*scare tactics.

Happy Halloween, peoples.


Be safe. Have fun. Eat candy. Don't be slutty.

*boy genius.

Strange things happen when you live alone. Long stretches of time go by without speaking, so that the quiet is punctuated only by sounds—dog food hitting the bottom of the bowl, acorns popping off the roof, the disquieting groan of the floorboards and the phenomenal gushing roar of the ancient dishwasher.

When there's no one to talk to, you have time to notice things, most notably the strange behavior of a canine in a speech-free environment. (I believe this is how dogs live in the wild, so I can only assume J's behavior is quite normal and not at all cause for concern.)

Last night all was calm on the Woodside. J's eyelids were flickering madly, a sign that he is in a space many days from consciousness, probably dreaming about Cheetos and golden retriever ears. I was completing that most sexy of household tasks, Windexing the bathroom sink, when I violently sneezed into the silence.

I heard J leap off the sofa in a panic, whining and skittering desperately across the slick floors in his attempt to reach me. He stopped short, panting, at the threshold of the bathroom door, and we stared at each other for a moment—me, wide-eyed in bemusement, and he, wide-eyed in terror and confusion.


I think he thought I exploded.

*horseradish tales.

Question: Can you tell the difference between this:


and this?


Yeah, neither can I. And, apparently, neither can Publix. This


is horseradish. This


is celery root. Because I have no spouse or rugrats or other sanity motivators, I got a crazy notion to cook a three-course meal Monday night, and I wanted Celery Root Rémoulade.

Whatever. Your mom's random.

Ina's directions begin, simply, "Use a serrated knife to peel the celery root of all the brown outer portions, like peeling a pineapple." Sounds easy enough, right? For a bear, maybe. It's like a cross between a coconut and a potato, only dirtier. The inside looks like jicama but smells exactly like celery.

Or it's supposed to, anyway. I hacked off the leggy end of the horseradish and instinctively sniffed it. NOT CELERY ROOT. Then I cried great big sloppy tears and marched back out to the Publix to buy the appropriate root. Which was inexplicably labeled "fresh ginger."

Publix is run by monkeys.

By the time I had painstakingly peeled the tubers, I was pretty much over it. Did not want any more celery—root, rémoulade, or otherwise. But I plowed through. I carried on. I muscled the peeled celery root

white root.

and all of my superhuman strength, and pulled out the food processor. I didn't immediately see the bowl and top portions, but then I remembered just where I keep it: at MW and TwinFin's house.


I tried out the mandoline, but I just can't use the damned thing. I scraped and hacked, and ended up with celery root mush mixed with salty, salty tears. So I said fuckit and resorted to the box grater. Because that is how we do on the Woodside. We are gritty and industrious and we can make thick shreds of celery root in just under an hour because we have no shoulder muscles to speak of. Then we take a nap.

The shreds get a sprinkle of salt and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice,


and then they marinate for about half an hour.

root shred.

In the meantime, I whisked together the white wine vinegar,


salt, pepper, mayonnaise,

may nase.

and both Dijon and whole-grain mustards


to get ... rémoulade.


Then everything gets a mix together and refrigerated until ready to serve!

root rémoulade.

The evening's second side dish was Ina's mustard roasted potatoes, a recipe from one of her books that doesn't appear to be on the Food Network Web site. (Buy books!)

I quartered red potatoes, the waxy-skin variety that are God's gift to lazy people. Or people who have just peeled 2 pounds of celery root. A soak in cold water kept them from discoloring whilst they awaited the oven. The recipe called for 2.5 pounds, but I used the whole 3-pound bag.


After they're drained, they go onto a baking sheet, tossed with two yellow onions, sliced into half rounds,

half rounds.

3 tablespoons olive oil,


salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard.


Then into the oven at 425 for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or however long you like. It's almost impossible to overroast a potato. When they come out, they get another light sprinkling of salt and a dusting of


what the hell is that? Fricking curly parsley? Publix, you are on notice. Flat. Leaf. Italian. Parsley. Get with the program.

Where was I? Oh yes, Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce.

See? Chicken.


Balsamic BBQ Sauce.

balsamic sauce.

That'd be balsamic vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and minced garlic. It sits over medium heat to reduce, during which time it is unwise, I discovered, to stick one's head over the pan. Unless one wants a vinegar bath to the brain.

But by the end it's sticky and thick and not too sweet, and it makes chicken breasts, expertly cooked for 8 minutes on each side, delicious—tangy, smoky, and chargrilled in all the right places.

bbq grilled.

Then badly photographed for maximum effect.

The dinner was lovely. The potatoes were crisp and flaky, and we three people managed to consume all three pounds. The chicken was tender and piquant, and the remaining BBQ sauce got drizzled on everything. The celery root ... was sour. Prohibitively sour. Screw-up-your-face-in-devastated-surprise sour.

bbq dinner.

BiL misjudged the width of my dining table and set his Champagne glass down in midair, producing a deafening crash and an abjectly appalled look from his pregnant wife: "What were you doing?"

I thought it was funny. People dropping things without reason often is. And now I have a matching set of Champagne glasses! No one likes an odd number.

Later we sent BiL out to look for eggs (there was brownie-making), and he came back empty-handed because neither of the two convenience stores he visited had them. No word on what his success rate would have been had he gone to the supermarket. After that he dropped the house key and couldn't find it, rendering himself and a very pregnant (six more days, ROCK!) LSis on the cold cold curb until the locksmith arrived at 11:45.

It was not exactly his night, the poor dear.

Today I took the leftover half chicken breast and the (thankfully) mellowed celery root and made a lovely sandwich.

bbq rémoulade.

Because everything tastes better as a sandwich.


All in all, I call it culinary success, or what passes for same in the Woodside kitchen. Multiple grocery store trips, broken stemware, 66% success rate, all culminating in sandwich. Sounds about right.

Now what the hell am I going to do with a POUND of fresh horseradish?

*pollock pup.

I'm sapped by this gray day and the bright lights of cube town, but I promise to be back to our regularly scheduled programming very soon.

Until then I leave you with this equation for comedy.

White dog +


red wine = HILARIOUS.


When the white dog's gesticulating owner bathes him in Cabernet, you will laugh, oh yes you will. But when the oblivious little scamp decides to shake, you will get your comeuppance.

*krazy kuban.

When I was a kid, the opening of my lunchbox was usually met with a stampede of wide-eyed grade-schoolers who huddled around to reverently whisper, "what is that?"

As a result, I have cultivated an under-the-radar personality when it comes to food. At work, this is particularly important, as one does not want to be sniffed out as the source of the too-aromatic lunch. (It must be noted that when people stomp through the hallway and bark, "Who has Chinese food?" they're usually wildly off base, and the offending colleague is eating lasagna or chili, and that is always funny.)

So it says a lot that I was all but begging coworkers to admire my lunch, courtesy of Kool Korner Sandwiches.

Normally I'd shun any establishment that would abuse my first initial in such a way, but I'd heard really great things about the Atlanta transplant, which apparently moved westward after its 86-year-old owner (who was in house when I visited) decided retirement was the snorez.

And by "really great things" I mean "good" and "sandwich." I'm an easy sell.

I opted for the classic Cuban—pork roasted Cuban-style with ham, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard, and dill pickles on Cuban-style bread—because I'm a sucker for unadulterated authenticity, but the "regular" Cuban comes with same, plus lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeño peppers.


The clean, red-and-white decor persists since the location's previous incarnation as a Firehouse Subs, and the service is all smiles when you walk through the door (a welcome change after my snarly reception at Big John's Deli of two weeks ago). In the air there's a pleasantly invigorating scent of what I thought was cilantro, but because none of the sandwiches list it as an ingredient, I'm going to guess it's the jalapeños.

The menu is short, with 10 sandwich options—the classic Cuban, stuffed eye round, pork, chicken, ham and cheese, roast beef and cheese, turkey and cheese, pastrami, salami, and vegetarian—and a simple (and, at $3.99 almost stunningly cheap) salad with the usual suspects and your choice of meat. The roast pork is tender and perfectly seasoned to match the Swiss cheese, and the mayo/mustard mixture isn't slathered on with a trowel, just thinly spread to temper the pickles. But the true genius is in the bread.


Even LSis would love this bread, and she's notoriously picky on the subject. It's just enough, dense on the inside and crunchy on the outside, and I can testify that it makes one consume a sandwich with almost embarrassing speed. Though that meant no one at work had time to smell it out and bellow, "Who has popcorn?"

In short, this was damn good business, and it was nice to support a place that felt so family-owned-and-operated. Despite the accursed spelling.

In other news, I just discovered that I have 17 vacation days (and counting) to take before the end of the year, so I'm staycationing on the Woodside tomorrow. Just me and this guy.


Come bring us presents!

*wise a.

I sat on a baby Monday night. Or in this case, the world's most precocious 4-year-old.

angel hair.

We played dog (with yours truly as veterinarian), we played hide and seek (in which the rules are: A counts to 26 at warp speed while K counts slowly to, for some reason, 12. One can tag A before he gets to "base," but it will be rendered "not fair"), and we read three of the world's longest books (because I was halfway through the second one before I realized he'd genuinely chosen the lengthiest ones he could find). For the record, they were Amelia Bedelia and the Baby, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, and the ominously titled We're Not Best Friends Anymore.

In the latter, the friendship cracks under the pressure of that age-old dilemma: umbrella tent or pup tent. Harsh words are spoken (there is copious use of the word "dumb"), a state of affairs about which A was none too pleased.

A, thoughtfully: "You know what I would do, if I were in this book?"

K, thrilled as always that this kid is so darn smart: "What's that?"

A, with conviction: "I'd punch them both in the face."

There was sidelong glancing that followed, a gauging of my reaction, which was mostly contorted face to prevent an outburst of laughter.

It took me a lot longer in my life to get to that point, where you understand that sometimes people are too caught up in their petty, myopic squabbles to take a look around and realize that they need to gain a little compassion and a little perspective and maybe, just maybe, to pick a goddamn tent already.

I'd punch them both in the face, too.

*composed salad.

My admittedly fragile ego has taken a hit of late, in that I submitted a couple of photos (namely this one and this one) to some food photography-pimping sites and was ROUNDLY rejected. It seems I have a condition known as "unflattering composition."

I've never taken a photography class and have built a rickety life around barreling blindly through things without a helmet on, so I can certainly understand that my composition might be wonky. It goes with the invisible name tag I wear that says, "Hello My Name Is I Have No Idea What I'm Doing."

The "unflattering," though, was an ouch.

So I suppose this is an apology of sorts, for subjecting you to my hideous, hideous life. You flatter me.

I flatter myself these days as a happy homemaker, accomplishing tasks like running the dishwasher and washing the sheets and remembering to medicate the dog.

Look out, Martha Stewart.

There's also been cooking with leftovers, which is how I made the simplest lunch this week. I boiled up the bottom of a box of rigatoni, then mixed in Giada's red wine vinaigrette, which is my go-to vinaigrette recipe, in part because it's brilliantly all-purpose and tasty and in part because manic repetitions of her orzo salad have left it committed to memory.

It'll be my late-life dementia quirk, wandering about the old folks' home shouting, "1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons lemon juice ... "

Into the warm, dressed pasta I tossed some fresh spinach (I wanted arugula, but I was at Walmart—buying a MOP, Martha—and they don't carry the schmancy stuff),


the least shriveled of the pint of woeful grape tomatoes in my refrigerator,


the best of an aging bunch of green onions (though if you're replicating this at home, I'd probably recommend a red onion for bigger crunch and bustier flavor),

cebollas verdes.

and the remaining blue cheese crumbles from the previous night's steak dinner.


Ah yes, I remember you.

I sliced the leftover filet into long strips, and marveled that the smaller steak of the pair had come out better than its more-well-done partner.


I love pasta salad for lunch because it doesn't require refrigeration—by the time the noon hour rolls around, the chill has dissipated, leaving it at the perfect just-cooler-than-warm temperature.

ensalada de vaca.

And anyone who's ever tried to hoover sorbet or suck down ice cubes knows that cold is the enemy of inhaling.

It's been deliciously satisfying the past couple of days, even if it's not gorgeous. As TFin always says, usually with exasperated eye roll, "It doesn't matter what it looks like."

I smell my epitaph!

*single serving.

I've been spending a lot more time alone on the Woodside lately, motivated by empty pockets and a desire to catch the tiny woodland creatures who invade my homestead and cover everything in a thin layer of dust and dinginess.

It's like backwards Cinderella—all of the sweeping of cinders and singing whilst admiring oneself in massive soap bubbles, none of the helpful vermin and dull-as-dirt prince.

Friday night I was nursing a headache, a bone-aching exhaustion, and a profound and starving sense of sorry-for-myself. You know what they say: Starve a cold, feed a pout. With the whole crazy evening ahead of me, I decided to do what any wacky single gal with debilitating sarcasm would do—make a steakhouse dinner for one.

That's right, I'M A CATCH.

I dropped by the Western after work and picked up a head of iceberg lettuce and the ingredients for Ina's Steakhouse Steaks with Roquefort Chive Sauce and Sea Salt With Food's Hasselback Potatoes.

I raced home to try to beat the setting sun, and prepped the potatoes. First, I sliced a garlic clove into the thinnest possible slices. Carefully. I am the girl who once managed to accidentally stab herself with a kitchen knife. Deeply. In the leg.

Never mind.


Then it was time to attempt same with the potato, which was somewhat less successful.


I got nice, thin, even slices, but I also miscalculated on the ends and lopped them off entirely.

A slice of garlic nestles between each potato cranny, then the whole thing gets drizzled with olive oil, dotted with butter, and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

butter dot.

Then into a 425 oven for 40 minutes. Or, you know, an hour and 40 minutes. Sea Salt is a Canuck, and The Frozen North must have either much hotter ovens or much smaller potatoes, because mine had to cook for AGES.

Not that it was worth it. Who wants a crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside spud infused with garlic and butter in an elegant fan with unctuous layers you can peel off and savor one at a time?


Not I.

Meanwhile, I prepared the pretty pretty filets.


A brush of olive oil (the entire bottle of vegetable oil, which Ina calls for, in the Woodside galley had gone rancid. Trust me; I smelled it) and a smattering of salt and pepper, and into a HOT grill pan.

I have a loudmouthed red grill pan that weighs 614 pounds and has been begging for use since TFin and JBSH gifted it to me last Christmas. See there, guys? Just under 10 months! After it heats on the stovetop on high for 7 minutes, the steaks hit the pan and get seared on all sides.

When both steaks had a crisp brown crust, I topped each with a pat of butter ("if using," Ina? Please) and put the pan into a 400 oven.

While the steaks cooked, I poured some heavy cream

measure for measure.

into a pan over medium-high to reduce, then took the thickened cream off the heat and stirred in

blue cheese (the Western had no Roquefort),


chopped scallions (the Western had no chives),

chop chop.

and salt and pepper to make a creamy, pungent sauce.

I'd already hacked a wedge out of a head of iceberg and topped it with chopped tomatoes, a drizzle of ranch dressing, and a slice of bacon I pulled from the freezer and crisped.


Or, you know, burned beyond recognition. The best thing about this salad is that you can whip it up and then throw it in the refrigerator to chill while you prep the rest of your meal.

Ina's recipe directs you to use a meat thermometer to test the steaks, but because there is no such tool on the Woodside, I had to use my best judgment and/or a combination of frantic Googling, loss of patience, and congenital arbitrariness. I pulled them out after about 10 minutes, glistening and juicy.

stripe steak.

They go under aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes. I was aiming for medium rare, but ended up with one more like medium and the other closer to medium-well.

Not that I was complaining, mind you. This was a hearty, decadent, frivolously pricey meal, and there was not a single crumb left behind.

steak dinner

Then I flitted about in a heady euphoria, slathering blue cheese sauce on anything that sat still long enough. J was not amused.

So there you have it—backwards Cinderella's Friday night on the Woodside. A nice, oaky bottle of Fresca, holey pajama bottoms, a late-night-boredom stab at some Ben and Jerry's, and a waddle to bed before the clock struck midnight.

Next step: CATS!

*long day down.

Donning snorkel.


*ambling ramblings.

You thought I died of photo trauma, didn't you?

Funny, my family received no condolences.


Honestly, it isn't difficult to determine the address for floral sprays and cash donations. It's in the Web address. So yes, I am alive, no thanks to you, and no I do not think a week of stress over having one's image captured on film is at all neurotic and absurd.

I ducked out of the incessant downpour last weekend to join TFin and JBSH on their weekly Bottega discipleship and had bruschetta with peppers, chorizo, garlic, and shaved ricotta salata,


and chicken paillard, thin fillets topped with arugula, grilled onions, barely softened mushrooms, shaved parmesan, and coarse flakes of salt.


So, let's see. What else is new in the world o' Woodside? There are floods and plagues of cockroaches, so I'm starting to worry over the fate of my first-born. He seems relaxed about it, though.


Oh dear.



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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.