Rat Bastid

To celebrate the three-day weekend (I guess), GF and Wee One got sick.

Either I’m next on the list or I’m not going to get it at all; time will tell. First it was Wee One. She started with the vomiting and the diarrhea, but it all seemed to be gone after about a day or so. As she was coming down off of it, GF started in. So she’s been nauseated all day.

Assuming I don’t get sick, the only important way in which this all affects me is that I had to take Wee One to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s, which is located not in the city proper but in a nearby suburb called Glen Burnie.

A neat little Scottish name, that. My mother thought so, anyway. She was all hot to see Glen Burnie because it sounded so cool and Scottish. I had to break her heart when I took her there. Thanks a fricken LOT, Glen Burnie.

Aaaanyway. So we go to Chuck E. Cheese’s and while the layout is different from the other ones that I’ve been in, the concept is still the same: Banquet-length tables set end-to-end and festooned with logo’d table covers and plates. Several parties are going on at the same time and, since I don’t know ANYBODY, I have to ask around until I locate the right party. The kids are off playing just now; pizza and other party accoutrements will come later. OK, good enough. I excuse myself for a little while to go pick up drugs and chicken broth for GF.

I get back and it’s nearly pizza time. The kids are all waiting and finally the girl comes out. She dishes out two slices of pizza and then just disappears. So I’m left to dish out the pizza to a bunch of kids whom I don’t even know. I’m not complaining exactly; at least it gave me something to do. But where the hell did she go?

From pizza, they move on to bringing out the birthday cake and launching the mechanical band into full action. They also pull a curtain around the mechanical Chuck E. Cheese so that the "real" one can emerge. And lemme tell ya: nearly every kid in the room knew the drill and was ready for Chuck. Wee One asked me if she could give Chuck E. a hug when he came out. Sure, I said.  The music comes on and the robots start moving and Chuck E. comes out through a side doorway. Now, the person in the Chuck suit has just so much time before he/she/whatever has to go into a song-and-dance routine (the song being provided by the overhead speakers), but there’s apparently always a small crush of kids who want to give him a hug. There’s only so many that Chuck can get in, early on. Wee One tried hard to get Chuck’s attention, but no such luck; the hapless teenybopper in the rat suit had to go into the routine. Well, this didn’t sit very well with Wee One, who is a bit of an attention whore. She folded her arms and glared at Chuck E. Cheese while he did his bit. Ordinarily she’d be bopping and dancing with the best of them, but it wasn’t going to happen this time.

Well…not until the second time the chorus came around, anyway. By then, her hips were starting to sway back and forth as she stood there, still with her arms folded. By the end of the song she was dancing about with everyone else, and I guess all was forgiven by then. Except that, after the song was over, she still had to get his attention and get the hug. But at least he had time to give it to her, and even pose for a couple of pictures with some of the kids.

Incidentally, the pizza at Chuck E. Cheese is pretty dreadful, even for someone who isn’t from New York. That’s not just my pizza snobbery at work. I’ve just about despaired of finding good pizza in this town.  By now, I’ve got the definition of "good" with regard to pizza as meaning "doesn’t suck."

I Don’t Have to Complain EVERY Time

Our plans for tomorrow include having lunch at a place called the Lucky Dill. (The restaurant doesn’t appear to have a webpage; this link takes you to reviews at restaurants.com. The Citysearch review can be found here.)  This is THE best place to eat around here, hands down no question, especially if you’re a New Yorker and you’re missing the overstuffed sandwiches and attendant heartburn. You WILL be well-fed when you go there. I’m 13 hours from arriving and I think I’m filling up already. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, make the trip, bubbe!

Send More Italians!

Today I had to do an educational assessment on a student. I have no complaint with that, it’s part of my job. But for whatever reason, the student’s "zone" school is mine, but she’s attending a Catholic school that’s clear across town. Actually it’s in Dundalk, which is technically not in Baltimore City at all. Hey, I’m a trouper, I go where the work sends me. I’m like the wind. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Naturally, I take the smart tack and schedule the test early-ish so that there’s no reason to report to school first. That gives me a little time to sleep in or putter about the house for a little bit (guess which one won). I got to the school, did the observation, tested the child, all is well. Except for the part where a 10 year old reads like a first grader, but that’s part of the job, too.

Lemme tell ya, there is no good way to get from Dundalk back to school. Even Mapquest pretty much said "fuck it, I’ll just amuse myself" and sent me all over the place in a crazy-ass convoluted route. The good news is, the route took me through the Highlandtown neighborhood. So naturally I stopped in at DiPasquale’s for lunch. (They don’t have a website; the link takes you to a Baltimore Sun review.) There is NO PLACE BETTER in Baltimore for Italian food. They have an honest to god Italian deli with stuff that came straight from heaven. È bello!

THE best bread in town, bar none. And I’m pretty sure that they bring down a bunch of stuff from Brooklyn, NY, which is all right by me. The Sun (scusilo, the locals call it "The Sunpaper") seemed pretty impressed with the almonds with the edible gold and silver on them, but OK. That’s not too difficult to do. Go have a sausage and pepper sandwich the way it’s supposed to be eaten. Every other restauranteur in Baltimore, go and learn something. I ate at 11 AM. That was four and a half hours ago, and I’m still full.

A Faboo Recipe

When I first moved to Baltimore and decided that I wanted to have a holiday party, I figured that no party is complete without Egg Nog. But I didn’t just want to buy cartons of the stuff and put it out for guests to spike, no sirree. So I looked for a recipe for honest-to-god homemade Egg Nog. And I found:

Baltimore Egg Nog!  You can’t beat that!

I tweaked the recipe that I found a little bit and found that this works really well. Start early! Don’t wait until the last minute.

12 eggs, separated
2 cups superfine sugar (I put regular sugar in the food processor for 30 seconds or so)
1 cup brandy
1 cup peach brandy
1 cup rum
1 quart heavy cream
1 cup milk
nutmeg (for those who are so inclined)

Mix the egg yolks with the sugar until it’s all smooth (I use the processor for that part too). Add in the alcohol. Slowly stir in the cream and the milk. Refrigerate until everything’s cold, at least a couple of hours.

If it isn’t already, put the chilled mixture into the punch bowl. Beat the egg whites until they’re stiff. Fold them into the chilled mixture. Serve. Have the nutmeg available for those who like it on their Egg Nog.

Bon appetit!

Now We’re Cookin’ With Gas

Ecch. I fell asleep on the sofa last night. GF woke me up at about 6:30 and I actually managed to sleep some more, till a little after 9. And now we’re off to the races, cooking-wise.

So far today, I’ve prepared:

  • Black-eyed peas (can’t have a holiday party in the south without ’em, I tell you what)
  • Boiled Shrimp
  • Antipasto Platter
  • Beef cubes in a fruit-based barbecue sauce

And it’s only what, a little after 1:00?

For the shrimp and the peas, I used the recipes from Consuming Passions, by Michael Lee West. It’s a collection of stories centered around food, with a bunch of great recipes stitching them together.  It’s somewhere between a cookbook and a memoir, and basically allows you to sit on her front porch and taste the South. A fun book, really.

Lengthy Day, This

Today we had what we in the biz call an "MRE" meeting. MRE stands for More Restrictive Environment, and if you want a student to go into a special program because of his disability, you have to have all kinds of documentation to justify the placement. You can’t just decide that he’s a pain in the ass and kick him out of school.

As usual, I can’t give away a lot of detail but this youngster is in a world of pain and misery and I do believe that the educational program that we put together is appropriate and can actually do him some good. Despite all the prior work that a couple of us did earlier in the week, there was still so much to go over, and we almost didn’t have everything we needed, which would have meant waiting another few weeks to get him the help he needs. So that entailed bulldozing a few things past my boss to convince him that we could do an adequate job.

This meeting took four hours. I came out of it exhausted and wrung out. We all did, I think. But I also think that we did a little more good in this little corner of the planet, and since I’ve done that twice now this week, I’m probably done with that sort of thing for awhile. Back to the treadmill of low-satisfaction stuff for me. I’m glad I at least get to do it now and again; that’s the stuff, man. That’s what the job is about.

We’re staging a Christmas Holiday party tomorrow night, so I did some almost-last-minute shopping this evening and got to cooking. Tonight I made baked ziti and my world-famous meatballs that my mother accidentally invented. I’m also soaking beans to make black-eyed peas tomorrow. I’ll have macaroni & cheese, a garden salad, some of my homemade Boursin, and a few other odds and ends. Yeah, them’s eats.