Couple of quickies before we get going:
1. I was driving along the road that skirts our lake last week, taking it pretty slow because of all the ice, when a freaking bald eagle shot right in front of me carrying a (presumably) dead squirrel. He was hauling ass, trying to outpace the dozen or so smaller birds right behind who were either trying to steal his take-out, or just getting him the hell out of their territory (“I have an idea: let’s build a wall! Oh wait, we can fly….“). That close up and with wings fully extended he looked bigger than my dad’s Cessna. If I had been going just 1 mph faster I would have had fresh Eagle and Squirrel Pie for dinner that night. Welcome to New Jersey, national symbol.
2. I took a really horrible picture of really wonderful food:
Ok, follow along here.
I like pecan tassies, and had enough cream cheese in the house to make the traditional cream cheese crust. But I didn’t have any pecans to make the filling.
I like Chinese egg custard tarts, and had enough eggs and cream in the house to make the filling. But didn’t have enough butter to make the traditional puff paste shells.
You guessed it: Chinese Egg Custard Tassies. Those things on the left.
The thing on the right?
Well, I still had cream cheese paste left thanks to my usual disdain for things like “measuring” and “advice”. So I decided to wing a larger tart with that remaining lump of dough. I whisked up some more custard and….
I’ve had a block of plums preserved in…. I don’t remember – booze? spiced wine? simple syrup?…sitting in my freezer since last September when I made another batch of Slivovitz but purchased too many plums. I got sick of seeing that block last week and decided to turn it into plum jelly. But that left me with a block of strained plum solids, which turned out to be delicious. So I spread them out onto a Silpat like a lumpy sheet of Fruit Rollups, and they’ve been sitting in my fridge ever since. (The jelly is wonderful, btw.)
Ok, so I rolled out the remaining paste and lined the tart pan with it, made some more custard and poured it in, scattered the rest of the plum goop over the top, then tossed on some slivered almonds and baked the whole lot off. It looked like – well, let’s just call it “rustic”, shall we? – but tasted wonderful. As it happens, NewWifey(tm) doesn’t like plums, so guess who ate it all in one sitting?
(I did insert a sliver of that plum glop into one or two of the small tassies. That’s what’s poking out of the middle one in the photo.)
You are soooooooooooo jealous right now, aren’t you. You should be.
3. One of the most hallowed of all hallowed radio traditions is the tradition of sending a reporter to the grocery store whenever a big storm is forecast so they can describe the roiling mass of human locusts stripping the aisles clean. So when the big storm hit earlier this week we sent a reporter down to the local Food-n-Shit to get some audio of the mayhem. Most of it was the same ol’ same ol’. But one cut cracked me up. A woman being interviewed said in a very exasperated voice, “Look at this. They’re all grabbing bread! Milk! Eggs! What is there, a French Toast Crisis or something?” The chef in me applauded her immediate recognition of Pain Perdu and I put it on the air in my very next newscast. Maybe there’s hope for humanity after all.
4. I’m going to make this soon. Yes, I am.
And now, on to The Story!
In our last exciting episode I posted pictures of dead alpacas, live alpacas, and a bar of soap. I also posted pictures of NewWifey(tm) squeee-ing in delight at all of them (although the one picture of her indignation over being ignored happens to be my personal favorite).
One thing I neglected to mention however was NewWifey(tm)’s reaction to those pictures.
I don’t recall her words verbatim, but the general gist went something like:
“Honey? What’s the matter?”
“I put on weight is what’s the matter!” She jabbed a finger in my chest. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?!”
“All those times I said ‘does this make me look fat?’, why didn’t you say ‘yes’?”
“Honey, are you familiar with something called the ‘self preservation instinct’…?”
“Oh come on baby, you don’t loo-”
“This is YOUR FAULT” she said. “All those stupid French sauces! That never-ending bread experiment! All that goddam ice cream! Scones! Cheese! Wine! THIS IS YOUR FAULT!”
“You know babe, there are three cucumbers in the crisper even as we speak. Untouched.”
I nursed that black eye for a week.
One thing about NewWifey(tm) that I’ve always admired: no matter how upset she is, she can clamp down on her emotions and rationally chart the best course out of whatever problem caused her fury.
THEN she blows a gasket.
So I wasn’t surprised that after she stomped off I didn’t hear anything more about it for two days. I let her stew.
On the third day – and by “day” I mean “middle of the night two hours before I had to wake up and go to work” – she jabbed an elbow in my ribs and said “I want you to research FitBits.”
This time I do recall verbatim my response. It was, “xrnfff…wu…huh? wha…OW! Da fuck?!”
She pressed on, oblivious. “I’ve asked on Facebook and all my stitching ladies say they heard from their nephews that FitBits are the new ThighMaster. You’re a news guy. Find out it that’s true.”
I didn’t bother explaining to her that product reviews generally don’t feature in any of my newscasts. When NewWifey(tm) gets it in her mind to do something, she doesn’t even hear me. So I just shut up and researched FitBits as best I could during my few breaks at work the next day.
Cut to the chase: I got her a FitBit Charge 2 for Christmas. Purple.
“Why purple?” she said when she unwrapped it.
“It matches my Le Creuset tart pan.”
“Yeah it does, but what does that…oh, never mind. Thank you.”
(Side note: it’s a refurb. Got it for 50% off, with full warranty. The trade off? They only had ’em in purple. But it does match my tart pan. That’s important too.)
She read the manual (people do that?), watched an online tutorial, bragged to her Facebook ladies, then put it on. Now a month later the only times she’s taken it off have been to charge it, and to shower. (So, 4 times….)
I gotta give her credit here, she’s really sticking with it. Every hour she gets her ass off the couch and marches around the house a few times, then goes up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs til she hits her Steps Taken goal. I’m very proud of her, and I always tell her that from where I sit with my pork rinds and 6-packs of Guinness.
(She’s not achieving her sleep goals, though. Every day she shows me the graph of her previous night’s snooze pattern. And every day the readout says she’s getting substandard deep and REM sleep compared to “normal” women her age. “Who are these bitches, and how are they able to nail a perfect pattern night after night? I hate them! I’m so mad I can’t sleep!” I didn’t point out the obvious.)
However, inasmuch as stomping around the house and tramping stairs is meeting her Minimum Daily Steps requirement, she’s been getting absolutely zero credit for “Working Out”. Apparently mere motion isn’t enough to qualify. You’ve got to get your heart rate up to at least 116 beats per minute before Sergent Purple pins that medal on you.
If this was spring, or if we lived someplace like Mordor, NewWifey(tm) would just hop on her dirt bike and get her heartbeat up to 116 within seconds through sheer panic. Or she could mow the lawn with the manual push mower she got for some reason. That would do it. Maybe engage in some power gardening. But as this is winter and we live in Planet Hoth, New Jersey, the gas in her bike is frozen solid, the lawn is under 3 feet of snow, and the only possible gardening she could do is trim her own bush. So…hallways and stairs. Heart rate: 80 BPM. No medal.
Internet to the rescue!
She posted her frustration to her stitching group on Facebook, and the group immediately sprang into action. Women who hadn’t seen their toes since the Reagan administration waxed authoritatively on the best way to keep weight off while building lean muscle. (I was heartened to see more than one recommend “eat cucumbers”). A virtual storm of URLs were hurled at her, running the gamut from astrology sites to genetic engineering labs.
Guess which one she clicked on?
“Get In Shape Through Better Sex!”
I was completely oblivious to all of this, by the way, as I was at work when she got the idea to enlist her “friends”. The first I learned of it was when I walked in the door and found NewWifey(tm) standing naked in the middle of the living room. The only thing she was wearing was the FitBit.
“Uhhhhh…is the thermostat up too high for you, baby?”
“Shut up. Take your clothes off.”
“Don’t get me wrong honey, this really is a pleasant surprise. But…I just got home from work. Can I get some lunch first?”
She pushed a sandwich into my hand. “I figured you’d say that. Eat this on your way to the bedroom.”
In between bites I got out, “Why the urgency? You binge watch a bunch of Robert Pattinson movies again?”
“No. An article I read said that sex raises your heart rate and burns calories more than even mowing the lawn. I have to get to 116 beats per minute to get my badge, so stop talking and fuck me so I can lose weight.”
She rolled onto her back and spread ’em. I started to protest, as I still had half a sandwich left, but…what the hell. I jammed it into my mouth and hopped on. Something told me she wasn’t worried about formalities.
I have to say, it wasn’t the most erotic of boinks. NewWifey(tm) held her wrist in front of her face the entire time, monitoring her heart rate. I had half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sticking out of my face, and because I couldn’t chew or swallow while both my hands were bearing my full weight on the mattress, a constant stream of saliva trickled past the breading and onto NewWifey(tm)’s forehead.
After about 3 minutes she pushed me off. “This isn’t working. Let’s try doggie style.”
I hurriedly downed the rest of the sandwich while she got in position. I wish she’d remembered milk.
I saddled up, and we took off. NewWifey(tm) had one hand down on the mattress, the other bent in front of her face so she could read the numbers.
Another three minutes and then, “You really suck at this. My heart rate isn’t going up at all! Get off.”
Man, talk about a college flashback.
As I mentioned earlier, I really admire NewWifey(tm)’s ability to rationally formulate a plan in even the most stressful of situations. And believe me, this was stressful.
“Ok” she said. “Lie on your back. This time I’ll do the work.”
That scared me, mostly because of the look on her face when she said it. “Grim determination” is not the expression you want to see on the face of someone who’s about to start bouncing up and down on a particularly vulnerable member of your…well, on your particularly vulnerable member. But I didn’t have a choice. I lay back and braced for impact.
You know what I discovered? It turns out it doesn’t matter WHAT kind of look is on the face of the naked girl bouncing on top of you. It feels great.
NewWifey(tm) heard me starting to breath hard and tore her eyes off the FitBit. To her horror saw that mien start to creep across my features. The mien that said, “In about 40 more seconds I’m gonna suddenly fall asleep.”
“You better not!” she said. “Goddam you, DON’T. I’m at 109 – if you stop now I’ll kill you. Think about dead puppies! Nuns! Nuns killing puppies! Puppies killing nuns!!”
I closed my eyes and thought of nuns, but all I could see was Jane Curtin’s nun character tearing her top off in the movie “Nasty Habits”. This wasn’t helping.
Desperate, I went nuclear.
“Let me call you ‘James‘” I gasped.
“Just do it!!”
“Fine, if you think it will help.” She resumed bouncing.
It helped. “Hey, James” I said.
That’s all it took. Crisis averted. I was good to go again.
She screamed. “ONE SIXTEEN! I DID IT!!”
So did I.
40 seconds later I was asleep. No stamina at all.
I think I better get a FitBit….
This Sunday is my birthday, and in case you missed it NewWifey(tm) has a tradition of making me an authentic Sicilian cassata cake every year on the day:
Guess what I’ll be having this year, though?
I had to have some minor oral surgery yesterday, and my mouth is now full of stitches and raw nerves. For the next week I can’t shovel in anything that needs to be chewed, so I’ve got vats of congee, rice pudding, and various smooth soups lined up in the fridge. Guess I’ll stick a candle in one of them and call it a party.
Can’t even drink.