Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Stir-fried tofu and vegetables hoisin

I never injure myself in a normal way. If someone asks me, "How'd you cut your palm?", I'd have to say: "By opening a bottle of cooking sherry." If they asked me about the cut on my other palm, from July, I'd have to say: "I swerved on my bike to avoid a rat."

On that note, here is a yummy recipe! I love how tofu gets along with everybody. I only use it in Asian recipes, though.

Stir-fried tofu and vegetables hoisin (from Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin)

1/4 c hoisin sauce (you can use a nice natural brand that doesn't have Red #40; I like Roland brand)
2 T tamari soy sauce
1 T Chinese rice wine or sherry
1 T Asian sesame oil
4 T canola oil, divided
1 lb extra-firm tofu (I just used firm), cut into 1/2-inch slices and patted very dry, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes and patted very dry again. (To dry tofu, I actually prefer to put it between 2 plates with heavy cookbooks on top for 15 minutes or so. In the meantime, you can do other stuff.)
5-6 c tiny broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
3 T water
1 t minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 c hot cooked rice, made from 1 c raw rice (I like white basmati)

1. To make the sauce, combine the hoisin sauce, tamari, wine or sherry, and sesame oil. Set aside.
2. Over medium-high heat, heat 2 T canola oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok until very hot but not smoking. Add the tofu and let sit 1 minute or so to brown. Shake the skillet a few times to prevent sticking. Toss the tofu and cook until evenly golden all over. Remove to a platter.
3. Place the broccoli and red pepper in the skillet, toss, then add the water. Cover the pan and cook until all the water has evaporated and the broccoli is beginning to get tender yet is still quite crisp, about 3 min.
4. Make a well in the center of the pan and pour in the remaining 2 T canola oil. Add the ginger and garlic, stir a few seconds, then toss with the vegetables. Add the tofu and stir-fry until hot, about 1 min. Pour the sauce over the mixture and stir-fry 30 seconds. Serve over hot rice.

Tip (from the cookbook author): As with all stir-fried dishes, make sure you have all the ingredients laid out before you begin cooking. Have your rice completely cooked, covered, and kept warm over low heat before the stir-frying begins. Keep the skillet or wok very hot when stir-frying.

In defense of hoisin, I used to think it was nasty. When it's diluted and mixed with vegetables, however, it has a faintly sweet, mellow flavor. There were no leftovers, which is always a sure sign of a hit in this house (or apartment).

Nightmare

I had some trouble falling asleep last night, and when I did, I had a really weird nightmare. I was working for someone whose personality was similar to that of my last boss. He asked me to kill someone and hide the body. In the dream, I killed the person and hid his body in a shallow grave, but my conscience wouldn't let up. It was the first of the Ten Commandments I'd definitively broken. My boss (in the dream) was connected to the world of organized crime. I never thought he'd let me quit. But it looked like he was going to. Then I woke up at 6:11, extremely disoriented and a little freaked out.

Yikes! Banana pancakes for breakfast helped shake that off.

In other news, I'm getting 2 CDs soon for $0.98. That's because my mother gave me an Amazon rewards certificate a while back. She has a credit card with them and gets these certificates. Anyway, the cert was for $25.00, and the cost of 2 CDs was only $0.98 more. The CDs are: Songs in Red and Gray by Suzanne Vega and In Between Dreams by Jack Johnson.

I might as well make full disclosure. In the past, I had a dream that one of my college suitemates and I (we had the same first name) killed someone with a bunch of Q-tips. Somehow it wasn't as disturbing though.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Odds and ends

Not too much to report today. I went to yoga as usual. Did I mention that all my classes at this studio are FREE since I paid my tuition for yoga school? Yay! I go 5-6 times a week now. It would be 7 times a week but something always happens to eat up a day.

My yoga teacher brought up Katrina's devastation of New Orleans, but I think she was factually inaccurate. She talked about how she went to college there, how it's one of the most charming cities, and now it will be full of "toxins and cesspools." D assured me this will not happen. Anyway, it was a good class. She played some songs that were a wild mixture of techno and Hindu chanting. It reminded me a bit of the Bend it Like Beckham soundtrack, but without so many words.

In the elevator, a guy with some kind of accent (British? Australian?) held the door open for me and joked that it was the "[center's name] express." I smiled politely, but I was reeling inwardly at his shirt. It had pictures of blondes, brunettes and redheads, '50s pinup style, lounging around half-dressed (or not dressed at all, with their long hair strategically draped over their bodies). WHO WEARS A SHIRT LIKE THAT? I was glad to see everyone represented, but still.

I've decided to hold off on baking goodies for a while, unless I'm going to a LARGE party or something. I just can't resist them, especially the brownies I made recently (and posted the recipe for). Single serving desserts are much better for me. With that in mind, I bought a peanut butter cup cookie at Big Booty Bread Co. today. I think they know my order now. I wonder if I'll appear on their balance sheet at the end of the year - Bearette24, 300 cookies (I feel slightly nauseous thinking about it).

Anybody have good movies to recommend, that I can take out of the library? I used to love the movie Damage, but now that I am married and have a father-in-law, it would probably make me queasy. In college I thought it was quite yummy though. And morally inexcusable, of course :)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Of Streisand and Redford

I watched The Way We Were today while D took one of his mammoth bike rides, after I got back from yoga. I knew he didn't want to see it. And it was free! From the library! How beautiful.

Anyway, this movie has some unintentionally campy elements, especially the dialogue, which made it fun to watch. It was one of those movies (see also: Romeo and Juliet with Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) where the man is prettier than the woman, and the man gets objectified. You know those moments when men see women in movies and their eyes get big and round and dreamy? Well, that happens here, but it happens when Streisand sees Redford snoring gently at a bar.

There were some great lines in it:

Streisand: It shouldn't be this easy.
Redford: Are you saying you're easy? Compared to what? The Hundred Years' War?

I also thought it was interesting to see a movie where the woman's looks had very little to do with the romance. There are many differing opinions on Babs:

My male writing teacher: I've always thought she was very sexy.
My brother: Barbra Streisand is difficult to look at.

I saw 2 of her movies before this, The Mirror Has Two Faces and Meet the Fockers, both of which I enjoyed. I couldn't understand why she had such a reputation for being difficult. This mystery is cleared up by The Way We Were. She had a lot of spark and ambition, but she was definitely a pain in Redford's butt. And more interesting than him at the same time (though he was more attractive).
We went to Long Beach with DG yesterday. Of the Long Island beaches, I've only been to Jones Beach before, and I was favorably impressed with Long Beach. They had a fun little boardwalk with some truly tacky wares (including hers 'n' hers miniature wooden porta-potties; I'm not making this up ;) and the crowd was a nice mix of people.

The lifeguards were a little overzealous and pulled us out of the waves at 5:00, yelling, "The water's closed!"

Afterward, DG drove us into the city, which was surprisingly short and painless after a little bit of traffic on some route or another (I never bothered to learn NY highways, since I don't drive here; Route 128 in MA, by the other hand, I know by heart). We had Indian food at Madras Cafe in the East Village. They've changed their menu a bit. They now have miniature masala dosas as an appetizer (so cute! a petite fold-over pancake stuffed with potatoes) and spinach with red lentils, so that's what I had. I really like red lentils.

At some point I met a Boston terrier. As I was crouched down, patting it, it put both paws on my shoulders, and then started messing up my hair. I think its owner was taken aback.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Brownies and injera

I'm still getting used to this early morning thing. I woke up at 9!

Last night I made brownies (recipe to follow). I ate one before dinner and brought 3 to the restaurant so D, Mike and Mike's wife, W, could have one. (Mike's wife also has the initial M, which could be confusing, so I'll go for W.) Everyone loved them. Then we went all out and got a bottle of blackberry honey wine, and W pointed out, "This tastes like Manischewitz. I like that on ice cream." It was very sweet; we polished off the bottle. The pathetic truth: a little over a glass of this has left me feeling mildly hungover this morning. Mildly.

We were eating at Awash, an Ethiopian restaurant between 106th and 107th on Amsterdam, closer to their hood than ours, but it's an uncomplicated subway ride. At Awash you eat with your hands, using spongy bread (injera) to scoop up the red lentils and such, but I brought chopsticks to give people the option.

Afterward we tried to find a movie to see, either El Crimen Perfecto (a Spanish-subtitled flick about rival department store managers) or The Baxter (billed as a quirky rom com), but both were elusive and we headed home.

Here's the brownie recipe. I originally got it from Crystal's blog, then discovered I already had it in one of my cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. Crystal recommended adding in 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 c walnuts, but I found the brownies took longer to cook than the cookbook said. Whether this was because of the additions or not, I don't know, but I might try it without the additions next time. Although it came out perfectly well when it was finally done!

Moosewood Fudge Brownies

1/2 c butter (1 stick)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 c lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c unbleached white flour

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly coat an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

In a pot large enough to hold all of the batter, melt the butter and chocolate together on low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat by hand or with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and beat well. Stir in the flour and mix until the batter is thoroughly blended and smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, until the brownies are just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan and are still fudgy in the center. If you prefer more cake-like brownies, bake an additional 5 minutes.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Your Hidden Talent
You are both very knowledgeable and creative.
You tend to be full of new ideas and potential - big potential.
Ideas like yours could change the world, if you build them.
As long as you don't stop working on your dreams, you'll get there.

Grand Marnier French toast; 17th Street Productions

I can't believe I'm up! I woke up at 8 am. D is still sleeping. We're trying to get on a "normal" sleep schedule, but so far I'm the only one who got there.

Anyway, I made the Grand Marnier French toast, and put the rest of the batter in the fridge for when he wakes up. I must say, I paid extra for some organic eggs (no cages, vegetarian feed, the box boasted), and they looked much better when I was beating them. Healthier and more sturdy, somehow.

I expected the French toast to be really rich. It's not. It's good in a more subtle way, so that you finish up 2 slices and think, "Hmm, I'll have another." Fortunately I used challah bread and the pieces from the ends were quite small, so I could have 3 slices without feeling pig-like.

Here's the recipe (from Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin):

4 large eggs
2/3 c low-fat milk (I used soy)
1/4 c Grand Marnier or Triple Sec (or other orange liqueur)
1/4 c sugar
Oil for frying (preferably canola)
8 slices good-quality white bread (I used challah from D'Aiuto's)
Maple syrup

1. In a medium-size bowl, thoroughly beat the eggs until perfectly blended. Beat in the milk, Grand Marnier and sugar. Pour into a shallow dish such as a glass pie plate.
2. Pour a thin film of oil into a frying pan and heat over medium heat until a drop of water dances when dropped on it.
3. Place the slices of bread one by one in the egg mixture and let sit a few seconds. Carefully turn each one over and moisten the other side. Place a slice of soaked bread in the frying pan and repeat with another slice. Cook on both sides until golden brown and cooked through. Regulate the heat so the bread doesn't brown too fast. Serve with a bit of maple syrup.

Tip (from the cookbook author): Using 2 large skillets makes the process move quickly. Experiment with different breads such as challah or French bread. If using supermarket bread, select a good-quality white bread such as Pepperidge Farm Hearty White.
Tip (from me): You may want to skip the "drop of water dancing" step. My drop of water didn't dance, it took a tizzy.

Also: I feel robbed! I've been devouring the Gossip Girl series this week, from the library. I noticed the copyright page said "By 17th Street Productions" rather than "By Cecily von Ziegesar," who's listed as the author on the cover. An Internet search revealed that 17th Street Productions, recently bought by Alloy Company, has a stable of "writers for hire" who churn out books based on pre-arranged plots. The writers are paid but don't get authorial credit.

I flipped through some of my other teen books. Sadly, even The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is part of the machine, though it's copyrighted by Alloy Company and Ann Brashares (the author on the cover). Same deal with The Au Pairs (I got that from the library in the past, so I checked the copyright page on Amazon). I wonder why Cecily von Ziegesar didn't even get co-credit? Did she not do anything? And if that's the case, why is she listed as the author on the cover?

Oh well.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Tagged! (and a penne a la vodka recipe)

I got tagged by Kim. If you haven't checked out Kim's blog, you should. It's a fun read; she washes her flip-flops in the dishwasher and stuff ;)

Ten years ago, August 1995:

It was the summer after my sophomore year in college. I came back home to live with my mom and work as a legal assistant at a real estate law firm in Beverly, MA. (I know, the excitement is killing you already). The job was hideously boring. I mostly made copies of real estate closing documents all day. And typed quitclaim deeds. Anyway, I did share a room with a really cute, older lawyer. I turned 20 that summer and he arranged to get a Killer Chocolate Cake from a nearby bakery called Klink's on my birthday. Klink's is either closed now or they don't make the cake anymore. I think they're closed. Among the motley crew of characters at the firm was a woman who had been married 3 times at age 47. She was mad because she heard someone whispering about her once, "She's been married 4 times."

Five years ago, August 2000:

I was living with my boyfriend and working as a paralegal at a securities class action firm in NYC, but I was leaving for law school the next month. I was going to miss my friends. They included: a fun guy who did sculpture in college and shaved his eyebrows; a secretary who slept with one of the lawyers, and was artsy; and a woman from Switzerland who was 28 at the time. Later she got cancer. I hope she recovered. We kept up a correspondence for a while, and then she disappeared.

One year ago, August 2004:

I had just fled my lawyer job a month before. My boredom at my two previous law jobs didn't clue me in that I would hate it. Ever been oblivious like that? After quitting, I went with my husband to Italy, where we ate and walked around. Some days we walked 4 hours. I guess that's why I lost 6 pounds. (I put them back on.)

Yesterday, August 24, 2005:

I went to yoga, made Thai tofu with coconut rice for me and D, and took a bike ride down the Hudson River path around 11 pm. The falafel man, who hits on everybody, said, "Taxi!" as I passed and then said, "Wassup, beautiful?" I didn't see any rats. My palm has healed from my last rat encounter.

Tomorrow, August 26, 2005:

I'll go to yoga and get psyched up for going to the beach on Saturday with D and DG. They have the same first name. I'll also make Grand Marnier French toast with challah bread in the morning.

Five snacks I enjoy:

apples
bananas
raisins
brownies
cookies

Five bands that I know most of their lyrics:

Like Kim, I assume this includes individual artists. I'm gonna say:

Tori Amos
Joni Mitchell
Madonna
Eurythmics
Pet Shop Boys

Five things I'd do with a million dollars:

Have my apartment expanded to include 2 rooms that are lined with bookshelves
Pay off my law school debt
Put some into savings
Set my mother up for retirement
Get a house in San Francisco or Miami

Five places I'd run away to:

San Francisco
Miami
Coronado
Providence (I know, it's weird. But I have a special affection for Brown and they have great sandwiches at Geoff's on Thayer Street).
Drawing a blank on the last one! Maybe Italy? I like the food, but I wouldn't want to live there. I don't think they like Americans much. I like London, but the air is really sooty.

Five bad habits I have:

Worrying/obsessing
Loving dessert (I have to buy individual ones; I only bake dessert for events, so I won't have to deal with tempting leftovers)
A bit of a temper
I can hold a grudge
I sometimes slack off with my writing

Five things I like doing:

Yoga
Bike riding
Eating/cooking
Reading
Hanging out with people

Five things I wouldn't wear:

Fur
Anything with pleats
Thongs
Wool
Heels higher than 1 or 2 inches

Five TV shows I love:

Currently, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. Not a big TV watcher other than that.

Five movies I love:

Say Anything
The Wedding Singer
Napoleon Dynamite
Bridget Jones's Diary
Love Actually
(and many more)

Five famous people I'd like to meet:

This is tough. I find a lot of celebrities vapid and annoying these days. I guess I would say:

Anne Tyler (love her books)
Madonna (story value. Plus she'd probably do something outrageous.)
John Cusack
Colin Firth
Tori Amos

Five favorite toys:

My laptop (PowerBook G4)
Yoga mat
Books!
Food processor
CDs

Five people to tag:

Bdogg (thanks for the books :)
Leah
Lisa
Liz
Lora
Ms. Dork (I know, that's 6. But some people might not do it!)

PENNE A LA VODKA

It rocked. Here's a picture:


And here's the recipe.

Penne a la Vodka (courtesy of Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin)

2 T olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 c canned crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1/4 c vodka
1/2 t salt
1/2 c heavy cream
1 lb penne
2 T fresh minced parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (you can also add cubes of fresh mozzarella right before serving)

1. Bring a large quantity of water to boil in a stockpot.
2. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook gently for 1 min. Do not let the garlic get at all colored. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, vodka and salt, and cook at a lively simmer for 10 min. Pour in the cream and keep warm while you cook the pasta.
3. Drop the penne into the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 10-12 min. Drain thoroughly in a colander and return to the pot. Pour on the sauce, toss, and cook 1 min. Serve sprinkled with parsley. Pass the cheese at the table.

So adorable


My friend Carpe said no no no to the 6-year-old vodka. He suggested that I get shot-size bottles of vodka for $1 or $2. Well, alas, the liquor store did not have vodka quite that small or cheap, but I was able to get a small bottle of Absolut for the vodka a la penne and a petite bottle of Grand Marnier for the Grand Marnier French toast I'm planning to make soon.

Aren't they cute?

The best thing was, the Asian woman behind the counter carded me. You might be thinking, "Bearette24 is getting too big for her britches. I bet they card everyone." Nope! They didn't card the guy behind me.

Music

A while ago, Lobo (who is a music guy) recommended some high-level stereo equipment. I always suspected it was one of those cases where you don't get what you pay for. Case in point: it could never handle "burned" CDs. I got one as a Christmas gift from some graphic designers one year, and burned several of my own, and it couldn't play 'em. The cheap box we bought to play "The Wedding March" at our wedding (the ceremony was outdoors and the DJ took over at the reception) handled them just fine.

This morning, I put in Suzanne Vega's Retrospective and it started skipping every time I stepped away from the stereo (the high-level one). D started laughing. I tried running away right after I put the CD in, but it didn't work. If I stood there near the stereo, the CD kept playing. If I stepped away, it skipped.

So the cheap box is now our equipment of choice.

I'm making penne a la vodka tonight with 6-year-old vodka. Another Christmas gift, this one from my first job in New York. I'll put up the recipe if it's good ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

D and I went to S's apt for a movie night. He is one of Mike's friends and has one of those huge projection screens. Lamentably, the movie was "Shaolin Soccer" (awful) but a good time was had by all.

I brought my pumpkin chocolate chip squares and they were a raving success. I gave them a test drive at yoga, giving them to several people, because I thought I had a few too many. One of the front desk girls said, "It was divine" (after I came out of class and she had eaten the square). Apparently baked goods are quite the icebreaker. I got into conversations with 2 strangers and found out that one of them used to live in MA, like me. She told me they are contemplating putting up a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery in Salem (known for its witchcraft trials). I said, "They must not be into that." A woman nearby, visiting from North Dakota, asked why. I explained that New Englanders are set in their ways, and the other Massachusettsian laughed knowingly. The North Dakota woman seemed very nice, though she has back pain and had knee surgery. I imagine many of the poses are painful or difficult for her.

Anyway, the party was fun. A weird thing, though, was that a lot of the women were in the Junior League. (The party was on the Upper East Side.) One of them came up to me and asked if I was in it as well. I was like, what's that? She said with a straight face, "Wealthy Eastsiders." I laughed and said no, I live on the west side. The east side is cleaner but the west side has more personality. Plus, I get the screaming meemies when I go to the east side (except for the East Village, which is edgy and bohemian) and see all the suits. It brings me back to a darker time ;)

There was a cute guy at the party. I always assume the dating scene is very easy for men in Manhattan, with the skewed male/female ratio, but apparently it's not.

And it must be said that S did all the cooking; his fiancee was not even there. I was impressed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pumpkin chocolate chip squares

I'm making these for a movie night that D and I are going to tonight. They're not out of the oven, but I could tell from the batter that they're awesome. I tried to pull a fast one on D by describing them as chocolate chip squares, but he immediately detected the pumpkin in the batter. I think he should give them a fair shot anyway. Here's the recipe. I believe I got it from Grown*Up Girlie's blog a while back.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares

2 c all-purpose flour
1 T pumpkin pie spice (you can substitute 1 1/2 t cinnamon, 3/4 t ginger, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/2 t allspice and 1/2 t cloves - all ground)
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 c sugar
1 large egg
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 12-oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 X 13 baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree. Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
3. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
4. Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into 24 squares.

In other news, I've decided not to take the writing class with the unknown teacher. D found her blog online. She wrote a list of 100 things, and a lot of them are about her fears that she won't write a story again. She seems more into knitting. I guess I'll wait for my other teacher to come back before I take another class. I just don't want to spend $300+ on a class where I'm not convinced the teacher is as into it as I am. In the meanwhile, I'll keep writing. Also, she seemed more like an angstful writer and I am more of a quirky/comic writer with some moments of seriousness, so it might not be a good match.

My sister emailed me. She liked the charms I sent her (one is shaped like a slipper with a flower over the toes, or where the toes would be; the other is shaped like sunglasses with pink lenses and tiny red beads). They're both small and cute.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Rice

We had dinner with IG at Rice, a resto on the corner of 28th and Lex. It was quite good, though D was displeased with the waitress.

D: Could I have a Black Russian?
Waitress: No.

D: How about a rum and Coke?
Waitress: You don't understand. We have mojitos and margaritas and that's it.

But they mixed a rum and Coke for D last time he was there. So apparently she just didn't want to bother. I had a mojito, which was very minty and good. IG had his without sugar and they gave me his by accident! But then we switched. I must say, I missed alcohol. I remembered in high school the athletes weren't supposed to drink alcohol (in theory) so I thought it would be good, as I got more serious about yoga, to cut out alcohol. But I forgot how it takes the edges off things.

I had tofu meatballs (very good, not bland at all) with basmati rice. D had black rice with edamame, following the waitress's suggestion, but he didn't like it. For dessert I brought along my favorite peanut butter cup cookie from Big Booty Bread Co. Yay!

Writing class drama. My writing class teacher, who took the summer off, is not coming back for the fall either. So I emailed this woman J, who was in my class before, to strategize. In this writing program, let's just say that the quality of the teachers varies, uh, widely. So you have to be careful, especially since you can only get a refund before classes start. So we'll see. The Wednesday night teacher has a good pedigree, but it's no guarantee that she'll be a good teacher.

I'm excited/nervous about yoga school beginning in September. I want to know who my buddy is! (We'll all be paired up and have hourly meetings with our buddy each week, starting in September.)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Another meme

1. IF YOU COULD BUILD A SECOND HOUSE ANYWHERE, WHERE WOULD IT BE?
San Francisco, on a hill.

2. FAVORITE ARTICLE OF CLOTHING?
This is tough. I like my little black dress for weddings. I also like my lacy black skirt. I also like yoga pants. I also like this jean skirt that always seems to fit.

3. THE LAST CD YOU BOUGHT?
Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm. I'm currently obsessed with Suzanne Vega's Retrospective though.

4. WHAT TIME DO YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING?
Usually in the 10:30 - 11:30 range

5. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE?
Food processor

6. IF YOU COULD PLAY AN INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Piano

7. FAVORITE COLOR?
Pink

8. WHICH DO YOU PREFER, SPORTS CAR OR SUV?
Neither!

9. FAVORITE CHILDREN'S BOOK?
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON?
Fall. Always a relief after the hot, sweaty summer.

11. IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPER POWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Time travel. I would leap out of awkward/painful moments.

12. IF YOU HAVE A TATTOO, WHAT IS IT?
No tattoo. If I ever got one, which won't happen, it would be a rose on my ankle. Though I'm told that ankle tattoos hurt.

13. CAN YOU JUGGLE?
No.

14. NAME ONE PERSON FROM YOUR PAST YOU WISH YOU COULD TALK TO.
I wouldn't mind talking with my friend Beth from college.

15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DAY?
Sunday

16. WHAT'S IN THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR?
No car. I used to have a Honda Civic ("Silver") and before that, my mother's hand-me-down Toyota Corolla ("Bluie").

17. WHICH DO YOU PREFER SUSHI OR HAMBURGER?
Neither - vegetarian.

18. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DESSERT?
This is tough. I love baklava, peanut butter cup cookies, Starbucks chocolate chunk cookies, my brother's mother-in-law's pumpkin pie, carrot cake, banana ice cream, pumpkin ice cream, and brownies. I eat them in moderation though ;)

19. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEAL?
Currently I love penne with pesto and grape tomatoes.

More movies!

This will be kind of a random late-night posting. D is at his parents' place in the Poconos. He's coming back around 5 pm on Sunday.

His parents have a party there each year. I had the option of going, but for various reasons which I won't go into here, I will go there with D for part of Labor Day weekend instead. Sadly, they do not have the champagne glass-shaped or heart-shaped bathtubs for which the Poconos are renowned.

Anyway, I decided to catch up on chick flicks and dramas, and went to the video store with that in mind.

Baby Boom - this was quite ridiculous and cheesy, yet I enjoyed it. This movie indirectly espouses the following principles:

1) motherhood will make you flushed and radiant, and never tired.
2) your attachment to your baby will supersede your attachment to your boyfriend, job and current locale.
3) if you move to a small town (population 319, INCLUDING you and your baby, and the sign was hand-corrected to show that you moved in), you will immediately meet a cute doctor (okay, vet) to hook up with.
4) if you start canning applesauce out of boredom, and label it as gourmet baby food, people will flock to buy it from far and wide (even though you and the vet, in the vet's words, "are the only people under 60 in this town"). And your former employer, who basically fired you, will offer you $3 million for your gourmet baby food company.

I hope I didn't spoil it for anyone who didn't see it ;) Also, it has a delightfully cheesy, jazz-like score.

A Lot Like Love - Ugh. This was freakin' dreadful. I only rented it because it was playing at the video store and it seemed to be on an intriguing part. Little did I know that the intriguing part was a tiny oasis in a swamp of boredom, bad writing and worse acting.

Amanda Peet, though striking, is really deficient in the charm department. In every role I have seen her in, she comes off as obnoxious. Ashton Kutcher was just kind of blandly handsome. He is more likable than her, though.

You Can Count on Me - This was an indie flick with Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo (one of my favorite actors). Also Matthew Broderick as a bank manager on a power trip, which was pretty funny. It was one of those movies where people are yelling at each other throughout, but I cared about the characters, which was more than I could say for A Lot Like Love.

And tomorrow I have Kate and Leopold. I wonder if that will be good, or if Meg will let me down.

In book news, I reviewed 2 more books for chicklitbooks.com, and R says she'll send me some more next week. I really, really like the free books thing. I am currently reading the first book in the "Gossip Girl" series. I had avoided that series for a while. I guess I was worried it would be mean-spirited and petty. It's really just silly. Looking back, though, these kids are a lot more wild than I was. I didn't even drink in high school!

Oh, and I decided I should see 2 movies that everyone else has seen - The Way We Were and Edward Scissorhands. I got the brilliant idea to put them on hold at the library - it'll be free and I get to keep them for longer.

Yay!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The 40-year-old virgin

You must see it! Really. It started out as a conventional lowbrow comedy, with some interesting quirks, and then became increasingly creative and interesting until it was just great. I loved it. So did D. Everyone who came out of the theater was smiling.

Other than that: we went to Thailand Restaurant for dinner, where I had salad and vegetable fried rice. We split a Starbucks cookie afterward and walked 2 miles or so to the theater. We stopped by Barnes & Noble and I bought a book called, "Cooking for Mr. Right" (fiction, not an actual guide!). All the same, when I got to the cashiers, and a man and a woman said "Hi," I went to the woman's cash register. Too embarrassing to buy it from a guy. When D caught up with me, the woman cashier said, "Is he Mr. Right?" and I said yes. She had an interesting accent I couldn't place.

Anyway, see the movie!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Not too much going on today. D and I had lazy lasagna for dinner, preceded by mesclun salad with lemon-tahini dressing, and followed by strawberry yogurt with a little granola. A little more than I usually eat when I cook at home, but what can I say, it was tasty.

The nastiness and humidity seems to have dissipated, leaving an autumn feeling in the air, which I always welcome. But it's a little sad. I went out on the terrace to read The Au Pairs, which is failing a little in its trash mission. Summer Boys was more successful trash. Which is not to say it's bad, it just could be better. Summer Boys and Summer Boys 2 were so good that I literally couldn't put them down. I read Summer Boys 2 in its entirety on the plane ride back from SF.

My college roommate may or may not visit this weekend. She called me when I was in San Fran and explained she had music camp and could stop by in NYC on the way back. She lives in DC. I apologized, saying I had an obligation but it would have been great to see her. Now the obligation is canceled, but I haven't been able to reach her at music camp. Her cell phone seems to be shut off - my calls go straight to voicemail. So I called her parents and left a message to see if they have the number of the music camp. We'll see. The last time I saw her was on New Year's Eve, when she and her boyfriend came to the city and had a rockin' time. (Sorry, I just wanted to use that word.) Her boyfriend's brother lives in Hell's Kitchen and is a wine expert. His job involves going to different wine shops and tasting the wares. I like it when people are really into things.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hangawi

We had dinner at Hangawi, which was excellent. They're Korean and vegan and very tasty. We went with P. It's his last night in the city before he goes on to further his education at Birkbeck, a school in London. The dorms are called colleges and he will be living in Goodenough College.

For an appetizer we shared some stuffed shiitake mushrooms (I am not always a fan of mushrooms, but these have a very good, cinnamon-like sauce) and combination pancakes, which include mung bean and leek pancakes. My entree was veggies in brown sauce, which may sound pedestrian but were quite crisp and tasty. For dessert we all had the carrot cake. The dessert plates have little poems on them about how drinking tea is better than getting drunk.

It was someone's birthday in the restaurant, so the waiters banged a gong and brought the birthday boy a long blue robe that caught P's fancy. P asked the waitress where he could get one and she said, "Korea." Then she told him he might be able to find one in Flushing, Queens.

After dinner we stopped at an Asian market in hopes of finding hijiki. They had many other kinds of seaweed, but none of that. I might try an Asian market on St. Mark's Place. I have a veggie burger recipe that calls for it.

I'm looking forward to seeing The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The guy in it, Steve Carell, is pretty funny.
Thanks, everybody, for the oven feedback! Michelle correctly diagnosed the problem :) And thanks to Liz for asking me about the holes, which led me to check out the oven again, and now I'm sure I could fix it by myself :)

In the meantime, it's exhilarating to have an oven where all 4 burners work. It has not been that way since I moved here in 1999. To celebrate, I dug out 4 skillets and made pancakes for me and D. Here's the recipe, from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics:

Dry ingredients:
1 c unbleached white flour
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 c quick-cooking oats

Wet ingredients:
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 c 2% milk (I used soy milk instead)
1 T vegetable oil
2 T maple syrup or sugar
1 c sliced ripe bananas

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg. Add the oats and mix well. In a separate bowl, stir together all of the wet ingredients. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients just to combine.

Lightly oil a skillet or griddle and place on medium-high heat. Use about 1/4 c of batter for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on the top, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. The bananas will settle to the bottom, so you want to flip these pancakes just as soon as bubbles start to form to avoid scorching them. Cook on the second side until golden brown, about 1 minute.

Serve hot.

In other news, I have to drag my carcass to Macy's today and look for a gift for my sister. My sisters, who are twins, have their birthday on August 23rd. I already got 2 Rachael Ray cookbooks for one sister. My other sister asked for a T-shirt from petfinder.com, which I ordered, and also mentioned that she'd like a cat charm for her charm bracelet, or pins or earrings that have a cat theme. (My sister LOVES cats, has two small black ones, and calls them her "babies".)

So I will brave Macy's for her. The reason that this is a big deal? I avoid department stores whenever possible. I am a big fan of Gap (though not so much lately), Old Navy, Urban Outfitters, and anyplace else that I can walk in/walk out. If I need something for a wedding, I go to eBay and get a Betsey Johnson dress (sometimes new with tags - you can get a dress that would sell for $300+ in the store for $40-$70!) I heartily recommend this route to anybody. Whenever I wear a Betsey dress to a wedding, at least one person (usually three or four) asks me where I got it. I have got some great little black dresses that way. And red ones.

I'm currently reading The Au Pairs by Melissa de la Cruz. It's really fun. I recommend it to anyone who's in the mood for a "beach read."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Since I know you are all dying to know the outcome...

The maintenance man, a huge, jolly fellow, appeared around 4:15 pm. He asked for a safety pin; I gave him one. After a few minutes, he called me back into the kitchen, turned on each burner, and said, "Cool," after the flame leaped up each time.

Then he gave me a little lesson: "When you're cookin', stuff overflows," he said. "There are these little tiny holes. The stuff gets into the holes. Come see." He showed me how to yank up the cover of the stove and get the gunk out of the holes with a safety pin.

So I gave him a $5 tip.

Of course he had to call me "sweethaht" on the way out, but I think that was just his way.
For lunch, D and I had felafel on red-leaf lettuce with tahini-lemon sauce. You can go here for the recipes. Sauce doesn't usually excite me, but this one is so good you can use it on anything. D is even thinking of putting it on his Cheerios. And it keeps for weeks if you keep it cozily sealed in Tupperware.

While I was preparing the felafel, I got a call from Satan (I mean, the City Bar Association). She laughed when I said I'd probably be a yoga teacher soon! The nerve. Anyway, you'll be glad to know that if you leave the City Bar Association, you can always come back to them. They're there for you, just like State Farm. And I shouldn't be over-sensitive about the laugh. It seemed like a friendly one, and she wished me good luck.

I'm trapped here until 5:00, since the maintenance folks asked me to hang out from 1 to 5. They are going to fix our ailing oven.

In other news, I got a postcard from my friend Allen, who is currently hiking around Spain. He met a "very cute cow family". He also enjoyed some very yummy meals at a monastery, including "pain perdu" - old bread dipped in egg and butter, which evolved into "French toast." For NYCers, Le Gamin (on 9th and 21st) has pain perdu on its menu and it is delicious. Be prepared to wait about an hour, though - the service is very, um, slow.

Another meme

OK, I'm a sucker for memes. This one was lifted from the Nearest Distant Shore.

  1. Were you named for anyone? After my mother's aunt, whom she loved.
  2. Do you wish on stars? not usually. But it's a sweet idea.
  3. When did you last cry? I'm not sure.
  4. Do you like your handwriting? It's cool, I have a backhand slant. Some people can't read it. So sometimes I print for clarity.
  5. What's your favorite lunch meat? I'm vegetarian. I used to like chicken. I don't miss any other meats.
  6. What is your most embarrassing CD? Jennifer Lopez - Remixed. It's good to work out to.
  7. If you were another person, would you be friends with you? I think so.
  8. Do you have a journal? yes, this blog plus a paper journal.
  9. Do you use sarcasm a lot? not really.
  10. What are your nicknames? I don't really have any. My brother used to call me Nugget.
  11. Would you bungee jump? never. I'm a little bit afraid of heights.
  12. Do you untie your shoes before you take them off? If I'm wearing sneakers, yes. I often wear flip-flops.
  13. Do you think that you are strong? My legs are really strong, my arms moderately so.
  14. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Pumpkin or banana, from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.
  15. Shoe size? 8
  16. Red or pink? pink
  17. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? This is a negative question!
  18. What do you miss most? I don't know. I feel pretty content at the moment.
  19. Do you want everyone you send this to, to send it back? I won't be sending it out
  20. What color pants/shoes are you wearing? I'm barefoot and wearing blue pajama pants.
  21. What are you listening to right now? Nothing. I listened to David Bowie and Beethoven's Pastoral earlier tonight.
  22. Last thing you ate? a Red Delicious apple
  23. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? carnation pink
  24. What is the weather like right now? dark and not too hot
  25. Last person you talked to on the phone? my husband (aka D, aka Capybaras United)
  26. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? shoulders and eyes
  27. Favorite drink? Cosmos, although I haven't been drinking lately.
  28. Favorite sport? Does yoga count?
  29. Hair color? dark brown or black
  30. Eye color? dark brown
  31. Do you wear contacts? No. I had 20/20 vision last time I was tested.
  32. Favorite food? One of my favorite dishes is penne with pesto (lots of extra virgin olive oil) and grape tomatoes.
  33. Last movie you watched? March of the Penguins
  34. Favorite day of the year? My birthday (July 22). D always makes a little breakfast-table display for me with stuffed animals and sometimes chocolate cupcakes.
  35. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings
  36. Winter or summer? summer. I really hate the cold.
  37. What is your favorite dessert? Tough one. Probably the peanut butter cup cookie at Big Booty Bread Co.
  38. Who is most likely to do this meme? Whoever wants to!
  39. Who is the least likely to do this meme and comment? Someone who doesn't see it.
  40. What books are you reading? Younger by Pamela Redmond Satran.
  41. What's on your mouse pad? I don't have one. I use a laptop (PowerBook G4).
  42. What did you watch on TV last night? Nothing; I never watch TV in the summer. During the regular season, I like Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. Go, ABC!
  43. Favorite smells? cookies baking
  44. Favorite sound? good music (Tori Amos, perhaps?)
  45. Rolling Stones or Beatles? Beatles
  46. What's the furthest you've been from your home? Italy
  47. Do you have a special talent? yoga
  48. What is your ring tone? standard ring
Feel free to share your answers!

A burning question

This post is of a practical nature. I grew up with an electric oven. Now, we have a gas oven, which D bought used and is of a temperamental nature. For a while, only the two burners on the right worked. Now, only the two burners on the left work. Does anyone know how I can remedy the situation? I would love to have an oven that is firing on all cylinders.

Thank you!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Scientology or Kabbalah?

This is very funny. It says I'm a Kabbalist. Not really a surprise, I guess, given those 2 choices ;)

I miss chick lit

I recently finished a book about drug addiction and rehab, and now I'm reading a book about 4 people who met when they were trying to commit suicide. The next thing I read will be light and fluffy!

On my chick lit pile:

Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh
Faking 19 by Alyson Noel
The Au Pairs by Melissa de la Cruz
Happiness Sold Separately by Libby Street
Cold Feet by Heather Swain, Elise Juska, et al (short story collection)
The Interruption of Everything by Terry McMillan
Sofie Metropolis by Tori Carrington

On my non-chick lit pile:

Several Alexander McCall Smith books
The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

These books aren't chick lit, but they still look a little more cheerful than what I'm reading.

I also have my reading for yoga school, which is actually quite interesting. One of them is an anatomy coloring book, where they talk about metatarsals and everything! These are the middle bones in the foot.

Meme

Okay, I saw this over at Bdogg's blog and I had to do it.

Week of August 14th: Random Word Association
I say...you think...
1. blue: sky
2. love: books
3. whale: moby
4. school: fun
5. boy: girl
6. kitchen: yellow
7. book: green
8. run: fast
9. purple: sky
10. music: loud
11. sister: brother
12. work: orangutan
13. round: belly
Not too much to report today. We had dinner with P at Delphi, a down-to-earth Greek resto around Chambers Street. P seemed melancholy but cheered up as the meal progressed. He's moving to England in a month or so for a couple of years.

I splashed out and instead of my usual spinach cheese pie, I got stuffed tomatoes for dinner. These came unexpectedly with two potato halves, face down and brushed with tomato sauce. The tomatoes were stuffed with pine nuts, raisins and a hint of mint. They were pretty good. For an appetizer I had grape leaves and a bit of D's tzatziki.

Since P always gets dessert, and sometimes I can't resist ordering dessert if others do, I asked the waitress whether she recommended the galektoboureko or my usual standby, the baklava. She prefers galektoboureko because it's not so sweet. So I got the g-dessert, didn't love it as much as the baklava, and ended up digging into D's baklava. P also got the baklava. He is such a lanky boy, I don't know where he puts his desserts. He had to go over the top and get the baklava a la mode, too.

He also told us how he got kicked out of Sing Sing, a karaoke club near Sin Sin, an S&M club. This results in a lot of "confused singers," he said. Anyway, he rented a room with his friend A and they started belting out tunes from their repertoire. The natives started to get restless when they sang "Love Shack," but it was P's version of "Proud Mary" by Tina Turner that got him thrown out at 3:30 am. P does a mean rendition of "What's Love Got to Do With It?"

I met 2 pugs on the way home. One of them licked my head and ran its paws through my hair. I was playing with the curl in the other one's tail and I felt its tail start wagging, right in my hand! It was the coolest feeling. I love those dogs. Sadly, P says they are the most short-lived breed. I bet they live really happy lives though. You can tell they are really cheerful.

I finished A Million Little Pieces yesterday. I highly recommend it. I'm now reading A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. So far it's not his best book, but it's not bad either.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I was feeling kind of introspective when I woke up, so I did a couple things. First, I took a break from Until I Find You. It pains me to say it, but it's not that good. And I might abandon it, because according to Amazon, it doesn't get any better:

"At over 800 pages, John Irving's Until I Find You is a daunting proposition at best. Anyone who finishes it will have acquired forearm muscles, sore shoulders, and not much else. The story is self-indulgent, repetitive and, ultimately, boring, that cardinal sin that readers can't forgive. Longtime Irving readers have stayed with him through a few hits and a miss or two, but this is an all-time low."

Ouch.

Anyway, I picked up A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, and I got sucked in immediately. I read until 2:30 pm and then I thought, I'd better get groceries for lunch. The Frey book is completely different from what I usually read, yet it's entirely compelling. It's the story of a 23-year-old addict who has damaged most of his internal organs through his abuse of pretty much every drug under the sun. Then he goes to rehab, and we get an unusually detailed look at life there. Strangely enough, it's not depressing. Just riveting. If anyone has read the sequel, let me know if it's as good.

For lunch I made my first Rachael Ray recipe. It was very good! A garlic and ginger stir fry with some unusual flavorings, including Chinese 5-spice powder and apricot preserves. The preserves don't make it sickly sweet, they just balance out the bitter soy sauce.

Here's the recipe:

1 c white rice, prepared according to directions on package
1 T canola oil
2 t dark sesame oil
1/2 head small Nappa cabbage, shredded
1/4 lb snow peas, trimmed and cut in half on an angle
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
2 c bean sprouts, washed and drained
2 inches fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1/4 c dark soy sauce (tamari)
1 T Chinese 5-spice powder
Juice of 1 large navel orange
3 oz apricot preserves (about 3 rounded T)
Coarse salt, to taste

Prepare rice, and start to cook.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add canola oil and sesame oil to hot pan. Add vegetables and stir-fry, 2 or 3 min. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry, 2 min more. Add soy sauce in a slow stream. Sprinkle with Chinese 5-spice powder. Juice orange over pan, then add preserves. Remove pan from heat and toss until vegetables are evenly coated and preserves dissolved. Season with a few pinches of salt, to taste, and serve over white rice.

(from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals: Veggie Meals)

Friday, August 12, 2005

March of the penguins



You should march right over to the nearest movie theater and see this :) I was pleased to see that even in limited release, it has made $26.4 million. Everyone should see this movie!

I don't want to spoil it for y'all, but suffice it to say, it's not easy being fluffy. And baby penguins are obscenely cute. And it's a little bit sad. But mostly happy, and life-affirming.

The movie was rated G so the theater was chock full of kids. I didn't mind that much. Next to me, the little girl's running commentary - "They have two legs, just like us" and "Are they trying to say I love you?" was cute rather than annoying. One kid started to freak out near the end (unrelated to the movie), but it was almost over anyway. I'd say it's one of the best movies I've seen this year. Maybe the best.

In other news, R from chicklitbooks.com is sending me 2 books to review - Younger by Pamela Redmond Satran and Confessions of a Nervous Shiksa by Tracy McArdle. I like the free books thing. She is also going to put up bios of me and the other reviewers.

I'm currently reading Until I Find You by John Irving. It is LONG. 820 pages. If I lifted the book instead of the yoga block in my arm strengthening pose, I would have arms like Arnold in no time.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Today was a longish day. I think it was because of the heat. We had lunch at Chennai with Lobo. It was his birthday! I had my favorite onion rava masala dosa, which is a mixture of potatoes, peas and nuts and comes folded inside a crisp lentil flour pancake. Very yummy. They give you coconut to dip it in.

On the way back, Lobo told us about a Pekinese he observed in the park near his apartment. The Pekinese wandered off its owner's lap and started to mosey out of the park. The owner was unconcerned, apparently thinking the dog lacked the cajones to go very far. The owner was wrong! The dog left the park and started to venture toward the highway. I always said small dogs are spunky. Fortunately the dog was retrieved and perfectly safe.

Yoga was kind of hot and sweaty today too. The A/C wasn't really working. It's kind of silly, but I'm really curious about my yoga buddy. Apparently there are 28 people in the program. I probably won't find out who it is until the orientation meeting, which is 2 hours in September.

I got a new yoga mat. It's pink with a purple hibiscus flower on it. I wouldn't have recognized the hibiscus, but that's what the label said.

We went to Lobo's birthday party, which was fun although it took a while for the orders to be placed. People just talked for a while before the menus were handed out. Afterward I had banana ice cream at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. They were out of pumpkin pie ice cream! They also claim to have avocado ice cream, but I've never actually seen a vat containing it.

Oh, and I did a minor transformation before dinner. I put my hair in pigtails and painted my fingernails purple on the subway. I don't usually paint my fingernails, and never purple. Fortunately it looked good against my olive skin. Now I just have to use some nail polish remover to clean up the job, and paint my toenails to match :) The shade is called Passionate Purple.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In the interest of list-making...

I bring you my top 10 CDs. In no particular order.

Tori Amos - Under the Pink
Tori Amos - Scarlet's Walk
Tori Amos - The Beekeeper
Indigo Girls - All That We Let In
The Postal Service - Give Up
Everything but the Girl - Like the Deserts Miss the Rain
Belle & Sebastian - I'm Waking Up to Us
Zero 7 - Simple Things
Zero 7 - When It Falls
Joni Mitchell - Hejira

It still feels incomplete, but hey. It's close.

Feel free to contribute your own lists...

I just finished reading the introduction to "Light on Yoga" by BKS Iyengar. It's one of the books on our reading list. I found it surprisingly engaging. There was a lot about letting go of desire, fear and anger.

On another note, I made a beet salad for me and D. It was really good. I couldn't find yellow beets for love or money. You can substitute red.

Yellow Beet and Arugula Salad with Dried Cranberries

2 medium yellow beets (about 3/4 lb)
1/4 c dried cranberries
6 c washed and dried arugula
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 t sugar
1/4 t salt
several grinds black pepper
3 T extra-virgin olive oil

Scrub the beets lightly and cook them in rapidly boiling water for about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.

Just before serving, pour 1/4 c boiling water over the cranberries and allow them to plump for just 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

Chop the arugula leaves coarsely. Distribute the arugula between four serving plates. Peel the beets and cut them in half, then thinly slice the halves to make wedges. Arrange the beet wedges on the beds of arugula, then scatter the plumped cranberries on top.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, then add the olive oil and whisk until emulsified, about 1 minute. Spoon the dressing over the salads and serve at room temperature.

(from The Complete Vegan Cookbook)

This was the first time I've cooked with beets, even though I love them. Cookbook authors go on and on about how messy they are, so I pictured purple juice spurting everywhere. The trick is to peel them under running water. Then your hands don't turn purple. And when the juice does spill, it wipes up readily. So...yay! I plan to try roasted beets soon.

I might as well include the recipe for our entree too. It's a favorite around these parts. Very fast and very good.

Rice, Broccoli and Feta Cheese Saute

1 c white basmati rice
2 c water
1/2 t salt
2 t canola oil
1/4 c olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, cored and diced
1 bunch broccoli, stalks peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 5 cups)
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 c water
1 c (about 5 oz) crumbled feta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the rice, water, salt and oil in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to simmer and cook until all of the water is absorbed (around 15 minutes). When done, remove from the heat and keep covered.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and saute 2 minutes more. Add the broccoli and oregano, toss well, pour in the water, and cover the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender but not mushy. Remove the cover occasionally and toss the mixture.

Stir in the hot rice, feta cheese and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

(from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures)

iPod update

I went to iTunes and bought 2 songs:

Holding Back the Years by Simply Red
Sign Your Name by Terence Trent D'Arby

C'mon, you know you love them.

What does your birth date mean?


Your Birthdate: July 22
While sometimes employing unorthodox approaches, you are capable of handling large scale undertakings.
You assume great responsibility and work long and hard toward completion.
Often, especially in the early part of life, there is rigidity or stubbornness, and a tendency to repress feelings.

Idealistic, you work for the greater good with a good deal of inner strength and charisma.
An extremely capable organizer, but likely to paint with broad strokes rather than detail.
You are very aware and intuitive.
You are subject to a good deal of nervous tension.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The hardest thing

I am about to do a very hard thing. Perhaps the most difficult thing ever. But Lisa with her to-be-read pile has inspired me, in some indirect way, to come up with a list of ten favorite books.

In no particular order:

Anna Karenina
Harriet the Spy
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Accidental Tourist
The Amateur Marriage (it actually made me cry at the end. But that should count for something.)
A Suitable Boy
The Stand (I know, I know. It's bad to put a Stephen King book on this list. But he said once that people write to him asking him how Stu and Frannie are doing. I kind of wonder, too. They seem real.)
Anne of Green Gables
Wicked

I still feel like I am leaving some out. But there it is. Feel free to contribute your own lists!
I am currently enjoying a late dinner of butter beans. The whole recipe calls for 2 cans of butter beans, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp canola oil, 1 1/2 c. of onion and 1 c. of salsa. You saute the onion in the oil, then add the coriander and cumin and toast the spices for a minute, then you add the salsa and simmer for 5, then you add the beans and simmer for 5. It's quite good. Courtesy of Moosewood New Classics.

I'm currently reading The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank. I just noticed when I was creating the link to Amazon that her books don't get the highest average rating there. It's too bad because I like her simple, unaffected Judy Blume-esque style. And she writes about stuff I'm interested in.

I got my birthday presents from my sister at the post office today. They arrived when I was in San Fran, got kicked back to the P.O., and waited there patiently for me. They were:

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh (I love Indian books. I haven't read A Fine Balance, and now I'm afraid to because one reviewer on Amazon wrote: "The saddest, most depressing book ever," though she gave it 5 stars.)

Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin. Jeanne is one of my favorite cooks. She's unpretentious, yet a little more sophisticated than Rachael Ray, and she's a sweet potato freak. What more could a girl ask for? "Classics" may sound stodgy, but I'm choosing to interpret it as: "really yummy recipes that will appeal to all or most vegetarians." I notice I have a bias when dog-earing recipes. I only mark a few salads, no appetizers, no desserts (I like them but I'm reluctant to have lots of them lying around the house), and then I dog-ear a ton of soups, pastas and curries. Also stir-fries. I want to try a stir-fry in Rachael Ray's cookbook that calls for apricot jam (I bought some today) and Chinese 5-spice powder. I don't think I'll find this unless I trek to an Asian supermarket in the East Village, so I'll make my own from Didi Emmons' recipe.

I've used Didi's first cookbook, Vegetarian Planet, so much that the spine has become unglued from the pages. The first editor's review on Amazon seem to mix it up with a cookbook by someone else, halfway through. But trust me, it's a great cookbook.

If anyone has a favorite cookbook, let me know!

Also, I have to pay my yoga school tuition tomorrow, and I'll get to pick up my reading list. Once I pay my tuition, all my yoga classes at that center are free! I'll also be assigned a "yoga buddy" and a mentor. I'll meet with each one once a week.

Yay!

I still can't believe it. I was listening to our answering machine messages and I GOT INTO YOGA SCHOOL. Yay! It does sound like it will be a lot of hard work - there's a reading list and everything - and I want to perfect my handstand before I start.

Whew

It's surreal to be back in my own living room, using my own computer. I didn't bring my laptop on vacation. NYC seems large, dirty and still somewhat exciting - like a large, sweaty person who insists on hugging you. I miss San Fran though, which is maybe more slender and beautiful without quite as interesting thoughts. D and I are talking about moving there for January and February - renting a house. This way we will escape the cold of an NYC winter and test-drive living in San Fran. Of course, if I'm able to get certified as a yoga teacher, the coast-sharing may present problems in terms of a job. We'll see, I guess.

We had a late dinner (no food on the plane!) of red kidney beans sauteed with onion, coriander, salsa and cumin. Not bad.

I read Summer Boys 2 on the plane (yummy) and finished The Butcher of Beverly Hills, a mystery. I am late coming to mysteries and don't find them as satisfying as regular fiction, but they can be a nice diversion. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series is so good I don't really see them as mysteries...they transcend the genre.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I saw this meme on Lora's blog and thought I'd complete it.

Appetizer
Briefly describe your living room.

I like my living room. We have a little terrace with sliding glass doors. You can hear wind chimes through the doors. We have a blue couch, a rug that says something like 666 (D furnished the room before my time), an abundant banana plant and a couple of bonsai plants. I keep my yoga mat unrolled on the hardwood floor, the part that's not covered by the rug.

Soup
List 3 things you'd like to accomplish before the end of 2005.

Well, I'd like to get a short story published in a literary magazine, but that may not happen by the end of this year. I'd like to get into yoga school and I'd like to stay at a reasonable weight.

Salad

When you're online, what do you spend the most time reading/playing/doing? Suggest a site for us to visit.

Mostly reading the blogs in my sidebar. I also like amazon.com (reading reviews even more than buying) and chicklitbooks.com. I also check rottentomatoes.com any time I'm about to see a movie.

Main Course
What would the title of your autobiography be?

Food, Folks and Fun?

Dessert
What time do you usually go to bed?


This is embarrassing. I'm such a night owl. Usually around 2 am. If I go to a new time zone, my body clock just adjusts and I end up going to bed around 2 am then too.

Our last San Fran supper

Today was a mellow day. I had yogurt and granola at this cafe on 901 Columbus. Then we walked to the fisherman's wharf area (i.e., tourist heaven) to get chocolates from Ghirardelli, as a thank-you to J for writing my yoga recommendation. I also got Summer Boys 2 and 44 Scotland Street at the bookstore so I wouldn't be caught short on the plane. I also bought Rachael Ray's 30-minute vegetarian cookbook. I know she is an object of scorn among many chefs but the meals look good and fast. So why not? I have already dog-eared a number of them.

We had dinner at Thep Phanom, a really good Thai resto near Haight Street. The waiters were decked out in bright yellow pantaloons that stopped just below the knee and tropical shirts. The one who seated us took me aback because his top looked like a sundress I used to have: navy background with yellow sunflowers. It was a very secure-in-his-masculinity getup.

I had crispy tofu with peanut sauce and cucumbers, and then lemongrass tofu with mixed veg for my entree. We split a sauteed banana with caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Along Market Street they have pastel profiles of women from the 19th century who were pickpockets. My favorite is Rose Cady. Her victims were all married men.

I'm a little sad to be returning to NYC, but I'm looking forward to cooking again.

Oh, and for a fun read, I recommend Summer Boys by Hailey Abbott. D keeps calling it "kiddie porn" because of the cover, but it's just a nice fun YA book.

Saturday, August 06, 2005




Greetings again from San Fran, city o' food. We once again ate our way around the city.

First, we rented bikes (clanging, cheap monstrosities) and rode over the Golden Gate Bridge. Most of the bridge was wreathed in fog, but when you got to the Sausalito end of the bridge, you could see the water with sailboats in it and the mountains. Something about mountains + high bridge + wind made me a little nervous. I was glad to turn around and go back over the bridge to the foggy part where you couldn't see anything and therefore forgot how high you were. D made the point that glass-bottomed airplanes probably wouldn't sell very well.

On our way back from the bridge, we passed Fort Mason Center which houses Greens! So we had our second meal at Greens. Curried golden zucchini soup and a summer sampler than included little filo pockets of cheese, farro salad with heirloom tomatoes and roasted red pepper hummus. Mmm. D had a pizzetta.

Then I went to yoga, which was good, though the studio itself is not as attractive as Laughing Lotus in NYC. Maybe they should use Laughing Lotus's designer and get themselves some sorbet-colored walls.

After yoga, we had dinner at Kokkari Estiatorio, a Greek place that is quite happening. I saw a woman well over 6 feet...maybe a model? We did the usual vegetarian-at-a-Greek-restaurant thing and got a bunch of appetizers in lieu of an entree. We had:

grape leaves
a peach salad with walnuts and feta
a watermelon salad with pine nuts and feta
tzatziki (yogurt sauce with pita triangles)
zucchini cakes
spanakopita
butter beans

Keep in mind that the portions were pretty small and the food was for the most part pretty healthy. We're not gluttons, really :) And dinner was preceded and followed by long, hilly walks.

I'll miss San Fran. I want to find out whether I got into yoga school or not!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Before the glory fades...



I must tell you about the glorious meal I had tonight. We went to Millennium, one of SF's highest-rated vegan restaurants, located in the Savoy Hotel. For an appetizer we both had sweet corn soup, which wasn't that sweet. For my entree, I had tempeh batons in an Indian-type curry sauce with peach, mint and cucumber chutney and sundry veggies, which was interesting. But now...drumroll...happy place...gasp...ecstatic expressions...DESSERT.

I had strawberry shortcake. The layers consisted of white corn shortcake, white chocolate cream, strawberries, kiwi and some other fruits. It was #^(%# awesome. Words cannot express. I sunk to the table in a fit of ecstasy. (See "food coma" picture.) I was also very tired because we walked about 5 miles today and I did an hour and 20 minutes of rigorous yoga.

It was better than the other yoga center. It did have a carpet instead of a hardwood floor, which took some getting used to, in terms of traction. And the teacher invited people to do handstands against the wall, but there was only a very small wall. It was mostly curtains. So the rest of us entertained ourselves while they experimented with going up into handstand through a "donkey kick" and a modified crow pose, with knees resting on the back of right-angle elbows.

It must be said: the guys are cute here. So if anyone is looking...

While I went to yoga, D went bike riding and took a good picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It's foggy tonight, so there's a thin, ethereal, romantic fluffy layer over everything...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Food and clothes



Yay! Two of everyone's favorite topics (or maybe not :) Today we had breakfast at Mama's on Washington Square, corner of Fillbert and Stockton. A definite must if you are ever in SF. Today I had Mama's buttermilk pancakes with seasonal berries. They were even better than the banana bread French toast.

For dinner, we went to Chez Panisse Cafe in Berkeley. Yup, Chez Panisse. It wasn't too bad to get to. A quick ride on the Bart and we were there. We wandered around UC-Berkeley, which has a very nice campus, and then went to the wooden, treesy home of Chez Panisse. There was only one vegetarian entree but it was quite good. Basmati rice with tomatoes, okra, yogurt and cranberry beans. For my appetizer I had a beet and endive salad. The real star of the show, however, was the peach and nectarine cobbler with vanilla ice cream. I took this picture after the destruction began.

It was a real cloud-nine dessert. You know, the kind where you feel blissful afterward. And not too stuffed, miraculously. Then we took the Bart back to SF, swam in the pool (or I did, while D read). The hot tub was broken. There was a Yorkie in the pool room; he licked my nose and nibbled my finger. The owner was appalled that the dog nibbled me, even though it didn't hurt, and insisted it was a "love nip."

I have also stimulated the San Fran economy by buying the following:

Old Navy: 2 pairs of yoga pants, undies, socks and the sacred jeans.
The Gap: a nice purple sweater.

I have refrained from buying any books, since I have several to read on the plane - Summer Boys, which is YA; Morality for Beautiful Girls, which is the 3rd book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series; and The Butchers of Beverly Hills, a chick lit mystery about red-haired twin detectives.

Random book recommendation: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth is awesome. I read it some years ago, and then my mother read my copy. It's over 1000 pages but it's really good.

Tomorrow I'll try another yoga center.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Zuni

We had such a good dinner tonight. We went to this place Zuni. We stumbled upon it by accident, en route to another place. It was so delicious. D had a bowl of polenta with marscarpone cheese and I had a tomato, cucumber, and arugula salad with coriander vinaigrette for appetizers. We both got the same entree: pasta, squash blossoms, pine nuts, garlic and maybe parmesan too. It was so good. The pasta took a while because there were delays in the kitchen, so the waiter thanked us for our patience and gave us a free slice of chocolate cake (or gateau, as the menu called it) with whipped cream on top.

On the way home this big, lanky guy who was not in full control of his limbs asked us how to get to the Hilton. He said, "I was with my buddy but he wanted to get some weird-ass massage, so I was like, 'I'll see you at the hotel.'" He went on: "Have you seen some of those places? You want a massage, you don't get one at 2 am. You go during the day." He also held us back when traffic was approaching and then he said, "You guys are from New York, you're probably like, 'Why's this guy freaking out?' when this car's freakin' speedin' up at us." It turns out he was in town for a real estate conference. He's from Arizona.

I got a moment of intense deja vu when he asked us what we did and then we said goodbye and went to our hotels, which happen to face each other. I think I had dreamed of that whole part of the conversation before.

Oh, and today I got a pair of those elusive jeans. You know the one I mean. In a size that doesn't make you feel bad, and comfortable enough that they don't bite you around the waist when you sit down. And they look good too. They're those rare jeans that have a value beyond rubies. Yet they were about $24.99 on sale at Old Navy.

Now I'm going to head to the all-night gym on the 5th floor to work off this dinner :)
Today was our third day in San Fran - we're heading back on the 8th. I went to a yoga place today. It was a bit of a pain getting there. I guess I'm spoiled by Manhattan where I have a yoga studio that's a 12-minute walk away. This place was a subway ride plus a 15-minute walk away.

There was a male teacher who whipped his shirt off and invited us to go on a retreat to Italy in October with him. There were only 3 people in the class. This was also a change from Manhattan where the classes are often packed. The class was also a little slower than I like. But it made me feel more peaceful anyway...although I knew D had accidentally forgotten to return my map. I got home OK anyway.

There's a Ghirardelli place nearby. Maybe I will get some chocolates for J as a thank-you for her yoga recommendation. I would get my friend AT a thank-you too but he's in Spain :)

D showed me a picture of a puppy that was cloned in Korea. He's named Snuppy (Seoul National University Puppy).

We explored the southern part of San Fran today. It's flatter and has a lot of taquerias. We both got the California veggie burrito, which had broccoli, zucchini and other vegetables, plus black beans, rice, and mango salsa. It was very good.

Tonight we will probably try Millennium, a somewhat fancy vegetarian restaurant. D tends to like fancy places while I opt for casual...but sometimes he picks someplace really memorable. For example, the three-star Michelin restaurant in Florence last summer. It was over the top...they wheeled out a three-tier cart of cheeses at one point...but probably worth a visit if you are ever in the area. It was called Enotecca Piniciorri.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

You know you're getting older when...

...easy listening stations no longer annoy you.

I'm in the lobby of my hotel, using wireless Internet. The speakers are piping in a Muzak version of "Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red...

and I'm enjoying it.

San Fran pics



















These are mostly of me because D loves using his camera phone, but there is one of him as well. They're somewhat low-res. We should probably spring for a digital camera :) But the camera phone is really light to carry and doubles as a cell phone.

Liz has put up more pictures of her cute doggy.

And Bdogg has tried yoga and put up a list of 100 things! :)

San Fran, continued

La, I'm back. I've been remiss with email, because 1) I have limited computer time; the DSL in the room didn't work out and 2) if I get rejected from yoga school, I'll find out via email. If I get in, they'll call. So I've been kinda avoiding email. But I'll check in.

Things are still really nice in San Fran. It was warmer today, and we were better prepared for the temperature anyway. We went to brunch at Mama's on Washington Square. It was only slightly marred by a really dumb girl ahead of us in line who combined "Oh my gosh," "like," and "awesome" in every sentence. I've never heard anyone whose sentences were so full of nothing. Anyway. The food was delicious! I had my standby banana bread French toast, which wasn't as decadent as I remembered. It had sliced bananas on top. D had the "children's favorite" omelette (or Momelette, as they're called).

Afterward we went up an incredibly steep hill to Coit Tower, where an unintelligible man with a thick accent worked the elevator, and we looked at San Fran spread out beneath us, separated by a panel of glass. Then we went to Greens, Deborah Madison's terrific vegetarian restaurant. We split black bean chili with jack cheese and creme fraiche. Then I had red chard ravioli with shallots, pine nuts, parmesan and roasted garlic. We didn't make it to the Golden Gate Bridge, which we're always resolving to walk across. I think we walked about ten miles today.

We had dinner at Caffe delle Stelle (cafe of stars). They had bread with a delicious tomato sauce (I think bread with olive oil is played out) and bubbly water. I had a salad with greens, gorgonzola and walnuts, and "zuccati" (pasta stuffed with pumpkin). D had tortellini with a cream sauce and peas, which was really good. He stopped me after I had a couple :)

We went to Washington Mutual so D could withdraw money and the teller said that he thought New York was much more metropolitan. He seemed bored with San Fran. I don't know why. The air is really clean and the houses are beautiful.

I like the Hotel Nikko, where we're staying. It's a Japanese hotel with a pool under a skylight and a gym. You can get massages. There's also a room with two wooden slabs on top of black stones. I don't know if the stones heat up or what. They have green tea soap in the bathrooms, which is a nice touch.

I kind of want to move here. I probably won't though.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Hello from San Francisco!

I'm racing against time b/c D and I are sharing a computer here, and D is a techie. 'Nuff said. So I will let him have it soon!

Anyway, SF is a little grittier and colder than I remember, but I'm enjoying it immensely anyway. The fog rolled in for the first time in my experience. It was kind of romantic...reminded me of Carl Sandberg's night creeping in on little cat feet. We had a delicious dinner at Indian Oven on Fillmore Street. We shared saag paneer and aloo gobi saag (potatoes and cauliflower with spinach). They cooked the spinach nice and spicy without too much cream.

Went through 2 books on the plane. Both were awesome. One was Hard-boiled and Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto, very lyrical, beautiful and groovy. The other was the second book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which I love. The guy next to me kept clearing his throat but was very nice about getting up whenever we had to get out of our seats. We stopped in Detroit to change planes. Home of Madonna and Eminem. And tires.

Passed a yoga center I'm planning on trying. Yoga Tree. One of the classes is taught by Carre Otis. She's a former model who resorted to unhealthy methods to keep her weight down...now she's a size 12 (but she's really tall), no longer modeling, and apparently teaching yoga! So maybe I'll meet her.

Tomorrow we'll have banana bread French toast at Mama's on Washington Square and check out Coit Tower afterward. This city is more walkable than I thought. Great hills.