Showing posts with label IF-Free Zone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IF-Free Zone. Show all posts

May 27, 2011

I Whistle a Happy Tune

It's the Friday before a nice long holiday weekend, so it's the perfect time for another post in the IF-Free Zone. The IF-Free Zone is a commitment to blogging about something other than my infertility journey every now and then. Why blog off-topic? Asnwer: we are more than our infertility! So enjoy another installment in the IF-Free Zone, a peek into regular 'ol me.

I've always struggled with whistling. Despite being an accomplished soprano in my youth (a long story for another day), for whatever reason, I couldn't really whistle... until about a month ago. I don't know what it was, but I started whistling to the songs on my car stereo rather than singing along. Most times I'd sound like a lonely prairie wind: all whooshing and no tonality. Then, I started experimenting in the shower. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror once doing this and had to stop and laugh. I looked like a howler monkey, contorting my lips into various shapes to achieve lower and higher pitches.

I'm getting much better and find myself whistling randomly all the time now. It's enjoyable. It's a skill I've decided to revisit, to teach myself how to do it better. I'm not exactly studying any complex manuals here; when the mood strikes me, I just start whistling.

I have always been jealous of people who can whistle and do it well. My husband is a great whistler. I had a boss once whose whistling rivaled the agility of a skilled piccolo player. He was whistling so gorgeously in the copy room once I stood in the doorway just to listen. He turned around, embarrassed; he didn't realize there was still anyone left in the office.

"No, go on," I said with a grin. "You whistle like a champ!"

The irony: this was when I worked in a theatre-related capacity. According to superstition, whistling in the theatre is considered bad luck.

Whistling does get a bad rap. I've heard it's a bad luck to whistle in front of a bride on her wedding day. In Japan, you don't really hear people whistling; Japanese folklore says that whistling will attract snakes in the night. Russian folklore brings us the phrase "to whistle your money away" - they believed that whistling would literally scare away angels that protected your home and without protection, you'd lose your money.

In general, whistling is often seen as disrespectful; think of the sterotypical image of construction workers whistling at a pretty lady as she walks by. And yet, whistling was a vital tool for sailors on merchant ships in the glory days of maritime. There is functionality to whistling: to get someone's attention, for example. Okay, so maybe it's not the most polite way to do it, but it works. Or, if you're Anna in The King and I, whistling helps chase away her fears. (Google my post title if you're not familiar with the song.)

Whistling is such a strange, distinct noise that we are able to make. It's melodic but jarring, not like the primal ferocity of screaming or shouting. It's a sound you expect from the beak of a bird, not from the lips of a full-grown person.

I mean, when you think about it, whistling is kind of silly. As it's been so famously said: you just put your lips together and blow.

Happy Friday folks and have a safe holiday weekend. I know I'll be whistling mine away!

May 24, 2011

The Ghosts of Birthdays Past

Photo by Manuel Bahamondez via Flickr
Tomorrow, I turn 29. I'm on the brink of my thirties. It's very strange to think of myself as a soon-to-be 30 year-old. I can't really milk the whole "young adult" thing anymore. I guess I'm... *looks around uncomfortably* an adult. It's funny how I've marked that status for myself over the years: I wasn't really an adult until I graduated college; and then when I had to pay my first rent in my first apartment; when I got my first car; when I landed my first full-time job; when I got engaged and then married; when I leased my first car; when I bought a house...

It's like I've kept pushing back my own adulthood status with each major life event. But at 29... well, now I'm pushin' it period.

Working in higher ed for the last 6 years, this is the first time in my life I've ever really felt the distance between my life experience and the those of my undergraduate students and even graduate colleagues. Try explaining the burden of having a mortgage to someone who's biggest financial worry is about using all their meal plan points by the end of the semester; it's the first time in my life that this age disconnect has ever felt so distinct.

It doesn't sit well with me because I like to think "I'm with it, I'm hip... taka taka taka!" But the fact of the matter is, most of my students have no frame of reference for that previous sentence. College freshmen this year were born in 1992. Austin Powers didn't come out until 1997. I was a freshman in high school. They were five.

This is the first time in my life I genuinely feel old.

. . .

So I refuse to end my pre-birthday post on a such a downer. I thought it would be fun to do a little retrospective of all my birthdays in my twenties. Because once I turned 20, of course I was an adult, so I got to party hardy. So here goes:

2002: Jazz Hands
When I turned 20, Larry and I headed to Philly for a night of good eats and even more delicious music at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus. It was a narrow, tiny little place where we literally sat within two feet of the stage, the jazz jumpin' and the food divine. We felt so grown up.

2003: Under the Boardwalk
When I turned 21 I did what any self-respecting Southern New Jerseyan does: I headed to Atlantic City for the weekend to gamble and drink the night away. I didn't win big and the drinks were pretty watered down, but the buffet the next morning at the casino was the stuff of dreams.

2004: A Blah Birthday
I turned 22 just days after graduating from college yet had to take a couple of classes at my local community college to finalize some credits. I had spent all day in class and had a terrible summer cold on top of it. Larry took me out to dinner with a friend of ours. My nose was so stuffy I couldn't taste anything. I think I was in bed by 10pm.

2005: 23 Skiddoo
My first birthday in our first apartment together. Larry baked me a scrumptious (looking) hazelnut chocolate cake. When we ate it that evening, I made a comment about how it was really sweet that he made me a cake... but that the cake itself wasn't very sweet at all. Larry double-checked the recipe and saw that it had no sugar... it was a diabetic recipe!

2006: The Worst Way to Celebrate a 24th Birthday
We went to Friday's and rented Hostel. My birthday was a little overshadowed by getting engaged the previous month but I mean, Hostel? Really? Why did I think this was an okay way to celebrate?!

2007: Happy 25th: Here's an Air Conditioner
We moved to Massachusetts the day before my birthday in 2007. The drive was long and tedious. Moving in all of our stuff, with Larry's dad's help, was just as long and tedious. The next morning we headed to Home Depot and bought our first window AC unit. Oh, and Larry bought me a peace plant. That I never watered. And then it died. And then we moved out of that place six weeks later.

2008: A Ghostly 26th 
I have always wanted to stay in a haunted hotel. Larry booked us a lovely room at a haunted inn in Concord. The most haunted room was already booked, so we had the room across the hall. We had a lovely stay except I didn't get any sleep. I was so excited about possibly having a ghostly experience that I stayed up all night looking and listening for things to happen... and nothing did. Still, it was a lovely weekend just the same.

2009: Guns. Massage. Meat on Swords. And Earrings.
I turned 27 with a literal bang. I went to the shooting range with Larry and another friend and fired my first gun. I had a nice spa day massage. We capped it all off by heading to a Brazilian BBQ with a huge group of friends. Dee-lish!

2010: I'm Melting, I'm Melting
We went to the Melting Pot last year. I was particularly excited because I love fondue. My birthday was unseasonably hot last year and the Melting Pot we went to didn't have their AC turned on yet. So there we were, sitting at essentially an open stove top in a restaurant with no AC on the hottest day of the year so far. That said, it was still delicious and worth the heat.

2011: The Fruits of the Sea
I disovered on our anniversary this year that I like love oysters. This year we're headed to B&G Oysters, a Barbara Lynch joint right in the heart of downtown Boston. My goal is to consume nothing but oysters and champagne. I'm also getting a saltwater fishing rod. Now that we live literally less than a mile from the ocean, we don't need fishing licenses to fish in saltwater. And Larry assures me there's one other surprise related to our sea-faring theme, so I can't wait to find out tomorrow! And, my interview about our infertility journey should air tomorrow night at 11pm on WBZTV Boston. It's going to be a fabulous night indeed!

So there you have it, my Ghosts of Birthdays past. What's been your favorite birthday? How did you celebrate? What did you get? Dish, people, dish!

April 15, 2011

The Matzo Balls Are Coming.

This post is part of the IF-Free Zone: a commitment to blogging about something other than my infertility journey every now and then. Why blog off-topic? We are more than our infertility. So enjoy another installment in the IF-Free Zone series. Here's another peek into regular 'ol me.

. . .

I'm not sure how it happened this year, but all of a sudden, Passover is this Monday night. Rosh HaShannah felt late, Hanukkah was way late, so I guess it makes sense that Passover is wicked late this year. We have done absolutely zero prep for Passover... we haven't even bought our boxes of matzo yet!

But we need to get on it this weekend, because folks: the matzo balls, they are a-comin'.

If you're curious: they're sinkers THEN floaters.
Last year we were Passover CHAMPS. We held a Seder at our apartment and invited many dear friends. I was a cooking fiend that weekend, churning out matzo balls like they were going out of style. I could give you Larry's Mom's/Nan's recipe... but then I'd have to kill you. Larry made a (delicious) brisket. There was charoset and fresh-made maror and even vegetarian options!

This year... well, we're skipping First Seder on Monday night because Larry has a Masons meeting he can't miss. So we're hosting Second Seder, the first in our new home, on Tuesday night. So far we have six people coming and we haven't even picked the menu yet.

This should be an interesting weekend. I need to get a jump on the matzo balls and the soup, because they taste better if they've had a couple of days to soak in the flavor. But I also need to finalize our menu and do the shopping. We should also probably, yanno, clean the house too. That would be good. Somehow we plan to squeeze all of this in while painting our bedroom.

Now, painting wouldn't be such a challenge if we didn't also have to paint our bed (that Larry made himself right after we moved in) and if we didn't have to paint the very awkard, very high catherdral ceiling walls in our bedroom either. Thank goodness Monday is Patriot's Day here in Massachusetts, a state-wide holiday that just happens to be when the Boston Marathon is run every year.

It's going to be a busy weekend for sure.

I do have a question for the masses, Jewish or otherwise: I have two vegetarians joining us this year. I'm making separate matzo balls without chicken schmaltz and a veggie-based broth for them, but I'm at a loss for a vegetarian entree for  them. Last year I made parmesan-stuffed portobello mushrooms, but I'd like to try something different this year. Any tips or ideas on some delicious vegetarian entrees for Passover?

Alright, I can't wrap this post up without sharing at least one recipe with you; I've been going on and on about food, so it's only fair. A little backstory to this recipe: Larry's uncle's ex-wife apparently made some delicious Passover layer cake with full sheets of matzo and delicious frosting. For the last 14 years, at every Passover Seder at his parents' house, I've been hearing about Dahlia's "amazing Passover cake." The funny thing is, no one had the recipe. So when she left the family, the recipe went with her. And still, this Passover cake gets mentioned at every Seder table with the Zolls. I have been mystified and intrigued by this "amazing Passover cake," and last year I made it my mission to find the recipe.

After getting descriptions from both Larry and his mom, I set about Googling and found this recipe from I made it last year, and as Larry took the first bite, you could see the years of nostalgia flooding back to him. I had found Dahlia's cake.

So here now is a near-diabetic coma-inducing Passover dessert to make this week. I've tweaked the recipe I originally found so that it's basically guaranteed to send your glucose through the roof.

Dahlia (and Miriam's) 7-Layer Passover "Cake"
I realize it looks unassuming. It's basically just sheets of matzo soaked in alcohol layered with buttercream frosting. I know, I know and yes - it is that good.

I am full of sugar and joy.
You will need:
  • 3 1/2 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter softened (because margarine is a cop-out)
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (confectioners' sugar can work for this)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • 8 matzo sheets
  • (750 mL) bottle kahlua, kahlua creme, Bailey's or Godiva liqueur (or... all of these.)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
 To make the frosting:
  1. Melt chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave by heating at 30 second intervals, and stirring between each one. When chocolate is almost melted, just remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. Set aside. You can also melt the chocolate with a double boiler if you have one (my preferred method and I don't have a double boiler; I do a smaller pot resting in a larger pot with about an inch of water in the bigger pot.)
  2. In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until well blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites with a pinch of superfine sugar until stiff.
  4. Fold the melted chocolate into the creamed butter/sugar mixture, then fold in the egg whites.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Pour 1/4 of your potent potable into an 8x8 inch baking dish. Soak one of the matzo sheets briefly on both sides, then remove to a serving platter. If you soak too long, it will break apart and become hard to work with.
  2. Spread a thin layer of the chocolate cream over the soaked matzo. Continue soaking and layering the matzos and chocolate cream, leaving enough of the chocolate mixture to frost the sides when finished.
  3. Break up the process by having a sip of your potent potable from a separate glass. Add more alcohol to the dish as necessary for soaking.
  4. Optionally: press chopped nuts onto the sides, or sprinkle them on top for garnish. I'm not a fan of chocolate and nuts, so I skip this step.
  5. Refrigerate overnight to allow everything to soak in and become amazing.
  6. Upon eating, just try not to have your eyes roll back into your head with each bite. I dare you.

March 2, 2011

The first hints of spring

There's a mockingbird out my window, twittered rambling
a cornflower sky, the remnants of snow melting into a memory
dark red buds on the trees timidly reaching toward the morning sun

I can feel Spring trying to burst through Her Old Foe, Winter
as the ice cracks on the Charles, small continents of ice returning to the Harbor
like the tapping of a hard boiled egg against the counter, the shell giving way
like the tapping of a spoon against the crackled coating of a creme brulee
breaking through to the sweetness within

I feel a buzzing in my soul
knowing Spring and I will meet again
in just eighteen days.

Photo by Keiko Zoll

January 6, 2011


It's a New Year, a new decade, and time for a new 'do. I've worn my hair long for the last 2 years but on December 22nd, I chopped it ALL off.

The only picture I could find of myself with my hair down, circa April 2010.
Even had old glasses! And a super huge pout for some unknown reason.

And now, let's talk about my historical love/hate hair affair.

I've had a love/hate relationship with my hair ever since I was a wee one. As a small child I hated having my hair brushed or my scalp touched (I still freak out a little when people touch my head). As my mom and Aunt Kay would say, I was tender-headed. I'm pretty sure I single-handedly kept Johnson's Detangler on the drugstore shelves in my town. I practically went through a bottle a week as a kid.

My first haircut was when I was 4, in Charleston, South Carolina, at a beach house that no longer exists. (Hurricane Hugo washed it out to sea in 1989.) My Aunt Kay cut my hair. I remember it taking something like 3 hours, but that is small child memory sense of time, so in reality, it was probably like 20 minutes. My hair was down to my butt at the time and shorn down to a respectable level just below my shoulders.

I wore bangs throughout elementary school (who didn't? It was the late 80s/early 90s - it was as natural as slap bracelets and jelly shoes) but didn't really take the plunge until 8th grade. That's when I went for the Dana Scully-esque bob cut. Unfortunately, I wasn't exactly a hair styling pro, so it never quite looked that cool. (Remember, cool is being used as a relative term to the mid-90s awesomeness of the X-Files at that time). Still, I was practically beaming for my eighth grade portrait.

I grew it out through high school and then got it cut sometime senior year. It had to have happened after senior portraits were taken (as my hair was just past my shoulders) but sometime before I started college, as there are early college pics of me with my hair growing out. I have only a few pictures of that haircut while it was fresh: it was an incredibly short haircut and it wasn't done very well.

Around my 21st birthday, I lopped off my hair again. There is a very awkward picture of me holding up my brand new license (that's right, didn't get my license until college) with my brand-new haircut. In retrospect, the haircuts themselves weren't necessarily bad... I just had no idea how to style them. I grew out my hair again, graduated, moved in with my boyfriend, started working in the real world, got engaged, and got married. I was terrible about getting my hair trimmed regularly and always kept it long. Right after we got married, I did what every single one of my married lady friends did post-wedding: I chopped it all off since I had grown it long for the wedding. I mistakenly went for the oh-so-2008-what-was-I-thinking style "pob" - the reverse angled bob cut made popular by Victoria Beckham - after the stylist assured me it was an easy style to manage.

Lies. I couldn't wait to get my hair trimmed back to one length and growing it back out as that hairstyle was a nightmare to maintain.

I never really got into the whole "doing my hair" thing, contrary to my Southern New Jersey upbringing. Styling meant I added hairspray or added a barette. For the last few years, I had 3 hairstyles: ponytail, bun, or tossed up in a hair claw. It is a RARE day indeed when I would wear my hair down. Just before the New Year, on a bonus day off, I decided to take the plunge and go pixie.

Granted, I have to "style" my hair every day and it's still a learning process. I still haven't achieved the same "just styled" look right out of the salon, but I'm okay with that. The styling process takes about 5 minutes in the morning so I'm not too overwhelmed. (Mostly it's towel-drying, adding some anti-frizz cream, parting my hair and smoothing it all down. I rarely blow dry my hair.)

Other pros of the pixie cut:
1. No more random long shedded strands stuck to my clothes.
2. No more balling up my hair and throwing it over the pillow when I go to sleep at night.
3. Less shampoo consumption (Never realized how much shampoo I used until that first hairwash post haircut.)
4. More opportunities for adorable hats and dangly earrings.
5. No more getting my hair caught in ____ (doors, seatbelts, jackets, under my husband's arm when he puts it around my shoulder, cats' teeth).

I've had this cut for just over 2 weeks now and I love how easy it is and how I look. It's a nice change of pace. The day I got it cut, I splurged with some Hanukkah money I'd been holding onto and a clothing store gift card from my mom. I got my hair cut, bought me some new duds, and then dropped- oy, I'm embarrassed to admit how much I spent- $128 on makeup at Sephora. I'm usually a Cover Girl/Maybelline sort of gal, but it felt nice to spend money on some really nice (if a bit overpriced) makeup. I needed to replace everything anyway as it was all  at least a couple of years old, plus I had to throw out all of my eye makeup when I got a bad stye in December. And now I've made a commitment to actually getting up, styling my hair, and putting on makeup in the morning (lol, of course except for today. The hair is a must but there was no time for makeup this morning).

Larry has been in awe of this super new girly-girl wife of his.

I admit, it's a big change for someone who, for the past 5 or 6 years never regularly wore makeup; makeup was reserved for special occasions only. But it feels nice just to take some time for myself, doll up my face and hair, and walk out the door feeling good about the way I look.

November 24, 2010

A stack of books

...for me to listen.

I love my Audible account. Listening to audiobooks on my way into work makes the time fly. My husband and I are our account; we're able to do so by racking up tons of credits. Instead of carrying a stack of books on the plane and dragging them around the beaches next week* I just bring my iPhone and hit play.

*Oh yeah, we're going on a cruise next week. Details in Saturday's post.

I've downloaded several titles- more than I'll ever listen to in one week, but enough so that if I want variety, it's there.

Right now I'm listening to The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, the second of the Millenium trilogy. Yes, it's as good as everyone says. Seriously dark content- do be forewarned- but immersive and irresistable. I finally broke down and watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; I had promised myself I would wait to watch the movies until I'd finished the books, but now it's strangely satisfying to picture the actors in my head as I listen. Thankfully the pace of this second book picks up considerably faster than Dragon Tattoo.

I've also got Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro on tap. This was recently made into a film with Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan. On all appearances it looks like a period, turn of the century English boarding school story, but upon closer inspection, it's actually a dystopian sci-fi piece. I won't spoil it, but I made the mistake of reading more about the film and kind of know what it's all about, but it's received sweeping reviews so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Other audiobooks in my queue:

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In short: corn is in everything. I totally get it. But as a foodie, this is apparently a very important book to read. Similarly, I want to listen to...

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Unfortunately, after previewing the author reading her own work, the pace is so staggeringly slow that I'll actually have to read the book rather than listening to it. (This is also how Twilight didn't make the cut. The narrator's nasally voice was a total turn off. Also, after listening to about 5 minutes from each book in the series, I realized just how awful the writing is and I just can't do it to myself. I'll watch the movies, but that's it.)

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. I know, I know - same plot, same characters, different conspiracy theory. However, I find his books like a good popcorn flick. Also, it's about Freemasonry so I can appreciate the themes.

And finally, Room by Emma Donahue. It's a new release and an interesting premise: it's told in the narrative of a 5-year old boy named Jack who's been locked in a single room all his life by his Ma and under the oppressive shadow of Old Nick. And then one night, Ma and Jack escape, and the tale unfolds from there.

What are y'all reading or listening to?

November 20, 2010

The Best Pretzels. Ever.

It's time for another IF-Free Zone post. Shocker: it's about food.

Larry and I are self-proclaimed foodies. We like to cook and we love to go out and eat. I have always fancied myself a good cook: I can make some tasty sauces and I'm not afraid to dabble in spices. The dishes I make best tend to be entrees. I make a killer tomato sauce, and honey dijon chicken is so simple, and so delish on a Friday night. I love it. I also can execute complex desserts: chocolate ganache with candied orange peels, for example. I know, I know - try not to drool.

Larry's much more adventurous: pork chops, roasted chicken, brussel sprouts.

I'm sorry, I need to take a minute to talk about brussel sprouts:
They are... amazing. I never in my life thought I'd be cooking them, much less a Rachel Ray recipe for brussel sprouts but good G-d, they are delish. We were lucky enough to find baby brussel sprouts, and they're much sweeter and more tender than their teenaged cabbage siblings. Bacon, shallot, chicken stock BAM! You have one helluva side dish.

Right, back to the paragraph at hand.

Larry's also the default steak-cooker in our house. But he's also mastered the one kitchen role with which I still struggle: baking. Sure, I make a mean sugar cookie (easiest cookie to make ever), but he makes chocolate chip cookies from scratch. He bakes a great challah. His cakes are light and fluffy (except for that diabetic no-sugar birthday cake he made me years back. That was kind of a disaster. He didn't realize it was a diabetic recipe until too late in the process).

I've never considered myself a good baker. My challah is always too dense. I've never made cookies other than sugar cookies. And the banana bread I tried to make two weeks ago?
To get a sense of scale:
This is a 9" dinner plate. The loaf weighs about 2lbs.
So... the recipe called for a bundt pan. I didn't have one, so I thought my silicone loaf pan would do. I filled the batter to the edge because I didn't think it would rise, not realizing that baking soda is a levening agent. I should have really used 2 loaf pans. Instead, I ended up with Attack of the Giant Banana Bread:

Wait, who's attacking what?
This is a common picture pose for me, actually.
And no joke - it took almost 2 hours to bake and it STILL wasn't done all the way through. I cut the loaf in half and brought it to work. I mean, it tasted okay, but not great. A bit... doughy.

Baking FAIL.

And then Larry discovered Working Class Foodies, quite possibly the neatest food vlog out there. And we found a recipe for homemade soft pretzels. Now, to be fair - our friend Claire had gotten us turned onto homemade pretzels because she makes some BANGIN' brown sugar based pretzels from scratch. They are pretty incredible. Her recipe is metric, so she has to reconvert everything when she makes it, so sometimes the measurements might be off between batches. That's what lead us to go looking for another pretzel recipe and wow... they're good. Different than Claire's, but equally as good.

These pretzels are also the first baking foray I've made that have come back successful, delicious, and leaving my guests wanting more! I made these for Halloween and they lasted, maybe 10 minutes on the table.

Here's the whole recipe in action:

 The only drawback to Working Class Foodies is that they don't write down their recipes; they're always contained in the videos themselves. So as I was making them, I had the laptop on the counter, rewinding and pausing. My dear readers, I will save you this trouble :)

Working Class Foodies' Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe
Seriously, they are stupid easy and wicked fun to make.

 You'll need...
  • 1 packet/tsp of dry active yeast
  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1 TBSP of sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 TBSP melted butter
  • 1 TSSP veggie oil (to coat your bowl)
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda 
  1. Dissolve sugar and salt into warm water. Add yeast. Allow to proof and get frothy for about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Once the yeast has proofed, add butter and yeast mixture to flour. Form into shaggy dough.
  3. Flour a work surface and knead dough until smooth, about 5-10 minutes. Place into bowl rubbed with veggie oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to double in size, about 1 hour. You might want to preheat your oven to 450° and set your bowl on the stove; the warmth helps it rise.
  4. Preheat your over to 450° if you haven't already. Add baking soda to 10 cups of water and bring to a fast rolling boil. 
  5. Once doubled in size, flour your work surface and knead for another 5 minutes. Divide into 8-12 pieces. We ended up with about 10. 10 makes HUGE pretzels.
  6. Roll pieces into 2' logs, about an inch thick. Make a U, cross the ends, twist once, press ends down into bottom of U. Tada! Pretzel shape.
  7. Place pretzels on baking sheet or place to get them out of your way.
  8. Once you've made all your pretzels and the water is boiling, carefully and gently add them to the water, one by one. Don't overcrowd and take each one out after about 30 seconds.
  9. Place boiled pretzels on greased parchment paper on baking sheet. Sprinkle with course salt to taste. (Optional: you can add an egg wash before you salt them, but I didn't it without the egg wash and it worked fine. It just makes them look fancier.)
  10. Bake pretzels for 12-14 minutes, rotating halfway through. Take out, slather with mustard, dip into cheese, or eat them as is. Delish!
These go excellently with Sunday football. Enjoy!

November 19, 2010

"And miles to go before I sleep."

I think it's time for another...

C25K: And miles to go...

Today will be Week 2, Day 3 of the C25K challenge that Larry and I are doing together. Last Friday, (Week 1, Day 3) was hard. If it weren't for Larry jogging by my side, slowing his pace, and cheering me on, I don't think I would have finished. Come Monday, it was a different story. I was jogging for a slightly longer clip at a time (90 seconds instead of 60 seconds) and went for my first solo run. It was definitely tough, but I didn't hit quite the wall that I did the previous run. I felt really proud of myself for managing to run on my own through my neighborhood.

Wednesday was wonderful- again, tough, but rewarding. I even did my run on my lunch break at work, meeting a friend of mine at the track behind my office. Claire was such a good sport- she's a week behind on the program, and when she accidentally dropped her phone and lost her training app progress, she kept up with my week's program in spurts. It was a great way to break up the work day (thank G-d for extra anti-perspirant and body spray) and I felt pretty amazing and productive for the rest of the day.

Larry is out of town at a trade show in NYC, so after working a 15 hour day on Wednesday, he couldn't run. We made a promise to each other  that if either one of us was out of town for a run day, we'd still run. So he ran yesterday to make up for it and we'll run together tonight after work. I was so proud of him for running yesterday morning, despite his hectic work schedule and unfamilar terrain. (Apparently, running in Manhattan is a beast.)

This week's routine is just a smidge higher in intensity than last week's: 5 minute warmup, jog for 90 seconds, walk for 2 minutes. Repeat for 20 minutes, 5 minute cooldown. So in a given run, I've been jogging for 9 minutes spread out over the half hour. Next week it ramps up, I'm still jogging a total of 9 minutes in a given program, but 6 of those minutes are in 3 minute clips- should be interesting.

So far I've run a total of 6.55 miles. I'm averaging about 1.75 miles in my 30 minutes, more than half of a 5k.The great thing about this program is that in about 8 weeks, I should be doubling that mileage in the same amount of time.

I'm looking forward to that challenge. For the first time in my life, I am really psyched about accomplishing a very tangible fitness goal.

Harry Potter 7, pt.1: ...before I sleep.

I went with my friend Charlotte last night to see the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There's a lot of fun to be had at midnight showings, especially for a franchise as epic as HP. There were cloaks and burgundy and gold striped ties, scarves, and hats, as well as lightning tattoos and drumsticks doubling as wands. I opted for a more practical solution: pajamas. The movie runs about 2.5 hours, so my plan was to roll into bed once I got home. Getting up this morning for work was brutal.

It's a really excellent film that stays rather close to the book (including the fairly boring stretches of wandering through the wilderness a la Lord of the Rings). If you haven't read the books, I imagine this film would have been a nightmare. There's no catching up to speed on the previous 904 minutes of film. Either you know what a horcrux is or you're drowing in 6 movies' worth of established mythology.

I won't spoil any surprises, but there is a scene from the book I had completely forgotten about toward the end of the film - seeing it onscreen was both visually satisfying (yummy Daniel Radcliff) and kind of weird, because as I realized last night... I've been watching these actors grow up for over a decade. The Harry Potter films have spanned my 20's. It was almost awkward to see such a "racy" scene. But it's a nice payoff to mounting tensions throughout the film. (Especially if you're like me and perpetually took issue with certain main characters' romantic choices. I'll just leave it at... Team Harry would have been epic.)

The film ends rather abruptly, but I suppose it's really the best place to halve the two films. I'm kind of going nuts to see part 2. And considering how emotional I became at several moments in last night's installment, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a wreck at end of it all. Like I was for LOST (nigh inconsolable) and Battlestar Galactica (quite moved but still annoyed at some of Ron Moore's obvious copouts).

In sum: Harry Potter 7, pt. 1 is a really excellent film- more of a dark series of character studies than action driven linear plot. It follows quite closely to the book and I think for those of us who are invested in the franchise on both page and screen, it will be a very satisfying adaptation. I'm glad I didn't see it with Larry last night... because now it gives me an excuse to go see it again!

I'm going to try very, very hard not to fall asleep at my desk. Getting to bed at 3am and up by 7:30am are not sitting well with me at all, and this iced coffee isn't doing much either... *thud, snores, drool*

Happy Friday all.

November 13, 2010

The IF-Free Zone

Texture credit: DELLipo™
Sometimes, all this talk about infertility and babies and doctor's appointments can be a bit much, so I created a blog post label "IF-free zone." Because sometimes, I just don't feel like writing about infertility - even the more positive aspects like volunteering and advocacy. This girl just needs a break sometimes.

I also block out time in my daily schedule where I'm going to enjoy myself and not think about the soul-crushing depression of my barrenness. I make sure to set aside non-blogging time as IF-free zones. I encourage you to do the same, because it works wonders. Not every conversation I have with my husband has to be about infertility or baby things. Sometimes we just want to talk about that funny article we read on that day or why I think just the phoenetics of the words Windows Phone are inferior to the fluidity of how iPhone just rolls off the tongue.

So what do I write about in my IF-Free Zone? Well, let's check the label. Apparently I have 16 posts labeled IF-free zone prior to this. I've written about traveling, camping, my hots for Tony Bourdain, getting in shape, dieting (ha ha, that totally failed), memories of Sept. 11th, and a lotta stuff about food.

I guess the point of my IF-free zone is to say, look: there's more to me that just my infertility. In fact, let me showcase the things that give me pleasure, give me purpose, or I just feel the need to get up on my soapbox and talk about for little bit, because it matters to me in some way.

So I've decided to make a little graphic to emphasize beyond just the blog post label. If you want it, feel free to "right click + save as" and slap it up on your own IF-free zone blog moments.

I hope you find it as freeing as I have... because we are ALL more than just our infertility.

November 9, 2010

These shoes were made for runnin'

Let the madness begin.
It's official. Yesterday marked the start of our Couch to 5K program. We are fully committed to this project now. Especially since we spent $200 on running shoes for the both of us alone.

But seriously, how could I say no to shoes that were both super comfy AND super cute?
In an effort to keep myself motivated, I'm also publicly sharing my weight because this is going to keep me motivated. So, starting out, I weigh 188.4 lbs. I'm only 5"2" and my BMI is 34. A little public self-shaming will go a long way. In fact, we even posted our weights on Facebook and Twitter. Dear readers, keep us in check!

Week 1, Day 1 of C25K is complete. Our 30-minute session last night consisted of a 5 minute warmup, and then alternating 60-second bursts of jogging and 90 second walkings for 20 minutes, followed by a 5 minute cooldown. (For a complete overview of the how C25K works, check out the full running program here.)

I laced up my new shoes, changed into my $35 sports bra (I am willing to pay extra to keep my gals from hitting me in the face while I run) and we headed off to the indoor track where I work since Mother Nature pretty much conspired against us from running outdoors yesterday.

I will not lie: I was huffing and puffing, but the alternating pace kept me from keeling over. The C25K iPhone app we downloaded worked great! I managed to jog for a total of about 8-10 minutes over the course of the training session. And by switching from jogging to walking, it really helped to give me a sense of focus as I anticipated the jogging sections and looked forward to the relief of walking again. Note to self: use my inhaler before we start running. That $35 sports bra? It keeps my gals in check but I can hardly breathe! Afterward, some nice deep stretching to (hopefully) keep me from hurting too bad tomorrow. I don't know how much distance we covered; I'll probably start keeping track of that next week.

No matter how tough this is going to get, and it will get tougher - I've got a reason to stay motivated and focused. Forget getting healthy. Forget losing weight. I can do this because this is a piece of cake compared to what Edison Peña underwent just to achieve at the New York Marathon on Sunday.

You see, Edison was one of the fine gentlemen trapped underground for two months in the Chilean mine accident. And yet, he still managed to train for the New York City Marathon despite being hundreds of miles underground, because he had been marathon training for years, and he wasn't about to let a bajillion pounds of earth ready to collapse on him at any moment stop him from training. He sawed off the ankles of his steel-toed workboots and ran laps of up to six miles in their confined space underground - every day.

And this past Sunday, Edison Peña finished the New York City Marathon in just 5 hours, 40 minutes.

I have NO reason to even think about giving up on this. And every time I start to get discouraged about this, I just have to keep picturing Edison running toward the finish line. In fact, when I felt myself starting to hurt in my arches, my breaths coming shorter, feeling my face flush and the sweat start to drip down my brow, I just kept repeating to myself, to the pat pat pat pat rhythm of my feet:

"Edison Peña. Edison Peña. Edison Peña."

It's all about the finish line. (Image via Getty Images.)

November 4, 2010

"Dream a little dream of me."

Our minds do some strange things while we're asleep. Especially mine. I've been a vivid dreamer all of my life. To this day, I can remember images like movie stills from dreams as young as 5 and 6. I can also be a lucid dreamer, on the rare occasion. (I find the "hands" reality check to be the most effective way for me to determine if I'm lucid dreaming.)

Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up
that we realize something was actually strange. (INCEPTION)

My dreams are pretty epic. I never have the "Oh look at that funny purple cat," it's usually something Spielbergian in scope. If only there was some way to record all the potential blockbusting movies that play in my head nightly... oh wait, we may actually be getting closer to that possibility! For a more low-tech solution, I've kept dream journals for most of my life. I get these intense dreams when I'm worried about something, when I'm healthy and well-rested, and sometimes after intense events and stressors.

I also have recurring dream symbols and nightmares. I used to dream about tornados- dozens of them, and having to outrun them in a car. Sometimes I dream about bridges that climb into the sky for miles and become literally rail thin, or have a gap in the middle that I have to accelerate my car to make the jump. Sometimes I dream about my teeth breaking and falling out (a classic symbol about health concerns). I used to dream about being chased through familiar buildings when I was in high school. I even have a complete dream neighborhood that I could map out down to the street, based on my hometown neighborhood growing up; there's the residential section, a park (usually with a carnival), a boardwalk and beach, a school, a gas station, a municipal complex and two schools. And everything is always located in the same place in those dreams.

I know I mentioned I have complex, vivid, epic dreams. Take Tuesday night, for example. After Red Tent Temple, I dreamed about a lightning storm, two blond sisters named Alexa and Ivy, good-looking twin teenaged boys from outer space asleep in the guest bedroom of my parents' house, and throwing water balloons at a former student staff member of mine. TOTES made sense at the time, while I was asleep.

Some of my other crazy dreams:
  • Going shopping at Kmart with Anthony Bourdain and watching strange cloud formations in the sky with him.
  • Watching a nuclear bomb detonate and then fleeing from Nazi zombies in an old abandoned school bus in the deserted wasteland of D.C.
  • Speaking of D.C., helping the Obamas move into the White House and unpack.
  • Getting married in the parking lot of a McDonald's after the rabbi (who's played by a former colleague of mine) gets run over by an old hoopdie Buick driven by kids in Halloween masks.
  • Fighting off zombie robots (that is, robots that came out of the ground) at my college with my fellow RAs and campus police.
  • Fighting off zombie children on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and hiding in a museum that gets hit with a tidal wave.
  • Helping former President Bush (Jr.) find prostitutes in D.C.
My favorite dream? Last year I randomly dreamed my sister walked up to me on the street and told me she was 8 weeks pregnant with a little girl.  That was it, that was the whole dream. The next morning, I was talking with her online and mentioned the dream. She stopped IMing me and then called my cell phone. *cue freaky music* She was calling to tell me (the first person she told besides her husband) that she was actually 5 weeks pregnant and had only known for about 5 days. Also? I'm now an Auntie to a niece. BAM! How do you like them apples?!

If you'd like to read even weirder tales of the things my brain makes up while I'm asleep, feel free to check out the Dreams tag at my *embarrased sideways glance* LiveJournal. Now, I haven't written in that thing in probably over a year or more, and a good number of entries are hidden behind a Friends-Only privacy lock, but there's still plenty of unprotected entries for you to enjoy :)

What are some of the weirder, cooler, or potentially precognitive dreams you've had?

Other updates:

+ Only 2 days until the RESOLVE of New England Fertility Treatment, Donor Choices, and Adoption Conference! The Stirrup Queen herself, Melissa Ford, will be our keynote speaker!

+ Have you donated to my Fertile Fall Fundraiser yet? I've only raised $10 so far, and I've got $1990 to go!

+ NaBloPoMo is hard. Seriously. Expect some WAY random posts, like this one.

+ And finally, I've apparently won the WEGO Health Vlog Contest for my first vlog last week. I'm getting an iPod Touch... word!

June 30, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Nerd Alert

One was amazing. I cannot wait to see the other.


Team Edward or Team Harry? Which is better? Discuss ^_^

May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

First time I'm trying this whole Wordless Wednesday blog meme. I love photography and I love my Lumix LX3. Here's a sampling of some of my artsy-fartsy photos. You can click on the slideshow below to open the whole gallery of thumbnails. Enjoy!

EDIT: Here are a couple of pictures from my birthday yesterday...

Left: Lovely flowers from my in-laws, waiting for me when I woke up yesterday morning. Right: Chocolate fondue at The Melting Pot! I don't know how they did it, but it was delicious ^_^

May 22, 2010

Thought for Food

I mentioned my husband and I have begun seeing a nutritionist. Hooray! It's another opportunity to invent a pseudonym! So, I'm going to calling her Dr. Organic. She's not a doctor, but she's wicked smart, and I like the way the name sounds.

So. Dr. Organic is a foodie like us! She gets it when we enjoy tasting, eating, and cooking. She understands that we live in such a great restaurant city how could we not go out all the time? She understands that food isn't just sustenance: it's a sensual, emotional experience. She appreciates our love of cheese, local foods, and gourmet experimentation in the kitchen. She appreciates the value of shallots. That says a lot to me.

In our first appointment with her, we realized what our biggest problem was: our eating habits and schedule were so chaotic. Our bigger problem? We never go grocery shopping. I come home from work, we play the "What's for dinner game?" and in our laziness either go out or order in because it's easier than going to the store, getting all the ingredients, coming home, and cooking. And we weren't making good choices about the places we'd go out to eat.

Dr. Organic's suggestion was so simple: plan your meals for the week. We spent a session just planning out what we'd eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. We made a grocery list. We went shopping at the start of that week. It felt revolutionary to Larry and I, but it was the easiest solution staring us in the face the whole time.

By planning breakfasts, it reminded me there was food in the fridge or fruit in the bowl that needed to get eaten or it would go to waste. Our other problem was not eating breakfast. I never put it together, but when you have dinner at 8pm, go to bed at midnight, and don't eat again until noon, you're going almost 15 hours without eating. Your body goes into feast or famine mode, so it holds onto EVERYTHING in an effort to compensate for the fact that your body thinks it's not going to eat again, so it better start storing up all that fat. Who knew? So now I eat breakfast. It started small: a cup of yogurt here, a piece of fruit there. Now Dr. Organic is pushing us to have a little bit of something from each food group: maybe yogurt with berries and granola, or a quiche cup that we make in batches and freeze until we're ready to eat them. We've learned to make use of our freezer, to cook in advance, and adjust when our moods change and we suddenly don't feel like Tacos on Tuesday. (But I mean, how could you not, it's Taco Tuesday?!)

All this planning has helped bring a sense of structure to our somewhat chaotic schedules. We don't homecook every night; we plan nights and meals out, but we're putting so much more thought into what we eat. We're learning to compromise. If I had some cookies after lunch, do I really need dessert after dinner? If I'm ordering noodles at my favorite Japanese place, do I need the sushi or can I just get the sashimi? I really just want the fish, so why have all that extra rice with my noodles?

Larry and I don't do diets. And Dr. Organic doesn't weigh us, doesn't make us count calories. She's helping to create a lifestyle change, a cultural shift in our culinary pursuits. She's challenging us to engage our minds, not just our tastebuds. And we're losing weight- nothing dramatic, but it's happening at a natural pace in step with our lifestyle changes.

And change is delicious.

April 23, 2010

Why you shouldn't play pranks on your husband.

...because head injuries may abound.

So Ari desperately needed to clean out his car last night, and I agreed to help him. (PS- he's also rocking out to his new job. He is *loving* it and they are *loving* him.) He was parked in the lot behind our building, and I suggested he back up to an empty spot beneath the light so we could see what we were doing. So Ari's backing up, and I'm standing at the back of the spot, refusing to move, b/c I know of course, my husband isn't going to back up into me.

...and then my little mischievous streak kicks in.

So he revs his engine for me to get out of the way, and I take small step back. When he's 99% finished backing up, I slap the back of his trunk to make it sound like he nicked me and I pretend to fall over. (Let me just say, we've both got weird senses of humor. This kind of stuff is totally normal for us.) Except, I wasn't looking when I pretended to fall backward, and smacked my head on the light pole behind the spot... hard. Like "saw stars, tasted metal in my mouth, staggered around in blinding pain for a full 30 seconds before being able to respond" hard. A big lump starts forming, and I'm apologizing profusely for trying to play such a cruel prank on him anyway. And he's all, "Are you ok? You'll be fine. See what happens when you mess around like that?"

We start cleaning out his trunk, and I'm starting to get a headache. And then, randomly, I think about Natasha Richardson, and how she randomly died after feeling fine after her head injury from her skiing accident. I start sobbing:

"Should I go to the hospital? I hit my head pretty hard and I'm getting a headache and there's a lump and I don't want to end up like Natasha Richardson who was fine but then she wasn't because she hit her head and then she just died and it was so sad because Liam Neeson couldn't be there because he was shooting a movie and I don't want to die like Natasha Richardson!"

Ari assured me I'm fine, and promised to call his mom (she's a nurse). After some consoling on the phone, I finally just took some Tylenol, but was petrified to go to bed because yes, I was still scared of dying in my sleep from an untreated head injury. I couldn't fight the Tylenol much more and finally fell asleep. I had some seriously weird dreams last night, too. Well, obviously I'm fine b/c I'm writing this post, but boy howdy have I learned my prank playing lesson* - all I've got to show for it is a bruised ego and a big bump on my head.

*...lesson learned for now, that is ;) I live to prank another day!

March 22, 2010

Blog Award from Sonja!

As promised, here's the blog award I received from Sonja over at The Mud and the Lotus. Thanks Sonja :) She's awesome, and her recently redesigned and retitled blog looks fab, so pop on over and say hello!

10 Things About Me:
  1. I have a handful of trademark photos I take every time I have a camera in my hands: macro shots, interesting shadows, looking up through trees, anything with patterns, long angled perspectives, and playing with off-centering/cropping. I take macro shots of everything.
  2. I appeared on Good Morning America with my second grade class, literally saying "Good morning, America!" as the lead in to one of their random segments. We still have it on Betamax. That's right- Betamax!
  3. I absolutely love playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I'm level 37(? I think?) and my weapon of choice is the Scar-H.
  4. I love shopping at farmers' markets in the summer, and creating all sorts of seasonal dishes on the fly.
  5. I eat my cereal dry, but will have a glass of milk with it. I just don't like mushy cereal, but I do appreciate the taste combination of milk and cereal together.
  6. I say the V'ahavta during every takeoff, and repeat it over and over from the moment we start taxiing until wheels have left the ground.
  7. My favorite football team is the Washington Redskins, and my favorite player is Clinton Portis. Even though Mark Brunell hasn't been on the team in years, I still find reasons to make fun of him when I watch a Skins game.
  8. I love reading very quirky non-fiction, such as Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, Kitchen Confidential. I also love quirky documentaries like Beer Wars, King of Kong, Helvetica, Contstantine's Sword. With the aid of these lovely context clues, you should be able to derive I am a huge dork.
  9. I am paralyzingly terrified of jellyfish when I go in the ocean. I think they're cool looking and fascinating, but the idea of being stung by one freaks me out so much.
  10. I am a terrible baker, but I make a mean tomato sauce and can cook fish to perfection. The only baked good I can make really well are sugar cookies, I think b/c it's simply the easiest cookie recipe ever. Also, I make amazing pancakes.

And now, I'm giving this award to the following 10 bloggers, in no particular order:
  1. In Due Time
  2. Elana at Elana's Musings
  3. Wiseguy over at Woman Anyone?
  4. IF Optimist, then...
  5. Bella & Her Fella -(she's got new protected digs over at WordPress)
  6. Hillary at Making Me Mom
  7. An Unwanted Path
  8. Pour Away the Ocean (formerly, Infertility Rocks!)
  9. Body Diaries by Lucy
  10. Hope at A Chance Worth Taking

January 15, 2010

Miriam's Foodie Fridays 1

Welcome to Miriam's Foodie Fridays! Since good food is better shared, Miriam's Foodie Fridays will be open to anyone on the blogosphere who'd like to participate!

How can you participate in Miriam's Foodie Fridays? It's simple!

  1. Snag the badge- grab the code here.
  2. On Friday, post to your blog a new recipe that you've made over the past week. Make sure to cite your source, if applicable.
  3. If you got some food porn, include that too. Everyone loves a tasty macro shot.
  4. Tell us how the new recipe was: was it delish? Was it a bust? Would you make it again? Dish!
  5. Leave a comment on the latest Foodie Fridays blog post here with a link to your post.
  6. Ta da! That's it :)

On a ridiculously cold night here in Boston, I wanted to warm up our bellies with a deliciously oh-so bad for you version of macaroni and cheese that's so bad for you it's almost sinful. I bring you...

I'm actually not going to repost the recipe here, so you'll have to click over to get all the details. And quite frankly, her recipe and the step-by-step picture guide is probably the most hilariously written recipe blog post I've ever read. It's totally worth the CTRL + click over.

A brief summary of the ingredients:
  • 2 cups of whole milk (I used ultra pasteurized skim that tastes like 2%)
  • half and half (This is where I made up for not having whole milk by using heavy cream... since I didn't have half and half)
  • 2 cups of various cheeses (I ended up using vlaskas gouda, aged guyere, sharp cheddar, parmegiano reggiano, fontina, and chevre)
  • caramelized onions
  • bacon, sweet glorious bacon...
  • ...and its decadent drippings
This is a labor intensive recipe - lots of prep, but totally worth the payoff. It is damn hard not to snack on all the various ingredients as you prep them for the final dish. It was amazing. We have a ton left too. With all the various types of cheeses, you have a very complex mix of flavors with each bite. Some bites were creamier, with that almost chalky finish of the chevre. Other bites were more pungent, the sweet onion playing off the fruitiness of the guyere and the sharpness of the cheddar. Ari thought that the complexity of all the cheeses actually made the bacon taste sweet. Yes, it's got a little bit of that "heart attack on a plate" going for it, but it is worth every extra notch up on my cholesterol scale.

Bonus recipe!

Grilled Tomato Salad, by yours truly

Take a couple of ripe tomatoes and slice in half. Throw on the grill cut side down until they're done. In my case, it's the middle of winter, so I put them on a griddle/skillet/pan thingie I have, put it on high heat, and just let them cook. Create a bed of salad greens in a bowl. Whip up a little balsamic vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (1:1 ratio) and drizzle over salad greens. Place the grilled tomato half cut side up on bed of greens, and drizzle just a smidge of olive oil right on top of the tomato. Feel free to garnish with fresh chopped basil.

What recipe do you have to add to The Collective Cookbook for Miriam's Foodie Friday? Leave a comment on the most recent Foodie Friday post here with your link to your recipe post!

January 8, 2010

Miriam's Foodie Fridays!

I'm starting a new tradition here at HWSL: Miriam's Foodie Fridays! As part of my New Year's resolutions (I'll have a nice long post about those this weekend), I want to cook a new recipe at least once a week for the entire year. I want to share that recipe, along with some serious food porn shots of the cooking process and end results, along with my reviews, here on the web for you to a) drool over and b) hopefully try on your own!  Since good food is better shared, Miriam's Foodie Fridays will be open to anyone on the blogosphere who'd like to participate!

How can you participate in Miriam's Foodie Fridays? It's simple!

  1. Snag the badge- grab the code here.
  2. On Friday, post to your blog a new recipe that you've made over the past week. Make sure to cite your source, if applicable.
  3. If you got some food porn, include that too. Everyone loves a tasty macro shot.
  4. Tell us how the new recipe was: was it delish? Was it a bust? Would you make it again? Dish!
  5. Leave a comment on the latest Foodie Fridays blog post here with a link to your post.
  6. Ta da! That's it :)
I'm hoping that by opening this up to others I a) actually commit to doing this and keeping my resolution and b) discover some really great recipes and recipe resources out there.

And the inaugural recipe?
Smoked Paprika Roasted Salmon with Wilted Spinach 

1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons dried thyme Leaves , divided
2 pounds salmon fillets
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Paprika, Smoked
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt (unground)
1 bag(10 ounces) fresh spinach leaves

1. Mix orange juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1 teaspoon of the thyme in small bowl. Place salmon in glass dish. Add marinade; turn to coat. Cover. Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer for extra flavor.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix brown sugar, smoked paprika, cinnamon, orange peel, remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and sea salt in small bowl. Remove salmon from marinade. Place in greased foil-lined baking pan. Discard any remaining marinade.
3. Rub top of salmon evenly with smoked paprika mixture. Roast 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
4. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add spinach; cook 2 minutes or until wilted. Serve salmon over spinach.

Source: (link to recipe here).

Paired with a lil homemade garlic bread, and accompanied only by the finest Virgil's root beer. Candles optional.

This recipe was really a hit Thursday night! I thought 10oz of spinach would be too much, but I ended up using an entire 5oz box of baby spinach. It was just the right amount of spinach to the portion of fish. I used a little bit too much of the rub - I forgot I was only working with 1.5lbs of salmon, so I thought I needed to use all the extra rub. Smoked paprika is fantastic - the smokey, earthy flavor reminds me of campfires and autumn; it's delicious. A tip: mash up the dried thyme in your hands before adding to the marinade and rub to release the oils. If you use a salt grinder like I do, don't grind the sea salt. The crunch and texture of the salt is a nice contrast to the soft give of the salmon and the softness of the spinach. The richness of the rub would actually pair really nicely with a spicy red wine, but alas, it was root beer tonight.

What recipe do you have to add to The Collective Cookbook for Miriam's Foodie Friday? Leave a comment on the most recent Foodie Friday post here with your link to your recipe post!

Also, feel free to snag the handy dandy sidebar badge below:

December 3, 2009

Show & Tell 5: My Desktop Toucan

This is my desktop toucan. In my head, I call him Toucan Sam. Original, right?

He sits just under my computer monitor. I get a strange delight looking at him every day. If he went missing from my desk, I'd be pissed, and then very, very sad. I love this little guy. I don't keep a whole lot of chotchkes on my desk: a couple of mugs for the school where I work, a bottle of hand santizer, a full sized bottle of Optimism lotion from Bath & Body Works. I have a pic of the hubby of course, but it's on my side desk area, and not in my field of vision all the time. This lil dude is.

He's from Venezuela, as you can see. My dad bought this for me a few years ago. He's a photojournalist, and was on assignment in South America. He saw this, thought of me, and brought it back. My dad used to travel a lot, all over the world in fact, and I always loved the cool lil souvenirs he brought back. That's why I was especially touched when I got this when I was in college- my dad still thought of his "little girl" when he went abroad on assignment for the first time in several years.

Toucans have always had a special place in my heart. I get the whole big schnozz thing, as I have quite the well-endowed nose myself. But when I was a kid, I had a really neat experience that has stayed with me to this day.

I was maybe 4 or 5 at most. Our den has a large window overlooking the backyard. In the far corner of the yard is our "garden" (aka, giant lawn clipping dumping ground that grows tiger lilies every summer). I happened to be looking outside at the garden and saw a HUGE black bird with a long banana yellow beak and subtle tints of blue plumage along the shiny black profile. Sweet jiminy, it was the bird on the Froot Loops box. (I knew this b/c I ate more artificial coloring and flavoring for breakfast than one child ever should.) And toucans weren't exactly part of the normal flora and fauna of New Jersey in the mid-80's.

I ran upstairs to tell my mom. By the time we got back downstairs, it had flown away. My mom of course entertained her youngest daughter's notion that "Sure honey, of course a big black toucan was in our backyard!" I saw right through this and begged my mom to believe me. Cue the waterworks, the pleading, and the fruitless wishes for the bird to return.

I know I saw a toucan, damnit. And now, I have my own Toucan Sam looking semi-quizzically at me five days out of the week.

Head on over to Mel's to see what the other kids are showing this week for Show & Tell!

November 12, 2009

Show & Tell 4: Japan

It's time for another Show and Tell post! Show and Tell is brought to you by Mel over at Stirrup Queens. Make sure to go and check out what the other kids are showing this week!

I promised to show off some pictures from our trip to Japan last month, so here they are! We spent two  weeks in Japan from October 10-24, staying with my uncle for most of the time. He, my Aunt, and my Obachan (grandmother) were incredibly gracious hosts. We managed to visit eight cities (Nara, Osaka, Tokyo, Kobe, Arima, Iga-Ueno, Hiroshima, Kyoto) in just thirteen days!  It was quite simply the most amazing trip of my life: beautiful, spiritual, renewing. relaxing. We took over 1300 pictures and nearly two  hours of video. Here are some of my favorite shots from the trip:

This is Dōtonbori in Osaka. It's crazy busy, loud, and boisterous. We liked Osaka. as it reminded us of Boston in terms of lots of the bars and restaurant scene, with lots of intriguing people. Also, the guy in the suit? That's my uncle! This is one of my favorite pics from the whole trip.

This is Tosen Shrine in Arima, in the mountains north of Kobe. Arima was probably our favorite city; it's a resort town with hot springs all over the mountain that are pumped to the various resorts. The shrine was an accidental find while wandering the city; I found out later that the Shinto gods believed to be housed here not only protect the city, but are fertility gods as well. This shrine is often venerated by childless couples hoping to conceive. Go fig, huh?

This is the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. What a profound, beautiful, haunting day. The Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum were probably one of the most humbling experiences of my life. This A-Bomb Dome, originally a government building, has been perpetually maintained in its original ruined state since the day of the bombing in 1944. One of the few structures to survive the bombing, it is officially the last structure still standing from that day.

These are two incredible photos are from the Kurama no Hi-Matsuri in Kurama, just north of Kyoto. It's a fire festival where men, wearing nothing more than loin cloths and sashes (pictured top), carry giant torches - anywhere from 15-18ft in length weighing more than 150 lbs each - up and down the mountain in an attempt to call the Shinto god down from the mountain. These giant torches are then made into a huge bonfire (pictured bottom). This festival has been done every year for the last 1300 years. It was the most primal thing I've ever experienced and we feel really lucky to be witnessed it first-hand.

You might recognize these torii (gates) from Memoirs of a Geisha. These are from Fuishimi Inari Taisha, just south of Kyoto where more than 10,000 vermillion torii snake their way around the mountain to a summit shrine honoring the Shinto god of rice, wine, business and prosperity, Inari. While we didn't make it to the summit, it was fun making our ascent through the dizzying orange labyrinth of gates. And the lady on the left? That would be me :)

What's the coolest vacation or most relaxing trip you've ever been on?