Monday, June 29, 2009

My Place.

Time is licking at my toes
Like the tide that’s rolling in.
Still, I know not where to go,
Or where I should begin.

But the depths of my mind,
can show me where I want to be.
But the clarity is blurred
by the things I cannot see.

I’ve seen the rise and fall
Of an empire or two.
I’ve met and lost nearly all
Of the friends that I once knew.

I’ve watch convenience spread
Like an unstoppable disease.
A plague that binds us all
With a terrifying ease.

But still through the years
I cannot find my place.
Except to cry the tears
of my oblivious race.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mushroom Lasagna with Fresh Pasta. Nummy.

It was such a beautiful day--not the sort of day one would imagine making a wintry lasagna, but it was what sounded good, and I had all the fixings for it. So I decided what the hey, today's a good day to make some pasta.

This recipe came with the kitchenaid pasta-roller attachment. It's simple, and extremely tender; WAY better than boxed, dried whole-wheat pasta; by far.

You start with the flat beater, and mix the ingredients for 30 seconds. Then switch it out for the dough-hook and use that for 2 minutes. Both of them should be set at speed 2. Then you take out the dough, and put on a floured surface and knead for another two minutes. Then it's ready to go.

It's easier to manage that way. I used half for today's lasagna. I put the rest in a plastic bag or two to keep them moist while I worked with each segment.

You start with the 1 setting on the pasta roller. At first it comes out very coarse, but th emore you work the pasta, the smoother it gets. I like my lasagna noodles to look 'rustic' so I don't mind rough edges, but if you want smooth edges, just fold the raggedy edges in as you work the dough through the various settings. I roll my lasagna noodles to the 5 setting--which is a good thickness for this particular noodle.

I have a little drying tree to hang my finished noodles on while I finish up. I let them hang there a bit to dry, but since there's eggs in the recipe, you should package and freeze the pasta if you're not going to cook it right away. I like those cottagey, rough-edges. :)

I'm going to do some ravioli with the rest of the segments. I haven't decided on fillings yet. But I don't have the plates, so I'll do them a-la-rustique, with a traditional ravioli wheel. That's another post for another day. Right now, onto the lasagna! I start by preparing and chilling the ricotta mixture. I used low-fat ricotta, and added an egg, some grated parmesan, some salt, ground pepper (too coursely ground in this case, I had a few bites of mostly whole peppercorns... whoowee), some sea salt... and a little bit of basil and I added Tarragon because me likes it.

I then popped this concoction into the fridge while I started the cooking business. I love a good spaghetti/lasagna sauce. Especially with mushrooms. The more shrooms the better I say.

That is A LOT of mushrooms. At least a pound. I diced the onion, and used four good cloves of garlic (to keep mosquitoes at bay); and hucked them into a metal bowl.

Some folks like to add italian sausage to their sauce for that unique flavour, but since I cannot stand fennel or anything licorice-like, I always use ground beef. You can do whatever you please. My mother takes sausage meat out of the casings, but I know the meat counter where I shop sells sausage meat sans casings. Whatever floats your boat.

I usually heat up the pan, dollop in some olive oil, and then put in a good measure of oregano, basil, and whatever other spices that suit my fancy, and let the aromas bloom a bit in the heated oil before I add the meat. I then fry it up, it's so lean there's no fat except olive oil. I add salt and pepper and a few other ingredients, like sometimes I'll add a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Then into the pot goes the 'triumvirate of tastiness', you may need to add a bit more olive oil. Mushrooms are thirsty. Once those are all nice and sweated down... time to add the tomatoes.

I get flack from some folks because I use canned tomatoes. So what? I used one large can of crushed tomatoes and one smaller can of pureed tomatoes. Some folks add tomato paste, I prefer to avoid all-night heartburn. It turns out lovely and thick anyway, because of the pasta. No need for paste. It's time to boil my pasta. This stuff cooks fast. About a minute. No kidding. I don't want to overcook because it's going to cook more in the layers.

So your first layer goes down. Easy enough. I love the colour of this pasta. It's so rustic. Adore!

I spoon on a thickish layer of the meat sauce and spread it out over the first layer of pasta. I then cover with another pasta layer.

Then out of the fridge comes the ricotta blend. I use a rubber spatula to spread it around on the pasta. I cover that in pasta again.

Then goes on another thickish layer of sauce. Don't use all your sauce, leave a bit for the final layer. On top of this sauce, I put a 70% of the bag of the 'italian four-cheese blend' over the sauce, and you guessed it... more pasta to cover.

Then apply a thin layer of the remaining sauce over that, and the 30% of your cheese blend. I also sliced up some fresh mozzarella, and laid it over the top. I baked at 350º for a bit, and then broiled the top to get that golden brown yumminess. We popped some garlic bread in while it was broiling.

And there you go. Oh, it was good if I say so myself.

We decided to dine outdoors at our tiny picnic table.

Some mood lighting. Bon appétit. ;)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Friday with squirrel snuggles.

I coloured this with the cheap photo-editor here at work, so it isn't very pretty. I was thinking of actually doing this one with watercolours, so I kept the original in black and white. I think the baby turned out particularly sweet. I forgot to paint the basket & the butterfly. Oops. Happy Friday all. Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Curse and Craigslist.

Being a Hungarican has its drawbacks, but there’s one drawback in particular that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. That is HAIR. Hungarians and Puerto-Ricans are pretty swarthy, hair-rich folk. Many have dark, heavy hair. Having a genetic double-whammy in the hair department creates what I call The Hair Curse; the onset of HFHS (Hungarican-Facial-Hair-Syndrome). When I hit 35, some weird switch turned on that started the unending growth of eyebrows, moustache, and beard hair. It doesn’t matter if you are man, woman or neuter; if you have Hungarican DNA, you’re bound to suffer from the onset of HFHS; an embarrassing side effect of this particular blending of nationalities.

They’re not nice soft little blond hairs, no… they’re jet black wire-brush hairs that grow at accelerated rates. If left unchecked, and I do not tweeze, veet or wax on a regular basis… I could end up like HER (who I might add, is 99% likely to be a Hungarican herself--as many circus bearded ladies likely are):

Except *she* doesn’t have the massive eyebrow issues we do. I’m not lying, if I didn’t wax and tweeze and trim my eyebrows regularly, they’d look like these:

My dad’s eyebrows look like two grey flokati caterpillars inching across his head. Really. Case and Point -- see image of my Papa below:

Mom too has mega-bushy eyebrows--to which she does nothing, and allows to grow out of control into shagsville. My eyebrows grow SO long, I have to comb them out and trim them with scissors. I had one that was as long as my whole eyebrow once. I didn’t notice because it kept lying the length of the eyebrow, but then one night, I slept wonky and it was all Spocked out across my forehead like some freakish comb-over. Suffice it to day, Harry got yanked. I get Spocky a lot in the morning. It’s embarrassing.

I’m all for a nice, full, natural eyebrow (I have a thing about those super-plucked arcs of ugliness some ladies do to themselves…); there’s a place for natural eyebrows, but my genes take natural to the freakish end of the scale… It’s a cross I’ll likely bear for the rest of my life, unless the come up with a permanent removal solution that will keep me from getting five-o-clock chin-shadow.

Onto less disgusting things…

I’ve become a craigslist free-stuff addict. I’ve been using the heck out of that page since I put my old sofa set up there. Since then, I’ve used it to give away a small secretary desk, the foam frame for our water-tube mattress; a box of old cook-books I never use, and a bunch of betta-fish paraphernalia from my office at work, where I once kept them, and where the poor things tragically died when the furnace stopped working in the middle of winter.

There’s something really satisfying about giving something you don’t need to someone who wants to use it for something. The desk was a really cute vintage desk that nobody wanted to buy, but I got a billion emails for within the first hour of its being posted on free-stuff. It went to a woman who wanted it so badly; she wrote me a special story about how she appreciated pieces with a little history and hoped she could add to its story by owning it… The foam frame, which for any of you who do upholstery of any kind, was a total score for anyone who got it, went to reupholster benches on a boat project… that stuff (4 ¾ thick upholstery foam) is super-expensive per yard… he got a pristine, king sized bed worth of it for free. SCORE. The books were begged for by various people; who I am SURE will use them more than I have. I’ve had them for 13 years, and they never came off the shelf once except when I boxed them up to move them to a new residence. I can’t remember ever cracking them open. So I figured anyone who’ll drive 45 minutes to pick them up will appreciate them more than I did. And the lady who wants the betta tank paraphernalia is equally excited and making a special trip (getting her mother’s car) to fetch it.

It’s funny to me that people will go through such lengths for free stuff; I guess it’s all relative to what one’s passions are. For instance, if someone put up an ad for free fabric, horse tack, or art supplies, I might make a little trip somewhere to fetch them.

Speaking of horses… I’m still undecided on whether or not Tag and I are to become best friends for life. I’m still in the ‘can we really afford this sort of irresponsible and kind of selfish thing?’ phase. I haven’t met him yet. With a ball coming up on Saturday and EPA reports to be submitted this week; I haven’t got the time to drive up to Washington to meet him and give him snacky treats and smooches and to fall hopelessly in love with him so that I could never walk away without taking him with me. Yes, I’m afraid of that part, because if we come to the conclusion that we cannot afford him after I’ve met him and scritched behind his ears, and let him take carrot pieces out of my hand with his floopy horse-lips, and hugged his huge neck, I am not sure if I could bear the heartbreak of not having that again. Augh, I am trying not to get my hopes up, or to put myself too much into that mindset yet that horses are in my life again… but I already have a strong urge to stop at the feedstore on the way home each day for a fresh bottle of Neatsfoot oil and saddle soap to get my tack back up to snuff again. Not good. L8tr.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Loafers and hayburners.

Hubby is home all this week. The dogs, in part, are much enjoying it; using the extra time to smash down the cushion on the new chair to get it just-so for snoozing and squirrel-watching purposes. Hubby sent me this picture yesterday; he titled the email: Dog Day. You should note the tiffany lamp-shade lying on its side on the upper left side of the photo. I think I may have to move that lamp now that we have a wider chair and narrower table; or it'll be smashed to bits by the idiotic Simon.


Now onto some irresponsible news:

I'm considering getting a horse. I know it's irresponsible and crazy, but I'm still in consideration phase right now... I haven't made any decisions. I'm looking at this guy:

His name is Tag, he's nine years old, and yes, he's a Belgian Draft. I know, it's crazy... but I love heavy European horses, it's the kind of horse I've always been around; he's 17 hands... stompy and sweet. I want to meet him, slap my all-purpose on him and take him for a spin. There's a three-year-old that I'm interested in too, but he's really green, and I'm not sure if I want to go through the whole training process. I just want to have a muzzle to give kisses to and a friend who'll take me on quiet, mind-clearing rides, and let me groom him and fuss over him. Tag's tail is wholly pathetic, but time and meticulous care and grooming can fix that (given that it hasn't been cropped into a puff as they often do with drafts)..

Am I nuts? Probably. It's all contingent on whether or not we can find and then afford boarding for him. I'll keep everyone apprised.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Doggy Friday

Posie Gets Cozy's post today is so sweet, it inspired me to throw together this little blurb about dogs. It's a Happy Friday; but due to the large workload I have here, I have no time to take an office-special break; maybe later. ::ugh::

Anyway... My Ode to Canines...

I am always happy to see you.
I am your center of comfort.
I am your body-warmer.
I am always here.
I need you and you need me.
I am soft and snuggly.
I make you laugh.
I am occasionally smelly.
I am sometimes impossible.
You never are angry at me for long.
My eyes can express more than you can possibly imagine.
I will clean away your tears if you let me.
I watch over you.
I protect you.
I sometimes frighten away other marauding dogs with hysterical barking.
I lie on my back with my belly in the air.
I am easy to please.
I demand your attention.
I am smarter than you think.
My shedding adds interest to your dark boring clothing.
I like toys that squeak and flail.
I was once the cutest puppy on earth with oatmeal breath and a pink belly.
I can smile.
I know what I want and who I am.
I am mischievous.
I am a comedian.
My loyalty to you is steadfast and unbending.
My love never strays, even when you are a jerk to me.
I am earnest and sincere in every wag of my tail.
I’m a blanket burrower.
I am your greatest fan.
I am your best friend.
And my paws smell like Fritos.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Renewal.

It’s Monday, consarnit (that’s a Prospector-talk for 'Monday’s Bite'). Yes, you know my feelings about this particular day of the week ::narrows eyes into evil slits:: It’s the day of the week I could easily murder and hide under the floorboards with no remorse.

We had a nice weekend. Today we’re getting our new sofas. We’re in renewing mode; and we’re replacing our King bed with a Queen (arrives this weekend) and yesterday, I bade farewell to my first new sofa set, purchased for me by my evil but generous mother back in 2000 when I bought my first house in New Hampshire. It was a cute, chunky sofa set, with a nice graceful curve on the arms, and a really commodious feel to them. There's a little ‘pit’ worn into the left side of the loveseat where I sat the most; usually with a dog snuggled in against my bum and a little throw blanket across my knees.

I posted an ad for the loveseat, armchair and ottoman on Craigslist this weekend, and within two hours of my posting it, I got 20+ emails about it. After winnowing down the flakes, it came down to a mother who was trying to find furniture for her young daughter who’d just had a baby and was setting up her home. They were slow about it, having trouble finding someone with a truck to fetch the stuff, but at length, Grandpa was drafted, and they showed up last night at about five, and took my set away. Oddly, I had to fight back some strong emotions watching it drive away, and sweeping the toy-fluff and dust bunnies left behind. I didn’t expect to feel so strongly about it. It’s just stuff, I kept saying to myself. I cannot deny the fact that set has been with me almost 10 years, and followed me from the east coast. It was cozy and it had lots of memories attached to it; including the chew marks from Simon’s puppyhood on the wooden base, and the frayed fabric where many a dog-nail has been dug in for launch… That loveseat was also Eddie’s favourite place to snuggle underneath the ratty plaid blanket and growl if anyone touched him. ::::::::::sigh::::::::::.

Just before I started moving them onto the deck, Simon was curled up into a doughnut in the perfect little nest on the top back of the armchair; formed from years of use as both bed and squirrel-watching-post (he’s using this spot here) I almost shed a tear. The pups seem so disoriented now that the furniture is gone. They don’t know where their usual landscape went. Both Simon and Flower were brought into the house as it was as puppies, unlike Eddie, who weathered much change and was accustomed to the landscape changing. If he were around, he'd have taken it in stride. Flower and Simon simply sat on the floor by the fireplace looking lost. They were relieved when we set their crate back up; but their confusion remains. But not for long, I'll wager. I'm sure they'll adjust to the new stuff pretty quickly.

We replaced the short, high-armed loveseat with something we can stretch out on. World Market’s Quinn sofa.

We also picked up the Elyse Twin Sleeper. It’s a cute over-sized armchair, but also has a little fold up twin bed in it. Our tiny house offers little room for guests; so I thought it would be cool to have a practical thing like this.

I’m excited. They will be delivered to our house this afternoon. I’m sure the dogs’ll adjust to the new landscape and more snuggle spaces. I’m looking forward to the change. I may even paint one of these days.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lane Bryant loses a customer.

For those of you who don’t know, Lane Bryant is a clothing retailer for ladies of the Rubenesque sort… Zaftig per say… curvy ladies. I fall into that category; and I happen to love to shop there on the most part. It’s one of the few places I can find that carries bras that are of proper size to contain my rather generous heaps of womanhood.

Recently, I got a Lane Bryant credit card. It had a minimal balance, which is good because it was easy to pay off in one fell swoop at the end of the month if need be. We were good about it, hubby had it in the bill-paying rounds, paid it off in full every time I accrued charges, and it was never an issue…



Apparently, we made a payment over the phone once, and in part, were charged $5.00 for an over-the-phone fee. That’s okay… Fine. The automated system asked us if we were aware of this charge, we agreed to pay it with the billed amount, and we pressed the requisite buttons (or so we thought) and larked along on our way, happy in our delusion that we’d paid off our bill in whole and there was zero balance to worry about.

Some time goes by and we get a bill in the mail and a nastygram threat to close the account. We look at it, and there’s $5.00 on the account. I call LB, pay it immediately over the phone. Frankly, at that time, we had no idea what the $5.00 was. We thought it was some sort of finance charge or something. I just paid it, no biggie; going through the same process of paying the additional $5.00 for an over the phone fee; making the total $10.00 (or so I thought).

The next month… ANOTHER BILL WITH $5.00!!! OMG!!! I’m miffed, but I’m not quite furious yet… I was going to call LB today to find out what the heck this recurring $5.00 is about. In my mind, I’d paid those extra fees so what was this extraneous $5.00 charge doing there each month?

Just before I am about to call, I get a call from my credit union loan department (we’re looking into getting a small loan)… and she wants to go over something on my credit report. “There’s a late fee… for a charge with Lane Bryant.” At that moment, I feel like those veins on my temples are about to burst, and I’m about to do a crimson lawn-sprinkler all over my desk. We are trying SO hard to keep our credit clean and improve it, and to hear this, well, cranial-explosion was nigh.

So I call Lane Bryant ‘Customer Service’. I put customer service in quotes because I really think it should be ‘I hate My Job and I’m Tired Of Listening To People Bitch At Me Day In And Day Out; So You Can Hear the Attitude In My Voice Even Before The Barely Navigable, Time-Wasting Automated Answering System Eventually Sends You To My Line, And I Am Only Going To Infuriate You Further By Not Listening A Thing You Say, And Instead, Talk Over You, Interrupt You, And Then Do Nothing But State Policy And Then Segue You To The Payment Process So I Can Get You Off The God-Damned Phone And Never Hear From Your Sorry Ass Again Service (While Loudly Typing With My One-Inch Painted Solars)’.

I find out what the fee is, and to put it... mildly, I was annoyed. In all honesty, it feels like extortion. We’re paying phone-payment fees on phone-payment fees. But what really lit my rockets and sent me careening into Lividsville was Miss I-Couldn’t-Give-A-Bigger-Sh*t About Your Tarnished Credit; who delighted in pointing out in her grating, mannish voice, that we as customers, were given an opportunity to add the charge into our payment (??? Uh.. wha…?) and that it’s MY fault the charge wasn’t applied. Can you believe the brass barbells that one’s got? Apparently, when automated Sally is asking you to confirm that you are indeed aware of an additional $5 pay-by-phone charge; it’s not really adding it onto the payment you are making, as implied, but instead, just tacking it onto your balance without your knowing. You’re thinking; “Ahh… bill paid...” as you hang up the phone... They’re thinking: “NOT! Psych!… Ahahahahahhahaha.”

And that about sums up the experience with LB Customer Service. I paid the final five dollars (my preferred payment method of taping $5 to the toe of my right shoe so the snotty CS repo could take payment when break my foot off in her ass wasn’t really feasible, so I used my debit card instead) with the assurance that they weren't going to add a pay-by-phone charge again without telling me. I was so disgusted by the whole thing, and how cold and uncaring is that my credit was unnecessarily damaged by their crappy payment system, that I wrote them the nastiest letter I’ve ever written to date (and I’m a practiced complaint-letter-writer, trust me), and have decided that I will no longer shop at that store. Their people and policies show that they have not even the slightest respect for long-standing, really good customers. I can’t believe my credit took a hit for Five Freakin’ Dollars. And LB Customer Service isn’t in the slightest bit interested in hearing why customers might have a problem with their non-intuitive, ridiculous phone-payment system. Unbelievable.

As a result, I chopped up the card and activated my Avenue card instead. They have cute bras in my size too, and they’re less expensive anyway. Adios LB. And Bite Me.

(Can you believe this is the same person who draws pictures of chipmunks and cutsie things, and who dreams in Regency....? It's like Jekyll and Hyde. You don't need potions to turn me into Monstro-Steph tho... just really crappy Customer Service, treating children or animals badly, or invoking my road rage''ll do it.)


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