9.29.2009

"One Lovely Blog" Award

Today I received this One Lovely Blog Award from one of my favorite blogs: http://thepennypinchingmama.blogspot.com/

The rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award" are:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here are my 15 lovely blog picks:

http://thepennypinchingmama.blogspot.com/
http://dancirucci.blogspot.com/
http://boston-terrier-blog.blogspot.com/
http://phillymadmen.blogspot.com/
http://www.thepavlous.com/
http://www.cometothemousehouse.blogspot.com/
http://tictacdough.blogspot.com/
http://kinnagecarnage.blogspot.com/

That's all I can do because that's all I follow at this time!

ETA: I mistyped the award title as One LONELY blog the first post around. I laughed out loud for 3 minutes over this.

Challenge of a Liberal Faith

The challenge here is to actually get through this book. 165 pages of reading has never been so daunting.

I picked up this scholarly tome in an attempt to learn more about Unitarianism - Unitarian Universalism, to be specific. I'll be honest, my interest derives from a possibly ridiculous internet quiz that told me this was my "matching faith." I'm pretty interested in world religions anyway, and I've been thinking a lot about my own personal faith (hence the quiz), so this really got me interested to learn more. I know almost nothing about this faith so I was starting from scratch in my research. After laboring through the first 30 pages, which took me days, I might add, it became clear that this book isn't the one to acquaint me with the faith.

As many of you who know me can attest, I have a firm commitment to finishing the book I've started, even if I can't stand the characters, find the plot impractical -- or the writer pretentious. I try and give it the benefit and finish it off, let it marinate in my mind and see if hindsight is kinder to it. Hell, at least I can say I've read it and gave it a fair shake.

I didn't finish this book. I couldn't. It's the first time I can say that in almost a decade. Snoozer full of abstracts and lofty ideals I just couldn't get in to. I'm no more knowledgeable about the faith now than I was when I started. So I haven't answered any of my burning questions of what I'm doing here and how to live the most fulfilled life possible - at least not with this read. The highlight of the book was the FAQ section, but even that seems so fence straddling, I can't tell you what a UU does or does not believe. I wonder if it's a reflection of the faith or just the author's ability?

The dearth of books on this religion was sort of a weird to me. I mean, I can't be the only one thinking about what religious affiliation I might be, right? Why is it so hard to find a book that can help you choose? Or is the notion of having a religious affiliation antiquated? Is "practicing" being phased out? Truthfully, I have a hard time coming up with friends that actually go to church. Do you? I'd love to hear from you, if you do.

9.17.2009

What I Loved



What I Loved
by Siri Husvedt

I chose this book because of the title, as I often do. I was looking for suggested reading, browsing some list online of the "must read before you die" varieties and this title struck me...so that's how I came to have it in my hands just a few days later.

I enjoyed this book. It wasn't my favorite, and in truth, just a few weeks later, I can barely remember what it was about. But while I was reading it, I enjoyed it. I really felt the depths of the relationships between the characters, two couples, as they live 25 years of their lives in close proximity -- both physical and emotional -- in Soho, NYC. Despite the fact that I truly have very little knowledge of art, I did enjoy the vivid imaginings of one of the central characters works of art, particularly his paintings -- admittedly, they are my preferred form of art in my actual life. I found the historical backdrop of the novel to be interesting, artistic New York from the 70s through to the 90s -- it was cool to see it evolve. More than anything, I found the relationships conveyed here to be honest and touching. I cried when they experienced loss. I lived it with them, due mostly to the spell Husvedt cast with her writing. I loved the way sight and perspective were used throughout the book, from the narrator's use of sight in his career, to his hindsight at the conclusion of the book, and his eventual loss of sight. Seeing was so important in this book, to the narrator and to the reader - perception was the key here. Perspective. And perhaps this is only gained through time - - as the novel is told looking back, as the narrator is in the process of losing his own sight, but yet has gained insight on the past he didn't enjoy as he was living it as his present.

What I Didn't Love: the whole mystery game and freaky artist scene that turned the book from a story of love, loss and relationships into a Where's Waldo puzzle, graphic and puzzling experimental art pieces where described in so much detail it was boring in parts, at least for me, lack of true communication in the latter half of the book between important characters was puzzling, given how connected they were in the beginning of the book

Favorite Quote: "My first impressions of people are often clouded by what I come to know about them later..."
Reminded me of: The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr

Great Quote

God doesn't give you the people you want, He gives you the people you NEED. To help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you and to make you into the person you were meant to be.

Food Photography

I feel the need to mention: sorry that my food photos aren't polished like the cookbooks. I'm shooting the dishes on my plates under my kitchen lights with my old Canon that I carry with me everywhere. It may not put them in the best light (hardy har) but I want you to get the gist of the end product that I'm getting, even though it might be slightly different than yours, and that's (as Martha would say) A Good Thing.

Apple Cheese Mini Crepe





These were inspired but a super yummy but calorific appetizer at a good friend's wedding reception on Rittenhouse in Philadelphia. We loved them so much we recreated them the next morning using light ingredients found right in our kitchen. I've used an Empire apple (my absolute favorite) and that worked nicely; the Granny Smith I used turned out a bit tarter, so be mindful to taste your filling before you roll and bake.




Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.




Take an apple, core and peel it. Dice the remains into tiny bits. Add a tbsp of margarine over low heat, then saute the apple and margarine lightly for about 15 minutes, being careful to stir and not let it brown. Stir in one packet of Splenda or other sweetener. Stir in 2.5 tablespoon scoops of Weight Watchers whipped cream cheese. Stir all carefully until cream cheese has melted and you have a cheesy fruit filling. Now would be a good time to do a taste test and be sure you like it! (But it'll be hot.)




Take about 12 egg roll wrappers (can be bought prepared at your local supermarket, usually near refrigerated cultural foods or organics), lay them out on the counter. Add equal teaspoon scoop of filling to each wrapper. Fold according to package directions -- use the cheesy backside of your spoon to dab the wrapper just before closing for an extra seal.




Put your 12 mini crepes on a foiled baking pan, sprayed with non stick cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until the crepes look golden. Serve warm as a finger food for appetizer course or even for dessert, maybe with some vanilla ice cream? Mmmmm.


What you need to fix it:
Small pot
Apple corer
Knife
Spoon
Baking sheet
Aluminum foil

What you need from the fridge:
An apple, any variety you like, cored, peeled and diced
1 tbsp margarine
One packet Splenda or other low cal sweetener
12 egg roll wrappers, found in refrigerated ethnic or organic section
2-3 tbsp Weight Watchers or other light whipped cream cheese
Cooking spray

Find: Rimmel Mascara




I tell everyone of my girlfriends how happy I am with this mascara -- not only is it relatively inexpensive as far as drug store makeup is concerned, but it is also super effective and lengthening and curling my lashes and holding all day.







Extra Super Lash is my favorite. It's around $4 and I really can't say enough about it. Unlike the unrealistic commercials the makeup industry puts on air showing eyelashes magically tripling (yet somehow you can always see they are falsies), this mascara really does increase the thickness, curl and drama of my eyelashes.







I have also used (am currently using) Eye Magnifier. This one does much the same but with a funny rubbery nubbed brush that sort of pricks at your eye lid during application. At first it bothered me, now it sort of feels good. Weird, right? If your eyes are sensitive, this may not be the one for you. But if you have itchy eyelids due to allergies like I do...this may hit the spot! :)





I am unsure if the above are animal tested but find it's likely that they are in part or as a finished product since I can find refutation of that fact. :(

PS Speaking of makeup...as anyone noticed Drew Barrymore's face in her Maybelline commercial? I mean, seriously? She's ORANGE. Is it supposed to be funny? Take a pretty girl and make her look like she's wearing clown makeup so she can shill for tasteful beauty? Yeah. I doubt anyone is born with the skin tone she's rockin' in that commercial.

Library Tip

If you are a resident of Gloucester or Burlington County, NJ (and possibly elsewhere, I just know first hand from where I've lived), there is a government grant funded program called MaiLit (Gloucester) and Library in a Bag (Burlington), whereby you can order materials from your local library to be mailed to your home, free of charge to you. I use this for materials that are spread across the county that I cannot readily get my hands on at my local branch. It is very convenient and like I said, free. Why buy a book or rent a movie when you can get it for free? And mailed to you? It's super convenient, you'll save on gas and lessen your impact on the environment by skipping a car trip. I highly recommend.

Here are the sites with more information:

http://www.gcls.org/MailLit/default.php
http://www.bcls.lib.nj.us/libraryinabag/

9.16.2009

The Myth of You & Me


The Myth of You & Me
By Leah Stewart

Ok. There were several things about this book that weirded me out. However there were several things that I really enjoyed that offset that weirdness.

This book was so interesting I could barely put it down, despite the above "flaws," which could just be my preferences. As far as 'chick' fiction goes, this was a fortuitous stumble -- I liked the cover, and the gamble panned out. This book was really well written, nicely detailed and allowed you to really get lost in her picture and enjoy her turn of the written word -- and an interesting plot, too boot. I delved right in, downing the whole book in about a day and a half of on and off reading. I truly enjoyed it for what it was. But then again, I guess I have a reason why this one hit home for me. Lost friendship is a subject I come back to again and again. This book deals with relationships with insight (in most instances), shows some interesting "tug of war" situations within the female relationship that I think most women can really understand. But also something that is seldom addressed -- something that I dwell on personally that brings me shame and uncertainty because of my preoccupation.

Weird: touchy relationship with elderly man, wrapped up with a bow romantic tie in and ending, sucker punch dog rescue to make leading man dashing, lack of family resolution

I recommend this book for the beach, a nice curl up and relax, bubble bath. It was fun to get lost in for a while.

Favorite quotes: "...that all you know of a life are the places where it touches your own."

Butternut Squash Soup September 2009



This is a filling, fiber friendly and healthy fall/winter belly warmer. I make enough for a few dinners, or a dinner and some lunches. I haven't frozen any yet because it gets eaten much too quickly but would love to try. This soup is also great because you dirty a minimum dish quotient, which is a big plus in my kitchen.

Directions:


  1. Prechop your veggies first, as this is most time consuming, separating the potatoes, turnips, carrots and squash from the other items.*

  2. Put the butter or margarine in the soup pot, begin heating to melt and coat the pan bottom. Add garlic, onions, green onions and celery.

  3. Warm all over medium heat -- stirring and watching your garlic (if you go too hot or leave unattended it will burn) -- look for softness, a nice aroma and some translucence in the onions. Add some salt and fresh cracked pepper to your preference (you can always add more later!)

  4. Add your chopped veggie medley to the soup pot: potatoes, turnips, carrots, butternut squash. Saute, stirring often. I like to let it really simmer for about 20-25 minutes to soften the turnips and potatoes. Around 15 minutes in, you can add a half cup of white wine to the pot, continue stirring periodically, if you like the white wine taste....if not you can skip it, I have made it both ways.

  5. After around 25 minutes, I like to pre-mash this mixture with a potato masher. This is not necessary but makes pureeing later easier. Use care with the hot mixture.

  6. Add chicken or vegetable broth to cover the vegetables, 32 to 42 oz or so. Stir and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring periodically, for 15 - 25 minutes or so. Your looking for it to begin looking like a thicker soup.

  7. Now, using care, transfer the soup in batches into a blender. Liquefy and transfer into another container until you've finished pureeing the entire pot.


Garnish with a sprinkle of garlic salt for a little spicy/salty/crunchy kick with your first bite. Great served with a crusty loaf of bread -- I like the "take and bake" variety so it's nice and warm.
Serves: 6 - 8

What you need to fix it:
Cutting Board
Sharp chopping knife
Spoon (or ice cream spoon)
Blender
Soup Pot
Mixing Bowl for reserved root veggies
Potato Masher
Wooden Soup Spoon
Another soup container (post puree serving bowl)
What you need from the fridge:
2 tbsp margarine or butter
About a half bulb of Garlic, shelled and sliced -- I use a half bulb, crushed or sliced longways
2 Onions, chopped
1/2 c chopped Scallions (optional)
1/2 c chopped Celery
1/2 c White wine (optional)


1 c chopped Carrots
3 Potatoes, chopped and with skin
2 Turnips, chopped
1 medium to large Butternut Squash, deseeded, peeled and chopped


32 - 42 oz. Chicken Broth



* Butternut Pointer: Half the squash. Gut the seeds with an ice cream scooper or tablespoon. Use a sharp knife to remove skin, moving from top to bottom, watching your fingers, of course. Trim the bottom skin separately around the curves, where it's tricky. Dry the seeds to plant next summer, if you feel like it. I throw mine out for the squirrels if I don't dry them ;)

9.01.2009

On Writing and My Ego

I am so critical of my writing that for years, I've just put off doing it. Every word I put down is subject to such harsh criticism in my own mind that I never take it to the next step. I've put off starting a blog for this very reason, thrown my fiction into a journal never to see the light of day. I have so much to say that it actually pains me to read other authors, as minor and contained as they may be. Why do they have courage that I don't?

Life is about forcing yourself to do things. Successful people force themselves to do things every day...like work. It's not fun. You know how married couples force themselves to have sex? Admit it, you know what I mean if you are married. Like, once you get started it's so great, you remember why you loved it, and why don't we do this all the time? But getting started and cleaning up after is just such a pain in the ass that sometimes you just shrug and say, eh, another time, I'm tired and Chelsea Handler is on. That's sort of my deal with writing. I have to force myself to show my writing, sometimes to write, period. Not because I don't like writing -- in fact, I love it. I'm just so self critical, I'm so bruised and battered by even helpful criticism, I just can't stand doing it anymore. But nothing can change that underneath that I'm still a writer. I write all day long in my head. Damned if I don't sit down to do it on paper though, and I cringe. But I'm taking a different approach now. Here's what I've got to say, and if you don't like it, sorry to hear that.