New leaf?

Nov. 13th, 2012 12:41 am
persimmonfrost: (caddy)
English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with vari...

English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with variously colored stems on sale at an outdoor farmers’ market in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the pantry project is ongoing, but just lately Glinda and I have started talking quite seriously about how badly we tend to eat.  To that end, we’ve made a couple of pacts:  First we said salad once a week, minimum.  By which we meant dinner salad.  This was a good decision but badly thought out because it’s gotten cold here and the last thing we want for dinner is a cold salad.  Tonight we agreed that a heavily vegetable-based meal would do as well in the cold months.  Of course we agreed this while eating a perfectly delicious meal of a half of a (large) sweet potato each, some freshly roasted chicken with lemon zest, curry powder and garlic, and a fantastic kale salad that was pretty much the same as my Swiss chard with lemon and ginger except served cold, not hot like the chard.  When you can eat things that taste so good, eating better is not a hardship.

The other pact?  Fish at least once a month.  We made that agreement over a month ago and tomorrow night will be our first proper fish meal since I don’t count tuna casseroles.  I suppose I could or should, but I don’t.  Glinda’s cooking, YAYZ!

It’s all well and good to make promises like that but going at it rather haphazardly is a recipe for disaster (Forgive the pun. Normally I’m not given to them, but sometimes they race up and whap you over the head.)  So after having experimented with about a week of making a to-do list every day, I observed, over coffee on Saturday, that we really should try mapping out a week’s worth of menus.  Since we were going shopping on Sunday, we could decide what we wanted to make and then make a shopping list too.  I mean, this is what real people do, right?  Grown-ups.

So we talked about it for a while, and came up with the following:

  • Saturday: Tuna noodle casserole.  It was already planned so not a big stretch.
  • Sunday: Butter chicken.  Glinda makes a great butter chicken curry.
  • Monday: Sweet potato with kale.  Alas, I lost track of the recipe I wanted to use so I had to improvise.  The reason there was chicken was that we went to the meat dept. of Whole Paycheck and got a roasting chicken and a rump roast.  Why there?  Well, if we’re going to eat meat at all, and we both still do, we would at least like to make healthier and more humane choices.  We’re willing to pay more for that, but then it becomes all the more imperative that we make good use of what we buy.  So… wait, what was I saying?  Oh yeah, the chicken.  We got a roaster and I cooked it this afternoon.  I figured we’d have some with dinner, and then I’d cut the rest of the meat off the carcass and use it for chicken a la king at a later date (It’s in the freezer now.) The carcass is in the slow cooker with six cups of broth and some herbs.  It’ll be ready some time tomorrow morning.  This is spreading the cost of the $10 chicken out across at least three meals and possibly four or five.  Yes, it’d be even cheaper from some other source but like I said we’re paying for our principles.  Oh yeah and we’re collecting drippings for the Thanksgiving gravy because Glinda’s sister, Laurie is The Gravy Master and uses all sorts of drippings in her masterpiece.
  • Tuesday is fish and veg.  Glinda is in charge.  I’m really looking forward to it.
  • Wednesday is what my friend, Gwen, used to call “Choice day.”  You take what’s in the fridge or you fend for yourself.
  • I’m excited about Thursday because I’ll be making some jumbo shell pasta stuffed with a chard and ricotta mixture and baked in homemade marinara from our neighbor, Linda.  How many times can I say that we have the best neighbors on earth before everyone tells me to shut up?
  • Friday I’m going to be making a rump roast the way Mom used to.  I have some serious trepidation about this because Mom was one of the best cooks I ever knew, and also I’ve never made this by myself.  Good thoughts will be appreciated.  If all goes well, we’ll get at least three meals out of the roast, and probably more.  I’m looking forward to a hot beef sandwich, and finally to making up a beef pot pie and freezing it for later.
Shakshuka

Shakshuka (Photo credit: Pabo76)

I honestly have no clue what we’ll do over the weekend, but I am beginning to have a freezer full of useful stuff.  And I’ve been wanting to make shakshuka, a savory bread pudding, and matzoh soup, all of which I can do with what’s in the house, so I’m feeling kind of good about our choices, how I’m starting to shop and the way I’m beginning to think about food.

Why am I writing all this?  Because I’m starting to feel that it’s really possible to change the way we do things if we just pay attention to how we think about those things. I know I’m not going to accomplish a complete 180 and make my life perfect overnight.  Doubt it’ll be perfect ever, but I can keep on trying.

So this weekend, we’ll sit down and talk about what’s for dinner next week.  And it should become a habit. And when it does, we’ll be one step closer to eating better and saving money.  I don’t think you can argue with that outcome.

For anyone who is interested in the recipes that informed what I’ve been cooking lately, here’s a partial list.  If you know me at all you know I consider recipes to be nice suggestions.


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R.I.P. Boo

Sep. 13th, 2012 12:03 pm
persimmonfrost: (caddy)

I’m sorry to have to report that little Boo passed this morning.  I don’t know many details; he was with specialists when he died.  His family did everything they could to save him, but in the end, I suspect he just didn’t have it in him to go on much longer.  He needed a lot of love in a short time, and he got it with Diane and her family.

Go in peace, little man.  Whatever is next, you have a whole lot of love stored up in you now.

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I see a lot of stories about dogs and cats who have been rescued and a few of them have really touched me.  One of them is the story of Boo, a bulldog puppy with hydrocephalus. With permission from Boo’s mom, Diane Messer, I’m going to post his (and her) story here so you understand a bit of what’s going on with him.

Boo is a 7 week old bulldog/beagle mix I ran into while looking on craigslist.com… I periodically check on there for puppies/kittens/etc that may need handraised, which I consider my specialty and I very much enjoy. I’ve always wanted a bulldog so I saw the ad for him and his siblings. My chihuahua has a mild case of hydrocephalus and so from previous research I knew what he had immediately. I contacted the people who had him and they had stated he was kind of sickly and smaller than the other babies. I told them I would take him since I’ve seen his problem before… so two days later I had a transport meet them in Indianapolis to pick him up… it was a five hour run for him and boy he was tuckered out!

The next morning we took him to see my regular vet, who is an older guy but usually he’s really good… just not this time. He confirmed it is hydrocephalus, weighed him (3.9lbs)… and gave him a dose of Panacur and sent one dose home… But he refused to give him anything to help with the fluid in his head, even though I had researched and had been given advice on what medications would help… wrote those down, had them in hand. All he would say that day was “There is no cure for it.” which of course I already knew! Tomorrow we see a vet in my town (8/27/12) and hopefully she will be patient and kind enough to listen… without reccommending he be automatically put to sleep. If she doesn’t help, then we will be taking a trip to KY to an actual neurologist vet. We plan to do whatever has to be done to help Boo. I figure there’s a reason I ran into his little picture.

As for me, I am a 31 year old mother of three (ages 12, 11, and 9) who is a stay-at-home mom and technically disabled. The dogs/puppies/etc that I rescue and eventually rehome give my life some kind of meaning. I don’t understand why but I just go with it. It makes me happy… and I’m sure it makes them happy too. :)

I started following Boo’s Facebook page and was so impressed by the care his family is giving him that I decided to donate a little something to his ChipIn.  It wasn’t much; I don’t have a lot to give away, but it seemed like a good cause.

Unfortunately a couple of days ago, Boo began to act oddly.  His vet wasn’t available so he was taken to a new vet (Tracey Gillespie at the IVEC) who told Diane that he had a heart murmur (In itself not always a huge problem) and he might be suffering from congestive heart failure. (A bigger issue to be sure, but not one that will necessarily kill him any time soon.  My father lived with CHF for a quarter of a century, and was not a man to take great care of himself!

What this means though, is at best the diagnostics, vet visits and treatments for both the heart problems and the hydrocephalus are going to cost a lot of money. Boo’s family is committed to his welfare and will do everything possible to see that he has a good life for as long as it’s possible.  His mom has said that if the time comes when he does not have a good quality of life, then they will do what needs to be done.  I find this reassuring.

I’m writing this not to ask you to donate money, though if you want to, that’s great.  Rather, I’m asking you to spread the word about Boo.  If this story gets picked up by the media, someone out there may be able to help them with the astronomical costs related to the surgeries this little guy may face.  I know money is tight for most of us.  But it’s easy to post and repost.

Now you may ask how I know that Diane is on the up-and-up, and that’s a fair question.  After having followed Boo’s saga for a while now, I have to say that my opinion is that if it’s a hoax she has a LOT of people working with her and it’s a very well thought-out hoax.  But when I asked her for copies of Boo’s bills, she responded immediately and I’m going to link to them here so you can look for yourselves:  Here is the bill from the Eastside Veterinary Hospital and this one is from Indianapolis Veterinary Referral where Dr. Gillespie took care of Boo.

So if you’re of a mind to help either by passing along this story, or donating a few bucks to the chip in, that would be great.  This little guy is going to end up putting a big dent in his family’s budget.  But — and I recognize that not everyone will understand or agree with me on this — our four-legged kids are family too, and we don’t give up on them unless they’re suffering.  Boo is not suffering.  He’s happy, and with luck one day he’ll be relatively healthy.

Thanks for your attention.

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I was going to do a protracted rant about something else yesterday, but I got sidetracked by the Olympic opening ceremony which I haven’t really watched with any enthusiasm in years.  There is only so much of the “And here are our cutest children wearing costumes, carrying flowers, spinning ribbons and releasing balloons while doing ethnic dances” I can take in a lifetime.  I hoped Danny Boyle could ring some interesting changes on the whole big, gaudy spectacle but I wasn’t holding my breath.

Well by god, Danny Boyle gets my vote for the best opening ceremony in… ever.  Yeah it was still a big, gaudy spectacle with moments of real goofiness (Mr. Bean makes me ridiculously and pointlessly embarrassed, much as I love Rowan Atkinson.) But underneath it all — and no matter what Mr. Boyle says publicly — there was a core of pure liberal joy that made me want to get up and dance.

Now I confess the bucolic opening kind of put me off.  Yeah, green and pleasant land and all, but singing “Hey nonny” on the greensward was not an Olympic event last time I looked. After a bit of pastoral fol-de-rol,  the Industrial Revolution chugged onto the scene with frock-coated industrialists smugly supervising the uglification of that pretty landscape, huge, ugly smokestacks, and smudged workers who didn’t so much cavort as trudge.  The commentators on NBC cheerfully told their viewers that this was a tribute to the industrialization that made Britain great, as clouds of sulfur-scented smoke wafted out of the chimneys and into the stands.  Ken Branagh recited Caliban’s “Be not afeared” speech from “The Tempest” and those frock-coated capitalists did a little dance as their money piled up.  I said to Glinda that it seemed odd to me to be celebrating the kind of industry that will eventually put all of the UK under water. I still wasn’t quite getting it, though later as I reflected on the forging of one of the five Olympic rings, the symbolism pretty much hit me over the head with one of those hammers.

And then things got really strange.  There was a tribute to the National Health Service which is so maligned by the right wing in this country.  ”Oh no,” they say “It’s horrible.  They hate it in England!”  Well right there in front of God and everybody, the commentators read their notes which explained how beloved the NHS is in England.  And I whooped and shouted “Suck that, tea baggers!”  Poor Glinda, who had gone out to the kitchen for a moment said “What the hell is happening?”

Then there was a children’s nightmare sequence which was an odd sort of tribute to children’s literature, when you think about it, and the children were rescued from their night time horrors by a whole platoon of Mary Poppinses.  (Possibly a spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down.) It all ended with a gigantic baby about which I agreed with the commentator who said he found it kind of creepy.

The Frankie and June segment was a good-humored, and relentlessly multi-racial, tech love story.  I particularly liked that the kids who really represented the face of the new generation were mixed-race.  The commentators talked about how charismatic they were,

and they were charming, but what I saw first was dark skin.  And it was pleasing in my eyes, as was the video montage that followed Frankie and June’s first kiss which included a lesbian kiss and made me yell “GIRLKISSING!” and then, as the montage ended: ”WHERE’S THE BOYKISSING?”  You can’t ask for everything, I guess.  It was a damn inspiring moment.  And then, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web appeared, and tapped out this message for the world: “This is for everyone.”  Again, suck that everyone who wants to censor and control the internet!  It’s for everyone; Sir Tim says so and he invented it.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the sheer goofiness and good humor of H.M. parachuting out of a helicopter over the stadium, accompanied by James Bond.  You want to talk indelible images?  That’s the one people will be talking about for years. (And it was not lost on me that Daniel Craig is hot like burning, and believe me when I tell you I would hit that like the fist of an angry god if he gave me half a chance.)

I loved the rock and roll because British rock changed popular music several times over.  I got a bit misty as  I watched the torch being carried along the Thames in a motorboat piloted by David Beckham, and I cried when the Olympic flag was brought to Muhammed Ali .

I am not unaware that while rock is both the music of the people and of youth, punk and rap, which was prominently featured in the show, is the music of the disaffected and disenfranchised and I don’t think that its inclusion was an accident.  Nor do I think it’s a coincidence that the torch was carried in accompanied by an honor guard comprised of 500 of the workers who actually built the Olympic stadium, or that the people who carried the Olympic flag into the stadium were:

So really, I don’t care how many times someone says that no, there wasn’t any political content, I saw what I saw, and it made me very happy.  I loved hearing Paul McCartney sing “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better.” because for a short space of time, this event, this coming together in the brotherhood of sports is a way to take all the sad songs and make them a little better for a time.  It’s a way to help people recognize that we’re all sharing the same planet, we all have the same needs, and working together, we  can make things better.

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Chicago - Can't Stop the Serenity 6/22/07 - Po...

Chicago – Can’t Stop the Serenity 6/22/07 – Portage Theatre, before the show (Photo credit: meryddian)

The church has withdrawn its request for rezoning of the Portage Theater, and has pulled out of the bidding on the property.  While I don’t have any other details right now, I believe this makes the current theater operators either the only or the top bidders on the property.

This is wonderful news, particularly coming on top of the successful Patio Theater Kickstarter campaign.  Thanks to everyone who supported these projects, with donations or letters or signatures on a petition.  You’ve done something good for Chicago neighborhoods; you’ve aided in the process of bringing them back from decrepitude.  These two theaters will serve this area for years to come, showing second run, oldies, and holding special events that will enrich their communities.

This is all very exciting.

Portage Theater

Portage Theater (Photo credit: reallyboring)

p.s.  Don’t forget that the Patio Kickstarter campaign is accepting donations until tomorrow night.  While the donations are a sure thing now, every little bit helps.  So please, if you haven’t already pledged, consider giving a few bucks.

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4050 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60641 www.p...

4050 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60641 www.portagetheater.org/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Portage?  Well it’s still in danger.  Here’s the situation:  A church located a few miles from the theater has outgrown its current location.  When church reps found that the Portage was up for sale they jumped at the chance to buy it since the property is enormous.  They plan to use the auditorium space for their presentations, the storefronts and apartments for other church business and events.  They also plan to make significant alterations to the façade.

The alderman, John Arena, has been working with the church to try to find other, more suitable locations, but so far the church has refused to reconsider.  This is not a matter of keeping the building owner from selling; there are several other offers on the property including one from the people who run the theater.

I haven’t yet run across any local who likes the idea of an enormous store-front church spang in the middle of the Six Corners business district, an area which used to be a thriving shopping and entertainment district, but has in the past twenty or thirty years become very down-at-the-heels.  The re-opening of the theater has been a tremendous boost to pulling more business into the area.  There’s a theater group and a museum of veterans’ art slated to open almost across the street from the Portage, and several new bistros and cafes which have recently opened or are about to open.  The theater is an anchor for the neighborhood.  Without it, and in fact with the church in its place, the area would almost certainly lose its momentum.  The presence of a church (in the words of the group trying to save the theater) “would mean the eventual loss of a neighborhood favorite in the Portage Theater. The net effect would be a loss of tax revenue, economic revenue, economic engine that fuels activity in the corridor, and set insurmountable restrictions for businesses looking to open restaurants, bars and places of entertainment moving forward.”

Why does business matter?  Because this area has been a ghost town for too long.  When I was a child it was the central business district for all the neighborhoods around it.  Then people began to leave the city in the late sixties and early seventies and bit-by-bit neighborhoods came apart.  We need our neighborhoods.  We need places where independent businesses can grow and thrive, where we can shop, dine, and be entertained close to home.  Actual, physical involvement in a community is a deterrent to crime; it raises the bar for that community.  Everyone benefits.

Why am I saying all this?  Because the folks who want to save the Portage Theater have started a petition that they want to present at the final Zoning Board of Appeals hearing.  The church needs special zoning permissions and the neighborhood is against granting them.  They came to the last meeting unprepared, and were given a continuation.  The board has made it clear that they will not get another continuation, so this is a make-or-break moment for the campaign to save the Portage.  Please consider signing the petition.  You don’t really have to be a resident of the area, or even a Chicagoan; you just have to care about what will happen to the neighborhood if this wonderful old theater is lost.

Sign the petition to save the Portage Theater

Go here to send a letter to the City of Chicago showing your support for the theater.

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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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