Sunday, May 31, 2009

Corn and black bean pico

One of my favorite rituals of state league happens after the matches: The hosting team brings snacks and drinks for everyone and we sit around in our stinky tennis gear. (This is not as unappealing as it sounds — or, rather, we are all equally unappealing post-play.) I have also been known to cheer on my team at matches I didn't play in and eat a sandwich or two afterward.

For my mixed doubles match last Friday, I brought this pico and got requests for the recipe. So here it is.

Quick backstory: Denise served this at a party once; I loved it. Now I bring it to just about every social thing I’m invited to. It requires a lot of chopping, but it’s fresh, foolproof, and a fan favorite (come on, at least I didn't say "fabulous"). Oh, and it travels well.

Corn and black bean pico
2 cups corn
15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped tomato
¾ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup fresh lime juice
clove of minced garlic
minced jalapeno (optional)

Mix everything together; I like to make it a day ahead to let the flavors blend. Serve it with Tostitos Scoops — it's easier to eat.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oh no, Papa, not the cookies!

My mom dropped off some homemade chocolate chip cookies. When I left the house, Papa took the sealed baggie from the dining room table and ate them. Say it with me: "Oh no, Papa!"

She seems to enjoy shredding the plastic that food is stored in, whether it's a Ziploc or a pasta container or Tupperware.

Sometimes she will work for food, sometimes not. Note the orange treat ball nearby. I have also noticed that she likes to play with the treat ball right after she eats her breakfast or dinner. She must really be drawn to the smells trapped in plastic.

But here's another twist: she doesn't always eat what's in the containers — e.g., she's brought bread and packages of noodles from my parents' kitchen into their living room and not eaten or shredded them. It's almost as if she just plays with (flings?) them, like the spices. What’s going on, Papa?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Keshi pearl necklace

My necklace is on the cover of the July 2009 issue of BeadStyle. It's an honor. And pressure, too. Even though stuff beyond my control — like the cover lines, the competition, etc. — has an impact on newsstand sales, I feel like the main image is what sells the magazine.

About the necklace: I bought the pearls at the JANY show from Lucky Gems. They carry unusual shapes, colors, and sizes (check out their dancing squares, for example). I'm all about the supplies — my approach is to start with the best gemstones I can get my hands on. I suppose everyone says that, but if you've ever been with me as I deliberated over a strand of gemstones, eyeing individual beads, you've seen how my mind works. I liked the luminescent pinks and blues in these pearls, which are the size of large cornflakes.

I got some design help from Jane, who talked me through my crystal quandaries (bicones or rounds? pinks or blues? matching or complementary?). She also helped me figure out which cones to use and gave me a thumbs-up on the chain I picked for the bracelet. You can find instructions for the projects (as well as for two earring options) in the magazine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh no, Papa, not my makeup, too!

When I repainted my spare bedroom, I moved Papa's crate to a different corner. She loves her crate. If you try to talk to her or give her a kiss while she’s in there, she’ll look away as if she doesn’t see you.

I think Papa had gotten used to her crate being in a highly visible place (you could see it from the dining room).

When I moved a bookshelf to that corner, she did not really adapt. She would settle in for the night only to go sleep on the floor where the crate used to be.

One night, I came home to find that she had knocked a bowl of makeup off the shelf and eaten a tube of Aveda Hand Relief. She did this shortly after the paprika incident. That was a crazy week. Oh Papa, I’ll try to show more respect for your home next time. Point taken.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Joseph, Mary, and Two Jesuses

Every so often, I remember my dreams. Last week, I dreamed that I was thinking, “I wish I lived in New York.” And then I realized that I did.

(Sometimes, I do wish I could live in New York. In an affordable, spacious 2BR apartment that allows big dogs. In this apartment building, no one would cook with stinky spices or play loud music.)

What does it mean? Was it a dream about moving or questioning where I want to be?

On Friday, I hung out with my neighbors Joe and Sarah (their first names: Joseph and Mary). They came over to install a phone jack for me and didn’t want anything in return. Now, these are neighbors who invite me over for BBQs, give Papa Christmas gifts, and help me chip out ice around my garage in the winter. A year ago, they hosted dinner and gave me a toilet tank lid. Good people. Even though they're transplants from Oregon, they seem like neighbors I’ve known forever. That’s what I love about the Midwest — the neighborly feeling that’s authentic.

While Joe was fixing the wires in the basement, we found two Jesus figurines. I had never seen them before, not in the seven years that I'd been in the house. (There used to be a shiny gold one, but he disappeared.) I cleaned them up and put them in the glove compartment of Joe and Sarah’s car when we went to dinner. I like to think that the Jesi (Jesuses?) watched over us to make sure we had a safe, fun evening.

And we did: At Elsa's, we ate broccoli, buffalo wings, and burgers and chatted about life.

So even though that’s not the same thing as being able to pop into Border’s to hear Jackson Browne perform, I can’t say I’ve ever had neighbors like the ones I’ve had here in Milwaukee, once I bought my house.

I am still puzzling over what my dream means. Maybe it's about recognizing that I'm already where I want to be, happy with reality. Reality is definitely a nice place to be.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oh no, Papa, not the pasta!

Look what Papa dug out of the kitchen garbage. Somehow, she has not been deterred by the lid on the trashcan or by the barstool that's blocking it.

The shredded Buitoni pasta container was in the living room, which seems to be her favorite place to play with her finds. Interestingly, the filled container had frozen pasta in it. No sauce. And it was empty when I threw it away. So what's the allure?! If only I could train her to open the packaging on my new flashlight.

By the way, this is one of my favorite photos of Pops. I love her expression and the cowlick on her neck.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Adventures in doggysitting: Attila

I dogsat my friend Suzanne's basset hound last week. It did not go as smoothly as I expected.

Attila wailed and sighed, frequently, at things I couldn't always identify. Papa seemed to take it in stride, napping as usual, while I just felt inadequate. Here's my photo essay of the weekend: First, they look like they're almost at a meeting of the minds. Then, they give up, hiding or turning away. And finally, Attila moves to another chair. Doesn't she look lonesome?

She did like snuggles, so I tried to give her some lovins. I think she missed Suzanne A LOT. I returned her on Sunday, and she was apparently "an angel."

Papa was well behaved (no incidents while Tilla stayed with us). However, she's been rearranging food at my parents' house, putting bread and packages of noodles on the floor (but not eating them). She did eat a bar of soap and a sleeve of saltines. The crackers, she ate sloppily, leaving crumbs all over. Hilarious, Papa. I think she's trying to figure out what happened to her routine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Less TV, more writing

I’ve been thinking about two things: TV and writing.

I may have mentioned my pledge to give up TV. This isn’t just some attempt to outlast those who survived National TV-Turnoff Week (April 20–26). I gave it up in the hopes of gaining results in other areas of my life: namely, eating healthier and sleeping better.

What do I do instead of watching TV? I try to stay out of the house at night. I’ve been playing tennis, going out to dinner, and participating in a book club. (Fortunately, the reading and the discussion both require evening time.)

But the allure of TV is just too strong. And not just because Rick Fox was on The Game, as himself.

Two weeks ago, I watched only the last ten minutes of Brothers & Sisters. But Sunday, I watched the whole episode. It could be worse, you say? My real weakness is watching Greek on my computer. I’ve had to register and join viewing parties to do it, but I’ve made the sacrifice. Drinking tea and eating cookies, with Papa napping at my feet, what could be better?

Except, maybe, writing. I’m not the next James Poniewozik, so becoming an expert on TV doesn’t hold much of a future for me.

Instead, I’ve set a goal of writing every day this month. I was inspired by David Brooks’ editorial about the cultivation of genius: “The primary trait she possesses is not some mysterious genius. It’s the ability to develop a deliberate, strenuous and boring practice routine.” So I’m trying to start with a regular, if not strenuous, writing routine. Wish me luck on my 10,000 hours. There should be more time now that I’m caught up with Greek.