Thursday, September 27, 2012

Davis Chili versus Woodland Chili

There are two surefire ways to keep me tossing and turning for hours. Feed me chocolate covered espresso beans anytime after 5 pm. Tell me something really interesting right before bed. What kind of information keeps me up?

  • Budding romances
  • Engagements
  • Broken engagements
  • Separations 
  • Pregnancies 
  • Health scares
  • Money woes
  • Money windfalls (it could happen)
  • Juicy gossip

Basically any information that I can't do a thing about but lie in bed and ponder over is best left until morning. That's the rule around here. But the other night Ernst casually informed me that the couple I was planning to make the food for live in Davis.

Davis? I practically bolted up in bed. They live in Davis? Not Woodland?
What difference does it make? was his reply.
Men. Sometimes they are just so hilarious.

At that point my menu was all set. It was to be first of all really healthy - a plant-based, low oil Dr. McDougall style meal. Of course I wanted it also to be yummy and easy to transport and able to sit in the refrigerator at my husband's school, ready to be delivered to a home in Woodland.

I tossed and turned in bed with the following thoughts swirling around nutty brain:

  • Farm to table
  • No GMFs
  • No BHAs
  • Locally grown
  • Farmers markets
  • Pesticide free
  • Cruelty free
  • Cage free
  • Chemical free
  • Free range
  • Shade grown in the Amazon in a preserved rain forest by well-paid indigenous peoples who don't wear leather

Although my ten years in Davis were my chunkiest ever, it wasn't the town's fault. It's really easy to eat healthy there. Throw in the Green Belt, and what's not to love? I still don't understand though, how I moved there as a vegetarian and moved away a carnivore. What was I thinking?

Needless to say, the night of the Davis/Woodland mix-up was sleep-free for a time. But I forged ahead with the planned menu. Here it was, all packed up in not so environmentally friendly plastic containers. If I lived in Davis, I would have sent the food in BHA-free glass containers. Tied with cruelty-free twine. Delivered on a bicycle.

Here are the recipes, or as closely as I can remember making them.

Causeway Classic Chili
(quantities are for a big batch) 

In a large pot in about one inch of veggie broth, saute a chopped yellow onion. After onion is soft, add a teaspoon of chopped garlic. Stir in one large can of each: black beans, garbanzo beans and kidney beans. Also add  a large can of crushed tomatoes and half a package of Trader Joe's frozen 3 color bell peppers and about a cup of Trader Joe's roasted tomato and red pepper soup. Add the following spices to taste: salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, hot sauce and Braggs.

Let cook until the flavors combine and it thickens up a bit

Oh So Yolo Rice Salad

To about 3 cups cooked white or brown rice, add a half of each chopped fresh bell peppers - red and green and yellow, about 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, some unthawed Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn, one can of chopped black olives, some cumin, salt and pepper, a dash of Braggs and apple cider vinegar and a little plop of salsa. Toss and chill. Serve with cherry tomatoes.

Poleline Peppers

Core a variety of bell peppers and slice into quarters. Broil on both sides until the skins are charred.They will look awful. Cover with parchment paper or place in a covered bowl and let them sweat it out. When cool, peel off the charred skin and slice. (The peppers, not the skin. Put the skin in your earth friendly compost pile.) Toss with a dash of balsamic vinegar, Braggs, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Chill and serve cold.

Monday, September 24, 2012

When it all hit the wall

It was settled, the menu was chosen, the date was burned in our brains. We were on the list to make a dinner for my husband's principal after their new baby came along. I would make the food, E would deliver it.  They have food restrictions. We are experts at food restrictions. It was to be gluten free. I can do gluten free with my eyes closed.

Except we forgot. As in completely forgot to bring the food. As in totally forgot to prep the food. We both dropped the ball and it made a very large thud. When E called me and revealed our mutual stupidity, all I could repeat over and over was "We are such losers." Normally Ernst doesn't let me be so hard on myself, but he agreed, we were losers.

And that is why I sprayed marinara sauce all over my piano, my Belgian rug and up the living room wall. I am so focused on making food on Tuesday and having it ready to deliver on Wednesday, that we have no food for us. The fridge is a desert, except for some lentils that are getting on my nerves. That is why my dinner tonight was a bowl of pasta sauce. No pasta, just sauce. Cold, jarred pasta sauce. Red. A big red bowl of jarred red gloppy sauce, because I'm gearing up to cook a really nice meal tomorrow and the fridge is bare. Don't feed the losers - focus on redemption - something like that.

I brought my bowl into the living room, because on top of being really bad at remembering to bring his work supervisor the meal we promised, we can't seem to keep the kitchen table clean. So into the room with my favorite rug I went. Down on the couch, grab for a magazine to read and wham! There was pasta sauce all over the coffee table and big plops of it on my rug. While I ran for some cleaner, Molly went to work. She did quite a good job licking it all up and after I washed the rug off and vacuumed, all the evidence was gone. Then I looked at the piano. And the picture on the wall. And the wall almost up to the ceiling. Man, pasta sauce can really fly. Culinary redemption doesn't come without a price.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sewer guys and Space Shuttles

The dog's most exciting event of the day?
Barking at the sewer workers in the yard.

My most exciting event of the day?
Watching the space shuttle Endeavour make a pass over Sacramento on top of a 747 jet!

I actually ran out prematurely in my pajamas when a Coast Guard plane flew over, but the sewer workers let me know it was the wrong plane. Then I heard them yelling, "There it is, there it is!" They had either found something very nasty in the pipe or it really was the Space Shuttle this time. I ran out just in time to see it - pretty impressive. The rest of the day is going to be so ho-hum.

photo credit: LA Times

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gosh, Google's got me in a giga-grip

Recently I heard the phrase, "There's no such thing as a free blog."

Sure there is, I thought. Blogger is free. It doesn't cost a thing to join. You just pick a background theme (one that will soon embarrass you to no end and that you'll spend countless hours revamping) and you start writing. And posting photos. And uploading videos. It's a win-win situation. My blog is the photo album I never kept up and the diary I never updated. Blogging - love love love it!

Recently I went to post some photos, as usual nothing earth shattering. Probably yet another cute photo of the dog, or a newly finished rag quilt or something from our white trash garden. Then the trouble began. A message popped up - my Picasa storage was full. Huh? I'm not even using Picasa to upload my photos, I'm just uploading from my computer. Not so, my little deary, was the answer. Not only does Blogger put all uploaded photos onto Picasa without us really knowing it, once Picasa fills up they want us to spend $2.50 a month to increase our storage space.

OK, $2.50 a month is nothing, hardly worth thinking about. But one of the first things I probably said as a kid was "Not Fair!" stated with my face scrunched up, hand on hip and lower lip sticking out. I was that kind of kid and I'm still much the same way. Assume I pay this little paltry sum, for however long I keep doing this blog, and then stop paying at some point. So what happens to all that extra memory? It's not like I'm buying the memory, I'm leasing it. So any photos put on my blog after that point would show up as a big ugly X in all my future posts.

Hmmm, hand still on hip, what am I to do? I Googled it and got some answers. Turns out, and listen up new Blogger users, I should have been resizing my photos to 800x800 or less before uploading them. Or I should have set my camera to that setting, seeing as I think my dreams of becoming a photo journalist ended the day I took a picture of how to make dog food in a crock pot. Smaller photos mean less memory which will mean your Picasa storage should be fine.

How can you know if you are reaching Picasa capacity? Open up to your Google page. Find the pull down for More. Go to Photos. AHA! And you didn't think your photos were going to Picasa. Scroll down to the very bottom, get out your magnifying glass and the Hubble spacecraft's lens to see it, and there in tiny print is how much storage you have left. I was at 99.9%. This is what I did to get myself more storage: I put some mindless time in resizing a zillion of my photos, more zillions to go. But I read that any photos under 800x800 from now on do not count as storage so I'm good for now.

In Google go to Photos to open up Picasa:

1) Open a photo.
2) Click on top on "Actions"
3) Click "Edit in Creative Kit"
4) "Resize" (when Creative Kit opens)
5) Change the largest dimension to 800 & the other will adjust itself in proportion. (Keep proportions is auto checked)
6) Click "apply"
7) Click "Save to my album" (upper right)
8) A box opens up to confirm this. It'll have "replace" checked. Click on "replace" and it will save to your album.
9) Click the > symbol to right of the picture to go to next one.
10) As you proceed, your storage capacity will increase. You can also, very carefully, delete photos that you may have uploaded but never kept on a certain post. Do this carefully; if it's not in Picasa, it won't be in your blog.

So, where do I go from here with my blog at the mercy of Google and Blogger and Picasa? Many bloggers are switching to Word Press, but the process sounds daunting. It acts more like a website, I guess, but you need professional help to make the leap. I know I need professional help in many areas of my life, but really, for a blog? A blog that is mostly about my dog? If ever there should be a free blog, a dog blog should be one of them.

Ernst wants me to forget the whole blogging platform and take the leap to getting a website. Again I say that seems to be a bit of overkill. Besides, is taken as is What we came up with is which I'm not in love with, but could live with. Until my friend Julie said it sounds like With the state of things lately, that might be just perfect.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's crystal clear - I love chandeliers

In describing my decorating style, the words elegant, sophisticated and refined would not be on the vocabulary list. Crystal and lace? Not so much. Think Early Dumpster. I really go for the stuff that's been beat up a little. Not even Shabby Chic really, more like just shabby. I like the kind of furniture that's improved with each bump of the vacuum cleaner. I keep waiting to get a bit more ladylike on the home front, but slightly chipping paint just steals my heart.

So it's a surprise to me when I simply go gaga over chandeliers - the more over-the-top the better. I was in bauble heaven when we attended the Romanian convention at the Stanley Theater in Jersey City recently. This theater built in the 1920's is full of amazing chandeliers and art deco lighting fixtures. If you love chandeliers, your neck will hurt after a visit to this place. They are stunning.

Back in the mid-80s I was visiting my brother in New York. At the end of the trip he said in an off-hand remark "Oh yeah, Jessie, if I had thought of it, you could have been one of the volunteers to help clean up antique chandeliers. We're renovating some building in Jersey and they were looking for people to polish up the crystals."  I could have been a part of making those gorgeous things shine again after years of dust and nicotine? I've tried letting go of this, I really have. The chic in me forgave him but the shabby in me will never forget!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Alexandria quilt

Russians and Moldovans are famous for having multiple "official" nicknames. By that I mean they have nicknames that people call them with such earnestness that it's hard to remember what they're really called. I have never read War and Peace, but have heard that the back and forth of nicknames is enough to drive the reader crazy. That's how we felt when we were first trying to sort out the names of our new Moldovan friends. A conversation with Ernst:

So Sura (Shura) says to me...
Who's Sura again?
You know, Galia's sister.
And Galia is which one?
You know, her real name is Galina.
OK, so who's Sura?
You know, Surica, Galia-Galina's sister.
I thought her name was Alexandria.
It is, but it's Sura for short.
So who's Surica?
That would be Sura's other name.
You mean Alexandria?
Yes, Sura and Surica and Alexandria. All the same person.
And her husband is Alex?
You mean Alexander?
Yeah, but everyone calls him Sasha.

We should have just run away at that point. I think the confusion with the names is just their way of warning you that Romanian grammar will drive you mad. We can't say we were not warned.

When Sura found out I made a Galina rag quilt, well, let's just say I had some explaining to do. So here it is - the official Alexandria quilt. I cut this out weeks and weeks ago and finally got it done. It contains some gorgeous blue and green florals from the thrift store, an incredible vintage damask, some fabric sample stripes, an upcycled white Bullock and Jones dress shirt and the very last of that awesome asparagus green corduroy that made its way into so many of my quilts. When I bought the very large amount of it at Goodwill, I thought I would never go through it. Unless it has changed its name and gone into hiding, the green is gone.

The Sura, um, Surica, well actually Alexandria quilt

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Moving an organ in pajamas on a skateboard

Sometimes my husband has really great ideas. Marrying me, now that was a great idea. There are others, but they pale in comparison.

Sometimes he has not so great ideas. Hiding dirty dishes in the clothes dryer, there's a good example of a bad idea. Deciding to get an electric organ from the thrift store? Not that grand of a scheme if you ask me. He warned me it was coming. They actually delivered it - for free - if we would take it off their hands. It looked like a That Seventies Organ, all funky colors of orange and purple. No matter, he put in in his man cave, AKA The Honey House. Like me and my piano that we haul around with each move, he didn't find the time to play it.

Tomorrow is e-waste pick-up day on our street. An electric organ is e-waste, right? It better be. The problem was that all our he-man friends were out doing things way more interesting than hauling The Partridge Family's instruments to our curb. It was left to the two of us. I let the guy who found it get the ball rolling and waited until he needed my assistance.

Soon I heard him calling. He was on the lawn with the organ on a skateboard, the wheels bogged down in the grass. The dog of course thought it was a great time to play, "I will choose this moment to let you play fetch with me now that you are involved in something really important." She was lying in the path of the whole operation, staring at her ball with keen anticipation.

Who moves furniture with a skateboard? My Ernst. Across the grass? Apparently no one does, not even Ernst. I had the grand idea to go get the dolly, like normal people. So with me in my pajamas and the dog dropping her tennis ball in the path of our travel, we made it to the curb with the psychedelic relic. If e-waste doesn't want it? Anyone want a timeless classic colorful conversation piece? BYOS (Bring your own skateboard.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A wrinkle in my Sunday morning

It was to be a relaxing Sunday morning spent lounging in bed, reading the Sac Bee. Drinking tea. Pretending like there are not a hundred things needing my attention. As long as I kept reading, I was doing something productive. The stack was getting shorter. I started to read more slowly.

The Big E started digging into the pile of ironing - the Leaning Tower of Pleats. Why in the world was he messing with my brain on this perfect morning? Ironing was the last thing on my mind. It is never the first, but come on, pressing clothes on a Sunday morning? He brought over an especially sad wrinkled white shirt. A shirt with cuffs, no less. Does he really think I'm in any mood to iron a 100% cotton white shirt, with cuffs, that has sat in its own wrinkles for who knows how long? Does he not love me anymore?

It turned out not to be a request for making the shirt wearable. It was an offering of fabric - lovely white 100% cotton fabric to finally finish the quilt that is waiting desperately for a punch of white. The lovely shirt had a irremovable stain and was now only good for the rag pile or an up-cycle project. That was enough to push aside the papers, clear off the sewing table and get this long delayed project on to Etsy. This Sunday the iron will stay cool and the sewing machine will heat up. Long live the wrinkled shirts.