Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old Business

One of the upsides to having my hard drive die and getting a new one installed in my work computer is that the thing recognizes my camera now. That means I have all the photos I've taken in the last six months ready for your viewing pleasure.

Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

Here is Petra sitting in a spiky box lid insert thing that a wedding gift came in. We don't know why she liked it, because it had this area of cardboard spikes, but she loved it dearly.

Then we got married. On the way home, we drove down to Southern California, stopping by our favorite winery (Bonny Doon), through Las Vegas, and through Arches National Park.

Doors Open Denver in April; here is the ceiling of the Christian Science church.

Doors Open Denver; street buskers

Doors Open Denver; inside of large Gothic cathedral

Just after I hurt my leg we went to CA and walked/hobbled around the Maker Faire with Leah and Simon

This is what the back of my leg looked like a week after I tore my calf muscle

My cousin Scarlett visited in May; we went to the Botanical Garden while she was here.

June was Santa Barbara for my sister's graduation. Here's a blooming yucca at the Santa Barbara mission.

Large old tree at the mission

A neat rock on the beach in Santa Barbara with a piece of iron from a ship embedded

One of the few photos I took on a hike this summer; this was above the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

Lissa and Curtis practicing for their wedding (sort of).

The best sign we saw in Nederland (and there were quite a few good ones).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Philadelphia: Home of grit, culture, and cheesesteaks

Last week I went to Philadelphia, PA for my annual work conference. Previous years have found me in Boston, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis, and I was looking forward to exploring a new East Coast city and spending some time with my once-a-year friends who I only see at these conferences. So, in a very large nutshell, here was my Philly experience.


My Untied flight is a cattle car. We are crammed in like sardines and everyone is miserable and uncomfortable. Luckily, it is a nonstop flight, and getting from the airport to my hotel isn't that difficult. The shuttle driver acts as unofficial tour guide, mentioning points of interest during the 15-minute ride. I had no idea Philly had so many bridges. This is because I am totally ignorant of most East-coast cities. I arrive, check in, am told I have a "water view" (the hotel is right on Penn's Landing) and discover that if I look to the left through one of my windows I can kind of see a ship. Water view, indeed. I check in at the conference registration desk and get the materials I'll need (being on the board for this organization, I'm expected to actually be there the whole time and do some stuff rather than just passively attend) and am told I must be present at an event Tuesday evening.

I am still quite out-of-sorts from my travel so I head out of the hotel to explore a little bit nearby. My hotel is very close to what is considered Old City, with cobblestone streets and old houses, every building seems to be an historical landmark, and everyone is taking their dogs out for an evening constitutional. Famous historical crap is everywhere. Back at the hotel, I learn everyone else has gone to dinner in a restaurant on a boat, but I'm not hungry yet, so I shower and change into nicer clothing for the evening event at which I'm required to make an appearance. I appear; I go to dinner at an Afghan place nearby with some once-a-year friends.

I am unable to sleep until 3 AM.


The alarm goes off at 7 AM and I know I am not getting through the day without caffeine; 4 hours of sleep is just not enough. Breakfast (with green tea) is edible and I find my good once-a-year friend from Wisconsin. We were both new at our jobs at the Boston conference; 4 years later we are old hat and still the youngest people in the room. Last year I was engaged; this year it is her turn. We talk weddings when we can snatch conversation in between general conference sessions. Lunch is surprisingly good. I sneak out to get a workout in during breakouts and am back to fulfill my moderator duties for the 3-5 time slot. Everyone is talking about all the Federal updates and what it will mean for their programs.

When it's all over, I change my clothes and head out to meet Adina at a bar called Sugar Mom's, also in walking distance from my hotel. I'm early, so I stop into a used bookstore to find a fantastic selection of childrens' books. I make a note of a few titles I wish to own and vow to come back later in the week. The bar is below street level, dark and brick, Christmas lights and old velvet furniture, smoke and unidentified metal things. Adina is awesome. We talk for hours, have sushi for dinner, talk politics over drinks, and I am asleep by 11 PM, totally exhausted.

Adina = cute Me = scary


I am required to function much earlier than I'd like as I am scheduled to present in a breakout session attended by 60 or 70 people. I am nervous but things go well and people ask me questions about my presentation later. The rest of the day I spend just happy that the morning session went well, sneak in another workout, and take a much-needed nap while other people ride some ducks in terrible weather. When I wake up, it's time for my annual Night of Carousel with my Wisconsin friend. We have Italian food and drink in an Irish Pub holding trivia night. We don't technically participate but have fun guessing anyhow and walk all the way back to our hotel in the rain. We talk more about weddings (ours, her sister's, hers) and she asks to see our wedding photos when we get back from our night out. I am happy to oblige.


Another early morning; this is the first one I am not feeling a complete zombie. I guess I'm getting acclimated to east coast time just in time to go home. The conference is over for the day by noon, I have lunch with the board and we have a meeting until 3 PM. My original plan was to make it to NYC today, but based on conversations with Adina on the feasability of getting there and back in one afternoon/evening plus the added bonus of rain makes me ultimately decide not to do it. I spend the afternoon exploring more of the city in the rain (up Chestnut street and down Market) and trying on clothes in H&M, deciding not to buy anything because I am too fat for all of it, and make it back to the bookstore to purchase my finds and a trashy Jonathan Kellerman paperback for the plane ride home. I go out by myself for dinner and eat at the bar of a Belgian beergarden-style restautant. My chicken sandwich is heavenly and I even drink a beer (a sour lambic, but technically still a beer). I pack before bed and am so glad to be going home.

Saturday: Up early for breakfast, then an hour with the board again before I take the shuttle to the airport. The weather is still sort of crappy but there are no delays and I get back to Denver mid-afternoon. I am so happy to be home.

My observations of Philadelphia (at least the bits I got to see, which granted wasn't all that much):

Philly is a far dirtier and grittier city than I expected, even in the old historical parts. The city it reminded me most of was Boston, but it seemed a little more real than Boston and the people were far more diverse and integrated, at least from what I saw. The streets are narrow and close together and everyone is in a hurry but the people in Philly don't seem too upset if you stop to take a photo of something. It's not an especially safe city, but then, neither is San Francisco. People take their food (whether it be cheesesteaks or sushi) very seriously. And everyone I met went out of their way to be nice to me.

There were so many places I wanted to see and so many things I wanted to do that I just didn't get around to. I guess we'll have to go back someday, if only so Dan can run up the steps like Rocky and eat an authentic cheesesteak.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Touched by his noodly appendage

First: status updates.

1. I can see three square inches of window (and natural light) from my new cube. No more dark basement!

2. My computer came back with the new versions of all the office programs so I have hope that my camera will talk to it OK and I can start using photos on the blog again. The computer is also moving at a normal, not glacial, pace, so that's pretty good too.

3. I'm going to Philadelphia on Tuesday! And I get to meet up with a long-time blog crush, Adina Anonymous. She describes herself as "Korean, Jewish, dizzy, gassy, happy" and I think that sounds pretty awesome. She's also got some ideas of stuff for me to do/see while I'm there. If any of you in blogland have suggestions, they would be welcome!

4. I ALSO get to see my friend Kent and his lovely fiance, because we're all taking the train to meet up together in NYC on Friday evening. (They are in CT.) It's my first time in the big apple - what's the one thing I absolutely must do on a Friday in New York?

5. Yesterday afternoon Dan and I went to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude give a lecture about their work. It was both awesome and FREE which made it double awesome. They are working on another project called Over the River that will be in Colorado in a few years.

So, now that that's out of the way, it's time to write about food. This week, without quite meaning to, I ended up making a lot of things that involved noodles. They were all different, and all tasty, but noodly nonetheless.

Monday: White People Food

White People Food (tm Monkey) is what we call it when we mix together some things, like mac and cheese or potatoes and some sort of meaty substance and some vegetables and mix it all up in a bowl. Monday's version of White People Food looked like this:

1 box organic whole wheat mac & cheese
1/2 medium sized chicken boob (a whole breast is 2 halves, I only used one of the halves), chopped into small pieces
juice of 1 lime
chopped bell pepper (red, yellow), maybe 1/2 cup
chopped onion, 1/2 cup
1 head chopped broccoli (florets)
1 chopped carrot
2 gigantic white mushrooms, chopped (worked out to about 1/4 cup)
a handful of fresh thai basil and some cilantro, chopped into little bits

Boil water for noodles. Chop chicken into pieces, removing fat, and cook in small nonstick skillet with some seasonings and 1/2 the lime juice - I used lemon pepper. Sautee vegetables in a little canola oil; add seasonings (I used taco seasoning we just got at Penzeys and it was really good!), the other half of the lime juice and maybe some rice vinegar to give it a little liquid. Add cooked chicken and herbs to vegetables and season a bit more. When noodles are done, drain and follow directions on box. Sometimes we use greek yogurt instead of milk/butter but we didn't have any so I just used milk and a small amount of butter. Mix veggies/chicken in with mac and cheese. Maybe add a little salt/pepper or parmesan.

Result: YUMMY. White people food is nearly always tasty.

Tuesday: Whole wheat pasta with basil marinara, veggies, and ground turkey

2 servings whole wheat linguine or spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/2 lb ground turkey, browned and drained
handful of chopped fresh basil
1/2 chopped red bell pepper
15-20 asparagus spears, chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces
5 large mushrooms, chopped
1/2 jar generic organic tasty marinara sauce
garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes

Heat water to cook pasta. Brown turkey. Quickly sautee asparagus, red bell pepper, mushrooms, add basil, then add the pasta sauce and let simmer while pasta cooks. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to taste. Drain pasta, add sauce over noodles (I dish this out in individual bowls rather than doing it in the pan). Top with some grated parmesan and/or gruyere. I served this with a piece of ghetto garlic bread (piece of whole wheat toast, buttered and sprinkled with garlic powder). The garlic powder we got at Penzeys is really tasty and potent so it made for good garlic bread.

Result: Frabarous! This is one of our go-to meals that gets made about once a week or so (the veggies vary, but the result is always delish.)

Wednesday: Stir-fry green beans and shrimp over rice noodles

Wide rice noodles
Frozen raw shrimp, thawed, peeled, deveined
3/4 lb green beans
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (I was lazy and pressed it)
5 medium white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, chopped into 1-inch chunks and then quartered
handful of chopped cilantro and thai basil
seasoning of choice (I used Singapore Seasoning from Penzeys cuz it tastes good)

Defrost and peel shrimp. Boil water for noodles. Cook noodles.Prep veggies, then quickly stir fry with some canola oil, rice vinegar and maybe a little soy sauce. Season with fresh lime juice and thai basil. Drain noodles, add veggies on top. Eat with chopsticks.

Result: Pretty good, but I should have started the noodles sooner. They took too long to cook and so the stir fry was a little overdone.

Thursday: The Reign of Noodles is at an end! Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup

2 heads broccoli, chopped (including stem)
1 small potato, diced (I used yukon gold)
1 kohlrabi, peeled and diced (optional, but we had one that needed using)
5 cups vegetable broth (we use this broth concentrate stuff that comes in a jar and mix it with water)
1 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
seasonings of choice
1/4 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
small amounts of grated gruyere cheese

Boil broth and cook vegetables until tender, maybe 10 minutes. Reserve 1.5 cups of broth. Drain veggies, process with 3/4 of the broth in a blender or food processor until smooth, maybe 1 minute. Let sit while you make a roux with the butter, flour, and seasonings (melt butter in pan, add salt/pepper/whatever, add flour, stir together for 30 seconds or so), then add milk. Stir until the milk starts getting thick, then let it cook for 30 seconds or a minute more. It will get really thick and bubbly. Add veggie puree and the rest of the broth, stir. Add cheese and stir some more until it's heated through and the cheese is melted. I served this with cheese toast.

Result: Super good. I think you can basically use any vegetables and this would turn out fabulously.

Tonight, Dan's making me some homemade pizza.

And! The recipe for the fritters from last weekend:

3 small zucchini, grated
2 small yellow squash, grated
1 small potato, grated (leave all the skins on the veggies)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp flour
grated hard cheese of your choice (I used parm and gruyere because I freaking love that stuff)
seasonings (salt, pepper, whatever)
Oil for frying

Grate veggies (we have an attachment on our food processor that grates stuff in like 2 seconds and is AWESOME). Mix with egg, flour, cheese, seasonings. Let it sit. A whole lot of water will come out. Drain it as best you can. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil in a pan with high sides (we have a stainless steel pan we use for the occasional frying we do). I used enough to cover the bottom of the pan but no more. When the oil was hot, I scooped out a large forkful of veggie mixture and plopped it in the oil, then flattened it a bit with a metal spatula. I made 3 or 4 of these in the pan and then just let them fry. After a while, I realized I should probaly drain the plops before I cooked them, so I started doing that and they cooked much better. Flip the plops over when they look brownish on the bottom. Cook until they seem done and drain on paper towels.

I thought to serve these with our sour cream substitute (plain nonfat greek yogurt) and applesauce, but these were so flavorful they didn't need any accoutrements.

OK, I'm done talking about food now. *wipes brow*

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This has not been a good week.

Monday: My office is supposed to move. I hand-move my plants and other personal stuff, find out in a meeting that I'm not the only one questioning my sanity for staying in my current position, and my computer and phone don't get delivered to the new place until after noon. By the end of the day I have a functional computer and phone but none of my boxes/stuff/work.

Tuesday: Boxes are delivered (finally). I unpack. I cut myself on some hanging file thingies.

Wednesday: I have a ton of work to do and my computer needs rebooting 3 times when I first get to work. I call IT. I spend a good chunk of the morning filing, organizing, and cursing at my computer. Finally, I get it to function for a while, but all of my programs (word, excel, access, exploder, etc.) die regularly and without warning. The IT guy comes to take a look (finally) and says my hard drive is hosed. It will take a day to get rebuilt. I have to steal the temp admin's computer in order to get any work done. I have about 8 projects that all need doing at once and the admin doesn't know what she's doing or how to do the things I need so I have to walk her through it as best I can. I won't have my own computer back until sometime tomorrow. So much to do, no way to get it done.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Food, poisoning

Somehow, Friday's food theme was continued through our weekend. As a special treat, we went out to dinner Friday night at a local Indian place (at which we hadn't eaten since April of 2007, which shows you how frequently we eat out). We split veggie samosas, Dan had lamb kebab and I had chicken tikka masala. Afterward we had intended to see the new Cohen brothers' movie, but we got to the theater and the line was frighteningly long. So we walked by Julie & Steve's place and hung out with them for the remainder of the evening.

That night, my tummy hurt when we were going to bed. I chalked it up to a reaction to the drink I'd had at Julie's - flavored water and vodka; I figured my stomach didn't like artificial peach flavor or there was too much aspartame or something in it. I fell asleep.

At 3 AM, I woke up. Things were very, very bad. I stumbled to the bathroom feeling seriously poisoned. Then, some really gross stuff happened. Yes, that. And that, too. At the same time. I was miserable.

Eventually, everything that could possibly evacuate my digestive system had done so in one fashion or another, and I went back to bed, but couldn't sleep for a while because I still felt kind of nasty. Saturday, we had grand plans, but I wasn't up for much of it. We did make it to the local Penzey's store and spent a few bucks replacing some of our empty spices and trying some new spices and seasoning mixes. The garlic we got is particularly tasty.

Saturday night we planned a somewhat unusual dinner but it all came together very nicely. We had an ahi tuna steak, seared, with gomasio (a japanese seasoning blend) on it; fritters made from the little zucchinis we grew, summer squash, and a little bit of onion, potato, and fresh basil; and steamed Olathe sweet corn-on-the-cob. Yes, kind of scattered, but boy was everything tasty. I'll post the fritter recipe on Friday.

Sunday we cleaned the house and Dan watched football and we prepared for Sunday's dinner for Dan's parents. I made a key lime pie (damn, those limes are tiny and take forever to squeeze!) from a Rick Bayless (Mexican) cookbook and Dan made a chicken dish from the same cookbook. We had a simple green salad and made some whole wheat quesadillas for appetizers, half with sharp cheddar cheese and half with the chocolate bell pepper (soooo tasty because of its deep color), some onion, and squash blossoms sauteed and mixed with queso fresco. We also made fresh guacamole and pico de gallo with stuff from the garden. Everything turned out really well.

I like Indian food much better when it doesn't make me violently ill. It might be a while before we go back.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Food on Friday

This semester, I am cooking on the weekdays and Dan on the weekends because he doesn't get home until 10 PM Monday through Thursday evenings. This is a big change for me, because since we've lived together Dan has made a good 85% of our meals cooked at home. I'm having to flex muscles I haven't used in a long time and remember skills and past successes and past failures and to be a little more creative because you can only have the same meal so many times in a row before you get tired of it. That's how I am, at any rate.

This week, I made three dinners and punted once (reheating chicken gumbo and cornbread Dan made last weekend). Here's what I made, and how it went, and what I might do differently.

Monday: Fritatta-like thing with vegetables and chicken

Chopped onion or shallot (I used shallot), about 1/2 cup
Chopped mushrooms, about 5 large white ones
Chopped red bell pepper, about 1/2 cup
Chopped raw spinach, about 1 1/2 or 2 cups
One raw chicken breast, diced
3 eggs scrambled with a bit of milk
Various seasonings
Small amount of grated parmesan and fancy gruyere cheese

For this dish, I chopped the chicken breast into smallish pieces and sauteed it in a small pan with a whole bunch of lemon pepper and some fresh garlic. In a large nonstick skillet I sauteed the shallot, mushrooms, and red bell pepper in a a little olive oil with some more lemon pepper, and when the chicken was almost done I put it in with the other stuff. I added the spinach and folded it in with everything else, then dumped in the egg, turned down the heat, and put a lid on the pan so it could cook slowly. When the fritatta was set and looked pretty done, I grated some parmesan and gruyere (we got some from the cheese ends basket at Sunflower Market) over the top, and I served it with a piece of toasted whole wheat bread.

Resuts: very tasty, and made enough for both of us for dinner, plus enough for two lunches' worth of leftovers. I only needed 3 eggs which acted as a binding agent more than a really eggy dish. The gruyere on top was super yummy.

Tuesday: Stir-fry over udon noodles, zucchini bread (for dessert)

1/2 block tofu (I think maybe 12 oz block), drained, cubed, and marinated in soy-ginger salad dressing for a couple of hours
1/2 chopped red bell pepper (we got a ton of cheap bell peppers this weekend at the grocery store - can you tell?)
1/4 chopped yellow bell pepper
4 chopped large white mushrooms
1 large chopped zucchini (I cut it in 1 inch chunks, then quarter them lengthwise)
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 pound purple green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces and blanched
1 baby bok choy, each "leaf" halved lenthwise
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 little packets udon noodles

I cut up the tofu and marinated it for a couple of hours in some leftover soy ginger salad dressing we had (annie's, maybe?) and made the zucchini bread (recipe to follow) while I waited. After the bread was done, I did the rest of the prep work (like blanching the purple green beans, watching them turn from purple to green in a matter of seconds before my eyes), then poured a little canola oil in the wok, turned it up high, and tossed in the tofu and all of the veggies except the green beans and baby bok choy and set the water to boiling for the noodles. I added some lime juice, some rice vinegar, and a little sesame oil. When the veggies were mostly done, I added the green beans and cooked the udon noodles. I added the baby bok choy and cilantro right at the end of the cooking time, drained the noodles, and served the stir fry over them in our big stir-fry bowls.

Result: Super tasty, a different mix of veggies than I normally do. The purple green beans had fantastic flavor, especially when mixed with everything else. I would have used sesame seeds had we had them, but I made do with a little sesame oil and I think the flavor was great. Next time I'll use a tiny bit less oil.

I'd been wanting to make zucchini bread for a long time, and bought some extra ones at the store this weekend in anticipation. Here's my recipe, modified from the original out of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

MLE's Zucchini Bread made healthy

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil (we use canola for baking)
1 1/3 cup grated zucchini
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Mix dry ingredients, add wet, scrape into greased 8x4 loaf pan. Bake at 350F for about 40-45 minutes. This batter will be pretty dry, but it will turn into a great zucchini bread. Dan isn't a huge fan of nuts in baked goods so I didn't put nuts in this time. It's great served warm or cold and spread with a little bit of butter.

Wednesday: Cheated and reheated some leftover gumbo.

Thursday: Bell Pepper Soup

It's turned cold and rainy the last few days, and we had a ton of bell peppers still, so I decided to pull this old recipe out of a cookbook I stole from my mom called "Almost Vegetarian." The last time I made this soup was 2003 so I thought I'd dust it off and try again.

2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 small potato, chopped (I used a yukon gold)
equivalent of 2 large bell roasted bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow), seeded and chopped
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken to give it some more flava flav)
lemon pepper and savory
fresh basil from the garden

First, roast the bell peppers. I used 1/2 a huge yellow one, 1 big red one, and 1/2 a medium-size orange one, taking out the seeds/ribs and roasting them skin-side up in the broiler for a few minutes, then putting them in a bag in the fridge for 15 minutes while I prepped everything else. Theoretically, this was supposed to make the skins easy to remove, but this is something I always have trouble with and this time was no different. I removed what skins I could but found it to be a difficult and slippery business.

Prep everything else, then sautee the onion, carrot, and celery in a soup pot with a little olive oil and the dry seasonings until softened (10 minutes?). Add the bell peppers and potato and the chicken/veggie stock, then let simmer for a while until everything seems pretty soft - maybe 15 minutes or so. When the veggies seem cooked, remove from heat and puree everything in the blender. Return to the pot and add some fresh chiffonaded (is that a word?) basil, then let simmer again while you melt some sharp cheddar cheese on top of leftover southern-style corn bread.

Serve with more basil on top. I added a little salt and pepper to mine, since I didn't add any during the cooking process.

Results: delicious soup with more body since I used chicken broth. Next time I might serve with grilled cheese sandwiches, or cook some raw (peeled, de-tailed, deveined) shrimp in the soup during the final step to add some protein.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Moving Day

For the past few weeks, my office has been under the gun to throw away old crap, get organized, and get packed. Tomorrow is my last day in the dark basement cube, as Monday morning we'll be moving into a different building, a different space. It's on the 11th floor of a building right across the street (and across a parking lot), so it's going to be neither dark nor in a basement. I'll still have a cube, and it'll be smaller and far more crowded. Instead of sitting near 7 other coworkers and being removed from most office politics and gossip, I'll be right in the thick of it (there will be 38 of us in the new space). Instead of relative peace and quiet, there's going to be a lot more people and people noise around. Instead of never knowing what the weather's like, I'll be able to walk 3 cubes down to the window.

There have been a lot of drawbacks to my dark basement cube, but some benefits as well. It's far more laid back in terms of flexibility - people come and go, nobody keeps track, so I can get to the office late, leave early, take a longer lunch sometimes, and it's not a big deal. After tomorrow, that's probably not going to be the case. I'm really not looking forward to being around so many people again, in the middle of everything and everybody's business. But at least my plants will get some natural light. I'll keep you all posted about whether the good things about the move outweigh the bad; I have my reservations.

Speaking of moves, Dan's blog has moved to a new address; you can find him here.

And no blog post today can go without mention of what day it is. I don't think I've blogged about my 9/11/01 experiences before, but to sum up, it may very well have been the day I realized how important Dan was to me, because my first inclination (after discovering my friends in NYC were all OK) was to call him - not my family, not my closest friends, but my boyfriend of only a few months. I didn't have TV at the time, so I never saw any of the news coverage, and I refused to look at the horror on the internet. I read about it, of course, and read people's first-hand experiences, but the first time I ever saw the plane flying into the second tower was when I watched Farenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore. Needless to say, it made me cry. While 9/11 isn't my story to tell, it's definitely been on my mind today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fantasy vs. Reality: Urban Gardening Edition

It's a cool, blustery September day. I am walking down the street, in a neighborhood once full of drugs but now clean, and I am starving. I have nothing to eat, no way to obtain food, and it has been days since a fraction of a calorie has passed my lips.

But hark! What is it I see before me? Some good samaritan, some right kind soul, has lovingly planted and tended a garden of edibles. On such a dreary day, it's difficult to see whether any fruits on the tomato plants are ripe, so I think I'll rifle through the greenery until I find something that looks close to edible. Aha! A tomato that looks sort of reddish! And I know, because nobody in their right mind would plant a garden next to the sidewalk unless they intended passers-by to take the produce grown, that this tomato is for me.

I take one bite. It is somewhat unripe. Sour fills my mouth, and I decide it isn't right for me to eat the entire thing myself. I gently place it on the ground on the other side of the front yard, allowing other people dying of starvation to partake.

* * * * * *

What actually happened:

Our garden is in our front yard next to the sidewalk, a space of about four feet by three feet in which we grow three tomato plants, a jalapeno, 2 bell peppers, and lots of herbs and marigolds. It's the only space in the entire yard that gets enough sun to allow anything to ripen. I pick our tomatoes when they are half-ripe and bring them inside, because otherwise people steal them. I had been waiting in anticipation of this tomato for several days, because it was larger than the others and looked like, when ripe, it was going to be really good. I thought about picking the tomato on Sunday, but decided to pick it when I got home on Monday because the day was grey and the tomato was mostly hidden by leaves; I didn't think anyone would notice it to steal it.

I was wrong.

And to add insult to injury, not only did someone pick it, they took one bite and left it there for me to find.

That's what you get for stealing someone else's half-ripe tomato, asshole.

Oh! And I've been growing a bell pepper plant in a pot in the backyard in the one spot that gets a few hours of sun a day - on an old table. The plant had put out one fruit, that ever-so-slowly got larger, and I encouraged it when I walked by every day to grow bigger and make more peppers. It had just started to turn when we left to run an errand on Saturday and I noticed it was gone. Two feet away on the ground, it lay, nibbled in places, and I knew it was those bastard squirrels. Why a squirrel would want to steal an unripe red bell pepper, I'll never know, but I waited two damn MONTHS for that pepper. And it abandoned the thing after a few tentative tastes. Effing squirrels.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Weekend Snippets

*Dan wanted to buy a pair of comfortable shoes for walking around in and being on his feet all day (his job involves quite a bit of this). I wanted a pair of sneakers to replace the ones that got full of tar in Santa Barbara this summer. We visited FOUR shoe stores before we were both successful in our quests (and we each found exactly what we were looking for in the final store).

*If you have a kid who is allergic to bees, it is probably not a good idea to bring that kid to a pick-your-own berry farm. We visited one on Saturday and had a modicum of luck picking raspberries (my arms are all scratched up from the raspberry canes). The crop was mostly picked-over and I could tell the best was yet to come. I could tell this in part because the acres of raspberry canes were full of honeybees, and there were far more flowers than berries. We also got a variety of other fresh-picked produce: some summer squash, some purple green beans, a chocolate bell pepper.

*I made buckwheat crepes for breakfast on Sunday and we ate them with the freshly picked raspberries, low fat ricotta, and homemade whipped cream.

*We went hiking on Sunday and I saw two (2) people on mountain unicycles. You know, like mountain bikes (of which there were many) but unicycles instead of bicycles. Those people? Are insane.

*Our haul from Target on Sunday afternoon: one new purse, black, (p)leather; one striped polo shirt, size Dan; one box of 500 count cotton swabs; one silicone spatula; two $5 DVDs (A Knight's Tale and The Karate Kid).

Good Advice for this Monday: If you buy a 2-liter of sparkling water at the grocery store and walk home with it in your backpack, let it sit for a while before opening. I didn't even think about it, and opened it over the sink, and a good 1/3 of it sprayed out everywhere, all over the clean dishes, all the way up the kitchen window, and all over me. And most of the carbonation was gone. Harrumph.

Friday, September 05, 2008

I am someone who

...very rarely looks good in photographs, and thanks the Flying Spaghetti Monster that the guy who photographed her wedding managed to make her look at least OK.

...is afraid of change sometimes.

...if asked to choose a beverage, will nearly always choose water.

...mourns each season in its passing.

...eats when she is bored sometimes.

...misses friends even when they are no longer friends anymore.

...feels a little nostalgia isn't necessarily a bad thing.

...wants to have adventures.

...loves meeting new people.

...thinks the sensation of chewing on tin foil is about the worst thing ever.

...hopes with quiet desperation for one presidential candidate to be elected rather than the other, if for nothing else then for the decisions and laws that could affect her future children.

...wonders how women pre-Jane Fonda and Title 9 stayed so thin.

...secretly wants to grab people's asses, like, all the time.

...re-reads books over and over because she considers them to be old friends.

...has always been afraid of getting older.

...is getting a little stuck for ideas on how to use the bumper crops of Italian and Thai basil in the garden.

...needs at least one great big hug every day.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Green eyed monster

I've been feeling a little sorry for myself lately. I hurt my neck again last weekend and spent all last week in a good deal of pain, was unable to exercise as much as I wanted to, and we had to scrap our plans to go camping over the long weekend because if sleeping in my own bed makes my neck hurt, I can't imagine what sleeping on the ground would do to it. So we didn't go camping.

Good things, exciting things, are happening to lots of people around me (and people I know from afar) - Dan got to volunteer during the DNC, which was super exciting because he saw all kinds of famous people speak and got to experience the positives of the ridiculousness that was the week, while I just had to go in and out the front door of my building and wear a stupid ID card. Also, Loki chose Dan to deposit the mystery rodent upon, though that may have just been timing (I wasn't home). Leah is writing about how awesome her gestating wombat is these days (a wombat, I might add, that is my wedding baby since that's when he was conceived, ie, had I gotten knocked up right at the wedding I'd be as far along as she is). Hillary just got married, Jive Turkey is freshly stuffed with a mini turkey of her own, and Amanda's due soon with Baby Brown #2. My sister just started her phD program and my husband is taking some awesome classes that involve him making movies of John Wayne vs. the Wolfman and subverting billboards (McDonalds: 100% beef rat). My other sister got a fabulous new job, EEK is moving in with Zipp (and got a new kitty!) and even my landlord just casually mentioned she had a baby in July (when I didn't even know she was pregnant!). A FOAF* had a going-away party on Friday to which we were invited; he'll be doing secret govmint work in Afghanistan, and we toasted to his new endeover with fancy, expensive infused vodka. All in all, great things, life-changing events, excitement and adventure.

And me? I'm fielding phone calls from angry school districts who have to start doing additional burdensome paperwork, thanks to a change in rules from the Feds that I had no say in. I'm annoyed that my body just doesn't want to give me a break and feel I deserve a new neck, a new shoulder, and new hips at the very least. My out-of-state-travel request for the possible Philly trip is languishing in the upper eschelons of bureaucracy, I am tired of all of my clothes (and wish the ones I have fit better - I've figured out that it's muscle gain that's made the difference, not fat, which is better, I guess, but I'm still annoyed that my clothes won't fit), and we don't have a trip on the horizon other than Thanksgiving, which is eminently frustrating. Nobody has any plans to visit us and our 87 coffee mugs. My toes need polishing. My attitude needs adjusting. And the season abruptly changed yesterday, going from 90 degrees to the mid 60s (Monday vs. Tuesday) and the air feels like fall. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the change of seasons and love fall, but with the job I have fall is an exhausting two months of travel and being ON and wanting out.

Also, my office is moving to another building, and our cubes are going to be tiny, cramped, and overwhelmingly crowded (right now, I sit in a dark basement amongst only 8 other people, which makes for ease of longer lunches, leaving early, and little noise and office gossip, but after the move that all goes away. The only upside? Actual light). I have to go through all my files, toss/recycle years worth of paperwork, and pack everything up by the end of this week. Blech.

But I'll tell you something. Even though I may be jealous of other people, people with big exciting lives and projects and loves and novelty, I can honestly say there are some people I'm glad I'm not. Bristol Palin? I wouldn't trade lives with her in a hot second. I don't live in a hurricane zone, my cat is a mighty hunter (we knew this due to his prowess at bug catching/eating; this may have been his first opportunity to catch a mouse), and my husband thinks I'm pretty even if I don't sometimes. Our zucchini plant is finally setting fruit (very tasty, I might add) and the bell peppers are finally ripe enough to eat. We've got herbs coming out our ears and will have a second crop of tomatoes shortly. And having an empty uterus (for quite some time yet, relatives who read this blog!) means I get to drink mojitos with home-grown mint, eat sushi to my heart's content, and keep eating cold turkey lunchmeat as an afternoon protein-y snack.

Give me some other reasons to be happy, internet. What's floating your boat these days?

*FOAF = Friend of a friend