sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 26, 2005

mmmmm… mint sticks…
posted by soe 9:30 am

My friend Phillip is heading to Afghanistan for a month later this week, so he invited some folks over for beers last night. So instead of going empty-handed, I decided this was one of those occasions which demanded bringing a goodie.

For those who know me, you know my cooking skills are tenuous, at best. But I have burned rice much more recently than brownies, so I thought a dessert was a safe bet. And after staring at the cookbook my grandmother made for me for Christmas ’02 at my request, I decided her mint stick recipe was the fastest option I had.

I won’t give up the family recipe (some things must remain sacred, y’know), but sufficed to say I’m sure Gramma has never used cream that had an expiration date of 3+ months earlier in any of her recipes. But I was raised in a household that believed in the sniff test when it comes to dairy products, and the cream passed that test just fine.

And the recipe calls for cooling the dessert in stages. I may have used liberal definitions of “warm” and “cool” in these instances. When the cake didn’t burn my fingers, I figured that it was warm. And to cool it sufficiently for the top layer, I tossed it in the freezer. So while it was cool enough to carry, it was not so cool I wouldn’t have used a trivet if placing it on a good surface.

My mother would have been horrified when Phillip brought out a large spoon to dish out the dessert. Mum feels the whole point of having mint sticks is that they be in stick size and shape — approximately 1″x2″, preferably. I suspect that she prefers this specific size because it means the mint sticks last a lot longer than when you dish out 3″x3″ squares the way Phillip was last night.

But the responses were overwhelmingly positive, particularly when they learned I’d broken out an old family recipe for the first time. So hooray for Gramma and her recipe, for Mum and her ability to make mint sticks last longer than one night, and for me for finally trying to make a dessert entirely from scratch.

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April 25, 2005

talking fantasy baseball blues
posted by soe 12:02 pm

I am officially a terrible fantasy baseball coach (25-38-9 in our league scoring). My problem is that I actually envision the players on my team being real live human beings sitting on a bench in my living room. (Can you anthropomorphize real people?) Happily, none of them spit tobacco or sunflower seeds on the carpet.

I don’t want to hurt their feelings by not playing them. I drafted poor Craig Counsell last week and he still hasn’t gotten a chance to get on the field. And I feel bad about that. Really.

I understand fully that it doesn’t make sense and that this is not the way to play fantasy baseball. I recognize that this is a game and that I am supposed to strategize by looking at players’ numbers and only play those who are good.

But I didn’t go into my (free) baseball fantasy league looking to play by the pre-established rules. Sam, our league commissioner, advised only picking a few “hot” players in the pre-draft and letting the computer pick the rest of our players for us based on their numbers. So I deliberately went in and found all the Mets I’ve ever liked, plus a few other non-Mets I like (JT Snow because he picked that kid up at home plate and kept him from getting trampled, Jeff Bagwell because he grew up in Connecticut, Omar Vizquel because he’s Rebs’ favorite player, Bernie Williams because he plays jazz guitar, Livan Hernandez because I felt I should support one of the local guys) and drafted them. Luckily, except for a few players, most people don’t want ex-Mets. I don’t know why. And I’m okay with that.

And sometimes it pays off for me. Fonzie (Edgardo Alfonzo) is tearing up the national league.

And sometimes it doesn’t. But I won’t take John Franco out of the game just because Houston doesn’t use him to my advantage. I like John. I resent the Mets having traded him, after a lifetime with the team. Loyalty should count for something. So I put him on my team.

When I need to add players, however, I have tried to be more judicious by only looking at players who’ve posted good numbers in an area I’m lacking (like batters who don’t strike out or pitchers who throw strikes or someone who closes games on a regular basis). But I do have standards — there’s no way you could pay me to take Armando Benitez after the way he played for the Mets all those years, and except for Mike Hampton, who pitched for the Mets for a while, I refuse to draft Braves.

But I do wish the players I do want would reward me for my approach by hitting grand slams on my watch, as opposed to when I sit them to let someone else get a chance to play (David Wright last week) or when they aren’t supposed to be in the game (Jay Paton only starts against lefties, but Trot Nixon had to go and get thrown out of yesterday’s game…).

Oh well. I get a fantasy team that’s 19 1/2 games out of first place in my league. But I get to run it the way I want to, and no one really cares if I lose big. I know more about baseball and players in general this season (and can name a player on almost every team!).

And hopefully Craig will get into a game this week. In fact, I’ll make that a priority.

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a life reformed
posted by soe 12:27 am

On this day in 1898, William S. Porter went to jail for embezzling $5,000 during his time as a bank clerk. During the three years he served, he refined the writing style he is still known for today.

Don’t remember Porter’s work? Think again: he published under a pseudonym. You’ve probably read his clever little tale with the moral of not hawking your most prized possessions as an altruistic gesture because the object of your affection is bound to have no use for the bauble you purchased with the money.

(Thanks to Today in Literature for their heads-up on this item.)

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April 24, 2005

uniting over baseball
posted by soe 2:03 pm

This column from today’s Post, “How the Nats Brought Me Home,” hit home with me.

Unlike the author, I do follow sports. And I really enjoy baseball; I’d like to make it to a game at each of the stadiums sooner or later.

And I have had animated conversations on the Metro with strangers in the past — wearing political buttons will do that. (My commute on Metro is only two stops and lets out in liberal Dupont Circle, so perhaps that accounts for all my political Metro conversations being positive.)

But he’s right. The city has moved to embrace baseball with an enthusiasm that surprised me. And it is a rallying point — something that’s ours. When I get on the Metro late at night to come home and see Nats hats in abundance, I have no qualms about walking up to a stranger and asking what the score was. And coworkers have complimented the new Nationals pennant adorning my office door.

So, let’s go Nats!

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quiet weekend
posted by soe 1:49 pm

This week was a busy one. I don’t think I ate dinner before 10 any night this week. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not really complaining. It’s hard to complain when your dinner is delayed by movies and baseball games and concerts.

So yesterday, Rudi and I slept in until noon. We got up and lazed around the Burrow, picking up nothing more consequential than the tv remote or a knitting project until after 5. I did manage to wash the dishes that had been languishing in the sink all week, but that was it.

We split up for the evening — Rudi to a soccer match and a pool hall, me to the DC Film Fest (see the entry below for my review).

And then this morning we arose early to try to beat Nora to the ramps, morels, and strawberries that were going to be in limited supply at the market. No luck, but we came home with an overflowing basket: green onions, a half gallon of whole milk, young cheddar, damson plum-sweet cheese spread, purple lilacs, almond-goat’s milk facial scrub, blueberry scones (much better than last week!), pea shoots, asparagus, rosemary, a baguette, a photo-ready lettuce, and a bunch of chubby, stubby carrots.

We returned home to feast on the aforementioned scones and hot beverages, watch morning talk shows, peruse the Sunday paper, and doze under a warm wool blanket in the nest.

Rudi has left me with the Nationals-Mets game on tv to go on a short bike ride. We head to Ladies in Lavender, the closing film of the DC Film Fest, later this afternoon. Maybe between then and now I’ll walk to the store to buy bread flour to inaugurate the bread maker. Or maybe I won’t. During a weekend of relaxation, it’s just hard to say.

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brazilian movie
posted by soe 1:02 am

I finally had a free night tonight, so I chose to spend it at the movies, watching my complimentary show from DC Film Fest. There were four movies I was thinking about — two in particular. One, The Boys and Girl from County Clare, was described as a perfect date movie, so I decided to hold off on that until the Random Duck and I could see it together. So instead I opted for a tongue in cheek Brazilian romantic comedy, Manual for Love Stories (Como Fazar um Filme de Amor), directed and co-written by José Roberto Torero.

The movie was showing at the Avalon, a old-fashioned two-screen theater, located in Chevy Chase on the border of Maryland. The Avalon only reopened a year ago after having been revived by the local community up there, and this was the first chance I had to visit. The theater is nice; they did a nice job refurbishing it — particularly when you hear that Loews had ordered the inside demolished before they deserted it (presumably to discourage someone else from opening it up again in the near future).

I assume before I arrived they had the doors closed and found it was a little stuffy on a damp night because they kept the doors open for much of the film. Brrr!!! And the popcorn was cold. But those were two minor complaints and not much to discourage me from having a good time.

Manual is a witty satire, poking fun at the cinematic conventions surrounding romantic comedies — á la Down with Love here in the U.S. An omnipresent narrator controls the narrative, picking out the heroine, her name and her occupation, as well as periodically stopping scenes to rework them to suit his fancies better. The hero of the story even argues with the narrator on several occasions, only to learn that’s not a smart idea.

The story is your typical “boy meets girl, boy loses girl through misunderstanding, boy clears up misunderstanding only to have girl’s life threatened by evil vixen before girl’s mother saves the day” movie.

It was cute, but nothing earth-shattering. I gave it three out of five stars on my “viewer’s choice” ballot. Definitely worth seeing if you have the chance, particularly because there is no American DVD plan in the works.

Torero was in the audience and took questions after the show finished. The movie definitely shared his sense of humor and his delivery style. My favorite points during the Q&A were when, after he was complimented on his humor, he shared that his next movie is a documentary about death, and when he said that the movie did better in film festivals than it did in general release in Brazil because the audience at film festivals tend to be smarter. I’m not sure if that’s true, but they’re definitely more high-brow. After he finished talking, I contemplated asking for a new ballot so I could raise my rating to four stars, but then decided the rating would more be based on him than on his film and that that would be unfair.

Torero has written a number of other movies, but IMDB seems to indicate none of them are available here in the U.S. How disappointing. If anyone runs a festival of his work, I hope it comes to a local theater, since they sound like a lot of fun.

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