Friday, February 29, 2008

Way too much fun!

Okay, so blogland is way too much fun. Especially since I know so many incredibly creative bloggers, who are always throwing an interesting challenge out into the blogosphere.

There are, however, only so many hours in the day, and I'm finding I have to compartmentalize my life a bit. And this means that there are only so many fun challenges that I can meet. But what I can do is let others know what's out there, and maybe they can join in.

I've decided that I can't join in on weekly, story-based challenges. I can't do this because I fret over them too much and then I spend too much time on those and not enough time on my fiction writing (which really has to be first priority). But there are two wonderful, story-based challenges out there that I've played with and that I'd love to mention:

Flashback Friday - Cable Girl over at 42 is getting this effort going, and the point is to tell us a story from your past. It's great fun and some wonderful tales have been produced.

Soap Opera Sunday - the brainchild of Brillig of Twas Brillig and Kate of Walking Kateastrophe, this challenge has been going strong for months. The idea here is to tell a soapy story from your past. And boy have there been some doozies! It's great fun.

I'm going to post about cooking challenges tomorrow, but one I want to draw your attention to, because there's just enough time to join it (entries due by March 2nd), is Eat to the Beat, by Elly of Elly Says Opa. For this challenge, you need to create a meal around a song or piece of music that goes together in some way.

And since it's tomorrow, I want to draw your attention to Singular Saturday, Jenn in Holland's weekly one word challenge. One of the most interesting parts of this is how folks can bend the challenge by the hysterical titles they choose (that are considerably more than one word)!

More internet fun will be listed tomorrow or Sunday.

And a comment on comments. I've found I'm absolutely stinko at responding via e-mail to the comments on this blog. So from now on (and I started doing this on Monday), I am going to seriously try to answer each comment posted here in my comments section VIA my comments section. So far, it's working.

Okay, thanks for putting up with a fairly boring blog entry. See you tomorrow and in the meantime, have fun playing with some of these great games!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday and Queen for a Day

I'm late with What's Cooking Wednesday for this week. I've had my mind on other things. So, I think I'm going to join What's Cooking Wednesday on Thursday this week. In the meantime, please check out the wonderful recipes at Shan's place.

Yesterday I was truly Queen for a Day.

I can't tell you the number of lovely congratulations I received both via the blog, via e-mail and through calls from friends. It touched me in a way I can't even describe.

Thank you.

My family also decided to celebrate. I almost never honor my celebrations - I rarely do much for my b'day or other holidays. I'll celebrate for others, but over the years, I've learned to live with my not-really-celebratory DH, and just kind of let that part of me go.

We've been tight (along with everyone else in Michigan and probably the U.S.) in terms of our finances and the economy, and so we haven't been out much for food, entertainment, etc. I don't feel badly about this at all. I'm very grateful for what we have, and I feel we are extremely lucky.

Be that as it may, we decided to go out last night, and we truly had a celebratory dinner. We went to Zingerman's Roadhouse. For those that don't know, Zingerman's is one of the top-ranked delicatessens/food emporiums in the world. It was started in 1982 by Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw in an old grocery on Detroit Street in Ann Arbor. It's now grown to a collection of businesses, of which the Roadhouse is one. Ari has also won a James Beard Award (the Oscars of food), and has written several guides including his bestselling book, Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. Other businesses include their bakery, creamery, coffee roaster, the Roadshow (a smaller, carry out offshoot of the Roadhouse), a training group, caterers, a very, very active catalogue business and probably others I'm missing. Maybe more importantly, along with the Zingerman's tradition of being extremely generous with the Ann Arbor community and with its own staff (it's won numerous awards as a "best small company to work for"), they were the founders of (and still generous sponsors of) Food Gatherers, a food rescue bank that redistributes tons and tons of food to hungry people every year.

The Roadhouse is Zingerman's upscale restaurant, but in keeping with the informal and fun nature of all of Zingerman's businesses, Ari, Paul and Chef Alex Young modeled the restaurant on a standard (if lovely) roadhouse, and the food reflects American traditions from all over the country. To get a sense of what they serve, you can find the menus here.

So in lieu of What's Cooking Wednesday, this was What I Ate Tuesday:

A classic Manhattan cocktail - a nod to my sister-in-law's family, who've introduced me to this drink over the years
A Wisconsin cheese sampler - including a really good American parmesan - Stravecchio
Chicken Bog - yup, you heard me right. This was a truly amazing dish, however, and one of the best chicken dishes I've ever eaten in. my. life. It was pit grilled chicken (they have a lot of pit-grilled meats at the Roadhouse) and a mound of Anson Mills'corn grits swimming together in a rich chicken broth and garnished with amazingly fresh scallions. It was one of the weekly specials and it was truly out of this world.
Mrs. Russell Loves Lemon - another all-time favorite and another special. This was a reasonably-sized piece of pound cake (made more reasonable by D and I splitting it) drenched in a lemon-honey glaze with fresh whipped cream and candied lemon shreds. Simply out of this world. I know I'm going to have to try to re-create both dishes at home, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to fail. Ah, well, another excuse to go back at some time.

And then there were two things that made it even more special. First off, our server, Debbie, was everything a server should be - friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. She was a delight from start to finish.

But here's where the real Queen for a Day feel came in (no, that's not true - it was all-day pleasure) - Ari was extremely helpful early on in my writing process as my protagonist is an Ann Arbor foodie, and he helped me find folks to talk to in order to get some questions answered about catering, etc. Ari also seems to be at the Roadhouse most nights, pouring water, helping out and gauging the general atmosphere, I guess. I believe that's one of the reasons that all of the Zingerman's businesses WORK (and work beautifully), is there's a great deal of hands-on, warmth and just plain quality control (in a good way) at every level. So when Ari came by our table, I mentioned to him that this was our celebration dinner because I had finished that food novel he'd helped me with back in July.

Well, I was surprised beyond belief when two glasses of champagne, and a glass of ginger ale for C, appeared at the beginning of the dessert course. And it was delicious. Queen for a Day, indeed.

Thank you, Ari, for everything.

I'm in a state of absolute bliss today - celebrations and honoring accomplishments are good, on occasion. ;-)

And now it's time to start revisions...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's Done!

A germ of an idea that started early last July has turned into 65,493 words and what I hope will be the first of a series.

The first draft is done.

It still doesn't have a title, the ending needs serious work, and I'm worried that I'll find major plot holes and continuity issues when I do my read-through.

The first draft is done.

It's a sweet, sweet feeling.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Music Monday - "Disko Partizani" - Shantel

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

Okay, so I couldn't resist. Ever since Betsy posted this song on Blogness Monster, I've been hooked. I went to i-Tunes that very day and downloaded the whole album immediately. And now Shantel and his Bucovina Club crew of Turkish, Arab, Israeli and German musicians/comedians/followers troop along with him as he combines everything from disco to gypsy music to Klezmer to Turkish pop. The fusion mix is irresistible, and it's become my accompaniment to working out and house cleaning, and occasionally cooking, if I have to chop very fast. While I included "Disko Partizani" below, there is no clunker on the entire album. I especially like the humor and pathos of "Disko Boy."

Have fun and get your Monday dance groove on!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday: Philippine Savoury Pork Pies

This is not my recipe. Last summer a friend and I bought a 1/4 hog from a local organic farmer. It was an adventure in ingenuity and new recipes. We ended up with some strange cuts (care to split a frozen, 27 lb. ham, anyone?) and a ton of ground pork. Since ground pork is relatively new to me, I went searching for recipes. I found this one at, and it looked delicious, except it called for deep frying the finished product. I opted for baking the pies and using puff pastry instead, so now these are probably not in the least authentic. But they were still delicious. For any nightshade aversive folks - you can probably substitute curry for the paprika and it will still come out okay, albeit even LESS authentic than the original recipe. Anyway, they've become new favorites around our house.

Philippine Savoury Pork Pies


1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
4 oz ground pork
1 tsp paprika
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1 medium gherkin, chopped
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
salt and pepper to taste
egg wash - 1 egg, beaten, mixed with water

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. To make filling, spray a frying pan and add onions, garlic and thyme and cook for three to four minutes. Add the pork and the paprika and fry until the meat is evenly browned. Season with salt and pepper and turn the mixture into a bowl. Set aside to cool. Add the hard boiled egg, pickle and parsley.

3. Roll out the pastry to a 15 in. square. Cut out 12 circles, 5 inches in diameter. Put 1 TBS of filling on each circle, moisten the edges with a little water, and fold over into a half moon shape and press the edges to seal. Brush egg wash over finished turnovers.

4. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.

Serves 6.

Nutritional Info:

Fat: 8.9g
Carbohydrates: 7.3g
Protein: 7.3g

As always, nutrition information supplied by the recipe calculator at And please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Book Talk

Some time ago, I posted here about all of the fabulous books on my nightstand, and how much fun I was going to have reading them.

Well, the best plans of mice and men...

I haven't read things exactly as I had planned to, but I have had some delightful reading experiences since January, and I'd love to share them with you.

First of all, I read that mysterious book that C chose by virtue of its cover: Dead of the Day, by Karen E. Olson. It's pitched as a crime novel, and while it certainly is, I think it goes outside that genre to be even more than that. The protagonist, Annie Seymour, is catnip for me. She's smart, witty, hardboiled, and flawed. Just the kind of character stew that I go for. Karen Olson also fills the book with great regional touches about her native New Haven, and that's also a major plus in my eyes. The plot line concerns cross-cultural issues, as well, (a favorite of mine in any setting) so I was in reading heaven. The novel is well-written, compelling, and makes you think. It's a complete delight, and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves mysteries. My only caveat is that I'd read Karen Olson's other books in the series first, because some character development had already occurred by this point, and I would have preferred to discover those details bit by bit. I'm definitely going back and reading the first two: Sacred Cows and Secondhand Smoke. Karen is also part of a group of four mystery writers who have a fabulous blog on writing (among other things) called First Offenders. If you love writing, I'd highly recommend checking it out.

The second book is getting all kinds of press and hype. Many times I read these books and am puzzled by the accolades. Not so this time. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is sublime. It's the story of a young man on the verge of becoming a veterinarian, who loses everything when his parents meet an early death during the Depression. He ends up joining a completely corrupt circus, and we follow his passions and adventures there. The framing device for this book is the narrator as a 92-year-old, now reduced to living in a nursing home. While any of these elements could make this maudlin or depressing, it's not. It's an anthem about life during hard times, told with humor and glory. Simply fabulous stuff!

The last book was already mentioned in last Sunday's post. My friend, Marianne Arkins, of Reading, Writing, and Stuff that Makes Me Crazy, released her first novel last week through Samhain Publishing - One Love for Liv. Since I'm hosting her as part of her blog tour on March 5th, I thought I'd better get cracking and read her novel pronto. Now, I am not a romance fan. I'm kind of romantic, but when I get around the romance genre my skin tends to crawl. I've read several of Marianne's stories, and I'm happy to say that not only does her work not have that effect on me, it also makes me laugh hysterically as well as cry at times. (Not in One Love for Liv, though - that's a laugh all the way). Marianne has written, about herself, that she doesn't really have a romantic bone in her body, and this may be why I find her romances so much fun. They are told with a wink and a smile, and her characters are real and touching. I won't go into great detail here (because I'm sure we will on March 5th), but I just had a blast reading this book. Marianne's friend Allie Bonaface made her a wonderful trailer, so if you want to know what Liv's about, go here to see it.

I'm still reading Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett and I've been reading both Two Meatballs in an Italian Kitchen by Pino Luongo and Mark Strausman and Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma for research for my novel. I'm also hoping to start The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone within the next week or so.

Happy reading!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Music Monday - "She's a Brick House" - The Commodores

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

Okay, so I'm not proud of this one. But in the interests of honesty, and the interests of continuing my high-school-themed Flashback Friday, I had to include this.

Take my bedroom - Senior Year. I'm trying on my best Jordache jeans or anything else that will be so tight that I'll spend most of the evening inhaling, without breathing out once. I'm finding some sort of madras top or something with peasant lacing. Or maybe I'm wearing something with shiny fabric. Maybe something with glitter.

Or maybe the glitter is part of my eyeshadow or my cheeks.

There was nothing that got me as pumped as hearing those first beats and that shrieking whistle that starts this incredibly sexist, but-oh-so-danceable, strut.

So, for all those other closet (or not) disco queens out there, I give you below the one, the only: BRICK HOUSE

Party on!

The Commodores-Brick House

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Meme-ish type things, awards, etc.

It's a lazy Sunday. I worked my tail off yesterday and today I get to read some writing by talented friends, make Grandmother Bread (thanks to Marianne who alerted me to Suzanne McMinn's Blog ) and watch Paris, Je T'aime while sorting old photos.

And catching up on reading blogs. Of course.

But it's been a meme-ish week, and I was tagged a couple of times, so I'm both saying my thank yous and taking time to play. First, the lovely Liz of Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness tagged me with a meme to come up with three pieces of writing advice:

1. Write. As stupid as that may sound, it's the only way you're going to be a writer. You have to walk the walk. It's not all about sitting in your favorite coffeehouse with your laptop trying to look all writerly. It's about writing when the kids are done for a nap, writing when you think you have nothing to say, writing that incredibly hard scene that you've avoided for your entire. stupid. novel. (I get to write that one next week).

2. Read. Read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Read outside the box. Read news stories and recipe books and writing advice books (although don't waste too much time with those) and cereal boxes and advertisements and your own writing. Try to read every day. And write every day. Every day.

3. Help other writers and yourself by critiquing their work. The more I read the WIPs of writer friends, the more I learn about the writing process and the more I learn about my own writing. Sometimes it's scary to send your stuff out to someone whose writing you admire tremendously, but it is soooooooo worth it. Enjoy and support the work of your fellow writers.

Now, to tag others who might have pithier thoughts on this subject (and feel free to skip this if you have already done this meme or just don't care to do it):

NYC/Caribbean Ragazza

Then Charity, of Writing Wrongs, tagged me with this 1-2-3 meme, which I am changing to a 2-3 meme because Charity, Anno and I picked the same book - the wonderful One Love for Liv by our very own Marianne Arkins of Reading, Writing and Stuff That Makes Me Crazy. It was published this week by Samhain, and if you love funny, happy romance, this book is for YOU. Go off and buy it RIGHT NOW. Seriously. I mean, I don't even like romance novels, but I like every story and line that Marianne has written. She's a MAJOR hoot!

Anyway, here's what you do:

1). Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
2). Open the book to page 123
3). Find the fifth sentence
4). Post the next three sentences
5). Tag five people

So here's my snippet from page 23 (yes, I'm cheating here) from One Love For Live:

“Fine. I’ll see you then. I need to go.” Liv didn’t wait for a response before she hung up the phone, wishing she could slam it down in his ear, just for the satisfaction. Now she needed to call her father and cancel tonight.

And I tag:

Fourier Analyst
Flower Child
Soccer Mom in Denial
Lilac Specs

Cable Girl, of 42, gave me this absolutely fabulous award, which I have to pass on to another 10 bloggers, so even though I could pass this on to all the wonderful bloggers that I read, I'm going to actually do some choosing this time. I'd love to get some of my faves from certain groups reading some of my other faves, so I'm spreading the love, so to speak. Cable Girl made this easier for me by already passing this award on to several of my favorite bloggers.

In completely random order, I pass this Award of Excellence on to:

Anno's Place - Anno gives us her gentle perspective on the world through absolutely stunning writing.
Greg's Random Bits - Greg leaves us with excerpts from his passionate fiction pieces, as well as perspectives on Buddhism and life in general.
My Mommy's Place - Leslie makes me laugh with her tales of love and mommydom every. single. day.
Not That Different - Jami comments on everything from the pitfalls of corporate bathrooms to important political movements. And she writes damned fine haikus.
Bleeding Espresso - Michelle opens all our eyes to the beauty of her corner of the world and she is a master at history, cooking, writing, photography - need I say more?
Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness - Liz has written some of the funniest and most poignant pieces I've read anywhere. We'd live in a much better world if she was in charge.
Diana: Muse - Diana's perspective on artists and aesthetics keep me riveted and give my eyes a feast every time I visit her.
Thalia's Child: Musings from a Muse - Ella is a master writer and her memories, stories and perspectives on motherhood and nursing never fail to touch me.
Novembrance: Luisa is simply a master writer, whether she tackles something as simple as a cake recipe, argues for the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice or shares her passion for her family or spiritual life.
NYC/Caribbean Ragazza - Ragazza talks straight up about her experiences as a writer and producer, making the transition from LA to Rome. No matter what her subject - the movie biz, fashion, racism, music, politics, love of all things Italian, Ragazza fills her posts with humor and clear perspective.

And, of course, I can send it right back to Cable Girl for her wonderful insights on everything from politics to motherhood to being a biker/kickboxer/Medievalist.

Happy Sunday, Everyone!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Flashback Friday: High School Memesical!

For more tales of ancient history, please drop by Cable Girl at 42.

I got this from wonderful, opinionated, and all-around-great-dad,Gunfighter. It seemed to fit a flashback idea and since my brain is stuck, this seemed like a great compromise.

This meme is about your high school experiences. If you decide to play along, answer these questions about your SENIOR year of high school.

1. Did you date someone from your school?

This was the only year I didn't. I had a college bf for the first part of the year whom I'd met working at a summer stock theater the summer between Junior and Senior years. I also was fixed up with a friend's cousin for a bit and had a brief fling with a guy from my neighborhood.

2. Did you win anything in Seniors ‘Who’s Who’?

Um... we didn't really have that, but I think I won some kind of award that had to do with fake snow being dumped on me because I'd had to build a snow machine for my set designs for La Boheme, which we did Senior year, believe it or not.

3. What kind of car did you drive?

Hey, I'm from NYC. The subway was my transport.

4. It’s Friday night…where are you?

Hmmm... this is so funny, because other years it would definitely have been at a party, hanging out with friends, hanging out at the West End, or seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show. Senior year I was home a lot. Many of my friends had graduated, my main group of buds were boys who had been "discovered" by a group of giggly Freshmen girls and who made me nauseous, and oh, yeah, there was that bf up in Connecticut.

I also was at theaters a lot on Friday nights - working, usually.

5. Were you a party animal?

Not really, although I really, really loved to dance.

6. Were you considered a flirt?

Um. Yeah. A tremendous one.

7. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir?

Nope, I was the head of the backstage crew. ;-)

8. Were you a nerd?

In English, Foreign Languages and Art, yes. In everything else, a resounding no.

9. Did you get suspended/expelled?

Nope. A. that didn't happen very often in my school and B. I think I was considered a pretty good citizen by Senior year.

10. Can you sing the fight song?

We didn't have one. We did have a school anthem that was something in Latin and the only thing I can remember is "Gaudeamus" (I think).

11. Who were your favorite teachers?

Ken Hubner (English), Bill Werner (English), Ken Hubner (English), Bea Kreloff (Art), Ken Hubner (English), Joanne Brown (Art History), Ken Hubner (English), and Ralph Dressler (Advisor for Stage Crew and my mentor in set and lighting design).

In case you can't tell, Ken Hubner had an enormous influence on me. Probably part of everything I am today was due to his classes. Ralph Dressler was also a wonderful mentor and teacher and had the patience of Job.

12. Where did you sit during lunch?

We had an open campus, so I was usually at a diner down the road from school, hanging with friends.

13.What was your school’s full name?


14. School mascot?

I think it was an eagle, but I don't remember

15. Were you on homecoming court?

We didn't do this sort of thing. It was the late 70s and all that stuff wasn't "cool."

16. If you could go back and do it again, would you?

Hell no!

17. What do you remember most about graduation?

That there was an incredible rain storm and we were moved inside at the last minute. That the love of my life was being accompanied by my best friend (it was a somewhat random draw - didn't mean anything - and I walked with another good, good friend, but it still bugged me), and that our class student speaker actually rocked. He was a kid I had only known somewhat before and I was really touched and amazed by his speech.

18. Where did you go senior skip day?

We didn't do this. We kind of skipped the whole last month. During the last month we did Senior Projects - no classes, just special projects or internships. I designed lights for the Senior Project Play - Woody Allen's "Don't Drink the Water" and I worked at the Manhattan Theater Club for a show they were doing. Five of us had that internship and we had a great time.

20.Were you in any clubs?

We didn't have "clubs" really. I was involved in backstage stuff. Duh.

21. Who was your Senior prom date?

We didn't do Prom. (See above). We *did* have a senior dance, but we weren't really supposed to have dates, because it might make others feel bad. I had dinner first with my (very platonic) friend Tommy, and we went to Benihana and watched the flashing knives and had too much sake (these were the days when the legal drinking age was 18). Then we took the subway up to school and got a lot of funny stares. Probably due to the sake and the fact that we were in fairly formal clothing on the subway.

22. Are you planning on going to your 10 year reunion?

I went. I haven't gone to any of the reunions since. It was kind of weird. There was a lot of snobbery and posturing. More than there had been in high school, actually.

23. Do you still talk to people from high school?

Occasionally. There's one friend, Erin, who I wish I could really find again. I miss her greatly. We lost touch, and she's lost touch with other folks who knew her, too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday: Jen's Chocolate Custard

So... in honor of Valentine's Day, I give you my favorite chocolate dessert. Well, almost my favorite, because there are probably more sublime recipes out there, but I love this dessert because it's not going to break the bank in terms of fat or calories, but it is pure dark, rich chocolate with a hint of something beyond.

My whole family loves this.

Another nice thing about it is that it's incredibly easy. The last bonus is that you can flavor it in a myriad of ways.

With no further adieu, my Valentine's gift to you, dear readers:

Jen's Chocolate Custard


2 cups nonfat milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 TBS corn starch
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp rum or liqueur or 1 tsp cinnamon (optional and to taste - I used Grand Marnier for this version)


1. Whisk together nonfat milk with cocoa powder, sugar and cornstarch and heat over medium high heat until it comes to a boil and thickens. Whisk often during this process.

2. Take custard off the burner when it comes to a boil.

3. Beat together egg and egg whites. Pour about 1/4 cup of the custard mixture into the eggs and whisk thoroughly to temper the eggs.

4. Pour egg mixture into the rest of the custard. Set back on burner on low heat. Cook 2 - 3 minutes until custard has thickened. Don't let this come to a boil.

5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and whatever other flavoring you've chosen to use.

6. Chill at least 2 hours before serving or serve warm! (It's sweeter served warm and more intensely chocolate served cold)

Number of Servings: 4

Nutritional Info:

Fat: 2.2g
Carbohydrates: 24.8g
Protein: 8.3g

As always, nutrition information supplied by the recipe calculator at And please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Music Monday - "Praise You" - Fat Boy Slim

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

Not much of a story today, but I just had to include this in my pantheon of Music Monday pieces. C, having lived with a slew of teens over the years through our exchange student extended family, has learned some interesting music and interesting lyrics over time.

But his adventures in lyricism started at about age four, when the song below was popular. Only C didn't like the official version, and with the pure knowledge that all four-year-olds possess, would ask me to play, "I'm Gonna Phrase You Like A Shoe."

And, of course, being four, there was no convincing him that the lyrics might be anything but "Phrase You Like a Shoe".

So for all you Fat Boy Slim fans, or for anyone who'd just like to see the possibly most absurd music video of all time, I give you below.... "Praise You"

Praise You - Fatboy Slim

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Singular Saturday: Having few chores and many books is


Join Jenn in Holland for other singularly wordy individuals...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Flashback Friday: Trrrrreeaaattttttssssss!

Okay, so I want to support Cable Girl of 42 in what I think is a wonderful effort, so I'm doing Flashback Friday today, and encouraging people to visit her site and read the other Flashback Friday entries, but honestly speaking, I'm only flashing back.... to...


I have a pre-diabetic guinea pig. And yes, I promise you this is not another Jen post about the wonders and perfection of guinea pigs.

But anyway, Pookie Girl is pre-diabetic. And she needs glipizide twice a day. And the only way she'll take it is to know a treat (ie. a bit of cucumber, or an herb, or some other green, non-sugary vegetable) is waiting for her. And, of course, her sisters wouldn't understand if Pookie Girl got a treat and they didn't. Because piggies don't roll that way. So... twice a day, I call out, "Do I have a good girl?" And Pookie Girl comes running up to me and takes her .07 mg of glipizide and then I call out "Treeeeaaaatttttsssss!" and all the piggies scramble to the bottom the cage to see what wonder awaits.

Okay, so I promised this wouldn't be about pigs. And it's not. About guinea pigs, in any case.

But I have to admit, I was reminded just what a small town I live in yesterday. And this is why.

A new grocery store opened just down the road from me. But it's not just any store... oh, no, it's an organic/all natural/gourmet food/pharmacy/wine seller with salad and hot food bar, and a pizza station and homemade breads and pastries and a sushi bar, a See's candies shop and a Zingerman's cafe. I was happy for two reasons: one, I can now buy a gallon of milk easily when I run out. Two, I have to admit - I'm a foodie, and the temptation of all that was very... tempting.

I didn't, however, expect what I ran into.

Now, this super-duper fancy a-- grocery store is darned similar to a mega Whole Foods that we already have in another part of town. In addition, Whole Foods is opening their biggest store in the state of Michigan in yet another part of town. We have a mostly organic/local/natural food store that's been in business for 30 years that's independent. We have two, local gourmet shops with a wide variety of produce, meats and groceries. We have a well-stocked, amazing food co-op. We have a Trader Joe's. In the summers, we have three separate days of farmers markets. We have representatives of four grocery chains - all of which are well-stocked, clean and reasonably-priced.

And we're a city of a whopping 100,000.

Makes you wonder.

But this morning, you would have thought that the people in my town had never seen food before. It was as if someone had blasted "Trrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaaaattttttsssss!!!!" through the tornado sirens, and all the good citizens were scrambling like lemmings to take cover in the aromas of Peet's coffee and the perfume of fresh bergamot.

Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the country. It seems like every third house is for sale. Houses in my neighborhood have been on the market for two years. No one works permanently anymore - almost everyone is on yearly contract. A successful job is one with health insurance.

And it makes me wonder... are we really all a bunch of guinea pigs, following the latest trend, getting into debt because we're told we need "stuff"?

Yeah, the new store is really nice.

But is it really necessary?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday: Cornmeal Pancakes with Apples

Believe it or not, I consider this to be a very romantic recipe. In our salad days, D and I were living on opposite sides of Massachusetts and spent many weekends together. We were both grad students, we had no money, and pleasures had to be fairly simple. Two pleasures that I remember with great fondness were Sunday morning hikes with various other folks from D's department and D making me these wonderful pancakes. The original recipe used more butter, white flour, etc., but we actually prefer this version now (as do our waistlines). Enjoy! Photos will be forthcoming this Sunday, I hope.

Cornmeal Pancakes with Apples


1 apple, preferably granny smith, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces

1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 TBS maple syrup (or equivalent, for my non-U.S./Canadian friends)
1/2 cup boiling water

1 egg
1 cup lowfat buttermilk (or regular buttermilk, if you can't get the lower fat version)
1 TBS melted butter

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or plain whole wheat flour, but this gives it a smoother texture)
2 tsp baking powder


1. Take the cornmeal, salt, maple syrup and boiling water and mix together. Set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Peel, core and chop the apple. Set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a sauce pan or the microwave. Beat the egg, and then add the buttermilk and the butter. Mix together.

4. Sift the flour or give it a whirl in the food processor several times. Then add the baking powder and repeat.

5. When the ten minutes is up, mix the wet ingredients into the cornmeal mixture. Then add the flour mixture with a few quick strokes. Lastly stir in the apple bits.

6. Spray a non-stick skillet. Cook the pancakes until bubbles rise and they look "done", and then flip them over and cook another 30 seconds to a minute.

Serve with syrup or fruit salad or jam.

6 servings. (Two pancakes per person).

Nutritional Info

Fat: 4.2g
Carbohydrates: 32.6g
Protein: 5.5g

As always, nutrition information supplied by the recipe calculator at And please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

Music Monday - Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

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

I saw the clip above on the blog of Carol of Northwest Ladybug. It really moved me, on so many levels. Whether or not Obama is your candidate, I think this wonderful brainchild video of of The Black Eyed Peas reflects a deep level of hope for change and healing that this country so needs. Here are the lyrics, taken from Obama's acceptance speech in Iowa:

t was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballots; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality.

Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.

Yes we can heal this nation.

Yes we can repair this world.

Yes we can.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics...they will only grow louder and more dissonant ........... We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea --

Yes. We. Can.

Celebrities featured include: Jesse Dylan,, Common, Scarlett Johansson, Tatyana Ali, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Kate Walsh, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Adam Rodriquez, Kelly Hu, Adam Rodriquez, Amber Valetta, Eric Balfour, Aisha Tyler, Nicole Scherzinger and Nick Cannon

Sunday, February 3, 2008

World Nutella Day: Nutella-Cheesecake Cupcakes


3 packages of neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese), at room temperature
5 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 jar of Nutella!
24 chocolate wafers


1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Cream the neufchatel and sugar together. Beat until they are thoroughly blended.

3. Add the eggs, one and a time, and beat until well blended. Lastly, beat in the vanilla.

4. When everything is well-blended, mix in 1/2 the jar of Nutella with a spatula, so that the Nutella swirls through the mixture, rather than is completely blended.

5. Get out two muffin pans. Line each muffin cup with a foil cupcake liner. Place a chocolate wafer at the bottom of each cupcake liner.

6. With a cookie scoop, scoop out the batter and place in each liner. Each liner should be about 2/3 full. Then with a smaller scoop, or with a tsp and a knife, place a dab of Nutella in the center of each cupcake.

7. Bake for 35 minutes. Take out of the oven, cool, and chill for at least three hours.


Tomorrow is the deadline for projects for World Nutella Day, which is the brainstorm of Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy . This was a delicious challenge for me - to play, you just make a recipe, picture gallery, or any other project that uses Nutella (otherwise known as the hazelnut chocolate elixir of the gods) and send your project, along with a picture, to nutelladay at nutelladay dot com. Go to Sara's blog to get all the details.

A Couple of Reminders

There's lots of good reading on The Writing Game blog. We have one more story that will still come in, but I can vouch that the ones that are up there are wonderful! Come take a look.

Tomorrow is the deadline for projects for World Nutella Day, which is the brainstorm of Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy . This was a delicious challenge for me - to play, you just make a recipe, picture gallery, or any other project that uses Nutella (otherwise known as the hazelnut chocolate elixir of the gods) and send your project, along with a picture, to nutelladay at nutelladay dot com. Go to Sara's blog to get all the details.

And finally, I've entered Jenn the Leftover Queen's monthly Royal Food Joust. The voting began yesterday, so if you would be ever so kind to support me in my culinary quest for fame and fortune please vote for me here. You'll have to log in (ie. register) in order for the voting page to come up. My entry was Eggplant Lentil Stew with Charred Onions and Yogurt served over Cinnamon Cashew Couscous and can be found here.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Singular Saturday: I Don't Mean To Pander, Beg or Plead, but It's Important to


Join Jenn in Holland for other singularly wordy individuals...

All those U.S. readers - Super Tuesday is coming up. Make your voice heard.

On a much less important note, I've entered Jenn the Leftover Queen's monthly Royal Food Joust. The voting begins today, so if you would be ever so kind to support me in my culinary quest for fame and fortune please vote for me here. My entry was Eggplant Lentil Stew with Charred Onions and Yogurt served over Cinnamon Cashew Couscous and can be found here.

Flashback Friday: Snow Day

This is a new effort being launched by Cable Girl of 42. Please go visit her to find other tales from the past! Today we're having a snow day in my town, so I thought I'd share a snow day memory from long, long ago:

New York city shuts down when a single snowflake falls to the ground. Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating. A little. But especially in the 60s/70s, before the days of megaplows, and snow emergency parking that actually worked, and special tires for public transportation, the whole place closed up.

So it was on a January day in 1969 or so, when we'd actually had enough snow to allow sledding in Central Park, that the whole neighborhood was without school. Now, in the kind of neighborhood I grew up in, many of us went to different schools. About half of us went to the local public schools, about a quarter went to parochial schools, and about a quarter of us went every where from Dalton the chichi private school of the time, to considerably less fashionable, but still private, school digs. I went to a hippy school. But we were ALL out. of. school.

And Central Park beckoned, and we were within mere steps from the Park and close to one of the rockingest snow hills in the entire fifty block by ten block mess.

I can't really remember how we made all the arrangements, but I know that by fairly early in the day we were all milling around the sidewalk, holding our flexible flyers or the equivalent. And since some big kids were coming (12-year-olds!), we didn't need to have any adults with us. Because these were the days when adults didn't *worry* about kids so much.

Now, the other thing to remember was that we didn't have those nice, safe, plastic sleds back then. Your sled was built of wood. If you had blades to cut the snow they were metal and relatively sharp. And if you had a crash, it could be pretty darned serious.

But none of us particularly cared about this as we set off for the winter wonderland across the street. I hung out with the shyer girls from The Block. That was my place, and that's where I felt safe. The brasher girls yelled and whooped and flirted with the swaggering boys.

The boys threw snowballs at each other, and occasionally at a girl or two. They yelled, filling the sky with their shouts of glory. And no one swaggered more than Jamie.

Jamie was one of the oldest boys in our crowd, and certainly the biggest. He was from an odd family of kids, some adopted and some not, and all retaining a pretty tough swagger, despite their parents being lawyers and educated. I didn't really understand the culture of their home. I was just scared of all of them. Jamie was the boy who would lead the others, in the springtime, to catch unsuspecting girls and throw them in the bushes ringing the Natural History Museum and pee on them. Jamie collected JD (Juvenile Delinquent) cards as if they were baseball cards.

Jamie was to be avoided, at all costs.

We got to the hill of hills. There were some littler kids there with mommies or daddies, and we knew to be careful of them and stay out of their way, because kids in the city in those days knew the pecking order and how to get along when they were in a crowd without adults.

We had a grand old time sliding the steep slope, crashing into snow banks at the bottom, and trudging up the long path to do it all over again. We began to dream of hot chocolate and toast with peanut butter that would await us when we returned from our adventures.

But in the middle of this bliss, a blood curdling scream split the secluded park area. And then I saw him.


Blood poured from his nose and his forehead. He and Peter had gotten into a major crash, and Peter's sharp, Flexible Flyer blades had split Jamie's face in two.

We were paralyzed. The older boys stood in knots and pointed. Jamie's sister threw up. I stood grabbing the hands of my group of shy girls. Fortunately, there was a Take-charge Mom on the hill, and she corraled a couple of Jamie's friends to "run like Hell" back to Jamie's apartment and get help. And run they did. And she handed off her little girl to my group and went to comfort Jamie. (Because in those days, you trusted strangers to help).

After what seemed like hours, Jamie's mom came huffing along, thanking the Take-charge Mom profusely. She cradled Jamie in her arms and rocked him and sang to him. And it must have worked, because he calmed right down. And the rest of us were flabbergasted.

An ambulance arrived shortly after, and Jamie and his mom were loaded in. A couple of his sister's friends took her to their homes for that hot chocolate and peanut butter toast.

And eventually, Jamie was in our midst again, showing off the scars that would be visible throughout his life. But Jamie's mother's lullabies sealed his fate forever. And none of us would ever look at Jamie in quite the same mixture of fear and awe again.