Saturday, June 30, 2007

I'm Still Here....

It started out so innocently: I'll just check my email in the morning, and then get on with my day. Soon, it was about an hour on email/ lists/ blogs/ fantasy shopping. Quickly grew into two hours. Then I had to catch up several times a day. I joined the bloggers, joined cooking lists, knitting lists, you name it! Yes, it was fun, but I had to just face the facts: I was spending way too much time on the computer. In fact, I was spending more time reading about knitting than actually knitting. More time reading about cooking than actually cooking. I wasn't really doing anything, but I was learning so much!
As much as I love the www, something had to give. I couldn't go cold turkey, but I had to cut way back, and so I did. I unsubbed to some lists, went no-mail on others, and totally limited my screen time. And that's why I haven't been blogging. My plan is to carve out some time each weekend to blog about the week, just to keep in touch, so here I go. I may have to limit photos and such, because when my time's up, I gotta go and actually do something!
We have been caught up in a whirling dervish of cultural activity!! (Don't you just love that visual of a whirling dervish? What is a dervish, anyway??) At any rate, that's where we've been, in case you were wondering.
We started out by taking the kids to a live performance of "A Prairie Home Companion." I will admit it right now, I was not really very excited about going. Mike loves PHC, and the kids enjoy listening to it, too, but I am sort of on the fence. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I'm just not in the mood. Mike wanted "good" tickets, so I moaned and groaned and paid up and it was so, so worth it!! The show was wonderful and it was a night we will all remember.
Next came "Romeo and Juliet" at the local Shakespeare in the Park performance. The show was good, if a bit melodramatic, but the best part was the kids' Shakespeare dialogue. I could hardly keep up, which is good, because I hope my kids are smarter than I am!
We ventured out to the Impressionist Exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. If you haven't been, and you like Impressionism, GO!! We all loved it.
Mike and I went to see Oklahoma! at the dinner theater. Seriously, one of the best performances I've seen. (expert that I am) (just kidding, of course) (Okay, I DID count my high school's performance in my comparison, but this show was really good!!)
While we're talking cultural events... who went to the Harry Potter book parties last night? We were there. Kait was a death eater, Connor was Dumbledore, and Kyle was Dobby. It wasn't very well organized, the store was SO HOT, and we didn't get our book until 1:20am. Still, I wouldn't have missed it. The kids were so excited. They played the trivia games, entered the costume contest and just enjoyed themselves. I was about to pass out from the heat and the smell of all the people and the crushing mass of bodies, but it wasn't really about me, now was it? For the record, this has always been Mike's job, but he was out of town for this book release. That won't happen again.

Let's see... I did finish my lacy shawl, in the car, on the way to Oklahoma! I love it; it's perfect. I have not yet felted Amanda's Squatty Sidekick. No real reason, except that it's kind of hot to felt. (is that lame?) I finished one of the toe up socks I started using the ex-tennis sock yarn. This is the first time I have made a complete sock toe up. As of right now, I like cuff down better, but I reserve the right to change my mind:-) And, I did a short row heel, but I actually like the heel flap better! I'm getting ready to start sock #2.
I've also just started a scribble shawl, a la "Mason Dixon." I am using a ribbon yarn from Colinette which is so beautiful, and also Rowan kid silk haze. It should go fast on size 17 needles! Pics will follow.
And what have we been eating? Salads. Coleslaw with lemon dressing and raisins. Spinach salad with pecans, red onion, feta and dried cranberries. Green bean salad. Black bean salad with avocado. Green bean and potato salad. Corn salad. Oh, and corn bread. The best corn bread I've ever made. (okay, this is not counting that one time Mike talked me into making corn bread in bacon grease in a cast iron skillet when we first got married. Sound disgusting? Sorry, but it was "slap your grandma" delicious!!)
Here is the corn bread we all adore:
(adapted from "The Bread Bible" by Beth Hesperger)
note: I just make my own "buttermilk" by adding a tsp of white vinegar to a cup of soy milk and then just letting it set for a few minutes.
another note: You can use real butter, or Earth Balance, or even olive oil. They all work fine.
1 C flour
1 C cornmeal
1/4 C sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs (or egg substitute)
1 C buttermilk
4 Tbs butter, melted
1 C fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 and lightly oil a 9-inch baking dish or pie plate.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk and butter.
Add wet ingredients to dry, adding the corn kernels if desired, and stir until JUST BLENDED.
Spoon into dish; bake 25 minutes, cool 10-15 minutes before cutting.
My time is up. Serve up some cornbread with a can of baked beans and bask in the glory:-) (Or, serve with pressure cooked black-eyed peas. Or Cuban black beans. Or any bean salad.)
(See what I mean? Is there a 12 step program for computer addicts???)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Lazy Days, Lazy Blogger

So there I was, running around at the beginning of June like a crazy woman. Dance recital, fencing camp, return Kaitlin's computer to school, tennis, haircut, classes, trainings... then, IT happened!! I woke up one morning and I looked at the calendar and it was... empty. That's right, one ENTIRE day, no obligations, no pick-ups or drop-offs, no library books due, no nothing. My heart started beating faster... can it be true? I checked the other calendar, by the computer, and the OTHER calendar in my briefcase... nothing! One day of total freedom! I laid down on the couch and stared at the ceiling fan for a few minutes, grinning gleefully. What would I do with this lovely, free day? I could catch up on cleaning and laundry. I could plant the plants languishing in the heat in the backyard. I could bake. I could knit. I could take a walk. Go shopping! Hit tennis balls! Write on my blog! The possibilities were endless.

You know exactly what I did, don't you? That's right: absolutely nothing. Not a thing. I lounged around. Caught up on all the blogs I read. Made a smoothie and drank it. Checked out the boys' computer game. Cleaned the crumbs out of the toaster. Shaved my legs. Watered some plants. Read the paper. Put my pj's on at 6pm. You get the idea. All day long I thought hard about what I could do with an entire free day, and then I proceeded NOT to do any of it. I have to say: it was the perfect day!

Isn't it the ultimate truth, though: the less you have to do, the less you actually do. Every once in a while, it's so delicious to just enjoy being.
Okay, here is my tennis sock before: And after:

Yes, I had to frog the entire thing. As usual, I tried to shrug it all off: Yes, the cuff around my ankle was too loose. Oh, well, better than too tight, right? Um, yes, and the heel flap was too short. Oh, well, you can't really see it, right? Okay... the combo of loose cuff and short heel flap, doesn't that mean that the sock will be likely to slip down into my tennis shoe? Yes, it does. I kept pretending that it would be fine, but it would NOT be fine. It didn't fit right. The lucky tennis socks weren't starting off very lucky if they didn't even fit right. I know how to fix them and make them fit better, so I might as well do it... right? (Please, agree with me! Nod your head! Let me know that you are with me on the trip to the frog pond! It was a painful trip!) So, the tennis socks went into the "starting over" pile.

I stared at the re-wound skein of sock yarn for a few days, and I realized that I had totally lost the urge to knit tennis socks. I like the ones I buy, with the thick, padded food. Why, this yarn simply didn't want to be tennis socks!! It was begging for some ribbing, not tiny ribbing, but chunky, 4x2 ribbing. So, I got back on that horse and started again:

Yes, I decided to try something new. I am trying some toe-up socks, using the Eastern cast-on. I really hope these fit!!

Here is my "Amanda's Squatty Sidekick." It's chunky yarn instead of worsted weight, and size 15 needles, and I really don't know how it will turn out, but it will be great! (Don't ask about the orange and purple. I think it will felt up beautifully and all sort of blend together into something lovely. Hey, it's the yarn I had when the mood struck!!) Okay, it does sort of look like a pumpkin, now, but just you wait!! :-)

Isn't it crazy that I'm knitting in this heat? I know.
So, it's hot, and getting hotter, no better time to fire up the pressure cooker! Delicious food quickly, no heating up the house. Here is a recipe for Red Lentil Dal, from the VegSource pressure cooker board: (note: it's not exactly like a "true" dal, the kind you get in an Indian restaurant, but it is cooked lentils with curry powder, and it is delicious, so give it a try!!)
Pressure Cooker Red Lentil Dal
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 tsp oil or water
1 Tbs. crushed garlic
1 quart of veggie broth + 2 C water
1-1/2 C red lentils
1/2 lb. chopped carrots
1-1/2 lb. chopped red potatoes
1 Tbs. curry powder +/- to taste
Saute onion and garlic in oil or water. Add remaining ingredients, bring to high pressure and cook 5 minutes. Quick release. Serve over brown rice, over raw spinach, or over salad. (or spinach on top of rice.) Trust me, this is great. The hot lentils sort of wilt the spinach and it's perfect! Definitely drizzle some tamari/ soy sauce on top!! Add some diced avocado if you wish.
You can also make this on top of the stove, but you will probably need to cook it for about 30-40 minutes. It will still taste fantastique!!
I'm going to go and make a smoothie and sit on my deck and stare at my toes for a while.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Pondering Karma...

I've been thinking a lot lately about karma. You don't have to call it "karma"; you can call it "you get what you deserve", or "what comes around, goes around"; or "you reap what you sow", or... you get the idea.

Sometimes, karma just slaps you in the face and calls you an idiot. Like the time I bought 2 small avocados and 1 large one, and the grocery clerk charged me for 3 smalls. I realized it as I was walking out of the store. The little voice inside my head said, "Just go over to customer service and pay for it." The louder, more obnoxious voice said, "Oh, it's only a dollar! No big deal! YOU didn't make the mistake! We're in a hurry! We have to get home!" The big mouth won. I went home and cut into my big, beautiful avocado and... it was totally rotten. I didn't have enough avocados to make guacamole. Still, I had to laugh. Instant karma.

Sometimes, karma gives you a chance to make it right. Like the time I came home from Whole Foods with a basket of blueberries I didn't select and didn't pay for. My kids asked, "What are you going to do, Mom?" I said, "Well, Whole Foods is a 25 minute drive. Next time I go in, I will talk to customer service and offer to pay for the blueberries." We were all satisfied with that, and began happily munching on our free blueberries. I went to Whole Foods and totally forgot about the blueberries. I went a second time, and forgot again. About 2 weeks later, I came home from the grocery store and the red new potatoes I bought for potato salad, (selected, bagged and PAID FOR), were not in my bag!! Damn! NOW I remember those blueberries. (I sent Mike back to the store for the potatoes:-) Still, score another one for karma!

Sometimes, however, things happen that have no rhyme or reason. Try as I might, I can't really find the karmic lesson. I am talking about my tennis league. I joined the TenCap Tournament, which is a little summer, outdoor league, strictly social/recreational, where tennis players from all over the Kansas City area meet up to play some matches. People are matched by their ability, and there are actually other players out there at my level:-) I am an excellent tennis player. (This is me, working on the power of positive thinking!!!) Okay, we all know about my tennis abilities, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I showed up for my first match and my partner never showed up. I called her (no answer); just a no-show, and I had to forfeit my match. It turned out that she had worked late the night before and overslept. I played my second match (with Marcia) and we lost, but it was a good match. I was scheduled for a week off last week, but someone needed a substitute to attend a funeral, so I volunteered. I was just trying to help someone out and I was available to play, so I did. Guess what? My partner never showed up! I called her, her husband said he had no idea where she was. This time, she said it was raining at her house, so she assumed the match would be canceled. (Do I even have to mention what happens when you ASSUME something??) The match was not canceled; it was warm and partly sunny and I had to forfeit. Again.

So, I've been pondering the lesson here. I've thought about reverse karma: maybe this happened to prevent me from embarrassing myself? Nah. It's only tennis; I can live with losing a few matches, even getting creamed. I've decided it's more about forgiveness. Both women apologized and I graciously accepted. I tried to look inside myself for the times I've made mistakes, or bad decisions... and I didn't have to look very far! I was reminded of one of the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi: "It is in the giving that we receive; it is in the pardoning that we are pardoned..." I hold on to the hope that, when I need it most, when I screw up badly, someone will find it in their heart to forgive me, too.

Hey, maybe it is karma, in a way, after all! Or, maybe it's only tennis.