Friday, November 30, 2007

5 things about the holidays

1. We left bright and early for the airport on Black Friday. My dad put on the AM traffic report. Which usually involves a harried play by play of expressway jams, accidents etc. This morning it consisted of: "Well, it looks like all the roads are clear. Most of the cars are filling the mall parking lots." And then proceeded to check in with ON THE SCENE REPORTERS at various malls to report on how much parking was available. My mouth sort of hung open for awhile. I ended up with plenty of time to reacquaint myself with O'Hare.

2. Brussel Sprouts are the new mashed potatoes. For Thanksgiving I roasted some with shallots and, vaguely inspired by Mollie Katzen, threw in some mustard and maple syrup for good measure. I wasn't super happy with them, as I like my sprouts unadorned and caramelized to the point of falling apart, and these were tender and tasted like something more than eau de brussel sprout. So I was as surprised as anyone when I started hearing a chorus of "who made those brussel sprouts???" Closely followed by "Where did you get them so tiny???" With a few "I don't even like brussel sprouts and these are great!" So I preserved my cooking reputation and promoted the farmers market all over the place. And word is getting out... It's the hot new holiday dish. Just ask Richard, who cooked his own Thanksgiving sprouts.

3. Too bad I didn't wait a month and save $750 before seeing the Second City show Between Barack and a Hard Place. Now I'll never see the man star in the show himself!

4. Hanukkah is FAST approaching and I found myself menorahless and menorah-owning-family-member-or-roomate-less! I decided not to repeat questionable homemade experiments of years past and turned to ebay. And immediately found the same menorah that I took off to college and promptly lost in a move! It's now gracing my kitchen table, courtesy of a lovely seller who informed me his wife's name is also "rivka". I'm strongly pondering a latke party, even if it's just for myself. I have all kinds of colorful latke recipes involving parsnips, beets, and spinach, oh my.

5. Tomorrow is... Demember! I'm going to celebrate by posting my own book awards over the next few days. I know you can't wait.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Taste of Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! We got dressed up in our finery just for fun, and spent the afternoon cooking and eating at Alexa's... here's a brief pictorial rundown of Richard's second-favorite holiday event of the year (second only to B&Q's caroling party, apparently):

The festive preparations: Alexa monitored the turkey...

...Quincy practiced her posture on Alexa's yoga ball...

...and Bill lit some candles.

A little pre-dinner singing (318 and 475, of course). Football and Denson books, a classic American combination.

The obligatory spread shot. (Of note: my vegan dinner rolls, front left corner, next to Bill's crock pot of gravy, consisting almost entirely of pork fat from Landis Powell's sausage drippings. There's a metaphor in there somewhere.)

We were joined partway through the evening by Brennen and Leo, who had already eaten Thanksgiving dinner somewhere else but still managed to arrive in time for pie and Harp of Ages singing, which is really the way any good event should conclude.

Hope you all spent lovely Thursdays! Must go check on my roasted applesauce, so I'm off...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My favorite holiday!

(For real this time.)

Yesterday I ate at two of Chicago's best restaurants - The Chicago Diner and Cousins. Interspersed with visits to the Green City Farmer's Market and the REAL Thorne Miniature Rooms. What more could a girl ask for?

Today the first snow of the season is falling softly outside, inside it's toasty as my market fresh brussel sprouts roast in the oven (hey, I like them). For more heartwarming holiday news, see below. (Katie, way to bury the lead there!)

I'm thankful for all kinds of things, but clearly amazing food in ample supply is always near the top of my list. As if the news weren't depressing enough, it seems there's a drastic shortage in food donations (thanks to our ever helpful government) this season. So, consider finding your local food bank and helping out. (In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't donated anything this season. Note to self: find a way to donate your services for the holidays. It's not like you even have any Christmas plans.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oh what a world / it seems we live in

Yikes. It's been a while, eh? Let's make this snappy.

So where did we last leave off? I'll start with November 1st, a nice satisfying number. I flew to scenic Beaumont (it's much more fun if you say it with a heavy Texas accent), which I can't actually say anything nice or snide about because I spent a little less than 24 hours at the Hotel Eleganté (which is also more fun if you say it with a heavy Texas accent) and then flew home again. It was a whirlwind visit with Nathan, who'd been invited to lecture at a museum conference that weekend... since he's spent most of the past several years in either South Carolina or Italy, I figured I'd better grab him while he was at least in the same state as me. One dinner at Chili's, two years' worth of photos on his laptop, a dozen rounds of Nerts, and a walk along the edge of the highway later, I was back on my merry way. The tiny, ramshackle Southeast Texas Regional Airport, complete with faded flowered wallpaper in the security corridor, might be my new favorite transportation hub. Seriously.

We didn't manage to get any pictures of us together, so I can't actually prove I saw Nathan, but here are two separate shots, both stolen from his camera. Above: Still Life With Apple Core And USAToday. Below: Please admire the amazing Eurotrash shirt and shiny tie. He's also holding a fake cat who purrs and makes breathing motions. This is why I'm friends with Nathan.

I got back to Austin late Friday night, and Saturday morning was THE KICKATHON! I did 1,000 kicks and didn't even half-ass most of them... okay, at least half of them... (but really, you wouldn't believe the temptation for half-assery when you know you have 846 more kicks to go). I have a couple of pictures that I'll put up at some point, in which you can also se my friend Cindy who'd hurt her ankle but still hobbled through the whole damn thing. In a tutu. To keep everyone's spirits up. Which all seems pretty impressive and dedicated to me, but she steadfastly maintains that she "phoned in" that kickathon. Hee.

The whole thing was actually shockingly pleasant. It was shorter than we'd expected (R didn't even get bored until the very end, really!) and everyone was enthused - or complainy, which bonds people together even more than enthusiasm - and I even got a prize because all of YOU wonderful dear people who donated made me the participant with the most donations! I was honored to accept it on your behalf. You all have thank-you packages soon to be coming your way (complete with odes, for those eligible), but I'm just running a little behind schedule. There's a shocker. That evening we went to Cindy's birthday party, and even got home at an embarrassingly respectable hour thanks to daylight savings.

The next morning (I wasn't even sore from all that kicking! ...which is, ahem, probably more a testiment to my inability to actually kick properly than the presence of actual muscles) we woke up in the dark so R could do the Susan G. Komen 5K run. I had convinced Quincy to come with us and keep me company, so we went and cheered for Richard when he reached the finish line... fortunately he's a speedy little guy so we were in and out of there and eating breakfast tacos at Maria's before some of the 20,000 other participants had even started. So. Many. People. But hey look, you know that guy:

Fast forward to the following Friday, when I flew to Massachusetts for a day and a half of reproductive/social justice networking and training, sponsored by Hampshire College. They put on two of these meetings per year, and it's a pretty wonderful coalition of people... it always charges me up to spend time with so many young, passionate, lovely activists who are doing such amazing things that I feel absolutely puny by comparison. From there I spent a few days at my parents', where my big project was going through all of my old things in storage there and sorting through 10 years' worth of utter and complete crap scraps of paper - scrawled freewrites, notes from high school friends, significant items torn from magazines, posters pulled from walls, impassioned poetry and journal entries - that still live in shoeboxes in a closet because I AM SUCH A COMPULSIVE PACKRAT. I so desperately wanted to throw most of it out. I didn't quite succeed. At least I emptied a couple of boxes. But holy hell, was it ever a two-day odyssey through the tears and tribulations of Adolescent Katie.

So then I came back to Austin. And oh yeah, I got engaged.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

The usual (books/singing/food), now more concentrated

A rendering of my life for the past few days, and projected future plans:

Thursday: work.
Fri: work, mr bourdain (aka more work).
Sat: work, cook.
Sun: Clean entire house, host singing, clean some more, work party, procrastinate packing by eating/photographing food/blogging.
Mon (wee hours): procrastinate packing by reading large stack of magazines
Mon (weer hours): pack. sleep?
Mon (morning): meet friend, drive to san jose, fly to chicago.

SO... a bit busier than my normal extended vacation. Not bad though. Workwise I've been racking up the hours, Mr B went swimmingly, our staff appreciation party tonight was a good time. It was just a small potluck thing in our cafe, but did feature much more beer than usually consumed at work, an excellent dj (our newest employee's girlfriend, another rebecca... she goes by "reb" and DJ Rebel. Somehow she pulls it off a bit easier than I would...) who we want to keep around for store hours, a neeeeeerdy staff literary quiz, and a special award for each employee - I came away with "Most Unflappable, able to weather the mightiest tempest of the business while keeping her calm (or something similarly dramatic.) And most likely to be seen drinking out of a jar."

The singing today was really different, but awesome... about 5/10 who showed were completely brand new singers! So it fell on the overworked / highly cafeinated / underqualified hostess to be de facto singing school teacher / leader / pitcher, yeesh. But they were all cool young musical folks, and we had strong singers on all the parts, so we powered through all kinds of things with minimal part review. And somehow, it sounded great! Totally on, which is more than I can say for some much better attended singing I've been to recently. Things are looking up for local singing. Just in time for me to move... eeeeeeeexcellent.

And without further ado, THE RESURRECTION OF THE RECIPE BLOG! My culinary contribution for the events today was what I like to call "A Muffin to be Thankful For." My molasses cornbread recipe spiked with sage and a homemade cranberry sauce filling. Before throwing it together I tried and failed to find a similar recipe anywhere online, which I took to mean that a) it's a terrible idea, something never meant to see the light of day or b) I'm a genius and have invented the world's greatest mega muffin. You decide!

Off to pack do anything but face the mountain of clothes that is my bed. My dad may or may not have called to remind me to bring warm clothes. Have I gone soft? Forgotten my roots? Oh no, bring on the snow. Flight delays, sidewalk shoveling, frostbite... I want the whole package.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Yes, the day is at hand. We've been sold out for weeks, and tickets are a hot commodity on Craig's list. People really love them some Anthony Bourdain. Myself, I roll my eyes at his whole devil may care, bad boy celebrity chef shtick. But the man knows how to entertain (and a thing or two about food), so I'm happy to be working the event. Any more devoted fans out there, let me know if you want a signed copy of any of his books. I can pick one up at a 30% discount, and even supervise a personalized autograph. (Yes, I have the oh so glamorous job of managing the signing line. Meaning I get to write down the customer's name on a post-it, stick it on the book, and hand it to Mr. Bourdain. Approximately 650 times. Sigh.)

Personally I'm more excited to see that Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the National Book Award for young adult lit!! One of my favorite books of the year for sure.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

our days how swift they are / swift as an indian arrow flies / or like a shooting star

I am happy with today. I finally had a day off that coincided with sun, so I took a long hike at the state park 5 mins up the road. It's just ridiculously beautiful, a restored historic ranch complete with interpretive center, horses, and rusting john deeres in the victorian barns, plus 7,000 acres of trails through the coastal terraces, eucalyptus groves, etc, all overlooking the ocean. Was plenty warm in a tank top, and caught the sunset as I finished. Geez. Why am I leaving Santa Cruz again?

Not to mention that I began my day with singing and ended it by cleaning out some of the farmers market bounty from the fridge.. it magically turned into roasted chestnuts and baked squash with cranberry stuffing.

Tomorrow I'm heading up to Berkeley for Tibetan food with Rebecca, and more singing!

Dispatch from back East

How did I end up flying to three different places in less than a month???

I'm currently on location at my parents' house, on Hampshire College's dime... got flown out here for a reproductive/social justice conference that I'm stretching into a paltry two-day family vacation. I'll write more later, but I wanted to check in because it's been a while... in lieu of actual updates, here are a couple of family photos from my parents' computer to keep you entertained:

My cousin, my gorgeous grandmother, and me this past summer. I was feeling terribly special because my cousin let me try on her hot tango shoes. But then we were both too tall so my grandmother made us duck so she would be the tallest one in the picture. And we did, because she is our grandmother after all. Also, we didn't want to get in trouble with our grandfather, who can be a pretty scary guy:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

Look, pretty things.

So, now that my computer is nominally fuctional, I'm working on getting pictures of my recent travels up, and then eventually catching up the archived footage from last year. but... i continue to be lazy. So here, for your enjoyment, are a couple of my photoshop experiments I made a few months ago - part of my art for gmail offer.

(Click to see the full size versions)

This one was for one of the ex-Quito-roommates. I was fooling around with different Ecuador photos and ended up with a sky theme.

- The background picture I took climbing Pichincha, looking back at the path and down on Quito.
- I took the Canoa picture over Semana Santa last year.
- Jennie took the Mindo photo between xmas and new years 2005, which was my very first trip out of Quito.
- John's friend Gabriel took the Tungurahua photo from his home in Salasaca, when it was erupting last summer.

This one was for B. From this excellent action shot which I had just unearthed and scanned. Ah, college.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What did YOU do with your free DST hour?

When midnight rolled around I put on the next episode in my OC marathon. Totally guilt free. Now, If only I could get back that hour of WMSHC that I missed when my alarm clock didn't spring forward as scheduled.

Also, for the record, my healthy halloween treats were quite popular with the few trick or treaters we got. Take that, you hecklers! Colin had bought some more traditional candy, and I didn't want to rain on his parade, so I ended up offering both bowls. Halloween Death Match: Candy vs. Health Food. I was as surprised as anyone that we came out even, with most kids happy to take one of each. And for every kid that only took candy, I got just as many who enthusiastically took only my stuff! And I don't think anyone would have complained if I hadn't had the candy at all. The very first visitors were sisters from a mexican family who asked after my "feliz dia del escudo nacional" sign, and said "What if we don't want any of THAT?" turning up their nose at the candy. It warms my heart!

For posterity. The contents of my magical Halloween basket, all meticulously screened to meet the following critera:
1) Relatively non-hazardous to one's health.
2) Something I would have eaten/enjoyed as a child, and I think my parents can vouch that I was a picky picky eater with a junk food fetish.
3) Individually packaged. Parents still buy into that poisoned Halloween candy urban legend right?
4) Less than 40 cents per.

The winners:
Trader Joe's organic fruit leather
Trader Joe's granola bars (peanut butter or cranberry/chocolate chip/nut)
Vitamic C gummies
SunRidge Farm's chocolate honey mints from the bulk bin
Stickers - pumpkins, spiders, and pirate flags

Runners up: (they met the criteria but I cut myself off before I bought out the whole store)
Cliff zbars
Apple blueberry sauce cups
Ginger tea bags (For when the indigestion kicks in. I had some myself after binging on the leftovers.)