Monday, January 28, 2013

Stew, Cookies, and Ventriloquism

What a weird, yet productive day!

The weather has been gloomy, rainy and overcast, so I certainly did not get my motivation from sunny skies.  And I feel bad that my doggie has gone  2 days without a walk, but I cannot bring myself to be one of those people who walks their dog in the pouring rain.  I would love to follow one of those people home.  Does the wet dog just shake all over their house, spraying muddy water everywhere?  It's a mystery to me, and until I find a nice, clean, non-smelly answer to rainy dog-walking, I'm out.

Since I've established this "no housework on Sundays" rule for myself, there was plenty of laundry awaiting my attention.  I know, fascinating stuff.  This was also the morning I had set aside to try out my Crock Pot for the first time--a Christmas present from my brother and sister-in-law.  It has been sitting on the counter, out of its box, for a week, luring me to use it.

I decided to make beef stew.  Hubby loves beef, and I rarely (ha) cook it.  At 8:30 this morning I was chopping garlic, onions, carrots, potatoes, coating the meat, etc and tossing it all into the pot.  Everyone on Facebook is always raving about their Crock Pot--and I have felt in a bit of a rut with cooking lately--so I decided to ask for one.  Because of these magical testimonials, I felt compelled to stand over it for the first several minutes after putting all of the ingredients in and turning the dial...I'm not sure what I was expecting.  Surely no recipe that needs to cook for 6 hours is going to make any major transformations in just a few minutes.

Happily, though, transformations and Crock Pot magic did start to occur.  The old adage is wrong--a watched pot does boil--you just have to wait an hour or two.  Soon the house began filling with wonderful smells (I knew it was more than the remnants of garlic on my fingers,) and, after 5 hours, presto.
Keep in mind that stew is not meant to be beautiful, which was, obviously, accomplished today.
 I did learn one thing, best to let the stuff sit for a little bit to cool it down and congeal.  We discovered this after a few "oos!" and "aahs!" as we bit right into it.  I will say, honestly, that I think it smelled a lot better than it tasted, but it smelled fantastic, which means it tasted pretty good.  I'm excited to try other recipes.  We ate it with rolls and a fruit salad on the side.  Not bad for a beginning attempt, I think.

My foray into Crock Pottery made me want to try something else.  I had the time, so why not?  This Friday I'm going to a chocolate-themed party and I wanted to do a trial run with the recipe I'm bringing.  Last year, in my attempt to be exotic, I took a chocolate fondue with wafers and fruit for dipping.  I'll be the first to say, it wasn't that good.  I definitely jumped into the deep end of the pool with that one.

After researching recipes, I had narrowed it down to 3--chocolate-dipped macaroons, chocolate-filled crescents, or chocolate bread pudding.  The macaroon recipe seemed tailored to my abilities, so I tried it.  I love easy recipes that do what they say they are going to do, and look like much more work went into them than actually did. 
Yes, I actually made these.  Recipe on
I have to include what Hubby was doing while I was making the macaroons.  He's on his final night of the graveyard shift tonight, so he'd been sleeping that fitful graveyard sleep for a few hours.  As I was spooning the coconutty mixture onto the parchment paper, he was looking up some of his favorite songs on the iPad and turning up the speakers we have in the kitchen.  So I was preparing these with Marty Robbins, Ronnie Milsap, and, of course, Hubby, serenading me.  That was the best part.. and it made for a pretty good afternoon.

So where does ventriloquism come in?

After Hubby left for work I was browsing on Netflix at my computer.  I love coming across quirky documentaries, and today I found a great one.  It is called Nina Conti:  Her Master's Voice.  I had heard of Nina Conti because she is an incredible ventriloquist whose videos are all over YouTube.  Her acts are funny and really clever.  The reviews were favorable, the doc was only an hour, so I hit play and just sat watching on the iMac.

I highly recommend watching her act on YouTube before watching the film.  There's a great one HERE.
It was really interesting!  It's basically her about her pilgrimage from the UK to Kentucky.  She was there for 2 reasons: to attend a ventriloquism convention, and to donate one of her mentor's puppets (he had recently passed away) to a museum.  You see how this otherwise shy person exerts her personality and humor through these alter egos.  Most of her talking is done through the puppets (who are very witty, by the way.)  She is so good at separating herself from the puppet that you almost forget that she is the one making it come to life.  Her interactions and interviews with other ventriloquists at the convention are equally fascinating.  It turns out that people who choose this vocation--and it really is a vocation--have a lot in common.

So that was my day, from smelly garlic hands, to macaroon success, to watching wooden heads come to life.  Not your typical day, but a good one.

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