August 2007


In a couple of hours I’m off to the OB-GYN. There’s no better way to start your weekend than with a visit to the nether regions doctor, right girls?? My prediction: She’ll try to push some sort of pills on me. Because doctors always do. I still remember the look of shock on my former doctor’s face when I told him that I didn’t want to take birth control pills, thankyouverymuch.

This new doctor is a woman. I’ve never had a female OB-GYN, so it’ll be interesting to see the differences in bedside manner. My former doctor was also my mom’s doctor, and he actually brought me into the world (well, my mom did the pushing, he did the catching).

I haven’t had a check-up in three years (gasp!), so I wonder if there will be cobwebs in there! ūüėÄ

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The West magazine photo shoot went well (as far as I know, but I didn’t get to see the final pictures, so right now the photographer could be pulling out his hair and wondering how in the world he was going to fix those shots of the god-awful cooking teacher with the crooked apron and maniacal smile… And I would never know).

I realized something very important from this experience: I could NEVER become a model.

I was standing there, slicing a peach, and the photographer barked, “Now, look up and smile as if we had just entered the kitchen.” I did my best Martha Stewart ‘oh, it’s you!’ impression. “OK, now smile a little less,” the photographer suggested. I turned down the voltage, and he said, “You don’t look genuine, relax your features.” So I relaxed my features, and he said, “But now you’re not smiling.” No, but I am holding a very large knife, and I’m not afraid to use it.

“Now turn your body.” So I did, but it’s kind of hard to turn your body while you’re holding on to a big chef’s knife and a freshly cut peach, dripping with juice. “Not too much,” cried the photographer. So I turned back. “Now your apron is crooked,” cried the art director, jumping up to re-adjust it.

“Now, close your eyes for a second and open them,” called the photographer. I did, and as I was trying to focus, a huge flash exploded in my face. You know that deer-in-headlights look? Not very flattering. “Now try a relaxed pose,” he suggested. I put my hands on the table and leaned forward. “No, that’s too far forward, try something else,” he demanded. Something like what? Should I straddle the prep table? I’m a culinary teacher, not a model, for Pete’s sake!

I wonder if Tyra Banks could make a Peachy Ceviche as yummy as mine…

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When I moved to the U.S., I realized something very odd: People don’t like talking about how much money they make. In Mexico, it’s very natural to discuss your salary and compare it to those of your friends. In the U.S., however, salaries are a hush-hush topic. Sure, it’s acceptable to show off your money, but it’s not acceptable to talk about figures. Go figure.

When I was growing up, my mother never had any money of her own. My parents had a family business and all the money was ‘theirs’. She didn’t have problems with this because she managed the money and paid the bills. My dad never knew how much money was in the bank, and he didn’t care.

This arrangement followed me into my marriage, with the slight difference being that my husband controlled all the money. I had a bank account, but it had my husband’s money in it and he controlled what went in and out. I worked with him, and instead of earning a salary, he gave me a credit card that was closely monitored for ‘superfluous’ expenses each month.

I finally got myself out of this pickle when I opened my business. However, I still feel guilty when I balance my books and evaluate my net worth. I picture myself as a Gringott’s goblin, hunched over my calculator, crunching numbers and giggling gleefully as I scribble figures with a quill. I have to force the guilt aside and push those images out of my head. When I do, and I look at the financial results of three years of hard work, I am filled with so much happiness and pride!!!

Again, I know people feel uncomfortable talking about how much they make… But let’s just say that if I wanted to, I could take a year off from work! Not a bad way to end a week, huh?

Mr. T’s home is at the tail end of a row of horizontal condominium-type townhouses, snuggled within a housing complex.¬† The Homeowners’ Association rules state that dogs cannot be outside the house if not leashed.¬† Fair enough.

For the entire time he has been living there (nine years), Mr. T has blatantly ignored this rule.¬† When he moved in, he had a Sheltie named Morticia.¬† Although I never met her, I’ve heard that this wonder dog put Lassie to shame.¬† She was brilliant, well-mannered, loved cats, and responded unfailingly to Mr. T’s commands.¬† Because she was such a good dog, he would walk her around the complex without a leash, and nobody would complain (not even Crazy Cat Spinster).

Morticia died two years ago, just before I met Mr. T.  At the beginning of our relationship I introduced him to Morena, my wild child Terrier mix from the streets of Mexico, and she seemed to lift his spirits with her spunky personality and crazy quirks.

Morena is far from being the perfect dog: she loves to chase cats, she’s territorial (a defense mechanism from her days as a stray), and she barks at big dogs (wouldn’t you, if you were all of 15 lbs. and had been terrorized as a puppy?).¬† However, she’s also extremely loyal, unfailingly comes when I call her, can walk down busy streets off lead and stops at each intersection, and she can brighten anyone’s day when she grins or snorts (yes, she grins and snorts when she’s happy).

A few months ago, Checkers came on the scene.¬† Mr. T’s new puppy is a lovely mini Aussie, expensively carefully bred to have a mild-mannered disposition and a high level of intelligence.¬† Our two dogs took to each other, and at first Mr. T was happy that Checkers had a “big sister” to play with.

However, as dogs are prone to doing, Checkers started imitating some of Morena’s bad behaviors – mainly that of barking at other dogs when they approach.¬† We have tried to discourage this behavior in both dogs, but we seem to be at a loss for an effective solution.¬† I can tell that Mr. T is not thrilled with his dog’s new habit, and he blames Morena for setting a bad example.

As if this situation weren’t stressing the relationship enough (because the man can be quite neurotic about his dog), a few days ago Mr. T left the front door of the house open when I wasn’t around, and Morena ran out.¬† She smelled cat and instinctively chased Crazy Cat Spinster’s feline up the steps to the neighbor’s porch.¬† Crazy Cat Spinster threatened to lodge a complaint, and this morning Mr. T received a formal notice stating that if either of our dogs were caught off lead, we would be fined.

I apologized to Mr. T for my dog’s behavior and assured him that I would be careful to have her on lead when we were outside.¬† What the hell more am I supposed to do??

However, methinks my man has taken the drama a bit too far…

“I almost never had Morticia on lead,” he wrote in an e-mail (because apparently he was too chicken to call me and discuss this).¬† “Yet she was attentive to my verbal command at nearly all times.¬† She was trained quite persistently by me from an early age to not bark or show any sort of aggression towards other pets or children at any time. ¬†[Even the neighbor didn’t have a problem with Morticia, who was always offlead at home.] ¬†I have been working hard to train Checkers in a similar manner.”

He continued, “Morena has just been trained very differently. ¬†She has been allowed to have a sense¬†of ‘her territory’ that she is allowed to ‘defend’, and you condone and praise her somewhat aggressive actions at times, when it is justified from your more complex human perspective (for instance, if you, but perhaps not others, understand that she has no real aggressive intent beyond making noise).”

Because, of course, it’s really easy to make a street mutt understand that she no longer has to patrol her territory.¬† And have her comprehend that barking at 100 lb. Golden Retrievers is not kosher in the rich kids’ neighborhood.¬† And where does he get off saying that I “condone and praise” her actions???¬† Since when is a yank on her leash and a sharp “No!” followed by “Sit!” considered “condoning and praising”???

You know what REALLY irks me?¬† The fact that it was me… ME… who house-broke Checkers, because she was peeing all over the house and Mr. T didn’t seem overly concerned with her behavior. ¬† He never even thanked me.

And something else.¬† I’m sure if you were to ask Checkers and Morena whether their lives are ruined because they now have to pee while attached to a leash, their response would be, “Leash?¬† Leash means walk!¬† Walk, I wanna go for a walk! Waaaaaaaaaaalk!!”¬† What it boils down to is that he’s projecting onto his dog his feelings of frustration and castration of freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is this a case of “Dog snob who can afford to pay $1,000 for a perfect dog and looks down his nose at the less fortunate creatures of the world” vs. “Humanitarian girl who is doing her best with the crazy mutt she rescued from the streets of Mexico”???

I’ll leave you with Mr. T’s final words: “The priviledges of both Morena and Checkers¬†to walk, pee, and play ball outside my condo offlead are now revoked. ¬†I just want you to understand how we got to this point, and for you to appreciate why it is¬†important for both of us to train Checkers persistently in a very different manner than Morena was trained in terms of the¬†permissibility¬†of aggressive behavior.”

*sigh*  I need a beer.

Twenty bucks says that within a year, Ms. South Carolina will:

a) Land her own reality show, and

b) Marry a multi-millionaire.

For those who don’t know, Mr. T was sued by his crazy cat-loving, baby-hating, bikini-waxer, spinster next-door neighbor from hell, who claimed that the only reason the condo association decided to tent the building for termites was because of Mr. T’s unit.

See, back in March Mr. T took off a huge section of drywall and found termites on an exterior load-bearing wall, which belongs to the condo association. He immediately reported the damage and the condo association decided to tent. Moving out was a hassle, but all the other neighbors thanked Mr. T for pressing the association to take action. Crazy Cat Spinster, however, decided it was time to sue.

I received the lawsuit papers while Mr. T was in Italy, and I was rip-roarin’ furious! We tried to counter-sue her when we got back from our trip, but the coward skipped town and re-appeared the day before the trial, when it was too late to serve her.

We got the first indications that the day would go our way when we showed up at small claims court the morning of the hearing. The clerk asked Mr. T if he had counter-sued the plaintiff. Mr. T told him he had been unable to because she had skipped town, and the clerk asked if he would like to counter-sue her right then and there!

Of course Mr. T agreed, and the clerk told Crazy Cat Spinster, “We’re going to deal with this all on the same day. You can either go forward with the trial today or postpone until later.” WOOO-OOO!! Part-aaaayyy!! Crazy Cat Spinster had no choice but to agree to proceed with the counter-suit!

Word of advice to any nasty cat spinster neighbors reading this and plotting to groundlessly sue someone just because the justice system allows you to: Choose your victims wisely. Don’t mess with a Ph. D. who has spent twenty years at top-notch universities doing research and giving dissertations. Because if the man can argue a new scientific theory in front of a panel of highly-educated peers, he can certainly disprove your groundless, vindictive little case. I don’t think they have a Debate Club at waxing school…

If you’re ever in small claims court, here’s what NOT to do. She failed to provide Mr. T with “discovery”, a.k.a. all the documents she was submitting to court to prove her case. Then, when she was asked the reasons why she was suing Mr. T, she rambled on and on like a lunatic, whining and sniveling without ever making a coherent point. The evidence she submitted was pathetic. Imagine, she gave the judge pictures of all her flowers, to demonstrate just how much of a hassle it had been to move her plants during the tenting. Puh-leeeease!!

The judge was very annoyed by her incompetence, and before she had even concluded the presentation of her case, he cut her off to summarize her points. Then he let Mr. T have his turn, and my man creamed her! He had a five-section package of pertinent information, carefully labeled and highlighted, including case law, state statutes, and condominium rules & regulations.

Crazy Cat Spinster never once made eye contact with Mr. T, and were it possible to grow smaller and smaller with the refutal of each of her claims (like in the cartoons), she would have been no bigger than her ugly, mean cat by the time he was done with her.

The judge glowered at Crazy Cat Spinster and came just short of saying that she’d wasted the court’s time with her incongruent arguments. He ruled overwhelmingly in Mr. T’s favor, and my man and I happily left court hand in hand.

What started as a stressful morning turned into one of the most exhilarating afternoons of our lives as we celebrated this victory with a well-deserved lunch at P.F. Chang’s. To top it all off, when we got home and took the dogs out, Morena made a mad dash towards Crazy Cat Spinster’s mean ol’ cat. That’s my dog!!

So… I was getting ready to publish a “woe is me” post outlining my annoyance at my current profession, the envy I feel because all my friends are having children and I’m not, the silly arguments Mr. T and I have had in the past week, and the fact that I have a cold and it’s 90F outside.

But then a friend who runs a B&B contacted me to tell me that she had scheduled a photo shoot for me with West magazine this Friday for my cooking classes.

Me.  In West magazine.  With a published recipe.  And my contact information.

I shouldn’t stop reminding myself that when things seem to be going badly, it’s only because our energies are re-aligning themselves towards something new and better.

Now excuse me, I have to go figure out how to make and creatively plate ceviche with peaches.

Mr. T has a pair of friends (a couple) who are really flaky. Take today, for example. Mr. T called me while I was making dinner, to tell me that they wanted to go walk the dogs at the beach and would we like to join them. I sighed, because I was wearing nice clothes and didn’t feel like changing, plus I was making dinner and didn’t feel like having to reheat everything. However, I agreed to go because they’re his friends and the dogs needed a walk.

I turned off the stove, schlepped upstairs to change into short and running shoes, pulled up my hair in a ponytail, and went downstairs to wait for Mr. T. Ten minutes later I got a call from him again: His friends bailed out on the plans THEY had proposed.

I am a compulsive planner… DO NOT mess with my schedule, if you know what’s good for you. That’s just not nice, people.

Oh, did I mention I have PMS? Can you tell? Really? What gave it away??

In other news, today I had lunch with a good friend who’s a few days away from delivering a baby boy. Her husband is out of town, so our group of friends is taking turns “watching” her. We went to the mall, waddled around for 30 minutes, and had lunch.

While we were finishing lunch, she groaned and grabbed her huge belly. Oh shit, I thought. This is it! Dear God, why on my watch?? WHY???

I must have looked terrified, because she laughed and said, “Don’t worry, he just kicked.”

I sighed and thanked my lucky stars, because honestly, I couldn’t even remember where I had parked the car!

Picture in your mind a chocolate eclair. You know how the choux pastry is airy and light, yet surprisingly satisfying? Imagine its cream filling, carefully crafted with just the right amount of sweetness. Think of the chocolate sauce, flowing smoothly over the entire dessert and filling each crevace of the pastry with unforgettable richness that makes you smile with every bite.

If this description is making your mouth water, then twist on over to the movie theatre (if you haven’t already) and watch Hairspray, because it’s just as good as a chocolate eclair, or better!!

My cheeks were hurting from smiling so much!! It’s the epitome of the feel-good movie, perfectly cast, gloriously funny, and completely satisfying. GO SEE IT!!!

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