Monday, November 24, 2014

We Only Have Time For A Few Of Your Questions Before The Entertainment Part Of Our Show


Good Day, Readers. In today's installment of Ask Nance, we'll be following up on a few previous topics and taking questions on some new ones. We hope you find it informative.

Question: Nance, are you any further along in your Thanksgiving Preparations?
Nanceswer: In addition to the two bags of cranberries in my freezer, I now have my fresh turkey and two bags of fresh cranberries in the basement refrigerator, and the remaining ingredients for Thanksgiving Dinner residing in various cupboards, freezers, refrigerators, and pantry. While it was 64 degrees today, I wisely harvested the last of my sage, rosemary, and parsley. And I grocery-shopped at 8 AM today, which might be the Smartest Move I Have Ever Made.

Q: Does this give you time to consider Decorating for Thanksgiving?
N: This gives me time to dog-proof the house and figure out whether or not I can afford a therapist for Piper once Zydrunas has scared the crap out of him for the day.

Q:  Have you thus far escaped an Appliance Betrayal, unlike in years past when on the Cusp Of A Major Holiday?
N:  Surely you jest.  Just this evening, the stove threw an F1 error code accompanied by an obnoxious beep. Additionally, the oven would not turn off.  Was this sort of occurrence mentioned anyplace at all in the literature that came with the stove?  Of course not.  Rick threw the breaker, waited for a moment, then flipped it back on and went into Cleveland to watch professional basketball.  I will be calling the appliance store tomorrow to beg for a repair slot before Thanksgiving.  And hoping like hell that it doesn't happen again tonight when I'm home alone.

Q: But, are you feeling better?
N: Marginally, and with no thanks to homeopathy and natural cold remedies. Here are the Tree-Hugging Rainbow Methods I tried:
homemade chicken soup; hot water with honey and lemon; hot shower; hot bath; apple cider vinegar and honey; drink plenty of water; Vicks VapOrub on the soles of feet; Vicks VapOrub on the chest; SinusBlast hot pepper nasal spray; resting; keeping warm; megadosing Vitamin C; propping up to sleep.

Finally, I said Screw This. I bought Alka Seltzer Severe Cold and Flu Formula Night And Day (or something) and started knocking that stuff back. Now I can sleep without hacking up Huge Phlegm Wads and choking and gagging like a ten-pack-a-day smoker. Soon, I hope to get My Life back.

Q: Can we salvage November?
N: No. Not this year. It sucks. Ask Buffalo. Ask President Obama. Ask anyone in NEO who wants to listen to FM radio and not hear Christmas music. It's hopeless. I have been hard pressed not to open up the Industrial-Sized Can Of Whoopass on The Politics this month. It's killing me. Did you hear that Lindsey Graham--Lindsey "Senator Old Lady Fussypants" Graham is considering a run for the presidency? Of the United States? OF AMERICA?

Q: Is someone A Little Bit Crabby?
N: Yes. Someone really is. And here's what I'm going to do about it. I'm going to watch this and laugh. Join me.



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Friday, November 21, 2014

A Toast To Toast!

Back in The Olden Days when I was teaching, I often inspired gales of laughter, sneers of disdain, and hoots of disbelief when I identified Toast as being among my favourite foods. Especially memorable was the response of a certain Senior Football Player who leaned back in his ridiculously small chair, folded his arms across his chest, fixed me with an extraordinarily disappointed look, and shook his head. "Now that," he said, "is messed up."

At that time and with that audience, there was no credible defense to be made. None. That was a lasagna, steak, pizza, and crab legs crowd, with maybe a few lobster or barbecued ribs tossed in. Toast? Toast and I took our ball (butter?) and went home.

But since I've been down with this egregious cold, I've renewed my love affair with Toast, and really, isn't Toast simply Lovely? Isn't it just The Best? Honestly, how can you go wrong with Toast? I mean, yes, you absolutely can Go Wrong if you burn it (although I did have a colleague, Fran, who purposefully burned two pieces of wheat toast every single morning in the lounge at The Rock for breakfast, its acrid stench scenting the hall for an entire period because she liked it that way), but beyond that, my goodness! Toast!

My personal favourite for all time has to be a very dark pumpernickel rye toast spread with plenty of Real Butter, lightly toasted so that it still has some of that characteristic chew. If you can slice it yourself, how glorious! Thick--thick as you can without having to use a dangerous butter knife in the toaster slot to free it. (We've all done it at some point in our lives and felt that burr of electric shock. Admit it.)

How comforting is a warm slice of cinnamon toast? That's what I have been nibbling on the past few days. Wheat bread, darkly toasted, buttered, then sprinkled all over with a mix of sugar and homey-smelling cinnamon. I don't drink hot tea, but a mug of hot water with honey and lemon accompanies it just fine.

Apparently, a restaurant in San Francisco has an entire menu devoted to Toast. The average price is about $3.50 for one piece, but they use a thick slice of organic, in-house baked bread and local ingredients for the spreads. (One famous food blogger and cookbook author went there and raved about it.) I thought about it for a little bit: would I pay $3.50 for a big piece of Toast topped with, say, cream cheese and black pepper? Yes. But, looking further at the Menu, I would not pay $16.50 for a 12-ounce cup of coffee to accompany it. And that is the cheapest.

But I don't need Fancy Toast, do you? Decent bread, good butter, pleasantly warm and all with the right balance of crisp and tender. Some people, when there is nothing else to eat, or it is too late to cook, they eat cereal. I eat Toast. In that case, Toast with butter and peanut butter. Perhaps, if I'm really hungry, I'll skip the butter and lay on a slice of cheese instead.

Oh, Toast! You're so versatile and so wonderful. So underrated and unappreciated. I will dedicate my eventual Recovery to you.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Do You Know What You Need To Know? It All Depends On What "Need" Means

Yesterday, we discussed Perspective a little bit, and today, thanks to some troubling puzzling journalism over at USAToday.com, we are continuing in that vein. While I am still Unwell, I am resting and exploring the Vast Reaches Of The Interwebs, and becoming Increasingly Distraught at what passes for The Fifth Estate out there. Let me be more clear.

According to USAToday.com, these are the "5 Things You Need To Know Wednesday", meaning yesterday. I have no idea how I happened upon this article, but it is likely that the title, stating that I "needed to know" them, made me do it. Anyway, here they are, and be ready to check them off if You Knew Them Wednesday, and feel smug and the better for that Knowledge.

1. The 'Piano Man' receives top music award from the Library of Congress
2. Rev your engines for the LA Auto Show
3. 10th anniversary of the "Malice in the Palace"
4. Say it ain't snow! No, it's definitely snow
5. And the sexiest man alive is…

These are THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW! ON WEDNESDAY! Now, that was yesterday. If you did not know any, or all, of these things, how did that ignorance affect your life? Let me tell all of you, with unabashed honesty, that I knew two of these only, Numbers 4 and 5. And the only reason I knew Number 5 was because all of the Cleveland news outlets made a huge deal of it since he was here filming The Avengers. As to the others, please. Their Necessity Quotient is zero. I am currently at the very tippy-top of all ten teams of our fantasy basketball league. I hold the trophy for highest points two weeks in a row. My basketball knowledge is, therefore, excellent. But even I did not know that ten years ago Wednesday was the day that the huge brawl happened between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons in which Ron Artest climbed into the bleachers and assaulted a fan.  Yet my life is largely the same, and so is my status as Fantastically Crushing All Comers.  And aside from the ten million people who live in Los Angeles County, how many of the 300 million Americans NEED to know about the LA Auto Show? And even then...NEED to know?  Right.

How trivial these Necessaries seem to me! And once I saw that they were for Wednesday, I snorted with derision when I contemplated what the USAToday.com people could deem Necessary That I Know For Thursday. Something about a TLC reality celebrity? Was something sculpted in Spam someplace? Will Ft. Lauderdale have a boat show? Let's take a look:

1. President Obama readies national remarks on overhauling immigration
2. Transgender hate crimes remembered across the country in Day of Remembrance
3. Inside trading schemer reports for nine-year prison sentence
4. Climate change to increase flood, crop insurance losses to trillions
5. American Cancer Society encourages kicking butt for Great American Smokeout

Oh.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In Which I Am Contrite, Yet Managing A Little Sprightliness In Spite Of Things

weirdhut.com
After yesterday's Shameful Display of Bitching and Wallowing, I got a good dose of Perspective, courtesy my news addiction. Thanks to NBC Nightly News and the Interwebs, I have been duly Chastised.

Remember last year when my mantra was "Hey! At least my house didn't explode!", referencing my newfound sense of Zen imparted to me by the sudden destruction of a home around the block from me due to a gas leak? Well, I'm trying out a few more New Mantras, and I'd like to see which one you like the best.

1. "Hey! At least an airplane didn't land in my livingroom!" This one is, I know, awfully similar to last year's. But it happened (not in my neighborhood this time), and here is a picture that proves it.
www.dnainfo.com



2. "Hey! At least I don't live in Buffalo!" We here in NEO get the phenomenon known as Lake Effect Snow, but Buffalo got it like they were in the middle of the lake. The kind of snow that they got--more than 70 inches in some areas--is beyond snow. It's like having your period, a broken leg, a PAP test, a gall bladder attack, AND a migraine while you're taking thirty-seven toddlers to Chuck E. Cheese for a birthday party before their naps. The governor needs to call in the National Guard of several states and have them bring flamethrowers. Attached to tanks. Because this:
www.nbcnews.com
3. "Hey! At least I have butter!" This one might need some work. While I generally feel grateful for the existence of butter overall, I do feel far more smug about the abundance of it on my grocery shelves right now. Because in Japan, according to one news story, there is a massive shortage of butter due to JAPAN'S EXHAUSTED COWS. "The agriculture ministry has blamed the shortage on a brutally hot summer that affected milk production. The high temperatures left dairy cows simply too exhausted to meet their usual milk quotas." The story goes on to remark that bakeries have started using margarine "in the hope that the slightly inferior taste will be more palatable to customers than the inflated price of cakes and loaves made with butter." DAIRY FARMERS OF AMERICA! JAPAN NEEDS YOUR BUTTER! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY! (No one, and I mean NO ONE should ever have to use margarine.)

Koichi Kamoshida/EPA


So!  You pick a mantra while I struggle with my Shame, And I will try to remember the words of Leon Trotsky, revolutionary, who said, "Everything is relative."  He died when an assassin punctured his skull with an ice axe.  Sigh.  Winter....

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rally For Thanksgiving: Forget It. November Is On Its Own. I'm Sick, Freezing, And So Over It.

If you could hear me right now, I sound like Demi Moore with laryngitis, that's how badly my throat is damaged from postnasal drip and coughing. And that's not lipliner I'm wearing; my lips are chapped from wiping my nose, which alternately stuffs up, then randomly starts draining like a leaky faucet. So attractive! I'm alternately crusty and sticky, depending if it's nighttime or daytime, respectively. Oh, November, what a Joy you are!

Yesterday, I had to go out early in the morning. November greeted me with this:

That is the view at the very end of my street.  At 7:45 AM.  My poor little Prius did not care for this at all.  "Oh, but it's so pretty!" so many of you are saying.  Yes, it is. It's very pretty.  I'll give you that.

As a matter of fact, the route I had to take was absolutely gorgeous and, thankfully, clear and only wet.  The snow was heavy and, because it was exactly 32 degrees, wet and clingy.  Every single tree branch, wire, and structure was frosted.  It looked like something out of a movie.  This road in particular, was breathtaking.  But I couldn't stop for photography, as much as I wanted to.  I had to be somewhere.  I caught a few breaks thanks to school buses and traffic heading toward the junior college, but pictures don't really capture it.


Later, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped.  The snow froze.  The wind started blowing it off of all of the trees and structures in hard clumps.  I could hear it hitting the house, the road, the deck, all in thuds and clunks.  I worried about some of the more beautiful, aged trees in the city, as well as power lines.

When Winter sneaks in this quickly, with this much force and cold and snow, it can do a lot of damage.  We still have leaves on some of the oaks and maples here that are slow shedders.  They can hold lots and lots of heavy snow, causing huge limbs to break, downing power lines and crashing into roofs.  Not to mention the sadness of losing the trees themselves, many of them gracious shade-givers or landmarks.  And a lot of residents haven't yet raked up the last of the leaves; the city has not yet come by and vacuumed up the piles along the curb.  If we get a thaw and some rain, which it looks like we will, those leaves will clog up the sewers and cause some flooding.  
By the way, the Tuesday weather is very misleading.  Right now, it is 14, but because of 29 mph winds out of the WSW, it is actually -4.  My furnace has been running since 7:15 AM, struggling to reach 72.  It is now noon, and it is still trying.

November, you've caused a Big Mess.  I hate you a little bit.  Except for Thanksgiving, so far you've brought me nothing but a bad cold, crappy weather, and a bunch of republicans.  After all I've done for you!  

Rick will be the first to tell you that I am Not One To Suffer.  After thirty years in a public school classroom, I honestly feel like Those Days are over for me.  I no longer have to suffer unwillingly. So, this is the end of my Rally.  I'll still post as often as possible this month, but I'm no longer going to try to stick to The Theme.  I'll write whatever the hell I want to.  

So that's that.  I quit you, November, cold turkey.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Rally For Thanksgiving: November Is An Ungrateful SOB And Someone At PBS.org Needs A Tutor

Today, Dearest Readers, I am not Feeling It. November is really Letting Me Down, and this after I have championed it to the hilt. I am sitting pitifully defeated in my bigass chair, encased in fleece and self-pity because

1. It is 29 degrees with a windchill of 18 "real feel" degrees.
2. We are expecting 2 MORE inches of snow beyond what is already ON THE GROUND.
3. I am sick.

This is what happens when you help look after two wee relatives who are flinging germy slobber and snot around. Eff.

But thanks to my PBS Insider Email delivery, I can bravely, albeit weakly (sniff), soldier on and today discuss Foods For Which We Are Thankful.

I know. If this isn't the most ridiculous, nonspecific, goofiest topic ever conceived, the opening sentence will firmly cement for you the idea that some poor intern was simply trying to meet his or her deadline and find a way to present/link to previous recipes. Get ready; here is the first sentence:

Many people have favorite ingredients when they are cooking that you don’t know how you could do without them.

Wow, PBS.org. If that is the standard of your writing, you must have some first semester tenth-graders working part-time after school over there. The article then goes on to exclaim that "In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, [they] have compiled a list of ten foods that [they] are thankful for this year", and that they have "included a few suggestions for recipes that you can make with each item on the list." I know you can't wait--neither could I--so let's take a look at those favourite ingredients that we simply cannot do without, according to PBS.org:

1. Eggs
2. Carrots
3. Mini Chocolate Cakes
4. Peppers
5. Sushi
6. Cheesecake
7. Sandwiches
8. Pesto
9. Beef Bourguignon
10. Refreshing Cocktails

I am struggling mightily to come up with a recipe in which Beef Bourguignon is an ingredient. Ditto Sushi, Sandwiches, and Refreshing Cocktails. I suppose you could toss Mini Chocolate Cakes and Cheesecake into ice cream for something, or you could use them in a trifle or parfaits. Let's look at what the accompanying recipes are for Beef Bourguignon right at the source: Coq au Vin and Cream of Asparagus Soup! Why, of course! Duh.

Please don't tell the Fine People at PBS.org that I have done without all of those "ingredients" for weeks at a time. A dozen eggs even now languish in their carton here in the Dept. fridge. Two dozen, actually. Luckily, they are free-range, Amish farm eggs, and will last until Thanksgiving pie and dressing preparation. And pesto season has been over for aeons now. (Okay, months.) And I refuse to buy someone else's.

So, what are some of My Favourite Ingredients That I Simply Cannot Do Without?

1. Onions
2. Potatoes
3. Real Butter
4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5. Balsamic Vinegar
6. Pasta
7. Extra Sharp Cheddar
8. Dried Thyme
9. Wine
10. Chicken on the Bone

Keep me company by hauling out your snark.  You and I both know that PBS can--and should--do better.  And what are your Must-Have Ingredients?

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rally For Thanksgiving: The Dept. Of Nance Thanksgiving FAQ

Whether you like it or not, turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving, and so much so that Butterball, Foremost Turkey Purveyor, has had a Turkey Hotline for more than thirty years. They have even taken to the Interwebs with this service, and in addition to calling their team of Turkey Experts at 1-800-BUTTERBALL, you can now live chat with them or email them via their website, here.

Not to be outdone, The Washington Post, journalistic bastion of all Beltway News and winner of forty-seven Pulitzer Prizes, has announced that, from now until Thanksgiving, it will be answering "some of the most commonly asked holiday meal questions." You can "E-mail [them]or join [their] weekly live Web chat on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. For complete Turkey Day coverage, visit [their] Thanksgiving Central page."

Well, hell. I feel as if I have a ton of Thanksgiving Expertise to offer, but I don't have an 800 number or a newspaper. I do have this website; however, I don't want to wait around for people to submit questions or possibly ask things I don't want to talk about. So, I'm going to do it the Nance Way. Here, then, is

The Dept. Of Nanceswers, Thanksgiving Edition

Question: Must I serve an organic turkey at my Thanksgiving meal?
Nanceswer: Of course not. If you have a guest who insists upon a free-range, organic, fresh, or bilingual turkey, then politely request that he or she bring it so that it is correctly purchased, stored, and prepared. The same goes for any other special dietary request. Cheerily offer to provide the necessary serving pieces, and say that you look forward to tasting such a wonderful treat.

Q: Is it okay not to include kale, quinoa, or chia seeds in my Thanksgiving menu?
N: Absolutely. These trendy foods will welcome the respite, and butter will be glad for the work.

Q: How long do we have to wait for late guests? Is there a fifteen-minute rule, like for professors?
N: Just as no Fifteen Minute Rule For A Full Professor actually exists, no hard and fast rule for tardy dinner guests does either. But perpetually late guests are always Rude, and this behaviour should not be rewarded year after year. Call their bluff and sit down to a hot dinner. They will catch up and, hopefully, catch on. After all, microwaves were invented so that we could warm plates of food quickly and efficiently. Late guests can do this when they arrive. Greet them warmly, but without fanfare and judgment.

Q: How do you feel about The Kids' Table?
N: I am largely against it. Children should sit at the table with adults and learn about conversation; they should try new foods, observe and practice table manners, and be supervised by their parents. Thanksgiving is a great time for kids to sit down and learn how to eat a full meal in a relaxed setting and enjoy company.

Q: What wine do you suggest for Thanksgiving?
N: I've had lots of different wines with turkey, from a dry rose to Beaujolais Nouveau to a rich, oaky Chardonnay. All of them have been lovely. I think you should open a couple of wines that you truly enjoy and do just that, enjoy them. I would stay away from any sweet wine, like a riesling or the simply terrible white zinfandel or the dessert-y moscato. On principle, I'd stay away from those last two entirely, forever. But that's just me.

Q: Should I brine, deep fry, or otherwise do something worky to my turkey?
N: Only if you have nothing else to keep you busy and active. Have you tried crossword puzzles, knitting, or building low-cost housing for feral cats in your area? How about reformatting your laptop? Did you ever put all of your old super8 movies into a digital format? Just checking.

Q: How have you decorated your home for Thanksgiving?
N: I have two bags of cranberries in my freezer.

Q: Can you suggest some creative alternatives for pumpkin pie?
N: Listen. If you don't want pumpkin flavour, then make anything else you want. Make a chocolate cake. Make a pecan pie. Make a huge trifle with raspberries and hunks of pound cake. But if you like pumpkin spice flavour, stick with the pumpkin pie. Why mess with it? Let's face it: pumpkin roll, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins--all that stuff tastes like pumpkin pie and that's why people love it. So, either do the pie or do a 180 and make something else.

Q: Are you a Brussels Sprout Person?
N: Oh, my, yes. I am crazy about them. One of the finest drinks nibblies ever is an appetizer made by the chef at Nemo's restaurant in Avon, a little town near me here in NEO. It's sliced, fried Brussels sprouts with a little bit of bacon, balsamic reduction, and toasted pistachios. Those with a dirty vodka martini...perfection. But I'll take them straight up, steamed with a little butter and salt and pepper, too, and have them fresh on Thanksgiving.

Q: Is it acceptable to have plain vegetables rather than candied, casseroled, au gratined, escalloped or the like?
N: Yes, and I always do. With the abundance of food and gravy and starch like dressing, mashed potatoes, and rolls, I like to have plain vegetables with real butter, seasoned with salt and pepper only.

Q: What should be done regarding cell phones at the Thanksgiving table?
N: Unless someone is a medical doctor, has an aged parent in a Home or hospital, or will be Skyping in a distant relative (such as a member of the armed services overseas or a married child who is giving the in-laws their turn), the cell phones should be put away and silenced. This may be akin to Social Suicide for some tweens and stunted adults, but they will get over it. Slapping offenders is, of course, forbidden; instead, fix them with a stern yet sad look and say, "Why don't you go ahead and take care of your very important business in the other room? We'll make sure that a nice plate is left for you in the fridge." It does no good to force anyone to be someplace he does not want to be. But the rest of the table should not have to be subjected to someone's bowed head attending to an absent third party all during dinner.

Q: What about the crushing guilt if I don't use real whipped cream?
N: Get over it. I know that Cool Whip is a whole bunch of chemicals and grease. I also know that I use it only about twice a year and that it's way easier than making and storing real whipped cream. If your guilt is so strong, buy ReddiWip. It's made with real cream. Wow. Are you Catholic?

Q: What do you suggest regarding the attire for Thanksgiving?
N: Some families like to dress in their Sunday Best for this holiday and make it a very festive, special event. It makes for a lovely scene and, if you are This Type Of Family, some pretty photos. For the Dept., we dress quite casually, and I often consider having Jammies Thanksgiving. For us, it is a holiday of extreme relaxation and togetherness and joy. I think it's a matter of family style and preference. Ideally, generous and stretchy waistbands would be a given.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for all the leftover turkey?
N: Is this really a problem, honestly? Do people A) not know how to figure out how big of a turkey to buy; B) not have a love of turkey sandwiches; C) not have the Interwebs? I rarely have any leftover turkey, and it's a little irritating. When I have a little leftover turkey (or chicken), I like to make a big pot pie, which also uses up any other leftovers like potatoes, veg, and even dressing, which can be cubed up or sliced up and put on the bottom. It all gets mixed up with the leftover gravy, which can be supplemented with some good jarred or canned gravy. I use the turkey carcass and wings for soup, or at least stock.

Q: What about leftover cranberry sauce?
N: Why don't we make this terrific condiment more often? It's delicious with roasted pork, and it's wonderful on buttered toast or a bagel. You can use it with apples in a crisp. Warm it and spoon it over brie, then serve it with baguette or apple and pear slices. If you want to get terrifically worky, buy those little phyllo cups and spoon a little bit of the cranberry sauce in the bottom of each one; add a chunk of brie or a white farmer's cheese, then a walnut half; bake in a 350 oven for about 8 minutes, til the cup is golden, and the cheese is melty. Lovely!

Q: What should we do if we have any more questions?
N: Ask them in Comments.

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