Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Tree and a Haiku

Long awaited spring. We're living in a new apartment this year, working from home on some days, and spending afternoons on the deck. Somehow, despite the stresses in life, I'm paying attention to something as simple as the tree hanging over the deck as it started to bud. The tree has since exploded into a bright green leafiness. And this year, I'm in a mindset to actually enjoy it--a mere tree! In response, a haiku:
Giant budding tree,
hanging over the back deck,
bright green leaves bursting.
Scroll down for Recipe Rursday (posted earlier this week).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tent City in Woonsocket, RI

Up north in Woonsocket, RI, a tent city has appeared in the courtyard of a Methodist Church (see the Projo and Woonsocket Call). Seems that they are struggling with protecting this encampment, regardless of its need. As of today, the people staying in the tents were forced to relocate. NPR has a quick blurb about the relocation, as did the Projo (below).

Woonsocket says church's homeless tents must go. (4/27/09, Projo News Blog - Paul Davis). WOONSOCKET, R.I. -- When Pastor Brian Souza sheltered the homeless in tents at his church on April 20, he had their safety in mind, he says. He also wanted to draw attention to Rhode Island's growing homeless population. He did -- but not in the way he hoped.

Last week, city officials said the homeless cannot sleep in the four dome tents Souza pitched in the courtyard of his church, called River United Methodist Communities.The tents are in a commercial, not a residential zone, Joel Mathews, the city's director of planning and development, said Monday. Even if they were part of a residence, the tents could only house family members, he said. "In that zone, we could cite him for a number of things," including safety and sanitary issues, Mathews said. Already, some businesses have complained, he added.

The 101-year-old church sits on Federal Street, a short road between Clinton and Main Streets, near the Blackstone River. Souza said he wants the city or state to find permanent homes for the six men, who are members of his church.

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An update on the tent city in Woonsocket:

"Woonsocket pastor shuts down tent city at his church - WOONSOCKET -- Under orders from the city, the Rev. Brian J. Souza Thursday removed his campground for the homeless -- a handful of blue tents in the courtyard of his urban church.

It was a difficult decision, said Souza, pastor of the River-United Methodist Communities on Federal Street. The former cop pitched the tents on April 20 to house a half-dozen people, including a deaf woman and a 53-year-old veteran with a prosthetic leg. Souza said he wanted to create a safe haven for people who are down and out, and draw attention to the plight of the state's growing homeless population.

But on Monday, city officials ordered Mr. Souza to remove the tents. The tents, officials said, are in a commercial, not a residential zone.

The six homeless people "will go into the woods somewhere," said Mr. Souza, who plans to host a public forum on the problem later this month. The homeless need permanent housing, he said. "I'm talking to government officials and community leaders." (Projo. May 07, 2009, PaulDavis)"
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For updates, see also: Tent City Related Posts.

Recipe Rursday: Chocolate & Raspberries (or Blackberries)

Last week I was visiting a nearby community garden with a friend and a young woman offered us raspberries in hardened dollops of chocolate. Just as she said, these lovely fresh sweets couldn't be easier to make. (Recipe Rursday is a little early this week. I had to share.)

Chocolate & Raspberries (or Blackberries)
  • Berries (your choice - blackberries are less-sweet)
  • Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
1. Lay foil down on a cookie sheet or plate.
2. Melt the chocolate. (We don't have a double boiler, so I tossed a 1/4 c. of chocolate chips into a small glass pot on low heat. Stir while the chips are melting, removing the pot from the heat periodically to avoid burning). Your goal is to melt the chocolate down just enough so that you can drop dollops of it onto the tin foil.
3. As soon as the drops are down, place a berry on top.
4. Place tray/plate in the fridge (you could try the freezer, as well). As soon as the chocolate has hardened, peel off & enjoy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Link-share: Embroidery

Link-share: Embroidery, from Embloggery.

That damn recipe book

Finally, that damn recipe book is finished. Some time back in Inwood (nyc), we started cooking and I started saving the recipes we used. This? The ultimate collection.
  • The book is a 3-ring binder filled with page-protectors and includes dishes we've prepared (from recipe).
  • Each has a date, some have the 'guest-in-town' mentioned, and most include notes or suggestions for next time.
  • A few months ago I took apart the book from its chronological order, and re-grouped the recipes by main ingredients or order in a meal (e.g., appetizers, soups).
For the groupings of recipes, I had to turn to friends in Omaha for advice. Much debate was had. In the end, wontons went with pasta dishes, 'vegetables' received their own section, I resisted ethic food groupings, and all dishes involving beans were absorbed by the other categories. That last decision was for Ashley, who freaked out over the identity of beans. Did you know that beans are botanically considered a fruit but culinar-ily viewed as a legume? He lost sleep over this conundrum.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Garden on the Deck: Making Progress

(Cauliflower Seedling, taken 4/23/09)
The weather was luscious jackson today. Sweet peas are now in pots, pepper and mustard seeds are planted, and my first seedlings (cauliflower) are up. I'm so proud. As a bonus, I somehow roped Chris into planting something of his own - eggplant seeds. Can you tell how much he loves 'nature' with the ice cream scooper in his hand?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Southwestern Egg Salad

This is a quick & easy egg salad that only needs a little tweaking, in my mind. The original recipe is from WeightWatchers (thus the low-fat mayo), but there's nothing particularly weight-watchy about it, if you use regular mayo. I loved having chili peppers in the egg salad, but keep in mind, not everyone loves tangy peppers. The photo above looks like the salad is heavy on mayo/dressing, but actually I just needed to strain the salsa and chili peppers a bit more--doing so will thicken up the dish.

Southwestern Egg Salad
6 hard-boiled eggs (I used 4 whole & 2 whites only)
chives, chopped
1/3 can (small can) chili peppers, rinsed & chopped
cilantro, minced
1/2 small red pepper, chopped
1/4 C. mayo (low-fat, or regular)
1 Tbsp salsa
Pinch or two of ground cumin (go light)
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Hard boil the eggs. There's such a debate about this! What works for us: in a pot, barely cover the eggs with water, bring to a boil with the lid on. Remove lid & low simmer for 12 minutes. Run under cold water to cool, roll on a cutting board, & de-shell under cold running water.

2. Mash eggs & add all of the other ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Perfect in a tortilla.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Caliente

Meet Caliente*. Rescued from a garage sale for $30. Her tires are newly filled, but I still need to raise the handlebars and seat (yes, shocking for someone with legs as short as mine). Now I just need to find a matching pink helmet. Someone recently told me, "Every woman needs two wheels." So true.
*note: "Caliente" arrived pre-named (it's written on her crossbar).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Day

A scrapbook page from last month (photo date: 10/3/08)...it's 1-page/month these days.
I guess I should add that whenever I include Chris on a scrapbook page, I can't help but say cheesy things. In what feels like another life, he and I charged a weekend in Paris to our credit cards. We couldn't justify doing that today, but there isn't a need to go to Paris, either. Eight years later, I still can't believe that I'm fortunate enough to have found someone that makes me so happy. He's the most crazy and wonderfully supportive person I've ever met. ...I know, cheesy cheesy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Garden on the Deck: Setting Up

Random houseplants capable of resurrection? That's about as green as my thumb has ever been. This spring, however, a few people at Street Sights have inspired me to start a garden on the deck. I've never had much interest in flowers, so (with the exception of a small pot of peonies gifted at PC's farmer's market), I'm only growing vegetables.
This weekend, I planted a set of 8 spinach plants, gifted to me through a friend. They received their start locally at Scratch Farm in Cranston (part of the Southside Community Landtrust). I've also planted cauliflower seeds and a few mysterious seeds labeled "balloon" (from a co-worker) in an egg carton. And the peony received a pot. Most of my pots & seeds came from my friend Elizabeth, who is moving from pots to a community garden.
Still to come...planting sweet pea seeds that need to soak over night, Italian hot pepper seeds that need maintenance & indoor warmth, and a bunch of plant starts that I'll pick up from the Southside Community Landtrust plant sale (maybe eggplant, tomatoes, and a few basil plants).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Gougères (or 'Cheese Puffs')

Easy hors d'oeuvres I picked up on Smitten Kitchen. Next time I'd use a teaspoon to dole out smaller dollops, and maybe cook them a minute longer. Ours were so good, but soft & flaky in the middle (I think I'd like them more cripsy). Why is that first picture so awful!!?

Gougères (Jacques Pépin, Food & Wine, June 200)
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper (or more!)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese (Emmenthaler or Gruyere)
Coarse salt to sprinkle on top

Bring the milk, butter, salt, and cayenne to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once, and mix vigorously with a wooden spatula until the mixture forms a ball. Return the pan to the heat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute to dry the mixture a bit. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor, let cool for 5 min., then process for about 5 seconds.

Add the eggs and paprika to the processor bowl, and process for 10 to 15 seconds, until well mixed. Transfer the choux paste to a mixing bowl, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with a reusable nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Reserve 1 Tbsp. of the grated Parmesan cheese, then add the remainder and all the Swiss cheese to the choux paste. Stir just enough to incorporate. ...Scoop out a level tablespoon of the gougère dough, and push it off the spoon onto the cooking mat. (Next time I'd use a teaspoon - smaller balls should mean more crunch). Continue making individual gougère, spacing them about 2-in. apart on the sheet. Sprinkle a few grains of coarse salt and a little of the reserved Parmesan cheese on each gougère. Bake for about 30 min., until nicely browned and crisp.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Weekend

The Life. Taken 4/10/09.
We're off to see family...have a nice weekend.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Sheep

Easter is not actually a celebration of the Easter bunny or marshmallow sheep. Yet here I am with a marshmallow sheep cupcake recipe from FoodNetwork.

In the Christian church, of course, Easter is a remembrance of Jesus' death and the failings of the faithful that stood by as his friends. I never attended Christ's Church for Brooklyn when I lived in nyc, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for its pastor (Joe) and his partner (Laura)'s working-through of the Christian faith. I appreciate their recognition of the complexity and nuance required in being a thinking (as opposed to a mindless) Christian in a nation of many religious traditions and political ideologies. Last year, I remember Joe blogging about the Seder he attended. Today, and for the Easter holiday, my link share is Joe's blog.

** For more recipes: RedPepperFlakes Recipe Archives.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Expanding what we Consider

So many things to chat about. Some trivial, others not. ...a new baseball season, earthquakes, Cat's limp leg and all the new bills from yesterday's visit with the vet, me getting a new job (not 100% until next week), this week's House episode (shock)...

I keep coming back to a conversation I had yesterday at dinner. A man sat across the table from me at dinner (at a local meal site) and explained that despite his (serious respiratory) health problems, despite his homelessness, and despite the mistakes he made in ruining his almost 30-year-long marriage, he recognizes that there are people in this world who "have it worse" than he. This, he explained, inspires him to spend his days trying "impact people, in a good way."

He wasn't lying or placating me. He said it like it was the obvious thing to do. I can only think...what beautiful proof that we are not destined to be like children and can choose to change the way we interact with the people in our lives. This man destroyed his marriage and his family, and from a purely material perspective, has nothing. But since he had the courage to admit it and sees himself as having something to give, he lives a better life.

I don't mean to minimize the destitution of his homelessness. If anything, his homelessness would make him justified, if he were only concerned about his own situation and his own suffering. In my mind, it has always made more sense to expect that not being homeless (and having support from friends that treat you with love, or having health insurance) would make it easier to consider that others "have it worse." And yet, repeatedly this year, I've seen this expectation of mine flipped on its head. So, what makes the difference for this man? What makes him take others into account, instead of only his own situation? I think that's one of those no-easy-answer answers. And I'm totally fine with that.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

...would smell as sweet

I wish you could smell these -- they make the whole office smell sweet (taken 4/1/09).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Street Sights in the State House

Jenny & Mr. Perry (4/2/09)
I snapped a bunch of pictures yesterday, during the rally at the State House. But here are few of Street Sights' staff members, working their magic--talking to people about the paper, covering the story of the protest, etc. I took a number from a balcony on the 2nd floor with no zoom lens, so don't complain!
Jenny, spokesperson.
Mike, making the rounds.Dave, covering the event.
Not a staff member, but someone reading the April issue of Street Sights.
Providence State House, taken 4/2/09.

My post yesterday on the State House Rally &
the Projo's article on yesterday's State House Rally.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rally at the State House

In Providence today, local community organizers gathered at the RI State House for the "Growing Healthy Communities" rally. The group is lobbying for (1) tenant protection against foreclosures, (2) the use of federal stimulus funds for affordable housing, and (3) the reinstatement of RI's Neighborhood Opportunities Program. Street Sights had a number of staff members in attendance (including myself), as well as a booth set up on the second floor. 100+ people in attendance, working to improve the community and each others' living conditions...I'll load up more photos tomorrow.
Providence State House, taken 4/2/09.

Recipe Rursday: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This past weekend we had two friends over for dinner & I needed an excuse to use the new mixer. Ironically, the recipe I used is Smitten Kitchen's "Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies". These? Not so thick. And given the fruit phobia in our house, I used chocolate chips. Next time I'll cool them on a rack and for a few minutes longer.

Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (none in the house, so I skipped)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins (1/3 C. dark chocolate chips)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (skipped)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg & vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

At this point, I tossed the dough in the fridge. An hour later, I scooped them out, but on an unchilled tray, w/o parchment paper. Smitten Kitchen has other suggestions as well. The cookies should be 2" apart...Bake them for 10 - 12 min..., taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for 5 min. before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dad on Coldplay

The following is a voice mail I received from my father back in February. I kept saving it because it makes me laugh every time I hear it. My mother's comments in the background ("they're adorable") and my dad's signing off with "Dad, Out" adds to the hilarity that is my father.

Push the play button to hear an audio recording of my dad's voicemail about Coldplay, or in his words, "Cold - Play."
video
Transcript:
"Hi Amy, Dad. Hey have you ever heard of the group called Cold - Play? We're watching 60 minutes and there's this special on them, along with the pilot that went into the Hudson river. Mom: great interview. Dad: Yeah, that was a great one.

....But, Cold - Play, I did recognize maybe one song they did, but they're like the hottest band right now, in the world, because their album sold more copies than anybody else.

So, we just wanted to see what it is ...that you and Chris like about the group Cold - Play.
I'm making a big assumption here that you've actually heard of them and you know their songs and there's something making them unique or maybe different from other bands.
I'm not sure what it is.

They seem to be cute in their interviews. They're British...
Mom: you talking to her?
Dad: No, this is a recording.
Mom: oh!


They're cute in their interviews and they're British. And um...
Mom:
they're adorable!
Give me your take. ...Okay, bye.
...Dad out."