Saturday, May 31, 2008


I refuse to take pictures anymore, probably because I know I don't want to be in them. So I stole these pics off the net, but I am regretting not taking pictures now.
On Thursday night the girls (Melinda, Robbie, Cailin, Tailee and I) went for a night out to Casablanca restaurant in Kailua. I never knew the benefits of a girls' night out until I had Amaya, and there was some disagreement with the males at Pam's house the night before we went out as to WHY girls' night out occurs. I maintain that in most situations, guys are just more likely to hog all of the conversation, but if we go out, at least it will be ME who hogs all the conversation. Yes, and I did. I think I hogged all of the food too.
Casablanca is a Moroccan restaurant, something that I've never tried despite my love of Greek food. This is definitely my new favorite place on the island.
The place is decked out with low tables and cushy comfy seats. I snatched the corner and sunk into the pillows for most of the evening. It did take three hours. Still, it was an enjoyable three hours. Normally, at restaurants, I get really tired ot sitting at the straight-backed chairs and dread the way my legs feel with the circulation being slightly cut off under my thighs. I love restaurant food I just usually love getting out of there too. Not the case with this place.
Our hands were washed and there are no utensils, so we dug into a communal appetizer plate that had hummus, tabbouleh, perfectly cooked carrot stuff, eggplant stuff, and tomato stuff. I'm sure there were descriptions but I didn't look closely because its a set 4 course meal, you just choose the main dish. The waitress also brought by bread in a big basket to eat with our food. We had a traditional soup which tasted like a vegetable medley with cilantro and lentil.
The bread looking picture was puff pastry filled with chicken, ground meat, spices, and a little bit of vegetables with sweet almonds, the whole thing dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Really yummy.
For the main meal I got lamb with honey. I like lamb to not taste gamey-- it was perfect. The sauce was gorgeous. I could happily eat that every day.
We also received a dessert of some kind of cookie/pastry thing soaked in sticky honey-like substance, along with sweet mint tea. The concluding wash was accompanied by splashing of orange water on our hands and heads.
The conversation was good too. I love hearing other people's awkward dating stories. I felt like my stomach was getting some good exercise from the laughing. No Ab Ripper necessary!

Despite the day that was waiting for me and scream #2, I slept happily that night.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Scream: The Sequel

Total cost of 4 unpaid tickets: $696.
I talked to MSB (which, apparently, according to NPR this morning, has raised over 27 million dollar for the state in previously unpaid tickets, and its no wonder, because probably all of these people had no idea that they had tickets, and Muncipal Services Bureau is the only one who actually knows anything) and the woman there explained to me that if I did not pay this ticket, the one that she was given the case for, that my license may be revoked, I could be arrested, and there could be a stop on any car registered under my name. So I paid for that one. I asked her if I could pay the other tickets. She could see that there were three others, but since the cases were not assigned to the bureau yet, she did not know any other details. She directed me to call Kaneohe district court, who I have already talked to several times.
Phone calls to Kaneohe district court go like this:
Me: "I need to pay a ticket, but I don't have the ticket number."
Idiot: "Oh, you need to call 1-800..."
Me (interrupting): "No, I've called that number. I need a ticket number."
Idiot: "It's on your ticket in the upper..."
Me: "Yeah, I know. You've told me that the last 4 times I called. I DO NOT HAVE A TICKET BECAUSE I NEVER RECEIVED ONE."
Idiot: "So you don't have a ticket number?"
Me: Yes.
Idiot: "Well, I don't know... uh... give me your number so I can look it up."
Me: "I don't HAVE a number."

This goes on for about ten minutes. I give him my social security number, my driver's license number, and nothing comes up. He tells me to call another number (this is about the 50th time I've been directed somewhere else.) This is also when I am wondering if I actually even HAVE a ticket, if no one can find it.

When I call the other place, we go through the whole, 'give me your number' 'I don't have a number' game again, and she tells me to call the other guy again.

This time I get it through to him that he MUST find my ticket number, otherwise I will forever be in limbo. He finally gets a grand idea and finds my numbers. He tells me the first number, and then I ask for the second one. He is quiet for a while, and repeats the first number. I say, "that's the same one." "Oh, yeah. Hmmmm... Did I tell you this number?" He repeats the same number.
We finally get all the numbers right. I then ask him which ticket I've already paid, because I paid MSB, and I obviously don't want to pay it twice. He has no idea how to tell which one has already been sent to the agency. He also has no idea what the cost is on any of the tickets.
Although I know it's fruitless to talk to this idiot, I explain the situation to him in a loud and angry voice and ask him what the exact law concerning this situation is. He doesn't know, and says I can request a court date.

I call another number, now finally armed with my information, and ask how much my tickets will cost. Someone finally tells me something. And that something is not a good thing.

Now, I was driving home, fuming mad, and saw "Click it or ticket. $90." Will someone please tell me why DRIVING WITHOUT A SEATBELT, which is obviously dangerous and results in a loss of life, is LESS expensive than a ticket for a car, needing to be repaired, sitting on the street? They will GET their money for the registration and safety eventually, because they make you pay all back registrations, along with all of their late fees, so this $700 is just extra on their part. Why would each ticket be almost twice the amount of actually committing an illegal act?
And the most important questions:
Do I risk the last three tickets being put into collections while awaiting a court date that may not benefit me?
Or do I pay the Idiot?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Can I scream now?

Even if this is partly my fault, and partly some other person's that I will not here name, I am still raging mad right at this moment. I occasionally make demands to this unnamed person regarding this issue (demands I cannot fulfill because of disagreements we have over what should be done), and occasionally one step to appease me will be made, but I think I'm ready to explode over this.
Green Honda Accord:
unregistered and un-safety inspected for 2+ years, but insured! Oh yes, very insured, for around $800 per year, because getting it back on insurance after missing even one day can double the premium.
Initially, because the back window tinting was slightly peeling and Jiffy Lube would not give us safety inspection without having it professionally removed ($400+). Jake and I removed it ourselves, spending hours on the window and cleaning it. In that process, the motor for the window died, leaving it up halfway, resulting in Jiffy Lube not giving us safety inspection for a halfway up window.
That was fixed.
Then there were a number of other problems, the most recent being electrical issues. Probably all of these are due to the fact that it has not been driven regularly, obviously. For 1+ years, it sat in our driveway, dead at our house by pounders.
When we moved to Pam's it sat in the street in front of the house, undriven. We have never tried to use it, choosing instead to abide by the law.
10/2/07, parking ticket, unregistered and no safety. I wrote to the court, immediately, explaining that it was not in use, just sitting in the street, technically in front of our "mechanic's" house.
They charged us anyway, and I sent in a check immediately, and Jake moved the car to the driveway.
2 months later, I got a notice from a collections agency informing me of non-payment and possible jail time for avoiding parking tickets. Looked online, found that my check had never been cashed, no idea why. Maybe I forgot to put a stamp on the envelope. My new payment would be $30 more than the original ticket. This was in February.
Several days ago I started receiving recorded messages saying I had an "unresolved court matters" and to call the collections agency. I found this strange, because I did follow up on the payment in February, and it was made. I chose to ignore it for three days, because I know how inept collections agencies can be, having been a medical biller.
Today I called the Oahu court system, only to discover that MSB, the collections agency, was calling me because of not one, but FOUR OUTSTANDING TICKETS FOR THE SAME EXACT PROBLEM. Oh. Yes.
Apparently we received tickets on January 4th, January 10, January 14, and January 26.I did not ONCE receive the actual ticket (issued by Kaneohe police department), and supposedly was sent follow up letters threatening collections, and then supposedly received collections agency letters at least twice for each ticket. Of course, my defense sounds silly because I did receive the letters associated with the first October violation. The most helpful person at the court informed me that the ticket would have been placed on the windshield.
So, I estimate that this car, once it is finally fixed, registered, back registration paid with late fees, will have cost us around $5000. If we are lucky, we will be able to get $1800 for the car.
Yes, so can I?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dishin' to the Oldies

Jake and I have an agreement about the dishes. We keep mental track on whose turn it is next, and we don't bug each other about when we'll get to that turn. And if anyone is going to take an extra turn, it's going to be Jake, after which I will be grateful and promise to be more diligent about taking my turn (yeah, right). More likely I will try to not complain when I clean the kitchen and the bathroom twice a month (sometimes it's more, and don't worry, if I know you're coming over, I ALWAYS clean up the bathroom, or at least sanitize the critical areas). Yesterday, as I was slaving over a hot sink of two day old contributions, I realized that washing dishes is a lot like an exercise program. In fact, I would WATCH that exercise program, because I need the motivation. Hawaii has been hitting some hot temperatures over the last few days, a fact only compounded by the poor air circulation in my kitchen. Let's say I blame that, the vog, and the loco mocos for 14 people for a sweat that lasted until late that evening. Anyway, I was doing the dishes at my house before I got started on dinner (with lots of help), and I just kept thinking, "I just can't wash one more dish! I can't do it!" And then I would answer myself with "Just one more, come on, you can do it!" It was an exercise in endurance and I had to push through. Now, if Tony Horton was splitting up my cleaning duties into 30 second sprints, and then rotated them to repeat, I know I would have thought "30 seconds? I can do anything for thirty seconds. Bring it." And the house would be a whole lot cleaner than it is right now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Just More Evidence of How Shakespeare Still Delights His Audiences Today

Out loud reading in a high school classroom is an interesting study in historical linguistics. Two cases in point:
1. Twelfth Night Act II, Scene iii
An you love me, let's do't... *cue general hilarity
I had forgotten the power that the words "do" and "it" have together for a young crowd.
2. Hamlet Act I, Scene i
I think I hear them. Stand, ho!
*cue uproarious laughter
...a little later in the same scene...
Holla! Bernardo!

Maybe a hip hop Shakespeare isn't such a far stretch.
Of course, my students are silent during the actual jokes.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Interview with authors about Chad (Sudanese Refugees) HERE
I know, I've talked about this book already, but I came across an interview with the authors on NPR, and I thought I'd bring it up again. This is a book that I cannot stop thinking about, and I love to look at it, even if it does tear me up inside. I would NEVER want to be pictured with a week's worth of our food. When I did a semester long research project in high school on eating disorders, I came across one researcher who believed that eating disorders were caused by extreme desire to show empathy for world hunger (and conversely, a disgust for American appetites). I considered it to be a total crock, at the time, but after reading this book I definitely could see how that might happen. I would love to look more like the Guatemalan picture, which shows more emphasis on vegetables. I remember that the book shows a more rural Chinese family with a similarly wide array of vegetables, and a lot of variety in their cooking techniques. That's something I find most interesting. Countries with fresh markets buy food every day, using their daily stock constantly, and still maintain a huge variety in food preparation. Here, the farmer's market closest to me is only once a week, and if I want Zucchini from one particular Chinese lady I am going to pay and arm and a leg to get it. Otherwise, my only choices are tomatoes, some greens (cilantro and lettuce, usually), eggplant, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and fruits. It's hard to get more than that. I was very happy when I picked up a bag of Lychees, and he informed me that there would be mountain apples next week. But anyway, I still end up going to Foodland or Costco for most things, which means, inevitably, that some of it will go bad before I use it. It's depressing. Plus I spend WAY too much money on food. When I look at these pictures, I want to send all of my money to Chad. But I don't, because I'm afraid it won't get there.

Today I'm making eggplant parmagiana and pasta. I had to buy the eggplant from Foodland this time, though, but at least the tomatoes and parsley are from the market. Everything else is costco. Argh.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Category #1

Because I am a person obsessed with coolness, I am reading over my posts and fretting at the shallow nature of my blog. I pretty much never talk about social activism, my family, or interesting cultural capers. Every blog I read is important to me for one of these aforementioned qualities. I am purely an escapist these days. I think this happened the second I became a teacher. My following of politics is centered completely around the current presidential elections while I ignore anything remotely important. Today I probably spent more time reading the weekend section of the newspaper than the page on world news.
Unsurprisingly, my students are unaware of the tragedies in Myanmar, and in my attempt to explain the details, I found that I could say about three sentences before running out of material. I pretty much scanned the headlines. In all fairness, I don't have that much time to read the newspaper during school, and usually settle in only for the food section on Wednesday at lunch.
At least I can say that, yes, I did just finish reading Freakanomics, which is the topic of conversation I have in my bag of tricks these days, other than Amaya or school. It helps that most of my coversations are with Pam who cares deeply about these two things. At least she's not bored by my lack of depth.
Anyone reading this blog would see that the content of my brain can be categorized into four areas: 1) entertainment, 2) food, 3) body, and 4) miscellaneous stuff everyone else already knows.
On that note, may I leave you with a refreshing tidbit of my new resolve to be a multi-faceted personality? Leslie Hall at least incorporates the fashionable aspect of my interests.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

My Friend Joan

One of my students handed me a brownie today and said, "I know you want this, because I saw your blog and you like treats."

Yikes. The secret's out.

So, I will move on to my second topic of conversation (of the two that I ever discuss), which is school.

Today I had a meeting with a parent, and I was thinking the entire time that she reminded me completely of Joan Cusack. Her mannerisms and tone of voice seemed to be like watching a scene from "Grosse Point Blank". I love Joan Cusack. She is the one actress that I would not mind being friends with, because, let's face it, I am completely snobby when it comes to friends. I like many actresses, and Jake would say I have a "woman crush" on Jennifer Garner and Parker Posey, but I would probably not like to be friends with either of them. I believe that a woman crush is when you admire a woman for their appeal (to men) as well as envy their physical and/or mental abilities. At least that's how I interpret it. I ended up having a strange conversation concerning this with Iz and Cailin once, and basically I understood that this term could be easily misconstrued, which is why I'm trying to explain it. I have a fantasy of becoming an undercover agent who can kick butt anytime and anywhere, which is why I like Jennifer Garner (Yes, I understand, she's just an actress, and I forgive her for the last season of Alias). Parker Posey is brilliantly funny and says everything in a perfectly sassy/snappy way. So, even though I like these two, I wouldn't be friends with them, because I would mostly just be second string to their awesome-ness, which I would of course be critical of if I actually knew them. With Joan Cusack, I imagine it would be a more give and take relationship. We could laugh together, not just me hanging onto her every word. She wouldn't need me to be her cheerleader.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Coveting Culinary esCapades

So my new Gourmet came in the mail yesterday. I have been reading, lusting, after every single page. This month is a special issue: "Cooking Vacations". Does anything else sound so divine? For some reason this is the first time I realized that Gourmet caters to a very specific crowd, one that starts with a capital "R" and ends with "ich." I came to understand that, regretfully, I would never be able to afford a $9000 cooking class with Jean-Georges Vongerichten (one hour class, with park-view suite accomodations). Soon, the 2-5K range seemed positively cheap, even without considering airfare to several exotic destinations. So here are limited descriptions of the culinary adventures that I would like to participate in, after I write my first bestselling book.

Marrakech, Morocco (pictured, above): tagines, spices, and hiking in the High Atlas Mountains ($4595, double occupancy, 9 days)

Ushguli, Republic of Georgia: making fresh cheese, cheese bread, hand rolled pasta, untouched countrysides, homestays. ($1940, 7 nights, double occupancy)

Kea, Greece: phyllo, stuffed grape leaves, seared chunks of lamb ($2339 for six days of classes, accomodations not included)

Shanagarry, Ireland (Ballymaloe Cookery School): Farm centered cuisine peppered with sushi and tapas classes, fresh cheese and cream ($1243, 5 days, includes lunch, stay in the cottages for $42 per person a night)

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (Sazon cooking school): adobo, chiles, Spanish colonial town with exquisite architecture. ($3750 for a week, double occupancy)

Vancouver Island, Canada (Fairburn Farm Culinary Retreat): regional Italian food, semifreddo, pasta, farm focused ($1995 per person, five days)

I haven't finished the whole issue. There are several Indian food ones I'd love (one in Brooklyn), and more to come after that. I am too wimpy, I think, for most of the Asian destinations. I appreciate spicy, though I'm definitely not very good at it. One writer advised the audience to prepare their tongues with tabasco sauce for at least a week ahead of time.

Because I am a well-fed and luxurious minded American, I felt sorry for myself that I am careers (and hopefully, a mortgage) away from ever taking one of these vacations. So I went ahead and bought the pistachio nut cream and fleur de sel I've been eyeing online ever since I read David Lebovitz's post for pistachio gelato and salted caramel ice cream. Maybe the pastries in Japan could possibly console me further.

Making Caramel

At Da's request I am detailing how to carmelize sugar.

Step one: Put 1 cup sugar in heavy saucepan (I use a non-stick pan).
Step two: Turn heat up to just slightly above medium.

Step three: stir frequently but not constanly, scraping sides with a heat proof spatula. Clumping will occur, but it will eventually all melt. Take off the burner when it turns a light amber color.

Yep, that's it. I was previously scared of doing this, but I've done it several times now, and it always works. After you use the caramel, just put the pan in the sink with some water to let it soak, and that will dissolve the sugar after several minutes.

I have read several times that you should not stir the sugar, and only brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in a little water, but that has not worked for me. The idea is that the sugar will crystallize if you stir it. I haven't had that problem.