22 February 2009

Iron(ic) Chef Point Breeze

It all started with a harmless little tweet back in December, and my inability to let such things slide. What I didn't reveal at the time is that I couldn't remember the last time I made a crab cake, or even if I had ever made them. (I had. Once.) I like eating them, though. If anyone was silly enough to call my bluff, the worst thing that would happen was I'd get to eat crab cakes. How bad could that be?

Of course, my bluff was called. Calendars were consulted, judges assembled, and a host of "oh shit, what the hell was I thinking" moments later, I found myself making crab cakes for a bunch of great people I barely know, and just a couple I know well, including CD. Huge thanks to my long suffering husband. He not only ate crab cakes four times in eight days once you add the very nice leftovers we just consumed for dinner, but deftly handled kid duty while I got to play in the kitchen.

Knowing I was at a serious disadvantage in the experience department, I consulted the only person I know from Baltimore who sent me a few recipes, including one from an Annapolis crab house. Though I am entirely unable to follow a recipe as it is (unless I'm baking -- that's chemistry and keep the improv to a minimum), this seemed like a really good place to start. Here's what I did that isn't in the recipe:
  • spice - In addition to the white pepper and Old Bay, I added 1 tsp of Penzey's Chesapeake Bay seasoning, 1 tsp of Penzey's Chili 9000, and a little dried parsley
  • mayo - I used Trader Joe's low fat version
  • bread/cracker crumbs - I used panko instead of traditional bread crumbs or crackers
And here's what I'll do differently next time:
  • Fresh parsley
  • Canola oil and butter for frying (something I spotted Uncle Crappy doing)
  • Some of Uncle Crappy's mustard stuff on the side. (oh.my.)
You can see photos and read Uncle Crappy's account over here. As he says, our styles were very different and tough to compare, but the esteemed team of judges leaned in Uncle Crappy's general direction. As I said earlier, there was no way I could lose. Tasty crab cakes were had by all. (Not to mention the other FINE contributions to the feast. Thanks guys!) 

I will pay up with a growler of East End Brewing's finest at a time of Uncle Crappy's choosing. And I hope we can schedule a rematch when the weather is better. Tuna steaks, anyone? Chili, perhaps? You name it. I'll try to make it.

17 February 2009

so high school

In a very roundabout way, my daughter's name connects her with Eleanor Roosevelt. Not just her first name, but her middle name too. She's Eleanor Rose. Unlike the naming of Oliver, it didn't take months. Her first name was solved in minutes, and the middle took less than a day. I had six suggestions for a middle name, all rejected by CD. I put the burden on him and he suggested we find out what Eleanor Roosevelt's middle name was and go with that. She was Anna Eleanor. It wasn't much of a leap from there.

My 25th high school reunion will be going on without me this year. I have never been back to a reunion and doubt I ever will. I never wanted to be there in the first place. My pleas to go to boarding school started fairly early, but suffered from a couple of things. First was timing. The whole father getting sick and dying thing. Then there was the whole not having any money thing. Still, I had always believed in thinking big and reaching. Most of the time that approach served me well, but this time I didn't even try. I let high school kick my ass instead. 

The school work wasn't what did it. I was bored with that. My way of finding challenge was to see how little work I could do without anyone noticing. I had one teacher who pushed, somehow getting a thrill out of getting kids to think beyond going to the University of Maine at Orono. But otherwise, if you seemed like you were going to graduate, the teachers had other things to worry about, like lunch. Coasting was easy. And left me with some really stellar study skills, but back to that later on.

Socially, I was just all wrong. For some bizarre reason, sororities existed and were Very Important. My much older sisters had been members of one, and they did the legacy thing, so I didn't worry at first. Then it became clear that sorority would not be inviting me to join. And neither would any of the others. The high school mind makes some interesting translations and calculations.  I was all wrong in so many ways. 

My solution? Get outta Dodge. But there were the problems I already mentioned, so getting out had to wait a few years. I found the college I wanted, a serious reach in every way imaginable, and enlisted the help of the aforementioned teacher. When it was suggested at my interview that I shouldn't bother to apply, and that I couldn't afford the application fee, I decided to apply for early decision. I didn't have a "plan B" so if I wasn't getting in I wanted to know it in December. April was too late.

Apparently there are some bizarre things going on in the minds of college admissions officers too because they admitted me. That was "the goal" for so long I didn't give a lot of thought to what I would do once I got there. Those really stellar study skills were not much help. Nor was the enormous amount in insecurity I brought with me, especially when faced with what looked to me like a sea of good breeding, boarding schools, and J. Crew. It was a major case of "be careful what you wish for." Instead of high school kicking my ass, now I had an elite college kicking it even harder, and though I was getting some substantial financial aid, I was paying for the privilege.

Where was Eleanor Roosevelt, and her wise words, when I needed her?  "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." And boy, did I consent. Up, down, and sideways. And now, as an associate class agent, I get to ask those people who intimidated me to donate money back to the school. Oh, the irony.

But that's college and we're spending today in high school. And not going to reunion. You would think after 25 years I would be sufficiently comfortable in my own skin to go back and face the bad 80s music. Nope. Not a chance. 

14 February 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Oliver sends Valentine's Day greetings to all. I can vouch for him being pretty fabulous valentine.

Visit my Flickr page to see the version of this photo he chose to put on the cards for his classmates.

10 February 2009

the party goes on

It's night two of Westminster and the Sporting group leads things off. It should be VERY interesting! I'm settling in for another night of live blogging. I'll warn you now...I will probably get quiet during the Toy group, except for some commentary about the handlers' outfits.

8:01  Feather boa on a dane? Nice touch.

8:02  Mary Carillo fessed up to this being her first dog show. Pa-thetic. This is the best they could do? She didn't think a little preparation would be in her best interests?

8:04  Real dogs, coming right up!

8:06  Just got a newsflash via IM...I have to pay attention during toys after all. A friend's English toy spaniel won his variety.

8:09  I guess I should have looked at the list of judges. I just got a thank you note from him, for helping with education programs at a show last month! Very nice guy, but I've never shown to him.

8:11  Once again we have a handler with a poor color choice behind her dog. The outline of the pointer might show up a little better if the handler were in a darker outfit. She probably has a dark dog to show later on.  This is a young pointer and they are probably just thrilled to have won BOB.

8:12  Those of you who have watched for years will recognize Val with the German shorthaired pointer as the handler of the famous Megan.

8:14  I love to see a nice curly-coated retriever. It's an overlooked breed but I like them.

8:16  Flat-coated retrievers are not black goldens, but if you're thinking about a golden this is another one to consider.

8:17  A beautiful golden always gives me goosebumps. She's a beauty. Darn that slippery green carpet!

8:18  Can't tell if the lab was side-winding, or if it was just a bad camera angle. My sources tell me side-winding.

8:22  White suit behind a gordon setter. Well done!

8:24  Clumbers are usually first up after the break. My stomach is in a huge knot already!

8:27  That's Grant, the Clumber. He looks great, as usual. Laura King does a wonderful job showing him. And the judge is giving him a nice long look too. Okay, I can breath again, at least until the LBD is up.

8:30  I'll say it again. I will trade the non-sporting group three American cockers for one standard poodle. I hope Linda Pitts isn't wearing that black skirt with her Puli later. I'm a fan of her handling, and her Puli.

8:32  The English cocker is another story. I love this breed.  Please shut up, Mary.

8:33  Were you listening when the announcer was talking about the Clumber? We wrote that, my dear friend JT and I.

8:34  I tried to learn a bit about field spaniels last month. I still think they were put together by a committee.

8:36  That's a breeder/owner/handler on the Irish water spaniel. Bonus points!

8:36  Here's the backstory on the Sussex...Stump is 10 years old!!! And he has won the group at this show, quite a few years ago. He's my sentimental favorite, for sure. What can Brown do for you?

8:37  I met this Welsh in January. He's quite something. Another breed that is frequently overlooked.

8:39  Getting close to the end. I can already tell I'm not going to be able to make a pick. It's impossible for me to be objective and get past the Sussex and Clumber. Some of the top dogs have retired too. I don't envy the judge!

8:41  It also doesn't help that this is a huge group. Four ribbons is not enough.

8:43  The knot is back in my stomach. And it's multiplying.

8:45  Since I am feeling worthless, I have brought in reinforcements. My source predicts the cut will be ASCOB and Black cockers, Clumber, Sussex, English springer, English setter, Weimaraner, and I'm going to throw in the Golden just for fun.

8:46 This is going to be a challenge not to barf.

8:48  Two minutes without oxygen is not such a good thing. More backstory...the BIS judge has awarded Stump BIS before. And more personally, the first time I saw Stump he was a goofy puppy. And Sussex know goofy.

8:52  I'm still in shock. And JT is off to call Stump's breeder. Congratulations, Dee!!! Couldn't happen to nicer crowd of folks. (But Grant should have had a piece of that, too.)

8:56  I love these old video clips. The grandfather of a good friend won twice with Boxers, way back when. I hope to see a glimpse.

8:57  Toy dogs next. Good time for me to recover. And breath. And maybe go be sick if these knots don't go away.

9:01  Somebody kill Mary Carillo's mic. And send her back to tennis, where she comes closer to knowing what she is talking about.

9:02  Wake me when the Peke makes it all the way around.

9:03  "Pet peeve"!  David made a funny.

9:07  When I am old and infirm, I will have Cavaliers. (Or maybe English toys.) This one is very pretty.

9:13  I met Dash (and his adorable little daughter) last month. Too darn cute. Still, we have squeaky toys that are bigger. 

9:15  Have acquired red wine and popcorn. It's not champagne and strawberries but it will have to do.

9:17  I'm afraid I would break an Italian greyhound.

9:18  I'll go way out on a limb and predict the Peke and toy poodle place in the group. Maybe the affenpinscer and Brussels griffon too.

9:19  Y'all know these were the flea catchers, right?

9:27  Peke's are pear shaped. If you pick one up, it should be head heavy. It helps to know this when you can't tell which end is which.

9:30  I think I met that Pug when I was stewarding last year. Cute cute cute. Almost a real dog.
He'll get some of the action.

9:40  I am clueless about toys. There. I said it.

9:44  Something in white for the Working group, perhaps?

9:47  Since you aren't hearing it from the announcer, here's a little PSA:  None of the dogs you see tonight or last night were purchased from a pet shop. Research the breeds you are interested in, contact the parent clubs, and find a reputable breeder. It's a long process and more than worth it in the end.

9:51  Big dogs!!! And one of my favorite judges too. She's a pointer breeder, and appreciates a nice bitch.

9:53  I love the combination of evening wear and slobbery big dogs.

9:56  The favorite is probably the Giant Schnauzer.

9:59  Norma, do something with that hair!!! Still love Bullmastiffs.

10:00  Is that Turner? Or Hooch? I forget.

10:02  If I wore heels I would want Paula's shoes.

10:03  Wow. That Giant Schnauzer is a stunner. And Taffe is once again in boots. For a California girl she sure dresses well for the east coast in winter.

10:04  The Dane does not appear to want to be there.  He's very young too.

10:07  I was scarred for life by a very well-endowed male Swissie once. Can't even look at them anymore.

10:12  When it's cold I would like to curl up with a Newf. Or six. Would need a bigger bed.

10:13  I think the Portuguese water dog would be perfect for the White House. Honest. Great dogs.

10:15  Still haven't seen anything I like better than the Giant Schnauzer.

10:17  No need to string up the Siberian. Give him some lead, for goodness sakes!

10:20  I just remembered BIS is next. The knots? They are back. Gooooooo Stump!!!

10:22  Loving the malamute too. 

10:23  Judge is enjoying herself.  Major bonus points for her.

10:24  Good choice!!! And the bonus for having the working dog? You only have to groom once. 

10:26  I'm pulling for the Sussex, of course, but winning this show is a blessing AND a curse for a breed, especially one as rare as the Clumber or Sussex. It means breeders have to step up their diligence.

10:28  If only there were a fantasy league for dog shows. I'd be all over that.

10:32  It's disappointing that Mary Carillo is dragging David Frei down, instead of him lifting her up (or shutting her up, preferably).

10:34  If it can't be Stump the Sussex, it should be the Giant Schnauzer or the Puli. Sari likes Sussex. Cross yer paws!

10:38  Goosebumps. Going dark until the end, unless somebody poops.

10:40  Ha!! Linda Pitts changed skirts!

10:50  The knots are taking over. Stump doesn't look 10. Wine did not work its magic.

10:54  OMG...I am speechless!

10:56  Ok, breathing again. Huge congratulations to ALL involved in this spectacular dog.

09 February 2009

they had a party, without me

We're not watching the President tonight. It will be analyzed to death on CNN later on. I won't miss a thing. No, we're watching Westminster tonight. Not just watching, but for the second year in a row, live blogging my favorite Garden Party. It's painful to miss it for the second year in a row. That hasn't happened since I started attending. So, hang out with me, make fun of the handlers' outfits, and watch some great dogs strutting their stuff on the green carpet.

8:01 133rd Westminster coverage is getting underway. Only the Kentucky Derby has been running longer. Goosebumps? Present and accounted for!

8:03  I'm lacking my traditional beverage. What to do?

8:06  Release the hounds!

8:07  Pat Trotter, bless her heart, arranges the dog by size for their trip around the ring. She spoke at the Clumber spaniel national specialty last year. She's been where all those handlers are now and I suspect she will put them all at ease.

8:10  That's the top winning Basset bitch of all time. Darn cute too.

8:12  Listen to the commentary they are hearing at Madison Square Garden. The blurbs come from the breed clubs who know the breeds best. You might hear some words I wrote tomorrow night.

8:13  I probably wouldn't wear black if I were showing a black and tan coonhound, unless I was trying to hide something, or I was showing a white dog later on that had a better chance. The handler is supposed to be the frame of the picture, or maybe the matte. The really good handlers disappear entirely, but the black outfit makes the dog disappear too.

8:16  The 8 year old Borzoi may be an older dog for this group, but stay tuned for tomorrow night! I predict you'll see a lovely dog that's a bit older.

8:17  The smooth dachshund is from the UK! Having brought a dog to Crufts a few years ago, I'd give 'em bonus points for making the trip.

8:18  I guess this isn't the year Carlos Puig gets a new jacket. Retire that blue thing already!

8:20  Linda Clark looks great, as always. And calm! 

8:21  The English foxhound definitely looks like she could work with a pack. First half of the group done and I don't have a pick yet. It's going to be a lot tougher this year. I haven't been to a lot of shows and haven't been following results and advertising like usual.

8:23  I don't envy the Norwegian elkhound handler. Pat Trotter is the goddess of elkhounds, and judges traditionally have high expectations for their own breed.

8:24  Taffe looks fab in her traditional boots. I want that pink jacket!

8:25  Okay, now I have a pick. The Harrier is stunning!

8: 26  Bunny's daughter looks great. I was eager to see her after spotting her name (Ch Luxor's Playmate of the Year, former Westminster group winner) in the results.

8:27  No comment on that hat. She usually shows Danes. Outside? Fine. No need for it at the Garden.

8:45  Though I'm tired of Pedigree, the ads are out-pacing the Super Bowl ads so far. But ask me again in an hour or two.

8:28  I love Otterhounds!  (especially Louie, a former breed winner)  Never ever want to live with one, but they will always have a softspot for me.

8:30  The PBGV is always a crowd favorite. And for very good reason. Someday I hope the AKC recognizes the Grande version.

8:31  The Pharaoh hound shows just how slippery that damn carpet is.

8:32  Lovely Rhodesian ridgeback. He could get a piece of the group. I'm still going with the Harrier though.

8:34  The saluki is a "pupscicle", the product of frozen semen. Boys can have a lot of impact on a breed for a very long time.

8:35  Couldn't wait to see the whippet. Breeders who always have good ones, and a handler whose writing about the dog show world I have followed for years. Neither disappointed.  I would love to have a whippet someday.

8:37  My top pics are the harrier, Basset, whippet, ridgeback, and maybe the basenji or Ibizian. Not necessarily in that order, though I think the Harrier will take it.

8:38  How did I miss the bloodhound? She's beautiful!!!

8:41  Shows how much I know.... Terriers up next. And I still don't have a beverage.

8:48  CD is snoring!

8:51  It will be a miracle if I get through the Angel on a Leash presentation without turning into a blubbering mess. We're hoping our next Clumber can be part of the group of dogs who visits Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

8:53  Terriers are next. They have tended to dominate Westminster, and there are some strong contenders like the Sealyham.

8:56  Just about time to move over to CNBC. USA should grow a pair and show the whole thing. Bollocks.

9:00 Terriers!

9:01  Mr Terrier indeed. Peter Green, one of my all-time favorite people in dogs, is judging. And about damn time too.

9:03  The conflict is that Ernesto worked for and was mentored by Peter for many years. I have never seen that happen, but it was an exceedingly classy move. It will probably be controversial though. 

9:05  No jokes about the Bedlington trim, please.

9:06  Peter Green could read me the phone book.

9:07  Love border terriers. They make great family pets, if the family is up to the challenge of a terrier to begin with.

9:08  The colored bull terrier bitch is showing very, very well.

9:10  Holy moly...Peter has excused another one due to conflict of interest. It was done so calmly that every must have known what was going on in advance.

9:11  My tolerance must be going up. I haven't spotted any truly hideous outfits yet.

9:13  Don't panic about Peter pulling on the dog's tail. David Frei's explanation was spot on.

9:14  Peter may have missed his calling as a Donald Duck impersonator. I'm glad he's stuck with dogs though.

9:16  No No No, Crufts is not second best, nor is it the British version of Westminster. It's a bit like comparing Apples and Oranges. Yes, you have to qualify for Crufts, but it's more than that.

9:20  Scott Sommer handling the Lakeland for the Dowds. They have supported Clumbers and Sussex, among others. Pretty Lakeland.

9:22  Mini bulls are too cute for their own good. Go Laura!!!

9:24  Not loving the miniature schnauzer. Watch Peter go and give it a piece of the group. Still quacking....

9:25  My apologies. I usually have much more to say about the terriers. I blame the lack of beverages.

9:26  Little trick for keeping the Norfolk and Norwich terriers straight. Pointy ears on the Norwich (nor-ich), like a witch's hat.

9:28  Like herding dogs, terriers need jobs. If you don't give them one, they will make something up. You won't like it.

9:29  Most of the terriers think they are superior to their owners. And no freaking out about the tail grabbing. It's the only way to get 'em out of a hole sometimes.

9:30  These two, the scotty and the sealyham, should both get a piece of the group. My money is on the Sealy. His owner/handler is another of the good people in dogs. She helped me out by judging a puppy match when I was having a crisis a few years back.

9:31  I don't think that Skye is twice as long as he is tall, but it's tough to tell from my couch. Clumbers are another breed where it's tough to find one in the proper proportion. Huge treat when you find one though.

9:33  I like the Wheaten. Too bad I don't know squat about the breed.

9:34  Still feeling good about the Sealyham and the Scotty. Also like the Lakeland and Welsh. One of the bull terriers might also get a piece. 

9:37  Hoping my picks will be better than the last group. I'll be worthless during the non-functional non-sporting group.

9:39  So far, so good on the cut.

9:41  Quack Quack

9:42  Got the first two, and did I say that would happen with the schnauzer? Oy.

9:43  Must.Get.Sustenance

9:49  Empire State Building in purple and gold. Is there a better color combination? I think not. (My alma mater might have something to do with it.)

9:51  The only time I take more of a powder is during the Toy group. My dogs have squeaky toys bigger than most of the toy dogs.

9:53  This is the group of leftovers. I will still trade the standard poodle into the sporting group and send the three American cockers to this group.

9:54  Penguin just woke up. She can't see much but never liked watching dog shows. Piper was my dog who liked to watch. Penguin has been there, and done that! I have since learned the joys of going to Westminster without a dog.

9:57  I'll go out on a limb and say one of the poodles will place, if not both.

9:58  Wondering about the bulldog bitch. The male who won BOS is a dog I have seen but I'm not familiar with this one.

10:01  Chow Chow handler used to show my favorite Otterhound, Louie. He always has a nice chow too.

10:02  Love this dalmation's dam. He's kind of nice too.

10:03  No poop on the rug yet. 2 and a half groups down.

10:07  I hope Dorothy knows none of the dogs is going to break into a spin. Well, not tonight anyway. Maybe tomorrow.

10:08  Looking forward to the Tibetan terrier. It's not a terrier any more than the Tibetan spaniel is a spaniel. 

10:09  Another dog with a famous parent, the mini poodle.

10:11  Don't get me started on the canine topiary. Standard poodles still make great family pets.

10:13  Here's the TT. So much fluff, but lots of dog under there.

10:15  I admit it. I have no earthly idea who is going to win this group. Standard poodle is the safe choice.

10:17  Yeah! She cut the TT.

10:18 I'd like to claim I'm building momentum in my picks but I could have called the poodle win from Mars. The planet.

10:21  Herding is up next. I always root for the Beardie. Always.

10:22  My fingers are starting to hurt. I am so out of blogging shape. Also answering questions on Plurk and tweeting just a bit. Eyes are going buggy.

10:27  It would be more fun if they brought a few sheep or geese out for these dogs to herd.

10:28  Mary Carillo should stick to tennis, where I could avoid her.

10:30  I'll say it again...these are all dogs who need jobs. I love asking people who are getting border collies in the city where they plan to keep the sheep.

10:31  Aussie looks very nice. Love to see breeder/owner/handlers too.

10:32  Beardies always make me go weak in the knees. Beardie bounce!

10:33  There are really four of the Belgian herding dogs. When will we see a Lakenois?

10:35  The Tervuren is nice, also with a breeder/owner/handler. I'll make it an early pick to get a piece. 

10:37  The Bouv handler is yet another of the really good people in dogs. I'll never forget how he chatted with me ringside right before my Animal Planet interview a few years ago. I'm sure he has no idea but it kept me calm and really meant a lot.

10:39  Is that the first ever Canaan not handled by Andy Linton?

10:40 Half a group left. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. Battery is starting to die...may have to plug in.

10:42  Could another Scottish dog be heading to best in show? Rough collie is pretty. Not showing their best though.

10:45  Another breeder/owner/handler on the Old English. She's won the group before but it's been a while.

10:46  No David, that's Jere Marder.

10:48  The Pembroke is cute. Would love to know if that was an upset. I expected to see the BOS Pembroke tonight.

10:49  Bonus points for the Puli bounce too. They will get a piece of the group, I think.

10:51  Time for picks and my eyes have glazed over. I know who I like. I suspect the judge will not agree. I like the Terv, the Puli, and the Old English.  And the Beardie.

10:55  I guess he didn't really forget the Puli. Excellent choice.

10:57  See y'all tomorrow night. Sporting group leads off. Watch for a surprise or two. I will have beverages, dammit. Rosa Regale, where are you?

01 February 2009

like, you know, better than losing

The Super Bowl seems like a good reason to get back to blogging. It was ugly and a nail-biter, but in typical Steeler fashion, they got the job done in the end. And as classy a guy as Mike Tomlin is, there was a fair bit of less than classy behavior on the field. James Harrison completely negated his incredible interception and touchdown run in the first half with a cheap shot in the second. Since I had a weak moment and let Oliver stay up for the entire game, that cheap shot also meant a lengthy explanation about why one of "the best guys in the whole world" (what Oliver has been saying about his Steelers) would do such a thing.

CD's comment, IM'd from Seattle where he's spending the week at CalConnect, was "Red zone play is awful." This has been going on all season. The best offense in the NFL was the Pittsburgh defense. All that was missing tonight was a Polamalu interception. And I have to mention CD's interest in football of the American sort has been growing slowly but steadily in the years since he moved here. This year it was different. Hands were raised and voices raised in cheer during the playoffs. It's really something to see, especially if you are acquainted with my husband. I think he supported my decision to let Oliver watch the game. He wanted to make sure Oliver was taking it all in. I'm sure he didn't count on him being exposed to Bruce Springsteen.

Contrary to what I was told, my kids did not receive terrible towels with their birth certificates. I will fix that oversight this week. Pittsburgh is our adopted city and we've never been prouder to call it home, Lukey Effingstahl and all.

And finally, Phil will see his shadow tomorrow. No doubt about it. And no one in SixBurgh will care.