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Sit. Stay. Gooood, Adult.

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When I was a child, I believed being an adult meant that I would have a career, I could buy candy when ever I wanted, and I would be awesome. I had a picture in my head of having a lovely home, only seen in glances, as I always pictured myself running out the door to work, but looking pretty professionally cool as I did so. That’s how I viewed my parents as a kid: loving, but always on their way to work. And they did it because they wanted to give my brother and I as good a life as they could; I just didn’t realize how hard it was for them. In my mind, you grew up, you had a job you liked, you then earned enough money from working so much that you had a nice home, and I would be physically fit because I had been forced to be on a diet since as far back as I can remember.

But that’s not what this whole “Adult” thing is about. I have to make decisions and live with those decisions, which is suddenly a very heavy thing to do. The odds of the average person being in a career that they love is slim to non-existent. Buying a house is filled with as many smiles as heartbreak. And you can’t eat candy all the time, because you hit twenty-four years of age and your body goes to shit – even more so than it was before. So, as an adult, I spend most of my time figuring out how to become an educational coordinator from the professional choices I’ve made, fixing my house or throwing money at past repairs we’ve made, working out, paying bills, and cuddling my loved ones when I get a second here or there. This all accumulates to cause me to over think my life. Daily.

I have a real draw toward beauty in natural surroundings. I can be alone for months if I look out and see beauty that makes my heart swell. But I’m adult now. So, I can’t just pick up and leave to admire another part of the country, getting a job where ever I land, because I need to be on a career path. And I’m an adult now, so suddenly where I choose to live means that the schools have to be decent, because I want to have a child one day, and I want that child to have a fighting chance. And I’m an adult now, which means I’m fortunate enough to share my life with another adult who supports me. And in turn, I support him, which means that out of respect for him, I have to be sure he is onboard for my insanity. And all of this comes down to accepting that I can’t leave Austin.

I struggle with living in Austin. Sure, it’s cool. And from certain parts of town, it’s even pretty. Find a list of Best Places to Live and somewhere amongst Portland, Seattle, and AnyWhere, North Carolina will be my little city upon the river they call a lake. Be young here, start a company here, retire here (try telling that to my folks). But, in a way, it’s also like living on an island in a sea of crazy. If you can focus on just your island, let yourself go, you’ll have fun, it’s chill, just flow with it. But remember that scene in Labyrinth, when Sarah is being wooed at the dance? Then Agnes is in her bedroom, giving her toys, and lipstick. But slowly Sarah comes to, remembers what’s important, and it’s just not fun any more, and she has to claw her way out. It’s a scene that makes me nauseous every time I see it. But, then, I’ve never been very good at the whole “relax” thing.

When I lived in Arizona, I was awed by the beauty outside my door every day, and when I wanted a change of scenery I drove an hour up north to Flagstaff, or an hour south to Phoenix. The politics and the schools there weren’t great there either, so I have to learn to let that go. But I loved the earth there. I loved the smell, the wind, the change in temperate zones, like it’s an area where the world is smiling. So why not just move there? Well, because I’m adult now and right when you have all the freedom in the world is right about when making changes seems impossible.

I moved here and got a job. Then I bought a home. Then I made a couple of friends. Then I made a few more. And these aren’t just “buddies”. These are people that I’m still surprised to have only known for a few years, because I could’ve sworn they were family. We support each other emotionally. We share and learn and play together. Sometimes we have Sunday dinner together the way we did as children with our blood relations. We give honest advice to each other, spend holidays within the warmth of each others’  homes, and, as many of us are far from our families, we have created the support of a clan within each other. It’s not a replacement, but it’s very tangible, and not something I ever expected at this time in my life. There are a number of things we still have to figure out in our lives, the two biggest ones being should we have a child (where? When?! HOW?!) and what the fuck are we doing with our lives? But one thing is for certain, it doesn’t look like we can leave Austin.

So, in that vein, I’m going to start really chronicling our Austin escapades, I’m going to remind myself as often as possible why exactly I live here, and learn, as best I can, to chill the fuck out and live in the present rather than the unforeseen future. If any of you have figured out how to do this please don’t hesitate to tell me how. I will continue with recipes and I will pick back up the pace on the Pop Bytes. I’ll nerd out more often on here. And we’ll make the best of what we’ve got.

Because that’s all you can do as an adult and these are the decisions we can live with.

KateKate the Dog Faced Girl

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I don’t know what it’s like be my mother. I both fear her wrath and recognize her as simply being a human being. She has made it quite far, has lived quite a successful life, and, with the help of my father, made a wonderful life for her two children.

Now, I say two children.

The fact of the matter is that my father has frequently behaved as a third child. Yes, men mature slower than girls do, but if that’s the truth in my father’s case than he matures 1 year for everyone else’s dozen. And I mean this in a good way. If I was doing well in school and wanted him to play hooky from work so we could go to the Museum of Natural History  or the Bronx Zoo, he would indulge me whenever he could. I knew early on where each and every scene of Ghost Busters 1 AND 2 where filmed because my father took me there. And I had a grasp of Renaissance art including both Italian and German artists by the time I was twelve because my father taught me their works and brought me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a regular basis.

Venus and Cupid, 1520 [MetropolitanMuseumOfArt]

I didn’t grow up in New York City, but I wasn’t too far outside of it. I knew train etiquette and was trusted to handle trips on my own from a fairly young age. I knew that the entrance to a museum was a suggested donation,  but that if I could afford more than that request I should pay more, so that if I was too poor to pay once in while that was okay, too. And this is all because my dad was and is a good dad, mostly because no matter how old he gets he still always wants to have fun. And that flair of childishness has gotten him in trouble on more than one occasion.

When I was a pre-teen and teen, too young to drive, but too cool for just about everything else, sleepovers were my life. I’d hang at Anna’s house, we’d stay at Joanna’s house, and sometimes Laura, Erica, and I would lock ourselves in my room for days.

My parents would pound on the door, “What ARE you doing in there?!” 

“NOTHING!” We’d all scream before dissolving in giggles.

Looking back on it I see that “nothing” was the truth. We did literally nothing. When one is a teenage girl, you can spend solid weeks on end “doing stuff”, thinking everything that revolves around you – and it all revolves around you – is suuuuuuuper important. And, really you’re not doing anything at all. Obsessing. Talking about boys. Talking about girls. Talking about the girls who liked the boys that we liked and how those girls were stupid trash because they had the audacity to live. All the things we wanted that our parents were too stupid and bitchy to buy us, because obviously that’s the only reason we didn’t have everything; parents have all the money in the world and they just didn’t buy us stuff because they didn’t respect us as the super mature, blossoming adults we were. Duh. And we’d talk about that crap for hours.

Photo credit ThisNext.com

Ugh. I can’t even think about this right now. It just makes me want my life back. I’m not going to chance having a female offspring now, either. I’m just going to adopt a boy out of safety.

Anyway, one day I was heading over to stay at Anna’s place. Anna was perpetually grounded and every time she was grounded she was allowed to go out, allowed to have friends over, but NOT allowed to use the phone. Really emotionally messed up, right? And, remember: This is before both computers and cell phones. Neither texting nor those free 100 hour discs of AOL featuring their messenger had even been invented yet, though they weren’t far off. Anna’s mom was very kind next to Anna’s constantly punishing father, and she would call my Ma and ask if I would like to come over or meet Anna at the mall, etc. So this was one of the many times I was hanging with Grounded Anna.

And my father was dealing with losing his little girl. Hangin’ with him was no longer the coolest thing in the world. The year prior I had asked for my own phone line for a birthday gift, and having my own answering machine made me pretty hot shit. To make matters worse, a couple years prior, I had come home from working at a stable (I did this from the time I was ten to earn equestrian lessons) to declare that womanhood was upon me. And my mother had to take me right back out to the pharmacy (Target and WalMart hadn’t been invented yet, either) for “womanhood accouterments”. Playtex would be proud.

In an effort to keep me, his PDSL, under his wing, Dad would terrorize me as frequently as possible. And by “terrorize” I mean he was merely being playful; this was at a time when my parents took me and my brother’s ever constant shouts of “GOD! Why are you guys SO annoying?!” as “I love you, too.”

This is a photo titled “Parents Just Don’t Understand” from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

As I was heading over to Anna’s that meant that my parents would also try to go grocery shopping. We lived on the edge of town and Anna lived in the center, so why make extra unnecessary trips? Being a teenager meant that each happening that had no relation to my own personal wishes was a total inconvenience to me, especially having my space invaded by uncool people – or worse: my parents. My mother drove and, out of shear teasing, my father chose to sit in the backseat with me. It was double annoying – first the grocery store, now this?! Ohmygod, lame!

“Go away, Dad.”

“No.”

“Ugh, you’re so lame.”

Do not call your father lame!”

“Yeah, your mother will turn this car around and slap your nose into next Tuesday.”

I started to snicker.

Damnit, Christopher, do not mock me in front of the kids.

“You’re in troooooooouble!” I said mockingly to my father. Being “In Trouble” was, of course, the absolute worst fate that could befall a person at this point in my life.

To which he retorted by reaching over and flicking my nose.

I slapped his arm. And he flicked again.

“MOM!” I shouted.

CHRISTOPHER!”

Flick.

Photo credit unknown

This cycle continued for quite a while. It took just under thirty minutes to get to Anna’s home and by the time we arrived both my father and I were red in the face from laughing, I was horse from squawking for Mom, and Mom was pissed that she had ever thought it was a good idea to get married or knocked up.

Once in the cozy darkness of my friend’s basement living room, Anna and I proceeded to forget we had parents all together. We locked the door, put on The Dark Crystal, and sat on the step in front of the fireplace and “smoked” her parents’ cigarettes. I put the word smoked in parenthesis because I’m not too convinced we were very competent inhalers. It was all pretty pathetic. And we puffed away in front of the fireplace so the smoke would go out the chimney and her parents would be none the wiser. Which they weren’t.

An hour or so into our super adult, not-smoking yet smoking, ultra mature time, Anna began to stare at me.

“Kate. You have dirt on your nose.”

Naturally, we thought it was soot from smoking out of the fireplace and I promptly trotted to the bathroom to wash my face. A few friends decided to pop by, as was regularly the case since one couldn’t simply call Anna, and we all settled down in the dark to watch a movie.

Photo credit NYBBIS

Jen the Gelfling was just about to interpret the prophecy from the wall etchings that he found outside of Kira’s village when Tom detached his face from Anna’s mouth and turned to me.

“Kate. You have dirt on your nose.” I slid off the couch, thumped into the bathroom, and washed my face. Again.

At 11pm Anna’s folks shouted downstairs that anyone who wasn’t myself or Anna had to bugger off their premises for the night, because they were so uncool about everything. Jeez. Remaining in the afterglow of movie darkness and an evening teenage rebellion, Anna and I had another cigarette, hunched in the fireplace, before heading off to bed.

“Damn, Kate! You. Are. A. Mess! You still have dirt on your nose!” She said between giggles.

I brushed my teeth and washed my fave oblivious to the fact that with each wash not a speck of the dirt was coming off. In fact, if anything, the dirt was getting dirtier. But it all became very clear to me what had happened once I woke up.

“Kate!” yelled Anna’s mother through the closed bedroom door.

“Yes,” I snorted, jolting awake.

“Your parents are coming to get you. They need to take your brother to the DMV near here.”

“Okay, thanks, Mrs. Millhouse.” I answered, face down still in my pillow. Not one for pajamas I slept in my jeans, generally on the floors of my friends’ rooms. All I ever did was change my tee shirt. Anna remained asleep. I stumbled sleepily to the bathroom and flicked on the lights.

Big bright lights. Florescent suckers, unapologeticly highlighting every flaw and blemish of the human face.

And any noses that had turned deep purple with bruising.

I almost jumped at the site of myself. With an almost painted precision, my little nose, the adorable one I had inherited from my mother, was almost black from bruising. As I stared I slowly began to smile, realizing the flicks of my playful father were the cause.

And he was gonna be in SO MUCH TROUBLE!

“KATE!” Anna’s mom shouted over the beeping of a car horn. “Your folks are here!”

“ThanksMissusMillhouse!” I rushed as I grabbed my coat from Anna’s room and bolted out the front door, turning to the side so her mom wouldn’t see my nose.  I thought it was funny, yes, but I was still self-conscience about it.

I ran out to the car on hopped into the back seat next to my brother who immediately began to grin maliciously.

“You look like a dog! Hey, Ma, Kate looks like a dog!”

Mathew, DO NOT CALL YOUR SISTER A D-“

“Oh, shit.”

My father’s swear, so seldom heard, silenced the car. My mother wrenched at the rear-view mirror to get a good look at me. I smiled politely as she did so, for it was not I who would be in trouble.

That was the last moment we had silence in the car that day.

And, though it took only about a week for my nose bruising to dissipate, my dad was grounded for quite a while.

Thanksgiving Nov. 24, 2011

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I don’t do hectic holidays. I only spend time with people I like, which is a very, very limited list, and I don’t put on pants unless I absolutely have to. So when it comes to Thanksgiving, I have two goals: eat a ton of junk and have a freakin’ good time. I want to be as relaxed as Sammie. Nothing gets to him. He sleeps, eats, and ruins all my nicest crap. He is one cool customer.

For the last 10-12 years I’ve been doing Thanksgiving on my own. I don’t do turkey. It’s dry. It makes you sleepy. And if you cook the stuffing on the inside of the bird, one could contest that the bready delight is, in fact, a health hazard. I make prime rib. It’s awesome and delicious. And you get to make Yorkshire Pudding instead of stuffing, which is a million times better. Don’t know what Yorkshire Pudding is? You take the drippings, the liquified fatty fat fat-fat, from a prime rib and you heat it to 500 bagillion degrees. Then you pour a mixture of flours, eggs, and milk in the searing hot heart stopping grease and it sizzles up to make a thinish, soft bread. It’s awesome. And is absolutely awful for you. I normally eat the left overs for breakfast the next morning. Totally cold. Ahhh, yeah.

I invite any of my friends and all of my family to join. Normally, my parents have to host on Thanksgiving for other parts of my family so they’re always out. It also doesn’t help that I live 1800 miles from them (not an exaggeration). This year we had our friends Tim, Angie, Nick & Tania, over along with N&T’s two kids, Nicco (5 months old and slept the entire time, except for the 5 minutes that Chip made her cry) and Dexter (a super awesome, laid back, and independent 2 year old). How many toddlers do you know that can both recite the alphabet and ask for prosciutto? He’s awesome.

And the food was a breeze. On top of the prime rib, Chip made ice cream to go with Tania’s amazing salted caramel almond brittle tart, which I would have taken a picture of, but we inhaled it at the speed of light, and I made my family’s greens recipe for a side.

First the good stuff. We made 2 batches of ice cream: Madagascar Vanilla bean and Coffee Vanilla bean. Two batches are roughly equal to two quarts and take EIGHT egg yolks per batch, for a total of SIXTEEN egg yolks. 1 cup each of brown and white sugar gets whipped with 8 egg yolks. You just cream them together until you think your arm is going to fall off. In a sauce pan over medium heat mix 3 cups of half & half, 1 cup of heavy cream, and the inside of a vanilla bean to 170 – 175 degrees, stirring constantly. It’s best to do this with two people. My attention span is nil and this is quite the process.

Then you temper the egg and sugar mixture into the warm milk. Slowly – SLOWLY – add a little milk to the eggs and stir. Little more milk, little more stirring. Once the eggs are warmed enough so that they won’t cook if added to the milk mixture, completely combine the two. Again, over medium heat and stirring constantly, bring the egg-sugar-milk mixture to 170 – 175 degrees. Then remove it from heat and strain through a sieve into tupperware. This makes for velvety smooth ice cream. Once the strained mixture has cooled, place it in the fridge to be thrown into an ice cream machine on another day. For our coffee flavor, we mixed a couple of tablespoons of decaf instant espresso into about 3 tablespoons of hot water, which we then added to the milk mixture. Yes, we could have just added the instant espresso to the hot milk mixture, but we wanted a little bit more control over it and wanted to make sure the crystals dissolved completely. So, that’s pretty much it. Toss the custard mixture into an ice cream maker (we have a Cuisinart), let it go for 20 minutes, and then throw it into the freezer. On Thanksgiving we had fresh home made ice cream and french toast for breakfast. Perfect.

Not for nothing, but the above picture is Chip. I am an Italian American lady, so I am certainly not without hair – the darkest, thickest fur you’ll ever see on a being that is neither man nor Sasquatch – but that hairy hand there is Chip’s.

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Sure, we roasted potatoes and had the Yorkshire Pudding, but the side that took actual work was Greens. My whole life I’ve only ever called this dish “Greens”. “You want some greens?” “What’s for dinner? Pasta and greens?” “I have the world’s worst gas – it must be from the greens!” Greens are easy, delicious, and make great leftovers. You take one or two clean bunches of swiss chard and a bunch of escarole and roughly chop them. I couldn’t find escarole any where so I finally settled for a bunch of endive leaves, which the checkout lady ironically rang up as escarole.

Toss the chopped leaves into a big stock pot that has been filled with 3 inches of water, one potato that’s been cubed, and 2 tablespoons of salt. Add a can of Cannellini beans to the top and cover.

Boil away for 10 minutes, then add a bag of spinach; I used a bag of baby leaf spinach you can find with the rest of the salad mixes in your grocery store.Continue boiling for another 5 minutes. Then chuck every thing into a strainer and sprinkle with salt. Put the stock pot back over medium to medium high heat and add 1/2 cup olive oil, 3-4 cloves of garlic roughly chopped, and red pepper flakes to your heat tolerance. Saute for 3-5 minutes. You’re infusing the oil, but you don’t want to brown the garlic.

After a few minutes add the greens, beans, and potatoes back to the stock pot and stir. Continue cooking for an additional 3-5 minutes and then remove from heat. The greens should be fairly moist. Feel free to add olive oil as needed if you feel they’re too dry. Add 1/4-1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese and stir. Finally, add 1/4-1/2 cup of bread crumbs, stir, and call it a day. You’re done. Those greens are good right now; they’ll be even better tomorrow. You want serious awesomeness? Take some chiabatta, a chicken cutlet and provolone. Make a sandwich and before you put the top piece of bread on, add a scoop of greens. Crazy good.

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Friday, November 25th

I got up, got out, and got all my Christmas shopping done. I even got my father is birthday gift. He was born on Christmas day and his name is Chris. Reeeeeal original there, Grandma. When I say that I got up, got out, and shopped what I mean is this: I went to the gym at 9am, went home, and went to Amazon.com. Speaking of which, their site was SO NOT PREPARED for their own Black Friday deals. It was crashing for hours. I was shocked. So, in that sense, my shopping spree was a little annoying. Not so annoying that I had to put on pants, look at people, or mace anyone, but slightly annoying. On Thanksgiving day, I had had ice cream for breakfast, prosciutto and melon for lunch, and was so tired of cooking that by the time the roast came out of the oven, I couldn’t even stomach it. I pretty much just munched away on steamed broccolini in fresh lemon juice. Even still, I managed to eat enough that on Friday I didn’t really want to eat anything. I had a lot of coffee, put Christmas lights up on my house for the first time ever, went to play with dogs at the new Austin Animal Shelter, and enjoyed a quiet house. To commemorate a calm evening in a clean house after a successful holiday, Chip and I decided to let loose, get loaded, and watch a ton of BBC& TNG over homemade pizza.

The man child rarely strays from his old standby of pepperoni. I, however, like to change it up. I like experimenting with sweet sauteed onions, sharp cheeses, and smokey chicken or bacon. Sometimes I bake a crust with just olive oil, parm, and garlic. Then I top it with salad lightly tossed in honey and lemon juice and add slices of pear and crumbled blue cheese. I like little to no sauce on my pizza, good cheeses, and different levels of flavors.

Man. It sounds like I eat super pretentious pizza, huh? Well, what are ya gonna do?

If you’re interested in making pizza at home here’s the best tip you will ever get: Buy dough from your favorite pizza place. Seriously. I haven’t walked into a place yet that wouldn’t sell me their dough without question for $3 or $5. In Austin I’ve purchased it from Mellow Mushroom, Central Market, and Home Slice, but really, if you want awesome pizza in the capital of Texas just eat in at Home Slice or Red House. Home Slice is by far my favorite, awesome pies and great staff, but Red House not only has great slices, but also the best fried calamari I’ve had since the last time I ate in NYC. Lots of tentacles, my favorite.

Anyway, I thawed some dough, I stretched it out, and I started prepping it. I do not use a roller. You can cheater, if you really want to quitter , but it’s really not that hard to delicately stretch it using your fists and I find the dough just bakes better so stop being a baby and use your hands. I prep my dough by rubbing olive oil over its surface, add garlic, parm, and a sprinkle of kosher salt and cook on the lowest rack of a 450-500 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, just until parts of the bottom become golden brown. Then I add the toppings. For the pizza last night I sprinkled mozz and provolone cheese of Chip’s side with a smattering of pepperoni. On my side I did mozz, smoked Gouda, provolone, blue cheese, sauteed red onion, and bacon, with most of the fat removed.

On Thanksgiving our dryer broke when all of our kitchen towels were in the washer. And, ironically, it’s been raining for the first time in months. I’m explaining this because between the vodka&coke’s and the lack of napkins during cooking, I improvised my own wipe cloth, much to the amusement to Chip.

Listen: They are large and in the way of everything, so when I’ve been drinking and don’t have kitchen towels, my set o’ twins become nature’s napkins. I don’t know why I didn’t use the paper towels you can see over my shoulder. Ask Three Olives Vodka. All that matters is that dinner the night after Thanksgiving was great. An excellent evening all around.

We even broke the tree out of it’s exile for the last two years in the garage (we didn’t decorate last year), much to the enjoyment of the brat cats. I really don’t remember the tree being so pathetic…Oh, well.