Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mother Nature, You Fickle Little Bitch, You!

At noon today the skies gleamed, the heavens parted, the angels sang, and WE GOT OUR POWER BACK!

It's 60°, sunny, and absolutely gorgeous outside. I've never been so happy to do laundry, vacuum, and clean the kitchen. All with the windows wide open, airing out the funk (literal and figurative) of us former cave-dwellers.

And tonight I have a girl date with the inimitable Stephanie to see Ira Glass!

Suddenly life is not only good, it is better than ever. And all it took was a little electricity.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I Hate Ice

We've been out of work and school since Tuesday. It has not been a fun vacation. I am tired, I am cold, I am stinky, and I want my life back.

In the bakery this morning, where I had come seeking hot food and coffee, I heard people talk about getting their power back yesterday and I started to seethe with anger and jealousy. The worst are the people who never lost power. I hate them.

I wonder what happens to those who live "off the grid" during these times? Because I'm not so good having to passively wait for the grid to be back up again.

Going on 70 hours of no power and rapidly losing my mind....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ice Storm 09

These are just a few photos I took yesterday and today. Our power went out at 3:00pm on Tuesday and as of Thursday 4:30pm it's still out. I nailed blankets over the windows and doorways to our living room, where the one heat source - the fireplace - is located. Thank god for my friend Orion who brought enough wood to get us through this. The roads are clear...unless trees are down. I got out today and made it to my sister's shop where she has power and wireless.

This is the front of our house yesterday:See how the ice formed sideways? I don't know if that's from the direction of the storm or what.
Looking down our street. Our poor neighbor's tree split in three different directions.
Stella in our living room Tuesday night. Last night we had two more adults, three more kids, and one more dog in here. Hey..extra body heat!
The thickness of the ice on our tree in the front yard. So sad to see ice on the new buds...
Today I got out and walked around the square. This is on Block St.
Mike Shirkey's Goodfolk house.
The corner of Block & Dickson St.
Ice-covered tree.

Little Bread Company got power and Eureka folks magically appeared! The surefire cure for cabin fever is old friends in public places. Here are Patrick and Eli.
And Pearl and Sara Ann.

I'm headed back to my cold dark cave. Pray that I get power and heat soon! D. sure picked a week to be gone!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice Storm A'Comin'

I must have been in denial about the severity of the reported ice storm moving into the area. When Stella and I went to the store tonight we only got hot chocolate, marshmallows, shrimp, butter, cake mix (?), shiitake mushrooms, and red and yellow peppers. No candles, no batteries, no kerosene heaters....so I'm either optimistic, clueless, or just plain stupid. Here's hoping our power stays on!

Friday night I made risotto for a very small dinner party. I was trying to be hostess and cook at the same time and didn't give the rice the constant, stirring attention that a good risotto requires. It turned out gummy instead of creamy. I hate kitchen failures so tonight I wanted to right my previous wrong and try again.

I had planned on a shrimp and vegetable risotto and threw some other random ingredients in with ultimately successful results.

I started about 3 hours before dinner by making a vegetable stock. Y'all this is so easy, there's really no reason for you not to make it. I tossed an onion (skins and all), a few carrots, a few stalks of celery, garlic cloves, dried thyme, salt, and pepper into a pot with about 5 quarts of cold water and let it simmer away until it reduced by half. I drained the stock and put it in a smaller pan and kept it warm on the back burner.

Here we have the veggies I found in the fridge: green onions, asparagus, yellow squash, green beans, red peppers, shallots, and garlic:
And the fresh herbs that I chopped and set aside to add in at the very end of the process: flat leaf parsley, rosemary, and basil.
Here we have shallots and garlic sizzling in 2 TBS of butter:
To which I added about 2 cups of arborio rice (the only kind of rice you can use for risotto). I usually only like to use whole grains, but you've got to use the white arborio for risotto because it has the high starch content that turns creamy when it's stirred constantly. In addition to the constant stirring, you've got to add the warm stock little by little, only adding more when the previous addition is completely absorbed.
Here I'm adding some Pinot Grigio because I had it on hand and it adds one more layer of delicious flavor.
We're not there yet. You can see that it still needs quite a bit more liquid. It should look very creamy and not taste chewy.
I've been stirring and adding the warm vegetable stock, ladle by ladle, for at least 30 minutes here and felt it was time to add the vegetables. I started with the firmest veggies - asparagus and green beans, then a little later added the red peppers, then a few more ladles later, the yellow squash.
Here are my add-ins: frozen pre-cooked shrimp (not usually my favorite, but it sure is easy) and toasted pine nuts. I'm waiting to add these after I've run out of stock and the vegetables are cooked:
Chopped herbs and pecorino romano to be added at the VERY last minute:

Voila! Stella came into the kitchen and was all, "It smells SO GOOD in here!" Yeah, baby. There were so many delicious flavors in this dish, and the fresh herbs mixed in at the very end added a punch of fresh, bright flavor to a dish that gets its richness not from fat, but from the homemade stock, the creamy rice, and all the little details and additions. Standing over the pot constantly made all the difference this time around. Oh yeah, and the wine was very good and a perfect complement. The price is right too!


Ice storm? What ice storm? I don't hear the tree boughs creaking and snapping under the weight....not yet anyway.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How I Preoccupy Myself

Yesterday was one of those classic great Saturdays.

D. is in Texas for ten days and I always sleep on the couch with the pets for some unknown reason when he's gone. I got up fairly early, did the whole leisurely coffee french press, and decided to take leftover veggie risotto to my sister's shop. It's becoming my Saturday ritual to visit with Jessy at Good Things. Her shop is so comfortable and inviting. I like hanging out and talking with the customers. When I lived in Eureka and worked for an art gallery, one of the things I liked best about working in retail was meeting and talking to interesting new people. I would like to spend more time helping Jess with her shop. She's so brave, opening her little dream boutique during this economy and learning how to be a business owner at the same time. But if anyone can succeed, Jessy can. She has a great eye for unique, beautiful pieces and knows a lot about what buyers are looking for. I am so proud of my sister.

After I left Good Things, I picked up a special gift from a good friend - a gorgeous, heavy copper mixing bowl that had belonged to his mother. It's one of those classic kitchen items I've always wanted. This particular one comes with its own sentimental value and I can't wait to polish it and beat some egg whites!

Later that afternoon, I took Stella and met up with Erin to see the exhibit of ten Andy Warhol paintings of athletes at the Walton Arts Center. Warhol is Stella's favorite painter and it was her first time to see his work in person. Another good friend is the gallery manager and was able to explain the screenprinting and painting process to us. She said I could take photos but said that the owner doesn't want any photos of these paintings on the internet. Huh? Well, whatever....I cropped most of Dorothy Hamill out of this one:
Golsa, Erin, Stella and I went across the street for hot drinks and girl talk. Later that evening I went to another friend's house to do the Wii Fit and we ended up having a dance party with her 8 year old son to old Stevie Wonder songs. It was a blast.

This morning was so gray and cold and lonely. To fight off the blues I made this incredible breakfast: an egg sandwich on toasted garlic parmesan sourdough with mustard, sriracha sauce and arugula. YUM.

Tomorrow morning I have an appointment with an oral surgeon to try to figure out why my neck and face and jaw hurt so badly. I'm hoping that whatever is wrong with my vertebrae and jaw is also the source of my terrible headaches. Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dear President Obama,

That was some inauguration you had there! I watched it with my students and about 200 other people in the student union. Your address was as moving as I expected and brought me to tears several times. I do not believe that you alone will save us from our myriad crises, but I do trust you to inspire us to buckle down, work hard, and make difficult decisions.

I love that you promised to bring science back to its rightful place and that you included non-believers in our description of Americans. It's hard for me to trust our nation's leaders, but I think for the first time in a looong time we are in competent hands. Thank you for your even-handed, composed energy. And thank you for taking action right away, signing those executive orders to close Guantanamo and ban torture. These are significant and the rest of the world is taking notice.

I do not envy the work you have ahead of you. I know that I won't agree with every decision you make, but I hope to at least understand why you make them. I am ready to be optimistic.

Sincerely,
Alannah

P.S. Don't fuck this up.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Who Knew?

We've got a big pot of black bean chowder bubbling on the stove, inauguration festivities on the tube, and a game of dominoes on the coffee table.

Stella's boyfriend, who plays guitar in a teenage metal band, is at the house and we're all hanging out, enjoying each others' company. This is new territory, and I wish I could just keep it how it is this evening: relaxed, comfortable, fun.

Of course it won't all be like tonight...but it's a good place to start. At Stella's age I was already sneaking around, lying to my parents, doing everything in my power to be away from home and secretive as much as possible. As long as my relationship with Stella is better than the one I had with my mother at her age, then I think we're doing alright.

In other, completely unrelated news - have you seen the trailer for Revolutionary Road? It's the worst preview I've ever seen because, although I've seen this trailer probably ten times now, I have no idea what this film is about.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Panacea

My sweetie called me yesterday and sounded awful, asking if I could stop and get juice and soup because he felt so sick. Now canned soup is fine if you're in a hurry but if you're sick there's nothing like homemade soup. And it's the easiest thing in the world to make. If you can chop vegetables and boil water, you can make soup.

Last night I wanted to make chicken stock from scratch because there's just something about getting all the marrow and life force out of the bones that makes a soup that much more delicious (and in my mind, healing).

Although I'm mostly vegetarian, it didn't bother me much to make it. I just threw chicken thighs, onions, celery, garlic, carrots and some fresh herbs (sage, oregano, rosemary, and thyme) with kosher salt and black pepper into about 8 or 9 cups of water and just left it alone for a few hours.

Then I filtered it through a colander set over another pot and set it aside to cool so I could scrape the fat off the top.

Meanwhile I sautéed a large diced onion and three big cloves of garlic, then added a large can of petite diced tomatoes, three small sliced carrots, four stalks of celery (cut in half and then chopped), and the stock. I decided to make it sort of like a tortilla soup and added some frozen corn and a can of chopped green chiles.

Man, it smelled delicious. So delicious that I decided to eat a bowl and return to vegetarianism tomorrow. How could I resist?
So then I chopped up some cilantro and green onions and mixed them with sour cream, a sprinkle of salt and some lemon juice to dollop on top.

And sliced some corn tortillas, sprayed them with cooking oil, sprinkled them with chili powder, garlic powder, and ground coriander and toasted them in the oven for about 10 minutes until they were crisp, or, in my case, overly dark and crisp.

It heals you when you aren't even sick. That's how powerful homemade chicken soup is.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Probably Just Shouldn't Ever Watch Television

Maybe I should make this a regular installment.


3 More Signs of the Apacolypse:

  1. Howie Mandel's resurgence.
  2. Pet insurance (and the fact that I think it's sort of a good idea).
  3. This douchebag:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The End is Near?

Surefire signs of the Apocalypse:
  • The ad I saw in The New Yorker for a home repair murder mystery. Complete with home repair tips.
  • Shamwow, Snuggies, and freecreditreport.com commercials
  • Bride Wars is the #1 movie while actual wars unfold around the world.
  • Dane Cook
  • Abilify, Cymbalta, Flomax
  • Lil Green Patch...and Lil Blue Cove while we're at it. Sure, you're saving the earth. Right.
  • The Real Housewives franchise.
  • The word "real" at all intended to be taken literally.
  • Trolls and viruses can ruin your life. What is this, the middle ages?
  • Meal replacement diets.
Got any others?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oh, Nine.

Hello strangers. I missed you.

Did you miss the poorly lit and focused close-ups of my meals?

Like tonight's baked tofu with ginger sauce?


Well...you know the story. Life gets in the way. These are busy, scary, weary times in which we're living. It takes time and energy for me to collect my thoughts and shape them. So I use photos as a crutch.

We had a really lovely, relaxed, quiet holiday break. Christmas was really nice. My family psychically conspired and all gave me unique, intriguing food items. I'll have to post photos and ask for ideas for how I might use pear vinegar, wild huckleberry honey, and such.

One of the best parts of the holidays was getting to see my sisters. I spent a fun afternoon hanging out in Jess's shop (that apropos name) and Kate, whose visit was compromised by bad weather in Portland, OR, managed to squeeze in a game night at our house. With ample planning and saving, we all hope to spend next Christmas in Portland.

Chicklet, who doesn't just warm to anybody, made herself right at home on Kate's lap during our domino game.

Too (two) much cuteness in one place!

Kate, intent on the game, Chris multitasking in the background, and Chickie wishing I would turn off the damn flash already.

I really love this girl.


I staged this picture to highlight all that is good about winter at our house. Notice the Kuddle Kup I thought nothing of purchasing when I was flush with Christmas bonus money but now makes me cranky because Chicklet won't lie in it of her own volition. That polyester piece of crap cost me $15! Why do I always fall for the impulse buys at Petsmart?

But c'mon...you can't deny the toasty coziness that radiates from this photo.

Then, almost as soon as they began (remember...we didn't put our tree up until December 21st), the holidays were over. D. and I stayed in on New Year's Eve. I made a "date meal" of marinated and grilled portabellos for me and a steak for D., richly mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and a standard salad (mixed greens, toasted pecans, blue cheese crumbles, shaved carrots, olive/balsamic/mustard dressing). We didn't drink a drop of alcohol. I think it was the first completely sober New Year's Eve I'd had since I was pregnant. We could see the First Night fireworks from our front yard but it was too cold to stand outside for long. It was sweet and so low key it was almost catatonic. I guess this is aging, y'all.

My new students arrived this week and I'm back into the crazy routine. I drove to and from the airport five times in four days.

Here are the new Ford Fellows and Fulbright Scholars and me, in front of Hank Kaminsky's world peace fountain - a must-see for new international students. It was freezing cold on Saturday.


It's now been about three months since Stella and I made the conscious decision to eat lower on the food chain and cut out most meats in entirety. We still eat fish and seafood some, about which I also have questions and serious concerns, but at least I can say that I could easily kill them for food if I had to. I think everything I put in my body I should be able to catch, kill, or make from scratch.

That's not to say I still won't eat, like, Rotel dip sometimes...but I think eating only what you can make from the earth is a guiding diet principle - as also , apparently, does Mark Bittman. If you're not already reading him regularly, then you've got to start. You do! He takes all the intimidation out of cooking. People have asked me, "How do you know to cook what you do?" and all I can tell them is that I know what flavors I like and every meal starts with my thinking about the flavors I want to create. I start with flavors I know will taste good, think about what textures I'll need to keep it interesting, and then play around a little. Technique comes from that same curiosity.

Tonight I started with a super basic ingredient - tofu...the great sponge. I didn't want mushy tofu because I was cooking it in a sauce with soft veggies. Usually I'd drain it, season it and fry the tofu chunks but I'm trying to eat healthier, so I sprayed the chunks in olive oil, sprinkled them in kosher salt, garlic powder and, as an afterthought, curry powder and put 'em in a 325 oven for about an hour, flipping every 15 min. or so. This made them crunchy and chewy.

Then I put the chunks in a bowl and doused them in about 2 tbs. minced ginger, 1/2 c. or so of the ginger lime marinade/sauce Jessy gave me for Christmas, a couple of dashes of toasted sesame oil, Worcester sauce, tamari, and umeboshi vinegar. I let this sit while I chopped veggies.

Here are the veggies. I used what I had in the fridge. I was really hoping we still had red peppers because I think it really needs that blast of color. Purple cabbage might be nice, or carrots. Oh well..I wasn't about to make a special run to the store.

So I threw it all in the pot with some sesame seeds I'd toasted and a little cornstarch mixed with water. In the meantime I cooked (sacrilege!) instant brown rice.

The cilantro and green onion are meant to be the garnish. If they cook too long they get stringy and lose color. Plus, I like the fresh flavor you get from throwing these in at the very end.

Here you go. And it only took me about $10 and 3 hours to make!

So how's the new year been treating you?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Venturing Out

The other night I happened to catch the the Anthony Bourdain No Reservations episode when he went to Spain. I love the part where he visits this chocolate artist who creates these amazing geometrically shaped eggs and then puts them in the sun until they barely melt and open up. Well...just check it out; it starts at the one minute mark:



Breathtakingly beautiful, no? I wonder how long it would take me to become a Spanish chocolate sculpture artist. It's my new dream occupation.

I'm not quite ready to go back to work. I resolve to actually USE my vacation days this year! For crying out loud.

In other fascinating news, we got a memory foam mattress topper AND memory foam pillows. They have completely revolutionized sleep for me. Now all I need is a little bell I can ring so that my imaginary butler can bring me anything I might desire and I won't have to leave the soft, cushy confines of the bed.

It's like 75 and sunny outside today - I gotta get out of here! Especially so I can turn off CNN and stop watching the awful Israel/Gaza horror unfold. Many of my students over the past few years have been Palestinian and you could not meet happier, sweeter, more peace-loving people. I haven't been able to have any Palestinians in more than a year due to the border closure - they can't get out for their visa interviews (or anything else for that matter).

This just in - I hate cell phones!