Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986


1.Have you ever noticed that the face in the moon does not merely look like a generic old man with a moustache, but is exactly like Matthew Cuthbert from the Megan Follows Anne of Green Gables?
2. Me: “Do you like Parmesan cheese?”
Helpdesk Man: “It tastes like spew.”
Me: “But do you like it?”
Helpdesk Man: “Ehh, it’s alright.”
3. If you should hear the snortlepig telling you she pats winos, do not be alarmed. We took her to the zoo. And she did not pat the rhinos, merely ooed at them from over the fence, but it is sweet that she thinks she did. Maybe I can show her pictures of Europe and pretend when she grows up that we took her there.
4. I do not like audience participation. We went to a pantomime of Beauty and the Beast in the public gardens, and it was full of actresses chirpily cooing “Good morning!” Subdued mutter. “I can’t hear you!” Grudging rumble. “I said, good morning!” Pained bellow as the audience realises they are being held hostage and won’t get to the see the show unless they pony up with a yell. This always annoys me, but particularly when the initial response is more than adequate… which, however, was not the case yesterday. At any rate, I refused to be blackmailed and sat Britishly sulking until Belle abandoned her efforts to whip us into a frenzy – whether because she thought them a success or a failure, I do not care to speculate.


I am now an official scholar of the automobilial arts. I have a dodgy-looking temporary licence and everything. And while we’re on the subject, is it license or licence? I can never figure that one out, BA notwithstanding.

This weekend will be full of glamour and sparkle due to the annual Summer Festival, which is currently sitting soggily in the public gardens getting rained on. Assuming the lightning storm clears by tomorrow, Helpdesk Man and I will be moseying down at 9PM to watch Broadway on the Boardwalk, a collection of show tunes sung by the local operatics society. Then on Saturday the piggie and I will trot to a pantomime of Beauty and the Beast and a Food, Wine and Jazz festival – I’m not into wine and have no particular opinion on jazz, but the thought that there might be little bits of cheese to sample on toothpicks justifies the $20 entrance fee in my mind. On Sunday the main event will occur, the Sunset Symphony at which my own dear Helpdesk Man is performing along with his marvy young vocal collective. There will be fireworks, which I like muchly.

Add to that the zoo trip tomorrow, and I have four events for which I need to cook exciting snacks. Plus I have to finish a baby’s bonnet for a friend’s new baby today and go grocery shopping. It is an exciting time to be a Smokey.


Today I took the plunge and booked my learner’s licence test. It was exciting, and nearly didn’t happen – the grim-faced woman behind the desk informed me that my tenancy agreement was insufficient proof of address, and I sulked for a bit and contemplated going home before realising in a fit of (by my standards) brilliance that I could pop to the bank and get a proof of address form there. So I did. On my return the grim woman loosened up considerably – clearly realising I was not, after all, a lightweight but committed to the task, as a convert to Judaism who must be turned away three times by the rabbis – and paid several compliments to the snortlepig.

Unfortunately my calculated gamble of doing my hair in a hurry did not pay off. It turns out they take the photo before you take your test, not after. So my learner’s licence will feature me will a severely pulled-back librarian bun and a somewhat grim expression, the latter occasioned by the snortlepig trying to climb on my knee and saying “Milks!” as the flash went off. Ah well. Maybe it will impress the police.

My test is at 11:15 next Wednesday. Sadly they have just switched to computerised tests, not scratchies. I like scratchies. Scratch and sniff would be even better, but probably frivolous under the circumstances. At any rate, if I fail to blog about it you must assume the worst and be appropriately sympathetic.

Tomorrow my practically only small sister is coming over to make ravioli, and we will have Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee for dessert. Doesn’t it look luscious?

The Fridge

I cleaned the fridge today. I can very rarely say that. Interestingly, I was expecting to find all manner of unseemly smeg lurking under mould, but I didn’t. There was a small ramekin half-full of chocolate moisse I don’t remember making, but it only looked elderly, not grotesque. One could say it had acquired a certain gravitas – think Patrick Stuart, as opposed to post-earring Harrison Ford. And there was a jar of REALLY old hummus that I only threw out on principle – smelled fine, looked fine, but could conceivably have been in league with the Commies back in the day and the last thing my fridge needs is to be overrun by the Red Menace, innit. So it’s a mystery. Either Helpdesk Man has been being cleanly behind my back or I need to give the fridge a raise.

Anyhoo. Practically my only sister Betty Scandretti has tagged me for a weedy meme, Happy 101, or Ten Things That Make You Put the Gun Down Once More, For Now. I’m then supposed to tag a number of friends, that being the sort of thing that makes memes happy, but a) meh and b) hello, Aspie, “friends”?

Here I go.

1. Having a clean fridge. It just makes me want to curl up inside it and – hold on, we’re out of cheese. When did that happen? I distinctly remember not moving cheese when I cleaned the shelves. We had cheese. What the blazes is my fridge up to?

2. The last page of The Grapes of Wrath. Everybody I’ve spoken to on the matter finds it creepy as heck, but I don’t.

3. Olives. Ha!

4. Playing poker with Helpdesk Man. More so if I’m winning, or at least not bleeding chips to the point where he shoots me a withering glare and asks me to recite the rule about pot odds.

5. The snortlepig saying “Kees eyes, kees chin, kees nose, kees ears, kees chin, okay!”

6. Sewing, on the rare occasions that the needle isn’t coming unthreaded and the bobbin hasn’t run out unnoticed halfway through a long seam and the pattern doens’t require a degree in hyperspatial engineering to figure out and the pig isn’t drawing on the sewing machine with a pink felt tip pen and the fabric is still pleasing one several days after having purchased it, making one go “ooo” instead of “hrmm”, and everything is snortly.

7. Helpdesk Man comparing my cooking favourably to purchased foodstuffs, whether from a restaurant or particular supermarket brand.

8. Rediscovering an old interest after getting into a rut. I don’t mean like Willow and Xander. I mean like cooking. In theory, I love to cook, no? Ask people to describe a Smokey, and once they’ve gotten words like “crepuscular” out of the way and mentioned my unnervingly mobile upper lip, they’ll say “she cooks”. And I do. But sometimes I find myself making the same eight meals over and over again, feeling moop about the entire process. And then, aha! I get a book out of the libe about pasta-making, and the spark is rekindled. I had practically my only small sister Ruth over the other night and we made tomato fettucine in a cream and basil sauce, and it was delicious. So there.

9. Not being dairy-free. I do not mean to exhibit smugness in front of any Gentle Readers who come over in suppurating pustules when schmeared with cream cheese. But it is the truth. It makes me happy. Sometimes I’m eating a bowl of ice cream and I think “Gosh, I’m glad I’m not dairy-free”, and then I grate some cheese on top of the ice cream and slather it in custard. Or at least, I could. Unlike some.

10. I saw an inchworm one time. It made me happy.

A Surprise

Committed a near faux pas tonight. I was sitting at the computer typing an impassioned diatribe about the Catholic position on birth control (long story) when an elderly couple from our church walked in, Bibles in hands. I had a moment of panic that they’d heard we’d taken up poker and had come to stage an intervention: but fortunately, before I could ask them to what I owed the pleasure of their company, they were followed by another elderly gentleman from our church with a Bible in his hand, and I remembered: this was our turn to host prayer meeting.

By what can only be described, given the circumstances, as Divine providence I had cleaned the bathroom this afternoon on a whim, and had a cake tin full of triple chocolate cookies. More fortunately still, I had not yet gotten around to hennaing my roots. I’m not entirely sure I pulled off the impromptu gracious hostess act as it is, but it would have been far more difficult with a plastic bag on my head and green eyebrows.

The panna cotta… I’m not quite convinced about the panna cotta. I think it was a little too firm: one expected to find a goldfish or similar preserved within for making specimens of. And I think milk chocolate might be more promising than white. Still, the panna cottas blooped out of their molds pleasingly like little volcanoes, and I spooned caramel sauce over them, and calories were ingested, and all was well. For my next project, I am going to learn how to make bagel crisps. I like ’em. And they’re nearly five dollars a packet, which is more than my sorry life is worth.

What did the snortlepig do tonight? Counted to eight. I was confused by this, as I’ve never counted with her past five for toe-related reasons; but I think she probably picked it up from a vocal exercise we do at singing group. We count up the octave and back down. The snortlepig tends to leave out number 5, but I am impressed with her nonetheless. We should do a vocal exercise based on Roman numerals next, or the dates of kings.


Of the three candied bacon ice cream eaters, one was enthusiastic, one mildly so and one not. So there you have it. I’m not sure I’ll make it again, partly because it was rather labour-intensive; but I might make candied bacon next time I go on a hike, ie. in about ten years.

My article about FAM is done and handed in. Woot.

Today I just fulfilled a long-put-off vague desire and made panna cotta. White chocolate panna cotta. I’m not sure about it. I like custard and milky things and white chocolate, but on the other hand the simplicity of the recipe makes ot starkly apparent that it is basically solidified milk. We will see.

More excitingly, I am trying my hand as a conductress this afternoon. Well, a semi-conductress. Like silicon. Or silicone, I suppose, being the feminine variant. Never mind. Anyway. My mother has started up a homeschool choir, and I will be doing vocal exercises at its inaugural meeting today at church. The choice of location was fraught with politics, as Mother did not wish the choir to be exclusively for Christians; but there are too many kidlings to have it at someone’s home and our church has a very decent piano. The decor isn’t that oppressive – no gold eagles or stained glass or anything – but we will see.

What’s more of an issue is the songs. In case you have never interacted with homeschooling parents en masse, they tend to be – how shall I put this? – intense. “Live and let live” isn’t necessarily their motto. “This isn’t a hill I want to die on” is not something they say a lot. “Meh” is not in their vocabulary. Confronted with an innocent peanut butter sandwich, the average homeschooling parent will immediately wrestle five moral/ethical/ecological issues out of it, ranging from disadvantaging peanut-allergic children to objecting to the non-organic nature of the bread*, and will probably call for its immediate ritual incineration. On a good week, letters to the local paper will accompany the process.

The upshot of all this is that finding neutral and inoffensive songs for the 5-16 age range is a very, very difficult task. Mother has stated at the outset that Christmas carols will be part of the programme, but otherwise she wishes to avoid religious songs (otherwise what will happen? The Catholic mothers will want their little angels to sing Ave Maria, that’s what’ll happen. In the chapel of a Reformed Baptist Church. And we don’t even want to think about that.) Which leaves… what?

Do Re Mi, pretty much. Double Trouble from the Harry Potter films? Vetoed due to witchcraft. Blackbird by the Beatles? Vetoed due to drugs and immoral living. Anything from the Disney canon? Vetoed because, well, it’s the Disney canon. Puff, the Magic Dragon? Vetoed because, obviously, it’s a metaphor for getting high. Somewhere Over the Rainbow? Mother, nervously: “I’m not sure… it does have witches in it…”

To put this in perspective, Mother knows a homeschooling lady who pulled her children out of a children’s choir because one of the songs was entitled “We Love Chocolate”. Can you spot the issue? Here it is: We do not love chocolate. We love Jesus.

This promises to be an interesting afternoon.

*Plus, the owner of the store at which the bread was purchased has dubious political views. And we shouldn’t be eating non-Essene bread anyway; or, perhaps, we shouldn’t be eating grains at all, because humans were designed to forage for raw fruits and nuts only, but not in an evolutionary way.

Bacon Update

The candied bacon ice cream was delicious. The snortlepig and I both thought so, polishing off every tender morsel stuck to the dasher and freezing bowl in no time flat. (“Some?” asked the snortlepig plaintively every time her spoon was empty. “Some?” She is a sweetcheeks. You know what she did this morning? Counted to five. “One two three four five”, like that, while trying to buckle her own carseat. Prodigy Pig, we call her.)

So when Helpdesk Man returned home from singing at a wedding with his marvy young vocal collective (oooo), I accosted him with great delight and force-fed him a large spoonful to prove its deliciousness. He squealed like a girlie, demonstrated tremors of the head and declared it was Weird and He Didn’t Like It. I can’t prove it, but I think he cried a little.


Fortunately there are three other tasters who have yet to vote on the matter. I will let you know.


Poker seems to have gone to Helpdesk Man’s head. Yesterday he came home proudly bearing a brand-new poker set, and taught two of my little sisters to play when they came over to be babysat. (He won, but it was neck-and-neck with the eleven-year-old for a bit. I went bust early and gracefully retired to the kitchen to cook. Beat him three times yesterday though.) Then he was up until 1AM watching the poker World Series on YouTube. Should I be worried. do you think?

In other news, today is Bacon Ice Cream Day. I made a butterscotch ice cream base and have candied the bacon by cooking it on foil with brown sugar sprinkled over it (yummy!). I’m a little nervous about adulterating the lovely butterscotch ice cream with bacon, but these things build character. I also made a French vanilla ice cream with crumbled gingerbread cookies in it, which is ridiculously yummy… and now I have twelve egg whites waiting to be pavlovified. It’s, like, the circle of life.


Tonight Helpdesk Man took it upon himself as the spiritual head of the family to teach me poker. I’d only played once before, a game of Texas Hold’emĀ  during a rather disastrous dinner party, at which I was so distracted with a screaming four-month=old snortlepig that I tried to win a hand with three pair. Tonight was somewhat more successful. We played for beans – literally. Kidney beans. We didn’t have any chips and playing for cash seemed a tad redundant given that we share an account. I won several hands, but no games. The pig sampled our olives, played very professionally with the Jokers and kept hiding our beans in her mouth. Anyway, I liked it. I like the faintly Freemason-slash-Star Trek vibe it has, with the jargon and the rapping on the table and the hats and all. Makes me feel classy. What with this and the olives, I have come a long way from the bumpkin of yore, no?


Remember the snortlepig’s security knickers? Well, she seems to have made a new friend. It is a small bottle of peppermint essence. She fell in love with it at the supermarket when I gave it to her to hold in place of the cream, having spotted at the last second that she had taken the lid off and was about to upend it onto the supermarket floor. That same day I made mint chocolate chip ice cream (not my most successful flavour – that was three weeks ago and we still have some lurking in the freezer), and had to wrest the essence away from a squealing pig with entreaties and promises to give it back. When it was returned to her, sans half a teaspoon, she carried it away in sobbing triumph and promptly hid it under the sofa where my clawing fingers and dodgy housekeeping would never find it.

Then a few days ago, the snortlepig’s tiny aunt discovered it under said sofa while searching for the snortlepig’s small wooden animals. I put it back on the shelf and thought nothing of it until today, when the snortlepig started dancing and pointing and saying “DA!” at the pantry. I picked her up, wondering if she’d developed a sudden taste for dried chickpeas… but nope. She’s been carrying the peppermint essence around again for two solid hours. Freak.

Interestingly, although the peppermint smell cannot be detected outside the bottle and although she almost certainly does not associate the two, the mint chocolate chip ice cream was her favourite flavour. She also eats olives. She’s classier than me.

Incidentally, shikakai? Good stuff. Exceptionally. If this keeps up I might be able to wear my hair down occasionally, although of course I would then have to navigate the perils of giving the snortlepig the milks without sitting on it myself or having said pig twine it round her feet and pull. Madonna never had this problem (the Blessed Virgin I mean, not the singer, although I doubt she did either).

I’m drafting a dress! It is harder than it looks. And invisible zips are evil. I will update you when there is good news: until then, don’t ask.

In other news… hoom. Helpdesk Man ate the first ripe tomato of the summer yesterday and his eyes watered a little. I am babysitting my small sisters on Friday, and we will watch the last 29 minutes of Toy Story 2 and the entirety of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I have an article due in six days that isn’t even remotely written. We watched Season 5 of The Office and are on to Season 6. I’ve been listening, goodness knows why, to wizard rock and have so far sifted only two decent songs from the dross – I Believe in Nargles and Accio Love. Both of which are, quite honestly, rubbish: but I have a small life. Also, the pig’s wet nappy reeks strangely of tuna, which we have not eaten for months. I’d better go change it before worse things happen.