Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Past Week

Well let's see here...

After an intense, emotional two-hour meeting, my AWOL student decided to return home. It was the right decision. I learned that a lot more human rights violations are occurring in second world countries than we like to think. And unfairness happens in all governments but in some way more than others...Still, he had to go home and he knew it. I'm glad he's with his family and his work.

Christmas was relaxed and overall very good. We've been able to see many of the people we'd hoped to over the holidays...but definitely not everyone. If I missed you, I sure hope to catch you next time. Besides quality over quantity is the way to go.

I have a very good friend of mine who is really angry with me right now. It's a terrible place to be but it's also got me thinking about things I can change in this new year. I'm looking forward to a healthier body and a healthier mind. I will work on saying what I mean and meaning what I say. I am going to say "no" more often and "yes" more often. I want to battle time less. I want to read, listen, and create more. I want to be a better me. Bring it on Oh Nine!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

And Now For Some Good News

A massive congratulations and "omedetou!" to my friend Amy, her husband Todd, and big sister Emiko on the birth of Hideo William!! On the day her maternity leave started, even!

Everyone is happy and healthy...just as it should be. Way to go Amy!!

I Curse the Weather Gods

I am very angry with the snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest that caused my sister's flight here to be canceled last night and now she can only come on the 23rd at the latest.

VERY ANGRY!

There aren't many things that I have to look forward to but seeing Kate for Christmas was one of them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tick Tock

I won't go into all the details of today...but I wish I could.

I'm trying to do too much on too little sleep. Not to mention the fact that it's the fucking holidays which means everything is twice as frantic and anxious and happening at once.

Another student of mine may have gone awol in the country. Again...it makes me feel strange and possibly (I can't help it) a little bit taken advantage of. I didn't expect it from this student, who really didn't strike me as a flight risk at all. It goes to show that you never know what other people are thinking and planning. Who am I to judge, though. Maybe things are really THAT BAD in his native country.

I'm so ready to make some stuff for gifts. The creative juices are starting to trickle in and percolate...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wintry Mix Blues

What a DAY, y'all. Are we sure the full moon was last week and not now? Mercury in retrograde? Other planetary realignment that I'm not aware of?

We're winding down this term; airport departures are on Saturday. I'm also simultaneously preparing for our January intake, working on overdue reports for past programs, and wondering if I'll be able to afford Christmas.

It was just one of those days where everything was moving too fast and every time I turned around something fell apart. We got your visa denials over in Peru, crucial paperwork failed to be returned in Costa Rica, letters of recommendation for Russia and China, thinking back to the African program this program, oh and at the end of the day the Indonesians' first leg of their flight home just *poof* disappeared and now I need to figure out how to get them to Chicago by 9:00am on Saturday morning. This Saturday morning.

I remember a cabbie in London telling me that the city layout was "like a dog's nervous system." It could also accurately describe my neuron synapses today...this week...most of the time.

Of course tonight of all nights is the one I've chosen to make my try-annual (as in, I try to do it every year but don't always) Christmas mix CD. It's generally comprised of songs I listened to all year or want other people to hear and love, a little soundtrack for the year. This year, though....this year was a dud. I didn't make time to listen to new stuff or pay much attention. So this mix is mostly old stuff. Which can only mean one thing: I'm turning into someone stuck in a certain era. Probably the 80s/90s. I don't even know what to call this decade anyway. Aughts? Ohes? Two Thousands? It's just as well.

AND it's bitterly cold outside so (stop!) it's heater time! The air is dry and crackles with constant static electricity. I'm fighting off a head cold and am congested uber alles. I just want to breathe easily and not have everything clogged, dry, and crackly.

Is it the end of the year that's making everything go haywire? I know it's not just me. Someone held up that fancy jewelry store on Dickson Street. Yeah, and the brewery caught fire. Vandals raised hell in Eureka Springs. Bush ducking those shoes. It's a world gone mad!

I tell you!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nugget

I think I've written before of my love for creative spam names.

Well I just saw the Best Name Yet in my bulk folder!


Are you ready?



Pontious Carbone.


Who do you think Pontious Carbone is? Besides the slickest dude this side of the Atlantic?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Came Early

Want to totally make someone's day?

Compliment a random stranger on her outfit.*

That happened to me last weekend and my step is still a little spring-y as a result. Especially because my outfit that day was one of those tear-through-the-clothes-to-find-something-relatively-flattering, cute, comfortable, and clean-in-10-minutes kind of a deal. I would name my look Sartorial Schizophrenia. I think it was patterned tights, cowgirl boots, denim pencil skirt, light blue t-shirt, and black cardigan. I'm pretty sure my hair was dirty therefore in a ponytail. See? It sounds so wrong and yet...to this one woman in Home Depot, it was so right. Or maybe she was messing with my head. Maybe she turned down the Lighting aisle and laughed her ass off and tried to sneak back around and take my picture with her cell phone so she could post it to some Fashion Don'ts web site. If you ever see this outfit on the internet, please don't bring it to my attention. Let me live in the fantasy that this sweat-panted stranger thought I had a good thing going on.



*Make sure said compliment is sincere and non-creepy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

All The Thaing Ai Wunt for Crismis

Oh lordy do I ever love the Sunday paper. Any Sunday paper. I like 'em overstuffed, mostly useless, and scattered with nuggets of Americana like kids' letters to Santa. You can't find these on the web site! I've been snipping out my favorites.

This letter also happens to represent everything I love about ESL.Read this one carefully - there's a doozy buried in there. This letter is a real head trip.

Merry Christmas all you Dallas Walkers - I sure hope you get those chelphones.

Get It While It's Hot

I need to just get this out of the way right now: I seriously hope Santa brings me Beyonce's new CD. Dang! It's so good! "If I Were a Boy?!" "Single Ladies?!" Come ON - it can not be resisted. Or, at least based on the strength of those two songs alone, I have been solidly brainwashed and beaten into submission by The Man into believing that this album alone will complete me.

Another good thing about listening to the radio these days (if you're listening to KEZA, 107.9 like me....awww yeah) is catching "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg. Aaah, the holidays. This song gets me every time. Remember back in the 70s when songs told stories? Please tell me your favorite. You know, like "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" or "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)." I'd like to compile a mix of old story songs but that could be a bit much...a whole lotta narrative. But back to this song....the last line is really the clincher. "somethingsomething...and the snow turned into rain." So sad and wistful and evocative. Well done, Dan Grayling Fogelberg.

I'm also asking the old fat man who lives at the top of the world (aren't myths awesome?) for all sorts of local art for Agnostic Consumer Winter High Holiday. Last Thursday I went to two great shows as well as the progressive shopping party and found at least a dozen things I'm pining for, such as everydamnthing at ddp gallery, coffee table books and the Arkansas Nature Lover's Guidebook from Nightbird books, Cindy Arsaga's encaustic paintings, and pretty yarn and knitting classes from Handheld.

If you want something special and colorful and interesting and very affordable, you also should check out Megan Chapman's Etsy shop. I want, like, nine of 'em all lined up in a square above my bed.

The books of Arkansas writer Suzi Parker would also be a good idea. And if the rumor I've heard is correct and her book, Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt is being turned into a film, written by Beth Henley, then she's also definitely on her way to "I knew her back when....." Perhaps if social commentary isn't really your thing, then maybe 1000 Best Bartender's Recipes is? And if you don't like either of those, then what are you doing reading this blog?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Still More to Share

I've been fantasizing about the Carrot Ginger Apple Cream Soup we tried at Cafe Soleil on Wednesday night. I figured it should be easy enough to recreate so that's what I did last night. This soup is simple, quick, satisfying, and very cheap to make - what's not to like?

I started with a pound or so of scrubbed organic carrots, a few big nubby hunks of ginger, and several cloves of garlic.

Not pictured in the ingredients: a quart of chicken stock (yeah, not exactly vegetarian, but I really wanted to incorporate an umami taste into the soup. I'm sure you could just as easily use vegetable stock), a pint of heavy cream, and a peeled, chopped honeycrisp apple.

I chopped and sauteed the garlic and ginger in a little butter, then added the chopped carrots and apple and broth. I let it all cook down for about 30 minutes, then transferred it to the blender for the puree stage. While the blender was going, I added a pint of heavy cream in a steady stream. Then the soup went back to the saucepan for a few flavor alterations. I added another pinch of sea salt and one of Indian chili powder, and a dash of garlic powder.

It looks so pretty against my favorite big green bowl.

And tasted delicious with a dollop of goat cheese, fresh sage, and buttered roasted garlic sourdough bread. Mmmm MMM! Just the right amounts of sweetness, spice, and rich flavor.

D. was sad that I didn't take home the two leftover pieces of chocolate cream pie (I thought it best to leave them with the hosts...everyone knows how good leftover chocolate cream pie is). In order to fulfill my good girlfriend duties for the week, I made him another chocolate pie last night. This time I made a homemade chocolate pie crust, using a recipe from the Baking with Julia cookbook that has never led me astray in that confusing, complex world of baking.

The chocolate crust was a little difficult at first, but eventually I worked it enough with my hands to meld the dough and roll it out just fine.

And then the pastry tip was too small, so the whipped cream stars look more like cauliflower florets...more lumpy than decorative...but who cares? It tasted incredible. I used only bittersweet chocolate to flavor the custard so it had a very rich, full chocolate flavor.



D. fulfilled his good boyfriend duties by taking me to the movies yesterday afternoon. We saw Rachel Getting Married. It certainly felt more like an indie film than a Jonathan Demme film, meaning that they nearly went overboard with the handheld digital camera...and really amped up the bohemian vibe. It was alright....I could have used more exposition and fewer musical interludes. And hey! One of the guys from TV on the Radio played the groom! All in all, I gave it a B-.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

You Are So Beautiful To Me

When my boss asked me if I wanted to take off work Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my time off: go out to the Kings River to stay with a good friend recovering from massive surgery. I knew I could cook for her, and infuse her with love and healing that I put into my food.

The river this time of year is still astoundingly beautiful, in a quiet, clear sort of way.
Looking down the river, toward Arkansas

The bluffs across from the gravel bar are only visible when the water is really low

I love how the white bark of the Sycamores stand out in the wintertime

It was warm when the sun was out. We sat out in Patt and Craig's yard, soaked up the sun, and listened to the nature sounds up and down the river...as well as the occasional gunshot reminding us that it's deer season.

Bella, sitting outside the fence and keeping watch. Patt's energy and color were surprisingly full and up! I could sit and listen to her stories all day...

Sweet Bella. She's a Tibetan Spaniel and yes, she is 100% warm, smart, soft, loyal, stinky, adorable love.

Tigger returns from the hunt!

He knows he's a badass.

No time to stop for a photo

"Excuse me, but I have a half-dead rodent to play with for 3o seconds and then ignore while it runs around in a shocked, dying state. That's how I roll"

Jude returns, rodent free

She is a perfect match with her surroundings....good thing the hunters weren't around

Jude's findings

Jude's fingers: graceful, expressive, lovely, and tastefully adorned

These hands were the very first to touch my daughter

If you live in Arkansas, it helps to love rocks

We turned our chairs around to face the west. I think what I love the most out here is the sheer e x p a n s e....the sky stretching so far in every direction. It's huge! It's impossible to NOT relax when you're out here
The afternoon sun in winter is softer and more amber glow-y and muted than in summer

This guy must be some sort of driftwood, river scrap sculpture


Those skeletal white Sycamores again

More muted and amber glow

The sunset was its usual incremental affair

It photographed darker when I faced it straight on

Than when the sun was off to the side

A giant kiss

Lavenders and greys...

Then...as we sat and watched the light fade...all of a sudden we looked up and saw this bald eagle gliding right over our heads! Who knows if they exude this super regal and impressive air because their symbolism is so ingrained in us...all I know is that these birds are innately majestic.

America! Fuck yeah!

Overflowing Cornucopia

The night before Thanksgiving is the very best night of the year to go out. I'd spent the past few days out at the river and felt relaxed, happy, and ready for the company of people again. Stella babysat for Robin and Will so it worked out for everyone and we could have a grown-up night out. Jessica joined us for dinner at the best kept secret restaurant in northwest Arkansas: Cafe Soleil. It's not an overly fancy or show-offy menu, but every single dish I've tried has been delicious. The prices are very good and the wine list is small but well-chosen.

We all had to try the ginger, carrot, apple, cream soup, which sounded intriguingly delicious. And it was. I had the portabello napoleon which was served with a thin layer of hummus on the bottom. See? Not too showy, but an interesting twist. It was also very good.

Afterwards it was on to Chelsea's where it was like a reunion there were so many old (err..I should say "lifelong" instead) friends. It's such a warm, good feeling to be around people you've known since childhood.

Sunshine and Robin

Amanda and Robin

Our table: Jessica, D., Amanda, & Robin

Jessica, most likely 'splaining something

Girlfriends


I've got the crazy eyes and Amanda is up past her bedtime

Sister look

Patrick and Sara Ann looking cute


The night ended pretty late and the next morning came entirely too quickly.

You should know by now that I tend to go pie crazy at Thanksgiving. This year was no exception. I have too many favorites! I put off making the four pies until Thursday morning.

I love going to dinner at D.'s mom's house because she pays careful attention to an underappreciated course: hor d'oeuvres.
Here we have three kinds of cheese (havarti, sharp cheddar, and buttermilk blue cheese), pickled okra, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, olives, pickles, artichoke hearts, marinated asparagus and wild mushrooms, and a seafood dip she called a "shrimp scampi crab dip".....YUMMM. We popped the cork on a bottle of Domane St. Michelle brut and dug in. It was all I could do to stop after one plate....but I had to pace myself.

The gorgeous table, halfway set

Stella, sitting strategically in front of the dressing.


Chocolate cream pie, the homemade custard filling justifying the shortcut pre-made crust


Oh mama....coconut cream pie. Whipped cream instead of meringue, mm mm MM

Burnt pecan pie. I blame the unfamiliar oven! I plucked out the blacker pecans. I renamed it "toasted pecan pie" to try to make myself feel better. Under a blanket of whipped cream it tasted fantastic.

Why mess with a classic? Pumpkin pie, made using the recipe on the can of pumpkin.


We girls gave ourselves manicures. I'm mad about those massive, gorgeous eyes.


After the monster meal and dessert (four pies? Why?)....we dragged ourselves off the couches and drove back to Fayetteville. We fought off the tryptophan coma (requiring the sheer will of a gladiator) and went over to Orion's house that night in hopes of maybe playing some cards or seeing old friends.
Julie and her long, long legs

Orion, keeper of the flame

Flamingo Julie, amused Orion

Every step you take, every move you make, Blue is watching you



And THAT was only the 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday nights....