Archive for March, 2011

Bean Soup

March 27, 2011

Ah, Sunday: the day I throw things in the crock pot in hopes of making enough food to make it through the week.  My current obsession, mostly since it still is freezing, is soup. Somewhat simple to make, inexpensive and well, easy to re-heat (a key), I tossed a few this weeks version in the crock pot this morning before a day of hoops, job hunting and the other mundane tasks that have filled my life.

I opted a quick Google search on the history of bean soup (I mean, I know of the must always be served in the Senate thing) – a few interesting tidbits: Apparently, in 1565 the Spanish Explorers and the Timucua Indians gave thanks and broke bread together over a bowl of bean soup in St. Augustine, Fl.  There is a Bean Soup Festival (seriously) that started as an event for Civil War veterans in Bannerville, Pennsylvania.  Looking back (albeit via pretty shoddy research standards), the variations of bean soup are an indigenous creation to the Americas.  Who knew? I much prefer bean soup to turkey.

15 bean mix

15 bean mix


Here is my ultra-simplistic recipe:

One bag of 15 bean mix

16 oz baby carrots

28 oz crushed salt free tomatoes

28 oz water

Soak beans overnight.  Drain, rise.  In crock pot, add beans, baby carrots, tomatoes, stir in water. Cook on low for 10 hours.  Freezes well. I discard the seasoning package in the bag. It is over salted and the masks the natural flavor of the beans.


March 27, 2011

I discovered today that somebody I thought I knew … well, wasn’t the person I know.  One of those things. Normally, I’d either say something or keep it in mind … but well, this person is dead.

Yup. Dead. Not as “you are dead to me” but really dead. And so I sit and wonder what I was told … if any of it was real.  Or if it was just a creation of an imagination.  Frustrating. I don’t know who I knew. And I don’t think I ever will . . .

You want to know what kind of fan I am?

March 26, 2011

Somebody made the mistake on a FB thread about saying (paraphrase) it’s hard to tell what kind of (sports) fan I am. Perhaps it’s because I still hear the amazing words of Taylor Mali and teachers, perhaps it’s because I see the NCAA as owners and some student athletes as over paid athletes (and before ANYBODY jumps down my throat, let me be clear: it’s a handful of athletes but every time I hear an athlete complain about “not being paid” and I’m writing a check to my student loan company, I think “you are being paid: in your education. Yes you are expected to balance sport and academics, but most of us balanced work, academics and still have loan payments that rival mortgages or rent).

And I knowingly tread into hostile waters over defending the dismissal of Bruce Pearl: he lied, the lied about lying and then he asked the student-athlete to lie about it.  In a Jimmy Swaggert “I have sinned” moment, he asked for forgiveness and called this a “lesson he has learned”. Let me be clear: Bruce Pearl is an adult: his son played for him at UT. I would hope that any college coach (or any adult) engaging in business practices (and that is recruiting) would follow basic ethics of their industry.

Look, I get that the NCAA has insane recruiting rules (can’t tweet but can respond? can only met on every other Thursday’s in months with A’s but never if it’s an odd-numbered month – ok, I made that one up) and you probably need 2 attorneys in the compliance office TO understand the rules.  AND at the same time, a high-profile coach is probably the single most recognizable face of the university.  Name somebody affiliated with Duke, University of Oklahoma, UConn, UT (Texas or Tennessee), USC, Ohio State, Nebraska: how many name coaches versus academics.

So, when I said it was right for Bruce Pearl to be dismissed (and I think Jim Tressel should be shown the same door), and got some snark back, I thought I’d give a longer answer. Here is what kind of fan I am:

1) I’m the type that shows up and roots for the underdog in early round actions and will watch the qualifying matches because that is where you can see people competing for the chance.  You know, the races where the runner or swimmer from some unknown country finishes next to last in a World Championship or Olympic Games and that is as triumphant as a medal.

2) I’m the type of fan who will root for a team who is dominant because their coach wins by 20 when s/he could win by 80 because that is a lesson.

3) I’m the type of fan who really can’t root against many teams (er, Duke aside) and I enjoy watching good games.

4) I’m the type of fan that will be critical of my team and give credit to the opponent.

5) I’m the type of fan who thinks there can be good losses, ugly wins.

6) I’m the type of fan who loves it when the coach puts in the “never play” athletes early on so another team isn’t embarrassed.

7) I’m the type of fan who will stay up until 2 to finish watching a game on the west coast.

8) I’m the type of fan who thinks that if a coach leaves, the players should get to leave without having to sit out for a year: I also think that a player should be allowed to transfer after their freshman or sophomore year without penalty. Maybe it is a program fit, a major or simply homesick.  Let them leave at the end of the year without penalty as underclass students.

9) I’m the type of fan who thinks coaches should criticize players behind closed doors. And I love my Lady Vols but I don’t see the point of letting people know when they are locked out of a locker room or calling out a specific member of a team in the press.  Did you know the UConn freshman were locked out? Probably not: one of their freshman guards let it slip. And Geno admitted it.

10) I’m the type of fan who thinks that college athletics is a part of the system. It excites the alum, the surrounding communities. And it shouldn’t define the university. In many states, the highest paid public employee is a coach: that is before the shoe contracts,tv contracts and all the other perks.  Because of this, I think the greatest lesson a university can show its students is, you break the rules in such a major way, we will show you the door. We don’t tolerate that here. Why? Because the university is not there for athletics. Sports are there for the university.

That’s what type of fan I am. Of course, I’m a Cubs fan so that makes me an idealist and a dreamer. And I think that when you stand up for doing what is right, you deliver the greatest message about sports and community. Winning isn’t the only thing: having the courage to compete is the most important thing.

Crown me!

March 17, 2011

So, after the power of Yelp was explained … I went to see the owner of the dental practice about my well documented trails of my tooth.  I have a genetically pita narrow back jaw.  Any dental work in the back molars causes pain.  Any. I warn dentists of this issue routinely. 

Last year I had a crown done out of sheer need. It added to the credit card debt caused by a lack of a job (think 2K for a tooth).  Within 6 months, it had fallen out (the permanent one … who knows how many temp ones did, I lost count).  I finally yelped about the horrific experience because, well, they treated me like dirt.

I wasn’t looking forward to today. Another few hours in a dental chair with me trying not to cry. Ok. What a difference a person can make. First, the owner was VERY apologetic – took the time to review my dental records and immediately said I had a narrow back jaw which necessitated the creation of space between the teeth and then adjusting the upper molars (removing about 1mm from the top) to match the bite.  When they had called me and said they’d “fix it for free”, I thought the original crown. I said I couldn’t afford that (I can’t). He said it would be taken care of for free. Yup. FOR FREE. It was their error the first time; the crown wasn’t done correctly taking into account my jaw. The reason the crowns were popping off in part was due to a bad fit. The tale of local businesses and social media sites.

I disliked blasting them on Yelp (I updated it!!!!), but truly appreciated the willingness of the business owner to do what was right for me even though it was extensive work.  Of course, he sort of won me over with using a numbing stick on my cheek before the 4 needles.

Here is to hoping the temporary one stays on until the new one comes in … until then, I’m just loving the fact that somebody did the right thing when it was brought to their attention. It happens far too little.

2 years and giving up

March 17, 2011

I’m going to start by saying I’m not angelic. I’m not even really a nice person.   I laugh at reality shows when I know I shouldn’t (but seriously, after 12+ years of Survivor being on CBS, how can you be surprised at eating bugs anymore?).  I eat meat. I curse. I think some people have zero grasp of reality and mistake “a hard life” for “not getting what they want when they want it.”

8 years ago I made the single biggest mistake of my life. I’ve been paying ever since. Nobody died. Nobody was hurt. No local, state, federal or international laws were broken.  After earning a useless graduate degree 5 years ago,  and because of the second biggest mistake of my life, it’s one I’ll never get to use, I’ve worked such thrilling jobs as a temp job for a non-profit where the owner/ruler/person in charge wanted us to call him King (really), had 6 surgeries, worked for a retail company that laid me off after I refused to back down about seeking medical treatment (Shh, big secret, don’t use your employers health insurance in a recession) and in the past 2 years have had a temp job where I had to explain 8th grade government to a person who wanted a database of all elected officials as well a few others here and there.

Because I saved money, because I don’t live above my means, I’ve held on to my home. Yesterday, I lost it: in the take no prisoners sort of way. I called my student loan company to try to defer payments: I can’t pay them any more. I’ve paid them ON unemployment.  Because I no longer qualify FOR unemployment, I’m not unemployed and therefore not eligible for deferment.  So, I was screwed for paying them while ON unemployment because it was the right, responsible, ethical thing to do.  Never mind our multi-million dollar bailout of this company.

I’ve heard just about everything:

“Work fast food or retail”: Hi, I’ve been rejected by Starbucks, McDonald’s and a few others as I’m over qualified.  I’m willing to work there despite the toll on my body – see my previous job and the every 3 week nerve burning injections on my back because standing exacerbated the fractured discs caused by decades of artificial hips.

“Move”: Aside from not being able to probably even sell the condo, I can’t. I live in a state that allows me to purchase health insurance and doesn’t recognize pre-existing conditions. I can’t take the risk of moving to another state and being without health insurance.

“You aren’t doing enough”: Right. The volunteer work, career fairs, job network stuff plus nearly a thousand resumes aren’t enough.

“Pray harder”: go. to. hell.

“You need to cut back more”: I enjoyed my heat at 60 during winter in the northeast.  I like sitting in the dark. I’m a wild fan of variations of rice, beans, eggs and cheese.  And I really like going without the only pain medication that works.

Just once, I’d like somebody to say “I know things are sucky, what can I do for you?”  Instead, I’ll just figure out how to find enough money to keep paying for what I need.  And since I’m an ass, a list of those who never bothered to see if I was ok.

The power of Yelp

March 15, 2011

I Yelp. Yelp is one of those social network sites that lets you review local businesses (or chains) about service, products, customer service and the like.  I tend to yelp mostly about small businesses and base it on my experience(s) that I’ve had …. it takes a LOT for me to 1 star review an organization. On 3/4, I yelped about a run in with a local dentist (I had a crown put in a year ago … it has broken 3 times!)  Since I’m without dental insurance (and a job), the “you have to pay for it” answer didn’t exactly work as a correct answer – well it really didn’t work as a correct answer even if I had a job with dental insurance.

I posted my snarkish yelp as a warning to others in the area: let’s face it, few people rave about their dentists.  I didn’t think much of it until today when I received a call from the office manager today. They want to replace the crown for free (apparently crowns come with warranties if you go there for cleanings – I won’t go there with that idea. . . ) since it was new.

The sad thing? If I hadn’t been vocal on a public site about the lack of caring, craftsmanship and professionalism? I’d still be faced without a crown on my tooth. For me? I think it’s sad that in order for an organization to step up and to the right thing, they have to be blasted. Maybe that has a bit to do with the anger in this country? How about just doing the right thing the first time – something tells me that might just make the world a bit nicer place.

And really, it does take a lot to get a 1 star yelp from me … even the condo idiots were not yelped about!

Pantry diving: quick and easy cooking

March 14, 2011

I promised a friend of mine I’d post some quick and easy meals that are fairly easy to make and inexpensive. The first one … with a snarkish nod to her wild side, I’m dubbing pantry diving.  5 items: 10 minutes, and it’s easy to make.  The full recipe is found here but the key items are: a can of whole tomatoes, a package of spinach and mushrooms (which you can leave out if you are one of those people who eschew mushrooms for some unknown reason).

And since my culinary challenged friend likes pictures: here is what is should look like. . . ..

Spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms, OH MY!

5 items, 15 minutes and dinner!

About this carbon fast. . . .

March 14, 2011

So, I’ve been receiving tips on how to reduce individual carbon foot print. Ok, WHO is writing these things?  Today’s tip:

“Notice what food you throw away this week. See if you can reduce it by a third.  Eat leftovers and shop more carefully using a list and planning your meals.  The amount of food thrown away by an average household adds the equivalent CO2 emissions of 1-5 cars.”

(Granted, it wasn’t as bad as telling people to take out a light bulb to save electricity because uh, in a multi-light bulb system, you are still discharging electricity – but that’s a different tangent…)

Back to food, how about some of these tips:

1)      Buy as much produce/meat that is locally sourced. Less distance between the origin of the food and where it is sold? Less of a carbon footprint created.

2)     Buy organic. Not only is it healthy for you the creation and dispersal of pesticides, additives are consumers of natural resources.

3)     Take your lunch to work in re-usable containers. Not only do you use your leftovers, you decrease the amount of waste (containers) that are non-recyclable.

Yes, I understand the carbon fast tips are for people who may not be familiar with how to reduce, recycle, reuse.  However, let’s face it: if somebody has signed up for a carbon fast, let’s bring it up a notch.  Let’s use it to create sustainable changes both in the environmental and economic arenas.

Reflections on Japan

March 11, 2011

Like many Americans, I awoke to the news of the 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan at 1:00 am EST today.  I was stunned.  I had spent 3 weeks backpacking/training through Japan.  I know maybe 5 words in Japanese am deathly allergic to shellfish and spent the last 5 days curled up in a Tokyo hotel room with the swine flu.  Still, I’d go back in a second.

There is a tranquil chaos of Japan that amazes me: across the street from the Louis Vinton store is a 13th century temple.  Neither seem out-of-place; neither seem in place. It just is.  As I travelled up and down the island on my JR pass (and oh, my motion sickness didn’t like the trains), I noticed I was somewhat of a curiosity. My hunch is that there are not many Americans roaming around Japan.  When I wound up on an express train in the Tokyo subway system, an elderly Japanese woman helped me figure out where to get off and led me to my exit before turning around into a packed rush hour station presumably to continue her destination. What is uncommon about this is that it was so common.  I’d be walking through a park, or reading in a tea shop and people would come up to me and try to make sure I wasn’t lost, lead me to hidden treasures. 

My introduction to Japan started off as a disaster: a typhoon in Tokyo, tornadoes in Atlanta, flight crew being over time alloted all led to arriving 10 hours late: after all transportation ended. There I was stuck in the Tokyo Airport dreading sleeping there after a trans-Pacific flight: and yes, even the taxi stands had shut down!  The police came through and my instant thought was great, I’m going to sleep outside.  Instead, they distributed sleeping bags, pillows, 2L of water and a roll of ritz-like crackers: for free.  Then the police stood guard over us so we could sleep.  My instant thought was “somebody needs to pass this idea on. . . . “.

I wandered to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I felt drawn to see those cities as, well, my country blew those towns up.  There is an egocentric idea of here to save the world that is easy to undertake as an American. For good or bad, right or wrong, we skip over some of our more painful actions.  Yes Japan had vowed to fight to the death, and yes we caused mass destruction.  Here I was a 30 something American walking through Hiroshima’s memorial park.  The main peace monument is oddly in the shape of a covered wagon.  The symbolism from a western perspective wasn’t lost on me: forward, onward, keep exploring.  As I wandered through the park and the memorials while working up the courage to enter the museum, I was surrounded by a gaggle of 5th graders on an English class assignment.  Word quickly spread that I was an American (well that and my Red Sox hat) and I soon found myself answering questions to about 30 10 year olds on my favorite color, did I like Japan.  There teacher was profoundly apologetic: I smiled and said my sister was a teacher.

After touring the museum (somewhat balanced), I met up again with the students as we both picked the same spot for lunch. They giggled at my un-artistic lunch of carrots, yoghurt, water and ginger ale.  Compared to their stunning presentation of food, I could see the point.

Every place I went, I was warmly received. It wasn’t for my stunning ability to speak Japanese but my mangled attempts to communicate, to explore, to take risk.  Japan has a reputation of being a closed society.  I found it to be one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been.  I spent a day in the town where the tsunami took aim: blue waters, friendly people and suggestions on other towns to see in the area.

Dumpling lessonWandering

Today, when I heard the news, my thoughts went back 2 years.  It was a trip on a whim based on the fact it was cheaper to fly to Tokyo than to Oklahoma.  I discovered a nation that even in the heavily tourist spots of Kyoto and Tokyo found the time to help a lost American.

Today and for the coming days, my thoughts are with the people of Japan. I can’t comprehend the physical destruction, let alone the emotional one facing Japan today.  I learned so much from my 3.5 weeks there some historical, some personal.  And I would do anything to return, if only to payback the people of Japan for their enduring kindness.

Peace ParkA favorite treat: lemon slushies

Carbon fast

March 9, 2011

As I blogged about yesterday, there are a group of people engaging in a carbon fast.  Aiming at reducing the amount of resources consumed through intentional use of products, hopefully this can create lasting sustainable habits.  Granted many of those participating are already aware of environmental issues, the carbon fast is a first step in the right direction on raising awareness of how small steps can bring about changes.

As I went through simple steps I could do to be more intentional about consumption, I realized the answer of “but I recycle” is not enough.  There are simple steps that everybody can choose to participate in that can simply reduce the colossal amount of waste generated in our country.

The “average” American generates 1600 POUNDS of trash per year.  There are some given items in a household (using mine for example, used cat liter) that cannot be changed.  There are others that by simple changes can be eliminated:

1) Use cloth napkins, dish towels.

2) Eliminate using one use plastic containers and other over-packaged products.

3) Bring your bags to the grocery store, box stores and other places.

4) Donate stained t-shirts, towels that you might otherwise toss to animal shelters. Many use them in the kennels of puppies and kittens (make sure they are clean!)

5) Freecycle, recycle and donate.

Reduction of our use of plastic based products is can help curb out overdependence on oil.  The two main natural resources in plastic? Petroleum and natural gas. 

Elimination of plastic is probably not realistic (just fill up a prescription!) but awareness of where we can use glass and other products can go a long way in reducing our carbon footprint.