Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Music meme

Here's a fun meme that Jen posted on her blog just today. I recently have been (very slowly on the weekends) coming up with a "Sher soundtrack"--songs that have been significant for me at different times of my life, so this meme plays right into that music obsession. It was a bit of a challenge to pick the artist, but I ended up going with Joni Mitchell. Sara MacLachlan was a close runner up, as were Neil Diamond, Elton John or Anne Murray! All my old childhood faves... Oh, almost forgot one: you can thank me later for not doing Roger Whittaker!

Using only song names from one artist, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title.

Pick Your Artist: Joni Mitchell

Describe yourself: Sunny Sunday

How do you feel about yourself: Both Sides Now

Describe where you currently live (where I am this minute...): California

If you could go anywhere you wanted to go: River

Your favorite form of transportation: Big Yellow Taxi

Your best friend is: Woman of Heart and Mind

Your favorite color is: Little Green

Favorite time of day: Rainy Night House

If your life were a TV show, what would it be called: Ladies of the Canyon

What is life to you: The Circle Game

What is the best advice you have to give: Court and Spark

If you could change your name, what would it be: Amelia

Your favorite food is: Banquet

Thought for the Day: Last Chance Lost

How I would like to die: Sex Kills (I couldn't resist!)

Your soul's present condition: You Turn Me On I'm a Radio

The faults you can bear: Not To Blame

My motto: Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire

I included videos of Joni that just happen to be 30 years apart... while her voice has definitely changed over time, I really like them both. She's just an amazing artist.

So do yours! Please. You can do it here in the comments or on your own blog and let me know!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Crazy day

I got up this morning, bright and early, and ready to go. Lovely husband offered to drive me out to the airport, and when we looked out the window.... there was more of the white stuff! Wow. Apologies to Aunty MJ for any perceived springtime snobbery in our phone conversation yesterday... obviously the weather gods were listening and thought, "Let's teach her a thing or two! Spring is not as close as Sher wants!" Alas.

So between mechanical issues, plowing the runway (seriously!), and de-icing the plane, I completely lost my 1.5-hour layover in Seattle. Upon landing I sprang from my seat (you're getting the mental image here, right?) and flew through the airport. Well, lumbered, anyway... I panted up to the empty gate at 9:40... departure time was 9:38. Sniff.

OK, so you don't need details on the whole day. Suffice it to say that I got rebooked and made it to San Luis Obispo at my original time (more sprinting through the SF airport to make up for lost time). Whew. Happy I'm here safe and sound, and there are fresh local strawberries abounding! We made a very happy supper of hummus and flatbread and these amazing Asian peanut chicken meatball skewers left over from C's shindig last night, and strawberries, strawberries, strawberries!

Oh, and this is the view where I am now! Viva la See Canyon!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

UPDATED: Future files: A little somethin' somethin' for my coffee

OK, this one is not so far off in the future. I just read an interesting tidbit about condensed milk and am now about ready to pillage the kitchen in search of a can...

Take a look at the article on Serious Eats (I swear, I do read other food blogs, but they've been holding my interest a lot lately): What to do with condensed milk? Aside from many wonderful sounding uses for this ingredient in ethnic baking, I was most struck by the writer's everyday use of it in coffee.

I have been floundering around trying to figure out a great, tasty way to sweeten my coffee without the help of high fructose corn syrup. I know, there is all kinds of controversy currently pinging about the internet calling into question the latest flogging of an ingredient and many are saying what's the dif between HFCS and sugar? I'll leave that for you, dear reader, to investigate...

But, I did make the decision a couple of months back to forego my hazelnut creamer in favor of something that is REAL: cream, or soy milk/cream. And, frankly, it hasn't been doing it for me. My tastebuds have been ruined by the devil, and the devil's name is Carnation Coffee-Mate.

So, I feel like I've been thrown a lifeline. A caffeinated lifeline, if you will (could there be a better kind?). I have no idea if the pantry still holds a can of the stuff, as I usually only stock it for holiday baking. But I probably have a little left over... tomorrow a.m. finds me up very early and on my merry way to California, so I will brew a little coffee and give it a whirl. And I'll keep you posted!

UPDATED: OK, so it works. It's not the home run I was hoping for, but it's sweet and does the trick at least three-quarters of the way. I had to add a touch of actual cream to lighten the color--for some reason, color of coffee matters a great deal to me... I know, I know. Anyway, I may try it again, but I will probably actually look at the nutrition facts on the stuff before doing so. This morning, making coffee at 5 a.m., not so much looky at nutrition, me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

So good to be in this place, in this week! Still have more to do that I should, prior to leaving for sunny San Luis Obispo early Sunday a.m., but it is what it is, and some stuff will have to wait until I'm back, I guess.

But this week, as always, I am so very grateful. Especially for:

* My husband, who is supportive in every way. I appreciate him!

* My son, who is so lovingly stumbling his way towards adolescence. The fact that he was on his way out of a hug with me when a major spill of blueberry smoothie took place this week brings a smile to my face. Now. It didn't at the time. Yikes. Just ask the boys...

* Stain remover, especially Oxy Deep by Woolite. Can I just say I wasn't sure the blueberry smoothie was going to come out, ever... but it did! I am especially grateful to whomever it is that engineered carpet fibers to repel stains.

* My sweet sweet little Bissell carpet cleaner. What a friend we have in Bissell. Aren't you just shocked that it's called the "Little Green?"

* Spring weather. We are well and truly in the springtime, even if a few chilly chilly breezes this week did bring back winter memories...

* A lovely sister-in-law who celebrated a birthday this week. We had a fun little family party complete with the first strawberries of the season. Yeah for birthdays and berries!

* Another lovely SIL who is a bucket of encouragement as we both navigate toward a world with more exercise and healthier families! We will do it! Yes we will!

* Girlfriend lunches to round out the week--sushi on Monday, steak salad at TMacs on Friday. Good way to start and end the week!

* For things to look forward to--time with dear friend C, a catch-up dinner with J in SF, and then back home and up to Canada for Grandma's 90th. Wow. A full week.

* Color. While I feel like pale-white-girl when I put color on right now (I need some of those California rays) I search for it everywhere else... here's a great web site I found (you'd love this one, Mom) Daily Color Scheme, where you can subscribe and a new color palette comes to you every day. I also found this quite fun crafty blog, Don't Look Now, with color all over the place. Makes me want to quilt, the fabrics look so fun. And then there's this little project (now complete), The Daily Card. Just love the creativity!

* Music to match the sunny days... this song is one that the young lad and I belted out on the way to school/work this morning. Catchy.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend! May it be long enough to relax and chill, and not too long (hmmm, are they ever too long?) to make you forget "that thing you do" Monday through Friday. Alas.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

99 things, done and undone

I've seen this list around at a couple of different blogs and finally decided to do it after I saw in on The Gift this week. I have been following The Gift for a bit--she decided at the beginning of her 37th year to write every day that year--and have enjoyed reading her journey through words. I think Jen also did this list awhile back (but I couldn't find it to link to...), and of course (of course!) it's been doing the rounds on Facebook too.

The things that I've done are bolded:

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyworld

8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis--a very long time ago!

10. Sang a solo--also a very long time ago, and not well!

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables (every summer...)

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (Don't tell my boss!)

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a marathon (still a goal... Kim, are you in?)

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise (great family vacation!)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community (Does a Hutterite community count? I think so.)

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke (way too many times, always badly. First was Total Eclipse of the Sun with a bunch of girls to celebrate a birthday. Favorite was I Will Survive at a time when it was appropriate.)

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted (drawn?)

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business (I think this is one I'm most proud of)

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check (Sadly, a rite of passage, at least for me.)

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox (way too late in life)

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby (not so much of a baby anymore...)

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit (does a divorce count?)

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

(So, notice all the things in Europe still waiting to be done?!)

Whew! Your turn now. Have fun.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Asparagus egg salad

I found this one on Serious Eats last weekend and have been dying to try it! Nothing says spring to me like asparagus! I have also been getting fresh-from-the-farm eggs recently (I am lucky and have two great local sources), and they make this recipe all that much better. I made it tonight and just had a couple bites, saving most for lunch tomorrow. It was amazing... and I think it will be even better tomorrow!

Pardon the whoo-hoo food styling above. It's packed up and ready for my brown-bag lunch tomorrow!

Asparagus Egg Salad
1 pound medium-size asparagus
6 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill leaves
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and black pepper

Cut the tips from the asparagus (about 1 inch long). You should have about 1 cup.

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus tips and cook until they are just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold running water, and drain again. Pat the tips dry and set them aside.

Place the chopped eggs in a bowl and season them lightly with salt and pepper. Toss with the dill.

Combine the mustard and the mayo in a small bowl, and fold this mixture into the eggs. Then gently fold in the asparagus tips. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before serving.

So, what I did differently: I can't bring myself to use only tips. I used up most of the asparagus stalks, so my egg to asparagus ratio was weighted more toward the asparagus end of things. Which is the way I like it! Enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Putting it in perspective

I think I'll need to change my blog banner one of these days... to include that cookie dough cupcake photo! Each time I contemplate writing a new post, I realize it will slide the cupcake photo down, and that just seems wrong. Can just looking at food make you happy? I think so... at least for me!

But, at least I know where to go to see it. Maybe it's just my subconscious saying "Post a pretty food picture every day, Sher." Maybe.

There's a video that's been making its way around online, between Twitter and Facebook and blogs I think I've seen it referenced at least a half-dozen times in the past few weeks. Not sure why, but the embedding has been disabled on Youtube, so you'll have to link to it rather than relax in viewing comfort right here at Sweet Tea and Sunshine. Oh, the effort.

It's a Late Night with Conan O'Brian show and the comedian Louis CK is the guest. He's talking about how everything is amazing, and nobody's happy. Very appropriate some (most) days! I looked high and low for a Louis CK video that I could embed to draw you in (it's all about the marketing with me), but they don't generally fit within my family-friendly-no-4-letter-words rule for the blog. If anyone's going to swear around here, it will be me! Seriously, he's quite funny, just not someone to take to Grandma's for tea... this clip from Conan, though, is fairly tame in the language department; after all, it's network television. Enjoy. Relate.

I was talking with a girlfriend today over shushi lunch about the challenges of housekeeping; with everything else to do in our little universes (work to pay someone else to clean, or clean and save the cash?), housecleaning can fall a little low on the list. But we both have sizeable homes, and the blessing of that space comes with the curse of the dustbunnies. For another perspective, take a look at a project from a remarkable photographer, Michael Wolf. He did a photographic study in 2006 of 100 apartments in Hong Kong that are all 100 square feet. It will make you grateful for your space, I do believe. It's one of those humbling moments.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Future files: Cookie dough cupcakes

Not everything I see and drool over can I make Right This Minute. Not only do I not have the time and energy for that, I also don't have the metabolism! So I dreamt up a new category for this here blog o' mine and decided to call it "Future Files." In all my little scourings of the web I see countless little nuggets to taste and try over time... this will be my method of filing them away to try later. I swear I will try them later, and then post again, my version.

This one just jumped out at me this last week from Serious Eats. I have always been a sucker for cookie dough (ask my mother who used to threaten to make me eat a whole batch. I just prayed she'd follow through on that!), and though I don't go in so much for the cookie dough ice cream that was all the rage a few years back (and probably still is), I AM a self-professed cupcake nut, so this combo looks just too good to pass up. I ran it by the young taste-tester this morning and he gave it the big thumbs up, so it will definitely come out of the "future" and into the present, soon!

This version is from a "mix" recipe, which I'm not generally a big fan or proponent of. So when I do make these, it will be a from-scratch scenario. Yum. I think I need to go find some lunch...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

There are many things to be grateful for this week, tis true. I just love how a little daylight and sunshine add perspective to my outlook. Same world, different view. Whew.

* I'm grateful for my guys, always, through thick and thin.

* I'm grateful that winter colds are almost done. Note the almost. Little guy (makes him sound 6!) called from the nurses office over lunch time and was ready to come home. Music to my ears, though I'm sorry he's all snuffly again. Got him quickly tucked in with a book and apple slices (I always doubt MAJOR sickness when he's got an appetite... just sayin') and things are looking up.

* It's been a long week for both husband and I, so I'm ever-so-grateful for a weekend with peace and quiet and a pause for rest. Doesn't feel right to call it the "weekend cave" with the springyness and all... I need to come up with an alternative to "cave." Any ideas?

*I am grateful for Google. I know, that may sound a little odd. But the truth is, I don't know what I'd do without Google anymore. When I want to know something, it's simply the search engine I go to, every time. And I am in love with their super-creative logo collection. I am always tickled when I open up the Google search page and there's a clever workmark to greet me. Always. I have decided that being a Google logo maker would be the coolest job, ever. What fun! I want to meet the lucky person who has that job!

Classic example for today, first day of spring:

Here's how Dr. Suess's birthday was celebrated:

And Valentine's Day 2008. How sweet. That's how bent-over I feel somedays, lately!

*I'm grateful for green. The week started green (St. Patrick's Day) and ended green (yard). I am happy, like a clam. A green clam. Even though you can now see all the streaks on my windows because the sun is shining through them, I'm happy! (Even came home from work and changed into a green Tshirt. I know, shocking.)

* I'm grateful for chopped salad and deviled eggs. Below is my spring supper! Yum. And there's asparagus (that didn't have to fly in from Chile!) in the fridge for future fun meals. I made butternut squash pizza a few weeks back and had every intention of posting about it, but I am just so over the winter vegetables I haven't really been in the mood. The pizza was yummy, but just kind of "last-Thanksgiving." Not fun for March... sad, but true. Time to move on to summer eating! Fresh, grown 50 yards away (our garden) or maybe an acre or two further...

This could truly be called the "fridge salad"--whatever is fresh, chop chop chop and voila!

* I'm grateful for friends and family, near and far. For old friends and new-ish friends and yet unborn friends. Friends you've had so long they're like family. And luckily for me, family that are near and dear as friends.

* I'm grateful for the abilty to cry. Not every day, but as needed. I know this is going to make me sound koo-koo for cocoapuffs, but it's true. I find having a "moment" to myself (no need to inflict this on anyone else, I do have my dignity!) is a really good thing. Who needs therapy? I used to think that gal on Broadcast News was nuts. Now I know better! Or, wait, maybe I'm just nuts too...!

* I'm very grateful that I can hear birds chirping out the window, and not much else. I love the tranquility of our setting.

Chirp chirp. Happy weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Springtime pesto delights

So there was before:

And here's after!

When the basil gets THAT tall, something must be done about it! I know, I know, pesto is so '90s... but it is one flavor I can't get enough of! And especially since my last basil overdose feels like months ago (because it was), I was more than ready to pull out the pinenuts, parmesan and olive oil. As I seem to be more and more sensitive to garlic lately (I can't really belive I'm saying this, it makes me feel old to even say it) I just left the little cloves stay intact and made a garlic-less version.

There are all sorts of recipes for pesto. But I find it turns out best when you add a bit of this (basil), a little of that (cheese, parm and oil) and play around with it until you have achieved the consistency you're going for. The video below gives a good idea of how to accomplish that. Complete with an accent! Oui oui!

I am so happy spring is here! Maybe, just maybe, summer will follow. I don't want to get all freaky optimistic here, but all signs point to warmth and sunshine in the coming weeks. Yeah for that!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cheesey polenta with black bean soup

Polenta has a reputation for being either quick and easy, or massively time-consuming. My method falls into the quick and easy category. I haven't developed the patience for the 2-hour technique as described so beautifully in Heat by Bill Buford. Maybe one of these days I'll give it a whirl and I'll never turn back... apparently it's just THAT good.

An added factor is that when I want polenta, I usually am not thinking about it two hours in advance. In my southern husband's vernacular, polenta = grits. White or yellow, it matters not. So grits are a common accompaniment to our weekend breakfast extravaganza. It comes together quickly, and as you can see in the picture above, it makes for a hearty lunchtime option as well.

So basic polenta/grits comes together with a very simple formula: 1 cup of water + 1/4 cup of polenta. That makes a hearty serving. I very often make it in the tried and true quadruple form: 4 cups of water + 1 cup of polenta. Bring the water to a rolling boil, add a teaspoon of salt and then whisk in the polenta. Turn the heat down to low, and whisk until it thickens. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes on my stove, and I am very comfortable just putting a lid on the pot and turning my attention elsewhere, coming back for a stir every now and again.

The variations are endless, in terms of adding cheese to the mixture. I've done blue cheese, parmesan as well as cheddar. Each is spectacularly yummy in its own way.

The bowl you see above is a hefty ladle of polenta with another of black bean soup over the top. I mixed in cheddar (generously) to the polenta, and the result was quite pleasing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

OK, enough with the grumpiness already. Time for a little dose of the "suck it up, zip it, snap out of it" medicine. That... and a little gratefulness...

This week I'm grateful for:
* Quiet. I think I take for granted this very peaceful setting we live in. It is simply the most peaceful spot I know of, many days.

* The pheasants the wander the fields. We have pheasants and hawks aplenty. You'd think the gopher population wouldn't be so high, but we have very agile and clever gophers apparently. I'm not so grateful for them...

* Some very good laughs this week. Seth and I have been playing rock, paper, scissors on the way to school (yes, I can hear you all thinking I don't drive safely, but I do!) and for some reason it is just really funny. We both think we can "crack" the other's pattern... but he'll never crack mine!

* The male bonding time with the Wii. Good times I hear about later... whipping each other at bowling, tennis, boxing... I am very grateful for that bond.

* The opportunity to be exposed to a new hobby this week... too soon to spill the beans as there's a surprise element to it, but I had previously poo-pooed this activity, and was pleasantly surprised to a bit of fun in it. How's that for pathetically vague? Sorry.

* The longer evenings, which have been lovely and really can tease one toward springtime... looking forward to warmth accompanying the sunlight. I know, there's no pleasing the lady this week!

* As always, I am so grateful for the creative spark that seems to be in most of us, that burbles out in such beautiful ways from some in particular. I found this beautiful, fun blog this week, and another a few weeks back with gardening/food as a theme, and then this one on just gardening (in the UK!), and yet another one that is more food/poetry... I just love that creative spark that keeps ideas and thoughts moving, new ways to see things, new ways to do things... I could thumb through vi.sualize.us for hours! Or stumble!

* Health, health, health, so grateful for health. I know this is basically asking for the gods of colds and flues to visit again, but I am so glad that we are all better and doing well. There is a lot of illness near and far, and my heart is with a sick aunty in Roseburg right now, hoping she gets better. You are in our prayers, dear aunty!

* A purple pedicure. And a good friend to visit with during... this one took a while. Not the most efficient operation, but a good way to kick off the weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I find this troubling

It's been quite the week. Pretty quite on the blog-front. What with the whole daylight-savings-dark-morning funk, too much to do on all fronts and not enough verve or pep (yes, I know, normal people just call it "energy") to get it all done, I've been a little undone. Being around me hasn't exactly been a thrill-a-minute...

Not to mention we've been eating down the pantry (but the boys haven't noticed!), so what fun is there in blogging about that? (You wouldn't believe some of the slapped together meals that have been taking place around here. Today for lunch I had some leftover fried grits and a yogurt. Whoo-hoo. But tomorrow there WILL be grocery shopping. I need my coffee creamer! And cheese. And apples. And bananas. The list will be long.)

Well, to top it off, apparently figs are an abomination and doom nations. I might as well just end it now. I am quite curious where exactly a flier like this would get handed out? But I'll leave that to your fertile minds... (click here for a more readable version complete with chapter and verse!)

And wish me luck on that gratitude list this week. I'm sensing a short one...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eating down the pantry

Found this interesting experiment while browsing online this morning. It's a challenge to eat what's in your cupboards and not grocery shop for one week. While I'm too late to officially participate, this is something we've been discussing around our house for some time. We're not the only ones; it's been on many minds these past few months too, as we see grocery prices go up and for many, incomes/savings go down. A quick google search and I found a good number of blogs and websites on the topic, and I even joined a Facebook group around this particular week and challenge.

It's not much of a secret: I have a grocery store "habit" and it's been all too easy the past couple of years to overstock--"just in case" a craving strikes... It's a leftover from the days of catering, when the walk-in was stocked with just about everything I like to eat--and there is nothing like the air circulation of a walk-in refrigeration unit to keep things fresher longer, so no waste (or, less waste). So, I have developed a habit of indulging the "I want what I want, when I want it," in regards to food at least. It's rather embarrassing to admit how stocked up we are.

I did a little scope of the freezer and fridge(s) this morning and am convinced we can do this, easily. I found some leftover eggplant parmesan, chili, perogies, soup, bread, even a cake (!)... the list goes on! And that doesn't count the pantry of cans and boxes of pasta... At the very least we'll raise our consciousness about what we eat, what we need to replenish more frequently (breakfast smoothie ingredients, especially apples and bananas) and what we don't. I know this week will be a bit different because Seth is with us--nothing like the eating machine that is a 12-year-old to remind you to pick up a few extra groceries!

Wish me luck. I haven't even told the boys yet. Let's see if they notice...

The many moods of Seth

It's been awhile since we first fiddled around with the superhero site Hero Factory, but I've been meaning to post some fun superheroes that have popped up around our place... Seth has conceived many different iterations...

Some days I think that is a very apt title... (love the green!)

This one fits too; he can be quite angelic...

I think this is how he'd like to see himself! Very strong and capable!

And then Grandma had to weigh in while she was visiting...

And good friend Margie sent over a little nugget as well. We couldn't help but have a good chuckle at her fur-lined cape and especially colorful name!

Last but not least is the husband's fun take! Methinks "courageous" and "Jedi" sound just about right!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Top Chef: After the final rose

Ha ha ha. Not quite the Bachelor, thankfully. While Hosea may have gotten a little flack for winning Top Chef, it hasn't nearly had the press coverage of that OTHER reality show this week. Thankfully.

Anyway, I almost forgot about this final hoo-ha episode of Top Chef, but when I saw that it had been recorded on our dvr I was quite pleased. I always enjoy the recap and the video montages, and of course, the fan favorite! This episode was no exception, and actually went a long way toward reminding me why I enjoyed this season so much, in spite of my recent whining about the winner...

These cheftestants really enjoyed competing with each other, almost all of the time. Sure there were some tiffs and spats and Jamie didn't appreciate the love Stefan had (still has!) for her, but there weren't really any of those over the top bleep-fest-shouting-matches as in seasons past. I remember noting that when they helped each other out a number of times--either sharing ingredients or helping finish a fellow chef's dish. It seemed more collegial than in seasons past, and some of the previous "unseen" footage underscored that.

And of course, it was fun to see the video tributes to the finalists, and other bits about the birthday curse, Carla's kookiness, who was the biggest crier, and of course, the whole Hosea-Leah romance. Enough already. My favorite video was the bromance between Fabio and Stefan, of course, and all the kissing of Stefan's bald head! I don't think I buy Stefan's rather weak, "I'm relieved I didn't win" defense. Yeah, right. Because that's why you put yourself through that whole ordeal, to come in second place. Sounds about right. Hmmm.

Oh, and the other thing that pleasantly surprised me was how un-annoying Toby Young came across. Fairly mellow, a little tongue in cheek, and having a good sense of humor about how he'd been perceived so far this year. I had to give him a few points for that. The editors undoubtedly had a lot to do with how snarky he came across at the judges' table.

In the end, the lovely outcome that Fabio was the fan favorite made my day--not much suspense there, as he was pretty much the only one in major contention who hadn't had a video tribute yet. But still, he was an endearing candidate who seemed to have a good grasp on his cooking, his attitude and what it meant to compete. Kudos to him! $10K is nothing to sniff at... although maybe Stefan is glad he wasn't voted fan favorite? Ha. The way he was portrayed, I'm pretty sure he wasn't in the top 5, even.

There are some great videos at bravotv.com; I'd have posted them here, but had some real trouble embedding them, so head on over and have a laugh!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

After 24 hours of no internet, there is one thing that tops my list above all others:

* I am so grateful for my internet. It's mine. All mine. I will share with the rest of you, but really, it's mine. That lightning strike yesterday up at Pike's Peak (or so the provider said...) put me out of sorts, but definitely helped with getting more housework done today! No getting pulled into facebook or checking on my fave blogs. Nope, just me and my 409 bottle, running around making things clean.

* Grateful for Seth's help in housecleaning. I love his cheerful little chatter while we clean... until of course he disappears for a bit into his room to read! He's best in spurts of energy, but always helps make our time in the dustbin go by faster.

* Grateful for a day off of school (and work) so that we could hang out. We cleaned, made pizza lunch for the husband, did some errands, hauled the recycling and bought some fun toys (bribing helps get cleaning done as well!). Seth had a leftover gift certificate at a local toy store, so we found some fun tidbits including one of those gyro-fly wheels (I had one as a kid, how retro of him!), and then wandered down to another book and game store for a grayscale rubik's cube... because it's not hard enough to solve the regular-colored one?

But the most fun, toy-wise, of the day, was mastering the magnetic levitron globe that arrived this week from Grandma and Grandpa. IT worked fine, but WE had some challenges from the user end... but it's up, it works and we all love it. And we'll never move it now.

"Someone" messing with the globe. If it falls, he's on the hook to put it back!

* Grateful for sunshine. What a week... the ups and downs and all arounds of the weather culminated in a day of sunshine, and probably a high in the mid-30s. But it was sunny! Last night there was a freak wind/rain/hail/snow storm that swirled around for an hour or two and left our landscape rather bleak and entirely too wintery.

* Grateful for the safe arrival home of a dear friend who has been taking care of her ill mother for many many weeks this winter... across the country and away from her man and boy. I'm very glad for her that she's home for a minute or two to relax and recover before she goes back on Best Daughter in the World duty. And looking forward to our pedicures next week!

* Grateful for the farmer who went on gopher-killing duty last week to help keep the mounds and destruction away from our yard. I am so tired of seeing the dogs dig where they THINK a gopher will be... can't wait until it's less of a mudpile and can get out and fix those holes!

* Grateful for Cyrus O'Leary's lemon meringue pies. I can make pies, sure. But when Cyrus is willing to do it for me? Not this Friday. And not many Fridays. The lemon meringue pie is one of this family's favorites, and so I often (less lately, we ARE trying toward healthfulness) veer toward the pie case at the grocery. Sometimes the lemon meringue can be hard to come by... must be popular. I had every intention of going homemade this weekend, just for kicks, but somehow twisted my back this morning, so reverted to the bought-it technique this afternoon. Very grateful for Cyrus and his knack with the pie.

* Grateful for family. For the warmth and affection that surrounds me. Thanks, guys.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Something to look forward to, and it's not the weather

Happened upon a trailer for a movie soon to be released on dvd and thought... after the grim post of yesterday, maybe a little cheer is in order? This may be a little over the top for some (again, you know who you are, I don't like to name names Jen), but I think it's going to be a jolly good spot of British humour.
I've put the rifle away for the moment even though I heard from three separate people today that the next 10 days are supposed to bring snow, rain and freezing temperatures. Bother, as Pooh would say. I suppose I could check the forecast myself, but it seemed so much more dramatic: Three. Separate. People. Yes, apparently I'm not the only one weighed down by the gray.
So I'm eating dried mangoes while I type (little slices of heaven) and about to go roast some butternut squash. Both foods qualify as sunshine in my world, so consider me shaking my little fist at Mother Nature and moving on. So there.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Grateful schmateful

Apparently there were locations around the Pacific Northwest that had sunshine today. I heard rumors (you know who you are with your annoying Facebook updates about sun and joy and happiness).

We had sunshine in Walla Walla too. It lasted from 7:07 a.m. to 7:12 a.m. I was warned that the fog would not stay "burned off" as I hoped for those five beautiful minutes. Husband is generally correct about such things. Sure enough, it socked back up immediately and went on to rain throughout the day. Oh joy.

For more of the creative joy of the card above, see A Beautiful Revolution.

My friend the eggplant

I have always liked eggplant parmesan. Eggplant parmagiana. Whatever you want to call it. Oozy goey slices of cheese between slices of fried eggplant. What's not to love? When I was a kid, my dad was not a big eggplant fan, apparently. He has been a late converter to the delights of the aubergine, so while the parents were visiting this last week, I thought I'd make a batch of eggplant parmesan. That thought handily coincided with some magnificent specimens at the local grocery store!

And of course I have to make it more healthfully than the eggplant parmesan of yesteryear. I just can't do the whole fried thing and feel good about it anymore. I can let OTHER people fry my supper (the next night we had burgers and shakes and onion rings from the famed IceBurg), but I just can't bring myself to do it... just trying to keep the universe properly balanced on the grease scale, I suppose. So this is my healthy-ish version.

Eggplant parmesan
3 medium eggplants, sliced to 1/3-inch rounds

Salt the slices lightly and let sit in a colander for 15 minutes or so. There are those who say to salt it to remove any bitterness, and those who say to salt it to get rid of excess moisture. Either way, I salt it, let it sit, and then rinse it off (so how does that help with excess moisture? Don't ask, just do.) and pat it dry.

3 eggs, beaten, mixed with 1 T milk

Heat a skillet or frying pan to medium heat. I use a nonstick electric skillet, so the need for additional oil is minimal. Use olive or vegetable oil as needed. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, then dredge in breadcrumbs. Cook until both sides are browned nicely (see photo above!).

I have concocted my own homemade marinara in the past, but this time we went straight to the jarred variety and had it easy and still flavorful. Layer the cooked eggplant slices with marinara, grated mozzarella and parmesan in a large baking dish (9 x 13), and top the mixture with more cheese. As you can see from the photo below, I used my REALLY large Le Creuset baking dish and even though I did three layers of eggplant and would normally have been overflowing a 9 x 13 pan, it maybe came half way up the side of this pan!

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until the entire mixture is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

Serve with a lovely mixed green salad and crusty bread! And enjoy the leftovers, too. This one is even better warmed the next day.
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