Friday, November 7, 2008

Nummy Chicken Tacos, Family Pictures

I haven't posted any recipes lately and this one is so easy that I'm almost embarrassed at the total uncomplicatedness of it. But it is really, really good and required almost no effort at all. Do you like chicken tacos? You'll love this.


Chicken for Tacos

1 lb of chicken
1 package of taco seasoning

Wake up in the morning and put the two ingredients in a crock pot or slow cooker on low. Put just a titch of water on it so that it doesn't dry out. Let it cook all day. Eat some delicious chicken for dinner.

This recipe is my husband's friend Tony's. It is much better than roasting or baking the chicken and then adding the seasoning later. The chicken falls apart and is easy to shread. The one downside to this recipe is that the chicken is really juicy to the point of runniness. If you don't like this sort of thing, I'd suggest straining the chicken before serving.

Random Family Stuff

Kendall is progressing along well with her figure skating. She recently placed 3rd in her division (Freeskate One; she's since passed Freeskate Two) at a regional skating competition. Here she is practicing her scratch spin before the competition.

She's fast, so it's blurry.

I was running errands in the car the other day and I looked back at Will asleep in his car seat. I realized that his sweet face was changing daily and if I didn't start taking pictures, it would be lost forever in the sands of time. So here's the picture that I took of my sweet baby asleep.

I really am a lucky mommy. He is as sweet as he looks.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Are the Times A'Changin'?

Well, we have a new president.  I'm not going to debate the right or wrongness of President Obama's election, nor am I going to tell you who I voted for.  It's all a moot point now. However, I do want to say that I was impressed with McCain's concession speech; I can't imagine how difficult it was for him to give, after such a long time campaigning and such zeal and admiration for the office of the president and our country.  I have always thought that McCain was a man with a great deal of integrity, and his speech was a reflection of that. 


What touched me the most about Obama's acceptance was not his speech, however dynamic it was (you must admit, he's one dynamic speaker), but the shot of Jesse Jackson in the audience with a tear in his eye.  I know, Rev. Jackson is about as controversial as they come and he's said some things lately that were, well, not that well thought out.  But this is a man who participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, was made national director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by Dr. King in 1967, stood behind Dr. King during the epochal "I have a Dream" speech in DC, and was in the parking lot on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN when Dr. King was shot.  His zeal for the civil rights movement never wavered, regardless of the criticism that he drew throughout the years.  I would be willing to bet that he thought it very unlikely that he would see an African American elected to the presidency during his lifetime.  But it happened.  And from what I saw during the political pundit's debates and the word on the street, for the most part, it was never about whether Obama was black and how that was going to affect voter's perceptions of him, but whether he was the best candidate for president. Could this be a fulfillment of Dr King's famous words, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character".  It's all a bit amazing and wonderful if you ask me.


And what if McCain had been elected?  I can't ignore that we would then have a female vice president, also a history maker.  Remember the Mondale/Ferraro ticket? I was young, but I have distinct memories of hearing men (elders, no less) at church comment on how a woman couldn't run the country, under any circumstances.  This confused me greatly being that I (a) was female, (b) knew more about politics than some of the codgers in my church, and (c) thought that kind of thinking clearly didn't gel well with what we were being taught by Pastor Ellis on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.  But I digress. Yes, there were debates regarding Palin's level of experience, but they hinged on the amount of time she had spent in office and not on the fact that she was a woman.  Is this a sign that the times really are a changin?  Or is all of this history making merely due to the fact that the two major parties both had minorities running?

You know what?  I don't care.  We have an African American president, and it's about damn time.  Now when we see Morgan Freeman as the president in a movie we no longer have to think "Yeah, like that will ever happen."  Because it has.  And it didn't happen because he was black, it happened because the American people thought him the best candidate for the job.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Turn to the Left, Turn to the Right . . .

O. M. G. (Sorry, I hear it literally 30,000 times a day). I have found the best blog. Ever. It has made me intensely jealous and in awe at the same time. Knit Lit is the perfect amalgam of knitting, fashion, cheekiness, o.k., everything. I am a fashionista. You would really never know it looking at me. I dress well, but I don't have $300 for a t-shirt or $20,000 for a dress. I am not a Greek heiress or a Park Avenue Princess. I would love to dress in Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses, La Perla pretties, and Manolos; alas, I am a housewife in Ohio. Old Navy, Target, Filene's Basement, that's the way I roll. Anyhow, this amazingly wonderful to look at blog has up-to-the-minute articles (check out the article about Rodarte knits - wouldn't you just kill to have the legs to wear those tights?).

A-Mazing Rodarte knits

On the Knit Lit blog, there was a link to this next to-fab-for-words blog, Karl Lagerfeld's Guide to Life, a truly inspired faux-blog that is too fabulous. Just read it.

I don't know. He just scares me a little, that's all.

There was a time early in my knitting life when I envisioned myself the next great fashion knitter. I have always dreamed of being a designer of some kind (am considering Interior Design as next career as I right this); my grandfather who used to teach Business Sociology at what was then Columbus Technical Institute and is now Columbus State Community College once gave me a career aptitude test that gave me the most accurate personality profile of any test that I have ever taken (somewhat withdrawn, bohemian spirit, giving to a fault, yada yada) in which my top scoring profession was designer and physician came in second. But knitwear will have to be a dream, as I can't even get the leg warmers that were a present for Kendall in July done.

Any-hoo, enjoy the blogs. Until next time, Ciao, bella.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Going Home

A few weeks ago Will and I spent the week visiting my parents. My parents live in Columbus, which is really only a 30 minute drive (at the most) from Marysville, but that 30 minutes makes it feel like they are worlds away. The only times that I have spent time at my house since medical school were whenever something bad happened, like when my grandparents died and it was easier to stay the night there before viewing hours and the funeral. So it felt weird staying there just for a visit. I also had to get over the "I don't know where anything is and this is the house I grew up in" strangeness. But all in all it was a nice visit.

My parents, Cheryl and Mark, a little red-faced from champagne, at my wedding

Some highlights: (1) My parents got to spend lots and lots of time with Will, which they have not been able to do up until now. Do you know how horrible it is when your mother visits and your baby goes into a ballistic crying fit because she said "hello" to him? Well, that doesn't happen anymore.

(2) My mom's bed (which I slept in) is vastly more comfortable than the hand-me-down bed that we got from Tim's parents when I was pregnant. The super comfy full that we were sleeping in became too small when my belly became a continent of it's own, so we got the in-law's queen sized Seely, which was comfortable, but is now long past its expiration date. My mom called Tim after I commented on how comfortable her bed was and told her we needed a better mattress, which we didn't get, but we did get one of those foam toppers, which is HEAVEN ON EARTH. So I got a better nights sleep out of visiting my parents!

(3) I got to visit all of those mythical restaurants that I grew up eating at that have the best food in the world and that they have nothing like in Marysville. We do not have decent Chinese in this town, but on the West side of Columbus the have Ding Ho (translates "The Best" - this is from the menu), which Westsiders have been loyal to since it opened in the 1950s. They recently had to move from the groovy location that they had been in since the 60's, and, quite frankly, they Chinsese silk embroidery doesn't look quite the same in a converted Ground Round, but the egg rolls are still the best I have ever tasted. I gorged myself. It wasn't pretty.


The photo above is of some people named Mike and Treena (who I don't know but who were kind enough to post their photo on photobucket) posing behind the german people cutouts in front of Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Resteraunt. Schmidt's is a Columbus institution (and a place thet you must visit on a trip to Cowtown) located in the historic German Village (by the way, if you ever visit Columbus, be sure to check out The Book Loft, also in German Village, which is the most super cool book store in the world). Anyhow, I have a bit of the old German in me, and I grew up eating delicious German food at Schmidt's. Tim doesn't like German food, and I am forever craving weiner schnitzel and red cabbage, so I was so excited to eat here and indoctrinate Will into the wonderfulness that is Schmidt's. He ate macaroni and cheese, but it was made by a German (maybe), so that counts, doesn't it?

Will digging the red door between bites of Mac and Cheese. Schmidt's restaurant is located in the original 1886 sausage plant. The red door is a sliding door that led to the stables. BTW, this picture looks exactly like a picture of me when I was a toddler - spooky!

My parents live on the Hilltop in Columbus, a Westside community that was named one of Columbus's best places to live by this year's Columbus Monthly Magazine (read some it's interesting history here). The neighbors are nice (a lot of people that originally settled the west side were West Virginians and Kentucky transplants who came to Ohio to work at the west side GM and White Westinghouse plants, which, alas, no longer exist). The area is culturally diverse, with a large Latino, African American, and Somali population. The houses have character; all were built from 1920 to the 1970's, Cape Cods abound, stained glass windows, hardwood floors, and woodwork, Florida rooms, and fireplaces can be had for a fraction of the price of the more well known and comparable Clintonville community of Columbus. Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention the annual Hilltop Bean Dinner, the most popular methane producing event that I know of.

(4) I got some knitting done, which I don't have a lot of time for. Jo-Ann had Lion Brand Wool-Ease for $3.99 a skein, so I bought enough to work on a prayer shawl, which, yes, I am still working on. I have just reached the realization that I am a slow knitter. No way around it. So maybe in a few years my church will be able to give it to someone who needs it, after I finally get done with it. Oh, and the legwarmers that I started and put into hibernation have been discovered by Kendall who wants me to finish them. So I guess I have to get my knit on!

So I had a good visit. Hopefully I'll get to do it more often now. Yes, it might feel freakin' weird, but you can go home.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I want to be Barbie

I Want to Be Barbie

Think about how fantastic her life is! She has a Dream House and now a Diamond Castle, a Camaro, horses, dogs, cats, a slammin' wardrobe with designer clothes (Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karen, they all have designed for her). She dates handsome men (Ken looks like he should be on Young and the Restless, but Alan - remember him? - was pretty cute). She has been a veterinarian, a doctor, a general, an astronaut, a gymnast, and the President. She has a nice little sisters (Skipper, Stacey, Kelly), loyal friends (Midge, Whitney, Teresa, Becky - well, there are too many to mention). And she's on a cruise even as we speak! Don't believe life is good in Barbie World? Check out my "My Life as Barbie" photo album.

Mom and Dad are quite the natty couple

So how could I be anything other than fresh-faced and care free?

My life has taken me so many places!

Mom was a groovy fashion model

How could I not follow in her footsteps? Of course, a career in modeling doesn't last forever.

So, after starring on "Chicago" on Broadway . . .

. . . I gave up the fast lane for success as a veterinarian.

All work and no play make Barbie a dull girl, don't you know?

Days in Malibu . . .

California Boys . . .

Days shopping at Harrods (the high tea is divine!) . . .

Even a trip with Ken on the Starship Enterprise!

Speaking of my Ken:
We had a lovely Renaissance themed wedding (I told Ken not to dye his hair the day before the wedding, but men never listen, do they?)

We have such a lovely house

Domestic bliss is so easy!

Our post-modern living room is so calming

I love getting dressed in the Deco dressing room.

And I love having the girls over for garden parties - doesn't Whitney look too chic?

Yes, I feel like a princess - wouldn't you?


Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Post Finally!

I can't believe that I wrote my last post in September; I have been totally slacking off with the old blog (just to let you know how much I've been slacking, I wrote this post on 10/16/08, but posted it only today). Have been busy as usual with all my motherly, wifely, and home-owner duties, and also spent some time in Columbus with my parents (which I shall write about later). I was a little shocked to have to go through 550 new emails (of course only about 25 of them were important). But am back now, with a new, fervent commitment to post. Until, of course, I get too busy again.

Fall has come in full force to Ohio; the changing colors of the trees are beautiful this year. Kendall and I noticed this especially during a ride down OH 33-W to a church outing at Marmon Valley Farms. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to spend some good, old-fashioned, quality time with the family, I highly recommend it. There are trail rides for $25 (special rates for families of 4 or more), pony rides for $5 per half-hour, a really fun hay ride (Will was buried up to his waist by the time it was over and I'm still trying to extract all of the hay from my tote bag), lots of friendly farm animals (and if cats are your thing, tons of lovable farm cats), picnic and play areas, all in all, a really nice day.

Kendall leaves for the trail

It was so fun to watch Will toddle around from animal to animal. He was fascinated by the chickens, though a little startled by their loud crowing, didn't want to quit petting the donkey's nose, and was especially fond of the pigs, a fact that he firmly established by sticking his finger up a pig's snout and squealing with delight. The pig, thankfully, was non-plussed.

Will makes some new friends

My daughter had a wonderful time at Homecoming, her first real dance. It has made me reminisce about my high school dances. One year, I won the 45 (remember those?) "If It Isn't Love," a new song at the time by New Edition (remember them?). The prizes were being handed out by my best friend's crush, who totally treated her like a dog (funny how we put up with that nonsense). Anyhow, she was angry at me all evening for getting to move into the proximity of Robert, said crush. But she was over it the next day. "If It Isn't Love" was one of the first songs that made it onto my iPod. Ahh, youth.

Patrick, Kendall, Ashley, and JT gussied up for the big dance

My baby is currently pulling frantically at my arm for attention (he also needs a bath), so I suppose I must end and be mommy. Will wax poetic about my hometown visit soon.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Crazy Times

Does your life ever get crazy? I'm sure it does, there's just too much to do and not enough time to do it. Well, my life has been crazy over these last few weeks. A few things that have happened:

1. The boyfriend, while extremely nice and respectful, had driven Kendall senseless and whenever we suggested that she spend time with her family without the boyfriend, she became not-so-nice and very disrespectful. It was very, very stressful. But she has come back to her senses (as much as a 15-year-old girl can) and has been much better. She is going to Homecoming tonight - I have a kid who is going to Homecoming! She also has a skating competition coming up in October, so there have been many trips back and forth to the rink.

2. My friends had a baby. I took them a roast and spent an hour holding this new, sweet baby. The maternal stirrings were quite strong, I must tell you. She is so tiny - I can't remember Will being that little and he was a preemie (so he was smaller). Now Will is climbing, walking, and generally becoming a daredevil. If you turn your back on him at the park he will climb the slide to the top in no time flat. My baby became a toddler. We are also dealing with the pleasant new biting, slapping, and headbutting skills he has developed, but I have to say that compared to other babies I have known he's not that terrible. Just keep him fed and put him to bed when he's tired and William is a happy happy boy.

My baby then

My toddler now

3. Our plumbing has been fixed! We no longer have a waterfall in the basement, and, from what I can see from the old plumbing, narrowly avoided a devastating flood. To save some money I ripped down the drywall covering the ceiling while singing the Chaka Khan version of "I'm Every Woman" (not really, but it makes a nice visual). Our plumber, a man we go to church with, was excited to work on a house with all copper plumbing (we kept it to recycle). The problem with copper, though, is that it rots with oxidation and time. Just touching the U-pipe coming out of the bath tub made it crumble - imagine draining your tub and all of the water ending up in the ceiling above your basement. Yes, it is a terrifying thought, I know. But that has all been taken care of and we now have non-oxidizing PVC pipes (and the ability to use the bath tub - yipee!).

4. Tim's leg has been acting up. I told you how he went out and bought a motorcycle despite my unhappiness regarding said purchase; well, every time he rides the bike his bum knee hurts for days afterwards to the point of moaning and wincing and general loss of function (and not in a wimpy sort of way). He finally admitted to me that he isn't ready to ride. There's only been one time that he's been on the bike that he hasn't been terrified that someone was going to hit him, so there are some psychological issues to work out as well. What that means for Honey is still up in the air, but for now she's back in the garage taking up the space where my car used to go. Yes, I have some issues with "the other woman" as well!

The official Suzuki photo of Honey

Then there's volunteer work, housework, cooking (which I've been a bit off on lately - yucky risotto, not so great chicken and dumplings, etc - although I could be being too hard on myself as I got great feedback for all of the above), my new addiction to building houses on The Sims, laundry (it is amazing how much laundry 5 people make in a week!), not getting enough sleep and walking through the day in a fog, etc, etc, and there's not enough time!

Friday, August 22, 2008

House of Insects

We have fleas. Or rather, our four cats do (one of which has a skin disease and has barely any hair, so why the fleas?). For years I kept the cats indoors until we adopted Foxy, a semi-feral who took up residence in our garage. The other cats saw this cat going in and out (we COULDN'T keep her in, she wasn't having it) and felt the overwhelming need to join her. So for 3 years my previously indoor cats have been indoor/outdoor cats. Which means flea prevention is a must. Well, until recently, we didn't have the $200/month that Frontline costs, and, well, I didn't remember that there was a such thing as flea collars. Dur.

So now there are fleas everywhere. We are going to have to bomb the house
it's so bad. The first sign was when the baby woke in the morning with mystery bumps all over his arms and legs. Then Collin started complaining that bugs kept jumping on him. Fleas. I keep thinking about the commercial with the one flea multiplying into millions. And the episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends where Eduardo gets fleas.

The instigator

Last night Tim wanted me to go out to the garage and see the engine guard he had put on Honey. As we walked out into the garage, I heard a chirp that sounded suspiciously like that of our friendly neighborhood bats. (The bats like our home. Pest control people can't figure out how they get in, but about twice a year, we get a visitor. The most unfortunate incidence was when I fell asleep on the couch to awake to a bat perched on my shoulder. If you can avoid them, I would recommend staying as far away from rabies shots as you can. They hurt more than they tell you. And there's lots of them). Being the vaccinated one of the bunch, I bravely ventured into the garage, only to find that the culprit was a big, green chirping insect that I had never seen in my life. There was much debate over the identity of said insect and whether it would, in fact, kill us. I was of the camp that the green guy was probably harmless, yet gigantic and strange nonetheless. I deftly removed the insect from our garage using the "put something over it and a piece of cardboard under it" technique and then got to work on the internet to figure out who our nocturnal visitor was. Well, can you believe that I had never seen a katydid up until that point? I guess we have them in Ohio, but they can't be that common, because I was one of these "pick up the log to see the insects scamper" kids. I loved pill bugs and was always poking them to get them to curl up. I have a thing for praying mantis. I felt like I had to go tick "katydid" off of the "insects I have seen in my life" checklist.


Later that evening, my favorite of the insects made a stop in our house. Cicadas look like prehistoric monsters that most surely will disembowel you, but they are gentle giants. I love finding cicada exoskeletons on trees (I was a biology major, which, now that I think about it, makes the fact that I didn't know what a katydid was even more sad). Anyhow, one was hanging out by our porch light and decided to check out the house when I opened the door. Kendall went running and screaming. The cicada gave good chase but finally took up a post behind my great (x4) grandmother's picture. This was my second insect rescue of the evening.


A few years ago, the 7 year cicada breeding cycle hit Ohio. When you drove into wooded areas, hundreds of cicadas would land on your car. It was loud with a capital "L." But it was so cool. When I was a kid, my family and I took a trip to Pipestem State Park in West Virginia. It was the 16 year cycle breeding season for the West Virginia cicadas (like the one above, ours are just black). When you walked outside, they would land on you. My sister had over ten on her at one point. They terrified me then, but when one landed on me and it didn't kill me and it chirped and chirped, I fell in love. Be kind to your neighborhood cicada. What would summer be without that buzzy chirp?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Computer Madness

So the kids misplaced my iPod that I have had since the beginning of time. It is a first generation white iPod classic, I believe it holds 250 songs. No videos, pictures, podcasts, yadda, yadda, yadda. It is gone. I looked for it for a week, and I even enlisted the help of the kids (Collin now can have it if he finds it, but it takes A LOT to motivate him and he hasn't done much searching yet).


So why does Collin get my old, misplaced iPod? Because Tim gifted me with an 80G iPod Classic. Tim married a nerd. While jewelry is nice, gadgetry is the BOMB! My man knows me. The iPod can hold 20,000 (!!!!!) songs, videos, it may even babysit, but I haven't figured out that feature yet. So, all excited, I hooked up the new, shiny, crazy expensive iPod to my iBook - and nothing happens. Nothing at all. Not even a message that something new has been connected to the computer. Get on the internet and find that I have to upgrade to the new version of iTunes. No big. iTunes is downloaded, upgraded, plug in the iPod and get the message that if I want to ever use the picture and video capabilities, I have to upgrade my Quicktime program. So I do a general "what needs to be updated on this computer?" check, and a list of some 13 items pops up.

I should disclose at this point that my beloved iBook has been out of my possession for 2 years (for reasons too crazy to go into). A lot can happen in the life of a computer in two years. Obviously, everything gets outdated. And nothing works because of it, despite that fact that when I ordered it I put all of the RAM, memory, and processor that I could put in it at the time (that's all still pretty good, thankfully).

OK, so I do the updates. It all took 2 hours even with the superfast processor and connection speed. Now I have a super up-to-date computer that should be able to do anything.

Except sync with my new expensive iPod. You see, I have Mac OS 10.3 on my computer. The new iPod uses OS 10.4 or higher. Of course it does. Because why should I be able to actually USE my new iPod without spending another $140 on an operating system upgrade? (And for that matter, it it really necessary for Apple to come up with a new, improved, absolutely necessary or you'll die operating system every month? - ok, so I'm exaggerating, but don't get me started on the new Apple laptops that don't even have a replacable battery!)

Gah. Got on my "I'm a nerd" soapbox there. Anyhow, went out to the garage to tell Tim that I had to take back the iPod because I didn't want to spend another $140 just to get this thing working (that I totally love and have been gazing at adoringly since I got it). I don't like to spend money on myself. Money has been so tight that even when we have a little breathing room I get nauseated at the thought of spending excess cash. Tim was stroking Honey, his other-woman-motorcycle as I was telling him this (yes, she has a name). The motorcycle that, if you recall, he can't even ride yet due to a major leg injury that now has him on crutches (we are going on month 5 now). "Erin," he says,"I bought a motorcycle that I can't even drive. When you sing, you smile. And you always sing with the iPod. Spend the money."

Some of you may have gathered from that fact that I used to write a blog about depression that I may actually suffer from it. Well, I've been particularly bad what with having problems finding a job, not getting enough sleep (what mom with a teenager and a 15-month-old does?), and some unknown other factor that I have never been able to identify. When stress happens, the "thing" rears it's ugly head. So the comment about singing making me smile made me particularly gooey because I knew that my husband was paying attention to the things that cheer me up and doing what he could to make those things happen. Thus the gifting of the ridiculously expensive iPod and the additional operating system. I have a great husband.

So, in 3 - 5 days I should have a working iPod. I will have the most up-to-date operating system that a mac can have with features that make my head spin and I most likely will never use. But I'll be singing. And smiling.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ohio Luau / Super Delicious Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Today was the celebration for the 10th anniversary of The Wings Enrichment Center. I have been volunteering at Wings since November of 2007 and have met wonderful, amazing people. At Wings "Union County residents facing mental health issues make plans, achieve goals, and have productive, happy lives. Wings provides a place to turn for groups, activities, and support." Volunteering there really has been one of the best experiences of my life. So anyhow, to celebrate, we had a luau. A luau in Ohio is an interesting affair; for starters, it was held in a Baptist church that was a former steak house/bar, and still houses a beer distillary (yes, I am aware of the irony of a distillary being in the same building as a Baptist church - I grew up Baptist). The food was great, your typical Midwestern church potluck with shredded pork and chicken sandwiches, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, and endless salads of various mayonnaise variations. There was Beach Boys music and leis and beach balls and various beach accoutrements and much hilarity and a good time had by all.

If you guessed that this isn't Ohio, you were right

I volunteered to take a pineapple upside down cake, which I had never made, but, as you may have gathered by now, I'm up for trying anything at least once (click the link for the recipe). This cake is superb. If I hadn't have been expected to share, I could have possibly eaten the whole thing myself. And it really is easy to make, once you get past the whole making caramel step (which really is simple). The only variation that I made to the recipe was that instead of using water as instructed on the cake mix box, I used the drained pineapple juice. Can you say "Yummy!?" And one other great thing; my son (who I have mentioned had a thing for cookbooks) has finally decided he wants to learn to cook and bake. So he made the large portion of the cake. My husband and I have told Collin that if he truly learns to cook, the girls will be amazingly impressed; Collin has duly noted this (he is already a ladies man).


I've been running for days; I am tired. I am going to find some mind numbing entertainment on TV (Hollywood's Most Expensive Real Estate, anyone?) and veg. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Risotto as Meditation, Daisies

Risotto as Meditation

In an exciting development, I located arborrio rice at our local Kroger. I have never made risotto, but I really wanted to give it a try, and I have been dreaming about a wild mushroom risotto that I had at San Francisco's Puccini & Penitti. It was rich, creamy, and the most wildly delicious risotto I have ever tasted. The kids were at a water park with their grandfather for the day, so the stage was set for mommy and daddy actually being able to have an adult dinner.

I found a recipe for the risotto on Recipezaar (I sound like a broken record with the Recipezaar, but it is my go-to recipe site), but I ended up modifying it so much that I'm just going to record what I did here.

I took a few pictures of the cooking, but my photos are nowhere near the photographic genius of those on Taste Spotting, et al. In fact, they aren't great at all, but I took them, so you have to look at them.

You'll need
1 cup dry white wine (yeah, wine!)
around 8 cups of chicken broth (I used 2 cans low sodium and 2 regular)
2 yellow onions
10 - 12 ounces of wild mushrooms (shitake, baby portabella, crimini, etc)
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 cups arborrio rice
3/4 cups good grated parmesean cheese (plus some extra for a garnish)
butter to taste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped parsley for garnish

I found making risotto to be a very meditative experience. I loved it. When I first saw a chef make it on TV I thought "Stand and stir rice non-stop for 30-45 minutes? You gotta be nuts!" But it was the fastest 45 minutes I've experienced in a long time. It was wierd, it was like I became one with the process and my mind was cleared and all I though about was the stirring and adding broth and perfecting the dish.

So to make the recipe, here's what you do:

1. Pour all of the broth in a stock pot and bring it to a simmer.
2. While the chicken broth is warming, finely dice the onion, slice the mushrooms, and chop the garlic (if you do that and don't use the prechopped stuff in the bottle).
3. Heat a little olive oil in a deep skillet, then add your onions, saute until they start to appear clear, add the mushrooms and garlic and saute for around 8 minutes.

Good enough to eat now, but restrain yourself!

4. Add the rice, stir it around in the pan for about 2 minutes to lightly toast it.
5. Add the wine (yeah, wine!) and stir until the wine has been absorbed into the rice.
6. Now start adding your chicken broth about a cup to a cup and a half at a time and stir constantly until the broth is absorbed. Continue in this fashion until you have used all of the chicken broth. Rest assured, all of the broth will be absorbed.

You don't think this will absorb, do you? Well, it did!

7. Stir in the 3/4 cup parmesean cheese and a little butter. Salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve immediately. Garnish each serving with freshly grated parmesean cheese and chopped parsley.
9. Die from the deliciousness.

A couple of notes. I believe that the risotto that I had in San Fran may have been made with red wine, perhaps a merlot. There is a possibility that beef broth was involved as well. It was so rich and the end product was actually a dark brown dish. This one is a little grey when completed.

I didn't take this picture. Gobitapi on photobucket did. But mine tasted better.


I have a 70 ft border that is a combo of roses, catmint, veronica, thyme, and daisies. The daisies were so pretty this year. I have hundreds of them, but I have such a difficult time cutting them because when they are all in bloom, they look like this:


Now I have purple and golden coneflowers in bloom, but the purple coneflowers seem to be afflicted with some sort of mystery virus, so, unfortunately, I'm going to have to dig them out and dispose of them with the lawn clippings. Fortunately, it's not difficult to come across clippings of purple coneflowers, so all is not lost. The golden coneflowers look exactly like black-eyed Susan's but flower for much longer and get that great tall cone that all coneflowers produce. I'd recommend them for any sunny garden spot.

I'm still struggling with late summer, fall flowerers. Everything seems to quit blooming around the middle of August. I'd like to try some Boltonia, but I can't find it anywhere. I'd also like to plant some of my empty spots with goldenrod - it is so showy and does not produce allergenic pollen (a vicious myth). Next year I'd like to plant some cosmos and cloeme as well - I generally stay away from annuals, but they are so cottagey, no?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Acting like a housewife

Last Saturday, Kendall and I (and William) had a girls day out. Kendall needed a pair of dress shoes for an upcoming wedding and we decided to go have lunch before shopping. Kendall loves Cheeseburger In Paradise, mostly, I think, for the Virgin Coladas, and we hadn't been for a while, so I suprised her with her favorite restaurant. Well, we had a great lunch (my talapia was So Yummy, and what do they do to their brocolli?). Then came the bill. $50 big ones. For 2 people! I usually keep a close eye on what is being spent when we eat out, but I let loose and spent $50 on lunch!

Tim gasped in horror, but he's a great guy and that was the end of it. But the eating out must cease for the time being. So I have made a plan for meals for the week. Tonight we had Johnny Marzetti (which my dad, who is from Youngstown, OH calls Grigsley Koogsley), which in my family wasn't made with spaghetti sauce but canned or fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, and a little salt and sugar (to counteract any bitterness of the tomato). It is simple and yummy and not overly spicy. William ate a whole bowl.

I have that mixer (really). I often make that face. I'm such a cool housewife!

The kids will be gone tomorrow, and I wanted to make risotto, but I'm having a difficult time finding short grain rice in Marysville. So I'll be making Coq Au Vin and Roasted Potatoes instead. It's easy to make in a slow crock pot, just put the veggies in the bottom (carrots, mushrooms, celery), the chicken on top of the veg, the herbs (thyme, rosemary, and sage - herbes de provence - and a bay leaf or two), the garlic, and the onion on top of that, add some chicken broth and wine et viola - crock pot Coq Au Vin. That being said, I am going all out and making it the old fashioned way (there is a great recipe here). With the old fashioned version, the wine sauce thickens nicely as the chicken is floured and braised. If you want a sauce with the crock pot version, you'll have to remove all of the chicken, etc, and thicken the juices. And lets face it; the stove top version just tastes better.

I'm also planning on making lasagna (which makes excellent left overs and can be whipped up ahead of time) and a turkey breast and corn pudding (a Collin favorite) at some point. We'll have a roast on a night when everyone is home (which are fewer and farther between), and I'll just have to wing the rest. I'm beginning to feel more and more like June Cleaver in tennis shoes!

All of this, and a mountain (literally) of laundry in the basement, a VERY busy baby to keep up with, and the Olympics! I am an Olympic junkie, and what a night last night! I'm probably one of 1 million people writing about the men's 4X100m freestyle relay - what an amazing race! I was a little concerned that Michael Phelps was going to have a stroke, but who can blame him! My husband and I both screamed and jumped up and down when the US won - the kids came running afraid that we'd been hurt! And I am so excited about Michael Phelps' medal prospects - the Greatest Olympian! - and the men's and women's gymnastics competitions. I was so disappointed when hometown hero Paul Hamm withdrew due to a broken hand, but then Raj Bhavsar got his spot on the Olympic team, and he is amazing! This is what I love about the Olympics; the great upsets, the looked over getting their chance to shine, and, of course, seeing the athletes do things that I couldn't do in my wildest dreams!


Well, the baby is melting down (it's his bedtime), so I must end my Sports Analysis (most likely the only one you will ever see on this blog). And I'm missing synchronized diving, which is amazingly unacceptable (or not). Some miscellaneous sites next post.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Knitting Sites Galore

So I promised some knitting sites, and here they are! I really cannot say enough about StumbleUpon; quite a few of the cool sites that I have discovered are the result of it. But enough said about that, to the sites!

The big news this month is the launch of The Twist Collective, and it was worth the wait! The articles are top notch, and the patterns - brilliant. Just check out "bonnie", a mock turtleneck sweater with genius celtic cabling (downloadable for $7). I have a soft spot for great cables, and "wisteria" by Kate Gilbert has some of the most inventive cable detailing that I have seen. If you are a sock knitter, you won't be disappointed; there are five sock patterns, an article on sock yarn, and a tutorial on the inserted heel sock. If you have not entered this wonderland of knitting lusciousness, get there now!

The Knitting Fiend is a helpful site that contains generators for many knit items, including sweaters, headbands, socks, etc. The site also includes lessons in bust darts, the kitchener stitch, gauge and yardage, and many other tricky knitting skills. There is a knitting convertor and several basic sweater patterns as well.


I really must say more about the knitting convertor on The Knitting Fiend - it really is quite wonderful. Visit this page to do all those complicated knitting calculations: converting rows and stitches from one pattern to another gauge, increases and decreases necessary to taper sleeves, knitting cuffs, etc, shape hat crowns, and on and on. Really a handy tool.

Kiss Your Shadow is not a knitting site, but it contains a really cool, really fun tool - a random stripe generator. You can choose from a large number of colors, select the allowable stripe widths and the total number of rows in your project. Useful for sweaters, scarves, hats, whatever your imagination canjures up. So fun, check it out!

This next site will make you go "Ooohhh." Chic Knits is a site with modern hand knitting patterns designed by Bonne Marie Burns. The patterns are classic and beautiful and they will make you wish that you could knit much faster than you actually can (for a prolific, inventive knitter and also a great blog, check out Canary Knits - she seems to knit a sweater a day. How does she do it?!). There is a nice section of tips and articles and a nice knitting blog.

Find yourself spending much to much on yarn? Knitter's Review has a money saving article for you, "Online Guide: Where to Find Inexpensive Yarns." Times are tough, and let's face it, part of the joy of knitting is making something out of a yummy yarn. Use this site to protect your bottom line.


You must check out Knitting Scouts. Do you love badges? Do you long for the days when cooking dinner earned you another patch on your girl scout sash? You most likely have earned one of these hilarious badges and you don't even know it.

And finally, I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been knitting a prayer shawl. There are hundreds of sites on the internet where you can find the Trinity Stitch prayer shawl pattern, but The Prayer Shawl Ministry Site is what you visit when you want to learn everything - yes, everything, about the prayer shawl. There is an interesting section regarding symbolism behind the different colors used to kint the shawl, a message board, info on how to start a prayer shawl ministry, and wonderful prayers for beginning the shawl, contemplation, and specific conditions in which the shawl may be used.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Goin' to the Zoo

A few days ago, during one of our increasingly frequent discussions with Collin about learning how to get along with his sister (Kendall got one too) we talked to Collin about how there is only 2 more weeks of summer vacation (cue Handel's "Hallelujiah Chorus") and was there anything that he wanted to do as a family before school started. He suggested going to California, going to a pro sports game, and Disney World, which unfortunately were all non-options since the money tree died, and then he came up with the zoo. The Columbus Zoo is a very much underrecognized world-caliber zoo that neither Tim nor I had visited in 10 years, so the decision was made: To the Zoo!

Kendall, her boyfriend, and Collin disappeared pretty much the second that we walked through the gate, so it was just the hubby, the baby, and me. Will has always been fascinated by animals, and we were excited to see what he would think of the zoo. Well, wouldn't you know it, he was too distracted by the other babies and children streaming by to notice much else. He did, however, have a jolly old time in the petting zoo, where the goats actually were happy to let him pet them (unlike our cats, who flee in terror when they see him).

Will makes a new friend

My earliest memory of the Columbus Zoo is much like all zoos of the time, rows of little cages with animals pacing back and forth. But when Jack Hanna took over as zoo director of the zoo in 1978 (yes, David Letterman's Jack Hanna), it was transformed into acres and acres of gorgeous animal habitats, which are now organized by continent.

Another early memory involves the 1914 M C Illions Carousel (listed on the National Register of Historic Places). It is a gorgeous carousel, complete with all 52 of its original horses, 2 chariots, and a band organ. Nowadays the horses stand pretty much upright, but when I was a kid, the horses tipped side to side and, I kid you not, they had to be at a 55 degree angle for a large portion of the ride. The majority of my time was spent clinging desperately to the pole so that I wouldn't plummet to my death off of the horse. The tipping was fortunately discontinued and now millions of kids enjoy this beauty every year.

See, the horses are straight!

Peacocks roam freely throughout the zoo, which brings me to a story about my Grandma Rosie. When I was around 10, my grandparents took my cousin Rachael and I to the zoo. Shortly after entering the park, a peacock appeared and seemed to take a liking to my grandmother. She didn't do anything to provoke its affections, but we were followed all day long by grandma's peacock suitor, who on occassion pecked lovingly at her toes and rubbed around her legs. Many displays of peacock plumage and manly strutting also transpired. When we were leaving the park, a zoo keeper had to physically restrain the peacock so that he wouldn't leave the park to live forever with his new love. The parting was tragic and a little violent, but I believe that the relationship was ill fated from the start.

Columbus's most romantic bird

The zoo's claim to fame is Colo, who, in 1956, became the first gorilla born in captivity. Since that time, the Columbus zoo has become a worldwide leader in the care, conservation, and breeding of gorillas. Colo is now a great-grandmother and is still thriving. PBS recently ran an incredibly beautiful (and heartbreaking) Nature episode entitled "Snowflake: The White Gorilla"; Colo and Dotty, Colo's great-granddaughter were featured in the episode. If you have the opportunity to see it, watch this episode, unless you don't like to get teary-eyed.

Happy gorillas at the zoo

I think most people my age who grew up in Columbus have a bit of a love affair with the zoo. Did I mention that they currently have the largest snake in captivity ("Fuzzy" the python), that they have a wonderful manatee exhibit, that they championed white tigers at a time when other zoos were euthanizing them at birth due to their genetic abnormality? Columbus really is a great city with a great zoo.

So it wasn't my intention to write a travel log-advertisement for the zoo; I did get a bit carried away, but our trip today took me back to my childhood and reminded me how much I just love our zoo. Hopefully, on our next visit, Will will become a bit more observant and start his love-affair. Until then, he can dream about new animals called goats that let him pet them and tried to eat mommy's camera cord and a land of endless babies in strollers just like him.

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