Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Review

In reading blogs and talking to friends and family, I'm finding that there's a lot of reflection going on as 2009 comes to a close. That's not unusual, but I haven't really thought much about 2009 and its events and accomplishments. Instead, I've been looking forward to 2010 and setting some very specific goals for realizing my dreams. I don't want to let 2009 go by without taking some time to reflect on what I've accomplished and experienced, though, so I decided to continue the tradition of completing my annual Year-End Meme. (I took the reflection a little further and read through my 2007 and 2008 year-end posts, too.)

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

I traveled to Arizona, a first which provided several other firsts: I saw my first cactus; visited the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Painted Desert and the Petrified forest, as well as several other interesting places; and I got a tattoo while I was there. I also rode on a motorcycle for the first time, played my first hand of black jack at a casino, saw Niagara Falls and sat in the studio audience of a television show (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon).

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I made some significant progress on my 101 Things in 1001 Days list in 2009. As for 2010, I'm not a resolution maker, but I am setting some serious goals for 2010.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, several friends and family members had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

More freelance clients (and therefore income), more mindfulness, more time practicing yoga, and more time with my sisters and my girlfriends. I miss my girls' nights!

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

November 26th - The first time I hosted Thanksgiving in my house.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

That's a really good question. I'm not feeling really good about my accomplishments in 2009. I feel like I was so busy all year and it went by so fast, but I don't feel like I have much to show for all that busy-ness.

I suppose that completing a book proposal for a client was a pretty big achievement. I'm going to go with that.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not getting myself into a regular exercise routine again.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had an odd rash all over my body that turned out to be a fungal skin infection. Not fun. And don't ask me how I got it because I still have no idea.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A beautiful set of bookends in Arizona and a table and chairs set for my dining room

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I can't think of anyone in particular...

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Same here. (Maybe I'm a bit too self-centered to answer these two questions???)

14. Where did most of your money go?

Into my house, savings account and 401K.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Building my writing and editing business in preparation for full-time freelance.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

I'm Yours by Jason Mraz

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) happier; (b) neither...I've managed somehow to maintain my weight this year, although that's not necessarily a good thing; (c) richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Yoga, practicing mindfulness, traveling, submitting my work, and exercising. I could always write and read more, too.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Watching television (yet again this year, although I did manage to go TV-less at least one night a week); thinking I was too busy to enjoy things I love

20. How did you spend Christmas?

I spent most of the day with my dad watching Bones reruns, visited my Grampy in the hospital, then had a lobster and shrimp dinner with my dad. During the week of Christmas I visited with friends and family, laughing, baking and enjoying their company.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

I fell (more) in love with My Love. :)

22. What was your favorite TV program?


23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. I don't hate.

24. What was the best book you read?

Nonfiction - A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

Fiction - The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I didn't do much musical exploration in 2009...

26. What did you want and get?

More focus on my goals and dreams and a clear plan for getting where I want to go.

27. What did you want and not get?

Central air conditioning, a refinished basement, a new roof and a renovated kitchen

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

I can't say I've seen one that absolutely blew me away, but I really liked My Sister's Keeper and I'm looking forward to seeing Sherlock Holmes this week.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 33 and I had a nice dinner at Olive Garden with My Love. I also celebrated a little late when I headed out to Arizona to visit my sister. doing mundane tasks.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

The year went by a little too quickly for my taste, so I think the thing that would have made it more satisfying is if I had slowed down to smell the roses a little more or at least worked on being less busy and more productive.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

I upped the trendiness factor this year by getting some new specs. Other than that, I'd say my fashion concept remained the same: casual yet professional.

32. What kept you sane?

Reading, writing and spending time with family and friends. And plenty of laughter.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Simon Baker

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The health care debate

35. Who did you miss?

The same people I miss every year: friends who live out of state; my sister; my mom and the rest of my family in NY; and even girlfriends in the area that I don't get to see nearly enough.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I met a lot of new people in 2009, especially while I was out in Arizona, but I think I would have to go with the literary agent I met at a writing conference. She's become a friend and valuable resource as I pursue my writing dreams.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.

That dreams won't come true if you don't spend time pursuing them.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I can't think of any that apply, honestly.

How do you feel about 2009? Did you do all that you wanted to do? Was it a good year? Are you ready for 2010?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TBR Challenge 2010 - The Do Over

It's time for the TBR (To Be Read) Challenge again. I wasn't very good at reviewing the books I read for the challenge, and I didn't update on my progress much throughout the year, but that's mostly because I was a bit embarrassed by my lack of progress.

I failed to check many books off my TBR List in 2009. Although I did read almost 2 dozen books, the majority of them didn't come from that TBR pile that's been collecting dust. Instead, I was buying books at one of my favorite second-hand bookstores or getting them through

I did manage to read 3 of the 12 books off my main 2009 challenge list and 3 off my alternates list. In addition to my TBR books, I read through a number of books by new or new-to-me authors, did some research for my own writing by reading several best-selling memoirs and essay collections, and learned something new by reading a few business and self-improvement books (one of my favorites was A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink).

Having joined Paperback Swap, my TBR list is growing exponentially. Thankfully, I've been able to share some of the books that I've read but were gathering dust on the shelves in order to make room for new additions. It's hard for me to part with my books, but because bookshelf real estate is extremely valuable in my house, I've had to make some sacrifices. Besides, I love sharing books with friends, so why not share them with strangers who might enjoy them, as well?

Sadly, my TBR List for 2010 looks much like my TBR list for 2009. I'm starting to think that if I haven't read them by now they just might not be catching my interest enough, but I'm going to give it a try again. There is, after all, only so much time in a year--and there are SO many books to read. Even if I keep up my reading pace of 2009 and only read books from my TBR list, I won't make it through all of these titles. I plan to do my best, though.

2010 TBR List

  1. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

  2. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

  3. A Hand to Guide Me by Denzel Washington

  4. Writing Your Life by Lou Willett Stanek

  5. Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa

  6. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

  7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

  8. Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot (Finished 1/17/10)

  9. Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot

  10. Big Boned by Meg Cabot

  11. American Girls About Town (Finished 2/15/10)

  12. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

  1. The Ha-Ha by David King

  2. Writing Articles from the Heart by Marjorie Holmes

  3. Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach

  4. Trudy's Promise by Marcia Preston

  5. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult (Finished 1/30/10)

  6. The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman

  7. The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

  8. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

  9. Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson (Finished 2/21/10)

  10. Lisey's Story by Stephen King

  11. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

  12. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

I'll try to keep you posted on my progress and let you know if any of these are worth recommending. If you want to join the challenge, visit the official challenge site and sign up. Here's to a year of reading!

Have you read any of these books? Any suggestions on where I should start?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sarah's Gift

Sarah collapsed back on the bed, exhausted from all the pushing and panting. Finally, she thought, and closed her eyes. Even the high-pitched, frantic sounds of her baby's cries were a relief.

Before the exhaustion could engulf her, the nurse midwife who had held Sarah's right hand through the delivery brought the tiny baby boy to her, wrapped tightly in a soft blanket. As soon as Sarah took him, pulling him to her like a magnet, he stopped crying and relaxed against her chest. She knew exactly what he was feeling--the calm after the storm, the satisfaction of completing a long, arduous journey.

"He's so beautiful, just like you," Steve said, breaking the spell. Still grasping her left hand, he bent over her to first kiss Sam's forehead and then hers. Sarah smiled at Steve and nodded almost imperceptibly. Beautiful...she had never seen beauty like this.

They were a family now. After all their trying and trying, they were finally a family. No more shots and multi-packs of pregnancy tests waiting to be taken. Here Sam was, wrapped up in her arms like a gift she had been anticipating all her life.

And baby makes three...

This is my response to the prompt, Wrapped, at Creativity Corner, a new series of creativity prompts at Write Out Loud. If you'd like to join in, write your own response to the prompt and then head over to Write Out Loud and leave a link in the Wrapped comments.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Recommended Reading - A Few Favorites of 2009

I've been plowing through books this year. What with my goal to read 50 books for my 101 Things in 1001 Days and my recent membership to*, I have plenty of motivation to read, read, read. I've read 20 books in 2009 and I'm on target to finish my 21st by January 1st. I'm also still listening to audio books during my commute. While I don't count them as official "reads", I've listened to at least 20 audio books, as well.

In light of all this reading, and just in time for the gift-giving rush, I thought I'd share some recommendations for a few of my favorite reads of 2009**.


Still Life with Husband by Lauren Fox

If you are a fan of chick lit but are tired of the same old story, or if you aren't really a fan of chick lit at all, I'd highly recommend this book. It's a story about fidelity and the consequences of our choices that's told in a real, no-holds-barred voice. Funny, honest, heartbreaking and inspiring, with a dose of reality that most chick lit novels seem to avoid, Still Life with Husband was one of my top 5 favorite books this year.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I may be one of the few people who hadn't read this by the time the movie came out this year. And there may not be anyone out there who hasn't read it since (or wants to). But if there is someone out there who, for whatever reason, hasn't picked up this book, they should. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I hear it's different. It would have to be. My biggest concern before reading TTTW was that I wouldn't be able to follow all the time jumping, but Niffenegger does a really good job of making the time periods as clear as possible throughout the book. After just a few pages, I had gotten into the groove and read this one in about three days. It was sappy in places, and at some points I wondered why anyone would choose to marry someone who jumped through time, but in the end I felt the story was powerful and well-written.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I especially enjoy books about other cultures and the nerd in me loves to learn new things even when I'm reading fiction. This novel delivers on both fronts and weaves a moving story at the same time. In it, a young Chinese boy falls in love with a Japanese classmate in Seattle during World War II, which affects the man he becomes in both expected and surprising ways. It's not action-packed, but it's a thoughtful and moving narrative that kept me turning the pages to the very end.

Change of Heart: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm a huge fan of Picoult's writing. So much so that I often read several of her books back-to-back without a break. After a recent stint like that, I've decided that I have to read another author in between her books from now on. I love her stories and how she delivers them, but sometimes they become a little too formulaic. That being said, Change of Heart (the book I read first during the aforementioned stint) was one of my favorite Picoult's to date. You can read a much better review of it at my 101 Things blog.


A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink

I used to think I had managed to establish a pretty good balance between left-brained, analytical-type thinking and right-brained, creative-type problem solving. After reading this book, I had to think again. Pink offers some well-known and not-so-well-known reasons why right-brained thinking is on the rise (or should be) in the business world and then goes one step further to offer up suggestions and activities that can help even the most left-brained thinker exercise her right brain. Whether you are already the creative type or could use some practice putting your right-brain to work, this book is an easy, interesting and useful read.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

If you're looking for humor writing at its best, Sedaris is your man. His essay collections never fail to leave me laughing out loud (which can be embarrassing if you're sitting in Starbucks, FYI). This is his newest essay collection, and while it wasn't his best, it wasn't bad by any means. If you haven't read any of his stuff, I'd recommend starting with Me Talk Pretty One Day or Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim to get a feel for his style and voice. These are great audio books, as well. Sedaris reads his own stuff and hearing him tell these stories is even funnier than reading them.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Cunningham and Curt Coffman

After being promoted to a management position late in 2008, and almost immediately having this book recommended, I borrowed a copy from our corporate library and got to work reading. Only it wasn't really work. Expecting a dry, instructional text on how to be a better manager, I was pleasantly surprised by this easy read. The voice was authoritative yet conversational and the examples and case studies the authors used demonstrated effective management techniques--and why typical management strategies don't work.

If you have already read any of these books, I'd love to hear what you thought of them. And if you haven't, I suggest you go out and buy, borrow or swap a few (for yourself or someone else).

* If you join Paperback Swap using the referral link above I'll get an extra book credit for referring you. Whether you use me as a referral or not, my nickname is writingherlife. If you join, buddy me!

** Most of the book links provided here use my Amazon Associate account and I will earn a teeny tiny profit if you order the books using these links.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Get It While It's Green

If you're a regular reader around here, you know I'm working on living a greener life in whatever ways I can. That's why I couldn't wait to enter my friend Erin's third Go Green Giveaway over at The Mother Load. She's giving a way a set of reusable produce bags to go along with those reusable grocery totes I know you're all carrying around with you these days.

If you'd like to get in on the fun and enter to win some great products to help you live a little greener, head over there now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rescued Dreams

Sitting in my over-sized beanbag chair in the middle of my dorm room, I considered my options. My pre-med adviser had just given me permission to change my mind, a prospect that was filling me with anxiety. "Not everyone who gets through this program goes on to become a doctor. And that's not always because they aren't capable," he said. "Medical school is a lot of work, and getting there is only the beginning. If you aren't sure, maybe you should take some time to think about other possibilities."

So that's what I was doing. Flipping through catalogs for graduate programs for teachers, nurses and physicians' assistants, considering an application for Teach for America, imagining myself as something, anything, other than a doctor. This wasn't easy considering I'd been pursuing this singular goal since I was a freshman in high school. Now I found myself wondering what else I might be good at. Wondering if medical school was really where I wanted to go next.

When the time came, and I still hadn't decided what my next step should be, I passed on taking the MCAT and took the GRE instead, just in case graduate school found its way into my future. By graduation, there was still no clear plan laid out before me. While my classmates were preparing for Masters and Doctorate programs or the beginnings of their careers, I was planning to work at a jewelry shop for the summer. Not exactly a solid career choice, but it would pay the bills until I could find something that suited me better.

I wondered every day if I had made a mistake.

It took a while, but eventually that conversation in my adviser's office returned to my memory and I realized I was doing exactly what he had suggested. The fear of having made the wrong choice remained, but it started to mingle with the excitement of opportunity. With no plans, no clear goals, I was free to explore my dreams. I had been rescued from the responsibility of pursuing a goal that no longer fit who I had become. Who would I be from this moment on? What profession would make me happiest? How did I want to be remembered in this world?

I had the opportunity to choose my destiny and I would enjoy the process of making it a reality--whatever it might be.

This is my response to the prompt, Rescue, at Creativity Corner, a new series of creativity prompts at Write Out Loud. If you'd like to join in, write your own response to the prompt and then head over to Write Out Loud and leave a link in the Rescue comments.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recipe: A Chipotle Twist on Chili

A little more than a month ago, I ordered Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker to expand my vegetarian dish repertoire and make better use of my slow cooker.

The first recipe I decided to make was Chipotle-Kissed Red Bean and Sweet Potato Chili. It's the only recipe I've tried so far, and I've made it twice--it's THAT good. I could eat this chili everyday for the entire comfort-food season and be totally happy.

I made a few adjustments, because the first time I made it I found it to be more like soup than like chili. I like my chili chunky and thick. Here's the version I created.


1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 TBSP chili powder
1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
2 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 15-oz can dark red kidney beans
1 15-oz can white kidney (cannellini) beans (or other favorite bean)
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste
1 canned chipole chili in adobo sauce (or to taste), finely chopped


In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cook for about a minute. Add the sweet potatoes and stir to coat with spices. (I did this step the night before and then put the "starters" in the refrigerator over night. In the morning I continued with the following step.)

Transfer to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, peas, beans and water. Season with salt, cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

Before serving, stir in the chipotle pepper and taste to adjust seasoning. Serve with crackers or corn bread.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recipe: Bean and Chard Stuffed Acorn Squash

I've been subscribing to Eating Well magazine for almost a year now and I've found at least one awesome recipe in each issue. This one came to my attention at the perfect time: I had a bunch of chard and three acorn squash that needed to be used as soon as possible.

While I loved the flavor of the dish, I cooked it one night and ate it as leftovers for the rest of the week. I have to admit that it would probably have been better immediately out of the oven, because they seemed a little dry the next day. You might want to keep that in mind and make adjustments accordingly.


2 medium acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
1 tsp plus 2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP water
1 TBSP tomato paste
8 cups chopped chard leaves
1 15-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/3 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Lay squash halves in a 9x13 microwave-safe baking dish, cut sides up. (If they stand on their own, you can slice a thin piece off the bottom so that they do.) Brush the insides of with 1 tsp oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on High until the squash is fork tender, about 12 minutes.

In the meantime, heat 1 TBSP oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook stirring for another minute. Add water and tomato paste, along with the remaining salt and pepper. Stir in chard, cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the white beans and olives and stir, cooking until heated through, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the broiler (I used the oven, 350 degrees).

Mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and 1 TBSP oil in a small bowl. Fill each squash half with about a cup of the chard mix. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture and broil (or bake) until the breadcrumbs are browned. Grate a little Parmesan on top of each squash and serve.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Polka Dotted Dreams

I pulled the taffeta fabric out a few feet from its bolt and smiled. It was white, with sea-foam green circles of different sizes and shades floating on the fabric like bubbles on the surface of the ocean. "This one," I said to my mother, who was scanning a selection of fabrics a few feet away.

When she looked over, I wasn't sure what she was thinking, but I knew I had found the fabric for my prom dress. "It's polka dotted," she said. I could hear hesitation in her voice as she walked over to take a closer look.

"I know. Isn't it cool?" I lifted a piece of sea-foam green taffeta from a near-by bolt and said, "And this can be the accent fabric for the shoulder pieces and that one layer of the skirt." It matched the polka dots perfectly.

She held up the torn magazine page with the advertisement for the prom dress I was having made and placed it next to the polka-dotted taffeta. The bodice of the dress was fitted and had a slight drop waist. The skirt had three layers, the top two layers rising on the left side to a tastefully sized taffeta flower. The sleeves were off-the-shoulder poufs, reminiscent of swimming wings, but at the time seemed perfectly fashionable.

"I guess it might work. You're sure you want to do the polka dots?" She set the fabric down and started sauntering up and down the aisles again. "Maybe we should look around a little more before you decide. There are lots of colors and patterns here."

She tried to guide me toward something more reasonable. She suggested less bold and obvious choices, fabrics in more muted, solid shades. But I wouldn't have it. My prom fantasies were already floating among sea-foam polka dots. Nothing else would do.

This is my response to the prompt, Polka Dots, at Creativity Corner, a new series of creativity prompts at Write Out Loud. If you'd like to join in, write your own response to the prompt and then head over to Write Out Loud and leave a link in the Polka Dots comments.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Help Me Choose My Business Name

I've been tossing around names for my writing and editing business for a while now. You may have seen a few cries for feedback on Twitter over the last couple of months. I've finally narrowed things down to a few favorites and I'd like your help in deciding which one becomes my official moniker.

I'd like my business name to be creative (but not too quirky). I'm looking for a name that doesn't back me into a corner niche-wise, is not a play on words, has a timeless quality that can be carried with me as my business evolves, and lends itself to a variety of tag lines depending on my target audience.

Please vote for the business you might choose to work with if you were looking for professional writing and editing services.

But wait! What's in it for you?

I know your time is valuable, so I'd like to give you something for your time and effort. If you'll take an extra minute or two to do any of the following in addition to answering the survey below, you could win a $20 Starbucks Gift Card.

For a single chance to win, leave a comment on this post with: 1) the business name you chose, 2) your reason for choosing that name, and 3) any feelings or associations the name brings with it.

For a second chance to win, leave a second comment with any feelings or associations the other names bring with them and any specific reasons you may have for not choosing them.

For a third chance to win, Tweet this survey with the #smtwngrlbiz hashtag and leave a third comment indicating you did so along with your Twitter ID.

The survey will close on Friday, November 20th at midnight. A winner will be chosen on Saturday, November 21st by random comment selection using Remember to make sure your profile allows me to contact you via email or leave your email address in the body of your comments so that I can contact you if you win.

*Voting is now closed.*

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Making of a Diva

A couple of days ago, Jamie at Totally the Bomb created her "Diva list" (inspired by that commercial where Mariah Carey has a long list of demands for her hotel room). After reading Jamie's list, and in an attempt to inspire an increased NaNo word count, I decided to create one of my own. I don't normally consider myself much of a diva, but I suppose if I ever have the opportunity to be one, I should have my list at the ready.

1. Unlimited supply of dark chocolate covered espresso beans, preferably of a gourmet variety, but Trader Joe's brand will do in a pinch.

2. A masseuse at the ready to take care of any kinks, cricks or soreness...or to just relax me after a long day.

3. A personal yoga instructor to make sure I get my butt out of bed to practice poses right every morning.

4. A personal stylist to pick out (or purchase) the perfect outfit each morning and for any special events I might be required at.

5. Fresh flowers in every room. They don't need to be changed every day (that's wasteful), but the dying ones should be removed and replaced regularly.

6. Scented spa products, including bubble bath, shampoo, body wash and lotions, in a variety of fruity and flowery scents.

7. A manicurist and pedicurist at the ready for any nail- or open-toed-shoe/sandal- related emergency.

8. A sound system that I can hook my iPod up to for those impromptu dance party moments.

9. Plane tickets and accommodations so that all my friends and family can join me.

10. A personal hairstylist to be with me at all times to fix and stray hairs, waviness or frizz during unexpected moments of humidity.
I'm having a hard time even thinking like a Diva. Maybe with a little practice...

What would your Diva List look like?

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Horrible First Kiss

I was fourteen (almost fifteen) when I had my first real, and extremely bad, kiss.

My friend Abby* was spending the night and we had two of our guy friends over while my parents were out. There was music playing on the stereo, something totally pop and early ‘90s I’m sure. Abby and Randy were egging Allen on to dance with me, hold my hand, kiss me. Allen had recently become Abby’s ex-boyfriend and was Randy’s close friend. We all hung out together often.

Both Allen and Randy liked Abby and I liked both Allen and Randy, of course.

I can’t remember exactly how it went down, but in my memory Abby and Randy spent the entire evening trying to get Allen and me together. At one point, Allen and I were slow dancing to whatever was on the stereo, the two of us alone in the living room with the lights low. I draped my arms around his neck and he wrapped his arms around my waist, his hands on my lower back. A few inches taller than me, he bent his head down a bit so that our foreheads were pressed together as we swayed to the song. He said something that made me look up into his face, and when I did, he kissed me. Not a soft peck on the lips, but an open mouthed, almost violent kiss, his tongue stiff and thrusting in and out of my mouth like a lizard’s. I didn’t know what to do or how I was supposed to respond, so I closed my eyes and let him probe my mouth until he was finished. In the dark room, even with my eyes closed I couldn’t miss the flashes of a camera. We were caught on film for all the world to see. When we stopped kissing, we opened our eyes, smiled at each other and then yelled at Abby for taking our picture.

It didn’t take long before I discovered that Allen only kissed me because he thought it was what Abby wanted. He was trying to get back into her good graces so that she would date him again. I tried with all my might to make him like me the way he seemed to like her, but in the end, that kiss and the few that followed were gladly tossed into the recesses of my memory, replaced by much better kisses and, eventually, much more sincere boys.

*All names were changed to protect the innocent (and guilty).

This is my response to the prompt, First Kiss, at Creativity Corner, a new series of creativity prompts at Write Out Loud. If you'd like to join in, write your own response to the prompt and then head over to Write Out Loud and leave a link in the First Kiss comments.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NaNoWriMo: I'm Doing it Again

At this time two years ago I was considering taking the leap into the world of NaNoWriMo. Eventually I decided to jump in, and came out the other side frazzled, wondering where November went, but almost 40,000 words closer to my first novel. I'm still working on that story, but this year I again found myself thinking about diving into a month of writing wildly.

I don't have a new novel idea yet, but I'm considering giving it a go anyway. If I can't come up with a fiction plot in the next four days, I might do an unofficial version of NaNo and either dedicate the month to finishing my first NaNovel or to working toward 50,000 words of the memoir I've been playing at for the last three years. Whatever I decide to do, you can be sure I'll keep you posted on my progress here.

Are any of you considering or planning to participate in NaNoWriMo? Do you have a solid plot prepared or are you planning to wing it?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Appreciating Me

It's Day 1 of Week 3 in my Gratitude Journey. The Gratitude Challenge for this week is to be grateful for who I am. As someone who holds herself to the highest standards and rarely feels she's good enough, this week will certainly be an interesting exercise in letting some crap go.

Today I'm supposed to "appreciate and give thanks for [my] unique personality, skills and talents." In some ways that is an easy task. I know what I am good at and I know that I have positive characteristics, that I am unique and talented. At the risk of sounding conceited, I know I'm smart, kind, compassionate and a good writer, among other things. But just writing that stuff down immediately triggers a long list of qualifications: sort of smart, usually kind, generally compassionate, pretty good writer. I start thinking I'm not as good a writer or as smart as so-and-so. I wasn't very compassionate the other day. Those things I thought about that stranger weren't very kind.

It's easy and common to judge myself harshly. It is real work, a rare occurrence, to allow myself to be grateful for all the things I am without worrying about all the things I am not. I'm going to try, though. Today I am going to pay attention to the things I like about myself, the things I can be proud of, the things that make me who I am. I'll leave the judgment and self-deprecation for another day.

What qualities and characteristics make you who you are? What talents and skills can you claim and be proud of--without wishing you were better at or more of something?

If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My Life Through Rose-Colored Glasses

I'm about half-way through Week 2 of my Gratitude Journey via The Gratitude Challenge, and this week's exercises have been focused on paying attention and staying positive--two things that most American's seem to have problems with. (And when I say most Americans I'm pointing directly at myself.)

While the exercises for the week weren't specifically written ones, I thought I'd take some time here to explore what I've been discovering as I practice being present and positive.

I'm really grateful to have all five of my senses.
A few nights ago I was making dinner and I really paid attention to how my senses heightened the experience. There were the sounds: the sizzle of oil and the crackle of onions as I tossed them in; the rhythmic sound of the knife slicing through the vegetables and then hitting the cutting board. The smells were rich and tempting: onions, apple and curry, all earthy and sweet. The feel of the strength in my hands and arms, their repetitive movement as I chopped, stirred and tossed reminded me of all the things I can do because my body is healthy and whole. As I spooned the mixture into a bowl, the slightly varying shades of beige and yellow, shads that would normally blend together and seem dull, were bright and vibrant. And the taste--oh, the taste--how something so simple could combine to make a satisfying and nourishing meal amazed me.

Walks can be meditative, if I let them. Today, I used my lunch break to walk to the post office. It's a gorgeous day here in Maryland and I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the sun. The breeze was the perfect contrast, cooling me before I got too hot. I could smell the blossoms of fall foliage and the decay of early fallen leaves. The sensation of my feet hitting the sidewalk in time to the song I hummed made me smile.

Choosing to be present helps me to be positive. By paying attention to each moment, I'm learning that just as the positive moments pass, so do the negative ones. I don't have to be bogged down by negative feelings or frustrated by less enjoyable moments. Instead, I can experience them and let them pass, knowing that a new moment is already on its way.

It seems this week has me looking at my life through rose-colored glasses. Things won't always be happy or perfect or exciting, but somewhere amidst whatever I'm experiencing I now know that I can find a glimmer of gratitude to keep me going.

What sense experiences make you grateful? How can being more aware of these experiences help you live in a more positive way? If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Friday, October 02, 2009

In Recognition of My Internet Community

It's the beginning of Week 2 of my Gratitude Journey and today's Gratitude Challenge is to write 5 thank-you notes to people who deserve some recognition. While I'm not going to type out my notes here (I'm still not quite sure which people I'll be recognizing), I thought it might be a good time to write a thank-you note of sorts to my internet community.

The fact that I have been able to "meet" people that I truly connect with without ever seeing them face-to-face, or in most cases even talking to them, never fails to surprise me. And yet, there are at least a dozen wonderful human beings who have become important to me since I began reading blogs, and later, participating on Twitter. These people not only share their lives with me, but they talk to me about things we have in common, are willing to honestly and open-mindedly discuss the things we don't agree on, offer up amazing advice, and gladly accept and provide support whenever it's needed. They may not sit down across a table from me for coffee or chat with me everyday, but I'm proud to call them my internet friends.

I hope that one day I'll meet them all in person. Until then, we'll continue to "tweet" one another, read and comment on each other's blogs and exchange emails or phone calls. If I could have these people around the corner, I'd certainly choose that. But just having them at all is a blessing I'm truly grateful for.

What thing, person, place or moment makes you most grateful today? If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Picture of Gratitude

Yesterday's assignment for The Gratitude Challenge was to call someone I hadn't talked to in a while and tell that person how much I appreciated her. It didn't take long for me to decide who I would call and what I would say. I'll keep the details between me and her, but suffice it to say that when she didn't answer and I had to leave a message I was actually happy. Knowing that she would listen to my voice after a harried day trying to run a family and a business, I was almost giddy with joy. My voice and the appreciation I expressed would hopefully be a wonderful ending to a stressful day.

Since the assignment for yesterday didn't really involve writing anything down, I hadn't planned to blog about it at all, but then I saw today's assignment and realized the story was connected to what I've chosen to share today. It's a picture of two things that I'm truly grateful for: my cell phone and my computer.

Without these two objects that I generally take for granted, I would be disconnected from so many of my family and friends. That woman I called yesterday? We're lucky to see each other and talk in person twice a year. But with my cell phone and my computer we can get in touch with one another at a moment's notice. I can reach out to my friends in Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, California, or New York. I can hear my mother's voice every day if I want to. I can send my sister an encouraging email as soon as I hear she's feeling down.

Sure, without my cell phone and computer I'd still have paper and pens and envelopes and stamps, but I would have the tender voices of friends and family when I most need them. I wouldn't have their near-instant emailed (or Tweeted) responses to my questions and concerns. I'd be lost and lonely without those two pieces of technology...and I don't even want to imagine what that would feel like.

What thing, person, place or moment makes you most grateful today? If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Counting My Blessings

I wouldn't consider myself a negative person. In fact, I tend to be the optimist in the room. I generally try to see the bright side of a situation, almost always give a person the benefit of the doubt. That doesn't mean I don't have negative days or get discouraged when disappointing things happen around me. And while I'm pretty easy on other people, I am almost always VERY hard on myself.

Today's Gratitude Challenge exercise is to count my blessings, to take five minutes and focus on all the wonderful things in my life. I'm doing this stream-of-consciousness style because I believe that one tiny mustard seed of gratitude can build a mountain of thankfulness.

I'm grateful for a mother who has been wonderful to me all my life, for a family who supports me, for friends who surround me with love even from hundreds of miles away.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to travel near and far, to see people and places I'd never seen before and experience cultures that were new to me.

I am grateful for my education, both in the classroom and in the world.

I am grateful for the ability and opportunity to read until my heart is content and to learn from the words and stories of others.

I am grateful for my desire to tell my own stories, for my love of words and the ability to weave them into sentences, paragraphs and pages that will eventually (hopefully) convey meaning to others.

I am grateful for a community of writers, both in person and online, that inspires me, encourages me and teaches me every day.

I am grateful for a job that allows me to both pay my bills and do what I love.

I am grateful for opportunities to expand my abilities and skills and to use those abilities and skills to help myself and others grow.

I am grateful for my home and the things in it.

I am grateful for the compassion I feel toward others and my desire and ability to act on it in the best ways I can.

I am grateful for my spiritual development and the life I have.

I am grateful for every breath I have taken and every moment I have lived.

I am grateful for the nature and beauty I am surrounded by.

I am grateful for trees and sun and warmth and cool breezes and freshly cut grass and fallen leaves and the first snowflakes of the season--not only for the experiences of them, but for the memories of them.

I am grateful for life.

What are you grateful for today? If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bad Isn't Always Bad

As part of The Gratitude Challenge, today I'm supposed to write a thank-you note for some of the "negative" things in my life. It's not easy to look at the things I consider bad or disappointing or negative and say, "Hey thanks, Universe, I'm really grateful for that crap you've been sending me lately." The more I think about it, though, the more I know there is a positive spin to all that stuff I've been resisting. It may not be obvious and it may not take away all the troubles of the negatives, but it certainly makes them more bearable.

Dear Universe,

Thanks for all the family drama. There's certainly been a lot of it. Of most recent note was that family spat last week that had my stomach tied up in knots. The conflict wasn't exactly a blessing, but in the midst of it I realized how grateful I am to still have a father, to be able to talk to him every week and tell him I love him. I recognized that despite the strain among members of my family and the problems that broken homes can cause, I have love and support almost everywhere I turn. It may not come from the people I expect, and it may not be the result of blood ties, but it is there and it buoys me every day.

Thanks, too, for helping me step out of my comfort zone and walk the spiritual path that is right for me. Having been part of a particular group and then losing that integral connection in my life, I've been carrying around hurt and anger for quite some time. But in a conversation with a friend over the weekend, I also realized that I'm grateful for those broken ties and rejections of the past, as well as for the connections that remain despite what I like to call "the break-up". I'm healing and I'm finding that I'm stronger and more courageous for having lost that community. I wish it hadn't been that way...I wish I hadn't had to let go of that part of my life. But in the end, I was able to hold onto those things that I strongly believe in and let the conflict and doubt dissipate. It's not easy to turn away from something that has been ingrained into my being for so long, but having to defend my position and stand firm in my beliefs has strengthened them (and me) in a way that I never could have imagined possible.

Thanks, Universe, for showing me the way and helping me to see things from new vantage points. Sometimes life is hard, sometimes things suck, but in the end I will find meaning and purpose in all of it--even if it's only a tiny glimmer of hope.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gratitude ABCs

Today's gratitude assignment, compliments of The Gratitude Challenge, is to make a list of things I'm grateful for using the letters of the alphabet as my prompt.

I am grateful for:

A - Autumn and the apples that come with it, straight from the tree
B - Books of all kinds, ones that make me think, inspire me, or just plain entertain
C - Chocolate of course...the dark creamy kind that melts slowly in your mouth
D - Dreams and the chance to chase them
E - Exciting opportunities and open doors for new experiences
F - Friends that support and love me no matter what idiotic things I do or say
G - Giggles and uncontrollable laughter
H - Hugs at the exact moment when I need them; health and happiness
I - Ice cream on a hot summer day; individuality; independence
J - Just enough of everything I need
K - Kisses that make me weak in the knees
L - Love in all its shapes and forms
M - My Mom, whose love and strength I can only hope to emulate
N - Nature and the chance to spend time enjoying it
O - Organic farmers and the food they produce
P - Pretty things
Q - Quiet time
R - Respect (given and received)
S - Sister that put up with my big-sister-stuff for all those years and still trusts me
T - Travel to places I've never been before, as well as to places I know and love
U - Unexpected blessings
V - Vitamins and vegetables
W - Words and the opportunity to use them, shape them and make them my own
X - X-tended vacations
Y - Yeses
Z - Zest for life

This wasn't easy--especially X, Y and Z. But it was fun and really forced me to consider all the big and little things that I'm grateful for. What are your ABCs of gratitude?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Living a Life of Gratitude

I've decided to start a little project. Learning to practice gratitude has become an important goal for my life and I want to nourish the development of that practice. I have had a hard time in the past doing things like journaling about gratitude regularly, though. So when I recently came across The Gratitude Challenge, sponsored by Tiny Prints, I felt it was a prompt from the Universe to help me practice gratitude more consistently.

As you see, I downloaded the pledge and signed it and I'm ready to give consistent, purposeful gratitude a chance. I believe that cultivating an attitude of gratitude in my life is important for my own well-being, as well as the well-being of those I encounter. I trust that expressing gratitude in all situations, for all things--good and bad, easy and difficult, desired and unexpected--will help me grow and develop, allowing me to live my best, most purposeful life. It may sound hokey, but I honestly feel that gratitude can change the world.

For the next 21 days, I will consciously choose to recognize the things in my life for which I can be grateful--especially when it seems difficult to locate those tiny glimmers of gold hiding among the pebbles. Today, I am grateful for this challenge to change my perspective and make a shift toward a life filled with gratitude.

How do you practice gratitude? If you're not already practicing gratitude in your daily life, are you willing to join me in this journey? I'll be sharing my gratitude experience with you. If you decide to take the challenge, too, I hope you'll come back and let me know how it's going. And if you blog about your gratitude journey, feel free to leave me a link to your blog or posts so that we can all visit and cheer each other on.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunday Scribbling: Hungry

It's been quite some time since I've written a Sunday Scribblings post, but the prompts over the last few weeks have been tickling my muse. I've finally got a few minutes and thought I'd dig in and see what she produces when I let her loose.

Prompt #181: Hungry

It starts as a general sense of emptiness. I notice it because it feels like nothing, as if I am only recognizing what was there now that it is gone. I continue on with my task, making my bed and putting away clothes, straightening up my room.

After several minutes, the grumbling begins, occasional and quiet at first, so that only I can hear it. Inside the churning is slight and bearable. As I shake out sheets and tuck in corners, I consider food, what to eat, what my body would like today, now, for this meal.

My stomach persists in its demands and then other body parts join in. We are hungry, my head tells me, aching a bit as I bend over to pick up a pair of shoes. We need to eat, my mouth says, salivating so much I have to swallow before hanging up my shirt. Feed us, my stomach screams, gurgling so loudly my cat lifts her head from the bed and meows.

OK, I relent. I am hungry. My body has spoken. I must feed it now, bless it with nourishment, treat it with respect.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Your Votes in Action

A while back I asked for your advice on which eyeglasses frames I should choose. You promptly voted and I had a clear winner. Unfortunately, I sat on your input for weeks (MONTHS) and when I finally went back to get my glasses, the frames you chose were no where to be found. I did take the pictures of the frames you most liked, though, and used your advice to choose some comparable styles.

Since I waited so long, I got a great deal, where I managed to get two pairs of complete glasses for less than I paid for a single pair the last time I bought new frames (at least three years ago).


Pair #1:

I finally got new frames! Pair #1. What do you think? on Twitpic

And pair #2:

And pair #2. I got a 2fer deal and couldn't pass up the 2nd p... on Twitpic

(I know, I know. They're very similar. It's very funny how you don't realize these things until you're taking pictures of yourself.)

Thanks for the great advice, dear readers. I should come to you with all my life altering style questions from now on.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

CSA Shares - Weeks 10, 11 and 12

For the record -

Week 10

  • 2 heads of lettuce
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 cucumber
  • small bunch of chard
  • 1 tomato
  • large bunch of scallions
Week 11
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 4 small apples
  • 2 tomatoes
  • possibly something else I'm forgetting, but this week was a pretty small share
Week 12
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 4 lbs tomatoes
  • 2 apples
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 pint yellow pear tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes only yellow and pear shaped)
  • 1 pint raspberries

Change Is In the Air

I'm having a hard time posting here these days, as you can tell. I'm not sure if it's a lack of time, motivation or content that keeps me from writing. Maybe it's bit of everything.

Since I can't seem to write about much other than the food I bring home and the meals I prepare, I've been thinking about why I started blogging in the first place and where this little old blog is headed. I like connecting with other people through my blogs, and I don't feel like lists of CSA shares and the occasional recipe are building my blogging community. At the same time, fresh food and cooking are things that I'm really enjoying right now. Everything has its season, and maybe Writing: My Life isn't where I'm at anymore. Or maybe this little old space just needs a makeover of sorts.

As I figure out where I'm going, I'll share with you here. In the meantime, I'm writing more at Write Out Loud. I'm taking on more freelance projects. I'm reading a lot and I'm playing around with some personal creative writing projects. You'll also find me on Twitter. I hope you'll keep in touch and keep me in your readers. I'll be back. I promise.

Friday, August 07, 2009

CSA Report - Week 9

We got our first heirloom tomatoes this week! Unfortunately, you won't see it in that picture below because I promptly sliced it and ate it before remembering to take the photo. I got another good-sized share this week:

  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • .25 lb chard
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1 large tomato (not pictured)
  • 1 yellow squash
I finally cooked up those mustard greens from last week with a little red onion, some garlic and olive oil, cooking them down until they were really well-done. They were a little bitter, but that might have had more due to the fact that I waited so long to cook them. I could definitely taste the mustard flavor in them, which I found really interesting.

Looking forward to using up this week's share...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

OLS Week 9 - Balsamic Eggplant and Tomato Stacks

One Local Summer

Last year I made Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Stacks. They were a big hit and I wanted to make them again, this time with local chevre. I did NOT, however, want to turn on the oven to roast the eggplant, what with the 90 degree weather this weekend.

Instead, I decided to grill the eggplant slices. I marinated them in balsamic vinegar and olive oil and tossed them on the old George Foreman until they were tender. Then I stacked the slices with chevre, basil, and tomato slices. I drizzled them with balsamic vinegar and savored every bite. As Rachel Ray would say, Yum-O!

(Local Low-Down: eggplant, tomatoes and chevre from the farmers market and basil from my back yard. Vinegar and olive oil not local.)

I also made a few mostly local dishes throughout the week. There was the Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta (all local but the pasta, salt and pepper and oil). This dinner was delicious and the leftovers were just as good. I ate them several nights in a row.

For lunch during the week, I made a local Caprese Salad (all the ingredients were local except the balsamic vinegar and olive oil) with a piece of local baguette to sop up the extra balsamic vinegar.

It's been a great week for local eating!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Post Office - A Lesson in Patience

A few days ago I ran into the post office to mail a couple of cards. One of said cards was square, which means I had to pay for additional postage. There was a short line, so I took my place and waited.

And waited.

With only one employee behind the counter, the line got longer and longer as the next customer stepped up to the counter with a tote bag full of packages to be weighed, stamped and paid for. The gentleman in front of me huffed and puffed, sighing loudly and shifting his weight back and forth dramatically. The woman behind me tapped her pen on the table beside us until she finally called out to another employee who was clearly working on something other than customer service, "Can I just find out if I have enough postage on this?" The employee smiled and calmly instructed her on how to use the self-mailing station to weigh and determine the postage for her package. In the meantime, several customers entered the building, looked at the line and promptly turned around to leave.

The line was not that long. There were about four people behind me and three in front of me. From the time I stood on the line to the time I walked out the door, about 10 minutes had passed. And yet from the patrons' responses, you would have thought we were waiting for hours.

I admit, my first reaction in seeing the line and the one poor employee standing behind the counter, was a silent groan. But in the waiting I had time to take a few deep breaths, plan my dinner, and mentally check off my to-dos. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter, smiled at the woman helping me, paid for my extra postage and went on my way, thankful for ten minutes in which I didn't have to do anything.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

CSA Report - Week 8

Oh, the joy of fresh vegetables straight from the farm! I can't tell you enough how much I love knowing exactly where and how my vegetables are grown.

This week I brought home:

  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • 1/2 lb chard
  • 1/2 lb mustard greens (what to do with these?)
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1 bunch scallions
It's really starting to get good. Blackberries are around the corner. Tomatoes are starting to ripen. Cucumbers and zucchini are on the way. I'm already preparing to freeze and maybe even can some of the extras because if the rest of the summer is anything like last year I'm going to have a hard time using up my share.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta Recipe

I just finished cooking and immediately eating the best dinner I've had in ages. This recipe, inspired by one I saw on Giada, had three of my favorite ingredients: pasta, spinach, and my new love chevre. The resulting pasta dish was creamy, rich and full of flavor. Trust me, you want to try this one!

Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta


1 lb rigatoni
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 small onion, sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 cups packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large)
6 oz soft goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add pasta. Cook and then drain, reserving at least 1 cup of pasta water. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, cooking until the onion is soft and beginning to caramelize. Toss in the spinach and tomatoes, heating until the spinach is just wilted and still bright green. Remove from heat.

Add the pasta to the skillet and crumble the goat cheese over it. Stir or toss with tongs until the cheese is melted, adding enough of the reserved pasta water to create a sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

OLS Week 8 - Potatoes and Green Beans Go Hand-in-Hand

One Local Summer

This week's featured local meal consisted of a large helping of my newest salad obsession: Potato and Green Bean Salad. I really wish I'd taken a picture, because it's pretty to look at, too.

I brought home a great haul from the farmer's market today and I'm looking forward to getting creative for my local meal this week. I've got eggs, fresh spinach, onions, an eggplant, green peppers, a cucumber, mozzarella cheese, white peaches, Summer Rambo apples, and apricots (probably the last of the season). That will be supplemented with what I'm expecting to be a pretty good share from the CSA this week that will probably include chard, scallions, potatoes and lettuce among other things. I'm also planning to pick up some local goat cheese.

Any ideas for local meals using these ingredients? Feel free to share suggestions. I'm feeling adventurous!

Friday, July 24, 2009

CSA Report - Week 7

Last weekend we had a potluck on the farm and I met some fellow CSA members. We took a tour of the farm and learned why things have been a little slow to produce and what to expect in the near future. We're talking floods of tomatoes, beans, chard and more!

This week's share included:

  • 2 lbs red potatoes
  • 1 head of garlic
  • a large bunch of chard
I'm so excited to have more potatoes because I made the most flavorful potato salad I've ever had and I can't wait to make more! Give it a try and see why I'm so excited about it.

Potato and Green Bean Salad


1 1/2 - 2 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
3 cups green beans, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces (I used yellow beans)
3 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste


Add the potatoes to a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until almost fork tender. Add beans and cook another 4 to 5 minutes, until beans are bright green and potatoes are cooked through. (You can also steam beans separately while potatoes cook, which is what I did.) Drain potatoes and beans and set aside to cool.

To make the dressing, whisk mustard, honey and vinegar in a large bowl with a cover. When potatoes and beans are room temperature, add to the dressing along with the parsley and egg. Tightly cover and toss until everything is coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*I actually served the salad at room temperature, but it would probably be great after a few hours in the refrigerator, too.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

OLS Week 7 - Mmmm...Tomatoes

One Local Summer

This week I found myself scrambling yet again to make my One Local Summer meal. It was Saturday already before I realized, while I'd been eating a lot of local dishes, I hadn't planned and prepared a fully local meal. So I sliced up a sweet and juicy local tomato, pulled some local lettuce leaves from the refrigerator and placed them both on a local sandwich roll. I made up some chipotle mayonnaise (not local except for the cilantro I added to it) and slathered it on the roll. On the side I had sauteed zucchini, yellow squash and onions topped with local chevre and some corn on the cob. A quick and easy local feast!

A few of the other local dishes I whipped up included:

  • Potato and green bean salad with honey mustard dressing
  • Tomato and scallion salad with balsamic dressing
  • Egg salad
  • Cucumbers with dill yogurt dressing
It's amazing how creative you can get when your refrigerator is overflowing with vegetables and you're just not sure what to do with them before they go bad.

As for my CSA shares, week 7 was a little sparse again: a quart container of red potatoes and a head of new garlic. The good news is we had a potluck at the farm today and found out things are about to get a bit overwhelming. Because the planting schedule was pushed back a couple of weeks, we're looking at an upcoming onslaught of green beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash and zucchini, eggplant and more starting the first of August or so. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the summer brings! The greenhouses are overflowing, the fields are getting greener, the blackberries are ripening...and because of the delay in planting it looks like we'll be getting vegetables well into November and maybe even December. I'm already dreaming of fresh, local holidays!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

OLS Week 6 - Versatile Green Beans

One Local Summer

While I managed to squeeze in a local lunch last week consisting of grape tomatoes, mozzarella and basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, I didn't get time to write a post about it or take any pictures. This week almost went by without a post, too, but I remember this morning and made up a delicious local lunch to share for week 6 of One Local Summer.

A trip to the farmer's market this morning gave me great ideas for local meals in the coming week. I brought home ingredients galore. For today's local meal, I started with green beans and got creative.

First, I steamed some green beans while I sauteed onion and garlic in some olive oil. When the beans were done (about 5 minutes) I tossed them in with the onion, one diced tomato, a little salt and pepper and a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. I cooked it down for a few minutes, tossed in some fresh basil and then dished it up. I topped all that with a tablespoon or so of crumbled chevre.

For a little added oomph, I sliced up a baguette and topped a couple slices with a dollop of smoked hummus from Neopol Savory Smokery, which I only recently discovered although I've been walking past their stand for two years. The smokey hummus flavor is something I never would have considered if I hadn't tried a sample the last time I was at the market. I'd been thinking about it ever since and went prepared with a few extra dollars this week so that I could treat myself. It was well worth it, and I'm already thinking about trying their smoked salmon next time.

The local low-down: All ingredients were local except olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Friday, July 10, 2009

CSA Report - Weeks 5 & 6

I'm doing a quick CSA post to document my shares for the last two weeks--without pictures because I forgot to take them before I started eating the food--so that I can keep track of what I've been getting. I'm particularly interested in seeing how different my shares are this year from last year due to the rainy weather we've been having.

Here's what I got in my week 5 share:

  • 2 beets with greens
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1 bulb of new garlic
And what I got in my week 6 share:
  • 2 beets with greens
  • 1 small bunch chard
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 bulb of new garlic
It's not much, but along with my farmers market finds, I'm eating well!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

CSA Report - Week 4

Here's what I got this week:

  • 3 small heads of leaf lettuce (includes one head from the free choice table)
  • 1.5 lbs sugar snap peas (includes additional full share)
  • .75 lbs snow peas (includes additional full share)
It doesn't seem like much, but I made good use of it. There was a flavorful salad made from another grilled portobello and more of that chevre I've discovered. And I made some hummus to dip those sugar snap peas into for lunch a couple of days this week. I blanched and froze the snow peas to use in stir-fries later in the year. There was no way I could eat all those peas this week. Can't wait to see what next week's share brings!

Monday, June 22, 2009

OLS Week 4 - Chevre Steals My Heart

When I went to the farmer's market on Sunday and saw portobello caps on sale for a Father's Day special I had to have them. I tried a stuffed portobello recipe last summer that I absolutely loved. I was hoping to make them as my One Local Summer meal this week. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any local ricotta cheese for the filling.

After searching high and low (OK, just at the farmer's market and Whole Foods) I found some local goat cheese that I thought might work. I've never had chevre, so I wasn't sure what I was getting or what to do with it other than use it like I would feta--sprinkled over or tossed into a salad. It was the right consistency, though, so I thought I'd give it a try. After doing a quick internet search, I decided I wasn't going to stuff the caps and would do something different. Here's what I came up with, combining and modifying several recipes I came across.

Open-faced Portobello Stacks with Chevre Spread


2 hard rolls (I used french rolls, but you could use any small to medium sized, hard crust rolls)
1/4 cup chevre
2 TBSP + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, divided
2 tsp + 1 tsp olive oil, divided
1/4 sweet onion, sliced thinly
4 thick slices tomato
2 portobello caps, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
salt and pepper to taste


Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add sliced onion and cook until caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the meantime, heat the grill. Spray or brush cut sides of each portobello slices with 2 tsp olive oil. Then brush with each portobello slice with 1 TBSP olive oil. Place on the grill, sliced side down and grill about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from grill.

In a small bowl, mix chevre with 1 tsp balsamic vinegar and stir until smooth.

Slice your rolls and grill sliced side down just until grill marks appear. Remove from grill and spread each side of the rolls with 1 TBSP of the chevre. Top each with one slice tomato, 1/4 caramelized onions and 1/4 the portobello slices. Drizzle with remaining 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 open-faced stacks (two servings).

They were a little messy, but they were scrumptious and I'll definitely be making them again!

The Local Low-Down: All ingredients except salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil were local. I paired the sandwich with a glass of local wine for a perfect, light and satisfying dinner.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

OLS Week 3 and a CSA Report

I didn't get a picture of this week's CSA share, but it was a good one. There wasn't a lot to it, but I'm making good use of it.

  • 0.5 lb sugar snap peas
  • 0.25 lb snow peas
  • 1 head lettuce
As for this week's One Local Summer meal, I fell back on those fresh eggs again. I'm doing a bit of a "vegetarian experiment" and finding local protein sources other than eggs has been a bit of a challenge. I don't mind too much, though.

This week I made a frittata, which has become one of my favorite egg dishes since I discovered them last year. A few eggs, some sauteed garlic, scallions, asparagus, and green and yellow zucchini and I'm a happy, local-eating girl. I added a side of new potato homefries and I was satisfied.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

OLS Week 2 - A Childhood Stand-by

I didn't plan well for this week's local meal, so my farmer's market trip this morning was focused on finding something quick and easy I could make for a local lunch today. When I saw the new potatoes, I immediately had an idea. One of may favorite meals as a child was one that my mother would make when there wasn't much in the refrigerator or she didn't have the time and energy for a more elaborate meal: a fried egg over fried sliced potatoes (usually from a can).

To mimic this meal with local ingredients, I thinly sliced a couple new potatoes and fried them in a bit of (non-local) olive oil with a chopped scallion and a chopped garlic scape. Then I fried a fresh egg and placed it over the bed of potatoes. When the yoke breaks, the potatoes soak it up. Easy and delicious.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Thanks so much to all of you who voted for my next pair of glasses. I counted all mentions, since some of you chose more than one pair. The winner by a landslide vote was A:

F (a very similar pair) came in second with 5 mentions. C (the oval pair) and B (the bronze-y rectangles) trailed behind with 3 and 2 votes respectively.

The interesting thing was that my favorites and yours were not the same. I liked A and F, but wasn't quite comfortable with how dark they were against my light skin. B, which only got 2 votes, was my favorite pair. In fact, I went frame shopping with those exact frames (Bebe's "Drama Queen" if anyone is interested) in mind. My sister-in-law wears them and I tried them on when I was visiting my family recently and loved how they looked on me. At least a couple of you found them appealing.

I actually didn't like C at all, but included them because, as I mentioned, I'm not very good at this. When some of you picked them I was a bit surprised. The good news is, if I remember correctly, your first choice was the cheapest pair of frames in the batch.

Looking at these pictures pretty regularly over the last few days has helped me get used to seeing myself in glasses, and I'm starting to like what I see. I'm also coming to agree with the majority of voters that the darker frames do look good on me. Since the first and second choices were so similar, I'll go back and try them both on and make a final decision then. I'm also considering getting a second pair (B) so that I can change things up when I'm feeling a little less trendy and dramatic. Of course, buying that second pair will depend on price and how much my insurance covers.

As for the winner of a small thank-you gift, Mel at Box of Chocolates will be getting a package in the near future just for voicing her opinion. Her comment (#9) was selected by the random number generator at

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mayday! Style Advice Requested

For as long as I've needed to wear corrective lenses all the time, I've been wearing contact lenses. I have glasses, but I don't wear them often, mostly because I'm not very good at picking out frames. I usually think I like the ones I pick out, but within a few weeks, I hate how they look on me. So my glasses (which I spend significant amounts of money on) end up hanging out on my nightstand and get worn in the evenings and on the weekends when I'm hanging around the house. When absolutely necessary, I will wear them to work or the mall, but that's rare.

A month or so ago, I met someone whose glasses were stylish and fit her face perfectly. This has prompted an all-out search for the perfect frames. It turns out her face is a very similar shape as mine, so I took what I saw and went straight to the nearest vision store to try on some frames. Unfortunately, as soon as I started trying on glasses, I started to get the old wishy-washy, I-hate-how-I-look-in-glasses feeling. I want to find a pair of frames that I'd be happy to wear in public on any day of the week. A pair of frames that make me feel confident and trendy.

I spent an hour trying on frames and snapping shots of myself and I've narrowed the frames down to these six pair. This is where you come in. Please vote for a pair of frames by leaving a comment telling me which ones you like and why you like them. For the most part, the frames are very similar, but that's because the rectangular shape seemed to look best on me. For comparison, I've also included a picture of me in the glasses I currently wear.


Choice A:

Choice B:

Choice C:

Choice D:

Choice E:

Choice F:

I hope you'll help me move out of my contact lens-wearing rut and into the world of trendy eye wear. Vote away, readers--and just for taking time to share your opinion, I'll be choosing a random commenter to send a special thank-you gift.

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