Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shell Flowers

Down the road from my parents in FL, their very friendly neighbor showed us (and gave us a few of these) flowers--made entirely of shells. The flowers are really very unassuming and pretty. The neighbor's were attached to silk flower-stems & leaves, but I like having them sit on the table.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Leisure for me: Damn, you go Girl!

This girl can sing. Who cares how old she is? She's got my vote. She and that kid who freaked out on Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire - loved it. Too bad I DVR it, no voting here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet Leisure

Tom & Jerry, 3/27/09.

Believe me, the man deserves some downtime. Chris tends to take Fridays off and work through the weekend (though, like today, Fridays usually include one of his bazillion dentist appointments). My downtime usually involves doing something crafty. And today, the sky opened up and a man appeared at the door of our home...a mail-carrying man. He delivered what may be the perfect marriage of crafts and cooking...behold, I give you the best housewarming gift ever:
Two very thoughtful friends sent this gift (totally uncalled for! & so sweet! thank you Anne & Ashley). We've never had a mixer, and I can't wait to make star-shaped cookies, and blueberry shakes, and smooth soups. Long live Recipe Rursdays.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Rice & Bean Burritos

While I've already covered Chris' Sofrito Bean Burritos and all of their awesomeness in a previous post, I couldn't resist posting the batch that Chris' made for a Street Sights meeting last week. I think he made 17 burritos in total. This batch was a variation on the original recipe: he used store-bought recaito, since we're out of the home-made sofrito, and added rice (so the burritos would be more portable/less messy & people could take them home).Chris' Rice & Bean Burritos (instructions by Chris)
  • Rice (4 cups, for this recipe - 17+ burritos)
  • Seasoning: Goya Sazon (see Goya goodies),Goya Adobo, Cumin, & Red pepper flakes
  • Black beans (Goya brand, preferred) (6 cans, for this batch)
  • Homemade Sofrito or Goya brand Recaito
  • Avocado
  • Shredded cheese - we use the Mexican cheese mix
  • (big) Tortillas
  • Reynolds Wrap, for portability
Cooking the rice:
1. Clean/rinse the rice until the water goes from being opaque (from the starch) to clear (though it never gets completely clear). Also, while rinsing the rice, be sure to look through the rice with your hand for any small pebbles. Discard these, of course.
2. Put rice in a pot and cover the rice with water. You know you have the right amount of water in the pot if the water level just covers a large cooking spoon placed on the top of the rice.
3. Add Sazon to the rice & stir (a teaspoon & 2 packets of Sazon, for 4 cups of rice). Stir.
4. Bring the rice to a boil, uncovered, on on high heat. Once most of the water has been absorbed, cover the rice and drop the heat to low. You'll know when to do this by checking to make sure the rice no longer sits under water but instead has small pockets all over the surface of the rice that emit steam and little water bubbles.
5. After covering, cook the rice for about 10-15 minutes covered. Check at 10 minutes to see if the rice is done.

Cooking the beans:
1. Empty beans and Recaito into a large pot. (For every 2 cans of beans, use 1.5 T of Recaito).
2. Put about 2 T of cumin, 1 tsp. of Adobo, half a tsp. of red pepper flakes (or more, for heat). You may need to add more Adobo later, but this ingredient is very salty. So, be conservative with it at first.
3. Simmer the beans on low-medium/low heat for about 15 minutes or until the beans are cooked.

Assemblage: Tortilla + cheese + rice + beans + avocado. Mmmm.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Medical professionals: bestowing confidence one toe at a time

"You know, toes are not like fingers. We want to make sure fingers heal perfectly, but if a toe has a crook in it, or something, it's less of a concern."

--said by the 3rd doctor to examine my foot since 2/15, while reviewing the 3rd set of x-rays.

Paper Flowers

Today's link-share for you: How flippin pretty are these flowers, made paper & plastic overlays (by Hambly)? If I had the time...
See also the original, step-by-step how-to that inspired the Hambly flowers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Goat Cheese Dumplings in a Wild Mushroom Sauce

Here's your better-late-than-never Recipe Rursday, on a Monday: A few months ago, Epicurious posted a recipe for Roasted Eggplant Soup with Goat Cheese Dumplings (made with wonton wrappers) that sounded delicious. But knowing that my last experiment with roasted eggplant for Baba Ghanouj was a terribly bitter mess, I forwent the eggplant soup for a mushroom soup. I made the goat cheese dumplings from recipe above and found a Wild Mushroom Soup where they could swim.

The dish did not come together exactly as planned. Next time, instead of using the mushroom soup as a soup, I'll use it as a sauce, since both it and the dumplings are fairly rich. I didn't get a picture of the final product (we had guests), but you get the idea. Goat cheese dumpling filling (below).
Goat Cheese Dumplings (straight from Epicurious)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (packed) soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), crumbled
  • 1/2 cup chopped seeded plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 20 wonton wrappers
Heat oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté 4 minutes. Cool. Mix in cheese, tomatoes and basil. Season filling with salt and pepper. Place wrappers on work surface. Place 2 teaspoons filling in center. Brush edges with water. Fold wrappers diagonally in half; press edges to seal. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Place in single layer on floured baking sheet. Cover; chill.)

Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more stock if necessary. Cook dumplings in pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls. Using slotted spoon, place 2 dumplings atop soup in each bowl.

Wild Mushroom Soup (straight from Epicurious)

Note: my suggestion would be to make much less & use it as a sauce, not a soup for the dumplings.

  • 3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth (use veg.)
  • 1 1/2-ounce package dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions (I used white onions)
  • 12 ox assorted wild mushrooms (crimini & stemmed shiitake), sliced
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (or more..)
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
  • 4 tsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-fat (1%) milk (or a bit less, sour cream)
Bring broth to boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add porcini mushrooms to saucepan; let soak until mushrooms soften, about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving broth but discarding any sediment in broth. Coarsely chop porcini mushrooms.

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Add wild mushrooms and button mushrooms and sauté until brown and tender, about 8 minutes. Add minced garlic, thyme, and porcini and sauté 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in reserved porcini soaking liquid and low-fat milk. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until soup thickens slightly, about 12 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups soup to blender and puree until smooth. Return to pot. Bring soup to simmer. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Defending Those in Need

Earlier this week I sat down with Rhode Island's Chief Public Defender for an interview, for Street Sights. Think Raising the Bar, but for real. Needless to say, the work at the Office of the Public Defender is tough. They're flooded with cases, understaffed and suffering from budget cuts, but still plugging away at truly honorable work. Their job is to "pursue fairness and justice in the law" by providing counsel and "quality representation for the indigent" (those in need). Am I the only one bothered by the word indigent? For some reason it sounds dated & derogatory. Regardless.

I sat for an hour talking to Chief Public Defender, John Hardiman, about his office, about his love of his work, and about the social ills that lead people to commit crimes. He described his commitment to the belief that if his office--a staff of 91--addresses the client's social needs with better referrals to social services, as opposed to only addressing their case, then they will see a reduction in repeat offenses.

My visit was to find out about their new Homeless Project--a project you'll hear about in the April issue of Street Sights. I left the office with admiration for John Hardiman and for the 40+ lawyers who chose to work for humans, protecting their rights, instead of for a firm or a corporation. Hundreds of thousands of dollars passed by for hard work that actualizes what our society has chosen as its constitution. What inspires me the most is the ease with which people pursue these careers. For these advocates, it's obvious that we have to help people who are disadvantaged by racism or classism, or their upbringing, when it includes instability or violence. This is one state office where workers are absolutely compelled and driven by what they see--people suffering injustices.

...Today, at a luncheon, I heard a professor and community leader give a surprising, but well-supported argument for the solution to the problem of homelessness, based on a new understanding of its causes. If I can find the time, I will post about it tomorrow.

About Blogging & Tracks

Blogs are weird. They're public, yet with low-traffic, they don't feel public (in contrast to highly public blogs like Dooce). I set up a blog to keep in touch with family and friends, though most of them keep in touch by phone. A few of my more computer-friendly friends check the site regularly, some every day, which is a motivator for me to post anything - even a picture of the cat - as a 'hi' to those people. But mine is a private blog, sort of, since the people who drop in tend to be people in my life.

When you bounce around the internet, however, you are not anonymous--you leave a trace. Sites like Statcounter or SiteMeter send out reports on a blog's hits, including where hits come from (city, state, & how many return visits), pages with high activity or what sites bring people in, and even which tags or internal links an individual clicks. Sometimes a single tag (like the family tag) gets a bunch of hits in one day, but from different locations, and I see that the link has been emailed from one person to another.

On a blog like mine, the hit from Canada is usually Jane (hey there!), Omaha stops in all the time (go Creighton!), as do my friends in Brooklyn. Family is easy to identify. Most European hits come through Bayley's blog, while a number of locals come through Sarah's blog. Last week a Twitter sent 100+ people to my GoogleMap of tent city's location. Oddly, the broken toe page still gets lots of hits. The question is, are you anonymous when you hop through various websites? Somewhat. You leave behind your IP address, your geographical location, your path through the site, and your word, not completely.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


One of our staff members at Street Sights is suffering the loss of his 15-year old son, who died in a fire this past Monday. So much sadness. Sometimes suffering is so disproportionately present in people's lives, it's overwhelming.

Visitation on Thursday, funeral - Friday morning.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lucky Dolphins

San Carlos Bay, taken 3/11/09.

Back in January, Chris & I took a relaxing and rejuvenating trip to FL to see my parents and celebrate the holidays. This time around, not so much. (Constantin's return to Berlin in Repetition, anyone? ...Bueller?) I'd say this week has been a whirlwind already, but isn't every week? As always, though, my mom was extremely generous and the weather was gorgeous. She treated us to a boat trip on a day when seemingly hundreds of dolphins were out to play, chasing the boats and diving through the tail waves. The sight of them, incredible. What amazing creatures.

This past weekend a friend informed me that dolphins are good luck. Bring. It. On.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Asparagus, Artichoke, & Shiitake Risotto

Somehow I completely skipped over this recipe, promised to you last month, and I'm 2 days late. Risotto is one of those dishes I crave only when it's blistering cold or there's snow on the ground. Our winter here in Rhode Island has been filled with days like this. Chris' risotto is always good, but this batch was incredibly flavorful. The rice was falling apart a little bit at the end, but this is probably from using a wooden spoon.

Asparagus, Artichoke, & Shiitake Risotto (Smitten Kitchen's adaptation from Gormet)

5 c. chicken broth (40 fl oz)
1 c. water
1 pound med. asparagus, cut into 1/4" slices, leaving tips 1 1/2" long
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 stick (1/4 c) unsalted butter (Chris used less)
3/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps cut into 1/4" slices
2 large fresh artichoke hearts, cut into 1/4" slices (a handful, jarred)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice (10 oz)
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (under a cup)

Bring broth & water to a boil in a 4-quart pot. Add asparagus, cook uncovered, until crisp-tender, 3-4 min. Run under cold water to stop cooking. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.

Heat oil with 1 T butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saute mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 4 min. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a bowl.

Cook onion in 2 T butter (we used less) in saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until softened (3 min). Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 min. Add wine and cook, stirring until absorbed, 1 min.

Ladle in 1 c. simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring, until absorbed, about 2 min. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 c. at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and looks creamy, 18-20 min. (Save leftover broth for thinning.)

Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 c. cheese, remaining butter, and salt & pepper to taste. Gently stir in asparagus, artichokes & mushrooms, then cover pan and let stand 1 min. If desired, thin risotto with some of remaining broth. Serve immediately. (Makes 4 main-course servings.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Channel 10 features Street Sights

As you may know, Street Sights is a local street paper covering issues that affect the homeless community throughout the state of Rhode Island.

Last week Channel 10 (NBC) dropped by a few Street Sights meetings to report on our two year anniversary. The short piece, aired this past Monday, March 9th, mentions the issues covered by Street Sights (like the tent city under the Crawford Street Bridge in Providence), how the paper has given a voice to the homeless, and changed the lives of those involved. The local news coverage was a great way to inform the public about the organization, as well as encourage members of the community to get involved. The Channel 10 video is posted on their website and can be viewed here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

March Street Sights Issue

Street Sights (Rhode Island's street newspaper about homelessness) is celebrating its two year anniversary this month. As an indication of this anniversary, we've added a color to the front page of the paper...Blue! It's eye-catching. I hope we keep it.This issue includes another report on the tent city in Providence, for those who are interested. The issue will soon be available on the archives page.

Channel 10 came by our Street Sights meeting tonight, to take video of our paper distribution day. Sunday morning members of the staff will be interviewed. The coverage will be great PR for the Street Sights and we hope it will incite interested volunteers. I'll be sure to post more info when the story is released. Update: Channel 10 Features Street Sights (3/13/09).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts

Ina Garten's Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts (orig. recipe makes 4 tarts, I changed it to make 2)
  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted (1 sheet needed)
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 sm. garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T dry white wine
  • 1 tsp.minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 T freshly grated Parmesan, plus 1 oz. shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 oz. garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet) (or, plain)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
  • 1 T julienned basil leaves (we were out of basil)
You can find Ina Garten's instructions here, but I jotted down these instructions from watching her put this together on the Food Network. She made two 6" tarts on the show, I followed suit. It was a perfect appetizer for 4 people. So good.

1. Preheat oven at 425F. Saute onions and a bit of garlic in olive oil (at the end, add S&P, white wine, thyme).
2. Use 1 sheet of puff pastry (defrosted), flour a board & roll out into an 11" sq. With a knife, trace two 6" (diameter) saucers & cut out 2 circles. Place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet.
3. With a knife, score a 1/2" border from the edge of each circle. Poke fork holes throughout the middle circle - they'll close up if they go all the way through.
4. In the center of the circles layer: Reggiano Parm. (1T grated for each tart), Onions (divided), 1 oz. of goat cheese on each (split into lumps), 1/2 " thick tomato slice.
5. Brush both tomato slices with olive oil. And top with chiffonade'd Basil cut & a few large Parmesan shavings (via. a veg. peeler).
6. Salt & pepper the top. Bake for 20-25 min. Let cool & cut into wedges.

** For more recipes: RedPepperFlakes Recipe Archives.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Very soon, I'll be heading to FL for a visit with my mom. And because the stars aligned in our favor, this lovely lady (below) will be visiting as well. I haven't seen Anne since August and can't wait to see her. (I'll load up the blog with automated posts, while I'm gone. Techmology.)
(Omaha, NE. 8/5/09)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gumballs & the Armory

New View of the Armory & a Gumball Tree
Taken 3/3/09.

10% in RI, Unemployed

Last month's new unemployment numbers are in, for Rhode Island. 10.3 % of the population is unemployed. We're above the national average. Way to be top of the charts.
(Story on the front page of the Projo).

Monday, March 2, 2009

White Out

Taken 3/2/09, 7 am.
For Dad, who, when seeing these pictures, should call a particular college president & ask him why he hasn't shut down today. The storm is expected to continue until 1pm today.
Update at 8:45am: College closed. Snow day for Chris.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Here we go again...

My dad just called to warn me about the 10" of snow, falling at 2-3"/hr., predicted for us tonight. For him: Taken 3/1/09, 9:20 pm.