Thursday, February 25, 2010


Last week I attended an all day workshop on journaling in order to learn how to better use it in my job as a psychiatric nurse. Journaling has always been an important part of my life. I remember the 5 year diaries with the little locks on them as a kid, writing secret things but really too busy with life to do much writing. The beginning of chastising myself for not writing on a daily basis.

In my adult years journaling got me through tough times. Journaling has helped me to get my thoughts in order and solve problems some that I didn't even know needed solving. I found I journaled more when I felt bad than when I felt good. Many self help books I read suggested writing the daily dialogue or morning pages. All encouraged daily writing. I didn't do it.

The workshop I attended explained that there are many types of journaling not just the free writing that I had always done and had my patients do. There are fill in the blanks, timed writings, lists and unsent letters to name a few. Some more structured than others. I got a lot of ideas that will be helpful for both my personal journaling and for use with my patients. But the best piece of information was "You don't have to journal everyday!" Wow. I can quit beating myself up for not being a consistent journaler.

I've thought about the process of journaling and the process of blogging. What is the difference? The most important difference, obviously, is the audience. Journaling is for just one person, me. I can delve as deep as I want into my thoughts and feelings. I can explore areas of my life I might not want to share with others. But journaling is kind of like talking to myself and sometimes I just get really tired of doing that. Sometimes I want to talk to others. And blogging allows me that opportunity.

Whether I'm writing about my cooking experiences or just random thoughts that I want to pass on it is nice to know that there is someone out there listening. It's great to read other's thoughts and feelings about day to day life. I suppose it is a little like writing an essay, or perhaps more like writing a letter to a group audience rather than an individual. Sometimes we get a reply in the form of a comment or in another's blog, sometimes not. But it is all good. Writing is good whether it is to our self or to others. I highly recommend it. Maybe just not every day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The count part 2

I did one more count (because I wanted to be something besides the cutest.) Number of comments made.

Gail: 33--Winner!
Sue: 13 (but she is blaming it on her computer.)
Judy: 13
Jane: 10
Bill: 8

We'll give Judy the humanitarian award.

The count

When ever I talk with my sibs about our blogs I get the same comment (or so it seems): "No one comments on my blogs. So I did the research and here is the result.

Gail: 17 blogs. 35 total comments. Average 2.05

Sue: 28 blogs. 56 total comments. Average 2

Bill: 11 blogs. 26 total comments. Average 2.36. Bill has the distinction of having the most comments for one blog at 7.

Judy: 4 blogs. 8 total comments. Average 2. this does not count her new blog.

Jane: 4 blogs only 2 official. 12 total comments. Average 3.

Sue wins for the most blogs and the total number of comments. Jane wins for highest average. Bill wins for the most comments on one blog. Judy and I win because we are the cutest.

We are only 3 months into this thing (some of you only 2). Lets keep up the good work and you slackers lets get going.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This and That

Four o'clock on a Sunday morning. I've been up since two because I went to bed at six because I did a double on Friday and didn't get to bed until 10 am Saturday morning and then up at 2 to get my hair cut. Needless to say my sleep schedule is really messed up. But that is not what I am blogging about.

I joined Judy's movie review blog now called the Judy and Gail show. (Kidding.) A new post is there.

I made the apple cake with caramel sauce from Women of Great Taste a couple of days ago. One of my favorite recipes from the book. It did not turn out as I remembered though. I think I put one too many apples in and made the cake overly moist. It was almost more of a bread pudding than a cake. But it was delicious. I possibly could have cooked it a little longer.

I think I might have miss measured the sugar in the caramel sauce because I remember it being rich but this was really overly sweet. The cake was better without the sauce. The caramel sauce however was not bad over ice cream and I am thinking about trying it over a little popcorn. When I make this cake I find I always have lots of sauce left.

Lent started this week. As a kid I remember always trying to give something up during Lent and never making it. What I am wondering is, is the rule about being able to eat what you gave up on Sundays a real rule or did we just make it up? For me giving stuff up at Lent is kind of like a New Year's resolution except there is an end point in sight. So this year I am going to try again. I am giving up T.V. At least at home. I can't avoid it at work.

I know that Bill has already done this on a permanent basis and we are beginning to worry about his mental health though his mental health probably has more to do with working with very small pieces of wood and glue than with giving up T.V. I find myself spending a lot of time in front of the T.V on my days off because I am too tired to do anything else or at least that is my excuse. I actually didn't watch much T.V. until I moved to Chicago. I'm not sure what that is all about. I didn't watch it while I was married because I never had control of the remote. It only takes me two seconds to become interested in something and in 3 seconds the channel would change.

I am also giving up computer games (the only two I play is Spider and Hearts). I don't plan on watching T.V. on Sundays but this is why I was asking about the Sunday rule. Can I still play Spider on Sundays?

The reason I am doing these two things is 1)I waste way too much time doing these two things and 2) I am hoping it will help my creativity. I know in the past when I have given up computer games and wasn't watching T.V. that I had to find other outlets so I wrote more and cleaned a little more and did other things I needed to do. I like to think of cleaning as a creative endeavor because then I am not so irritated by it. I'm all about psyching myself out in order to get necessary things accomplished.

Organization is a creative endeavor. I have found my life has become much more organized and then I realize there is much less to organize unlike Jane's life. No kids at home. That is a biggy. Cats require very little organization (much less than sheep and llama's.) I have also found over there years that there are only a few areas that really require organization. For instance I don't know how many hours I wasted in my lifetime looking for keys. Work keys, home keys, car keys. I found that solving just that one thing (putting the keys in the same place every time) has saved my sanity. Presently my only organizational problem is the pantry. I can live with the office (as long as I can find last year's taxes I'm good). But the pantry. Part of the problem is that when Kim moved in I had to make room for her stuff. Just part of having a roommate. So it's a little crowded to start with. Then neither one of us put things back where they belong. I think we both have ideas where things should go. (Sounds like being married.) Anyway maybe I'll get to reorganizing it again today or maybe tomorrow. I have plenty of time, I'm not watching T.V.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Winter Games

Winter games. I like Susan's winter games better than the Olympic winter games (or summer games for that matter.) The reason I don't like them, simply put: winners and losers. What does it mean to be a loser in the Olympics? Sometimes that you performed a tenth of a second slower than the winner. O.K. at a tenth of a second maybe you won the silver instead of the gold. But you don't get all the endorsements. And the last place guy is maybe a minute slower. What is a minute in a life time of dedication? I'm sure just making it to the Olympics is a dream come true. So why don't we just leave it there. Everyone that qualifies for the Olympics gets a gold and then just play the games for fun.

Professional sports perhaps is a little different. At least the golfer who is is 4 strokes behind Tiger Woods (the old Tiger Woods before his fall from grace) probably makes enough money to get his trip payed for and perhaps a little more. But maybe everyone who qualifies for the Masters should share equally in the winnings, get a green jacket and then they could go out and have a fun round of golf. Wouldn't that be just as enjoyable to watch? I don't know. You tell me Bill.

My good friend sent me this quote a while back. Use what talent you possess: The woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best. ~Henry Van Dyke

This year I think the movie industry embraced this idea. At the Screen Actor's Awards (SAG) Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock won best actors in a motion picture. (They both have been nominated for Oscars.) I have not yet seen The Blind Side. I'm sure Ms Bullock did a good job. I can't believe that she was better than Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia. I did see Crazy Heart. Mr. Bridges did do a good job, but I don't think he was better than George Clooney in Up in the Air and especially not better than Michael Stuhbarg in the Serious Man.

But Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges have contributed a great deal to Hollywood. They make the noise in the woods that is just as enjoyable as the most beautiful song bird. I do enjoy watching the Academy Awards. I think I might enjoy them just as much if they honored all of the contributors and let the nominations be the winning and then just have a fun show.

Maybe without winning and losing no one would play the game. But I think they would. I think they would still want to express themselves with their given talents. Maybe it would just be less stressful along the way. We all have contributions to make. We all have talent. We may not be the most beautiful song birds but we can make beautiful noise.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I have never eaten ceviche before and certainly never made it. I didn't even know what it was when I picked it out of Women of Great Taste. I was pretty sure the Top Chef contestants made it on a fairly regular basis. I studied the list of ingredients and scanned the instructions and it looked easy and with out any terribly weird ingredients

Off to the store I went with my roommate, Kim. On the way she asked me what I would be making and I told her ceviche. "Oh that's with raw fish." What, wait, I only scanned the directions. Surely I would have noticed not cooking the shrimp. Later when I got home I found out to my relief that I did get to cook the shrimp. (I may draw the line at raw fish.) When we got to the store Kim stayed in the car leaving to me to my own devices. (She is a much more experienced cook than I.)

The only challenge at the store was the pepper. I know nothing about peppers except green, red, yellow and orange bell peppers which I use all the time in my cooking. I know that jalapeno is hotter than I like. I know that cayenne is hotter than I like. That's it. The recipe called for an Anaheim chili pepper of which I could not find. Nor could I find a produce guy or gal to ask. So I looked at the different peppers not that there was much of a choice and I picked one that said it is good in salsa and dips. O.K. How bad could that be. I like salsa and dips.

At home I cooked the shrimp and combined it with the onion and the tomato. Then I took one of the peppers and decided to dice it up really, really small just in case it turned out to be hotter that I wanted. I was suppose to use a whole pepper but after putting in maybe 1/2 teaspoon, I decided to taste one. The piece I put in my mouth was the size of a coarse grain of salt and the minute it hit my tongue I thought I was going to die. I couldn't get to the water fast enough which didn't seem to help at all. Several glasses of milk later my tongue was starting to feel almost normal. Needless to say I picked out each and everyone of the tiny bits of pepper and threw them in the garbage along with the unused peppers.

At that point Kim walks into the kitchen and I tell her what happened. She says "Habaneros. Those are the hottest peppers you can buy." Now she tells me. So I decided to do a little research on peppers so the next time I need a pepper I will be more informed.

Peppers are rated by the Scoville scale. Bell peppers, pimiento, and sweet banana peppers rate a 0 to 100. Anaheim (also know as the New Mexico) rate 100- 1000. Canned green chilies which I like along with chili powder rate a 500-1000. Jalapeno 2500-5000. Cayenne 30,000-50,000. Habaneros 100,000-300,000. I'm lucky I didn't die. Who in the world can eat a habanero pepper that's what I would like to know. I did find out that the reason Mexican food often comes with sour cream is that it cuts down on the heat. The same is true of yogurt in Indian dishes. And that's why the milk worked better for me than the water. Fortunately it was whole milk because it is the fat in the dairy that cuts the heat. So don't serve low fat sour creams with your Mexican dishes.

Back to the cevichi. I had a red bell pepper in the fridge and I added that to the shrimp, onions and tomatoes. For the dressing lemon juice, catchup, frozen O.J. fresh minced cilantro, sugar, salt and pepper. You marinate for at least 4 hours then add a little beer and serve over salad greens. The result was delicious though it might have benefited from a little heat.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cooking vs Following Recipes Continued

Had a great weekend with my sisters. I'm just sorry it only happens once a year.

I have been thinking more about the cooking vs following recipes idea. Look at your collection of cookbooks. Yes I know you all have them, except maybe Bill but I'm sure Cathy will let you borrow one of hers. If you will notice there are "cook books" and there are recipe books. Recipe books tend to be books done by groups such as the Wichita Junior League's Women of Great Taste. I have one that Mother did with the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra Guild call Composing In the Kitchen (kind of a catchy title.) I have several others. Cook books on the other hand are generally written by one person and often on one subject or type of cooking such as my rice cookbook, cookie cookbook, and pan grilling cookbook. Then there are more general cookbooks like The Joy of Cooking which I don't own and Betty Crocker Cookbooks one of which I do own. My roommate has a very old addition that is fun to look at. In this category is an old cookbook my sister, Judy, gave me called The Everything Cookbook. As the name implies it is quite a large volume.

With recipe books you just get recipes. With cookbooks you get both recipes and instructions on how to cook. The Everything Cookbook is quite a treasure that I had not explored until recently. It taught me the different ways to thicken a sauce. Not that I'm at a point where I would say "oh I think I will make up a recipe and thicken the sauce using this method". But now I know why a recipe calls for flour (I actually knew that before) or an egg (which I didn't know). One can also thicken a sauce with vegetables, bread, heavy cream, sour cream, reducing it or putting it into a blender. The section on sauces also tells me I can make a broth from bones removed from the meat I'm cooking to add flavor to my sauce. (would this put Swanson's out of business?) The next chapter I'm going to look at is the one on spices. I'm virtually clueless about spices.

On the same note there are websites. There are some like that give you recipes. And then there are some like that is more into teaching. It was this website that first taught me about brining. He also explained to me that the most important thing when trying to be a gourmet cook is getting all your ingredients together before you start to cook. Mrs Meyers (remember my 7th grade homemaking teacher?) told me the same thing but I thought it was just an organizational thing. Nope. Well certainly an organizational thing but also it is important so that you aren't over cooking what you are cooking while you are preparing the next ingredient. And now I have prep bowls which I use and it isn't just because I like to wash more dishes. I was recently looking at his section on sauces and learned that my mother wasn't the only one who served dried out meats. So did his mom. Perhaps healthier but not as tasty as with a little sauce.

So I think I am learning how to cook. Through reading, through trial and error and then I remembered another way that we learn. Probably the way we learn most of life's lessons. From observation. Maybe mother never taught me to cook but I know I learned from her (both bad and good) through watching her. Not just about cooking but about life as well. Aunt Helen was my favorite cook growing up. She made wonderful fried chicken, mashed potatoes, banana cream pies, brownies with icing and my favorite chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. (Love oatmeal, hate raisins, chocolate chips the perfect answer.) As I sit here in the quiet of my office I can hear her telling me something but I don't remember the words. I watched her fry chicken. I watched Mom oven fry chicken because she didn't want to go to all the trouble to pan fry it as Aunt Helen did. I have oven fried a chicken, I have never pan fried a chicken. What does that tell you? Probably that like Mother I am a bit of a lazy cook. However sometimes on a Sunday afternoon I go to KFC and eat fried chicken remembering the Sundays of my youth. It isn't Aunt Helen's, fried chicken, not by a long shot. But I can pretend and then go home and bake chocolate oatmeal cookies.
Note: In my mother's defence she cooked for 9 people most days. Aunt Helen when she was having us over for Sunday dinners usually cooked for only two. I have no excuse.