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Memory Lane

One of the things that we discovered when we arrived here in the ‘dale is that my mom left a bunch of my stuff in the house, things she’d been keeping for me since I moved out to go to college. I spent a few hours looking through old yearbooks and old schoolwork and old literary magazines (complete with poem by Sara entitled My Hands!), through the basket of letters I received during the summer after my freshman year in college, and reading through all of the old school newspapers I’d saved for some bizarre reason. I found a VHS tape of my High School Video Yearbook that may be some time before I get to watch, since I don’t know if I know anyone with a functional VHS player. And I found this stuff.

“Carlitos” was an exercise I had to do in one of my Spanish classes, though why it has someone else’s name on it (on the top of the page, above the photo), I have no idea. In case you can’t see what I wrote in each of the bubbles, I’ll provide both the Spanish and the English translation.

Panel 2: “¿Por favor, tengo quiero usar el baño?” (Please, I have to want to use the bathroom?) (It should have been, “Por favor, ¿puedo usar el baño?”, or Please, can I use the bathroom?)
Panel 3: “¡Pero es muy importante! ¡Necesito ir al baño AHORA!” (But it’s very important! I have to go to the bathroom NOW!)
Panel 4: “¡Ay Caramba! Es demasiado tarde.” (Oh noes! It’s too late.)

Me at a dance with High School Boyfriend at his school. Perhaps Valentine’s Day? I’m wearing a dress of my mom’s circa 1970, a silver peace sign necklace I got at the Renaissance Faire, and awesome white low-heeled pumps! It’s a photo of a photo, so not exactly the most accurate representation, but you get the idea.

From top left: Handmade doll with embroidered face, yarn hair, etc. I named Rose; Snoopy doll I got for having my birthday party at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, the ice rink owned/operated by Charles Schultz and family; stuffed lamb sans one eye; small stuffed raccoon; baby doll that used to have a matching bonnet. I forget her name.

I could write an entire blog post on this alone, but I’ll try to make a long story short. When I was first babysitting, I pretty much saved all of the money I made and used it to pay for camp in the summer. Eventually, I had made enough that I had a bit left over, and I decided to buy my very first pair of shoes myself. I was probably 13 or 14 years old, and up until that point, my parents had bought all of my clothes/shoes for me. I’d wanted a pair of Birkenstocks for a long time, and I finally had enough money to buy them for myself. So I did.

As you can see, I wore these shoes all the time. I wore them with socks when it was cold and without when it was warm, and I love love loved them, as they were the most comfortable shoes ever (and to me, paying $80 for a pair of shoes felt totally obscene, so I was determined to get my money’s worth out of them). When I bought them, they were a pretty slate blue, but as the years went by they faded to a dull grayish color. I didn’t care, though; I still wore them all the time. I wore down the soles and wore out the toe and the heel, and eventually they started looking pretty ratty, but I couldn’t imagine giving them up.

The summer after high school graduation, my family went on our very first ever (and, it would turn out, only) family camping vacation. Our first stop was a campground someplace in the Western Sierras, and when we had the tent set up my sisters and I went for a walk down to the river, a tributary that would feed the American. Wearing my Birks, I climbed out onto a big rock to sit only to catch my right shoe on something. It fell off my foot and into the fast-moving snow melt runoff river.

I was so sad. I felt like I’d lost my best friend, something that had been with me for so much of my teenage years, something that had cost me EIGHTY DOLLARS and I just couldn’t bring myself to through the unlost shoe away.

Something tells me that it has been long enough now. This is not moving with us to our next domicile.

I DID write an entire blog post about this one
. Here’s the sole Piers Anthony newsletter I ever received, where I responded to the pen pal request for a certain Kent B Golden of Hamden, CT. Who knew that 16 years later I’d be attending his wedding?

Love, love, love

aka Road trip, part IV

Pennsylvania is big, you guys. Big, big, big. New Jersey isn’t nearly so big, but in a hot, humid car with no A/C it still felt long. It took us about five hours to get across Pennsylvania and 45 minutes or so to get across New Jersey, and then it took us an hour to go the last mile up to the toll plaza on the George Washington bridge. In 100 degrees and high humidity, and no A/C. It was pretty brutal.

We finally made it across and into Manhattan, but despite our parking fears we managed to find a spot on the street in the West Village that cost $2.50 an hour until 7 PM. Not at all bad. We collapsed in limp puddles in Washington Square Park for a little while, piggybacking on someone’s unsecured wireless connection, and tried to do some sightseeing but were stymied by the oppressive heat and humidity. Eventually we escaped into a $tarbuck$ (I KNOW. NYC, and we went to STARBUCKS) to get some air conditioning and some cold drinks. My unsweetened passionfruit tea was delicious, and I only had to wait for 20 minutes in line to use the bathroom.

We fed the meter one last time and hightailed it across the Village over to the East side, where we met a high school friend of Dan’s for drinks with her boyfriend. A good time was had by all, up until someone at the next booth over spilled an entire beer down Dan’s back. I only had two hard ciders but I was ridiculously tipsy (I guess maybe because of the day of heat/humidity in the car and out in Manhattan?) and we traipsed down to the southern part of the village, or maybe it was far northern Lower East Side, where we met my friend Purple Laura for dinner. I had a dish of cold noodles, salmon, and veggies because I couldn’t stand the idea of eating anything hot. We spent the after-dinner portion of the evening in the bar next door, where Laura knew the bartender so our drinks were free. Woohoo!

It took us quite a while to walk back to the car, and it was still probably in the 90s with super high humidity, and then we had to navigate back over to 9A and north to get ourselves to New Haven, but it was a Friday night in the summer and everybody was still trying to get the heck out of dodge so the drive took a really, really long time. I think it was after 1 AM when we finally got to our hotel in New Haven (which was, incidentally, a La Quinta, but next to IKEA not Denny’s) and I had to shower in cold water before I could cool down enough to fall asleep, even with the air conditioning on full blast.

The next day, Kent and Christine got married.

We were up early because I’d volunteered to help with some reception set-up, so I had to meet Kent at the church and then we hauled stuff over to the park and Dan and I spent the morning putting out luminarias with LED candles to line the pathways in the park, and setting up the bug lanterns, and other assorted chores. Once we’d finished, we got mashed potato pizza at Bar and headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the wedding.

The park had these gorgeous bright blue hydrangeas right by the tent

I learned merely days beforehand that I was also going to be an usher for the wedding, which was perfectly fine but somewhat unexpected. After Dan dropped me off, I set up the ice and the water bottles, and met my co-usher, and watched everyone run around the old church getting ready. I made sure the groom was elsewhere while the bride and her entourage scurried into the lounge and shut the door. I stood in front of one of the few fans that were going, as, you guessed it, the church didn’t have air conditioning, either. And I handed out programs and showed people the guestbook and did the general sorts of things that ushers do at a church wedding.

Finally, everyone had arrived and it was time to begin. I closed the doors, and then opened them for the bridesmaids, and then closed them again. I gave the bride a big grin and arranged her train and opened the doors again for her to walk down the aisle with her mom. It was all quite lovely, and I realized that I haven’t been to a wedding in a church since 1997. Even that wasn’t a church so much as a giant open conference-type room that had the word JESUS in huge script gold letters above the front bit. But this church, oh, this was the lovely New England church you think of when you think of New England churches. At least, it was for me. Kent’s family’s been getting married in this particular church for multiple generations, so that added something to the whole experience as well.

Pen pals since 1994

After the ceremony, I ran back to open the door and I was the first person (after the groom) to kiss the bride, so that was pretty good. Dan and I waited a while and then went through the receiving line, and Kent’s parents nodded and smiled until they realized I was *that* Emily, the one who exchanged letters with their son for years. Then I got much bigger smiles and big hugs. We got in the car and drove to the reception area, and I bustled around making sure that all my last minute set-up duties were attended to. We met some of K&C’s friends and attempted to keep cool by drinking large quantities of ice water, beer (in Dan’s case) and white wine (mine), and we munched on cheese and crackers and fruit. Eventually the wedding party, including the bride and groom, showed up and they did everything in a completely different order than I was used to (first dance before anything else?). Additional differences noticed in My First East Coast Wedding: Everyone (including the bride and groom) changes into shorts and tank tops or t-shirts or otherwise casual clothing about an hour into the reception. I wish we’d known. Because that was the one true drawback of Kent and Christine’s wedding: it was hot, it was humid, and I’d chosen a dress without really considering the consequences. It was a cute dress, but polyester is not a fabric you want to wear when you are sitting in 90+F heat and high humidity. Sweat dripped down my front and my back all afternoon and all evening. It was pretty gross.

Mister and Mrs!

But there was food, and there was drink, and there was dancing and karaoke and a DJ that embodied every stereotype you can possibly imagine a wedding DJ to have. Dan and I both sang karaoke, if you can believe it. Here’s a photo of him to prove it.

When the evening wound down, we went out to clean up all the paper bags and sand and LED candles, and help break everything down. It had been a great wedding, and a long day, and I was woe out.

Longarm of me and the bride, snagged right before she changed.

We had talked about what to do on Sunday, and at first we’d planned to head back to Manhattan to spend more time there, but after spending days in the oppressive heat/humidity (I know I keep writing about this bit, but we are just NOT used to humidity AT ALL), but we decided that we’d rather spend time in NYC when we want to actually be outside walking around and not ducking into Starbucks to take advantage of the air conditioning. So instead, on Sunday morning we drove from New Haven to Philadelphia, having booked a hotel room in Philly the night before and having realized Sunday morning that the laptop cord wasn’t functioning. I’d recently got back in touch with my friend Sazzy and let her know our estimated timetable for the trip, and when we were in New Jersey at a Dunkin’ Donuts we called her to say we were on the way. “Come by the store!” she said, and she gave us directions to the brick-and-mortar version of her amazing store, Sazz Vintage.

Sazzy and I go back to the early days of 2000, when I was first on the message board where I met Dan. At one point, she went to South Africa and when she got back, she mailed me several beaded bracelets from a place called Ndebele. She was unable to attend the Chicago get-together that fall, so I was entrusted with the task of distributing the bracelets to female attendees who were interested in them. I still wear my Sazzy bracelet, all these years later, and I never thought I’d get a chance to actually meet her in person. But thanks to The Wonders Of The Internet, we were back in touch and she’s in Philly with her awesome store and we wanted to go there anyhow and now we had someone to visit. Hooray!

So we pulled into Old City and parked, and stopped in at the store first thing. After hugs and some chatting, Dan and I went out to explore Old City and some of Society Hill, and we started our alphabet project for Philadelphia. I managed to find the used bookstore I’d liked when I was in Philly before, but not the bar (sniff), and we decided to head back to Sazzy’s store to arrange dinner plans. We drove down to the baseball stadium area, which is where our cheap hotel room was (in a Holiday Inn this time, not a La Quinta), showered, and changed clothes, then headed for the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood to our tasty mediterranean tapas dinner with Sazzy and her husband. Afterward, on their suggestion we had some gelato (that was nearly as good as the place in Berkeley, which is the best gelato I’ve had outside of Italy) and wandered around a bit, then headed back to the hotel.

Sazz Vintage flag

Monday morning we drove into town, intending to grab timed free tickets to the Independence Hall tour as early as possible. Dan parked while I got the tickets, and we grabbed some food while we waited for our tour to begin. We sat in the park right next to Independence Hall and it began to rain, so we ran under the eaves of the building across the street just in time for a 20 minute torrential downpour. We waited it out, and then went in to get screened and wait in the (slightly less wet) rain for our tour of Independence Hall, something I hadn’t done when I was in Philadelphia before. After the tour, we went across the street and saw the Liberty Bell.

We walked through Chinatown and through the Logan Square area and all the way up to the Philadelphia Art Museum because you know we just HAD to run up the steps like Rocky. It was about 95 degrees, and the humidity goes without saying, but we did it in our street clothes, me in sandals, and it was just fine. And Dan got the Rocky statue as the perfect letter Y.

After retrieving the car, we drove to get Dan a gen-yew-ine Philly cheesesteak at the place that doesn’t have a racist sign in the window, and then we left Philadelphia. It was a good less-than-24-hour-stop.

The Next Grand Adventure

Our friends Kent and Christine are finally getting around to making it legal, and they’ve invited us to their wedding in Connecticut on the 17th of July. There’s no power in the ‘verse that can stop me from being there, but I spent weeks trying to find a reasonably affordable flight that would allow us some time in NYC as well, but to no avail. I wracked my brain trying to think of ways to get around the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of spending nearly a thousand dollars on two plane tickets and hotel for a few nights, not to mention food, transportation, etc once we’re there, and I just couldn’t figure out how we could make it work.

Until one night, a couple of weeks ago, I hatched a perfect plan. It was so perfect that I stayed awake for hours past my bedtime because I just couldn’t fall asleep after hatching such a perfect (and exciting) plan.

We’re driving.

We’ve done long road trips before, but nothing quite this extensive. Dan’s parents have graciously agreed to take the kitties for a couple of weeks, and we’re going to spend the middle two weeks of July exploring the country, meeting up with old friends (and meeting with new!), having adventures and seeing some friends get hitched eleven years after their first date. I am super duper fantabulously excited about this plan, so let me tell you a bit more about it.

Our intention is to drive the northern route on the way out to the East Coast, leaving sometime during the weekend of July 10/11, and stopping in Chicago, Ann Arbor, Pittsburgh, and possibly NYC along the way before we make it out to the wedding on the 17th. Then, we plan to stop in NYC, Philadelphia, Boone (North Carolina), Louisville, and Kansas City on our way back. We’ll do a mix of camping, cheap motels, and maybe even couch surfing, and between that and the price of gas we won’t even come close to what the cost of the trip would have been had we opted to fly. Plus, this way each of us gets to add a few new states, we get to see people we like, and I’ll have a heck of a lot of blog fodder. What’s not to like?

So if you live in one of the above cities (or you’ve visited) and you have ideas, suggestions, or are willing to let a couple of crazy Strykers crash in your living room, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 🙂

What might have been

Do you ever look back on decisions you’ve made over the course of your life, big or small, and wonder if you’d made a different choice, what might the outcome have been?

It never ceases to amaze me how life seems at once to be a series of happy (or not-so-happy) coincidences and also a series of meaningful events. If I had not done this, if I had not gone here, if I had not gone to that party or written on that message board or applied for that job, life might have been so different. When I was a little kid, I loved to hear the story of how my parents met: at a party on Valentine’s Day, at the home of mutual friends, when each was dating someone else. My dad dated 3 women with the same first name; the 3rd was my mom. If one or the other of them hadn’t gone to the party, I never would have come into existence! How mind-blowing is that when you’re five, or even when you’re 30? If Dan’s brother had never told him about the message board, if I hadn’t IM’d him, if I’d been seriously dating someone else, if if if. So many choices, so many possibilities, so many futures that could have happened but didn’t.

As I mentioned before, we saw 500 Days of Summer this past weekend, and while I don’t feel talented enough to do a movie review that could actually do the film justice, there are a few bits that keep sticking with me. The theme of choices and how certain choices lead to certain outcomes, whether they be coincidence or whether they hold actual meaning, whether things happen at random or whether something is meant to be, whether you have a soul mate or whether any number of people could work out to be a good long-term partner, is explored in ways both subtle and profound throughout the film. Some people I know met their partners in unusual ways, while others knew each other for years in some fashion before ending up together. Either way, one might argue both sides of the meant-to-be vs. happy coincidence debate. Regardless of how you meet your SO, what really matters is what you do with the relationship once you’re in it, whether you turn out to be compatible long-term or whether it will be a finite sort of thing.

It’s not just relationships that this applies to, though, since the jobs that you apply for and the places you go and the daily decisions you make (salad or cheeseburger? gym or veg out on the couch?) all have influences on your life, long-term, even if taken individually they might not seem that way. You meet people and make friends and have adventures. People come in and out of your life. People you happened to become penpals with when you’re a teenager turn out to be good friends despite living on the other side of the country 15 years later. People you think are going to be single-serving friends turn out to be far more important than you would have ever imagined – my aunt’s best friend, for example, she met while in the hospital giving birth to my cousin. The best friend was in the next bed over, and they’ve been friends for nearly 31 years now, and though she was then the lady giving birth the same day, she and her son are family members now. Sometimes I wonder what people who were once in my life but no longer are might be up to; someday I’ll write the story of my cowboy friend from Michigan. But that’s a tale for another time.

Speaking of blasts from the past, I’m facebook friends with my College Boyfriend’s brother. He just joined and last night put up photos of his two daughters (whom I’ve never met). The older daugher looks like her mom (CB’s bro’s wife). I had to do a double-take when I saw the photo of the younger daughter, as she had inherited her uncle’s (CB’s) eyes. I looked into the face of that baby and saw what my baby might have looked like had I had one with College Boyfriend. I never had more than a slight pregnancy scare during the 3 years College Boyfriend and I were together, and had I gotten pregnant during that time I would have been in no way ready to have a baby, let alone be tied for life to College Boyfriend. Things didn’t work out with him for very good reason. Maybe it’s because babies are on my mind these days, wondering how Dan’s and my potential progeny will look. But seeing College Boyfriend’s eyes in his niece’s face gave me a little glimpse of what might have been, had accidents happened, had different choices been made. It was a little bit freaky.

Food on Friday, Vegetarian edition

One thing that I like to do when we visit people and they let us stay in their house is to make food for our hosts. This becomes more difficult when people have food allergies and aversions or special diets, and while staying with our friends in CT last weekend it proved to be nearly impossible for us to devise a meal that would both taste good and fit the requirements for all four diners.

Kent is a vegetarian who is deathly allergic to all peanuts and peanut products, plus highly allergic to all legumes, peas, and beans.

Christine is a notoriously picky eater (her list of things she will eat is far easier to relay than things she won’t); plus, as a result of ongoing treatment for thyroid cancer, had to be on a low-iodine diet while we were visiting.

Here is what we made:

Spanish Tortilla, garlic bread, plus regular salad with tasty lettuce and veggies(for us) and iceberg lettuce/cucumber/carrot salad with homemade dressing (for Christine). She made her own pasta with olive oil and garlic and timed her main dish to be done with ours. Had we had more time to prepare, we could have made the bread for the garlic bread ourselves and she could have had that, too.

Spanish Tortilla (recipe adapted from one Dan’s mom makes) (serves 4 large servings or six medium-sized)
4 eggs, scrambled, plus a bit of milk mixed in
2 medium or 1 large russet potato, scrubbed and chopped into small dice
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
seasonings to taste – garlic powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, herbs, whatevs.

In a large nonstick skillet (you use a lot less oil this way) pour some olive oil. Sautee potatoes and onions with seasonings of choice until pretty well cooked. When po’s are done, add scrambled egg, turn heat down, and cover the pan to let the egg cook, 10-20 minutes depending on your pan and your stovetop. When egg is set, use a cookie sheet or pizza pan to cover the skillet, flip the tortilla over, and slide it back in the pan so the top is now on bottom and cook a few more minutes. Serve with salsa and sour cream (or nonfat greek yogurt, which is what we use instead of sour cream).

To convert this recipe to a low-iodine diet, we would have had to use egg whites, no milk, non-iodized salt, and peeled the potatoes. Christine told us not to bother; she was happy with her plain pasta.

The Strykers Take Manhattan (and New Haven, CT)

Saturday: Up early and up to Times Square again in the frigid TKTS line. Avenue Q is our first choice of shows, but we’ll take Chicago or Gypsy. Turns out Gypsy is the best deal. We find a great spot to have bagels with lox as we walk back down Broadway; the sort of place I’ve never seen outside of NYC – a full service deli, plus salad bar and hot food bar, almost like a cafeteria. They sell groceries and flowers, and we warm ourselves with hot chocolate seated upstairs while looking out at the bounty below. Back down through Union Square’s farmer’s market and our first ever apple cider donuts, The Strand bookstore, more exploration of the village and it’s time to change for the show.

The neon lights are much brighter at night. But then again, there are far fewer people at 9 AM on a Saturday in January.

Mere blocks from the place we stayed.

Words cannot express how awesome the experience of watching Patti LuPone play Mama Rose and the rest of the incredibly talented cast perform Gypsy was for me. This show has been near and dear to my heart since I was wee, and getting to see it both live and on Broadway was phenomenal. Our seats were in the orchestra, second row, far to one side so the view was a bit obstructed, but it didn’t matter a bit. I was high for hours afterward and completely forgot that I hardly ate anything all day.

Dan went back to get our bags; I subway’d to Grand Central to buy train tickets up to New Haven. He made it back and we got on the train with no time to spare, but the ride up was quiet and peaceful.

Our friends bought a house recently in a town outside of New Haven, surrounded by land and trees. We spent a quiet evening enjoying delicious pizza, meeting kitties, touring the house, and watching Wall-E in Blu-Ray projected onto a wall of their living room.

Sunday: Lazy day, stayed in our jammies until 2 and then went out for a quick frolic on the snow-covered beach. I discovered the joys of crunching through crusty-soft layers of snow and laughed at the things they call “waves.” We toured Yale campus and took a quick jaunt through one of the campus libraries, which looked like a church but wasn’t. Shopped for supplies, made dinner, and played Scene-it – a lovely visit with our friends who came through this last trying year with flying colors.

There were a billion shells on this beach.

And far less seaweed (and tar) than the last beach we were on (Santa Barbara).

Old lighthouse

Library at Yale. The inside is even more church-like, except instead of Jesus they worship knowledge. Or something.

Monday we took an early train back to Manhattan, and spent the day walking with all our stuff (luckily we packed light) from Grand Central all the way up through Central Park (saw my very first cardinal ever!), to Fifth Avenue and Museum Mile, up to Harlem and 125th street. We found another deli-type place and finished our time in New York with tasty, tasty food. The only notable thing about the journey home was that the teenager sitting next to me spent the ENTIRE 4.5 hours biting his nonexistant fingernails, methodically, one finger at a time, then starting over again after finger 10. After an hour I wanted to slap his hands; after 3 hours I wanted to throttle him like Bart Simpson. Note to teenaged boys everywhere: compusive nail biting is NOT SEXY. Wanna get laid? DON’T DO THAT.

I found the Chrysler Building far prettier than the Empire State Building.

I wonder if someone puts roses here every day, or if this was a one-time thing?

My favorite thing in Central Park (other than the free public bathrooms at the boathouse).

All in all, it was a terrific trip, with enough time in the city to get a good taste, with some downtime and friend time, with the promise to return when the weather is better and Central Park has more in it than fences, snow, and barren trees. Because while a few days is enough to get a taste, the city of New York deserves a far more thorough exploration.

Touched by his noodly appendage

First: status updates.

1. I can see three square inches of window (and natural light) from my new cube. No more dark basement!

2. My computer came back with the new versions of all the office programs so I have hope that my camera will talk to it OK and I can start using photos on the blog again. The computer is also moving at a normal, not glacial, pace, so that’s pretty good too.

3. I’m going to Philadelphia on Tuesday! And I get to meet up with a long-time blog crush, Adina Anonymous. She describes herself as “Korean, Jewish, dizzy, gassy, happy” and I think that sounds pretty awesome. She’s also got some ideas of stuff for me to do/see while I’m there. If any of you in blogland have suggestions, they would be welcome!

4. I ALSO get to see my friend Kent and his lovely fiance, because we’re all taking the train to meet up together in NYC on Friday evening. (They are in CT.) It’s my first time in the big apple – what’s the one thing I absolutely must do on a Friday in New York?

5. Yesterday afternoon Dan and I went to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude give a lecture about their work. It was both awesome and FREE which made it double awesome. They are working on another project called Over the River that will be in Colorado in a few years.

So, now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to write about food. This week, without quite meaning to, I ended up making a lot of things that involved noodles. They were all different, and all tasty, but noodly nonetheless.

Monday: White People Food

White People Food (tm Monkey) is what we call it when we mix together some things, like mac and cheese or potatoes and some sort of meaty substance and some vegetables and mix it all up in a bowl. Monday’s version of White People Food looked like this:

1 box organic whole wheat mac & cheese
1/2 medium sized chicken boob (a whole breast is 2 halves, I only used one of the halves), chopped into small pieces
juice of 1 lime
chopped bell pepper (red, yellow), maybe 1/2 cup
chopped onion, 1/2 cup
1 head chopped broccoli (florets)
1 chopped carrot
2 gigantic white mushrooms, chopped (worked out to about 1/4 cup)
a handful of fresh thai basil and some cilantro, chopped into little bits

Boil water for noodles. Chop chicken into pieces, removing fat, and cook in small nonstick skillet with some seasonings and 1/2 the lime juice – I used lemon pepper. Sautee vegetables in a little canola oil; add seasonings (I used taco seasoning we just got at Penzeys and it was really good!), the other half of the lime juice and maybe some rice vinegar to give it a little liquid. Add cooked chicken and herbs to vegetables and season a bit more. When noodles are done, drain and follow directions on box. Sometimes we use greek yogurt instead of milk/butter but we didn’t have any so I just used milk and a small amount of butter. Mix veggies/chicken in with mac and cheese. Maybe add a little salt/pepper or parmesan.

Result: YUMMY. White people food is nearly always tasty.

Tuesday: Whole wheat pasta with basil marinara, veggies, and ground turkey

2 servings whole wheat linguine or spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/2 lb ground turkey, browned and drained
handful of chopped fresh basil
1/2 chopped red bell pepper
15-20 asparagus spears, chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces
5 large mushrooms, chopped
1/2 jar generic organic tasty marinara sauce
garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes

Heat water to cook pasta. Brown turkey. Quickly sautee asparagus, red bell pepper, mushrooms, add basil, then add the pasta sauce and let simmer while pasta cooks. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to taste. Drain pasta, add sauce over noodles (I dish this out in individual bowls rather than doing it in the pan). Top with some grated parmesan and/or gruyere. I served this with a piece of ghetto garlic bread (piece of whole wheat toast, buttered and sprinkled with garlic powder). The garlic powder we got at Penzeys is really tasty and potent so it made for good garlic bread.

Result: Frabarous! This is one of our go-to meals that gets made about once a week or so (the veggies vary, but the result is always delish.)

Wednesday: Stir-fry green beans and shrimp over rice noodles

Wide rice noodles
Frozen raw shrimp, thawed, peeled, deveined
3/4 lb green beans
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (I was lazy and pressed it)
5 medium white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, chopped into 1-inch chunks and then quartered
handful of chopped cilantro and thai basil
seasoning of choice (I used Singapore Seasoning from Penzeys cuz it tastes good)

Defrost and peel shrimp. Boil water for noodles. Cook noodles.Prep veggies, then quickly stir fry with some canola oil, rice vinegar and maybe a little soy sauce. Season with fresh lime juice and thai basil. Drain noodles, add veggies on top. Eat with chopsticks.

Result: Pretty good, but I should have started the noodles sooner. They took too long to cook and so the stir fry was a little overdone.

Thursday: The Reign of Noodles is at an end! Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup

2 heads broccoli, chopped (including stem)
1 small potato, diced (I used yukon gold)
1 kohlrabi, peeled and diced (optional, but we had one that needed using)
5 cups vegetable broth (we use this broth concentrate stuff that comes in a jar and mix it with water)
1 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
seasonings of choice
1/4 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
small amounts of grated gruyere cheese

Boil broth and cook vegetables until tender, maybe 10 minutes. Reserve 1.5 cups of broth. Drain veggies, process with 3/4 of the broth in a blender or food processor until smooth, maybe 1 minute. Let sit while you make a roux with the butter, flour, and seasonings (melt butter in pan, add salt/pepper/whatever, add flour, stir together for 30 seconds or so), then add milk. Stir until the milk starts getting thick, then let it cook for 30 seconds or a minute more. It will get really thick and bubbly. Add veggie puree and the rest of the broth, stir. Add cheese and stir some more until it’s heated through and the cheese is melted. I served this with cheese toast.

Result: Super good. I think you can basically use any vegetables and this would turn out fabulously.

Tonight, Dan’s making me some homemade pizza.

And! The recipe for the fritters from last weekend:

3 small zucchini, grated
2 small yellow squash, grated
1 small potato, grated (leave all the skins on the veggies)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp flour
grated hard cheese of your choice (I used parm and gruyere because I freaking love that stuff)
seasonings (salt, pepper, whatever)
Oil for frying

Grate veggies (we have an attachment on our food processor that grates stuff in like 2 seconds and is AWESOME). Mix with egg, flour, cheese, seasonings. Let it sit. A whole lot of water will come out. Drain it as best you can. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil in a pan with high sides (we have a stainless steel pan we use for the occasional frying we do). I used enough to cover the bottom of the pan but no more. When the oil was hot, I scooped out a large forkful of veggie mixture and plopped it in the oil, then flattened it a bit with a metal spatula. I made 3 or 4 of these in the pan and then just let them fry. After a while, I realized I should probaly drain the plops before I cooked them, so I started doing that and they cooked much better. Flip the plops over when they look brownish on the bottom. Cook until they seem done and drain on paper towels.

I thought to serve these with our sour cream substitute (plain nonfat greek yogurt) and applesauce, but these were so flavorful they didn’t need any accoutrements.

OK, I’m done talking about food now. *wipes brow*

Piers Anthony, a DeLorean, and kicking cancer’s ass

In my recent 100 more things post, I mentioned having a penpal in high school. Actually, I had a lot of pen pals, but I knew all of the other people I wrote to. I was a letter-writing fiend. I was also a big fan of a variety of fantasy authors, including Piers Anthony (shut up. I was a kid.) One day, I got a copy of the Piers Anthony newsletter in the mail (I’d called the 1-800 hotline so they would send it to me). They only ever sent me the one, but in that one was a section that was essentially people who had written in to Piers asking him to hook them up with pen pals. One of the messages said something like “Kent, 16, was once seriously depressed and would like to hear from the opposite sex.” Kent’s Connecticut address was listed for all takers.

I thought to myself, Self? I am 15. I am still somewhat depressed (who isn’t, when they’re a teenager?) And I am the opposite sex. I like writing letters, so why don’t I write a letter to Kent? And I did. I wrote him a letter. I don’t remember what I said now, but I’m sure it was full of angsty teenaged girl things. I probably decorated the envelope in some interesting fashion, as was my wont at the time. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but a week or so later there was a response in the mail, a letter back from Kent. So I responded. And he responded. He made me a mix tape; I made him a mix tape. He told me about his dream of owning a DeLorean coming true. I told him about wanting to travel around the world. He told me that he’d received tons of letters after his initial ad, but that I was the only person he wrote back more than a couple of times. I think after we’d been writing for a year or so, we talked on the phone once or twice. Our junior year, Kent asked if my mom would let me come out to Connecticut to go to prom with him (I asked; she said no), but then he started dating a girl so it was a moot point anyhow. He heard about my travails with various boyfriends, I heard about his girlfriend; we exchanged photos. He even sent me a photo of his beloved DeLorean. Kent developed the habit of spray painting the envelopes he sent me, so each one is different. And yes, I still have them in a box in the closet at my mom’s house. I kept all the letters I got in high school.

I went to college and I think he did too, though he kind of took the long way around. We continued to exchange Christmas cards but eventually lost track of one another. One time toward the end of college I googled his name and came across a site for the band he was in, so I wrote an email to the email address on the site and he wrote back! So we did the letter thing again, only in email this time. He sent me some promotional materials and a newspaper article about his band, and I even liked the songs on the CD he sent me. He started dating a girl named Christine. I graduated college and entered the real world. He sold his DeLorean. He finished undergrad. I moved to Colorado.

Again, time went on, and our correspondence waxed and waned (primarily consisting of the occasional email and annual Christmas card). Dan and I went to visit his brother in DC in the summer of 2004, so before we left I emailed Kent and said hey, do you want to come down and hang out, finally meeting in person after 10 years? He said, Sure, I’ll take the train down. And I’ll bring Christine (yes, the same Christine). Sweet! I told him. So we met up in the big train station near the mall, ten years after I wrote that first letter.

I learned some things about Kent during that afternoon that I hadn’t known before (or, I guess, hadn’t really grokked). He was a (liberal) Christian. He was a vegetarian, down to his non-leather boots. He was deathly allergic to peanut products. Christine mentioned how much she missed peanuts or anything nut-related, since he could die if she ate one of those things and then gave him a smooch. He can’t even eat regular candy bars/chocolate, since most of those things are made in a facility that also processes peanuts. So sad. We (Dan, Kent, Christine and I) wandered around Arlington National Cemetary in the pouring rain. We met up with Dan’s bro and the Lovely Katherine for pizza in the afternoon. Someone took a picture of Kent and I, friends from afar for years and years. It was a lovely afternoon and evening, and I was a little sad when they had to catch their train home, because I felt like I’d not only gotten to meet my long-distance friend but I’d made another in his girlfriend of five years.

Just a few months later, I got to go to Boston for work, and Dan came out for the weekend part of the trip. It was a short drive for Kent and Christine, so they drove down, picked us up, and we went to Salem for the day, exploring and having a grand afternoon. I found myself wishing we lived closer so we could see them more often.

When Dan and I got engaged, before we even set a date I called Kent up to give him the news and tell him to prepare himself for airplane travel. See, he’s one of those “hates to fly” types. I told him it was a great opportunity for them to finally see Northern California, and we’d love to have them at the wedding. I called him a couple of months ago to say hi and ask about a logistical wedding-related issue, and he didn’t have time to chat. We played phone tag for a while but I didn’t hear from him again until I called him on Tuesday to wish him a happy 30th birthday. “I can’t talk now either!” he told me. “Christine and I are going out to dinner with my parents. OH! And the day after I talked to you before, we got engaged!”

Woohoo! I exclaimed with joy. “Can I call you tomorrow evening, then, to chat more?” “How about tomorrow afternoon,” he said. “We’ll be going out tomorrow night with Christine’s parents because she has to go in for surgery on Thursday.”

“Surgery? What for?”

“Oh – I forgot I hadn’t told you. Christine has thyroid cancer.”

I called him back yesterday afternoon. He told me the story of how they got engaged (finally, after 8 years of dating!) and how they haven’t set any plans yet for the wedding because they want to buy a house first. And he told me how a year ago, Christine found a lump in her neck and didn’t have insurance, so she paid out of pocket for an inconclusive ultrasound, at which time the doctor told her to wait until she had insurace before she did anything further. She didn’t get insurance until a few months ago, when she had the lump biopsied and lost the lottery, as most (95%) thyroid tumors are benign. It was cancer.

Turns out, though, if you’re forced to pick a cancer to have, the kind Christine has is the best kind, seems like. I did a little research using Dr. Google and discovered that there are four kinds of thyroid cancers, and hers is highly treatable (97% cured with combination of surgery and drugs). Also? Because it’s cancer of the thyroid, once her thyroid is removed, any leftover cancerous cells, being thyroid cells, are the only cells in the body to absorb iodine. And so a few weeks after surgery she’ll be on a low-iodine diet and then take radioactive iodine, which will only be absorbed by any remaining cancer cells and kill them right quick. A targeted cancer treatment, if you will, that seems like it does the trick for almost everyone. Plus, she’s still young and (other than the cancer) completely healthy. She should be fine.

The only downside to the radioactive iodine is that she’ll be, duh, radioactive for a while as it makes its way out of her body. Sweat, pee, saliva, anything she touches will be a little bit radioactive. So she can’t be around Kent or their cats or anyone else for a few days while she’s all science-fictiony. I told Kent to tell her that she should take that opportunity to eat as much peanut butter, thai food, and anything else with peanutty goodness in it that her heart desires, since she can’t be around him or kiss him for those few days. Might as well find a silver lining, right?

Christine went in for surgery early this morning. I’m going to wait to call until the weekend, to give her time to rest a bit. I feel a little bit helpless being 2000 miles away, but I know she’s surrounded by people who love her and can provide whatever support she needs. I’ve been thinking about her today, and thinking about the trip to Connecticut (and probably New York) we’ll get to make in a couple of years when they finally get around to getting hitched. I am glad to still have Kent as my friend, and glad that he has found such a good person to be his partner in crime. And all my good wishes are going out to Christine today, who is totally going to kick cancer’s ass.