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?

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