I’m Back…Back in the saddle again

Wow, it’s been a long time.

You know, stuff going on, getting in the way. But that’s about to change. The muse has been calling, less like a text or phone call and more like a siren shriek from the stratosphere. I’m answering. I’m getting on the horse. This horse has wings and rocketships, dinner parties and destinies, art supplies, new suede boots and a crock pot, house plans and a loop pedal.

Watch out.

Watch this:

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Pet Sounds and…

It’s hard to type when you are crying…

Snoring…room rumbling, wake you up, no going back to sleep snoring. From both of them, man and beast. in tandem, taking turns, all night long, in stereo.  Joined at the hip and heart, boy and his dog running together in dreams of fields to pee and deer to chase. I pretty much gave up on sleeping at that point…

But, there were other sounds too…snorty, snuffly, rooting sounds, on the couch near to my ear, low and searching and comforting. The click, click, clickity sounds of supermodel brindlelegs walking from room to room and quickly dancing in endless circles across the kitchen floor, power driven by snausages and beggin’ strips. Crackling of the plastic bag that proved he’d do ANYTHING for a treat.  Igor and I had more than mutual respect and bonding over being highly motivated by food.

The happy -shiny sound of a jingly, jangly leash or “string” as we called it, so as not to show ownership, but act as a team. I was lucky enough to join the team when Randy and I got married and since there was boundless love in Igor’s warm furry heart I was part of the pack, part of the clan. And he let me know it too…I was the valley of legs in which he slept, securing me with the weight of him on the blanket, in a way I’d like to think he was protecting me even as I sleep, from falling out of  bed or moving away from the pack, the clan. Closeness mattered to Igor.

Working at home, Igor worked too…in my lap. Always. A heavy warm weight that kept me grounded, connected to the universe of living breathing things and comfort in contrast to the cold spreadsheets and e-mails I sent through the day. The wiggly afghan that always seemed to find my feet when I needed it or next to me for the lazy afternoon nap.

He loved cars rides like crazy, tongue out, head up, he ruled the road and almost looked like a smaller version of Randy as he rode in his lap…proud and ready for endless adventure! Adventure Pug!

The combination of his melty chocolate eyes that always found my soul and velvety ears, so soft they reminded me of the lamb’s ear plants I’d find in the gardens of Northside when we’d go for a walk, made my hands happy and let you believe absolutely in the humanity that resides in animals everywhere. They will find out one day that just because animals can’t talk, doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating. And I am sure they think us stupid sometimes because we fail to hear them fully. I heard and felt love coming from Igor at every moment.

He could talk…I’m not kidding..He could say “Emma” and the first word I taught him, “Randy”. We were also working on “I love you” he hadn’t completely mastered that but he tried so hard. I also taught him to sit and shake paws…and he sang with the best of them, musical family that we were..he was so smart and so loving.

He left the earth today.

He had left earlier too, when Randy and I were no longer a couple…whenever I talked to Randy I’d ask him to bring Igor because Emma and I really, really missed him, he left a hole in our lives and hearts..he did bring him once and as communication slowed so did my opportunity.  Sadly I never did get another one…one that I dearly wanted.

The house was very quiet today and it was raining outside and inside…Jasper and Lola knew.  Jasper spent the whole afternoon uncharacteristically under the bed, clearly missing his adversarial friend. Lola had paced and meowed ceaselessly before the door for the last three days, I believe she was the most open to seeing him come back for one more visit, one more romp in the backyard from a happier time. She stopped pacing today.

 I don’t know exactly how Igor died. I wonder…I hope it was as soft and warm and quiet and peaceful as the last little breath in my ear before he woke up,  pain-free and dignified like my very dear, dear little friend. Part of my pack, my clan.

 I know Randy…Igor was his very best friend in the whole world..I told him that a dog never loved another human being on earth as much as Igor loved him. And I know that is the absolute truth.

Igor, Beegor honey dog, I love you dearly, I’ll continue to miss you like crazy. I wish nothing for you Mr. Lamby Ears but the greatest expanse of fields to run in outside and an endless supply of treats. And a place on the bed beside Randy, who you loved so dearly, but I know that you will always be there anyway…even if some claim to not see you.

Goodbye my friend, part of my pack, my clan. I do believe I’ll see you again…I’ll listen for the light clicking of your nails in the hallway…

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“I Never Met a Girl Like You Before”

OK , so last week ran across the river to the “Smilin’ Smoker”, a little place in Covington, Ky that sells cigarettes and alcohol and my favorite feature? The drive thru…

So I pulled up to the drive-thru and ordered some cigarettes and asked the clerk to grab me a lighter.

I told him “I trust your judgement, just pick one out for me”.

When I got home I opened the bag up and got the cigs and lighter out, and just happened to glance down at the lighter. And what does it say? “Playboy – I read the articles”

I’m not really sure why it struck me as hilarious, but it did.

Do I look like a girl who “reads the articles”? Or who would be happy to carry around a lighter with the Playboy bunny logo on it? Or was the clerk just taking my trust and his power to make a subtle impact on my life just a little too far? Or did he just think he was being funny? Or did he just grab the first lighter within reach… You decide.

So next time I head to the Smilin’ Smoker I pick out my own lighter AND I’m going to look at the pictures! So there.

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Big Foot and Godzilla

Shoes? Yes please!!! I’ve always been crazy for shoes…they are forgiving if you gain a few pounds, a quick and easy way to update your wardrobe and seriously I totally got the feminine “girl-who-loves-shoes” gene in spades…

Although my biggest love in the shoe world is boots, I will not turn down the spike heel, the sandal or the open toe pump.

Loving shoes as I do, there’s just one tiny problem. I have big feet. Not huge exactly…but one size away from Peggy Hill feet… (if you’re not a fan of “King of the Hill” I’ll give you a hint, she wears size 11 )

I won’t lie, having a size 10 is a challenge,  goddess having passed me over for the dainty, teeny-tiny size 5 or 6 I wished I had. But I did make peace with it early on, one reason being  I was not passed over for height. I’m 5’9″, and I have good legs…so I look to that as a plus. And I figured if I had teeny-tiny feet I’d fall over, so all in all I made peace and considered myself structurally sound.

But even though I made peace with it, obviously the stores had not..all the greatest shoe styles seem to sometimes stop around size 9…somehow the size 10 look just a little more serviceable, a little more “old lady” than sexy vamp persona I feel more comfortable inhabiting. Although with the rise of the internet things have gotten way better lately, and I no longer have to shop where the tranny’s shop for the sexy boots and heels I deserve and covet…

However in 1986 it was different, much different, especially considering where I was at the time. Japan.

Yes Japan…the land of tiny feet. Really tiny feet. (A historical precedence of binding feet that when outlined in some of the research books I read before my trip really just made my hair stand on end!) But beyond feet, Japan was really land of tiny everything!

I lived there for 6 months playing in a band at the Yakuza clubs (and isn’t THAT a story for later!?..) and being so tall, everything seemed small and claustrophobic there to me.  The bathrooms were like airplane bathrooms, the ceilings were lower, the rooms were probably a quarter the size of what I was used to…and walking down the street? I could see over the head of EVERYONE. Yep I felt like a giant.

So one afternoon on my day off, I went window shopping…for what else? Shoes. Saw an adorable little shoe store, spent a few minutes gazing in the window and saw them, a beautiful pair of gold pumps that were perfect and looked like they would fit!  So even though my ability with the Japanese language was almost non-existent, I was knowledgeable enough to be able to say “How much are those fabulous gold shoes in the window?” or at least in reality “how much that?”, enough to get the point across anyway.

When I went in and talked to the clerk, he was very quiet for a minute, well more than a minute actually. Then he politely looked me in the eye and the his gaze went slowly down, to my feet for a long moment, then he looked back up at me, then back down to my feet, this went on for about 2 minutes…then the torrent came…

He started to talk very quickly and very urgently…nothing was happening “ringing the shoes up” wise so I gestured to him to follow me outside (in case there was any doubt I wanted those fabulous shoes!) as I pointed out the shoes and pointed to my feet…he continued (all in Japanese of course) talking and gesturing at the same rate and urgency, while we were standing on the sidewalk. Then a lady who also worked in the store came out to the sidewalk…and she and the man started to talk just as urgently, with him gesturing still, surreptitiously pointing at my feet. And then another employee came out, and another and then someone walking by joined the conversation which was getting louder and more urgent by the minute…pretty soon there were like 10 people, all talking and gesturing, although now, no longer at me…I took that moment to quietly, slowly slink down the sidewalk, leaving…to this day…I’m not sure what. Were my feet just too big? were they commenting on my fashion decision? Was my japanese that bad?  I’ll never know…

Although later that week when I was at the Japanese Hollywood equivalent, I took great pleasure in standing on the Godzilla set, getting my picture taken next to the tiny, tiny buildings, with one foot raised…take that Tokyo!

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And a Little More Luck…

Who couldn’t use just a little bit more luck this year?

In my previous post, the Spicy Black Eyed Pea Tomato Bisque recipe was a subtle one, in terms of black-eyed pea flavor. Good for the folks who aren’t crazy about the rather earthy taste of these fabulous little gems (high in protein, no fat and iron to boot).

For folks who like the gutsy taste of black-eyed peas, here’s a little bit more transparent dish, quick to make, and big on flavor.

It also incorporates fresh ingredients, and has a bit of flavor reminiscent of both mexican and middle eastern cuisine.

Sunshine Black-Eyed Peas

(serves two as a side dish, one for a dinner portion, can easily double or triple the recipe if necessary)

1 Can Trappey’s Black-eyed peas with Jalapeno. (You can easily substitute fresh black-eyed peas, spiced to your liking instead- but the can’s a fast shortcut) 

1/4 onion finely diced

1 medium tomato seeded and diced

1/4 bunch parsley chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)

Juice of one lime

Extra Virgin olive oil to drizzle

Directions: Heat the can of black-eyed peas on medium heat (peas and their liquid both). After simmering for a few minutes, take a potato masher and mash the peas about 4 or 5 times, you don’t want to completely make it smooth you want it chunky, but a little creamy.

Pour the black-eyed peas into a bowl and layer on the onions, then the tomatoes, then the parsley, sprinkle with salt, add the lime juice on top and drizzle with olive oil.

Enjoy the earthy goodness!

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With a Little Luck…

I take my southern superstitions seriously.

 So every year I endeavor to eat the following on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck, prosperity, a stocked larder and happiness.

A true southern New Year’s celebration contains the following items…

1)     Pork – Pigs root forward, insuring a year full of progress, solid moving forward and prosperity (and tasty, tasty ham and bacon too!).

2)     Collard greens – the South is not the only culture to include “greens” of some kind. Greens which resemble folded money are considered the keystone for good money luck in the New Year. Mustard greens, beet greens, kale, spinach are all lucky but collard wins the prize in the south.

3)     Black eyed peas – According to legend any legumes are considered lucky since beans, peas and lentils also resemble coins. Lentils are famous on new years in Spain and other countries…but in the Deep South after a nasty Civil war skirmish in Vicksburg, the starving folk discovered black eye peas, which was truly lucky in keeping them alive. Mostly eaten today as “Hoppin’ john” a tasty spicy black-eyed pea and rice dish.

 Legend also has it that whatever you are doing and the folks you are hanging out with gives you a pretty good idea what your new year will consist of…

Luckily for me, I was surrounded by friends and family, of the human and of the kitty variety. My home was warm, the larder was stocked and I was feeling very, very good physically and mentally. I say it bodes very, very well for the coming year. 

But…what do you do if like me, someone in your circle doesn’t “like” black eyed peas?

I know, crazy to me, but my best friend Anne, my total partner in crime concerning all things food related for the last 25 years…doesn’t like black-eyed peas. In light of her unfaltering good taste in everything else food and the fact that she’s a “northern gal” I totally forgive her. And also endeavor to make her happy, so I got creative this year. Instead of the usual Ham steak, hopping john, collard greens trio I tried to create something that everyone would like. Even Anne…and happy to report I think I did a pretty good job, because people were fighting over the soup and I caught Emma actually licking the bowl. I also redid the collard greens by adding them to artichokes for a twist on artichoke dip. And instead of the usual ham steak, I added cream, hash browns and cheese for a super bake that’s easy to make and works for breakfast lunch or dinner.

So here’s to you and yours…I hope you have the best New Year ever. Go cook yourself up some luck!

Spicy Black Eyed Pea and Tomato Bisque

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup diced onions plus a little more for garnish

A good size pinch of black pepper and salt

Teaspoon plus of Paprika – to taste

Teaspoon plus of Smoked Paprika – to taste

A pinch of oregano

A few dashes hot sauce (I’d recommend Tamazula)

2 can’s Trappey’s Black eyed peas with jalapeno

2 large cans of Manzano Roma tomatoes (seeded, diced and the juice reserved)

1 cup cream plus some to garnish

 Directions: Heat up a pot to medium add the olive oil, when it’s hot add the onions and stir for about 3 minutes, you want them soft so lower the heat if they are cooking too fast. Add in the salt and pepper, stir for another minute. Add the paprika’s and toast it with the onions turning up the heat a little bit. When the flavors have toasted and the onions are soft, turn up the heat a little more and add in a tablespoon at a time about a ¼ cup of the reserved tomato juice, letting the juice incorporate completely between each spoon full.

 Add in the black-eyed peas, the diced tomatoes and the hot sauce, the rest of the reserved tomato juice and bring to boiling. Add in the oregano, turn down the heat to medium and let simmer about 15 minutes. 

Using an immersion blender, blend the bejezzus out of it for about 3 minutes or more, getting it as smooth as you can. (you can do it in batches in a regular blender, just make sure you leave the lid open a bit so the steam/heat pressure doesn’t make the lid explode off…very painful with hot liquid, trust me you do not want this to happen) 

Add the cream, blend together and it’s ready to serve. Garnish with a drizzle of cream, a bit of the diced onion and a sprinkle of the smoked paprika. (You could use sour cream or yogurt as well)

 Serves 8, or me, Anne and Emma.

 Artichoke Greens Dip

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2 cans quartered artichoke hearts (drained thoroughly and chopped)

1 can collard greens drains (drained thoroughly (really thoroughly)!) and chopped)

2 cloves garlic (diced very fine or put through a garlic press)

¼ cup finely diced onion

1 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise

¼ cup regular or low-fat sour cream

1 8 oz package shredded parmesan cheese

Dash of salt and pepper

 Directions: Mix all together and cook in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with crackers, or bread sticks or tortilla chips.

 Ham Cheese Bake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, oil a 9 x 13 baking dish

 1 bag Ore-Ida frozen hash browns

3 cups diced ham

2 bags,  8 oz. each of shredded sharp cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack or Gruyère or a combo of all three ( Gruyère makes a more elegant outcome if you can afford to use just that…)

½ cup diced onion

2 cups cream (you can use half-n-half or milk, but it will be a little more creamy delicious if you use the cream)

A few tablespoons yellow mustard (I just eyeballed it by squirting it out of the bottle)

2 teaspoons beau monde seasoning, if you can find it, or a little oregano and celery salt

2 teaspoons of paprika

Sour cream for garnish 

Directions: Put a solid layer of the hash browns in the baking pan (about half the bag).

Layer half the ham and onion, sprinkle with half the spices and drizzle some mustard on top. Top with half the cheese. 

Repeat. After all is assembled, drizzle the cream evenly over the entire top. Sprinkle a little paprika on top and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

 And even though Anne made me write the recipe for the soup down then and there…she left the can of black-eyed peas on the table when she left this morning, I guess some habits are hard to break right away…I’ll save them for her. 🙂 Happy New Year!

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Lust for Life…

Good bye 2010…you served me hell…

Seriously in all my years I had never seen a year bring so many bad things to myself and almost everyone I knew… and not all of them were the “well you messed up , now you’re paying the consequences type of bad things…

 Illness ran rampant, long-term jobs were lost, long established couples broke up, money problems were a recurrent theme, people let other people down right and left. (hello can you say politicians??)  Natural disasters, true weirdness, and just plain old bad luck were the norm.  The year felt to me like one long weird dry, pea soup foggy slightly menacing movie scene…with plenty of flashbacks and evil plot turns that took place in 70’s cars and fashions, which I truly have a great distaste for….

 If you believe in a more spiritual side of things, 2010 asked you to basically get rid of the stuff that was blocking your true path, and if you chose to ignore this, the universe would take care of it for you. And boy did it ever!

 The good news is by freeing yourself up you’ll be better prepared to weather what is supposed to be a great change that’s coming our way. I don’t believe in the Mayan calendar per se, but I believe a shift in consciousness is due.

 Our earth is falling apart, apathy runs rampant, politicians are taking people’s rights away at a scary pace and the most frightening thing of all is people are either too scared or lazy to stand up and make a change to make things better. When our priority is a wide screen TV and whatever Brittany whoever that’s gracing, TMZ or it’s like, as opposed to making a world that we can truly thrive in, that’s a sad, sad statement on our world.

 And It’s a sad state of affairs when I know in my heart and soul that the only thing that will truly rally people into doing something to turn the world around is going to be the loss of something so huge, that people will no longer have the option to do nothing, like losing our water supply, or the ability to access natural food, the stopping of our energy resources, or something that makes the whole world ill…it wouldn’t take much. And seriously people, if that’s the day you choose to do something, it will be too late.

 I choose to make my own luck this year, not only for me but the planet where I live. Whether through raising awareness, or starting to fight the fight for better food, cleaner air, or water we can actually drink, or getting the politicians out of our way to  a truer democracy, I know that if I put it off any longer it will just be too late. And not “too late for our grandchildren too late” it will be too late for us. I just can’t be quiet about it any longer.

 So I go into 2011 actually hopeful for the first time in a long while because I choose to do something to make it a better year for everyone.

And I hope to serve it well..

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