Monday, December 31, 2007

Closing of the Year











If I cannot bring you comfort
Then at least I bring you hope
For nothing is more precious
Then the time we have, and so
We all must learn from small misfortune
Count the blessings that are real
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
And the closing of the year
If I cannot bring you comfort
Then at least I bring you hope
At the closing of the year
(from the movie Toys)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Seitan and Broccoli

Back when I was 30 pounds heavier and an omnivore, one of my favorite things to order in a Chinese restaurant was Beef and Broccoli. I haven't had it in years. But, as stated below, I had a hunk of seitan and a bag of frozen broccoli, and not much else. Oh my gawd this is so freaking good it's almost not fair to other foods. I'm posting the recipe below, altered for vegetarian tastes. If you're not a vegetarian, well this could make you one. But I included a link to the original recipe anyway. Because I'm nice like that.
Quick Seitan with Broccoli 
(based on a recipe from Epicurious)

1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 pound seitan, cut into strips
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 10-oz bag of frozen broccoli florets, thawed
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/3 cup water

1. Toss together cornstarch, salt, pepper and seitan strips in a bowl until strips are coated.

2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok or large skillet over moderately high heat. Stir fry the seitan until just cooked through, about one to two minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Add remaining tbsp of oil to wok/skillet. Add broccoli and garlic and stir fry over moderately high heat, until broccoli is tender, about 2 minutes.

4. Add soy sauce and water and bring to a boil. Return seitan to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened. About 2 minutes. Serve over rice or pick at it from the skillet while the rice is cooking until there's nothing left. 

Makes 4 servings. 

Realization.

The fruit and veggie fast I mentioned in the last post? Well, it only lasted a day, not two. I was hoping to make it the full two days, but I just realized that wasn't going to happen. I, apparently, am a volume eater. Okay, so I've always kinda known it. I can pack it away like nobody's business. The problem I'm running into is that I've essentially eaten a week's worth of fruit and vegetables. I can't afford to go to the store again to buy more! So, I'm breaking the fast out of economic consideration.
Still, I'm glad I did it, even for just one day. I felt really good doing it, and it did break my "stuff your face" mentality I was developing. I'd definitely try it again, although possibly with a bit more planning next time around.  

I'm currently making a big pot of chili for lunch this week. I've got a thing of seitan I'd like to use as well for dinner this week, but I haven't decided what I'm going to do with it yet. It will probably have frozen spinach and broccoli involved, mainly because that's about all I have left!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Today.

First the first time in a while, I found my Saturday completely empty. There was no place I needed to be, no chores that needed to get done, nothing I needed to buy, make or do.
Today was a free day.

What a gift! So, I used it wisely. I started by sleeping "late" (sad, sad is the day that 8am is considered late). Enjoyed a couple cups of coffee, then went out and went to Health Food store #2 (#1 is temporarily closed while it's moving to a larger location). Stocked up on tons of fruit and veggies and yumminess.

Came home, had a clementine and banana for breakfast, then tooled around on the internet for a while. Had a huge honking salad for lunch, took a walk, applied for a job, then had dinner. Now, I'm trying to decide what I'm going to do this evening. Probably watch the Bourne Ultimatum. That sounds like a good plan!

Due the the excess foodage of the past couple weeks, this weekend I'm doing something mentioned on the Weight Watcher's Vegetarian Message Board. Yes, I frequent that. I used to be fat and WW help me lose 30 pounds. Anyway. It's called a "fruit and veggie fast." You do it for two days, eating just fruit and veggies. Starchy vegs like potatoes are supposed to be off limits, but I don't like any of the recommended substitutions so I'm including them. Spuds are good for you, dammit! Technically sugar and soy milk are out too, but I refuse to drink my coffee black. Still, I'm feeling pretty good right now! If you're hungry, you eat, just no grains, proteins and certainly no animal products. I feel like my body's saying "Thank you!" 

I'm only doing it today and tomorrow, so don't get your panties in a wad regarding proper nutrition. I'm eating plates of veggies, here! How many vegetables have you eaten today? Besides, I so couldn't do this long-term. But it's helping me cut the "oh, I'll just have another cookie or two" mentality that's so hard to break post-Christmas. Tomorrow I'll be making some chili or stew or something for lunch this coming week. Mmmm... chili...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post-Consumerism Let Down (or the day after Christmas)

Hello all! For those readers who celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a good one! If not, then I hope you managed to survive. 
Christmas was low-key for me. I took Christmas Eve off, since I wasn't lucky enough to have it handed to me. I spent the morning cooking dinners for my brother as one of his Christmas presents (black bean and sweet potato burritos, pad thai and veggie lasagna). After driving across the state to my mum's, I stayed up until midnight knitting my uncle's scarf. My hands started cramping, so decided to pick it up again on Christmas. I ended up finishing it about a half-hour after he arrived. D'oh! He was very happy with it though. So that makes it worthwhile.

Anyway. Food was eaten. Drives were driven. I had to go to work today. I really wish the US had kept the Boxing Day tradition. Pity.

Anyhoo. Pictures for you:








My altar at home










Cookie tray at mom's










The Scarf













Mom's tree










My motto: Born to shop, forced to cook

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Eve Eve

Yesterday was the first day of winter. So of course it's currently 40 degrees and all the snow is melting. White Christmas? Snort, yeah sure. Let's say muddy brown christmas and be done with it.
I'm happy to say I'm 3/4 done with my gifts. I'll finish one today, one tomorrow and hopefully my last tomorrow, although it's a scarf that's only like 2 inches long right now. I'm may be making a quickie pit-stop tomorrow on my way to my mum's to pick something up. We'll see. I'll probably be knitting it right up until the recipient walks through the door at my mum's on Christmas day. Well, at least it'll give me something to do. This is the scarf, in a simple seed stitch:










It's made from yarn leftover from the baby sweater I made earlier this year for one of my friend's new son:










It came out surprisingly well, considering it was the third thing I ever knit. Ever. I had a seasoned pro (ie, buddy Alex. Hi Alex!) walking me through it. She taught me a lot. Unfortunately most of it is gone now, so when I ever get up the gumption to knit something other than hats and scarves again I'm going to drive her nuts with questions. Consider this fair warning Alex!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Dinner Party

Okay... so it wasn't really a dinner party. I cooked dinner for a cousin and my brother and myself. Another cousin was supposed to come but she had to go to work at 12:45 am this morning. Sound like a cop-out if I ever heard one. We had lasagna with a salad and garlic bread:










For dessert we had a yummy berry cobbler:










After that we exchanged presents. I gave my cousin a cap and scarf I knit (it's in one of my earlier posts) and she gave me the biggest cupcake in the world and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. She gave my brother "white trash chex mix", a bunch of different kinds of cereal coated with white chocolate. My brother gave my cousin a gift certificate and a collection of poems he wrote. See, cousin #2! This is what you missed because you insisted on sleeping. Sheesh.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oy.

Just... oy.
My day itself wasn't overly bad. Boring, but not bad.

My plan for this evening had been to rush home, make a quick list of food I'll need for my "dinner party" tomorrow night and head off to one of my favorite grocery stores to look for some good food and cheap bargains. What I didn't plan was to hit a parked car in my own neighborhood.

Sigh, this is so pathetic. We've got a lot of snow right now. I live in a complex of apartments and rented condos. In lieu of speed bumps, we have speed ditches. So, the city plows won't come in and plow; it'll damage them to badly. The complex's maintenance staff has plow attachments on their trucks and they do it themselves. Poorly. Streets that are barely 2-way to begin with shrink to one-ways. And guess what happens when two cars going in opposite directions try to go down a shrunken street whilst some poor car parked off to the side minds its own business? Why, two side-view mirrors collide, of course!

There was minimal damage to both our cars, just some broken plastic. But insurance needed to be called and phone numbers needed to be exchanged, and blah blah blah. The humiliation, however remains.

So of course after I got all that sorted, I went up to the not-so-favorite grocery store, bought my goods and pulled together a lasagna. It's sitting in the fridge now, just waiting to go when I get home tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow night's menu is vegetarian lasagna with salad and garlic bread. For dessert we'll be having a 3-berry cobbler. For appetizers... well I forgot appetizers. I think we'll be using some of my Italian truffle-infused olive oil for some bread-dippin'. Good stuff!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Messages from the Universe

About a year and a half ago, I designed my own tarot cards. As much as I liked the traditional ones, there always seemed to be too many and I could never quite remember what they all meant. So I made up cards that had special significance to me. 

For the past several months, I've been drawing one card every morning. Sometimes it's eerily accurate (like the day I drew Death and my great-aunt died) and sometimes it isn't. Today's card was "Communication." Which I found interesting, because there are many people out there I'd like to hear from and haven't lately. I was looking forward to see who'd get in touch.

Ironically enough, 2 people I didn't expect to hear from emailed me. The first was one of my UK friends that I don't speak with very often.  The other person... well, frankly I never expected to hear from this person again. There were reasons on both ends why communication stopped, but suffice it to say that communication on my end stopped because communication on this other person's end stopped first. This person's email was as near an apology as I was going to get, and it allowed me to finally say to this person what I should have send months ago. I'd still like to remain friends with this person, but the ball is in their court now. 

Either way, I feel better knowing that I was able to finally speak my truth. I can finally put that little emotional "owie" to rest.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Hate Snow.

Just sayin'.
This was my car this morning:














What you can't tell from this image is the fact that the snow drift slowly eating my car extended another ten feet behind it. Which means that I had to shovel it down to the point where my car could roll over it and out of my parking spot. For all of you with garages: I hate you!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thar Be Snow in them thar Hills

It's been snowing on and off all day. The perfect day to pretend you can't go anywhere. So I holed up at home and worked on various and sundry crafts. This is a little image I like to call Craft Barf. It's what happens when creativity takes over:










I'm not done, but it should go pretty quickly now. Just mainly cutting and pasting. Unfortunately, the old-fashioned variety, not the control+v variety. I'm not sure how it happened, but I managed to get gold-ink pen on my laptop. Can't get it off. Oh well. Guess I decorated it for the holidays.

You know, the ironic thing about this storm hitting New England is that it isn't technically a Nor'easter. The front that's moving through hasn't made it to the coast, so we're just plain getting socked. This is a view from outside my brother's bedroom:










Lots of wind, lots of snow blowing around in the wind. It's just so inviting, isn't it? I keep hoping work will call and tell us not to bother, but because it's Sunday, it'll probably be fine by the morning. Damn it!

Friday, December 14, 2007

'Tis the Season

For holiday parties galore. Had my office party this evening at The Inn at Essex. It's a really nice place about 20 minutes from where I live. I actually had a pretty good time! NECI (New England Culinary Institute) does most of the food there, and it's wonderful, for those of you in the know, Alton Brown got his culinary education right here in the state of Vermont. Oh yeah. In some of his earlier episodes he wears NECI hats. Just a little pride for the home state.
So yeah. We did a yankee swap and I ended up with a copy of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I had a bottle of wine for a good portion of the event, but alas someone snatched it. Ah well. I always did like MST3K. 

Gotta go to bed now. I'm cold cold and I gotta get up early to go Christmas shopping with my BFF.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jeez.

You'd think it was winter with all this snow coming down. More snow this evening. We were only supposed to get 3 inches max around my neck of the woods, but after snowing for only an hour, we'd already gotten that far. So. Snow tonight. Snow Sunday. Snow snow snow snow snow. Snowdiddy snow. Have I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of the white stuff?










As I was driving home from work this evening, I was listening to an orchestrated version of "We Three Kings of Orient Are" and watching the big, flat fluffy flakes glitter in my headlights, I finally got an inkling of Christmas spirit. No, not christmas spirit. Nothing that specific. Maybe Winter Spirit? Year end spirit? Some elusive spirit that has nothing to do with Christmas... something more basic and elemental than that. The song itself is a rather dark song, and it seems to fit the season in reality far better than anything with rudolph or jingle jingle. This is the darkest time of the year, meant for introspection and holing up in a warm place. All the busy-busy gets to me sometimes. 

But tonight, I felt the spirit of the season, whatever you choose to call it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Untitled


Their back and forth conversations
looks like a snowfall
Thousands of lacy, elaborate words
fall about
But when the intricate snowflakes melt
There is nothing of substance left

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sigh.

I wish I could find the magic in Christmas again. A person can only fake it for so long. I just can't do it anymore. I've looked and looked for it and I just can't find it.
It's just gone.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pictures to Share

Because I felt rather guilty about sleeping until 11:00, I decided to get my butt moving and take a walk this afternoon. I never sleep until 11. I don't know why I did today. But my bed was such a warm cocoon of cozy goodness, every time I surfaced I just went right back under. Mmmm. Nice.

Anyway. My walk. By the time I got up the ambition (read: had coffee), it was a whopping 19F outside. I don't know what that is in celsius. if 32f = 0c... you do the math. It was cold. While I was out, I took these pictures. Thought you might like to see them:


Gulls Under a Tree








Perils of Lake Front Property









Aftermath of Waves









Red Berries, Gray Lake






Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pardon Me While I Get Deep and Depressing

December is bittersweet for me. I have very fond memories of past Christmases. On Christmas Eve my brother and I were always in the church pageant. After that, we'd come home and have hot chocolate and cookies under the tree. When I was very little, I took that literally. My brother and I would scootch as far under the tree as we could. We would each open one present, then go to bed and wait anxiously for Santa.

On Christmas day, our extended family on my mom's side would gather at our house for food, presents, and just celebrating family. It was always the four of us, my mom's parents, my aunt and her husband and kid, my great aunt and later on my other cousin and her kids and mom (my ex-aunt. My uncle was a fool to divorce her!). We'd get together and eat cookies until we thought we would explode, then go out sledding if there was any snow. After the second trip down the hill, we'd always lament that last cookie and the lack of a ski lift to get us back to the top.

December is very different now. My dad died six years ago the first weekend in December. I've also lost all my grandparents, a great aunt, an aunt and uncle on my dad's side, and my ex-aunt in the space of the last seven. Most of them in December/January. This year for Christmas, it's just going to be six of us. The empty spaces around the table say more than I ever could.

I miss my dad. So much that I can't stand to think about it. The grief, six years on, is still so raw that it threatens to rip me apart if I let it. So I do everything in my power to not think about it. I struggle desperately every year to keep spirits up and happy and alive because it would be so easy for those few of us left to just sink beneath those waves of self-defeat and depression. I insist on holding on to what traditions we have left. If we don't, our family will just unravel until there's nothing there.

I can honestly say that it's one of the few times I truly hate being single. Most times it doesn't bother me, but at this time of the year it tends to get to me. Having the support a significant other can offer is truly a gift. These days it's a gift I could use. 

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Finally, Proof That I Knit!

I'm a knitting newbie, I admit it. I'm also slow to move from my beloved scarves, although they take for freakin' ever. Someone is getting these two lovelies for a christmas present this year. I won't say who, because it's already changed three times since I started making the durned thing:










Let's hope whoever gets it has a small head, as the cap came out a little short. Just barely covers the ears. Cute if you're in Georgia and "winter" is 53 degrees, not so helpful when it's -30 outside. Oh well. Recipient: if you don't like it, use it as a dust mop. I won't mind!

I'm still quite happy with the way it came out. The yarn is a greeny, bluey, purply, pinky kinda thing with bit and pieces and hangers on. Hard stuff to work with, so I had to pay attention. I thought it was pretty so I had to do it. 

So, there it is people. Proof I knit!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Let It Snow....etc

I may have to eat my words about Vermont not having white Christmases. I think this stuff is going to stick around. This was the view out of the front office this afternoon:










That's the building's driveway, and it eventually meets the main road (you can kinda see it). I had to clean six inches of snow off my car to get home, and it's still snowing. My friend on the mountain had eight inches by 9am and it was still blizzarding. She decided to stay home. Smart girl. 

I will admit, it was very pretty. I love walking around when it's snowy like this. Everything is so quiet and soft. The air smells so crisp and clean. Days like this are great when you've got a free day, so you can watch it snow while bundled up in a blanket, sitting on a cozy chair, drinking a cup of hot tea. Not so great when you've lost your boots and you have to stand in a half-foot of snow while cleaning the same off your car...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Weekend Done

You like the looks of those cookies? Those are sour cream cookies. They are a family tradition every year for the holidays. I have successfully addicted my friend Robin to them. Insert evil laugh here.

Robin, my other friend Marie and I were supposed to do "Cookiefest" this weekend. The three of us get together, bringing two cookie recipes each, and get to cooking. It's a lot cookies, but loads of fun.

Robin had a baby on Wednesday. Yay, Robin!!! Since it is near to impossible to cook up a cookie storm with a three-day old baby, we decided to forego this year's festivities. As she was looking forward to the cookies though, I made her a batch on Saturday. This is a few of them. The frosting came out a little sloppier than I'd intended, but it's the thought that counts.

Someday I'm going to veganize the recipe, just for kicks and giggles. The sour cream isn't an issue, as they make vegan sour cream. Although I figure in a pinch I could use vegan unflavored yogurt. It's the eggs that I haven't figured out yet. It calls for one egg. One lone, solitary egg. Usually I'll replace an egg with a banana or applesauce or something. But I'm pretty sure that won't work in a cookie recipe. So... any suggestions would be welcome!

This is Two.

Monday the 21st was our 2-year wedding anniversary. We build the Matrimonial Pizza, with my brother officiating and my Chick of Honor wat...