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(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish: April 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Go to New York for French Fries

We had a fun day in New York City. First stop: the Grand Central Oyster Bar for a pan roast, a deliciously rich and decadent soup. We had ours with oysters and scallops.

Oyster Pan Roast and Harpoon Oyster Stout

We walked through Times Square and went to the Discovery Times Square Pompeii exhibit.

We took the subway down to the East Village.

A Good Friday procession
We had Belgian fries at Pommes Frites.

There are a large selection of sauces. So many choices! We tried:
  • Sweet Mango Chutney Mayo
  • Smoked Eggplant Mayo
  • Peanut Satay
  • Pesto Mayo
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • and good ol' ketchup
The eggplant sauce was my favorite. There are many more sauces to try if we ever make it back. (I'm looking at you, Pomegranate Teriyaki.)

Nearby, we stopped in the historic McSorley's Old Ale House, a crowded, noisy pub with sawdust on the floor. The only beer to order is "light" or "dark."

Subway fun

#94. Eat french fries topped with sweet mango chutney mayo.
#100. Have another oyster pan roast at Grand Central Oyster Bar.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Macadamia cherry chocolate vegan cake pops

My entry in the vegan raw cake pop challenge:

Macadamia cherry chocolate vegan cake pops

1 1/2 cups raw macadamia nuts
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
pinch salt
3/4 cup dried cherries
10 medjool dates
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

I started with a cached recipe from here and switched up the ingredients.

I made a faux cream cheese frosting using Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese, Earth Balance Spread, vanilla extract, and sweetener, based on a recipe here.

I ground up the macadamia nuts with the salt and cocoa. I mixed in the cherries, dates, vanilla extract, and a little water, until it stuck together and could be formed into balls.

I formed the mixture into balls and froze them. 

I then applied the faux cream cheese frosting and froze them again.

They were good. I liked the cake more than the frosting, though. 

Vegan Culinary Crusade
(Update: the frosting is not raw because the ingredients were cooked during processing, so my entry in the contest is without the frosting. A simple icing would work well for a topping.)

Here is a beautiful round-up of all of the entries. Congratulations to the winners!

#15. 101 things in 1001 days. Make vegan cake pops.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In the days of my youth... Listening to Led Zeppelin

Hour after hour my teenage self stayed in my room listening to rock albums. For a large block of those years, it was Led Zeppelin on the turntable. I would put on a stack of records at bedtime, and every twenty minutes or so a fresh side would drop down, so much variety and yet always so familiar.

The band influenced me in many ways. I read The Hobbit after dreaming of packing my bags for the Misty Mountains. I tracked down Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters records after listening to “You Shook Me” and “Whole Lotta Love.” I grew to love Robert Johnson and Skip James. Not many shy, dorky suburban girls knew anything about the blues, so in addition to opening up a new world of music for me I guess it also gave me a sort of niche when I really needed something to talk about and somewhere to belong.

My record collection had been in boxes with no way to play them for over a decade when we refinished our basement recently and got a turntable once again. I still listen to music a lot, but it’s almost always in the background, in the car on the way to somewhere, or playing on my computer while I’m getting work done. It’s rare that I will sit and really listen like I used to as a kid, when the only thing I did was look at the album cover or follow along with the lyrics, maybe doodling or writing in a journal too.

Most of my favorite artists came along into the digital era with me; I have CDs of Eric Clapton, the Band, Little Feat, Van Morrison, and the Beatles. For whatever reason, Zeppelin stayed in my past, so it brings up the most nostalgia when I hear them. For this reason, I decided to listen to all of my Led Zeppelin albums in a row:

  • Led Zeppelin (1969)
  • Led Zeppelin II (1969)
  • Led Zeppelin III (1970)
  • Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
  • Houses of the Holy (1973)
  • Physical Graffiti (1975)
  • Presence (1976)
  • The Song Remains the Same (live) (1976)
  • In Through the Out Door (1979)
  • Coda (1982)
I put on the first album. "In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man...." I am instantly brought back to my past, except there are no posters of Jim Morrison or unicorns on the walls, and my teenage boys are sitting beside me. 

What albums are the most nostalgic for you?

#13. 101 things in 1001 days. Listen to 10 classic albums all the way through.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Homemade hummus

It was easy and tasty to make my own hummus. I used this recipe from Oh She Glows.

I combined chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in a food processor until smooth. I added a little olive oil and paprika to the top. I removed most of the skins from the chickpeas first, until I lost patience and dumped the rest in.

And I completed another thing on my list:

#77. 101 things in 1001 days. Make my own hummus.


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Monday, April 18, 2011

Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce: Eating at Louis' Lunch

We squeezed into the crowd of wall-to-wall people to wait our turn to eat a hamburger at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven. Reportedly, the American hamburger was invented here in 1900 when a man in a hurry rushed in and asked for a meal he could eat quickly, and Louis Lassen threw a broiled beef patty between two slices to bread for him to eat on the go.

The wait is quite a bit longer now as Louis’ Lunch has become a Connecticut landmark. My husband and I had potato salad while we waited and were lucky to get one of the tiny adorable booths that seat one person on each side.

The atmosphere of the place was very friendly, with the waitresses joking with the cook and the customers. The wait was about an hour—very long for 3 p.m. on a Saturday—but it seemed much faster for the regulars who were fit in between the other orders.

The burgers are made from beef that is ground fresh daily and broiled vertically on both sides at once in a cast iron grill.

The burgers were juicy and tasty. They are served on toast, and the only garnishes allowed are cheese, onion, and tomato. No ketchup; no mustard; no pickles!

 "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce..."

#76. 101 things in 1001 days. Eat a cheeseburger at Louis’ Lunch.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kitschy Connecticut

#82. 101 things in 1001 days: Visit at least five “Roadside America” attractions.

A fun day of road tripping lay ahead when I picked out five Roadside America attractions to check out in my area. My husband was a good sport as we traveled around in between going out to eat and getting errands done.

First up: the Paul Bunyan Muffler Man of Cheshire.

I have driven by him many times. He was in good shape without a flag. He seemed even bigger up close than he does from the road. (You can read about muffler men here.)

Second stop: the Wheel Auto Parts Man, along the road on Rt. 10 in Cheshire--such a friendly bloke.

(Update: My photo of this attraction got added to the Roadside America site.)

Third attraction: the Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum.

We toured the grounds, the art gallery, and the museum, which was chock full of character toys and artifacts, everything from an old metal lunchbox collection to a model for filming Gumby animation. This brought back a lot of old memories—“Welcome Back, Kotter,” “Alfred E. Newman,” old cardboard single serving cereal boxes, push button puppets; all the bits of my childhood that I didn’t save are gathered in one place. They had new items too. The strangest thing that caught my eye was the President Obama CelebriDuck, grouped with some other CelebriDucks. Why?

This wildly decorated junk shop also features the world’s largest Jack-in-the-Box, so it’s got that going for it. It was fun to browse through the old concert posters and memorabilia.

We then went down to New Haven for a cheeseburger at Louis’ Lunch, another Roadside America attraction. (I wrote about that here.)

Fifth attraction: We went to Wooster Square Park in New Haven to check out the Jesus Tree, a site where a young woman’s claim to have seen an apparition of Jesus in 1992 attracted some attention. It was supposed to be a sycamore in the Southwestern quadrant of the park. There were two sycamores that were possibilities, and they both had had some limbs removed since then. (Does that seem wrong?) We were freezing in a windy drizzle and snapped a couple of pictures and fled.

We didn’t think this quite qualified as a fifth attraction, so we made a change in plans and decided to fit in one more site before stopping in on a Middletown pub. This twist of fate allowed us to witness the world’s largest mobile crane!

What are your favorite roadside attractions?

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

It took me only 13 days to stop complaining for a week

#38. 101 things in 1001 days: Don’t complain about anything for a week

I survived the computer lab fiasco that is detailed in the above cartoon without complaining, only to be done in by ice cream, so I started over. And over. And over.

On my first day, I felt pretty good getting through an entire school day without complaining, but I quickly discovered there are a lot of gray areas. What exactly constitutes a complaint? While some complaints are instantly recognizable, in other situations I may be rightly asserting myself. Is it the tone that makes it a complaint? The repetition?

Then I posted the above cartoon on Facebook, and a colleague ruled it a complaint. I countered that I was expressing myself through art, as artists have done through the ages. I suppose Picasso was complaining when he created Guernica, eh? She didn’t buy it.

That debate became moot the same night when I muttered to my husband, “Why didn’t you get something with chocolate in it?” when he surprised us with ice cream, and I was busted on Day 2.

I started over and got tripped up again on my new Day 2 when there was some miscommunication about a track practice pickup. Then when my husband came home late on a night we had dinner plans, I had to start yet again. 

I finally made it through this challenge, or did I? I might have just relaxed the rules on what counts as a complaint. I did make some improvements in avoiding “venting” at work. Let’s face it: venting doesn’t do anybody any good.

1. Unconscious incompetence
2. Conscious incompetence
3. Conscious competence
4. Unconscious competence

I think at best I was entering Phase 2: conscious incompetence. I made a little progress and felt myself letting go of grievances more easily. I will try to keep the better habit going now that I am free to complain again. I might have to stay away from the computer lab, though.

Serenity now!

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

I’ve got one more silver dollar: Karaoke

#7. 101 things in 1001 days. Sing karaoke in a bar.

I selected “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers Band to sing karaoke, a song I love that also seemed fitting for the setting, the Winchester Café. Nervous enough, I freaked out more when “Midnight Rambler” began to play, a great song, too, but not what I was prepared for. The karaoke man switched it to “Midnight Rider,” but it was a slower version, I think the one by Waylon Jennings. It was all good, though, a lot of fun, and the crowd was very supportive. (I cannot sing!) Group versions of “Gimme Three Steps” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” followed.

The most fun moment, though, was on an instrumental break during my debut when I said, “How’s everybody doing out there tonight?”

The crowd went wild.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Savoring Savory Oatmeal

#49. 101 things in 1001 days: Try at least five savory oatmeal recipes

Savory oatmeal with fried egg and parmesan
I am a big fan of oatmeal, but I have always had it sweet. 

I kept my first bowl of savory oatmeal simple: Oatmeal with a fried egg and parmesan. I cooked the oatmeal in vegetable stock and added salt and pepper. Delicious!

Four more to go. How do you like your savory oatmeal?

Update: 4/16/11. For my second savory oatmeal, I went Mediterranean. 

Mediterranean Savory Oatmeal
Mediterranean Savory Oatmeal:

Oatmeal cooked in vegetable stock
Sautéed garlic
Kalamata olives
Sun-dried tomatoes
Feta cheese
Salt and pepper

It was good, too. I really liked the olives in it. 

Update: 4/24/11. 3rd recipe: Curried oatmeal with caramelized onions

Curried oatmeal with caramelized onions
First, I made a big batch of caramelized onions.

Caramelizing onions
I followed this recipe from Tea & Cookies, except I used curry paste instead of curry powder. Very tasty.

Update 5/1/2011. In Thailand, I once had a savory breakfast of jok, a rice porridge called congee in China. It was a bowl of very thin rice, topped with a variety of condiments. For my fourth bowl of savory oatmeal, I used that meal as my inspiration.

Oatmeal Congee
One part oatmeal cooked in three parts vegetable stock
  • Bean sprouts
  • Scallions
  • Poached egg
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Cilantro
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Soy sauce
  • Lime
  • Red pepper flakes

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time to fire up the Tivo: IMDb's Top 250 Movies

"strip" by Miemo Penttinen
I want to see all of IMDb's Top 250 Movies, and there are 55 I haven't seen. I am obsessed with movies, so this should be a fun task to complete, but there are some on the list I am not thrilled about viewing. 

The movies I have seen already are highlighted in yellow.

2   The Godfather (1972)
5   Pulp Fiction (1994)
6   Schindler's List (1993)
7   12 Angry Men (1957)
8   Inception (2010)
10 The Dark Knight (2008)
13 Seven Samurai (1954)
14 Fight Club (1999)
15 Goodfellas (1990)
17 Casablanca (1942)
18 City of God (2002)
Read more »

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

101 things in 1001 days

I came across an idea I hadn't seen before, and it fits in perfectly with my "(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish" challenges: Create a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. (See Day Zero.) (Updates will be posted here.)

I started yesterday with a Zumba class, so I have until December 28, 2013 to complete my list.

What do you want to complete in the next 1001 days? If you create your own list, please share it!

Here is my list so far. 
  1. Milk a cow
  2. Do 50 consecutive push-ups
  3. Say yes to everything for a whole day
  4. Shoot a gun
  5. Attend a UU church meeting
  6. Go to a roller derby
  7. Sing karaoke in a bar
  8. Take a trapeze class
  9. Make homemade pasta
  10. Document one month of my life in photographs
  11. Learn to juggle three balls
  12. Climb to the top of a tree and take a picture of the view
  13. Listen to 10 classic albums all the way through
  14. Watch all of IMDb’s Top 250 Movies
  15. Make vegan cake pops
Read more »

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