Busy, busy, busy

I owe you an Eco-Saturday. Sorry ’bout that; I promise I’ll make it up to you with a double helping this week. The last couple of weeks have been crazy. I worked 12 consecutive days (including 85 hours in one seven-day stretch), visited my family, replaced my cellphone (if we’re close and I haven’t given you my new number, email me, and I’ll update you), and then came down with a nasty 24-hour bug that flattened me Sunday night and forced me to spend Monday in bed. I hate getting sick, but it was probably the only way I was going to get the rest I desperately needed after the last couple of weeks, so I’m not going to grumble too much.

I had some good intentions about picking up groceries tonight, but I was still a little shaky when I woke up this morning, and after covering a meeting and filing two stories today, I was pretty well tapped out, so I just cleaned out the refrigerator, loaded the dishwasher and made myself a batch of butternut squash soup out of some steam-in-bag squash I found in the freezer. It turned out well and will probably be this week’s Vegan Friday offering.

I am pretty sure I am going to spend the rest of my evening curled up on the couch, listening to Joni Mitchell on vinyl. Unless I give up and crash early, which is looking increasingly likely.

Hope you’re having a good evening, wherever you are.

Emily

Vegan Friday: Hummus

hummus3
I didn’t get too fancy with this, because I was taking it to an office party.

Yeah, I know it’s Saturday. It’s been an outrageously busy week, and I’m exhausted.

Anyway, here is your belated Vegan Friday recipe for what I think is pretty much the best vegan food there is: hummus.

In case you’re not familiar with it, hummus is a dip made from garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas), tahini (sesame paste; find it at the health-food store) and lemon juice. Other ingredients vary, but those are the three main ones.

I like my hummus heavy on the tahini and lemon juice, but as always, you can adjust any or all of these ingredients to suit your personal tastes.

Hummus
1 to 2 cloves of garlic
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Tahini (start with a couple of tablespoons and add more until you’re happy with the taste)
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Cumin
Paprika

hummus1

Peel the garlic and mince it in a food processor. Add a can of garbanzo beans and process into a thick paste.

hummus2

Add tahini, lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Start with a couple of tablespoons of each and go from there. Hummus is extremely flexible. Process until ingredients are well-blended. You should end up with a smooth, creamy dip. I like mine fairly thick, but the consistency will depend on the amount of olive oil and lemon juice you use. Add a couple of pinches each of cumin and paprika and process again.

Dish up into a serving container, sprinkle with paprika and serve with pita wedges, pita chips or fresh vegetables. This is a very quick, easy recipe to take to office parties and the like.

Emily

March madness

I have no idea why, but for as long as I can remember, the middle of March has been insanely busy.

I think it started with junior-high science fair, continued into high-school musical rehearsals, grew into magazine design projects of epic proportions, and snowballed from there.

This year, after the Oklahoma Route 66 Association president earned my undying loyalty and affection by constructing a beautiful, shimmering Somebody Else’s Problem shield around the Trip Guide for the first time in nine years, I assumed I’d get to find out what March looks like to normal people.

Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking, either. I know better than that.

With a reporter out on maternity leave and staffing issues reaching critical levels, I volunteered to cover for a designer who’s out on vacation this week … right before my editor decided to move up the deadline on a largely hypothetical project that of course began spinning wildly out of control the second it became real … and just when I thought I might be able to reel that all in and keep things from getting too complicated, I remembered I had a murder trial to cover this week.

The upshot of all this is that by 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, I had already worked nearly 40 hours this week, and I’ve got another 40 or so ahead of me before the week is out.

After all these years, I’m not even pretending to worry about it, because an 80-hour week full of utter madness is as much a sign of spring as the crocus blooming next to the front porch, the flat of tomato plants growing in the dining room and the ballplayers warming up in Arizona and Florida. I don’t know why or how it happens, but I’d probably freak out if it didn’t.

As soon as I get through this week, I’m going to treat myself to some new lawn ornaments. I’ve got an utterly hilarious idea for a little garden tableau involving a handful of concrete angels and a lawn gnome in pinstripes and Chucks….

Emily

‘Shopping trip

I’ve been dinking around with filters and layers for a design project I’m doing at work, and while I was figuring out a shortcut today, I ‘Shopped up a photo Ron shot of me yesterday at Daily Star Comics in Metropolis:

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Eat your heart out, Billie Piper.

Don’t look too closely, or you’ll see where my lines got a little wobbly on a couple of spots I was trying to enhance by hand, but I think it’s still a fun photo. Way better than Bitstrips.

Too bad I didn’t figure out the shortcut before I spent 10 hours tracing posterized edges by hand to convert photos to cartoons. -_-

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Draft stopper

Last week’s Eco-Saturday project was a great investment, but it was also a pretty big investment, in terms of both time and cash, and it was the type of project you’re not likely to do unless you actually own your home. This week’s project is cheaper, takes just a few minutes and can be done in just about any sort of dwelling, from apartments to mansions, with good results.

You will need:

Half a yard of fabric (I used twill)
Thread
Scissors
Sewing machine (or a plain old needle if you don’t have a machine)
Pins
Rice
Tape measure if you want to be precise
Yardstick if you have one
Thin cardboard (grab a box from the recycling bin)
Tape

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Choose a door you want to seal up. Cut a strip of fabric about six inches wide and one inch longer than the door. Fold it in half so that the printed side is to the inside and pin it in place so it doesn’t squirm while you’re sewing.

Using a sewing machine or a needle and thread, stitch down the side and one end, leaving a half-inch seam allowance.

Turn right-side out. (If you have a yardstick handy, you can use it to help with this process.)

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Make a cone out of a thin piece of cardboard, tape the edge securely to keep it together, and snip off the pointy end to make a funnel. Slip the funnel into your fabric tube and use it to fill the tube with rice, leaving the top two to three inches empty.

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Turn in the raw edges, tuck them under, and sew the end shut, making sure to reinforce your seams so they don’t come loose and spill rice all over when you use your new draft stopper.

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Lay your draft stopper on the floor against the door. I made several at once, using a yard of twill I found on sale at the fabric store. Instead of custom-measuring each door, I made all of them the same length and just left a little empty space at the end so I could distribute the rice as needed to get a good fit.

You can make four or five of these in an hour if you have a good sewing machine.

Emily

Vegan Friday: Quick fajitas

Vegan fajitas are about as easy as it gets, and my husband likes them so much he specifically requests them when I’m making grocery lists. NOTE: You will need Soy Curls for this recipe. I discussed them before in this post. If you can’t find any, you can substitute sliced portabella mushrooms, but the taste will be less like chicken and more like steak, and the protein content will be much lower.

Ingredients:

1 c. Soy Curls
1 c. water
1/2 large or 1 small veggie bouillon cube
Lime juice to taste
Taco seasoning to taste (I make my own with cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and whatever else sounds good at the moment)
Small yellow onion
Two or three bell peppers (I like a variety of colors, but green will work just fine; if you’re in a hurry or can’t find decent peppers, the frozen, precut kind will do in a pinch)
Olive oil
Tortillas

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Combine the Soy Curls, water, bouillon, lime juice and taco seasoning in a microwave-safe dish and nuke for a minute or two until the curls reconstitute. Meanwhile, cut the peppers and onions into thin strips.

fajitas2

Saute peppers and onion in olive oil until onion is translucent. (If using portabellas instead of Soy Curls, leave out the water and bouillon and just add the portabellas, lime juice and taco seasoning to the pan when you saute the peppers and onion.)

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Add reconstituted Soy Curls, if using, and saute until peppers start to brown on the edges.

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This guacamole isn’t as pretty as it should be, because I discovered — after I’d already started to mix it up — that one of my avocados had spoiled. It tasted fine but didn’t look as appealing as I’d have liked.

Serve immediately with warm tortillas, salsa, guacamole, vegan sour cream, hot sauce, or whatever else makes you happy.

The best thing about this recipe is that you can make it in less time than it takes to pick up drive-through fast food, and it tastes better than anything you’re likely to find at the big taco chains.

Emily

Small hint of spring

Before the sky decided to dump another round of ice on us, the weather warmed up briefly, and I caught a flash of yellow peeking from the layer of leaves huddled around my front porch.

I brushed back the leaf mold to find this:

yellowcrocus

 

One of the best things about moving into a new house is spending the next year finding the surprises previous occupants planted for you along the way. At our old house in Tulsa, we discovered grape hyacinths, one regular hyacinth, crocus, calla lilies (until too many years of drought killed them) and — once — a single red tulip. To that, we added a flowerbed full of peppermint and chocolate mint that release fragrance as you brush against them on the way to the front door, a prickly pear from Texas in one corner of the front yard, and a wisteria vine that festoons the pergola with clusters of soft purple blossoms from April to October. I hope the new owner enjoys them as much as we did.

Emily

The effects of bullying, Part 3

This is the fourth entry in an occasional series on how being picked on as a kid influenced the sort of adult I turned out to be.

I have an extremely self-deprecating sense of humor. It comes in handy sometimes. It’s disarming. It can soothe fear, soften a blow, defuse anger, or help me relate to people when they need reassurance. But it can also be a liability, especially when I’m dealing with people who do not know me well and misinterpret my humor as flippancy — or worse, self-loathing.

In Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, a man makes fun of the title character’s nose. Cyrano deflates his detractor by enumerating all the colorful insults the man could have dished out if he’d been smarter or more creative.

As a kid, I quickly figured out that if I pulled a Cyrano on a would-be bully, I could control the severity of the blow while taking the fun out of the game. If I beat a bully to the punch and said something funnier (and meaner) than whatever she was planning to say …

KanyeDropsMic
(H/T to the hilarious Luvvie of awesomelyluvvie.com for the .gif.)

 

I was too small and weak to discourage bullies with my fists. But a battle of wits? Oh, bitch. You tried it.

I’m glad I found a means of protecting myself. And I’m glad I can laugh at myself, because frankly, I’ve done a lot of dumb crap over the years and probably would have gone off the deep end a long time ago if I couldn’t laugh it off. But looking back, it makes me sad to think about how I developed that ability.

It makes me sad to realize I have this sense of humor because a little girl spent most of her childhood inspecting herself for flaws and thinking up terrible things to say about them just so somebody else wouldn’t.

When you think about it, that’s a really effed-up thing for a little kid to have to do. And maybe it was OK for me, but it’s not OK for my niece, my nephews, my goddaughter, or anybody else. Children deserve better than that — and as adults, we’ve got to figure out how to make sure they have better.

Emily