Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kim’s Chicken Tortilla Soup and What I Learned from It

Gentle Masterminds,

The weather has turned cold here, and as the stark white sky glares down at this innocent little Mastermind, my mind turns to warmer pursuits. I find myself making food, or nestling in at coffee shops to write.

So here I am in Berkeley; I just ate a vegan doughnut.

As you can imagine, I’ve been remiss in many of my duties, not least this blog. Lately I’ve been so busy writing that dinners, and cuisine in general, have fallen to the wayside. I thought it was high time for some hot comfort food to be waiting for Dan when he got home.

Of course that’s when my shit goes horribly wrong.

Kim’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken

2 cartons reduced sodium chicken stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 gloves garlic, minced

1 medium shallot, minced

2 teaspoons cumin

1 pinch crushed red pepper

1 large carrot, chopped

½ cup green onion chopped

1 cup chopped celery

4 small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

¾ cup corn

Fresh lime


Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup cilantro, chopped

1 medium jalapeño

Grated cheese

Crushed tortilla chips

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté garlic, shallot, cumin and crushed red pepper until translucent. Add carrot, green onion, celery, potatoes and stock. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat, add tomatoes, black beans, chicken and corn. Simmer covered for 30-45 minutes*. Add cilantro, lime, salt and pepper to taste. If you want a spicier soup, add chopped jalapeno. Serve immediately garnished with grated cheese, tortilla chips and sliced avocado.

Makes: a shit ton.

* I am unsure if this is necessary, but it makes me feel like I didn’t cheat so much. It probably gets everything all mixed up and melds flavors and shit. If you don’t have the time just heat through and nom nom nom.

Now, this is a great soup. Dan and I thoroughly enjoyed dinner. After dinner, I got up and went to the bathroom. I am currently menstruating. I washed my hands, did my business and inserted, too much information warning, my o.b. tampon with my finger.

I stood up, too late, I already knew what I did. I cut up the goddamn jalapeno barehanded like a complete dumbass.

Meanwhile, Dan had run to the back of the house because he couldn’t tell what was going on in the bathroom from all the whining, moaning, groaning and whimpers. I ripped the tampon out and danced from foot to foot holding my crotch.

Quotes of note from last night:

“My pussy hurts!”

“Pepper spray is inhumane.”

“Oh my God Dan, what the fuck!?!?!”

He assured me that a warm shower with some soapy action should do the trick. Gladly it did, but I will never, EVER, cut peppers without gloves again.

This was too embarrassing to not share. Remember: I fuck things up and tell you all about it so you can rock it. Now you know the new definition of “fire crotch.” I’m going to update right now.

Until next time, I salute you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010



It's finally Thursday. I don't have much to say. There are some things that will be going down today:

-We bought a new mattress, it's being delivered today.

-I made some rye bread for my Ma. It's being delivered today, by me. I hope she's there.

-I've got to clean the hell out of our place because Dan's Aunt Mary is coming for dinner tomorrow. Fish tacos. Nom nom nom. :)

-I'm going to make cookies for Dan's coworker. He hooked me up on TouchPets Dogs. It's a game Dan's company ( ngmoco:) ) makes. Yea duder!

P.S. If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or an iPad you might want to check out their games. I'm pretty sure all are free. :)

or check them out at the Apple's App store.

So, the delivery guys just called. They are in the area and will be delivering my mattress EARLY! I'm fully buying a lottery ticket, this is just too good to be true. It's not even raining!

All right kids, I hope you're Thursday is getting off to a rad start too.

Hasta luego, Masterminds!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I HEART Urban Ore

Good Morning Dear Masterminds,

Spring has definitely sprung over here in Richmond. And though I passionately hate the term, I've gotten all springtime crafty.

I've been knitting, so I thought I'd raid Goodwill and other second hand stores looking for yarn. Dan has been a total sweetheart (big surprise, huh?) and has taken me all over. We even made a special trip over to Urban Ore.

Urban Ore is a giant magical place. On their website they say that their "purpose is to end the age of waste by advocating and developing total recycling." So Berkeley. They go on to say, "We receive unwanted things and sell them as-is for reuse." I like to describe it as a gigantic, industrial second-hand store where you may find red high heels and a vintage toilet in the same visit.

Urban Ore, Inc.
900 Murray Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 841-7283

Rated 5.0 out of 5.0

13 reviews
Open Mon-Sat 8:30am-7pm; Sun 10am-7pm
More information »

Doors, doors, doors!
Lots of magical stuff you can get crazy with.

This particular visit, while I did manage to find their yarn selection (which was far less fantastic than I'd hoped), Dan and I found a cool spice rack from the 80's still in its box with all the spices.

Here is the spice rack just after I started sanding it. Dan luckily reminded me to record the momentous occasion with a photo. Yea Baby!

See? See your hostess sanding away?

I quite literally slopped on a coat of primer.

The old school spice jars complete with their antique spices. The antique spices got tossed sadly.

The first pass with spray paint.

Voila! And now I have a rad new spice rack that I will love forever. :)

To me, this is just a good excuse to make a mess and have an art project. I'm pretty stoked with how it came out. I also love those old glass jars.

Masterminds, as long as you don't call me crafty, I salute you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Die Mold, Die!

Hiya Masterminds! I hope that it's not as crappy and rainy wherever you may be...

So, I've been teasing you endlessly about my moldy bathroom (quite possibly the strangest thing I've ever typed).

The two photos above are what the grody mold looked like before.

Here's what I did:

First, I got nekked. When dealing with caustic chemicals, it's better to do so in your defenseless, unclothed state.

Next, I moved all things that could be bleached. Ie. towels, rugs, wigs, cats.

Then, I hoisted my particularly juicy posterior up onto the bathtub ledge.

I proceeded to spray the shit out of the mold on my bathroom ceiling. I may have been screaming something like, "Die you shitty mold, fucking DIE!" But I breathed in a lot of chlorine bleach fumes, so it's a little fuzzy.

Not much was happening except my panting and cussing, because it's not easy to use the old elbow grease over one's own head. So, I busted out the industrial cleaning rag.


The shit was barely coming off.

"Hey, that's fine. I dig. I waiting too long." So I rinsed all the bleach off of myself as best as I could and wandered off to create chaos elsewhere.

Later, taking a mid-afternoon tinkle, I looked up and saw that a lot of the fucking mold had actually listened. It was GONE. Okay, well, LEAVING.


A few more treatments, and that shiznit is freaking GONE. (For realsies gone, yo!)

Still totally too lazy to figure out how to reorient the photo. Oops.

So, the moral of this Domestic Losthermind's, I mean Mastermind's story is: embrace your bleach.

Until tomorrow!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Iced Tea

Dear Masterminds,

I feel that I owe you all an apology. I exist on a special kind of crack that fuels my tightly wound insanity. This crack is called: iced tea. It's really rude that I haven't thought to share this with you.

Long ago, when I was only a bright eyed junior-transfer student I found a young lady who, like me chainsmoked and had love for cheap beer. I insisted that we become friends immediatedly. Poor girl, she hasn't shaken me yet.

Both of us have since evolved from crazy college students into crazier college graduates. And, one of the best things I've picked up from her, though there are many, is her iced tea.

HB Iced Tea


Twinings English Breakfast teabags
Twinings Earl Grey teabags


Brew tea. Pour over ice. Proceed to go insane.. with flavor.

I have an iced tea maker (yay Ma!), I bought my lovely friend one two when she moved, but she used to just make it in a regular teapot (boiling water over teabags). If you're going low-tech, let the tea seep until its strength suits your taste. The key to this reproduction of her "recipe" is equal portions of teas. I usually use three Earl Grey and three English Breakfast in my iced tea maker. There's just something magical about the fruity, perfuminess of the Earl Grey and the strength of the English Breakfast.

I love to drink this. Twinings also carries a "naturally decaffeinated" variety of both. In my opinion, they aren't as robust as the fully caffeinated kind. PS, so far, I've found the most cost effective way to buy these is at Target in the big, square box (I think it's a 45 or 50 count).

:) Until next time Masterminds!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ranger Cookies

Hey Masterminds,

Last week I sent Dan to work with some chocolate chip cookies. They came out great, and apparently people hearted them. I thought I'd continue the tradition by sending him with some Ranger Cookies today.

Ranger Cookies
From Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries or mixed dried fruit bits.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in rolled oats, coconut, and fruit.

2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are light brown and centers are set. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

So, I have to be honest here: I was super bummed as I started to get this blog ready to post I realized that the photos (and batch of cookies I made for the Danimal) were lacking a key ingredient. No, not sugar (though that would be classic me); I forgotted the coconut. I'm fully making another batch after the last keystroke. HOW EMBARRASSING. I'm a asshat.

I'm going to crawl back into the kitchen and make this right. Mutter, mutter, mutter, frazzin, razzin, mutter.

Happy Friday Masterminds.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Howdy Masterminds!

Today I am presenting an overlooked vegetable's recipe that will make your head explode.


The sucky part is that when I made these on Wednesday, I totally should have taken pictures. I've only got a couple befores. So lame. Sorry. I'm sure I'll make these again but for now here is the recipe:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts


1 and 1/2 pounds Brussels Sprouts, ends trimmed and yellow leaves removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place trimmed Brussels Sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal tightly, and shake to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet and place on center oven rack.

3. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes shaking pan every 5 to 7 minutes for even browning. Reduce heat when necessary to prevent burning. Brussels Sprouts should be darkest brown, almost black, when done. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt, if necessary.

4. Serve immediately.

Here is a photo of our Sprouts going into a Ziplock. They were still nekked, but not for long. This is also where I wandered off with the camera and stopped taking photos. :( Boo.

Even if you hate Brussels Sprouts, you may want to give this recipe a try. However, if you are trying to limit crazy gas out thy ass, you may want to skip it.

Nom nom nom nom until tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Hello Masterminds:

I asked Yoseph to do a guest blog for me. This is the look I got.


Until tomorrow Masterminds. ;)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


What's crackin' Masterminds!

So, rather than relieve your suspense over my moldy bathroom ceiling, I wanted to post my one and only A+ paper from Cal. My tender and delicate ego wanted to go through and correct the mess once more, especially since I now teach English, but I'm lazy yo. Um, I mean I'm totally keepin' it real. Yeah, that's it.


Anthropology 189: Celebrity and Power

Professor L. Hubbard

Image Analysis: Lauren Conrad

04 October 2007

"Pandering Farce: How a single image can undermine women."

The Drunken Threesome

The drunken threesome, Sean Redmond, Stuart Hall and Joshua Gamson, ring my doorbell on a Saturday night after the Cal Game. After kisses hello, they push past me, making themselves comfortable and screaming for "spirits!" Those academic bitches never have any money and raid my house regularly for hootch. Now they are screaming about something else, the picture of Lauren Conrad, "LC", that I left up on my laptop.

The thing I like most about The Hills star Lauren Conrad is _______.

"Jo! What the hell is this?" they demand. "It's for a paper I have to write, I have to analyze a celebrity image," at this they start rolling with laughter. Now I realize that I don't know a thing about pop culture. I'm a student, a mediocre, half-assed student. I live under a rock and, until this course, had never heard of The Hills and thought people were saying Ellsie, not LC. "What's your thesis?" Gamson asks. "I'm going to argue that this picture of Lauren Conrad--Stuart, close the door if you're doing number two!!--is slanderous to women. It's a nice, neat, commercial niche to fall face first into, really," I say. "The standardization of beauty," I say uncertainly. They all look at each other, rolling their eyes. "Stop being jerks! Use your smarts for good, and tell me what I should write!" I cry nodding. I always get my way. Sean asks, "Why would anyone care about that?" Frustrated, I quip, "Seanie, don't try and be all holier-than-thou with me. This picture represents a societal slice of what women are expected to be, and I guess I could argue that, in a way, what women expect themselves to be. Because collectively the ladies determine what is popular and what will be marketed to, um, us." Looking bored, Sean says, "Stuart, maybe you should take this one..."

Stuart Hall

"Of course I'll help you. Fill up my glass first. There, now. That's a good girl. Okay, so first, acknowledge the meaning of this image doesn't exist until it's represented. It is represented visually, which I usually refer to as the saturating medium. There isn't a fixed meaning to the image, because collective and individual experiences are framed differently. However, because of shared cultural maps of meaning people will have a

similar understanding of the meaning represented. Just remember that there will never be simply one, true, fixed meaning. So, you need to acknowledge that however you analyze this picture of LC, its meaning is understood through your understanding of the world.

"Then, decipher the image's content; LC's clothes: what they‘re made from, how they‘re sewn, any visible logos; her body language, the technology of the image, any writing, who she's with... etc. You see two young, blonde, white women and a third white elbow (holding a champagne, no less). No racial or ethnic diversity is represented. Essentially, no other genders are represented. These women could be lesbians, in the real world, but in the celeb world these women communicate a stereotype of heterosexuality. The women you can see are blonde: blondes have more fun, dumb blondes but there are also the incredible sexy, super stylish and totally rad professor type blondes, so be careful with that interpretation. It's easy to list what is in the picture: two coiffed, champagne swilling women seated in a curtained and cushioned room.

"What is not pictured communicates volumes as well. Because it's just us, I can say plainly, there are no poor people, no children. That’s a cock drawn on the image, not an axe wound. They are drinking champagne, not coffee, or Hennessy, or water, or orange juice, all of which would change the meaning associated with this image. The fact that someone snapped a photo under someone's elbow gives the viewers a sense of interaction with the image, yet still being outside it. I mean outside in the literal sense, that we weren't there and the figurative sense, that we do not have that celebrity lifestyle and are situated outside the image.

"The technology of a photograph also communicates what this image represents. This isn't a piece of Yanomamo propaganda. It is a photo, probably digital, that you pulled off of This may not be an advertisement in the traditional sense, but it does advertise LC and a champagne filled, designer clothes, gold necklace, propped up on pillows lifestyle. That’s an identity claim. Advertisements only work when we identify with what is represented in the images. Advertising tries to construct a position of identification for the viewer in relation to what is depicted in the images. The image only has power, to subvert diversified beauty as you claim, if you give it power. The image and what it represents only has power if people believe that meaning is fixed. Fixing the meaning creates a foundation to build ideologies concerning dumb blondes, champagne and frivolity. Stereotyping fixes the meanings that are given to rich blondes. Limited images of rich blondes effect how society perceives rich blondes in the 'real world'. Through shared cultural maps we have a concept of what beauty is, and sadly for you and your thesis, there will always be a cultural consensus."

Sean Redmond

"Stuart is right. Shut up Stuart, that’s the first and last time you’ll ever hear me say that. But what you might add, to his great foundation for you essay, is more about the inner workings of fame, add it to your 'map' so to speak. I think it is important to point out that the space between ordinary (you) and extraordinary (a celebrity) seems smaller. Gams brings up in his work the idea of the celebrity being easier to handle in a television size and brought right to your living room. So yeah, that's good ol' LC, and she's famous.

You can look like her, you can act like her. Are you going to see her at Andronico's on University? Probably not. Images like this make celeb life more accessible to see and to imitate; you perceive a heightened level of intimacy with LC in this image.

"And this picture totally is a great example to delve into. She's making a silly face to one of her friends. There is a playful voyeurism to the picture, as if someone snapped it under the arm of this person in the foreground. The Perez Hilton penis and spooge are great too. Could you imagine someone drawing a penis on a snapshot of you? Either LC or someone who is a part of her team, props to Gams again, probably orchestrated this playful opportunity, where there just happened to be photographers. Viewers get to see her marked spontaneity and openness. Her 'willingness to be just like us, even if this warts-and-all authenticity is a strategy to propel [her] to greater celebrification, far, far away from such ordinariness' (damn I'm so good I have to quote myself). Her warts are: the silly face and the penis/spooge. Keep up girly!

"Let me take you just a bit further. This dude Chris Rojek talks about how consumers get their ideas for consumption by seeing celebrities consumptive choices. Abstract desire he calls it. We idolize these consumptive celebrities and start representing the joys of capitalism. 'They play out, in fantasized form, the material and symbolic rewards of working for a living.' So the next time you plan for a party you might choose the bubbly over this crappy cabernet, because LC is obviously cool, she's totally in this picture on and you want to be cool too. And what's great here is that this is totally reciprocal. LC gets to feel stoked because she's famous and you get to feel stoked because you are living a righteous life vicariously through LC. Bill and

Ted righteous, duh. Stop making those gagging noises. Gamson, have you anything to add old chum?"

Joshua Gamson

"Sean, when you are around Stuart too much you start thinking your British. Do we have more wine? There's a dear. I'm bored talking about this. Let's watch porn! I love celebrity porn. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yeah... LC's fame has naught to do with achievement. Unless you call fame itself an achievement. Say you don't know anything about LC or The Hills, this picture still communicates through the person represented. The more famous they make LC, the more important she will become. Jo, you are a market and LC is now a commodity. The better you recognize her, the more you recognize her as a celebrity--Beef Curtains he he--you will be more likely to value what she wears, where she chooses to live, you'll want to watch the morning show that has her as a guest. What you will find most relevant to your paper is what this image means as far a representation. There is a market niche for LC. That means a whole lot of people want to look up to her. Shudder. The team behind a stars image, personal publicist(s), manager(s) and usually the hopeful aspirant, will do almost anything to maintain this consumer/commodity relationship for commercial exploitation. Sean brought up my point already about television, and print media, create greater feelings of intimacy between the fan and the celebrity. The fact that you can see LC in your darkened apartment, in the middle of the night, that you can print this image out and hold it in your hand, that is intimate. You will relate to this image and you will be affected as

a consumer. Like I began, fame doesn't have to do with great deeds. One almost doesn't need to have talent. LC has commercial marketability and no matter how contrived this situation may or may not have been the point is to create recognition, desire and ultimately to sell something. *Hiccup*. 'Scuse me."

The Pandering Farce or My Thesis

"Anyway, what are you calling this monstrosity of a paper? Um, that we just wrote for you, by the way..." Sean asked. "A Pandering Farce," I sing. I receive looks of utter horror. "Pandering as in 'to cater to the lower tastes and desires of others or exploit their weaknesses'[1]... and farce. You know. Farce. Like fake. Sham. Whatever, shut up you drunken assholes. My title rules. Aaaahhhh, Gams, don't wipe up that wine with my bra!" I sigh, "So, the slander thing, doesn't really work, but the idea of pigeonholing a standardized model of beauty is true. After hearing you all talk about your work, LC was chosen to make into a marketable commodity because she appeals to a consumer audience. Stuart told us what that audience isn't. And then Gams and Seanie-poo told us about the marketing machine behind the image. And we care because if we can identify these processes that are inherently imbedded in images, like this one of Lauren Conrad, then we will be able to influence eventual diversification of future images. I guess I would also talk more about how each facet of the image is processed to understand the message being communicated. So, what do you guys think?" Sean says, "We think you

should shut up and write your paper while we continue being fabulous and drink all your alcohol. Oh, wait, I think Stuart wants to make out with you now."

Masterminds, I freakin' salute you. :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life Made Better through Bread

Happy Monday Masterminds!

I was completely lazy today. So lazy, in fact, that instead of driving the 4 miles to LEAP, I called Esperanza and begged her to come over here.

She was rewarded with a fresh loaf of Amish White Bread. I was rewarded with her company, AND she brought me her first rose of the season.

This Amish White Bread stuff is pretty magical. Why is it so strong with the Force, do you ask? Well, it's hella easy to make. It requires only simple ingredients (I am at a point where always having dry active yeast in the house is a must), rises pretty quickly, and is stupidly good.

Amish White Bread

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 and 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

1. In a large bowl, dissolve sugar into warm water. Stir in yeast and allow to proof until mixture resembles a creamy foam.

2. Mix in salt and oil with yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Place dough into a large greased bowl; turn to coat. Cover with a damp dishtowel and let the dough rise for an hour.

3. Punch down. Knead for a few minutes, then divide in half. Place each half into well greased 9 x 5 " glass loaf pans; let rise 30 more minutes.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Makes two loaves.

I used just plain old all purpose flour. I greased with butter. Proofing took maybe 10 minutes.

This is the dough after I let it rise for an hour and had the pleasure of beating the shit out of it, erm, I mean punching it down.

Here are the two loaves after the second rising session of 30 minutes. Glass bread pans courtesey of my lovely Ma.

Booyah! These babies had just come from the oven.

A close up of the loaf that went home with Esperanza. I don't have a photo of the other out of the pan because I may have accidentally eaten it. Oopsiedoodles.

Ah, I almost forgot the most important part: it freaking tastes great! The 2/3 cup sugar sounds like a lot but it is divided between the two loaves, making it only half as bad. :) And, you end up with a soft, sweet bread. YAY!

Masterminds, I salute you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Whatup Masterminds!

I like to keep you guessing what the hell I'm doing when I'm radio silent. There has been lots of mad science going on in the kitchen. I still haven't bleached the bathroom ceiling (oh, but it's coming) however, you can all look forward to a kick-ass ribs recipe from a good friend I reconnected with through Facebook.

Seriously good stuff.

It's now April. Spring is here knocking at my front door and telling me to weed the yard. Yards. Yeah, we're that house on the block. Esperanza and I are in full swing at LEAP trying to get her ready to take the GED in June.

Springtime is bittersweet for me. I lost my dad Spring Break my first year at Cal. (It's so wrong, but when I typed that I was imaging him lost in Ft. Lauderdale. The other, more permanent, kind of lost dear syntax-lovers). His birthday is later this month. And though I am no longer in the raw spot I was, I still miss him and get the wetness in my eyes when I think about him. I wrote a bio for one of my professors (Ethnographic Film, chew on that) that was probably more than he wanted but it was all I could seem to write. Now it's all I can think about blogging. So without further eloquence...

Anthropology 138
Ethnographic Film
Personal Statement
12 September 2007

Dadisms, that's what my brother and I call them. Dad sayings. "Always carry cash." Words to live by. "Always be positive about red." Advice from electricity, to common sense to death. Some were shameful. "Any problem can be solved by throwing enough money at it." Some carried the weight of a sadness I never understood, from a lifetime before, until now. "Someday I won't be around... and you'll wish you had more time."

Horrific things have happened on Tuesdays: the infamous Dresden air raids in 1945, the September 11th terrorist attacks. It's such an inconspicuous day. This particular Tuesday I drove into the depths of Pennsylvania Dutch country; I shrieked delightedly when I saw a horse-drawn buggy. I ate my first cheese-steak. After a meandering drive back, to my brother's new house outside of Philadelphia, I was so tired. I finally went downstairs to go to bed. A few minutes later my brother walked in. "Chica, wake up, Mom is on the phone." It was 11:43PM. He set the phone down on the side table to my left, my mother's electronic disembodied voice seemed small and unnatural in the room. I'll never forget what she said, it was such a strange thing, not prefaced by any pleasantry or question of our doings.

"Your dad had a heart attack. He died today."

But I already knew. I knew before she spoke, before he opened the door, before she called. I always knew. It was Tuesday, March 27, 2007 and my dad had died.

* * *

It was not until I was a young woman that I realized he did it on purpose. Somehow he'd contrive a reason for me to go somewhere with him and he'd have a "dad-talk" with me in the car. I think he liked the car because we were alone and he didn't have to look at me straight in the face. But there, there we'd (I'd) be trapped. I'd always cry. He'd say whatever it was that he needed to impart to me, tell me that he only told me because he loved me and then he'd say something that may seem so curious to the outsider. "You know, someday you won't have me around to tell you these things and you'll wish you had more time." I can only imagine this was residue left from when his own father died, my grandfather, when Dad was 13. Goddamn it Dad, why did you have to be right about everything?

* * *

My brother, Robert, said, "Oh my God!" almost before she had finished speaking. I don't remember what I said to her. My brother hugged me, I don't remember if I cried or not. I do distinctly remember picking up my cellular phone and trying to change my flight right then. I needed to get back to California and look into my mother's eyes. I needed to sit at her feet and make her tea. Somehow we were suddenly upstairs. Raymond, my brother's partner, was arranging flights for the three of us. I paced. I could not sit down. I smoked and smoked. Robert poured us all drinks. It tasted terrible. Nothing could allay what I was feeling. In fact it only got worse. And as the hours passed into the darkest part of the night I was only dimly aware of what was going on. I had no clue what the news meant.

I'm not sure what made me think to call his voicemail. I wanted to hear his voice, I wished that he wasn't dead. "Hello this is Bob. I'm sorry I can't get to the phone right now, leave a message and I'll get back to you quick as I can." Not as soon as he can. As quick as he can. He always called rollercoasters rollycoasters. He could do almost anything with a wire coat hanger. His hands would get so dry that they would crack and bleed. He worked around cars, but never came home with grease under his fingernails instead washing his hands until they dried, cracked and bled. My mom bought him surgical gloves to work in. I used to love to visit him at work. Tires and grease make me think of him and I can't go into a Firestone, for instance, without feeling so completely happy and so completely sad at the same time. It's the smell. New rubber. Along this same line, I feel like he's somewhere nearby when I smell an engine "running rich." He would be so mad at this description, my father did not die a grease monkey. The 10 years before he died he was a catch-all vice president at a huge paving and grading company. He engineered wash bays and fuel tanks. He did the math and the drawings that made them into actual structures. He did not understand why I wanted to go to college. "I have the equivalent of an engineering degree," he'd said more than once. "You know I can get you a job running a compactor." Sure Dad, I just love bright orange and a fine layer of powdered dust on me at all times. I hang up and press his number on my speed dial again. "Hello this is Bob..."

* * *

Everything was working mechanically as the three of us boarded the plane. I smiled warmly at the flight attendant. "No, no, I'm fine really." The closest we could get to my mom was a flight into Sacramento. We drove for about an hour and a half south from the airport. After flying for six hours. After driving thirty minutes to the airport. After waiting up the night. After hearing that he had died. My heart just pounded the whole time, in my chest and in my ears. My mom met us outside, we were the last to be there. She was crying like she'd been crying for hours. A cheerful, spring sun lit our little scene, the four of us standing in front of my parent's peach-colored suburban home. My dad's brother and his wife were there. So was my brother Chris. My uncle sobbed audibly when he saw Robert who resembles our father so much. Raymond started doing things in the kitchen. I knelt at my mother's feet with my head in her lap. I studied the pattern in the beige carpet while she sat in my father's leather chair and led the family for the first time in her life. Men crying was more than I could bear but I bowed my head as if in prayer and listened to what my mother told us. It was just too heavy to hold up.

A few days later, we traded Dad stories. My mom revealed that even as non-religious as she was, she truly had always believed that Dad had lived before. "I could never figure out how he knew everything." The best of these stories was one from around 1985. A couple families had rented a commuter van and were driving all of us honyocks* to sunny Southern California. My dad was driving and a pickup truck passed us, he said to my mother, "See that right, rear tire? It's going to blow out in twenty seconds." Dad started to count backward and sure enough when he said "zero" the tire blew. This was not the first nor the last time he amazed us all with his knowledge, it certainly seemed like the man knew everything. He used to tell me, "You know, I was wrong once. I thought I was wrong... but I was really right." Six months later, after that inconspicuous Tuesday, it seems clear to me that I would forever miss having that absolute knowledge around. So many times I have just wanted to know what he would have done.

This has been such a major change for me and my family. It has made us so much closer. I feel sick with the idea that one day I'll get another call, for my mom or one of my brothers. I think about him all the time, it hasn't even begun to go away. I still call his voicemail. There is no way to really know me, and understand the person I am, without knowing this story. I want to live and have a good life. I want to be respectful and have the grace to understand that the people in my life are not to be taken for granted. This is my personal statement. In loving memory of my dad 04/24/52-03/27/07, he was 54 years old.

Goddamn. It fucks me up just to read it again. I'd like to think I'm not quite so mushy about it all now. I have gone through the stages of grief and, if, when I die, I make it to the same after-party as him I would most likely shake a fist at him, kick him in the shin (hard), and then give him a hug. Death of parent is fucked up, and truly sucks like few things in this life do.

In future blogs I will be posting some other writing I did for school. I promise that they are way more hilarious and less likely to make your nose run.

that crazy-ass Domestic Mastermind.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Beauty of a Soundtrack

Hello my fellow Masterminds,

I am in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar place. I find that I have trouble describing that last two months. While I strive to present a full and honest account of what it is truly like to be a hapless house whore, some things I cannot share. What I can freely share with you all is my new awareness of how crappy I am at handling stress. It's not pretty.

All the more reason to thank heaven, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and/or Isis that Dan for some strange reason loves me and has vowed to continue to love me even when I have stress meltdowns. His sanity is obviously questionable.

The Domestic Mastermind must find gainful employment. Not such an easy task. The economy, well, it's fucked. Now, after all this time, having worked as a waitress, an Address Lister for the Census, and currently as a volunteer tutor I don't have a bloody clue what the hell to do.

The thing is, I want a house. I want to paint walls kelly green, I want to plant plants, I want to turn the Rock Band up hella loud and sing Journey, or Kelly Clarkson, or Black Sabbath. This goal will probably happen sooner if I get my ass a job. How this will benefit you: I will write exciting exposes on how Richmond PD couldn't resist my apple pie and ultimately did not fine me with disturbing the peace. Just think on that.

Here is the really embarrassing part: What I'd really love to do is this. Write. Sitting here in my hot pink mumu, my kitties napping in the sun, with only the sound of my keyboard clicking is a great life. I read things and often think, shit, I could do better than that.

Will this un-domesticate me? Am I converting back to the automaton I used to be? I will just pour myself a little mid-morning libation and ponder that.

Also, holla if you think you've got an idea on how I can make money in my mumu.

Clickity-clack-click my Masterminded friends. Until... soon. ;)

Knitting: Part II

What up Masterminds... like a hundred years later. Oopsies.

I have been knitting like a fiend, closed up in a dark room, dreaming of sunlight and a bit of water.

Oh come on.

After many work-hours I have completed: Dan's scarf (literally a year later), a baby blanket (for an unsuspecting Canadian), and a hat (for someone's head yo).

This is said hat. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to rotate this. I even had help.

Above, are two photos of the baby blanket I knit for my friend Sarah. She is from the Great Republic of Canadia. But we won't hold that against her, she rocks and is about to produce a new human.

As a bonus (roll eyes here), a water color painting I did about a month ago.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, the Yoseph. Handsome Yoseph was very sick last month. We thought he might close his eyes. Right at this very moment, he's perched in a sunbeam, yeah that turkey is totally fine. For now, *sigh*.

I should have another photo of a baby blanket soon. I am going to try to make one in the next five days for a baby shower I'm going to this Saturday. Translation: Pray for me.

Coming soon: How I bleached my bathroom ceiling. Without killing myself or others.

I salute you fellow Masterminds, for your patience and love. :)