Sunday, December 20, 2009

Digging Out

The Pit and I ventured outside late Saturday afternoon, and took some pictures of our buried cars.

When we woke up Sunday to a beautiful sunny day, we decided that digging out would be prudent before ice formed and the cars were trapped forever. This was easier said than done though...for a start, we don't own a shovel. After taking a quick survey of our immediate neighbors and concluding that they were just as useless as us, The Pit braved the knee-deep snow and wandered over to the management office of our complex. It turned out that they had had three shovels to lend out, but that by 11 AM when The Pit came asking, two had already been broken by tenants. Consequently, there was quite a long waiting list for the sole remaining digging instrument.

At this point I had a brainstorm. There's a mall about two miles from our apartment...this is walking distance! We would attempt to buy a shovel, and get some long-overdue Christmas shopping out of the way too! Of course, high-stepping it through the snow on the as yet-uncleared sidewalks was a bit more exertion than I was expecting, and there were no shovels to be had for love or money at the stores when we arrived. However, we did get some Christmas shopping done, a task I actually found more exhausting than the walk itself. I hope our gift recipients appreciate their we literally had to walk four miles (for more old-timey cred, part of this was uphill) in the snow to get them.

However, after we trudged back to our apartment, there was still the matter of our snowed-over cars. The shovel waiting list had still not reached our name, and the afternoon was soon to turn to evening. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so we further violated the suburban taboo against neighbor interaction... we wandered until we found a house with a cleared driveway, and then knocked on their door and begged to borrow their shovels.

Fortunately, these people gave up the goods with nary a blink, and The Pit proceeded to demonstrate his manly worth by digging out both cars. Me? Well, the neighbors had given me a shovel too...I managed to immediately scratch the hood of my car with it, and then milled about getting in The Pit's way while trying to clear some ice. So basically, we resorted to our usual gender roles with minimum confusion. For further demonstration of this, recall incidents such as this and this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


So exactly two weeks ago, on December 5th, I took the following picture out of our living room window.

I meant to blog about how my first East coast winter was officially beginning, and make some point about how much more awesome California winters are. Then a giant cold front hit California, and all my OC friends complained on Facebook about how they had to wear sweaters AND coats when going outside. There was frost on the grass and scarves where a necessity!

At that point, my blog post about one day of snow on the East coast seemed a little anticlimactic, and I shelved the pictures.

But! Now DC is experiencing THE STORM OF THE CENTURY!! Or so the local news would like us to believe. A couple of days ago, the weather people were saying we would get maybe 6 inches of snow over the weekend. As the week wore on, these predictions grew hysterically, until yesterday the guy on the country radio station was screaming about 25 inches of snow. Flights in and out of DC were cancelled, and when I stopped to buy shampoo at Target yesterday afternoon, I was nearly run over by panicked shoppers grabbing toilet paper and bottled water. I was distinctly out of place waiting for the cashier with just one paltry item in my hands.

However, despite the evidence of barely controlled panic in my fellow citizens, throughout all this excitement I merely rolled my eyes and figured that a) the local news people were just exaggerating for ratings and b) Virginians were particularly gullible. Then we woke up this morning to the following view:

As the afternoon has worn on, the snowfall has not abated, and in fact seems to have increased. I took the following picture a few minutes ago.

As you can see, despite the snowplow going through this morning, the street is pretty well covered, and the cars mostly buried. It appears we aren't going anywhere for a bit, so I suppose that it's a good thing I feel uncomfortable with less than two weeks worth of delicious dry goods in my pantry at any one time. We have plenty of food and toilet paper, so no last minute panic was necessary here, even if I had been less smug about the weather predictions.

The Pit is currently baking some fresh bread, and I've got a pot of soup going on the stove. If you need us, we'll be celebrating our first snowstorm together by cuddling on the couch and watching the snow fall. And fall. And fall. You should probably send for help when the blog posts stop.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cashew Chicken

When I first told The Pit that I might like to make Cashew Chicken for dinner, he was oddly unenthusiastic. Here I was suggesting something new, with an Asian flavor no less, and he was muttering about how he wasn’t fond of cashews. News flash Pit: me wanting to make something Asianish happens…oh, maybe never again. Grab this opportunity with both hands and do not let go!

Anyway, I overcame his cashew objections by telling him he could eat around the nuts, and made a somewhat modified version of this Simply Recipes dish about a month ago. Despite my marinating the chicken for much too long, The Pit loved it, cashews and all. He’s been asking me to make it again, and earlier this week I think I got the recipe just right.

What you’ll need for about 6 servings:
  • 3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ to 2 pounds total)
  • ½ to ¾ cup vegetable oil (or peanut oil if you have it on hand)
  • ½ cup soy sauce (or tamari if you’re feeling fancy) – about 2 tablespoons per chicken breast
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 cups roasted cashews (either salted or unsalted, doesn’t make much difference)
  • 2 small-to-medium onions, diced
  • 3-4 tablespoons chives or green onions, diced
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked white rice

1) First, marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes, place in a gallon size plastic bag, and mix with the vegetable oil, soy sauce, honey, and chili powder. Squeeze the bag and make sure the marinade ingredients get well mixed and cover all the chicken pieces. Double bag if, like me, you manage to drop raw chicken pieces all over the outside of the initial bag, and then leave in the fridge for ½ to 2 hours.

My mistake with the dish the first time I made it was leaving the chicken to marinate overnight. This resulted in an extremely appetizing aroma, but a taste so intense that mixing in 2-3 times the normal amount of rice barely diluted it. This time I left the chicken to marinate for about 2 hours, and the flavors were much more balanced. Shorter marinating times might be okay, but I wouldn't actually leave it for much longer than this.

2) Start your rice cooking about 20 minutes before the marinating period is up. Remember to turn off the heat at the appropriate time, but leave the rice covered and warm while the rest of the dish is cooked.

3) Dice the onions. You’ll probably still have time left on the marinating, and can use it to make some sort of quick accompanying salad. I’ve made this cucumber salad and this coleslaw. The salad was excellent and the coleslaw only so so (although it improved significantly after sitting in the fridge overnight), but I’m open to other suggestions for good salads to go with cashew chicken.

4) READ BOTH STEP 4 & STEP 5 NOW. When the chicken is done marinating, heat a large skillet to medium high, and use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken pieces to the skillet. Sauté until the chicken is cooked through. Save the remaining marinade for a little later.

5) At this point the original recipe suggests setting aside the cooked chicken, sautéing the onions in the leftover sauce, and then mixing the chicken back in. I mindless followed these instructions both times I’ve made the dish, but upon further reflection, I see no clear reason why – I have a very large skillet, and to save some time and dishes, I’ll just cook the chicken and onions simultaneously next time.

6) When the chicken and onions are just about done, mix in the cashews, and pour the remaining marinade into the skillet. Simmer for another few minutes to kill any bacteria in the marinade.

7) Serve over the cooked rice, and sprinkled with the diced chives or green onions.

I first left the chicken to marinate overnight because I wanted to save some time the next evening. If you’re on a tight schedule and want to prepare as much as possible ahead of time, I would mix together the marinade ingredients the previous day, and also cube the chicken ahead of time. That way you can just dump the chicken into the marinade bag as soon as you get home, and then let it sit while you cook the rice, dice the onions, and make a salad.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It all started with a little bleach

So, OL has an issue with laundry. She likes to use bleach. A lot of bleach. So much bleach that her neighbors are getting irate. They all share the washers and dryers on her floor, and have sent numerous angry letters to the building manager, complaining that her bleach has ruined the clothes of anyone unlucky enough to use the machines after her.

Explaining to OL that she uses too much bleach is impossible. “I only use a few tiny drops!” She cries. “Dos other peoples are just jealous of how clean my clothes are! Dey are spreading vicious lies!”

But she doesn’t want to get kicked out of the building, so recently she’s been bugging her son about doing her laundry at his place. He’s offered to take her stuff and wash it for her, but categorically won’t let her into his apartment, as the sight of his housekeeping is likely to send her into unrelenting hysterics. However, since she feels his housekeeping is on par with his laundry skills, she's horrified of him actually touching her clothes.

Thus we came to the decision that if she could navigate the stairs up to my apartment, I would let her use all the bleach she wanted at my house. She insisted the stairs wouldn’t be a problem, and so we set out yesterday for the laundry mecca that is my home.

Of course, as soon as we got to the top of the stairs, OL started complaining of chest pain. I asked her how bad it was, and she told me she didn’t know. Given this unimpressive report, I wasn’t really concerned, as previous similar complaints had all been forgotten within a few minutes. However, five minutes later, she was still rubbing at her chest, and I got a bit more worried.

Getting medical details out of OL is like trying to wring water from stone, but after repeated questioning she conceded that the pain was pretty sharp, and that she’d never experienced something like it before. I asked her if she thought she might be having a heart attack

“How should I know” she muttered “I’ve never had one before!”

Point to OL conceded, I decided to call her doctor and ask for advice. The doctor suggested I take her to the ER to get checked out, so off we went, back down the evil stairs and fifteen minutes to the hospital.

I kept asking OL how bad her pain was, and she kept rubbing her chest and explaining *where* it was. But she certainly wasn’t in so much pain that she couldn’t comment about the girth of a woman crossing the street, or about how much closer her apartment was to the hospital than mine.

Then we got to the ER, and it was the doctors’ turn to try and get medical info from OL. “Are you allergic to anything?” they asked her. “YES!” she cried, and as everyone waited expectantly, she got one of her biggest gripes off her chest: “My carpet! It makes me sick!”

Carpeting aside, things got a little crazy after that point, as a tech took an EKG, and suddenly a sort of controlled vortex of chaos centered on OL. It quickly became clear that the doctors thought she was having a heart attack, and nurses converged out of seemingly nowhere to take care of her and ask her questions. They didn't do much better with their question than I had, but a few nerve-racking hours and a trip to the Cath lab later, everything settled down.

It turned out OL hadn’t had a heart attack in the typical sense of the word. Although the EKG had gone crazy and some of her heart tissue was damaged, she didn’t have any blockages in her arteries, and her prognosis for recovery was excellent. The cardiologist said he had never seen a case of her incredibly rare syndrome before.

Once again, OL proved to be a one of a kind, and is now at home and resting after her ordeal. As she's never met a Jewish stereotype she didn't like, she's also been telling everyone who will listen (and a large majority of those who won't) that her son is clearly to blame for this unpleasant incident...if only he had taken her to do the laundry at his place, none of this would have happened. So far I've escaped all blame for living in an apartment without an elevator, but I'm expecting the guilt trip to start at any point now...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wedding Venue Search, Day 3

Now that it’s been more than a month since my trip, and I am actually on a plane back to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving, I think it’s time to finish up my account of the wedding venue search. Day 3 of our search…well, Day 3 was magical, although in ways that didn’t involve venues.

See, we had slated Day 3 for explorations of Oakland/Piedmont locations with The Pit’s mother…henceforth known as Irene, since that is her name. Although beautiful, neither of the places we looked at were quite the right size. However, while driving around town Irene noticed a tiny little bridal store on Grand Avenue. We decided to stop by on the spur of the moment to see if they would show us some dresses.

Although several female friends and relatives had repeatedly bugged me about going dress shopping, this was actually the first time I had ever set foot in a bridal store. The whole idea of bridal stores kind of intimidated me, if we’re going to be really honest. There was the requirement for appointments, the high pressure sales ladies, and the general feeling that I didn’t belong in any place that carried tiaras as a matter of course.

However, Margene’s Bridal was pretty much the antithesis of everything negative I had ever imagined about wedding dress shopping. The place must have been filled with fairy dust, that’s how beautifully perfect the whole experience was. Let’s start with Vicki, our sales girl. I had not previously guessed that magical bridal fairies came in Russian-accented, platinum blond, and tattooed beauty-mark* versions, but there you have it:

This girl never once pressured me to buy anything, just happily brought me dress after dress to try on. She not only listened to what I wanted, but also extrapolated from her experience, and by the end of the afternoon, I trusted her so fully that I let her help me into a dress more voluminous than I had ever imagined. Then I stood there staring in the mirror, completely shocked that I loved the way I looked in a dress straight out of Louis the XIV’s court. I know! Me! In a princess dress! She even stuck a tiara in my hair that I didn’t hate:

I still wasn’t convinced that this was *the* dress, as there were several that I liked equally well. But I had started out the afternoon of venue searching in rumpled travel clothing, feeling frumpy and out of sorts. Two hours and 15 wedding dresses later, I couldn’t have felt more beautiful. Fairy dust is the only possible explanation.

In fact, so dazzled by the experience and the choices were we all, that I couldn’t make a decision, so I shall be going back there this week to try on my favorites once more and make an actual purchase. I am very excited to run around the place half naked again.

* Irene promptly tried to wipe her beauty mark off with a napkin, but luckily Vicki was more amused than offended.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fall Veggie Side Dishes: Roasted Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin

Next up, a Brussels sprout recipe found at the Closet Cooking blog. Also relatively simple, although requiring a few more ingredient and steps than the previous entry: Roasted Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin

What you'll need for 3-4 portions:
  • 1-2 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1-2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
1) Preheat oven to 425°F.

2) Trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Toss with the olive oil in a 13x9 inch baking pan, then spread in a single layer on the pan. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3) Roast for 20-30 minutes. While the sprouts are roasting, grate the Gruyere cheese and mix together with the bread crumbs. If your bread crumbs are unseasoned, you may want to season with salt and pepper...I happened to have a bunch of stale croutons in my cupboard, so I stuck those in a plastic bag, sealed without extra air, and pounded with a hammer to make bread crumbs. Crouton crumbs mixed with regular breadcrumbs proved to be delicious.

4) Once the Brussels sprouts are roasted, pour the heavy cream over them, and then stick them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. I forgot to take a picture after pouring the cream, but this is what the sprouts looked like after roasting:

Note: if you're feeling health-conscious, you probably don't need to use the entire cup of heavy cream. I was making some soup at the same time as these sprouts, and used about 1/4 of the cup in the soup, and 3/4 in the roasting pan. The spouts did not seem to suffer.

5) Melt your butter, and mix in with the cheese and breadcrumbs. When the sprouts and cream come out of the oven, sprinkle with the mixture. While the originial recipe called for two tablespoons of butter, I'm not really sure that both are necessary here...a little butter is probably necessary to keep the crumbs from burning, but next time I'll try cutting it down to one tablespoon.

6) Broil for 3-4 minutes on high, until the top is golden-brown.

Both The Pit and I loved this dish, although be warned, it doesn't taste great microwaved the next day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fall Veggie Side Dishes: Baked Asparagus

I haven't posted recipes in a while, but that's just because the laziness kicked in, not because we haven't been cooking recently. We've actually had quite a few delicious veggie side dishes in the last few weeks, and while I was going to do a round-up of three in one post, I've changed my mind and will drag out the excitement for you for three days instead.

First up, the easiest and simplest recipe of the bunch, found on the Food Network site, and requiring only a very minor modification of cooking time: Baked Asparagus

What you'll need for 2 large portions:
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper
1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash the asparagus, cut off the bottom inch or so of each stalk, and dump the stalks into a plastic bag.

2)Add a tablespoon of olive, close the bag, and shake it to evenly distribute the oil on all the stalks.

3) Lay the asparagus out on a foil-covered cookie sheet, and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4) Bake for at least 25 minutes to get the asparagus tips crunchy. I actually made one batch where I baked for 40 minutes (to time it with the rest of dinner) and the asparagus only got more crispy and delicious.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Caps vs. Wilds

So, we've covered my optimistic tendencies. But I'd like to talk about The Pit for bit. He...well, let's just say that optimism does not come to him naturally. From the outside looking in, it appears that he imagines the worst possible outcome to any particular situation, and then adjusts his plans accordingly. For example, when I wanted to attend a dance at his grad school, he feared that I would bump into his ex, and that this interaction would result in drinks being thrown.* Similarly, my speeding makes him think about the strong possibility of death in a fiery wreck. And if I undress in front of an open window? GOOD LORD WOMAN, RAPISTS ARE PROBABLY WATCHING!

Hmm, now that I read over the examples I just offered, there does seem to be one consistent Peachy-shaped element in all his fears, doesn't there? But let's just pretend I never made that particular observation, and move right along to the rest of my story.

See, early last week I talked to our pregnant friend, she for whom the quilt was wrought. And she informed me that her husband had gotten four free tickets to a Capitals hockey game on Friday. Assuming she wouldn't be giving birth at that particular moment, she wanted to know if The Pit and I were interested in accompanying them to the game. I said yes, and told The Pit about our conversation when he got home from work.

I had assumed that free tickets were a relative no-brainer to accept. This was silly of me, as The Pit immediately started thinking about all sorts of things that could go wrong for a very pregnant lady (and her accompanying friends) at a professional sporting event. I reassured him that he would probably not to be called on to deliver a baby on the ice, and that even if she did go into labor, there was going to be a great story to tell afterward.

My reassurances did not make him feel much better, although the news that the free tickets were in their own box somehow did. Remarkable, no? In any case, our friend did not go into labor, the Capitals won, I got a fiercely coveted hot dog, the box seats were amazing, and in fact the whole outing was quite thoroughly enjoyable. A much different experience from our previous foray into DC professional sports. Go Caps!

* We actually get along quite well.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Speaking of hobby projects that take decades to complete, let's talk about my quilt. My FINISHED quilt! Yes, that's friend's baby is due any day now, and I feverishly completed the quilt yesterday.

And all it took was four months or so...for something measuring 35 inches by 52 inches. I don't know how people summon the willpower to quilt anything bigger. Now that I think about it, I guess that is the exact reason sewing machines were invented. Quilting anything bigger by hand seems to require the moral fiber of an Amish person.

Since I am not, in fact, Amish, I did end up running into some technical issues while sewing. Chiefly, the fact that I couldn't figure out the quilter's knot, which is how you are supposed to end a line of stitching in the middle of the quilt without making a giant mess. Dina Who Is Not My Sister kindly sent me a link to a video showing how to do it, but although it seemed relatively simple when I was watching, I could not for the life of me actually get the needle, thread, and fabric to cooperate. So all those long diagonal lines quilted through the top? Yeah, those were each done using one super long piece of thread.

My original vision for the quilt also included very thin brown edging all the way around the outside. However, it turns out that thin borders are quite tricky, and what with the baby being due at any second, I decided to forget The Plan and just end the quilting process by folding the backing fabric over the top and stitching it in place as a border (what my Quilting for Dummies book called self-binding).

The downside to self-binding is that it's supposed to be less durable than other sorts of binding. Being a fool optimist, I read that bit about 'less durable,' and then went ahead and decided to machine wash the quilt anyway. So after finishing all the stitching last night, I stuck the quilt into the washing machine on the delicate cycle, crossed my fingers, and hoped like hell that the whole thing wouldn't fall apart. I know that the lead up convinced you all that something terrible then happened, but apparently holding your breath and hoping is an effective strategy, because all the stitching held, and the batting didn't even shrink enough to notice.

I thus declare my foray into quilting a wild success. I suppose there is one more judge whose opinion may be more important than mine...although for all the work I put into this thing, that baby damn well better love it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wedding Venue Search, Day 2

I may have mentioned this before, but The Pit has relatives living out in the country…that would be the Central Valley, outside the Bay Area, for those less familiar with California geography. Said relatives owned a dairy ranch for many years, and if you turn your eyes to my profile photo, you can see me accosting one of their adorable calves.

When talk of a wedding venue came up, these folks told me about an eccentric Dutchman living nearby. Apparently, for the last 15 or so years, this man has been hand-building a castle, brick by brick, on a plot of land in the middle of an orchard. After The Pit showed me intriguing pictures of turrets and castle walls, I decided that my mother and I had to see this place for ourselves. My grandparents joined us at the last minute, and the four of us set out for the two hour drive to the country.

As soon as we got off the freeway and started seeing miles and miles of fields and orchards, my grandmother, a confirmed city dweller if there ever was one, started oohing and ahhing. I guess she was somehow unprepared for all the open space, the lack of people and houses, and especially the presence of livestock.

Although my grandma maintains that she is and always has been an animal lover, it’s obvious to anyone who has ever watched her interact with a pet that this is not actually the case. In fact, she has always viewed animals with a kind of cautious suspicion, carefully and primly patting dogs or cats when necessary, but always maintaining a distance if possible. And now there were goats! And geese! And cows! Fenced in, this is true, but completely unsupervised, and just wandering about, possibly ready to get strike!*

* To be fair, I don’t think that she’s actually afraid of animals attacking…more like rubbing up against her and getting her pristine clothes dirty.

However, as we drove further and further away from civilization, she adjusted to the scenery, and there were only occasional exclamations about the hugeness of the fields and the scarcity of houses. By the time we arrived at our destination, she was really ready to appreciate the setting. And by the setting, I mean the huge Italian-style villa that The Pit’s aunt and uncle recently constructed on a slight rise of land in the middle of, well, basically, of nowhere.

The structure is very impressive when viewed from the outside, what with the cannon and flagpole and all, but it gets even more amazing from the inside, when you see the views out of the giant windows, and relax in the spacious courtyard. In fact, if we were having a smaller wedding, the villa itself would be a beautiful venue.

However, as the guestlist seems to grow longer every week, we instead enjoyed a lovely courtyard lunch before setting out for the two larger locations scouted for us. One was the aforementioned castle, and the other was a sort of lake and pagoda built by another dairy-owing family nearby.

First, the castle. Now when I say castle, I’m not talking about some sort of Disney-like façade. No, this is a *real* castle, complete with turrets, walls three bricks thick, and a fire-pit for roasting whole pigs. It is also being built on roughly the same schedule as a real castle…Casper the Dutchman has been working on it for about fifteen years, and estimated completion is in another fifteen or twenty years. Thus when we saw it, the inside wasn’t finished, but the existing structure could serve as an unusual backdrop for an outdoor wedding.

After the tour, we ultimately decided that the location was a little too remote and the facilities a little too primitive for our needs, but the amount of work that Casper had single-handedly put into the place was staggering. As my mother said, it was difficult for her to envision a hobby project that would take her a year to complete, never mind several decades.

The next location we visited also turned out to be unsuitable for us, mostly because of size, but was similarly awe-inspiring for the efforts that the owners had made to beautify their property. The place was a diary ranch, with typical buildings and fields to house and milk cows. However, adjacent to the cow pasture, the owners had dug out and landscaped a large lake.

They had accomplished this feat by themselves, with just family helping, for basically the same reason Casper was building his castle…these folks found that they had the space, and decided that they wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary with it.

On the way home, my mom and grandparents couldn’t get over it…all that work, whether at the villa, the castle, or the lake, and not for some sort of financial reward, but just for the satisfaction of having built something beautiful. I trust it will not come as a surprise that the discussion ended with comparisons of Russian peasants perfectly happy to sit in shitty cow pastures for their entire lives, and much murmuring of "God bless America."

And thus ended Day 2.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Downside to Being Lovable

Yes yes, I’ve had Day 2 half-written for a week, and yet have still not managed to finish it up and post it here. However, I’m going to interrupt my wedding narrative stream and tell you about trivia on Monday. I know I keep telling you about trivia, and most of you probably don’t really care that we won…again.* But that’s not the main gist of the story. The main gist only tangentially involves our win, because we won under…unusual…circumstances.

See, back when we first started playing, before getting into our winning 3-person groove, The Pit had sent an invite to his co-workers to join us. Apparently four of these invitees decided to answer his email two months late, and met us at the pub this week.

I had a couple of problems with this scenario right from the start. First of all, bringing four extra players when your three person team has been dominating the game for weeks…well, it feels a little like cheating. Our major competition is a team of four old people, and I like to beat them fair and square. Second, and I admit that this is my crazy in action, having four extra people required us to move to a bigger table. We always sit at the same corner location, and I felt vaguely uncomfortable at a different table in the middle of the floor. Third, having that many people meant that we had to pass the paper with the questions around, instead of just discussing each point amongst our normal trio. This arrangement left a lot of room for small talk with those not actively answering questions, which brings me right to my fourth issue…having to actually interact with these people.

Go ahead, roll your eyes and call me antisocial…I won’t take offense, since that is basically true. But I would like to point out that I didn’t actively hate all of them. There were two girls and a couple. I had no issues with the girls, who mostly sat at the other end of the table and consulted each other about trivia questions. The couple on the other hand, I grew to loathe more and more as the evening wore on.

The male half was particularly annoying. In what may have been the understatement of the year, The Pit explained it as: “His energy was not your energy.” While I’m sure that this dude was a nice enough guy, he did not stop talking once all night. The talking was combined with rather expansive gestures, which invaded my personal space even though I was sitting all the way across the table from him. It all added up to a very obnoxious package as I tried to concentrate on trivia questions. And predictably, my irritation grew harder and harder to hide as the evening progressed and the man continued draining Bud Light after Bud Light.

While I wasn’t certain that the guy was picking up the negative vibes I was casting his way, I was hoping that at least The Pit was getting the point. I was thus horrified to hear The Pit ask Mr. Obnoxious whether he liked to play board games. Thinking that the next words out of The Pit’s mouth would be an invitation to play at our house, I punched his leg under the table. It was at this point that my beloved, apparently feeling oh so suave and smooth, uttered a very loud “OW!”

I was *this* close to slapping a hand to my forehead and laying my head on the table. However, instead I pretended that nothing weird had just happened, and went back to my internal seething. Blessedly, trivia soon ended, although I did not get much of a reprieve, as The Pit started to chew me out as soon as we were alone in the car. Apparently, he had picked up on my hatred even before I hit him, and was annoyed that I had been so obviously rude to his coworkers.

I argued that A) I was not in fact obviously rude until his ill-timed "OW" gave me away, B) unbearable personalities rarely pick up on subtle hints of hatred anyway, and C) even if Mr. Obnoxious had realized my disdain, it only ensured my vital objective, which was keeping him away from future trivia nights at all costs. For some reason, The Pit was not pleased with my line of reasoning, and went off yesterday morning vowing to do some ‘damage control’ at work.

As it turned out, I was right about B up there, and no damage control was necessary, since the loudmouth had informed people that he loved hanging out with The Pit and I, and planned to invite us to his place soon. Sigh.

* That makes our record 7 first place, 1 second place, 1 third place prize in 9 weeks of playing. Not that we're counting.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Searching for a Wedding Venue, Day 1

Ah, wedding stuff. After The Pit proposed, my sainted mother scurried all over the Bay Area, looking at potential wedding venues for us. After extensive internet scouring, followed by exhaustive tours of various wineries, country clubs, and old buildings, she narrowed the list down to several locations, but felt that she couldn't make the choice for me, her pickiest of daughters.

Thus I had to abandon The Pit to fend for himself for several days, and make a quick trip back home to see the venue options and (hopefully) make a selection. My itinerary included one day of exploring winery and country club locations in the Pleasanton/Livermore area, one day of trekking out to the Central Valley and looking at a hand-built castle in the middle of an almond orchard, and one day of investigating community centers and mansions in the Piedmont/Oakland area. Efficient, eh?*

So, Day 1:

As it turned out, my mother’s fears of picking a place for me were quite well founded. The first winery was too big, the second had too many barrel decorations, and the third had creepy creepy faces painted on their walls.

Not kidding about the décor…a touch too many wine barrels:

And the goblin lords on the wall of the third winery we visited, though sadly you cannot get their full horrifying effect from this tiny picture I found:

I mean…seriously? Why would you paint that on the walls of a wedding hall? My mom said we could cover them up with flowers or something, but I would still know they were there…staring at me.

Moving onward, I was also not a fan of a beautiful but very traditional country club with excessive rules and regulations.

You can practically smell the money:

At this point, there was just one more location left on my mother’s list, and we were both starting to get a little nervous that I was going to hate that place too.

Fortunately, I got a great feeling as soon as we drove up. The place was a golf course and restaurant, but, importantly for my carefree nature, not a country club with stuffy furniture and even stuffier rules. The manager showed us around, and I loved the outdoor veranda where the ceremony could take place, the restaurant with views out of huge airy windows, and the neutral décor, thankfully lacking in both gold-plated picture frames and scary goblin lords. And unlike the tour guides at some of the previous locations, the manager was both extremely nice and quite flexible about our various requests.

So at the end of our first day, we had one definite maybe to consider. Up next? An exploration of country eccentrics and the hard-working spirit that made America great.

* We may be lazy, but my family can bring the organization when necessary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Great Plumbing Disaster of 2009

Alrighty. I know everyone is dying to hear about our sewage issues, so I shall get to it. To add an air of mystique to the proceedings, I will refrain from specifying exactly who was responsible for what in the lead up to the incident.

Several weeks ago, our apartment management company left notices on all apartment doors, asking people to stop flushing diapers, paper towels, and other unsuitable objects. Presumably, there had been some sort of incident in the building to spark this communication. Regardless, one half of our duo read the notice, and left it on the kitchen table absentmindedly. The other half of our duo probably glared at the offending piece of clutter, but did not actually read it.

The very next morning, the unschooled member of our household flushed multiple paper towels down the toilet after a bout of cleaning. And then threw some extra sheets in there for good measure, without flushing. Afterwards, the properly read but still sleepy partner went to use the facilities for their intended purpose, and critically, did not first check to make sure that the white papery stuff floating at the bottom would flush.

End result? Clogged toilet, of course. No problem, both of us thought. We’ll just go buy a plunger, and all will be well. Fifteen dollars* and trip to Target later, things were not exactly well. The Pit took at turn at the plunging, and while there was a certain, erm, dislodging of the, err, clogging materials, the toilet remained undrained. So I decided to take a turn. Given the circumstances (and the smell), I feel that I displayed a great deal of enthusiasm for the task, and worked the plunger quite energetically under The Pit’s critical eye. Unfortunately, all that happened was a great deal more clouding of the water in the bowl, and some amount of splashing. Although I maintain that splashing was unavoidable under the circumstances, The Pit was displeased with my performance, and took the plunger back.

As he attempted to plunge for the second time, something horrifying happened. Our toilet did not get unclogged…but, well, how shall I put this delicately…materials neither of us had deposited started to appear. Yes, somehow, The Pit’s efforts were causing foreign matter (presumably originating from our neighbors) to appear in our toilet, and yet the damn thing was still clogged. In fact, it was now more clogged than ever.

It was at this point that The Pit evaluated the situation, and made what I feel was a truly heroic decision. He cleared the space around the toilet, stripped off most of his clothes, shooed me out of the bathroom, closed the door, and threw himself into the breach (metaphorically speaking). For the next thirty minutes, I heard occasional horrified exclamations, a good deal of gagging, and an amount of swearing, that was, all things considered, pretty minimal.

Toward the end of that time, the door opened, and The Pit, white-faced, asked me to bring him a garbage bag, the bleach cleaner, and another roll of paper towels. The toilet was functional again, but there was a certain amount of…collateral mess. Once I delivered the goods, the door was then firmly closed in my face while he cleaned everything up and showered…oh, let’s just say quite thoroughly.

When he emerged, the bathroom looked spotless, but there was clearly some mental scarring that was going to take days to erase. He asked me to clean the bathroom again, just to be on the safe side, and then, periodically and completely at random, would turn toward me and make gagging noises for the rest of the week.

And people, what can I say? A man willing to take one like that for the team? Well, that’s clearly husband material right there.

* I know! For a plunger!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Goooo Sporks!

So. What’s been going on with us recently, you ask? I’ll tell you about trivia first, and then we shall get to the Great Plumbing Disaster of 2009.

Well, after the humiliating third place finish in trivia, the Sporks regrouped, and came back two weeks ago to a decent 2nd place finish. Second got us a $15 gift certificate, in case anyone was wondering. Perhaps more interesting is that I somehow turned into our music expert. What can I say? My deep and abiding love for Billy Joel finally came in handy.

Last week we completed our trajectory and regained first place, a victory made all the sweeter because we beat the old folks who had so handily dispatched us three weeks ago. However, there was a noticeable tension in the air when our victory was announced, and members of the second place team made throat-slitting gestures in our direction when we were leaving the bar. All in good fun, of course.

Yesterday we trailed a team of two called Hot Sexy Jason for most of the game. Hot Sexy Jason consisted of a very attractive girl, and a dude presumably named Jason. However, they were destined for defeat, as we came on strong in the final round, which was worth double points. When first place was called and our name was mentioned, the Jason half of Hot Sexy Jason yelled “Fuckers!” loud enough for the whole bar to hear. It’s possible he meant to mutter this under his breath, but there was a lot of beer involved. The exclamation amused the entire room though, so I think we can forgive him.

In case anyone other than our opponents is keeping score, so far we have amassed 5 first place, 1 second place, and 1 third place prize in 7 weeks of playing. Not a bad record, I think. Although really, I shouldn't be the one bragging. Sure, A and I contribute every now and again, but I think it's fair to say that if it was just A and I playing, those statistics would be a lot more dismal. For having such a large store of facts inside, The Pit's head is surprisingly normal sized.*

* Not to mention good-looking.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Updates Are Coming!

Okay, I realize that the writing on this here blog has not been exactly prolific in recent weeks, but all that is about to change. In the next entry or two I'll catch you up on events since our inglorious 3rd place trivia placement, and then we shall move on to a topic currently taking up a lot of real estate in my brain. That's right, if you don't want to read about wedding-related adventures, I suggest you come back in...oh, call it about 7 months.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Apocalypse, Unreadable

Sunday was a beautiful day, and The Pit and I took full advantage of the nice weather, walking about a mile down to the bookstore, buying a couple of books, and then sitting in the park and reading them.

Unfortunately, one of my selections happened to be The Road, a post-apocalyptic novel by Cormac McCarthy. I should have known better than to pick up a Pulitzer Prize winner, because I sensed within the first few pages that I was going to hate it.* I finished it just now, and sadly, I still think that was $14.95 wasted.

It's not like I haven't read a fair selection of post-apocalyptic stories in my life. The Pit likes to joke that they are my favorite form of fiction, and he's not too far off. I've recently re-read Dies the Fire, The Stand, and The Postman, which are all significantly more interesting versions of the end of the world than The Road. The setting was both horribly bleak and completely unexplained, the main character thoroughly miserable, and nothing ever really happened, even at the very end of the novel. I just don't understand the point.

And reading it, I'm doubly sad for Jeffery Harrell, who at one time wrote an excellent blog called Shape of Days. The blog is no longer online, but several years ago, Jeffery posted about half of a novel he had written. It was a great post-apocalyptic story, really engrossing, with interesting characters and an exciting plot. He never finished it, because The Road came out at the same time he was shopping it to publishers, and nobody wanted another story of the same basic genre. What a waste, that such a terrible book could ruin a really great writer's chance to publish a far superior story.

All in all, it's a good thing I also grabbed a new Terry Pratchett novel while we were at the bookstore...I can't think of a better way to rid myself of the unrelenting dreariness that was The Road.

* I don't always hate books that the literati love...just most of the time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


You know, I should have known it wasn't going to be a good week on Monday night. That's when a trio of silver-haired retirees smoked us at trivia night. As it turns out, old people are surprisingly good at recalling the TV shows of their youth, and do not automatically think of marijuana when someone named Bogart is mentioned. And we can't even put all the blame on the old people, since we ended up in third place. Although I suppose third place isn't losing, per se...we did get to choose from a unique selection of prize Bud Light t-shirts at the end of the night.

Anyway, the week went downhill from third place at trivia. OL ended up in the hospital after falling and hitting her head. She wasn't hurt too badly, but she had an unfortunate tendency to tell every visiting nurse and social worker that I was from California, had a PhD, and was engaged to be married. This spiel would have been okay if they were asking about me, but it usually came when they directed their questions to the subject of her health. Consequently, everyone decided that she was much more senile than is actually the case, that she was in need of continuous monitoring, and that she should be admitted for several days. She's home as of today and trembling with indignation because 'all dose people' forced her to take a wheelchair back to her place, when really she 'would rather be dead' than try to use it. Fortunately for all of us, she doesn't actually need it.

OL isn't the only one with medical issues either...I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but The Pit has been playing on a softball team for two games a week. It's apparently kind of a shitty team, since he keeps coming home grumpy from losing. However, on Tuesday night he came home both grumpy and sort of groaning. Apparently there was an unfortunate collision when he tagged a runner out at first, and now he may or may not have a cracked rib. Either way, sitting down, standing up, and rolling over in bed all hurt, and doing the dishes is entirely out of the question.

As if all of the above weren't enough, I was driving home from the hospital yesterday when I received a speeding ticket. That I should get one of those is not altogether shocking, but what did make my eyes bulge a little was the price tag. For going 45 mph in a 30 mph residential zone, the state of Virginia would like to take $366 of my hard-earned dollars. Had I run a red light, my fine would have been all of $161, and being a jackass and illegally parking in handicapped spot would have netted the state a mere $211. And to add insult to injury, in the box on the ticket designated for my sex, the kind officer also put an M. Bastard Virginian, I hate you and all your brethren.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Salat Olivie, or Russian Potato Salad

Sorry for the radio silence, it's been a tough couple of days around here. The Pit got sick, and this necessitated me making chicken soup by the bucketful. That man sure loves his soup. Of course, he was feeling mostly better as of yesterday, and while the liquid portion of the soup was devoured to the last drop, I had some left-over boiled chicken that I needed to use up.

In any self-respecting Russian household (or even mine), one of the first thoughts when you have left-over chicken is to make Salat Olivie (or Salade Olivier, according to Wikipedia*). For the non-Russian speakers in the audience, Olivie is the Russian version of potato salad. As the Russians love their protein along with their potatoes, the salad typically includes a hefty portion of left-over meat and hard boiled eggs.

However, since I can't stand eggs in any recognizable form, the versions made in my mother's and grandmother's houses were always egg-free, and that is the recipe I'm going to share with you today. If you love eggs and want to add a diced hard boiled egg to the mix, be my guest.

What you'll need for 4-6 side-dish size portions:
  • 2 large potatoes, boiled and diced
  • 2 carrots, boiled and diced
  • 1-2 cups cooked chicken, diced**
  • 4-6 dill pickles, diced
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 1 can peas, drained
  • 2-3 heaping tablespoons mayo
  • several dashes of salt

1) Boil the potatoes and carrots in lightly salted water. The traditional method is to boil the veggies with skins on, and then to let them cool slightly and peel. I used to ignore this advice and peel everything first, but after doing a taste comparison, I realized that potatoes boiled in their own skins really did taste significantly better. However, I couldn't really detect a huge difference in the taste of the carrots, and those are horribly to difficult to peel when cooked, so I usually peel the carrots but not the potatoes. That does mean you can't cut the potatoes into quarters to speed cooking time, so if you're in a rush just peel everything, quarter, and toss in the pot. Remember that the carrots will be cooked before the potatoes regardless, and pull those out earlier.

2) While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, dice the chicken (if it's boiled, this actually ends up more like shredding), pickles, and onion, and mix them with the drained peas in a large bowl.

Note: I almost always use left-over boiled chicken from chicken soup for this dish, but there's no reason you can't use roasted, grilled, or even canned chicken. In fact, you don't need to use chicken at all...I'm super picky, so I like the chicken, but I've been to other Russian households where this recipe is made with ham, bologna, or sausage. You can also modify the amounts of the meat, pickles, onion, and peas for your particular tastes. As an example, we love pickles, so I always add extra, but The Pit hates canned peas, so when he's watching me make this, I only use about half a can. I'm also not a big fan of raw onion, so I either leave it out altogether, or only use a tiny amount.

3) When the potatoes and carrots are done, dice them and add to the bowl.

4) Mix in two tablespoons of mayo, and give it a taste. I usually add another tablespoon and a sprinkling of salt at this point, but it might not be necessary for everyone.

* I didn't expect to learn a huge amount of salad history from this wiki page, and was pleasantly surprised...somebody did a good job there.
** You can also use other types of meat, or leave it out altogether for a vegetarian version.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Per Cat's Request

It was quite the nail-biting trivia event yesterday, and eventually came down to a tie breaking question between our 3-person team and another 5-person team.

The tie-breaker asked each team to most closely guess the number of visitors to Yosemite National Park in 2000. Our considered answer? 3,125,000. The correct answer? 3,400,000ish. The other team's guess? 300,000. SPORKS WIN AGAIN!

As far as moments of glory go, mine could have been more significant, but I'm proud to say that I was certain Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were fraternal (and not identical) twins. A staked his trivia rep on Cynthia McKinney, and correctly identified her as belonging to the fair state of Georgia (whether they want her or not is a whole other issue). The Pitt, as always, correctly answered the majority of the questions all on his own.

However, happy as we were by yet another $25 gift certificate to pay for our dinners, we couldn't help but notice that our margin of victory has steadily decreased each time we've played. This leaves us a little concerned about next week, as we've gotten quite used to drinking for free. Guess we'll just have to step it up, since I think the other teams are getting rather annoyed by our winning streak.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nothing to Report

It's been a quiet couple of days around here, so I don't have much to talk about. The Pit and I waited for the day to cool down a little on Saturday, and then went running in the evening. This was our third time going in about two weeks, and I don't know if it was the cooler weather or the practice, but I found the experience less intolerable than usual. As a reward, The Pit took me to an all cheese dinner at Cheesetique. Mmm, delicious delicious cheese.

We also ordered pizza on Sunday, while watching the Chargers screw themselves yet again. The pizza improved the game-watching experience, but I fear that our weekend dining is only going to reinforce the need for more evil running. Actually, scratch that 'weekend' part... I don't see our diet improving significantly today. It's another Monday, and you all know that means Pub Trivia! I'm pretty excited to try our hand at a third consecutive victory, but I'll let you know how it went tomorrow. In the meanwhile, I hope you all enjoy survive your Monday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quilting Update

A month and a half later, I've finished sewing together the top of the quilt:

I realize that with the exception of borders, this pictures looks almost identical to the one I posted on August 5th, however, the back has now been filled with what feel like thousands of tiny stitches. Tiny stiches I put in by hand while OL laughed and told me what a miracle it would be for me to finish this thing.

Here is an example around one square:

Sadly, the blanket is still very far from completed, as I have yet to do the actual quilting part and sew together the three layers. For the uninitiated, those layers would be the quilt top, the soft batting in the middle, and the quilt backing material. Here's the super cute print I'm using for the back of the quilt:

Yesterday I spent an excruciating hour ironing out the wrinkles from all three layers, and positioning the fabrics carefully on the floor. Then it turned out that I needed The Pit's assistance to hold up the fabrics while I pinned. And all this for a baby blanket...I can't imagine the work that goes into something bigger.

However, after much sweating and cursing,* the whole thing is now marked with masking tape for quilting:

At the moment, I can only bear the thought of doing the stitches diagonally in one direction. When I finish those, I suppose I can re-evaluate and think about going in the opposite direction...however, I suspect the baby will be close to due by that point, and we'll just call it good.

Now if only I could figure out how to hand-quilt this without using one super long thread for each of those diagonal lines. Anyone know how to effectively hide the stopping and starting points if I use reasonable lengths of thread?**

* You know, love the baby will really feel.
** Dina who is not related to me, I'm looking at you here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's a Monday Ma'am

I woke up with a blinding headache this morning, which meant one of two things: it was either going to be an awful Monday, or the day could only improve from that point. First things first, I headed over to Costco to save some money on birth control pills.* The parking lot around the Costco is rather expensive, and only validates if you have a member card, so I parked at a meter on the street, wandered over to the store, and snuck in by standing close to a fat lady with a member card.**

While waiting for the prescription to be filled, I took a quick survey of the empty food court, and then decided that I didn't care that it was only 10 AM. A cheap hot dog, some Excedrin, and huge savings on pharmaceuticals later, the day was starting to look up. That's when I got back to my car and saw a cop circling around it.

I still had 6 minutes on the meter, so I couldn't figure out what he was so concerned about. When I walked up to him, he turned to me and said that my registration was expired. Now, I've driven around half my life with expired tags, but I happened to know for a fact that my registration was current. Nevertheless, the nice man lead me to the back of the car, pointed at the license plate, and said "See ma'am, your registration expired in December of 2009!"

I still had a bit of a headache and cops make everyone a little nervous, so I took some extra seconds to study the license plate and formulate my answer. "But that means the registration doesn't expire until December." The cop stared at me, stared at the license plate, and then a look of comprehension dawned. "I'm so sorry ma'am, I don't know what I was's a Monday ma'am."

Once I reassured him that it was a Monday, and that I didn't take a offense, I was allowed to drive off to my lunch date with OL. Happily, she was in chipper mood, further improving my Monday by giving me fresh grapes instead of offering esoteric gifts from her closet. A day without used toe-nail clippers is a good day indeed!

My steadily improving Monday did hit a slight bump in the road when The Pit came home and suggested we go running again, but I demonstrated marginal improvements in my performance, so I suppose the excruciating agony was worth it. (Although talk to me again tomorrow, when I'm pretty sure I won't be able to walk.)

However, the best was yet to come. A non-holiday Monday means Trivia Night! We reconvened our winning team at McGinty's, and then proceeded to look around a bit apprehensively. There was a bigger crowd than last time, and all the opposing teams had at least three or four members, so it was going to be a real competition.

It was an interesting evening. The moderator kept calling us the Furious Sparks, and I took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand up in a crowded bar and yell "SPORKS!" at the top of my lungs, which was rather satisfying. Then some Bud Light salesgirls in tube tops and short shorts wandered into the bar, and proceeded to be roundly ignored by patrons concentrating intensely on trivia. This was also quite satisfying. However, the most satisfying moment of the night came after some intense competition, and our team moving constantly between 2nd and 1st in the rankings. After the final round, the moderator got our team name correct when he announced that the Furious Sporks were once again Trivia winners. Ahhh yessss...sweet sweet gift certificate, you are ours!

* Oh insurance-less masses, listen to me: you don't need to be a Costco member to use their pharmacy, and medications are significantly cheaper pills were about twice as expensive when I was getting them at Rite Aid.
** The sneaking in might not have been necessary, but at the time I wasn't sure that my information about the pharmacy was correct.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tomato Pie

The Pit likes to make fun of me for adding tomatoes to practically every dish we eat, so it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that when I saw this recipe for something called Tomato Pie, it was on our table almost immediately.

It was easy to make, as delicious as it looks, and The Pit and I each had half for dinner. I made it almost exactly as instructed, but I can think of a few changes I'd like to try next time.

What you'll need for 1 pie (2 servings if you're starving or that's all you have for dinner, or more like 4 servings if you have side dishes):
  • 1 frozen pie shell (I used a cheap Richfood Deep Dish Pie Shell, and it was amazingly good)
  • 1 red or yellow onion (or a mix of the two types), sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 small tomatoes (or 3 bigger ones)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup sliced basil leaves (about 6-8 leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1) I caramelized the onions in this recipe, and I think that made a big difference in the taste. I happened to have half a red and half a yellow onion on hand, so that's what I used. To caramelize: slice the onions, heat up some olive oil in a medium skillet, and dump the onions in on a low heat. Basically let them sit there and stir occasionally while you assemble the rest of the pie ingredients, adding a sprinkling of salt and the sliced garlic after about 10 minutes. If you are a super efficient pie assembler, start the onions on a higher heat for a couple minutes, then lower. Don't freak out if it looks like there is an awful lot of onion to start with, they cook down quite a bit:

2) Preheat the oven to 350 F. Take your frozen pie shell out of the freezer, and note that it probably came in a pack of two. Separate out one shell (this might require leaving it on the counter for a couple minutes to defrost first), poke some holes in it with a fork, and then stick it in the oven for 15 minutes.

3) De-juice the tomatoes. You want the tomatoes as dry as possible, so that the crust of the pie doesn't get too soggy. I quartered the tomatoes and drained the inside juice and seeds into a small bowl. Because I love tomatoes so, I set the insides aside for a salad later. I wiped the now-dejuiced tomato quarters with paper towels, and diced them into another bowl. If you aren't sick of drying tomatoes at this point, you can pat them dry with more paper towels. I decided this is as dry as they were getting, and moved on.

4) Mix together the cheeses, mayo, and hot sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. You will have a sort of gooey ball of cheese at this point.

5) Chiffonade the basil.

6) By this time the pie crust will probably be about done pre-baking. Take it out of the oven, and assemble the pie. The original instructions say to first add the onions, then the tomatoes, then the basil, and finally the cheese mixture, like so:

These are the steps I followed when I made the pie, but as we were eating, The Pit and I both decided a little cheese mixed into the other layers would have been a good idea. I think you can put some between the onions and tomatoes, or mix some in with the tomatoes in a bowl, and either would help the pie be more cohesive. Either way, make sure you still have some to go on top.

7) Bake the pie for 40-45 minutes, until the cheese on top is golden brown and bubbly.

A couple notes:

I made the pie with the mozzarella-asiago-parmesan combo because those are the cheeses I always have on hand. I think this would also work with a variety of other combinations, as long as you use at least one flavorful and one mild cheese. Elise @ Simply Recipes suggests a Sharp Cheddar/Monterey Jack combo as a possible alternative.

Also, if you look closely at the picture, you can see that I put the foil-covered pie crust in a pie dish for baking. I'm not sure that it was necessary, but it made taking the pie out of the oven easier. If you don't have a pie dish, I would stick the pie on a cookie sheet.