Thursday, October 05, 2006

Updates and Thoughts

This is just a little random update of my thoughts and whats going on in my life. Don't expect any profound literature or breakthroughs! I still plan on writting extremly long, verbose essays for you, but I will do little updates as well.

We found flees on Aurora. Dana who was babysitting her gave her a bath and a week later she is already dirty. Aurora is so cute, I just can't get over it. She has that precious look of pleading and/or frightened look asking if I am going to desert her. She is always getting things on her face. Today I looked at her and she had a little white fuzz ball on her nose, and she was completly oblivious. She has gotten into the habit of following me around everywhere. She has always done this to an extent, but not as obsessively as she currently is now. She used to stay in her comfortable position if I left the room and wait five minutes to see if I would come back, now she has to know where I am after 30 seconds. These dogs become so attached to their owners. Jennifer was telling me that when she left Tiggy (Aurora's grandaughter) in New York with her roomates the weekend of my wedding, Tiggy was so depressed and refused to eat. Also, not used to sleeping in her crate, after a night of isolation, walked around the apartment whimpering holding her stuffed animal refusing to share. Ambrosia (Tiggy's sister from a different litter) is way worse than Aurora. She is always one step behind Dana. If Dana gets up from the couch, Ambrosia jumps down to follow mommy. I wonder how many times that dog has been stepped on because she is always underfoot. When mommy leaves the apartment, Ambrosia will wander around whimpering and crying like a little baby. These dogs are the equivalent of our babies, but sometimes their obsessive attachment issues worry me. It's as if they are afraid of abandonment.

I've made a discovery, I am a dreamer. No really, so I was writting my biography for Nancy's family history book. I started to reread what I had written and I came to the realization that over half of the stories I told were dreams that I had as a child. For instance, I used to dream that I had a Barbie car, and could drive it in the make-believe kiddie lane located next to the adult lane. I wanted to be able to drive myself to school and to the toy store. I also dreamt that I had a baby on the playground. It was during recess, and the jungle gym was turned into the hospital, a fellow class member was my doctor. After recess was over, which was only 15 min. we went to stand in line, and I came running with my new baby. The teacher unphased and excited for me, excused me to the nurses office. The strange thing about this dream is that I didn't really like dolls. I say that because, I would make the excuse that it was an overdramtized version of a little girl who wanted a more interactive doll to play with, but I never found dolls very interesting. I don't really have an explaination of this strange dream except to say, maybe I wanted a living playmate. I don't know, but the point of these examples were to explain how I lived in a dream world. I have few memories that don't involve dreams. I wonder if there is some psychological disorder that could explain this phenomenon.

We are going to San Antonio this weekend. Leslie and Peter are coming in (I don't remember their reason) but we always love spending time with them. We plan on going to our old beloved high school, Mac. Well actually we are just going to a football game. We want to support our little adopted sister, Diana! I swear we have become her groupies. My mom also has a friend in SA with a penthouse which we have been invied to tour. Very exciting stuff!

ok well thats enough of an update for now! Sianara!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Dangers in the Kitchen

Dangers in the Kitchen

I have decided that the kitchen and I should take a break from one another. We seem to be in a battle of sorts at the moment, and I am not on the winning end. How, one might ask, does a kitchen declare war against it tenants. Kitchen’s are clever and cunning when given the right weapons. The ammunition has grown exponentially since Kyle and I announced our engagement, therefore I blame YOU, the givers of all these gifts for the kitchen’s increased power!

These stories may be distressing and should not be read by the faint of heart.

The attack of the grater

Our tale begins in the evening before our first dinner party as a married couple. The party was to start at 6, but at 4 we realized we had forgotten a key ingredient to our bourbon-glazed chicken, the bourbon! We jumped in our, beautiful, and trusty white corolla, Toyota to buy our necessary item. After driving around for half an hour to three different closed liquor stores, we realized with horror that liquor stores are closed on Sundays! I quickly morphed from curly hair, happy, girl next door Vanessa, to red skin, scaly, pointed nails and teeth, fire-spitting unrecognizable Vanessa. Ok, so that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I did start to stress out, and unfortunate Kyle was caught in the cross- fire. At our return home, we discussed how we might remedy this situation, Rum, which we already possessed, was the solution. But because of this set back, we were running late. I quickly hurled all of the ingredients out of the fridge and cabinet across the kitchen towards my newly wed husband. Luckily for him, I have terrible aim. We delegated tasks, and got to work. My first mission was grating the parmesan. I moved at a lightening speed, the grater, unhappy with speedy Gonzales approach, pulled out it’s longest prong and stabbed my unsuspecting thumb with the weapon. The gash was deeper than I expected and really lingered longer than necessary in the bleeding process. My thumb was saved with the aid of a band aide and we continued on with our cooking. The food fell into place nicely without too many hiccups. Natalie, one of our guests, had told me that she would be a little late, but when it came almost 7 I started to worry. Dana and Danny didn’t have their phones, and Kyle had hid my purse in our forbidden room. I found my phone, 12 missed calls, all from Natalie. She had been wondering around the complex with melting ice cream for nearly 30 minutes, unable to get a hold of any of us. After they were found, all was settled, the food turned out terrific and the company even better; the kitchen for a moment had been tamed.

The Knife’s assault

We were given a new set of knives for our wedding which we were incredibly excited about. We love to cook, and a good set of knives is an essential tool for the kitchen. Our old knives, which are obviously inferior to the replacements, we placed in a drawer with the silverware. Since the onset of our recent new-fangled toys we have ignored the substandard knives causing what I believe was an inferiority complex of the unemployed knives. Mass hysteria caused by the unequivocal rights in the work place spawned a mobilization and uprising of the minority. Muffled motivational and aggressive speeches were heard from the drawers, but the banter quieted when I entered the kitchen so I paid it no mind. One day, I, being the unsuspecting victim pulled out one of the old knives to cut an apple for lunch. As soon as I wrapped my fingers around the black handle, it leaped up into the air, yelling “On Guard!” and stabbed my thumb. Before he could take another stab, I wrestled it to the floor and threw him back to his prison, where he belonged. The revolt was luckily short lived, but now I know to keep a special eye on those folk.

The Wrath of The Boiling Water

Breakfast, lunch and dinner; events our lives revolve around. Everyday, it’s the same thing, “what’s for lunch? What’s for dinner? What do we have to eat?” It’s a good thing that I love food so much because all of this thinking and planning tires my brain. How is it that we buy and have so much food in our fridge and pantry, but hardly have anything to eat? Why does this phenomenon occur? This particular evening, I felt inspired by my thrifty grandmother, to use the food at our disposal despite the feeling of hopelessness. I looked in the fridge and started naming off groceries. “We have cooked pasta, but no pasta sauce, eggs, bacon, potato salad, cheese, B-B-Q sauce, preserves. We could make ‘toad in a hole’.” “No!” was Kyle’s response. At Kyle’s rejection, I was struck with a moment of brilliance. “How about Carbonara?” This was one of our favorite dishes in Italy and we seemed to have the correct ingredients, but I had to make sure. I signed on the food network page and typed in Carbonara. Twenty-nine listings came up. I clicked on the easy five star recipe. “Yes! Well.. maybe, can we do it?” I asked Kyle.
Famous for her substitutions and waste-not want not attitude, my grandmother could make anything in her fridge into a meal, whether it was edible or appetizing was an entirely different question! But, like my grandmother, I was determined to make a meal out of nothing. The things we had; onion, white wine, spaghetti, eggs, salt and pepper. The things we had to substitute for: For pancetta we used bacon, because we didn’t have enough spaghetti we added some left over spirals, grated and aged Parmesion instead of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and cheddar cheese for the Pecorino Romano. Apprehensive about so many substitutions, we slowly put our meal together. As I said before, we didn’t have enough spaghetti, so we added a different pasta to the mix in order to meet our pound quota. Spirals were all I could find in our overstocked pantry. I found a pan, filled it three-fourth of the way with hot water, and covered it with a lid. When the water began to boil, I released the spirals into the bubbling oasis of tap water. So routine and elementary, a monkey could make spaghetti, but could a monkey learn efficiency; maybe yes, maybe no, but I for sure could! Still sipping on my glass of brilliance, I realized that I could use the boiling water to warm the already cooked and refrigerated spaghetti to the appropriate temperature. How ingenious am I? I would save the boiling water and use it for the left overs. I was proud of my resourcefulness and waste-not-want not aptitude. I drained the scalding water into a bowl over the sink, leaving the spirals in the pan. The water had filled all the way to the top of the bowl. I hadn’t really thought about the transferring of water dilemma in my original mastermind plan, but nevertheless this strategy would be followed through. I wanted so badly for my idea to succeed that I forgot to fully prepare. I vertically lifted the small bowl, filled to the rim with blistering hot water, out of the sink, and began my track horizontally. This is where my tactic began to deteriorate. Not only should I have considered the risks of carrying boiling hot water in a small and overflowing container, but I should have moved the container of cold spaghetti closer to the dangerous liquid. I did neither. I heard the water snicker at my ignorance, and delight in the forthcoming pain of it’s arrogant wielder. As I should have predicted the water spilled over the brim of the left side, causing what felt like burning hot magma make contact with my skin. As I tried to rectify my spillage, I overcorrected and caused yet another slop of what can only be described as liquid fire to crash into my sensitive and ever increasingly angry fingers. Still holding onto hope, I corrected again causing an undulating ripple through the malicious liquid causing more burning and excruciating pain. Finally, I dropped the bowl back into the sink and screamed into the night at my good intentioned, misleadingly brilliant, ignorant and reckless plan. My fingers were red and on fire, the spaghetti still cold, and the boiling water down the drain, my ruins evidence of the losing battle. After soaking my fingers in boiling water’s archenemies, ice water, the meal came together and was incredibly enjoyable. The evening wasn’t a total disaster after all, delicious food made from ingredients we had on hand, and wonderful company. The battlefield, for the time, had been abandoned, but this war is not over, I may have lost several battles, but I learn from my mistakes and they wont be made again (hopefully)!

P.s. this is the reciepe we used. Enjoy!


5 ounces pancetta
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound spaghetti
3 large eggs*
1 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (3/4 cup)
3/4 ounces Pecorino Romano, finely grated (1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut pancetta into 1/3-inch dice, then cook in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fat begins to render, 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Add wine and boil until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Cook spaghetti in a 6 to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
While pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano (1/3 cup), 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

Drain spaghetti in a colander and add to onion mixture, then toss with tongs over moderate heat until coated. Remove from heat and add egg mixture, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.

Cook's note: The eggs in this recipe will not be fully cooked, which may be of concern if there is a problem with salmonella in your area.

Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

Wedding Pictures

How to get to Wedding Pictures.
type in:
click the left option: photography
click on reorders
type Vanessa Braun into name space
password is : kyle

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Death and Greiving

My Uncle Donald Braun died. He was my dad’s identical twin. Monday, my half sister Rachel called and left a message, but my phone was dead. Tuesday I received a second phone call from Rachel, but I had been out cold calling while my phone recharged at my apartment. When I came back for lunch, I noticed several missed calls and new voicemail, so I checked my voicemail to see what was going on. Rachel had left a message saying that I needed to call because she had some bad news. My heart skipped a beat, and I knew something had happened to either my dad or Donald. I felt heat travel the surface of my skin from my head to my feet, and sweat formed immediately at my brow. I was hopping for someone being in hospital rather than the alternative. When the next voicemail was Dad calling from Rachel’s phone, I eliminated his death as an option. I was relieved but anxious and concerned; I needed to know what was going on. I often fear the worse, so I was hoping that my expectation would be alleviated and I would be told something serious, but not mortal. Rachel didn’t answer the first time I called, so I left a calm and happy message , hoping that my cheerfulness would improve whatever gloomy state of affairs was occurring. She called back quickly, and requested that I sit down, in the background I heard my dad ask if I was driving. I wasn’t driving, I was standing in the bathroom removing my earrings, but I obediently followed her request and found a seat at my dinning room table. The request and the seriousness of her voice gave away the situation. I knew she was going to tell me Donald was dead. She had already told me, just not in words. I didn’t gasp, I didn’t cry, I didn’t even feel all that particularly stunned, I felt like someone had told me they were going shopping at the mall. I didn’t have a reaction, my reaction was numbness. I asked the basic questions, “How did it happen? What’s happening now? Who is coming in? When are we meeting?” When the conversation was over, I closed my phone, set it in front of me, and stared into space. I tried to reflect, “How do I feel?” “Why do I not feel more?”
In high school, I would joke that I had a heart of stone; nothing could make me cry. Movies would make my eyes dampen, but tears didn’t dare go overboard, they went as far as the rim and stopped still in their tracks. I honestly thought something was wrong with me. My mother assured me that it was emotional stability, but I felt incomplete. I finally did cry, breaking my streak of over five years, my sophmore year when our two week theater camp came to a close. I was so happy at my tears, I almost reversed the flow that I was so happy about.
I would describe myself as a very sensitive and feeling person, so the fact that I did not feel an extreme loss, or much pain agitated my inner conscious. I am a woman of many emotions, but the death of an uncle wasn’t moving me. Instead of pain, I felt guilt.
The rest of Monday disturbed me very little, although something felt remiss. Tuesday was different. I didn’t want to join the world of the walking. My bed was my haven, the covers my protectors, the world my predator. I had a strong pull towards my most frustrating character flaw, avoidance, and it had more strength on it’s side of the tug-a-war game than I had in opposition. I was sad; I felt something. My reaction was not tears, but avoidance, but though it wasn’t much, it was something.
While I was Italy, I had received notice that Donald had fallen ill, been hospitalized and diagnosed with lymphoma. I was told not to worry, because although serious, it was treatable and not terminal. It was a type of cancer of the blood that had no cure, but wouldn’t kill him as long as he continued his treatments. He had been treated in San Antonio, so Dad could be near. He moved in with Dad and his health started a steady increase towards the happy end of the spectrum of health. It then leveled off, and he still struggled with fatigue and walking without a cane. He moved back into his apartment in Austin with the notion that he would clean it out, take his valuables, move back to San Antonio, and when his health improved they would travel around the country in an RV. Donald had been in his apartment for a couple of months, making little progress. My dad called him one day as usual, but Donald didn’t answer. After several days of trying without response, he called Rachel to visit Donald to make sure everything was all right. He had already been dead 10-12 days when she found him. An autopsy was difficult because the condition of the body. His death certificate states lymphoma as the cause of death, but the family believes it was something linked with his upsurge of fatigue.
The service was very true to Donald, held outdoors at McKinney Falls State Park, with trickling water as the background music. Standing under a tree, we prayed, told stories and comforted one another on such a tragic loss. Standing in a circle, facing the other members of the Braun Family, listening to Donald’s life story told in 10 minutes, I came to a realization; I didn’t know Donald. I had been on family vacations with him, gone camping with him, had many a dinner with him, and laughed with him, but I didn’t know him. These are the things I knew about Donald; Donald was the most gentle soul of the Braun Family. He was the protector of his younger sister, and always tried his best to take care of her. He was kind hearted and always had nice things to say. Of the twins he was the more optimistic. He lived by himself in Hyde Park Austin in a tiny, cramped apartment full of junk (or his collections, whichever you please). Despite his clutter, he always added to a conversation. He was well read and knowledgeable and had a great laugh. He had been married and divorced once, but didn’t have children. An ultimate bachelor, he was slowly attempting to move out of his apartment to move in with his twin and ultimately travel around the country, if his health improved. I knew that I liked him and enjoyed his company, but I didn’t know very much about who he was.
Through the stories, I learned that the Donald I didn’t know, I would have liked even better than the Donald I already liked. I learned he loved critters, bugs, amphibians, mammals, all animals intrigued and fascinated Donald. He had a peace and gentleness about him that comforted animals so they didn’t fear him. He had joined the airforce for four years, mudlogged in Alaska, and his last position was a supervisor at a Metal health facility. One co-worker showed, and told stories about Donald as a professional. She said he was the most patient man she had ever encountered. The patients often cursed and fought with the supervisors, but Donald always kept his cool and didn’t take his frustration out on the patients. He was a favorite among the nurses because of his sweet nature.
I have now attended several funerals, experienced many deaths, and each time I come away thinking, I wish I knew them better. How is it that these people that have died before me, whom I have spent a great deal of time with, slip away without me really knowing who they are. My great uncle Vance, my great uncle Floyd, my great grandma, and my grandpa are all loved ones who have died recently. They are family but somehow I missed something. I missed their life history, what made them tick, how they came to be who they were in life. I know that it is hard to get to know people fully, but maybe we should try harder, maybe I should try harder. Their lives are important and should be preserved if not on paper but in our memories and actions. We are all connected to one another, and the more we know and share about one another the more enriched our lives will be.