which crashed into a tree and tumbled over the edge of a mountain with me on board. Even though I was in pain, a part of me smiled that my friend's "package" was exposed to the freezing cold. As the emergency crew strapped me to the toboggan for the long journey down Whistler mountain, I realized I was stuck in a moment and couldn't get out of it.

Breaking my legs was one of the best things to ever happen to me. My friend Angel arrived at the hospital just in time to keep those socialized medicine nurses from giving me a hip replacement. (They were wheeling me away for a surgery I didn't need!) Back in NYC, it was evident that a wheelchair was not conducive to reaching my fifth floor walk-up but my friend Stephanie set me up in her swanky doorman pre-war with an elevator. My dad and brother flew from Atlanta to provide assistance of getting me into an ambulet for the daily doctor visits. They even bought me a female urinal. (Until I got the "quickie" wheelchair, I couldn't fit through the door frame.) Because I was a constant fixture on the sidewalk in my quickie, catching rays in a bikini and a cast, I was nicknamed the 'Mayor of the 91st street.' Four months post-surgery, Krysia & Liz switched apartments with me so that I could do the Mrs. Wiggins shuffle with my walker around their super-fab garden apartment. One special guy took me on many dates, and on a few occasions, had to carry me over his shoulder to reach to an awkwardly-located NYC restaurant bathroom. Dan became my man. It was all in the name of love.

The accident happened ten years ago and now I am a runner. In the words of Forrest Gump, "For no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town." Running is like life - you keep your head up, put one foot in front of the other, make small goals that build upon each other, you reach a goal. In every city, town, or suburb, "there are clubs you can't belong to, neighborhoods you can't live in, schools you can't get into, but the roads are always open." - Nike. I will follow.

I followed two friends and entered my first 8K on Saturday. There is euphoria around a race and the adrenaline kicks in. The gunshot blasts. People cheer. Deborah waves and claps to all the track marshals. Jackie coaches us to keep going. We see neighbors. Feel the community. All was good until the last half mile. My breakfast was knocking on my uvula. I needed some rockin' music in order to reach my goal - beat the man who juggles while running. Elevation!

Review of Tuesday's concert:
The beltway was jammed with limos inching along for two hours to join 80,000 people at the stadium.

In keeping with the DC vibe, Bono introduced the band as Larry, the man who wrote U2's constitution, Adam, the Minister of Culture, Edge, 'the leader of my free world' and he himself might be Majority Leader...'verbal, elegant but tough when I need to be.'

Being in DC, a few political mover & shakers were in attendance - Nanci Pelosi, Speak of the US House of Representatives and broadcaster George Stephanopoulos, as well as African leaders like Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. Bono dedicated Beautiful Day to Eunice Shirver and New Years Day was dedicated to Teddy Kennedy. 'For a peaceful Ireland we salute you Teddy...'

My favorite moment was when a boy named Andy ran around the stage for City of Blinding Lights. Bono said he called him up because he had a face that looked at the world before it was vain. Least favorite moment was in the long line of the ladies bathroom, with the gal behind me saying she needed to throw up and the lady in front of me hacking like she had swine flu. Stuck in a moment but it was a beautiful day!
The set:
Get on Your Boots
Mysterious Ways
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Your Blue Room
Beautiful Day
New Year's Day
Stuck In A Moment
Unforgettable Fire
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy - Remix
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On
Where The Streets Have No Name
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ash of Cumin and a Teaspoon of Old Spice

Gigi walked into the kitchen and asked me, "Mommy, why are you wearing your kitchen skirt?" She was referring to my apron. A memory flashed of when I tried to work my metaphoric kitchen skirt while pitching a television show at a national cable channel that does a lot of food programming. The series starred Mama Gena cooking up sexy dishes we called Culinary Seductions. They laughed me out of the door after telling me that each morning the corporate offices start their day with prayer. That was before I knew how to cook anything but bake sale items.

Baking has always been my thing because of my amazing grandma Cecil. When we visit her house, our teeth hurt after eating too much eclair pie, pea pickin' cake, and cobbler. Those are the staples, no matter what time of year. Grandma Cecil taught me to make the goods from pie crust to Almond Joy Cake. I needed a little dessert inspiration for a dinner party we are attending this weekend and pulled out a worn, well-loved recipe. The theme is Italian and I chose the Italian Cream Cake card. It may not be authentic but it is one sweet example of grandma's Southern baked goods. Maybe I'll blog about the party next week.

Cooking and baking blogs are everywhere now. Evidently there can't be too many cooks in the kitchen. There was an article in the Washington Post about the modern day phenom of cooking and baking blogs with The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Daring Bakers/Daring Cooks, and The Mixer and others. The article attributes the cooking and baking groups to people wanting to connect to a community of like-minded people. It also mentions the movie "Julie & Julia," which I saw last week on Boovie Night, my book/movie club. It inspired me to do my own cooking vlog (video blog), with the kids helping me prepare maple/cider pork with smashed cauliflower. The video is low-rez but the meal is good enough to serve at a dinner party AND if you have kids, they will eat it because it has syrup. Click on the box after the recipe to see my helpers add an "ash" of cumin and a half teaspoon of "old spice."

Maple & Apple Cider Pork*
1/2 c maple syrup
4 tbsp course mustard
1/4 c apple cider
1/2 onion
1/2 tsp all spice
1 tsp cumin
pork loin cut into 1 inch thick or pork chops

preheat oven 350
Combine maple syrup, mustard, cider, onion, all spice, and cumin in saucepan and cook over medium heat, 7-10 minutes, until sauce thickens. Stir occasionally.

Grill pork on stove top, 2-3 minutes until bottom is brown. Flip and smother saucy sauce on each piece of pork. Grill another 2-3 minutes until bottom is brown. Pour more sauce and transfer pork to a baking sheet. Set aside remaining sauce for drizzling when serving.

Cook in oven for appx. 10 minutes.
*(adapted from Rachel Ray)

Smashed Cauliflower*
Steam head of cauliflower

Smash with :
1 cup chicken or veggie stock
1/4 c plain yogurt
2 cloves of minced garlic
pinch of red pepper flakes

Stir and add salt/pepper
* (adapted from Tyler Florence)

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'm Getting A Facelift

I'm looking a little tired. When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, David Dean came for a hospital visit. He nuzzled up next to me and held his newborn sister in his arms. Then he looked at me, and said, "Mommy, your eyes have cracked." It was the beginning of the beginning - mid life.

Professional advice is needed for my cracks. There are many products to try for wrinkle reduction and my list goes something like this: L'Oreal Collagen Filler, Dermalogica Anti-Aging Serum, Soap & Glory Eye Trick and Treat. There are books and articles everywhere but I thought it opportune to ask the dermatologist, since we were already there for an issue Gigi was having. He told me I have "fine lines." However, they don't look so fine to me and I urged him to tell me about Botox. Evidently, Botox is only for the area above the eyebrows. He gave me a sample of Retin A which will take months before there is any change.

It sure would be great to get an instant improvement, like the beauty product commercials promise. Since it is too soon to go under the knife, I opted for a jackhammer. The lines in my face are manageable, for now, but the crack in our guest room pedestal sink will not go away. I called our friendly neighborhood transformer for a face lift that could occur in a matter of days.

Little did I know that Jodi Longo of Renovation Studios has a gift that is better than surgery; it's borderline supernatural. She is a modern day Wonder Woman with kick ass super hero powers of remodeling, a visible fleet of red trucks, and a tape measure lasso of truth. Not only did she plan our bathroom makeover, she took care of an emergency on the first visit. The day she came to do the "take off", we had an unrelated leak in our basement ceiling. Jodi called Joe (her Alfred of sorts/project manager) to take a look. They threw on their metaphoric capes, and saved the day by rescuing us from a flood.The rejuvenation is in progress and it is minimally evasive. As I write this entry, there is pounding going on above my head. Debris is sliding down the inner makings of our 100+ year old home. The planning and trips to Home Depot, Lowes, and various plumbing stores have been enlightening. Can you believe people still order colored toilet seat covers? If you have one, call Jodi immediately!

I understand the joy that one experiences with a face lift. There is hope for something better, something new and improved. The change is about getting rid of the proverbial frown lines.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Scanning for Wieners

The village of Kensington, Maryland is the greatest place to be on Labor Day Weekend - it's the last hurrah at the neighborhood pool, an amazing parade, and the Pitchfork Block Party. (It has that title because three streets that host the party form the shape of a pitchfork.) The shindig starts on Sunday afternoon with music rocking, children running, and grown-ups grilling. Some adults mingle into the wee hours of the morning which was when my neighbors ravenously opened a package of Oscar Meyers that sent one dog flying into another person's back yard. The recipient is a master gardener and would be perplexed if she pulled up a wienie weed of that sort. Someone had to go on a hunt for the hot dog.

Looking around for a snaaaausage is a daunting task in the dark, but I've also found it overwhelming in the fluorescent lights of the super market. The first time I entered a grocery store after moving from New York City, it took me over two hours to find what we needed. In NYC, I had a service deliver the goods. There were not many products because the only thing I knew how to make was reservations. Ok, bad joke but true. I could scramble eggs. In college, I lived off of stewed tomatoes and macaroni. Ask my college roommate and dear friend Jennie Plentie. Not anymore. We moved here and somehow I magically became a cooker. My kitchen is sizzlin'. Maybe it was because someone had to feed my kids. Maybe it was because I needed a creative outlet.

Ingredients are necessary for my "hot cookin' that's going on tonight, and the temperature is rising just right", as G Love and Special Sauce sings. (The music video is at I know, I could order my groceries to be delivered even in suburbia but I want to experience the food, to touch it and smell it. I love how I FEEL when I walk through Whole Foods. I feel a sense of the primal when I go on a quest to Balducci for miso paste and other obscure ingredients. But lo and behold, there is always the utilitarian markets trips that remain daunting.

Even though it's swell to forage for food, the grocery store process is stuck in the 1950's! It is inefficient. You put products in a cart. Take products out of cart. Cashier picks up each product, scans it. Each product is put in bag. Bags of products go back in cart. Bags are put in trunk. Products are emptied into kitchen. It is enough to make you put on a poofy petticoat and do yourself in. However, the grocery goddesses heard my prayers and someone decided to help me work my skirt in the food aisles.

The grocery store revolution has begun and I may seem hopelessly suburban* but I am loving it. I'm now my own checkout chick. The hand-held scanner at Giant allows me to ring up my products as a I go along. I put them in the bag I want. When it is time to pay, the cashier takes my scanner and POOF, I'm outa there. I've saved four steps in the store! Even putting away the food is much quicker because I've bagged things according to where they go. And, I know this sounds silly, it is satisfying, maybe even borderline fun. Ever play cashier when you were a child? You can re-live the moment. My daughter is living it as a reality. She doesn't even want to watch Dora in the kid grocery carts anymore. She is busy being my helper, zapping UPC codes on Oscar Meyer wieners. Hot diggity dog!

* "hopelessly suburban" was coined by my friend Brooksie Brooks
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ruckus Amok Us

There was some family drama in August but I bet my son won’t include it in his first grade homework assignment - I Had a Ball This Summer. I would write about how we swam across the country. We were filmed in the Bahamas for a Shark Week promo, skimboarded in the Hamptons, swam through a sea of people in NYC, dove into the Delaware shores, and jumped off the “tower of power” into Lake Coeur D’Alene in Idaho. That’s where the hullabaloo happened.

Each year twenty-one family members gather for a week at Dan’s family compound. Three Bragg houses shoulder the lake, located in the northern panhandle of Idaho. The air smells fresh, the hills are hairy with pine trees, and the lake is crystal clear. Those waters get stirred up a bit when we reunite.

Over the years, the family has adjusted to various drama bombs. Cooking for twenty-one people equals chaos. Dan’s mom hires a chef to be on duty the week we invade. (That is what I call a woman workin' her skirt!) Chef Steve does all the shopping and prepares an early dinner for the children, and the adults are served a fabulous meal at 7:30p.

Another issue on the lake-911-list is babysitting. The adults want to have a vacation to water ski, ride the inner tube, hang out on the dock, have drinkies, etc. A hired crew of nannies is on duty in the afternoon through early evening, thanks again to Matriarch Marcia. These gals ensure the little people wear a life vest, prepare lunch, play in the sandbox, organize art projects, assist in multiple trips to the bathroom, and fulfill hundreds of snack requests. It is a camp of sorts. We even had a talent show for Nana/Papa’s anniversary.

This year the brouhaha came out of the blue because it was brought on by something we've never done before - build a shed. It became a typical case of boys vs. girls. The adult “boys” started constructing it in the courtyard of House 1. Several grown up “girls”, including me, expressed that they did not think the storage unit should be located in a place where everyone would see it. The ruckus-amok-us started when the “boys” refused to relocate and continued erecting their unit. An hour later, Auntie weighed in as the voice of reason with Papa's support. The “boys” understood their plight was over and an effort commenced to shed the shed from the courtyard and move it into a more suitable backyard location. Lots of cousins and several aunts and uncles were recruited. As we lifted the little house above our heads on a treacherous hill, I realized I was having a ball on my summer vacation. It’s not where you go or what you do, it is who is standing beside you that counts, especially when it comes to heavy lifting.