Monday, September 25, 2006

Scorin' at Savers, Part II

Remember those Audubon birds? Four in a sack marked $2.99 at Savers. Score!

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Biggest Fan

This summer, we had an intense, painful heat wave. But now it's September, and the highs are often in the 60s.

Donald told me he took the double fan out of the bedroom window today, while I was at work. But it made Ulysses upset. "So, you put it back in?" I asked.

"I had to," he replied. "And then I had to plug it in."

"He wanted it plugged in?"

"He insisted on it! So I closed the outer window behind the fan, sort of. I just now took it out and put it away, now that he's asleep." Then he added, apologetically, "It was cold!"

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Farmer U

Oh, how I wished I had a camera!

U and I went down to the 8th annual Food for Thought Festival of sustainable agriculture by the Capitol Square. I hadn't planned on going, but attending the reception at L'Etoile yesterday after work got me wanting to go. I was among those invited for working on or helping to publicize the event. It was my third invite -- I had an article about the fest in Madison Magazine in 2001, and one in Dane County Kids in 2002. This time I featured co-keynoter Mollie Katzen in my monthly ANEW column. Seeing all my old foodie friends from pre-U days got me pining for the ol' scene, so the next morning, I packed him in the van and we drove on down.

What with running circles after U, I got to hear about 10 minutes of co-keynoter Anna Lappe's talk, and just enough of the baba ganouj cooking demo by Chef Sabi to get a sample at the end, realize that it was the best BG I'd ever tasted, and not have any idea what it was that made it so much tastier and creamier than mine. But I didn't mind. It was fun just to be there, to be in a crowd, to be outside, to bump into various acquaintances, and to be out with U.

All over downtown are the lifesize, painted, fiberglass statues of the CowParade. U enjoyed running from one to another, gently patting their sides and looking at the pictures painted on them. During Lappe's talk, he was absorbed with looking at the pictures of animals on a cow's side, patting them, and making their sounds. A doggie: "arf, arf." A kitty: "mew." A pig: "oink." And so on. Occasionally he would let out a short, high-pitched "moo" to the fiberglass cows themselves. One was rigged like an old-fashioned locomotive engine. That one was for trying hard to climb up on and into.

While we were walking back to the van, we encountered Brown Swiss in front of the post office. No gimmicky shapes or bright colors or fanciful designs: just elegant tiles in shades of creamy brown. Ulysses stopped.

He walked all around Brown Swiss, slowly all the while gazing at her, as if reverently. Then he circled behind her, reached his hands between her hindlegs, firmly grasped a pair of udders and started squeezing. And making squirty sounds through his teeth.

Farmer U was hard at work this way for several minutes, scampering from one member of the herd to another, then hunkering down to serious milking. Much to the delight of passersby. A group of teenage girls walked past. I thought they might faint with glee, they were so thrilled at the sight of the little shirtless boy squatting in his blue microfiber shorts, earnestly milking statues of cows.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Toys: Not for people

This post still needs links and pics. The original Blogware post

Saturday. We needed lots of groceries. After a leisurely breakfast, and with U in a good mood, we ran some errands together and then headed to Woodman's. U was in a good mood, but evidently it was not a mood for grocery shopping. Don pushed the cart around the produce section while I alternately ran in circles after U or held him while he squirmed to be put down. As we began down the meat aisle, the squirming got beyond the level I could overcome.

Time for our standing Plan B for grocery shopping: one of us takes U to a playground while the other shops. Don and I agreed to meet in an hour at the pickup door. I bundled up Ulysses best I could and headed for the exit. Squalling. I walked outside, booking for the van. Squalling and twisting. I stopped and let him down onto the parking lot asphalt to see what he wanted. He turned 180 degrees and made straight for the supermarket entrance.

So he wanted to be in the grocery store -- just not following around after boring ol' us.

First, it was an extended tour of the produce section. I took on the job of keeping people from accidentally walking into this small person with their carts, or whirling into him as they turned from the produce displays to heft their bags of plums or sacks of onions into their carts.

Then it was along the seasonal aisle, past the early scatterings of Halloween candy and the leavings of picnic supplies. Next past the long line of registers. Then into the pet section -- but hold on, what's this? A tall display of colorful, soft and cuddly plush birds from the Audubon Society, complete with electronic bird songs authentic to each species, bearing the imprimateur of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Society! Collectibles. Just press the bird's belly, and it bursts into song. We had found our home for the next 40 minutes. The intricate, melodic twittering of a Purple Finch. The various rappings of a Pileated Woodpecker and a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.

For some reason, the Nighthawk, with its plaintive cheeping, scared Ulysses. When I showed him the bird, he looked apprehensive. When I squeezed it so it sang, he screamed a little and ran away, and not in a kidding way. He loved all the other birds, and the gray and red squirrels with their barkings, too. I came back to the Nighthawk a few times, experimentally, and each time he was upset.

A girl of perhaps 7 came by with an older woman -- her grandmother, I guessed -- who was pushing a cart of groceries. "Oh, these are nice," she said, and looked up at her grandmother with something like hope.

"No," said the grandmother. "Those aren't toys. Those are for people." And she pushed on past us.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Podcast Glory, or, I become an unlikely crazed fan

This post still needs links. The original Blogware post

So excited that my comments got included in the unofficial Project Runway podcast! With my name and everything! is a DC-area couple who produce two podcasts each week that the show is running -- a pre-show and a post-show. Sound obsessive? Sure, but what the heck. A few weeks ago, I'd never even watched the darn thing and it sounded completely uninteresting: a reality show based on a competition among fashion designers. OK. So what.

But this is what happened. Don and I watched Hell's Kitchen on Fox all summer, and boy, were we disappointed. Didn't learn a darn thing about food, cooking, cuisine, or even the culinary point of view of the competitors. Just were subjected to a lot of bitchfest namecalling, infighting, tears, and endless rerunning of highlights clips. Earlier this year, we had enjoyed watching Top Chef on Bravo. That was what made us tune in to HK. But it fell short. Meantime, I kept seeing references here and there about Project Runway, also on Bravo, notably that Top Chef was based on Project Runway, and from the same producers. So I decided to give it a look. In prortest of HK, really. My thinking: it has GOT to be better than Hell's Kitchen. If it's put together well, and with integrity, and if it's about skilled people pushing themselves to the limit and using their creativity to win a clearly defined terrific prize, then perhaps it won't matter what the skill is -- cooking, or something that I wouldn't otherwise give a thought to, like designing clothes.

My thinking was right. I was hooked in the first five minutes, which happened to be one of the early episodes of the third season, Episode 4: Reap What You Sew. Wow! What a show about people. Interesting people, and interesting interpersonal dynamics. I guess I'm part of some grand convergence, because since then I read that this particular episode that night was the most-watched show/time spot in the history of Bravo. Funny. The thought struck me to check the show out, so I input it into TiVo, only to see that the show was actually in progress right at that moment. It was about ten minutes into. Perhaps I tuned into the consciousness of all those millions of people watching. Hundredth Monkey and all that.

By the time Episode 5: Fit For a Queen came around, I had already watched and rewatched all the other Season 3 episodes and was hungry for more, thanks to a combination of Bravo's generous rerun schedule and the magic of TiVo. To feed the hungry for more part, Bravo kindly supplied an official podcast narratied by one of the show's hosts, and the DINKs kindly produce their unofficial one. I've been listening on my Sansa MP3 player, which, coincidentally, I got in early August, right around the same time I tuned in to Project Runway.

Here's the e-mail I sent the DINKs. Glenn wrote back to me almost right away and encouraged me to rent or buy the other seasons. These guys are just super-nice. To listen to the podcast, follow this link. The part where they read my brilliant insights, and talk about how Bev wants to move to Madison, is right around minute 31. To hear it on the air was thrilling!

Subject: Jeffrey's deep purple betrayal
From: Vesna Kovach
Date: Thu, August 31, 2006 8:51 pm

Glenn and Bev,

Love your show! I listen to it on the way to work and back, and often wish there were more. Don't worry about editing down your 2 1/2 hours' worth of material. Just cut it into three parts, and PR-and-DoTV fans will eat it up! :)

Here's what I wrote to tell ya:

Jeffrey! He won the challenge with the deep purple jacket he refused to make for Angela's mother! Remember, "I'm not going to make a jacket in two days." But for his skinny rock star self? Seven hours? Not a problem!

Angela's mother did not say "dark purple" or "dark green." She said, "deep." And she preceded that by saying, with enthusiasm, "I love COLORS!" Jeffrey saw her as a crone, just because of her sex and age. For him, she didn't deserve nice clothes. Remember he said he just wanted her to go away? That's how he dressed her. He swallowed her up in blackness, to disappear.

That purple jacket was Angela's mother's idea!

(44, F, Madison, Wisconsin, new to PR this season)