Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eat My Arm Off

This hand lotion is so unbelievably yummy, that I find myself just sitting here smelling my skin. It honestly makes me want to eat my arm off. I can't even put into words how delicious it smells.

The official description says something about coconut milk and powdered sugar and vanilla and who knows what else. All I know is that it's making me hungry, and I'm thinking that my left arm will be the first to go.

(In case you're wondering about the boring details, yes it is a fab hand creme. My hands are soft without feeling slimey or greasy, and it lasts a long time. It's spendy, but if you're going to splurge, it's a really gratifying one.)

Mean Monkeys

This morning, my sister, Magpie, sent me this text:

"I had a dream that u were movin 2 new subdivision being built but it had long uphill drive 2 get there & a forest behind it w/ mean monkeys n the trees."

Which is amusingly whack on its own, but in one of my own dreams last night, I was yelling at some woman who was being mean to her. (And the fact that Magpie and I were baking pies and living in a duplex with sidewalk chalk drawings everywhere only adds to the fun of it all.) But, evidently, we were both worried about each other in our dreams last night.

She and I have always had really vidid - and often strange - dreams. And we usually have more than one that we remember each night. Before last night's saga of pie baking and sidewalk chalk, I dreamt that I was looking at a table or ledge covered in flowers and plants and greenery, and I was inspired to write a children's book. I don't remember the subject of my book, but evidently, it was wildly successful, and I was walking around just beaming from the inside out.

And a couple of nights ago, I dreamt that I opened my own bake shop. I've been daydreaming about owning my own bake shop for no fewer than 4 years now, but this has been my first night-dream of one. My daydreams have even gone so far as to have planned the entire menu of classic items and a few new twists (just say yes to gluten- and dairy-free yummies!). But back to the dream - again, it was just a really happy, content dream. My dreams are nearly always so vivid that whichever emotions I experience in my dream are carried over to the next day. Which is all fabulous until I have a bad or anxiety-filled dream, lol. But this morning, I woke up feeling the most smiley I've felt in a long while.

I'm sure that my bake shop dream was inspired by having recently watched "Stranger Than Fiction." Her bake shop is so close to what I'd like mine to look and feel like! And her philosophy on changing the world rings so true and close to my heart. Sigh...But she really does need an old piano in the corner of the shop and way more cookies on that plate.

One day, I'll write a post on lucid dreaming and the ability to control your dreams while you're having them. Ooh boy, I can't wait.

Road Work Ahead

Yeah, so as you can tell, my blog page is undergoing some remodeling projects. Projects that involve tedious tweaking of pixels, xml values, and such. I still need to add a list of my most favorite links, and change up some of the images here that don't look quite right. My eyes got too buggy last night to get it all finished in one go. Til then, please bear with the clunkiness of it all!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Peanuts & Potatoes

So, first off, I have to confess - after my run today, I stopped off at the McDonald's drive-thru. But, in my defense, I did only pick up an enormous diet coke and a small fries. And also, I had a bowl of vegetarian stir fry and brown rice with me, ready to eat when I got home. But I convinced myself that I needed a shot of caffeine and some carbs and salt to tide me over until the yum veggies. Hello, post-run recovery. Right?

Anyhow, imagine my surprise when I peeked inside the little paper bag at my french fries and found them nestled next to a bag of peanuts. Peanuts?? Evidently, peanuts are the new ketchup. This is proof that I'm certainly behind the culinary times.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cooking with Sara: The Magical Fruit

I woke up to a blustery day today, and the first thing that came to mind was "I need to make chili!!"

I love this chili recipe, and I've been waiting for the opportunity to whip up a batch. No matter what, chili always tastes better when it's gray and gloomy outside. I love that this recipe is actually very healthy; I don't understand why store-bought chili has to be so crammed full of fat? And, yes - it's oh so yummy, mmmmm.

In case you were starting to back away from my blog, don't worry - this recipe post will be much less detailed and complicated than my cookie how-to. One of the things I love about baking is how precise it is. But we leave the precision behind for this chili. Part of its appeal is the quick n' dirty approach to putting it together. Once you have the ingredients lined up on the counter, it shouldn't take you more than 15 minutes to get it into the oven.

I snapped a few pictures of the process for fun. One day I may spring for a real camera so that these are pretty-pretty, and I look like some kind of professional. Til then, I'm kidding no one :)
You seriously just dump in the ingredients and stir. No need to get complicated!
All chili ingredients are now combined and ready to go into the oven.

The Bomb Chili*1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 lb ground beef (or ground turkey or venison)
2, 28oz cans diced tomatoes, in juice
4, 16oz cans beans, drained
1, 6oz can tomato paste
1/4 c. dijon mustard
2-4 Tbsp. red chili garlic paste
1/2 bottle of beer (Molson Canadian is yum)
2 tsp. Johnny's seasoning salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until translucent. Add the ground beef, and cook until browned. Drain off any excess fat.

While the meat is cooking, dump all remaining ingredients into a large roasting pan and stir to combine. Stir in cooked meat, and then put roasting pan into the oven. Bake for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Serves approx 12.

Chili wouldn't be complete without a side of cornbread. This recipe is so freaking good, that everytime I make it, I swear I'm going to eat the entire pan. It really doesn't even need any butter on it. Just serve it up straight from the warm pan, and you'll be everyone's new best friend.
Notice that my buttermilk is in a ziploc? I buy the quart-sized container of buttermilk and then divide it up into ziplocs containing 1 cup each. And then I freeze the bags for future use. It's more economical and way more convenient that way.

Because I use coarse grain cornmeal, you can actually see the little grits in the batter. I think it results in a finished texture that's got a little more oomph and interest than your typical cakey batter.

Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread
courtesy of Allrecipes.com
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. cornmeal, pref. coarse-grained
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square glass baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. In a medium-sized bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the sugar, and then adds the eggs and beat until well combined. Dissolve the baking soda in the buttermilk and add mixture to the bowl, stirring to combine. Add the dry ingredients and stir until few lumps remain. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

* I can take only partial credit for this chili recipe. Before I moved to San Diego, my roommate got this recipe (and its inherited name) from some friends. Over the years, I've made a few changes and made the measurements a little more exact. Due to my lack of creativity, I've left its original name intact. It's a rather unfortunate name, considering what the recipe is for. Any ideas for a new one?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mad Cow

This rant (yes, another one already) is to be blamed on my horrible "side salad" from lunch today. To my huge disappointment there was more cheese on my little salad than actual vegetables. You see, I'm allergic to dairy. It's quite the sad state of affairs, let me assure you. I miss cheese something fierce, but if I let myself eat it more than once or twice a month, my entire face becomes a bumpy, red, and painful mess. As a result, I'm forever asking if items on a menu contain cheese; and more often than not, they do.

When did we become such a cheese-obsessed culture? Aside from the usual suspects like burgers, tacos, and sandwiches, it's become nearly standard to get cheese on fries, salads, and on eggs (Ack! Two hits of dairy in one!). Really, do we need a smothering of cheese in order to choke down a salad?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sunnyside Up

It's really hard to get a grumpy start on my day when these are the views from our shower.

Ohhhhh yessss, I can see views of treetops and sunshine every morning while I'm letting the hot water pour down on me.

When we first moved in, I was more than a little freaked about the glass shower doors. And to add to my horrors, between these two windows is a huge mirror. Which means that there is a giant reflected version of naked me staring back every morning. But now, I've learned to look right and look left and let my eyes settle on the greenery and sunshine. And it's become one of my favorite places in our house.

It's made me realize how much I miss nature and trees and the general green-ness of Oregon. Over the past seven years, I've slowly become more and more accustomed to how brown Southern California is. Truly, without irrigation, this region would be one giant patch of beige. And because we live near the center of the city, we're surrounded by industrial buildings, high density housing, and shopping complexes. But we somehow lucked out in finding our place. We didn't set out looking for a condo with second-floor views, but I've realized just how much I feel at home staring out the windows at those trees and hilltops.

It certainly adds to my persistent state of dreaminess. And that's what gets me through each and every day with a glint in my eye and the hint of a smile on my lips.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Parking Lot Etiquette

Take 1. (Because I know for a fact that I'll sadly be forced revisit this issue in the future.)

Let me first apologize to those of you San Diego residents who truly are thoughtful and respectful and considerate. You do exist; the handful of you may even be my friend already, because I know for a fact that my friends are keepers.

This entry was spurred on by my lunchtime drive through a busy parking lot. The Ralph's parking lot over there is always chaotic at lunchtime, and I try to avoid driving through it if I can help it. But today, I was wandering aimlessly and found myself in said parking lot. To my huge annoyance, I watched drivers barely even pause for an old woman cross the parking lot. In all honesty, it almost didn't even count as a rolling stop. I was so completely shocked that my jaw dropped, and I returned to work fuming mad.

As such, I'm forced to jot down a few common sense (one would think) rules of parking lot courtesy. If only I could carry pocket-sized printouts of these to fasten to rocks and throw at people when they offend. I jest. Sorta.

The Rules, a working list:

  1. Come to a complete stop for old people, and wait patiently for them to completely cross the road.

  2. Ditto for pregnant women, women with strollers, and little kids.

  3. If I have my blinker on to signal that I'm waiting for a parking spot, do not swervingly pull into it and pretend you didn't see me. Unless you are legally blind, you definitely saw me.

  4. Don't even bother giving me your "courtesy" wave as you cut me off or steal my parking spot. I'm not fooled by your smile and hand in the air. In fact, I'd almost rather you flipped me off.

  5. If you drive a minivan, give the same consideration to runners and bikers out there that you would to your precious child-cargo. You wouldn't burn rubber through a crosswalk if your kid were in it, so don't make me fear for my life while I'm running through one.

  6. It takes more energy to heave your shopping cart onto the plant-covered median than it does to walk over and return it properly. You might burn a few more calories that way too.
I know I haven't exhausted all the stupidities of parking lot drivers. What others am I missing?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Elephant Knees

Ok, I've had it. Enough already. I can't win. Final Score: Sara 0, Tights 1.

The little sizing chart on the back of packages of tights and nylons is based on height and weight. It seems fairly easy - find where your two numbers land in the grid to see the letter of your size. In the past, I've always picked up tights with the correct letter stamped on the corner of the package. And they always, always end up slipping down over the course of the day. By lunchtime, the crotch of them is always hovering near mid-thigh, and every trip to the bathroom has me tugging them back up. And snagging them with my ratty cuticles.

So, the last time I bought tights, I thought I'd be clever and purchase the next size up. I have the stumpiest of legs, but I was so sick of the dang tights falling down, that I decided to outsmart the system and fix things once and for all. I gleefully brought home a pair of tights intended for someone 20lbs heavier than me.

I wore them for the first time today, and walked out my front door feeling adorably twee with my slate gray tights and cute little black flats. But as I made my first restroom jaunt this morning, I noticed that as I was walking, the tights were once again slipping down. No, this can't be! But this time, the crotch stayed put. And the extra material was gathering at my knees and ankles, into folds. Um, folds of gray fabric bunched up on my knobby knees so does not look cute. It looks exactly like elephant knees: