Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Éire Go Brách! 2009

An Old Irish Blessing

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Not a Domestic Goddess Part Deux

I've written before about my distinct lack of the domestic gene. I'm sure it's somewhere in my DNA, but it rarely takes the initiative in day-to-day living.

This was once again brought glaringly to light when I attempted to make sugar cookies last night. My last attempt in this field - nearly a year ago to the day - yielded brittle, overcooked product. This year I consulted the guru of domesticity, my boss Sue.

See? Already, I'm thinking ahead.

Sue regularly wakes up in the morning and cranks out two or three versions of bread (corn, peanut, cinnamon, etc.) or she may choose to wallpaper or paint a wall, or pick some other massive undertaking that would take me a week to recover from, conservatively. She usually slides these tasks in before arriving at the office where she often meets my astonishment with "it's not really that difficult." And she may be right. But as I can mess up instant soup, I'm in awe.

I have a shamrock shaped cookie cutter, and around this time in recent years, I have found myself with an urge to make cookies and employ said cutter. I will spend tomorrow night in Italian class, so I'm limited in my St. Paddy's Day celebration options this year. I decided, ergo, to make shamrock cookies to share at my desk as an alternative. Not, perhaps, as enchanting as green beer (or my usual celebration libation of a shot of Jamesons chased by a pint of cider or Guinness), but with a little bit of luck (Ha! See what I did there?) tasty just the same.

Fortunately, I had the sense to consult the guru ahead of time and thanks to a gaggle of Sunday text messages from Sue, had the recipe for her sinfully moist and creamy sugar cookies in hand. I even remembered to ask about ingredients and quantities while at the store and had the foresight to leave the margarine and cream cheese out to soften so that they'd be malleable when it came time to cream them together. Icing and green jimmies didn't escape my shopping cart either. AND I had the presence of mind to begin prep on Sunday so that the dough could refrigerate overnight and thus be even more likely to succeed.

Hear me roar.

There I was, last night around 9pm, mashing my ingredients together, mixing in the egg and vanilla and cannily adding the flour mix. It was going so well, I had to pause and rest my unaccustomed stirring arm. I scanned e-mails for 10 minutes and then returned to the fray, eager to finish off the dough and get that much closer to bedtime.

I picked up the mixing bowl filled with flour and prepared to continue when I noticed some flecks of dirt in the bowl that I hadn't seen before.

"What the -"

Jiggling the bowl revealed even more flecks. Had something fallen into the bowl while I was on the computer? Maybe something from the nearby dish drainer had trickled in.

No - wait - the flecks were moving.


There were worms burrowing in my flour! Flipping around from side to side like inchworms on a hot sidewalk.

Total. Gross. Out.

See?! There's a reason I don't do this sort of thing! Talk about scarring a person for life! Never mind that the flour's lack of use and freshness alone lead me to this end, a state that can be laid firmly at my microwaveable door. This? Shouldn't happen!
If I were less - well - me - it could have been enough to scare me away from cookies for life!

But let's not get too crazy about it.

I think it's safe to say that I am officially a domestic catastrophe. A cautionary tale as to why they invented bakeries and restaurants. And still the worst, the very worst part about it was that for just a fraction of a second there, bogged down with the frustration of another kitchen failure, I had a quick moment, barely a nanosecond, where I honestly wondered, albeit sheepishly, "maybe no one will notice."

Sue me.

Needless to say I threw the whole thing out, kit and caboodle along with the remaining flour in the pantry, the baking soda, and even the plastic flour canister itself, just to be on the safe side (my mother's helpful tip "they may have laid eggs" spurred me towards that last one). I am still waayyyy skeeved out over the matter, even as I plan to pick up more ingredients tonight and start again. Be sure I'll be inspecting every crumb along the way. And still, even then, on Tuesday? I guarantee that I'll be eyeing the final product with one thought firmly front of mind.

I should've stuck with the damn beer.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It Got Me!

That pesky cold virus that's been stalking the halls of my office finally took me under today. I am home sick. At the last minute yesterday, I decided to take today off as I needed a Me day before the work volume at the office increases exponentially, which is scheduled to happen any day now. The idea was to get some sleep, pay some bills, wallow with the kitties and, oh please dear Lord, write.

Well, some of those things happened.

But now, I'm also sick. Ergo, there was much more of the sleep and wallow with a soupcon of the pay bills and a smidgen yet to come of the writing.

Earlier this week as I was getting into bed circa midnight, the poor, abused bed frame on my gently used "new" mattress and box spring gave up the ghost. There I was in the early hours of Wednesday morning, clearing out all my under-the-bed storage, lifting the rather heavy mattress and box spring to the side and perched across my bent over back so that I could disconnect the one end of the frame that hadn't bent out of shape, pulling both sides of the frame out of the way and replace the mattress and box spring onto the floor so I could, I don't know -

The muscle relaxer followed soon after.

Obviously I needed a new bed frame and while I could have gone for the cheap and functionable basic metal frame, I did some intensive Internet research and decided to splurge. So now, as I sit at home waiting sniffling and coughing and basically sounding and feeling just lovely all around, I am waiting for the delivery of this:

Isn't it purdy? I like the antiquey feel to it and the fact that the wood posts balance the iron so it's not so dark. Of about 30 frames I looked at, this is the one I really liked and Sleepys made me a good enough deal that I went for it.
I have to keep repeating to myself "It's an investment, it's an investment" or I'm going to swallow my tongue with anxiety over the big-for-me cost.

I'm this way with all big purchases, hard-wired to think that anything serviceable will do and adding in the bells and whistles "isn't really necessary."

No - but they're fun.

The delivery guys finally arrived and have set it up in no time. That second, less professional, slightly tilted picture is all me taking a shot of my new bed in situ

I'm sleeping well tonight!


There's still that blasted cold.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Boys Are Back In Town - U2 Mania Part the Third

I've said it before and I'll say it again now - 101.9 WRXP rocks!

The support for U2 and their new album No Line on the Horizon continues this week at RXP with three nights of U2 live broadcasts.

Beginning tonight and continuing tomorrow and Wednesday night RXP will broadcast an intimate concert and Q&A session with U2 in a different city each night.

Oooo look! Official information from the RXP Web site!

U2 is taking over 101.9 RXP for three consecutive nights. U2 3 Nights Live will find Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton in a different city for three unique broadcasts on March 9th, 10th and 11th in celebration of their new release, "No Line On The Horizon".

Monday, March 9th LIVE from Los Angeles An Inside Look At "No Line On The Horizon" hosted by Shirley Manson of Garbage

Tuesday, March 10th LIVE from Chicago Radio Takeover featuring a deejay set by U2 hosted by Shirley Manson

Wednesday, March 11th LIVE from Boston Featuring a live performance and audience Q&A with U2

Hear all 3 one-hour broadcasts from 9-10pm exclusively on 101.9 RXP

Rock on!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Scent Sensations

I've put the screens down in two windows today - one kitchen, one living room - and the fresh air wafting into both rooms is a welcomed relief. It's actually mixing well with the freshly popped popcorn in the nuker, a snack to spur my muse as I toil in front of the computer today.

I adore spring and, like the rest of the world around me, am reveling in the early glimpse of it that we're getting today. I enjoy listening to all the birds tweeting away, a natural chorus to echo our human glee at the warming weather, occasionally punctuated by the bass note of an owl as we ease into late afternoon. We haven't been lacking in wildlife in my neck of the woods despite what was hopefully the last gasp of a winter storm this week. Yesterday, I pulled into my driveway to do the K turn into my parking spot (MY parking spot! The simple joy of that has yet to fade) and nearly ran over a pair of Mallard ducks in my front patch of yard. As I live on a street with the word "pond" in its name, it's not surprising that it dead ends into a pond, ergo, the ducks. Still, I don't expect them to make the quarter mile journey up the road to my driveway. Looks like the tales of my landlord's generous bird feeders have reached far and wide.

A less welcomed if more common comp squatter made its presence known a little after midnight last Monday evening. I was finally in bed seeking sleep, settled deep with lights off, when an unholy smell barreled through my apartment. Like the singing Whos down in Whoville, it started off slow then it started to grow until it permeated every nook and cranny. Apparently, a skunk had decided that the area right outside my kitchen window was ripe for some skunk fu. Soon after the skunk announced its presence, Baxter came flying into the bedroom and bounced up onto the bed, so I suspect she may have provoked the skunk via a challenging look through the window. I expect the skunk, itself scarred forever after, will spend the remainder of its life whining to its cowed descendants, "I saw something nasty in the window!"

It was some time before I was able to sleep, the malodorous odor enough to wake even the dead. When I left for work the next day, it still permeated the outside air and even the interior of my car reeked. Coming home that night, skunk fu lingered potently and remained in both my apartment and car throughout the week. Last night, four nights after the fact, I had to light candles throughout the apartment to urge the rest of it on its way like some lingering spook that had worn out its welcome.

Now that's some potent skunk.

Much better to have the windows open today with the welcoming fresh scent of spring cleaning everything out. Just in time to herald this change in the weather, we set our clocks forward this weekend, the one time when we actually do control time around us. Still many of us will get it wrong and fall prey to a delayed start. If you're one of those people prone to the folly of mismanaging Daylight Savings changes, fear not!

I have this skunk I can loan you...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Walk On

I used to be able to walk 2 miles and change (a marathon for me) 3x a week through the tarmacked hills and potholes of my office building's rather expansive parking lot without really thinking too much about it. I had a path and a rhythm and a good plan as I often do so much better with a plan, however ridiculous it may turn out to be from time to time. Today, I was barely able to eke out what I would be surprised to discover was more than a quarter of a mile. I forced myself to make it through No Line on the Horizon and Magnificent with a push through to Moment of Surrender (did you expect anything less than U2 to be spinning on my bright and shiny new ipod this week?) Fortunately, the going got better as I fumbled through it, endorphins and adrenaline coming to my poor body's rescue. The decrepit state of my enfeebled frame is wholly due to my own folly and laziness, though I crave a dispensation for Big Life Trauma over the past two years. Time seems to tick past me in the day to day drama of life so that I only understand what's been survived and endured or what's been increased or reduced when I look back on the passing of it. Which is usually more than a tad too late.

This afternoon's exertions reminded me of a few things I hadn't realized I'd been missing:
  • Lung expansion - I swear I could feel my blood cells sit up and Hallelujah as oxygen rushed through my pathetically gasping lungs. I know from experience that walking/jogging helps me to sing better, opening up those passageways and all, but as I'm determined to focus on the dictum of small steps, a simple atherothrombotic sample of Handel seemed sufficient for today.
  • A warming, pre-spring sun - I always lift my face to the sun as I come around the back end of my building. My preferred mid-afternoon walking time usually lands the sun in the same general place and as I plodded around the corner and swung into that past-the-patio leg, my face automatically lifted towards the light and I smiled. The sun, naturally, smiled back.
  • Cooling wind on my face - I adore cool breezes and gusty winds, I really do. I have a great fondness for wind blowing on my face and through my hair, sad allusions to bad romance novel cliches notwithstanding. I find it soothing and as I've enjoyed such on Ireland's Dingle Peninsula, Italy's Tuscan hills, and Wales' lofty castles, I'd say it enjoys me as well. Plus, when I'm walking, a good breeze grants particular relief to what can be a rather esthetically unpleasant Kiersty. Which leads me to
  • Sweating - not a missed event, I can assure you. I don't perspire and I certainly don't glow. Please. I sweat as any proper, full-blown woman does, and boy howdy is that incontrovertible when vigorous walking (even if merely aspiring to be so) is employed. Blow on good wind. Blow on.
  • The inspiring taste of water - Having trouble downing those thrice-damned recommended eight glasses of water a day? Go for a walk. Post-walk spring water is ambrosia. You'll dive right into it.
I expect to find more than a few payments for today's exertions in tomorrow's promise. Eh, I'll blow up that small step when it comes.

Now excuse me as I go embrace the glory that is my ice pack.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Movie Mondays Snow Day Edition - The International

Welcome to the snow day edition of Movie Mondays. I was off yesterday due to a happy, happy snow day and reveled in doing nothing (not really; got a bunch of work done, actually) so what would have been yesterday's post is now today's. Follow? Good.

In The International, Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) has been tracking the nefarious dealings of the International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC) for years. Its crimes range from money laundering to armament sales and the destabilization of small governments. Now, along with Manhattan ADA Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), Salinger's obsession has put him in a high-stakes chase around the globe as he investigates a powerhouse that will stop and nothing to maintain its control over the financing of terror and power.

Early last fall, I went to a viewing of
The International as part of a marketing focus group. I get invites to such things from time to time, but only rarely does time, place, and content flow together as well as it did with The International. I enjoyed it - really enjoyed the centerpiece shoot out, but I'll get to that in a minute - but I felt it had a few hiccups that needed work. This past weekend I got the chance to go see the final cut.

At both viewings, I immediately liked the global span of this film; it travels from Berlin to Lyon to Milan to Istanbul and beyond. The visual landscapes are striking. There are also several aerial shots of locations that I felt really emphasized a sense of the vastness of our world while also giving scope to the vast control of the fictional IBBC bank. Vertigo might sweep through you on some of those high-altitude Milan shots, but push past it to gape in spite of it.

I was pleased that those rough spots I'd noticed in the early viewing had been, for the most part, fixed. It was much easier to follow the convoluted plot in the final version and I didn't find Naomi Watts nearly as annoying as I did the first time around. Much of this is thanks to the elimination of the subplot involving her home life and family issues and a poorly executed romantic attraction between her and Clive's Salinger. Instead we get a scene of her working through the night with a
frisson of her husband's displeasure with her workaholic ways. It doesn't arrest the pace or plot as it once did. We're not in this for her family angst; we're along for the ride with Clive and the bad guys.

This is really a boy's club of a movie. Watts is there for the female vote and she lacks the charisma and onscreen presence to put any real heft behind her attempt at a balls-to-the-wall ADA. I thought she was extraordinary in The Painted Veil, a movie I like more and more every time I see it. It's filled with fascinating character moments, especially as a good percentage of the film involves barely any words being spoken. Watts excels at presenting her character journey, revelation, and transformation in this difficult non-verbal arena, but this skill is misplaced in a thinking action film like
The International.

That said at least she's been pared down and tightened to be as little a distraction as possible for someone who is carrying the secondary lead. And to be fair, it's hard to be paired up with someone who carries the hot diggity damn charisma that is Clive Owen. He smolders his way through the film, his righteous indignation nearly vibrating off the screen. Clive's Salinger grows rougher and rougher around the edges as the film progresses, his outer deterioration reflecting his inner turmoil as he gradually discovers exactly what depths he will sink to in order to bring down this bank.

The villains are ably represented. Armin Mueller-Stahl does his always nuanced elder bad guy variation on a theme. If his sly evil creeped you out as much as it did me in Eastern Promises, this return to the weary, veteran spymaster/manipulator role will be welcomed. As head of the IBBC, Ulrich Thomsen oozes the corporate insouciance that values people's lives by where they fit on a balance sheet. And Brian F. O'Bryne keeps death coming as the assassin du jour, highlighted with whiz bang ferocity in the climatic shoot out.

The Guggenheim Museum shoot out. Oh my giddy aunt. When I first saw the film as part of the marketing group, I gasped and chortled my way through this shoot out, equal parts aghast and exhilarated by the fact that they were shooting up The Guggenheim!

Maybe that's why they haven't asked me back since.

And what a shoot out it is. Since I absolutely cannot see the museum allowing a movie production to actually shoot its famous rotunda to bits (though clearly they filmed the less bang bang shots on location), I cannot begin to tell you how they did it. In a world where the next big moment is often obviously shot against a green screen, it's nice to see movie magic where I can't differentiate the real from the make-believe. This entire sequence totally rocks. Bullets fly everywhere with whole chunks of the rotunda exploding from one moment to the next. The film clicks along up to this point with the info dumps and the murders as the pieces of the puzzle coming together and then - Boom! It all explodes at the Guggenheim.

It's eerie, how on point this film is about the financial world today. Not about managing the armaments etc. per se, but about managing the debt created by these criminal dealings as well as more legitimate banking ventures. Art imitates life perhaps too keenly here as we daily see news of new economic debris from greedy management. This particular too-close-to-the-truth plot has no doubt impeded the movie's overall success as people are perhaps more interested in escapism oriented films right now, but don't let the weighty associations of The International
keep you away from this robust, meaty, good ride of a film.

You'll be missing out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Boys Are Back in Town - U2 Mania Part Deux

Tomorrow, No Line On the Horizon officially releases to the world. Three quick notes on where to find the boys tomorrow.

One: The great radio station WRXP is launching a U2uesday with all U2 music from 6 am to 11 pm. I'll have them on the laptop in the morning, on the car radio, and on the computer at work all day. They'll be playing tracks from every place you might find one. Check them out at http://www.1019rxp.com. They really do rock.

Two: Every night this week, the boys are on David Letterman. My DVR was set days ago.

Three: They're appearing on Good Morning America on Friday, March 6th, for their first-ever live performance on a morning show.

I'm sure there's more - it's a marketing frenzy for them out there - but I'm locked into those three for sure.