Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hitting the Links

In keeping with the theme of my last few posts, I'll continue this evening on the subject of friends, this time, giving a shout-out to those who, like me, put their lives (or selective portions thereof) on the world wide web for all to see. Off to your left, you can see the People and Places I Dig list that's been around for awhile. Today I've added new people to the column.

First, through the magic of Facebook, I was recently found by my very first Kansas City friend. She and I met a few weeks after we moved here from L.A. Our sons were in swimming lessons together and we bonded over how hard it was to make friends in K.C. She was a temporary transplant from Colorado and an at-home-mom to her two boys. We started a weekly playdate, shared meals and I had the joy of introducing her to estate sales. Meet Tracy. She's back in Colorado and has returned to school to pursue a nursing degree. Somehow she finds the time to share her many adventures online. I'll be taking notes on how she fits it all on one plate.

Secondly, through the magic of friends of friends, I now know Christina. She's a regular companion of Sparky and Billy and a volunteer at Hope Care Center (among many, many other things). She played along for bread baking lessons here at Casa Del Mar and has more than one blog up and running, but the one I check in on is Vegan on the Cheap. Cheap + Food. Mmmmmm.

And lastly, through the magic of an AOL chatroom (is there any more embarrassing phrase?) I know my friend of now more than twelve years. Alex has watched me grow up from an at-home-mom of one diapered baby to a soon-to-be divorcee working mother of three. And we've only spent three days in each others' physical presence. Ours is a friendship for the ages, and as much as I was hoping my house would become the place where she would be forced to store all of her art, it seems she is developing a following and now has a blog about herself and her gift. Check her out, as well as her store on Etsy.

So now I've given you something else to do when I forget about my Mountain for long periods of time. See how much I love you?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

I'm quite cozy this morning, surfing the web and pouring out my soul to you from the comfort of my electric blanket-topped bed. And for this, I must thank a multitude of friends. Sure, it might seem a simple pleasure to most, but this opportunity is the direct result of the generosity of those who I love.

Remember back to when I was gifted a laptop from Teri, just a day or so after wishing for it? As kind a donation it was, I was router-less...until Reader and Friend Betsey read my post, offered one and brought it when her family visited from Cincinnati in December.

Clearly delusional, I attempted to set up router and computer with my existing internet service. Not my forte. Existing passwords stymied me immediately, as well as an overloaded desktop that, if I had my druthers, I would have wiped clean with nary a second thought. But I didn't. I asked for help.

Because I have the best friends in the world.

So Sparky and Billy came over for dinner. It was another fun recipe search as Sparky is living a lower-carb lifestyle right now. I found a Tofu with Thai Curry Sauce that I made years ago, added a sweet and sour red cabbage and Sparky made delicious flax seed bread (I'll get his recipe to add a link) and the kids and grownups enjoyed another tasty meal. Well, the kids protested the spiciness, but all of the plates magically ended up clean anyway...

Then we took a deep breath and headed to the chilly basement to see what could be done. I don't know how he did it, how his brain works or where he keeps his magic wand, but Billy managed to override passwords, clean desktops and configure, er, um, stuff so I now can sit cozily in my bed -- or wherever the heck I wish -- to, for lack of a better word, compute. Need I remind you how ridiculously charmed my life is?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Little Match Girl

As you may have gleaned from the last year of rantings here on Mountain of Laundry (Happy Bloggiversary!), I cherish my friends and I adore cooking. Sure, there are many other facets to the me who I purport to be, but I'd say those are two fairly strong themes in my life that have kept me afloat in my proverbial sea of change. If I had to give myself a grade as a friend, it would be a pretty solid C. I don't call often (I'd hate to interrupt you), emailing should be easier -- but I have so much that I need to say that I don't have time to do it justice, and well, catching up in person? Right.

But those those evenings when the kids are at Martin's and I don't work are a perfect opportunity to catch up with my treasured amigos AND challenge myself in the kitchen. So this week I was lucky enough to touch base with Concert Katrina -- Inauguration Day nonetheless. I love cooking for her because a) she's ridiculously appreciative; b) she's vegetarian and c) her dietary restrictions of no yeast and no added sugar give me an excuse to peruse recipes for hours on end, always discovering (and rediscovering) fabulous food and inspiration. After not-too-long in the Chair of Fabulosity, thumbing through the last several years of Eating Well, I came across a series of recipes from Northern India that I had always intended to try. The menu was set, and I was off to the market.

When Katrina arrived, we naturally greeted one another with a gleeful Obama Butt Shimmy. She looked gorgeous as always and our catch-up
session began. Seems she's considering entering the wild world of online dating. I was glad to share some insight and experience that I'd gained in my 30 days on First, I warned her that she'd be inundated with mail early on as she's a stunner and that she'd likely find it easy to sort out the riff-raff. My rule was to ignore all winks (this is Match-speak for when someone wants to catch your attention but is too lazy to even write a few words) and only respond to notes that referenced content (other than photos) from my profile (though I did write back to one, "you're hot", but there were extenuating circumstances in that case). I met a few delightful men. I had some lovely dates and I learned wonderful things -- both about myself and about the male population. Most notably that I am a digable person and that there are charming, interesting, polite, available gentlemen out there. All this said, all of my Match guys have turned to friendships or fallen by the wayside. I urged her to give it a month, be cautious of becoming addicted to the attention (even as insincere as winks are, they are still flattering) and to have a great time.

And then it was time for dinner. Subzi Dalcha. Or Ginger, Split
Pea and Vegetable Curry. Along with homemade chapati, brown basmati rice and my own quick and dirty versions of raita and a mango relish, we enjoyed what I deemed to be quite possibly the best meal I've ever prepared. We devoured more than our fair share (I doubled the recipe because Indian leftovers are dreamy). We then visited for awhile longer until our hearts were as full as our tummies.

So, when are you coming over?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hey Mr. President

As a child, my exposure to politics was negligible at best. I recall getting a "Hey Mr. President" t-shirt iron-on from Weekly Reader during the Mondale/Carter election. And when Reagan won his first term, I asked my father who he voted for. He quickly told me that it was a private choice and wouldn't disclose said information. (I now know that my parents lean to the far [religious] right and I've ruined many a family dinner based on our differences).

I've tried to keep my children quite a bit more in the know of my political leanings. Martin or I have typically taken them with us to vote and we had family discussions when Kansas showed what an angry red state it is by passing the one man/one woman marriage amendment. And not surprisingly, they were aware and involved in this most recent presidential election, proudly wearing Obama buttons and excitedly pointing out neighbors with "good" yard signs.

When I realized inauguration day was on my work-free Tuesday, I started pondering with whom I would watch. I knew I would cry. . .it was a matter of weeping alone in my chilly basement or shedding tears in a more social setting. And then I remembered the whole school gathering in the cafeteria to watch Reagan being sworn in and I called the elementary school. I was hoping for more of a group gathering but each class was independent of the other and they all have fancy projection tvs. I was told by the school secretary that the first graders would be eating lunch in their room so they could view the historical event.
I packed a lunch and headed to school. The teacher was surprised to see me, but continued the group reading of some book about a boy trying to catch a crab. I was fidgety, knowing I was missing pre-oath coverage and eventually tuned my mp3 player to NPR, just as she dimmed the lights and turned on the tv.

I was impressed at how she pointed out landmarks and politicians to the students. Then as the justice who presented Biden's oath came on screen, she explained to the kids that they needed to stand because that's what you do when a judge enters a room. It was great to hear their excitement when the camera would pan over Obama. And then the moment I have waited for. . .and I wept. It was moving and beautiful and I'm thrilled this day has finally come. I celebrate that we have a remarkable communicator and man as our new President, but also relish the exit of his inept predecessor.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dumb. . .Luck

I had the best menu last night at work. The residents had the choices of Lo Mien Noodles, Vegetable and Chicken Curry or Gyros with Tzatziki. I was giddy to prepare all of these meals, though not overly confident that they would all pass their, "Is there a lot of meat in it?" test.

I needed to run to the Mediterranean market for the gyro meat and pita as well as some Greek yogurt to make the Tzatziki. And as I had trekked a good portion of the way home, I figured I could drive a couple extra miles to grab my mandoline. Uniformly sliced vegetables are dreamy, after all.

When I got to Casa Del Mar (I'm trying out names for the house -- feel free to weigh in) I left the car running in the driveway, opened the garage door and zipped into the house to quickly get the mandoline and say a happy "hello" to the cat when I heard a fairly dramatic CRASH! My first reaction was to ask Charlie what on earth she had knocked down, but realized that a nine pound feline was not capable of creating such a disaster. I carefully turned around and could see Hot Red Speed through the garage window. But remember. . .I had left the van in the driveway. Something told me this was not a good situation.

I calmly (Seriously. I didn't panic at all. Martin will never believe it though.) exited the front door (since there was a ton of metal pressed against the back of my garage), got in the van, confirmed that I had, in fact, left it in gear (you know I was desperately hoping I wouldn't have to take the blame for this, right?), backed up a bit, heard crazy scraping sounds, moved the wheel barrow that was making said sound, and carefully, s l o w l y, made my way back to the driveway, amazed that I had not taken out the door rails or the back wall or my front fender or a slow-moving squirrel (hey, it was a very cold day). I will need to replace one piece of trim on the garage -- probably $15 max, and did a bit of a number on the paint on the passenger side of the van, but really, for all of my stupidity, I'm remarkably fortunate.

And without so much as skipping a beat, I returned to the house for the mandoline, grabbed a quick drink (you can read that any way you'd like) and headed back to work. Shaken, but not stirred.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gone to Pot (luck)

Though it was not advertised as such, I hosted a delightful vegan potluck last night. Turnout was slim, yet perfect. My calculations have 16 folks in attendance (eight of them kids) and a lovely array of plant-based foods. I made a Middle Eastern Barley Lentil & Rice casserole, Split Pea-Corn Tortilla soup and Angel Delights. The Perkins brought Mushroom Spinach loaf from Eden Alley's new cookbook and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from the same source as well as a "Cheeze" ball. Others brought hummus, clementines and Hostess Treat Claudia, in keeping with her name, naturally brought cupcakes.

Adults enjoyed a few hours of conversation beyond our usual "make your bed" and "because I said so" rhetoric. The kids found themselves enraptured by a game of Apples to Apples and I'm pretty sure there was a rousing pillow fight on the sidelines. Have I told
you how much I love my basement?

In keeping with my mantra, no one went hungry under my watch. Even children reluctant to try new foods managed to fill up on more than just sweets. And my loving little house got its friend fix. Count on another potluck in a couple of months. Perhaps a theme this time...items starting with the letter B? square foods? or all dishes must rhyme with your name? Hmmm. I might have to work on the theme...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mission: Accomplished

I opened it. I carefully read the directions. I used it. I did not injure myself.

You're just going to have to trust that this is me behind the red tresses, bravely facing the enemy. (I promise that when I cook at work, the hair is neatly tucked away.) The kids were quite excited as I made waffle-cut sweet potato chips tonight. "Nothing celebrates a milestone like deep frying," I always say. The chips were tasty, but not so delicious as my victory over my somewhat rational fear of hurling my extremities into razor sharp blades.

So I can sleep tonight knowing that I've conquered one of my many demons. And though a friend reminded me today that cutting off a finger still leaves nine spares, I'm grateful to have been given yet another day with all digits unscathed.

All Thumbs. . .

I like to think myself pretty fearless in the kitchen. I'm reasonably comfortable tackling a variety of foods and I have experience with most gadgets available on the market today (as well as a whole slew of vintage ones). But as a professional cook, I lack a critical instrument. I used to own one. I adored it. But one of its own kind betrayed me and I had to forsake them all.

It was a mandoline.

More than three years ago while working at Williams-Sonoma, I was happily preparing foods for sampling. I think I was slicing sweet potatoes, cooking them on the panini grill then topping them with a dip of some variety. Addictively tasty as I recall, and fun to boot. Mid-day I was getting a little lax and wasn't giving the mandoline the respect it deserved and in lazy haste, I found my right thumb rammed quite forcefully into the surgically sharp blade.

Now, that was a part of my life when I wasn't necessarily seeking new experiences, but that day, I enjoyed (hmmm, now that's a rather strong word) my first visit to an emergency room, as well as my first visible stitches. Right through my thumbnail.

That began my stomach-wrenching aversion to mandolines. I had to get rid of the one I owned. I could barely walk past them in a kitchen store. Even the suggestion of one would bring me back to that fateful day. And though I was terribly ill at ease with the notion of the slicer, I craved the ability to uniformly portion and julienne with ease.

So last night I returned to Williams-Sonoma with a mission in mind. I would consider one. Not the very brand which is responsible (ok, I'm responsible) for my still-tingly digit, but a "starter." I took a deep breath, looked to the very spot on the counter where I did my damage and handed over my debit card. I am once again the proud, albeit nervous, owner of a mandoline.

Now if I could dredge up the courage to open the box. . .

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Liar, Liar

Remember when I said, "I'll cover the food part. You bring the laughter"? Oh, yes. That was the last post. Well, how about I cover part of the food, you bring a little as well and we all enjoy a laugh or two?

Potluck! This Saturday night starting around 6:00 p.m. My happy little house. If you're reading this, you're welcome to join in. Consider it an anniversary party for Mountain of Laundry or a solid start to fulfilling one of my resolutions.

I'll start the bidding with a casserole of some variety, a soup and a dessert. What will you be bringing?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Resolution Solution

I don't think I'll go all "Year in Review" just yet. Mountain of Laundry's anniversary is mid-January and that seems a more appropriate time to address twelve months of happenings here. At the same time, I'm very excited for 2009 and the wondrous possibilities it brings. Though tumultuous at times, last year was the most amazing of my life. Change is good.

I'm about to wrap my long workweek as well as ship the kids back to school on Monday so I'm hoping to rediscover the balance that I was close to capturing before that whole mess o' holiday madness began a month or so ago. It would be good to empty the mail drawer that is near overflowing. I still need to complete my insurance claim for the purse theft. Yes. That was October.

As for resolutions, I haven't written any down (I guess this is my opportunity, eh?). Something I've been saying for awhile now is that I'd consider new career possibilities early in the year. Not that I want to jump ship at Hope Care Center, I just need to take a good hard look at what I enjoy to see if it can translate into a viable source of income. I have three wonderful children who will likely go to college in the not-too-distant future. It would be good to have more than $8 at the end of the month to sock into savings.

I'd also like to run a half-marathon this year. Mark ran one in November and really got me itching to challenge myself to that degree. I've lost my exercise mojo. Though I continue to run and spin and lift weights and yoga, the endorphin high is negligible. And the craving is all but gone. I hope a personal challenge will help bring back that lovin' feeling.

Then there are folks with whom I've completely lost touch. Christine, Casey, Eleanor and Mrs. Diggs come to mind immediately, but I know if I had my old phone, I'd be shocked at the sheer numbers of those I've been remiss in contacting. I will be a better friend in the new year.

The last that comes to mind right now (as it directly relates to the last paragraph) is that I entertain more often. This house is begging to be filled with food and laughter. I'll cover the food part. You bring the laughter.