Friday, April 28, 2006

A Recipe for Magical Fruit

In honor of my siblings, who love to laugh (about farting):

Beans, Beans,
The Magical Fruit.
The more you eat,
the more you toot.
The more you toot,
the better you feel,
so let's have Beans
for every meal!

I am currently in a mega soup-jag. Making soup is so wonderful - flexible, delicious, served warm, and easy to store & re-heat. It doesn't get much better than that! I get into trouble when I have to follow a recipe to a 'T', so making soup suits my bad habits. The sub-category of my soup-jag is BEAN SOUPS. I'm really crazy about them! My favorite one is in the pot cooking right now: White Bean with Vegetables, Garlic, & Rosemary. The best thing is that gets better with age; so don't eat it the first day. Let it cool and put it in the refrigerator for tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day after that. This recipe is straight from my favorite book: Souped Up!

Cook's Note: Instead of using yucky canned beans, use dried beans. The best method I've found is to quick-cook them - this involves covering the beans in a pot with at least 2 inches of cold water, then bringing it to a boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain, rinse, then let it sit until you're ready to use them. Always drain the water (along with the magical stuff that makes you toot), rinse, then put them in the soup to cook fully.

White Bean with Vegetables, Garlic, & Rosemary

  • 1 pound (2 1/2 cups) white beans (cannellini or northern), quick cooked and drained
  • 2 to 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced (I use 6)
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 carrots, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 large potato, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary (or 2 TBSP chopped fresh)
  • 16 cups chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 16-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice or red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt

Place the beans, garlic, onion, celery, carrots, potato, rosemary, and stock in heavy-bottomed stockpot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to low and cook, partially covered, until the beans have fallen apart, about 2 hours.

Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until the soup begins to thicken, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to container, cover, and refrigerate at least overnight, and up to 2 days.

Place in a pot, add the parsley, and gently reheat. Add the lemon juice, and garnish with fresh rosemary. Add salt to taste.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

For the Ladies

If you haven't heard about The Keeper, I definitely recommend checking it out. Another great link: here. Economical, safe, waste-reducing; and like I've said before, what more could a girl want? There are other options aside from disposable Tampons or Pads, but The Public isn't informed. It is something we have to find out for ourselves.

Gladrags are another great option, but I like The Keeper best.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thoughts about Thoughts

"We read privately, mentally listening to the writer's voice and translating the writer's thoughts. The book remains static and fixed; the reader journeys through it. Picking up the book in the first place entails an active pursuit of understanding."

Eats, Shoots and Leaves
Lynn Truss

I stewed on this passage for a couple of days after reading it. It is so true. I love "listening" to the writer as I read: style and sound based on ideas, word usage, and punctuation. Non-fiction especially; the writer's voice seems stronger, or more personal. Maybe that I why I love reading blogs.

Although a little off-topic, it made me think of when I read through Madeleine L'Engle's The Crosswicks Journal - Books 1-3 (A Circle of Quiet, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, and The Irrational Season) along with Two Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage, a couple of years ago. I can honestly say that while reading them, I felt like she was talking to me - teaching me. I can even remember writing a very peculiar daybook entry at the time, saying, "Madeleine and I were talking the other day..." Eeeeweee. Isn't that weird? But I honest-to-goodness felt like that. Her presence is very strong in her non-fiction. I highly recommend that series: I learned A LOT (she also enhanced my affection for the semi-colon). And finally, I have no doubt; that woman is definitely an "N".

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Starbeans vs. The Scratching Post

Starbeans is very funny about our cats' scratching post.

He gets right next to it, props himself up, puts out his little chubby hand and gets *this close* to touching it, then pulls away. Then again: *almost touch*, pull away, *almost touch*, pull away, and so on and so forth. He'll do this 4, 5, 6 times before actually touching it; when he finally makes contact, he jerks back like it is hot molten lava, or a thousand prickly cactus spikes, makes a "haaaa" breathing noise and smiles.

He's 9 months old. Where, in his little baby brain, did this come from?

Monday, April 24, 2006

I Can Count: A POEM

three teens
live scene
sex gene
Kevin Keene
date queen
mine spleen

Author's Note (4/29): After a few people have asked me, I am here to confirm that yes, indeed, I wrote this poem. It was written during a fit of enthusiastic inspiration several years ago. I like saying it out loud. Interestingly, it only counted up to 18 until I re-discovered it in one my past daybooks. I like it much better with the full 20: plenty has such a nice, definitive feel to it, whereas date queen just kind of left me hanging.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Beautiful Blue Eyes

Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest; only, my baby is the cutest. Seriously, though - isn't he precious? And isn't this whale shirt the most darling thing you've ever seen?

A Pooping Surprise

I checked out a couple of books from the library last winter on Infant Potty Training after reading about it in several different blogs.

The basic concept is this: Instead of training our babies to pee & poop in their diapers, we should be training them to go in a receptacle - toilet, sink, tub, the ground, a bowl, etc. And like Pavlov's dogs, use a 'signal' every time the baby does its thing. The recommended signal is whistling. They will soon equate their signal with the pot & use it correspondingly.

The key is to observe the rhythms and signs a baby is giving off that it is peeing or pooping - focused attention, quietness, grunting, etc. The books I've read also suggested getting them on the bowl (or whatever receptacle you choose) right after they've eaten (or during), or when they wake up from naps or the night's sleep - that these times are when they are most likely to pee.

It is a common practice throughout much of Asia and Africa; and was commonplace in the US and UK until the last 3 or so generations. My own father-in-law's baby book states that he was trained at 8 months. An impressive feat.

I've been training Starbeans part-time since December. I keep a bowl under our bed and put him on it every morning when we first wake up. I'm pretty relaxed about it; if he pees in the bowl, that's great - if he doesn't, that's fine too. But more often than not, he pees. I first chose to whistle (as the signal) while he was peeing, but realized that it the same whistle I use to call one of our cats, so I switched to saying, "go-go".

Each morning that he pees, it is one less diaper to wash and I view it as a step closer to being fully potty-trained. He seems to enjoy watching himself pee as well, which the books discussed. Tip: When I hold him over the bowl, I watch the clock and keep him there for no longer than 10 minutes. That way, I don't stress wondering how long we've been there or get frustrated wishing he would pee. More often than not, he pees within the first few minutes.

Now for the Big Announcement: Dant-da-da-DA!

This morning, in addition to peeing in the bowl, Starbeans pooped in it. I swear that he was aware of what he was doing too, because he started pooping within 10-20 seconds of sitting on the bowl. I was so proud. He hasn't pooped without a diaper on since he was a newborn (he is currently almost 9 months old); I am convinced he knew what he was doing.

I want to ease him into potty-training at a very young age: but I don't want to stress about it, or introduce it as a completely foreign concept at the age of 2. I think things are going very well. I am pleased.

So, that is my Pooping Surprise.

Friday, April 21, 2006

An Ardent Plea

Have you taken the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator yet?

I have been infatuated with this temperament test for 5 years now, ever since I was introduced to Please Understand Me II (D. Kiersey) by a friend at work. I've taken it in a variety of forms: long vs. short, online vs. paper, at work vs. at home. Almost every time I take it, I second-guess myself into thinking that I will get different results than before - but it has never happened. I am unbelievably consistent.

When you're taking the test, go with your gut instinct - you may waver in-between questions, but go with you do or think most often.

Here is a bit of info on what the letters and their combinations mean:

NF: Idealist - abstract in terminology, cooperative in tool usage
NT: Rational - abstract in terminology, utilitarian in tool usage
SJ: Guardian - concrete in terminology, cooperative in tool usage
SP: Artisan - concrete in terminology, utilitarian in tool usage

E: Extroverted (energy from people)
I: Introverted (energy from being alone)
N: Intuitive (abstract)
S: Sensing (concrete)
T: Thinking (decisions based on logic and reason)
F: Feeling (decisions based on feeling)
J: Judging (not judgmental - judging. Having a basic instinct on what you think/feel)
P: Perceiving/Probing (having to probe into things to see what you think/feel)

Read Please Understand Me II for a deeper understanding. It is written in layman's terms; it costs 15 dollars and is available at your local bookstore. But take the test online first. When you've completed the test, google your letter-combination: for example, INTJ or ESFP. You'll find several different sites with descriptions of your results. I like the pages within the "Portrait" family. You'll see what I mean.

If your curious about me, I am an ENFP: The Champion. Or, as this page says, The Inspirer. And yes, this description describes me to a T. There are things within it that I've never been able to verbalize, but when I read it, I thought, "That's it!! How did they know??"

A word to the critics: This test is not meant to pigeon-hole folks. It points people in a general direction rather than forcing them into a particular mold. With 4 basic categories and 16 different sub-categories, there is a lot of wiggle room.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Confessions of an AFV Lover

What is AFV, you ask? America's Funniest Home Videos, now hosted by my main man Tom Bergeron.

Yes, people: I've loved America's Funniest Home Videos since elementary school (it's been on the air for 17 years), back when funny-man Bob Saget was the host. I thought he was hilarious then, but I've seen re-runs since and I've changed my mind. Daisy Fuentes and that one guy paired up as hosts for awhile too, but they were a flop. But: I don't truly care about the hosts. I just love watching people biff it.

  • The man on ski-blades, rolling on a sandy beach, shouting, "Get out of the way!" to a woman on a leisurely walk: she didn't know which way to go, neither did he, and BOOF - collision.
  • The old woman with a giant bowl of syrupy red juice, turning around while saying, "Now be careful kids, I'll take care of this", and SPLOOSH - the bottom breaks out of the bowl and she is left skidding across the very narrow kitchen, clinging to cupboards in a pool of sticky liquid
  • The birthday party, on the patio, above the pool with the middle-aged guy proudly bringing out the birthday cake without watching where he was going, and SKEEETKTH -tripping over a chair, he and the birthday cake do a nose-dive into the pool, bringing in a poor bystander with them

But my most favorite has got to be the Music Montages. Watching 10-15 people wipe out in the exact same way to a pleasing beat? Get me the remote and rewind that baby at least 3 times! I also love using the "slow-mo" option on the remote and watching the BIFF-BOOF-BAM over and over in slow motion. No, I am not sadistic.

Besides hysterical laughter, I think I find a lot of joy in watching other people being simply human. We all botch a judgment call now and then. How many people haven't called a stranger "Mom" while not paying attention at a store? I know I've biffed it in a wide variety of amusing ways, never to be caught on camera (yet). I think I enjoy the realism: we aren't plastic, we aren't all the exact same size and shape, we don't have the perfect hair and make-up at all times, we are clumsy now and then. But most importantly, we all belong to a group of family or friends. I would say 98% of the clips shown take place within that context. It's wonderful! And now that I have a baby, the infamous Baby Clips have become quite appealing as well. Imagine that.

So now you know it: I'm a BIG fan.

We tape the show every Sunday night (when Extreme Makeover: Home Addition doesn't crowd it out). That way, the laughs can keep on rolling, minus the commercials, with our handy-dandy remote. AFV: what a show.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This Little Piggy

We had our friend Wilburn over for lunch and cake Easter afternoon. I had to post this beautiful picture of him playing This Little Piggy with Starbeans. It was just so adorable. Starbeans gave him a lot of gummy grins to show how much he enjoyed the new game. It was great! For lunch, we ate curried couscous with vegetables, chickpeas, and chicken. For dessert, a homemade yellow cake. We feasted like dukes and duchess!

Spelling segway: I just spelled "dessert" wrong - I didn't include the 2nd S. It triggered a memory from 4th grade, when Shane Dyke taught our class how to remember the difference between "dessert" and "desert". He said, "Dessert has two S's, because you always want more". So, when I just looked at dessert spelled desert, I thought, "I want more!" and put in another S - oh yes.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Living on Very Little

By choice, we've spent the last 6 months living on a part-time income and eBay. With a mortgage. We thought we had the money-game figured out, but we have still learned a lot. Mostly that there is nothing, I repeat: nothing, to be afraid of when it comes to living on one income. We spent the first 5 years of our marriage living on a double-income: frugal, but with a lot more room to spare. We've had to cinch the belt up a bit, but the transition has been a lot easier than expected. I made a list of things that we've learned that may seem obvious, but which have had a profound effect on our day-to-day life.

Tips for living on very little:
  • Don't eat out.
  • Cook from scratch.
  • Buy fresh vegetables, beans, and grains.
  • Bake from scratch.
  • Don't buy yourself juice, coffee, or pop every time you leave the house.
  • Learn to love your local thrift store. We look for almost everything from household items, books, and clothes, to decorations, gifts, and pet supplies at thrift stores. They are a $$ saving treasure-trove; and everything is so much more interesting!
  • Buy used books.
  • Only own 1 car.
  • Buy a used car from someone you trust.
  • If you're close enough, walk (or bike).
  • Use your credit card like a check-book - don't spend it unless you have it in the bank. Period. This works in your favor even more if you have a credit card that builds you points towards free items, for example: frequent flyer miles. We've used our frequent flyer miles for 6 free tickets within the last 2 years.
  • When you travel, choose destinations where you can stay with friends or family.
  • Become a regular at your local library. The amount & variety of books, DVDs, CDs, and magazines available makes my heart glad.
  • Cut out cable - learn to love your PBS station.
  • Patronize your local parks, museums, and cultural centers.
  • Focus on people, not things.
  • Don't do daycare: stay home with your kids (if you have them).
  • If you have a baby, use cloth diapers & flannel wipes. $350 in supplies off the bat, a little bit of time to wash them every other day (not a big deal at all), and you've saved yourself thousands just in the first couple of years. (We line-dry them year round. Inside in the winter; after all, we live in MN!)
  • If you have a baby, breast-feed. Not only is it superior nutritionally, but it is clean, free, convenient, and you don't have to wash any bottles.
  • Use The Keeper or GladRags.
  • Own, don't rent. Start building some equity.
  • Sell on eBay. More than likely, you have hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars sitting around your house that other people are willing to pay $$ for. Make sure you research your market first!
  • If you can help it, use a cell phone or a land line. Not both.
  • Pay off your school loans ASAP. We axed our school loans of over 40,000 dollars in under 5 years, through 1,000-2,000 dollar payments per month. Within those 5 years we bought a house, traveled by plane 3 times per year, ate out with our friends, and never felt the burn of restriction. All this through pretty moderate-paying jobs. We also drove a mini-van we bought from Squeeze's brother for $600 for 2+ years. Not exactly glamorous, but it did the job (& helped a number of our friends & family members move).
  • Most importantly, think outside the box: you don't have to live how your parents, friends, co-workers, or neighbors do. Or how you think people live based off the television.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Lady Cardinal

We have a pair of cardinals in our neighborhood. They like to come to our yard and pluck pieces of the dead rosemary bush that we didn't bring in last winter (we're Zone 4 here...Rosemary is not a perennial in MN).

They are building a nest with the rosemary twigs. Aside from chickadees, nuthatches, and little rosy finches, I think that I like the cardinals the best. They are the royalty of the Urban Bird Population: and while the male is showy and striking with his brilliant red body and black face, I think I like the subtle beauty of the female best. She is brown with just a trace of red, a black face, and the most beautiful orange beak. She is radiant!

I can honestly say that I get excited every time I see them in the yard.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, Blog

My blog turned 1 week old today. Awwwww...

Looking back at my posts, I see that I'm very fond of creating lists. You should see the drafts I have saved! Nothing but lists.

It was in the mid-70's today in Minneapolis. Unseasonably warm, but glorious. We scoured our front porch & then moved all of our plants out there (it's their summer home). Having an enclosed front porch is so wonderful; it becomes another room of our house during spring, summer, & fall. Airy, sunny, tons of windows for the cats to look out of - oh man, it's just great. Starbeans really likes it too, because he can look out the window at the cars and buses.

Speaking of Starbeans, he has one little pointy tooth which just popped up within the last couple of weeks. It's maybe a millimeter out, but I now can see it when he has his mouth open. When I discovered it last week, I didn't see it, I felt it: on my hand. It didn't hurt, but it definitely surprised me. Little guy! He is just so gorgeous. I wuv him.

10-4, stat. Over and out. Roger that.
This is A. Borealis signing out.
phsssst. beep.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Good Books

I've managed to squeeze in a few good books this winter & spring.

  • Night : Elie Wiesel (this one made me cry)
  • The Last Unicorn : Peter S. Beagle (a re-re-read)
  • Tooth Fitness: Your Guide to Healthy Teeth : Thomas McGuire (I learned how to brush my teeth correctly & now it takes 5 minutes longer)
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves : Lynn Truss (I found my inner Stickler)
  • Souped Up! : Sally Sampson (I've had this one out from the library for 3+ months)
  • Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent's Guide : Aviva Jill Romm (a must-read)
  • History: everything you need to know about American history but never learned : Kenneth C. Davis (just starting)

Monday, April 10, 2006

I adore you, Cilantro!

I love Cilantro.


What else could a girl ask for?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ookie-ookie Baby Talk

Talking baby gibberish to Starbeans is so natural; it came on spontaneously and comes out just as smoothly. And he loves it.

Some examples:

  • "Wookie at 'dis!" - Looky (otherwise known as look) at this! I say this when I'm bringing him around or pointing at something that I think he'll find interesting.
  • "What wong?" - What is wrong? This comes out if he is whimpering or crying for a reason unknown.
  • "But why are you cwying?" - In the same vein as above.
  • "Hewoh darlene" - Translated: Hello darling.
  • "It's baff-time darlene" - It's bath-time darling.
  • "Teley-hones??" Telephone, Starbeans?? (He loves our phone) This one is a Squeeze original.

Pamper Me Nails

I saw a Nail Shop the other day. You know the kind - acrylic, fillings, french manicures, fancy-schmancy colors and lengths. Maybe even pierced nails, like a pierced tongue.

I can't remember exactly where it was, but it was called "Pamper Me Nails". That seemed like such an odd name to me: like someone should take charge and punctuate it to put a little order and sense into the title (Sticklers Unite!). I read it like "Pamper my nails"; only in my head it is, "Pamper me nails!" Definitely with an exclamation point, in pirate voice.

I've done a little punctilious punctuation brainstorming. If I may:

  • Pamper Me: Nails
  • Pamper Me! Nails
  • Pamper Me - Nails
  • Pamper Me, Nails

Argh matey, pamper me nails!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Hairy Pits

I have hair in my armpits. As an American woman this is fairly unusual, depending on the circles one runs in. My legs have been unshaven for years now. I stopped shaving regularly in my mid-teens for novelty's sake (and what a novelty it was); which mutated into shaving them once every couple weeks during the summer in my early-twenties until present day (28). The winter?? Forget about it. What's the point? But during all this time, I faithfully shaved my armpits every-so-often, perhaps 3-4 times a month. Really faithful, right?

I've recently discovered benefits of hairy pits and I'm going to use this space to explain why.

Starbeans was born last summer: July 30th, to be exact. We co-sleep, so I've spent a lot of time breast-feeding while lying down (in bed). Until the cold winter months, most nights were spent with just a bra, no shirt. This all gave me plenty of time to sniff my own pits and start formulating theories.

My hypothesis is as follows: I believe that bare skin assists in breeding the little bacteria in the armpits causing the acrid scent of B.O. Think of all those little knooks and crannies, skin-on-skin, allowing the moisture to do its thing.

Consider the facts:
  • I shower at night
  • Going to bed, I would smell fairly inoffensive
  • Skin on skin, as the night wore on, so would the stench
  • Frequent feedings were spent awake, sniffing and hypothesizing
  • By morning, it was like I never took a shower
  • Tom's of Maine was powerless against the force of my B.O.

I decided something needed to change; I didn't have to take this. It was all very unpleasant! So I took action: to test my theory, I stopped shaving those few times a month. As my hair grew, what were my findings? My pits were much less offensive - my B.O. had been muted. I swear it! And so it is. I think the hair gets in the way of the bacteria's happy stomping grounds; it's a lot more work for those little buggers to move around and multiply.

  • I'm happy
  • Starbeans is happy
  • My pits are happy (& hairy)

Why not slather on more Deo for my B.O., you say? Well, I've found that the more I cut out artificial fragrances and perfumes, the less tolerance I have for them. I used to roll my eyes when my Aunt Laurel would run from the room, arms flapping and eyes watering; but now I understand it. I just can't take it, and why should I have to?

I'd rather go au natural.

Roy Orbicat


Friday, April 07, 2006

Spring Crocus

The crocus are up and blooming in the midwest. They are lovely: it is so nice to see bits of color in our flower beds, a relief from the endlessly drab dirty brown that the aging winter season leaves us with. It gets tough towards the end, especially for more tender souls; but the snow is gone and the sun is out.

Spring has come.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Vanilla Extract

Slit a fresh vanilla bean lengthwise to expose the seeds, then insert it into a small jar containing approx. 1 cup brandy or cognac. Bend the bean, if neccessary, to immerse it in the liquid. Cover the jar and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 weeks or as long as several years.

page 32
Basic Baking
Lora Brody

A Reader: Trying to Write

I feel like I am better at reading (& percolating) than I am at writing; however, I feel compelled to blog. I've been thinking about it for a long time. Something inside me says, "BLOG". I love reading 'em, so why don't trying writing 'em? Or 'um.

My main fear is that I will completely forsake my daybook; my second fear is that I will expose myself to a level of vulnerability that I am uncomfortable with. But, crap: I've embarrassed myself in big and small crowds more than once (some which I remember fondly, others which I wish I didn't remember at all).

For future reference, from this point forward:
  • My husband is known as "Squeeze"
  • My baby is known as "Starbeans"
  • I am known as "A. Borealis"

I've seen the Aurora Borealis once; it blew my mind. I was probably 20 years old at the time. Before that point, I could never understand what the Alaskan fishermen were using as their fabled guide - The Northern Lights, what is that? I pictured a few bright lights in the sky, but just didn't get it. When I saw it with Squeeze, we pulled off the side of the road, sat in a parking lot, and I literally wondered if 1) aliens were landing, 2) the world was ending, or 3) God was making a Grand Entrance. Squeeze was like, "Duh - it's the Aurora Borealis". He saw them with his Grandpa when he was young, so he knew what it was. Lucky!

I've chosen A. Borealis for myself not because I think I'm some mysterious fairy-like light-beam, but because I love what God has created. The intricate design of creation is lovely, intelligent, fascinating, and downright amazing. I particularly love fungi; but I would imagine any potential blog reader may discover this about me at some point.

I also love punctuation. I may not be perfect to a "T", but a well-placed semi-colon starts my wheels turning.