Monday, October 25, 2010

Love Mad Men -- But The Smoking is Torture

One of my first uses of Netflix has been to get caught up on Mad Men. We recently started watching it on AMC and I can tell I'm missing a lot of the backstory because I haven't been watching from the beginning. I love the show -- the smart writing, the retro fashion, the backstabbing, infidelity and innuendo. The cocktails. I almost always have one while I watch. Honestly what's there not to love. But the one part that I find absolute torture is the smoking. Every time someone lights up -- particularly Betty for some strange reason -- I get that twinge. The one all former smokers get when out of the blue they get the urge for a cigarette. It's a powerful physical reaction and it always takes me by surprise. I quit smoking for good months ago and frankly, don't even miss it. I've even gotten over the hump of wanting one when I have a cocktail. The only trigger I still seem to have is Mad Men. Now, I haven't broken down and I don't intend to. And I don't intend to give up my Mad Men habit. I'm only finishing season one and still have a ways to many layers of Dick Whitman to unravel and understand. So I guess I'll be doing it with a cocktail in hand. But no cigarette.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

30-Day Veggie Challenge

Having a small child and a picky husband in my house means I often resort to salad to getting something green on the dinner plate. But when it's drowned in ranch -- even if it's homemade and not the kind with a long list of ingredients I can't even pronounce let alone spell -- I just don't feel like it's the healthiest way to get my family to eat vegetables. So, I was super excited to hear about a blogger and fellow TwitterMoms member who is hosting the 30-Day Veggie Challenge on her blog,

Every day there will be a new vegetable recipe featured on the Dinner Together blog. Not all of the them are super healthy -- I saw a brussel sprouts and bacon concoction -- but I'm hoping to find some treasures to add to my repetoire. So, in that spirit, I share one of our favorite family veggie recipes, Roasted Vegetable Pasta Primavera.

4 cups your favorite vegetables -- I typically use carrots, broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, cauliflower or whatever I can find in the fridge
1 diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried thyme or basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 package whole wheat or spinach pasta -- farfalle or rotini are our faves

Cut all the vegetables into similar and bite-sized pieces and put in a bowl. Add the onions and garlic and toss with the olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper until all the vegetables are coated and seasoned. Spread the veggies on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree over for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile bring a huge pot of water to a boil, add salt and boil the pasta until al dente. Drain reserving at least 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place pasta in a bowl and dump roasted vegetables on top. Toss the vegetables and the pasta, adding the pasta water as needed to keep it all moist. Top with fresh grated parmesan. This makes a big batch so unless your family loves leftovers, cut the recipe in half.

Variations: top with grilled chicken, sauteed shrimp or even sliced steak for a delicious and easy meal.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Voting...And Moving On

Early voting just started here in Nevada and my phone will soon be ringing every day with some well-meaning volunteer asking me if I plan to vote (yes), will I be early voting (no), and do I plan to support such-and-such candidate (depends on who it is). As much as I live and breathe politics the two weeks of early voting every two years are those I dread the most. I get weary of the daily calls but refuse to early vote. I'm a purist when it comes to voting and believe Election Day is sacred -- call it my day of worship at the altar of democracy. That's probably a bit blasphemous but democracy, voting and the democratic process of government is what guides me in many ways. I live my life in consideration not just of what's good for me and my family but for my neighbors, my community, my state and my country. I believe that doing so makes my life and the lives of those around me better, stronger, more free and more fair. Despite our ethnic, religious, racial, social or economic differences, our votes all count the same. I think that's awesome.

And voting is our ultimate act of commitment to our community. It clearly demonstrates our participation in our democracy and our belief in our freedom. We are free to run for office, campaign for a person or issue, debate with our neighbors and vote. And then we do the most important and amazing thing -- WE MOVE ON. Whether or not our candidate or issue prevails, we accept the vote. And maybe try again next election cycle. It is an amazing part of living in this democracy. And I never fail to marvel at it.

Here in Nevada there is a lot at stake this election. We're electing a new governor and deciding the fate of the Majority Leader of the US Senate. That's right -- the leader of the Senate is from a state with exactly five members in Congress. And he might not win reelection. If he does -- and I sincerely hope he will -- it will be by a very slim margin. But that's the beauty of American democracy. The fate of one of the most powerful politicians in the country rests in the hands of a few undecided Nevada voters. I'm looking forward to voting...and moving on.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Feeling Like a Domestic Goddess

So now that the weather has begun to turn, I find myself migrating toward the kitchen when I'm a bit bored and looking for something to do. Or when I'm avoiding something I'm supposed to be doing. The good news is that rather than grazing I'm cooking, baking, drying and even canning. In just the past week I've made strawberry jam and pear butter, tried out several new recipes with my awesome dutch oven, and dried the parsley, oregano and thyme from the garden. When did I become possessed by Martha?

I like to consider myself a modern woman who has made her own way. I work and at one time was climbing the ladder, I bought a house by myself before I bought one with my husband, I used to change the oil in my car before I could pay someone to do it for me, I would eat out or go to movies alone if I couldn't find a suitable companion. I most certainly consider myself a feminist -- a strong independent woman who makes her own decisions. You get the idea.

And if you had asked me 10 years ago if my time in the kitchen would rival my time at the computer I would have laughed in your face -- LOUDLY! But these days I'm finding amazing pleasure in the kitchen (and in this case I'm not talking about a quickie on the counter). Making my family and friends a delicious meal from scratch has become as much of a rush as getting my byline on page one. Taking something from my garden and transforming into a jar in my pantry is exhilarating -- I am beyond pleased to know that the dried parsley I'll be using in my winter stews was grown, dried and stored by moi! Or that the next PB&J will include my handiwork and not that of Smuckers.

Experimenting and playing in the kitchen has always been a hobby but these days it's more like an obsession. And it leaves me wondering. Have I become simple or have I just learned that simple can be satisfying too?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Three Year Old...Friend or Enemy?

That's the title of the book I'm reading and as I'm quickly learning it's a good summation of life in our house these days. It's almost as if on cue, our daughter began acting like a three-year-old about a month before her birthday. It's what I imagine living with a schizophrenic would be like. Day-to-day I'm never quite sure which personality I'm going to get -- heck, it's more like minute-to-minute. I'm just relieved to learn that this erratic behavior is to be expected. I was beginning to think I had lost the upper hand in our parent-child relationship. So happy to know I'm at least hanging on.

If you've never lived with a three-year-old let me try and explain what it's like. Imagine you have a dog. And this dog has always been a pretty obedient little creature. Sure he whined and cried when you first brought him home or when you made him sleep in his own bed instead of yours, but for the most part, this cute little puppy was a pleasure. Always happy to see you, willing to eat whatever you put in its dish, easy to take along for a car ride, and fairly quick though not always capable of responding to your commands. Now imagine that dog has suddenly gotten moody...and opinionated. Sometimes happy to see you, sometimes poised to bite you for no reason; refusing to eat anything even if it's a favorite; completely unwilling to obey even the simplest commands; obsessed with making even the smallest task a battle of wills. That's sort of what it's like, except that your dog also is always whining, trying to boss you around, and incessantly reminding you that he can "do it myself." I am grateful everyday for preschool and grandparents who live close by.

But like any smart psychotic, three-year-olds also know how to give you the good stuff...the stuff that keeps you locked under their magical spell and stuck in the insanity. Not 10 minutes after refusing to get in the car, she will grab your hand without any prompting in the parking lot at the store and smile the sweetest smile. Or after standing defiantly in her room and telling you she isn't getting dressed, I'll return a few minutes later to find her toys put away, her bed made and her sitting on the floor "reading" a book. Or she'll make some clever remark like, "Mommy, you're not old...Granny is old." Or she'll just spontaneously grab my face, put us nose-to-nose and say, "Mommy, I love you the best and you're my favorite in the whole wide world." Talk about making 14 hours of labor without drugs worthwhile. Oh yeah.

So some moments my three-year-old is my friend and others maybe not my enemy but definitely something like a hostile witness. But she is always the second greatest love of my life and that will ensure both of us survive to celebrate her fourth birthday.