Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beat box:

If I could pick one song to illustrate what's going on in my head at any given moment in time, I think it would have to be this:

Which should hopefully explain why I always seem to be a little distracted... it's nothing personal, you see;-)

I was THRILLED to discover yesterday that there are people roaming the planet who remember Medusa's; was starting to think it was a figment of my imagination...
Turns out there's a whole Facebook group devoted to the place, with tons of music to download to assist me in my reminiscing. I guess the best part, in addition to being able to hear the music again (which is one of the few ways I am able to remember things) is the realization that I am not the only one who has found the last 20 years of adult entertainment to be disappointingly pallid in comparison to the strange, wonderful times we had.
Or does the very experience of being an adult just spoil things anyway?
Sometimes I wonder if that's why I stopped my travels, because I just got to be too old and no longer able to see the point of it anymore.
Ohwell, can't beat one's biological destiny, not usually at least... now I'm just waiting to get older and move past this phase, when I hope that the process reverses itself and I can go back to having fun again;-)

Until then, I'll keep playing Beat Box in my brain and looking a little distracted...

Have a little fun with these:
The Main Room
The Video Room

Oh! And this too:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy, Happy Day!/Middle Eastern Lentil Soup

Couple things:
First, not only was I able to confabulate far enough in advance to plan and coordinate a trip for the kids today that was super awesome (and actually WORKED OUT; how often does THAT happen?!?), but was able to find a decent recipe for my favorite Middle Eastern soup:

(Serves from 8 to 10)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped (I used red pepper flakes)
8 cups water (I used 4 cups chicken broth, 4 cups water and a little bouillon)
1 cup split lentils, rinsed (I totally cheated and used yellow split peas, which was plenty tasty...)

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin (I toasted 1/2 tsp cumin seed and added it as well)
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of saffron
2 Tablespoons white rice, uncooked (skipped this, might add a couple carrots next time..)
1/4 cup lemon juice

Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté onions and hot pepper over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except lemon juice, and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Puree; then return to saucepan and reheat. Stir in lemon juice; then serve.

MMmmmmmmm! Shahrazad-a-licious!

Oh, and most importantly:

After enough collective moments of pontification and random bits of insight, I was FINALLY able to make some progress regarding the teenage angst that I've had such a hard time identifying and resolving all summer, and it's about freaking time...

To wit; I've recently joined Facebook, which over the past few days has brought to the forefront ever so painfully how bad I have been over the years at establishing and maintaining relationships with *anybody* thru the course of my lifetime. Whereas the few people I've "friended" have set up their pages and have gone about getting scads of people here and there to become their "friends" (it's an evolutionary process you can see unfolding as people you're friends with make other friends and then can see the friends of their friends and add them once they determine that they sat next to them in the third grade, etc and etc), I've pretty much reached my saturation point pretty early in the game. To make matters worse, I've spent quite a bit of time now wracking my brain trying to remember the names of people I've known over the years, and to be honest-- either I have no recollection whatsoever of their identifying characteristics such that I can find them, or it's highly unlikely they will remember me any better than I remember them, gar! And in addition-- and perhaps worst of all-- as I've been peeking into the pages of those I'm closely related to, I've come to realize that I had NO IDEA how little I know about them, their lives, their families, and how little they know of mine (and then vacillating on wishing that MORE of my family had Facebook pages so I could peek into their lives as well).

I've said in one of my few lucid moments of self awareness over the years that one of the strangest aspects of my life is that there are very few witnesses to who I've been-- very infrequent visits to the homeland, contacts with childhood friends, old boyfriends, school teachers, etc. All the ghosts of my past are far far away, and are rarely-- if ever-- revisited, barely remembered, and over time the memories have faded into nonexistence. New life experiences quickly took over the void that was to become my past, and then POOF! It was as if the first 18 years of my life never happened.

When you add the fact that I have the worst memory ever and barely remember the details of really *anything*, it's not hard to imagine how I was able to develop over the years the ability to keep reinventing myself-- new jobs, locales, people I've interacted with in a superficial and temporary way for years and years, none of whom I've really kept in touch with as I kept mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other. Logistically, I have turned my back on as many as 10 different lifetimes, each full of coworkers, neighbors, jobs, life experiences... never to return. And it's not as if I had set out to do it intentionally-- it's just what I'm good at, what comes naturally to me.

So with the recent advent of my school reunion (sorry to beat THAT horse for the 80 millionth time but it's what got this ball rolling in the FIRST place...), and now this existential Facebook crisis, I've come to realize that I've spent the past 20 years drifting through life in a constant state of new people and new things, day after day after day, while never looking back, expecting to settle down, make friends, put down roots, or touch anything in an meaningful way. I get too close; I get nervous, I keep moving. Life is messy, and I prefer not to get involved... and now it's becoming a pattern: I avoid doing the same things over and over, going the same places, because I don't want to be recognized, be accountable. And strangely, without my even knowing it, what was once a novelty has evolved into a pathology... and so it goes.

And all these many years it's worked for me, never been a problem-- until things like reunions and social networking sites force you to pause and look back on your life, take an inventory, and make you realize that while the past 20 years may have offered you an interesting amalgam of life experiences and novelties to chat about wittily at a cocktail party, you don't have much of substance to show for it.

And that's IT! That's the angst that's been driving me to distraction for months now on end.

Yippie yahooey, hip hip hooray, I figured it out!... And while I'm glad to have THAT mess all sorted out into a tidy pile, the real work begins of how to fix it, start forming relationships with people that will "stick"....and I have no idea how to go about it.




But what is it that they say? A fault recognized is half corrected??

All I can do is hope that the same Facebook mojo that helped me discover the origin of my internal conflict will also assist me in finding a resolution, that magically after all these years I will overcome my distrust of all things human and finally settle down;-)

It can happen...

Monday, January 19, 2009

No no I can't change...

After the summer of revisiting my unresolved teenage angst (which remains unresolved, I tell you-- gah!) and the daily experience of moving amongst my fellow peoples, trying to keep them blissfully unaware of my constant inner struggle to be a responsible grownup: stay in one place, work one job, and not flit from one thing to another to another... I'm a wee bit tapped out.

(I finally cleaned up my resume today to make it look less schizophrenic for yet another job interview... but how to mask the fact that I am working 3 different places concurrently? And does that look attractive to a future employer or just scary flaky? Mental note to self, tho: make sure not to reference those jobs I took off the resume...)

Every day I try try try to not fantasize about packing the car and heading west, resist the urge to troll the on line catalogs of the local technical colleges in search of another occupation or job skill to add to the pile, or say "screw it!" and book a one way ticket to Disney World (they need nurses, don't they?) But again, suppressing those urges is a kindof exasperating, neverending mental journey: I look at all the nice, grounded people around me and wonder how they can stand living in the same place, doing the same things, working where they do for 20 some odd years AND NOT LOSE THEIR FREAKIN MINDS.

Yeah, I wonder that all the time... wonder how many other wander-y type folks are out there hanging close to home in the name of security.

But enter the Verve, and their most splendid song that was played in spin class tonight: We were all chugging along, spinning around 90-100 rpm's, at the highest resistance we could tolerate-- the perfect, crystalline kind of intensity and level of exhaustion that causes your brain to lock onto the lyrics--anything-- just to get you through...

yeah, THESE guys get it:

'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life

Trying to make ends meet, you're a slave to money then you die

I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down

You know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet yeah

No change, I can't change I can't change, I can't change

But I'm here in my mind, I am here in my mind

But I'm a million different people from one day to the next

I can't change my mind

No, no, no, no, no, no, no,no,no,no,no,no

Well I never pray, but tonight I'm on my knees yeah

I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah

I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now

Free, yes--if only for a moment-- and then it's back to the grind tomorrow...

But by my calculations, there's only approximately 2,364 days left before I can run away and join the circus, giving me *plenty* of days left to practice my trapeeze act;-)

p.s. the way this guy walks through the crowd in step with the music reminds me of how it feels when you wear your iPod to the WalMart, very surreal, and far more entertaining than it would be otherwise;-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bad, Bad, Blogger!

I must admit wholeheartedly that I suck lately as a blogger... only blogging once a week or less is unexcusable-- bizarre almost-- for a constant blabber and ruminator such as myself. I've started blogs, but finding them too morose or deep or someothersuch unpleasant stuff, have archived them in my "drafts" pile to be laughed at another day (or deleted, whatever comes first).
Anyhoo, that's where I stand when it comes to blogging lately, and if you are a regular peruser I do apologize for being a disappointment and all, as there are far too many things of a dull and disappointing nature this time a year and I certainly regret adding to the pile;-)
I have been languishing lately myself with the winter doldrums; nothing to do, too cold to venture out, tired of staying home with my frienemy the "Blockbuster rental club" (which to me is only the saddest and smallest step above watching television, sigh!) I discovered that you can watch bootlegged movies and shows on your computer recently, which was a naughty thrill for a minute or so, but with the fear of getting in big-ole trouble and not being too terribly interested in sitting there anyway, I quickly lost interest and was back to being pretty bored again:-(

So long story, short: I dragged the boys out to go ROLLERSKATING last night!!!
Soooo cheezewad, yet so dang cool, all at the same time.
Used to be we'd kick it old school style at the Red's Roller Rink back in the day, going round and round and round and round, over and over, bla bla. I remember the really odd arcade games they had-- old ones-- pizza and nachos at the snack bar, the dice game, Hokey Pokey, whatever.
I never was a very good skater, per se, never had the "moves" (and I vaguely remember taking a skating class of some sort there, wonder why??). Sooooooooo fast forward to today, where I'm once again the dork on skates, albeit older, and still trying not to fall on my ass and make a fool of myself (and all too excruciatingly aware of the $$ iPhone in my pocket).
And who'd a thunk it, but there were kids there who were the most AMAZING skaters: dancing to the funky beat of the music, skating sideways, doing choreographed moves, etc, like a really entertaining flash from my childhood in the 70's. I never knew that kids still hung out at the skating rink perfecting their moves, that white kids from the county were capable of gettin' their groove on to hip hop music, and it was completely fun to watch and not so bad a workout for my long neglected skating muscles. Jake and I even held hands and skated together, one of the most fun dates we've had in a while, yay!

Jake his own self then insisted that since he was sucha good sport with the skating, we were somewhat obligated to try something of his choosing: So off to Lapham Park we went today to try cross country skiing, wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Now of course I have no idea how to ski, being somewhat of a hater of cold, frozen toes and the likelihood of breaking a bone. But it was a good time... Jacob did his little "Jacob thing" of making everyone wait over and over and over for him to catch up (no, he doesn't know how to ski either but the kid does that on the bike trail as well, making every trip somewhat lomger and less fun that if he weren't mr pokey), but all in all, it was a good time. I can totally see Jake and I taking up some of these sports and really having a good time with them, and I can't express enough how nice i is to be excited about the prospect of something new for a change:-)
Being the shopper/researcher, I had to check out the costs of some newer skis, some of those "skate skis" that almost everyone else had (which looked like a TON of fun!) online tonight. But wow! Expensive! And since I'd really like to go back, here's a list of groomed trails in Wisconsin for you to marvel at...
Tired! Have a good night, y'all:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pizza (and Madonna)!

Now I'd be the first to admit that I am no fan of Madonna-- never liked her tinny, babygirl voice, her persona... not even waaaay back in the 80's when I was young and impressionabe (as opposed to now, when I'm old and impressionable, no?). But I like this remix, the melody is haunting:
(there's no video, so just go about your business as you listen)

Pizza for dinner!
Used a Martha Stewart recipe for the crust, +/- a few variations:

Mix together and allow to sit until yeast proofs:
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tb sugar
1 1/2 tb dry yeast

and then add 1/4 cup olive oil (I used the stored oil from the chicken confit and tossed in 4 of the garlic cloves baked in the confit, making this quite possibly the best pizza I've ever mouth is happy happy happy)

Pour into Kitchenaid mixing bowl fitted with bread dough attachment and add 2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups unbleached flour. Knead on medium for 2 minutes, adding flour if needed until dough pulls away from sides of bowl.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees and turn oven off. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven on a potholder for an hour to rise. Then have at it!
**It's a sticky dough, so you'll need to use a good amount of flour on your work surface and rolling pin, and use cornmeal on your baking pan**

Using the dough, I made a pepperoni (bake at 450 until done to your satisfaction) and an artichoke goat cheese pizza , day-um! They were both fabulous:-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

More Food Blogging/French Food

My 11 year old is becoming a Francophile-- strangely and unfathomably enamored of all things French, especially those things he can put in his mouth.

More specifically, he has developed a fascination with confit, a type of meat that is slow poached in it's own fat (yes, you read that correctly). Kid's been bugging me to make it for weeks... I bought a duck for this very purpose ($9.99/lb!), but found a cheater recipe using chicken leg quarters and olive oil, so mr ducky can stay in the freezer for a while longer while we contemplate his fate.

Never one to follow a recipe, I had to be the knob who has no idea what she's doing and mess with hundreds of years of French cuisine. So instead of just putting the chicken in the olive oil as instructed, I covered it with a thin layer of hen of the woods mushrooms and baked the whole mess for two hours at 300 degrees. Once it was done I made this for dinner, tossing in some of the wild mushroom confit, chopped, in addition to sauteeing some fresh portabellas as instructed. Pretty tasty, I must say. The sauce was lacking a little something in the way of moisture... maybe I need to toss the pasta with a little olive oil, add more pasta water, I dunno. But the dish had a depth of rich flavor that I've never experienced before, and was well worth the effort and/or yuck factor of eating oil poached food.

I am also on a mission to make a tarte tatin sometime this week and an apple cake for Emily's birthday. I also have to make a key lime pie for a co worker who is due to have her baby this week and a strawberry rhubarb apple pie for a party on Saturday.. egads! It's like Christmas baking all over again!
I loves me some tasty pie!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Another Ode to Winter:

Probably my new favorite band of late, gives kindof an epic band/renaissance faire sort of vibe (and I really don't care for that place, so go figure..).
I've been trying like crazy to find ways to appreciate the season, pay tribute to it in some way other than bundling up and getting out in it, a very counter intuitive, fairly unsuccessful method, but the best I can muster. It's almost maple sugar time coming up in a few weeks, so I'll have to bite the bullet and get used to spending a fair amount of time sitting out the cold tending the fire, if only in anticipation of another large batch of tasty, homegrown maple-y syrup.

Also, in the spirit of the season, I've decided to post my "resolutions", such as they are. Here goes, scoff if you must:
They cut down on the # of spin classes they're offering at the gym, maybe due to the recession and dwindling memberships, dang! So I've decided to select 3 days a week where I'll try like hell to get there and do spin class and whatever other classes/weight lifting I can squeeze in on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. I can fit in other days as well as my schedule permits, but those are going to be the core days I know I'm pretty likely to go. On the off days, I'd like to do a yoga/bellydance/pilates DVD for at least 30 minutes a day, and any other push ups, mini workouts--whatever-- I can fit in here and there throughout the day. The goal here being that I would like to get down to 130-125# (if I can) and maintain that weight forevahhhhhh!
Other things include:
Putting up a chickenwire fence along the property line so we can let the chickens out to graze daily for a while. Turns out if they don't get to eat a fairly routine ration of grass, their eggs won't be all that rich in gamma linoleic acids and other beneficial stuff that make them better than store bought. They get outside now every so often, but the naughty little biddies always end up going to the neighbor's yard and trashing their gardens, not cool! Not sure why they insist on leaving-- it's not as if we don't have enough space for them to roam-- but their grazing got seriously curtailed of late since they decided to leave the yard on a routine basis.

Oh! And this may sound cruel to you non-country folks, but I want to start getting my pullets in November and raising them in the basement/garage thru the winter until they get big enough to go out to the coop. That way, they'll lay from March until it gets really cold (November/December), at which point we'll cut off their little heads and turn them into stew/stock chickens. I hate tending them with a mad passion in the freezing winter, always feel terrible that they're out there freezing their lil' chickie girl cloacas off. Oh yeah, and they don't lay for crap, either. One or two eggs a week???? With feed prices at $14/bag???
Ah! What tasty stock they will make!

I'd also like to get a spring pig to live in a little corner of the garden plot; he'd help amend the garden soil with his rooting and manure in fabulous ways, and then be ever so appreciated once he made it to the freezer, oink;-)

You see, I've been doing all sorts of library perusing lately--my favorite "avoid the cold" activity-- including all the Michael Pollan books and films, and recently, "Anti Cancer, a New Way of Life" by David Servan-Schreiber. Over the years I've adopted most of the methods contained therein: avoiding chemicals that have mutagenic properties (all household cleaners, instead using Dr Bronners and vinegar; no non stick cookware; no artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets; very little artificial sweeteners other than stevia, low exposure to high fructose corn syrup, etc and etc), but it's been hard to switch over to primarily grass fed meats and dairy, which is downright ridiculous in this area since we are awash in local farms who employ healthy farming practices--moreso than probably any other area of the country! Last time I went to the local coffee spot, in wanders a family from 3 towns over (Racine) who were on their way to pick up their unpasteurized milk from a local farmer and I thought "wow! How lucky we are to be so close" (and also had to laugh at how weirded out the people were that everyone in the shop was talking to them as if they knew them. Ho Ho! Welcome to the country, where we're not afraid to talk to strangers, lol;-) In a 15 mile radius alone, we have an organic dairy, grass fed beef ranches, free range chickens and eggs, turkeys, a CSA, and an organic bakery.

In any event, it's a great place to live and we're very blessed to be here, and since I've been working so much it's more than time for me to put my $$ where my mouth is-- literally. I want to get set up with the dairy people, order 1/4 grass fed cow, and hike out to my chicken lady, and be even more conscious about how we eat so not only we can live a more healthful life and pass those values on to our kids, but support local farmers who are risking *everything* to do the right thing... the trickle down damage of commercial agriculture to pollution of our waterways, soil, greenhouse emissions, etc and the damage it is doing to our health is staggering. Just about any acquired disease you can name has it's roots in the quality of the food we eat... bla bla bla bla blah! Ok, rant over.

I want to plant more berry bushes, including blackberries and blueberries, in the side prairie areas of the property, making more of a natural and useful barrier... I've planted a ton of bushes already, and it's been hit or miss as to whether or not they will survive, depending on the season. My theory is that you probably have to plant 3 before one will take, given our soil quality and my spotty tending abilities (it's not exactly easy to water certain parts of the propery). I also want to get more asparagus in as well, fun stuff to harvest once it gets established.

I''m going to be taking over the vegetable garden again this year, since I wasn't terribly thrilled with how Jake was handling things over the past couple years;-) We had more weeds growing than the plants were able to compete with, mainly 'cause I don't think he ever connected with the idea that weeding is an ongoing thing you have to conquer from the get-go, and wrestle with until the end of the season. That, and eradicating the slugs, and potato and cucumber beetles that destroyed everything, etc and etc. Dude can plant the heck out a garden, but tending is clearly not his forte. I'm going to use the straw mulch method again this year, since there are so many weed seeds in the soil that I'd probably lose my mind and break my back trying to keep abreast of them. I'm going to have to figure out what to plant that will store well, and then set up a storage area that we can use (the garage, we're finding, is MUCH too COLD). I'd also like to harvest more of the apples and pears and save them/make pie apples for the freezer and apple/pear butter for winter. Oh! And a cold frame to plant lettuces and spinach, and maybe beans and beets as well.

I'm sure there's a lot more, but I'm tired of sitting here when I have a million things to do... I'm working a ton over the next few weeks, and in addition to still needing to cook and keep the house and kids in order, I'm still going to hold myself to exercising to keep myself sane and all the other things I like to do to feel like a human being (read, sew, knit, plan gardens... I have wayyyy to damn many hobbies, no?).

More later:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Final Pig Out:

It seems as if everything lately can be described by what I am preparing, putting in my mouth-- and maybe that's appropriate for this time of year.
It's been a busy past few weeks of working too much, at the hospital and a few days at camp, and I can't even begin to put a recap on it since it was all happening too fast and I wasn't probably paying very good attention anyway;-)

Christmas was quite nice, one of the best parts being the dark chocolate volcano cakes I made and served with espresso bean ice cream (seriously, it was nothing short of dreamy). Camp was also good, despite the suck-o weather (50 some degrees and pouring the day we got there, but it improved pretty quickly. The kids still got to ski and sled, and no one got hurt, yay! And the camp food was ever so camp-a-licious..)
I got called in to work on all the days I was told I wasn't going to, including New Year's Eve, when my wonderful co worker saved my ass by calling me 15 minutes before I was scheduled to start my shift vs the night before as the charge nurse was supposed to do (and believe it or not, I was only 3 minutes late, not too shabby. I looked like a scary hag with major bedhead, but all my patients were sedated and no one complained...). So instead of running up to the Milwaukee Public Market and picking up some sushi grade tuna that day as I had planned (to make this super yummy dish a la "Heaven City"), I ended up running around like an idiot trying to create a new menu from thin air and purchase food after a killer, no-dinner-and-no-potty breaks-nonstop workday.
Since the meat markets were already closed, Jake and I flew over to one of the few places other than WalMart that was still open: a strange little store in New Munster called "Best Bargains" that is an impormptu cross between a restaurant supply company and maybe a Mexican market (sans Mexicans, go figure).
Anyhoo, here's what we came up with by the seats of our pants:

Grilled strip steaks with a thyme and Cotes du Rhone reduction sauce (so tasty!)

Alaskan King Crab legs with drawn butter and lemon

Scallops fra diavolo with linguine-- amazing!

Oven roasted asparagus

Wild mushrooms(from the groovy mushroom store) with carmelized onions

and finally, a really yummy chocolate cream pie (and not so hard to make from scratch as the folks from Jello pudding would like you to believe).

Oh! And a Raspberry Tart brew from the New Glarus Brewing Company, so SO good!

And so now I'm done, back to the old grind of low carb/whole grain dieting, to drive the new layers of holiday blubber away that I worked so hard to pile on. The gym has sucked lately, too, since they've been closed a lot with the holidays and all the bad weather we've been having. That, and the spin classes have been PACKED, making getting a bike more competetive than I like at 8 in the morning.
All in all, probably one of the best holiday seasons EVER; low stress (+/- the huge family blowouts we had Christmas eve/day, wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!), hanging out with friends and family (and we need to do MUCH more of that this year, it's a whole heap o fun).

Hope yours was just as nice... and if not, we have plenty of leftovers (if you're sweet, I may even let you have a taste of the Raspberry Tart brew, *maybe*...).

Happy 2009!