Monthly Archives: July 2008

comfort food: macaroni and cheese

one of my favorite comfort foods

Macaroni and cheese: one of my favorite comfort foods

What with the events of the week, when I chose a menu for this week’s Wednesday night Chalice Night dinner at church I wanted to serve comfort food. I decided on tomato-basil soup, macaroni and cheese, tossed salad, and chocolate-chip cake, all made from scratch (well, except the croutons in the salad).

Although the past couple of weeks I’ve had leftovers (summer attendance is light), this week I ran out. A few people told me they came specifically because of the menu. This kind of home cooking speaks to people. It’s “like mom used to make.”

The next time you want something incredibly delicious, warm, and satisfying, make the following macaroni and cheese. It isn’t difficult, and although it takes longer than mac ‘n’ cheese out of a box, the results are so overwhelmingly superior that it’s worth every minute. Because I ran out last night, I made more this evening, so I could have some. It’s in the oven as I write this.

Macaroni and cheese

6 oz elbow macaroni
2 cups small-curd cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
8 oz American cheese (I use generic Velveeta)
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Boil the macaroni according to package directions. Don’t overcook it; you don’t want it to be squishy.

While the macaroni is cooking, grease a 2-quart baking dish. Place in it the cottage cheese, sour cream, and egg, and mix well.

After trying to find an alternative to saying “Cut the cheese,” I find there is no suitable variation. Cut it into chunks an inch or two across — you don’t have to be exact — and mix them into the cottage cheese mixture. (My friend and co-Wednesday-night-conspirator Jack tells me that this mixture in general, and the cottage cheese in particular, looks disgusting. You may think so too. Don’t worry; everything will turn out fine after a little time in the oven.)

When the macaroni is done, drain it, and then pour it into the baking dish. Mix well. No, the cheese isn’t going to melt now — the ingredients are all too cold from the refrigerator. It’s OK.

Put the dish in the oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove the pan and stir carefully but thoroughly, so all the melted cheese is mixed in.

Return the pan to the oven and bake another 15 (if you want it set but not brown) to 30 (if you want it brown and a little crunchy on top) minutes.

Yummmm. Time for me to eat.

a church just like mine

Two days ago, a madman walked into a church just like mine (and only four hours away from mine) and opened fire, killing two people and injuring others.

Compared to many religions, Unitarian Universalism is a tiny denomination; we have maybe 100,000 members in the United States. So this tragedy hits extra hard — particularly because the man wielding the weapon didn’t choose a church at random. No, he deliberately planned to attack the Knoxville UU congregation because of its liberal social policies. He hates liberals, says the letter he left in his truck; he hates gays. Apparently, while he was shooting, he was shouting hatred for all to hear.

The banner at my Louisville, KY church reads, Civil Marriage Is a Civil Right.

The banner at my Louisville, KY church reads, "Civil Marriage Is a Civil Right."

High on one of the outer walls of my church hangs a banner that says “Civil Marriage Is a Civil Right.” My congregation of about 300 people are very progressive in our politics: I’d estimate us to be 90% pro choice, 95% Democrats, 100% supportive of gay rights. UUs don’t adhere to a specific creed; rather, my church includes atheists, humanists, pagans, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and those who create their own spirituality.

Many beliefs, but one congregation. Why do we come together? Because we find truth and meaning in the seven principles that all Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
  • Although we have no common prayers or mantras, we recite a covenant each Sunday. UUs everywhere speak a variation of these words each week:

    Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law. This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.

    We are liberal. We are welcoming to all. And for this, a man decided people just like me deserved to die.

    missing the wind in my hair

    I really, really miss going for long drives in the country in our 1971 Cutlass Supreme convertible. Normally, at this time of year, we’d be taking it out at least once a week to drive for an hour or more through the rolling hills and fields of Southern Indiana, stopping for ice cream in the twilight on the way home.

    This summer we haven’t had the convertible out once.

    It’s been partly because it’s needed a tuneup. But mostly the fault lies with gas prices: thanks to the old-style 8-cylinder 350 engine, driving our big red beauty now costs about 40 cents per mile.

    Sigh.

    you can do a lot in 48 hours

    Suppose you had a camera, some friends, and 48 hours to make a film 4 to 7 minutes long. No, you don’t get to choose the movie’s genre — you have to select it out of a hat, and it may be anything from Fantasy to Horror to Comedy to Romance. Ideas bubbling in your head? Well, hold on a sec: you also have to include a specific character, line of dialogue, and prop. Ready, set, go!

    These are the basics of the 48 Hour Film Project. Last year I went to a screening of a group of Louisville films made as part of this summer weekend of fun and madness; this year, my entire family was fortunate enough to be part of a movie-making team. In 48 hours, from 7:00 p.m. last Friday until 7:00 p.m. Sunday, we made a short film that fell into the Detective/Cop genre.

    The team was headed up by my friend Tim, who has made an extremely funny KinoLouisville film with one of his sons. Once we started filming, that son ran the camera; his other son kept an eye on the sound. A friend of the sons spent much of Saturday with his arms overhead, hoisting a boom mike. (All of these guys are big, in the football-player sense. It was like making a movie in the company of friendly giants.) My son and I wrote much of the script, with contributions from the others; my daughter helped plan the various shots; I was the crew caterer and helped with continuity; and my husband did some driving and assorted other jobs. My daughter, my son, and my mother all appear in the film.

    Tim got the genre and other required elements Friday evening. We gathered in an office that had approximately 50 linear feet of whiteboard, and began brainstorming. Over the course of about 4 hours, our plot progressed from a hamster named Global Warming (“But what about Global Warming?” “Don’t worry, he’s fine, right over there in his cage”), to a female runner who was a serial killer at night (weapon of choice: a shotput), to a dark story about a frustrated small-town cop, to our final plot, which revolved around a day in the life of an exceedingly zealous Neighborhood Watch patrolman.

    The next morning, we all invaded Tim’s house, had breakfast, split into groups, and began writing a script, planning shots, gathering and purchasing props, and scouting locations. By mid afternoon the preamble work was finished and shooting began. About 7 hours later, filming was finished. Tim and his son became temporarily nocturnal and stayed up all night editing. (I forgot to mention their immensely talented friend who wrote an entire score for the film during the middle of Saturday night.) They finished adding music and making final changes Sunday afternoon, and turned in the finished film Sunday evening. Tim wrote a blog entry about the process on the 48 Hour Film Project site.

    Our film and all the other Louisville films will be showing at assorted times on Wednesday and Thursday. If you’re in Louisville and would like to see them at Village 8, they make for a highly entertaining evening. We’re in Screening Group B (team name Fools & Film). The film project is also happening this summer in these U.S. cities.

    The entire process was hugely, phenomenally entertaining and rewarding from start to finish, and I can’t wait to see the final result! At some point the films will be available online and I’ll include a link so you can share in the adventures of Billy, his bright yellow scooter, a crime scene involving a dead squirrel’s chalk outline, and the vital information to be found in an overstuffed garbage can.

    The Dark Knight

    It’s everything you’ve heard and read, and more.

    I don’t remember the last time I was up until 3:30 a.m. We (me, my husband, my two kids, my mother, and my daughter’s boyfriend) arrived for the 12:05 a.m. showing at 10:00 p.m. By that time the center section of the large theater was nearly full, but seats were available in the back row — and that’s an excellent viewing location in a stadium setup.

    Pre-show entertainment

    Being in the back offered the benefit of protecting us from getting smacked in the back of the head by the beach balls that were flying around. Throughout the 2-hour wait, beachballs spontaneously appeared and disappeared like magic, passed up and down and around and bouncing off the ceiling until a theater attendant appeared (she confiscated 2 of them early on), vanishing for a while, and then making a sudden reappearance from under various seats.

    A boy of about 8 spent much of the time fielding balls that made it all the way to the front of the theater, happily running back and forth through the neck-breaker rows and tossing the balls into the crowd. When it got close to midnight, a guy in the center stood up, quieted the crowd, and thanked the boy on behalf of everyone; the kid received a standing ovation and chants of “Kid in front! Kid in front!”

    There were a couple of killjoys who popped the ball when it came to them or kept it and refused to play. We wondered what such un-fun people were doing at a midnight showing of a Batman film. The crowd reacted to them by chanting “You suck!” and then managing to come up with more beachballs, seemingly from nowhere.

    At one point my mother went out to the restroom, and when she came back in, a beachball landed in her hands. The crowd of teens and 20-somethings was momentarily concerned; would this person of another generation stop the fun? But no: she whacked the ball back into action. Cheers erupted; her grandchildren were thrilled; and she was applauded all the way up the steps to her seat.

    In addition to watching the beachballs fly, we enjoyed a panorama of Batman- and Joker-inspired clothing and makeup. Green hair and makeup abounded, as did cowls. One guy came dressed in a full-body Batman suit; another had a brightly colored utility belt of the kind featured in the original Batman TV show. Many people had Batman accessories; a guy in the back row stood up occasionally and held a batarang in front of the projector light so it accompanied the actions of the people in the pre-show commercials.

    Yes, we were treated to 2 hours of an endless loop of repeating movie-theater ads. I believe we saw the loop 6 times. This led us all to wonder: here’s a packed, captive audience seeking movie entertainment. Why not compile every trailer for every possible upcoming movie, and show them during the wait? As it was, the time went fairly quickly; but I would have loved to watch an hour or two of previews.

    The main event

    The film is indescribably excellent. The cast are a stellar ensemble. Heath Ledger is phenomenal. For months I’ve watched every trailer and leaked scene, but they give no clue as to the actual power of his performance. He has several scenes in which he says and/or does things that are profoundly, mesmerizingly creepy.

    Actors, plot, cinematography, effects, and soundtrack merged in a seamless flow that pulled me in and held me tight. I’m not going to detail the plot (because you should see it yourself) other than to say that yes, it’s a dark film, but not excessively so; and there were a couple of significant surprises. As the story twisted, turned, and neared its climax, I didn’t want it to end.

    As we drove home, my husband had two questions for us: 1) Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. 2) Would I see it again? You’d better believe it. The next 3 days are booked, but I’ll be back as early as possible next week; and I’ll preorder the DVD from Amazon as soon as it’s available.

    And why are you reading this? Why aren’t you in a movie theater? You should go. Now.

    how to get me to open my wallet in a hurry

    Offer me a chance to win a trip the Democratic convention and a private meeting with Obama before his acceptance speech.

    Just the clip of him speaking on the donation form gives me shivers.

    Sure, you can click the link and enter the drawing without donating. But another $25 is a small price to pay for the chance of seeing him win the White House.

    Which reminds me: my new shirt came in the mail:

    lost in translation

    https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41g6gTQYtEL._SL500_AA280_.jpgMy daughter drives an old Volvo that doesn’t have a port for an iPod cable. We originally got her an adapter that played her iPod via the cassette player. When it broke after a few months, we looked for an alternative. It arrived from Amazon yesterday: the Eforcity 3-in-1Charging and Car Holder FM Transmitter. She plugs it into the car’s cigarette lighter (yes, the car is old enough to have one of those), tunes the radio to an unused frequency, and plays her music through the radio.

    If I were to write instructions for using this gadget, they’d go something like this:

    1. Set your iPod in the cradle, and adjust the arms on each side so they hold the iPod firmly.
    2. Plug the cable into the iPod.
    3. Plug the cigarette-lighter adapter into the car’s cigarette lighter.
    4. Turn on the car radio, and locate an unused frequency.
    5. Turn on the iPod, and you’re ready to rock.

    Here are the actual instructions printed on the package insert. (Step 2 is my favorite.) Note that the punctuation is as written:

    1. Insert some cigarette ends of iPod car kit in some cigarette devices of automobile of yours, and adjust the suitable angle, so that your convenient operation iPod.
    2. Draw back both arms, put your iPod into and equal to the urgent both arms , let your protection firmly of iPod among them .
    3. Will charge the plug and connect it on the base interface of iPod, in this way you can charge while listening to the music .
    4. Choose the transmission frequency of this equipment according to the local frequency situation of radio station , the switch is presetting frequency to stir the frequency band , try one’s best to avoid the frequency of the local strong radio station , then open wave band , FM of auto radio , of you , is it search platform or manual to search set let auto radio of you receive frequency that you preset automatically to choose, in this way you can listen to iPod stereo music of high-fidelity taken the place of to you through iPod car kit device .

    Parts of step 4 are almost haiku-like:

    then open wave band
    FM of auto radio
    of you

    My daughter thinks the manufacturer wrote the instructions in Chinese and then ran them through a translator. Just to see what would happen, I took my version of the instructions, translated them to simplified Chinese on FreeTranslation.com, and then translated them back to English on Babel Fish:

    1. Establishes you in cradle aspect iPod, on adjusts the arm nearby each, therefore they have iPod firmly.
    2. The plug enters to the iPod wire.
    3. The plug enters to automobile’s cigarette blasting machine’s cigarette blasting machine switch.
    4. Turns on the car radio, discovers frequency which has not used.
    5. Is decided in iPod, prepares the jogging with you.

    I think that (thankfully) technology has a long way to go before the writer/editor’s job becomes obsolete.