Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oh, Pork Tenderloin, How You Frustrate Me

I have never met a pork tenderloin that I could cook. I can marinate the heck out of a pork tenderloin. I can season a pork tenderloin with my fabulous, secret peppery rub. I can eat April Spencer's pork tenderloin awesomeness until I'm ill (seriously, I would eat the entire thing if there weren't other people present, wanting to experience her culinary genius as well). But I cannot cook a pork tenderloin until it's done all the way through!

I thought tonight was going to be different. I thought tonight, I had it. But I didn't. And do you know what I think it was? I didn't let it sit out a full hour and bring it entirely to room temperature before I put it in the oven. This is my Grammie's secret. Set the meat out in the roasting pan for an hour; bring it to room temperature. Pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees. Then, once it's ready, throw the meat in, turn the temperature down to 400 degrees and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN FOR 30 MINUTES.

I open the oven 30 minutes later; the meat is not done. Depression sets in. (Not really.) No problem. I turn the oven down to 350 and bake it 10 more minutes. Now it's a little overdone but still OK. Except for one small problem: I did NOT marinate the heck out of this particular pork tenderloin. I marinated it in something that did NOT work.

Collin says it did. He liked it. He also slathered about a pound of dijon mustard on it. It was bad. I am a pork tenderloin failure. But I will keep trying! And next time I will go with the never-fail pepper rub and the ONE HOUR ON THE COUNTER approach. And it will be glorious.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Drive

I drove to Denton, Texas, today...then turned around and drove home. Why? Because it was in Denton that I realized (thanks to a Tweet and a follow-up from a friend): I am not required in Dallas until next Tuesday.

How disorganized a life does one have to lead before they find themselves two hours from home and realize, Oh! My appointment is on the 29th, not the 22nd!???

I felt foolish. In fact, I cried. But only because I'd already been crying: all the way to Texas.

Why? I'd been thinking about some things that a trusted friend recently encouraged me to write about. Well, I haven't had time to sit and write about these things (or am I just putting it off?), so since I had three hours in the car alone...what a perfect time to think about the things I am supposed to write about! Same thing, right? And the thinking, coupled with listening to a CD I used to listen to in high school, drew tears.

Good tears. Melancholy. Realization. Breakthrough! (all but that last one)

I think I was due a good cry. I haven't cried in a while. It reminded me of when I was pregnant and such a blubberbutt. Poor Collin. I hope next time I'm pregant my hormones treat us both a little better. But I digress.

I would write more about what I was crying about, but who wants to read that? Instead, I will recount a story (that has nothing to do with today)...

There once was a girl named Meggo who didn't know how to tell whether her dreams were real life things that had happened or just dreams, and so one night when she had a dream that her grandparents took her to an outdoor circus that provided all-you-can-eat fried shrimp, which she had never eaten before, and this other little girl, who was also with Meggo's grandparents, ate all the shrimp so that Meggo could have none, Meggo wondered whether this other little girl indeed existed and was a friend of the family.

"Don't you remember?" Meggo asked her Grammie. "The little girl with the short brown hair?"

Of course Grammie didn't remember. Because the little girl with the short brown hair only existed in dreamland, as did the all-you-can-eat shrimp circus. Though that is a tasty idea.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gray Day in Three

1. Today I found my first, honest to goodness, no doubt about it, long, fat, wirey gray hair...right in the middle of my head and swooping across my bangs. I am officially in my 30s, people.

2. I need a new blog title and summary. I'm thinking this through but would love to know if any of you have read my blog and thought, She should really call it THIS. Man, "Remarks from the Couch" is so LAME. (But please be kind in telling me this.) I'm also considering changing up the format. It's rather trendy to have "focused" days, like She's a Maniac Mondays, Frumpy Friday, etc. Do I want to join this trend, or attempt to, or do I want to stick with my haphazard approach? As I write I'm leaning toward the latter. But I still feel like every good blog has a theme, a greater purpose than mine. Do I even have a theme? What do I want my blog to be? Why am I posting these questions going through my head that are directed at myself?

3. My students blogged today about the education history that has or has not prepared them for my news writing course. The blogs were in a way eye opening and in a way expected. Nobody feels prepared. Everyone feels overwhelmed. But even their simple, 250-word blog entries felt lazy. They were writing the first thing that came to mind; the expected thing; and not putting very much thought into it. Only maybe two of them had an original thought or story to tell. Only maybe three of them did I enjoy reading. I only hope that if they will truly focus for six and a half more weeks they will notice a great change in their knowledge and ability. And as far as grammar rules: you just learn them and move on. They become old hat. It's difficult to believe when you're a 20-year-old making 30s on quizzes and feeling utterly discouraged (becuase it's not as easy as you thought...boohoo). But if they would just look, they would see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, I think most of them are too lazy to lift their heads.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Personally Spiced Vegetables over Potatoes

What you need to know and what I just realized: I have not watched television in almost two weeks. This was not a planned thing. And yes, I've watched Mary Poppins, but that's a standard in our house. I don't usually watch television during the day, so that's normal, and lately our evenings have been so busy that we just haven't turned on the tube.

Oh. I did watch a Quentin Tarantino film in two sittings. I forgot about that. Well, then I guess I'm lying. I have watched TV. Dang.

Tonight for dinner we had: everything left in the fridge, which means I chopped up some potatoes and threw them in the steamer. Boiled some carrots, boiled some brocolli (however you spell that blasted word), sauteed an onion and threw every spice we have, along with three kinds of cheese, out on the kitchen table and said, "Go for it." (We had some fun talking about the title of the dish.)

I had too many potatoes with as many onions as I could dish on top of them without feeling embarrassed (plus broc & roots) and added salt, pepper, fresh oregano, curry and garam marsala (I put these last two on just about everything). Collin dumped all the hot (temperature) spices on his, as usual. I think he likes having a runny nose at dinner. He had cottage cheese; I had cheddar. It was delish.

And now: it's time to buy some groceries, as all that's left in my kitchen is a box of spaghetti, a frozen pizza, a little bit of food for baby and milk.

Well, and coffee. Always lots of coffee.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Public Speaking

Tomorrow is day three of Writing for the Mass Media summer edition. Before I get started, let me say: my cat just threw up on the windowsill, and I cleaned it up, and now I feel nauseated. So I am writing this while trying not to throw up, in case you were wondering.

Day 1: I plugged the wrong cord into my computer and couldn't get Power Point to come up on the screen. Had to call an IT kid to come over, and he was nice enough when he said, "You need to plug this cord into your computer," pointing to the big white piece of tape over the chord that reads "Computer." I laughed and said something self-denigrating (but funny). And I moved on. But I couldn't stop "being funny." It's like when I go to a party or some other social function with friends or acquaintances and "turn on." I was definitely "on" in front of the class, and unfortunately, part of that "on" involves cracking jokes. Not jokes like, "Did you ever hear the one about the..." But just being funny, or trying to. And I got some tired laughs, and I tried for the rest of the day not to think about everything I said.

Day 2: Today. I talked about the writing process and how every good writer has an approach to writing whatever it is she is writing. I made a bit of an example at one point of my work at Tate and how for eight or nine months I used checklists religiously. I had a checklist for each month and always, always made sure I had hit everything on my checklist. After that, it just came naturally. The tenth month came, and I realized that I didn't need the lists anymore. And I never missed a beat. I honestly can count on one hand the number of times I missed something I was supposed to do, probably because of my checklist legalism. Likewise, I told my students today that if they are hyper-conscious of their strategy (how they organize their material once they're through with the pre-writing phase and into the writing phase) for a time, they'll eventually just do it naturally.

Every writer has a different strategy, but every writer has, or has had, one. I once read that Stephen King gets up every morning and writes until 11:00 or 12:00...363 days a year. I've heard of another writer who writes five "good" pages a day minimum. He must hit the five or he's not finished. I know another writer who locks the door and turns off her phone when she writes, so she can focus.

These are, of course, all fiction writers and no so much strategies as they are disciplines. Media practioners, especially print journalists, whether actual print or web, have different-looking systems. They're on tighter deadlines. They have a lot of research staring them in the face, and they have to do something with it: now.

Some journalists color code their transcriptions. Some cut their notes up and put like material in envelopes. Some make bubble maps (this relates to this relates to this...).

I would argue, and did today, that no beginning writer should just write intuitively. A beginning writer does need a strategy. And that strategy should not be to get it perfect the first time. Something I struggle with.

As I told my students, let your creative self have the freedom to write crappy stuff. Then go back and fix it. And again, I have to tell myself this constantly. (Though it's different when you're writing fiction because you kind of do need to get it right, or at least close to right, the first time or, I've found, you'll never move on.)

I hope each of my students will find a writing process that works well for his or her particular strengths.

And I hope I'll get more comfortable speaking in public. Sheesh. It's difficult to get up in front of a class and talk for 50 minutes. Half of the time I feel like they're looking at me, thinking, This lady is c-razy. But they're probably just thinking, Na-na-na-na-na-na-na (think Chevy Chase in Caddyshack) I can't hear anything, I'm so tired; OMG can I just go back to bed now? Na-na-na-na-na-na-na