07 June 2009

A weekend to be remembered!

A couple weekends ago, my friends and I had our monthly book club gathering. Since starting the group last year, we've morphed it into a bookclub/supper club, featuring a different type of cuisine each time. Most recently, we did fondue, which was an absolute blast. At any given buffet-style dinner party, people usually fill their plates, then go sit in the designated area and wait for everyone to enter the room before starting to eat, right? Not at this party. And not with this dish. The food was so good, we all stood there star-struck with our fondue forks in our hands. Our plates remained empty. Manners went out the door and nobody seemed to mind.

We had boiling water going on the stove for meats, cheese fondue (gruyere and emmenthaler) on the table, and chocolate fondue following that. All available surfaces were covered with chorizo, shrimp, beer-marinated steak, pumpernickel, focaccia, pears, apples, bananas, prunes, dates, figs, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, zucchini, brussel sprouts, potatoes, pretzels, marshmallows, cheesecake bites, strawberries, pound cake, brownies, and the king of them all, mini cream puffs. Have you ever had a chocolate-dipped, coconut-sprinkled cream puff? Fresh out of the fondue pot?! Oh my... truly life-changing, folks. Book? What book? (For those of you who are wondering if our literary interests have taken a back seat to our culinary adventures, fear not, my good friends, we did indeed read and discuss the book - Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis)

Well, nothing of that has anything to do with the pictures below. You're probably wondering if we dipped sushi in the chocolate too... hmm... not such a great idea there. No, actually, the hosts (my friends John & Kasey) invited me to stay the night so we could hang out more and I wouldn't have to climb the stairs on crutches at night. Staying the night turned into staying the weekend, and it was so much fun. After book club on Friday night, I basically fell into bed at a much later hour than I am used to, but all was remedied by a trip to Dutch Brothers Coffee the next morning. K and I did some yard-sale-ing and I scored an awesome Indian-print fabric; we had lunch at the co-op and involved various strangers in our quest for mirin and tahini. K helped me vacuum out my borrowed car and we returned it to its rightful owners, who happen to have some of the cutest kids I've ever met. When we arrived at their house, all the kids were sitting around the lunch table just beaming. Suzanne, do you have visitors very often? :-) All of this led up to a decision to make dinner in that night, and Kasey had a sushi book she's been wanting to put to good use. We pored over every recipe! After a quick run to Winco, some prep time in the kitchen, and Kasey's excellent rolling skills, we came up with this:


The yellow ones on the left are wrapped with roasted sweet pepper, and the rolls on the far left are topped with slices of omelette and wrapped with seaweed. We made two dipping sauces to go along; the traditional soy/wasabe and a soy/tahini one that tasted very similar to peanut sauce.

John and Kasey have a cool little fry daddy, and none of us had ever made tempura at home, so of course we had to try it. We had vegetables left over from fondue the night before, plus we added a few favorite extras, to make tempura shrimp, sweet potato, tofu, onion rings, broccoli, cauliflower, and probably a few I'm forgetting. We made a soy-based tempura sauce to go with these as well. Not only does tempura taste great on its own, but the soy sauce really helps cut the rich flavor, and the tempura texture holds the sauce in. My favorites were the onion rings, sweet potato, and tofu.
It's not often that you have two over-the-top dining experiences in one weekend, but when you get a couple people together who all like to try new foods in their own kitchen, you never know what's going to happen. After church on Sunday morning, the three of us went back to J&K's, and we tempura'd some more! This time we even tried bananas, apples, and pears. I'm thinking apple dumpling here... cut the apple into slices instead of dicing it, and shake powdered sugar over the finished piece. Yum!
While we were frying all of this, it reminded me of wanting to try doughnuts at home some time. My family, being Dutch, is really familiar with ollie bollen, which is a Dutch doughnut-like treat. American doughnuts can have a completely different texture, especially if you're making cake doughnuts instead of yeast doughnuts, and I'm anxious to try them some Saturday at John and Kasey's. Anybody have a good recipe?


Is this a flattering picture of me? Like a rotten banana it is. I hope none of my dear readers has geniophobia. But do I love it? You betcha. I was driving Meredith's car while she was in Boston, and yes Meredith, I loved the sunroof way, way too much. I'm having withdrawals.

Sick... again!

I should have paid more attention to the sore thoat that plagued me all last week. It was clearly caused by sinus issues, but for some reason I thought it would simply go away after a few salt-water gargles and hot showers, maybe by closing the windows and using the A/C instead to ward off outdoor allergens. Silly me. I should have realized that the beginning of this cold/sinus infection was strangely familiar. I had exactly the same symptoms, in the same time frame, in April - which led to me taking a week and a half off of work because it was so bad. Oy.

Well, instead of dwelling of all the things I could complain about, as I am prone to do lately, I am trying to focus on good things. I am blessed beyond measure and there's no reason to complain.
There's something I really like about being sick. In fact, I love it. You know what it is? It involves a hot cup of tea, a good book or some favorite blogs, maybe a cookie or piece of sweet bread, the couch, and my hiney on that couch. I love to read, but rarely have time to sit down for an extended amount of time, so when I'm sick I take full advantage of it. :-)
Another think I like about being sick is that I feel no guilt whatsoever about taking long naps. This morning I woke up at 7:30, ate breakfast, yadayadayada, determined I was too sick to go to church, and promptly went back to bed for another 2 hours. It was great!
The third thing I like about being sick is that amazing "I'm alive! I'm finally alive!" feeling I get the day I'm over it. Maybe that's being a little melodramatic, but there's almost always a particular day following an illness when I have a definite feeling of "Ok, I'm back to normal and I feel good today." It's a great feeling. It makes me want to run 10 miles. Which I will probably never do, but here's to dreams, right?

I think God allows us to get these sniffly, minor, irritating types of sickness as a reminder of humility, to remind us that we really aren't self-sufficient like we think we are. Sometimes the peace and quiet of just sitting at home can help me re-focus my life on God and what I'm supposed to be doing in this season. It just plain gives me time to think deeply (unless I'm on meds), which doesn't happen too often unless it's connected to work stuff. I am blonde, you know. (Juuust kidddding...)

Speaking of being sick, has anyone heard of using apple cider vinegar to stay healthy? I have two health-nut friends (yes, that is a compliment) who both drink it on a regular basis (diluted with water, sometimes with honey added). One of them told me to gargle with it when I have a sore throat, and it did help. It has an effervescent effect on the throat, like it really is pulling out all the impurities. Sort of the same effect as hydrogen peroxide on a wound. I don't know if that's true; I need to do more research. It's fascinating.

06 June 2009

And now, a word from our sponsor...

"Sponsor" in the singular, meaning me. A little update on the goings-on chez Marie.

In late April, I had foot surgery (again, for those of you who were here around this time last year), and my mom came to help me for 3 weeks post-surgery. We didn't know ahead of time whether I would be on crutches or not - the surgeon, unfortunately, couldn't make a determination until she had performed the surgery. Most of you are probably not interested in the minute details of the surgery, but know that something that was supposed to take about an hour took 3. The bones at the base of my first metatarsal had not healed from the first surgery a year ago, so this surgeon had to insert a graft from my left heel to encourage new and complete growth. A screw from the previous surgery had broken off at a key juncture, and half of it was recovered and other half wasn't. In addition to that, she had to remove all of the other old hardware to replace it with a smaller (better) piece they didn't happen to have stocked in the surgery center, so it had to be special ordered in the middle of surgery. Yay for anesthesia. So you can see why I ended up with crutches after all of that.

While my mom was here, I got along really well. Of course - she did everything for me. The real test of how I would handle crutches came later, when she went home. Maybe I should mention here that I live in an upstairs apartment. I was really freaking out about the prospect of going up and down stairs on crutches. (Complete digression: I heard tapping on my back door just now, so I went to check. When I started this post, it was sprinkling rain, and now hail is beating down the door. It sounds like pebbles are being thrown at all of my windows at once. How romantic. Anyway...) I immediately arranged to stay with friends for the next six weeks, and I had decided in my mind that I couldn't go near stairs on crutches. I tried a few times while my mom was still here, and it went ok, but took a lot of effort. She devised an alternate method of getting up the stairs that was quite effective, if not graceful. I was determined not to go up and down the stairs on my hiney every day, so I started practicing (practicing? this was the real deal. Slow, but real.) and I actually got the hang of it pretty quickly. From there I learned how to hold a shopping bag on each side, how to get in and out of the car without falling in head-first, and how to tone my biceps without a single pushup. I could do this! I could actually stay in my own house. Upstairs. God gave me the strength to do something I had decided I couldn't do. Sometimes God needs a crowbar to open my eyes.


It's been six weeks now, which is normally the point of healing at which the doctor will let the patient put weight on his foot, after this type of surgery. I was really looking forward to my doctor's appointment on Monday because I thought my crutch days were over. I appreciate my doctor's particular caution in this case, but I can't say I wasn't disappointed that she gave me another 2-3 weeks on crutches. I had plans, man! Plans that didn't involve the sticks! However, I was thrilled that she gave me permission to drive. Not just to drive, but to drive my car. This whole time since the surgery I was forced to drive automatics, since I had surgery on my left foot. I'm not complaining, because I found out I have some Pretty Generous Friends who were willing to let me borrow the husband's work car. This meant he would have to drive my girly car, with the Hawaiian flower in the back window. With the Imogen Heap cd in the player. With the tiny red handmade yarn-doll from a college friend dangling from the rear-view mirror. He was very generous, very generous indeed. I was truly blessed by their speedy response to my "Help me!... I can't... driiiivvee myyy CCAAAAAaaaaaarrrrrr...." (think the wicked witch in Oz), which I cried out to my church family in desperation via email.

I have a love affair with manual transmissions. With the clutch, the stick, the speed. Mainly the speed. I'm glad to have my car back.

So that's been life, for the most part, for the last 2 months. You probably saw my post on my new little nephew, whom I hope to visit in July. Little Luke makes me an auntie of 5 (!). I'll also be visiting California (probably) and Washington (almost certainly) in July/August. The grand trifecta. Sorry Nevada, you're just not cool enough. I kid. How could I leave out the state that contains the nephew with the bluest eyes I've ever seen in my life on a person that size? I'm trying to work out a trip down some time in between all of these other trips. One of the big scheduling questions for all of these trips revolves around what day I'll be able to wear normal shoes again. Seriously, you know how vigilant the Boise airport TSA agents are. But they always "pick me!" anyway.
Well, this has been quite a long post, but I was inspired by a childhood friend's new-to-me blog. The hail has stopped, my neighbor's basset hound is flopping in through the back door, and my last batch of cookies for the day has *ding!*ed. It's time for me to go.
Good night!

What's the definition of addiction?

Just today, I made:
Lemony sugar cookies with demerara sugar on top
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
Lasagna-ish casserole (don't ask; it was spawned of an open tub of ricotta I knew I needed to use)

Maybe the rainy weather had something to do with it. Maybe just because it's Saturday and I have some free time on my hands. All I know is, crutches don't seem to keep me from doing all the baking I normally do. Some people call this brave. I'm beginning to wonder if it's just stupid. Either way, I'm obsessed.