Nothing Spooky Here

  
I’m not one for scary Halloween stuff. I never liked haunted houses or slasher movies. I’m much more to cleaver or cute Halloween costumes. I remember one year when our club had a Halloween party and I was too tired to come up with a costume. As I looked around my very messy bedroom for inspiration at the last minute it came to me. I took a plastic laundry basket and cut a hole out of the bottom that was big enough to fit over my body. I tied some sneakers and slippers to the sides of the basket and draped people magazines and some laundry over it. When I got to the party with my basket full of crap around my body I told the costume judge I was there as my bedroom floor. I won the contest.
When Carter came around I used her as my costume model. Thinking up and making costumes was something I did for months before Halloween. For Carter’s first Halloween as a non-walker I made her a dragon fly costume which was comfy enough to wear in the jogging stroller. Her second Halloween she was a garden, a soft sculpture version that she wore like a smock, her third year a scrapbook made out of cloth with real photos of her life printed on the material.
Carter’s fourth Halloween she wanted to have input and requested to be a bride. That was the year she had an invisible husband as well as a boy in nursery school who asked her to marry him. When she told me that Conner had asked her at school one day I asked her what she said in reply to his proposal. “What could I say? He asked me right in front of my husband.”
The years of my having any say in her costumes is long past. This year she has had two, a school girl with her friends and “Oh dear.” With her face made up as a deer and a shirt that says OH on it. It is much better than the combination I would have come up with for a shirt that said, “OH.” Of course I don’t know how to make an “OH S#%?” costume.

  


This Used To Be Mischievous Night

When I was a kid the night before Halloween was called mischievous night. In my very homogeneous town of Wilton, Connecticut that usually meant that some kids would TP the trees in the house of the most crotchety person in a neighborhood, of throw an egg at someone’s house, but nothing more than that. I always wondered whose parents let them go out on the eve of Halloween because it certainly meant they were up to no good.
The draping of trees in toilet paper might have just been considered harmless, but it seemed like a royal pain to me. I can not imagine trying to clean up multiple rolls out of a tree where I certainly could not reach the branches. Most people had to wait until the rain washed the paper from the things and then go pick up bit of soggy paper from their lawn. And eggs can really do some damage to paint job if not washed off immediately. How were these things condoned with a night dedicated to them?
This is one tradition I am glad has disappeared. I might be the crotchety old neighbor now. I have the perfect trees to be TP’d with long twiggy branches and good street visibility.  
The whole “trick or treat” mentality is just wrong. Why on Halloween do we tell children to basically threaten their neighbors into giving up candy, and good candy, under the threat of having a trick played on them if they do not?  
We will be giving out candy tomorrow night until it is time to go out to dinner, then Carter will take over. I know she wants to go out with friends at some point. This is when I wish had a Harry Potter invisibility cloak we could drape over the house. I am happy to give candy out to little children early in the evening, but I would like to black the house out and not encourage anyone to come up our walkway and not find us home. Am I tempting a trick?  
What is a person to do when Halloween falls on a Saturday? Must we give up a fun invitation out just to stay home and protect our house? I hope not. What I really hope is that most kids have no idea what’s mischievous night was and that they are ill equipped to follow through on the trick part of trick or treating. I really don’t want to have to repaint anything because I discover too late an egg has been thrown at the house.  


Spice Girl

  

I brought some soup to a friend who asked me for the recipe. When I gave it to her she called me after she had made it, “My soup tastes nothing like yours.” Now I am not a perfect recipe writer because I am not a cook who measures as I cook so I am guessing at amounts when I write after the cooking and tasting are done.  
I was concerned that I might had been so off in my writing so I quizzed my friend. “Did you add this? Or that?” I asked. “Did you cook it long enough?” “Did you add lemon juice or vinegar at the end?” I got satisfactory answers to all those things. I looked back at the recipe which was my Senegalese Stew. It has a lot of spices in it. Then it dawned on my why it might not have tasted anything like mine. 
“How old are your curry powder, coriander and cumin?” I asked.
“Old? I have no idea I’ve had them in my pantry forever.”  
Ding, ding, ding. This is the problem with so many people’s cooking. Spices get old much faster than most people use them up. I bet only one in one hundred of the people who read this blog throw away a spice bottle that has anything still in the bottle, let alone date your bottles so you know when it first was opened.
Spices may seem expensive, but consider how expensive it is to ruin perfectly good food by using old spices. They lose their potency so if you are really opposed to throwing away a jar of paprika that is five years old you have to make up for it by using much more than the recipe calls for. But it is not a one for one trade that for each year over the spoil date you have to double the amount. Some spices just get an “off” taste, especially if they have gotten warm by being in sunlight or by the oven.
I hate to have to write on every recipe “make sure you are using fresh spices,” but I feel like I should. Today I went to the Penzeys spice store in Raleigh and bought a bunch of my favorite and most used herbs and spices since day light savings time brings on the savory cooking and spicy baking season. I tend to stay away from spice blends and rather buy basics that I can mix together as needed. It is much cheaper to buy the bags and put them in my own jars, but if you don’t cook that much just buy the smallest jar available and use it all up quickly.
An investment in $4 worth of spices is money well spent when you consider you might spend $20 on the meat and $15 on the vegetables that go into a recipe.  
If you are somewhat of a spice virgin these are my go to favorites in the order of most use at our house; salt, black pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, curry, basil, rosemary, dry mustard, white pepper, tarragon and marjoram. I have many, many others, but they get used at a much less frequent rate. If you have the ones I listed you will be covered for the majority of recipes you might find. Of course if you want to make dill potato salad you need dill, or some stewed German pork you might need caraway seed, but things like that can be purchased at time of use.  
The best thing you can do is make a dish based around a spice you already own. Search the Internet by the spice and you will get a list of things where it is in the ingredient list. It will expand your cooking repertoire dramatically and not waste your good spices. The best thing you can do this weekend is open your spice jars and take a big sniff. If the smell is not very strong it is probably time to replace it. If it is something you only used once then you don’t need to buy it again. Just don’t ruin perfectly good meet and vegetables, or an apple pie by using the old spices.


Make Your Own Wishes Come True

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The other day someone said to me that if they had three wishes they would use one of them to get skinny and the other to have a better metabolism and the third had nothing to do with losing weight. I think that for many years in my life I had those same wishes.

 

I am not sure when I stopped wishing for wishes and actually making my wishes come true, but it was a long process that was not a straight line. Realizing that I was the key to succeeding at something that seemed only possible through magic was a real game changer.

 

I am not blessed with a fast metabolism. If I were born three hundred years ago it would be a positive because I could survive a famine, drought or long cold winter, but in today’s food everywhere culture it is a curse. What a terrible first world problem to complain about.

 

I am not here to pat myself on the back for losing weight. I have done it multiple times which means I have gained it back in between. What I have learned is that every time I tackled my weight and set it as a goal I was able to magically lose it, thus having one of my wishes come true. Once I had succeeded at fulfilling my own wish I realized that I could make anything happen I wanted.

 

Now I have never wished to have more money than I needed, since I hardly know anyone with unlimited funds who is truly happy. I never wished to be taller or to have smaller feet, things that would have to be a miracle to happen. On the other hand I have wished to help end hunger and have seen that happen more and more in our community.

 

I am no super power. I am just like everyone else. So I want to encourage anyone with a wish that is even slightly within your own sphere of influence to stop wishing for it and instead work for it. Attaining the goal of your wish is the most empowering thing you can do. Once you cross off that accomplishment off your list you feel the I-can-do-anything power that is already in you. That is the secret of the three wishes.


We All Want Our Lovey When We Are Sick

On Sunday morning I was awoken at 5:30 by the terrible sound of Shay Shay about to throw up on my bed. I was able to grab a towel nearby and catch most of the sickly yellow bile. (Sorry if you are eating dinner.). I felt her tummy and she was not too warm, but she gave me the pitiful, “please help me” look. I felt utterly powerless.
I got a warm wet wash cloth and wiped her face clean and she snuggled up against me and went back to sleep. It was harder for me to do the same since I did not want to disturb her.
When we both got up later on, she was still poorly. Russ took her out and she came right back to our bed when she slept most of the day away all alone. I took her to the vet yesterday and although no absolute diagnosis was given I found out she did not have a fever and probably did not have an infection. We came home and she went right back to my room. I came up to check on her and found her sleeping with two of her lovey stuffed animals tucked underneath each arm.  

  
These toys had been in the sun room all the way on the other side of the house. I do not know when she had gotten them and brought them up to bed.  
Today she seemed a little better, but not totally back to herself. I came up to my room after dinner and found Shay still sleeping on my bed, but now a third lovey from the sunroom had joined her other two. They were all placed out in a line next to her.  
I felt a little guilty that she had to have dragged herself down to the sunroom and dug through her basket of loveys all by herself until she found one that she could carry up to keep her comfortable.  

  
If anyone ever doubts that we share traits with dogs I want them to explain to me why a sick dog expends the little energy she has to go and get her toy to snuggle with? Now I am doing my best to help her feel better by rubbing her belly ever so lightly, just the way she likes it. I don’t want her to think she has to shoulder her sickness alone. She is my lovey.


Rich is Easier Than Skinny

Oprah has proven the point again that making a boatload of money is way easier then being thin. Last week while I was at the gym working out at eight in the morning I glanced up at the financial news playing silently on the TV. As the most active stocks scrolled by on the bottom of the screen I caught a surprising glimpse of Weight Watchers, which was up from $6 a share to $10. Something big was happening, I thought and I should have guessed that the jump was all due to a celebrity.
Latter in the day I learned that Oprah had bought ten percent of the weight loss biz and more than doubled her forty million dollar investment. Brilliant, but I saw her on TV and she said that Weight Watchers had approached her in July and she did not want to invest until she had tried the diet. She did and in about two months had lost about fifteen pounds. I guess she was happy enough to buy into the company.
Now the fact that she more than doubled her money in a week shows it was a good move, but maybe she could have done better. See, I don’t think the analysts who are saying buy WW on Oprah’s association are going to stick around if the company fundamentally does not improve.
Seems to me the whole deal would have been a lot more successful if Oprah had kept it quiet that she was doing Weight Watchers for a few months and had continued to lose, hopefully as much as fifty pounds. That would have made people take notice and not just want to buy Weight Watchers stock, which is all well and good, but the millions of overweight Oprah lovers would have joined Weight Watchers because of Oprah’s success.  
Having real customers hanging on every Oprah word as she talked about changing her life with Weight Watchers would be a much better long term situation for the company than just the news that the still fairly big Oprah was buying the stock. The bottom line is just owning Weight Watchers stock does not make you skinny, it still takes counting points to do that.
So in Oprah’s case it was a hell of a lot easier to make forty million dollars in a week than it was to lose ten pounds. Too bad that is not a skill she can share with many people. Being a market mover is something that is limited to a handful of influencers.
Good luck to Oprah on Weight Watchers. I highly endorse it for anyone who has a lot of weight to lose, but like all diets you have to actually follow it. I wonder if Oprah is going to meetings? It would be great publicity to see her weighing in with the rest of humanity in a church basement. Really the best marketing WW could do is to have Oprah travel the country and drop in on different meetings and surprise the attendees. That would really get attendance up and then maybe the stock would actually be worth the amount the Oprah affect had on it.


Raw Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

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If you asked me to eat a Brussels sprout in any form thirty years ago you would have gotten a sourpuss face from me. There was never a vegetable I hate more. Many a Brussels went in the trash in my paper dinner napkin. How my taste buds have changed. Now I even like them raw. This little salad, which could be considered almost a slaw – I put some cold sliced steak on mine and it made the perfect lunch.

 

1 large shallot- grated on a micro plane

Zest and Juice of one lemon

1 t. Dijon Mustard

3 T. red Wine Vinegar

2 t. olive oil

2 packets of Splenda

Lots of Black Pepper and a little salt

1 Bag of shredded Brussels sprouts form Trader Joes – or a pound of whole Brussels shredded on a mandolin

½ cup. Grated Parmesan Cheese

 

In a large bowl mix up the shallot, lemon juice and zest, mustard, vinegar, oil and Splenda. Add the shredded sprouts and mix well. Crack a bunch of black pepper and add the Parmesan Cheese. Taste and see if any salt is needed.