Are You There, Spock? It’s Me, Katie.

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2010 Editor’s Pick on OpenSalon.

When I was fourteen years old I got my first job at a recycling plant for the town of Danbury. I made ten dollars an hour at that time, which, at twenty eight years old with a BA and an MA, is pretty close to what I make now. After the summer gig at the recycling plant I started work at a coffee shop at the age of fifteen. I was underage, but they hired me anyway, and that job really helped shape my high school life. Well, it shaped my extra-curricular high school life anyway. I also worked at clothing stores, and while looking cute was an integral part of my persona, folding clothes was not.

My mother worked for what we’ll refer to as Cashline.com at the time and got me a job doing receptionist work and IT Help Desk stuff. When I worked the Help Desk I would help the technologically inept (“My computer froze. I hit Ctrl-Alt-what?” and “How do I change my background?”) and I would wait on hold when the Help-Desk itself needed help. When I would work the receptionist desk I would…I won’t say I would do my best because that would be lying. I couldn’t slack off too much because my mother would have my head if I gave her reason to be anything but proud of me. I was, however, adequate and did well for a kid. There was this one regular caller in particular who really made up for any slacking off or fooling around. For legal and mental health issues I’ve forgotten his name.

As these days predated Caller ID (or personal cell phones for that matter) I never knew when this individual would be calling. On the evenings that he did get through I imagined he was calling from somewhere along the Pacific border. I don’t know why, I guess because he called each evening, after 4pm, and I just thought his type of call was better suited as a middle-of-the-day activity. So he would call, and I, a now sixteen year old, ego maniacle punk would answer, “Thank you for calling Cashline Executive Offices. How may I direct your call?” And he would respond “I want to speak with William Shatner.”

Me 'n some friends.

I enjoy the Geico commercials, or at least I did when they first premiered years ago during a Super Bowl. It would never occur to me, however, to call Geico and ask to speak with a caveman or British lizard. Be that as it may, in my few short years so far on this earth I have learned that reason and logic elude many. Many.
“William Shatner does not work here, sir,” I’d respond.
“Yes, he does. I’ve seen him in your commercials.”
“I know he does our commercials, sir, but he doesn’t work here. We don’t even film our commercials here.”
“William Shatner DOES work at Cashline and I demand to speak with him!”

At this point the guys voice would be at the level of making a sixteen year old girl cry. A weak sixteen year old. Being the opposite of weak I was merely an ass and, it should be noted, less articulate then this recreated conversation may imply. This call would happen almost every day and after time I knew what he looked like. Well, my teenage imagination did.

I always imagined this particular gentleman older, but not OLD, maybe in his mid-sixties, sitting in a 1970’s a corduroy Lazy Boy that had seen better days, duct tape on the sides and arms, an over used and beaten seat he referred to as his captain’s chair. I imagined he wore the same outfit every day, stuffing far too much flesh into far too little polyester, black pants with a red top, of course, and an embroidered or even hand drawn communicator just above and to the left of a probable by-pass surgery scar. A pale, hairy and slightly pink gut desperately trying to escape the confines of his get-up would be exploding from between pants waistline and repressive shirt. That’s what I thought, anyway.

On and on he would ramble: Cashline did this, his flight was awful, the Captain rescues people – never works WITH the bad guys! Shatner working for Cashline was like him cohorting with Klingons. I didn’t watch the original Star Trek series at this time and this experience may be some of the cause behind that. My favorite part of his calls always came after he started yelling:
“THE CAPTAIN OF THE ENTERPRISE WOULD NOT ALLOW SUCH SCAMMING TO OCCUR. YOUR COMPANY SCAMS PEOPLE AND I INTEND TO ALERT THE CAPTAIN!”

Well, Sir, why don’t you just hit your communicator and ask to meet him in the Halodeck? There you can reveal the evils of Cashline over a Saurian Brandy or a Romulan Ale.

Did I ever actually say that? Nah, I wasn’t that cool. I, in all honesty, would nod as if he could see me and “Mmhmm” like I had been there. I always got him of the phone calmer, but, then, he did always call back.

So why is this important and why does it matter? Because every day as a teen I learned that people are different and you must have patience. Granted once I know you I have no patience for you and you’re finished in my book, BUT every day I would get a little more evidence that either the world is crazy and I am fine or that there is simply no sanity and we’re all screwed. Either way I learned patience every day, in one way or another, and even get  chances to demonstrate such patience, brief as those moments may be, every once in a while. When you’re young you first learn of differences from sight, you visually see that others are different. But this, this, taught me that people may have skeletons – not in their closets, but in their mind – and they seem all “normal” and you think you’re making ground and then – THEY GET YA! And that’s just the way it is, I guess.

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Butternut Squash Bisque

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I love lobster bisque. After attempting to make it at home I decided I hate the cost of the ingredients. And cooking lobster and shrimp shells down into stock makes my home smell like low tide. Recently at a cafe in Austin I had out-of-this-world Tomato Bisque. It was truly great, much better than I ever thought it would be. If I hadn’t been eating lunch with the CEO of my company I would have totally stuck my head in that bowl and licked it clean. The thing about tomato bisque, however, is that it’s too similar to the tomato based sauces I make and it’s not Autumnish enough for me. I live in the capital of Texas, a place that – thanks to global warming – is now completely void of all seasons. There’s Lesser Summer during November through March, and then Seventh Circle of Hell Summer April through October. Take today for example. It’s November 13th and it’s 87 degrees out. Awesome. Yes, I mean that sarcastically. The leaves that have turned color have only done so because we’re experiencing a multi-year long drought and all plant matter turns brown and shrivels when it dies. There’s no romance about it.

In an attempt to relive the New England fall weather of my wasted youth, I try to make Autumn occur in other ways. I burn Apple Cinnamon candles, I hang my dust covered fall coats in easy to reach areas, I obsess over brown leather boots. And I begin a half-assed love affair with the butternut squash.

Butternut squash is….meh. It’s okay. It’s no fennel. But, you know, it tries and it’s very Fallesque. So, I decided to make Butternut Bisque.

All the recipes I read were all very sweet or too plain: Butternut Squash & Brown Sugar Bisque, Butternut Squash & Cinnamon Bisque, Mother’s Basic Butternut Bisque. I wanted something that emulated the Tomato Bisque flavor, but used Butternut squash as it’s base. So I started with bacon.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I started by roasting the squash and then half way through adding carrots to roast with said squash. One decent sized squash peeled & cubed, which made about 4 cups, and, roughly, 1 cup carrots.

Please excuse my half eaten lunch in the back round of the above picture. Austin, like most major US cities, has quite the “China Town” area and we found a little Vietnamese place that does AMAZING pork buns. So good.

I roasted the squash for 45 minutes at 500. After 25 minutes, I added the carrots. Once the 45 minutes of roasting was up, my house smelled fantastic – like Mega Fall – and my squash/carrot mixture looked like this:

I suppose I could have roasted the squash and carrots while prepping the other parts of the recipe, but I finally found the minikit detector in my Lego Star Wars video game and was just flying through levels. Once the squarrots were out of the oven, it was time to get down to business.

What makes everything better? Bacon. What makes everything even better-er? Cooking everything in bacon fat. I took 2 strips of center cut bacon, threw them in the bottom of a heavy pot and rendered the shit out of them. It looked like this:

Once I felt enough fat had cooked out of the bacon, I removed what was left of the strips. I then added 2 large, finely chopped cloves of garlic, 1 stalk of roughly chopped celery (something I’d leave out in the future, truth be told), and half of a white onion, chopped. I cooked those over medium heat until they were tender. It took about 8 minutes, so I had a cup of tea. It looked like this:

That’s my favorite mug. It was free and had some website name on it. I scraped all the letters off accept for the “O”, which I edited into a “C”, for the first letter of my married name. It’s great.

Anyway, once the other veg was tender, I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of flour over everything to help absorb all those fabulous flavors and to act like a thickening agent, stirring continuously for about three minutes. I then added only 3 cups of chicken stock. What I should have done was mixed in 2 cups chicken stock and 2 to 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, but hindsight’s 20/20. I added the squash and carrots and let everything just hangout to reach a boil. Upon hearing the boil, I sprinted down the hall from my bedroom video game fest back to the kitchen, and I added 1 bay leaf and about 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. I turned the heat down to a simmer, and left the bisque there to think about what it had done. About 30 minutes.

Once the half hour of sensational simmering had passed, I removed the pot from the heat to let it cool.

It’s not glamorous, I know. Like in war, these are simply what the realities of making a bisque look like, and it’s not pretty. Once the bisque cooled I blended the ever loving crap out of it with an immersion hand blender. I love that thing. Of course, it splattered most of my kitchen orange, but it worked like a charm. I probably could have kept things cleaner if I wasn’t also watching Troll Hunter on Netflix, a fantastic import from Norway that I highly recommend. Super entertaining. Yes, there’s subtitles; I don’t want to say what I think about people who won’t watch a movie just because there are subtitles. Troll Hunter is great. Watch it.

Once the bisque was at a smooth, bisque-like consistency, I added about 2/3 cup of heavy cream. Sure, this is optional, but when I say “optional” in reference to heavy cream, I don’t really mean it. I also like to swirl in a little more cream, or even just regular milk on top when I sit down to a bowl ‘o’ bisque, so I didn’t go throwing a full pint of heavy cream in all at once, like I had read on many recipes. I then garnished with a sprig of parsley and a piece of the uber cooked bacon.

It was good, it really was. You can tell from the picture it was a bit on the thick side, and when I reheat the rest I may throw in that extra cup or so of veggie stock I’d mentioned, but other than that my husband loved it and I…liked it…You know what? I’m just not a huge fan of butternut squash. Probably because it’s not a lobster.

New Post to Pages!

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Posts, posts every where and not a drop to drink!

Fashion has new posts! See me – the living, breathing, fashion faux pas – here.

My personal favorite, the Pop Bytes page, has been updated with all the lastest Hobbit, Doctor Who, Pop Culture, and weird news!

Good Eats is slowly filling with Recipes and Food stories…some of which are not so savory.

Find the Bad Kitty has been updated! Use your hawk eyes to find my jerk cats hanging out where they’re not allowed.

And, finally, stories I wrote prior to having a WordPress account are being uploaded to Story Time. Please check back regularly for the goods, the bad, and the fugly (that’s my term for funnily+ugly. Why? What did you think “fugly” stood for?)

Fat Monkeys Have All the Luck

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Like all people who have “tried every diet” and suffer being “fat from birth”, any miracle drug completely excites me. Part of that is because science amazes me. Much of the pills we take come with both positive and (many) negative effects, many simply cannot be good for the human body, but we take them anyway in a desperate attempt to achieve whatever it is we’re seeking. After all, even placebos are often more than 10% affective. When one views medical science’s studies, failures, and new policies of the past 100 years – hell, even in the past 50 years – they surpass the previous 1000 years by leaps and bounds. And there’s something very mad-scientist about everything. I like to believe that it’s all for the betterment of mankind, but medicine, like American Universities, are now merely businesses with the prize being cash and not an advanced human population. We’re a people of instant gratification so we jump at cures, damn the long term affects.

I am no different, and I might carry a little shame, but not enough to stop me from getting in line for the following drug, if it one day winds up on the market. The good people at the Medical School at the University of Texas at Houston have developed an injection that kills blood vessels that feed fatty deposits. This means the blood vessels shrivel away, the fat is starved and then reabsorbed into the body, at which time the lucky recipient urinates or sweats out the excess just like regular weight loss. While all animal testing has its ethical issues, it is good news in the medical world that this drug is proving so effective on monkeys, as frequently drugs that may test well in the first stages (on rats) may not work well during the next point of testing, on our cousin primates. The drug may also help with insulin resistance.

I assume UT Houston purchased the primates from lab supply centers, and then fattened them up with a healthy diet of American junk food and Lifetime Television. I imagine they might have even turned binge eating in front of the BoobTube into a sort of drinking game with food instead of booze: Every time there’s an episode of Golden Girls on, the monkeys get cheesecake. A made-for-television movie featuring Jennifer Love Hewett would warrant a pizza and a pint of cookie dough ice cream. Designing Women means fried chicken and bourbon. Paradise… But I digress.

Once their test subjects had the “fatty deposits” necessary, testing began, and thus far has been excitingly successful. The average monkey on the injection lost 11% of their body weight in a month, an amount most humans struggle to lose and keep off within a year’s time. The placebo monkeys only lost a maximum 1% and their thighs now make a shwishing sounds whenever they wear track pants.

Much to the chagrin of curvacious ladies everywhere, the next stage of testing will be on humans, but only on men with prostate cancer. It is not clear why this would be and the NPR article offers no explanation. It has occurred to me, however, that this might be so that in the event of complications, i.e. death, the scientists would have the option to say “Oh, the cancer killed them. P.S. the drug is now for sale through Phizer.”