Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cooking with magic elves

I have been cooking the same 5-10 recipes since I went away to college in the (ahem) 1980's. While I love my spaghetti, cheese enchiladas, chili, meatloaf, and ham and cheese pie (aka quiche); they are not the foods you want to eat every single week for the rest of your life. So I got into this restaurant habit that I needed to break. It's expensive and fattening.

I bought cookbooks and read recipes but was afraid to try them. I can be a picky eater sometimes. I don't really like mushrooms, onions, peppers, squash, eggplant, you get the drift. I ate so much chicken that I became sick of it. (And it doesn't taste good like it used to. Have you noticed that the chicken breasts you buy in the store don't taste as chicken-y as the chicken you ate as a kid?)

But I digress.

I found the solution. I went to this new place in my town called Gourmet Creations and made 6 dinners that serve 4-6 people in about an hour and a half. Six dinners that sounded really yummy and were made by me, with fresh ingredients. Six dinners that will live in my freezer just waiting for the night I will move them over to the fridge and defrost them so I can eat them for dinner the next day.

Okay, five dinners because we ate one tonight. It was awesome. Chicken breasts stuffed with artichokes and goat cheese, and a vegetable medly of green beans, butterbeans, onions and red peppers. I would never cook like that on my own, but the Gourmet Creations folks made it so easy!! Little elves in brown aprons would whisk away my dirty mixing bowls and spatulas; find me more cut carrots, and help me carry all my dinners to the car.

Makes me look forward to Sunday dinner for the first time in YEARS, I tell ya!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Glad for Plaid

I went to Catholic school from 1st through 8th grade. Loved the school -- HATED the uniforms. You would too: they were rusty red, forest green, brown, navy blue, and black plaid. It was an unusual pattern, asymmetrical, mostly of the green and red in odd-shaped rectangles and lines. So it was kind of like ugly Christmas, especially after you had worn the jumper, the skirt, or the pants for at least one yet. The red faded into this nasty orangey rusty red -- you always knew the kids whose moms had bought them uniforms way too big (you'll grow into it!) or had hand-me-downs from older siblings (if it was good enough for your sister ...) or just had one that your mom washed a few times a week.

There are many beautiful plaids out there. Black Watch, Glen Plaid, Houndstooth, Buffalo or even Burbury. I even like those yellow plaids with the black in them that you see around this time -- back to school time. But the Holy Spirit Catholic School plaid defies description. You have to see it to believe it. I don't have picture on me now, but I will post one soon. From my description, you may be thinking it's that nice Christmasy-tartan you see around the holidays, but you'd be wrong.

When I graduated from 8th grade, I took my mom's sewing scissors to my uniform skirt. I had been wearing that skirt 1 or 2 years, so it was pretty faded and put up no resistance to my rage against the plaid. But that plaid has had its revenge, oh yes!

From that day forward, I have never been able to wear plaid again. It looks so cute in the catalogs and on the mannequins. Over the years, I have tried on many, many plaid outfits. Maybe this will be the ONE, I whispered in department store dressing rooms as I slipped a garment over my head. Then I opened my eyes and saw:

Catholic schoolgirl.
And not the hotsy Britney Spears version either. It all turns into Holy Spirit plaid to me.

So what I have I done? I have just registered my daughter for Catholic school. A uniform is required. It's plaid! But it is the cutest darn plaid, a regular plaid, a run-of-the-mill plaid, a plaid I would have gladly worn for 8 years. Look at it over there, all navy blue and white, with a hint of red, yellow and green. It's the kind of plaid you see in the Lands' End or L.L. Bean catalogs, in girls' Christmas dresses or back-to-school fashions. Just in case, I'm hiding the scissors. She's in 3rd grade. I've got five years to go!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Is it a sabbatical if you're too busy to blog?

I knew it had been a while since my last post, but was surprised to see it was actually in January. I haven't done any of the things designed to boost readership, like ... tell people I had a blog, post to other people's blogs, leave comments around the web quoting myself, so it's not like I was leaving anyone in the lurch, right?

But tonight, I decided to pick things back up and see what would come out. I felt like writing about cool books I have read. I've been thinking about reading this summer and don't really feel like there's a lot of good recommendations out there. So here are some of mine:

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
I read these books years ago when they were considered historical romance and filed as such in my local B&N. Imagine my surprise when I recently pointed some book club members to these books and we all traipsed over there to pick them up. I searched the G's of the historical section with mounting panic ... but they were nowhere to be found. I was on my way to the information desk, when I passed fiction and literature and thought "heck, I'll take a quick look." Boom baby! Diana Gabaldon, upgraded to fiction and literature, with new classy covers and everything. Most of mine have the original covers. Paperback. Yep.

Anyway, they are a sweeping saga of Scottish history, American history, English history with fascinating bits about historic medicine, customs and a fabulous love story or two or three wound in there. A main character with a Scottish accent and a kilt, a sassy strong woman and some time travel -- color me happy. There are 5 books in the series, I think. All of them are great reads.

The Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich
When you're looking for a sassy (there's that word again) female detective, look no further than Stephanie Plum and her formerly-a-ho sidekick Lula. All kinds of crazy stuff happens to Stephanie. If she were real, I'd tell you NOT to EVER lend her your car. Did I mention she's a bounty hunter? There are 11 books, and I think a new one coming out this summer. You don't have to read them in order, but they have cool names, each with a number in the title so you know which one you've got.

The Judge Deborah Knott books by Margaret Maron
I love, love, LOVE these books, and have two of them signed by the author. (Thanks Miz Maron! I sure enjoyed meeting you a few years ago.) In these books, set in North Carolina, not too far from where I live, Judge Deborah Knott serves justice on the bench while tripping over a mystery or two. The first book in the series is The Bootlegger's Daughter. And yes, the judge is in fact a bootlegger's daughter. There's a lot of good Southern stuff going on in these books, some fine mysteries and a whole lot of family. Right now I'm re-reading Killer Market, set at the High Point furniture market.

I'm doing this off the top of my head, so I'll probably have more recommendations coming up later. I'm off to scrapbook.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Two Peas Meme Challenge

Meme Challenge 1.21.06 Here it is: List the 5 events/things/or people, that have made the most impact on your life. Events, places, or people, that have made a mark on your life, as you're living it now.

These aren't in order ... they're just my list:

1. My daughter
Your life completely changes after you have a child. I wouldn't change a minute of my life since she entered the world. Except, I would have taken more naps when she was a newborn instead of holding her and watching her sleep every time.

2. My husband
He's the first guy who ever really "got" me. He thinks I'm just the cutest thing ever and mimics my mannerisms, which is both fun and annoying. I had to do a Myers-Briggs personality test once and I brought home the descriptions of all 16 types and asked him which one he thought I was. He took one look and pegged it.

3. My mom
My mom believes I can do anything and supports me daily. She sacrifices to make me happy, shares my joys and listens to my woes. Plus she will come over and clean my bathrooms -- it makes her happy.

4. Sister Marie Frances Regis Collins
Sister Regis unlocked the English language for me. I was a great reader, and she took that love of reading and gave me a rock-solid foundation in grammar from 6-8 grade at Holy Spirit Catholic School. She made us say our prepositions in alphabetical order, and I can still do it .. about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at ... plus she taught me how to diagram sentences. It's a long-lost skill, but one that still helps me as I make my living by writing.

5. Craig Thomas and Glenn Hargett
These two gentlemen have to share the space, but both gave me my start in my first career. Craig was program director at WJNC-AM in Jacksonville, NC. He gave me a job as a DJ after I spent my junior year doing my high school's radio show on Friday nights. For some reason, it impresses people to know I was a DJ in high school. Glenn gave me a job as News Assistant and then Assistant News Director (funny how switching around a word gives a title more oomph!) and taught me more about news, fair & balanced reporting and the NC Open Meetings law than anyone person has the right to know. When a later News Director in TV told me the problem with me was that I was a "Big J Journalist" I knew I was a journalist with a capital J because of Glenn Hargett.

You know, I could do a whole new list on places and events. I may just do that in another post.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How Many Little Pieces Was It Again?

My book club read "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey last month. I enjoyed reading it, except for all the descriptions of his different-colored vomit chunks, and the horrible, painful description of his root canal on his front teeth without any anesthetic or pain medicine.

I thought he seemed a little smug about his addiction and his iron-willed sobriety, and I was interested in the end of the book to read that everyone he met in the Treatment Center (capitalization a la Frey) died except him, basically.

I couldn't believe that there would be a dentist in Minnesota who would perform a front-tooth root canal without anesthetic, or that Hazeldon would require such a sacrifice from a brand-new resident. ("I know, let's cause our drug-addicted clients extra pain so they'll be sure to go through recovery!) So I asked a substance abuse counselor if that would really happen. She thought it was highly unlikely.

So when I started seeing news that he may have lied about parts of the story, I started reading. I read the whole report on How interesting that he expunged parts of his record. Why would you do that if you've already told the world about it in your book? I was sickened when the family of a girl killed in a train accident, a pivotal part in his book, said they didn't think he was very close to their daughter.

So what does eloquent James Frey say when he's asked about these things? "let the haters hate, let the doubters doubt, I stand by my book, and my life, and I won't dignify this bulls___ with any sort of further response."

Let the haters hate? Where does that come from? Are we, the reading public, just one more small-town cop out to get him? Is it really everybody in the world against poor James? And after all his grandiose capitalization in his memoir, why doesn't he call it a Book?

And why, oh, why, did Oprah call in on Larry King last night? I think Oprah's pretty cool, but if James is telling the truth, he doesn't need Oprah to back him up. And if he's lying (oops, I'm sorry ... "embellishing") and she's coming to his defense then he's just dragging her down.

Now his publisher is forcing him to add an Author's Note to the next printing, and has even offered a refund to anyone who bought the book directly from them. (Yeah, I routinely buy my books from Doubleday and Random House. Who needs the Barnes & Noble conveniently located in my town?) But how can we trust what the author's note is going to say? Will it be a reprise of "let the haters hate"?

I'm going back to re-read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I like my fiction to be fiction.