*working for the weekend.

Circumstances beyond my control have made blogging impossible the past few days. Wait—crippling procrastination is beyond my control, right?

But I shall return! Because I love you, and you love me, and I love that you love me because I am a needy son of a bitch.

The theme for this weekend will be work, work, and more work. Or, for the pithy, "Booze and Bitterness."

Happy Friday!

*cock. tail.

Oh, Sandra Lee.

Honey. No.

The garnish on this perverse concoction (Bananas Foster Cocktail, if you must know)? A splash of cream.

The only thing I can figure is that SL is a closet heinous hosebeast. Someone had to be afraid for their job not to notify her about the dangers of bobbing for phalluses.

Consider this a cautionary tale.

*close to godliness.

Tonight the Woodside had a come to Jesus. It is an abject MIRACLE the Christmas tree came down, because we just haven't seen a clean-up 'round these parts in many moons.

Frankly I was beginning to fear for my life. It was all a matter of what would take me first—dirty dishes or dirty laundry. There was also the danger of being crushed beneath the weight of mismatched shoes and/or charity-donation boxes (the result of an attention-deficit-thwarted fraction of an earlier clean-up attempt).

But tonight, this

became this.

(Aren't those hardwoods pretty? It had been so long since I'd seen them.)


became this,


became this,

and this

became this.

Somewhere, my father is prouder than he was at my college graduation.

*all in a day.

Did something happen this past Tuesday night? Was there a freakishly full moon, or some sort of solar flare? Did Britney make a public appearance I don't know about? Because my day went like this:

5:00 a.m. Alarm goes off.

7:00 a.m. Second alarm goes off.

7:09 a.m. Third alarm goes off.

7:18 a.m. Fourth alarm goes off.

7:27 a.m. Fifth alarm goes off.

7:36 a.m. Sixth alarm goes off.

7:45 a.m. Seventh alarm goes off.

8:19 a.m. Breakfast in one hand. Diet Mtn. Dew, two sets of keys (house and World's Largest Rental Car), and handbag in other. Wearing something that passes, through heavy lids, vaguely as clothing. Not even a half-hearted attempt at a made-up face. It's possible there's only mascara on one eye, but it's hard to tell because of the difficulty differentiating today's from yesterday's. Lunch clenched firmly between teeth, a wrench of the ankle trying to cross the roots-bestudded yard in heels, and I'm off.

So far, so normal.

8:39 a.m. to 6:48 p.m. Workity. Workity workity work. Work work work. Inhale something completely forgettable for lunch. Work some more.

Here's where it gets weird.

7:15 p.m. Change clothes and take the dog for a run. Hit up the Publix for its last bag of basil (previous grocery trips—to two separate stores—were fruitless endeavors). Then head home to crack open the Everyday Italian.

I KNOW, RIGHT? Who is this person? She sweats (on purpose), she spends money, she embarks on appropriately industrious evening activities that do not involve Bea, Rue, Betty, and Estelle. Were it not for my old friends festering dishes and fetid laundry, I would not know myself.

Although, to be fair, I had help.

Thanks, G!

To begin: Microplaned fresh Parmigiano. It's soothing, the effortlessness it requires to make that downy pile. Luckily the rest of the wedge will live for a while in the one clean corner of my cheese drawer—that's a $13 dairy investment I will not soon forget.

Next: Chopped fresh parsley, chiffonade of basil, and garlic (note: I always double the amount of garlic called for in any recipe. I think Alabama cloves are puny).

Then: A mountain of pebbly Arborio. I had the rice on the Woodside, which made me feel like someone who could pass as capable. I don't have a pantry and I live like a slob, so having ingredients on hand is a rare and pleasant event.

And now, let us pause for reflection.

That's the handsomest thing to grace my kitchen since Coppertone. It's part of a set of five pretty pretty copper pots that TFin and JB bought me for Christmas. They're supposed to weather to a jaded, bitter finish with use, but for now I appreciate their spit-shine naivete.

There's rice in there boiling away, which, once cooked, is rinsed and mixed with the chopped herbs, garlic, salt and pepper, a splash of olive oil, and the Parmigiano. That mixture gets spooned into hollowed tomatoes and placed in an oiled baking dish.

Le Creuset. SPOILED ROTTEN, I am.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, and serve with dense, butter-drenched bread. [Italics mine. Arterial assault optional.]

The Food Network lists the difficulty of this recipe as "Intermediate." Why? The rice cooks for 10 minutes, you mix it with a few other things, and you stuff it in a tomato. What's difficult about that?

They are meant to be eaten either hot or at room temperature, which made them perfect for the next three day's lunches (packed in Snapware!). If I had it to do over, I'd mix half of the cheese into the rice mixture and sprinkle the rest over the top, for a golden crust.

10:00 p.m. Curl up on the sofa for my nightly three-hour Lifetime sitcom marathon. Discover "Will & Grace" episodes I've already seen are being preempted for some horrible baby-snatching/wedding disaster/only hot vain dudes can help sad fat women see their true hideousness nightmare.

10:03 p.m. Eat M&Ms. Not a hot vain dude in sight. C'est la vie.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ME. Wednesday marked the anniversary of onthewoodside. May it live on and prosper in its spasticness. (365 days, 153 posts. F-.)

Thanks for reading!

*economic futility.

What? It's Tuesday.

Oh, shut up. So I'm a day late. There HAPPENED to be something sort of important that happened yesterday. And that something made me rather effusively happy. Happy enough to at least temporarily divest me of the knowledge that, even as this country broadcasts message of unity, some people will still embrace ignorance willfully and spew hatred unabashedly. I've heard enough of it in the past 12 hours to dampen even the hardiest optimism, but IT DIDN'T WORK. I'm still grinning. Kiss my ass, racists. (That invitation is not extended to anyone whose religion requires them to live in a fear bubble. Those people should not be anywhere near my person, or at least maintain a 50-yard radius from my ass.)

All of which is to say: Whee!

Aherm. On to business. Despite the protestations of the snobby, I frequently consume wine from a box. Because it's affordable (four boxed bottles for $19 works out to a better deal than four normal bottles for $7 to $10 apiece) and efficient (less spoilage! less waste!), not because I'm indiscriminate. That's why I love this.

In part because they call it a "cask." Classy, no? It's still a cardboard box with a vacuum-sealed pouch and a plastic spigot, but if you call it a cask with confidence, who's going to argue? And think of how long it would last! My wallet sings just thinking about it.

Until I read this post, I'd never heard of raclette, but once I discovered it's basically a way to turn just about anything into nachos, I was sold. So I was overjoyed to see this in my e-mail inbox.

It combines my two favorite things—melty, gooey, delicious dairy, and an enormous kitchen appliance that only serves one obscure purpose.

This is positively a miracle.

B bought it for me for Christmas, and while I realize it is unseemly and probably pathetic to conduct a love affair with plastic containers, I am now a veritable Tupperware-ist. Snapware is the Next Big Thing. It's more reliable; it's good looking; it's the right size ... oh my! That was unintentionally racy.

Remember how I have a salt-throwing problem in the kitchen? (Memory refresher: I'm clumsy.) This made me literally giggle out loud at work.

I think they frown on that.

I'm currently tucked into my sofa, wearing a "Dog Whisperer" sweatshirt and my brother-in-law's pants and wishing desperately that my laundry machines weren't outside. It's cold out there. (Although somehow my heat is only set on 60, yet I'm overly warm. Sometimes it's nice to have minimal square footage. Or be impossible to please.)

I'd like to be cozied in front of a fire, long stems tucked beneath me, stirring chewy, angry coffee with these.

Yes, I have long legs in this scenario.

OK, allow me a little indulgence this week—I found two cool things for J. One is this.

It's a pet camera! You hook it onto your pup's collar, and it takes "pet's-eye view" shots at intervals. Allegedly it allows you to see what your pooch sees during the day. I suspect in J's case that's one big blur, followed by periods of lying down. Like having a seizure in time-lapse photography.

And then there's this.

Which J would look QUITE handsome on if he lost about 35 pounds.

This is the crazy-coolest thing.

It's like a Swiss Army knife for the kitchen—an herb crusher, a pestle, and a knife sharpener all in one! I think it is an incredible tool for anyone unlikely to stab themselves with a newly sharpened knife—i.e. not me.

You know that scenario wherein I drink steaming coffee and have a fireplace and look good in skinny jeans and have long legs? (Hint: I talked about it earlier.) I'd like to add this to that picture.

In this scenario I take cream and sugar in my coffee. AND understand physics.

But in the spirit of this new era, I have to admit—as budgetarily unsound as it may be, had I not had to pay an insurance deductible and a plumber in the span of one week, I would absolutely buy myself this ring.

It's a nice reminder.

*booze hound.

Look out, world. He's 21 today.

(That'd be 3 in dog years, if you're counting.)

You've come a long way, baby.

OK, maybe not.


*my heart will go on.

Ever have one of those days? When you get up in the morning, find that a lack of clean foundation garments means you have to wear the SMALLEST POSSIBLE UNDERPANTS, wash your hair with conditioner, and arrive to your occupation provider only to find you have to work once you get there?

Yeah, I had one of those days.

But stand by. I have a post, and it's about this:

And tomorrow I will tell you about my tonight. I'm prepared to sparkle.

*crazy fun.

Birmingham: The diva has landed.

When I was just a wee pre-adolescent, I received my first compact disc: Celine's "The Colour of My Love" (For TwinFin it was Boyz II Men, for LSis, "Meatloaf Bat Out of Hell: Part II.)

I think I had "terminally dweeby" written on my face when I came out of the womb.

Nevertheless, I cut my teeth on ballads and forehead-smacking white rap courtesy of the Queen of Adult Contemporary. I'm taking the mother figure to see her, tomorrow night, for crazy-people watching and maybe—if she's very lucky—an airbrushed clothing item.

I'm going to get my Lovable Whackjob fill for the year.

"Speaking honestly: Rene loves me the most when I'm wearing nothing."

"My husband and me retired for two years, so that there will be less talking about us and my weight."

"I always put on makeup at home, because I think I'm looking boring without it. "

"I've never been cool—and I don't care."

"I looked in the audience. There were no strangers. Everybody was singing and cheering and hugging. That was a beautiful picture to look at."

It may well be the nerdiest night of my life.

I can't wait.

*economic futility.

This morning I woke up with the distinct impression of both sets of teeth in my cheeks, made a Tabasco-laced breakfast, and put on my cranky pants.

I grumbled through a morning meeting, spent too much money on home goods, and stared blankly at the Subway employee who asked me if I wanted PEPPERONI on my veggie sandwich.

Then I resisted the urge to throw my Tim Gunn page-a-day calendar at the wall. (Today's advice is "Treat your pants with respect and your dresses with dignity." Yesterday reminded me not to wear a coat with the label still attached to the sleeve. It's sartorial advice for feral people.)

I think I'm mostly sleep- and money-deprived, which would explain why I've turned the inside of my mouth into a midnight snack. It makes for easy Tuesday posts, though, as the list of things I cannot afford grows ever longer.

Like these.

The Woodside kitchen would have one of these for every door if the bank would just deposit someone else's money in my account for me. Granted, I only have eight cabinet doors, but that's, what? $500? Yeah, I can do math.

When the weather is chilling and brisk, as it is here, I start to falsely romanticize summer as warm and delightful as opposed to sweaty and horrible. Were I throwing a beautifully elegant outdoor party, I'd serve the lemonade in this.

The glass would keep bugs at bay, and the lemony yellow beaming through the smoky decanter would make me smile.

I have a drawer with a motley assortment of measuring tools, most of which are crusted with old cottage cheese/eggs/something that looks suspiciously like mildew (indestructible silicone, meet K). This seems like a nutball price for measuring cups, but look how utilitarian!

My basic criterion for kitchen tools is that you can back over them with your car without incident, and I think these fill the bill. According to Sur La Table, they won't rust or react to food, either, and my culinary endeavors are pretty incendiary.

There's at least a 90% chance I've already posted this.

That only serves to prove HOW MUCH I DESIRE IT. For now I keep my salt at the ready in an ugly sushi dish with a teaspoon sticking out of it. I manage to turn that spoon into a salt catapult more often than I'd like to admit. This solves that problem (function!) beautifully (form!).

I'd never even heard of a garlic grater until today.

Although you can guess (YELLOW!) what drew me to it. I've seen people grate garlic before—on a Microplane or on the knuckle-shredding side of a box grater—but I love this. Especially the suggestion to pour oil onto the surface, over the garlicky shreds, then serve as a dip with crusty bread. I love a product with a bonus feature.

I admit that of these the heart mold is predictable and cheesy, unless you have sappy kids or something, but the star is kicky.

I could see it as the topper for a pretty (though potentially ridiculous) huevos rancheros.

The 20th is only a week away, so put your orders in for this, stat.

Though there is guaranteed to be boundless toasting that day, should any Inaugural vino go unsipped, I'd cap off the bottle with this.

I'm not generally a pretty-pretty-princess girl, but something about the steel gray and the facets appeals to my muted elegance sensibility.

Note: Muted elegance is something I strive for. I generally wind up somewhere between fall-down girl and screechily neurotic lady.

Here's a little cheat this week: This is free!

I credit its discovery to LSis. The photos are beautiful, the tone is irreverent (go figure), and the basset is perfection.

But ultimately, if George W. Bush decided to send me a $50 bill right this second, I'd probably spend it on a subscription to this.

For most anything that's more than I can afford, and certainly for four issues. But have you seen lovelier loveliness in your life?

See there? It's rendered me redundant.

Tune in tomorrow, folks. There's frost in the air and (FINGERS CROSSED) there will be soup on the stove tonight. Unless I get distracted by hard liquor and American Idol. Stranger things have happened.

*a little italy.

According to Google, "Birmingham, Alabama, restaurants" yields 16,600 results, but there's NOWHERE TO EAT. Conversations about where to dine in the Woodside and its environs reach epic proportions. They tend to go something like this:

K: Where do you want to eat?
LSis: I don't know. Where do you want to eat?
K: I don't know, either. Nothing really sounds good.
LSis: I know, but if we don't decide, MJ is going to want Chinese or something.
K: Ew.
LSis: I know.
K: I mean, I guess we can go to [half-hearted suggestion].
LSis: No, last time we were there MJ threw up/fell asleep/forgot to tip. It just sucks because you're a vegetarian.
K: What?! We can eat anywhere! I can find something to eat no matter where we go.
LSis: Not true. It's always your fault. And you never come up with any ideas.
K: What about [Italian]?
LSis: Too expensive.
K: What about [Thai]?
LSis: Too far away.
K: What about [Greek]?
LSis: Too crowded.
K: Skrewit. Let's just go to Los Arcos.

Yes, that's right. I valiantly offer choice after choice, and LSis cruelly shoots me down at every turn.

It's my story. I get to be the hero.

But the other night I was driving home in The World's Largest Rental Car (fortuitous because I suspect it could pull double duty as an ark, and the Woodside weather report had read "downpour with a chance of soddenness" for the past three days), feeling sort of post-work starey and stunned, when I had this text conversation:

K: It smells like Doritos nachos outside my office. [Ed. note: Don't judge me.] Is that weird?
LSis: Yes, very. At the old ciau if you want to join.
K, somehow interpreting, through highly honed powers of sibling interpretation, that this means "I am at the new restaurant that now occupies the space where Café Ciao used to be": Oh really? [Ed. note: I am a perfectly useless texter.]
LSis: Yeah house wine 3 dollar house wine
K, wondering just how long little sister has been hitting the bottle: I'm two minutes from there! [Ed. note: No, I do not know why so exclamatory.]
LSis: Ok see you soon

God, we're interesting.

The aforementioned two minutes later, I found a parking spot for TWLRC and went into Bambinelli's. I was hopeful, because although Ciao was an acceptable joint with a sunny patio, the food was always more wilted-lettuce-and-warm-wine than one would hope.

I found MJ and LSis, sitting alone in the large dining room next to a fire, after side-stepping the too-eager hostess. They were alone, which perhaps explains why she greeted me as though I were Publisher's Clearing House.

The Js were just finishing up a plate of mussels, and as I sat down their meals arrived. I rushed to order, then sopped up fiery mussel broth with crusty bread while I waited.

Seconds passed before my green salad with house dressing arrived. The dressing was good—not transcendent, but with a good proportion of oil to vinegar—and though things seemed generally fresh, the greens tasted a little dirty and the tomatoes were well past peak season. Restaurants also seem to think there's some vote of confidence to be had by serving salad in chilled bowls, but I always wind up feeling like I've been served one of 20 salads in the back that have been sitting in the cooler for who knows how long.

But no matter, because before I had the chance to eat six bites, my pasta fagiole had arrived.

Fusilli, white beans, and spinach. LSis had ordered the same thing, but the portions seemed off. Like the chef had made one double-serving pot, then served her 65% of the solids. She had pasta with a light sauce, I had noodle soup.

That said, it was really very good—warming on a rainy night, and cozily satisfying. It was missing a little kick, so we procured some crushed red pepper flakes to wake things up. A smidge on the salty side, but otherwise quite nice.

To follow, LSis and I ordered the chocolate cannoli to share.

Blech. The shell was almost fork-impenetrable, and the cream tasted like store-bought frosting, only ... grainier. I had maybe two bites before abandoning ship.

I cleansed my palate with the remainder of the half-carafe ($7.00!) of house red I'd procured before my butt hit the booth. It was an Italian red, we overheard the waiter telling another table, and was completely palatable despite its affordability. It was round and robust, with a smooth hint of low price point. It was also served by a second waiter, as ours was adorably too young to serve alcohol.

My main bone to pick with Bambinelli's is the atmosphere. Little things are off, but that could be Soft-opening Syndrome: The gas fireplace has no logs. The lighting is up too high (a nod, I think, to the older clientele). The soda fountain—complete with hand-washing station, ewgross—is dead center in the dining room. The butter is served in a ramekin, but it comes as pats, cheesily still wrapped in single-serving Land O'Lakes foil.

Regardless, I'll definitely return. There are plenty of other pasta and pizza options to try, and I have the second half of that carafe to get to.

Verdict: Pasta pleasant, pace sprinty, price pleasing. Make sure you have dessert at home.

Bambinelli's Italian Café
2031 Cahaba Road
Mountain Brook, AL 35223

OK, deep breaths: It's confession time. In the spirit of resolutions and new beginnings, I admit the following.

1. I don't fight the battle of the bulge. The bulge launches a potato-chip offensive that I eye for whole seconds before gleefully surrendering. Then I take a nap.

2. I despise diets, scales, and women who claim "chasing around after the kids" is all they need to stay trim.

3. When I took off for Thanksgiving break, my doctor told me to "have a nice time. Maybe find a treadmill."

4. I don't like doctors with penises. It's a sexist bias, but I stand by it.

Don't get me wrong—I'm certainly not going to be cast on "The Biggest Loser" anytime soon. I don't have the mass or the motivation.

BUT I may or may not have gone to attend to some business last night and cracked the toilet seat in half.

I share this with you, and the online community at large, not out of some misguided sense of self-deprecation or shame, but because it's DAMN FUNNY.

I defy you to name one other person this has happened to. Besides maybe Mama Cass.

*economic futility.

Survey says it's only been 10 days since I last blogged, so I'm trying to cut myself some slack about it, but I'm sure it escaped no one's notice that things have been horribly flaky on the Woodside of late.

I've been digging myself out of a few holes—work jumbles, holiday laziness, freelance avalanche, and doctor's appointments, to name a few—but I've heard from a number of people lately that when my frequency drops, their procrastination suffers. And FAR BE IT from me to hinder the screeching halt of progress.

So without further ado, I give you the first list of nifty, not-thrifty items for 2009.

Non news flash No. 1: My obsession with yellow continues. This shade is a little sunny for me, but the graphic print makes it a winner.

This one is a winner for its versatility. I constantly hear people say you should use a small coffee grinder to pulverize your spices, but that looks to me like cleaning a food processor on an infinitesimal scale. I have neither the energy nor the patience. Plus here your thumb does all the work, so you get the feeling of having ground your own spices without the impersonality of the coffee grinder or the tennis elbow of the molcajete.

And you know which color I'd pick.

I'll admit that I stole this find from a food mag, but because I subscribe to three (Gourmet, Bon Appétit, and Food & Wine), I can't remember which it was.

I think it's a spiffy way to keep paper napkins from blowing away (if you're outside), with neat, almost masculine styling that says, "This is not a tea party." At $16 for a pack of 50 they're a little pricier than your average disposable, but it'll be worth it when you're up late deriding Lifetime TV instead of laundering 50 linen napkins.

While you're throwing things at the screen (really, Lifetime? How did you snag Oscar-winning actress and protagonist of my favorite movie of all time—Annie Hall—for a movie with Dax effing Shepard? Whyyyyyyyyyyy? Also, why does she appear to be cast as terminally obnoxious in it?), you're going to need some booze. "Diet Tribe" is enough to shove anyone off the wagon.

That's where good ole Martha comes in. At $15, this is more than I generally spend on a bottle of wine, but the pretty logo makes me want to try it. I'm sure it has notes of withering stare and screaming meemie.

I got some lovely, thoughtful Christmas gifts for the Woodside kitchen, so one of my resolutions is a reorganization. This would help immensely.

As a singular lady, I tend to find myself with lots of dregs of dry goods—pasta, lentils, rice—and neither Scotch-taped Barilla bags nor opened-from-the-bottom-every-single-time-because-I-do-not-pay-attention Mr. Ben's is terribly attractive. It'd also help me know what I have, as opposed to buying a new container of penne when I have six quarter-filled boxes at home.

On the other hand, I have absolutely zero need for this.

I just think it ROCKS.

I've been on the lookout for a pretty bar cart lately, after TFin and JB said it could solve their tableside-service conundrum. J'ADORE this one, even though it costs more than my paycheck.

I like that it's sort of universal, decor-wise—not overly modern or exaggeratedly retro.

You could top it with this.

It's not the most gorgeous ice bucket I've seen, nor the most innovative, but the button reference? Genius.

There is absolutely no way in hell I'd be able to make this happen, even if I did have the (refreshingly affordable!) cutter. Mine would be all rough edges that wouldn't fit together.

But I do think it'd make a great cookie cake.

And finally, in honor of the now-defunct holiday season, I bring you this.

The photo isn't great, so allow me to relate what's engraved on this Christmas bauble: "This Tree Died for Jesus." Which I thought at first was just irreverent/blasphemous/funny but later realized constitutes a Serious Issue for the ornament's creator. (I submit as evidence: "This Christmas tree ornament is a statement of my deeply held belief that cutting down trees to satisfy nostalgia or Religious beliefs is just plain wrong. ... Killing trees in the name of Santa, Jesus or nostalgia is an outdated tradition in our struggling ecosystem and it needs to be questioned and stopped.")

I wish you all a happy, prosperous 2009. In the name of Santa.



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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.