1) Since branting in November, People magazine named its choice for Sexiest Man of the Year -- Hugh Jackman, who, for those of you who have watched Someone Like You on cable all these years will agree, absolutely deserves the honor. I mean, would you just look at him?? (Feel free to take a minute now to indulge in the sidebar of Laura's brant to watch a clip of Hugh from the movie, and check back to hear about the time Laura actually met Hugh Jackman in person and how incredibly nice he was.) Laura feels really badly that the new movie he's in, Australia, seems to have taken a beating review-wise and earnings-wise, but she is heartened to learn that Hugh Jackman has just been chosen to host this year's Academy Awards ceremony. The guy can sing, dance, and make self-deprecating jokes, all while looking impossibly stylish and behaving with genuine grace. Laura doesn't know about the rest of you, but she's planning on watching this year -- that is, actually watching, not just flipping channels back and forth to see who's winning.
2) In a fit of holiday shopping, Laura went to the Burlington Mall in suburban Boston. And in a fit of idiocy during that fit of holiday shopping, Laura saw a skirt she liked -- a black sequined mini skirt -- and decided to try it on. The store she saw it in was one of those new semi-cheesy semi-slutty vaguely low-budget-but-stylish chain stores -- she thinks it's called Jacob, or something like that -- and like many stores these days, semi-cheesy and semi-slutty or otherwise, it was nearly empty. So Laura, forgetting she's about 10 years older and 10 pounds heavier (okay, maybe 15) than she was back in the day when she used to wear mini skirts, grabbed a skirt and went into the dressing room. The good news is that the skirt fit and actually zipped. The bad news is that Laura realized she is simply too old to walk around in a black sequined mini skirt. And that she has nowhere to wear it. And that even if she weren't too old to wear it and actually had somewhere to wear it to, it seemed like it was one of those skirts she would tear the first time she sat down in it. Needless to say, she didn't buy the skirt.
3) In the dressing room of the cheesy slutty low-budget fashion store, Laura noticed a sign on the mirror: "Due to sanitary concerns, customers must wear undergarments when trying on clothes." Which led her to wonder: Are so many people trying on clothes these days without underwear that a directive actually has to be articulated?
4) Though she hasn't counted, Laura thinks she's said the eff word about 450 times during the past week. This is mainly due to dealing with all the fucking (451) Boston drivers who cut her off and then have the nerve to give her the finger and all the fucking (452) pedestrians who hurl themselves into traffic in order to cross the street. Not that she wants to get off on a tangent here, and not that she hasn't jaywalked herself a time or two herself, but one of her (many) pet peeves are those designated crosswalks at which motorists are obligated, by law, to stop if there is a person standing in one. Laura's pet peeve is not that pedestrians shouldn't have a safe place to cross but that they should WAIT before crossing to give the motorist a chance to fucking (453) stop their car safely! But nooooooooo. That just doesn't happen here. People get to a designated crosswalk and without looking -- seriously, without looking -- leap off the sidewalk and start crossing because they purportedly have the right of way. Sometimes these people even lead with a fucking (454) baby stroller as they indulge themselves in their right to cross! But don't get Laura started on this topic because she'll never stop.
5) During Laura's fit of shopping this week, she also went to Kohl's for the first time ever. (I know -- this is going to be a big year for cheeseball gifts.) For a few heady seconds she wondered if Kohl's was the new Target but after staring into the abyss of holiday merchandise and seeing the sprawl of racks and racks of depressing women's apparel, she decided that while Kohl's certainly has it's appeal, it's no Target.
6) Laura's been so caught up in Christmas holiday related occurrences that she almost forgot to mention the amazing Thanksgiving dinner she cooked all by herself! She feels justified in saying it was amazing because her brother-in-law Patrick, Brendan's brother, said that her stuffing -- (smoky bacon cornbread stuffing, adapted from about three different cornbread stuffing recipes) -- was the best stuffing he'd ever had. Laura doesn't expect you to understand the magnitude of this compliment because there's no way you could possibly know how high the bar is for Brendan and his brothers when it comes to food -- not fussy "gourmet" food, but regular food. There are many family tales about one of Brendan's brothers offering "honest" assessments of various pies and cakes and meals produced by mothers or wives, so to say that Laura was a little nervous during the preparations of the Big Event would be kind of an understatement. What's slightly disturbing, however, is just how important this compliment was to Laura -- at the risk of setting off an impromptu discussion of her Cooking Phobia (refer to earlier brants about this topic on her original website-brant for more on this scintillating topic), suffice it to say that due to her food preparation-based insecurities, she honestly felt that this compliment was on par with getting her books published. Sad but true.
7) Not to bury the lede (and for those of you who didn't minor in journalism like a loser in college [the way Laura did], that's spelled correctly) but now it's time to explain the "carnie impersonation" incident. During this aforementioned shopping trip, Laura went into Linens N' Things which is mercifully (no offense to all the employees losing their jobs) going out of business. She says "mercifully" because she's just never liked that store because something about it was just inexplicably depressing. But anyway, Laura couldn't resist the pull of the giant "Going Out Of Business/Everything Must Go" signs and pulled into the parking lot. If Laura thought the fully stocked store was depressing, this was a depressing-fest! Almost completely empty, with signs informing customers that "fixtures and display shelves" were also available for purchase, the merchandise that was left was moved toward the center of the store, away from the purchase-able display shelves. But there was something strange about the merchandise: It wasn't that cheap! Laura sort of thought, Oh! Going out of business! Everything must go! That must mean that things would be really really cheap! But every time she stopped to look at an overwrought iPod clock radio/charger/alarm/player/air freshener or a hot-chocolate whipper or a set of almost 100% cotton sheets, nothing was actually cheap enough to trigger that elusive impulsive urge to buy stupid idiotic cheaply made household goods. As she was leaving the store however, she noticed a display of Funnel Cake Kits and couldn't believe her luck: Ben loves Funnel Cakes and has said many times that he wishes there was a way to make them at home.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Funnel Cakes, Laura will tell you that here in the Northeast this type of fried dough is called "Fried Dough." Or, if you're in, say, New York City, at one of those Little Italy festivals, it's called Zeppoli. In New Orleans, where Laura went once back in the mid-1990s to help Anne Rice with a week's worth of book promotion, they're called Beignets. Anyway, whenever Ben goes anywhere where fried dough is available -- namely, at fairs like the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, NY where he goes almost every year with his cousins -- or at the annual "Clam Fest" in Yarmouth, Maine -- carnivals, essentially, manned by "carnies" -- he always gets a giant slab of fried dough, covered in a blanket of powered sugar. Unfortunately for Laura, he usually eats it so fast that she barely gets a bite, which is a drag, since one of Laura's favorite foods in the whole wide world, she's embarrassed to admit, is fried dough.
So there she was, at the depressing final clearance sale of the depressing Linens 'N Things, staring at this display of Funnel Cake-making kits which, at 50% off, were a very do-able $7. Not sure if she could actually successfully make these funnel cakes -- despite coming off the heady success of her Thanksgiving stuffing -- she decided to take a chance and get a kit. And because Ben was going to have surgery the next day, she offered to make it for him last night. All she's going to say is that in order to make fried dough or funnel cakes or whatever the fuck (455) you want to call them, you have to heat cooking oil to a temperature of 350 degrees which means you have to hold a cooking thermometer in the oil to see how hot it's getting. This is hard to do because, well, the pan and the oil and the metal heat-conducting thermometer are fucking (456) hot! Laura thinks that in addition to the tongs and the mix and the pitcher and the powdered sugar shaker the stupid little kit should also come with a fucking (457) fire-suit to protect you in case the oil you're heating up starts a grease fire, but that's probably too much to expect for $7. Grease-fire-phobia aside, Laura persevered, heating her oil up to 350 degrees and then pouring the funnel cake batter into the hot oil, watching in amazement as the dough puffed up and sizzled and became a gorgeous light brown deep-fried color. It's frightening to think of how much grease was in the two funnel cakes she made, but at that point, to be perfectly frank. Laura didn't really care: she was just glad to be alive.
8) Oh, and before she forgets, Laura has a confession to make: she bought one of those "ornament organizers" from The Container Store. The green one with the red flaps on top. And she highly recommends it.
...to be continued....