Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween Friday Five

Singing Owl posted her first Friday Five last night (way to go!) recalling the fond memories of Halloween while growing up. THese are her questions and my reponses, but I'd love for everyone to feel like thay can play along in the comments if they'd like. :)

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
Halloween was always a big deal when I was a kid. My mom loved decorating for it, so we were always "the scary house" in the neighborhood. We had ghosts and cobwebs, of course, but also sound effects (wired to cleverly disguised speakers around the porch) and my mom always answered the door in her Bear Monster costume - an old ratty wig, scary mask, and a tattered fur coat that has been in the family forever. The big bonus though, was that if you could get over being scared to go to the door (and stand there when the Bear monster answered) my mom also only gave out full sized chocolate candy bars! She was always very creative with our costumes as well, and my family often chose costumes by theme so that my brother and dad and I all went together as we were walking around the neighborhood. Several years we won prizes (like the Wizard of Oz year where I was Tin Man or the Christmas year where I was Rudolph complete with light up nose).

2A. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do? Yes, we do. I think it's a great exercise of imagination that doesn't necessarily get encouraged many other ways. I have also been taught that it's a fun holiday (see previous questions) and don't see what the big deal is. However, since coming to the midwest (I grew up in the Northeast) and experience Bible Belt culture, it's intriguing to me that so many people feel otherwise. I will say, however, that I think it's important to teach kids that it's not all about the costumes, candy and haunted houses - that there's a background to this holiday that is grounded in spirituality. I think we should let kids dress up and have fun, but also teach them about All Saints' Day and the meaning behind what they do.

2B. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else? I am not, and never have been, a fan of candy coated apples of any kind. I find that they are sweet enough already and hard enough to eat without making them sticky and gooey. If I had to choose one or the other, I'd go caramel without nuts.

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them? This is interesting because I usually get pumpkins every year and we put them out on the porch just as decoration until we get around to carving them. However, we've discovered that squirrels love to snack on them! We just bought our first house and moved in about a month ago, and both pumpkins that we bought have little teeth marks and flesh scraped off around the tops. We had a similar incident at our previous home, but growing up I never had a problem! I guess we won't be making jack o' lanterns this year, although we may still scrape out the seeds and toast them - yummy!

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures. Since we're still settling into the new house, we haven't really taken the time to decorate much this year. We have our pumpkins out on the porch and one lawn decoration that was easy to put out without too much planning or time. Eventually, I want to go all out like my mom used to do and I'm excited that I have a house where I can do that finally!! It means there's going to be shopping in the near future (after the actual day when they put everything on sale, I'll stock up for next year).

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality? I don't think I actually pretend to be someone different, but I like to dress up and it makes me feel different. For example, a couple of time in the last few years I've dressed up as a nun (which goes over great in seminary!). It somehow makes me feel connected to my Catholic roots and is fun to be in a costume, but I don't really change my behavior. I've never been a very good actress (lots of people from high school can attest to that) but always love the costumes!

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones. I'll have to post this later when I get home, but my recipe will be for Apple Pudding. It's not like a tapioca, milk based kind of pudding, and it's not really like a bread pudding, but something in between. It's basically apples, flour, sugar and butter with a little bit of spices. It's super easy and a BIG favorite in our little family. One year I made it often enough that Trouble's uniform didn't fit after she had the holidays off from work. Moderation is the key! I haven't even thought of making it yet this year, but the weather is definitely telling me that it's time - yummy!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Five Homage to the Top Chef!

RevHRod talked about how her family is addicted to Top Chef (on Bravo) for their assorted reasons and then asked us to think about the following:

1. If you were a food, what would you be?
This is really hard for me - there are a lot of things I can think of! Chocolate (sweet, and flexible enough to go with about anything) or coffee (hot or cold, sweet and creamy or strong and dark). Lasagna is one of my favorite things to eat and make and I think it probably fits the best. There are layers (sometimes A LOT of layers), a variety of textures, and you can spice it up or mix in veggies but ultimately it's Italian, warm and filling comfort food.

2.What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?
This question really gets me thinking about the link between food and emotions (not always a good thing). I have a lot of great memories and significant events that involve food! I guess for the sake of this question at this moment, I'll mention my wedding dinner. My wedding wasn't the most elborate of occasions, and my parents were less than thrilled about the whole thing and swore they wouldn't take part in it. A few weeks before the big day they called me to tell me they changed their minds and would be coming (to Oklahoma City from New Jersey). Since we had already planned everything, their addition to the wedding was to take our closest friends and family out to dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse after the cake and punch reception. It wasn't that the food was so outstanding, but it was the happiest day of my life, I had my favorite people around and was especially glad to have my family there.

3.What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?
Well, "Beat Up Chicken" was always a favorite (as was lasagna, but I already used that answer). My mom would take chicken breasts and put them between two sheets of wax paper and then pound them thin with an iron skillet (hence, "beating them up"). She'd then take a piece of cheddar cheese and roll it up inside each chicken breast, then dip it egg wash and Italian seasoned bread crumbs and put it in a baking dish. While it was baking, she'd make Stove Top stuffing. She'd pull the chicken out, add the stuffing and pour chicken gravy over the whole pan before returning it to the oven to fininsh baking. YUMMY!!

4.When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?
I didn't grow up with the tradition of church potlucks, so I don't have any sure fire potluck hits, but I do think my chicken tortilla casserole is a pretty good option. It's always a challenge to have something with protein and nutritional value to feed a lot of people without breaking the bank, and I refuse to serve hot dogs or any other "tube meat."

5. What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?
So many of you have already heard this story, but I would definitly have to say ANTS. I took a trip to Brazil and spent a couple of days along the Amazon River (INCREDIBLE!). We spent one night with a native tribe and they prepared one of their delicacies for us - fresh ants. The poor woman who prepared them had bites all over her hand from harvesting them and then drowing them in water to be served - there was no way we were going to refuse! Oddly enough, they tasted pretty good - strong mint and citrus flavors - but you had to be careful of the legs. They easily get stuck in your teeth or throat (where they tickle a lot), but if you hold the legs like a cherry stem and bite off the body, they're quite tasty!

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?
I'm not much of a drinker - don't like beer or wine and not a huge fan of soda - so I'd probably just order water. Occasionally when I'm celebrating or just feel like kicking back I'll order a WoodChuck Amber Cider or a White Russian, but it's not to enhance the taste of the food at all - just to enjoy the drink for what it is.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rainy Day

It's a VERY rainy day here in Kansas City this Saturday. Working at Habitat for Humanity, this is generally our busiest, craziest day but not this week. We had a whole 10 people come to volunteer this morning (there had been around 45 signed up). Granted, when it's raining this hard with thunder and lightning, there's only so much work that can be done and two of our sites are primarily outdoor work. Still, it's quiet here today - a little too quiet and it has me thinking about the week...

Two family members of mine came down with meningitis this week, and another friend is losing her battle to brain cancer. Coworkers have been having problems with communication and expectations and I feel like I've just been watching all of this go on around me while I'm just sitting still trying to stop the scene spinning around me. Lines of class and race and health are very blurred right now, and I'm not sure where I fit in the picture.

As an AmeriCorps member, I'm technically a volunteer with very limited income, but I feel wierd about taking food from our food pantry here at the Habitat office. Why? Perhaps because I know I don't really need it (Trouble's income and my little bit mean we have enough for what we need) and it would better serve someone else, or perhaps because of my own pride or judgements about what it means to take or need to take from a food pantry. I don't honestly know - probably all of that mixed up together. The other AmeriCorps folks who work here have no problem helping themselves to things - nor does most of the paid staff, so what's my deal? Do I really think I'm somehow better or more ethical than these people? OUCH.

My brother is sick. My mother in law is sick. My friend is sick. And yet I've been whining all week about a couple of canker sores that sit in my cheek right where my teeth rub on them all day. I haven't had to go the hospital or get a spinal tap; no needles, no pills, no dr. even. How do I focus on how good I have it and grieve for my loved ones at the same time? How do I help my partne who is stressed out and grieving more than I am without ratcheting up the anxiety and stress already present? I know I'm rambling - I'd appreciate your insights as I try to process...

Saturday, October 06, 2007


I have been waiting for the release of "Across the Universe" - a new movie directed and choreographed by Julie Taymor with an all Beatles music soundtrack. It came out in limited release a few weeks ago and I still can't find it anywhere in the Kansas City area! I've been to the movie website and Yahoo!Movies and can't even determine if it ever will be playing at a theater in this area, but to my chagrin, it's playing where my brother lives (in NJ), where my mom lives (Rhode Island) and even in Oklahoma City! (No offense to OKC or my peeps who live there - I just can't believe you have it and we don't!) If anybody can tell me where I might be able to go and see this, I would be SO grateful!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The passing of time

Now that I'm back in the "real world" since graduation in May, I've noticed how quickly time seems to be passing by. I couldn't wait to graduate and move on in a job, new house, etc. but looking back it seems like all of that happened while I was sleeping or something! Tomorrow is my birthday and I've barely thought about what I'd like to do - I don't even feel like I have time to do much of anything!

It occurred to me the other day that this job (which I love) is really the first time I've had a "traditional" work schedule. My other jobs have been part time around school or my 4 1/2 years working 7 pm to 7 am at 911. I've never had a true 40 hours/5 days a week job and it amazes me how much energy it sucks out of me. Every evening when I get home from work, I feed the dog and cat, let the dog out to run around (well, she doesn't so much run as strut and sniff) in the back yard and then I flop on the couch to rifle through the mail and I don't feel like doing much of anything else. I can generally muster the energy to turn on the tv and put something together for dinner but not much else.

I remember when I was growing up and my parents would be tired from work in the evenings, and I never got it - it's not like either of them had jobs involving physical labor. They just sat at desks! Or at least that's how I saw it. Not anymore. I don't have a lot of physical activity at my job - I sit at a desk either looking at a computer or talking on the phone most of the day. If/when I get up it's either to go to the bathroom, refill my water bottle, or go to the copier for whatever I just printer out. So why am I so tired? I don't even consider my job to be mentally taxing - it's just being polite to people and trying to fit them into our work schedules. It's certainly not anything you need a Master's degree to do. Do you feel like this too? Do you know why?

It wouldn't really be a big problem for me, except that I'm used to getting a lot of things done, particularly around the house. This summer I was working part time and taking care of other stuff around my work schedule. I got laundry done, took recycling in, paid bills, etc. but now I feel like I'm trying to squeeze those things in here and there where I can steel a few minutes. It doesn't feel good - it feels like I'm always rushing and always have more things to do. And I just moved. I have stacks of boxes all over my house and I still haven't gotten my home computer and desk put back together! I've been doing all of that kind of stuff via my work computer (which isn't really ethical). I know that life is busy for a lot of people and there's no reason why I have to get all these things done all at once, but I wish I didn't have to live in the clutter in the meantime - it doesn't make me feel good to be living among all the boxes. And I'd like to have a housewarming party sometime before Christmas. What do you do when you feel like this? Any suggestions for me?