Monday, January 17, 2011

Christmas Cheer In A Little Doughy Pillow, Smothered In Butter

When you're younger, you rely on your parents (chiefly your mother) to handle all communication and planning with relatives. Holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduation parties. Parents tell you where you need to be, explain your absence if you don't show, and sign your name to cards you had no idea were being sent. They are the keepers of traditions, the deliverers of news, the reminders to send thank you notes, and the passers of the phone during long distance calls. "Here, Briana wants to say hi now... here you go just passing the phone over... love you bye!"

And little by little, as we grow older, we become responsible for handling some of these tasks on our own. I mean, not all of these tasks. Not by a long shot. But still, we have to start holding our own. I'm reminded of a line from one of my favorite things ever, The Thanksgiving Letter:
"Lisa as a married woman you are now required to contribute at the adult level."
I think that about sums up the mentality... even if it's just in my own head and not really imposed on me by anyone in the fam.

Anyway, so this year, since Katie and I were not flying back east to spend Christmas with the 'rents, and were apparently uncomfortable with having a totally relaxing holiday, we took it upon ourselves to uphold the tradition of our late grandma by making pierogies for Christmas Eve dinner.

We have fond memories of spending the morning of Christmas Eve in Grandma's kitchen, rolling out dough, mixing up potato filling, and working for hours to assemble what seemed like thousands (but was probably at least a hundred) pierogies for that night's dinner. When complete, we'd line them all up on "pierogie boards," which were just big planks of wood resting on the washing machine in the corner, where they'd sit until being boiled and fried up. Then served with gallons of butter and onions.

So, in the days before Christmas, I got the recipe and instructions from my Aunt Mary, read them over, panicked at their complexity, and wondered if I really wanted to go through with it.
But no, there's no backing out. Grandma would be proud of our efforts.

On the morning of the culinary adventure, I went to the store and bought potatoes, onions, flour, cottage cheese, butter and more butter. The grocery store crowd was just as horrendous as I thought it would be. But I made it out in one piece... though later in the day than planned.

Back at home I prepped the potato filling. Katie showed up just in time to start the dough disaster. The doughsaster, if you will.

Add water and egg to flour.

Then stir, while holding your Blackberry displaying the recipe in your other hand, because printing out the email with the directions would've been too simple. Also, note beer in background. The recipe calls for beer to be consumed during pierogie-making. Namely Budweiser, but I was in a Blue Moon mood.

What you wind up with is a doughy blob with the consistency of pudding and the stickiness of chewing gum. It seemed wrong, and probably was. But as we added more flour and kneaded the dough for a bit, it wound up seeming more like what dough is meant to be.

Next, roll out the dough. Get frustrated, wad the dough back into a ball. Roll again. Defend your crappy rolling pin against criticism from sister and husband. It got the job done, after all.

Then add a spoonful of potato filling and pinch the pierogie shut, praying it's sealed well enough to hold onto its contents during boiling.

Next, move completed pierogie over to... oh crap, we don't have a pierogie board. Hmm. This bamboo tray will have to do.

Keep assembling pierogies all through the afternoon, making them progressively larger and sloppier as patience wears thin.

Then, it's time to switch up the clothing and the cocktail, and get cooking! Boiling the pierogies first, then transferring them to a frying pan with chopped onions and an absurd amount of butter -- Your guests will look at the pan and ask, "Seriously?" At least, ours did.

But the results are spectacular.

Look at all these happy faces. The pierogies were a hit!

And that, Lisa, is how you contribute at the adult level.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Mean COME ON Pull Yourself Together Woman

I'll begin by saying, I don't even know where to begin. This post is long overdue. My last was November freaking 1oth. And now, considering the timing, I've decided this is going to be a New Year's resolution, reflection/projection sort of thing. Also, because I watched a season and a half of Skins over the weekend, I've adopted the narrative voice of an English teenager. In my head this all sounds so cheeky. Cheers.

While many of you enjoyed some time off surrounding the holidays, I was working somehow even more than usual. As a result, I'm back in this morning feeling remarkably unrefreshed.

They say "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." I know this is meant to be something of a warning... but I see it as an aspiration. If only I had nothing to do but sit around making plans. Currently, it's more like "Plans are what you cancel when you're busy working." Or, "Life is what happens to other people, who document it on Facebook for me to see." Bollocks.

And in the meantime, while I'm just trying to get to the stage where I can make plans, my house is a mess, I've got a heap of unopened mail and bills to deal with (Exhibit A), and my car is filthy and smells, oddly, of wet towels (Exhibit B).

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

It's not that I mean to suggest my work schedule is the sole reason for my inability to handle my day to day affairs. I've been plagued with this ineptitude for all of my adult life and whine about it frequently. Which is what got me thinking about patterns of personal behavior and, thus, New Year's resolutions.

I thought it might be useful to reflect on the goals of years past. This brought me to my old blog, Hollywood Sucker. A full year ago, I started The Doing Stuff Blog with the aim of, you know, doing stuff. And let's just say, it hasn't gone so well.

But Hollywood Sucker.... ah that was a place where I was free to sweat the small stuff, make fun of celebrities who could give a hoot what I thought of them and their elective surgeries, and present problems with no real intention of solving them.

Anyway, I found amongst the posts several well-meaning lists of resolutions. And can I just say how alarming it is to see how I have totally not stuck to anything? Like, really?

So, for instance, here is my list of published resolutions from January 2009, with my notes on their outcome thus far. Where's my list from 2010? I didn't make one. Yeah. That's commitment, folks.

1. Lose weight before my wedding.

I didn't. At least not really. But it's not my fault. Everyone told me I'd just magically lose ten pounds because I'd be so stressed out. Then I didn't. But still I was stressed. What gives?

2. Save at least SOMETHING from each paycheck.

I wrote out the SOMETHING in all caps like that because I think I knew saving mere pennies would be an accomplishment. Ask me how this turned out. Go ahead. No, don't. There's no point. You know what I'm gonna say.

3. Cook more meals at home.

This I did. Though somewhere during 2009 I wrote a post about how I wanted to vary my meals and try new recipes more often. And that didn't happen.

4. Run another race.

Yes. This happened! And I ran and ran and ran. And then I stopped.

5. Finish a screenplay.

Maybe I'll revisit this after meeting my new goal: Invent a time machine.

6. De-flab my arms.

You know, they might be marginally better, but I wouldn't know why.

7. I just ate a slice of American cheese.

God, look at how I gave up even in my resolutions list.

8. Keep a clean house.

Okay not vastly improved but I did learn the value of paying someone to clean for me!

9. Get organized.

Vague and completely absurd. May as well have written "speak Mandarin" or "bionic arm." Jeesh.

10. Watch classic movies.

This actually did happen. Not like by the hundreds, but I've made some progress. I hesitate to take pride in this accomplishment, as all it takes to achieve success is sitting around watching TV, which I already know is one of my only talents.

Back in 2008 my resolutions list was just precious. It had things like "learn to play poker" and "read Ulysses." How adorable was I? (Also, WTH?)

By the way, you may be wondering how things are coming along with all of the coupon-using I vowed to do in my last post. Well, I'll tell ya, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE MY ENTERTAINMENT BOOK IS.

Anyway I think what I can take away from this is the only resolution I will make for 2011:

Be better. Just be better.

And with that, well, lunch break is over and back to work.