Monday, March 23, 2009


It’s that weird time of year. Daylight savings day came and went, and it’s lighter later now. But the temperature hasn’t warmed up much yet. The boat’s still in the shed getting her facelift, a boob job and a tummy tuck. The water at our favorite dive sites has just thawed, and is still too cold to dive in. On top of all that, I have a cold that is the gift that keeps on giving. It will not go away, no matter how much I try to chase it off.

As a result, we’re still home bound as we were all winter long. We’re watching way too much TV, sitting around way too much—to the point where we joke that our couches are made of Velcro.

The problem with watching way too much TV right now is that there is nothing we want to watch. As a result, we get overloaded on the same shows on the DVR, and don’t get much variety. One of the shows were currently overloaded on is House.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s official. I am House-d out. It’s the same damn thing over and over again. First there’s the traumatic beginning, where the patient collapses dramatically. Then they’re taken to the hospital, where Dr. House is rude to them, between popping pills. Then the patient is killed a bunch of times because the doctors keep guessing the wrong treatment. Moments later the surgeon is inexplicably drilling into the skull of the patient with a Black and Decker hand drill. Then the patient ends up being diagnosed with something impossibly benign, like a paper cut. It’s like that movie Groundhog Day, but it takes place in the hospital.

Someone, anyone, please get me off this damn couch.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hitting the Snooze Bar on Brilliance

I take my dreams very seriously. I keep a notepad by the bed so I can write things down that I come up with in my dreams. I came up with the premise for my novel in a dream more than a year ago, and I got up and started writing it.

The other night I had a great idea for a title for the book. It was great. It burst into my head and woke me up from a deep sleep. I groped for the notepad in the dark. It wasn’t there. I lied in the dark and debated on whether I wanted to get out of bed, and out of the snuggly warmth of the bed. I dreaded the cold house around me as I went downstairs to get another note pad. I imagined the cold of the wood floors, as I left my slippers downstairs.

“Nah, I’ll remember it,” I told myself. “It’s a great idea, I’ll totally remember it.” I rolled over and dozed off.

I woke up in the morning, empty. The idea was gone. Vanished. Vaporized. It’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t reproduce it.

I mentioned it to Todd the next morning, hoping that he would say “Oh yeah, you were saying something in your sleep. It was blah blah blah blah…” No dice.

Instead he said “You always think that the ideas you dream about are brilliant. I’ll bet it was really something like ‘Concrete Bananas’ though. Then when you get up in the morning and look at your notepad you’ll say ‘What? I thought that was brilliant?’”

Notepad has been restored in its rightful place by the bed. Hopefully it’ll come to me.

Labels: ,

Blame it on the Kielbasa Nova

On Monday I was asked by my co-workers, "So, Beej, what did you do this weekend?" I casually shrugged and said "Oh, I went to my dad's house and made kielbasa," as if this is something that everyone does all the time. I said it in a tone that I reserve for "Oh, I went to the movies," or "Oh, we hung around the house."

"You did what?" co-workers asked.

Making kielbasa is something that my family does at least once per year. When I was a kid we'd gather at my grandfather's house--located in a scary neighborhood in Springfield, MA. His kitchen smelled like natural gas and garlic on the day that we made kielbasa. And every time I smell that combination, it reminds me of when I was a kid and watched the blue flame emerge under a pan on his stove. Dziadzu (Grandpa in Polish, pronounced ja-JOO) had a smoker in the basement of the 2 family house he owned. A Hispanic family lived on the second floor, and I remember my cousins and I playing with Mario, the little boy who lived upstairs, while my parents, Dziadzu, and my aunts and uncles made kielbasa.

Years later we made kielbasa at my Uncle Joe's house. Joe had the smoker in his shed in his back yard. My cousins and I ran around and played all day while my parents, the aunts and the uncles ground the meat, stuffed it into casings, set it to smoke in the smoker, and drank vodka. Then one of my aunts would take a sausage from the smoker, and cut it up so that all the kids could have a piece of it.

Making kielbasa on Saturday was surreal for me. I watched my nieces and nephews play in the backyard, and I taught them a few of the games that I played as a child when my parents were making kielbasa. Todd ground the meat with my sister and my sister in law. They took a handful of it and fried it up so that they could test the recipe, just as my aunts and uncles had done. My sister and Todd stuffed the meat into the casings, while my nieces and nephews carted tray after tray to my brother who was tending to the fire in the smoker in the shed.

I sat in front of the smoker, watching the thermometer and drank a few Mike's Cranberries. We laughed and joked. I stood in the doorway and listened to the kielbasa sizzle with one ear, and my nieces and nephews play in the other.

After about 3 hours the kielbasa was done. I carried a fresh link into the kitchen, peeled it and cut it up. I called out to the kids, and they descended like vultures. Before I knew it, the cutting board was empty, and I counted my fingers to make sure I still had 10. Dad cut up a few pieces in the shed and picked up his vodka laden drink,"You need to have fresh kielbasa with a chaser."

Here's the raw kielbasa, waiting to get smoked.

This is the ominous looking smokehouse that my dad designed and built. Dad's a very inventive machinist. He built those doors himself. Behind the doors he has a retractable arm that the rungs of kielbasa rest on. The whole arm assembly swivels so he can rotate the kielbasa so they will cook evenly.

Almost done. You can see the swiveling retracting arm mechanism here. Dad built that whole thing himself.

The smoker is deep enough to fit several rows.

Fresh smoked kielbasa. 20 of these bad boys are now in my freezer.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dinner Dilemma

3:something PM, I am at work

Ring ring...

Beej:Hello, this is Beej.

Todd: Hey, it's me. What are we having for dinner?
Beej: Well, I put out some ground turkey to defrost. Let's make something with that.

Todd: Are you sure you don't want toms burritos from Cilantro's?

Beej: Yeah, I am sure. Let's not be wasteful. Let's have that turkey.

5:30 PM, I am home from work.

Beej: OK, what do you want to make with this turkey?
Todd: Oh, I don't know. I am not feeling spaghetti.

Beej: Maybe we could make a meat loaf.

Todd: I am not in the mood for dinner that contains the word "loaf."

Beej: Let's do tacos.

Todd: (rummaging through fridge) We don't have any shredded cheese.

Beej: I'll cut up the sliced cheddar, it'll be almost like shredded cheese.

Todd: Oh, don't do that. I'll go out to the General and get shredded cheese. You get started on making the taco meat.

Beej: OK, hey, grab those trash bins on the way back. They're still out at the curb.

Todd was pulling out, and I opened the ground turkey and was assaulted by its unfriendly odor. I ran to the door, and stood on the front steps


Todd: (rolling down truck window) What is it?
Beej: The turkey's bad. Get something else for dinner while you're at the General.

Todd: So, do you want tacos or burritos from Cilantro's?

Sometimes he starts out with a way better idea. And I should have just listened to him to begin with.


Monday, March 09, 2009

I Was Once the Spazzy Sister

Friday night at 8:30 or so I arrived at my sister's house. C lives approximately 3 hours away from me, in a small town on the Connecticut/New York state line. To get to her house I have to leave Rhode Island and cross the entire state of Connecticut. But half way there, in Cromwell, CT, there is a Dairy Queen that is always worked into my itinerary as I travel to and from C's house.

When I arrived, C and her boyfriend were in the kitchen having some wine and preparing the food for my niece's confirmation the next day. Her two oldest children, my 15 and 13 year old nieces, were out, and C's 10 year old and 5 year old were watching a Bond movie. I helped C in the kitchen as she had wine. At 11 or so her girls got home. She grabbed her coat and said "OK, we're going out. Let's go! Let's go! Let's GO!" We hopped into my car and headed to a bar.

At 1:30 we got home. I only had 1 beer, C had a glass of wine at the bar which added to the wine she'd already had at home. I hauled my tired self out of bed at 8 or so in the morning. C was already up. She'd already run 4 miles that morning, dropped her son off at basketball, took her daughter to the hairdresser, and was cooking for Saturday night's party. The itinerary for the day included finishing up the food, cleaning the house, picking up the 13 year old from the hairdresser, bringing the 15 year old to get her hair done, picking up the boy from basketball, going to boyfriend's house to iron a shirt, fixing the piano bench, sweeping out the garage, and a zillion other things. (Luckily Dad arrived early, so he fixed the piano bench. Dad's wife helped with the food, while I cleaned the house. )

"Beej, oh my God we have so much to do!" she whirled around the kitchen, gesturing wildly.

"Aw come on. We have 3 more hours. It'll get done. You cook, I'll clean, it's all good," I said reassuringly.

And of course it did come together. The house was clean, the food prepared and presented beautifully. Guests arrived and I filled their hands with drinks. C's house was full of people mingling, laughing and having a great time.

After my niece's confirmation we all returned to the house to sit around C's kitchen table to drink and to poke fun at C. We stayed up until roughly 2-3 in the morning. In the morning I heard C's footsteps walk down the stairs, and the front door open. C was out for her morning jog, after downing some ridiculous quantity of wine the night before. She dropped the 13 year old off for indoor soccer, taught Sunday school, returned and cooked breakfast for the 10 and 5 year old. Shortly after breakfast her boyfriend arrived, and they went for a hike just after I left for the 3 hour drive back to Rhode Island.

It used to be that people said that of the two of us, I had a lot of energy. But watching her in action exhausts me.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hail to the Chief

Today I am old enough to run for President.

How the hell did that happen?