Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ummm

My manager, who I just met for the first time in person (we work across the country from each other) basically told me I don't look a day over the age of 15.

Is this flattering or should I be insulted?

What specifically about me protects my true age from view? Is it the lack of caked on makeup and lack of wrinkles? (That would be flattering). Or is the distinct lack of sophistication and adult style? (That would be insulting).

For those who know me in person, what do you think contributes from my appearance to my youthful (apparently) look?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Things that are on my mind today

 

Last night I saw Mist, the new Stephen King movie. It was ok. The plot narrowed in on a few key themes that were repeated throughout the movie- regret, guilt, death, fear, and base instincts of mankind. The movie ends with a sense of hopelessness and regret. I think there were also some subtle digs against the current White House administration and the war in Iraq but that could just be my own bias talking. He also picked on religion as well. Overall the story kept me riveted and the movie was fear inspiring without being too gruesome (still not safe for the little kids of course).

One of the things on my mind today is the famous expression "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger". This is a quote of Friedrich Nietzsche. Do you think this sentiment is actually true? Do you think there is scriptural support for such an assertion or is it a case where man's accepted wisdom is off kilter from scriptural realities?

Another thing on my mind is an article I read in the Washington Post yesterday. It was written by a powerful man who chartered a large food bank. His assertion was that by feeding the poor, private charities are doing more harm than good to society. Instead of investing time and money into the never-ending problem of daily hunger among the poor, advocates should instead be channeling that money and effort 100% into harassing and lobbying the federal government for social reforms such as minimum wage increases, education system improvements and universal healthcare which (the author believes) will end poverty and therefore hunger permanently. He goes on to say that the band-aid treatment of actually helping the poor meet their daily needs for sustenance masks the true depth of the problem because we don't see people actually starving. If we *did* see people actually starving then as a nation we would be outraged and the federal government would be forced to act.

I have so many problems with his point of view it is hard to know where to begin. First, there is the faulty assumption that the federal government (or any man-made entity) can eliminate poverty. That completely unbiblical and history demonstrates it to be a fallacy as well. Even with full daily handouts there will be some who are unable or unwilling to manage resources properly and they will drop right back into poverty, spending every cent of income before it can be counted. Second, letting your own countrymen starve to prove a point- even an important political point-is unethical. Third, the preference for federal govt. intervention over private intervention is irrational. It's one thing to argue we must have federal social programs to step in when private charity cannot finish the job alone. Its another thing entirely to champion federal charity at the expense of private charity.  Espousing that viewpoint leads the community to speculate as to your motives. If its *really* about charity and helping others than so long as people are being helped what is it to you whether it is private charities helping people instead of the federal government? Unless of course you have some other motivations for wanting the federal government to step in. Perhaps you simultaneously want to punish or control the wealthy?

Saving Money

This week I've been focused on saving money because I'd like to stretch our budget further to allow for more traveling. Here is a quick list of fast and easy things I did since Saturday to lower monthly/annual expenses. Perhaps some of the tips will work for you as well:

1. Current cable bill was $54/month for basic analog cable. Called Comcast and negotiated a promotional rate- $39/month for digital cable PLUS HBO, good for 6 months. In another 6 months I will call back and negotiate again to extend promo rate. Savings over initial 6 months = $15/month*6= $75.

2. Began conscientious driving. Less use of the stop and go braking by maintaining more distance between myself and the car in front of me. Also using cruise control on the highway to maintain better fuel regulation. Finally, keeping speed to 65mph or below (80mph as I like to go kills fuel efficiency). I was getting 25mph and I am now getting 29mph with the changes. That's about $6.40 a week in savings based on current gas prices, $27.66/monthly or $332 annually.

3. In the process of convincing my employer to pick up or share the cost of my wireless network card since I use it primarily and frequently for work (to work remotely). Savings will be a minimum of $20 a month depending on whether they spring for full or 50% reimbursement. Annual savings (minimum)- $240.

4. Gave up my garage parking space to park on the street. Now I will be walking 4 blocks to the office, which is also good for my waistline. Monthly savings = $70 which translates to $840 annually.

5. Opened up a new American Express credit card and transferred $10k (my student loan debts from grad school, our only high interest debt) to the card at a fixed interest rate that is more than 2% lower than my current rate of 7.5%. That's $615 savings over the life of the loan or $140 a year or $11.66/month.

6. Called Comcast a second time to let them know that FIOS is now available in my area for only $30 a month (this is true) and asked what they could do for me. They lowered my monthly hi-speed bill from $43/month to $33 a month for the next 12 months. At 8mbps (compared to FIOS at only 5mbps) that's a good deal. Savings is therefore $10/month or $120/annually.

 

I'd estimate that it took me less than 2 hours of free time to make the calls and do the research to make all of these changes.

Total savings from this small effort:

$ 154.32 month

which equals

$ 1851.34 annually

 

What kind of savings could 2 hours of calls and research do for your household?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Trip 2007 Day 4 and 5

Friday morning the crew (A and her hubby R, myself and hubby J) rolled out of the home of A's parents at 5am. You haven't seen attitude until you've seen Long Islanders in line at Best Buy at 5am for the biggest sale of the year. There was a lot of swearing, pushing, rushing, and at one point customers formed a human chain to stop new customers from entering the store ahead of those that had been in line since 2am. It was intense and a lot more physically aggressive than similar Black Friday sales events held in Virginia. After Best Buy we popped into Home Depot, ToysRus and Sears. A lot of great deals. The only thing that was disappointing was the sales tax. 8.6% for NY state and another 4 or 5 % on top of that for local taxes. Ouch! Some things I really don't miss about living in NY and sales tax is definitely one of them.

By 9am we had completed 3/4 of our Christmas shopping for the year and we headed to a diner for breakfast. A quick breakfast and review of our purchases was accomplished then we headed back to the house for a nap.

Mid-afternoon I was awoken for -what else- tea and snacks. It was also decided we needed to do more shopping so A and I took her mother and her mother's friend back to the mall. We dropped into Lord and Taylor where I picked up a fabulous new winter coat for 50% off. Long, elegant and beautiful- it's perfect. Then we went to Marshall's and I collected a few more presents for friends and family while A picked out some clothes.

We returned to the house after the boys called us to inquire about dinner, stopping at a Chinese place to put in an order on the way back. A and R went out to pick up the dinner about 20 minutes later while I chatted with J and A's father and enjoyed more tea.

Dinner was fabulous and another evening of socializing with family was the order of the rest of the evening.

Saturday morning we woke up in time to be packed and out of the house (after a breakfast of tea and snacks of course) by 10am. There were lots of kisses and hugs goodbye and A's mother gave me some beautiful skirts she had bought.

The four of us (A,R,J and myself) headed to Glen Cove to visit my 2nd cousin. This is my paternal grandmother's niece and my father's cousin. She was everything I'd hoped she'd be (this was the first time we met in person). Thoroughly French, with delicate features and a delicious accent she reminded me so much of my grandmother. She had prepared, with the help of her daughter, what she considered a "snack" for us- mushroom/onion quiche, ham, Caribbean shrimp and salad. The accompaniments consisted of free flowing rum and wine. Once we finished eating this feast, she brought out the "after-snack". A fresh blueberry tart. Tres bien! So much food at it wasn't even noon. The food was so delicious and I felt proud to be related to this culinary goddess.

We shared stories of our lives and she told me so many tales of my grandmother. Of her childhood of happiness and privilege (my grandmother grew up overseas with a household of Creole servants and all the luxuries one could hope for).  No wonder I have such expensive tastes and inclinations to be pampered- its genetic! We took some great pictures with Cousin E's camera, but I won't have them to share with you until she emails them to me. We are in discussions to get together more often. I just adore her and her husband and daughter.

We said our goodbyes to my family and were on our way to A's grandfather in Brooklyn. A short time later we arrived at his apartment and were warmly greeted by him and his wife. J, R, and I chatted between ourselves while A conversed with her grandfather in Russian (he speaks very little English). His wife insisted that we were going to waste away to nothing and brought out food- tea, chocolates and fruit. Full from the French breakfast, we indulged anyway, not wanting to offend our gracious hosts.

After the family visit concluded we headed back to Virginia. There was a quick mandatory stop for a slice of NY pizza of course and then it was smooth sailing all the way home.

So there you have it. A most unique Thanksgiving holiday. Friendly families, copious amounts of food and a lot of joy. To keep my waistline in check there was also a good amount of walking each morning around the neighborhood as well.

Tell me about your Thanksgiving holiday this year...

Thanksgiving Trip 2007 Day 3 : Feast Day

 

This years Thanksgiving feast was like no other I've experienced before.

Early afternoon J and I helped A and her hubby R and the rest of A's family setup for the Thanksgiving party. Every year her parents host a celebration gathering for their friends and family in the NY Russian community. The party averages 25-50 guests and features Russian cuisine, live music (courtesy of A's father and brother) and lots of laughter and joy.

Although I would miss the traditional American turkey and fixins I looked forward to broadening my culinary horizons. I did not have any experience with Russian food prior to this event.

We setup the main table in the party room upstairs with the main entrees...

Thanksgiving2007 spread 

From left to right: (back row) seafood salad, cabbage turnovers, chicken dumplings, fried white fish, spiced chicken in crepes. (front row) pickled cabbage, onion/pea/carrot salad, beet salad, vinegar roasted pork,  2nd dish of chicken in crepes, 2nd dish of chicken dumplings. 

 

Thanksgiving2007 turkey apples

Turkey wings with spiced apples.

Then, we setup 4 tables for dining and garnished them with all the necessary accompaniments...

Thanksgiving2007 tables

Tables waiting for guests. Notice all the fine liquor!

Thanksgiving2007 smoked_fish pickled cabbage chicken livers

Smoked fish platter, pickled cabbages and cucumbers, beer/wine, and chicken livers.

 

Thanksgiving2007 pickled veggies liquor bread

Pickled green tomatoes & peppers, wine, fresh bread.

Thanksgiving2007 beets liquor dried_fish

Selection of vodka, cognac, wine & beer, beet salad, dried fish

Thanksgiving2007 dried_fish

Close up of dried fish. Stinky!!!

 

The guests soon filed in and before long the room was filled with laughter. Downstairs, family and friends milled about in the kitchen as well.

Thanksgiving2007 anna and mama cook

A (right) assists her mama (left) in preparing food to take upstairs while interested guests look on.

Thanksgiving2007 cigar

One of my favorite guests. The life of the party.

Thanksgiving2007 jon jenni

Myself (right) and hubby J.

 

Thanksgiving2007 mama drink break

A's mama enjoys a quick refreshing liquor break mid-party.

Thanksgiving2007 ron jon anna liquor

R (A's hubby), A, and my hubby J enjoy the festivities.

Thanksgiving2007 toast to america

Making time to give thanks and toast America.

 

The party had begun at noon and lasted until late in the evening. I bravely tried each and every dish that was offered. Sadly, my palette is so Americanized (I'm theorizing here) that I could not appreciate the cuisine and nothing that I sampled tasted good to me except for the smoked fish with bread. In fact, just the smell of the dried fish (not to be confused with the yummy smoked fish; see pics above) under my nose brought on nausea and I had to bow out of the party for an hour or so while I laid down in the guest room to recover. I was very disappointed in myself for having such an unsophisticated palette but that's just the way it is. I did appreciate the cranberry vodka. So that's something, right? J found the food to be much more agreeable, eating his fill.

After dinner, most folks wandered downstairs to enjoy the live entertainment. I chatted with most of the guests and A's family, picking up bits and pieces of Russian as I went and practicing a few phrases A taught me. A's father is/was a professional musician- his clarinet work is superb. And he told me I spoke Russian beautifully with only a light American accent. What a lovely thing to say, and I was very flattered.

Thanksgiving2007 daddy clarinet

A's father plays for the crowd.

Thanksgiving2007 piano man

Family friend plays the keyboard in accompaniment.

 

As the party wore down and the guests departed, my appetite returned. I was hungry! I was not going to browbeat myself into trying to like Russian cuisine any further, so A, R, J and I hopped in the car and went in search of an all night diner. A didn't appear to hold my culinary failings against me, for which I'm grateful. Everything was closed of course because of the holiday so I must report that I ended up eating a shriveled hot dog and mac and cheese from 7-11 for my Thanksgiving meal. Classic!

By the time we returned to the home of A's parents it was almost 1am and we all rushed to get to bed as we had plans to wake at 4:30am to hit the Black Friday Sales.

A Thanksgiving that will never be forgotten. Each moment I spent with A's family I fell in love with them a little bit more.

Thanksgiving Trip 2007 Day 1 and 2

One true test of friendship is the joint vacation. I’m happy to report that A and I passed with flying colors.

 

Tuesday was a rough day. A lot of deadlines and pressure at work and to make matters worse, J’s car died and we had to have it towed to the dealer for repair. “Steering wheel lock malfunction”. A warranty issue, so it will be repaired free of charge, but still no fun to deal with. I had to take the VRE into work and the metro to A’s house in the afternoon. J met me at A’s house. We had dinner with A and her hubby (R). Fantastic food- baked chicken, fresh asparagus and pecan raisin bread that J brought from Wegman’s. After dinner the four of us packed up A’s car and headed to Long Island for the holiday. Traffic wasn’t too bad and we made it to Bayshore in less than 6 hours. A’s parents welcomed us with open arms and lavished us with a spread of tea, honey, cheese, bread, and pate. Once we had our fill of treats, we hunkered down for a nice sleep and said ‘Goodnight’ to our first evening of vacation together.

 

Wednesday morning we headed to the local bagel shop for authentic Long Island breakfast ingredients- bagels and lox. A’s family is Russian and Jewish and their hospitality was over the top amazing. Every time we turned around they were feeding us. After breakfast and visiting with the family for awhile A and I kidnapped her mother for a shopping trip. We visited the Alight.com store (they’ve only 1 brick and mortar store in the U.S.A and it’s on Long Island) to shop for dresses. The National Chamber of Commerce party is coming up in December and both A and I need new dresses to wear for the event. I did not find a party dress but I did find a cute little spring/summer number that was on sale. A picked up a fabulous long gown and a few sporty shirts. It was so much to try on clothes and have 2 advisors. A’s mom was very helpful and at times blunt – “No, that one looks like a nightgown”. “Yes, that one is very very beautiful”.

 

Once we finished shopping at Alight the men called to interrupt and ask when we were coming home for dinner. We swung by a small market to pick up dinner ingredients and then a liquor store to get wine. The market was an adventure – the Long Island accents were out in full force and people watching proved to be very entertaining. A woman and her mother in the next aisle arguing sounded exactly like Fran Drescher arguing with her mother character on “The Nanny”. I picked up 4 pounds of wild Salmon to take back to Virginia since it was on sale for only $3.99 a pound. I was put in charge of dinner for the night so I gathered the supplies to make Marsala chicken. Back at the home of A’s parents, I set about making dinner with the assistance of A and my hubby J. During dinner, A’s mom told me that my onions in the chicken dish were perfect and that never had she tasted onions cooked just right. I beamed with pride. Did I mention that I love her mother? We talked politics with A’s father after dinner and that was enjoyable too. He’s very intelligent and it was a pleasure to discuss the finer points of economic theory with him. And of course the discussion was over tea and treats that we came to learn were standard guest offerings in the home. I worked hard to pick up bits and pieces of the Russian language as I could – A’s parents spoke it constantly with each other and with A as well. Our happy conversations continued well into the late hours until we finally decided to retire for the evening.

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life is what happens while you are making other plans

Note: Buzz, Michael, and Wild-r-f – I cannot reply to your entries that you leave on the lj site since the feed doesn’t allow anonymous comments and I don’t always even see them unless I remember to visit my feed entries there since I don’t get email notification when you’ve left comments there.

If you want me to be able to answer questions you ask me in your comments you’ve got to click-through to the actual blog (link is always under the title of the entry) and leave your comments on the actual blog instead of the lj feed.

So the plan *was* for J to take my car to work this morning, dropping off the pups at the kennel for boarding over the holiday on the way to work. I was going to drive his car to work and then drop it off at the dealer on the way to A’s house because the “steering wheel lock malfunction” warning light keeps coming on and causing odd problems such as preventing you from turning the car off, or preventing you from turning it back on. Late last night the light came on again while we were taking things out of the car at home. The car would not shut off. Eventually the electrical system ran the battery down and we had to call SAAB roadside assistance to tow the car to the dealer. Great, one less thing I have to do today. Except that I had no way to get to work this morning so J had to drop me off at the VRE station on the way to the kennel. In order to make the train that would get me to Rockville by 8:00am we had to leave the house by 6am, which meant waking up at 5:15am. After going to bed past midnight due to having to wait for the tow truck driver to arrive. I am so tired.

So to stay awake, I will dive into work, and pep myself up on breaks with visits to some of my favorite internet funnies. I share them here with you for your entertainment. All links are safe for work. Enjoy.

Also, buzz, Casablanca *is* in Morocco and the movie was set there, you are correct.

I’ll blog from Long Island hopefully, but if not, have a happy Thanksgiving everyone. Remember that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks TO GOD for the blessings in our life. It was not about giving thanks to the Native Americans and the concept of Thanksgiving feasts predates America.

List of best internet funnies:

http://www.lolcats.com/ Cat Macros

http://lolcatbible.com/ The bible, written in cat macro language. Hysterical!

http://youtube.com/watch?v=JdxkVQy7QLM Pachelbel’s Rant – who knew how overused this chord was?

http://www.storewars.org/flash/ Grocery Store Wars (in the vein of Star Wars)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Men, be careful

Men, be mindful of the monthly hormone cycles of the females you love and live with, be they wives, mothers, sisters or daughters.

Let me share with you my own ridiculousness from this weekend as an instructional tale.

On Saturday could totally tell in my mind that it wasn’t me that it was my body having hormone issues but I still couldn’t help it. I just wanted to cry and fight. J happened to pull the sheets and blanket off of us because they were crooked and he went to fix them. He fixed them and then he pulled them back up onto him, leaving my side down, inadvertently. I was fuming! And freezing! I REFUSED to pull the sheets up myself though because *I* had not pulled them down and *he* ought to have to fix them. Of course I wouldn’t tell him either; I expected him to *know* he had uncovered me and to realize his oversight in not putting them back on me. Then when he didn’t notice I got all weepy and started to cry. Because now I was cold AND unloved and unnoticed. So I was shivering and crying while J was happily drifting off to sleep/snoring. I just got so stupid mad. All this time all I had to do was pull the sheet up myself. But no! I tell you, in my crazy hormone mind, this was all about the principle and justice for all. So I did some heavy sighing and heavy breathing and nudged him a few time to see if he’d wake up and notice. He finally did and figured out I was cold and asked me why I didn’t pull the sheets up. "BECAUSE I DIDN'T TAKE THEM OFF OF ME SO I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO", I replied with a tone chockfull of attitude. "Suit yourself." he said. Another 5 minutes went by and then he said he loved me and tried to pull the sheets back up over me as a loving gesture. He only pulled them up half way which was nice but still not perfect for my ultra picky pms-y mood.

So you see? This is how a typical estrogen flux can reduce an ordinarily gifted and independent woman to a stubborn, sulky brat.

Lesson learned for the men? Learn to tread lightly around women’s cycles and try not to hold it against us too much when our bodies prompt us to act irrationally at time.

Lesson learned for the ladies? Be grateful if you find a man who understands you AND your cycles. Make it up to him when you are past the irrational moodiness of your cycle with a lot of attention and love thrown at him.

The holidays are approaching rapidly

I had a fantastic weekend, as I hope you, my readers, did as well. Friday night I spent the evening with my friend M playing phase 10 at her house, and then J and I had a very late date night that consisted of viewing the new movie Beowulf at the theatre with friends. I did not like the movie at all. A lot of violence, a lot of sexual innuendo and no redeeming moral or otherwise entertaining values, presented in the CGI style of The Polar Express. Also in 3d (required special glasses). For what it’s worth, Angelina Jolie plays a convincing demon.

Saturday J and I headed to Sam’s club in Woodbridge for their “Taste of the Holidays” event for members. Basically, a lot of delicious free food. After that we came home and cuddled and napped until it was time to head off to our church’s 3rd annual Ham and Oyster fundraiser dinner. My friend D came along to join in on the fun and we had a good time. It was nice to catch up with her and introduce her to folks at church. We barely had time to get home and put our feet up before it was time to leave again. Our last event on Saturday was the viewing of a play at the Arena Theatre in D.C. – Christmas Carol 1941. It was magnificant! I really learned a lot of history through the storyline and the singing and dancing were great.

Sunday we just bummed around the house and enjoyed each others company. Very relaxing.

This week is off to a good start. I’ve stepped up my cardio workouts to 40 minutes. And I’m now walking (3 miles) or doing cardio every day of the week. In addition, I’m making a point to walk down the stairs [16 stories] when leaving the office at lunchtime or to go home, and walking UP the stairs halfway [8 stories] in the morning. Go me!

Getting a lot accomplished at work. Again, its amazing how much time I have to work when my morning isn’t filled with reading lj community updates.

We leave for Long Island tomorrow with my bff A and her husband. We don’t come back until Saturday evening. I can’t wait to meet her family.

I’ve started to plan our 2009 overseas vacation. I convinced J to compromise [he’s not a travel addict by any means] and allow us to plan 1 major overseas trip each year. 2008 will be Belize of course and 2009 has been narrowed down to either Argentina or Morocco. Which do you think sounds more intruiging and unforgettable?

Had the BEST lunch today- mussels steamed in a lemongrass and curry leaf broth, served with a spicy dipping sauce at Tara Asia. So delicious and yet very low calorie.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

del.icio.us ?

So I'm a little late to the game and just now experiencing the joy that is del.icio.us

Are any of you using it? Add me, add me!
http://del.icio.us/jenniparks

Friday, November 16, 2007

I admit it

I am a food snob.

There, I admit it again. I don’t shun food (as my waistline sadly attests to) but I tend to feel frustrated with people who don’t live up to my expectations with regard to their culinary experience and tastes. In my defense, they’re not particularly high standards to meet. A few months ago I met a woman who rules out entire categories of food based on color- she won’t try anything orange or yellow. And she told me that her most exotic culinary tasting was…rice. Every other opinion I formed on this lady was filtered through the knowledge that she is a culinary ignoramus.

Today I had a quick and healthy lunch at the Thai restaurant down the street. A woman and a young man (her coworker I believe) sat at the next table. She remarked to her guest that she was open to trying something new as long as it had familiar ingredients and was not at all spicy. First, why do people go into a Thai, Mexican, or otherwise traditionally spicy cuisine restaurant and ask for no spice? Perhaps she has some sort of intestinal issue that prevents her from eating spicy foods (although how do native Mexicans, Thai, and Indians handle similar disorders?) and so I was willing to overlook that minor silliness.

The young man ordered Thai dumplings, calling them by their formal name (and you see, I have some culinary ignorance of my own because I cannot remember the name at this moment). She asked him what those were translated in English. No issues for me at this point because, hey, who is expected to know translations of Thai right? He replies that it means dumplings. She stares blankly at him for a good 10 seconds before asking “What is a dumpling?” This took him by surprise. “You know, a dumpling. Like ravioli” So of course she asks, “What’s ravioli?” I was ready to fall out of my chair!!! Her response prompted an entire new conversation thread between the two of them where they discussed her lack of exposure to cuisine beyond her baseline foods she was raised on. She described in earnest the first time she tried exotic food. She was 19 and accidentally tried mayo when it was put on a burger she ordered by mistake. He asked her, “What was exotic about the mayo?”, and waited for her response. Again, with the blank stare from her – “The entire concept of mayo was/is exotic to me; it always looked so strange”. Next they talked about seafood- she didn’t try shrimp until she was in her late 20s because it seemed so scary and exotic. Now she likes it, but can’t bear to strike out and try crab or lobster or any other shellfish. How can new food inspire such anxiety? I understand and can sometimes relate to hesitancy when it comes to trying foods we Americans were traditionally raised to think of as dirty or garbage- brains, intestines, feet, etc. But no one is raised to think of mayo as dirty or garbage. What’s the deal with that?

What is especially ironic to me is that most folks working in the IT industry are technology snobs and yet I am not. That’s why they’re historically lousy at customer support – the customer calls into the support line and can easily sense the seething snobbery over the fact that they don’t know how to do simple tasks on the computer. But I totally get that for a lot of people computers are not used in their job and they may not have exposure to them. Food is another matter. Everyone has to eat. And all of the foods I look down upon someone for never trying are available at most grocery stores.

Are you a food snob? Are you a snob about anything else?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Important Technical Annoucement

For those of you reading this blog through a syndicated channel (such as on social networking sites like deadjournal or livejournal), please understand that there are two ways you can make comments:

  1. You can comment on the social networking site itself, by clicking on the ‘post a new comment’ link/button you see on the page. You can also reply to other people’s comments on the site by clicking ‘reply to this’ to one of their comments. However, using this method, I may not ever see your comment, since I am not an active member of any of the networking sites that my blog is fed to. Also, I cannot reply to your comments left on the networking site since I do not have an account to reply with.
  2. You can click through the link to my actual blogspot site (the link is always directly under the title of the post) and then leave your comment directly on my blog. So one extra click with this method but the benefit is that I get email notifications of these comments and can read/reply to them.


Another Thursday Morning

I am all kinds of agitated this morning. It took me almost two hours to get to work because of traffic. I don’t understand, absolutely *cannot* understand why DC metro residents have such severe trouble driving in the rain. Is everyone a transplant from the desert? What’s the story here? Normal amounts of rain (it is not coming down in sheets or buckets or anything serous like that) and they cannot handle it. Accidents everywhere. Drivers progressing at 5 miles per hour. And while I am driving and trying to stay calm by listening to happy Christmas music on XM 103 I am tortured with music by Manheim Steamroller. I can’t stand that group. I saw a dump truck in front of me at one point with a gigantic sign on the back which read “Don’t Push”. That’s exactly how I felt – don’t push me this morning.

Please pray for my friend A. Her grandfather is undergoing serious surgery today for cardiovascular issues.

Blogspot needs mood icons.

Things to do this week:

mail my friend M overseas her chocolate chips. J

research mustard and jam recipes for Christmas present preparations

clean the house

Today’s poll: Your favorite Christmas Carol? Mine is Oh Holy Night. The words bring me to tears everytime.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgivings past

Do you hold many happy memories from Thanksgivings past? This morning on the way to work I reviewed my Thanksgiving memories on my mental viewfinder. Out of 30 Thanksgiving holidays, only a handful stand out as memorable, and not typically for joyous reasons.

There was my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was 14 and attending school on the East Coast. It was cost prohibitive to travel cross-country for the holiday so my parents cooked up a plan for my sister in Alabama to pick me up instead. We had not seen each other since I was 9 and she had come to visit us in the Southwest. There wasn't much to talk about during the 12 hours drive to her place in Huntsville. For the Thanksgiving meal we dropped in on her local friends. I looked to the food for comfort from my feelings of isolation and homesickness, but even that missed the mark. There were no mashed potatoes! None! How does one *do* Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes??? Tears rolled down my cheek as I tasted my first bite of sweet potato casserole. It was my first experience with the dish and I was confused as to why dessert was being served alongside dinner. I was miserable. That was the last time I saw my sister in person- 17 years ago.

There was the last Thanksgiving I spent with my parents. Gathered around the table in New Mexico with not only my aging parents but also my mother's friend Dorothy. Dorothy was quite fascinating. She was in her 80s and still drove the same car her husband had purchased for her in the late 1960s. A lovely pink showboat kind of car. At 16 I was really starting to experiment with makeup. I can't remember the full details of my facepainting that day, but I do remember that as Dorothy passed me the mashed potatoes she told me I looked like a hooker. The rest of dinner was a blur as I ate and again desperately wished I was somewhere else. This time I longed to be with my new boyfriend J and his family, but it was too soon in the relationship to progress to such measures.

There was my first Thanksgiving with J and his family. I was 17 and had been invited to join the family for the meal. It was such an honor. The company and food were both terrific. I felt accepted and loved and everything was right with the world.I ate, and ate, and ate. After dinner a strange thing happened to me. I stood up and my tummy literally hurt. I walked down the hall to the restroom and with every step the pain intensified. I tend to panic over new medical experiences so I was terrified and assumed the worst. Ruptured appendix? Stomach cancer? I had never felt anything like this before. I needed to lay down. I told J I wasn't feeling well and went down to his room. I closed the door and laid on the bed. No good- I was still in agonizing pain. Some instinct told me to take my pants off. I did, and that helped considerably. I still hung on the verge of vomiting. Food poisoning maybe? I got under the covers and tried to rest. I was sweating. Sweating! J
came to check on me. He opened the door, saw me under the covers dressed from the waist up and inquired as to my condition. I told him my symptoms and my secret fears of food poisoning or organ failure. He laughed. Snorted and laughed. He laughed and I thought I could be dying! He asked me if I'd ever eaten so much candy as a child that I'd gotten a tummy ache. "Never", I told him. I'd never eaten so much of anything to get a stomach ache. He explained his theory- that I'd simply overeaten to the point of nausea and again expressed surprised that it took me 17 years of living before having such an experience.

There was another Thanksgiving with J's family where his father brought a homeless man to dinner. I don't remember much about the meal or the event other than the man was very grateful to break bread with us.

There was the first Thanksgiving I spent in upstate NY after moving there post college graduation to be closer to my siblings. I spent the day with my sister S, helping her prepare the feast for the rest of our brothers and sisters. Myself and another sister were in charge of the mashed potatoes. Never having made potatoes for a crowd we assumed (rather incorrectly) that a pound of potatoes a person seemed right. So we cooked a 25 pound bag of potatoes to feed the 25 people attended. Big mistake. We had potatoes out the wazoo for weeks. Weeks!

Comment and share some of your Thanksgiving memories, for better or worse.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Braised Pork with Thyme

This is a the very fabulous recipe that I made for dinner Sunday evening. Its an adaptation of a recipe found in an old issue of Saveur (Oct 2005). I served it alongside a salad of spinach greens topped with tomato,cucumber, cornbread croutons and rasberry dressing.

Modifications to the recipe- I didn't discard the veggies after straining. I kept half to serve alongside the meat and the other half i pureed into the gravy.

4 T olive oil

1 3lb shoulder of pork

Salt and pepper

3 onions, sliced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 ribs of celery, diced

1 T thyme

2 bay leaves

1 bottle of white wine

1/3 cup cream

Heat oil in dutch oven. Sear meat 10 minutes. Transfer meat to dish and season with salt and pepper and set aside. Add onions to pot and cook over medium-high heat, scraping browned bits stuck to the bottom of pot until they are lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Stir in carrots and celery and cook until lightly browned, 4-6 minutes. Return pork and juices to pot and then add thyme, bay leaves, and wine.

Cover pot, reduce heat to medium-low and braise meet until tender about 2-2.5 hours, turning in pot every half hour. Transfer meat to large sheet of foil and wrap completely and set aside to let meat rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain broth from pot into a saucepan then discard solids. Skim off and discard fat. Boil broth until reduced to 1 cup, about 30 minutes. Whisk in cream and season with salt and pepper.

Unwrap meat and transfer to cutting board. Thinly slice meat, arrange on platter and garnish with parsley. Pour sauce into gravy boat and serve with pork.

Strange twist

In a strange twist of fate, while attempting to create an account on blogspot to run this blog under today, I discovered that I already had a blogger account circa 2003 that I had forgotten about. I had several blogs under the account (fitness, free writing, dreams, tech reviews, and others).

In the free writing blog there is but one post and I've reprinted it below. I want to dedicate it to my "sister" Katy and her precious little boy. Premonition or coincidence?


~Benjamin~

Little one, I love you.

ten fingers; ten toes
my eyes; his nose

such pride; such joy
It's all for you, our precious boy.

When it seems
that stars and dreams
are just too high
you'll learn to fly

Before you know,
a thousand moments come and go
a thousand snowflakes on the grass
before the end has come to pass

We will go but you will stay
and on a sunny summer day
you'll hold your own within your arms
and be moved by his charms

his ten fingers; his ten toes
his mother's eyes; his father's nose

Sharing the Bounty

I have a backlog of Saveur magazines – my favorite cooking mag. I’d like to pass them along as I finish extracting the recipes from them. The articles cover travel and regional cuisine and the magazine overall is fantastic. The recipes are usually delicious as well. If you’re interested in being the next link in the chain to get the magazines from me when I am done with them each month, let me know. If you are local we can do the hand-off in person or if you’re an out of towner I can send them to you if you cover postage (this is quite a deal given the regular yearly subscription cost). Just reply back and let me know as soon as possible.