Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If not now...when? Excuses for not writing.

On most Tuesdays, I have a little time to myself while Noah is at co-op. The luxury of 3 and a half kid-free hours is truly treasured. However, I must fill that time with something I deem 'productive.' Not running errands or cleaning the house or napping. No no no. I decided that I have to spend that time writing and/or reading. Not on the computer. Blog posts just don't count. I see this time as personal enrichment hours.
But there is never an ideal situation. There aren't any cafes nearby to write in. I can't go home and be reminded of the millions of other things that I should be doing, and have the cats jumping on my lap. So I sit in the grocery store cafe and argue with myself over why I should even write in the first place. After all, everything's already been said much more eloquently by someone else. And, oh yeah, I suck. By the time I finish going through my lists of insecurities and oppressions, I have a short window of time to focus on Writing. And by then, I'm hungry. Or I have to pee.

Excuses for not Writing (with a capital W) today:

1) Location. I am sitting in a grocery store. It's a nice enough store. I'm on the second floor overlooking the floral department and cafe. I'm surrounded by employees munching their quick lunch breaks. Chewing abounds. Carts are chug-a-lugging. Moms and babies goo goo gaga-ing. Renewing. Baptizing themselves in the flourescently lit consumerist river. Filling baskets with Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. Eyes full of hope, dread, panic, weariness.

2) Grocery store music. Just loud enough to distract. Sappy enough to sicken. Old enough to evoke associations which lead to memories. Catchy. I find myself unwittingly singing, "Oooh...aahhh...I want to be with you everyway...." and  "If you don't know me by now...you will never never never know me...ooh...ooh..."

3) Entitlement. Damn you, Virginia Woolf. I love you, honey, but should I be convinced that I need a room of my own to sit and Write (capital W again) in? If women wait for that to happen, we will go on waiting til the cows come home. And no cows are ever coming home to me. (I don't really know what that expression means.) Yes, if you want to be a Writer, a professional writer, you need time, space. But we can't all be Woolf, we can't all have wealthy aunts who give us that 600 pounds so that we can indulge in our 'art'. I'm not bitter.
My room is like a coffin full of cat fur. Nothing alive and vibrant gets written there.
So, here I sit in a grocery store. I can have a creme brulee coffee and a chocolate chip muffin for 2 bucks. A table and chair of my own overlooking bright flowers with plenty of folks to spy on.

If I want to write, I should just tell myself to shut up and write. Right?

After much deliberation, I got around to wrting a few ideas for stories/poems down. At least it's something.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Meatless Monday: Grilled Portobello or Eggplant 'Burgers'

If you are fortunate enough to live someplace warm, like FL, where most of my family and friends reside, then maybe you should consider something GRILLED for your Meatless Monday dinner tonight.
Might I suggest for you the vegetarian's steak: the PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM.
Portobellos are so hearty and flavorful.
You can marinate the shroom in some Italian dressing, or garlic oil, throw it on the grill until the juices are flowing and the 'meat' is tender. Stick it on a bun with all the fixin's (cheese, lettuce, tomato, roasted red peppers, caramelized red onions...whatever floats your gastronomical boat).

Yummy. Easy. Super low fat. Healthy Healthful. Cheap (but not as cheap as beans). And you can rest assured that you are not eating a friendly animal. That makes me feel good to know.

Or maybe you'd like to try a grilled Eggplant Burger? Well, that is also very easy and delicious...
Just take an eggplant (remove the skin, or not), slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. Marinate or not. Grill it. Melt some cheese on top, maybe feta? Bun it...or try it on toasted sourdough. Also wonderful.


Grill while you can Floridians. I envy you. Even though its not super cold yet here in NY, I will not be venturing into the great outdoors to grill up my dinner tonight. For the LeBlanc's Meatless Monday dinner, we will be enjoying the fabulousness that is Chana Masala.

Wander Lust, Road Trips, and Things to do in DC

Michael has a job interview at Montgomery College in the Tacoma Park/Silver Spring, MD area on Dec 11th.
The three of us are loading up the car and taking the trip to DC together. And maybe Susan will come to.

I've been to DC before. Did a road trip with Melissa a few years back that included DC. My memory of that trip is a little fuzzy. I've discovered recently, that if I begin to write fuzzy memories down, more details emerge. Sometimes the details are invented by my mind trying to fill in the gaps. Sometimes my mind whips up new and improved memories, fulfilling wishes, erasing scars, eliminating shame and despair. I'm thankful for this.

I remember that we drove from FL to DC, laughing often and stopping at many roadside attractions to take pictures. Mel and I were both taking a ceramics class at the art center at FSU, and had darkroom access as well. So we fely compelled to take many pictures with our fancy 35mm cameras, with plans to develop them when back in Tally. I have, from that trip, a black and white photo of a huge paper mache elephant. The elephant had creepy black circles around its eyes. I have another photo memento of a semi that had "Keep Humping" painted on the side of its trailer. I also have a photo of a little boy dipping his fingers into the pool in front of the National Monument. I'll have to dig those pics out and make sure they match up with my memory of them.

From DC, Mel and I must have driven to Ohio to visit her Aunt Jane and Grandmother. Apparently, the particular town that Mel's granny lived in was living with the painfully scary memory of a flood that had engulfed the area. Were there flood lines on the sides of buildings?

After Ohio, we drove to Kentucky and visited Mammoth Caves. That was pretty awesome and a bit claustrophobic. Maybe we ran out of film, because I have no photos of the Mammoth Caves. I do remember darkness, then multi-colored lights illuminating the stalagmites and stalactites.

Somewhere along the way, probably winding through the Appalachian or Smokey Mountains, Melissa and I both had to pull over and barf. One of us barfed in the car too. I don't remember who.

One last little tidbit of a memory...I was driving at one point at night through so much fog and mist that it felt for sure that we were in the clouds. It was very surreal. I couldn't see a thing in front of me. We crept along agonizingly slow. I don't know where we were headed, or how we managed to escape. But I was sure that it was hell. Were we high? Maybe? Just driving to the convenience store from the hotel for Funyuns? I'm definetely not sure if that's accurate, since Mel and I would have never smoked or anything like that.

Anyways, now I am looking for things to do in the DC area with a kid. I think we'll say hi to the pandas at the National Zoo. Go to the top of the National Monument to see the city from a bird's eye view.

I'm excited about the possibility of living in the DC area. But not too excited. Don't want to get my hopes up.
But the area is closer to my family and friends in FL.
The area has more opportunities for Michael and I for employment. More opportunities than Syracuse. Perhaps I can even utilize my International Affairs Masters degree if I live in DC.
I want to live in a more urban area that has public transportation options. I know DC's not the best in these regards, but it's an improvement over the Cuse. More cultural experiences: museums, monuments, etc.
And of course, oh my goodness, the richness of history, the excitement of living in our capital!

I love taking trips. I love to get up and go and look out the window and listen to how people talk and what food they eat and observe the differences and similarities. I love possibility. New beginnings.
My mother used to say that I was left on her doorstep by a band of gypsies. I wouldn't be surprised if that's true. WanderLust.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cyclamen, my favorite houseplant.

Admire the Cyclamen's heart-shaped foilage.
In the center, many buds
will soon be opening.

Then, delicate fushia flowers will adorn their long, slender stems.

In Victorian days, Cyclamen were the Christmas plants given to neighbors and friends.
Now the tradition is to give Poinsettias.

Supposedly, you can make a tea from the Cyclamen petals.
However, it is officially POISONOUS.
Beware of her dangerous beauty.

It's Monday Again. Quiche, Anyone?

You know what Monday means, right? Meatless, baby.
Don't cry, Glenn Beck, I don't want to take away your steak.

I am just suggesting that you try a meatless meal one day this week...just Monday. You can just try it. There are plenty of things that you know are delicious that don't happen to be meaty.

Like Gingerbread cookies.

Here is our family in gingerbread form.
That's me in the Nerds shirt and fish skirt. Micheal's eyes are M&M's. Noah is a sprinkle bear.

Perhaps you don't want to make a meal out of gingerbread?
Well, then, you are no fun!

Ok, maybe you require something more substantial.

I recommend QUICHE for your Meatless Monday meal/experiment/extravaganza.
Quiche is elegant, yet hearty. Fantastic for any meal of the day...but I prefer a dinner quiche.
It's healthy. It's quick. It's cheap. It's easy.
And believe me, being cheap and easy is a good good thing! ; )

Here's a simple way to do it (Quiche, that is):

1) CRUST. You can make your own. Or you can do as I do...buy a refrigerated pie crust. Brown it.
2) CHEESE. Whatever kind you have. Whatever you like. Grate it or slice it. Whatever. Put it on top of the browned crust. This forms some kind of wonderfulness. It also prevents your crust from getting soggy from the eggs and other fillings.
3) FILLING. Use whatever you like. This is the fun part. You get to experiment. Try different flavor combinations. It's a culinary adventure. Look in your fridge and see what veggies are in danger of becoming Food Waste, and use it up! Or if you need a little inspiration, saute green and red peppers, onion, and garlic. Or try some mushrooms and spinach. Maybe just tomatoes and  fresh basil. How about broccoli?
Go wild. Be conservative. Do whatever. Really, you can't fail here.
Spread veggie filling over cheese.
4) EGGS. Take 3 or 4 eggs. Whisk them with a little skim milk. Pour whisked eggs on top of the veggie filling. Sprinkle a little paprika on top for color...or oregano. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Or until quiche is no longer jiggly.

Serve this with a fruit salad on the side. Or roasted asparagus. Or a caesar salad. Or some green beans.

Or maybe with some warm gingerbread cookies right out of the oven.... and a glass of cold milk.

Have a full and happy belly!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beer-Infused Wasted Food

Last night, I whipped up this beautiful Pot Pie.

Unfortunately, it was inedible. In fact, it was disgusting.
These things happen sometimes when I 'go rogue' in the kitchen'...sigh.
Everything was going great. The veggie filling was sauteing, the bottom crust was golden brown, the roux was standing by .
And then, a very stupid thought entered my mind, "Hmm...maybe I could add BEER to this?!!!"
Have you ever heard of a beer-infused veg pot pie? Nope, me either...I was being a maverick, blazing the trail for epicurians everywhere.
We happend to have some Saranac India Pale Ale. I purchased this ale because it was made in 'the foothills of the Adiorondacks'...and I am compelled to be a locavore whenever I can...especially with beer and wine. Nothing like supporting the local economy and getting a buzz to boot.
But, alas, the Saranac Pale Ale is a wee too bitter in my book.
And the potatoes and carrots completely absorbed the bitterness like little sponges. Bleh! Blick!

The worst part of all of this?
Not my husband's loss of faith in my cooking abilities.
Not the fact that we ended up feasting on Honey Bunches of Oats for dinner.
Not the pain of seeing such a gorgeous golden brown pie crust,
crunchy and flaky, and then not being able to enjoy a single bite.
Nope, nope, nope. None of that.
The worst thing about this is the wasted food.
I lose sleep over food waste.
Wasting food is like throwing money away.
I was trying so hard to not let the baby carrots in the produce drawer shrivel any further, and the celery was going limp, and the potatoes were growing new eyes. So the pot pie was (would have been) an awesome and delicious way to rescue those veggies from the sad fate of the compost pile.

O! The tragedy of waste!
Don't be me.

I could really use a beer now. Beer Therapy. Anyone have any suggestions?
I would prefer to try something from the central/upstate NY area...but not anything sucky.

Hmmm....I wonder why so many of my posts involve some kind of failure on my part?
Maybe I should change the name of my blog to something like...
Confessions of an Un-Domestic Goddess!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Weekend...

We visited the farmer's market.
Brought back Brussel Sprouts on a stick.

I didn't realize they grow that way.
I always assumed they sprouted up like little lettuces out of the ground.

Nothing hotter than a man who loves his vegetables.

We also raked the leaves that had filled our yard.
Yellow. Brown. Crunchy.

Some leaves were still falling.
Like this one that floated gracefully until it came to rest on Noah's sweet head.

Noah jumped in every single pile. Buried himself completely. Popped out again.

His happiness is boundless.
And so contagious.

Sunday evening.
The non-Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkins beg and plead to be used for something
other than decorations for the front porch.

I bathe them. Chop them. Roast them.

They will be transformed into Pumpkin Butter.
Homeade Pumpkin Butter will be a fine Christmas gift for someone.

Meatless Monday and a Lesson in Tofu

Meatless Monday approaches. Do you have your Meatless Monday meal planned? Well, just so you know, you can find some truly awesome recipes from Meatless Monday participants on their website:

I recently tried a few out.
Ok, this may sound gross or otherwise unappealing, but I tried out Barbequed Tofu!!!
I admit it. I have been a tofu skeptic. I would much rather use a vegetable or bean than a flavorless block of white spongy sliminess. I have tried tofu in stirfries with plenty of ginger and sesame oil...but it still was too tofu-ey.

With all this said, I loved the Barbequed Tofu...and amazingly... my husband did too! And he is even more of a tofu snob than me.
You can look up the recipe on the Meatless Monday site, but I'll just tell you what made this tofu experience different than all of those sad sad times before.
  • First, you FREEZE the tofu.
  • Then you slice/shave the frozen tofu...it almost replicates sliced turkey in appearance. 
  • Finely chop some onions (Sweet Vidalia, in our case). 
  • Smother in BBQ sauce (Dinosaur Jr. for us). 
  • MARINATE in the fridge for a while (4 hours, in our case). 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour or so. 
  • Serve on Sesame Buns with Coleslaw and a Pickle.
Oh my Barbequed Goodness! This was delish!

The MARINATING is really what made all of the difference here...and I think the thin meaty-looking slices helped too. There were no leftovers in our house.
So the valuable lesson about cooking with tofu is this: Since it is utterly bland on it's own, marinate it in a strong flavor, and you will have much better results.
Tofu is made from the ever-versatile and healthful soybean. And boy oh boy, is it cheaper than meat. The block o' tofu I purchased was $1.99 at Wegman's.

We only used half the block for the Barbequed Tofu recipe. I think I will slice the other half, marinate it in a Thai Peanut sauce, serve it with shredded steamed carrots over noodles. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Any tofu cooking pros out there? Any suggestions or recipes? I'd love to hear all about it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Defense for Blog Fail...and some Book Reviews

It has been a week and a half since I last blogged. There were extenuating circumstances. Really. My darling, dear 3-yr-old son placed a magnet on my laptop! Needless to say, the hard drive was completely wiped/scrambled/fried. Like an egg. Or your brain on drugs.

I hired a 'geek' to attempt to retrieve anything from the hard drive. But the geek failed. Geek Fail, nothing worse than being defeated by a 3-yr-old wielding a magnet. So, precious digital photos, goodbye. Luckily I had much of my stuff backed up. But still. It took a while to get my laptop back, get a new hard drive installed, get all of my programs and drivers and etc. etc. back. 

Then, of course, we celebrated my favorite pagan holiday of the year. Being the pagan I am, I was so busy making candy apples, carving pumpkins, and throwing together Noah's costume, that the blog was neglected once again.

King Noah of the Jack-o-Lanterns

My kid has a GUN! Good Lord. What kind of politically-correct liberal am I?!

Finally, the Co-op has been calling and requesting my assistance. Oh boy. We had a 3 and a half hour board meeting on Tuesday night! Lots of work remains to be done, typing up the minutes.

And then there's our little secret. Michael is teaching 6 classes this semester...driving to 3 different campus's... and he is doing online tutoring...and tutoring on campus. Sheeeesh. So to help in some small way, I have offered my skills to Michael for his online tutoring. For 3 hours on Wed nights, I rap the knuckles of college freshmen, and help them get in line and clean up their grammar and punctuation. College freshmen are pretty much just like my high school seniors. Oh my goodness, why oh why do people have so much trouble getting their subjects and verbs to agree!?

I have such high hopes for this blog. I would love more folks to follow and interact with the blog, leave comments, join the discussion. I can't wait to get back and do the Meatless Monday posts. In fact, I had pictures and a recipe for a gorgeous/delicious quiche...and I was all set to post them...but then the Magnet Wielding 3-yr-old came along, and those pics are history. Ok, I will wipe away my tears and move forward.
Stay tuned!

One last thing. I finished 2 books.
Margaret Atwood's "The Year of the Flood" is awesome and prophetic. And I don't give a darn what the New York Times Review of Books says... But then, I'm biased. I'm a maniac fangirl when it comes to Atwood. "The Year of the Flood" takes place in a consumer-based/corporate-run society. The main characters are on the fringes of this society gone awry. The tale is told from the perspectives of 2 women in the God's Gardeners cult. Religion. Science. Non-consumerism. Hippies. Who could ask for more? Not me, I tell you, not me!
Also, I read Shirley Jackson's "We Have Always Lived in the Castle." Jackson's wrote "The Haunting of Hill House," horror/spooky fans.

I must say, Castle was disturbing...but the narrator, Merricat, was the quirkiest character I've met in a long while. If you are agorophobic, and you handle most of your social interactions through your computer, you may find yourself relating to this strange girl. It was a perfectly creepy read for Halloween.

Gray Sea

Gray Sea