Sunday, November 11, 2012

Introspection in Digital

I used to write- plays, poetry, short stories, analytical essays. Somewhere along the line, I stopped. Just stopped. No tapering, no slowing to a trickle- just stopped.

I used to have an online diary in which I would chronicle my most mundane of data. The petty, small-minded, drama-seeking trash-pot in which I deposited my negative emotions in an effort to purge myself and start fresh. I stopped that, too.

Was it that I found no need to express myself through writing, anymore? Did I have nothing to write about? Where did my muse go?

It seems like I have nothing to write about when I have no conflict in my life. Readers, would anyone watch a play about a suburban housewife battling to find the best bread recipe or charging blindly into crafts, her faithful husband and beautiful baby as near-constant companions? Maybe you would. Maybe I would.

I had some vague dreams when I was younger- fuzzy life goals. I wanted to become a wonderful songstress and harmonize perfectly every time. I wanted to learn French and play guitar. I wanted to find love and happiness. Writing wasn't a goal, it was a given. Writing seemed as essential to me as breathing.

I have lost my voice. I haven't learned French or taken up the guitar. I DID find love. I found great happiness. Instead of the sprawling scrawl of my pen, my daughter's babbling accompanies the clickety-clack of my keyboard. And my husband? He cares for me possibly more than for himself. I am happy.

Writing must be like water. It will fit in the cracks left after the large- and medium-sized life events. I cannot promise to write a page here on a regular basis. The best that I can do is promise that I will come here to relax. I will come to converse with you in the safe silence that this blank canvas will provide. Perhaps I'll write poetry, plays, short stories. Maybe I'll chronicle some of the many projects that I have undertaken since last I have written. I don't know.

I do know that I will continue chasing my paradise with my beautiful little family. And that's all I can do.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The World in Review

It has been a long time since I have been on here. Life has been busy, to say the least. My husband got a job promotion, my daughter is getting her first tooth, and we are all getting a house! Alright, let's rewind a little bit and I will tell you how:

We have been living in this apartment for almost four years, now. We've been here as our neighbors have come and gone. We have enjoyed the cherry blossoms off of our second-story back porch every spring. We have gone through a few gentle snows and a lot of icy mornings, rain and thunder. The kitchen is large, we have gas heat, and we are sandwiched between two apartments, making for cozy winters. Our cats are a little bit sad, being only able to roam on the back porch, but I've attempted several times to have an apartment garden, watching my failures with the hope that NEXT TIME I will get it right. We have made this place a home.

We live in a federally-owned apartment complex, but we are not getting rent assistance. I told you about how my husband got a promotion. We were told by the last apartment managers that we wouldn't have to come back in for financial evaluations any more, that we were secure in our living status. Well, we have new management and they didn't get that memo.

We got the notice at the beginning of the month-a financial review. Adam and I both freaked out, expecting to have to vacate in 30 days, knowing that we have no money for an application fee in another apartment complex. The rent has jumped dramatically since we moved in. We got in toward the beginning of the recession. We were lucky- our rent has been static this whole time. After receiving the notice, we immediately started looking for a house.

My mother has been so fantastic and supportive. I told her our predicament and she promised to give us the down if we couldn't get it any other way. I'm looking into first-time home buyer down payment assistance (wow, that's a mouthful!), but I haven't been able to find anything that fits our situation, yet. Maybe I should ask my uncle Stan if he has any ideas...

We got several real estate agents on the job, explaining to them all our predicament, hoping that we would take priority with one of them. At the first house we looked, the real estate agent was very on top of it. She took us through the entire house, showing us both the features and the defects of the house. She was so wonderful that we decided to work exclusively with her.

Later that week, I gave her a list of houses that we would like to visit. We had 6 houses on the list. We plowed through them with focus and determination, noting the good things and the things that would need to be fixed. Usually, there was more that needed to be fixed in our price range than not. One house stank so badly of dog and urine that we would have had to tear up all of the carpet, paint the floor and walls with exterior paint, and pray to God that the rest of the house was sound.

We were not thrilled, but still determined at our 6th and last house. We both went through it singly because Ariadne was asleep, and neither one of us was optimistic.

The house next to it was for sale, too. It looked really nice from the outside, and I thought that there was no way that it could be in our price range, but we decided to look at it anyway. Adam went through first. He came out with a beatific look on his face and said, "I like this one." I knew that this was it, and hoped against hope that it was in our price range.

Ariadne had awoken, so we all toured the house together. Wood floors, two bedrooms and a loft, gas heat and stove, full basement, beautiful back yard. The maple trees were so tall and elegant that I immediately was sold. I thought, "This is a backyard that my daughter can play in." The wind blew in soft gusts and the maples whispered in a gentle hush. I love this house.

The house was bank-owned. We put in an offer, the bank countered, we accepted. The house is now listed as 'pending!' Granted, we have to do the assessment, the inspection, and the actual payment, but we are supposed to have the contract tomorrow.

This is a forever house. This is the house that we want to raise our daughter in. This is a house that we could grow old in. This is our home before we even have the keys. I'm praying hard, hoping against hope, waiting with 'bated breath.

There's so much more that has happened in our lives and I'll tell you about it later but, until then, I will bid you adieu...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Canning Dangerously

So, I've had a very busy weekend; my mom and sister in town for surgery, a family outing to der Rhinelander, buying new cereal bowls for the hubby, and finishing various projects around the house.

After dinner at der Rhinelander, I've come to a couple of very important conclusions: that I should continue to NOT eat meat because of baby's tummy troubles and that I need to make both German cabbage rolls and strudel for my hubby. I'll probably adapt one of these recipes from or adapt one from my Joy of Cooking.

I'm planning on making BLTs and TLCs (tomato, lettuce and cucumber sandwiches) today. I'll also be making teriyaki chicken (from a scratch sauce) soon. It's so nice to have food in the fridge. Thanks, Mom!

In the crafts, arena: I'm evil and just bought a pressure canner on because I want to rehydrate my dry beans, season them, and can them for easy taco/refried beans. This summer, homemade salsa is a must. I'm also planning on learning to knit. I'm thinking about knitting dome fabric to re-cover my kitchen chairs. Plus, I'd like to make a couple of wraparound shirts for ease of nursing and the showcasing of my newly-rediscovered waist.

Today, I plan to make and can marinara sauce, adapting a recipe taken from Put 'Em Up! I have a whole bunch of fresh, hothouse tomatoes that I need to use.

Warning: the acid-base ratio isn't properly balanced for this recipe. Don't use this recipe if you want to preserve spaghetti sauce long-term. Storing food without a proper acid-base balance can lead to botulism (I think). I'm by no means expert at canning and I'm really just practicing. I'll refrigerate and eat this sauce in the upcoming week.

6 hothouse tomatoes
6 C. water

 Blanch the tomatoes in the water for a minute and peel the skins off. This is the point where I should have put them in the food processor for a little bit, but I just threw them into a saucepan with :

1 C. water
1/4 C. fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. oregano
1/2 t. salt

and simmered for awhile, occasionally mashing with a potato masher and adding more water to break the ingredients into a relatively thick.

Boil enough water to cover your jar in a large stockpot. Gently lower your jar, lid, and lid ring into the boiling water, filling the jar. This is just to sterilize the hardware. Let them stay in the boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer your ingredients to your sterilized jar, set your sterilized lid on top and screw the ring on only to finger-tight. Boil your jar in a large stockpot for 45 minutes. Set your jar on the counter to cool for 24 hours. After 24 hours, check the seals. The acid-base balance probably isn't right so I'll probably eat this in the next couple of days.

I probably should have followed the recipe in Put 'Em Up exactly, but I don't have 25lbs of tomatoes...

For safety, buy Put 'Em Up and make My-Way Marinara as it appears on page 277.

Good luck.
T-T-F-N: Ta ta for now!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade 'Hot Pockets'

My mom is coming to town tonight! She may be accompanied by my siblings; my brother, Sam (16) and my sister Lola (14). They'll get to play with my baby girl!

And here's a pic of my hubby and our little girl. Aren't they just adorable?

About a week ago, I decided that I needed something quick and easy for my husband to take to lunch. Something remotely healthy, definitely appealing, easy to reheat, and homemade. "Hot Pockets!" I exclaimed. Well, not quite, but I did get pretty excited about them.

I searched online and found absolutely NO hits for homemade 'hot pockets,' but I did find this fabulous recipe for stuffed bread that I adapted into 'hot pockets' from

I'm not going to post the actual recipe until Amanda (the recipe's creator) approves.

Basically, I made the recipe verbatim except for the division of bread. Where her recipe says, "separate the dough into two pieces," I separated it into eight pieces and then continued to follow the original recipe.

I made two different types of 'hot pockets-' one with leftover taco stuffing and one with leftover spaghetti sauce. It's a great use of leftovers and can be made around your schedule. I can give you my stuffing recipes immediately.

Taco Stuffing
All measurements are approximate. Hm.
Prepared the day before for tacos:
  • Approximately 1 lb of ground beef
  • Chili powder to taste 
  • Cumin to taste
  • Cayenne to taste
Store in the fridge overnight.

For the mixed beans I used a melange of white beans, black beans, pinto beans, and a  smattering of lentils.
  • 8 oz. dry beans
  • Approximately 6 C. of water 
Rinse the dry beans. Put beans in a large pot with water, bring it to a boil. Boil for one minute. Shut beans off and set aside for 1-4 hours. Drain the water and add another six cups of water to the pot. Bring it to a boil, reduce the beans to a simmer, and cook them on a simmer for approximately 2 hours, or until tender.

The day of:
For vegan 'hot pockets-'
  • Beans
  • Asparagus, cut into approx. 1/3 inch pieces
  • Zucchini, chopped quite small
  • Onions, chopped quite small
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Canned corn
  • Salsa to a slightly moist consistency
 And trade the honey in the bread portion of the recipe for brown sugar. 

For non-vegan 'hot pockets,' just add cheese and leftover taco meat. I chose to use a mix of pepper jack and medium cheddar.

 Italian Stuffing
Prepared the day before for spaghetti sauce:
You can make your spaghetti sauce with whatever you want, but make sure that the end result is rather thick and very chunky for the best stuffing.

  • Olive oil
  • Sliced mushrooms to taste
  • Chopped onions to taste
  • Italian seasoning
  • Spaghetti sauce from a jar
  • Black olives, coarsely chopped
Slice the mushrooms and onions. Heat a large frying pan to medium. Add the olive oil and saute the mushrooms and onions until onions are al dente (does that term apply to onions, too?). Season the mushrooms and onions with the Italian seasoning to taste. Add the jar of spaghetti sauce and black olives. Turn the sauce down to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and chunky. Cool for stuffing.

For the meat eaters:
  • Spicy Italian sausage, not links
  • Sliced mushrooms to taste
  • Chopped onions to taste
  • Italian seasoning
  • Spaghetti sauce from a jar- my husband's favorite sauce is vodka sauce.
  • Black olives, coarsely chopped
Heat a large frying pan to medium. Brown the sausage, adding Italian seasoning, mushrooms and onions after sausage has just browned. Saute the contents of the pan until mushrooms and onions are tender. Add the spaghetti sauce from a jar and the olives. Turn the sauce down to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has evaporated. Cool for stuffing.

Now that you've got the stuffing, you're ready to stuff the bread dough that you've prepared, right? Let's assume that you are.

Your dough has risen once, and your stuffing is ready to be put in. Separate the dough into 8 pieces, first splitting it in half, and then splitting both of those two pieces in half, and then split each of those pieces in half until you have a total of 8 pieces. It's more simple than it sounds, I swear.

Form a piece of dough into a rectangle using your hands. Create a long line of stuffing in the center of the dough, stopping about 1/2 inch short of the edges on both sides. Fold the dough up over the stuffing on both sides and pinch it together. Fold both short sides up and pinch them together so that the dough completely encloses the stuffing. Place the finished pocket, seam down, onto an oiled cookie sheet or floured wooden cutting board. Repeat until all of your dough is filled and let the filled dough rise for another 45 minutes.

After the 45 minutes additional rise time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and bake your product for 25-35 minutes. They should look brown and crusty when you take them out of the oven.

Let them cool for 15-20 minutes before serving. I wrapped them in tinfoil and put two of each in the fridge. The rest, I put into the freezer and we reheated them in the oven. At 400 degrees, it took 20 minutes to reheat the ones that I stuck in the fridge and it took 30 minutes to reheat the frozen ones.

I'll definitely make them again soon and this time I'll take pictures of each step to post. If I've been at all unclear, just let me know and I'll try to clarify things.

Have fun, and happy cooking!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Inception (easy nachos)

My 11-week-old daughter is asleep on the couch, chai tea is cooling on the stove, and thank you/birth announcement/Merry Christmas/Happy New Year cards are on the way to me. I'm stuck being mostly vegan until I'm finished breastfeeding and I'm thinking about adding coffee grounds to my houseplants in an effort to get them back to their pre-pregnancy health.

I'm finding out how busy being a new mom is and how much I need an outlet for my creative energies. I've determined that THIS will be my outlet. I'll journal my crafts, recipes, thoughts, family projects, possible play ideas, etc.

OK, now I'm typing one-handed because my little girl woke up. Ariadne (air-ee-AD-nee) Evangeline- a darling little girl whose first giggle happened last weekend. She has a wonderful smile and she flashes it often- but I can't ever catch it with my camera!

Tonight we're going to have half-vegan nachos. My husband is a meat-eater and I'm meat- and dairy-less because of my daughter's digestive tract.

OK, I have to start with the homemade Sort-Of Hummus:
I cooked up some garbanzo beans a couple of days ago and just haven't gotten around to making hummus. For some reason, I think that hummus would be a great replacement for sour cream. I'm calling this 'Sort-Of Hummus' because I'm just making it with what I have in stock, which doesn't include yogurt or tahini.

I'm going to use Ariadne's bouncy seat to get a hands-free hummus-making experience.

First we combine:
4 C. chickpeas/garbanzo beans
6 T. lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced/crushed/whatev
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. cumin
1 T. water

I put them all in a bowl, applied my new favorite appliance- the Cuisinart smart stick- and blended the whole shebang into a nice, creamy consistency. Here is where the tahini would be most useful.

I did a finger taste-test and found it a little dry and not seasoned well enough. If I had my d'ruthers, I'd put both tahini and cilantro in, but I just had to season to taste this time. So I added:
2 more T. oil
4 more cloves garlic
1 more generous T. cumin
and 1/4 t. crushed sea salt

Then I mixed it all together with a spatula (which is a pretty funny word) and put it in a jar in the fridge for later.
What would happen if I added a little bit of peanut butter...? I'll let you know if I do.

So, now it's time to make the nachos. I have tortilla chips, homegrown (not my home) beef, cheddar cheese, salsa, one avocado, some lettuce, doctored refried beans, olives, onions, green onions and corn. I browned the beef, added chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and garlic to taste. Then, I covered a baking sheet with tinfoil and scattered on the sheet in layers the tortilla chips, refried beans, beef, olives, corn, onions, green onions, and cheese with the beef and cheese on one half. A no-brainer.

Then I baked it at 350* until the cheese melted, about 8 minutes. I just sliced the avocado up and put it, the hummus, and the lettuce on top of the nachos. Then we dug in! Nummy...

Next time I'll try the hummus with some peanut butter. *wink*