Thursday, January 31, 2008


I have been working upon a post including recipes of my last two ventures into Sunday Night Dinner. How do people blog and include recipes so regularly? It is beyond me, but I am justifiably awed. I have been reading some more Saveur and M.F.K. Fisher. There is perhaps nothing as tempting as an articulate article or book concerning food to me. Have you ever read about a cooking process in which each sense is employed? How a family's memory can be exemplified by a meal or even a shared dish? How luscious an unknown dessert tastes? I have lists of cookbooks, books and memoirs concerning food that I wish to own and read. Did you know they have culinary themed mysteries with recipes included? I delight in those as well. What is better than food and a murder mystery after all?

In the stacks of reading material next to my bed (Of course I need not include the magazines and books on the bench at the foot of my bed nor the slipper chair now devoted to holding a couple of stacks of magazines and cookbooks nor the stack of magazines on my wooden chest. Let me not also include the books and magazines in my closet, under my bed, those two or three magazines placed on my dresser nor those actually organized on shelves) are various current cooking magazines such as Fine Cooking and at least two cookbooks I am reading through (yes, I actually read them like they are novels when I have the chance). Of course in the process of reading The Tex-Mex Cookbook and the like, I am also reading bits of Northanger Abbey, flipping through various art related publications and less illustrious books. I love the time researching, reading and learning about food as much as actually eating or cooking food. This may be because I am more a thinker (let us not qualify the quantity of my thoughts) than doer. I am not one to jump into doing something without educating myself about it. I wonder why then I spend so much time with cooking related books and dedicate so little time to learning about systems of government, democracy, my government or even citizenship?

I have only recently ventured into visiting websites of Ron Paul, Barack Obama and John McCain. Next I will need to examine Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton--I have given her a lot of slack because I have wanted a serious woman candidate for president. Too often I vote for a rather odd reason: diversity. I will vote Republican if the candidate is a woman or a minority. I try to vote outside the two parties too. My belief being that few candidates actually represent what I want, but I can vote for people to represent more of the population than just white Christian males. I want to promote questions. I want discussion and debate--not ideological bickering, but serious thought on what problems we face, the possible alternatives and ways to compromise. I want politicians to examine and reexamine the details of a decision, which has ramifications for their constituents. If we are going to consider war I want there to be due process before declaring war--I want it to be difficult to commit our troops. I don't want to be told that there is only one acceptable family structure. I do not wish to encourage complaisance and derision of others by touting our country’s superiority. Yes, we are fortunate, but we also always need to grow and improve and we have much to learn from other cultures, countries, religions and governmental not let empty self-righteousness and arrogance erode what traditions should be continuously remembered and built upon.

Personally, I see many ways we can improve as a nation and as individuals. We are not meant to remain frozen and nature will do everything in her power to cause change. One thing I learned in my cookbooks and ventures into the cooking world is that recipes aren't exact (baking though is more like science) and they are meant as guidelines for a process. We want pat equations and answers and there aren't such things. If you continue to use the same recipe your meal will still not come out exactly the same each time. Much of life is a lot like cooking--you make do with what you have on hand, use your best judgment from experience (ask your family and friends for further help) and improvise as best you can.

Friday, January 25, 2008


My dear reader, I am calling upon your kindness to help me with the upcoming themes for my artist trading cards. The two themes are PINK or MYSTERY and I must come up with a concept that will fit within the confines of 2.5 inchs by 3.5 inchs.

What do you think of when you think of Pink? When you think of Mystery? I would be delighted to hear your thoughts. I will make certain I share with you the final results which are due on February 5th.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In Review

I receive various newsletters daily through email (who doesn't?) and one of them recently was from Writer's Digest about tips for blogging. Upon reading their tips I realized I am not blogging according to their tips at all--I am breaking a lot of rules for a successful and popular blog. This includes having a clear purpose or focus for my blog i.e. cooking, politics, books, movies, art or lint if I so choose. One of my failings is that I am not focused hence the name dabbler. If I went according to this tip I would have to have over a dozen blogs and then where would I be? Still, I have considered at least having more of a structure to this blog--I believe it may meander too much and its relevance might be rather limited.

Another tip was to be sometimes I can be that, but other times I write entirely too much. Yet another tip was to pose questions to my readership to promote interest and interaction. Do I do this? And yet another tip is to frequently and consistently post or you lose readership. Since I have a good half dozen readers I should hate to lose even one of you!

So, dear reader, what are your thoughts? Do you prefer specific blogs? Do you have any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Austen to the Rescue

Yesterday was a convergence of negative things happening. I made a list in my journal actually. Bloody nose. Copying machine not working properly (I am easily annoyed when technology goes awry). Talk of recession. Heath Ledger's death. Someone pulling out of the artist trading card trade I organize because they felt it was a waste of their time and money. I felt quite dismayed with it all and in these periods of time I start feeling somewhat battered and wish to go into my little cave.

This time my cave walls happened to be illuminated by the world of Elizabeth Bennet. Even with all the allure of Mr. Darcy, thoughts still intruded to the point I had to reread passages and wondered in dismay (yes, that word yet again!) at my inability to comprehend Jane Austen especially when I take in account this is my third reading of Pride and Prejudice (does this mean my mind is slipping as I reach such a venerable age?). With determination I blocked out the real world listening to Tori Amos on my headphones and I did indeed slip into a happy rhythm.

Yes, I take vacations from my life even though I am well aware that my life in no way is bad. In fact my life is rather uneventful and perhaps that is an advantage to someone with an imagination. In this I do feel some slight kinship to such estimable writers as Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson (please know that I do not flatter myself with any other comparison!). I am not sure if my life were so brimming with activity and excitement I would have the inclination for reflection or for expressing myself.

When trying to find an image to accompany this post, I stumbled upon a wonderful blog (there are so many) called Classical Bookworm which pointed me to a site where some gifted person created a font based upon Jane Austen's handwriting. If you are interested, please read about the process of creating the font and also find some other beautiful fonts you can download for free! As for the image at left, you can find many more from different sources at this delightful site: Molland's.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Random Harvest

I have been indulging in watching movies and reading novels of a romantic nature lately and yet I could not be more disinclined towards romance personally at the moment (or any time really). I have mentioned such things before and will no doubt bore you, dear reader, with it again that I show a great ineptitude in such areas of life. It is probably because at the heart of it I don't believe I deserve love nor do I have faith in my own power to love with any sort of constancy, regularity nor proper devotion. When my emotions are engaged I am a worse person for it, not better. Yet, it is wonderful to read and watch romances, which are so positive and hopeful.

I think you can find no more romantic film than one I watched on Saturday night. I have never seen the beginning of Random Harvest, but have seen the middle and end on more than one occasion. The hero of the film (the very debonair and elegant Ronald Colman) suffers from amnesia and what could be romantic than amnesia? Throw in the delightful Greer Garson as our brave, constant heroine and you have a winner. I shall not tell you about the plot for fear I will spoil the fun...should you wish to know more you shall have to see the movie for yourself! For anyone with a romantic leaning you can do no better for a movie about the miracle of love.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Finding the Romantic Within

I have never thought of myself as a girly-girl. I don't like getting my hair done or my nails (nail polish just starts to chip away nearly immediately and I hate that waste of money and energy). I don't enjoy shopping for clothes, although I like clothes and fashion in theory. I like pink fine, but not too much. I like jewelry, but find it mostly gets in the way or gets lost or damaged (I should admit that when I do buy or wear jewelry it is BIG). I don't really like diamonds--they are brilliantly sparkly true, but why not spend money on something more meaningful than a very expensive rock...I would be perfectly content with garnets myself. I have no dreams of a fact if I get married I rather elope (it is just too hard to figure out who you are going to invite to a wedding, so it is best to just do it on your own and have everyone feel slighted!) and spend the money on a down payment for a house and have a very lovely party later with excellent food in a comfortable and relaxed setting.

But there are certainly ways I am a stereotypical woman: I LOVE, LOVE Jane Austen. Last night Masterpiece Theatre kicked off their new Masterpiece Classic hosted by Gillian Anderson (they will be announcing the new hosts for Masterpiece Mystery! (summer) and Masterpiece Contemporary (fall) later this year) with an all-new Persuasion. In fact for those who likewise are thrilled with waistcoats, men on horseback, misunderstandings, tart heroines and the like for the next few months every Sunday night on PBS is dedicated to airing the entire works of Jane Austen: "The Complete Jane Austen" (four of the productions are all new and a new biopic about Jane Austen as well). I swoon, I rejoice, and my little heart swells with warm romantic contentment. How can I be upset when I have Jane Austen to look forward to? After watching the sweet Persuasion (which I have been remiss in not reading), I pulled out my copy of A&E's Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version which in PBS's wisdom will also be airing) and slipped into a wholly pleasant state.

I had forgotten the seductive appeal of romantic books and film and how I disappear. For however long I read or watch, there is no me. I don't react, I don't think, but rather just observe. It is a blissful state of suspension. Sometimes it is good to be away from your own thoughts and emotions or at least I have always felt so. For a while I may have indulged too readily in my chosen drug, which helps to calm me. It is difficult being an even-tempered person when you have a terribly erratic and tempestuous emotional nature makes your skin feel like it is too tight....

Note: I have been playing with this post for the last couple and days and I am tired of it, so find it as it is--January 16, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Power of Choice

I have been reading through the most recent issue of Saveur and some back issues. I love the wealth of information in this magazine from their brief memoirs to a sampling of a particular place, culture, family or food item. Lately I will spend free moments reading an issue cover to cover and I feel full upon finishing. This is a magazine about food, but more importantly it is about how every life is enriched and shaped by food and cooking. I appreciate that they delve into the history of foods and how economy, religion, people, location, politics, gender...everything flavors how and why we eat the food we do. For their January/February issue each year they have The Saveur 100: people, places, foods, restaurants and such they admire and love (2008 is the 10th anniversary of The Saveur 100). If you have a chance pick up one of these issues and be amazed by the diverse items that whet your curiosity and appetite.

A big problem now facing us all is how to be conscientious consumers in all things. The green movement not only faces us in our choice of car, appliances, cleaning products, but also in what and how we eat, what clothes we buy and where we buy our products. Often times paying less money may mean paying another price...antibiotics in the meat eaten and clothes made by people in intolerable conditions. How we spend money is more and more a political, ideological, moral and ethical decision. With all the technology at our fingertips and the ability to buy produce from nearly any continent of the planet there comes less knowledge about how these products are produced and transported to our shores. Conversely, there has never been a time when it is more important nor easier to find ways to be cognizant of the provenance of what we buy.

I have been reading and hearing some disturbing information about the food I consume and also the items I purchase for very seductively low prices and I am coming to realize I can't afford to only look at the upfront cost. I believe health wise the hormones in food I consume is causing me to confront issues I find challenging in the most positive of light. I have been speaking with my family about all of this and we are going to research organic foods. I want to know exactly what I am putting into my mouth. I in no way want to encourage the philosophy that profit is more important than all other factors and any means justify the result. When your whole goal is to gain material wealth you will go spiritually, emotionally, morally and mentally bankrupt.

I will try to keep you, dear reader, abreast of my process to cleanse my life, because that is what I am doing. I am going to see that life in all its various forms is worthy of time, attention, energy, contemplation and meaning. To relish the fact that choices matter--big and small and that I have every opportunity and the intoxicating luxury to live my life as I feel is just and right.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Recycle & Resolution

I went to my monthly artist trading card trade. This month's themes were Recycle & Resolution. My sister helped me to realize what I would recycle. One birthday many, many moons ago my best friend at the time made me a red and blue paint splattered t-shirt with matching socks and bow for my hair. I held onto these items for years and years (I think the bow least of all in all honesty) and last year when I was going through clothes I finally relented and gave up the way too small t-shirt to the rag bin. This by no means was an easy fact it was somewhat (pathetically) wrenching. My sister told me to grab the only mildly stained by motorcycle oil and such t-shirt and cut it up for the cards. Brilliant I thought! Finally the shirt will be memorialized into a tiny piece of art.

For my other card with the theme of Resolution there is the image of a beautiful young woman collecting flowers and enjoying nature and the life around her. My resolution of sorts was to savor & celebrate life. Now, I am not entirely happy with both cards (I am happier with the Recycle than Resolution) as they are pretty damnably flat (spare and with little embellishment) and yet there is something about them that are like me, just not enough....

See them for yourself, dear reader, below (please note that the poor woman actually does have some skin pigment in the actual cards):

I have so much farther to go! I know I can do 100% times better and I have in the past (there is a feeling in my stomach of wincing when I see them). I wonder if you can go in reverese in development? They look rather infantile to my eyes which means I need to start thinking upon the themes much earlier and experimenting rather than playing it very safe all the time (also finding where all my supplies are so I don't have to avoid techniques because I can't locate what I need to do them). Rather tame indeed! I am going to attempt to submit a card or two (not artist trading cards, but the type you send in the mail) by month's end to a publication with the theme: tantalizing turquoise along with a couple of friends of mine...I am going to push beyond my comfort zone and see if I can actually do anything with vitality!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Habit although not a sexy concept is actually necessary for creating strong relationships. There is nothing like seeing someone or talking to someone on a regular basis to foster a sense of closeness. In college I often lived in the same dorm as my friends and ate dinner with them every evening. After graduation we all went our own way and no matter how you look at it we are not as close as we once were. I have no idea what each of my friend eats each night, although I do remember which friend nurses a coffee after dinner, which friend dislikes tomatoes, which one doesn't like sour cream and which friend that eats vegetables by choice. Do they still have the same food preferences? This I am not sure of, but if I were in contact with them on a consistent basis perhaps I would be. I haven't actually communicated with any of them for a while other than sending a holiday card. This is a stage in life when friends that live hundreds of miles away usually take a backburner to working on developing a family and local network of friends and career.

When you fall out of step of meeting up with someone or communicating with them your connection loosens and perhaps slips. Some friendships can survive such distance depending on the level of desire to maintain such friendship on both ends, but most simply disappear until one day you no longer know the friend you once knew so well and they fade into a stranger. Therefore of all commitments of time the most important and vital--outside of those to remain vibrantly, authentically ourselves--are those to others we want to remain in our lives. You have to invest consistently into such relationships and they are relationship is without work as much as we wish to delude ourselves. Some seem easier at times. Other times it is hard to push yourself to keep in touch, or at least it is for me because of one reason or another...low energy for instance. You have to consider though--and I am again taking stock what with the new year--who you want in your life and how to strengthen or revitalize slackening bonds.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sunday Dinner II

I made Sunday dinner last night as it was obviously Sunday. I had intentions of taking pictures, but by the time I finish cooking, I am too tired to nicely plate the food and photograph it--I only want to feed the grumbling masses. I am a bit dismayed by my lack of follow through, but there you have it.

Each Sunday is an experiment trying all new recipes and more often than not the product is good, but time beats me up. In fact the average Sunday dinner takes 2-4 hours of cooking and I know that my time management, organization skills and my cooking knowledge & experience could be honed to shorten the time. I am still a relative novice though prone to mistakes...not soaking beans the night before for instance.

Last night's meal:

Cayenne rubbed chicken breasts with avocado-onion salsa (cover recipe of January/February 2008 Everyday Food)
Ultimate Black Beans (February 2008 Cuisine at Home)
Sweet Potatoes with Honey-Lime Glaze (February 2008 Cuisine at Home)

I did experience a headache most of the time I was cooking the beans (begun around 3:30 and served at 8:00) because of the strong onion and garlic smell, but they were very tasty especially topped with queso fresco and few extra shakes of Tabasco.

The glaze for the roasted sweet potatoes was especially wonderful and I wonder if I could use it on nuts with the addition of some cayenne pepper....

As for the chicken breasts, I added much more rubbing seasoning the recipe called for (I ended up practically tripling it)--perhaps because the chicken breasts were large or just because I have a much heavier hand, but regardless of whether I added too much seasoning (according to my sister the chicken was too salty to her taste, but then again she likes less salt than many) or not the avocado salsa tempered the heat and saltiness perfectly (even in my sister's opinion).

In the end, I would happily eat any of the dishes again, although I may need to vacate the kitchen for most of the simmering of the beans or take pills before hand.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Much Rambling and Many Questions

I have been thinking a lot about writing lately. For many years I have had the desire to write a novel. Most of my friends are aware that I have a love for historical romance and have been attempting to write a novel in that genre with questionable dedication.

I opened up some files containing bits of stories or even a decent start to one version of a story I have been rewriting for nearly half my life. I laughed at the ludicrous melodrama and nearly schoolgirl-like descriptions and interactions between characters. I found some interesting parts of each story, but again they are all wrong and obviously contrived. The voice isn't really mine, the plots unclear to me, the characters too flat and shallow and so on and so forth.

Last night I wrote a page of questions for myself in the hopes I could strip away all the crap and get to the truth of the matter. Perhaps most important of all questions is: Why do I write? All other questions stem from that simple, yet profound question. Sometimes I wonder at my motivation to write. I have encountered masterly storytellers who weave seductive, magical, glittering worlds and people with breathtaking capacity to evoke emotions, images and thoughts with words and I am neither the former nor latter. Still, I have been told I am a good writer at various points in my life.

Writing does require more than weaving a story or evoking emotions requires the ability to convey mundane and jarring truths. Do I know enough of human nature? Do I know a place enough to share all it's charms, idiosyncrasies, the underbelly, how a person is shaped by the character of the land or city in which he or she lives? Have I been a keen observer or lost in my own delusions and fantasies? Do I actually listen? Do I really know anyone?

I am best at constructing questions for myself that are in all likelihood entirely unnecessary and a means to avoid doing, as I fear doing in many aspects. I fear not living up to the expectations of family and friends who believe in me. I fear not living up to my own dubious expectations. I actually fear writing a decent novel and the prospect of writing another and another with the expectation they will surpass the previous.

In the end, the fears and expectations are all meaningless and perhaps only doing is what matters. I have begun to see that any writing--here on this blog, in my personal journal, random notes, correspondence--is doing. I feel I am changing my perception of who I am, what my place is, where I wish to go, what I want to do, still I have a gnawing need to express myself. I write because I am freer and more assured in writing than in person. I am desperately uncertain and disjointed in person and will say things that boggle me in reflection for being so inaccurate, inarticulate and false. My body language is not fluid or natural because I feel my body is foreign—there is a disconnect from what I think and feel and what I do. I come off as aloof because I feel unable to express myself properly. In writing I am comfortable and I can in that moment be whole.

It is high time I integrate everything and be a bit less of an awkward, jittery marionette in person. I imagine that if I stopped detaching from and being ashamed of my body much would improve, even my writing. I can't even imagine the difference it would make, but it is well worth finding out....

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Holiday Catch-Up

I mentioned holiday cards quite often in my blog and I actually made a very few, carefully deciding on which friends (poor family are always the first to be shortchanged). I had already made invitations and invited my local friends to a holiday party so they were quite easy to cut from the list. Then I decided there were a few I had promised (and wanted to make, plus when I promise someone it helps to motivate me to actually do it) a handmade card. My creativity was limited this past year and stuck in tag form it seemed. They are an easy form to add to and embelish and yet you can use the end product as a bookmark, hang it on a door or even a tree (although it is rather large). As I thought they are very similar to the holiday invitations, but a bit different too. For each person I chose a word for them...sort of a hope or prayer for them and then I wrote something truly sappy on the reverse side. I do hope by this time they all received their card!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!

Perhaps you thought I had abandoned you, but that is not true. I tried to write posts in the month of December as things had happened and yet they were tepid attempts at best. As 2008 begins I wanted to make sure I ended the unintended silence.

I am not sure I believe in resolutions (probably because I don't follow through), but I do believe in having dreams and aspirations for the future. New Year's is a convenient time to begin anew. It's a lovely even date to begin charting the rest of your life. Still what it doesn't address is that each day you need to wake up and see it as a new start, a new beginning. A friend told me he sees New Year's as any other day and I think it is because he tries everyday to make it matter--he has no need to make have a wake up call to examine his life because he does it all the time. It is difficult to remain aware of your life, to be present for the mundane as well as the extraordinary, to listen to someone even as they wander into topics which bore you (say break fluid), to not want to rush through the slow parts to get to the more interesting ones....

Something wonderful occurred in 2007. I believe people come into your life for a purpose or rather that each person who enters your life can teach you something. There was someone who taught me (unbenownst to them!) that no matter how low I felt I still had hope and there was still something redeeming in me. This person also taught me to look at others and see that they too may hurt and need some simple kindness. I learned that rather than protecting oneself from pain to feel, reach out and try because I could heal from rejection. I began to like a strength in me I had scoffed at and feared for far too long. I began to forgive myself for my mistakes and errors. I felt I had done enough penance and even the injured party had forgiven me years before. I stopped looking back at my life full of recrimination, guilt and regret. My actions in the past made sense. When I did not like how I may have acted in the past I still saw the reasoning behind it and realized how I may be able to change it in the future.

I did not do all this entirely alone. Always I had friends and my family (and dogs). In 2007 I finally could not only recognize how blessed I was...I felt it. I encountered some wonderful new friends who helped to illuminate a potential future completely of my own making and who made me laugh at the silly and the grave parts of life. I tried to reconnect with old friends who meant a great deal to me. I have only been partially successful with the reconnection, but I have begun and that is enough for now. I realize that life is not in the results, but in the process no matter how messy, confusing and frustrating.

I wanted to thank everyone for their support and well wishes concerning the death of little Leia. It was difficult and yet a lesson I take to heart. I am still saddened by her death, but I have faith and I have hope which I may not have had only a few short months ago and when my faith and hope was not enough I had my friends and family. Life is good.

In the end I wish to live my life in a manner that honors who I am and my beliefs. I believe that 2008, like 2007, will be a monumental year. I hope you too are as fortunate as I am! Happy New Year (and day!).