Monday, October 26, 2009
So, maybe I'm just as busy as I was, but I had to steal a moment to announce my latest and greatest: Award-Winning Spicy Black Bean Chili.
I won an award last night for this delicious stuff!
Albeit, the award consists entirely of a Wal-Mart giftcard of an undisclosed denomination (don't be offended, they didn't tell me the amount, either), but it was quite a thrill hearing that I had tied for first place at the church chili cook-off.
This week's schedule looks more horrendous than usual (okay, so maybe horrendous is a little overly dramatic), so I definitely won't be getting to it in the next few days, but I PROMISE!! I won't keep you chili-lovers waiting for long...
Friday, September 11, 2009
not totally confused.
just a little...
combine that with 2.5 glasses of Pinot Noir, and you have a decent explanation.
but that doesn't matter, not compared to the subject of this post: my dearest, most wonderful Kate. if you have a sister even sort of comparable to Kate, you might be near the brink of understanding how it feels to be half a country away from her. but i don't expect you to be related to anyone nearly that special... that would probably be setting the bar too high. half a country, hmph. might as well be an entire universe. by the way, Kate is the prettier one in the photo.
she got the looks.
i got the guts.
not that she doesn't have guts... she's just probably smarter than me. more common sense, you know... someone has to have it in the family, you know, and i'm sure you're thinking about the sibling in your family that has the most common sense. maybe it's you, too lucky to be true, just like Kate. and i do mean "lucky" in the best sense possible.
such talent! such kindheartedness! how does a person get born with the most optimal combination of qualities?? it could be because she is the baby of the family. my brother and i must have gotten all the ornery genes that kind of floated to the top, first to be taken by the older kids, then the baby sister ended up with the more gentle, more patient attributes that were perfectly content to wait for that special child to be born.
Catherine Lorraine, my sweet baby sister.
i have to stop writing, now, or i might cry.
i love you, Kate.
Monday, September 7, 2009
And welcome, my friends, to my 2nd RecipeShare, at long last... until I get the hang of the second job I recently added to my work schedule, my blog posts will be less frequent. I'm sure I'll catch up one of these days. But, for now! I present to you a tried, true and delicious family recipe from an OLD church cookbook (Country Cooking, Marion ALCW, Gunder, IA)- with a few of my modifications, of course. If any of you have even heard of this town, I'll send you a dollar.... just kidding. I'll be truly surprised (let me know, will ya?).
For all veteran chef-o-nados and wizened cooks, you may have found my recipe presentation style a bit tedious... "Just get to the verb, will ya?! Geez!" All I can say is, this is my blog, not the Food Network, and I'd rather walk readers through the process as interestingly and informatively as I can. Thanks for reading.
Foods you need:
Cooking oil (canola, corn or vegetable)
Pure vanilla extract (use the good stuff)
Carrots (of the "baby" variety, if you have a food processor)
Canned crushed pineapple
Water (plumping the raisins)
Butter/Shortening (greasing the pans)
Flour (flouring the pans)
Tools you need:
Oven 3 round cake pans (9-inch diameter)
Parchment paper (optional)
Pencil/pointed utensil for tracing the pans (optional)
Mixer (hand or stand)
Food processor or grater
Sharp knife/cutting board or nut chopper
What to do:
Preheat oven to 300F (not a typo, for real, just 300).
Boil a cup or two of water in the small saucepan, remove from heat and add 1 c. raisins. Stir together and set aside until you need them later.
Grease and flour all 3 cake pans (use 9-inch if you've got it, I had a heck of a time with my dinky 8-inchers, as I only have two, and had to dump the significant overflow into my 9-inch springform... can you say, Christmas List??). If you're doing this for something special and really want to make sure it come out of the pans nicely, trace the bottoms of your cake pans onto pieces of parchment paper and cut just inside the traced circles. Place paper right on top of the greased-and-floured pan bottom for a guaranteed smooth removal after baking and cooling (sorry, I don't have pictures of this).
In the mixing bowl, combine:
1 1/2 c. cooking oil
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
Sift into egg mixture:
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
Beat well, and set bowl aside (you can remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer if you're using one).
And now for a little prep work...
A food processor will make the carrot-grating part a snap. If you don't have one, manually rubbing peeled, whole carrots against a cheese grater will do, obviously, but it can sure be a bear. God bless you for taking the time if this is the case. I'm sure your cake recipients will taste a lot more love in your cake than mine...
Set up the food processor with the grater attachment (make sure the grater part is facing up, as opposed to the slicing part- you'll just make a huge mess). Add baby carrots through the chute (no peeling!) and process away until you have 2 cups (about 2 cups of baby carrots should turn into 2 cups of grated baby carrots... approximately).
Let the carrots hang out while you drain the raisins, which should be fat and juicy by now. Dump the contents of the saucepan into the colander, gently press out any excess water with a few paper towels.
Go ahead and chop approximately 1 c. pecans in your nut chopper or on a cutting board. Give or take a few pecans, leave them out if you like (but that would be a huge culinary mistake... raisins must have nuts around to keep them company).
Last of the prep work:
Peel off the top of an 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple (don't drain it!).
Add to mixing bowl:
2 c. grated carrots
1 c. plumped raisins
1 c. chopped pecans
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, juice and all
Stir together just until uniformly blended and pour evenly between the 3 prepared cake pans. Yes, you will think the batter is too thin, but it is not. Trust me on this one. Bake in preheated oven for almost an hour, or until cake is firm to the touch, and/or a toothpick comes out clean. Warning: will smell FANTASTIC. Cool cake layers in their respective pans on racks (they'll cool faster). After cooling completely, invert onto waxed or parchment paper and carefully peel off the parchment paper circles if you used them.
I will now give the recipe for the cream cheese frosting, in addition to details (and photos) on how I decorated the cake. I must thank Pinch My Salt for the frosting recipe (scroll down to see the frosting recipe), as I LOVE it and have used it several times in several cake-like applications since discovering it (and her blog) a few weeks ago. I give her ALL the credit for the frosting, just for the record, and I do hope I am going about this properly, as I am new to the world of recipe blogging (and the associated unspoken rules):
(as written on Pinch My Salt's blog)
16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Turn mixer to low speed and blend in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth).
Recipe Notes: If you prefer a sweeter and/or stiffer frosting, more powdered sugar can be added (up to four cups). But remember, the more sugar you add, the less you’ll be able to taste the tangy cream cheese!
"And now, back to your regularly scheduled program..."
*Please note, the cakes should be baked the afternoon or evening before you actually plan to do the decorating. This is so that the cooled layers may be filled and frosted with what we decorators (okay, so I'm amateur) call the "crumb layer." The crumb layer has to set for several hours before adding all the fancy frosting-work, so you don't just end up with a vague mound of frosting on top of the layers you worked so hard to make.
Using the basic frosting recipe above (no extra sugar added), fill the layers with a generous amount of frosting, stack evenly (some trimming of the layers may be required) and cover the whole thing with a modest layer of the heavenly stuff. And I do mean "modest," as the idea behind the "crumb" layer is simply to trap all the crumbs in the sticky frosting, so you don't have to worry about brownish-orange stuff marring the flawless appearance of the final product.
Thanks to an old friend way back when, I have a cake dome (see photo, left), a glass one.... ooh-la-la. This is my Triple-Decker Carrot Cake with its crumb layer after spending the night in the fridge (thus, the condensation). If you don't have a cake dome (seems like most people don't), just build the layers on a large plate and cover with an inverted mixing bowl. The trick is finding enough space in the fridge to accommodate this monster pastry.... not my problem, friends... And don't forget to put the extra frosting in the fridge, too!
Sometime the next day, take the leftover frosting out of the fridge and get out your hand/stand mixer. According to my experience with this particular recipe, you won't have to let it "warm up" at room temperature for too long, if at all, before mixing. Add powdered sugar until stiff enough to decorate with (3-4 cups), blending well.
Divide and color the frosting as desired, leaving plenty of plain white for smoothing out the surface and sprucing things up (cake's still in your fridge, right?).
For the business of decorating, you will need:
3 decorator bags (disposable ROCKS)
2 standard-sized pairs of rings and couplers
1 large pair of ring and coupler
Wilton decorating tips (#s: 352, 3, 2D, 12)
1-2c. finely chopped pecans
(Cake's still in the fridge? Good.)
Prep the decorating bags (cut off ends, couplers on the inside, pushed to the very edge of the open ends). Put white frosting in the one with the large coupler, leaving some frosting in the bowl- use tip 2D, tighten ring over the top. In the bag with the orange frosting, use tip 3, with the green frosting, don't add a tip, yet. Place bags in a bowl, put in the fridge.
Time to get the cake out of the fridge...
And find the chopped pecans (or chop them)...
Using the plain frosting still in the bowl, touch up any "crumby" places remaining on the cake. If you need to, glop it on with the spatula and smooth it out with the butter knife. Make sure the sides get coated, but rather thinly, as they are about to be covered with chopped pecans, which will need something to stick to. If the frosting's too thick, they will fall off in crunchy-creamy lumps... which maybe wouldn't be so bad, on second thought...
The next part is messy. Messier, I guess.
For easy clean-up (hindsight's 20/20, you know), I'd recommend putting waxed paper under the cake and pecans... I did not, and had to toss that nice green tablecloth in the wash as soon as I was done in order to prevent greasy-pecan stains.
There may be an easier way to apply the pecans generously to the sides of the cake, and I welcome all suggestions, but I just can't think of anything better than just grabbing a handful and gently patting the pecans against the fresh frosting on the sides of the cake. So that's what I did. And boy, was it a mess... for an even look, press on as many pecans as that frosting will take, until the entire circumference of the cake is perfectly nutty.
And now the decorating fun really begins. I love using my decorating bags with those fancy tips. I highly recommend the investment, in order that you, too, may experience the girly, giddy excitement of seeing the frosting you worked so hard to make squirt out of the bag in a pretty design. A tip: try to work quickly with this cream cheese frosting, or it will start to droop at room temperature.
Decorate! Decorate! Decorate!
1. Take the bowl with the frosting in decorating bags out of the fridge. They haven't been in there that long, right? So you shouldn't need to let them "warm up" for any time at all.
2. We begin with the lettering, using the orange frosting with tip #3. Applying even pressure, write "happy birthday" as prettily as you can on top of the cake, right in the middle.
2. Next, take the white decorating bag with the big tip on it and pipe an even ruffle all around the base of the cake, partly on the cake, partly on the plate it's sitting on.
3. Using the orange frosting with the same tip (#3), scatter a few "dots" at various points along the "ruffle" around the bottom of the cake... like so:
4. Now for the carrots! Replace tip #3 on the orange frosting bag with tip #12. You might have to practice a couple times on a piece of waxed paper or other flat surface, but creating carrots with this tip is pretty easy, even for a gal like me who can't make roses to save her life. Carrots are basically a line that starts out skinny (light pressure) and ends up fat (more pressure). You'll catch on quickly... Go ahead and make your first carrot above "happy birthday," and the second one facing the opposite direction right below it.
5. The leaves on the carrots didn't exactly work out textbook-perfect for me, so I'm definitely not the authority on the subject. I used tip #352, like my Wilton decorating guide said, but I don't think my frosting was firm enough to make a decent leaf... ended up with a green swoosh at the fat end of each carrot... convincing enough for my almost-mother-in-law's birthday cake, eh? Here's the official method, if you like (note my practice carrots in the photo).
6. Next, rinse out tip #3 and place on the green frosting bag (it had orange frosting in it, remember?). Do the "dot thing" on the white ruffle at the base of the cake, just like you did with the orange "dots."
7. Last, but not least, take the white frosting bag again, same large tip 2D, and create a beautiful star-flower border around the top of the cake. Holding the bag at a 90 degree angle, apply heavy-to-light pressure to make it look like the flowers just dropped right onto the cake, framing the happy birthday greeting with the perfect finishing touch.
Put the dome on carefully (or inverted bowl) and get that puppy back into the fridge before everything melts! Okay, so it won't melt really, but the flowers and ruffle will start to droop a little, at least enough that you'll notice it if nobody else does.
Your cake will look and taste fantastic- the best combination in cooking, in my opinion.
Enjoy this demanding undertaking (totally worth it if you're a nerd like me)!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
and we shall enjoy it later this evening.
i am in good spirits this afternoon.
it's about time, i'm sure you're all thinking...
i'll admit it.
creating stuff in the kitchen gives me such pleasure, and the endorphins are flowing.
onward, now, to make Spin-A-Jack Dip!
carrot cake recipe and photos coming soon, to a blog near you.
Monday, August 10, 2009
it is late.
it is the end of yet another day where i am too tired to be entertaining.
depressing, isn't it?
a movie i recently saw (Julie & Julia, please see ASAP), impacted me deeply, but the thing i'm thinking of most right now is the not-so-subtle warning from the movie to leave your job out of your blog. and that i shall do... because i don't want any awkward conferences with my future-former boss regarding my dramatizing of the agonizing minutia i am subjected to Monday through Friday. although, this blog is not searchable under my name, nor does the good doctor know my email address, but i'd rather be safe than sorry (aka: wishing i could disappear rapidly while sitting in her comfortable, extra chairs that get no butt time whatsoever while the rest of us are sticking it out in the most unsupportive, wobbly, cheap office chairs ever). thus ends my occupational comments.
i think i am being wise.
yes, i am.
i apologize, mr./ms. anonymous, for you have anxiously demanded the nature of my whereabouts for the past 2 weeks... and here i am, too exhausted to be interesting. i will say, in my defense, i have been cleaning, dieting (that should explain everything), planning a martini party and having a nervous breakdown while in the meantime making things dirty, gaining weight and pushing the preparations for the aforementioned martini party farther down on my List of Things to Procrastinate (the nervous breakdown has no antithesis). at this time, kindly picture me in a room of millions of messy piles of books, papers and bits of sentimental nonsense i don't have the stamina to discard, in yet another rickety office chair, an old chenille blankie (yes, blankie) draped over my shoulders, eyelids drooping in a frighteningly, middle-aged way. i am tired and disorganized.... which makes me more tired. and less motivated to pull my talents together and make something of myself ("somebody call the waaaambulance"- The Kid). this, my friends, is what separates the men from the boys, the go-getters from the couch potatoes, the graduates from the drop-outs.... for i am sure that those people who grow up to become financially stable, recognized in their communities, those frustratingly devoted spouses and disciplined parents are the people who get past the hum-drums to pick up the dirty socks, wash the dishes and bake blueberry muffins. the ridiculous part of it all is that writers know how to sound good but, in reality, are not good. nope. just good at talking about it. i probably seem like a promising, bright individual, but the sad truth is i am not. not right now. not when it is dark outside, and the alarm clock is threatening to ring before i am ready (as if it ever takes a break).
11pm must be the hour of self-deprecation and imbalance... i just can't open my eyes wide enough to be positive.
and it's only Monday.
hollaback, sympathizers. i may return the favor.
not yours, not truly,
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
then, i feel a cooler breeze off the freshly-watered park, and i remember:
it's only 5am.
still, i sweat.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
friggem-fraggem.... $@*%!..... i am not happy.
if i wasn't so gosh-darned determined to have a blog available for the readership of anyone and everyone, i'd be "yelling" a few choice words right now.
"Let me 'splain..."
it's a beautiful Sunday morning.
i have a beautiful life.
(discounting last night's nightmares) i woke up early, took Clowie on an uneventful walk (big thing for my dog, let me tell you), wandered innocently into the backyard to give my budding vegetables a nice, long drink.... everything was going fine.
yard still shaded by the tangelo tree...
still at least an hour before we hit the triple-digit temeperatures...
mentally planning a lovely lunch with Mr. Fantastic's temporarily-bachelorized father...
you know, now's the time when bad things typically happen, right? just when you least expect it? you're ambling along in life, doing what you do, allowing yourself to get excited about little things here and there, and BAM!
don't get me wrong.
i'm not equating this morning's event to chest pain, terminal illness, death of a family member or anything quite so unexpectedly horrible, yet these things, too, happen when you've let your guard down for 5 seconds... or even when you haven't.
not trying to philosophize, here, just trying to tell my dang story in my "so wordy" way (thanks a lot, Kate).
i had just given my zucchini and cucumbers a thorough dousing (geez louise, when are you guys going to FLOWER, for heaven's sake?!!! you've been taking up space, soaking up nutrients for 4 months, now.... *sigh*... my failure as a gardener belongs in a different post), and i walked over to the hose to refill the watering can and share the H2O with my withering tomatoes. that's when it happened.
i was being cautious!
i had kept a wary eye out for those evil little buggers, already... i guess my cursory glance at the ground earlier didn't count for my second trip to the watering hole.
because those furious, quick-footed, Arizona Ants were going to town on my left foot, covered only by the straps of my flip-flops.
i immediately dunked the assaulted member into a nearby bucket of water.
meanwhile, the rest of the troops attacked foot #2, which was fortunately covered up to the knee by a sturdy hiking boot and thick, cotton sock.
that one had a flip-flop, too.... me and my nearsighted dressing habits...
more like, me and my deafness to Tom's advice for Backyard Attire.
yes, Mr. Fantastic has told me time and time again, don't wear sandals in the backyard. be sure to wear, not only tennis shoes, but socks, as well (he had a similar experience while wearing shoes with no socks, and hindsight's 20/20). i never listened, or may just selectively tuned out these words. why? because i like flip-flops. they're handy. easy to slip on and off, available in a variety of styles, colors and sole-thicknesses... inexpensive... need i say more? but i'd like to think my resistance is not just about my penchant for being as shoeless as possible without actually being shoeless. i've grown up with the idea that the backyard is, call me naive- safe! it's the place where kids play, pets roam, birds alight, plants grow, friends gather: all kinds of wonderful, mushy-gushy things take place in the more private area behind our homes. at least, that's how it was in Missouri. granted, folks are a bit more idealistic in the Midwest, me being one of them. probably because the grass is always green (even under the snow), churches on every corner, you know the name of the cashier at the grocery store.... even the ants are nicer.
when i was a kid, i'd sit on the sidewalk with my friends, or we'd even lie in the grass together, pick dandelions, make flower necklaces, stare at the clouds.... do glorious kid-things. sure, ants were everywhere, just like they are in Arizona, but Missouri Ants don't BITE. no joke. i told that to Tom (AZ native), and he didn't believe me. but my fellow Missourians can attest, you could let a Missouri Ant crawl all over your leg, up your arm without even feeling it, much less the painful sting of a vicious, hateful, vengeful bite for no reason at all. i was literally NEVER bitten by an ant during the entire 26 years i lived in Missouri. not once. not even a questionable incident. zero. nada.
mosquitoes, most definitely.
but these are insects (ants are not).
and these insects have pointy implements of defense/blood-sucking. we are trained even as toddlers to avoid these insects as one of the the many self-preservation methods we will employ throughout our human lives.
i wasn't warned about the ants.
but i have a theory:
Arizona Ants vs. Missouri Ants
small vs. not as small
fast vs. leisurely
vicious vs. mild-mannered
(disclaimer: i am not a scientist. i just listened in biology classes.)
these comparisons directly correlate with habitat differences:
Arizona vs. Missouri
dry vs. wet
bare and brown vs. lush and verdant
2-season desert climate vs. 4-season temperate climate
Arizona Ants are angry and defensive because they live in a constant state of struggle for food and resources. Missouri Ants are relaxed and congenial because they enjoy abundant food and resources.
hm... kind of sounds like people. you know, Maslow's heirarchy of needs? if you don't know, click on the link. it's pretty interesting.
and, in my highly-educated and obviously humble opinion, applies to ants as well as humans. it would be interesting to chat with some kind of ant-research-person on this topic...
well, this post looks like my brain just puked all over the page. hopefully it is entertaining. definitely therapeutic; i feel much calmer now than when i started writing... but then again, that's why i created this blog in the first place.
i must tend to my sore feet.
and plan lunch.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I apologize for being so rude in my previous post- showing a photo of the delicious concoction without delivering the goods. For this I am truly sorry (kind of- I got busy, okay?!) and am here today to amend all wrongs (well, one, at least) by sharing my recipe, complete with (a few) photos and Hannah-esque proportions (a little unconventional, i know. some recipes will incorporate a classical measuring technique, but not this one).
Enough blah-blah, let the RecipeShare begin!
Grated parmesan cheese
Frank's RedHot (hot sauce)
Dried minced onion
Marinated artichoke hearts
Roasted red pepper
Monterey jack cheese
Large casserole dish (similar proportions to 9/13 pan- wide, not deep)
Large mixing bowl
Mixer (hand or stand)
Salad spinner (optional)
Good eye-balling skills (or measuring cups/spoons)
What to do:
Preheat oven to 350F. Get out that large casserole dish and set aside.
In the large mixing bowl:
16oz cream cheese
Big glop of mayonnaise
Very generous shake of parmesan cheese (1/2-2/3c.)
8 oz. sour cream
Few shakes of garlic salt
Few shakes of Frank's RedHot (flavor + heat)
2 tbsp. dried minced onion
Sprinkle of creole seasoning (watch out, this stuff is potent)
Blend well again.
Set mixing bowl aside and head toward your kitchen sink...
Pour into the colander:
12oz jar marinated artichoke hearts (found this big boy in the refrigerated produce section)
Transfer to the cutting board and chop it all up into small enough pieces for dipping, basically- as long as you have patience for chopping (for me, not too long). Make sure you have a sharp knife, or it will slide all over those slippery artichoke hearts- dangerous!
On the same cutting board, place:
5-6 roasted red pepper slices
Dry pepper slices with paper towels and dice finely (this part is actually necessary for thorough distribution of that fantastic red color throughout the dip). Again, a sharp knife is important for this part.
Transfer to mixing bowl.
Dry well with a salad spinner or paper towels.
Transfer to the same cutting board, and chop it to your heart's content (same method as with the artichoke hearts). Add to the piling mass of deliciousness in the mixing bowl, and mix well with the spatula.
Last, but not least... add:
About 1/2lb shredded monterey jack cheese (bought mine in bulk ON SALE!, pre-shredded)
Stir again after addition of the cheese and spread in the casserole dish. Bake in preheated oven until entire surface is bubbly and slightly golden. Serve hot, cold or any temperature inbetween, accompanied by your favorite brand of tortilla chips. But, heck, to quote my Dad, "This stuff would make the sole of an old boot taste good."
I hope you like it.
Friday, July 24, 2009
this is my first attempt at email-blogging... yep, I have my iPhone set up, so I can blog on the go. we'll see if this actually works... [FYI: it didn't work]
(yes, I promise I'll post the recipe SOON!)
today I'm feeling, um, like, "I just dare anybody to cross me: I do what I want" (thank you, Christy Moon Jefferson). I slept in (til the slothly hour of 5:15am), didn't walk the dog (yeah, take THAT. no seriously, that's probably the one thing I DO feel guilty about), rolled out of bed just in time to throw Tom's food in his frozen lunchbox (this is Arizona, remember?) and take him to the bus stop, and then I rebelliously decided that I refused to rush around showering and watering plants before speeding to catch my own bus. So I didn't shower, and I didn't water the plants. take THAT, universe! besides, my plants are looking dismal, anyway, and what is the point, honestly, of showering just to please a few morning patients when we (employees) are being being cruelly forced to survive an afternoon with no scheduled patients, for the second time this week, just so certain uppity-ups can go on vacation and not feel guilty for leaving their business unmanned, or - God forbid- close its doors for an entire 4 hours on a Friday afternoon.
yes, I spritzed on a little perfume, a couple obligatory swipes of deodorant and clean clothes, but the body underneath is taking advice from her European ancestors: Dont bow to your germophobic, hyper-hygenic, head-to-toe shaving societal rules; be free!
no one will notice, anyway... it's not like you've been rebelling against that time-wasting device called a shower for several days, or even more than one...
this decision, however, created the need for some hairstyling creativity, as my long, fine locks don't keep secrets when it comes to skipping shampoo for more than 24 hours. I'm no beautician, and this was a challenge, considering wet hair makes my everyday, up-in-a-clip do a snap. hmph. I was working with dry, slightly greasy, clip-frumpled hair, desperately hoping a few bobby pins and a lot of hairspray would at least hold things together for the morning, after which any remaining facade of caring would truly be gone. I figured a style I had never tried even on a good day would be a fantastic addition to my "be free" look, so I forced that stuff up top to take on a new shape and called it good.
it will be interesting indeed to see how a day that starts like this unfolds...
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I'll give you a minute....
Okay, time's up: The Sandlot.
Too bad if you haven't seen it.
That's one of my all-time, favorite and most usable lines EVER.
Works well in any situation.
Well, I'm not quite up to posting my elaborate, spinach-artichoke dip Recipeshare at this time, but I will be soon, hopefully. Regarding detailed tasks, I seem to do better first thing Saturday mornings, but that time was used up this weekend for other "detailed tasks," like exercising, gardening and coupon clipping and organizing. Oh yes, I'm a HUGE coupon clipper. I take twice as long at the grocery store because I have to be sure the sale item I just purchased doesn't have a coupon to accompany its wonderful-dealness. If the item indeed DOES have an accompanying coupon, I will feel greatly empowered and be in a fantastic mood for the rest of the day, even more so if the store is double or triple-couponing. If I leave the store without using a single coupon, I feel lazy, guilty and/or like I missed an opportunity to put money back in my pocket. I will hereby cut short my dissertation on coupon clipping due to the fact that I am completely off-topic already.
Several, highly-bloggable events and conversations have transpired since my last post. You will not hear about all of them... *sigh*... That's the way it goes, I guess, but it pains me to deprive all of you eager readers of the intricate convolutions that take place on a daily basis in my fascinating, documentary-worthy life.
I will speak in generalizations, then, as the time and and energy do not exist for thorough expression. A Monday-night conversation with a friend I haven't seen in ages must have prompted yet another existential crisis because not even a week later I found myself in complete meltdown mode. I do mean complete as I have not experienced this degree of emotional breakdown in about 19 months. My dearest dear was unfortunately present for the Meltdown, and I do believe he was a little unnerved by it. Of course the man has seen me cry before and cry hard, but never have we spent time on the side of the road in 110+ degree weather, wasting gas on air-conditioning as the blubbering, incapacitated driver questions the past, present and future.
Seriously, people, I am 28 years old.
I have a BA.
I have travelled the world.
I moved myself across the country in a 1994 Pontiac Bonneville.
I have somehow, miraculously survived 2 major heartbreaks that that nearly caused the annhilation of my spirituality and ended my life (yes, medication deserves a little credit).
Above all, I have found the love of my life.
I should be flying high.
Considering my most recent crack-up, I am still, obviously, unquestionably NOT OKAY.
Why am I baring my soul?
1. It is therapeutic.
2. It's not like people don't know this.
3. Perhaps it will help someone (me, for example).
I have done some thinking about what led to this and have narrowed it down to a few factors. First of all, my job has been stressing me to-the-MAX. Forty hours a week spent in misery can start to wear at you after a while, yes? Secondly, I have been thinking about going back to school but am utterly torn as to what I should pursue. I don't exactly have all the time in the world to think this one over as marriage and kids are in the not-so-distant future. I don't want to cause any more burden than necessary on the guy who will be Mr. Mom/Mr. Pay-all-the-bills while I do whatever-the-heck it is I think will meet my career goals and fulfill my potential while simulateneously paying off my college debt. Geez.... I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself. I'm just trying to be realistic, here.
The combination of #1 and #2 are less than ideal due to the fact that the faster I decide on #2, the faster I'll be rid of #1.... even worse is the conversation I had about #2 on Monday night (see above reference) conjured up old dreams I thought were dead and gone due to their painful suffocation by 2 years of rejection from medical schools and current disillusionment with healthcare, in general.
Apparently, those old dreams are still gasping and wheezing a little... haven't quite kicked the can, at this point.
Oh, but there's more.
(Feel free to stop reading at any time. Remember, this is my therapy session, here.)
Number 3... nagging guilt over thoughts that I'm not doing a good job taking care of my guy. We commute together, leaving early and getting home late (due to public transportation schedules), and I somehow have the energy and presence of mind to check on my garden, feed the dog and monitor my Weight Watchers points for the day, but am just too exhausted to think of what to fix for dinner, much less pack him a lunch to take to work.
Yes, the guy can cook and take care of himself, but I can do it, too. And I like to. And I have been way more focused on me than him, lately. And it's bugging me... probably should be. How does this contribute to the Meltdown?
Well, I had perfectly calculated (or so I thought) the time it would take me to get a few things at the store and across town, so we could make the last bus of the day and not have to stop on the way home. I had planned the best supper ever, jotting notes to myself throughout the day, and I was simply elated that I was pulling it off. I even made it out of the grocery store on time, despite the chatty cashier who had lectured the, um, older woman ahead of me in line on why it was okay for him to answer his cell phone while he was at work. She proceeded to lecture him back on the fact that if people could fall ill without you before cell phones existed, then people could certainly do it now. He didn't understand how she could say such a thing when his father had recently been hospitalized, missing her point entirely. Like I said, I still made it out on schedule, even when the same cashier insisted on examining and commenting on each of my items... good thing I didn't buy anything too personal. Geez.
You can imagine my disappointment when I arrived across town, ready to grab my things and hop on the train that will take us to the last bus of the day, and Tom announced that we had missed it.
Are you telling me that I had survived she-who-shall-not-be named, a painfully slow afternoon, and the creepy, 40-something cashier who still lives with his parents, and we missed it, thereby necessitating our driving home, thereby ruining our perfect balance of car and public transportation and costing us extra gas money??!
Add that to #1, #2 and a very long week (this was Thursday, mind you), and you get instant tears, rapidly descending to self-loathing.
I'm not exaggerating (as if I ever do).
I don't know what came over me, but the next thing I knew, I was being told to pull over, park the car and handed Kleenex for the mess my nose had made on my face. I was literally melting, apparently. I was asking Tom why he was dating me, there are so many better, more beautiful, incredibly successful, way-more-with-it women out there he could have, why on earth was he with a schizophrenic gal like me, stuck in a dead-end job with mounds of debt and an old, dusty car with a cracked windshield.
He just pulled me over to his chest and kept handing me Kleenex.
Poor, wonderful guy...
Yeah, he told me a bunch of nice stuff about how I was the one he wanted to spend his life with, etcetera, but the main thing that stuck with me was, "You are not your job" (not that I'm discounting AT ALL the loving, supportive, chick-flick-worthy things he said, as well).
That statement was the one that saved me the very next day (Friday) when I was ready to throw in the towel already at 9:30am when my fresh coffee got dumped down the sink by a picky coworker before I could even snatch one, measly cup. No need for me to describe my emotions at that time. Let it suffice to say I was ready to march into the office manager and demand a Mental Health Day. Instead, I retreated to the bathroom, took a few deep breaths and remembered what Tom had told me. Between that quiet moment alone and the lunch we had together later, I made it.
This Sunday evening finds me happy. However, a tinge of emotion lingers behind my eyes, somewhere in the top of my head, maybe in my nose, I don't know, as I regret another too-short weekend and try not to get heartburn over the thought of going back to work. At least I have a break from the Offender, as she is on vacation all week. But my Thursday Meltdown is still with me since I haven't fully resolved any of the contributing issues, #1-3. Yes, I made Tom a couple of meals this weekend, which always makes me feel good with a dutiful sort of satisfaction. But I won't feel great even about #3 until I've been more consistently selfless over the next few weeks.
God help me. I think I can summon a tiny bit of flickering faith from this neglected soul of mine. I know the Big Guy doesn't mind a call for help, especially from an admittedly "bruised reed."
And I'll take any assistance available.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
my mind is in a fog, thus the cool title of my post.
sad, but true, my foggy mind seems to produce better material than the other mind from which i write at times.
this photo you see is a teaser for an upcoming post regarding my infamous spinach-artichoke dip, known even to strangers whose names i cannot remember as "that great dip at the Witkins' party."
too bad, so sad, the only details i have the energy to reveal for now are those, um, already revealed.
i am retiring to my soft, cool bed quite soon, only to wake in a few short hours, walk the dog, water the garden and on to work for a perfectly long Friday, immediately followed by a multi-hour trip to a campsite we will share with several friends in a more north, more cool locale.
during this time i will be utterly unavailable.
not that you'd notice, just thought i'd let you know.
and i'm just too doggone exhausted to give you the beautifully-photo-journalled post you deserve with the secret recipe you've all been waiting for... and didn't even know it. yes, we often do not know what has been missing from our lives until we encounter it and realize it is now necessary to our existence.
take my iPhone, for example.
as of 03/29/2009.
prior to that, i was obviously living in a pitiable state of deprivation, scraping by each day with my weak Motorola Razor.... Razr... ? (sp?)
my beverage is gone, thus indicating bedtime.
please be well this weekend, and await my very first Internet Recipeshare with baited breath.
thanks for reading.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
more and more lately, i have found myself searching for a solution to my utter distaste for a certain coworker, due to the fact that my constant heartburn in her presence is really making me miserable.
a few weeks ago i thought i had solved the problem by virtue of a certain epiphany:
Years from now, I will wonder why I wasted so much energy (and money spent on Tums) being angry. Therefore, I choose to preserve my health and energy and stop being angry at (insert name here).
it really did help for a while, but a certain turn of events in the workplace have caused this person to become 27 times (that was for Ruth) the thorn in my side she previously was, and i am apparently too weak to resist the influence of her icky behavior.
Seek new job (working on it...).
Follow-up Solution to Solution #1:
Avoid undesirable coworker if and when at all possible (most definitely already doing, even to the extent of taking my homemade lunch to an outside establishment).
Don't let her know she's getting to you (trying my darndest with my suave acting skills; i deserve an Oscar).
this is my best shot so far at conserving my energy and disposition while on the job.
i am quite disappointed in myself for allowing it to affect me so much.
i wish i was:
better able to ignore ridiculous-ness
really and truly, i do wish these things...
but you know, it just occurred to me, perhaps this really is the "thorn in my side...?"
(sorry about the mid-blog revelation... work in progress, folks...)
i was at church (SHOCK) a few weeks ago, due to this choir director position i recently landed, and the minister preached a sermon that actually spoke to me.
this hasn't happened in years, so i was naturally surprised to find myself actually listening and agreeing.
the sermon was based on a New Testament passage where the Apostle Paul discusses "a thorn in my side," how he had asked God repeatedly to remove it, but it was still there.
anyway, this is not a preaching blog, nor am i a preaching person, so i'll end my Bible study there....
it makes sense, really.... boy, it sure does SUCK if i'm right...
i'm gonna have to sleep on this one.
and continue eating my lunch elsewhere... no need to push it, you know...
Monday, July 6, 2009
I'm not sure how to get around that.
And perhaps it isn't necessary.
I will have to do some more thinking on this subject.... maybe a little introspection, thinking out loud, getting my thoughts out on this page... hee-hee.
I accept what I am, and I am a blogger.
If it's too much blah-blah-blah, then don't read it.
Back to my Monday...
I found myself oddly energetic, yea, even cheerful on this post-holiday Monday. I have found that post-holiday Mondays, not to be confused with post-holiday Tuesdays, have a sourness to them for which few have developed a liking.
On any other post-holiday Monday, I would be like the rest of my coworkers, clunking around the office with a forced smile reminiscent of the one you contort your face into after opening an undesirable gift in front of an eager in-law.
But not me.
Today, I was the irritating "neighbor who calls loudly to thee in the morning" (see: Bible), brimming with strangely positive energy after a short, sleepless night.
I did my best not to call too loudly to any of my neighbors, but having beaten the odds by barely making my 6:30 bus (yes, I sprinted) by sacrificing my morning blueberries and depriving my precious garden of a much-needed watering, I had earned the smile on my face, and I wasn't about to fake grumpiness just to avoid usnpoken conflict with those sourpusses.
I even sported a grin after being disappointed by a poorly-stocked ATM in attempts to deposit a $46.44 check. What did I do?
Hopped back in my dusty Bonneville and drove around the bank to the other ATM, which happened to be overflowing with envelopes, and deposited my small quarry with a satisfaction only a gal who cuts coupons and pinches pennies can feel.
It's ridiculous, I know. I can't explain my good mood, although I tried to reason through it all day, wondering how in the world I could feel the way I did without so much as an afternoon crash (which I fully expected).
I was "a-blowin' and a-goin'" (to quote my boyfriend's dad) the entire day, 8-5, with only a short break from the Crabby Ladies for lunch, which I felt necessary in order to preserve both my countenance and my sanity.
Little did I know what awaited me at the fateful hour of 6:15pm... the 533 Express to Gilbert.
A minor detail seemingly incapable of undoing an entire day of unwavering rainbows and butterflies, but alas... I was not strong enough to withstand the heat.
My cold-blooded, Norwegian stamina failed me quickly on the 100+ degree bus.
And no, I am not exaggerating.
It was 100+ degrees outside, actually cooler than the inside of the bus on a baking freeway.
Fortunately, I had a craving for an extra-large, icy lemonade before embarking on the Dark Ride to Crushed Dreams and Withered Hopes, and my dearest Thomas sustained me with his advice to take an ice cube and rub it on my neck and wrists.
Don't get me wrong.
This was not a steamy picture of romance, my knight in shining armor graciously providing relief with the gentle caress of a lemony ice cube...
We were seated across the widest aisle from each other, close enough to share only the most necessary information if spoken very loudly above the roar of the bus engine and whipping, hot wind through open windows, and with plenty of distance to avoid increasing body heat exponentially by touching someone else.
The ice cube tip was shared by means of shouting and sign language, providing some relief nonetheless, but not enough to salvage my fast-dwindling karma.
(My apologies to all who know the true definition of "karma" and are offended by my loose usage of the term. Plbbbt!)
Long story long, needless to say and other cliches that may apply to this ever-so-bloggy tale, I was a glistening, limp rag of a girl by the time we reached the hot, hot truck at the Park-and-Ride 45 minutes later.
I had long forgotten any aspirations for my evening, possessed by one, (literally) burning desire only to remove my sweaty clothes and lie flat on my back beneath a very large, very fast ceiling fan.
This I did, minus the flat on my back, plus a few cathartic groans when my socks were removed (don't tell me that isn't the best feeling in the world) and off into my corner chair with a cool, down pillow I went, ever so grateful to Tom for offering to feed the dog, which is usually my evening chore.
I awoke sometime later, dehydrated and icky-groggy (you know how this feels, i am sure), wondering if it was actually detrimental to my health to be waking up instead of relocating from chair to bed. The smell of food convinced me otherwise, and I was positive my dear mother had stopped by during my nap and fixed me some of her perfectly greasy, fried potatoes.
I was wrong.
I had somehow mistaken the smell of George Foreman-grilled steak and frozen green beans for my mother's fried potatoes. Surely my sense of smell had been damaged by my harrowing journey!
I shuffled around the kitchen, eyes barely open, driven more by hunger than by exhaustion (exhaustion usually wins, but I'm on a diet). I fixed myself a Lean Cuisine mac & cheese with a veggie burger topped with yogurt and salsa on the side (hey, anything tastes fantastic on a low-calorie diet, people)... and please, please, PLEASE- don't forget the icy cold Diet Barq's that made the venture into the kitchen all worth it.
My culinary adventure woke me up just enough to retreate to my blogging spot, complete with crooked lamp and rickety chair, strewn bills and yes, even a label-maker at my side which had been used over the weekend to label shelves in the linen closet (call me OCD, but I can't stand unfolding sheets to figure out what-the-heck-size they are).
I am content, again.
Sure, it would be nice if there were one, last gulp of Diet Barq's left in the can, but there isn't, and I'm okay with that.
I shall now make good on my promise to myself to retire earlier than I did last night, being sure to medicate the new red bumps on my chin with benzoyl peroxide (thank you, 533 Express from Hell).
i am quite aware of the fact that at least 2 other people will be reading this, so forgive the lowercase letters for now, if you please, and know that my typing will be more formally upper-cased in later posts.
i have initiated this blog as a creative avenue for any blooming thing i feel like writing about, which may include but not be limited to the following:
today is my day, and these are my words.
i look forward to more of both.