Rougie: June 2011 Archives

Nothing like a little fire under your ass...

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...or a little mud in your eye...

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...or an amazing friend running along side you...

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...to bring an unmatched smile to your face.

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2011 Midwest Warrior Dash now complete. 

2011 Carolinas Warrior Dash? You're on notice.

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On June 27th, 2009, the alarm woke me up early.  I was tired and cranky because the night before some houseguests had rudely accidentally woken me up at 2am, and a combination of their continued noise and my raging apoplexy had made falling back asleep difficult. But instead of hitting snooze, I got out of bed. There was work to be done.

I shuffled across the yard from the house that had been my home for the last 3 years, to the house that would become my home for the near future; to the house that I needed to move into in order to start the legal clock ticking.

Nothing went right that day. Cracks in the plaster wall still needed to be patched before we could paint. When we finally did start painting, the new paint wasn't sticking to the old paint and in fact, was bubbling up in places (no one told us the old paint was oil based and therefore we needed to prime).  Everywhere I looked I saw dirt and grime and duct tape holding things together.  I was staring years of neglect in the face - all on 4 hours sleep and without any air conditioning.

The thing is, it never even occured to me to go back. Never. Not once did I think about returning to the cool comfort of cental a/c. Not once did I think about returning to the newly laid wood floors or the recently installed (and finally stained) French doors.  As much time and energy as I had put into every single gorgeous custom window treatment, I left them behind without a second thought and traded them for some old Venetian blinds that were cracked and bent and barely stayed in their brackets when lowered and raised.

The day was long and hot and I was sleep deprived.  I had no less than 3 major melt-downs and I distinctly remember calling my parents each and every time saying: "I can't do this." Actually, I didn't say it. I wailed it. "I CAN'T DO THIS," I wailed. Over and over and over again.

Somehow we eventually got done what needed to get done and the day's efforts came to a close.  I dragged myself back across the yard to a house that was still home, but not for long. It was - mercifully - empty.  I showered off the paint and the sweat and the grime, blew-dry my hair, and put on festive sun dress.

Miss Mary picked me up and we went out for a delightful dinner. Despite the raging heat (it was close to 100 degrees), I had a grilled Caesar salad and a ribeye and washed it all down with a glass of hearty red wine. There was Oreo cheesecake and espresso for dessert. Dinners like that had once been ordinary, thrice a week occurences; but it had been a while and I had almost forgot what it was like to indulge.

Miss Mary dropped me off. The house was still, surprisingly, empty.

The Artist and her husband, Mr. Monster Truck, were out of town that week, and I was looking after their cats while they were away.  The Artist had also told me that if I needed to get away for awhile or if I simply wanted to take a soak in her oversized tub, I could. Her house was my house, she told me. So I packed a small bag. Some PJs. Some toiletries. Some ratty shorts and a tee shirt for Round 2. Not much. Just enough to get me through til the next day.

I kissed my kitties goodbye, took a deep breath, and walked out the front door and into the first chapter of a brand new life. 

It wasn't the last time I set foot in that house. For weeks after there was much coming and going as I sorted through, divided up, packed and moved the life I had spent the last 12 years assembling.  But as of June 27th, 2009, that house stopped being my home, and the clock on everything else started ticking.

Two years ago today, my life began again.

(And to the frightened, sleep-deprived girl who stood in the middle of the yard sobbing into her cell phone over and over and over that she couldn't do it, all I can say is that you did do it Baby Girl. You did do it. And I am so, so proud of you.)

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Earlier last week, Miss Mary sent me a last-minute invitation to an impromptu Belmont Stakes party. Now Miss Mary is known for her horse racing fetes (Seriously, her Derby parties are LEGENDARY) and for the last few years that we have been friends, I have been either out of town or otherwise engaged during all of the Triple Crown races (what are the odds?) and so I have missed all of her gatherings. All of them. And I have been devastated because like I said, her Derby parties make Martha Stewart look like an amateur.  Actually - everything Miss Mary does makes Martha look like an amateur. 

Anyways, long story long, not only was I in town this past weekend but I had no plans and so I was able to attend the Belmont Stakes party. Now Belmont is not nearly on par with The Derby in terms of pomp and circumstance (or signature cocktails). Nor does it quite measure up to The Preakness.  But a horse race is a horse race is a horse race (and an excuse to wear fancy headwear). And a party at Miss Mary's is on par with nothing short of awesome so I was excited.

It was my responsibility to bring a pick-up - which I had to clarify since it was a term I was unfamiliar with, and actually at first, I was thinking set-up, which is the liquor you bring in a brown paper bag to places that don't serve liquor, but which do serve things you can mix with liquor (like Coke or Sun-Drop).  Unless I am confused in which case a set-up is the Sun-Drop, Coke, and maraschino cherries you bring to mix with moonshine. I can't remember.

Thankfully, a pick-up is neither. It's fancy-speak for an appetizer. And while my original intention was to make corn, mushroom & bacon empanadas (so appropriate for a NY horse race, right?) our local grocery store didn't have frozen empanda wrappers (despite the large Mexican population in this town and the extensive selection of other Mexican foodstuffs) and I was lazy as all hell didn't feel like making empanada dough from scratch so I wound up grabbing a tube of Pillsbury pizza dough and making a free form Mexican corn, mushroom & salami pizza instead. (And anyone who busts my balls over the fact that salami isn't Mexican can just bite me. I had a bunch of salami in the house and no bacon and the first rule of clever cooking is use what you have. Also? The salami was pre-sliced so any salami jokes are officially null and void.)  Meanwhile (she sings sweetly), the pizza was super easy to make and extraordinarily delicious. I highly recommend you give it a whirl. Here's how:

Add some olive oil to a large saute pan and heat it up. Add 1 large tablespoon of chopped garlic and 3 large scallions, white and green parts chopped up.  Saute for about 30 seconds until things start to sizzle and pop. 

Add to the pan 10 slices of hard salami (or bacon or any other processed pork product you may have in your fridge) sliced and diced.  Also add 1 11-oz can of corn and about a cup and a half of diced mushrooms. I used baby bellas but any kind of mushroom (except the druggy kind) is fine.  Cook the whole mess for a few minutes until it's no longer raw. I know - helpful instruction right? I wanted to say "cook it until it's cooked through" but I didn't think that would be useful either. The whole point is you don't need to cook it to death because it's going in the oven where it's going to be cooked even more. You just don't want it 100% raw and you want to give the ingredients a chance to meet and mingle and get to know each other a little. 

While you're cooking everything down to a semi crisp-tender stage (no more than 5 - 6 minutes on medium high heat), you want to season it. I used a pre-mixed Southwest seasoning from Penzey's, some salt, and some Texas Pete hot sauce.  At the very least I recommend salt & pepper. Hot sauce of any kind if you want it spicy. And if you have some taco seasoning or chili seasoning, sprinkle it in. It can't hurt.

As for the dough, I grabbed a tube of Pillsbury pizza dough. I don't remember what size. It wasn't the super, duper extra large size. And it wasn't the mini size. So I am going to go with the Goldilocks version where it was "just right."  Now I had problems rolling it out because I originally attempted to make mini pizzas and when that didn't work I had to cobble together my efforts which resulted in a free form crust. Nonetheless, you should be able to sprinkle some flour on your counter or table and roll out the dough a little less spastically than I did.

Once you roll it out, slide it onto a cookie sheet or baking tray that's been greased with Pam.  And then spread your delicious corn-mushroom-meaty topping all over, leaving just a wee bit on the edges for a crust, To top off the whole shebang, you'll need queso fresco which is that crumbly, mild Mexican white cheese. I purchased a 10-oz wheel and used about 3/4 of it. I just broke off pieces and crumbled it on top.  Then plunk the whole thing in the oven.

As far a time and temperatures, follow the instructions on the pizza dough tube (unless your oven is as possessed as mine in which case godspeed and godbless or 10 minutes at 3 clicks from the far right).  Anyways...this is what you should wind up with:

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Actually yours should probably be a little less oblong, but no less tasty. And if it is oblong, who gives a fuck? Still tasty!!!

Anyways I highly recommend this for all of your pick-ups or NY horse races or both or neither. I just highly recommend it in general. Too bad the Internet isn't scratch & sniff.

 

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Apologies.  I had every intention of writing an original post (about self pity no less) over the weekened but then Dad gave me an advance copy of his new book with James Patterson, Kill Me If You Can, due out on August 29 and sorry - productive blogging lost out to reading what I will here and now claim to be THE BEACH READ OF THE SUMMER.  Exclamation point. Exclamation point. Exclamation point.

However, I am still plowing my way througk Katie Couric's The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives and it continues to impact me, prompting me to share other people's words until I can find my voice again to share my own.  When I read the following essay on failure by Tavis Smiley, PBS Host, Author & Philanthropist, it practically jumped off the page and shook me by the heart.   

Fail Better

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

 

The words of the great writer and poet Samuel Beckett.  Words that I have learned to live by.

 

Anyone who has ever succeeded in any human endeavor will tell you that he learned more from his failures than he ever learned from his successes.  If he's being honest. 

 

But a funny thing happens when "success" becomes an individual's dominant definer. Very few people want to then actually acknowledge the mistakes they've made along the way.  That's unfortunate, because it promulgates an artificial concept of "success."  By articificial, I mean the notion that people become successful without what I call "success scars."  Let's be clear. There is no success without failure. Period. And usually a lot of it.

 

I used to love Michael Jordan's "Failure" commercial for Nike. You might recall it:

 

I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.

I've lost almost 300 games.

Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot...and missed.

I've failed over and over and over again in my life.

And that is why I succeed.

 

Powerful stuff.

 

When you think about it, Beckett was right. Life is ultimately about failing better. Every day that you wake up, you get another chance to get it right. To fail better. We have to learn to think of failure in a different way. To think of failure as a friend, really.  A friend who, if embraced, can usher us into new experiences, exposures and excellencies.

 

Just look around-- there are examples everywhere of people who have failed up.  Others have done it, and you can, too.

I am the first one to tell people that I don't do something if I think I might fail. As an OCD, overly-neurotic perfectionist, failure is simply not an option.  But thanks to Tavis Smiley, I am going to stop thinking of failure as an enemy, and start thinking of failure as a necessary part of the path to a more successful life.

PS If you're like me, you don't remember the Michael Jordan "Failure" commercial for Nike. Thank God for ex PayPal employees with something to prove for YouTube:

 

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