Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Like My Wine Cheap and My Burgers Overpriced:

I'm starting to scare myself.... yesterday, I engaged in a frenzied spate of organization to beat all frenzies (is that a word?):
In the short span of my afternoon, I moved the computer desk and 2 bookshelves, vacuumed, shampooed the carpet, organized the bookshelves, the closet, the shoe rack, the music CD's, photo and computer discs into their own books, sent 5 bags to the Goodwill, moved furniture and random crap into the basement (which is a nightmare for another day...), cleaned up and moved our personal files/records, and set up a greeting card file (I have a monster greeting card collection, mainly 'cause I buy them and never give them to anyone. Garrrrrr). Oh, and I dusted. Man! Is there a lot of thick, creepy dust in my personal space...
We then concluded the evening by checking out a veritable carnivale of dining at the Red Robin-- an incredibly overpriced and overstimulating hamburger joint jam packed with kids (tip: relish on a burger is not so good, I don't care *how* hungry you are. It brings a hot-doggy sort of flavor to a place where none makes sense). I was shocked to discover that those sliders and fries were a whopping $8+ dollars apiece! The burgers were pretty good, just more $$ than I had imagined a simple burger could be....and the fries were those ginormous steak fries, which are not my favorite. I must be getting old, when going out is almost too expensive for my cheapness.
Anyhoo. We also saw "Mr Magorium's Emporium" which was ok as well, I just guess I'm not the type than can blow almost $100 to eat burgers and see a flick and be ok with mediocrity. The story line was wimpy at best and I didn't much care for the characters, except for the litle boy who was a bit quirky and reminded me of Jacob. However, if *my* little guy brings home a grown man who wants to "play" in his bedroom, I'm a-gettin' my shotgun, no questions asked.
I'd have to say that the best part of the film was when they played one of my favorite Cat Stevens tunes, which got me hopeful that the movie was going someplace cool, but it really didn't. Boo.
Truly, the best part of the evening was getting to play with my new GPS unit, which will look up restaurants, attractions, etc for you, making neurotic planning obsolete-- I can hop in my car, punch in a few coordinates, and let my GPS decide where we're going, which pleases my spontaneous nature to no end. It wasn't 100% up to date (why?), but it impressed me by easily locating every *other* Red Robin in the country (other than the one we were headed towards), and every *other* theater in a 50 mile radius (again, except the one we wanted). But, despite it's shortcomings, I still love it and find it very comforting. Never shall I be lost again!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

$2.99 Wine is Mighty Fine!

I have absolutely, like, ZERO readers for my blog, as if I needed yet another validation of my shameless lack of popularity....
But anyhoo, I am flat-out INTOXICATED at 9:14 in the pm on a fine Sunday evening. MY husband is gone until tomorrow in a primal pursuit of sustenance for our family; and altho I know it is baaaaad mojo to be incapacitated in his absence-- a drunken slob I am, and a giddy one at that. I am incredibly fucking happy to be on my very own right now, and I'm trying to ascertain whether it is due to the fact that I just like being alone, or if it is that I am enjoying the rare opportunity to do whatever I want, however I want to (i.e. waking at 6, hanging out until 8 or so reading and fucking around, and then sleeping until 10. THAT is a cool way to spend a Sunday morning, and who'd a thunk? And *how guilty* I'd feel if I had my peppy life partner home, who springs up at 6 am and completes whole lists of tasks while I slumber...)
In all honesty, I'd like a month or so to myself to rediscover who I am when I have no safety net to fall back on (and, no-- I don't mean forever. I'm mad crazy about my husband, contrary to my bitching... and I don't want to jinx it!). I want to see if I have the huevos to run to Hales Corners all by my lonesome in desperation for the fabled "Best Chinese Food Around" (a la "Fortune"), or if I'd go to the vast reaches of the art district in Milwaukee in search of Friday night entertainment (or if the rumors that I'm a hopeless homebody are, in fact, true). Would I run off to Austin for a weekend of narcissistic memories, as I used to do? Would I make the drive to see odd films at a historic theatre in Downtown Chicago? Or would I use "expensive gas" as the excuse for my evening date with the Blockbuster movie club? Who the hell knows.
I could kick myself today, as I was a mere block from Brady street on a pretty fine walking sort of afternoon. I guess driving in my car is preferrable to making the leap to hanging out in coolness in a nifty area.... but I have to give myself credit, as it hasn't been that long ago that I was too inhibited to venture to such places by myself... any excuse to hang out up there in any capacity is a step forward.
I've been lucky all these years that I've had a convenient excuse for not venturing too far beyond my comfort zone while the kids were young. I think it's time to start expanding THEIR horizons, tho-- especially since we've chosen to incubate their young minds in a rural setting. A fabulous trip to Austin might just do the trick... I'd like them to see that the world is SO much bigger than the limited one we are able to present to them. I'm not sure if it's the limitations of my perceptions, my fears about security, etc... but there's only so much I'm able to show my kids, so much less than I thought I'd be able to. Mainly because they don't travel well, because it's expensive, because by the time I get past the irritations of travelling with 3 other people I have no energy left to push myself past my own comfort zone and explore and share the world... whatever.
I thought I'd be in a much more secure place than I am now; financially, emotionally..... but it would have required so much more of a commitment than I have been willing to make, more costly sacrifices to my choices-- so the trade off has been worth it. I am poor, but I am sane. I am grounded, and so still have marginal relationships with my offspring, my husband. Seems like a fair trade off to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I'm bored and I'm tired and a wee bit sick 'o's 8:30, and I'm still waiting for the coffee to kick in (as I usually am). I was granted a reprieve this morning on the hell schedule, as I was cancelled from my new job that requires me to be present and functional in the workplace at 6:30 am (egads!)... it went well last Friday on my first day, but working 12 hours *and* having to be there sooooooo early is far from ideal.
I worked yesterday at one of my old standby positions, one that I love and was hoping to call my permanent home-- but since I'm not part of the union and not eligible to post for jobs until the union ladies cast it off as undesirable, I never had a chance.
At this point, I envision myself wandering aimlessly thru the hospital halls, in eternal search of a job to call my very own. But realistically, I should look at my homelessness as a gift-- one that frees me from bullshit politics and the inevitable cattiness of the woman dominated workplace.
Right now, all I have to do is go to work: I drift in as an outsider, do my thing, stay out of trouble, and then I go home. Where else can you enjoy this type of wage and this kind of freedom? Nowhere.

But part of me longs for the misery of attachment, lamenting my fate of having to beg and barter for days off, showing up for and participating in awful unit meetings, negotiating the personalities I've heard about but never had to seriously deal with... sigh!

I'm a self destructive idiot.

I think part of the problem is the threat of living hand to mouth, never having any guarantee of set hours per week, where I'll be working, etc. But truth be told, I've never had a problem finding hours, and since I'm trained to work almost 10 different departments (with more training to come), I can't imagine having more than a few dry days-- and not being completely grateful for the days off I *do* get, as I am now (slacker that I am...).

Funny, tho-- for all the places I *do* work, I had my annual competency check-offs last night, and I was really horrified at how little I knew about the meat and potatoes of my profession: I had no clue about the creepy hoyer lifts and restraints... I felt bad about that until I realized that so few of the other staff knew how to use them either (even the instructor). I my mind, tho, I was doing a happy little dance that I didn't have to use those things. Somehow, I got wrangled into getting strapped into one that sits you up so you can get your feeble ass onto the toilet. The CNA who strapped me in said jokingly: "when you're done, call me so I can wipe your butt", and I had the awful premonition of what it must be like to be old and sickly. EEEEEEKKKKK!!!!!

Just another plug for taking up skydiving, smoking, and illicit sex and drug use in my 80's. That George Bush (Sr) really has the right idea jumping out of airplanes-- Rock On, old dude!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ziti with Sausage Onions and Fennel

Ingredients: FOR THE SAUCE
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (without fennel seeds)
1 large fennel bulb with stem and fronds (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups half-moon onion slices (about 2 medium onions)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
1/2 cup tomato paste
Boiling water from the pasta cooking pot
1 tablespoon kosher salt (for the pasta cooking water)
1 pound ziti
1/3 cup finely chopped fennel fronds
1 cup freshly grated pecorino (or Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano)

Directions: Heat 6 quarts of water with the tablespoon kosher salt to boiling in the pasta cooking pot.
Remove the sausage from its casing and break the meat up a bit with your fingers.
Trim the fennel bulb. Slice the bulb in half lengthwise, then slice each half in 1/4-inch thick lengthwise slices. Separate the slivers of fennel if they are attached at the bottom; cut the long slivers in half so you have about 3 cups of 2-inch long matchsticks of fennel.
Have the remaining sauce ingredients ready and nearby.
Pour the olive oil into the skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and cook, stirring and breaking it up more with a wooden spoon, until it is sizzling and beginning to brown, about 1-1/2 minutes.
Push the sausage a bit aside and drop the onion slices into a clear part of the pan; sauté, stirring, they're sizzling and wilting, another 2 minutes or so, then stir them in with the meat.
Clear a space and drop in the fennel; let it heat up and wilt for 1 minute or more, then stir it around with the sausage and onions.
Sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon salt; drop the peperoncino in a hot spot and toast the flakes for 1/2 minute, then stir them in.
Clear a good-sized hot spot in the center of the pan, plop in the tomato paste and cook, stirring it in the spot for a good minute or more, until it is sizzling and caramelizing; then stir it in with everything else.
Ladle 3 cups of boiling pasta water from the pot into the skillet, stir well and bring the liquid to a boil. Adjust the heat to maintain an active simmer all over the pan.
Drop the ziti in the boiling water in the pasta pot. Stir and bring back to the boil.
Cook about 8 minutes (a minute less than what is recommended on the package)
until the ziti are not quite al dente.
Continue to simmer the sauce until the flavors have developed and the fennel is
soft but not mushy, 6 minutes or more. The sauce should not get too thick: stir in
another cup or 2 of boiling pasta water, if it reduces rapidly. When the sauce is
done, taste it and add more salt if you want. If the pasta is not ready, turn down
the heat to keep the sauce at a very low simmer until the ziti are on their way—
then turn the heat up.
As soon as the ziti are ready by your timing, lift them out of the pot with a spider. Let excess water drip off only for an instant and drop the wet cylinders into the simmering sauce.
Start tossing pasta and sauce together; ladle in more water if the sauce seems too thick.
Sprinkle over the chopped fennel fronds and continue to cook and toss the ziti in the skillet for 2 minutes or until they are perfectly al dente and coated with sauce. If the pasta appears dry, ladle in more hot pasta water; if it is soupy, cook rapidly to thicken the sauce.
Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the ziti and toss it in. Serve the hot pasta right from the skillet into warm pasta bowls.

Meatball Chili Stew

This is an old favorite, gleaned from a Pace Picante sauce flyer that was sent to my husband (and addressed to an old girlfriend of his, which oughtta tell you how old the flyer is). I thought it was about time I got this one recorded for posterity, since there's no telling just how long the flyer will be with us (it's a miracle that it's stuck around this long...)

For meatballs, mix together:
1/2 cup salsa
1 # ground meat (I prefer lean turkey)
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
1 egg
1/4 tsp garlic powder

form into 1 inch meatballs and bake on a rimmed, foil lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes

In a large soup pot, mix together and heat to a simmer:
1 can 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp chili powder (to taste)
1 cup + salsa
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2-1 cup frozen corn, or 1/2 can hominy, rinsed and drained
1 tsp beef bouillon

add meatballs and heat, covered, an additional 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve with chopped cilantro, shredded cheese (or plain yogurt-- my favorite!)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mr Hankey Comes One Month Early (Must've been all that fiber...)

Ahhh! Could WalMart put up their Christmas displays any earlier? In honor of this year's obvious attempt to make the Christmas season even *more* irritating and irrelevant, here's my new favorite holiday tribute:

I could watch this over and over and over again.....

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I *STOLE* this recipe from another blogsite and hope to make it this evening for my hubby's return from the forest. He's been kind enough to spend the weekend hunting and gathering to try and fill our newly empty freezer. In his honor, I think I'm going to make a buffalo roast with potatoes, carrots, and the remaining delicata squash from our garden (man! I'm going to miss those!). This afternoon, I'm going with my friend Tracey to my new favorite place in the midwest: Whole Foods. I know it's very sad that I'm surrounded by scads of natural beauty with the fall colors, Great Lakes and all, but dammit! I love natural food shopping... I feel as if I have finally stumbled upon my people, where the cream puff eating, smoking, cheap beer swillers fear to tread. It's a bee-yoooooou-ti-ful day for a roadtrip!

Pumpkin Bread PuddingAdapted from Gourmet Magazine, October 2007
I made a few of my own adaptations to this, using only milk and no cream (to me, it makes no difference in dishes like this, so I figure I’ll save the calories), and doubling almost all of the spices. Oh, and I added bourbon, but you probably anticipated that.
1½ cups whole milk (Or 1 cup heavy cream plus ½ cup whole milk)¾ cup canned solid-pack pumpkin½ cup sugar2 large eggs plus 1 yolk½ teaspoon salt1 teaspoon ground cinnamon½ teaspoon ground ginger1/8 teaspoon ground allspicePinch of ground cloves2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread¾ stick unsalted butter, melted* (can skip this step if using the second set of instructions)
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Gourmet’s Instructions: Whisk together pumpkin, cream, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, spices and bourbon, if using, in a bowl.
Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.
Alternate, Come On, Be Lazy With Me, instructions: While preheating oven to 350°F with rack in middle, melt butter in bottom of a 8-inch square baking dish. Once it is melted, take it out of the oven and toss bread cubes with butter, coating thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients. Pour them over buttered bread cubes in baking dish, stirring to make sure all pieces are evenly coated. Bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.