Thursday, August 18, 2011

also delicious

Improvised peach pie/cobbler

graham crackers
"accidentally" too much butter and brown sugar


especially if that is how you get yourself to eat brussels the aroma of baked peaches wafts through the air...

by the way... I shake my brussels sprouts in a gallon zip lock with olive oil and salt and pepper (today I microwaved them a bit first so they'd cook through faster)
then i put them in the broiler for about 5 minutes (these were massive so i chopped them up a bit)

they are actually pretty good this way!

small contentment

small contentment is...cute new bowls (from TJ Maxx) and a well-organized cupboard

Wednesday luck!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

beach with family


dangerous natural beauty

if you look around at nature, you'll see all sorts of beauty...

Quiche is pretty

And delicious

Not super quick (about an hour of cooking at 350ish degrees)

Not crazy healthy (pie crust, 4-6 eggs, I used about 3/4 cup- 1c of half and 1/4-1/2c of 2% milk, but a little bit of health inside- broccoli.  I also added ham slices and a GOOD pound of grated cheese...some mozzarella and some fancy gruyere cheese).  I used a deep pie crust and started with this basic recipe but ended up needing to add 2 more eggs and more milk/half and half because I had, (a)- a lot of fillings with my ham/cheese/broccoli and (b)- enough space due to my deep dish crust.

I also added fresh herbs from my urban garden and salt and pepper.

For my lunch, I also packed some greens and watermelon (the round, dark watermelons are the MOST delicious)!

Just in case you need to know...

In case you're ever in Burundi, and you need to say "to put the skin of a dead calf before a cow so she will give milk" there is one verb for it in Kirundi.  That verb is kworokera. 

Also, to remove a foreign body from milk: gutosora.
To finish milking a cow: guhaza
To have dirt in milk: gutobeka

Language really paints a picture of daily life, doesn't it?  Verbs evolve to fit the need of daily life, I guess.

Also, there is one word for "fear to harm another because you love him".  Impuhwe.

These verbs are amazing.

To overcome an enchantment: kurogora
To be overcome by something difficult: kunanirwa
To grit one's teeth to avoid showing pain: gushinyanga or gushinyiriza

I think you  know a lot about Burundi now.
Maybe as much as if I told you all about it in my own words.


Coffee coffee coffee

coffee with milk
kahawa na maziwa
cafe con leche
sütlü kahve
kaawa owa mata
cafe com liete
ikawa irimwo amata

Coffee with milk, in all the languages of the countries I have been to or lived in

I'd really like to add cafe au lait to that mix!

Coffee with milk
makes my world go round

we have a tumultuous relationship
i try to quit
i try to stay away
i take green tea as my second lover
and swear i'm over coffee

this time for real
i feel so much better
i'm not going back

and then my dark lover beckons... and i run into its arms
kahawa na maziwa
cafe con leche

i have missed you, like these exotic places

Monday, August 8, 2011

When I can't fully pack a lunch...

Some days there is just nothing you can do-- you can't pack a lunch.  You may have components that are easy to grab on your rush to the door (bus tracker is a blessing and a curse--when I know a bus is coming, I can make a dash for it...if I didn't know, I'd take it easier perhaps.  Maybe its just a wash.)  But, I digress.

If you can grab a bag of greens or a piece of fruit or a can of soup or etc, I have a trick that can complete a healthy lunch without the $5+ price tag of a lot of lunches even at a "cheap" sandwich place these days.

There is a lunch place...its name sort of sounds like cozy.  I like to go and get a piece of bread (they have big pieces of flatbread) and a side of hummus or peanut butter (personally, I prefer hummus) and it is usually around just $2!  (The PB is always $1.90) but sometimes they charge the hummus as cream cheese (they don't have a hummus button, so it is either charged as PB or cream cheese)... anyway, I went recently and they filled a huge side container full of hummus.  Usually it is a smaller one (which is still plenty for me).  But its great!  A healthy lunch I can look forward to for just $2?  Yum!
I had brought along a bag of spinach and some tomatoes-- MUCH cheaper than the $8 salads that you can buy at this place!

Oh dear...

I have to clean again.  I came home from work and laid on my couch for almost 2 hours, catching up on Drop Dead Diva.  What a show.  I ate too many spoonfuls of Nutella (not everything I do or eat is pretty, I'm afraid to break it to you.  Sometimes it is leftover thai noodles, watermelon slices, nutella by the tablespoon, oh and then a handful of super-fiber crackers, for good measure.  you know, buffer all the aforementioned carbs with fiber.  hush, i know fiber is a carb.  but i think you subtract it.  i never did weight watchers.)
this could be depressing except I LOVE THESE NIGHTS.  i get to do this about once a month at most and sometimes you just need to watch 2 hours of lifetime and eat nutella!  when it is completely voluntary it is the best.  when it is by default or because you have nothing better to do, you should come read my blog or write me an email instead.
anyway... now i need to go do some picking up and putting away. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Family tree

This was a quote on the wall at the Museum of Science and Industry.  I went there with my family last week.  Oh, family.  With my immediate family all around, I can see how I resemble in feature and personality, the family that I know.  And I can pick out some traits that are more distinctly mine.  Or perhaps just skipped my parents and bro and sis.  So, where did those come from?  Are they just mine?  Did they come from family I don't know?  

I am fascinated by this at the moment.  Fascinated by any old family stories that are still known.  I could listen to everything my parents know of their ancestors and it wouldn't be enough.  My uncle sent me a family tree.  So at least now I know names on my dad's side.  I can't wait to get some info from my mom's side.

Who are these people that I don't know, who may have been a LOT like me, BEFORE me?  They probably worked less cushy jobs than I do.  They probably wore more clothes and didn't have an iPhone.  But, what else??  I am so curious!  Did they believe the same things?  Were they kind or mean?  What were their politics?  Were the women intelligent?  Did they yearn for things to be different?  What did they talk about?  Did they marry for love?  Agh!  The few details I have only tempt me to wonder more.
My great grandmother (Annette, aka Nettie) was a vaudeville performer...she rode along in a sidecar next to my great grandfather, who was a theater projection manager here, among other things.  He was the son of a barkeeper in Brooklyn.

Can you imagine?  I am loving imagining some stories about these folks.  I would love to try to write some stories about them. 


Oh people... I am fair skinned.  (I have my family tree-- I cannot wait to tell you about my ancestors! but for now, I'll just say MOSTLY WELSH).  I have known this my whole life.  I am an ardent supporter of SUNSCREEN.  Early and often.  But, I did not heed my own advice today.  We laid out at Lake Michigan from 3pm-5pm and low and behold, my tenderest skin--upper thighs, lower back, upper arms--are a nice bright stoplight red.  Serves me right, and yet ow.  I already took a green tea and epsom salt bath.  (I steeped 4 green tea bags in a bit of water and threw it into the bath-- green bath!!)  And I mix a bit of these incredibly decadent salts (I buy them at Whole Foods as a "local buy") in with regular $2.99 epsom salts.  Then I slathered on cortisone cream (mixed with a little fancy CoQ10 facial night cream--I want my skin to heal!) and some lavender oil spray.  Only my lower back is feeling really tender.  Oh and I'm feeling stupid... a sunburn.  So silly.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Anytime meal!

I had some more wilting greens that I wanted to use before I began eating out a bunch with my family.  It was Saturday morning before I met up with them, so I further wilted the greens in a frying pan next to some over medium eggs (put the eggs in first because it takes them longer--use a very low heat at first, for about 2 or 3 minutes, then crank it up to medium).  I sprinkled salt, pepper, and sharp white cheddar cheese (I LOVE Trader Joe's Wisconsin Extra Sharp White Cheddar) over my eggs and then put both eggs/cheese and wilted greens on a piece of toast!  LOVELY breakfast!  (It would have been lovelier had one of the yolks not broken and gotten cooked in the pan, but I'm not so fussy... just like pretty things taste better, sometimes the deliciousness of things makes them prettier!)

Boat tour!

When you come visit this gorgeous Midwestern city, the skyline DEMANDS that you take an architectural boat tour (unless of course Lake Mich is frozen solid, so that rules out December-April).  Well, it is summer and my parents came to visit!

I also think my friends are always surprised to see how lovely my city is (THAT's the midwest?  THATs the Great Lakes?  So much blue!  So much green space!)  Yes!  (Come visit!)

Thursday, July 28, 2011


She is not mine, and no one really understands our love, but its real

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lovely moments of today part 2!

I also went to go play improv games with some kiddos who are former refugees who have settled in the US.  It is the highlight of my week, even though I've only done it twice.  By all accounts this session was a HOT MESS (8 things going on in the room, huge unfocused space, too many kids, too many age groups combined, not enough common language skills--myself most of all), but it was wonderful and I can't wait to do more!  Their summer camp is over, but the plan is to do some after school stuff once school starts.  And maybe with some women's groups.

I'm completely inspired by Jane Addams, Neva Boyd, and Viola Spolin.

The kids and I PLAYED.

Oh, internet people, if I had one wish, or won the lottery, or perhaps what I will just put good old fashioned hard work, elbow grease, and my own (FORMIDABLE) determination towards, is that I would--would that I do!--operate a community center.  Play and creativity for everyone!  Childcare and cooking classes!  Community meals and meals for people who need them.  I know...funding...always the rub.  Churches?  Wealthy individuals?  Sale of arts, crafts, and delish meals and breads?  I'm still working on that part.  Like Jane Addams and Hull house.  Maybe I should see where there are already some wheels spinning first, rather than start to fashion my own.  Then again, maybe I could fashion a better one without a model. (Yes, I am still pretty young.)  Well, Neva Boyd shall be my model!

Neva L. Boyd was a teacher, sociologist and educational theorist. In 1911 she organized the Chicago Training School for Playground Workers. From 1914 to 1920 she was Director of the Department of Recreation in the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy. Then, in 1921, she founded the Recreational Training School at Chicago's Hull House.

From 1924 to 1927 she had Viola Spolin (see below) as a student living in her house.

Spolin writes:
I received from her an extraordinary training in the use of games, storytelling, folk dance, and dramatics as tools for stimulating creative expression in both children and adults, through self-discovery and personal experiencing. The effects of her inspiration never left me for a single day.

From 1927 until she retired in 1941 Boyd worked as a sociologist on the faculty of Northwestern University (at Evanston, Illinois), teaching play theory, leadership and group organization. After retiring she became a consultant to the Activity Therapy Program of the Illinois Department of Welfare, working in the State School system. She continued to teach, and to use play in teaching, virtually until her death in 1963
Neva Boyd: The spirit of play develops social adaptability, ethics, mental and emotional control, and imagination. These are the more complex and adjustments a child learns through play. In play, there are adjustments to new situations constantly. Play experience can prepare the person for purposefulness in non-play activities, for true play creates the incentive to use one’s best ability. Through play a person can develop a pattern of self-reliance and self-confidence. Well-chosen play activities have potentially unique value seldom understood or actualized. In the process of play, new powers emerge, such as bodily coordination, and aesthetic sensitivity. New values are experienced by the player, such as new social obligation to contribute to the maintenance of the common project undertaken by play group. Play activities yield immediate satisfaction to the players and the results of the effort are certain....Teaching a child how to behave, usually by verbal instruction, results in teaching the child the way to behave and is in fact taking possession of the child and dictating the finished form of behavior. Such children are often spoken of as being “beautifully trained”. Such training creates mental rigidity. Young children can be made to accept such training as if it were the only way to behave, but it leaves them ill equipped in originality for solving their problems, or making judgments and acting upon them, thereby testing their judgment.

And Viola Spolin... well, first she's like the godmother of Second City and American improv.  So there is that.
Plus... While serving as drama supervisor for the Chicago branch of the Works Progress Administration's Recreational Project (1939-1941) (Yes, that is right, during the Great Depression, the gov't paid Spolin to make theater games with kiddos!!!  WHERE IS THAT JOB NOW???!), Spolin perceived a need for an easily grasped system of theater training that could cross the cultural and ethnic barriers within the WPA Project (the WPA project was for the purpose of bringing theater to depressed, overindustrialized and impoverished neighborhoods.  Spolin worked with children and adults to take an extremely diverse group and turn them into actors who actually wrote their own plays.)  Building upon the experience of Boyd's work, she responded by developing new games that focused upon individual; creativity, adapting and focusing the concept of play to unlock the individual's capacity for creative self-expression. These techniques were later to be formalized under the rubric "Theater Games."

So, I have role models... I have a vision...

Vamos a ver.

Today's moments of loveliness

Breakfast!  I worked at home, which allows for a little more liberties of loveliness.  I felt free to eat from a bowl, rather than putting my yogurt into tupperware and my granola into a ziplock baggy.  Thanks to this and the mild accountability this blog provides, I sliced up two very on-the-edge peaches.  They were perfect for my yogurt and granola, but looked more shriveled than your fingers at the end of bath time before being sliced.
 I sprinkled some cinnamon over all of it--yogurt and coffee-- and I highly recommend this!  I have PCOS (which, blah blah blah look it up if you're curious, boils down to a hormonal imbalance and can also manifest in wonky blood sugar/high insulin levels) and cinnamon is known to regulate blood sugar levels.

And then dinner, ohhhhhh dinner.  I decided to do a real experiment since I would be working at home where I could do a little prep and work around 5.  Roast chicken.  I wanted to make a simple roast chicken.  I'm into buying whole chickens at the moment (i.e., last week and this week) because a whole chicken costs about the same as two boneless chicken breasts!  Hello economical decisions!  Also, I have been choosing organic meats due to contamination concerns and also because, thanks to the PCOS again, the fewer additives and hormones and hormone-like substances I dump into my body, the BETTER.  Anyway, choosing a whole chicken for the week makes it go further on less--always the goal!  Well, a whole roasted chicken is DE-LISH.  It smells delish, it looks great, and the meat is even somehow better than when I cook it other ways (I think it has to do with the skin...also, as previously stated, I do not have a grill.)

I vaguely followed these directions.  I rubbed butter all over--including under the skin!  Chicken masseuse in the making here!  I put lemon juice all over and lemons in the cavity...threw in some herbs from my garden.  I don't have a roasting pan, so I just rolled up some foil to put between my chicken and my pan.  I roasted potatoes (separately--I like crispy brown, salt and peppered and rosemary'd potatoes) and made a salad.
but this salad
let me tell you about it
this "healthy food"
turned into something of a sin
greens made to taste good
something i will dream about, and make again

One of my friends asked for poetry about lentils and kale...this isn't quite it yet.  
Base: spinach (squeeze it in somewhere!)
Addition: strawberries
Toppings: goat cheese with honey (trader joe's sells a goat cheese/honey combo)
the game changer
pear vinegar and olive oil

now, pear vinegar, after i looked at the ingredients, turns out to be pear and apple juice concentrate, white wine vinegar, honey cider vinegar and some other things, but most importantly, it is delicious.  It probably doubled the cost of the meal and my ole balsamic with some honey would have been JUST FINE.  but the pear vinegar elicited (bad) poetry (the quality of which should not reflect on the vinegar).

ENOUGH ABOUT THAT.  I'm gonna end this one and post another little something something from today.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Easy salmon and couscous with lotsa veggies

If you can't tell yet, this blog is a way for me to have some accountability to seek out and consume beauty--whether it is food or nature walks or fashion or inner beauty.  All things lovely!

Maybe next I'll learn French!  What could be more romantic?  Going to Paris for a spontaneous weekend?  Ok!  I'll put that on the list too!

For NOW, I'd like to share my latest kitchen experiment.  Faced with more expiring veggies and a newly purchased pound of salmon from Trader Joe's, I remembered a lovely dinner my bf and I had at M. Henrietta.  I really recommend any meal at this place!  The lovely pork loin is entirely lovely.  However, I did not have the ingredients or the courage for that.  Instead, I decided to recreate: a shiraz glazed char-grilled salmon fillet, served w/cous cous & sautéed herbed vegetables.
It was pretty easy!  I wish I'd had a grill for the salmon instead of just my oven, but it was fine.
First, preheat the oven and put on water to boil for couscous.  

Next, I put some red wine (mine was malbec because that's what was open), honey, and olive oil to simmer in a large skillet.  I pretty much just let it bubble for awhile until there was less liquid than when I started.  (While I may be attempting to cook lovely things, I'm not doing it in the most pre-planned fashion...which may have to change but for now I'm happy to just muddle through my cabinets and veggies.)  

While the wine was bubbling, I started washing broccoli, asparagus, and peeling carrots.  Any veggies you have will do just fine.

I poured my wine mix onto the salmon before I cooked it.  Next time, though, before cooking I will glaze the salmon with butter and brown sugar and then glaze after cooking with the wine-glaze. 

I cooked the veggies in the microwave, added the couscous to the water.  Cleaned up a bit.  Then after the appropriate amount of time, added the couscous to the veggies in the skillet (wine glaze was on fish by then). 

I sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon into the mix and added dried cranberries.  I highly recommend doing both of these little additions.  They add the perfect balance of sweet and spice to the couscous and veggies.

Then I pulled the salmon out and put 1/3 of it on top of a plate of couscous.  I had the perfect amount of food for 3 meals (with 1 cup of dry couscous, 1lb of salmon, 1 head of broccoli, 3 carrots, some asparagus).  It is delicious.  Super healthy.  And only took about 20 minutes to make because you can pretty much do everything as the fish cooks!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Beauty in the city


This morning for breakfast I was inspired by my commitment to consume beauty to stop and make a pretty breakfast.  it was still pretty quick.  toaster waffles with peanut butter and some berries!  super easy, super balanced.  DO IT.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cheese, bread, tomatoes.

Lather, rinse, repeat if desired.

In my life, when we're talking cheese, bread, and tomatoes, it is MOST DEFINITELY desired.

During grad school, I realized that many of my favorite meals combined these three ingredients to a great degree, so I will initiate this blog with perhaps one of the most sophisticated combos of my top three that I can imagine.

Caprese salad/margherita pizza.

I like to eat reasonably healthy.  I know people who would call that an understatement.  It's true, I'm closer to healthy on the spectrum.  But I avoid nothing absolutely (not even the dread try finding a really good BBQ sauce without it!  although, I think I did just admit to looking, mildly, for 10 seconds, then I moved on with my sweet baby ray's purchase.)

ANYWAY.  the point is, I take no special considerations when making my food.  I like it to be reasonably priced, but since I pack my lunch, I figure I'm ahead of the game since I'm not spending $9 on a salad with rubber chicken warmed over. 

ENOUGH about me.

Meals #1 and #2.  I had one for dinner tonight and will have a lovely lunch to begin my week tomorrow.

Things I had:
1 package of 2 pizza crusts
1 hunk of mozzarella cheese
1 carton of cherry tomatoes
Some leftover salad greens that looked wilted and like they'd be tossed tomorrow night if I didn't figure something out STAT
Basil leaves from my window pot of basil plants
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
~15 minutes

To make both of these together:
You're making 1 pizza and 1 salad
Rub some olive oil on one crust, leave the other dry
Preheat oven to 350
Cut the mozzarella-- in thin squares or ovals or whatever (for the pizza crust) and some of it in chunks for the salad
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half or thirds
Arrange mozzarella, basil leaves and tomatoes on top of the pizza crust with the olive oil
Put both the pizza and the dry crust in the oven for about 10 minutes

One of them will emerge looking like this:

Now, while it is morphing into this perfection, get ready to transform your ordinary lunch container into something extraordinary  (look at doesn't know what's coming, but it is excited):
Layer the bottom with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  What do you like?  Do that.  I like about a tablespoon of both.  Then sprinkle half the mozzarella, half the cherry tomatoes, and half the basil that you want in your salad on top of the oil and vinegar (note: I like about 2 ounces of cheese at least in my salad...I'm not a cheese skimper)  It should look like this (isn't it pretty!  aren't you getting excited to eat it?  GOOD THING you've got a pizza coming your way in 5 minutes!):
Now throw in those fresh or wilty doesn't matter...this is really just to add some bulk to the meal and feel better about how much cheese you're eating.  It never hurts to squeeze those greens in where you can.  Then cover those ugly greens with another healthy layer of mozzarella, basil, tomato, and a couple more tablespoons (each!) of olive oil and balsamic vinegar:
Now, take your pizza and the dry crust out of the oven!  Set your pizza aside to cool for a minute while you survey your beautiful lunch for tomorrow: a very pretty caprese salad and a flatbread (you can bruschetta your salad when you get to work or eat it the more traditional way, which doesn't require making a verb out of an appetizer, which is to say, eat it as you made it: a salad with bread):
But wait, there's more!  Go enjoy your pizza!

I hope you're looking forward to lunch!

Girding up my loins

Hehe.  Loins.

Oh come on, you know you were thinking it.  Or maybe its just me.

Either way.  No more procrastination posts (see below if you missed those GEMS.  the first few are just about getting the rust out, right?  this blog is a no judgment zone.)

I did some more procrastination actions today.  Googled feng shui and rearranged my bedroom and living rooms.  Around two overflowing laundry baskets and a few dust bunnies hopping around my ankles as I shifted extension cords and other low-laying objects (I WILL vacuum before I go to sleep!)

It is amazing how rearranging just 3 pieces of my furniture have made my living room more inviting and easier to get comfortable in.  I just switched around the bookshelf, end table and tv stand and poof!  So much better!  My boyfriend, whose psyche is arguably more sensitive to blockages in energy flow due to poorly placed furniture and clutter, was a big fan of the change.

The bedroom was trickier, as I had to violate some rules of feng shui to keep others (my bed is not directly opposite of the door, but my head is at a window.  I buttressed my head--due to lack of a headboard-- with good books, old journals, and pillows, cutely arranged on the window sill.)

Once I clean, I'll maybe post some photos.

But for now, on to the main purpose of this blog!  Easy, yummy, attractive lunches that we can look forward to!  See the next post!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Oh, friends, cleaning and I have a tumultuous relationship.  I am serious, even now in my late 20s, I still feel like a kid, doing anything and everything to avoid picking up those first 15 items (yes, 15...if there are fewer than 15 things to put away, I call that CLEAN ENOUGH!).  After the first dozen or so, I get on a roll, like how awesome is it to have a clean apartment!?

Anyway, last night's avoidance tactic was creating this blog and making my first, as my friend Anne pointed out, very metaphysical post.  :)  By the way, y'all, check out Anne's blog at:  It's great!

Cleaning motivation techniques for today:
#1- Coffee!  (Future blog post about my very tumultuous relationship with coffee)
#2- mindless TV! (millionare matchmaker anyone?  i prefer drop dead diva or gilmore girls, but i'll take what i can get)
#3- my mom's promise that she and my dad and my aunt and uncle will be here tomorrow!  GOTTA GO CLEAN!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Not a disaster

I am a disaster.  My apartment is a disaster.  I want to scoop my entire apartment contents into a trash bag and throw it all out and begin again tomorrow.  Instead I have started a blog, with the goal of finding the pretty, creative, positive, and encouraging things of life.  And for the purpose of being accountable to those things.


I am not a disaster.  Madeleine L'Engle explains that dis-aster, at its Latin roots, means "dis" (separation) from the "asters" (stars).  Disaster.  Separation from the stars.  Boom.  I am not separated from the stars (even though, living in a very bright and often very cloudy Midwestern city, I can be deceived).

I remembered that part of what M L'E said on my own (the disaster part...I'm pretty smart).  I didn't remember the rest of her musings:
When we are separated from the stars, the sea, each other, we are in danger of being separated from God.  Sometimes the very walls of our churches separate us from God and each other...We need to remember that the house of God is not limited to a building that we usually visit for only a few hours on Sunday.  The house of God is not a safe place.  It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are--or should be--challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.

Did she just imply that the opposite of disaster is vulnerability?