Friday, May 29, 2009


I find that both things great and small can be an inspiration.

Two people who inspire me are Luisa Perkins and John Roos.

I'll be lucky enough to have both of them visit here sometime in the near future - I'll be reviewing Luisa's amazing cookbook, Comfortably Yum, and John will be the launch for a new feature here: Local Love Fridays. Local Love Fridays will focus on small, independent business owners in the Ann Arbor/Southeast Michigan area, and our first feature will be RoosRoast Coffee. I'm hoping that some of you who are farther afield will take up this challenge, too, and help us to learn about your communities through those who are trying to make a difference in this crazy world economy.

I'm not yet sure if my debut piece will be next week or on June 12th. Stay tuned for that one.

In the meantime, I'm going to leave you with some of my favorite quotes. These quotations inspire me on a daily basis, but, you know, I'm kind of word-driven like that.

Ray Bradbury:

"To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.

You must write every single day of your life.

You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in glorious fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next.

You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats on your crazy heads.

I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime.

I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you.

May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories - science fiction and otherwise.

Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And, out of that love, remake a world."

Sai Baba:

"Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve upon the silence?"

Eleanor Roosevelt:

"No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."


"Carpe diem."

What makes you "seize the day"? What inspires you?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday: POM Wonderful: Wonderfully Decadent and Wonderfully Wholesome

Please go to The Fairy Blogmother for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

The first time I had pomegranate juice was in a Soviet "buffet" at a Moscow movie theater in 1987.

It was also the first time my friend Tanya had had grapefruit juice.

We were both stunned by the other's lack of culinary experience.

Pomegranate juice was rare in the States in those days, but certainly not so now. Touted as the ultimate antioxidant, and reportedly contributing to heart health and prostate health, pomegranates are enjoying a popularity here like never before.

I've been a fan of all things pomegranate since that frigid, December night in Moskva all those years ago. So when I was e-mailed by POM Wonderful and asked if I'd like to receive a free case of POM Wonderful and blog about it, I was delighted.

I get these offers fairly frequently. This is the first one I've accepted, though, because I won't. promote. stuff. with. junk. When someone e-mails me, the first thing I ask for is nutrition info. and ingredients.

All I can say is that this is the first product I've been offered that is pure. 100% pomegranate juice and nothing else. I could deal with that.

Very quickly, six, cute, little bottles arrived in a cold pack. Then I started to think about what might be fun to cook.

Well, raspberries to that.

I mean literally. I thought that raspberries in a Pomegranate reduction sauce, maybe without any sugar, would be interesting. And it was:

Here's the super-duper easy recipe, and it's so good. It's so good that D said, "Tell them it's so good that I licked the plate." And he did. Okay, so I didn't marry him for his table manners. But here it is:

Raspberries in Pomegranate Reduction

1 pint of raspberries
8 oz. of POM Wonderful
1 tsp. sugar (yeah, I did need a little)
1/2 tsp rose flower water

Heat raspberries and POM Wonderful to a simmer. Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until the liquid reduces by half. Take off the burner and stir in the sugar and rose flower water. Chill. You're done.

Now, I thought, what should I do with this divine sauce? Well, I happened to have some chocolate cake and some local vanilla ice cream (Calder Dairy - YUM), and this is what we came up with (the decadent part of this post):

Oh. Yeah.

But what I'd originally been thinking was something a whole lot more... wholesome. So, today, I made the Wonderfully Wholesome dessert. And I think it was even better. D didn't lick the plate, but he did have two helpings. So I give you a "real" recipe:

Spring Fruit Cobbler with Cornmeal Crust


1 recipe Raspberries in Pomegranate Reduction (or a bit less than one recipe, if you happened to use some with chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream the night before)
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup blackberries
4 oz. POM Wonderful

1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup stone ground cornmeal (I used Jennings Brothers heritage Bloody Butcher cornmeal)
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
2 1/2 TBS unsalted butter
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/2 tsp sugar, for sprinkling on crust

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Simmer the rhubarb in the POM Wonderful until tender. Add berries and cook about a minute more.
3. Pour fruit mixture into 8X8 baking dish.
4. Whisk dry ingredients together. Cut in butter with knives, a food processor or what have you.
5. Pour in buttermilk and stir just until the dough comes together. Do NOT overwork it.
6. Pretend you are in preschool again, stick your fingers into that dough and drop it in clumps all over the fruit. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp granulated sugar.
7. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. It looks done before 30 minutes, but trust me - leave it in. Otherwise the crust might be soggy underneath.

Enjoy the house smelling like... spring.

Eat hot, cold or in between.

Thanks, POM Wonderful.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Music Monday: Memorial Day 2009

A day of rest.

A day to honor the men and women who've paid the ultimate price for being Americans.

A day to remember loved ones whom we've lost while they served us.

There are so many ways to consider Memorial Day. I know that for me, I've been very focused on life and family and death lately. Not in terms of the sadness of death, or the loss, but just in terms of age and the fact that we never know how long we'll have someone in our lives.

I'm a fan of Nickelback, and I really love the sentiments in this song. Some of the images are dark at first, but stick with it:

For my Memorial Day, I know I'll be doing some reflecting, but mostly I'll be enjoying my family.


What about you? How will you be spending this precious day?

Brought to you by:

For other tales of musical adventure, please visit Soccer Mom in Denial.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In Which I am no Longer Cinderella at the Ball

This is not a maudlin post.

My life is GOOD. I'm very lucky in so, so many ways.

I do, however, have a continuing battle with a combination of fibromyalgia and what appears to be something akin to psoriatic arthritis. They strike separately, and they strike together, sometimes far worse than at other times.

I've tried to keep both at bay for 7 years using a combination of moderate exercise, tons of water, as few processed foods as possible and, when the pain gets really bad, a mega course of advil for a couple of weeks until things get better.

Starting in January of this year, however, things didn't get better. And the usual routines weren't working. And my rheumatologist had been dangling other, stronger, things in front of my face (he tends to be very conservative on drug usage, but he also doesn't want permanent joint damage). I tried other things, too. But this isn't a post about my health, and if anyone's really interested because they're going through a similar struggle, please just e-mail me.

Okay, so the long and the short of it is that after months of other therapies and constant pain (part of the reason for my hiatus), I tried the very mildest of the dangled drugs. And this drug came along with what's known as a steroid "burst" (a short course of steroids, to sort of "jump start" the other stuff).

And I was Cinderella at the Ball.

And what this is really about is that steroids cheat.

Within 24 hours, I was close to myself again. My energy was back; my pain all but gone. I was sure that the new drug was going to be helping far earlier than my doctor had anticipated.

For 18 days, I lived a blissfully pain-free life. Then the pain started creeping back. Now, it's returned.

I'm back to my natural therapies (along with the mild drugs). I'm still on a teeny dose of steroids that I continue on for a few more days (I've "tapered down"). I'm determined to stay away from the advil, if I can, because it wreaks havoc with other things.

But this whole incident got me very, very sad for our world.


Well, I'm all for drugs to be used when they can help with diseases, be those diseases mental or physical.

But how many athletes have been involved in steroid scandals over the years? How many folks now are taking Adderall and Ritalin not because they need either one, but because they can stay up later, study harder, get better grades.

You know what, y'all? That's cheating.

If a closing-in-on-fifty, fat, high school English teacher can end up feeling like frigging Cinderella at the Ball and waltzes through more to-do lists than any human being should when on steroids, what is the 20-something, athletically-gifted batter doing? The cyclist, who can now ace the Tour de France? The football player who bulked up over the summer?

What about the kid who just got into Columbia or Harvard or Princeton and probably doesn't deserve that spot? What about the kid who didn't cheat and lost that spot that they actually did deserve?

C has been doing a project on Malcolm X this week. We've both been immersed in all things X, because I've long been fascinated with his life story and it was interesting to watch Spike Lee's "X" with C, and to have access to The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the reader of pieces on and about Malcolm X, and the other research materials we've had lying around the house. Malcolm X spoke a great deal about keeping the "white man's poisons" out of one's system. A lot of this is Islam - not about your skin color, but about the fact that there are substances that should not be ingested. They make you impure.

Steroids and stimulants make you impure. They kick you up a notch. We weren't made to be kicked up that notch and it's not fair to your body or to others when you take this crap just to be "better".

Have you had any experiences where you've been Cinderella at the Ball? Know folks who've gotten themselves in trouble with steroids or stimulants? What's your take on all this?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday: Chive Eggs - the Perfect Spring Lunch

Please go to The Fairy Blogmother for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

We have some critter problems. Oh, they're lovely critters - when you look at my backyard, bunnies and deer abound. Ground hogs stop to warm themselves in the sun. Chipmunks and squirrels scamper harmoniously, and we are fixed for lovely birdsong. Yup, we're straight out of a Disney movie.

And I love it. Don't get me wrong.

It has, however, made gardening a bit of a challenge. And yes, I know we could put up cyclone fences, electric fences, pee on bushes, hang softener sheets, and even, maybe, buy a hoop house, but we haven't. Because we also suck at gardening.

So here's what I do grow: herbs. In containers. On our balcony. Lots of them.

My first perennials that come up every spring are healthy crops of chives. So this is what I've been having for lunch quite frequently:

Chive Eggs

Sometimes simplest is best. And this is so very, very simple.


1 egg and 2 egg whites (local eggs, as fresh as possible, really improves on this)
a small handful of fresh chives, chopped fine
a splash or three of buttermilk
a good pinch of kosher salt
either canola cooking spray, or if you're feeling decadent, butter

Now, there's a technique to making really good scrambled eggs. First off, add the salt before cooking the eggs. This tenderizes them, apparently. Second, beat your egg mixture well, but not too much. Third, and this is most important, cook them at medium low. My burners have multiple settings between 1 and "P" (10) and I use a 5 or 5.5. To saute, I'd use a 7, and that would be way too high for this dish. Just saying.

So, while your pan is heating (and heat your fat element from the beginning), pop in some toast. My toast of choice yesterday was local raisin pumpernickel, but in the photos, it just looked burnt, so you don't get a picture of it.

Then beat your eggs, buttermilk and salt. Then add the chives directly into the liquid eggs.

Get out your butter for buttering the toast.

Pour the eggs into the pan and render gently.

Butter your toast when it pops up.

Remove finished eggs from the pan, add them to your plate of toast, and grind a little pepper over the eggs.

Take the plate out into the spring sunshine and enjoy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a bibliophile must be in want of great summer reading...

It was probably my third or fourth year homeschooling C. I remember sitting on the floor of the old Ann Arbor Y, while C was in taking a gymnastics class.

I had my laptop with me and I was really, really involved with what I was reading.

It was the inklings of a book about a cheerleader.

I'm kind of the anti-cheerleader type. I was never a "girly-girl". I preferred bare feet and jeans, baseball to Barbie, and by high school, many of my friends were guys, because hey, I got them. You get mad at someone, you punch them, it's over.

On top of that, I'm not even sure that my high school had cheerleaders. If we did, they certainly weren't part of a power crowd. We didn't have a prom. We were the class of '77 and we wore our alternative existence proudly.

Nevertheless, this cheerleader book had me hooked. You see the protag, Bethany, was not a cheerleader type - she was a well - my type. Maybe not the baseball part, but she was anything but a cheerleader type, and had been dared to try out. And she made it.

And her world turned upside down.

What did I like about this book? I liked the strong female protag (natch). I liked the humor. I liked the voice.

It was written by the most prolific writer in my writers group. She's also enormously talented and we all hoped the publication world would come to their senses and publish her - sooner rather than later.

I never got to read the entire cheerleader book. There were other projects and other passions from my writing friend.

Then, about two years ago, the son of another of my (brilliant and talented) writing friends was diagnosed with cancer, and the wonderful cheerleader book became an even more wonderful cheerleader book, as Charity generously distracted Darcy by giving her a project that had nothing to do with hospitals, cell counts or being a mom.

And magic happened.

And the gist of it is that Saturday, although the release date is officially tomorrow, I was able to walk into my local Barnes and Noble and pick up that pretty book in the center of that photo up there.

That's right.

The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance.

And then I got to spend the last two days inhaling it.

If you have teens - get it for them - teens always need good books. If you're an adult - get it - it's billed by Simon Pulse, their label, as a good beach read. And it's perfect for that, but it's also deeper and that makes it all the better.

I inhaled it. It's that much fun.

What a lovely weekend.

P.S. You can find out more about The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading, and all things geek, here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Return of the Return

Hey Everyone!

I hope that you all had a wonderful start to spring. Michigan has been doing its regular weather thing - there are days when you want to have both the heat and the air on (but of course we wouldn't do that to the environment now, would we?).

Oh, and the cougar thing - no, not that kind of cougar - was up there because I kept getting all these "strong leader" thingies on quizzes - for those Joss Whedon fans, I was both Buffy and Mal - and actually, I guess all of that served me well in the past couple of months, but no, I'm not going to write about that.

Thanks for the well-wishes. All has been fine, just insanely busy. I'll catch you up later in terms of what I did on my spring vacay, so to speak.

In the meantime, I've missed all of you AND your blogs and I'm so looking forward to being BACK.

There are also all kinds of things to tell you about - book releases, experiments with my first ever blog freebie (POM Wonderful - and it's pretty wonderful, I gotta admit), changes in MI in terms of weather, living, politics and all that good stuff, why my Blessed meter hasn't been moving (but it's sure going to now), and cooking, cooking, cooking.

Life is good.

Hope yours is, too.