Thursday, June 27, 2013

Neil Gaiman drew me an owl

A few months ago Cynde posted on Facebook:

Just got my ticket to see Neil Gaiman in June

To which I commented:

Looks like I'm coming out to Phoenix in June

To which she commented:

Please do.  I have an extra ticket.


So I went out to Phoenix to meet one of my all-time favorite authors ever. It may surprise you that as much as I love books I've never been to a reading.  I have kind of an irrational fear of meeting people I really admire because it's just too fraught with danger -- namely, me doing my best impression of a weeping mute. I think I've told you the story of that one time I happened upon S.E. Hinton doing a book signing at the West Covina library (I was picking up tax forms, I think) and I could not bring myself to get in the line to meet her because I loved her too much.  The Outsiders was a really, really important book to me growing up and the thought of trying to express to her just how much it all meant terrified me.  All I could envision was me standing in front of her, holding back tears, and squeaking out, "" So I just stood there for twenty minutes, watching her sign books, like a creeper.

But I have no such childhood connection to Neil Gaiman so I felt confident that I could get a grip. And I did. 

I had high expectations (I didn't even try to manage them) and they were all met.  He was just like his books:  funny, witty, sweet, smart.  He read from his new book and a forth-coming picture book and both were great.  Plus, I've decided I want him to read everything to me - health labels on cereal boxes, street signs, the manual to my printer.  And he told stories and answered questions.  And then the signing started.  He told us that in the last 4 weeks he has signed over 20,000 books. He'll do an event at night and then travel to the next city and waiting for him in his hotel room are 500-1000 books to sign.  Fatigue, right?  So imagine how wonderful it was that after he had signed books all day and then sat and signed more books for 2 hours with many more hours to go, he was friendly and lovely to talk to.  I mean, seriously, he could not have been nicer.  He even drew me an owl.  And I wasn't a weeping mute.  I talked like a human being without a tear in my eye.  Maybe one of the best nights ever.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Another Summer, Another Sing Along

I celebrated the Summer Solstice by doing my favorite summer thing:  I went to a sing along. 

The theme was Pop Divas, which means that there was a lot of belting.  I mean, A LOT.  Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, we sang them all.  And we were killing it. We seriously put on a show.  I was too busy assuming the power stance and singing my guts out to notice but someone said that at one point half the crowd was watching us because we were so into it.  Look, if you're not going to throw your whole self into "Hero" then you may as well just stay home.  We ended with Bohemian Rhapsody (was there a bigger diva than Freddie Mercury?  No.) and I've decided that every sing along needs to end with that.  It was FUUUUUUN.

Some highlights:

This old guy, Bob, was sitting next to me and for about 15 minutes did nothing but tell me Irish drinking jokes.  Oh, Bob.  Well, first he started the conversation by telling me about how after he retired from working for the government he started looking for work and realized that acting seemed to be his best option.  So he got his SAG card and became an extra.  He's been in about 50 movies.  What a character. But ugh, the jokes. Also, he won one of the prizes.  It was his very first time there.  I've been to like a million of these and have never one.  Whatever, Bob. Enjoy your dumb free dinner at the fancy restaurant.

Remember Mock Turtleneck Guy?  He was back and wearing a blue mock turtleneck.  Seriously.  This guy is amazing.  And also, he is my new best friend.  After the show he and his wife walked by me and he stopped and said, "You girls are so much fun.  I hope you come to the next one." And I mentioned that we come to all of them and he said, "We know.  We see you all the time."  And then we chatted for a while and now I'm this much closer to figuring out why he only owns one (outdated) style of shirt. BFFs can know these things, right?

Also in the above link you will recall the Nickel Diner, our favorite downtown joint.  We went again and are still very much impressed.  The server remembered us from last August ("Hey, it's the singers!"), the owner also remembered us and chatted for a bit.  And they had my new favorite dessert:  Oaxacan chocolate bread pudding.  I don't know what they put in it but I wanted to nestle my face in it and tell it all of my deepest secrets.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's a Wonderful Town

My most favorite thing about this trip (obviously) was being with all of my sisters.  We're just really, really fun.  In relation to that, I love how we interact with people.  We talk to everyone.  We smile and say hi to every security guard, every waiter, every subway booth operator, every stranger on the subway.  Everyone is a friend.  And everything is exciting and fun.  We're like Buddy the Elf times five.
So here's my guide:
How to do New York City right with your 4 sisters
1.  There's a lot of you, but stay in one hotel room.  Because you'll laugh more.

We walked so much that first day we decided to soak our feet in the tub.  Shortly after this picture was taken there was a tub mishap and I nearly peed my pants from laughing so much. And I didn't even see it happen.  I just heard it. 
2.  Eat everything.  I'm not kidding.  If something looks good, stop and get it.  Look, there are so many subway steps to climb that you'll need the calories.
3.  But most importantly (and I'm very, very serious about this because I love you and want nothing but your happiness so I'm going to put it in bold caps) EAT RICE PUDDING AT RICE TO RICHES.  I don't know how I heard of this place but I did and it sounded awesome.  Not that I go nuts over rice pudding in general but I love a novelty food store.  So we went after lunch in Little Italy and sweet land of liberty it was hands down the Best Thing I Ate the Whole Trip.
They have all these hilarious signs up about how diets are dumb and people who tell you to eat healthy hate you.  But this was the funniest.


We got chocolate hazelnut, butterscotch, and coconut.  Gah.  The coconut was my fave but we started mixing the three and entered Nirvana. They'll ship you 40 oz. for $65.  Maybe worth it.

 4.  Maybe it will be raining a lot and you're soaked through because you brought your dumb tiny travel umbrella and the two items you really wanted at that bakery you schlepped all the way down to were sold out (although you got others that were divine and the chef was kind of a fox).  And maybe you think it will be a bit of a bummer, like I did, so you're not really looking forward to it.  But try out the 9/11 memorial.  It was, no surprise, moving.
5.  Do not pay what they ask at the Met. Because what they ask is $25.  Per person.  To look at art.  Um, no.  So they're going to ask you to pay the $25 but, surprise, it's actually free.  That's just the recommended donation.  So we sent Gina up because she knows how to get things done and when they said, "That will be $125," she said, "I have $10." And then they gave her the old side-eye but took it anyway.  Don't be bullied!  Art is for everyone!!
My favorite Degas!

6. Go to the Highline.  It is lovely.  And surprising.  And relaxing.  And peaceful in a very hectic city.  And I had the Second Best Thing I Ate there. (The Mess.  A brisket sandwich with some kind of oniony business from Smokeline.)
7.  Skip the Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity.  The real action is in the Hot Fudge Sundae.  Our friend Kelsie clued us in before we left claiming that it was crack fudge and she was not kidding.  For the first time in my life I wished for less ice cream in the bowl and more fudge. Also, make a reservation.  We walked right in while others were waiting outside in the rain.
For crying out loud, Serendipity.  I could barely lift that menu.
I'm not saying the frozen hot chocolate was bad, I'm just saying you'll want to marry the hot fudge sundae.
8.  Newsies is highly entertaining.  They changed the story line a bit and the end was kind of anticlimactic and the guy playing Jack Kelly was doing Christopher Walkin as Jack Kelly (So...we're...maybe...carrying the...banner?) but it was so much fun!  Loads of dancing, and the changes they made were actually really good. 
9.  Other things you might enjoy.  The tram to Roosevelt Island (I saw it on ANTM.  Thanks, Tyra!), the Wonder Wheel on Coney Island, Books of Wonder and the coconut cream donut from Donut Plant (Thanks, Val for those recommendations.) Chelsea Market where we did not see Bobby Flay but did eat really good food (of course we did).
And now, more pictures.
Is there anything better than a dessert display?
I love subway stop tiles.
We saw a William Eggleston photography exhibit at the Met that was astounding.  This was my favorite quote of his.
There was a mobile skate truck in Central Park that was playing music and renting skates, like it's 1985 and you're about to break your arm at SkateWay.
The rain gave me Hitler Bangs.  Camille (telling me a really juicy secret?) mercifully gave me a bobby pin and saved the day.
We came across this old church and cemetery.  Alexander Hamilton is buried there. Notice that this slab is coming off.  Creepy!
Sisters on the Brooklyn Bridge!
Sisters in Central Park!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Thanks Newsies

This trip to New York City started as a joke.  A few months ago at the usual Sunday night dinner Camille said, "I think we need to go to New York to see Newsies."  (Because if you were a girl growing up in the 90s you loved Newsies.) And we all laughed and planned out our imaginary itinerary. Imaginary because we're not the type to just fly to New York to see a musical.

So on Friday night as we were walking into the theater to see Newsies I turned to Camille and said, "Remember that night?" And we had a good laugh. It grew from a joke into a grand reality in a relatively short amount of time.

I'll give you the highlights with pictures soon (miracle:  I found my camera charger the night before we left) but for now I'll just tell you that from the moment we all got there to the time that we all left we did nothing but laugh. We saw amazing things and ate the best food (I fell in love with a  bowl of rice pudding.) and climbed a million subway stairs and were asked by a dozen people if we were sisters because we sure look like sisters and isn't it great that we all get along so well (Do people not get along with their sisters?  This is a mystery to me.) We played Where's Waldo in Grand Central Station.  We prancersized in Central Park. We had dance parties in every elevator. We ordered bagels at a very Soup Nazi type place and lived to tell. (You can imagine the number of Seinfeld references that were made on this trip.) It was basically a dream trip with my favorite people. My sisters are kind of the best.

More details soon.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Notebook Emergency!


I went to pick up a new notebook at Barnes and Noble and it wasn't there.  So I checked online and THEY HAVE DISCONTINUED IT!!!!! 


I get that being passionate about a notebook is kind of a weird thing, but when you write in them as much as I do you develop some preferences.  And this particular notebook had them all.  ALL!! And now it's gone. Wo to me!

For starters, it was perfectly bound with nice thick double rings that never bent out of shape. It had a sturdy black cover that simply said, "Notebook" with nary a pastel chevron or woodland creature on it (I like both pastel chevrons and woodland creatures, just not on notebooks).  The pages were thick so you could write on both sides and the ink wouldn't show through (I also have a pen preference:  the Pilot G2 .07).  And there were plenty of pages.  Enough to last me through a whole year of seminary.  But the really perfect thing about it was it's size.  It was big enough to put a lot down on one page but not so big that you couldn't stuff it in a bag, maybe 6x8.

If I had known they were going to end it all I would have bought 100 to last me a lifetime.

I'm deputizing all of you now.  If you see a notebook that meets my requirements please let me know.  I will buy dozens of them and then with the rest of my funds will erect a modest and tasteful statue in your honor.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Salad of All Salads

I make this salad ALL THE TIME.  And many, many times I find myself standing next to the refrigerator and eating straight from the giant bowl I store it in. Like I'm in a frat house or something.

Greek Salad

2 cup uncooked orzo
2 cups tomatoes (I like grape tomatoes because you don't have to cut them)
1 cucumber, chopped
1 cup feta
a few chopped up mint leaves (this is optional but I have a mint plant so why not)
Other things if I have them on hand like chickpeas, pine nuts, those little frozen pre-cooked shrimp.

Juice of 2 lemons - it should be about a 1/3 cup (I've also used lime juice or a mix of both in a pinch and it works)
2-3 T honey
1 clove of garlic (very finely chopped)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt & pepper

While the orzo is cooking get the rest of the ingredients ready (chop cucumbers and mint, defrost shrimp, toast pine nuts, mash up your garlic) and throw it all in a big bowl.  Put all your dressing ingredients in a blender (or use an emersion blender, or a whisk) and mix them all up until it looks dressing-y. Taste it.  If you think it needs more of something then add that in.  It's not rocket science. Sometimes I'll end up with really juicy lemons.  Sometimes I'll overshoot the honey.  It always ends up tasting great.  Drain the orzo and let it cool or rinse it if you're in a hurry (I know, you're never supposed to rinse pasta.  But whatever.) and mix everything together.  There should be more dressing than you feel comfortable with because eventually all that pasta will soak it up.  You'll be grateful you put so much in when you're eating out of the bowl the next day.

Note:  you don't have to use orzo, I suppose you could use whatever pasta you want but if you use bigger pasta you'll need more dressing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Old Timey Ice Cream

Camille has been posting pictures of her everyday life over on her blog.  They're quite good. 

She posted this picture of the family ice cream maker:

This is Old Faithful.  My parents got it for their wedding almost 41 years ago.  And it works like a champ. That's the motor on top which is attached to a large paddle inside the canister. The canister goes inside the bucket and you surround it with ice and rock salt.  This is old timey ice cream makin'.  We should hire a hipster with a waxed mustache to come work it for us.
A few times each summer we bring it out and make boysenberry ice cream.  We've tried other flavors when the berries haven't been so bountiful but boysenberry is our favorite.  My dad is traditionally in charge of manning the machine.  Someone has to keep adding ice and salt and make sure the lid stays on so salt water doesn't get inside.  It's a delicate process.  I did it once and I was a little nervous about ruining the whole thing.  Our happiness depends on it!
I know that there are newfangled machines out there that aren't so labor intensive.  But, much like our old popcorn pot, there's some sort of magic to it.  It just makes better ice cream.
Side note:  Don't you love the wood pile and wheelbarrow in the background?  It makes us look like homesteaders

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Breakfast of Champions

Slurpee before 9?  Why not.  It's finals week at the Institute and one of the kids who will be leaving on his mission in a few weeks, brought me one saying, "I thought I should do it just once before leaving."

I'm not going to argue if bringing me a Slurpee is on your pre-mission bucket list.

In other news, I'm off to New York for a few days with my sisters.  You read right.  All 5 Knecht girls will be strolling through Manhattan in what has essentially turned out to be a hunt for the best thing we can eat.  We have a google map set up for all the places we want to go to and probably half of them are restaurants, bakeries, pie shops, and one place that specializes in grilled cheese that is conveniently located across the street from our hotel. What's the best thing you've ever eaten in New York City?

Like a champion blogger, I have set up posts for the next few days.  Technology!  See you on the other side.

Monday, June 10, 2013

An afternoon of shopping

Things that make me look like my body has been put on top of two brown and serve sausage links: 

1.  Skinny jeans
2.  Brightly colored skinny jeans
3.  Brightly colored stretchy jeans
4.  Cuffed skinny jeans
5.  Cuffs of any kind
6.  Any form of capri/pedal pusher/cropped pants
7.  Shorts
8.  Genetics

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Art Society Week

It was Art Society Week.  And I do mean week.  Official meetings were held Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Because (big, heavy, weepy sigh) they moved this morning.

Well, they're in Utah for the summer and then will come back but won't live right across the street anymore.  And I'm not happy about it at all.  I've mentioned before how I'm in a super big fight with Utah right now because so many of my most favorite people live there.  It just got even bigger.  Seriously Utah!  You're the worst!

Their parents needed to pack up their entire place so Katie and I took the kids whenever we could.  All four of them.  We spent a lot of time coloring and painting and watching movies (and also looking at the covers of all the Harry Potter movies because they're not allowed to watch them yet but are obsessed with the books) and going for walks and soaking our feet in the hot tub and we made pizza and ice cream and pancakes with strawberries and I tried not to weep into their hair as we snuggled on the couch.

Ugh, I'm going to miss them. Thanks Heather & Rich for letting me a part of your lives.  Don't stay in (dumb) Utah forever!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Eau de Gym

Ok, so I know that I have a freakishly sensitive nose.  And I realize that that's my problem and not anyone else's.  So I put up with all the perfume and cologne that people wear.

But do you know where I shouldn't have to put up with it?  The gym.  Twice in two weeks I've had to leave a machine because a woman got on the one next to mine who was bathed in perfume.  I'm sure that both of them thought that it was helping, that instead of smelling like gym socks they smelled like a delicate mystery.  But do you know what happens when you try to mask your body odor with perfume?  You smell like body odor and perfume.  It doesn't hide anything.  But do you know what it does do?  It makes my face burn and my throat close up and my eyes water and my ears itch and my tongue go numb. It's hard enough to breathe when I'm galumphing on the treadmill.  It's nearly impossible when I'm sucking in the air from a hovering perfume fog. What's so wrong with putting on some deodorant and smelling like you've worked out, just like every other person at the gym?  We're supposed to stink.  If we don't stink then we haven't been working hard enough.

So, folks who wear perfume or cologne (I'm not saying you wear it to the gym, I'm just saying in general):  what would be an appropriate way to handle this? Would you be totally offended if someone mentioned to you that, for the sake of others, you toned down the smell?  Today, for example, I was only 10 minutes into my workout and there was no other machine available so I had to fight the gym rats to use the weights until one opened up on the opposite end.  I really wanted to say something but what do you say?  Or is it just me and I should just get over it.  Feel free to tell me that as well.  I can handle it. (Except that I really don't want to get over it.  I want everyone to stop wearing perfume.)

Dear Wealthy Benefactor:  I would like an in-house gym please.  Love, Rachel

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The camera came to us!

Notables from the Dodger game:

1.  We won.  Oh, what a relief.  And it was a great end.  This kid who was just called up and played his very first major league game got on base a few times and threw a rocket from the warning track to get the final out. Can you imagine?  I mean, you live your life working to get into the major leagues and suddenly you're there and you're killing it.  I bet he called his mom.

2.  We brought Angela, who is both a hilarious friend and a Dodger fan.  You can't beat that.

3.  You know how we always get on the Jumbo-tron?  We were really dedicated to the cause because we wanted it for Angela. But the usual camera guy was not having it.  He wouldn't look our way no matter how much we waved and danced and shimmied.  So around the fifth inning we were trying once again to get his attention when we hear someone say behind us, "You're looking in the wrong direction," and we turn around and there's a camera guy with a camera right in our faces and a second later we were up on the big screen.  You guys, the camera came to us! We've taken this to a whole new level. How can we even top that?

4.  A beach ball landed in Camille's lap.  She was paralyzed with fear.  We have a very strict rule of never touching beach balls because it cannot end well.  You either hit it back to the crowd and they continue to be ridiculous with it, or you hit it over the ledge to the level below and they throw pop corn at your head.  It's a lose-lose.  She managed to scuttle it back a bit and lived to tell the tale.

5. We took this picture with our beloved Sid: