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As I am

Thank you to all of you who called and wrote to help me celebrate my birthday. I was feelin' the love for sure.

I love birthdays because they bring an annual opportunity to take stock of where we've been and where we're going.

My favorite thing about birthdays, though, is the chance to be reminded of what really matters: our people. And I, friends, have the best people. The best.

From my family who've loved me from the beginning, to my friends from back in the day who still remember, to friends I've met recently and those I've never met face-to-face. To my husband who loves me completely, to my son who gives me the honor of being his tour guide to the Universe: thank you for remembering, thank you for thinking of me and thank you for accepting me as I am.

Meatless Monday: Spinach Noodle Casserole

Note: Am I the only one who thinks food tastes better when someone else makes it? We were having one of "those" afternoons yesterday while Amy and Ella were over to play. I wasn't sure what we were going to dinner, I hadn't done the week's grocery shopping yet, Matt was going to be home late, etc. So it was really nice when Amy offered to make dinner and share it with us. And bonus, it was meatless and tasty delicious. Sam ate it up while sitting on two couch cushions and getting noodles all over the place, but still, not bad for his first time with a fork.

Spinach Noodle Casserole

from Amy (who got it from her mama, Diane)

You'll need:

1 package (8 oz) medium wide egg noodles

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 medium onion (1/2 cup chopped)

1 small clove minced garlic

10 oz. Spinach (fresh or frozen)

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp tarragon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 lb. cottage cheese (recipe calls for creamed, she said she skips this step and I will too because "creamed" cottage cheese isn't worth messing up another bowl)

3/4 cup sour cream

2 T bread crumbs or 1/2 inch cubes of bread

2 T Parmesan cheese

Saute onion and garlic. Toss in the spinach. Meanwhile, boil the noodles. In a separate bowl mix seasonings, cottage cheese and sour cream.

Mix into a 9x13 dish. Top with bread crumbs, or cubes. Drizzle melted butter on top. Sprinkle Parmesan on top and bake for 30 minutes at 375. 

Me, the Saint

House Pictures 011 If you stopped by my house this morning, I would be able to invite you in and for once in my life not apologize for anything except asking you not to give Sam any Cheerios before the Appraisal Lady arrives.

Sam is singing and dancing to Funky Boss (Beastie Boys) to keep his mind off his Cheerios withdrawal.

Kinda wish we would've thought ahead to invite my in-laws to visit right after the Appraisal lady leaves. Anyway, if you were selling Encyclopedias, cookies or my salvation--and we lived in a time where it was safe to invite you in--you might think "Wow. This is one clean house. Really? A toddler and a lab live here?" And I would smile smugly and enjoy the false impression I'm making, if only for one day. Because what you would not know is that my lovely (and generous) neighbor let us stuff her shed with all our "garageables," provided that we aren't moving.

Also, I assume you would not be opening any drawers because at this point that would be a hazard. And we couldn't go anywhere in my car because I stashed stuff in there too.

This picture from when we first bought our house (thank you, Chris) is our inspiration to keep going because we really, really have come a long way. I am so thankful to Matt for all his hard work. And he, in turn--I'm sure-- is thankful to me for being such a Saint.

So what I'm saying is, stop by. You have about an hour and a half before w'ere back to our old ways.

Your thoughts?

I generally try to avoid making my friends pick sides in an argument. But I'm on deadline and need some third and fourth opinions since I vehemently disagree with Matt's.

So please give me your honest take on this debate Matt and I are having tonight. Don't worry, if you side with him I will not stay mad for long. Probably not even overnight.

I may have mentioned he's an English teacher. Which has its advantages, except when he seems to relish marking my drafts with corrections in red.

After reviewing my draft, Matt was appalled at my use of the second person. I think it works in the right situations.

"A journalist using second person? Isn't that like baseball players using steroids? No that's not a good metaphor because steroids make you more powerful and second person makes you weak!"

What do you think? Does second person have its place? Or, does that conversational tone belong only in casual conversations?

With both hands

You guys know I'm a big believer in the power of words on paper.
My friend Karri wrote this letter to President Obama and I'm sharing it with you guys because it is a beautifully written example of honest, raw writing as well as admirable personal perspective.
I was especially proud of him this morning when I wrote to ask if I could share it with you guys and he said he'd already mailed it to the President. Looking forward to hearing the response, Karri.
This letter was written the same day Karri was laid off. It would have been easy for him to be bitter and harsh. Instead ... well, see for yourself. The last paragraph, especially, speaks for all of us.

Congratulations Mr. President,

Your victory is an historic achievement, but not untouched by adversity. Much as we give Black History the least of all months, your presidency lands in a time of global economic crisis, a crisis violence across countless borders, and closest to home, a crisis of faith in this once great nation.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for you sir, and at the same time sympathy. You carry the mantle of all our hopes of recovering from these desperate times squarely on your shoulders. Until today I looked at the unemployment issue from behind the insulated barrier of a regular paycheck. Until today, as to many Americans, the thousands being laid off from the likes of GM and Caterpillar were simply alarming figures. That all changed when the head of my small advertising company offered me a bankers' box and an apologetic handshake.

My selfish hope is that you sir, and those you drew into your cabinet, find a way to plant the seeds of renewed prosperity from the over-ripe fruit of our own negligent avarice.

I wouldn't presume to ask for a hand out, or even a hand up. Instead I offer you mine--both of them. Tell us Mr. President, how do we as Americans right the course we seem to have steered wide of? We're taking on water, and we could all use a little dry land.


P.S. Karri, you are going to be better than okay. My mom always said you were a rock star. I'm paraphrasing, but "nice, polite young man" is a little less glamorous.

Not like the picture

The bad news - my simple brownie baking experience this weekend turned into yet another episode of "Amelia Bedelia in the Kitchen."  The good news - somewhere between the too-hard crust and tastes-like-Scope filling, the title for my kitchen memoir came to me: "Not Like the Picture" since that seems to be an appropriate metaphor for my life, kitchen fiascoes and otherwise.

In other news, I sent my idea for my writing column "All Kinds of Angsty" off this afternoon and will be holding my breath until I hear back from the editor.

Meatless Monday: not gross lentil stew

This Meatless Monday I made a lentil soup that wasn't gross. And it wasn't on Monday since we had leftovers and I had a meeting. But whatever. Given the chicken stock in the last recipe it's starting as more of a "Mostly Meatless Monday" thing anyhow.

The way that first sentence came out reminds me of a time back when I was serving as the World's Worst Waitress at a divey joint in Bellingham. I got in trouble by my boss/local mafia captain for "warning" people about the soup of the day. In my defense, I would've appreciated that warning as a customer. Mr. Mafia added mushrooms to the creamy broccoli soup. See how that could be a surprise to the unsuspecting mushroom hater? So as I told people the specials I ended with this: "Oh, and the soup of the day is Cream of Broccoli, but it has mushrooms in it."

Anyway, this lentil soup calls for mushrooms for you non-haters, consider yourself warned.

Lentil Stew -

Source: Betty Crocker's New Choices Cookbook. Found under the "Meatless Main Dishes" tab, which I formerly would've figured meant large portions of appetizers and salads. It's Low fat, low cholesterol, low calorie, high fiber and surprisingly tasty, too. Matt and Sam slurped up second helpings, with Matt saying the only thing he would change about this Meatless Monday selection is the addition of ham. "Yeah, smoked would be good."

You'll need:

2 tsp. vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onion (about 1 large)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped (I haven't chopped garlic since I bought a garlic press a few years ago. I've never once thought to myself, "gee, wish I'd chopped instead so my hands still stink when I go to bed.")

2 cups coarsely chopped potatoes (about 2 medium) I'm not sure what coarsely chopped means, or why it matters how they're chopped. Also, I can't verify that it's 2 medium potatoes because mine all had those freaky growths and I had to cut around 6 small potatoes to get what I thought might be 2 medium. I'm sure you take stock of your ingredients better than I do.

1 cup dried lentils (bonus, lentils don't need to be soaked)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin (or more, if you're me)

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp ground mace (I had to Google to see what this was and used 1/8 tsp Allspice instead per Google search)

8 oz small mushrooms, cut into halves (gross, right? Mr. Mafia man isn't around so feel free to skip this step.)

1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, undrained

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook onion and garlic in oil, stirring frequently, until onion is tender. They aren't kidding about the frequently. I burned it a titch, only enough to bother Lucy. Stir in remaining ingredients; break up tomatoes. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender.

Serves 6



Third Street Writers

My first experience with writing groups was negative enough that I steered clear of them for years. I got invitations to a few from guys in libraries and coffee shops but I wasn't really in the market for a writing group, or an affair.

A few years ago Matt and I hooked up with Paul and Rosie to form our own little writing group but we met just the once and then, you know, life got in the way.

So I was pretty nervous and excited last night when I went to meet my new writing group, Third Street Writers. It's made up of local women all working on a variety of writing projects.

I was torn between wanting to share my work and hoping the bell rang before I got called on. I felt a glimmer of how it might feel to walk Sam to his first day of school. It was the start of putting my project out into the world. These people did not know and love me as a friend and therefore had no obligation to be nice about my writing, though I hoped they would be.

I held my breath while all nine pages of my first chapter out loud. I tried not to look at anyone's face either. I wasn't sure if I was shaking with nerves or because it was cold, but later decided that it was truly chilly in there after hours.

It thrilled me to hear people laugh at certain parts of the story. And I was delighted when they recognized some of the places I described without naming. My favorite thing was that they genuinely seemed to like my character, and her voice.

I thoroughly enjoyed being trusted to share their work as well. I loved the exchange of ideas and perspectives. 

The best part?  The experience totally rejuvenated the project for me and I can't wait to finish this book and send it out into the world!