I finally found a laughing buddha for sale on line that’s a dead ringer for the one that used to stand on the display case in Lazy Jane’s Cafe. He’s the usual fat-bellied buddha in an open robe, but the particular version of him that I’m looking for appears to be caught in the middle of a full-bodied laugh so all-encompassing that he could only be doing the one thing he was born to do, or at least that’s how he looks to me.

I’m not a Buddhist and I’ve never seen a buddha that I wanted to buy until I saw this guy at Lazy Jane’s, and of course he turns out to be the buddha that I can’t find on e-bay. I go trolling for one every month or so, not very often because a search for “laughing buddha” turns up hundreds of statues, pendants, necklaces, painting and so on, and I can look at that for only so long before my eyes start to cross. No luck so far.

But last night I found one for sale from an on-line store. After so many months of searching for this particular statue I just about wet myself in surprise. When I went to buy him I got the second surprise: They want way too much money for a cast resin statue no bigger than a cat. I figured on paying about fifteen dollars for one. That’s would have covered the shipping costs of the one I found.

So I bookmarked the page, then surfed e-bay for a half-hour or so, then gave up.

New Year’s Eve

Today’s New Year’s Eve so we get the day off because we’re state workers. It’s one of the benefits that are showered on us like confetti at a hero’s ticker-tape parade. I can’t wait to see how that’s going to change. Watch this space.

But for now, we’re enjoying the day off: Sleeping in a bit, then sitting on the sofa for as long as we damn well want to while we drink our coffee and try to wake up. When we felt we could finally communicate in something more complex than grunts, we threw on some clothes, piled into the car and went into town for breakfast at Lazy Jane’s. My Darling B ordered something called a Chipotle Chili Omelet, which she mistakenly thought was a regular omelet with chipotle chiles, but no. It’s an egg folded over a mountainous helping of chili, more than she could eat in a day under any circumstances. She hardly made a dent in it.

I had a waffle garnished with bananas and walnuts and smothered in syrup. If there’s a better way to start the day, I can’t think of it right now.

We made a quick detour to Mad Cat before swinging back. Boo’s favorite cat toy, a wand with a little poof of feathers on the end, was pretty much worn out. All that was left of the feathers was a little furry stump and one very thin, tired-looking pin feather, so I got her a new one. There are so many feathers I thought it might scare her, but she was very excited to chase the new one even though I woke her out of a sound sleep with it, which is not something I would normally ever do if I could help it. Think of someone you know who’s “not a morning person” and then imagine waking that person up suddenly and rudely, say by throwing the contents of a well-chilled chamber pot in her face, and you’re getting an idea of the kind of “morning person” the Boo can be.

While My Darling B was gathering up the fixings for a shellfish chowder dinner and our New Year’s Eve noshies, I strolled up the street to Star Liquor to ask Adam to recommend a bottle of bubbly that would go with the chowder. He fixed me up right quick and I grabbed a six-pack of Moon Man from New Glarus to go with the popcorn and movies we were planning on watching as we passed the hours until midnight, should we somehow be able to stay up that late.

Then it was on to Batch Bakehouse. They’re closing up for almost two weeks to go on vacation, so we wanted to see what we could pick up from their showcase. Not much, as it turned out. They were being mobbed by a steady stream of people who had the same idea we had, and the showcase was almost cleaned out by the time we made our way to the front of the line. We scored some cookies, a wedge of apple cake and a small loaf of wheat bread, then tried to make our way through the crowd out the door before the ones in the back realized they weren’t going to get any goodies.

Just two more stops after that, at Bongo Video! and the Monona Public Library to pick up a selection DVDs, so many that we’ll almost certainly never get to watch them all, but at least enough that we’ll all be able to agree on something. Movies, noshies, booze and food – I think we’re ready to make it to the New Year!

Let The Unemployment Begin!

Let the four-day weekend begin!

Oh, wait … I’m unemployed, so it’s really more like an indefinite weekend.

Well, whatever.

I applied for unemployment first thing yesterday morning … or rather, it was first thing after doinking around on the internet for an hour, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it until after nine o’clock, which is a really stupid reason for waiting until nine o’clock when you factor in that I applied on-line. You can do anything on the internet these days!

So at nine-thirty promptly …

What? Okay, so I doinked around a little longer than I said I would. It’s the internet! It’s not my fault! The internet forces us all to think non-linearly! Our minds are being scrambled by the internet! I couldn’t help it! You know it’s true! Just look it up! On the internet!

Besides, there was this killer John Stewart video I had to watch before I did anything else, such as provide for my family.

Anyway, after a quick google search and a couple of mouse clicks, my application for unemployment benefits was complete. Took me all of five minutes. Easy-peasy.

What did I do with the rest of my day? Oh, not much. It being my first officially unemployed day, I decided to celebrate with brunch at Lazy Jane’s, so I tucked a book into my backpack, jumped on my trusty Trek bicycle and rode into town. It’s about four or five miles from Our Humble O’Bode to our favorite Willy Street restaurant, so I worked up just enough of an appetite to want their half-sandwich and soup special.

That and a bottomless cup of coffee made me want to hang around just long enough to read through a couple of chapters of A Woman In Berlin, the book that’s on the arm of my easy chair this week. It’s a cheery little tale about the Russian liberation of Berlin in the final days of World War Two, as recorded in the diary of a journalist who was gang-raped by just about every Russian soldier who marched through her neighborhood. I’d have to recommend it because it’s so well-written, but I’d also have to include the warning that it’ll make you want to drink yourself unconscious. Enjoy!

image of shadow box

After a few good, deep burps loud enough to rattle the windows of passing cars, and a long, leisurely ride home (can’t exactly sprint on a full stomach), I spent the rest of the afternoon piddling around in our basement work shop trying to put my shadow box back together. I didn’t get a gold watch when I retired, but they did give me a going-away ceremony and a shadow box filled with medals (yes, mine) and a folded flag. Pretty nice, but they mounted all the little bits of bling with some kind of goop that wasn’t quite sticky enough to hold everything in place for very long. Five years later, all the medals and collar brass were lying in a sticky pile at the bottom of the box. (Senco members, take note.)

I made a few changes. Not that I didn’t like the original shadow box, but I wanted to include some of the patches I kept as mementos of the places I was stationed. I also wanted to arrange the ribbons, badges and name tag the way they usually appear over the pocket of a blue uniform jacket, and I wanted to hang my dog tags in there, too. So I pretty much changed it completely, okay, that’s true, but it was a great shadow box in the first place, honestly. I loved it and wouldn’t have changed it at all if it hadn’t fallen apart.

I made just one other teeny-weeny little change and that was changing the fabric on the backboard. It used to be a single piece of blue felt. I thought the patches and the dog tags would look a little out of place against that background, so I split it in half. On the left, I used a panel of woodland camouflage fabric I cut out of the back of an old BDU shirt I still had hanging in the closet. On the right, I replaced the blue felt with a panel of Air Force blue fabric cut from an old polyester Class-A jacket that I would never ever wear again in a million years, not because I’m anti-support-our-troops but because the polyester jacket sucked great big unlubricated bowling balls. I’ve still got my poly-wool jacket with all the ribbons and bling attached, so if I had to suit up again, I could wear that. Heaven help us all if Uncle Sam is ever desperate enough to ask me to suit up again.

To make sure the little bits and bobs didn’t fall off the backboard again, I hot-glued the shit out of every single thing in there. Hot glue two things together and they stay together. Gravity as a force is lame-o compared to hot glue. I hot-glued the fabric to the backboard, then I hot-glued the patches and ribbons, badges and other bling to the fabric. Hurricane Katrina could not tear this thing apart now.

The only thing left is to figure out where to mount it. There’s precious little wall space in my basement lair, at least for right now. I want to re-arrange things down there anyway, so maybe this is the time. See, this is how little things, like fixing up a busted shadow box, turn into big things, like rearranging my basement lair. I’ll probably still be feeling the aftershocks of this project twelve months from now.

The rest of the evening was pretty typical: Pick up My Darling B from work, sit down to a pleasant dinner, then hit the floorboards for a dance lesson that I had a hard time absorbing for some reason, probably because I didn’t do much all day and was almost too relaxed.

eating people for breakfast

Neither My Darling B nor I are breakfast-eating people. I had to think awhile about how to punctuate that sentence so it implied we were people who didn’t usually eat breakfast, and not so that it sounded like we would even think of eating people for breakfast. Because we do, every morning. Everybody in Madison does. It’s required by law. Okay, not really. But if we did, wouldn’t it suck to blow it all wide open because I slipped up punctuating a sentence? Stuff like that keeps me awake at night sometimes.

Every Saturday, though, we eat breakfast. We eat it at our favorite restaurant, which used to be Cleveland’s before the owners gutted it and turned it into their life-long dream, a Greek dinner restaurant, and consigned our beloved greasy spoon to the realm of fond memories forever.

Since then, our favorite breakfast place is, I believe, Lazy Jane’s, a restaurant in a two-story clapboard house on Willy Street that has the best chorizo scramble ever, anywhere. And eggs Benedict. And Belgian waffles. Really, their whole breakfast menu is to die for, and I say that knowing I’ll be ridiculed endlessly for using the phrase “to die for,” but it’s worth the shame.

Every so often we breakfast someplace new, if I may be allowed to use “breakfast” as a verb the way the English still sometimes do, and I think I may after using “to die for” and possibly getting away with it. No catcalls from the crowd yet, so we’ll move on.

About a month ago, we finally visited Willalby’s Cafe to see what breakfast there would be like. It’s a warm, snug place where you can linger over a cup of coffee for as long as you want while, for instance, plowing your way through the Sunday paper. It’s the kind of place where people who still read a newspaper linger for hours. It’s a very neighborhood cafe. The regulars are easy to spot. In fact, B spotted one of the regulars sleeping in the basement hallway B had to travel to get to the ladies’ room. It’s that kind of place.

And in the winter, we breakfast almost weekly at the Dane County Farmer’s Market, because we like to support the market and we like to try new things. The people who organize the Dane County Farmer’s Market rarely disappoint us in that respect. They bring in local chefs from restaurants all around the Madison area who volunteer their services to present the weirdest foods I have ever been offered for breakfast. By that I mean, how often do you eat carrots or steamed broccoli for breakfast? That’s a rhetorical question. Maybe you eat that kind of thing every morning, but I don’t. In fact, before My Darling B found her muse in preparing delicious meals from home-grown veggies, I thought of vegetables as the stuff that makes cows and pigs tasty enough for me to eat them.

It’s not just veggies, it’s other weird stuff, too. This morning’s breakfast, for instance, was potato pancakes made with salmon and trout. Who even thought of that? I can imagine a lot of out-of-this-world things, but if you had asked me to make breakfast for you I would have buttered some toast and served it with a glass of orange juice. Never in a million years would I think of making potato pancakes, never mind adding shredded trout and salmon to make it even scrummier.

The potato pancakes came with a poached egg on a tiny slice of toasted sourdough bread with a dollop of hollandaise sauce. Why poaching makes an egg taste so much better is one of those cooking secrets that I’m willing to let remain a mystery to me. In case you’ve never had poached eggs, they’re made by cracking open an egg over a pot of boiling water so that, in theory, you end up with what looks like an egg fried over-easy, except it’s round and white as a pearl. I say “in theory” because poaching an egg takes a lot of practice and, until you’ve got the knack, what you end up with looks like a pot full of boiling snot. When you finally get the pearl and pop it in your mouth, though, it’s totally worth all the disappointment.

The scone was a delectable unknown. I couldn’t tell you what was in it other than probably flour and water. It came with a sticky-sweet dribble of preserves that I couldn’t identify, either, but it sure was good.

And, because this was a breakfast at the farmer’s market, there was a helping of spinach and carrots so generous it filled up half the plate. Thankfully, they didn’t stew the spinach or boil the carrots.
Spinach should never be cooked. If you hate spinach, the likely reason is that you’ve only ever had it served to you cooked. Rinse it under cold running water, eat it with your favorite dressing or even raw, and it’s just delicious. People who cook spinach will have to serve an eternity in purgatory eating hot dogs and nachos smothered in Velveeta cheese for every meal.

The carrots were pan-fried, I believe, and then only just barely enough to leave them tender, but not mushy. I was a good boy and ate all my veggies this once, partly because I feel so guilty about leaving them uneaten after somebody tried their darndest to serve me a delicious meal, but mostly because this time, they succeeded.

I damned near left out the baked apple half, smothered in caramel and sprinkled with nuts and raisins. I don’t go for apples but this was, as B noted, like eating an apple pie without the crust. I ate every single bit of it.

I ate everything. Cleaned my plate. It was, I think I can safely say, the best breakfast we’ve eaten at the Dane County Farmer’s Market this season.

waffle waffle waffle

My Darling B set her alarm clock to wake us at seven this morning so we could be among the first in line for the fund-raiser breakfast at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. A fabulous spread was planned and we love to support the market.

When B’s clock tried to bleep us awake, however, she shut it off, rolled over and we went back to sleep for an hour. Much as we love the market, it had been such a rough week that we just couldn’t make ourselves get up.

By the time we finally did get out of bed it was much too late. Hitting the farmer’s market for breakfast would have meant standing in line for thirty or forty minutes, so I offered to take B to Lazy Jane’s instead, after I perked a pot of java, of course.

I scarfed down a waffle smothered in syrup and garnished with a generous pile of banana slices and crushed walnuts. B ordered the potato pancake special, which came three to a plate and were big as bath mats. Bliss!