Sunday, January 27, 2008


Things had been going so well. I started the new year feeling phoenix-like, having risen up from the ashes of what we'll call "Mom's House" project and the rather annoying holidays. My mom's house was sold; Christmas came and went; and then it was all over.
"Now what?" asked my subconcious.
"Indeed," I replied. "Now what?"
And so I returned to the idea of getting a second dog, and ended up with a "Beagle-mix" from a rescue North of Tampa.
Boo Bear was his name. That's a name packed with implication. You hardly have to say it out loud to imagine a sort of cuteness that makes women and children squeal in appreciation at how utterly adorable one named Boo Bear must be.
And he was.
Sort of.
Well, on his picture page on Petfinder, which is sort of like Myspace for animals, he did look like a very cute Beagle mix. His ears flopped backwards and he had brown eyes and a masky face.
So I took the boys and we met Sue, the rescue lady who had been more than willing to meet me and let me adopt. She didn't want references, like the other rescue groups. "How refreshing!" I said. "You seem like a nice person," said Sue. "I can tell."
Sue and I met in the parking lot of a bank. I'd brought along a new, bright red collar and leash. When I pulled up, she was walking Boo Bear, and I broke into a wide smile at the sight of his prancing gait.
"He's CUTE!" I exclaimed to the boys, who were along for the ride.
After a cursory inspection and some chit-chat between Sue and I, Boo Bear was handed over.
"The vet says he's part Beagle, part hound," she blurted out as I loaded him into the car. "Okay," I said, thinking "Why did she say that just now?" We cheerfully waved good-bye and headed home.
Once there, we introduced Boo Bear to the rest of the family, half of which approved. Wyatt stared suspiciously at Boo Bear from across the room. Monster the cat puffed his tail and hissed at Boo Bear. But Boo Bear didn't care, and proceeded to romp around the house, attacking various plush animals with a cheerful zeal.
Troy and I sat outside, quietly observing the puppy.
"He's cute," said Troy. "He kind of looks like a pit-bull though."
I froze and pursed my lips. Boo Bear, who was four-months-old, was supposed to be a medium-sized dog. I had taken note that his paws were rather large, and, frankly, he was already the size of a Beagle. His head was a bit wide, his body a bit longer than a Beagle's, and his tail curled upwards into a curly-cue. He seemed like a good dog, albeit a bit independent. I imagined he'd had a hard life, out in the rural area where Sue had rescued him from a high-kill shelter. He was a scrapper.
The conversation was aborted because I had to leave to meet Troy's mom, who was bringing me our dog crate which had been stored in her garage. We agreed to meet at a coffee house, and I took Boo Bear along for the ride, and sat outside waiting for Madame X. Wyatt came along too, my largely silent companion.
"Mom," he said from the backseat, "Boo Bear's attacking my coat."
Madame X was smiling as she approached our table, Boo Bear perched beside my chair.
"Aww, he's cute!" she said, sitting down to join us. She petted him and noted that his ears were not as soft as Lucky's, but that he was very well-behaved. He was!
"He kind of looks like -- what's that dog? Oh, you know...a pit-bull."
I stared at her in disbelief.
"That's what Troy said," I told her.
The cafe manager walked up and started petting Boo Bear. "He's cute! He's gonna be big. Looks like he's got some pit-bull in him."
Now I was annoyed.
I had not seen it. Granted, the website pictures did not show his full body, only his little face, which was bigger now. But I had to say he did not look so much like a Beagle now as he did a pit-bull. I wasn't feeling too good about this whole thing, and although Sue had told me that I could return him if things didn't work out, that option had not crossed my mind. Until now.
I drove home and told Troy what his mom and the other lady had said. It was pretty obvious by then that my Beagle was no Beagle.
Now. I know the pit-bull can be a nice dog, and I know that there are nice pit-bulls. But I don't feel comfortable having one, and, as nice as Boo Bear was, I wasn't willing to take a chance on him. Troy and I told the boys that Boo Bear was not going to stay with us; that he was going back to Sue. Griffin took it the hardest, crying and burying his face into a pillow.
"It's like you're having a party...and it gets cancelled," he summarized.
It was. I felt horrible, having been the instigator, the one who had brought this excitement and now disappointment to my family. It was my fault that the boys were now sad and crying, and I couldn't have felt any worse.
I took Boo Bear out into the backyard with Lucky, and they started jumping around, playing. Or, at least I think they were playing. Boo Bear started growling and going for Lucky's neck. I didn't know if they were jockeying for position in the dog pack or play-fighting or what, but with a raised eyebrow, I resolved that Boo Bear was going back to Sue.
Sue's husband met me in the bank parking lot early Tuesday morning. He proudly told me that they had placed 100 dogs in the past year, and that he rehabilitates dogs. He pulled up his shirt-sleeve and showed me his arm covered with scabs, presumably from dog bites. He then told me that people are ignorant of dog breeds, and said that "there are no bad dogs." Steve said he was a big fan of Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer.
"Haven't you ever seen Cesar's dog, Daddy?" Steve asked me.
"I have," I nodded, remembering seeing Daddy when I watched Cesar's show once, and that Daddy scared the shit out of me.
Steve told me that they'd already found a home for Boo Bear.
"Oh, really?" I asked, sort of surprised, "Who?" Steve changed the subject and talked more about how he and Sue got Boo Bear on the day he was going to be killed. Steve talked with a gentle voice and a smile, which was kind of odd because everything he said seemed aimed at making me feel bad, guilty, or stupid. It didn't matter, though. I was happy for Boo Bear if he had a good home lined up. He was a good dog, and maybe he would always be a good dog. But he wasn't the right dog for me and my family.
I gave Boo Bear a kiss on the forehead and said good-bye, wishing him well.
I have always loved animals, and I admire the people who foster and rescue the dogs and cats needing homes. But I don't think it's right for people to lie about a dog to get him placed; and while dog-training goes a long way, it's foolish to ignore genetics and breeding. I have to think about that, when bringing another animal into our family.
And so, after several months of exploring the avenue of rescue operations, most of which make it harder for a person to "adopt" a dog than to have a baby, I've decided that I'm done for now; I'm not going to get a second dog for a while. Lucky and I are going to enjoy our time together, and we'll continue going to our favorite outdoor cafe, watching the world go by.
And I won't have to worry about wearing colors.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The $200 Pizza

Fuggedy fug fug fug!
I just got pulled over whilst on my way to get a pizza* for dinner. Going 70 in a 55 m.p.h. zone.
"Do you know the speed limit on this road?" asked the kindly sheriff.
I had to admit that no, I did not.
At least this time, I could find the car registration.
And my driver's license was up-to-date.
And my tags weren't expired.
Of course I got a citation, and although I expected it to be hefty, I literally gasped when I flipped the yellow ticket over and saw the fine. $188.
Every year, there's some chef in Manhattan who makes a million-dollar burger, with foie gras and truffles and other high-cost ingredients, and it's sort of a ha-ha -isn't-this-cute kind of feature story. Well, here you have it, a look at the World's Most Expensive Pizza, but I'm not laughing:

Sadly, it wasn't even very good.

*No, they do not deliver.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


I'm really not a baker, and now it's confirmed: I won't be working at
Ladurée in the new year.
I set about making macarons today, and everything went well up to a certain point. The ingredients are straightforward-spaz-out fare: sugar, nuts, butter, and egg whites. I couldn't find my pastry bag, so I used a Ziplock to pipe little rounds onto the baking sheet. I didn't have parchment paper, so I used foil, thinking they would be easier to remove. In hindsight, I should have just piped them right onto the baking sheet, because it's new and coated with layers of high-tech junk designed just for this purpose.
I should have also baked them longer, but they were in the oven for 11 minutes and starting to look toasty on the edges, and the recipe said they would be "set but not dried out" if I baked them for 12 minutes maximum.
The buttercream filling turned out really well -- just confectioner's sugar, ground almonds, and butter -- nice & fluffy.
But here is what happened next...

The cookies were too soft, and definitely stuck to the foil. No utensil trickery or finesse worked to successfully free them, and so they were just rumpled. I proceeded, and sandwiched the buttercream between them anyway.
(This is why I mostly focus my kitchen activities on one-pot meals.)

Is that the ugliest little macaron you've ever seen? I'll answer that: yes.
Of course, it still tasted really good, so all was not lost. Yet for all of the effort, I thought it might be just as effective to pour this bag of sugar down my throat. These cookies are off the glycemic index chart.

In more successful baking news, last night I made the chocolate-marsala cake from HTBADG, and it turned out just fine. My bro was in town and so we served it up for him, in honor of his upcoming birthday. He loved it, and so did everyone else, so we were all happily chocolate'd.

As for the macarons, I will stick to buying them.