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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Oprah for President

This weekend we were talking about the wonder that is Oprah and Aunt Marilyn suggested that she run for president. I agree. Why?

Let’s focus on the issues:

Oprah just caught three sexual predators who had eluded the authorities for years. It took her a couple of days.

Oprah found a place outside of Chicago that was so poor they had no running water, no garbage service and the people were living in filth amongst rodents. The problem? They didn’t have their own zip code so they didn’t get these services. She brought attention to it so the state government would too.

The Economy:
Hello? She’s CEO of a huge enterprise and is one of the richest people in the country. I think she knows how to help us make money.

The War in Iraq:
Oprah is so persuasive I bet she could talk some sense into those insurgents.

Natural Disasters:
She got all of Hollywood to come help her with Katrina recovery and is building all kinds of houses.

The Environment:

She just did a show with Leonardo DiCaprio about the evils of global warming. I now unplug my cell phone charger when I’m not using it. Thanks, Oprah.

State Dinners:
Come on, it’s not all about the bad stuff. She’ll have to entertain too. Did you see her segment on holiday parties with the pomegranate martinis? They’re sweeping the nation.

A Supportive First Lady:
Steadman would make a terrific first lady—always keeping quiet but helping where necessary.

A Brilliant Cabinet:
She’d have all the best people around her: Gayle, Dr. Phil, Nate the decorator, Bob the trainer, Rachael Ray for parties and Kirstie Alley for, uh, dancing?

Good speeches:
If Oprah were president I think I would actually tune in for the state of the union address. Word to the wise: turn it on about ten minutes into it after all the clapping, cheering and crying has calmed down.

I don’t think we’ll be quite ready in 2008 but let’s start encouraging Oprah for 2012. We can all get these bumper stickers that say “O, the President.” Sure, it’ll be a big salary reduction for her and the living conditions probably aren’t up to her standards. But I think Oprah will be able to get past all that and help this country come together. And if nothing else good comes out of it, at least we might all get free cars.


Apparently, Aunt Marilyn wasn't the first to think of it!

Oh, no. I share this opinion with Michael Moore!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving Recap

Here I am, Cookinggal, stirring up one of my many Thanksgiving recipes. I look happy but I was actually a frazzled psycho version of Cookinggal. Again, my apologies to my guests.

I did however, get some rave reviews:

"This is the best Thanksgiving meal I've ever had."

"I have to say, this is one of the best Thanksgivings ever."


"Pass the asparagus dish. I'm gonna need the recipe."

Now, let's compare and contrast as I promised:

We started with a dip called the three pepper cheese spread. And when I say "we started with" I mean I put it out in front of the boys who were watching football and they destroyed it.

Here is what it was supposed to look like:

Here is what it looked like by Cookinggal. Hey, give me some better lighting and fancy garnishes and they're identical I think.

Then I made this Spinach casserole. I don't want to talk about it.

The popular asparagus dish looked like this:

I got the recipe from my neighbor so I don't have a picture to compare it to. But trust me, this is how it's supposed to look.

Okay, let's skip to dessert. I attempted this double layer pumpkin pie that's supposed to look like this:

But ended up looking like this:

How DO they get the two layers to have that line between them? You know what? I don't care. It still tasted freakin' awesome.

You can't tell but everyone is saying, "Thank you, Cookinggal!"

Stay tuned this holiday season as Cookinggal tackles a Christmas party! Rachael Ray? So yesterday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cookinggal Takes on Thanksgiving

This is my third year to “host” Thanksgiving. But what does that really mean? In the past it just meant that I made sure the house was clean (sometimes via a pricey maid, much to Frank’s despair) and then opened the door. My mom, mother-in-law and sister did all the work. My mom would even bring the turkey in from Houston! This pic is me on Thanksgiving two years ago. Yes, I wore the chef’s hat but just to be cute. The chef’s hat wasn’t even fooled.

But this year—since I’ve morphed into Cookinggal—I’m going to tackle it. Here’s what I’m making:

  • A turkey: The real kind that you have to cook, not the kind that you just heat up. Tonight my mom is going to call me and we’re going to “talk turkey” as she says. This means she’s going to walk me through cleaning out its guts. Gross. But I do feel a little bit like Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy. Or maybe Izzy. Except there’s no McDreamy.

  • A Spinach Casserole: Frank’s mom and I are on this healthy kick so everyone else is not so excited about this one. (It’s so an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond without the tofu turkey.)
  • This Asparagus/Tomato/Cheese dish that my neighbor vaguely told me about. Cross your fingers.
  • A fancy cheese dip: To keep my guests occupied while I’m cooking.
  • TWO Pumpkin Pies!

I’m letting the other ladies handle a few other sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing and salad. I WILL be supervising though.

Here’s what I’m gonna do, blog readers: I’m gonna take photos of everything I make and since most of the recipes are online, I’m going to compare the pics side by side on Monday. Now, you’ll have to take into account that the people at Kraft (where I get most of my recipes) hire fancy food stylists and secure the best lighting for their food. I tried to do that but the food stylists and photographers aren’t working on Thanksgiving. So I’ll have to do my best with my digital camera.

So today I’m cleaning (no fancy maid this year) and tomorrow I’m gonna slap on my apron and chef’s hat and make a Thanksgiving dinner. The chef’s hat is gonna be so confused.

So happy Thanksgiving! And remember, if you and your family get bored, you can always trace your hands and make a turkey. It’s a total blast. But you should probably get drunk like this guy did.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Why MariahCareyMerryChristmas Rocks

I love MariahCareyMerryChristmas. And you have to say it like that—all one word. Or if you’re really in the know, you can say MCMC. My best friend in high school, Amber, got it for me our senior year so this marks my 11th year of jamming to MCMC. Why does it rock?

Mariah mixes old and new with songs like “Joy to the World” and “Miss you Most at Christmas Time.” She even has this awesome tune, “Jesus, Oh what a Wonderful Child” which she sings with a black choir. I like to pretend that I’m the only little white girl in the all black choir and when Mariah’s part comes on, I emerge from the choir and sing. Then everybody goes, “Go little white girl!” Of course, when they find out I’m just lip singing to Mariah Carey I’ll have to dance a jig and get out of there.

Now I'm not even a big Mariah Carey fan. I don't have any of her other albums. Okay, if you count the single to "Vison of Love" which I have on tape then I guess I do. But everybody had that.

Mariah fans and non-fans alike are in luck this year: She's revamped the album with more songs, newer versions and a DVD of some sort. Here’s what people are saying:

Oppie from New Mexico says:
“This has got to be one of the best Christmas albums ever made.”

J. Stewart of Columbus, Ohio says:
“This is a must have...even if you have the original!”

Kelly T. of Tampa, FL says:
"I'm so glad she gave this album a fact lift!" (Hey, just because she can't spell doesn't mean her comment isn't valid!)

The experts at Amazon say:
"A must for diehards, and a pleasant surprise for the unconverted."

Listen to samples here!

Every year I completely overplay this CD. I listen to it at home, during road trips, even in the shower (Yes, I have a CD player in there!) But I never get sick of it. Once December 26th hits, though, MCMC goes right back into….well it’s been in the side pocket of Frank’s car for the last year. But I got it out this morning and I’m ready to overplay it again. Feel free to come over and watch me sing along. I’ll even do “Jesus, Oh what a Wonderful Child” for you. But if you’re gonna watch, you HAVE to yell, “Go little white girl!”

Monday, November 21, 2005

Elsa's Favorite Things

Today Oprah is having her best show of the year, “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” She’ll list gifts at all prices that she thinks are cool and then the audience feigns surprise as she screams, “You’re getting the super duper coffee maker, you’re getting the super duper coffee maker, everybody’s getting the super duper coffee maker!" I thought we could do the same at Writinggal. Except don’t bother practicing your fake surprised face—you ain’t gettin’ nuthin'.

Airline Blanket: My favorite blanket is red, soft, warm and has been used by thousands of disgruntled airline passengers. Frank gave it to me about five years ago. He called me one morning at like 6am. He had just gotten off a red eye flight and said he was coming straight to my apartment with a surprise. When I opened the door he was standing there with the stolen blanket. I was so excited! My very own airline blanket plus my boyfriend was a thief (you know how girls like the bad boys).

Ti-faux: If you don’t have Tivo or the fake version, DVR, you are so missing out. You may think another TV gadget means you’re more obsessed with TV or that you’ll watch more of it. Not true. With Ti-faux you’re in control. You can start programs later and therefore not spend as much time in front of the TV. Take Oprah, for instance. That show is really only 30 minutes once you take out commercials, the theme song and the ten minutes of Oprah worshipping at the beginning.

Dish Dryer: We were using our dishwasher way too much. I was running it like every day. I mean, I would look at a spoon and think it needed to go in the dishwasher. So Frank suggested we get this dish drying thingie—for those items that we can wash in the sink and not put in the dishwasher. We went to Target and picked up this adorable red one! I don’t know if it’s the bold color or the promise of a lower electric bill but when we look at it we say, “I love that red dish drying thingie.”

Chimenea: I don’t have one of these but I really want one. Just in case you were struggling with what to get me this year.

Hopefully I've just made your Christmas shopping a little bit easier. And since we're talking about favorites, I bet you're curious to know my fave Christmas song: It's Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you." And guess what? Next time I see you I'll sing it for you! That's right, you're getting a song, you're getting a song, everybody's getting a song sung to them by me! I am so white Oprah today.

Friday, November 18, 2005

More Tips from Thea

It’s back by popular demand. And when I say “popular demand” I mean Doug Clayton requested more tips from Thea. And he’s sort of popular.

Well she's at it again and this time she’s saved me, made me smarter and helped me win a contest. Some pretty good tips, eh?

The Tip that Saved Me
Last Friday I posted a blog about pyramid schemes. I actually wrote the blog Thursday night after a couple of glasses of wine at the Pampered Chef party. When I went to write the word “sommelier,” I googled it and took its first guess which was, “Somalia.” I wasn’t sure why it needed to be capitalized but who cares? I just bought a nifty rice cooker!

The next morning as I was driving to meet the girls for the Nordstrom’s Grand Opening, I heard Big Al on the radio say something about those pirates off the coast of Somalia. Ah!! Somalia! That's what I had written! I knew Thea would know how to spell sommelier (since she’s the one who taught me the word in the first place). I called her and told her that I had written that a woman was a “Somalia” and she said, “What? She’s a small, irate country?” She then quickly gave me the correct spelling and I sped to Jacquie’s house to change it before any blog readers knew my secret--that I’m no spelling bee champ when I’ve had too much wine. Even when the word has to do with wine.

The Tip that Made me Smarter
I was telling Thea that my sister’s boyfriend owned a business where “I think they ‘sup’ up cars like ghetto style.” She asked, “Is it a detailing business?” and I said, “Yes!! That’s it! Detailing!” So now when he’s here for Thanksgiving I can use this term instead of saying, “So, how many low-riders did you do this week?”

The Tip that Helped me Win a Contest
On Wednesday Thea sent me a link to a contest on D Magazine’s FrontBurner. They asked people to write film reviews and the two winners would get to be Deputy Film Reviewers at the Deep Ellum Film Festival this weekend. I got Thea’s note, wrote a review and won! I’m going to be a unpaid film critic this weekend!

Check it out Hopefully you can guess which one I wrote.

Okay, so all these tips are really only relevant to me. I realize that. But hey, she also mentioned that you can get good deals on Burberry at So get to Christmas shopping! And if you don’t have any money, I bet Thea would pick your lottery numbers for you.

Sometimes Cookinggal gets Tips from Thea!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Meet my Homeless Friends

When I lived in Dallas the first time I used to pass a lot of homeless people on the way to work. There are two reactions people usually have when they see homeless people:

“They deserve to be that way. If I give them money, they’ll probably just spend it on drugs.”


“It sucks to be hungry!”

I’m not saying I’m some sort of saint, but I choose to react the second way. Yes, the first reaction may be true but I also think it’s easy to tell yourself that so you don’t feel bad about not helping.

And since I must be fed every few hours,I really hate for other people to be hungry. So I started carrying Rice Krispy Treats and granola bars in my car to give to my homeless friends. Sometimes they would ask me my name and I always told them Mandy. No, not because of my friend Mandy who you met yesterday. I think there was a Mandy Moore song on the radio when I first said it. Like I said, it was a few years ago.

The worst homeless situation I saw was at the corner of Royal and I35. It was a lady and her teenage son. She looked like a homeless person out of a movie, like she had been sweeping chimneys all day. And I just felt so bad for the teenager. My roommate at the time always had tons of extra food in the house that she was never going to eat. So I gathered up a bunch of it and took it to Hope and her son. I named her that. I don’t think I ever found her again though. Frank and his roommate Mark ended up eating the food.

Then there was Crack Whore Annie (I didn’t name her that.) Some of you from Dallas may know her. She’s “lived” at the corner of Lemmon and 75 for years. One day I was driving home and it was past my feeding time so I was hungry and grouchy. I saw CWA and thought, “If I’m hungry, think how hungry she is!” So I forced myself to go get her a hamburger from Wendy’s. When I gave it to her, she was grateful but then she asked, “Do you also have some money? I really need to get to the shelter…” Okay, okay. Reaction #1 was probably appropriate for CWA.

I never had much luck giving out fast food. One Sunday I made Frank drive through McDonald’s to get several hamburgers and I thought we could drive around and hand them out. But we couldn’t find anybody! Guess they think Sunday is a day of rest too. And, yep, you guessed it. Frank ate the hamburgers.

Then a friend at work encouraged me to come with her to a homeless shelter one night a week to serve food. Feed people at no cost to me? I liked the sound of that. So I worked behind the counter like a cafeteria lady, thinking the other people along side of me were volunteers too. No, they were a homeless couple and they lived and worked in the shelter. The lady started telling the other people that we were sisters. I thought it was kind of funny so I went along with it. But week after week she’d give these Oscar-worthy performances, “Have you talked to mom lately?” she’d ask, “She always liked you better.” Or “I can’t wait till we go shopping at the mall, sis,” and “Call me!!”

I feel bad because now that I live in the suburbs, I don’t see as many of my homeless friends. I don’t carry Rice Krispy Treats anymore and I haven’t gone to see my sis at the shelter in two years. While I hope my old friends are in homes now, it would be nice to head down to Oak Lawn and 35 and see them. Hopefully they’d all say, “Hey, Mandy,where you been?”

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Have you met Mandy?

On my new fave show “How I Met your Mother” (thanks, Thea), Doogie Howser (who calls himself ‘Barney’ on the show), plays this game with his friends: He walks up to strangers and asks, “Have you met Ted?” or “Have you met Robin?” and then walks away.

Today, I’d like to ask you all, “Have you met Mandy?”

No, I’m not trying to set her up. Mandy is spoken for. But she’s a cool gal and someone everyone should know.


Name: Amanda "Mandy" Bartel

Age: 40ish (she won’t tell but she seems to have lots of birthdays)

Status: Married once, has two kids (April and Andrew), now engaged to Tad (no, not Ted. Tad).

Occupation: Works in accounting at Kolar advertising and marketing in Austin. She really might be the homecoming queen of the office. When it’s Mandy’s birthday (which it is A LOT), everybody eagerly gives money for her gift rather than moaning and reluctantly giving a $1. The lady rakes in like $300 from a 50 person office! Okay, that's only like $6 each but there's always deadbeats who don't give at all.


Cooking. Mandy is the best cook ever! She makes cookies almost every day at Kolar (we love the rolo cookies) and is single-handedly responsible for the office collectively gaining 200 pounds this year.

Faxing. She loves to fax and helps Writinggal who still can’t do it.

Complaining about being fat. But she’s not fat. She’s just phat.

Secret hobby: Lying (including telling her children they were adopted, crank calling, crank emailing and spreading office gossip). Nobody suspects she’s lying because she’s so damn sweet.

Fave TV Show: Desperate Housewives. She and Tad (again, not Ted) fight about the plot line sometimes.

Girl Crush: Kelly Ripa

Little Known Fact: Mandy is the former Watermelon Thump Princess of Luling, TX.

Thanks for playing, “Have you met Mandy?” And if you would like to be featured on an upcoming installment of “Have you met (insert your name here)?” well you’ll just have to be patient. Or make me some of Mandy’s rolo cookies.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Few More Words about Breakfast

There once was ten-year-old boy who went to the mall with his mother. He hated the mall so when an adult approached him and asked if he would be part of a research project, he eagerly complied. The assignment? To eat this new breakfast food every day for a month and fill out a report on his feedback. The kid perked up: “You want my opinion?”
His mom perked up: “Free breakfast for a month?”

The kid took his work very seriously and diligently provided helpful insight each and every day. When the assignment was over, he mailed off his report and asked his mother to continue buying him the tasty breakfast treats.

The breakfast treats were Pop Tarts. And the guinea pig was my husband. As a result of this little experiment, we now have giant boxes of Pop Tarts (which we disgustingly call ‘Poop Tarts’ or just ‘Poops’) in our pantry. Frank has eaten them for breakfast pretty much every day since he was ten. He even eats the same flavor—frosted brown sugar and cinnamon.

Sure, I’ve tried to trick him by buying the low fat kind. He wasn’t fooled. I thought surely he would like the French Toast flavor. Nah. It must be the frosted brown sugar and cinnamon. And he eats two every day so we go through them really fast. I never go to the store and don’t buy Poop Tarts.

Recently, though, we had a breakthrough—for me and for him. We started shopping at Costco. On my first trip I immediately visited the breakfast aisle. They had giant boxes of my Kashi cereal (Thanks, Thea!) and yes, they also had enormous boxes of Poops! Only problem? The boxes consisted of half frosted brown sugar and cinnamon and half strawberry. This wouldn’t work. I’d be stuck eating the strawberry and somehow I just don’t think Poop Tarts are packed with all the fiber and goodness of Kashi.

I bought them anyway and presented them to Frank. He reluctantly agreed to try to the strawberry. When he did, he said something shocking: “You know, I think I might like these better than the frosted brown sugar and cinnamon Poop Tarts.”

A miracle! After 18 years, he’s making a change. Call Kellogg’s! Tell them they can decrease their distribution of frosted brown sugar cinnamon Poop Tarts in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. We’re a strawberry family now.

Also, as long we’re talking to Kellogg’s, I’d also like to add that I’ve done some math on this. Assuming he’s spent (or his parents have spent) $3 a week on PT’s for the last 18 years, that means we’ve invested almost $3,000 in their company! Tell ‘em that. See if we can get some profit sharing going. Or another month of free breakfast. I’ll give ‘em feedback: “My husband loves your Poops!”

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ron's Sandwiches

Some people have breakfast for dinner. Nothing wrong with a little eggs, pancakes and even some French toast in the evening. I’ve never been concerned about what time of day is appropriate for which type of meal. Cake in the morning? Sure. Wine before noon? Bring it on. I guess that’s because growing up I always had lunch for breakfast.

I think it was a combination of two things: I was the world’s pickiest eater and my dad made my breakfast. So what did I have every morning? A sandwich. A ham and cheese sandwich. But to make it a little bit more breakfast-like, he melted it in the microwave. This went on from elementary school all the way up through high school. We came to have this little ritual every day:

After I’d eat my sandwich I would tell my dad, “Thanks. That was a good sandwich,” and he would say, “You know, I think I’m going to start my own sandwich shop—right here on the Link road.” (That was the street that ran outside our neighborhood.) “I’ll call it Ron’s Sandwiches.”

I didn’t like crust back then so I’d always leave this pile of it on my plate. It looked like a massacre so my dad would ask, “Who won the war?”

At some point in high school he got creative and took some plastic palm trees off a birthday cake and incorporated them into my breakfast. So on my plate he’d put the melted ham and cheese sandwich and then the palm trees around the perimeter. He’d often remark, “You forgot to eat your palm trees!” Of course since I was a teenager at that point this would spark some serious eye rolling.

In college I chose sleep over breakfast but when I got out into the working world and had to make my own morning meal, I once again went with the trusty sandwich. Every morning I’d get out the bread, mayo, ham and cheese and melt it in the microwave. I didn’t have palm trees and I had grown to like the crust so it wasn’t exactly the same.

Sometimes I would be running late for work so I had to bring my sandwich with me. There I’d sit, in my cube, at 8:30 in the morning, chowing down on a sandwich. Yes, people thought I was weird. And yes, they thought I just couldn’t wait to eat my lunch. I became known for it: “The girl who eats sandwiches for breakfast.”

Now, I have to admit, I’m such a clichĂ©: I eat cereal for breakfast. But every now and then, usually on Saturdays, I’ll make myself a sandwich for breakfast as a special treat. No, they’re not as good as Ron’s Sandwiches but, come on, he’s a professional. I can’t compete with that.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Pyramids of Granbury Drive

I hate pyramid schemes: Mary Kay, Southern Living, the sex toys. I’ve given in and attended a few of these parties, telling myself that I really liked the product. And yes, I did like the wine one. I was even impressed with the host when she said she had gone to school to become a sommelier. I thought, “Now this girl’s really into wine. I respect that.”

But then at the end of the evening (after I had bought my fair share of wine), one of my friends said, “Oh, and she also sells these great lotions and soaps.” What? So the lady’s just a peddler? I should’ve known.

Last night I gave in again. It was Pampered Chef. But hello? I’m totally Cookinggal now and I needed some things. Plus, it was hosted by a neighbor and I’m trying to get in good with them. I mean, driving into Dallas is getting exhausting and I need some 75287 friends. I must admit, walking across the street to a party was so refreshing and easy. Who cares if I hardly know the people? I’ll get to know them! I’ll learn to love them! Have ya seen the price of gas?

So I go with the intention of just buying a couple of things—last time I got a cool super-absorbent dish towel that I actually use on my hair—and then glazing over when she went into the “why we should be Pampered Chef consultants” spiel.

But there I was, a total non-believer, an anti-pyramider, finding myself completely intrigued with this woman’s job. I mean, if anyone could have recruited me, it would have been Fonda.

Get this: She’s been doing this for seven years, given over 700 parties and just works two nights a week. She told us about all the trips she’s been on through the PC program: Germany, Hawaii, Alaska, Disneyland and this year she’s going to Vienna.

She had a little sign up that said, “Wouldn’t you like to make an extra $400 a month?” I thought, “How cute. She makes a little spare change and then goes on some nice trips.” But then Fonda revealed something. She doesn’t mess around with no $400 a month. Yep, add another 0 to that. Fonda makes $4,000 a month working two nights a week!

I’m telling you, one more glass of wine and I would have been signing the papers. Instead, I just bought my rice cooker—which Martha Stewart told me I had to have if I wanted to make perfect rice—and walked back across the street.

So I didn’t join the pyramid of the pampers (as Frank calls it). But I did get to know the neighbors and I have to say, none seem like serial killers. But this morning I’m driving to Dallas to see my friends for the Nordstrom grand opening. Yes, it will cost a lot in gas. Yes, I’ll have to fight rush hour traffic. No, I won’t make $4,000 in the process. But they won’t pressure me to join any pyramid schemes, buy soaps and lotions or sex toys and, I have to say, that’s priceless.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Oh, Canada

Lately I’ve been forming connections with Canada (which Homer Simpson calls “America Junior.”)

First, I accidentally attended a Canada Day party this summer. Frank and I went to this bar in Austin to meet our friends Stefanie and Jon. We sat out on the patio and after about an hour, we started to notice that we just didn’t fit in. Everybody was saying things like “Eh” and “Ya” and there were Canadian flags on every table. And we were drinking some Canadian beer because it was on special. When the big Canadian flag beach ball landed on me, I knew something was up.

Jon, who is from Buffalo, has an understanding of Canada similar to ours of Mexico. He realized that it was indeed Canada Day and began telling us stories of hockey and other northern, foreign activities. This was a good move because we soon spotted a giant Canadian Flag cake. His tales made us look like true Canadians. And I would do whatever it took to be Canadian. I wanted that cake.

So we played with the beach ball and Jon assigned us all home cities in Canada (just in case anyone asked). Then came the true test: The rowdy group decided to sing the Canadian National Anthem. And guess what? Jon knew it! So we all watched him and sang along. I even danced and waved my arms about. I really wanted that cake. Stef and Frank almost ruined it for us with their poor faking skills.

After the anthem, I went up and cut four pieces of cake and luckily, nobody asked me where I was from. Ooh, that cake was good. They really know how to make a good dessert in Canada.

I thought my Canadian encounters were over but then this week there was another. While doing some internet searching of a title of one of my articles, I found that a girl at the University of Waterloo in Ontario had plagiarized me! She handed in my article to the student newspaper and put her name on it. I emailed the editor and when I didn’t get a response, I called him, fuming. Would I sue? Damn right I’d sue! And they should be prepared to pay up in cake.

Tim, the Canadian editor with one of those silly Canadian accents, apologized profusely and said they would take it down. Then, my third Canadian encounter happened:

He said that I wasn’t the first one to bring this to their attention—the day before a student at the University had come forward to tell them that this article had already run on MSN. A Canadian supporter! A Canadian who’s got my back!

I’ve never been there but now that I have all these buds, I might pay Canada a visit. I mean, I could stay with the people from the bar, the bakers, the plagiarizing priss, editor Tim or maybe random Writinggal fan. Maybe Canada could be the place I go and people get excited to see me—like Mary Kate and Ashley in China. Or the Hilton sisters in Japan. Or David Hasselhoff in France. Yep, start baking a cake because I’m coming to see you, America Junior.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Follow-up Blog

It’s my 70th post and I thought that instead of bringing up a whole new topic, I’d give you updates on past blogs. I know you’re dying to know the outcome of certain issues. It’s sort of a “Where are they now?” except this is not about that kid from "Who’s the Boss?"

Express Lane Update
While recently visiting Tom Thumb I watched a cashier verbally reprimand a customer for incorrectly using the express lane. I told him, “Thanks so much for doing that! I was at Kroger and they didn’t say anything. You’ve done a great service, saving us from people who take advantage of the express lane. It’s wrong, WRONG!!” He said, “Lady, I think the person just didn’t see the sign.”

Eyebrow Update
I confessed to you that I don’t have eyebrows. I’ve since gotten some. I bought the Clinique eyebrow pencil and I use it every day. I think I like them. Nobody’s said anything but I’ll take that as a good sign.

Hurricane Houseguests Update
I told you about Aunt Marilyn and Uncle John taking in a family of three from hurricane Katrina. Well I’m happy to report that not only did a generous donor give them a nice car, they have also found a home in Spring, TX.

Update on Baby Jessica
She hasn’t fallen into any wells in 18 years. Yea! But she still got a mention on Will & Grace last week! Go, Jess. I still hate pickles.

Update on Eavesdropping Weight
There’s this one personal trainer I eavesdrop on the most. He caught me yesterday and just flat out told me what I was doing wrong. A little embarrassing. But hey, I still didn’t have to pay him.

Halfway Husbands Update
My commentary on husbands has inspired others! I’ve been getting feedback from wives that their husbands only do half of their chores too, especially the garbage bag in the trash can one. But that’s all changing thanks to my unveiling of this horrible practice!

Update on Cookinggal
Too soon for an update? Look what I made last night!

It's chicken with stuffing and vegetables although it looks like it's mush with Halloween candy. Still tasted good!

Oh, and that kid from "Who's the Boss?" I'm pretty sure he's gay.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

From Writinggal to Cookinggal

I used to be the worst kind of cook—the kind who was so bad I didn’t even know I couldn’t cook. Very dangerous. So for Frank’s birthday in 2000 I thought I’d attempt to make him lasagna. You see, the bad cook who knows she can’t cook would never attempt such a dish.

My friend Ayn (who is a really good cook, no denial here) gave me a recipe. It was really long. But the blind bad cook doesn’t get intimidated. How hard can it be? Before I headed out to the store I read over the recipe. The first line of instructions immediately threw me off. It said, “Brown Meat.” I thought to myself, “Well I know the meat is brown but what do I do with it?” I immediately called Ayn and yes, I asked her this very same question. She was patient and explained that, in this case, brown was a verb. She tried to explain the process but I got all frazzled and frustrated and decided to take Frank out to dinner instead.

That’s when I became a bad cook who knew I was a bad cook. This lead me to not cook anything for the next four years. Sure, I heated up, I thawed, I stirred. But no cooking. Frank is a decent cook so every now and then he showed me a few things—how to season shrimp for our fajitas, how to cook things on the George Foreman grill, how to make spaghetti. I kinda liked it. Frank even taught me how to brown meat. He told me, “If you can brown meat, you can make anything!”

Then Christmastime 2004 we were at the home of Frank’s Aunt Marilyn. Need I say more? She convinced me that I could make meatloaf. She showed me the recipe and talked me through it. I actually understood! I called my mom and told her my plan. She was excited too and even bought me a meatloaf pan for Christmas! So now I couldn’t disappoint. I had to do it.

And I did! I made it on Fat Tuesday, the night before I gave up meat for Lent:

Then my mom gave me a recipe for Chicken Divan. I know, it sounds fancy! And it kind of is—it’s got curry in it! And guess what? I made it and Frank loved it. And that meatloaf pan came in handy again:

Next I decided to tackle baking. Frank’s Nana in Pittsburgh makes these wonderful cookies/bars called Scotcharoos. Frank thought his Nana invented them but it turns out there are recipes all over the Internet. So I made those for him:

Okay, they don’t look as good as Nana’s but my second batch did. And they tasted awesome. But now I know why we gain 12 pounds every time we go to Pittsburgh.

So now that I’m working at home, I’ve sort of become obsessed with cooking. I look at the Kraft website each week and make some kind of dish. And when people send me recipes—I make them! Oh, and that thing I used to call the “queso maker?” It’s actually a crock pot and I’ve cooked like crazy in it.

Last week I cooked Spinach Enchiladas. They were awesome! And the best part? I sent the recipe to my mom and she made them! Now I’m the one sending people recipes! But I had a lot of ricotta cheese left over and didn’t know what to do with it.

That’s when I did something unprecedented (by me at least). I invented a recipe! I mean, that’s something only people like Ayn or Aunt Marilyn or Nana do. (Oh, somebody, please make sure Nana hears about this!) I call it “Elsa’s Rockin’ Ricotta Shrimp Surprise.”

Must thank Trusty Thea for helping me find the ricotta cheese at the store in the first place (via the phone. I call both her and my mom a lot while looking for ingredients) and for telling me how long to bake it. Frank suggested covering it with Monterrey Jack cheese (which I’m going to do more of next time).

If you want the recipe, let me know. I may even start a Cookinggal blog to share all my newfound knowledge. But beware, some of the recipes may be complicated. They may require you to brown meat.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Those Cows are Right

Whenever Sunday comes around, I inevitably get a craving—Chick-Fil-a. But it’s not open on Sundays. Because of God. Or is it a marketing ploy? See, since I crave it on Sunday, I’m sure to have it sometime later in the week just because I can’t have it that one day. Kinda like Girl Scout Cookies. If I could have them all year long I’d probably never buy them. But since they’re limited, I stock up. I think this has something to do with supply & demand which my mom (an Economics teacher) is always babbling about.

And not only do I love the food at Chick-Fil-a, I also love the service. The people there really care. My friend Stefanie worked there in college (or was it high school?) and she had the best experience. They even gave her a scholarship. They’re friendly, religious and generous!

But back to the food: I love me some Chick-Fil-a chicken sandwich, the waffle fries, the lemonade, the salad (yes, even the salad!), the fruit cup, the grilled sandwich, the wrap. Oh, not all in one meal! That’s just my fave items on the menu.

Frank and I used to rendezvous at Chick-Fil-a every Tuesday back in 2000-2001. That’s when they had “Two for Tuesday.” It was buy one combo meal, get one free. A feast for two on $5! A Simcik Fairy Tale. We would email about it during the day with romantic messages like, “Can’t wait for CFL tonight!” It really got me through the day. They even started recognizing us there. I mean, we were those people who got asked, “The usual?” We knew the manager by name: Jimmy Taylor. Wonder what he’s doing now. Probably giving out college scholarships. What a guy.

Sometimes I would pick up Chick-Fil-a and bring it to Frank’s apartment. If he wasn’t home yet I’d wait in the car for a little while. Me, alone with all those waffle fries! I had to make up rules for myself: “Okay, Elsa, you can have one waffle fry every two minutes…okay, it’s been one minute and forty seconds, you can have a little one. Just a little one!” And if he took too long I would just eat all his fries, rationalizing that he deserved it for being so late.

Here’s a tip I learned this weekend: We went to Chick-Fil-a with our friends Courtney and John and Courtney got the kid’s meal. They never eat as much as Frank and me so we always feel like savages. Well, especially Frank who wiped his hands on his shirt because he didn’t have a napkin. But that’s beside the point.

What we learned is that if you give back your kid’s meal toy, they give you a free ice cream cone! Courtney didn’t really even want it. And John only half-heartedly took a lick! Frank and I were bursting with excitement over this freebie as we dug into John’s unfinished fries.

I haven’t found a Chick-Fil-a lately that has Two for Tuesdays but if you hear about one in the DFW metroplex, (really, anywhere! I’ll go to Burleson, White Settlement, Texarkana) let me know. Then I’ll invite everyone to meet me there on a Tuesday night. You won’t get a lot of notice or a lot of details. Just look for the email that says, “Can’t wait for CFL tonight” and you’ll know what to do.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Names. They are a changin'.

As a small-business owner—yes, I am—I spend a lot of time at Kinko’s. You know, copying, faxing and yesterday I tried scanning. I love Kinko’s. But lately they’ve been calling themselves “FexEx/Kinko’s.” I’m not against the partnership. FedEx has been good to me too. And they did a good job on the name transition. It’s like one day their signage, documents and website all had the new name. Very professional. Very non-ghetto.

But who are they kidding?

We—small business owners like myself as well as regular copy makers—are NEVER going to call this place FedEx/Kinko’s. I started thinking today, what if I did call it that?

I’d have to say to Frank, “I’ll take that movie back today because I have to go to FedEx/Kinko’s anyway.”

Or what if I was recommending the place to a friend? I would say, “Oh, you want your thesis bound? You should just take it over to FedEx/Kinko’s.”

I don’t see the day that this would happen.

I’ll also never call Ofoto its new name—Kodak Gallery. “Wanna see my pictures? I posted them on Kodak Gallery.” Weird.

Here’s another one for those of you who’ve ever lived in Austin: Do you call it 26th Street? Or Dean Keaton? I’m a 26th Streeter myself.

TV Shows: Valerie, Valerie’s Family, The Hogan Family, The Hogans. I don’t care if you’ve got Jason Bateman, I won’t watch you until you make up your mind!
And Taradise? Come on, the first few episodes were called “Wild on Tara” and then they suddenly called it Taradise as if that had been the name the whole time. Oh, both these shows are off the air? Nevermind.

People, I just don’t like change. I mean, you don’t see me going and changing my name. Well, there was that whole Simcik thing. But come on, I was never really a last name kind of girl anyway. I’m just Elsa. Like Madonna. Or BeyoncĂ©.

You agree with me? You wanna make signs about it and protest? I know just the place to get that done— Finko’s. Hey, at least I’m trying.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Why Ashlee Simpson Rocks

Stop it. Stop thinking, “That stupid girl who lip sang on SNL.” The poor girl had acid reflux or tonsillitis or gastro bypass. I’m not sure. But it shouldn’t be the ONLY thing people think about her. Why? Because she rocks.

If you don’t think she rocks it’s probably because you haven’t listened to her first album, Autobiography. I got the Bug because of it. When I was test driving the car, her song, “Pieces of Me” came on the radio. I said, “This is my favorite song! This is a sign that I have to get this car.”

Then when we went to try to get a CD player installed we kept hearing things like, “We put CD players in every kind of car except 2003 Volkswagen Beetles” or “We can put an MP3 Player in your car.” I’d whine to Frank, “But I just want to play my Ashlee Simpson CD!”

So when I finally got the CD player that’s the first CD I popped in. The songs are beyond catchy. They’re rockin’ and even a little bit heavy.

When people wonder why Ashlee’s albums have sold more than Jessica’s (even though Jessica has a traditionally better voice), I tell them that it’s simple: Ashlee has better songs. Plus it’s like comparing cell phones and calculators (two random things sitting in front of me). They’re nothing alike. It ends at the last name. Really, if you’re going to make a comparison, I would say Ashlee’s style is more Avril or Pink. She’s no Duff. Or Lo. And that’s a good thing.

And now she’s done it again with her new album, I Am Me. Check out the newest single, Boyfriend, which was featured on Laguna Beach Monday night. I’m totally dancing right here with my cell phone and calculator.

Sure, she’s got her flaws: A creepy ex-youth-minister dad, an overexposed sister and one of those names that should be normal but the spelling’s all cutesy. But if you take all that away you’re left with some great tunes.

The best way to enjoy it is driving around in the Bug with the top down. So come on over and I’ll give you a ride. Oh, don’t worry. We’ll totally turn it down when we get to a stoplight. I don’t want everyone to know I like that SNL screw-up girl.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I just called to say...well, not much of anything.

Sixteen-year-old Elsa would think this was a ridiculous statement: My parents may have been too lenient on me. Well, at least when it came to the phone.

I started talking on the phone as a hobby in the first grade. That’s right, six years old! There are photos of me sitting on the kitchen counter, chatting to a classmate. What did we talk about? Our cut and paste assignment for the day? Who had the snottiest nose in our class? Care Bears?

By sixth grade it had gone from hobby to obsession. I would spend hours on the phone and by this time we had three-way-calling so I could talk to multiple people at once. Hold on. I didn’t mean WE had three-way-calling. We probably still had a rotary phone. But some of my friends had it and we would play this game:

I would be talking to my friend Kathy and she would say, “I think Judy is mad me.” So we’d call Judy on three-way but not tell her that Kathy was on the phone.

Me: Hey, Judy. What’s up?
Judy: Nothing.
Me: Don’t you just hate Kathy?
Judy: Well, she can be a little bit annoying.
Kathy: Ha! I’m on the phone, Judy!!

Laughter, giggles, screams of horror would ensue. Oh, the fun of female friendships.

In junior high I would get home from school and I guess do homework and then it was talk talk talk until I had to go to bed. Then the next morning, while I was getting ready for school—now this is just sick—I would talk on the phone to my friend Amber.

My parents often asked, “What could you possibly be talking about?”

Well, I’ll tell you:

During those morning phone calls with Amber we would play music for each other. So each day it was someone’s turn to pick a song. I remember a lot of MC Hammer. Maybe a little Vanilla Ice.

Natch there was a lot of chatter about boys.

And this is the most pathetic and a true testament to why my parents were too lenient with me in the phone department:

My friend Jaime and I had this phone game we would play with the phone book. Now this is seriously lame: I would look through the Friendswood phone book and pick a name. I’d tell it to her over the phone and she would look in her phone book for it.

That’s it. That’s the game.

We called it Wickskewicz because that was the weirdest name we found. We spent hours playing Wickskewicz. Looking back, it’s amazing that we got into college.

And after years of constant begging, my parents even gave in and bought me a phone for my room (but not my own line, although I had a pretty strong case). The phone was in the shape of a heart and my dad said it looked like it belonged in a seedy Vegas motel. That’s what I loved about it!

Now Frank says I talk on the phone too much. And who am I talking to? Well, sixteen-year-old Elsa wouldn’t believe this either but it’s usually to my mom. Yep, that lady loves a good game of Wickskewicz.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Sisterhood of the Flying Cocoa Puffs

When you think of savages—people who are generally rude, hungry and animal-like—you probably think of cavemen, wolf boys or maybe even a rugby team. But I’m here to tell you that the most savage-like people you’ll ever meet do not live in caves, dens or…England. They live in mansions. Who are they?

Sorority Girls.

Even if you were in a sorority you may not realize this. But as the house manager of my sorority I witnessed some extreme beast-like behavior. And 99% of the time, it stemmed from food. The other 1% revolved around the bathroom which I’ll spare you today.

The issue is simple: Sorority girls are concerned about their figures; they want to be skinny and waifish. So they deprive themselves and become extremely hungry. Here are some examples of the side effects:

Pizza Day:
I don’t recommend ordering pizza for 150 dieting sorority girls. Oh, no. It’s not that it’ll go to waste. They become barbaric. One day we ordered enough pizza for everyone to have three pieces of pizza. Sounds reasonable. But after the mad rush to the pizza, the trampling and the screaming…we evaluated the situation and realized that at least 25 girls didn’t get pizza AT ALL. By my math (which isn’t my strong subject but hang in there), that means some girls had four or even five pieces—and they didn’t just go back for seconds. They piled five pieces on their first plate. I’m sure the pounds just flew off.

Common Scene at Dinner Time:
The staff wanted to leave by 4:30 so they would make our food, set it out and then leave. I would lock the door so that the girls wouldn’t try to eat the food that early. Didn’t work. They’d break in and start eating during Oprah. After they would scarf down two plates of hamburger helper, several rolls and dessert they would inevitably complain to me, “Elsa, WHY is the food here so fattening? Can’t we get some healthy food?” and I would always answer, “Maybe you just shouldn’t eat so much of it, you savages.” Really, I called them that. Remember, girls?

The Cocoa Puffs Incident:
This situation proves how sorority girls are not only savages when it comes to eating food, but also when it comes to cleaning up after themselves. One evening a “sister” of mine (do I have to claim her?) had a fight with her boyfriend in our kitchen. Don’t ask me why but some Cocoa puffs were thrown and landed all over the floor. As she stormed out of the house, someone asked if she was going to clean it up and she answered, “Let the maid do it.”

Now I already had ill feelings towards this girl and when I heard this report, I became House Manager Hell Raiser. I put a broom in her bed (really, IN her bed, like all tucked in) and left a lovely note, explaining that she would be responsible for the cocoa puff parade.

When she returned home she wasn’t pleased. She yelled. I yelled back. And despite the fact that she was twice my size (perhaps she ate a few too many of those Cocoa Puffs before they hit the floor?), I have to say I yelled louder. And really, if it came down to it, I think I could have kicked that savage’s ass.

But we’re ladies here.

It’s sort of like the Lord of the Flies theory. That many girls just can’t live under one roof without some nasty fights and cannibalism. But I’m telling you, after that experience, I’m pretty sure I could handle a group of cavemen. Although I still wouldn’t order them pizza.