12.28.2008

Colossally bad idea

When Kurt and I got cold walking downtown, we tucked into Borders to browse a bit and warm up. While he was checking out the business mags, a book called All About Us caught my eye. It's a book of questions meant to be filled out as a couple. It sounded like a great way to get to know each other and document your good times together. I got quite a surprise when I opened it. Not only does it ask about things you don't like about your partner, it also asks you go to into great detail about past relationships. Bad bad bad idea. It reminded me of that honesty game we played at slumber parties in junior high. It starts off in good fun, but by the end everyone has hurt feelings and isn't speaking to one another. Kurt and I had a good laugh looking through it and agreed that it was a disaster waiting to happen. Honesty is good, of course, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

(Yes, I know it has 4 stars at amazon.com. Mind-boggling!)

12.27.2008

50 favorite words

One of the exercises at a writer's group I attended was to create a list of your 100 favorite words. They can be chosen for their sound, their meaning, or even be taken from poetry or prose. You can learn a lot about someone from how they go about choosing their words as well as from the actual words they choose. It's also a good jumping off point for creative endeavors and wordplay.

I made my list this morning and learned fairly quickly that 100 is a darn lot of words. I think 50 is a more manageable number, so I stopped there. My favorite words are ones that make me smile, due to meaning or just being fun to say. Here goes:

shrubbery * whimsy * mothership * fluffy * cosmic * hollyberry * twinkle * donut * exuberant * delightful * adventure * astronomy * cupcake * moose * moonbeam * conquistador * explore * curious * snuggle * wander * silly * snacks * popcorn * bliss * woolly * poppy * hopscotch * puppy * goldfish * sparkly * meander * muffin * willow * lilypad * dapper * dandy * cad * teacup * bamboo * snout * lollipop * thunder * love * goofy * scandalous * ancient * snort * daydream * sprinkle * flurry

If you make a list of your own, please considering sharing in the comments section!

Puppies are good people, part 2

Unbelievable video of a dog rescuing another dog that had been hit by a car. I love my boy Nelson, but you won't see a cat doing that ...

Thanks to Kat for sharing the link on Facebook.

12.25.2008

1979 was a good year

John Denver + Muppets = Happiness.

I remember watching this Christmas special when it first aired in 1979. I even had a copy of the album that I would play every year. I especially love the midpoint of the video where they show my fellow Gen-X'ers. Many memories, not to mention some fine '70s fashion.

Merry Christmas!

12.24.2008

Indy dining: Maxine's Chicken and Waffles

After the Colts-Lions game (or should I say, the Colts' victory over the Lions), Kurt and I headed to Maxine's Chicken and Waffles on North East Street. Pulling up, we noticed that the restaurant was attached to a Citgo station. I'll admit, in spite of the glowing reviews, I was ready to go somewhere else at this point. Upon entering, I was glad that we didn't. The dining area is spacious and decorated in a warm, contemporary style, not at all what you'd expect from the external appearance. A counter covered with huge slices of three layer cake separates the dining room from the open kitchen. The vibe was warm and friendly from the get go. I knew good things were in store.

Ordering was a no brainer. Both Kurt and I wanted to try the chicken and waffles, and fried green tomatoes had long been on my list of foods to sample. Our waitress, Maxine's granddaughter, asked how we'd like the tomatoes fried. The choices apparently are soggy and crispy. Figuring you can hardly go wrong with anything fried and crispy, we chose the latter. They arrived quickly with a bowl of homemade dipping sauce. The oniony flavor of the sauce complemented the tomatoes well. Not being a fan of tomatoes (or anything green for that matter), Kurt was initially skeptical. They were fried in a cornmeal batter reminiscent of catfish batter and were remarkably light and not in the least greasy. Kurt loved them and proclaimed them the best dish of the evening.

Our chicken and waffles arrived along with a plate of fried cornbread and peach butter. The large waffle was topped with three sizable chicken wings and accompanied by more peach butter. The waffle was light and sweet and would have been wonderful on its own, but topped with a bite of crispy fried chicken and a dab of peach butter, it created a salt-sweet-crunchy-pillowy combo that was unbelievably good. Anyone who likes the sweet-savory flavor of sausage and maple syrup will appreciate this as well.

Kurt ordered Maxine's special drink, the D&K tea. It's a mix of half lemonade and half sweet tea. I expected it to taste like sweet tea with lemon, but the result was a bizarre one-two punch of lemonade with a sweet tea chaser. Strange, yet I kept going back for more sips until Kurt told me to just finish it off. A good boyfriend! Both the lemonade and tea are quite sweet on their own, possibly too sweet for many people. I found it inexplicably addictive.

After we gorged on all things fried and buttery, we decided we couldn't pass up the chance to try a piece of the homemade cake. Kurt opted for caramel at the recommendation of the cook behind the counter. The other options were strawberry and lemon. The cake was moist and the icing had a sweet caramel flavor. A little icing went a long way, and we managed to finish off the cake while leaving some of the icing behind. We were stuffed by this point, but happily so.

On the way out, I told Kurt that it was a good thing I don't live closer to Maxine's because I'd probably go there far too often. I have a weak spot for homemade, (unhealthy!) Southern cooking, and my sense is that everything at Maxine's is delicious. The service was friendly and fast, and it was great to see a family working together. I wish much success to Maxine's, and I'm already itching to go back. I have my eye on the catfish and that gloriously pink strawberry cake.
D&K tea

Fried green tomatoes

Fried cornbread and peach butter

Chicken and waffles

Homemade caramel cake

The cutest thing you will see this Christmas

Two words: Baby aardvark.

12.23.2008

Free jazz album

Tonight's happy discovery is the Amazon Jazz Sampler - a 12 song album to download at no cost.

If jazz isn't your speed, there are over 500 other free mp3 downloads available, including 25 holiday songs. Enjoy!

12.21.2008

One way to go from here ...

Happy Solstice!!!

With sunrise at 8:02am and sunset at 5:23pm, this is the shortest day of the year. Since I love my sunshine, I'm always happy to know that things will get better (and brighter!) from here on out. Now if only it could get warmer as well ....

12.19.2008

Chris Isaak Christmas

I'm ambivalent about Christmas albums. I enjoy my Boston Pops album immensely, but pop star versions of the classics leave me cold (of course, they play incessantly in stores - as if Christmas shopping weren't stressful enough). The one exception is the Chris Isaak Christmas album. Yes, I am biased to love all things CI, but his retro, beachy, rockabilly vibe is a wonderful change of pace every December. While his original songs ("Brightest Star", "Last Month of the Year, "Gotta Be Good") are my favorites, he also puts a fun new spin on the classics. The only weak spot is his duet with Stevie Nicks. I like him. I like her. Together? Not so much.

Here's a sample from YouTube. Enjoy!

12.12.2008

Don't miss the moon tonight!

Be on the lookout for the full moon tonight. The closest it's been to Earth since 1993, the moon will appear 14% brighter and 30% bigger than other full moons this year. I'm hoping for clear skies!

12.11.2008

Free movie Thursday

Hulu recently added North Shore to its list of free movies. In 8th grade, I thought this was the best movie ever made. I've not seen it for years, so I'm not sure how watchable it is for anyone out of junior high. It's the story of an Arizona boy who travels to Hawaii to surf the big waves - a classic coming of age/fish out of water/sports tale. Something for everyone, really. Plus, it's got Gregory Harrison from Trapper John, M.D. (Ok, I dated myself with that. Still ... Gonzo!)

Also worth checking out is The Professional with Natalie Portman and Jean Reno. Directed by Luc Besson, it tells the story of a hitman who takes a young girl under his wing. I admit that I am biased by the presence of Jean Reno whom I adore, but the movie is solidly engaging and the relationship touching and well-portrayed. A must see.

12.10.2008

Tokyo day trip: Nikko

My guidebooks were very clear: if you only take one day trip from Tokyo, make it to the town of Nikko. Let me state for the record that I heartily disagree. The highlight of my day was the ride via shinkansen (bullet train) to Utsunomiya. The train was amazingly smooth, and it felt like we were floating. Only when we passed another bullet train going in the opposite direction did I really sense how fast we were moving. Very cool! If you're in Japan, my vote is to find any excuse to ride one of these. It's reasonable, too - only $35 more than a regular ticket. (Ok, that's over 100% more, but it's still well worth it!)

I arrived in Nikko early in the morning, having been assured by the guidebooks that I would want an entire day to explore the area. Once again, the guidebooks were wrong. It was supposedly a short walk from the train station to the World Heritage site, so I set off on foot. The directions were simple enough: head straight down the town's main thoroughfare, and you'll bump right into the National Park. At least the guidebooks got that much right. Unfortunately, the walk wasn't what I'd call short, and it was uphill the entire way. Given the amount of walking at the World Heritage site, the smart option is to save your energy and take the bus.

The town itself has seen better days. Many of the buildings were run down and there was no shopping to speak of. Although there were a few restaurants, none looked promising. I recommend packing a lunch or picking something up at the train station before you head off. In contrast to the lackluster town, the mountains in the distance were beautiful, so I had high hopes that things would improve once I reached my destination.

My first disappointment came at the Shinkyo (Sacred Bridge). It's rumored to be one of the most beautiful bridges in Japan, but its charm was lost on me. The river and gorge are lovely, but the bridge itself has seen better days. For a small fee, you can cross the bridge, but everyone seemed to bypass that option and photograph it from a distance. In spite of being a bit blah in person, it photographed beautifully. You'll have to trust me that the camera somehow worked wonders.

The World Heritage site just past the Shinkyo was teeming with tourists. Everyone from schoolchildren in bright yellow helmets to businessmen in navy suits was dutifully following flag-waving tour guides and snapping pictures. It was the most crowded tourist area that I visited during the entire trip. I will admit that I might have enjoyed the experience more if the site had been less crowded, but I'm not sure the style of the buildings (red lacquer with gold and black trim) would ever resonate with me.

In a nutshell, there are a series of temples, shrines, and masoleums and one surprisingly cool pagoda all done in the same style. Some might find it exuberant, but I found it gaudy. There were cool statues here and there, but the combination of carving, gilding, and lacquer caused so much sensory overload that it was hard for anything to stand out.

One of the more famous sights is the carving of the three monkeys who "see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil". They're one of a series of monkey carvings, and it's anyone's guess why this one caught the public's imagination.

The lovely forest around the site was one of the highlights of my visit. The leaves were beginning to turn, and the tall, peaceful cedars were a needed contrast to the bustling tourist sites. I had too many blisters (and too little patience) to venture very far into the park. In retrospect, I think my time would have been better spent there than at the World Heritage site. Live and learn.

Should you decide to visit Nikko in spite of this not-so-glowing review, some tips to remember are:
1) Take the bus. Seriously. Take the bus. Your feet will thank you.
2) Pack a lunch.
3) Wear comfortable shoes.
4) Buy the 1000 yen combination pass when you first enter the site. This is such a great deal that I can't imagine anyone wouldn't take advantage of it. It grants you access to all of the major buildings and costs the same or less than a ticket to one of the temples alone. Inexplicable, but a great deal nonetheless.
5) Consider bringing a tripod. The forest is thick, and the light is perpetually bad.
6) Get there early in the day to beat the crowds. I arrived mid-morning along with many tourist buses. If I had it to do over, I'd have made a push to get there when they opened at 8am.
7) If you only have time for one day trip from Tokyo, consider Kamakura over Nikko. Details forthcoming!

Shinkansen = awesome!

Shinkyo - Trust me, it doesn't look this good in person ...

Monks!! I have a soft spot for monks of any faith. Good people.

Typical building in the Toshugu complex

Toshugu complex - note the schoolchildren in the bright yellow hats.

Beautiful fall color! The reds were especially vibrant.

The pagoda was my favorite building.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Mausoleum

12.09.2008

Cool Gadget of the Day: Pet's Eye View Camera

I am so tempted to get one of these! I've always wanted to know what the world looked like from Ernie and Nelson's perspective. The big question is if they'd accept the camera or if I'd have 35 photos of them obsessively trying to scratch it off.

12.08.2008

Puppies are good people

Love this story! A Christmas miracle.

12.05.2008

'90s night

It's '90s night for me on iTunes. I downloaded Fiona Apple's Criminal, Tasmin Archer's Sleeping Satellite, and Sophie B. Hawkins's Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover for a whole 99 cents each. Single song downloads are a beautiful thing. I used to own a boatload of cds with one or two good songs apiece. Such a waste. My music purist friends give me grief for jumping to the "good songs" on a cd. Something about art and the album being a whole and that sort of stuff. Bah. I'm a simple girl. If I can't sing it, hum it, or shake my booty to it, I'm skipping it. Next on my list is to dig out my college cds and import the choice songs to my computer. Four Non Blondes and Blind Melon on the scene!

If you'd like to enjoy a flashback of your own, check out One Hit Wonder Central. Good stuff.

(In the name of full disclosure, I also got Kanye West's Gold Digger and Christina Aguilera's Keeps Gettin' Better, but that ruins the whole '90s, retro, college vibe, huh? Shh!)

12.03.2008

Elf yourself!

This amuses me far more than it should ...

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

My favorite Christmas card this year

For the bloggers out there, check out this card from Wondermark.

Click on the picture to enlarge. It's not funny if you can't read it ...

Ernie's song

Love TED. Love Nellie McKay. Love The Dog Song. Ernie and I (ok, mostly me) sing this one on our walks.

12.02.2008

Happiness in a bowl

Mama Kurt turned me on to Irish oatmeal while I was visiting the family in Michigan. I was skeptical because the standard Quaker Oats had never been a favorite of mine (understatement!). Irish oats look similar, maybe a bit more lumpy, but have a wonderful nutty taste and an interesting, chewy texture. I eat them with a little butter. Best of all, they're easy to prepare and good for you. Definitely happiness in a bowl!

Cosmic blonde

Love this! I tend toward blonde (cosmically speaking, of course).

The inescapable fact is that the universe is divided between Blondes and Brunettes. This is not a matter of the color of one's hair. This is a cosmic trait. The Cosmic Blonde floats through life on a beam of sunshine, from success to success. The Cosmic Brunette obsesses and reflects, frets and fumes, turns inward, and clings to the view that the examined life is the only life worth living, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The Cosmic Brunette writes and reads books, worries, condemns and evaluates, judges, discerns and doubts. The Cosmic Blonde water-skis.


-- David Brooks, "On Paradise Drive"

12.01.2008

Shameless plug: Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku

I lucked into the most awesome hotel in Tokyo. The price was reasonable, the building was lovely, and the room was modest but well-appointed. When faced with the challenge of navigating a foreign, sprawling, crowded (but always polite!) city, every small convenience is a blessing. The Sunroute offered free computers with internet access and hot cocoa (and coffee and tea) in the guest lounge, a currency exchange machine in the lobby that matched the bank's rate and allowed you to change as little as $1 with no transaction fee, helpful English-speaking staff at the front desk, and to-your-door service from the airport limousine.

The location was ideal. The area is dominated by office buildings, hotels, and the nearby Shinjuku station. It's the busiest train station in the world with over 3 million people passing through per day and 65 (!!!) exits. Thankfully, everything is well-marked, and having so many train and metro lines within a 5 minute walk of the hotel is invaluable. Several department stores are attached to the station, and there are shops and restaurants to satisfy any need. The post office across the street from the hotel is one of the few places in town with an ATM that accepts foreign cards. Handy!

Shibuya has excitement, Asakusa the feel of 'old Japan', but for sheer convenience and ease as a tourist, I don't know that you could do better than the Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku.

Hotel lobby

Exterior view

View from my room

Guest lounge

Free internet access

Tiny hotel room


For the Mac lovers

I love this list of the top 10 things you forgot your Mac can do! I knew some of the tips, but many were new to me. Also worth checking out are the 20 useful Leopard downloads.

Once you go Mac, you never go back.

(Yes, I am one of those Mac fans. I'll own it.)

11.27.2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is my second Thanksgiving dinner of the week. Kurt and I celebrated with my dad on Monday, and today we'll have dinner with his family up in Michigan. Two Thanksgiving dinners makes for a very good year. Who knows, the sun might even pop out a bit this afternoon.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day full of family and friends and good food (and FOOTBALL)!

11.26.2008

Tick Magnet

Kurt came in today with what looked like a sunflower seed stuck to his leg. We figured out it was a tick (thank you Google!), and from the size, we guess it's been feasting on him for at least a couple of weeks. We spent the afternoon at the doc having it removed. The good news is that with two stitches and 21 days of antibiotics, he should be as good as new. The bad news is no hot tub for the rest of the week while it heals. Poor Dr. H.

Lost in Translation

I traveled via shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nikko to visit the World Heritage site. Because I'm cheap, I decided to forgo the fast ride coming home and take a regular train. This is how my conversation with the ticket seller went:

Me: I'd like a ticket to Asa-kusa.

Him: (Giant pause) Oh! You mean A-sak-sa?

Me: Er .. sure?

Him: You want rapid section or limited express?

Me: What's the difference?

Him: One is rapid, the other express.

Me: Um .....

I ended up choosing rapid because who doesn't want to the train to be rapid, right? Wrong! "Rapid" is marketing-speak for "stops at every podunk town along the way". It took me 2.5 hours to travel 60 kilometers back to Tokyo. I saw kids heading home from school, older ladies returning from their shopping, but it quickly became frustrating. Lesson learned: the answer in Japan is always express.

11.21.2008

Yup, this would be me

From Wikipedia:

The symptoms of jet lag can be quite varied and may include the following:

* Loss of appetite, nausea, digestive problems
* Headache, sinus irritation
* Fatigue, irregular sleep patterns, Insomnia
* Disorientation, grogginess, irritability
* Mild depression

I've been to Europe before but never experienced anything like this. I feel like I've been run over by a truck. One website says it takes one day for every time zone which would mean 14 days of this. Inconceivable! The main advice seems to be eating well, staying hydrated and sleeping. Melatonin is mentioned occasionally, but opinion varies on its safety and effectiveness. I guess I'll just tough it out. Tokyo stories coming once I'm back among the living!

11.19.2008

12898 miles, 854 pictures, 2 bandaged feet

... and some wicked jet lag, too.

When I get back on Indy time (and am thinking clearly again), I'll share some stories and pics from the Great Japan Adventure.

I'm trying to hold out until 9pm, so I can finally get some rest. Only 40 minutes to go ...

11.10.2008

One Minute Writer

I couldn't resist, I had to share this blog before I left. It's a daily one minute writing prompt, timer included. Having used prompts at an Amherst writer's method seminar, I can vouch that they're a great way to get the creative juices flowing. I know how I'll be spending one minute a day!

(Sayonara for real this time!)

Sayonara!

I'm off to Tokyo tomorrow! I've filled my wallet with yen, read the travel books, and stocked up on protein bars for the flight. I even set the roster for my fantasy football team for next week. You can't lose if you don't play, right? All that's left is to pack the bags, and I'm ready for my first trip to Asia.

Intimidating:
- 14 hour flight in coach on a full plane - ARGH!
- 24 hour door-to-door travel
- Jet lag
- Finding ATMs that take western cards
- Not speaking Japanese - hopefully 'please', 'thank you' and lots of bowing will get me through
- Food - I've never much enjoyed Japanese food here in America, but I might feel differently when I try the real deal. If nothing else, I can have soba (noodles) and yakitori (chicken on a stick).
- Shinjuku station: 3.6 million people pass through each day. There are 65 exits. And I'm supposed to figure this out.
- Japanese toilets - I've heard stories. I'll leave it at that.

Exciting:
- Mt. Fuji!!! Hopefully, I'll have a clear morning and be able to get a view from the Metropolitan Government Building.
- Kamakura to see the great Buddha
- Meiji Jingu Shrine
- Japanese gardens - I'm hoping for fall color, but I may be a notch early.
- The Shibuya scramble and the statue of Hachiko
- Seeing the crazy Japanese street fashion in Harajuku and checking out the high end shopping in Ginza
- Attending a traditional tea ceremony
- Sushi for breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market (this might go under intimidating, we'll see)
- Jazz clubs (Blue Note Tokyo, Shinjuku Pit Inn, Harajuku Keynote)

Sayonara! I'll be back next week with stories and pictures (assuming I can find my way out of Shinjuku station).

11.08.2008

Greetings from Floyd

How cute is this? 5 year old Floyd is sure better traveled than my Ernster! Maybe it helps to be a purse dog.

(Ernie weighs 15.5 pounds and is therefore far too large to fit in a purse. Plus, his shih tzu pride would never allow it.)

A new look

As you've probably noticed (if not, seek help), the blog has a new look. I was tired of the blogger template that lots of people have, so I went searching for a new one last night. The mistake: starting the search at 11:30pm. It was 2:30am (!!!) before the new template was installed and functional. In the interim, I looked at hundreds of designs and tried out at least 6 or 7 others. Only 2 were serious contenders, but I couldn't get the blasted things to work. One refused to add the image that made it worthwhile (not sure it was "me" anyway, but it was super cool), and the other couldn't accommodate the length of my blog name. Given that I know nothing about html, this was like running into a brick wall. I tried to go in and make adjustments, but it was beyond me to know which line of nonsense needed to be tweaked.

The one I settled on gets points for actually working (hurrah!) and for the groovy, relaxing blue design up top. I hope the smaller font is still readable for everyone. This was something I tried to tweak last night, but every attempt to make it bigger made it disappear. Hrumph. Maybe someday I'll learn a little html and do something truly custom. In the interim, blue swirls it is!

11.07.2008

A Thanksgiving Story

The only Thanksgiving movie that comes to mind readily is Home for the Holidays with Holly Hunter. While I found it funny, the cynical tone doesn't exactly get me in the Thanksgiving spirit. More suited to the mood of the holiday is What's Cooking? which tells the story of 4 Thanksgivings in Los Angeles - one Jewish, one Vietnamese, one Latino, and one African-American. Family drama is interspersed with each culture's take on the traditional dinner. The shots of the food are gorgeous (and lingering). Do not see this one on an empty stomach. While the acting is inconsistent and the stories are occasionally predictable, the film is fact-paced and engaging and the characters likable. It was especially nice to see the common elements of the holiday (be it turkey or family drama) that transcend cultural differences.

My rating: 6/10

Book recommendation: Left To Tell

This disturbing news out of the Congo brought to mind one of the most moving books I've ever read. Left To Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza is the true story of a woman who survived the Rwandan holocaust by hiding in a small bathroom with 6 other women. She has been called Rwanda's Anne Frank, and her story of survival, faith, and forgiveness is powerful and inspiring. Her mission now is to make sure the world understands and remembers, so that such a tragedy never happens again.

Free movies

You can catch full length movies and tv episodes at Fancast and IMDB. Since nothing in life is truly free, you will have to sit through and ad here and there. Still, pretty nifty.

11.05.2008

Best place to get your Zen on

For two years running, the Inner Peace Yoga Center has been voted Indiana's Best in TheIndyChannel's A-list awards. I'm a regular in their beginner two class and can vouch for the high quality instruction and relaxed atmosphere. When my class burst out laughing when the teacher suggested we do 'head-to-knee', I knew I was in the right place. The instructors emphasize proper breathing and alignment and encourage everyone to go at their own pace. Classes end with total body relaxation and in the beginner two class, chanting and alternate nostril breathing (nodi sodhana).

While all of the classes have been good, my favorite is the beginner one class taught by Charles (the owner) on Monday night. He explains the poses clearly and brings humor (and many years experience) to the lesson. In addition to yoga, meditation classes are offered quarterly and chanting takes place on the last Friday of every month. (No singing ability is required - if they let someone as tone deaf as me sing, all are clearly welcome.)

11.04.2008

The Well Water Project

Clean, plentiful water is a blessing we tend to take for granted. We turn on the tap, and water flows freely and abundantly. Over a billion people around the world don't share this luxury. From waterborne disease to lack of irrigation for crops, their life hangs in the balance due to the lack of clean water. A small church north of Indianapolis has set the goal of raising over $10k to help Horizon International build two wells in Africa so they can expand their reach in serving AIDS orphans. Every dollar donated to The Well Water Project goes directly to the building of the wells. Your donation can help to bring life and hope to children who have known hardships few of us can imagine.

11.03.2008

Please look after this bear. Thank you!

While poking through my childhood bedroom last night, I found a bright red box high on the closet shelf. Inside ... Paddington Bear! I hadn't seen him in ages. Poor Paddington. He was always a favorite growing up. Marmalade sandwiches, hard stares, and of course, darkest Peru. He's custom made for little girls (and big girls?) with wild imaginations and the itch to travel. Thankfully, I liberated him in time for his 50th anniversary (ok, a notch late - I've probably earned a hard stare myself!).

11.02.2008

I love Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Candy apples, scary movies, silly costumes - what's not to love? This year Dr. H and I handed out 53 pieces of candy. I only bought 64, so we came in just under the wire. My dad called and warned me about group of 30 (!!!) kids heading my way, but they never made it here, thank goodness. I was down to about 15 pieces left when he called.

Best costume this year: A 5 year old in a clown suit. Pretty mundane except for the red nose that honked when you squeezed it. Awesome. I bet she was so sick it by the end of the night. Poor girl.

I did my cop-out costume of black tee, ears and tail. Instant kitty! At least I did something, unlike some people I know (Kurt!). I tried to get him to buy the banana suit we saw at Wal-Mart, but he wasn't feeling it. Hopefully next year we'll plan better and come up with coordinating outfits. I think Sonny and Cher has potential. Lucy and Ricky, maybe?

The highlight of the weekend was visiting Kurt's family and playing with his niece and nephew. They were in costume, of course, and looking fabulous. It was exhausting and wonderful with glorious weather to boot! Perfection.

Kitties! Me and James the Fabulous Orange Cat

10.31.2008

A good movie - finally!

I don't go out to the movies much. I'm happy to take my chances with whatever dvd Blockbuster Online sends my way. After a series of duds (e tu, Indiana Jones?), last night's entry, The Constant Gardener, was a refreshing surprise.

It's the story of a British diplomat in Africa who begins investigating his wife's death and in the process uncovers both the immoral practices of the pharmaceutical industry and the truth about his wife. The film relies heavily on flashbacks to show the love story of Justin and Tessa, a technique that could be confusing or disruptive but was handled with a deft touch and helped to draw me into the mystery. My highest praise for the film is that it works on every level - as a thriller, as a love story, and as social commentary. The cinematography is amazing - gritty and beautiful - a perfect analogue of Africa itself.

My rating: 8.5/10

10.30.2008

No brainer dinner: Potato soup for one

I often crave soup when it gets cold, but I can't stomach the stuff in a can. Lately, I've been making a quick, simple potato soup when the craving hits. This isn't terribly precise, but it's hard to go wrong with this one.

Potato soup for one

Dice 2 medium potatoes and some onion. Season with salt and pepper. Barely cover with water and bring to a boil.

Lower heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes (if you dice small, the potatoes should be tender at this point).

Mash the potatoes with a fork. Leave chunky if you wish.

Add 2 t butter and slowly add milk while stirring. When it reaches the consistency you like (I like it on the thick side), return to low heat and warm through. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Variation: Stir in a half cup of shredded cheddar cheese when you're adding the milk and butter and top with (fake) bacon crumbles, sour cream, and more cheddar.

10.29.2008

Super Stationmaster Nelson?

Tama the cat has become a tourist attraction by hanging around a Japanese train station and wearing a wee little stationmaster's cap. Apparently, her presence has pumped $10 million into the local economy, and tourists are traveling from all over Japan to see her. Who knew a cat in a cap was such a gold mine?

This has me wondering if Nels might have a hidden talent worth millions. Surely, he can achieve something other than breaking things and tormenting the dog. My fear is that his gifts are more like those of Pearls Before Swine's Snuffles than law-abiding Tama. They even look alike. Maybe it's a fluffy thing ...


10.27.2008

Cheap chic

Thanks to Worth Your Attention for linking to this article in the New York Times. I think my deal on the fab purse qualifies me as a 'recessionista'. My frugal streak is suddenly chic! I didn't see that coming ...

10.26.2008

Baco-holic

Over the years I've tried several bacon substitutes. Veggie bacon is fine on a BLT but unconvincing on its own. Bacon Salt is surprisingly good but overpriced and too salty for many uses. About a month ago, through pure, glorious luck, I learned that Bacos are vegetarian. Vegan even! Apparently, they're some sort of chemistry project made of soy, food coloring, liquid smoke, and several things I can't pronounce and don't want to think about. Normally I would scoff at this, but desperation leads us to do funny things. Since it's been 15 years since I've had real bacon, all I can say with accuracy is that they taste like my memory of bacon - salty, crunchy, and a little smoky. Happiness!

I'm already on my second jar, and things may be getting out of hand. I started out topping potato soup and baked potatoes, the usual. Then I added a few to my morning waffle. Last week, I learned that my snack of herbed cheese and sesame crackers becomes sublime with a few bits of bacon-y goodness on top. I've started looking at everything I eat and wondering how it would taste topped with bacon. My low point came when I was eating a square of chocolate smeared with peanut butter and .. yes ... you see where this is going ... I topped it with some Bacos. And Lord help me, it was good!

I think I need a 12 step program. This can't be healthy.

10.25.2008

Downward Dog?



Maybe we should start learning doga ...

10.24.2008

I AM the Bargain Queen


How cute is this purse? It was marked down and down and then I had a coupon, so I got it for ... wait for it ... $10! Wahoo!

Nashville Eats: Miller's Ice Cream

Before lunch, Kurt and I noticed a sign for homemade ice cream on a brick building just down the street from the Hob Nob. We decided to skip the famous apple crisp at the Hob Nob to give Miller's a try before heading to the park for an afternoon of hiking.

Kurt opted for the peanut butter chocolate chip. It tasted exactly like the peanut butter kisses (does anyone remember those??) that my mom used to buy at Halloween. It was served in a homemade waffle cone, and Kurt, though stuffed, seemed pleased with his choice.

I wanted to try something unusual, so I went with a dip of pumpkin and a dip of apple butter. The apple butter was advertised as being made from a nearby orchard's homemade apple butter. Miller's offers 'junior scoops' for those of us wanting to try multiple flavors (or for those who can't make up their minds). Both flavors were excellent and true to their name. It tasted like fall in a dish! The texture was slightly grainy, but not unpleasantly so.

Story! While I was eating (and Kurt was outside on the phone figuring something out with his editor), two little boys came in and sat down with their ice cream. They looked to be about 4 or 5 years old. Possibly twins, but I couldn't tell for sure. They were super psyched to have vanilla - "the BEST flavor ever!" as they said several times. When their mom came in, one of them said to her, "Look Mom! It's like we're on a date!" Mom leaned in and whispered, "But you're too young, and one of you should be a girl!" Too cute.




Nashville Eats: Hob Nob Corner Restaurant

On Tuesday's Brown County trip, Kurt and I stopped in Nashville for lunch. After finally finding a place to park - there's a free lot on the southwest end of town for those willing to walk - we tracked down the Hob Nob Corner Restaurant which had been recommended by both my Dad and his parents (odd that!).

The Hob Nob is in an unassuming white building said to be the oldest commercial structure in Nashville. Basically, follow the scent of chicken to the Nashville House and head across the street. The small entry was full as we entered, and we were told the wait would be about 20 minutes. Thankfully, the wait wasn't quite that long. We used the time to check out the menu and appreciate the simple, old-fashioned style of the restaurant. Wooden booths lined one wall and an old school soda fountain ran along the other. We were seated in the back section of the restaurant which was brighter and more spacious. An apothecary cabinet filled with antique glass bottles and white powders of dubious origin lined the wall behind our table.

The menu offered traditional favorites such as pork tenderloin, grilled cheese, and apple crisp. There were also surprises like a spinach-apple salad, eggplant ravioli and my choice, the curried chicken salad. The sole vegetarian option was an open faced sandwich featuring avocado and veggies topped with melted cheese. Kurt opted for the turkey melt - turkey, bacon, tomato and mozzarella served open face on white bread. The portions were generous and both dishes were excellent. I'm a bit finicky about turkey, but the meat on Kurt's sandwich tasted as if it were sliced off of a home cooked turkey. Two thumbs up!

My chicken salad had a wonderful curry flavor and added crunch from the addition of Jonathan apples and diced celery. It was served with cantaloupe and a homemade onion-dill roll. I noticed onion-dill bread for sale up front and was glad to try it myself. I was worried about the large bits of onion inside, but they were sweet and barely noticeable. The dill flavor could have been more pronounced, but then I'm a huge fan of dill, so that may be a personal bias.

The Hob Nob is a good alternative for those seeking a lighter meal in Nashville. Everything is homemade using quality ingredients, and the old fashioned atmosphere makes for a fun, nostalgic experience. The trick is to get there early since the line had tripled by the time we left at 1pm.




10.23.2008

Scenes from Brown County

Kurt and I took a day trip to Nashville, IN on Tuesday. It was sunny but a bit brisk (translation: when the wind blew, it was cold). Judging from the leaves around Indy, I thought we were just past peak color, but there was still lots of green down south. Nashville was bustling, but the park was nearly deserted. We had the trails (and the backcountry when Kurt decided to go off trail for a bit) almost entirely to ourselves.

The views from the lookouts were amazing. We also climbed the fire tower only to learn that the hatch was bolted and we couldn't access the very top. Given how it was swaying and creaking in the wind, I was only too happy to head down.










10.20.2008

Green thumb? We'll see ...

I'm trying to grow a plant for the first time in about 15 years. I have a spotty track record with growing things, so I picked a jade plant which is apparently hard to kill (unless you totally overwater it). It's also kitty friendly in case Nels takes a nibble. It came with a mammoth tropism but otherwise seems pretty healthy. I read that you can start a new plant from a leaf. I might try that and add another to the pot, so it looks more balanced. I'm hoping to end up with a cool tree with lots of branches like they have at the yoga center. In any case, it's nice to have a bit of greenery in my den.

Behold the super grainy photo of me and the plantling!

10.19.2008

Veg'ed up biscuits and gravy

My mom made the best biscuits and gravy and the secret was always the hot sausage. Since I can't find spicy veggie sausage, I decided to mimic the sausage seasonings in the gravy itself. The result is a dead ringer for my mom's recipe. Even my carnivorous dad can't tell the difference!

Spicy Veggie Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits - make 'em or buy 'em, your call
2 T Crisco
1/4 c white flour
3 cups milk - ideally room temperature
salt, pepper, ground sage, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper
3 veggie sausage patties

While the biscuits are baking, melt the Crisco over medium in a large pan. Once melted, whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a light boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened. While the gravy simmering, cook the veg sausage patties in a small skillet. Once done, dice and add to the gravy. Season to taste with salt, pepper, sage, cayenne and crushed red pepper. Serve over split biscuits.

Surprisingly, this heats up well in the microwave, so be sure to save any leftovers. I tried this once with veg sausage crumbles and the result wasn't nearly as good. I think the crumbles are too small and throw off the texture. I'm sure this could be made with real sausage, but you'll have to figure that out yourself.

10.17.2008

Kindergarten redux

One of my Artist's Way exercises this week was to collect leaves or flowers and press them in a book between sheets of wax paper. Pretty much what we all did in kindergarten. I was skeptical, but it turned out to be a fun exercise! It was amazing to pay closer attention and take note of the variety of shapes and colors that the leaves have turned right here on my street. It's an excellent way to become attuned to the beauty all around us that we usually take for granted. I'm doubly lucky since fall is the perfect time of year for a project like this. Maybe those kindergarten teachers knew what they were doing after all ...

10.16.2008

Modeling is hard!

Ernie came home from the groomer with the cutest pumpkin kerchief. As always, getting him to sit still and look my way for a picture was a challenge. Too many squirrels and kitties to keep track of!