It’s the most wonderful time of the year…right?

Is it cliché to say I love/hate the holidays?  Yes?  Will you forgive me if I say it anyway?  I am, if you well, at a crossroads.  Mostly, because I’ve simply been cross lately.  (Cross is such a quaint old word.  Reminds me of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for some reason.  Am I the only one who read those books as a child?)  As per usual, I’m trying to do too much and am being too hard on myself (I think).  And it’s typically on things that simply don’t matter.  Like, I have these feelings of guilt because I’ve been too busy to put up Christmas decorations, since we’ll be gone for Christmas itself, I want to enjoy them as long as possible.  But it’s only December 3.  It’s not like I’ve missed my deadline, right?  If I have, it’s not like there are dire consequences, like if I miss a deadline at work (another source of constant consternation not fit for this blog). 

I suppose I’ve hit that late twenty-something season of discontent brought on by the holiday rush of madness.  I need to quit trying to be Martha, with her army of crafting elves/slaves.  I need to relax and enjoy the season (despite the recent spate of bitter coldness).  I need to reflect and chill with the obsessive on-line shopping trying to find the “PERFECT” gift that will make the recipient realize the depth of my devotion (because I think that message gets lost, quite honestly.  You mean you *can’t* buy love?  The Beatles were right?)

Grinchy, huh?  Maybe I need to watch that movie to get back into the spirit of things.  I have high hopes of decorating the house tonight.  (But then again, I’ve had those high hopes all week).  I’ve had high hopes of making fresh eggnog (I thought I *hated* eggnog, until I made it from scratch.  With lots of bourbon, which I also used to think I didn’t like.  To my surprise, I now enjoy both, immensely.  But I still cannot abide by store bought nog, gross).  I had high hopes of making adorable ornaments to attach to all my lovely, handmade, local artisan,  eco-friendly gorgeously wrapped presents.   Can we say “get over yourself?” 

The really hilarious thing about all this disappointing embarassing angst (wasn’t that supposed to end after high school?) is that it’s all my doing.  No one else in the entire world gives a damn if I sew tiny bird ornaments or make fresh eggnog and bake fresh gingerbread with homemade royal icing for delicate detail work.   What is with this ridiculous expectations?  Type A personality + Pisces = insanity.   As you know.

So, time to let go.  Not *everything* has to be homemade, socially responsible, local, organic, hip, ironic, cute, quirky, original and PERFECT.  Time to ENJOY the holidays.  I mean, my blog is apparently snowing, dammit (sad that I had to learn that from someone else).  I have many things to be thankful for and shouldn’t let my hysteria get in the way of remembering that. 

I may have had a point at one time, but have clearly lost it (pun intended).  Regardless, as soon as I get my holiday groove back I will have something more interesting for everyone.   Seeing the Santaland Diaries next week should help.  (For 1/2 off ticket prices, no less.  Thanks, Groupon!)  I have an appointment for the kittens to get their pictures taken with Santa (don’t judge).  At a doggie boarding place, no less.  (I cleared it with them, no worries).  I also plan on enjoying small-town holiday cheer this weekend in Blue Ridge.   So, things are looking up and hopefully this temporary holiday-funk with lift.  As to you all, I hope everyone is enjoying the season, regardless of what they choose to celebrate and how, or if not at all.

UPDATE: I saw “Santa” coming out of the bank this afternoon.  Well, Santa in casual wear (large man with Santa-like beard, Santa-themed Hawaiian shirt and Santa hat).  I also picked up a bottle of Frangelico and Bailey’s to warm my spirits.  Thinks are starting to look up!

It’s never too early…

to start driving yourself insane.  Thanksgiving, Round 2, ding ding ding!

Hey Good Lookin’, Whatchya Got Cookin’?

I was asked the other night if I had been cooking anything “good” lately.  I was hard pressed to think of anything, but I think that was due to the tequila.  We’ve (J and I) been eating well, although I haven’t exactly been “cooking” much.  For instance, I finally tried my hand at making pickles.  It was a decent first effort, if I do say so myself.  (J loved them, my father didn’t appreciate the allspice notes).  I would make some adjustments to the pickling spices I used but they were very flavorful (if a little on the hot side).   But not much “cooking” involved.  I made shrimp ceviche and key lime piea few weeks ago to moderate success.  (Shrimp ceviche = tasty, despite the fact I forgot the cilantro; key lime pie needs some work, turned out a little bitter, probably due to my over-zealous zesting.  I think skipping the zest would cure the problem, although the delicious crust and copious amounts of freshly whipped cream helped to compensate).  So there has been some new experimenting going on. 

Mostly, in keeping with my previous post extolling the virtues of summer produce, we’ve been eating simply.  And since our meals mostly consist of tossing fresh chopped produce together or maybe throwing some stuff on a grill or lightly sauteeing some veggies with eggs there hasn’t been much to report. 

In the summer I’m also much less disciplined in my approach to meals, as opposed to winter when I insist on planning out a main dish and appropriate sides.  In summer, anything goes.  For instance, I found some fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes today at Whole Foods.  (For a non-Italian, I’m *very* picky about my mozzarella).  That’s now going to be dinner tonight, along with a drizzle of olive oil, balsalmico and sea salt and maybe some grilled corn.  (We eat corn this way several times a week during the summer – I never get tired of it).  Sometimes I throw some grilled shrimp in the equation.  It’s basically whatever I have on hand that sounds good at the moment (or whatver I need to use in my fridge – I have some purple carrots from the farmer’s market that need some attention, maybe I’ll add some slices of those tonight).   Dessert tends to be fruit based – grilled pinapples with brown sugar glaze and pound cake (storebought, I’m afraid, due to lack of time and a renewed effort on my part to not go overboard and drive myself crazy when entertaining).  Fresh peach milkshakes (sometimes made with homemade ice cream, sometimes not).  Nectarines, just as is (I know it’s crazy, but the nectarines from Costco have been AMAZING, even if they aren’t local – J and I went through a plat of them in one week!)  Blueberry compote over anything (ice cream, leftover poundcake, etc.) 

In the meantime, I’ve kept up with my obessive food reading.  I recently obtained Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s The Bread Biblefrom the library.   I’ve been inspired and although I’ve yet to attempt my first loaf of bread I’m almost there (truly, it’s a matter of finding the time – jesus, where does it go?!!) 

So, no, not a lot of “cooking” going on.  But good food, nonetheless, even if rather simple.  What’s going on in your kitchen?  Anything inspiring lately?  Let me know.

Summer lovin’, had me a tomato

I could wax in-eloquently about ripe juicy peaches and nectarines, perfect cherries, blueberries and blackberries, tomatoes, zucchini, beans, cucumbers, plus watermelon, squash, etc.  But I won’t.  Instead, I’ll just say – you should be eating these things.  Now.  And lots of them.  Until you’re sick of them.  Because once the season is over, it’s not worth getting summer produce until next summer.  Freeze, can, preserve if you like.   Buy local and organic, if you can.   There are tons of farmers’ markets in Georgia for that purpose.  Plenty of Pick Yourself options as well.  J and I found a tiny shack of a produce stand en route to North Georgia.  The hours are funky and sometimes they don’t even adhere to them but we got the most wonderful tomatoes and cucumbers recently.  (Plus pattypan squash and purple carrots).  Dinner tonight was some of that squash, sliced and sauteed and drizzled with olive oil, fresh sliced tomatoes, easy-over egg sandwiches (I sprinkled a little raw cheddar on mine).  Dessert was homemade shortcake biscuits* (I made them earlier in the season, when strawberries starting being amazing and froze the extra), a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, blueberries macerated in Grand Marnier and vanilla sugar, topped with sliced almonds.

Go, eat summer stuff.  Now.  Have you a blast.

*I use the “from scratch” version and make rustic drop biscuits, rather than roll out and cut the dough

Taste the shortwave rainbow

I know I’m mixing up my candy slogans, sorry.  If I were someone important, someone who’s whims must be obeyed, say, a musical pop star, my backstage rider would specify that only the RED and PINK and, in certain instances, purple versions of my favorite candies would be permitted.  For example, red and purple Skittles, Red Sour Patch Kids, pink Mentos, red and pink jelly beans, etc.  I’ve been wondering for years why candy companies don’t just come out with all red/pink versions of their products, eschewing the lesser quality oranges, yellows, greens, etc., recognizing their status as unwanted.  Apparently Mars Incorporated heeded my call and issued Starburst FaveReds variety.  I’m not sure when this was launched but my research reveals it was first introduced at a candy trade show in 2008 – thus leading me to assume it began being distributed sometime late 2008-early 2009.  Regardless, this is the first I’ve heard of it.  And, I must say, for as long as I’ve wanted a product like this, I was disappointed.

Observe.

Giving red-flavored candy everwhere a bad name

Giving red-flavored candy everwhere a bad name

Rather than just taking out the yellow and orange Starbursts, leaving only delicious Red (cherry) and Pink (strawberry), those rascals at Mars felt the need to include two new red flavors – Fruit Punch (Hawaiian Punch – gross) and Watermelon (ickiness).  WTF, Mars?  Why the need to supplement?  Is the general populace not ready for a Starburst packet that only has *gasp* two flavors?  I think this falls under one of those good ideas (indeed, one I’ve had for years) that failed in execution.

All in all, the fact that one the rare occasion I pick up a pack of Starburst  I only eat half is probably not a bad thing, saving me approximately 115 calories.   And I suppose it’s a petty elitist problem to complain about candy companies not producing flavors I like and appreciate.  I mean, as far as life problems go, it’s kinda a silly one.  I don’t think slave labor is involved in the production or anything.  But then again, what good is a liberal arts degree if it doesn’t allow you to bitch needlessly about life’s non-problems in an over-dramatic and stylized way?  Because that’s pretty much ALL I’M GOOD AT, as you know if you’ve ever spent more than 5 minutes with me.

To Sum: Mars, you suck.  Most, but not all, red and pink candy is good.  And I clearly need to get a grip.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

The photos I’ve seen are only moderately disturbing so far – does anyone else think that Johnny Depp, as the Mad Hatter, is reprising his Edward Scissorhands look?

Meet ze (green) monster

I finally got up early enough this morning to make myself a Green Monster.  I’ve been seeing variations of this smoothie all over the place and finally gave it a spin.   I don’t know if I believe all the hype as  far as being a healing panacea but it was delicious, healthful and I suppose provided sufficient energy to get through mediation today without coffee – and if you’ve never been stuck in a day-long mediation that’s going nowhere, that’s really a feat, let me tell you.

Everyone kinda blanches at the spinach in smoothie idea and honestly, I wasn’t really concerned with taste, I knew with enough fruit and other stuff you wouldn’t taste the spinach.  And you don’t.  I was a little more weirded out by the color, truthfully (you eat with your eyes, you know) but in a plastic cup in the car I barely noticed.   Some people also use stuff like kale and parsley; I’m not that advanced yet.  I’ll stick with spinach for now until I turn into Popeye.

Here’s the basic recipe I used and it made 2 servings:

1 frozen banana

1 handful frozen raspberries (I really wanted strawberries but was out; raspberries tasted good but I hate the seeds)

1 container of yogurt (I used full fat vanilla flavor – use soy for a vegan version)

splash of OJ

splash of agave nectar (just a tad)

almond milk, probably b/w 1/2 and 1 cup (I didn’t measure)

1/2 scoop of whey protein powder

4 cups, give or take, spinach

Give it a whirl in the blender til well blended and it’s a vibrant green color.   Really, it’s pretty delicious.  And packed with vitamins, nutrients, whatever, yadda yadda yadda.  And feel free to reward yourself for making such a healthful breakfast like I did – by making a cherry clafouti for dessert 🙂

Zombie Aminals

I have an Application for Interlocutory Appeal due this week.  Don’t know what that is?  Consider yourself lucky (and obviously not a lawyer, double lucky and smart move on your part).  I also have a headache, due to my failure to get caffeine into my system at a reasonable time this morning (I didn’t want to stain my freshly dentist-polished teeths!).  So, rather than trying to fix the formatting on the cabbage salad I intended to leave you with (it’s supper yummy, you’ll just have to wait) I leave you with zombie animals.   Parts I and II.  Enjoy.  Some highlights:

Zombie Crabs: Inside, Sacculina sets up shop, growing tendrils through the crab’s body and slowly feeding on it. It castrates the crab (if male) and effectively turns the crab into a female nanny for its young

Zombie Grasshopper: Once eaten by a grasshopper or cricket, the larval worm produces proteins that affect the insect’s brain and nervous system. By the time the worm reaches adulthood, the insect is completely under its power. The zombie grasshopper commits suicide by jumping into water, where the worm will emerge and look for a mate

Zombie fish tongue: Meanwhile, C. exigua lives its life inside the fish’s mouth, drinking blood and fish slime from the tongue’s stump. Other than the loss of its tongue, the fish suffers little from the experience, so the two can share a normal, if creepy, lifespan

Zombie Cochroach: Then the wasp will chew off half of the roach’s antennae and uses what’s left to steer the roach to a prepared nest

My personal favorite: Zombie Ants: The eggs hatch, and the larva make its way to the ant’s head where it eats it from the inside out. The ant does not immediately die, but will walk around with no direction or purpose once its brains are gone. When the larva matures, it causes the ant’s head to fall off so it can emerge as an adult fly.

Find lots more zombie aminal stories (mostly, parasites trying to get to their perferred host or trick something into protecting and feeding their offspring) at the links above.

Free Chocolate Fridays for the Chosen few

Free chocolate on Fridays until September, as long as you’re one of the first to sign up.  Thanks, Arielle, for the tip!

Do-Gooding Made (VERY) Easy

1. Free Kibble will donate 10* pieces of kibble to animal shelters for every correctly answered trivia question per day (you can only play once per day).  If you can’t manage to click a link and pick an answer once a day, may God have mercy on your evil soul. 

*I like to imagine helper monkeys counting out pieces of kibble

2. Saturday, May 7, Stamp Out Hunger mail carrier food drive – just leave a bag of non-perishable items by your mail box and participating mail carriers will collect it for donation.  You don’t even have to go anywhere, just raid your pantry (please, nothing expired, dented, damaged, etc.) and leave it in a bag by your mailbox.  Boom, done, you just helped save the world. 

Last bit of info that is not philanthropy related but timely: if you need last minute Mom’s day ideas, Facelogic Spa in Roswell and Kennesaw is offering a special Mom’s day treat – 60 minute massage and 50 minute facial (plus chemical peel) for $99 (plus tip, which I suggest you add when purchasing the gift card to avoid Mom having to cough up).  Pretty great deal.  I always hate suggesting services that I haven’t tested (and I can’t find any reviews of the place) but I did indeed get my Mom their package so if it’s not everything it promises to be I’m in the same boat.  But the store seemed really nice so I think it will be fun – for my Mom, that is.

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