Saturday, November 29, 2008

My New Obsession

I'm a bit obsessed with seitan. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I found a new website: I'm not sure how I found myself there but I'm glad I did. The first thing I noticed was his recipe for vegetarian sausages. I figured the worst thing that could happen if I tried them was that I might be wasting $3 worth of ingredients. Not a horrible cost for a food experiment. At least the recipes don't call for truffles!

So I tried to make them. It was a little too easy and I was pretty sure that I must be doing something wrong. Plus, I didn't have all the spices he called for (fennel and oregano - I know, who doesn't have oregano?!) and I added some Korean hot sauce.

Ronnie and I were both nervous as we tried them - I mean we knew they wouldn't be completely inedible, but whether they would be worth eating was going to be another question. They were not only edible, they were excellent. And lightly cooked in the frying pan for breakfast the next morning, they were even better.

So for Thanksgiving, I tried the stuffed "turkey". It was also excellent! The only thing I would do differently there would be to try the stuffing he recommended or make mine more interesting. I made a pretty boring stuffing and it tasted too much like the "turkey" (but with a different texture).

And today, I watched a video (from a different website) on making seitan corned beef. There are two strange things about that last sentence. First, seitan corned beef?! (Evidently yes.) Second, a video teaching you to make seitan corned beef on the internet? (I am so far behind this whole technology thing!)

I think my next project is going to be the veggie lunch meat from Vegan Dad's site. The one thing I know for sure, I will never buy another package of Tofurkey slices or otherwise.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Transference of Opposibility

I'm in St. Louis. One of my regular fall tasks at my parents house is to duct tape a big garbage bag over the air conditioner in the kitchen so it doesn't let the winter air blow in. I've done this for the past four years without consequence.

This year, I decided to sign my work in duct tape strips on top of the air conditioner. Just trust me - if you saw the set up, this would make sense. But I learned that vanity comes at a price. In fact, I paid in blood. Trying to cut thin strips of duct tape to spell out "AH", I got the scissors stuck on the tape and when I unstuck them, I also sliced open my left thumb.

I finished my signature and then headed inside, leaving a bloody trail. Ok, there wasn't enough blood yet to leave a trail, but there could have been if the wound was bigger or if I'd had a few more initials to put down in tape on the garbage bag.

There are no easy decisions at my parents house. Bandaid or steri-strip? Anti-bacterial goop or none? Emergency Room or Urgent Care? I decided right away against the ER and also decided that if the bleeding didn't stop in 10 minutes, that I would consider Urgent Care. I think with enough pressure on a wound, you can just assume that you've scared the blood away.

And we went with anti-bacterial goop, gauze and tape.

So for the next few hours, I couldn't really use my thumb. Which made eating dinner hard. It was then that I was wondering why only our thumbs are opposible and not our other fingers as well. I can't really figure out what that would look like, but it would certainly make eating easier.

I know that there are people all over the world who for many reasons have no thumbs, or even hands for that matter and they are not malnourished. So I get that it's possible to eat without the use of one thumb. But wouldn't it be interesting if our bodies compensated by transferring the opposition to another finger when our thumbs aren't able to perform their regular duties?

I'm just sayin'....

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I was in a mall today for the first time in a long time. My Trader Joe's is on the outskirts of an outdoor mall, but other than that, I don't think I've been in an indoor shopping mall in well over a year. What I learned, is that there will probably be very little reason to return anytime in 2009.

Malls are filled with maybe three or different types of stores (jewelry, clothes of various types, and electronics) and they're all basically selling the same thing. And right now, everything is on sale, which makes me wonder why anyone goes there during the rest of the year.

Why did I go to the mall? There was one store going out of business and I was hoping to see if there was anything worth buying given how inexpensive things would be. After all that, there wasn't. Really, at 40% off, there still wasn't anything worth spending money on.

What was interesting about the overall experience though is what happens at malls before the stores actually open. I got to the mall before the stores open. People were walking in so I figured it would be better to wait inside where it was warm than in my car. Plus, there was no coffee in my car.

There were probably a hundred people, really, walking around in circles throughout the mall. Mostly older people and mainly women. And these are serious walkers - a few of them almost ran me over. But in my search for coffee, I found the men. They were all sitting at the food court drinking coffee and playing cards and probably waiting for their wives.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Herbal Medicine Class

So last night I took another class with the cheese lady. This time, it was class three of a four class series on using herbs. I wasn't so interested in the first two topics so there I was in a room of 15 other people, some of whom were also taking the 3rd class as their first. Who knew it would be so popular. Why did I take it? Well, I would never go to the doctor for a simple cold, but I figured it was cheaper than a co-pay, so why not.

She started off introducing herself as someone who is trained in the tradition of the Wise Women. And then she sang a song. She said that she always starts class by singing a song. Trust me, had there been a song at the cheese class, I'm not sure I would have come back. And I already paid for the 4th class. Oh well. At least it was a short song. And she didn't try to teach it and make us sing, so that was ok.

Now before I go on, picture in your mind the person who might be this teacher. Okay, got the picture? If you saw a 50-something woman with long gray hair tied in braids, you get a gold star.

And then she passed around kelp for us to munch on. I like seaweed, so I expected it to taste like the bottom of an aquarium. Others in the class had no such expectations.

Last night we learned how to make infused oils and the dangers of essential oils. I don't really remember why they are dangerous, but I suppose as long as I know she believes that they are, that's good enough for now. And then we made a balsam fir infused oil. In four to six weeks it will be ready to strain and ready for use. Evidently I'll be able to make lotions and lip balms, use it for cooking or massage, and if I remembered what healing properties balsam fir is known for, I could use it for that too.

Then we made a comfrey poultice. Yes, a comfrey poultice. It was fairly easy. You chop up some comfrey, add water, put it in a blender and then put a few spoonfuls on a rag. It's good for sprains, strains and other such maladies. I'm not sure I could ever do this on my own, not knowing what comfrey actually looks like in the wild. (She'd brought a big basket of the roots already harvested. )

And then, we made throat lozenges out of honey and marshmallow root powder. They don't really taste like anything, but my throat was soothed, or so I imagined. I brought six or seven home and I'm fairly certain I could make them on my own.

At some point, she had mullen tea for us to taste. I have no idea what a mullen is, but I will not be making tea from it anytime soon.

Class 4 should be interesting...

What not to Do

It's not a good idea to spill split pea soup in your keyboard.

Thankfully, it's our regular desktop computer keyboard and not my fancy new laptop from work. That would just be embarrassing. Mainly because I get the sense that our IT guys are more minestrone types than split pea.

Which takes me to the problem with winter. It requires too many bowls. Hot cereal for breakfast, soup or chili for lunch (or dinner) times two people is already four bowls a day. Not to mention spoons. In three days, we're out of bowls. Four days if we share a bowl or two.

The other problem with this is that when you're out of bowls, it doesn't mean the dishwasher is anywhere close to being full. The only part that's full is where the bowls go. Okay, maybe there are also a few plates but not enough to run the machine. So then the bowls have to come out to be washed by hand, which I would have done to start with if I had known.

Or it's possible I'm just eating too much soup. But it's easy to make and relatively healthy and freezes well.

Oh, the other thing not to do is wait to buy an electric teapot. I've wanted one for years and finally got one a few months ago. It's among the greatest inventions ever. It's probably just a winter appliance but since it's winter now, I'm happy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I just got back from our public library returning some old books and checking out new ones. The basement of the library was serving as a polling place today and the study room in the Young Adult section was being used to register new voters.

Let me be clear - the polls have been open since 6am and they are open until 7 or 8pm tonight. And early voting has been available for weeks. And yet, there was a line of at least 8 people (I didn't look and see how far into the room the line extended) waiting to register to vote. What were these people waiting for? Did they not get the message? I don't begrudge them their right to vote, but I think that registering to vote shouldn't take place two hours before the polls close.

When we went to vote this morning, we were asked for our name and to confirm our address. No proof of idenfitication, address or signature necessary. I left wondering who else's name I could vote under. I did not try and test the system.

Our polling place is an elementary school. They were having a bake sale. I think no one gave them the message that if you vote and wear your "I Voted" sticker you get free treats. Plus, if the referendum to lower property taxes by increasing sales tax passes, they shouldn't need to be holding as many bake sales or charging as much for what looked like a misshapen, dried out brownie.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Knock, Knock

I want the political canvassers (aka: people with clipboards) to stop knocking on my door and ringing the bell. It's been going on for weeks now, several times a day. And they're leaving all sorts of annoying literature. ARGGGH!

I finally wrote a note and posted it on the door. It says:
"Dear Political Canvassers,
Please do not ring the bell. We have finely honed
ESP skills and your thoughts will be more appreciated than
your actions."

What I wanted to end with was "Now go away!" But I didn't, because no matter what my reputation, I'm just not that rude. Most of the time.

When I went down to tape the note to the door, the clipboard-holding doorbell-ringing canvassers were across the street. You would have thought that I held raw steak for a hungry junkyard dog to see how fast they ran toward me. I pulled their literature off my door and handed it back to them. And then I (more or less politely) asked them to please take us off whatever list shows that we want to be interrupted several times a day by a loud buzzer.

One of them tried to hand me a "I Voted Today" sticker to put on our door that she swore would stop the offenses. I told her I hadn't yet voted and that when I did, I would be happy to wear a sticker. (Plus, I hear that all sorts of coffee, ice cream and donut shops are giving away free treats if you wear your sticker tomorrow. I wonder what happens to the people who voted last week and didn't keep theirs, or it stopped sticking. Maybe we could get a whole roll and pass them out to homeless people so they can get a coffee and donut? But I digress....) And, I have no idea if both parties are abiding by the "sticker on the door" rule or just hers.

The sad thing is that I love Election Day. I don't care who you vote for - I love that we vote. In fact, I think we should have a rule that says if you can vote but don't, your taxes double. That would either pay down our national debt really fast or get more people involved in the democratic process. Hmm, I wonder if any of the candidates has thought of this yet....

Saturday, November 01, 2008

This Week in DC

I was in DC working. Many things happened. Try and match the quote with the quoter:

1. "Andrea, let me know before you go downstairs. I need to get lightbulbs and some pants." [commentary: You don't hear that line too often. I think it would make a great first sentence in someone's next novel. If you know any writers, please let them know. ]

2. "Really?!" (when talking about the cheese voucher we get in Wisconsin each year)

3. "You know what you should blog about?"

4. "I'll have a job by the end of the night" (said at 9:30pm)

a. Andy
b. Dennis
c. D'kneel
d. Stevie

I also learned a few things. We have a Hillel director at Tel Aviv University, P'nina, who was part of Operation Moses (the efforts to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel). It was the first time I'd heard her story. She was only three, but she said that their community hadn't know that Israel was a modern country. They'd assumed it was just like Ethiopia, only Israel. Since the Ethiopian Jews were cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for so long, they only practiced the Judaism found in the Torah. They didn't know Chanukah, and some of the more remote villages didn't know that the 2nd Temple had been destroyed. And then of course there was the regular work stuff....