Best For Last, indeed.

I'm a music addict. If I were denied a life filled with music I think I would shrivel up like a dying worm and kick the bucket. Slightly dramatic, but fairly close to the truth.

Like the rest of the world I have my favorites. And I imagine that unlike the rest of the world, my favorites are stumbled upon and unexpected. My latest obsession I discovered flipping through the pages of an old magazine.

When you disconnect from the rest of the world little things slip by you, like the latest blockbuster movie starring someone you've never heard of or the marriage of yet another self absorbed Hollywood couple. But the downside is that I missed the boat when it came to hearing Adele as early as possible.

I was listening to 19, Adele's debut cd, the other day when I first heard Best For Last. That song shocked me into a stunned stillness. This chick has some pipes.

But now I've been inspired. I will share my musical obsessions if you'll share yours. Deal?


Mushrooms are my friend

Here's another recipe that I've tried that I really enjoyed. If it has a good mushroom in it...I'm there.

Fusilli with Oyster Mushrooms and Artichokes
Serves 2

You'll need:
7 oz fusilli pasta (or any other "chunky" pasta) | 1 tsp olive oil | 1 garlic clove, crushed | 4 oz oyster mushrooms (torn if large) | 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced (quartered works great too) | salt and pepper to taste | 6 sprigs basil, torn | sliced or shaved parmesan cheese to top

Cook your pasta. Neat idea for a pasta dish, right? The recipe calls for al dente, but I thought that al dente was a bit too...not done. I'd go one minute over what the cooking instructions recommend for al dente. While you're pasta is cooking...

...heat the oil in a skillet and fry up the garlic for a few seconds. Toss in the mushrooms and cook until tender (4-5 minutes). Add the artichokes, season with salt and pepper. I took half of the basil and tore it up and added it here and let it cook a bit longer--maybe four minutes or so on a low flame.

Once the pasta is done to your preference...drain and toss with the cooked mixture. Tear up and add the remaining basil leaves. Top with shaved or sliced parmesan and enjoy!

I should have taken a picture of this lovely little dish. It was yummy! I found this and the Shiitake mushroom recipe from Vegetarian Express. Great recipe book!


"Shiitake" is the word for the day

Nora had asked me to share my favorite recipes that I came across. Truth be told I've only tried two recipes out of the two cookbooks that I borrowed but I do have a LOT of recipes tagged to try.

Here's the first recipe that I tried and it was an amazing success. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...

Crispy noodle cakes with shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and chili pepper!
(Serves 2)

You'll need: (for the cakes)
4 oz thin egg noodles | 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce | salt | 1-2 tbsp sesame seed oil

For the veggies: 4 oz shiitake mushrooms | 10 oz bok choy | 4 tsp sesame seed oil
1 garlic clove, finely sliced | 1 tsp corn starch | 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp red chili pepper sauce | 1/2 tsp water

Here's how to throw it all together:
Put the noodles into a sauce pan full of boiling water, cook for 3 minutes (or until al dente). Drain, add the soy sauce. Heat your sesame oil in a large skillet. Add half the noodles to the skillet, form them into a flat, oval cake slightly less than 1/2 inch thick. Scoot the cake on over (carefully!) to make room for another noodle cake (or just be a smart cookie and place the noodles on one side of the skillet unlike some *cough* people). Cook both cakes 4 mins or so on either side to crisp them up.

Meanwhile....stir fry your veggies. Knock of any dirt from your shiitakes and cut the stems down a bit. Wash the bok choy and trim off the bottom stalks. Slice diagonally and don't leave out any of the greens! Heat your other bits of oil in a wok or another skillet; add the garlic (I used pre-chopped garlic from a jar. I know, cheater cheater pumpkin eater). Cook garlic for 30 seconds then add the mushrooms. Stir fry over medium-high heat for 3 mins or until the mushrooms start to soften. Add the boy choy and stir fry for another 3 mins until the bok choy leaves are starting to wilt but still are crisp. Separately, mix the cornstarch with the low sodium soy sauce and add this concoction to the veggies. Cook another 1-2 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed (though soy sauce is already loaded with sodium I doubt you'll need more...unless you are a certifiable salt freak).

Lastly, mix the chili pepper sauce and water. Arrange your cooked noodle cake and half the veggies on each plate. Drizzle your chili pepper sauce around your noodle cake...and then dig in!

Some thoughts on this recipe... I LOVED THIS! I also noted that this itty bitty bit of the chili pepper sauce was not enough. I would suggest making more to have on the side and add it to taste as you like.

My husband remarked to me..."If this is eating vegetarian you can count me in!" I'm not trying to change anyone else's eating habits (aside from eating healthier in the general sense) but I was tickled that he loved this dinner. He wants me to make this again tonight. Shiitake shiitake shiitake!


Seeking Veggie Variety. Meat Need Not Apply.

After I stopped eating meat I found myself eating zucchini, summer squash, portabello mushrooms and asparagus a lot. I'd sauté some or all of these lovely veggies and toss the colorful collection with angel hair or linguine and a fresh balsamic vinaigrette.

But what happens after you start getting sick of tossed asparagus? As much as I love my vinaigrette it seemed as though it was becoming as commonplace as, dare I say, ketchup. I need a variety of dishes that I can prepare and enjoy. Seeing as how meat is no longer appealing I can see myself stuck eating the same thing over and over and over again. Problem is, I'm not "natural" cook like some folks I know. I can't toss a random assortment of ingredients together and proclaim VoilĂ ! I'm lucky that I can cook pasta al dente.

God bless the library. Do you have any idea of the sheer number of cookbooks that they have? While I look for vegetarian cookbooks my eyes glaze over the spines of such books as:
  • High Fiber, High Flavor: More Than 180 Recipes for Good Health
(I'm not looking to get that intimate with my diet)
  • A Taste of Murder: Diabolically Delicious Recipes From Contemporary Mystery Writers
(Should I be worried that these dishes will do me in?)
  • Beer-can Chicken and 74 Other Offbeat Recipes For The Grill
(Beer. Can. Chicken. Seriously?)
  • Cookies to die for!
(Lead me not into temptation...)

I finally run across a couple of vegetarian cookbooks that I like and pull them from the shelves. They had pictures. I gotta have the pictures. If there aren't any pictures how the hell am I suppose to know what the meal is supposed to look like?

With cookbooks finally in hand the next order of business will be deciding which I will try first: the Spaghetti with Black Olive and Mushroom Sauce or the Honey-roasted Eggplant with Sesame and Hummus in Pita Bread?

Decisions, decisions. Wish me luck.


Picture Day Mania

Nothing sets a mother's nerves on edge more than the dreaded Picture Day. If you are a smart parent you will mark this occasion on your calendar as a reminder. Perhaps you may find the time to purchase your kids a new shirt for the special event that will capture their spirit, those special smiles, that twinkling of their eyes. You might even treat the lovelies to a trim.

Or perhaps not.

Perhaps you will fail to remember that Picture Day is coming, much less that it's TOMORROW. You might say a prayer of thanks because all of the laundry is done. But then it's likely that as you dig through baskets of clothes that have yet to be put away you will notice that your child's wrinkled khaki capris have dirt stains from playground jaunts that are stubborn enough to stay put and refuse all efforts to wash out. You will likely hope that the photographer will grant your wish and go for a head shot only and not focus (both literally and figuratively) on the fact that you have purposely sent your child off to school with khaki capris (freshly ironed!) that are dirt stained.

After the Picture Day Outfit crisis has passed you will still fret over Picture Day Smiles. "Don't cheese too hard!" you'll beg in the same breath that you pleaded "Smile naturally!" Equally intimidating is the dreaded Picture Day Hair Faux Pas. Was it brushed properly? Is there a goofy hair sticking up? Are you really going to think in 20 years that spraying half a can of Aqua Net on your head to get your hairstyle just right was truly the look for you in the 9th grade?

Thank God for Picture Day Retakes. Bring it on.


The Amazing Catapults!

Look at what my ingenious girls came up with! After you're done watching...think about how closely "ingenious" and "evil genius" resemble each other.

Nim's Island, the inspiration for this little piece of work, is a really great family film, catapults and all.

(I don't know why the video is showing up so much darker than the one I took but hopefully you get the idea.)


This healthy living is going to kill me

I recently stopped eating meat. This piece of news has been met with dumbfounded stares and disbelieving gasps from my carnivorous acquaintances. Was I becoming....a vegetarian? Well, not if you ask a vegetarian, I wasn't. I was thoroughly enjoying fish--a vegetarian no-no. I was happy in my healthy lifestyle choices. I was biking, I was eating healthy, I was losing weight. What could possibly go wrong under these circumstances?

Last week, after a satisfying lunch of tuna fish and crackers (light on the mayo, thank you!), I had a sensation of a crushing weight on my chest. It came on lightning quick and it was so intense that I was a shallow breath away from a ride to the emergency room. Having paid $463 for essentially a Band Aide for my last ER visit when I was bit by a dog I was very hesitant in going again unless I was dying. And there was a moment there were I thought I might be. But the pressure finally subsided, my breathing returned to normal and I made a mental note to call my doctor for an appointment. I was convinced I had developed a fish allergy and I was pissed. Was I truly going to have to become a vegetarian after all? I had just discovered fish tacos!

My doctor wasn't buying the fish allergy though. Despite my assertions that I had been having little attacks like this for the past few weeks, most often right after eating fish, he wasn't convinced. My doctor thought I had an "esophageal spasm". A blood test was in order, definitely, to rule out the food allergy. And because I had chest pain I was destined for an EKG (I never considered that I might be having a heart attack). But I wasn't prepared for my doctor to tell me that I needed an Upper GI. Huh? Isn't that for *looks around* old people?

I had my innards x-rayed the next morning after an unsatisfying swig of barium. I saw all my bits on a monitor, and it was odd watching the gulps of this liquid chalk that I swallowed travel down to my tummy. A roll left, a roll right and then I was done.

A call from my doctor the next day both elated and frustrated me. My blood tests were back and I wasn't allergic to fish. (Game on, fish tacos!) But the upper GI showed that I had "abnormalities" and I required a scope down the old gullet to confirm either the presence of gastritis or ulcers. Until then take this prescription for Zantac. Take this Epi Pen just in case. And avoid caffeine and spicy foods.

Fan-friggin-tastic. Don't these people know that I live on caffeine and spicy foods? I have a cast iron stomach for goodness sake!

So for right now I can eat fish again but go easy on the seasoning. No garden fresh peppers on my homemade pizzas (mushrooms only please!) and I should avoid a spicy Chana Masala and make my Coriander Chutneys milder. This is going to suck.

But damnit, I'm NOT giving up my coffee.


Read This Book: The Wet Nurse's Tale

"My name is Susan Rose. Here I sit in a lady's house with a lady's babe at my breast, and it's where I've been before though the house was different and the baby too. I've got what rich ladies need right here in front of me and I learned to do what I do by example. It's my mother's milk that washed me upon this shore. It has got me to places far from my own mother, and it has got me close to those I should have avoided and it has got me far from my own hopes, but I dream still. Nursing's good for dreaming, for it takes a good deal of sitting still."---Erica Eisdorfer, The Wet Nurse's Tale

It's not everyday that you get the opportunity to write your own book review. So now that I've read this fantastic book, invested both time and emotion into this character's world, I've come to the point of pulling all of my thoughts together about this story and find that I have a classic case of Writer's Block. (Reviewer's Block?)

So instead of trying to come up with something fancy to wow the pants off of you I will simply tell you what captured and held my attention with Susan Rose and her story.

I realized that I was in for a treat when Susan likened the beautiful, raw experience of childbirth to "shitting a pumpkin". I laughed out loud and immediately liked this woman.

This character's voice came off the page so vividly in my mind, and I imagined hearing the lilt in her English accent as she describes a chance encounter with the young Master of the Great House while she was eating an apple in a tree. "Master Freddie finished his piss and I thanked God but he didn't put it away! Instead he held it for a minute and seemed to look at it, for I know not what reason, and then I belched out of the sheer shame of it and the apple, too. It was a huge belch and he started and looked up and there I was looking straight down at him, straight into his eyes." Susan's colorful turn of phase was a constant source of entertainment for me as I read this book.

A shocking act of betrayal forces Susan to travel to Victorian London where she soon finds herself employed as a wet nurse in the home of a lady half addled. Given the circumstances I can hardly imagine how Susan manages to keep her wits about her, her focus steady. I won't give away the twists and turns that this story takes; suffice it to say that my heart ached for Susan's plight. "When I woke, I found that I had cried in my sleep, for my cheeks were wet."

Erica Eisdorfer has created an amazing character in Susan Rose. The hardships that Susan experiences are extraordinary and the willpower that allows her to persevere doesn't feel contrived. I empathized with Susan, I cried for her and I cheered for her. This would have been a woman I would have loved to have been friends with.


Getting taken for a ride

Today we picked up new bikes for the girls. We ended up buying two from Wal-Mart, the seventh circle of hell on a rainy Memorial Day, and I really struggled with our choices. The only bikes that the girls really liked (and truly fit on) were a Bratz and a Hannah Montana bike.

Insert heavy sigh here.

My kids don't have Bratz dolls. We don't buy into the Hannah Montana craze. I refuse to spend my money on dolls that look like prostitutes and I won't play into the machine that is Hannah Montana/High School Musical or whatever else is popular this week. I'm a mean mom and a marketing executive's worst nightmare.

So what's a mean mom and a marketing executive's worst nightmare to do when she finally caves and makes the dreaded purchase? She removes all the stickers off of the bikes of course! Take that you evil doers, you corrupter of children and depleters of college funds!

I still feel dirty, though.


And Abby came tumbling after

Today the family took a bike ride south along the river, pedaling our bikes on top of the levy that serves as one of the many bike trails that are in Madison county. Most of these trails parallel state highways.

Abby and I rode together ahead of Jim and Emily (those slowpokes!). I rode closest to the road, and Abby was riding in the middle of the divided trail. We went from having a fantastic time as a family, out on a lovely Sunday afternoon, to a state of perpetual terror as my youngest daughter suddenly found herself off the trail, careening down a steep hill towards a gravel path and a chain link fence. There she was, screaming bloody murder down the hill as I jumped off of my bike, running down after her. "Abby, FALL! ABBY FALL!" Just before she hit the gravel path she fell, a tangle of braids, arms and legs and tires and pedals. She was terrified and in tears. I pulled the bike off of her and was amazed to find that she didn't have a scratch on her. Abby was very lucky that she didn't hurt herself (despite the rendering above Abby was wearing a bike helmet). She was a brave bug and rode her bike back to the car.

When she got home she drew the experience. The cloud says, "I bit the dust". Abby's yelling, "Ahhhhh!" As I am running after her (you can see a leg bent in the drawing) I'm yelling "Bug!" although "Abby FALL!" is what I actually said (the liberties some artists take!). There are other bicyclists in the picture at the top of the trail; a family had come upon us just after I reached Abby and had offered assistance.

Abby's no worse for wear after this afternoon's adventure. But I shudder to think what might have happened if she and I were on opposite sides; her closest to the road and high above the highway and had lost control of her bike then. I only get so far into that dark thought before my mind shuts out the image and retreats back to what actually happened.
We are very lucky, indeed.

*The color on Abby's drawing has been adjusted somewhat to bring out some of the detail in it*


Where the hell did March go?

So much for my "return to blogging". Anyway, March was overrated. Everything and nothing happened. And it's hard to cover all of that.

Did I tell you that I swore off fast food for a year? (Of course not!) I can't recall the exact date but I made the oath in the first part of March--I think. The only exception to the "no fast food" rule is if I find myself in a pickle (between a sesame seed bun...I kid) and have to eat at a FFR then the exception is that I can eat there only if I eat a salad. Eating at a proper restaurant doesn't count as FF either but that doesn't mean that going overboard is authorized. Because it's not.

Why all the fuss? Two guesses.

And I have to start exercising again. Because again... two guesses. And short's weather is around the corner. Gotta tone up those legs!


Slumber Party Hell

To say that my Abigail's slumber party bombed last night is something of an understatement. This came as a complete and utter shock, considering that when I wrote about Emily's slumber party for her 7th birthday a year and a half ago I had expected the worst and was pleasantly surprised that the house didn't crash down around my ears. I followed the basic premise of the previous party: stand back and let the kids take the lead.

That was the mistake that ended in the Worst Slumber Party Experience On Record. Apparently, Spooky Stories don't always sit well with a group of 7 year old girls--not even the one who told the story.

Abigal, sufficiently creeped out by this Scary Story, ended up in my lap crying. She told me then that she wished she never had a slumber party. I spent time calming her down and Abby finally fell asleep, spending the next hour completely oblivious of the drama unfolding around her. Tucked in their sleeping bags the other girls worked themselves into a hysterical frenzy over this Scary Story and came downstairs and announced that they wanted to go home.


This is how, at ten thirty at night, I came to be dialing all of these girls' parents, telling them that a crisis had arisen and that their child wanted to come home. In between phone calls one of the girls repeated over and over, "I want my mommy!" ("She's on her way honey") "This house it haunted!" ("The house is not haunted") "I want to go home NOW!" (I can arrange that) and "I never want to come back here EVER AGAIN!" (I can arrange that, too. Trust me.)

My daughter, shafted by time and circumstance in having a proper party on her actual birthday, had no idea that her long awaited slumber party was dissolving around her. She would wake up wondering why only one girl remained out of the original five--incidentally the same girl who told the Scary Story in the first place (I couldn't reach her granddad).

Abby took the news this morning in stride but I can't help feeling that I've somehow let her down because her party wasn't a success. How do I make this experience up to her?



Massaging monologue

Yesterday I had a day spa experience. I walked out of that building with my brows waxed, hair cut and styled (if you consider a two inch tall bump at the back of my head a style then I was all over it), face suitably scrubbed and "aroma-therapied", fingers and toes properly painted, and my body massaged for one full hour.
I had a hard time relaxing for my massage though. There I was, laying on what I can safely describe as something akin to a hydraulic lift with a sheet covering me and my head lifted on a stack of folded towels. The lights were dimmed. Soft music was playing behind me, trying to lull me into a state of relaxation. Colleen started at my feet and worked her way up, massaging me with warm oil in a very rhythmic, precise fashion. And instead of allowing myself to drift off into a state of perpetual bliss my mind decided to go on full alert and take notes.
I should have had my toes done first.
It's a good thing I shaved this morning.
Make a note to apologize for my bony tibias.
Make a note to apologize for there being more of me to massage lately.
Jim should really have this done.
Ow! Ah!
Wow, that hurts.
Wha?! Thank GOD I shaved this morning!
Hey! They really do that karate chop thing!
I didn't expect to get my ass massaged today.
Karate ass chopping, the next Extreme Sport.
Ooooh, work that knot out.
There's another one.
I wonder if she's going to tell me where I carry all of my tension.
"I hope you enjoyed your massage today, Elizabeth", Colleen said to me in her smooth, relaxed voice. It had been an hour already?
My mind was on overdrive but at least my body felt pretty damned good.


Flush! Wash!

What ever do I say after being away for so long? The last thing I want to do is give a play by play of the drama over the last month and a half so I'll spare you the gory details and simply say, "Hello there".

That's not to imply that everything is coming up roses and life is just hunky dory. It's not. But, as the title of this entry implies, I'm going to flush all the "bad" away and wash my hands clean. I'll also be keeping my fingers crossed that the toilet doesn't back up.

What's that smell?