Tag Archives: Mexican

A Dash of iPhone

She is not permanently attached to her iPhone, at least no more than I am to mine.  It serves so many functions: alarm clock, camera, runner-tracker-via-GPS, music-and-podcast-and-video player, text-message lifeline, video device, Internet reference library, email handler…and is even, occasionally, used as a telephone.

She knew that her phone’s battery was nearing the end of its usable life. Replacing the battery wasn’t really a viable option, as she’d been rubbing up against the phone’s 16-gigabyte memory limit pretty regularly–especially with the multi-year iMessage stream between us that she didn’t want to part with. We hoped the battery would hold out until January, when her contract permitted her to have a discounted rate on a new phone.

When such a device works perfectly, it is simultaneously thing of beauty and a thing almost not to be noticed: it just works.  When it fails, it needs to be repaired or replaced.  And when such a device fails on the night before arguably the most valuable fund-raising night of her professional year, replacement must be swift and decisive.

“I’m going to buy a new phone after work,” she said, in one of the few messages between us yesterday that reached its recipient before the battery expired again.

“Why not come home, and we can go to the store at the mall?” I replied, thinking that a suburban shopping experience might be a little less crowded and noisy than the Times Square AT&T store on a matinee-day evening.

She agreed. Her phone died again on the way to Grand Central, as we rushed to meet for the earliest train possible. We made it, by seconds and found seats, but seats without power outlets.  No work for her on the ride home.  No knitting, either, she realized; her sweater pattern was stored in her useless phone, too.

I realized we didn’t have to go all the way to the mall, as there are two AT&T stores in our town.  Unfortunately, both closed early. It was just past 8 PM.

“Ridiculous suburbs,” she said, or maybe it was something less refined. I restrained myself from reminding her how much she usually likes it here. We made it to the mall in record time. Knowing stores would close at 9, we raced up the escalators to reach AT&T. While she waited for a Customer Service Representative, I dashed to the nearby Apple Store to find out what was in stock there, just in case.  (She would, it turned out, have her choice of any iPhone she wanted, so long as it was silver and had a 64-gigabite memory capacity.) I nearly bowled over the young man hawking skin-care products from a kiosk between the stores.  Twice.

I returned to her just as she began a conversation with the sales rep–unfailingly politely and cheerfully, as she always is. But she began with the wrong question, and lost a valuable minute-thirty before learning that no phones were in stock there.  “Thank you,” she said sweetly, nearly dragging me out of the store behind her.

The Apple Store was busier, but the Specialist who’d given me the stock report was free soon enough and happy to see me back. She worked through the phone-purchase process as quickly as possible. I was reminded how much faster it used to be, when all you had to do was buy a phone, any phone, and plug it into the wall.  If Mom or Dad had been there, they might have been reminded how the phone company would simply bring the only phone they had and hard-wire it into your house. What Grandma would have thought, I’m not sure.

Once their process was underway, I turned to other errands: since the case she wanted for her new device wasn’t in stock, I purchased her a not-quite military-grade screen protector; I checked to see if the new eyeglass lens I needed had arrived at the optician’s shop; I picked up a piece of nerve-calming chocolate for her at Godiva; and phoned the Perfectly Adequate Mexican Restaurant to make sure they’d still be open to grab take-out on our way home. By the time I finished, the Specialist had installed the protective film, and we made our way to dinner, home, and sleep.

It was not the relaxed Night Before the Big Event that she’d been hoping for, and it wasn’t exactly the season finale of The Amazing Race, but it was full of twists and turns, setbacks, detours, and delays–and a happy ending. She is now the proud (if somewhat poorer) owner of a shiny new phone. Ingrid, as she calls the phone, carries all of her important information for today’s event, all of the photos that are important to her, even her knitting pattern–and, most importantly, has plenty of battery power.

When the Big Event is successfully completed, and after she has had a long nap and shower, I might even ask call her to ask what the name means. Assuming the battery holds out, I’m pretty sure she’ll answer.

Our Weekend Condition

Work had been miserable for us both on Friday; serious food was called for. I pan-grilled a steak, made a batch of macaroni and cheese, and steamed some asparagus.  She added sea salt and chopped pecans to a batch of dark chocolate caramel brownies, and tried not to be too disappointed that the peaches she was hoping to turn into jam had been waiting too long and were more mush than fruit. We sat at the table like grownups and relaxed into a weekend that would be far more full of activity than either of us expected. (She relaxed more than she planned to, falling asleep on the couch before the brownies were cool.)

Adding a little dijon mustard, paprika, and shredded muenster to boxed Mac and Cheese takes it slightly out of the realm of comfort food for some--but puts it more in the realm for others.

Adding a little dijon mustard, paprika, and shredded muenster to boxed Mac and Cheese takes it slightly out of the realm of comfort food for some–but puts it more in the realm for others.

Fortified by a breakfast brownie, we started a gardening project first thing in the morning.  This was about cleaning up, not planting.  The forsythia on the hillside had overgrown, big branches of a fallen tree had become ensnarled in it, and the ivy that was supposed to be ground cover at the bottom of the hillside was tangled in everything, along with tendrils of some other weed that was the only thing really thriving.  I took breaks for two church services, but she kept at it, sending me texts periodically asking that I bring home more leaf-and-lawn bags.

Dainty food was not going to cut it. Scrambled eggs with peppers and cornbread for lunch.  Chicken and dumplings for dinner. Kahlua milkshakes for dessert, while we cheered on our friends who performed in the PBS telecast of Sweeney Todd. (Dumplings, yes; meat pies, no.)

While I started Sunday’s massathon, she climbed back onto the hillside; she was accompanied by our neighbor, and I joined the two of them between masses 4 & 5. By the end of the weekend, there was plenty of space for the ivy to do its thing, just the right amount of forsythia for the space, three Prius-loads of filled-to-the-brim leaf bags bound for the city’s lawn-waste site, and the satisfaction of a job well done and without injury.

(The first three bags were already in the car.)

(The first three bags were already in the car.)

We ordered takeout from a terrific and very authentic Mexican restaurant: soft corn tacos filled with steak and pork, pickled onion, and cilantro; chicken flautas; rice studded with bits of pea and carrot; creamy, rich refried beans. (Too much food for dinner, to be sure; we’re both having leftovers for lunch, and the guacamole and chips will be a post-theatre snack tonight.)

I preheated the oven while we ate, and with the energy conserved by ordering dinner, I gathered ingredients and she mixed a batch of cranberry-orange muffins for this week’s breakfasts. They’re not exactly the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook recipe; it turns out she improvises, too (and then carefully notates how well things work).

Cranberry Orange Muffins

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prep your muffin tin for 12 average-sized muffins.
  2. Zest a large orange; reserve the zest in a small bowl and then squeeze every last drop of juice into a measuring cup. Pour enough cranberry juice cocktail into the cup to bring the total volume up liquid up to 2/3 of a cup. Add 1/4 of a cup of cooking oil to that measuring cup, and stir well to combine. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine 1-3/4 cups flour, a scant 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. stir to combine, then make a well in the center.  Set aside.
  4. In another small bowl (or the cup used to measure the flour), beat an egg. Pour the beaten egg and combined liquid into the well of the flour, and stir to combine. Continue stirring, scraping the bowl as necessary, until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth. Fold in one cup of whole frozen cranberries (or thoroughly chilled fresh ones) and a sprinkling of slivered almonds.
  5. Scoop the batter into the muffin tins. Remember the reserved zest and sprinkle a few pieces on the tops of each muffin, giving a quick stir with a small spoon to cover them with batter.
  6. Bake until the tops are golden and the tiniest bit of brown starts to show at the edges, approximately 22 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool for twenty minutes, then remove the muffins from the cups and allow them to cool completely. Enjoy with butter or clotted cream.
As with brownies, waiting for muffins to cool is very much the hardest part.

As with brownies, waiting for muffins to cool is very much the hardest part.

We finished Sunday evening with a mini-marathon of 1950s TV game shows, confident that we would be well fed and cooking-panic-free all week, and recognition that–although there is always more to do–we’d accomplished quite a bit. Like untangling weeds from ivy, making a home takes time.

When in Rome, Do as the Australians Do? Or is it the South Africans?

She and her dad left early for New York and a day of putting the City House back the way she had found it: white walls, empty rooms, and broom-clean floors. I left for a pre-work run, training for a 20K race next weekend. None of us had quite the day we expected. 

They couldn’t find parking. They needed more paint. The air conditioner wouldn’t come off its mounting. The landlord didn’t show up to collect the keys. There was a 75-minute wait to return equipment to the cable company.  One thing after another.

The complications of my day were fewer: I just got stung by a bee. On the roof of my mouth.  I mean, really. Who gets stung on the roof of the mouth? Pained but with no other symptoms, I made an appointment to see the doctor, finished my run, and went to the office. My doctor, a fellow runner, said I’d done the right thing; he prescribed ibuprofen, ice cubes, and a Benadryl at bedtime.

By the end of the day, nobody felt like cooking.  She likes the barbecue place not far from home, so I passed around the laptop–the 21st century version of a binder full of menus.  Her dad and I chose the pulled pork.  “Can I do something completely not authentic?” she asked. Reminded that she is an adult and fully capable of making her own choices, she opted for the penne pasta with vodka sauce and grilled chicken.  And a cheese quesadilla.

The girl ordered Italian and Mexican food.  From the barbecue place.

The hostess was terribly sorry that she couldn’t deliver the collard greens I’d hoped for as a side dish.  I was only sorry I couldn’t place her accent.  Australian?  South African? Second-year theatre student practicing her dialect-class homework?

The pulled pork was smoky and citrusy. The cornbread was moist and full of actual corn. The cole slaw wasn’t as good as the Colonel’s (or even the reverse-engineered version I make when there’s time), but it was fine. And, apparently, the penne and quesadilla were good, too. I’d ask, but she’s asleep on the couch.