Sunday, April 22, 2007

Aged to Perfection

I seem to spend a lot of time talking about age and aging, don't I? Well, I think I've discovered the very best age: age 10. My youngest son, my baby, just turned 10! It was a thoroughly delightful and enjoyable day. He relished being "king for the day," yet he was constantly checking to make sure that everyone else was having as much fun as he was. And we were; watching him was a blast!

The highlight of our day had to be the Build-A-Dino workshop. It's one of those places, like Build-A-Bear, where you choose your dinosaur and they stuff it for you, and then you can spend all kinds of money buying clothing and accessories for your new friend. I've always stayed away from those sorts of places:-) However, little man recently renewed his interest in dinosaurs. We saw the movie "Dinosaurs in 3-D" at the IMAX theater and he decided he definitely wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up. Those of you with children know that the career choices change at approximately the same rate as the phases of the moon, so you have to grab the one closest to the birthday and encourage it and go with it, before the next phase moves in.

At any rate, the workshop was filled with young kids, ages 4-6 seemed to be most prevalent, and then there was my son, towering above them at 10 years old. He didn't care. He chose his dinosaur and thoughtfully made a wish on its heart before stuffing it inside. He carefully chose a pair of shorts and a paleontologist kit for his dinosaur, an ankylosaurus he named Ace. We printed up a birth certificate for Ace and I paid, trying not to wince.

So, we walked around the T-Rex Cafe store, and my son talked to Ace the whole time. Every once in a while he'd reach in and pet him, adjust him in his box a little, rub his tail. We went to dinner, and he thoughtfully opened Ace's box and "fed" him bits of lettuce. When we got ready to leave, Ace was ready to sleep.

These memories alone are worth the price of Ace, and then some. 10 year olds can play games with the big boys, play on the computer, read novels, paint dinosaurs, dive into the deep end, and fall asleep hugging their stuffed dinosaurs. What could be better than that??

So, how about some healthy recipes to keep you feeling like a 10 year old, even as time marches on? Okay, let's go.

First, Quinoa Tabbouli, a favorite modified from "Diet for a New World" by John Robbins. Don't forget to thoroughly rinse your quinoa under warm water, rubbing it through your fingers, to remove the natural bitter taste which serves as an effective pesticide, courtesy of Mother Nature!

1 C quinoa
1-1/2 C water
2 tomatoes, diced
3 green onions, chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
1/2 C finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4- 1/2 C chopped fresh mint, to taste

1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 C olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper, to taste

Rinse quinoa thoroughly. Bring water and quinoa to a boil; reduce heat, cover, simmer until tender and water is absorbed, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
Stir remaining salad ingredients into the quinoa.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients, then pour over salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Next, a recipe from Mollie Katzen's "Still Life With Menu Cookbook." This is always a big hit at potlucks!!

Jeweled Rice Salad

1/3 C olive oil
6-8 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. honey

2 C uncooked short-grain brown rice
4 scallions, minced
1/4- 1/2 C minced fresh parsley
1 C chopped, toasted pecans
black pepper, to taste
2 C red or green seedless grapes
1 C cooked chickpeas, optional (canned is fine)
a handful toasted pecan halves for garnish, optional

Cook the brown rice. Then, spread it out on a large platter to cool.

In a large bowl, combine dressing ingredients. Add cooled rice and stir well. Add scallions, parsley, chopped pecans and pepper; mix well. Slice the grapes in half, saving a few whole for garnish if you wish. Gently stir the grapes into the salad, along with the optional chickpeas. Cover tightly and chill well. Garnish with whole grapes and pecan halves, if desired.

Both of these recipes are summery and delicious!! They are easily adapted to variations and very forgiving. Yes, my kids DO love the rice salad with grapes... who wouldn't?

Knitting.... still plugging away on the shawl and socks! Here is a picture of the shawl, which is maybe halfway completed:

Monday, April 16, 2007

(You Just Might Find) You Get What You Need

Yesterday, I drove out to Lawrence to attend a knitting workshop with Sally Melville. She is an absolute knitting guru; amazing, creative, brilliant. That said, the workshop was not at all what I had hoped for, not what I had envisioned when I signed up. It was a two-part workshop; part one was "Learning to Love Intarsia" and part two was "Emergency Measures." I thought I would leave there LOVING intarsia knitting and knowing everything I needed to know about fixing knitting mistakes.

The actual theme of the workshop was less about mechanics and more about the creative process... much, much more. How to choose a picture to knit. How to envision it. How to graph it. What elements to look for. How to make it work. How to bring your vision to reality. This was NOT Sally spoon-feeding us a pattern; it was Sally sharing her creative process. Hmmmm.

Emergency Measures emphasized using mistakes as learning tools. You would think I'd be familiar with this; I tell my kids all the time that "making mistakes is how we learn!" Somehow, my knitting mistakes seem to frustrate me, though. Sally showed many examples of her own mistakes and how they forced her to come up with creative solutions and think beyond the pattern. Again, she never said "if you mess this up, do this." She said, "if this happens, think about these things and then decide what you want to do."

I left feeling sort of unsettled. This wasn't a knitting class! I didn't drive home with a new hat in my bag and the feeling that I had "made something" in my heart! But, it got me thinking. I came home and got out a whole pile of knitting books. I started looking at the details. I looked at simple patterns and thought of ways to change them and embellish them and to make them my own. I thought about color and texture. I started thinking differently. I talked with a friend on the phone about what I had learned, and I realized: I had learned a lot. I learned a new way to think about things. So, as it turns out, I didn't get exactly what I wanted; however, I got exactly what I needed. Inspiration!

Now, for those of you who are tired of hearing about my same old knitting projects, I have actually finished something: a baby kimono!! Okay, the seams aren't sewn yet, and I must sew on the snaps, but the actual knitting is done!! Oh, it is so adorable. It is for a neighbor who is expecting in a week or two... can you believe I've finished it early?

I held my first yoga class at Beth's house last week. It was peaceful and relaxing and I'm looking forward to many more. Molly called me about possibly teaching a class at the Nature Center, and I've also been talking to some people about teaching "Yoga for Tennis." I don't know if any of these things will happen, but I know the possibilities are out there, and that's something.

I have to talk about tennis for a minute. Okay, most of you know that I am VERY much a beginning tennis player. I am not going to waste time putting myself down, but I am not the most athletic sort, so learning a new sport in my mid-40s has been challenging, to say the least. Last Thursday I took a private lesson with Lisa. Let me just say it: I was awesome! Amazing! Seriously, I was hitting everything, right where I was supposed to. Okay, not ready for the pro tour, but for ME, it was excellent. I was so excited and I felt great. That was Thursday. On Friday morning I woke up and I could barely move. Every muscle in my body was sore. Both arms. My back. My butt. (?) Everything. I was not deterred, though. On Saturday, I could hardly wait to play with my friend. I was so pumped. And guess what? I stunk. I could barely hit a ball over the net. My serves were all over the place. I was horrible.

I have been told that it takes time for your body to catch up when you learn new things in tennis, when you change things, or adjust your serve. I can only hope this is true! I hope, in the long run, I'll find, (once again!!) that I get what I need.

I've been seeing some of those beautiful, thin, spring green beans in the stores lately. Here is my favorite green bean recipe, from "Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home":

Not Your Mother's Green Beans

1/2 C pine nuts
1 pound green beans
1 shallot, minced, OR 1/4 C chopped scallions
1/4 C balsamic or raspberry vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley or basil
salt and pepper to taste
Toast the pine nuts until golden brown; cool.
Trim the green beans. Lightly steam or boil until just tender. Drain.
Combine the shallot or scallions, vinegar, oil, and herb in a medium bowl. Add the beans and toss well. Stir in the pine nuts and salt and pepper. Serve warm, or chill for 20 minutes and then serve. This is delicious- I love it best served warm.
Enjoy the beautiful spring weather!!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Al Dente

I know I promised to age gracefully. I'm trying, really and truly. But may I please, just one time, digress? (Since it's my blog, I'll take that as a yes!)

Did anyone ever tell you that, as you age (gracefully), your teeth will fall apart? No? Me either. Now, those of you reading this wide-eyed, thinking, "What the heck is she talking about? My teeth are perfect and straight and pearly white and I've never had a cavity or a filling or a crown in my life!"-- you people can just scroll down for the recipe. For the rest of us, those who have 2 or 6 fillings, a crown or two, a chipped tooth here and there... get yourself a cup of tea and buckle your seat belts.

First of all, I just found out that fillings have shelf lives... who knew? They last 15 years, give or take, then they start cracking or "leaking" and the dentist has to dig them out and replace them. Of course, if the "hole" is too big, he will have to replace it with a crown! And, if you don't take care of it NOW, you will probably end up needing a root canal, which is dental-speak for unbelievable pain and suffering. I never knew this. Now, every time I go to the dentist, I hear, "Number 3, crack; number 4, leaking..." ad nauseum. Then I make the appointments and go back for an hour of shameless shaking while the fillings get re-done, with crossed fingers, hoping NOT to hear the words "root canal."

Sorry, but this is only part one of the bad news. You've heard the phrase "long in the tooth"? Me too. I just didn't think I was actually long in the tooth yet, but... I guess I am. You see, as we age, (gracefully), our gums start to recede. Yes, even perfectly pink and healthy gums. The 'when' actually depends a lot on genetics. (Again, the image of my grandma with the gray, curly hair and the long teeth.) As the gums recede, they start to expose the roots and nerves of the teeth, causing extreme sensitivity. So, the dentist "roughs them up" along the gum line, (yes, it involves the drill!), and then fills it in. Yes, your circular reasoning is correct. In about 15 years, give or take, I will have to have all of these replaced, too. SIGH. Yet another thing I took totally for granted in my youth. I am starting to see the logic of dentures!

Perhaps we should move on to happier subjects, like food!! I found this recipe online somewhere, many years ago, and it is a favorite. I'm still in my salad mood, even though the weather has reverted back to frigid. Hope springs eternal, I guess!

Tofu Rice Salad

1 C diced tofu
3-4 C cooked brown rice or quinoa
1/2 C pine nuts
3/4 C golden raisins, plumped and drained (Or use regular raisins, Or currants)
1/2 C chopped green onion

1/3 C olive oil
1/4 C rice vinegar
2 Tbs tamari
1/4 tsp. pepper, or to taste

paprika dusting or parsley for garnish

Whisk the dressing ingredients together, then gently toss with the salad. It's great!

On the knitting front... let's not talk about my knitting. No point in repeating the same things over and over again! Let's just say, I'll let you know when I finish something:-) However, exciting stuff: I am attending a workshop next weekend with Sally Melville!! (for you non-knitters, just think of knitting royalty!) The first part is called "Emergency Measures," which I assume is about fixing things you've messed up, and the second part is called "Learning to Love Intarsia," which I hope to learn to love. My homework swatches are all done; I'm such a good student, proud product of Guilderland Central High School. I just hope my knitting knowledge is sufficient to keep up with the rest of the class!

New yoga class starts this week... don't forget! Hope to see you there!