Monday, January 28, 2008

Why You Can't Take Us Anywhere

I decided to finish journaling our Disney vacation from December, when I stopped after just posting about the first two days. You are thrilled to hear this. No, you ARE.

That Sunday happened to be Alex's and my wedding anniversary. Seven years, and I'm not even itchy. How 'bout that? Let's observe a moment of silent wonder and appreciation at what the two of us have come through, and that we are, in fact, more or less happily married still. Done? OK.

Alex's delightful mother (honestly--I feel like the luckiest woman alive, because I not only have a fantastic mother, but a fantastic mother-in-LAW...it seems greedy), who is something of a Disney World expert, having made several trips with grandchildren before, had, months ago, made reservations for Alex and I at the very posh Victoria & Albert's restaurant. You might be wondering why that name sounds familiar, and it's because it was recently in the news for officially "banning" children under the age of 10. My input on this is that no one with half sense would bring a young child to a 3-hour, 7+ course meal, but that's just me. There may be people who also like poking themselves in the eyes with mechanical pencils, but I'm not one of them.

Victoria & Albert's is a AAA 5-diamond restaurant, and you get a feel for what's in store right up front, when they present you with your very own, pre-printed keepsake menus.

you know, when they print you your very own menus, that it's gonna be 'spensive

Intimidating, much? Well, yeah, you could say that. Let me take a moment and share a little secret about fancypants dining, especially 3-hour-long seatings of gourmet meals in places that are so dignified and quiet that you can hear OTHER people breathing, despite the soft harp music: Gentlemen, as you sit normally in your upholstered chair, in your coat and tie, supported by the seat back comfortably, and enjoying your meal, APPRECIATE the fact that the lady in your company is perched on the edge of her own chair, holding herself ramrod-straight, because, in the female version of "semi-formal" dress, well...we just must. There is no leaning back in our chairs, because that would make us look decidedly unladylike, and there is CERTAINLY no slumping. I can honestly say that the only not-entirely-positive thing about this amazing meal was the ache in my back and shoulders by the time it was over. But you can overcome a lot of pain with the right amount of gourmet cheese and/or chocolate ganache.

When people keep asking my why I'm persisting in my attempts at learning how to cook duck, I tell them it's because of this dish.

something with duck and a bleu cheese sauce and mushrooms and black truffles
That is walnut oil seared duck with hearts of palm, huckleberry vinaigrette, and Fourme D'Ambert foundue. And it was DIVINE. Well, everything we had was divine. I don't even recall what Alex had while I was eating this, BUT, I do know what he had next, because he would not shut up about it for DAYS. He had pan-roasted foie gras with Fuji apples and Mostarda di Cremona, and it came in this funky dish:

I think this was Alex's foie gras dish

This is just not something I can eat, because the flavor of the liver and the taste of the insanely high fat content are just too strong for me. Alex could not believe that anyone would be so dense as to pass up this delicacy, and declared it to be "possibly the best thing [he had] ever eaten." While he was doing that, I was minding my own business over on my side of the table, with a festival of mushrooms and truffles, more formally known as ballotine of poulet rouge with chicken consomme', Scottish Chanterelles and black truffles. Also known, immediately upon serving, as IN MAH BELLEH.
I ate every last drop

Now, here is where things took a typical turn, for us. As you might well imagine, service up to this point had taken a good hour or more, and our supply of genteel manners was running on the lowish side. The stuffiness of the restaurant was starting to seem less serious, and more funny. This is dangerous, if you're out with us. Fortunately, we had only each other's images to damage. Naturally, my highly-sophisticated husband waited until I had taken a sip of the mellowest iced-tea ever, sweetened with honey collected from highly-sophisticated bees, to lean over and whisper conspiratorily, "Oops...got a little goose-grease on my tie, there." Composure: BLOWN. Thanks, Honey.

I blame myself, partially, because on our way to the restaurant, I'd dared Alex to sit down, look over the menu, and then ask the server, "Y'all got any nachos back'ere?" which of course he wouldn't do. But once the ice was broken with the goose-grease remark, the flood-gates were open, so to speak (and with mixed metaphors, even). I also blame the butter, because I think it made us a little stoned. I'm not kidding. This butter they had--it was naturally cultured butter from Vermont cows, cows which I imagine spend a lot of time getting spa treatments and dining on alfalfa cakes and drinking spring water, because only INSANELY HAPPY COWS could have produced the milk that made that butter, and therefore there must have been some sort of giddy endorphins buttering our bread that night. In fact, we discussed the truth that on this occasion, the bread was merely serving as a butter-delivery system, and had there been spoons on the table between courses, we'd have likely skipped the bread altogether and just mainlined the butter.

We did manage to get through the fish course (turbot for Alex, Alaskan sablefish for me), but the delay between that and the meat course left way too much time on our hands and way too much "material" for Alex to riff on. Probably my favorite exchange of the evening had to do with the lovely harp music, which was being played right next to our table by a lovely lady. It began during a particularly heartfelt rendition of "Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming," with Alex once again leaning over to whisper to me.

Alex: "How much you reckon I'd have to tip her to get her to play 'Turkey In The Straw?'"

Me: (laughing) "I don't know, but for a heavy tip, you'd want to get your money's worth--something like 'Dueling Banjos.'"

We paused, locked eyes, and had minor meltdowns as we imagined the opening strains of "Dueling Banjos" being played on a harp. Go ahead--imagine that. It's FUNNY.

We hummed softly together, until we got to the "busy" part of the song, and I allowed that at that point, it was probably a moot question.

Me: "No, I don't think one harpist could do that part by herself--there's too much going on."

Alex: (without missing a nanosecond of a beat) "Oh, well, she'd have to rare back and kick her shoes off, for sure."

And then we LOST IT. For quite some time. And were not again settled until the arrival of some steak that demanded serious attention. Alex had Kobe beef tenderloin with smoked garlic puree, and while that garlic/potato puree tasted like it had been prepared earlier that day by angels in heaven, my Kansas City Angus beef with caramelized Yukon Gold potatoes was, in my opinion, WAY better. Great galloping kumquats, but it was good.

seriously, my Kansas City Black Angus was better

After the steak, Alex was the wise soul who ordered the cheese plate for our next course, and I'm grateful to him for not stabbing me with a cheese fork as I pilfered from his plate, because I'm not sure I'd have shown the same restraint, were our situations reversed. There were five amazing cheeses, but the highlights were the Comte' Saint Antoine, the 4-year aged Gouda, which transcended all Goudas that ever came before it, and the melt-in-your-mouth Cabra al Vino, which I believe is the one we were told translated as "drunken goat." Listen to me, all ye people who raise milk-goats and make cheese: START GETTING YOUR GOATS DRUNK ON WINE IMMEDIATELY. That was the most incredible cheese ever.
I could have gone away happy just having been served this cheese plate

Just when we were almost ready to die, we were served our desserts, which had been in the making since the beginning of our meal. Alex had a Grand Marnier souffle', which I'm sure was perfectly wonderful, but I really wouldn't know, since I was occupied having the chocolate version of an LSD trip, with my trio of chocolate desserts: Tanzanian chocolate pyramid, Hawaiian Kona chocolate souffle', and Peruvian chocolate ice cream and puff pastry.
and then I died, happily, of chocolate

And yes, the apex of that sweet little pyramid is topped with 24k gold. I am now worth slightly more than I was before I ate it.

The only thing I can add about this meal is that, even if you don't particularly care for coffee (I don't), if you're ever offered coffee that is brewed at your table in one of these contraptions:
all coffee should be made in one of these

By all means, HAVE SOME. Wow. I am now of the opinion that all coffee should be prepared in a flame-powered vacuum percolator. Gotta get me one of those. And some of those wonderful little pear/mint/ginger sugared cubes that were served to top off the meal.

Victoria & Albert's sent us on our way, a little over three hours after we'd arrived, with a long-stemmed rose and a loaf of apricot breakfast-bread, stuffed to the gills with good food and memories of a special occasion. It's an experience I'd highly recommend, though if you're easily embarrassed, I'd suggest not taking us along. The really good news on this night was that the restaurant is located at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which is where we happened to be staying, so we only had to waddle a short distance before we could fall into bed and try not to die of instant-onset gout. SO WORTH IT.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Overheard At The Bank

From a woman who was intently studying the free calendar she'd just received:

"Is that a cow?"

(peers closely at calendar page, holding it 6 inches from her face)

"I think it is. That's a COW!"

(looks around to realize that others are not sharing her wonder at correctly recognizing and identifying a member of the bovine species)

"Well, it's...it's hairy. I've just never seen a hairy cow before."

I really wanted to engage this lady in conversation at this point, but was stricken effectively speechless for so long that by the time I recovered, she was gone. I never got to find out how cows are upholstered on her planet.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Over There

I've a new post up over at The Times, in case you're not aware of The Great Target Blogger-Dis of 2008. Go comment. No one ever comments over there. (insert heavy, pitiable sigh)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Don't Say You Didn't Ask For It

Because you totally did. I'm still in the honeymoon stage with my new Prescriptives products, and Philosophy is still on probation, so I'm not ready to make any firm pronunciations on how I feel about things. Also, I've decided that I need to get back on The Magic Oil That Heals All Ills, and try to treat this uber-dry situation from the inside as well as the outside, so I want to give that another month and then re-evaluate. But because you, Internets, are some pesky buggers, let's just go on and paste our big red naked face all over the tubes. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

1.  raw in every sense of the word
See what we're dealing with, here? No, that is not acne or a form of rash. It's just what I mean when I say, "My skin is DRY." My skin is DESSICATED. If you've ever gone snow-skiing, and had a really bad windburn? It is just like that. All the time. Also, somewhere, my mother and especially my grandmother are DYING RIGHT NOW. Also, see that weird face I'm making, where it looks like I may have had a slight stroke, and one eyebrow is up and one eye is wider than the other one, and how I should never be making that face, ever? Well, get used to it, because I'll be doing it again.

Oh, that picture was right out of the shower, and after I'd applied Philosophy "When Hope Is Not Enough" moisturizer, and let it absorb for maybe 3 minutes. Next, I applied the ridiculously-named "Magic Illuminating Liquid Potion," from Prescriptives. I suppose "Sparkly Green-Tinted Lotion" wouldn't sell as well. See the sparkles?

lotion iridescence
Already, I am uncomfortable, because if there is one thing I do not like in my beauty products, it is sparkle. I am a matte kind of girl. But in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.

2. magic lotioned.  Also practicing for my mug shot.  And somebody kicked my puppy.
Here I am after applying the sparkly (I'm sorry, Firefox Spellcheck, but I am NOT going to spell that word "sparkley," because in my head it only has two syllables; I am not pronouncing it "sparkle-ee") lotion. I'm already more shiny than I like to be, plus I'm obviously imagining that someone is kicking all the puppies of the world, AND I am rehearsing for my celebrity mug-shot, as well. The left eye has calmed down a bit, but that eyebrow is still looking like it might go renegade. While seeing these pictures on the interwebs, my mother's probably OK by now, but my grandmother is still DYING.

On a serious note, the redness does seem to have abated a little, doesn't it? And that effect got stronger after it absorbed a bit more. But onward, ever onward, to what I told you was The Darkest Foundation I've Ever Purchased In My Life, and...

3. with foundation
Yeah. Still pale--oh, excuse me, I mean fair--as can be, but without the ruddiness glowing through from beneath, like when Rudolph's jerk of a dad rubbed bootblack or whatever on Rudolph's nose to keep it from glowing, and it always rubbed off and made Jerk-Santa say, "SHAME ON YOU" for producing a freak-fawn to Rudolph's dad. I may be reading too much into this at this point, but as you can see, it's a painful subject. Oh, yeah: This is Prescriptives "Virtual Youth Lifting Moisture Makeup," a name which bothers me not only because it is FIVE words on a tiny little bottle, but also because that is a jumble of adverbs and adjectives (not to mention another noun) used to describe a noun, and it offends me. I'm sure the marketing team at Prescriptives just felt a disturbance in The Force. Crazy eye back, grandmother likely breathing into a bag but doing better.

And this is where we get into the very, VERY bizarre Prescriptives "Magic Liquid Powder." The name is better, and it fits, because unless you are an alchemist, this stuff IS magic. Mainly because while it is CLEARLY powder, when you apply it, it is a liquid. And then it finishes dry. Hey, I'm just giving you the facts. A week later, I still have not gotten the hang of applying this product. It should come with detailed instructions. I had no idea how much was enough, or how much was too much, although I DID have a decent Popeye impression going by this time. For real--WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH MY FACE?

4. powdered
Also, I am hypnotizing you from this picture. You will each send me $10 toward a MacBook Air, or I will come put my sparkly white face VERY CLOSE TO YOU. Better make it $20; readership has fallen off lately. Plus I'll need some extra for my Grandmom's new heart medication, because she is trying to figure out how to delete these pictures from her own computer right now.

And just to see how very far off I was with the tone of my previous powder, here is old and new side-by-side: way-too-pinkish old stuff on the left, new witchcraft powder-liquid stuff on the right.

For comparison

And here we are all finished with the face now, and taking a split-second to breathe before tackling hair and wardrobe. Grandmom, you can breathe again.

5. all done except for hair and clothes
Again--there is more shiny here than I like, but it's better than blotchy and red, so at this point, I'm taking it. And makeup apparently eases my chronic Spaz-face.

I'm still having trouble with breakthrough dryness. In other words, after a while, all the moisture I applied to my skin when I started is fully absorbed, and the surface smoothness gives way. But it does last for a little while, and even when it starts to go, you still have to be pretty close to see it. I think. Here's a picture Bella took from the backseat of the car about 2 hours later, in more natural light (though she insists on using the flash), and when I hadn't touched anything up.

6. two hours later, by Bella
As you can see, the cure for red and splotchy is obviously green and sparkly. Wouldn't be my first choice, but it's better than what I had going on before.

So, I'm adding the essential fatty acid supplement (and figuring out how what effect that has on my caloric intake, so I don't stop losing weight), giving it another month, and reevaluating at that time. So far, I'm optimistic about both the Philosophy moisturizer (which, yes, for the ingredient list, is WAY overpriced) and the Prescriptives voodoo. We shall watch, and wait. But not post any more pictures like this for a long while.

And now? I DARE YOU to do this same thing with your beauty regimen. Chicken.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Ongoing Saga Of My Post-(Early)-Hysterectomy Skin

We've talked about it before. It's dry. Like, CRAZY dry, especially in a state with near-constant 99% humidity. I conducted an informal poll on this space a while back, and the most common answer I got from my cohorts in dry skin was to recommend "Hope In A Jar," by Philosophy. So I got some. And because I decided my skin was WAY drier than what these people were describing, I also got an ounce of "When Hope Is Not Enough," which is hardcore. They won me over to this product by suggesting I needed it if the "skin on [my] face feels two sizes too small." BINGO. I also got Philosophy's "Purity" cleanser.

I've been using the Philosophy regimen that so many people recommended when I polled (for about a month, now), so figured it was time to try and do something about this ruddy, wind-burned-appearing complexion of mine that has appeared since my hysterectomy last year at age 40. Like get some makeup on it--something that would make my face the same color/tone as the rest of my skin. So I asked around the Internets, as I am wont to do.

I do believe that Prescriptives was originally Susan's suggestion, and she is usually right about these things (plus a dozen or so folks backed her up on it). Anyway, when Mom and I were at the mall today, I bit the bullet and let someone smear some stuff on my face and see what stuck, so to speak.

The "Magic Illuminating Liquid Potion" (OVERKILL, MUCH, PRESCRIPTIVES?) really does seem like magic. It's a red-neutralizing lotion. It moisturizes, and when you dab it on your skin, it "erases" a lot of redness. Not by "curing" or getting rid of it, but by disguising it with green, that somehow looks perfectly natural. Honest.

Next you apply the "Virtual Youth Lifting Moisture Makeup" with "Luminous Finish, Medium to Full Coverage." The reason I went with this one is because it had the most moisture in it. My skin is in NO danger of breakouts, but is hideously dry, like my hair, since my hysterectomy. This is the darkest foundation I have ever purchased in my life, but somehow, it matches my skin-tone perfectly. Turns out that I was just buying lighter and lighter makeup, trying to disguise the redness, which was a futile pursuit.

Finally, we have the "Magic Liquid Powder," which is your finishing powder. It's very subtle, but this stuff has almost a greenish tinge to it, which further eradicates a ruddy/red appearance in your skin. And "liquid powder?" Well, it sounds crazy, but I swear--it's powder when you put it on your brush, and as you apply it, somehow, it gets liquid. But it gives a clean finish. Don't ask me. All I know is that I spent more on these three products, JUST for foundation, than I normally would on all of my makeup put together. But I'm desperate.

If the skincare regimen and/or this makeup works for me, I'll be letting you know, so that if you have the dry, dry, red face, you can try it! If I get brave, I might even post pictures with half my face treated and the other half "raw," which is certainly how it LOOKS. Maybe. Don't hold me to it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Because I Am Powerless Against Peer Pressure

I vowed a while back not to talk politics on this site any more. So, instead of talking, I'll just post my results from the quiz that everyone else took several weeks ago. It was Jer doing it that pushed me over the edge. At least my results show a fairly consistent pattern (and I will admit that I've always liked Joe Biden, though I never considered him a viable presidential candidate), and that I'm not completely insane. I know SQUAT about Christopher Dodd. Hmmm. Ah, well, it's an interesting diversion. Go give it a try, if you're the absolute last person on the planet to have seen it.

79% Joe Biden
79% Barack Obama
77% Chris Dodd
76% John Edwards
76% Hillary Clinton
71% Dennis Kucinich
71% Mike Gravel
64% Bill Richardson
43% John McCain
39% Rudy Giuliani
37% Ron Paul
34% Mitt Romney
31% Tom Tancredo
28% Mike Huckabee
19% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

And here's Alex, who has some different views from mine, but only on a couple of issues...and apparently doesn't feel as strongly about his choices, despite the yelling he did about every single question while taking this survey.

65% John Edwards
62% Barack Obama
61% Chris Dodd
61% Bill Richardson
60% Hillary Clinton
59% Joe Biden
59% Mike Gravel
57% Dennis Kucinich
48% John McCain
44% Ron Paul
44% Rudy Giuliani
42% Tom Tancredo
41% Mike Huckabee
38% Mitt Romney
31% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz