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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Touch of Spring: Roasted Asparagus



Quick Cook Idea - Roasted Asparagus. Gorgeous produce from Peru and Chile is coming into the stores in abundance. I'm not enough of a locavore to be eating veggies grown within 100 miles of South Philly. You cannot deny that the pickings are slim right now for sustainable and locally grown vegetables for healthy plant based meals. I am a sucker for asparagus, thick fat stalks that stand at rapt attention in the grocery bins. Sue's Produce, my favorite Center City source for fruits and veggies, has some amazing asparagus, plump blueberries as big around as over-coat buttons and sweet juicy cherries coming in from South America, where it is in fact nearing the peak of summer. Usually asparagus at this time of year is too expensive and spinsterly skinny. This batch however was perfect. I snapped off the woody ends and tossed the stalks onto a sheet tray. Drizzled a bit of olive oil over it, a few grinds of black pepper and a dusting of kosher salt. Popped these babies into a preheated 375 degree oven and roasted them for about 25 minutes. Turn them once after about 15 minutes. You want to attain a bit of caramelizing but not a char. Come spring and summer, try grilling the spears for an even more wonderful sweet smokey flavor. You will never want to suffer through soggy limpid asparagus spears again. As for me, I find the only other way I want to eat it besides roasted or grilled, is pureed with lemon, Parmesan cheese and a bit of olive oil, in a lighter, brighter asparagus pesto. Check out my recipe from last spring for that magic elixir of spring.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Curried Split Pea Soup

One of my newest Sunday rituals is to cook several days worth of meals so that I can get through most of the week without having to worry or find time to make lunches and dinners for Liz and me. It's a helpful on several levels, preparedness for healthy meals and Weight Watcher's friendly eating and quick grab things to take when there's no time to cook. Because I work late on Mondays and then go to WW and the gym, I'm not home until after 9 pm, leaving me exhausted and without any energy to think about cooking something for that night or the next day. This past Sunday was another marathon round of baking, cooking, soup making and food photo opportunities. I made the above soup, a curried split pea, fully vegan/vegetarian and ready to take to my kosher office. I also made, but won't be taking to work, grilled chicken and a strip steak; kosher office-friendly mustard crusted baked salmon; sweet potato oven fries; pumpkin quick bread; string beans; sauted zucchini, squash, red peppers and chick pea medley; and Irish Oatmeal with pumpkin for breakfast. I'd rather cook a lot over several hours and have it done than to have to figure out what to make on daily basis. I love the choices and the mix and match efforts. If I make too much of something, I usually freeze a portion or two. In a few weeks or months, I can pull out a container of my favorite church supper casserole or pint of Miso soup and I'm set. As promised in my previous post, I am writing the recipe for the split pea soup. My intention was to make a vegetarian version; lighter, cheaper and kosher-friendly for my job. Perusing the new Martha Stewart cookbook - Martha Stewart's Cooking School, I discovered her Indian/Curried version. In true Martha Stewart fashion, it's a bit more involved than I wanted but the idea was splendid. The recipe builds up a great base layer of flavors so you won't have to worry about having a pre-made stock of any kind or a ham hock or smoked turkey wing to use for flavorings. I like to saute my mire poix just to the point of where it starts to caramelize - bringing out the golden hues and sweeter flavors of the onion, carrot and celery. Dried peas tend to have an earthy and smokiness to them already; the curry powder marries well with those flavors and brings it's own earthiness. These ingredients can be found in your average supermarket. For best flavors, use a mild to medium curry powder that's not too old - remember, ground spices have less than a 1 year shelf-life. For those of you who know me well, I use a curry blend from Penzey's if I'm not making my own.











Curried Split Pea Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable or Canola Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion - finely diced
  • 2 Small/Medium Carrots - finely diced
  • 2 Celery Stalks - finely diced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 1 inch piece Ginger - minced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Curry Powder
  • Salt and Freshly Group Black Pepper - to taste
  • 6 Cups Cold Water
  • 1 Pound Bag Split Peas - picked over and rinsed

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.
  2. Add in the onions, carrots and celery and saute until the onions take on a light golden color and the carrots are knife tender - about 10 minutes.
  3. Add in the minced garlic and ginger and saute for 1 minute.
  4. Add in the curry powder to toast and bring out the curry's fragrance and flavor - 1 minute.
  5. Pour in the 6 cups of cold water and the split peas, stirring to combine all of the ingredients in the stock pot.
  6. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer, allowing the soup to cook for 45 minutes to one hour.
  7. Keep a lid lightly covered on the pot to keep the water from evaporating too rapidly.
  8. Check and stir the mixture every 10 minutes.
  9. One the soup has cooked for at least 45 minutes, add 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper; stir to combine.
  10. The soup is done once the peas have disintegrated and the body of the soup is thickened. Taste the soup, adjusting the seasonings, adding more salt, pepper and curry powder if needed. The peas should have melted and no longer be whole or al dente.
  11. Makes 8 portions. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Give us this day our daily bread

Photo - Loaf of Bread at Metropolitan Bakery 19th & Spruce Streets Rittenhouse Square as created by artist Lori.



What a week this has been! An extraordinary turn of events for our country bringing genuine hope and excitement to so many of us. Like many people around the USA, I spent Tuesday connected to every media outlet that I could, watching, listening and reading about every moment of the inauguration and President Obama's first 24 hours as Number 44. I've had more mist in my eyes and the fullest feeling of pride in my heart than I can ever remember. This is the first week in over eight years when I have felt so happy to be living in America and to have been one small point of light in our Nation's collective glow.

Slogging through the darkest days towards spring it's nice to know the days are literally growing longer, allowing us more hours of daylight to bring us out of the they grey doom. More day light light (and the new president) makes me feel more energized! Too bad it's been too cold for much if any outdoor activity. I've not ridden my road bike in a few weeks, not since that last ride with Susan Hill when my toes became encased in ice cubes for several hours. The one day this week when the temperatures were above 40 degrees, I had to work late and couldn't get out to enjoy the mid-winter one-day thaw. I have however been visiting with friends, old and new; seeing a lot of movies, good, mediocre and outstanding, and cooking some marvelous dishes.

In the past week I caught up with someone from my past - 20 plus years in the past, which brought about an unlocking of a time capsule of long forgotten memories and embarrassments. At what point does one's memory cease to matter and past events cease to cause you discomfort? For some of us, memories falter and fade and for others memories retain their crystal-edge pointed sharpness, cutting through the intervening years with a swift deft precision. I'm not sure that there are events or things that I've done or that have happened to me that I will ever be able to shake out of my system. Try as I'd like to forget, you just cannot escape the past. At my therapy appointment this past week, I had the chance to review sessions from a year ago, allowing me to see what progress I've made over the past year in my personal well-being. Aside from the obvious physical transformations, having lost an addition 26 to 30 pounds since January 2008, I was reminded of some great emotional break-throughs I made. I felt genuinely proud of my personal commitment that I've made to be more open and willing to talk about my horrendous childhood; to be willing to take steps to move forward and be more open in my every day life. I also was able to see how connected my physical activity is to keeping me on an even emotional level. This is the first winter in years when I have not fallen into my deep dark seasonal affective disorder. Going to the gym and working out definitely keeps me alive and full of vigor. The yoga classes I've been taking have helped me find an inner calm I didn't know could exist.

Along with the continued therapy, working out, attending Weight Watchers, there are also my good friends who help keep me grounded. I often write about the Susan's, and our biking adventures, but there are some other fantastic people who I had the chance to see this past week. Dana, Cheryl and Mingo. When so many of our moved away over the past few years, Liz and I went through a period of not having too many Philly friends. Luckily we were able to grow closer and our relationship became stronger. People come and go but our friends are always in our hearts even if they live many states away. We saw The Wrestler on Monday afternoon and got to catch up with our friend, Dana. Hanging out with Dana was great fun. We saw an amazing movie and then went to Jones for dinner. While the time together was great and The Wrestler is by far the best movie of 2008, it's a difficult movie to watch. There are some bone-crushing scenes and soul-rocking performances. Mickey Rourke deserves to win an Oscar for his real, brutal and touching performance as a man trying to relive the high point of his broken life. This movie is like an unvarnished and heart-breaking real life version of Rocky, without the pretty Hollywood ending.

Also this past week, I saw Doubt - which was good, but it seemed to suffer from having been a staged drama play and couldn't quite make the leap onto the big screen as a full blown drama in multi-dimensions. Both Sue S. and I thought there were times with the actors didn't quite stay in character, doing and saying things that didn't make sense with where their personalities were dictating. I also saw Last Chance Harvey - a silly sentimental sap fest that was a decent diversion to fill a cold evening.

Lastly, I have my cooking to keep me sane and well-fed. I volunteered to stay and help cook a Shabbat Dinner at the synagogue this past Friday night. We, the past president, Marianne, Rachel, a volunteer helper and I, cooked for about 40 people. We made baked tiliapia, rice, broccoli, salad, hors d'oeuvres, and my vegan Hoppin' John. I'm on a real chili, beans and rice and Hopping John kick lately.
I feel happy to share my cooking skills and grateful that I have a job where I can be and do more than just be the bookkeeper. While this past week has been one of cautious optimism, there has also been more bad economic news, it just keeps hitting closer to home. I learned of several layoffs of close co-workers and associates from other jobs. If offering my services as a cook will help me to keep a job that I love, than baby you can be sure I'll be cooking and bookkeeping for the rest of my life! Where else could I possibly work that gives me so many freedoms and joys and allows me to utilize many of my skills? I'm sure there are places, but in this economy I'm not sure where that next ideal job may be for me. I went from cooking at work to cooking at home, utilizing my free Sunday to make at least half a week's worth of lunches and dinners for Liz and me. Which not only translates into healthy meals for us, but also some healthy blog recipes too!
Stay tuned for my next post - a recipe for curried split pea soup.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Great Day



Today, along with so many other people across the United States and the world, I stand proud and am hopeful for the new era before us. Mr. President, Barack Hussein Obama, I am honored to call you my President. May you faithfully serve this great country, lead us into peace and prosperity and silence the foes who would seek to bring us down.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hawk Eyes in Rittenhouse Square

I've been bird watching again, in Rittenhouse Square. On Thursday, I went out for a cup of coffee around 2:30, and walked through the Square on my way over to La Colombe. As I was wandering through the Square, I looked up in the trees to see if I could spot the hawk that's been stalking and living in the park for the past few fall/winter seasons. Within seconds of looking, spotted it, and as a bonus, witnessed the hawk swoop down and catch a brown rat! Ghoulish, yes, but it was also a real live nature adventure. The hawk then flew from the 19th Street Corner to the center of the Square and alighted on a low branch, with the rat it its talons. The hawks mate was flying high overhead. I watched the hawk for about 10 minutes and then it just got too darn cold to stand around taking any more paparazzi photos! The hawk was on this branch for at least 15 minutes, as it was still there when I walked back to the office.

The hawk is adjusting itself on the branch while keeping hold of its fresh kill. This was the first time I could definitely identify what kind of hawk has been in the park. It's a red tailed hawk. As it landed in the tree, its tail feathers were spread in full, showing off its rust coloured plumage.

Look carefully at the base of its talons, along the branch. That's the rat! This bird is my hero! I hate rats.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Miso Soup made Easy

Another of my Sunday Specials - as I mentioned in my last post, I cooked a number of dishes for the coming week, allowing me a week's worth of meals and food photos to take. This soup recipe has been slow cooking in my mind for about a year. I was reminded of it when a co-worker mentioned to me that one of the ways she found that helped her lose and keep weight off was by eating soups, especially miso soup. Soup as a meal is economical, good for you and a Weight Watchers sanctioned eating tip. The broth fills you and the veggies are good for you. Depending on the content, it can be full of good fiber, protein and low in fat. My miso soup is a great meal for me to help me keep up the WW Momentum, it's very filling. Considering that I'm back on track with my Weight Watchers program, I really want continue to take off the pounds. The pesky three holiday pounds I gained are almost gone, my weigh in this week got me back to my 65 pounds lost point! I'm also working out more, taking a weekly yoga class and riding when the weather permits. It's all connected for me, cooking good foods, writing interesting recipes and taking food photos along with the mind/body connection I am experiencing through my yoga classes and cross training. This miso soup recipe that I've created is a way to pack in the good for you vegetables and proteins plus it's filling and low-fat too. Eating well is one key to my overall well-being.

Miso is a paste, made from fermented soybeans, barley and other grains. It has a smokey, salty and sweet flavor and is becoming easier to find in most supermarkets. Look for it in the International/Asian food section. It is usually found in the refridgerated case. There are many brands and styles, white miso, red miso and black. It's sold as a paste, either in a seeled plastic bag, or in a seeled container. Once opened, store it in the refridgerator in a tightly covered container. I found that it keeps for at least 6 months, in the coldest part of the refridgerator. If you are feeling adventurous, take a stroll through an Asian Supermarket, where you will find a larger variety of miso products. Traditional miso soups use a broth made with dashi, a seaweed or kelp broth that can be complicated to make and entirely not necessary for my cooking purposes. Remembering tricks from previous cooking gigs, as long as I get a good base layer of flavors going, I only need to use water for my vegetable soups; it's cheaper and easier.

For the vegetables, I went with some basics that you can find at any grocery; the only other unusual ingredients I used were bean sprouts, buckwheat soba noodles and fish sauce. To make the recipe easier, I've streamlined it, assuming that the ingredents used would have to be available in most well-stocked conventional supermarkets (as opposed to my Asian Markets or Whole Foods). Feel free to add or omit any veggies as you see fit, but keep in mind, you should use the ginger, garlic, carrots, celery and onions as your base layer of flavors. If you are feeling fancy, cut the veggies into decorative shapes. I made carrot and raddish flowers, by scoring them first with a lemon curler and then cutting rounds. Because I cut a "channel" into the sides of the carrot and the raddishes, the cut rounds look like little flowers. If you cannot find buckwheat soba noodles, you can use rice celophane noodles, whole wheat thin spaghetti, or rice vermicelli noodles. In a pinch use the ramen noodles, but don't use the seasoning packet - it's packed full of sodium and sugar and you don't need it! This is a vegetarian version - if you have any leftover meat or fish, add it! It's especially good with roast pork, shrimp or chicken.

Miso Soup Ingredients:
  • 6 Cups Cold Water
  • 1/2 Cup Miso Paste
  • 1/4 Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce, plus more to taste
  • 4-6 Dashes Fish Sauce (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion - Finely Diced
  • 2 Medium Carrots - small dice or thin rounds
  • 2 Celery Stalks - small dice
  • 2 Tablespoons Ginger - 1 Tablespoon minced, the other tablespoon sliced
  • 4 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 1 Medium Zucchini - Small Dice
  • 4 Radishes - cleaned and cut into thin rounds
  • 1/2 Cup String Beans - cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 Small Can Baby Corn - cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 small can Water Chestnuts - drained and sliced
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
  • 8 Ounce package Buckwheat Soba Noodles or Whole Wheat Thin Spaghetti, Rice Vermicelli Noodles or Cellophane Noodles - cooked, rinsed and cooled
  • 1 Cup Bean Sprouts
Directions:
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup miso paste, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 cup of water until the miso is disolved and no lumps appear. If using fish sauce, add several dashes to the mixture. Set aside.

  2. Use large, heavy bottomed (4 quarts or larger) sauce pot and preheat the sesame oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add in the carrots, celery and onions and saute until the onions and celery are translucent and the carrots are knife tender - about 5 minutes.

  3. Reduce heat to medium and add in the garlic and minced ginger, sauting for 2 minutes.

  4. Add in the zuchini and raddishes, if using, and saute for 2 minutes.

  5. Pour in the miso broth mixture,the remaining 5 cups of water and the remaining tablespoon of sliced ginger. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

  6. After the miso soup has simmered for 20 minutes, add in the string beans, baby corn and water chestnuts.

  7. Taste the broth and season with freshly ground black pepper. If the broth tastes too thin, whisk in a tablespoon more miso, thinning if first with some of the soup broth and then pouring the mixture back into the sauce pot. Adjust to taste using additional soy sauce as the salt.

  8. Serve hot, over cooked soba noodles, and garnished with a handful of bean sprouts.

  9. Makes 8 servings - or 2 quarts of soup.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Hearty Girls Go Biking and Cooking: Tuna with Hummus

Susan Hill and I went biking today, in 35 degree weather. Either we are foolish, able to deal with harsh temperatures (I am my feet are not), or just hardy/hearty. We met up this morning at around 11:15 am, after her yoga class. I thought it would be warm enough by then to get in a good loop around the river, and while we did get to ride once 'round the Art Museum trails, it was entirely too cold to be out for more than an hour. My toes were in severe pain for about an hour until they thawed out enough for me to regain normal sensation. If I continue to ride this winter, I now realize I must get those stupid looking shoe covers that winter cyclists wear. Ah! more money to spend on biking gear. It never ends!
After our biking we headed into Trader Joe's for a quick stop so I could pick up nuts and dried fruit. While we were there, we saw one of the preschool parents from the 'gog. She seemed amazed that we would be out biking in the elements. She called us hardy - and I remarked, we are the Hearty Girls! Catchy, makes me want to add this Nome de plume to my blog. It seems to fit and sounds better than Sturdy Girls, which is the name of a cycling club. We headed back to Susan's house and had lunch - my peanut butter and peach apricot jam on light whole wheat; brown rice sushi from Trader Mings (aka Trader Joe's); and a quick and economical chicken and vegetable soup. I warmed up, my toes returned to feeling like metatarsals again and not digits encased in dry ice. And I was inspired to come home to cook several meals for the coming week. Hooray! You know what this means? The Bicycle Chef is living up to her blog! Biking + Cooking = More Blogs for you to read! I cooked so many things this Sunday and over the past weekend giving me oodles of recipes and photos about which I will write for the next two weeks. Here's the first of several new recipes, all healthy and Weight Watcher friendly and oh so hearty!
For lunch this week, I'll be bringing several vegetarian or meat free lunches, owing to my working at a conservative and kosher synagogue. On Monday, I'll have Tuna with Hummus and Shredded Carrots, as well as Curried Tofu "Chicken" Salad. Since I started Weight Watchers, I've completely given up eating mayonnaise. It's not hard to live without the Hellman's, but it is an ordeal to find ways to eat tuna salad on the WW plan that are quick, easy and tasty. I've had to say goodbye to quick trips to Wawa for a tuna shortie hoagie or making a daily run to the deli counter for a scoop of unctuous tuna salad oozing with mayonnaise. Luckily I remembered a tuna fish recipe from my Vorspeise days and have modified it for my core meals. As for the curried Tofu "Chicken" Salad, it's another variation of recipe ideas from Whole Foods and some careful reading of tofu salad containers. I hate spending close to $4 bucks for a 1 cup container of tofu and veggies when I know I can make it better, cheaper and healthier.
The tuna with hummus is quick - and you can use any kind of hummus. I like Tribe brand, roasted red pepper. It's low fat and is not high in sodium. Sabra is another great brand, but definitely higher in fat. Yes, home-made hummus is easy to make, but honestly, there are some great brands out there and it's my compromise on finding a mayonnaise alternative. The tofu salad recipe has more steps and prep work, but if you are looking for ways to incorporate tofu into your mostly vegetarian/vegan diet, then this recipe is worth trying.
Tuna with Hummus and Shredded Carrots Ingredients:

  • 1 Can Chunk Light or Solid Tuna packed in Water - drained
  • 1 Medium Carrot - peeled and finely shredded on a box grater
  • 1 Large Celery Stalk - finely minced
  • 1/4 Cup Prepared Hummus - such as Tribe or Sabra
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Celery Seed
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Directions:
  1. Thoroughly drain the tuna fish. Put into a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Peel, rinse and shred the carrot using the small/medium holes on a box grater; add the shredded carrot to the tuna fish.
  3. Mince the celery and add to the tuna/carrot mixture
  4. Stir in the hummus and celery seed. Mix well to incorporate all the ingredients. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, adjusting to taste.
  5. If the tuna is too dry, add more hummus. Makes 4 sandwiches.

P.S. Monday - March 28, 2011 - I moved the curried tofu recipe and posted it on it's own.  I felt that it had gotten lost in this post and it deserved a stand alone post.  Check out the post in the future - dated March 29, 2011 - Curried Tofu "Chicken" Salad.  And thanks for reading.  Don't forget, if you like what you are reading, you love what your are eating and you want more - follow this blog, follow me on Twitter @Neenyd and Follow my antics on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheBicycleChef  

    Friday, January 9, 2009

    New Year Traditions and Old Year Reviews

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    Here's a good long post. The video is from New Year's Eve. It's one of my many New Year's eve rituals and superstitions. I run up and down my street carrying a suitcase to ensure travel in the New Year. I think it works and it's a lot of fun.
    The rest of this post is another borrowed idea for a blog post, from my friend Amy. She found it on one of her favorite blogs. Since ideas for posts are in short supply, I thought I too would use this as a way to come up with some useful writings. I do love lists and reviews, revealing notes and fun factoids, I’m always a sucker for those forwards that ask you to tell a few things about yourself to your friends and acquaintances. List making is a part of my journal writing DNA. I love the year end reviews of books, movies and music – often I will discover great entertainment gems I somehow overlooked or missed during the course of the previous year. And highlights – well, who didn’t love those old television shows that were a montage or compilation of the best bits from Happy Days or Golden Girls? I want a dvd archive of just the best musical excerpts or Star Wars references from the Family Guy alone! But I digress. Here’s my accounting of a fantastic 2008.
    1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before? A Triathlon! A friend mentioned to me in December 2007 that I should enter the SheRox Triathon; I thought she was crazy to make such a suggestion. When she asked me for the third time in March of 2008, something within me clicked into place. I trained, not all the well for about 4 ½ months, and I completed the Tri on Sunday, August 2, 2008, Liz and Ben S. were there to watch and cheer me on. It was probably one of the most emotionally satisfying moments of my life so far.
    2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I try not to make resolutions, more on principal – in that I feel like they are silly and hard to keep. However, I did make a resolution to lose weight in 2007, and I’ve kept on losing – high point 66 pounds. My average total weight loss so far, about 64 pounds. As for this year, I will continue on with my Weight Watchers program. I will learn to drive and get my driver’s license soon; I hope to be kinder to the people close to me and to myself.
    3. Did anyone close to you give birth? I know a lot of people who had children in the past year, but no one close to me, yet.
    4. Did anyone close to you die? Hmmm, not really. It’s a grey area. There have been a few deaths I’ve heard about from my friends, a few members of the congregation where I work passed away.
    5. What countries did you visit? Other States, not countries. Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, a brief lay-over in Dallas, Texas; The good old Jersey Shore.
    6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? A drivers license; more will power; the ability to run 3 miles solid; more common sense to keep my mouth shut.
    7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? March 3rd – my 41st Birthday and the day I hit my 50 pounds lost mark; Biking related events: May 4th – The New York 5 Borough Bike Ride – 50 miles through the 5 Boroughs of New York! May 21st – the Ride of Silence; July 26th – Biking to Ocean City New Jersey; August 3rd – My She Rox Tri. The week of Sept 1 to 5th – a fabulous vacation in Sea Isle City; September 13th & 14th – riding over 75 miles in a Scenic Metric Century Ride and then the Philly Ride; September 30th – 1st Day of Rosh Hashanah and the beginning of a rough Fall season; October 27th – The Phillies win the World Series & October 31st – The World Series Parade; November 4th – Obama wins the Presidential Election! November 7th – meeting Martha Stewart; November 26th – finding my groove; Christmas Eve at Church; Christmas Day, a quiet day at home with Liz and a nice dinner with Liz and Sue S.; the entire Holiday and New Year’s Eve season – spending time with Liz and our friends.
    8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Swimming in the Schuylkill River and running 3.1 miles on the street.
    9. What was your biggest failure? Not getting my drivers license.
    10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Not really. I did fall several times on my new bike, and I’ve seriously hurt my left knee, making me unable to do several yoga poses.
    11. What was the best thing you bought? My Fuji 3.0 Newest Road Bike; the crackberry aka my new blackberry phone - texting, emails and Facebook have never been so much fun!
    12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Barrack Obama – the epitome of calm and cool, poise under pressure and just a general all around gentleman.
    13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Nearly everyone in the Republican Party – especially Sarah Palin – hate monger.
    14. Where did most of your money go? Doctor’s visits; Weight Watchers; Biking and training; Gym Membership; several new wardrobes.
    15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? The possibility of new life and expanding my family.
    16. What song will always remind you of 2008? Not sure really. Specific new music was not a significant part of my 2008. However, I do love Amy Winehouse’s song, Rehab. Not that it’s indicative of 2008, but it’s a fun and crazy song. Plus she’s such a hot cranked-up mess.
    17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) happier or sadder? Happier
    b) thinner or fatter? Thinner
    c) richer or poorer? About the same? Possibly a bit richer, especially in experiences, friends and wisdom.
    18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Took driving lessons; rode my bike more.
    19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Procrastinated
    20. How did you spend Christmas? A quiet day at home with Liz, watching endless loops of “A Christmas Story”; cooking a delicious dinner for Liz and Sue. S.
    21. Did you fall in love in 2008? I’ve been in love with the same lovely person for almost 10 years now. As for momentary crushes – well, I tend to fall for a lot of people in that school girl crush kind of way for about the first month or so when we first become friends…
    22. What was your favorite TV program? Dexter
    23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Hmm, hate is such a strong word. I dislike a lot of people in the abstract – the GOP for instance. I’m disappointed with some folks mostly, people who have taken advantage of my good faith or kindness.
    24. What was the best book you read? YIKES! I’ve not read much at all this past year, not even magazines. That should be another of my disappointments. I did read Ten Points, by Bill Strickland. The book is written by "The executive editor of Bicycling magazine explores childhood, fatherhood and cycling in this moving memoir about the legacy of child abuse and the healing power of sport and family." I found it to be very moving and I connected to it on many levels.
    25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Indian Pop music, from Bollywood movies; Adele, a new young British soul singer.
    26. What did you want and get? A better physique.
    27. What did you want and not get? A new addition to my family.
    28. What was your favorite film of this year? I’ve Loved You for So Long; Rachel Getting Married; Slumdog Millionaire.
    29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 41; I worked; went to see the Flower Show on an extended lunch two hours (it was not worth viewing this year); went to Weight Watchers and hit my 50 pound mark. I think the rest of the day was spent like any other.
    30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? For me, more time. For Liz, my having a drivers license.
    31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? Classic Sporty/Preppy with a modern twist.
    32. What kept you sane? Liz; exercising; my friends – especially Susan Hill and Sue S.
    33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Anne Hathaway. Classic, gorgeous and so talented.
    34. What political issue stirred you the most? The 2008 election overall and how ugly it got towards the end with all the hate mongering and the twisted lies and rumors in regard to Barrack Obama’s heritage, religion and origin of birth. Our pitiful economic times.
    35. Who did you miss? Friends who live too far away like Steven H. – spending time with him is fun and enlightening; Rachel, she lives too far away to share our daily interactions and keeping up with the minutia of our lives; Michael C. and Scott T. other friends who live out in Arizona. Both of them make me laugh my ass off when we are together. My Nana Rhoads – who has been gone now for over 13 years. She made me believe that I could do and be anything I wanted; Joe Fee – funniest person I ever knew - I miss him still.
    36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. Don’t be afraid to try something. Do it afraid. Failure is not starting something, or not getting back up when you have fallen.
    37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. You make me feel like a natural woman by Aretha Franklin. I heard it recently at a bar and it was like hearing this song for the first time. For me, it represents rediscovering myself though my recent life changes and renewals. Plus, Aretha is such an amazing singer, what's not to love about this song?
    Looking out on the morning rain I used to feel so uninspired and when i knew i had to face another day lord it made me feel so tired. before the day i met you, life was so unkind You're the key to my piece of mind
    chorus: cause you make me feel you make me feel you make me feel like a natural woman (woman)
    when my soul was in the lost and found you came along to claim it i didnt know just what was wrong with me till your kiss helped me name it. now im no longer doubtful of what im living for and if i make you happy i dont need to do more
    chorus: ohh baby what ya done to me (whatcha done to me) made me feel so good inside (good inside) and i just wanna be (wanna be) close to you you make me feel so alive

    Monday, January 5, 2009

    Still life with fruits and paper crowns

    Inspiration is eluding me and as there are few notions swirling in my brain. I am in thought hibernation, awaiting a thaw to warm my frozen state of mind. A few ideas about resolutions have flitted about, but there are probably better stories out there and more glib magazine articles that could do better justice than I. Ah, I hate this post holiday time of year. The gray days, the threat of winter squalls and storms, the early darkness and the need to start things anew in the dead of winter. My favorite Christmas hymn, In the Bleak Midwinter is never more appropriate than now. In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen , snow on snow, snow on snow. In the bleak midwinter, Long ago. The song is about the birth of Christ and the brightness soon to follow his arrival. It's about finding something within yourself to give, to show love, appreciation, a simple bit of sharing of ones self. I like the opening stanza; it best describes this time of year. The world feels desolate and cold yet if you hold on and believe, a love and happiness will come to you. Either that or you will freeze to death in some cold garret, like the little match girl.
    We had a lovely Holiday season, many visitors and parties, fun times and lots to eat and drink. Perhaps too much of all of the above actually. Feeling the post-partum, mid-winter blahs again. You could set a watch to my moods. Predictable as the changing of the seasons. Mostly I am just now coming down from a solid week of guests and too much stimulation. Put me in an isolation tank, I'm ready for my sensory deprivation time now. It's not so much depression or true winter blues, it's more a feeling of now what? You rush to get through Christmas. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day feels like a week and then BOOM! it's over. The week between Christmas and New Year's day goes by in a blink. As great as the holidays were this year - simple with minimal gift buying and light on obligations, there is that sense of having to slog through the long month of January without much to look forward to...except January 20th, Inauguration Day. Spring and possible warmer days are at least 2 months away. Baseball season, Pitchers and Catchers for Spring training, still two months away. Biking season and daffodils, all two months away. No wonder the retail, gym and weight loss marketing worlds go into over-drive come January 1st. If we don't try to improve ourselves, lose weight, reorganize and get our lives back into order, we may all jump off a bridge or not get out of bed. January should be considered the official month of self improvement. Better living through retail therapy and gym memberships.