No More Empty Fortune Cookies!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dia de los Puppehs!

I recently completed these two commissioned pieces, then suddenly became swamped with requests for more: 

So now you can order your own Dia de los Puppehs - Choose from a bully breed, Chihuahua, or kitty cat, whatever suits your needs. Or, if you wish, submit a special request for something I've not yet thought of, maybe your parrot or your chupacabra ;)

These are 8x10 oil and acrylic on canvas
each one is made to order, and requires time to dry before it is ready for shipping. It can take up to 10 days from the date of order, to the date it is shipped.
Thank you!

Special request:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Poor, Underserved Insurance Industry

I was at my in-law's yesterday, as we've been spending a lot of time there lately helping them get moved into their new home and helping unpack and get settled. It's fun and I enjoy their company, so that's cool. But as is often the case when at their house, I was subject to a lot of FOX News. The father in law is a FOX News addict. He's good people, so don't hold that against him, it's just that he's definitely in that demographic, 70+ yrs. old, white, male, upper-middle class, Christian...You get the picture. I love him. And he loves me. And he always accepted me as his daughter in law and even came to our wedding, which is more than I can say about my own father. But we are definitely on vastly opposite ends of the political spectrum.

So anywho, FOX news was on and The Wifester, her mom, and I were in earshot as we sat at the dining room table carving pumpkins. The folks over there at FOX were discussing Obamacare, of course, and they had on a governor, I didn't catch where from, but this yahoo said, and I quote, he said, "Not a single one of my constituents has been able to sign up for Obamacare, and every single one of them has lost their insurance through their jobs because of Obamacare. Every single one!"

That made me laugh out loud, but I had to compose myself and pretend that The Wifester was making faces at me or something. Honestly, though, who believes that every single person in this guy's state has lost their health care? I find that one hard to fall for. He went on and on with that, and at one point The Wifester gave me that quick look that I know means, "Are you hearing this garbage??" And I gave her the quick glance that says, "Yes, yes I am." It's great to have someone who reads your eyes and knows exactly what you mean. We often do this little communication without speaking.

But that wasn't even the funniest part of it all- Next up was a guy saying that what The USA really needs is a single payer plan, and that Medicare should just take over health care and allow every person access to it. I agree with that, but here's where it got good, the FOX news anchor dude was totally aghast, and  interrupted this guy saying, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Medicare is wrought with fraud, they have $XXX (he quoted some amount in the billions) of waste each year, and their process for approving claims takes longer than private insurance companies. Meanwhile, Medicare is raking in the profits while wasting taxpayer money, and over here you have the guys running private insurance companies, who are barely scraping by with hardly any profits at all! What other industries do you want to arbitrarily kill off?"
Yes, he actually argued that private insurance providers are "barely scraping by with hardly any profits at all."
I wish each and every one of you could see the face that The Wifester was making at that comment. In fact, as soon as we got in the car to leave there last night she busted out with a big laugh and said, "What about that guy saying the Insurance Industry is barely scraping by..."
We had a good laugh. I mean, really, does anyone really believe that? Honestly.

So today I did a quick google search on "Insurance industry profits 2012" and this was one of the first returns:

Yeah. Looks like those guys are barely getting by.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Broccoli and Rice Casserole, The I'm Trying to Lose Weight Way

When the weather turns cool and the trees are shedding their leaves and everywhere you look mums are abloom, that's when I start craving those hearty, creamy, cheesy casseroles that cook slowly and make the whole house smell like Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, those yummy, yummy dishes really pack on the pounds, and The Wifester and I are operating on a strict, Must-Lose-Weight platform, so I've really had to rethink and deconstruct/reconstruct some of our favorite foods. Broccoli, rice, and cheese casserole is one of our favorites, but all that cream, cheese, and butter make it a serious no-no right now. But I really, really wanted to use my broccoli, and I had brown rice...So I thought about that butternut squash and how creamy and delicious it was over macaroni pasta a couple of weeks ago. Here's what I came up with- First, I oven roasted the butternut squash, stuffing that little scooped out spot where the seeds used to reside with a garlic clove, a pat of butter, and half a red bell pepper. I let that cook at 425 for about an hour, maybe longer, till it was all soft and mushy. Set that aside for now. Then I cooked my brown rice in chicken broth. That's my favorite way since it infuses the rice with that rich flavor. While that was cooking, I sauteed a couple of stalks of celery, diced, some minced garlic, small diced sweet potatoes (because I didn't have any carrots) and a sweet, yellow onion. Instead of cooking those in butter, I used EVOO, but if you aren't desperately trying to lose weight, go for the butter. Once that is tender, turn off the heat and set aside. At this point I put some chopped up broccoli on to steam. The rice was still not quite done, so I began making my "cheese-ish sauce" by scooping out the mushy, roasted butternut squash insides and I put them in the food processor and pureeing until smooth. I added the roasted garlic, salt, pepper, a couple dashes of dried mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, and milk to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. Add a splash of lime juice to brighten up the flavors. I poured this into a deep saucepan and added about 1 1/2 cups of white wine and brought that to a boil. I needed more liquid, so I used some chicken stock to thin the sauce a bit. Once the rice was tender, I drained the excess liquid and added in the sauteed veggies. Then I poured the "cheese-ish sauce" (butternut squash) over the rice. By this point, the broccoli was tender and ready, so I added it to the rice/squash mixture and poured it all into a casserole dish. Then I topped it with half a bag of garlic and sea salt croutons since I didn't have any bread crumbs. I popped that baby in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, until it was bubbly and hot, and HOLY CRAP! It was delicious! Next time I might consider adding a bit of parmesan cheese to the butternut squash, but honestly, it was delicious and had a rich, almost cheesy feeling and taste. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to broccoli, rice and cheese, give this a try. I promise, it's fantastic! Sorry I don't have pics of it, we gobbled it up before I thought to take any.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Green Apples, Sweet Potatoes, and Curry, Oh my!

We went apple picking last weekend, which is always less fun in reality than it sounds in your head, swarming with more bees than you remember from the previous year, and somewhat anticlimactic. But I'm a lesbian, and it is Fall, and so I do what I must do to fulfill my social contract.
That said, we then embarked upon making apple butter (which came out better than any I've ever made before) and canned it...
...And canned it...
...And canned more of it...

Yes, there was that much apple butter.
Then we made cinnamon spiced apple wedges, and canned them.
...And canned them...

And still, we have a huge bag full of apples, despite the fact that I've eaten apples every single day this week. And packed apples in The Wifester's lunch every single day this week. And given Miss. Sally Sue apple wedges with every single meal she's eaten this week.

Are we coming to an understanding of how many apples have been residing at my house this week?
So this morning I decided to try something a little different with some apples. It was risky, I've never cooked them in quite this way before, and the flavors - well, I admit that I was not 100% sure those flavors would meld just right. But as is often the case, you can't achieve a life changing breakthrough without stepping out there into new territory and taking a risk.

I'd seen a recipe for curried green apples online, and thought, "Hmmm...that sounds interesting." But it was rather dull, and I wondered how I could add some panache to it. Sweet potatoes immediately popped into my mind. I love curry and sweet potatoes. And that sounded great with those green apples. But what else, I thought? Lime. And cilantro, and ginger, too.
Let me tell you this, I was literally licking the skillet when I went back to clean up the kitchen. Literally, actually licking it.
It was that good.

In case you are feeling adventurous and wanna give it a go, here's what I did:

Green Apple, Sweet Potato, and Tofu Curry

3 medium green apples, cored, wedged, and cubed
2 large sweet potatoes peeled, and cubed
1 block extra firm tofu, frozen, thawed, drained and cubed
1 medium sweet yellow onion
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
fresh minced ginger
yellow curry powder
dash of tarragon
2 or 3 pinches flour
2 Tbsp butter

First, prep your tofu. Then stir fry it in a bit of EVOO. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove it from heat, drain any excess oil, and set aside.
Next, heat EVOO in skillet, add minced ginger and garlic, add butter, flour, tarragon, lime juice, and curry powder to make a roux/paste. Add cubed sweet potatoes and brown sugar, stir to mix well. When sweet potatoes are beginning to soften slightly, add cubed apples. When apples and potatoes are both tender, and sauce is thickening, add tofu back into skillet, toss and mix well. Add more curry powder, salt, pepper to taste. Top with chopped cilantro. Serve hot.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fortune Cookies Meets Meningioma

I got to see my brain tumor at the doctor's office yesterday.
It was strange looking at those photos of my brain, and seeing that little, oblong blob of tissue sitting where nothing but brain should be sitting. It was a little bit unnerving, but they assured me that this tumor is not cancer, and most likely will be very slow growing.

I have to go back in three months, or sooner if I start having any symptoms. Symptoms to watch for: seizures, headaches, dizziness, vision loss, ear ringing. Great! I already have every single one of those symptoms, but they tell me they are not from this tumor. How can I be so sure of that? Would you be so sure? I wonder if I need to get a second opinion. I think I should. I am not really stressing over it, but I kind of am.

Does that even make sense? I mean, I know, from all that I've read and studied, I know that this tumor is probably nothing to be too concerned about. Most of the time they are benign and very often they never cause any serious problems. But I also know that they can become cancerous, and even when they remain benign, they can have severe, sometimes life threatening effects. How can we be so sure that mine is a friendly tumor? Can you ever be so sure?

I want it out of me. But I don't want to subject my brain to the trauma of surgery, and radiation/chemo scares me.

When I got my retinitis pigmentosa diagnosis, and found out I would lose my sight I thought this, THIS is the challenge of my life.
I was wrong.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Meet my meningioma

It just keeps getting better.
That's a touch of sarcasm, in case you didn't detect it. I know, imagine that, me being sarcastic.

A meningioma.
That's what they found in my brain. It's a small little tumor of the meninges, which is the tissue that covers the brain. And it has taken up residence in my frontal lobe, which probably makes it sound worse than it hopefully is. So all those times I told myself, "Oh, don't worry, it's all in your head." I was right. It really was all in my head.

Literally. In. My. Head.

It's a small one, thankfully, only 1 cm wide, by 1 cm tall, by 1/2 cm thick. It's at the base of my left frontal lobe. And most likely it is benign. So there's that. I mean, I'd much rather the doctors say "most likely benign" than any of the alternatives. I mean, can I get a witness?!

And there's a cyst which has probably been there since birth, they said. Mr. Cyst is sitting on my right temporal lobe. Which probably explains my seizures. Why previous doctors didn't find this cyst is beyond me. But there it sits on my MRI, pretty as a penny, shouting out, "here I am!"

Oh, brain of mine, you so cray-cray!

So tallying up all the stuff, The Wifester and I, in our infinite wisdom, decided that this previously undiscovered gene mutation that I have is definitely responsible for all of my ailments: vision loss, seizures, migraines, and pfft, whatever else is bothering me on any given day such as allergies, hives, asthma, tummy trouble, you name it. Speaking of naming things, they'll probably want to name some new syndrome after me, I mean, of course they will! Why wouldn't they? Right?
You may read one day about Fortune Cookie's Syndrome, and then you'll know that you heard all about it here first. You'll look so cool and in the know. And you'll be able to say, "Oh, I know Fortune Cookies. The Fortune Cookies." And women will swoon and men will feel jealousy and envy and wish they could boast about such accomplishments in life.
You're welcome.

So, in full disclosure, I don't really have all of the info. on it just yet, other than we'll probably just monitor it and see if it grows before committing to any plan of action. I have to go in and see the neurologist on the 8th of October, and we'll talk about it then. So I'll probably be blogging about it shortly thereafter.

Until then, I'm gonna enjoy doing crazy, erratic things just for the hell of it, then I'll blame it all on my meningioma. Doesn't that sound cute? My meningioma. Kinda like My Pony, only different. I mean, if you gotta have a brain tumor, I guess this is the one to hope for compared to the other options, and then once you do have it you might as well have fun with it, right? I mean, what good's a brain tumor if you can't use it as an excuse for your inappropriate behavior?

Friday, September 13, 2013


It took me a really, really long time to realize that stuff is just, well...stuff. Whether you're talking about items, possessions, emotions...doesn't matter, it's all the same. It's just stuff. And the more I try to hold on to that stuff, the less I enjoy it. Letting it go is so much easier, and honestly, less exhausting. At some point I realized that stuff isn't worth what I thought it was after I've ripped it to shreds trying to hang on to it. And I'm so glad to know that now. People tell me all the time to hang on to what's mine, to "never let go of (fill in the blank) or to never forget (insert incident). Maybe those people enjoy the grasping and clinging and the feeling of "It's MINE! All MINE!!" But I don't. I figure if someone is trying to take that from me, they probably need it way more than I do. Let them have it. I mean, not my life. Come on. Let's be real. But mere possessions? Resentments? Meh. That's just stuff. I'd rather replace them with shiny, new things. Someone took my earrings? I guess they really needed them to feel pretty. I did a good deed. Someone took my mate? Good luck with em', I say, because obviously, you're gonna need it. Someone took the credit for my work, my project and went to the boss and got a big bonus for it? Okay, I'm not gonna lie, that one did piss me off enough to lose my really, really good job over it. But eventually I came to the realization that they did what I should have done, when I should have done it. That really was my own bad. So, someone took my sense of self-confidence? That's on me to regain it. They never could have taken it without my consent to begin with.
See what I mean? Stuff is just stuff. Let it go. Stop harboring all that angst and desperation that is needed for holding on. Just. Let. Go.
Sometimes its easier to do than other times. That's when I come here and write about it- like about birthday cards and such. Sometimes it takes me a little longer to remember how much better it feels to just let go. That's okay. I'm not perfect. I let go of trying to be that a long time ago. And you know what? I'm so much happier for it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why I'll never forget 9/11

"You'd better come see the TV."
"One of the Twin Towers just got hit by a plane or better come down here and look at this."
I pulled the covers away from my face and wiped the sleep from my eyes, letting the information marinate a bit. I was stunned and I think in shock a little.
"What do you mean a plane hit the Twin Towers? That can't even happ..."
"It did, or something did. Come see!"
I rolled out of bed and descended the stairs to find Liliana and her youngest son huddled around the television, with a look of shock and terror on their faces. I knew instantly why she was more mortified than anyone else in the room: her oldest son was out of the country, visiting their family in Italy, and at a time like this, you just want your family by your side, and she certainly wanted her son to be safely home, with her.
My own family was 3000 miles away, and on rocky ground with me, barely on speaking terms, and still I wanted nothing more than to run to their side and hug them.

As I poured my coffee and staggered my way toward the TV, I heard Liliana saying "Oh! My GOD, look at..."
That's when I saw it. The second plane hit. My knees buckled and my head spun. Did I just see what I think I just saw?
I did.
I had to set my coffee down and wipe my eyes, trying to discern if I was dreaming or hallucinating or, if this was, in fact, actually happening.

From that moment on, my life has forever been changed.

There's a pre-9/11 America, and a post-9/11 America. That's a given, but what isn't often talked about is how our individual lives changed on that day.
I know mine did. My outlook, my thought process, my appreciation for those I love and for those who I don't even know has grown more than I can possibly measure or express with mere words.
Before September 11, 2001, I never thought that I would live to see an attack of that magnitude on our own soil, with our own machinery even.
Before September 11, 2001, I never thought that my country would return to such paranoia, discrimination, and prejudice as that which we fought so hard to overcome in the 60's.

I remember sitting there at work later in the day, eyes glued to the TV instead of the medication cart, holding a coworker's hand and saying, "It's gonna be OK" knowing, that awful, deep inside your gut kind of knowing, that it definitely was NOT going to be OK.
And it wasn't.

We had another coworker there that day, sitting on the other side of Linda, holding her other hand... She was from Bali. She was a Muslim. I had never met anyone from Bali before, and for some reason it surprised me that she was Muslim. I guess I had just never thought about those things, like what religion is practiced in certain areas of the globe.

And we weren't thinking about them that day either. Sakti sat there with Linda, holding her hand, crying, praying...asking Allah to bring Linda's father to her safely. We all watched helplessly while Linda tried and tried again to call her father's cell phone, home phone, office...all to no avail. It was a horrible day for everyone, and I can only imagine what it must have been like for Linda.

I can't possibly imagine what the years since have been like for either Linda or Satki...

I saw people mistaking (insert various ethnicity here) for "A-rabs" and yelling foul, disgusting and obscene things at them. I saw some of the worst behavior I've ever witnessed in my lifetime.

I also saw some of the most beautiful displays of humanity.
The pendulum swung fully both ways in the days following the attacks.
On the day after, September 12, 2001, my then girlfriend and I rode around Sacramento and saw people standing on every corner holding candlelight vigils. Strangers holding hands and holding candles and waving flags and blotting tears.

I saw children collect water, canned goods, supplies of all sorts to send to the rescue crews.

This was indeed, a day that will stay in my memory and always illicit those thick, rigid goosebumps when ever mentioned. It is a single day, a horrific event that has helped to shape who I am and who I will be for the rest of my life.

And Sakti stays in my mind today, too. Of all my coworkers, she was the one who always reached out to anyone who suffered with the most genuine, sincere, and heartfelt empathy. She was the one who never spoke harsh words about anyone else, or at least if she did, we never heard them. She was the one who never complained about how much work there was to be done. She just did it. And she was the one who never engaged in any of the numerous debates that occurred within those walls, she simply walked into another room and prayed. Sakti left an impression on me. I always respected and admired her for her gentle spirit, her caring nature, and her ability to maintain composure. She asked me once, weeks or months maybe before the 9/11 attacks, if I too prayed to Allah, and I told her I prayed to no god. She smiled and said to me,
"That's OK, Allah knows you have love in your heart."
And for her, that was enough. She accepted me and my lack of religion as is...and we forged a friendship that was based on mutual respect and trust. I know a few "Christians" who could learn a thing or two about the Golden Rule and loving thy neighbor from Sakti.

I don't know what ever happened to my Balinese friend, but wherever she is, I hope that she is happy, healthy, and not suffering the effects of the viscous Islamophobia that has plagued this country in the time between then and now. She never judge me, or anyone else, and I hope she is being returned the same courtesy.

How did September 11th change you?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Opossums vs. Chipmunks

Do black bears get pissed off at deer and wage all out war to secure their territory? Do the opossums think the chipmunks are infidels? Do the bats and the woodpeckers have different gods with different philosophies? Have any of the frogs ever revolted against the snakes en masse?
I don't know when war is ever the appropriate answer.
I don't know when it is okay to intervene and when we should mind our own business.
I don't know why it is that we must do something now, but didn't do anything when 500,000 + people were massacred in Rwanda for no other reason than belonging to the "wrong" ethnic group. No one is striking missiles against Joseph Kony. No one batted an eye when The Rohingya were forced out of their homeland, denied citizenship status and were persecuted and dehumanized. So what makes this situation any different?
I don't know. I don't get why people can't just get along. I don't know why we teach children that fighting is wrong, and to talk out their differences, but then as adults we hand them guns and send them off to war.
I don't know. I don't understand and I don't think I ever will.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Asking Too Much

People wonder why I say that religion ruined my parents. Here's a prime example:
    My mom, on the phone with me on my 40th birthday, "I have a card for you, but we've been really busy with a project at church, and I just haven't had the time to get it in the mail."

Yeah. That was a week ago. I guess whatever is going on at church is happening no where near their mailbox. I guess she can't stop at her own mailbox and put a card in it on her way to church because that would take entirely too long, and church needs her assistance STAT. I guess...

I mean, maybe I'm in the wrong here, and it is asking for too much to think you might get a birthday card on (or near) your 40th birthday from the person who gave birth to you. Or from the person who impregnated her, and whom you've called "Dad" your entire life.

I feel like a real dick for letting it bother me as much as it does, but I can't help it. It's not like it was just some crappy, run of the mill birthday, it was the big Four-O. That's kind of a landmark one, isn't it? Maybe not so much or something. I don't know. I mean, what do I expect, we spent years, YEARS apart, with no contact whatsoever. Our re-connection has been patchy at best. Nothing was ever resolved. Maybe they just wanted to be able to say they had contact with me again. Amends? Pffft. "Ignore it and it will go away" seems to still be the mantra by which they live their lives. Maybe I'm being too hard on them. Maybe they really are so busy with church...And maybe, just maybe I'm not supposed to be more important than a church project. And I guess that just hurts my feelings a little bit. Alright, a lot.

On the bright side, The Wifester's family gave me a fantastic birthday weekend. We went to dinner Friday night at a brand spanking new Mod-Mex restaurant here in town, El Carnicero, where I had some of the best mole I have ever had in my life. And I come from good, hearty, Mexican stock! I've had some damned good mole! Then on Saturday night my sister in laws took me out for a girl's night out. Then on Sunday The Wifester's family had a cookout in the park to celebrate. I got some cool new artwork that I had admired at a recent art fest. I got a lot of art supplies, and I got a ton of canning equipment, which I can't wait to start using! And I got a super cute owl statue, a beautiful Frida Kahlo inspired piece of pottery, and some crocks for wearing when working in my garden. I couldn't ask for more! Well, except just that one little thing from my own family...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Patriotism Via Attire vs. Patriotism Via Action

Recently, actually, it was on the 4th, I had the discussion about how much I detest the idea of wearing something red, white, and blue on Independence Day. It's not that I don't love my country, I do. And it's not that I don't like letting people know that I love my country. I do. It's just that I feel that wearing your red, white, and blue one day of the year does not make one a patriot.

To me what makes a patriot is one's actions and deeds throughout the year. I show my patriotism by standing up against oppression. I show it by standing for the rights of the minority and in supporting my neighbors and helping my community. I show it by looking for ways to improve this place for future generations. I don't think that I need to don an American flag broach one day a year in order to be a good American.

I was kind of ridiculed for this belief, and told that I was being "Un-American" by rejecting the idea that I needed a flag on my body to prove my good standing as an American citizen. I think the term, "Anti-American liberal" may have been thrown around, mostly in jest, but still, the eye rolls were there, the I-can't-believe-you-are-saying-this looks were being thrown about...It was obvious that I was the only one in that immediate vicinity that felt this way. And then a mini flag on a stick was shoved into my hand, almost as if to say, "Here! Now you are an American."

I reject everything about that. Does that make me a bad citizen? Does that make me unworthy of my country? How did a single day's attire come to trump a lifetime's actions? There is something inherently wrong with the notion that no matter what is done the rest of the year- you can cast your vote to oppress minorities, you can support policies that restrict the rights of good, law abiding, tax paying citizens, you can ignore constitutionally afforded rights, but if you put on some red, white, and blue on July 4th, you are a worthy American, tried and true.

Maybe I'm wrong. It has been known to happen. What are your thoughts on patriotism via attire vs. patriotism via action?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Meatless Mondays - Summer Veggies Bake

All of this healthy eating is paying off. I'm wearing clothes that I had tossed into the Give it to Goodwill piles in the farthest recesses of my closet. And I'm feeling like I have more energy, too. Another thing I've began to notice: when I go up the stairs my knees don't ache as much as they used to. 
We had a pretty good weekend of eating whatever the hell we wanted, chicken wings, cookies, all sorts of craziness. We even had our sister in law and her sister over on Saturday,and instead of deep fried, or gravy coated snacks, I opted to do fresh spring rolls with sweet chili sauce, chopped veggies with home made dill/cream cheese dip, and onion and garlic stuffed naan with hummus for dipping. The food was fantastic, the company was delightful, and much fun was involved. See, you can have a party without gaining sixteen lbs. But by Sunday, we were eating queso laden nachos and Mexican rice, so come Monday, we were not feeling alright. You just don't realize how much that food weighs you down until you step back away from it for a while. With both of us feeling sluggish, weighted down, and overall a bit icky, we knew that we needed to get back on track come Monday. I had lots of zucchini and tomatoes, (of course I did, it's summer, everyone has an abundance of zucchini and tomatoes) and I had some red potatoes, mushrooms, and a nice, big, sweet onion. Looking through the fridge, I also found some kale that needed to be worked into something pronto, or it was gonna soon be a gonner, having given its life without ever fulfilling its need to provide sustenance. It was my duty to help that kale to have not died in vain. So I thinly sliced all my veggies, I dredged them in flax seed meal because we're doing that now to help with The Wifester's blood pressure (it works! down from 180/100 to 140/90 in less than two weeks!) and then I set them in the greased casserole dish in this order: potato, onion, kale, zucchini, mushroom, onion, kale tomato, potato... but you just put them in there whatever order you see fit. Sometimes I use sauteed leeks, but they didn't have any when I shopped the other day, so I made do with onion instead. Once the dish was filled, I sprinkled some salt and pepper, and then a healthy dose of chopped basil, parsley, and rosemary over it all. I still had more kale, so I chopped it and spread it over the top and tucked more in between the sliced veggies. I drizzled a bit of extra virgin olive oil over it all, dashed a small dash of Parmesan, sauteed some minced garlic then sprinkled that over the top, covered it and baked it in the oven preheated at 425, for about 25 minutes. I tested the potatoes with a fork, once they were tender, I left the lid off and returned it to the oven for about 10 minutes, to let the top crisp up just a bit. I served this with 1/2 steamed brown rice 1/2 quiona mixture, and trust me, it was a-ma-zing! And filling. The protein from the quiona really helps you feel well nourished and full. I'm wishing there were leftovers to munch on right now, but we ate the whole thing last night. See there, we ate until we were stuffed to the gills, and still we're losing lots of weight. It really does matter what you eat, more so than how much of it.  

Summer Veggie Bake


1 large zucchini
1 lb white mushrooms
2 large tomatoes
1 sweet onion
1 bunch kale
4 red potatoes
fresh basil
fresh parsley
fresh rosemary
minced, sauteed garlic

Preheat oven to 425. Grease a deep casserole dish or spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
Slice all veggies to be about the same thickness, about 1/4 in. Chop kale and herbs. Mince garlic. Sautee minced garlic in EVOO or a tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside. Place the thinly sliced vegetables in the baking dish vertically, in an alternating pattern. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and herbs. Drizzle with EVOO. Bake covered at 425 for 25-30 minutes, when potatoes are tender remove lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Spread A Little Love Today

George Zimmerman is innocent in the same way that Casey Anthony is. I'm terribly saddened by the outcome of this trial, and I wonder, I honestly wonder if justice can ever be truly served with a judicial system that allows the G.Z.s and the C.A.s of this world to walk free while people like Marissa Alexander get 20 year sentences for firing off warning shots when abusive ex husbands become, well, abusive. Look it up if you haven't heard about it.

I'm sad today.
I'm sad because another person has lost their one shot at this life. Everything about that is sad.
I'm sad because our society can't seem to evolve fast enough to bring an end to this viral lack of respect for life.
All life.
We kill indiscriminately these days, don't we? We say, "Oh, it's raised to be food. It doesn't have feelings or emotions." We say, "It's kinder to do this than to let it suffer in a cage without a home to go to."
We convince ourselves that because it doesn't have a human voice to speak to us with, or because they haven't conformed to our own personal ideas and concepts of civilized society in this world, or because they look, act, and speak differently than we do that their lives are not as valuable, not as important as our own.
And it's all lies.

So I flip through, past all the discourse and rants and raves. I momentarily glance at all of the whoops and cheers, and I try to keep calm, be nice. I try to distract myself from it, and in doing so I stumble upon the death of yet another young, talented person. That kid I liked from Glee, Cory Monteith (Finn). Immediately I remember reading recently that he had been in rehab for substance abuse issues. My heart sinks. I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but I know addiction. I know substance abuse. I've lived it. I've witnessed its lethal nature first hand. I'm empathetic with him and his family over the situation, and yet I'm grateful that his fate didn't have to be mine. I almost feel guilty for feeling that, but there it is. I made a different choice in my life so many years back, and because of that, and in spite of my own self, I'm here today. I'm here to talk about it. I'm here to look back at it and see it for what it was. And I'm here to say that it can be done. You can learn a new way. I did. If I could, you can. Finn could have. Why does someone like that, with talent and charm and looks fail to find their way, while someone like me, a nobody, get it? What gave me the whatever it was that was needed to make it out of that alive?

I can't wrap my head around all of the thoughts that are flooding me today. When I have days like this, I like to busy myself with meaningful things, like gardening. Tending to plants and helping them to establish themselves and grow is rewarding, and no doubt it has to do with that feeling of propagating life in any of its forms. I guess it's my little way of recycling a bit of that love, that life force energy that I have been fortunate enough to have been given, and given, and given again. I say, share it. Spread it. Nurture it and watch it grow. Because it will grow and spread, and honestly there's never too much of that in this world.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Without Further Adieu, Quinoa Patties

Don't let them fool you. These little "burgers" are DEEEEE-LISH, and aren't really burgers at all. They're quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato, and zucchini. And I promise you, one bite and you'll be sold. They really do pack a punch to the ole' taste buds, and they leave you feeling well nourished and lacking for nothing. They've quickly become a staple around our house, and since they freeze well and reheat well, they can be found in my freezer stored separately in single serving portions, for those days when you need a quick bite that'll hold you over so you don't look like a living Snickers commercial. 
Since we have pretty much stopped eating any and all meats Monday through Friday, these little patties help us get our much needed protein. 
And they're versatile. Feeling a bit spicy? Add some cayenne and jalapeno. Feeling sweet? Add red and yellow peppers and a handful of fresh shaved sweet corn for a sweet little pop! Feeling Italian? Add Oregano...

For this particular batch, here's what I did: 

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1 med zucchini shredded
1 small sweet potato shredded
1/2 bunch kale, chopped
1 yellow onion chopped
1 red pepper chopped
1 yellow pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
a couple of splashes of Worcestershire 
chia seeds
flax seed meal
season with any herbs/spices that you like

Just throw everything into a large mixing bowl, and mash it all up until you have an almost dough like consistency. Too wet? Add some rolled oats and a pinch of flour. Too crumbly? Add a splash of Worcestershire or even another egg. You want the mix to be somewhat wet, but tacky enough to form patties, just think of the same texture you aimed for back when you used ground beef...

You can cook these over medium-high heat in a skillet, either sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, or in a small amount of EVOO. You can also cook them in the oven on a sprayed cooking sheet, I'd probably do 350 for 1/2 hr or so. Once cooked, they can be frozen and reheated in the microwave or even the toaster. 

Other variations I have made included adding some cooked, drained and mashed black beans, using corn meal instead of flour, spinach instead of kale, and using red potato instead of sweet potato. They can be made with mashed white beans, chick peas, pinto beans, couscous, or even some crumbled firm tofu. 

The Wifester's favorite topping for these has definitely been a good size dollop of guacamole, and since avocado is actually quite good for you, we have been embracing the liberal use of it as often as possible. And for those times when I really wish I had some barbecue, I cook these up, slap some Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce on them, then throw them on the grill. Mmmmm-Mmmmm! Talk about hitting the spot! 

Also, I have taken left over patties and crumbled them, added taco seasoning, and stuffed them into taco shells- Mmmm! Seriously, give it a try!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Buh-Bye Prop 8 and DOMA!

photo from

I know, I know.
I've consciously moved away from writing about politics, for the most part, but today is entirely too momentous to ignore. The Supreme Court of the United States has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. They have deemed that the federal government can not deny marriage benefits and marriage status to same sex couples who are legally married. This means if you went to DC and got married during that big rally, if you are like The Wifester and I and went to another country and got legally married, if you live in a state that allows same sex marriage and you got legally married there, the government will now recognize you as married! You can file joint tax returns. You can collect your partner's pension and social security when they pass. You can both adopt a child together rather than one person adopting and claiming to be a single parent adopter. You can now have access to the 1,100 federal benefits that have, until this day, been denied to you.

This is a day that, honestly, 10 years ago I'd of told you that I would never live to see, though future generations might, possibly, maybe...  This is a day that 20 years ago I'd of told you would never happen in this country. Period.

In fact, I woke up this morning ready to console myself, my friends, my facebook acquaintances. I woke up this morning preparing myself for the "Never Give Up" speeches and the, "That's OK, we'll get em' next time!" comforts. I had a tiny sliver of hope. The kind of tiny sliver of hope that I seem to always hold on to, even when all signs point to defeat and hopelessness. And so I acknowledged it as my own personal hope against all hope, and prepared myself for the let down.

Needless to say, I am happy about today's SCOTUS rulings. But there is still work to do. In many states, like here in Ohio, marriage between two women or two men is still not legal, and so those federal benefits become patchy, at best, when looking at how they cover couples like The Wifester and I...

There's still work to do, but now we know, beyond any doubt, that it is doable.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

For the Birds!

Our fridge is on the fritz. Every few days the freezer freezes up and the fridge stops cooling. I have to place a space heater in the freezer to thaw it out so that the fridge can get cool again. It's beyond irritating. And the landlord has been here a billion times, and the last four times he's said, "Well, let's try this one more time, and if this doesn't work we'll just have to get you a new fridge."
Enough already! Just get us the new fridge!
My lettuce keeps wilting before I get a chance to use it all up, my milk keeps know the drill. But imagine it happening weekly! My grocery budget can't keep up with this pace. So in an attempt to salvage some fresh produce that we just acquired from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, google it if you aren't familiar with the term), I made a nice, big chopped veggie salad, mixed it with some brown rice, poured garlic vinaigrette all over it, and made The Wifester and I a super-delicious, fantastically nutritious meal. I'm warning you, though, you may grow feathers after eating this dish. Seriously, the pic doesn't show it well, but there's so many seeds in this shit, you'll think you can fly when you get through with it! Feel free to add/omit any that you like/don't like.

That said, here's the cast of characters for this one:

Chopped Summer Veggies Salad

2 yellow squash
2 zucchini
1 medium Vidalia onion
3 large tomatoes
1/2 lb. white mushrooms
1 hand full of tender green beans that I had frozen after washing and trimming
1 sweet red bell pepper
1 sweet yellow bell pepper
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 bunch kale
Fresh sweet basil
Fresh cilantro
A LOT* of chia seeds
A LOT* of sesame seeds
A LOT* of flax seed meal
A LOT* of sunflower seeds
*use as much or as little as you like

Honey Garlic Vinaigrette Dressing
(this home-made recipe is great, but you can also use a store bought one if you are pressed for time)

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
3 cloves garlic, roasted whole, then minced


First things first, I whipped up the vinaigrette so that the flavors could meld together while I worked on the rest of this dish. Make it, set it aside, and continue on-

Next, I boiled my brown rice. I like to do the big pot of water method rather than the 2 parts water to 1 part rice method. For me, the rice stays fluffy and doesn't get all sticky or mushy with the big pot of water method, and I like it like that. Not sticky and mushy, I like it fluffy. Just so we're being clear. If you aren't familiar with that method, just use a much bigger pot than your rice will fill. Fill it with water, bring it to a boil, throw in your rice and let it boil for 20 minutes or so until the rice is tender, then strain out all the water by pouring the pot of rice into your colander. Fluffy, tender, non-mushy rice every time.
Okay, back to the recipe:
While the rice is boiling, I washed and chopped all of my veggies. Tossed them into a large bowl with the cilantro and basil, and then poured my vinaigrette all over it all. Cover this and refrigerate until the rice is ready to join the party.

When the rice is done cooking, strain it in the colander, then run cold water over it, stirring it gently until it is all cooled. Add this to your bowl of veggies, stir well, making sure the rice is completely coated with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also squeezed a bit more lemon over all. Cover, return to fridge to chill. The longer it chills, the better it tastes. Just remember to stir it up occasionally to ensure even coating of the dressing. Since my fridge was not chilling very well, I threw this in the freezer for about 1/2 hour before serving.

Come to think of it, a bit of sweet corn shaved into this would be pretty fantastic, so would a few well rinsed black beans. Go ahead, make it your own!

I served this salad along with some Quinoa Veggie Patties, and The Wifester was quite the happy camper!

I know, I know, I keep promising the recipe for the Quinoa Veggie Patties...Stay tuned, that recipe will hopefully make its way to this blog tomorrow! Meanwhile, take a look at my super-silly, tremendously cute, spring loaded Sally Sue

I just can't get enough of that face!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Painting With Moss

Inspired by some Pinterest pins, The Wifester and I decided on a Cleveland skyline for the brick wall that lines the back of our yard. We looked up many variations on the "recipe" for achieving moss graffiti, and settled on the one that called for 2 cups buttermilk, 2 cups water, and 2 tbsp sugar. You can use corn syrup to thicken, or corn starch (which is what we used). All of this thrown into a blender until thick and pasty, then brushed on the wall with a regular paint brush. The Wifester sketched out the skyline for us.

I'm hopeful that it will grow in nicely, and quickly. I will post pics every week or so to keep updated on the progress. Meanwhile, if you have a moment, please send my wall some good growing juju! Thanks!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's Taco Time!

I'm eating these as I type. No kidding.
My fingers are sticky with lime juice and I don't even give a shit. I've got wipes to clean up my keyboard when I'm done. That shit can wait. This delicious taco is nothing to walk away from, even for a minute.
Hold on, I'll be right back when every last drop is safely down my gullet.

Okay. Now that that's taken care of. First things first: I seriously need a new camera! Look at the fuzziness of these pics! I'm flipping legally blind and I can tell this is terrible quality. And it's really sad, too, because these pics really don't do this fantastic little taco the justice that it deserves.

Back to the topic (or should I say TACO?) at hand.
Here's how these little creations came to be-
The Wifester lamented on how much she loves tacos, then suggested we wait until the weekend, when we have an "It's OK to eat bad food" day. I balked at that, citing that tacos can be good food, we just have to rethink them. To prove my point, I came up with this idea of oven roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onion, and diced zucchini all seasoned with ginger, cumin, garlic, and chipotle chili. I mixed that with a little bit of quinoa/brown rice/rolled oats mixture that was left over from the night before's quinoa burgers (that recipe coming soon) and topped them off with slices of assorted fresh sweet peppers, cilantro/lime guacamole, fresh cilantro and green onion. For the taco shells, I went with fresh corn tortillas, toasted on a hot skillet until puffy and brownish, but still pliable. I like them best. But you can feel free to use those hard, crispy, store packaged ones if you want. A quick spray of fresh lime juice over it all and
Poof! Instant, healthy, delicious tacos!
HOLY SHIT! I never knew healthy food could be so Mo-Fo good!

*I think next time I'll add some tomatillo to my guac sauce, but it was pretty super fantastic this way, too.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Drunken Strawberry-Lavender Shortcake

Father's Day was quickly approaching, and we hadn't heard any peep about any kind of gathering for The Wifester's step-dad. We love him bunches, and so after asking if there had been any plans set forth, finding out that there hadn't, we invited my in-laws over for dinner. We don't need a holiday, parent appreciation day, or any such occasion to have them over, we like to gather at least once a week anyways, usually two or three times. But Father's Day requires more than our regularly scheduled trip across the street to the bar for dinner, followed by a couple of rounds of Oh Hell! back at our house, in which The Wifester and I lose all of our card playing cash to The-Father-in-Lawster. And so I looked into the fridge and checked out our freshly acquired stock from the CSA (community supported agriculture, for those who don't know) that we just subscribed to. Mmmm, there's lots of fresh veggies to make those wonderful spring rolls. Yep, we'll have spring rolls for appetizers. And it's Sunday, and The-Father-in-Lawster loves his hot wings on Sunday, so that was already decided. And I knew I wanted to make that super-easy, extraordinarily delicious no kneed bread (recipe to follow another day, meanwhile, google it)... So upon looking further into the fridge for inspiration, a wonderful thing appeared-
STRAWBERRIES! Lots and lots of strawberries were readily available, and what's better than two big, ripe, mounds of sweet, sweet strawberries to make a dessert with?
My thought process in this situation happened like this:
    Desert has one "s", like the Sahara Desert. Dessert has two "s'es" like Strawberry Shortcake. I have strawberries. I have a shortcake recipe. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE! That's it! I'll make strawberry shortcake!
And so the Drunken Strawberry Lavender Shortcake Cake came into existence.
For the cake part of this divine concoction, I followed The Pioneer Woman's Strawberry Shortcake Cake recipe because, honestly, it doesn't get any better than that cake recipe.
Her full recipe can be found here.
For those who don't want to link over there to see it, the cake part is as follows:


  • 1-1/2 cup Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 9 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 1-1/2 cup Sugar 
  • 3 whole Large eggs
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream, Room Temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Preparation Instructions
IMPORTANT: Be sure to use a cake pan that’s at least 2 inches deep! Before baking, the batter should not fill the pan more than halfway.
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and corn starch.
Cream 9 tablespoons butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.
Pour into greased and floured 8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until no longer jiggly like my bottom. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

And now here's where we mix things up a bit:
As soon as the cake went into the oven, I started on the filling. I wanted something just a little bit better than regular ole', run of the mill, strawberry shortcake. I knew right away that liquor was going into that bad boy. It had to. This is a cake for The-Father-in-Lawster, after all. Liquor is almost mandatory. Sadly, I didn't have any Grand Marnier on hand, but I did have rum. Oh, sweet, versatile rum. I adore you. But there still needed to be more. Then it hit me. It hit me square in the jaw, like a punch in the face. I have fresh, aromatic, lovely English and Spanish and even some unspecified species lavender. Now if you've ever had strawberry-lavender lemonade, you already know how spectacular the strawberry-lavender combination is. And if you haven't already experienced it, go! Go now and get some! Or wait until you've made this cake. Because I promise you won't be let down.
Okay, so I rinsed, topped, then chopped my strawberries. Once I had a nice big bowl full of chopped up strawberries, I sprinkled sugar over them, just enough to sweeten it a bit. Then I dumped a good dose of rum over it all, threw in some chopped up, freshly picked lavender, and mashed the entire mixture with a fork. Cover that up and place it in the fridge until your cake is cool. You may want to take it out occasionally to sneak a bite of drunken strawberry mash, and that's okay. I won't tell.
When the cake has baked, and is all cooled down, you can cut the cake in half, making it two layers.
At this point, go ahead and whip up your whipped cream. I pour a bunch of heavy cream, a splash of vanilla, and a few pinches of powdered sugar into my Kitchen Aid mixer and let it do the work for me. You use whatever you have on hand. Or use Cool-Whip, if that better suits you. Again, I won't tell.
Now you're gonna take that strawberry mash out of the fridge and pour it all over the top of the bottom layer, juice and all, really let it all soak into cake. Lay the top layer of the cake on over that, then cover the entire thing, sides and all with your whipped cream. To top the whipped cream topping, I sliced up some big, pretty strawberries and decorated. Then I threw that beauty into the freezer for about 10 minutes just to let the whipped cream set firmly.
This cake was eaten before I could even get a single picture of the completed product. But here's a shot of the leftovers:

Mmmmm...I want more right now!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Of Defects and Genes

I finally got the call I've been waiting for. I haven't mentioned that I was anxiously awaiting a call because I was anxious about it and a little bit worried that I may jinx the outcome by writing about it in advance. I know, but I am superstitious. I can't help it.
See, a few months back the eye specialist that I saw at the Cleveland Clinic asked me to meet with a Genetic Counselor, so that they could study my genes and try to determine if the eye disease that I have, Retinitis Pigmentosa, is occurring as part of a systemic disease process, or if it is occurring only as an eye disease. Apparently, they were concerned that I had symptoms of the systemic type issue, and that I was in danger of things like kidney failure, lung and heart issues, and a few other not so pleasant complications.  It turns out that I do not have the systemic disease. That is a good thing. That is a very, very good thing. But the counselor did tell me that they found a particular mutation of my BBS5 gene that has never before been found or documented. She was pretty excited about that, but she said that this mutation was not so severe as to cause the systemic disease. So it turns out, after all these years I finally have proof that I am, in fact, quite unique!
Actually, we all have mutated genes. Some of the mutations cause problems, ranging from severe to minimal, others are completely irrelevant. The problems arise when we have two sets of really, really defective genes. Then we get whammied with things like going blind when you're in the prime of your life...But hey, I'll take that. It's not as bad as what other mutated genes would have caused. I feel lucky, actually, that I didn't get super whammied with any number of those other issues.
Anyways, now they need more blood from me to be able to get in there and pinpoint which of the thousands and thousands of forms of Retinitis Pigmentosa I do have. So far, all they can tell me is that it is one of the recessive forms. Sigh. So the wait continues.

Friday, May 31, 2013


The other day I read that quinoa, stuffed into sachets and hung on window sills and doors works really well as an all natural insect repellent. I was three minutes away from doing just that with my jumbo bag of it, purchased at the West Side Market, because, well, it's one of those healthy foods that we're supposed to be eating.

I'd never eaten quinoa before, and certainly never cooked it, so I was really diving in there buying a bag of that size, but hey, it was a better price than the smaller bag. I was being budget savvy. But then the time came to cook it...Oh boy, was it ever a failure. I didn't rinse it nearly enough, not realizing that when they said it can be bitter if not rinsed well, they meant it will taste like rotten flesh and spoiled fish left out in the sun for weeks on end- in Arizona, in August.

Needless to say, it took me a couple of weeks before I worked up the nerve to try making a batch of it again. This time I took extra care to really rinse it well, then I soaked it, drained, soaked again, drained, and re-rinsed, the whole time saying "Oh, quinoa! Take that you dirty, dirty grain!"
That seems to have washed away all that funk. Or at least shamed it into submission. My first experience cooking it was a hot dish. I used quinoa in place of rice in a pilaf dish. My rice pilaf is fantastic, and I figured I couldn't go wrong doing this with quinoa. But like I said, I was wrong. So this go, I decided to try a cold dish. Partly because I still had memories of that hot, steaming plate of nastiness, and partly because it was just plain hot here yesterday, and the thought of hot food turned my stomach a little bit. I ended up just chopping some raw veggies: vidalia onion, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato, red, yellow, and green peppers, and garlic. Then I threw in some cooked chick peas, drained, that are patiently waiting for me to get back to the market to buy some lemon so I can make them into a proper hummus. While my quinoa boiled, I roasted some sunflower seeds. My method for cooking this time was to use a big pot, full of boiling water and the juice of two squeezed oranges, dump the quinoa in and let it go until the little guys grew tails. About 15 minutes. Then I drained them through a strainer and threw it in the fridge until my seeds were done roasting and my veggies were all chopped. I tossed all the veggies, the chick peas, the seeds, the quinoa, and a few splashes of EVOO and a healthy splash or three of a yummy Greek Vinaigrette that was in the fridge.  I tossed it all together well and then chilled it until The Wifester was home and we were ready for dinner. This is what came out of it:

And let me tell you, it was super fantastic! I'll definitely be making this one over and over again this summer. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and the Heartburn

After a month of extremely healthful eating, minimal contact with meat, poultry, or fish, and practically no cheese or butter, something catastrophic happened: Memorial Day Weekend.

You just can't avoid cookouts and potato salad and all things grilled on Memorial Day weekend, you can't! Oh, I know, I know- you actually can avoid those things if you really want to and are dedicated, but who the hell wants to on a holiday weekend, especially the one that marks the start of the summer cookout season?!

We indulged in chicken brats, fresh from the West Side Market, and if you've never had the opportunity to buy your meats fresh from them, you don't know what you're missing! On top of yesterday's brats and potato salad, and chips and dip, we had pizza on both Friday and Sunday nights, and even allowed ourselves each a Diet Coke on Sunday. What?! Lesbians gone wild, I tell ya!

Saturday contained a mixture of fried potatoes and eggs for breakfast, then Subway sandwiches with cheese, potato chips for lunch, and then wine later on that evening. In fact, I also had wine yesterday. Shh!

So, after a weekend of bad food indulgence, is it any wonder I came home yesterday with my belly aching, acid in over-production, and that gnawing, aching, bloated feeling which lasted well into the morning and woke me from a deep sleep on several occasions throughout the night?

The thing is, once you start eating healthfully, really eating healthfully every day- you realize how bad all those good-tasting foods make you feel. And That is one hell of a let-down. Because I do love those bad for me foods. I really, really do!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Disasters and Douchebaggery

The devastation in Oklahoma is terrible, and it makes my heart ache for all the lives, human and animal, that are so terribly affected by it.
My empathy meter goes through the roof with these kinds of disasters. I don't know how to be callous to it, but sometimes I wish I did. Like this morning when I clicked on a CNN link about the storms, and on the top of the page was a picture of a woman comforting a dying dog amid the debris.
Who chose to use that photo, front and center, with that story?
I know, I know, "if it bleeds, it leads", but give me a break. Then, I see a video all over facebook; An elderly woman is being interviewed while she searches through the rubble that was her home. She is talking about how she hid in a small bathroom holding on to her dog, and how after the house collapsed, she lost him, when the reporter says, "Oh, look! A dog!" And that's when you see the woman's badly cut and bruised arms trying to lift that debris off of her beloved dog. And then you see his sweet little face peeking through the pile-of-stuff-formerly-known-as-house, frightened eyes pleading to be rescued. The scene cuts, apparently to omit a few minutes of her trying to lift stuff in order to free him, and finally, you hear her plead, no, more than plead - she begs, "Oh, help me! Help me!"
Finally, either the reporter's arm or a crew member's arm reaches in and helps her lift a heavy looking sheet of something or other up just enough that the dog is able to come out of his buried alive trap of rubble.
Why, WHY did this poor old lady even have to ask?! WTF?!
Have we really lost that much of our connections to others that we can stand by filming, watching this struggle and do nothing to help until asked?
Because if it is, maybe we do deserve this kind of devastation. Maybe we need this kind of loss to change our ways. Maybe it's our collective karma kicking our asses. Maybe my empathy and that of those, who like me still have it, is simply not enough to suffice, to offset all of the douchery and ass-hattery of today's modern society, what, with all the suicide bombers, kidnappers and rapists, sadists, and the bigots.
And then there's the politicizers- you know, the politicians, wannabe politicians, pundits, and general dick heads who can't wait to turn even a tragedy of this magnitude into a political cry for or against some policy or another.
True, everything is political, when you get down to it. I realize that. I understand how it works, the connectedness of it all. But I want people to just wait a minute or two before going on the rampage about federal relief funding, about god's wrath for our sins, and the need for prayer and about all the garbage that gets tossed around. Just stop and think, what would I want to hear if I was searching through rubble for my family, for my belongings, for my child...
I'd probably just want to hear, "How can I help you right now?"
And that's really all those people should be hearing from us.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chillin' With My Brussels

"My pants are getting looser!"
I wasn't surprised one bit by The Wifester's discovery yesterday. We've been eating primarily plant based diets for supper for the last two weeks. We have only allowed ourselves poultry at supper, and confined that to twice a week. It has been a good couple of weeks, too. Only a couple of times did we go to bed and say, "I'm still hungry." But we weren't hungry enough to eat more of anything.
We found a few truly keeper recipes, too, like the Marinated Brussels & Kale Salad. And seriously, don't let the kale deter you. I hate kale. I've hated it with a passion every single time I've tried it. My sister in law, who is a phenomenal cook, made kale chips and swore that they were wonderful, and that is the only time I've honestly felt like she bold faced lied to me. I've always found kale to be bitter and disgusting, until now.
I mean, I've loved brussels for as long as I can remember. I've talked about my love of the little, round, bundle of yumminess time and time again. Even after bouts of illness that I associated, or attributed to having eaten tainted brussels, I've come 'round and been jumping back in the saddle with the little boogers. I can't keep myself away from 'em. I'll gobble those little pillows of deliciousness every chance I get. But, oh sweet mother of all things edible, I never knew they could be so fantastic cold! I've eaten them steamed and roasted and grilled and broiled, but never in my life did I think to chill them.

On Mother's Day, The Wifester and I went to a Mother's Day picnic with The Wifester's mom, our sister in law, her mom, her sister in law, and a host of aunts. It's a yearly thing, and it's great. All the non-moms host it for all the moms, and it truly is a wonderful way to celebrate all those mothers.

Anyways our contribution was this super fantastic dish, whose recipe was requested more times than I can count, and then asked for again, and again. And since it was in such high demand, I thought I'd share it with you.

Marinated Brussels and Kale

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
1 large bunch of kale, center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
3/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons,zested and juiced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine
1 small sweet onion chopped
½ each red, yellow, green peppers
4 large garlic cloves, minced
salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
*this recipe also called for 1/3 cup almonds, coarsely chopped – I used roasted sunflower seeds instead, due to The Wifester's nut allergy

Combine lemon juice, honey, vinegar, shallots, garlic, sweet onion, and ¼ teaspoon salt + a pinch of pepper. Stir to blend well. Set aside.

Prep Brussels and slice the larger ones in half. Toss with kale. Bring ½ inch water to boil in a large pot, add Brussels and kale, cover pot and steam for 3-5 min. until just barely tender. Drain the sprouts and plunge them in a bowl of ice water. Leave them there for 1-2 min., then drain.

Whisk in the olive oil with the lemon juice mixture. Toss Brussels and kale with the vinaigrette to coat well. Add almonds or sunflower seeds. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving, best if made a day in advance. Stir mixture occasionally to ensure even soaking.

There you go. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Next Year

A girl walks into a writer's group meeting...
And finds herself wishing she had just stayed home.

No kidding. I was looking for some inspiration, maybe some insight and tips on how to write better, write more, just WRITE. What I found was a room full of egos attached to, well, to be honest, fundamentally untalented writers except for one, who was marginally fantastic. I'd like to meet with just him and have some time to pick his brain. Otherwise, not much came out of that meeting for me, except the firm knowledge that I had wasted two hours of my life in that room. I'll keep looking. I mean, maybe I'm being too harsh, but I can't grant any respect to a writer's group "Facilitator/Writing Coach" who uses Stephen King as an example of diverse writing styles, and then goes on to list only a couple of his most popular books without a single mention of anything he has done outside of the horror genre. I brought up the Hearts in Atlantis series, only to be met with that deer-in-headlights stare. I tried to help stir memory as best I could, being on the spot in a room full of people I don't know and feeling vulnerable and nervous, and I said, "You know, the collection of short stories about the single mom, a widow, with the little boy and they meet the older gentleman." To which I received the response, "Oh, you mean The Sixth Sense?"
No. No I don't mean The Sixth Sense, you fucking moron. Maybe, before you try to utilize the name of Stephen King as an example of versatile writing styles, you should school yourself in some of his truly diverse writing, like The Body (Stand by Me), or The Green Mile, or how about his memoir, On Writing.
Just a thought.
And maybe you should look into knowing the differences between M. Knight Shymalan's writing style and Steven King's. Just sayin'.

So suffice it to say, this group was not a proper fit. I want someone to challenge me to push my limits. I want someone to challenge me to write about the hard topics, to be more free with the fun topics, and to dive in there and really, truly put a wholehearted effort into this god-damned book that has been not much more than an outline for the last five years.

Maybe I'm asking for too much. I tend to do that.

Anyways, on to more venting:

During this past week The Wifester had an uncle, actually a great-uncle, who passed away, and I had a great aunt pass away. This has been a tough year for The Wifester's family, she also lost both of her grandparents, on her mother's side, within just a few months of each other. My heart goes out, especially to The Wifester's mom. I can't imagine how difficult this has been for her.

With so much loss around us recently, we've really been contemplating our own mortality. I think that's pretty normal, isn't it? I've known for quite some time that my current state of health (or lack thereof) is quite detrimental to my longevity, and to my quality of life. I have been open with you about my desire, my need to lose weight. It's a battle that has consumed my entire life. I remember being 6 years old and going to my great uncle's funeral where my great grandfather, upon seeing me for the first time in several months, exclaimed, "Whooo-weee! You're as fat as pig!"

I remember year after year of Weight Watchers meetings and Slim Fast type shakes, and that was years before there was such a thing as Slim Fast. I remember opening my lunch box to an apple and a thermos of flavor-of-the-day diet shake drink, while my friends had pb&j sammies, or bologna, or ham...
I remember looking in the mirror the day before school started each year and sighing and telling myself, "It's okay, when school starts next year you'll be skinny." Next year always did come, and with it was that same conversation in the mirror with that fat little girl who possessed me.

It just now occurred to me that I still say "Next year..." I've been saying my book will be complete next year for years. I've been saying I'll get my finances in order next year for my entire adult life. And, of course, I've still been saying next year about my weight.

I'm tired of being the master procrastinator. Next Year is now. I have to get these things under control. I have to make them happen. Next Year won't do the hard work for me. I have to do the writing. I have to make the better financial decisions. I have eat the healthier foods, and I have to get more exercise.
And with that, I think I'll go take The Sally-dog on a walk.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Then and Now

I got the call this morning that my Aunt Mickie had passed away. Actually, before I got the call from my mom, I got the email via facebook from my cousin. I let mom tell me about it as though I didn't already know because I know she hates facebook and especially hates it when facebook tells me something before she can.

I'm sad at hearing about Aunt Mickey. She was such a sweet, caring woman and she had one of those smiles that illuminated every room she entered. Aunt Mickey was my grandfather's sister, on my father's side. A true Southern Lady, she had that grace and charm that, at least in my opinion, can only come from being raised as a proper Southern girl. Polite and considerate while being honest and forthcoming. Sweet and proper without being prudish. Nothing that I am, but everything I strive to be.

While reminiscing on Aunt Mickey and her sweet, gentle nature, my mother said to me, "You know, what I always remember about her is that when I met Dad and he introduced me to his family, from day one she always welcomed me with open arms and she treated me like I had always been a part of the family."

Funny you should mention that, I thought, considering the way you treated The Wifester when you met her. Considering it took you over a year before you even took the time to ask her what she did for a living. Considering you never, not even once even asked her about her family. Considering you spent hours in the same room with her and never once attempted to initiate conversation with her and only gave brief answers when she directly asked you questions. Considering...

She continued with her description of how much it meant to her for Aunt Mickey to have been so welcoming, "You know, back then there were a lot of people who didn't like to see your Dad be with a Mexican woman. It was not so widely accepted like it is today. But Aunt Mickey never acted like it was anything but perfectly normal. She welcomed me and made me feel right at home, right from the start. That goes a long way. And it says a lot about her character."

"Yes," I said, "a lot of things have changed since then, and a lot of things are still the same. That kind of acceptance is very important for building those family relationships."
I wondered if she was able to make the connection between the two situations.

"It leaves a lasting impression when family members welcome you right from the start. Everyone should have an Aunt Mickey" I finished. There was nothing more to say.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Crabby(ish) Patties

It's no secret that The Wifester and I are fat. We are. But we're trying not to be. If you've ever struggled with weight loss, the real kind, not just "I gotta drop 15 to fit in those jeans", but like the need to lose half of your body weight, then you know what we're up against.

I realize it really is a lifestyle change. I've been told that my entire life, I get it. But being willing to make that change is more difficult than it sounds. Seriously. I mean, first of all, who doesn't love chocolate and cream filled anything? And butter and jam and all that good stuff? If you tell me you don't, I'll call you a liar to your face. Maybe you've denied it to yourself long enough that you forgot how wonderful it was. Maybe you honestly think you don't like them. But if you were to take a bite of a wonderfully decadent, chocolate laden, butter-based, cream filled something or other you would melt in your seat and ferociously fend off any entity that dared to take even one bite of it away from you.

As you can probably tell, sweets are my Waterloo.

So we've been working on limiting the sweets at our house. It's torture I tell you. Torture.

We've also been working on having more plant based meals. I mean, we already cut out beef and pork, so we're left to fish and poultry as it is. But obviously that hasn't been enough for the kind of dietary changes we need. Portion control is also a factor. But gosh it's hard to feel full off of a plate full of lettuce! And then there's the cost of eating the right foods. (Why do fresh veggies cost five times as much as ramen noodles?)
I've also been looking for meatless alternatives for entrees, and for sides that are more filling and lower calorie/lower fat than what we've been doing. I've found several recipes that have turned out great, a few not so great, but so far, the very best thing I've found that made me feel like I had a truly decadent dinner, while maintaining the low-cost, low calorie, and low fat criteria, has been the Crab(ish) Patties that I whipped up the other day. They aren't exactly meatless, but they are filling, delicious, and easy. And you really could leave out the Louis Kemp artificial crab meat and they'd still be super fantastic.


1 pkg. Extra firm tofu – frozen, then thawed, then drained and crumbled
1 pkg. Louis Kemp Artificial Crab meat coarsely chopped
2 eggs
¾ - 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs plus extra for dredging
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ each of medium red, green, and yellow peppers diced
 1 small yellow onion diced
1 stalk celery diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
Old Bay Seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying in pan
lemon wedges for garnishment


You should mix the ingredients at least two hours or overnight the night before you want to cook them so that the flavors really set into the tofu. Otherwise your tofu will be very bland and flavorless. I mixed mine up at around noon, and then cooked them for dinner that evening. They were fantastic!

In a large bowl crumble the drained tofu until it is a fine gain consistency. In a separate bowl beat eggs. Add eggs to tofu crumble, mix in the chopped crab meat, veggies, and seasonings. Cover and set in fridge for two hours or the night before. 

When you are ready to cook them, pour some EVOO in a skillet, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. If you have a really good non-stick pan, you may be able to do without the oil at all. Form patties to the size you want. I made palm sized patties and ended up with a dozen. Lay them on wax paper to make handling them easier. Dredge them in a dish of seasoned bread crumbs. Just the crumbs, no need for egg or milk or anything, the crumbs will adhere to this tofu mixture without any problem. Cook these babies over medium to medium high heat until golden and crispy, about 4 minutes each side. 
Alternate cooking method: Place patties on a greased cookie sheet and cook in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 12-15 minutes each side, or until golden and crispy.