So instead of all that, we decided to try berries this year: strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
It’s gonna be a summer of smoothies if all goes well.
As I was meandering through a maze of garden statues at Big Bloomers, I was fascinated by all of the crap people actually buy just to stick in their lawns.
(No offense if you are one of these people, although I’m not sure how what I just said could not offend you, but the fact that I just said, “no offense” should automatically retract any offense that may have been delivered. Right?)
Okay, so they’re not all bad.
Like these guys. They’re kinda cute, right? Kinda portly and cheerful and okay they do make me smile just a little and they’re so adorable I just wanna squeeze the bacon right out of them.
Then eat it.
Okay, maybe they look a little scared – not cheerful.
But what can I say? I like bacon.
And okay, I can see where something like this might look kind of cool, if… you know… you live in the desert and want people to think large animals just keel over and die in your lawn and you leave them to rot until there’s nothing left but bone – a scattering of skeletal remains, warning all of the cute little bunnies and squirrels that they best not trespass on your yard, bitches, because you. could. be. next.
And giant cowboy boots? Really?
I hate to break it to you, Big Bloomers, but North Carolina is not the last frontier.
Now this one could be kind of fun. I could see myself buying this if I had kids and hiding it in a pile of leaves and then laughing hysterically when it scares the crap out of them.
I’m getting pretty excited for our upcoming trip to Spain.
So I was doing a bit of research on the 2 Balearic Islands we’ll be visiting, and it turns out that Formentera, with its stunningly beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, apparently also has a “strong nude beach culture”.
I’ll admit that I kind of got a little super excited when I read this.
Because here’s the thing. I may as well just admit it.
(Joel, if you’re reading this, you might want to cover your ears. Or eyes. Or whatever.)
I am a naked person. I mean, I’m not naked right now, but I’m comfortable with nakedness.
(Okay, Joel. I could hear your “ewwww” all the way across the internet. But you can’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Joel is my brother, by the way. He doesn’t like it when I talk about being naked. Though I can’t imagine why.
But that’s right – I like being naked.
And honestly, what’s not to like? There’s no confinement, no elastic or buttons digging uncomfortably into your skin, no fabric bunching up in weird places when you’re sitting or trying to crawl into places it most certainly shouldn’t be crawling. It’s liberating.
Actually, I’m just a seasonal naked person. I’m not a fan of winter nakedness because then I’m just cold, and that kind of trumps the whole comfort factor of removing irritants that bunch and crawl.
Fortunately for the outside world, my nakedness is confined to the inside of my house. And there is no naked sitting on furniture in the “public” rooms, where you might find your own clothes-encumbered self sitting one day if I were to invite you in. Although, I’m not sure why that would make anyone uncomfortable since I’m pretty sure my naked self is much cleaner than the majority of my clothes, which are exposed to the germs and grime of the outside world, including waiting room chairs and public benches.
So I was intrigued, to say the least, that this little vacay might afford me the opportunity to truly fly free, without the fear of strange looks from my neighbors and eventual prosecution.
Sure, it might be a little hard to not stare at people at first. I’d have to try to maintain a doctor-like attitude of, “It’s just a body – get over it and move on with your life. Dogs walk around naked all the time and it doesn’t bother them, so why should this bother you?” You know, that type of thing. And I think I could do that, unless someone truly phenomenal walks by, like with braided pubic hair or flapjack-sized areolae*. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but I’m just saying – I might stare.
*Yes, I Googled the plural for “areola.” I can’t be expected to know everything.
But aside from possibly witnessing some strange body phenomena (which could also be viewed as a plus when you really think about it), the nude beach thing just seemed like a fun thing to try.
Think about it, I said to Justin. We could be naked! Outside! Feel the sun in places on our bodies that have never experienced the soothing power of its vitamin D-soaked rays! Although I’m not sure I could go completely naked… you know… down there. There’s just something about the idea of sand and various beach creatures and I’m just not sure I’m ready for that kind of complete exposure to nature, you know? But it might be fun to try it. Just for a little bit. Because, you know, we can. But topless? Hells, yeah – count me IN! We’ll just have to make sure to bring lots of sunscreen because I’m pretty sure experiencing sunburned nipples is not on my bucket list. God, no. Can you imagine? Aren’t you excited to be naked in the wild?
“Umm, Katie.” Justin did not sound enthused.
What? What could you possibly have against being naked? Americans are such prudes. Why can’t we just appreciate the human body for its beauty? Why do we have to be so uncomfortable and judgy all the time? I can’t possibly be related to you. Even if it’s just by law.
“Katie, we will be with my sister. Remember?”
“My sister and her boyfriend.”
Oh. Yeah. I suppose that might be weird for you, huh?
“Just a bit.”
Well then, it’s a good thing we’ll have plenty of wine to go with our nonexistent tan lines!
I used to sublet 1 bedroom of a 2-bedroom apartment for $200 a month from a young couple and their 2 cats. Yes, I considered the cats landlords too, since they had more control over the main living areas than me.
The girl who lived there also happened to be one of my good friends from back in high school and was, during the time I lived with her, also my boss where I fixed and sold watches (one of the best jobs ever).
*One of these days I will throw together a timeline of my youth for you, since it’s all very confusing.
I’m still not sure what happened.
One night I came home from work and my old high school friend/landlord/boss was out somewhere, but her boyfriend (with whom I also got along splendidly) was home entertaining some male friends. You know, sitting around, drinkin’ beers, watchin’ sports.
That sort of thing.
“Katie!” he yelled, when I came in the door. “You have to try this salsa. It’s awesome!”
Since I felt famished from the long day of cleaning dirt, wiry hairs and a wax-like substance I still can’t identify out of the stretch bands of old mens’ watches, salsa sounded like just the thing I needed. A cool, refreshing, chunky bite of salsa. I took a huge scoop on a tortilla chip and shoved the whole thing in my mouth.
I didn’t notice the anticipatory stares of the guys in the room.
I didn’t notice the exchanged looks and the sly grins.
All I could focus on was the enticing salsa, the salty chip, maybe following it up with a swig of cold beer, and Oh my GOD it tastes like burning!!!
It turns out that the jar of “salsa” was really a mixture of various chopped chile peppers and spices that could only have been concocted by the Devil himself.
I don’t really feel as though I’m exaggerating on this.
Prior to the incident that will henceforth be known as the Time I Was Tricked Into Swallowing Salsa That Wasn’t Really Salsa But Satan’s Fury Preserved In A Jar, I was fairly ambivalent towards spicy foods. They sounded exotic and exciting, but I hadn’t really grown up with them and never really gave myself the opportunity for experimentation.
But after the Time I Was Tricked Into Swallowing Salsa That Wasn’t Really Salsa But Satan’s Fury Preserved In A Jar, I pretty much decided that spicy foods were no fun at all and why would you want to eat something that physically hurts?
About 8 years later, I found myself not only working on a chile pepper farm in Costa Rica that grows some of the hottest peppers known to man, but I was also making hot sauce.
Chile Pepper Farm. That is not me in the photo.
Hot sauce making is dangerous work.
It was from this experience that I started to lose some of my previous misconceptions about adding heat to food. And although my tolerance is still fairly low, I find myself trying new recipes that require some spice.
Enter the Southwest Chipotle Brisket Tacos I made the other day.
I was terrified the spice in these would be too much for me and I would end up wasting a perfectly beautiful (and not inexpensive) cut of meat, but the result was a very nicely seasoned, tender brisket with a slight kick. The good news is that if you like <i>more</i> kick, you could easily add hotter spices to the pot, or you could garnish the tacos with your favorite flavor of hot sauce.
(By the way, if you’re dying to try the sauce I talk about so much, it’s not available yet in the U.S. But, you can become a fan on Facebook and they have trivia every Tuesday and you could win yourself a bottle! I realize this sounds like an infomercial, but I really do love the stuff.)
There are quite a few ingredients in this, but aside from browning the outside of the brisket before you start the slow cooking process, the only real step is throwing everything in the crock pot and turning it on.
Not too shabby, huh?
To make this, you will need:
3 lb. beef brisket (mine was more like 4 1/2 lbs, but I didn’t need to adjust the amounts of everything else)
Salt and pepper
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp chili powder (If you like these spicy, you can use the extra hot Mexican style chili powder)
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (and the liquids)
2 chipotles in adobo (These come in a small can in the Hispanic section of my grocery store. Gaby says you can freeze the rest for other recipes, but if you like things extra spicy, throw in a few more.)
1/4 cup molasses
This is a horrible family photo. It was early in the morning and I couldn’t get everyone to stand still, hence the blur. The water kept wandering out of the shot, the paprika was camera-shy, I’m pretty sure the onions are having marital problems, and I chopped off the top of the veggie oil’s head. We just weren’t having a good morning.
This is the brisket. She was a little… ahem… hefty to fit in the family photo, so we gave her an individual shot. As you can see, this one came pre-packaged, but if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with a butcher shop (where the employees don’t smoke inside the store (I’m totally NOT kidding about this), you might be able to get one cut to your specifications. Four and a half pounds is a LOT of meat. But the leftovers are delish.
1. In a very large skillet or dutch oven, heat the 4 tbsp vegetable oil over high heat. Don’t get nervous (like me) about turning up the heat – it’s supposed to be hot! Season both sides of your hunk ‘o beef with a bunch of salt and pepper, and then plop it down into the hot pan. Brown each side for about 4 minutes, and be careful when flipping it – that hot oil tends to spatter!
While the meat is browning, it’s a good time to mince up your garlic and slice your onions to prepare for the next step.
I gave her a nice dip in hot oil… She barely fit in that tub, but we made it work.
Is it weirding you out that I’m describing the food as though it were people? Because I can stop. I probably won’t, but I can.
2. Stick the brisket in the crock pot, then add all of your other ingredients. Simple, no?
Mmmm… delicious spices.
Molasses. I’m not sure what purpose this serves, but it sure looks cool.
3. Mix everything together, making sure the meat is covered with the liquids. Then just cover and turn the crock pot on low, and walk away for about 10 hours! (I got started on this a little later than I had intended, so I turned the heat up to high after about 7 hours, let it cook that way for an hour and a half, then put it back on low for another half hour. I took it out after 9 hours of cooking, and it was still tender and delicious).
Seriously, though. It smells so good after about an hour, you’re going to want to open that lid. Don’t do it! Just let it cook.
4. When she’s ready, remove the brisket from the pot and place her on a cutting board or large plate. It matters not that she looks kind of funky. Her tantalizing smell and the way she just falls apart between two forks is more than enough to make up for it.
And, once again, my finished product pictures are awful.
I don’t know what it is about tacos and wraps, but I just can’t photograph ’em. So, check out Gaby’s post on her blog if you’d like to see a fantastic photo of the finished product.
Gaby recommends serving these with guacamole (it cuts the spice) and Mexican cheese. I *gasp* nixed the cheese (the flavor of these is already good enough), but did make this avocado dip of yore to put on top.
Yum, yummy, yum yum yum.
You can pretty much garnish these however you want. But make them. The ingredients can be a bit pricey, but this will make a lot of meals.
And not strange in a “cool” way, but strange in a “but… why?” way.
I try to eat breakfast every day. But, since I’m not usually inclined to go all out cooking a big meal for myself, I tend to stick to a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats or a piece of toast with peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jelly.
Basically, as long as we have the peanut butter, we’re good.
But every now and then I get the hankering for something a little… different. Something from my childhood. And I have to buy it. This is much to Justin’s chagrin, because that means he has to stare at it in the fridge for the next month.
Right this instant I have a brisket with southwest seasonings doing tantalizing things in my slow cooker and the smell is driving me crazy because I keep finding myself drawn from the office to the kitchen, my hand reaching for the lid so I can stir things around and get a healthier whiff of the stuff, but NO! I need to leave the lid in place and just let the magic happen.
It’s a test of will I have going on over here, and I only have… oh… 8 hours to go.
I’m hoping the end result, southwest chipotle brisket tacos, will be worth the turmoil in my already unbalanced psyche.
Speaking of unbalanced psyches (how’s that for a segue?), my moods have been all over the place lately. And by “lately,” I mean like the last 3 years. But especially recently.
One minute I’ll feel elated, high as James Franco at the 2011 Oscars, infused with anticipation and joy from the plethora of choices I could make with my life, the friends I have, the places I’ve been and have yet to see.
And then I’ll be down. So, so far down inside this rocky hole, and I climb out every time, but there’s nothing to stop my fingers from bleeding from the effort. Because right now – not in the end, but right now – I’m a 28-year-old waitress with a college degree. I’m essentially a stay-at-home mom without the “mom” part and what does that leave? And, aside from the occasional decent dinner, I’m not even good at the stay-at-home part. No matter what I do, the house always seems dirty, the laundry baskets are always full, the junk just keeps collecting everywhere, and the dogs are being so horrific today that part of me wants to leave the back gate open and be done with it.
Not that I would ever do that.
But I think it.
Does that make me a bad person?
I realize what I’m describing sounds like some type of horrific bipolar disorder that can only be satiated with drugs and extreme psychotherapy, but bear with me for a minute.
Maybe – just maybe – I’m not alone in my “crazy” thoughts.
Maybe we all have our ups and our downs, our moments when our subconscious is trying to tell us something is terribly wrong but we continue to ignore that voice because listening to voices really is crazy, but is it?
And before you call the nice young men in their clean white coats, hear me out.
I’m not talking about voices voices, but your subconscious. Your you. The thing you’re referring to in the rare quiet moment when you’re all alone and you ask yourself,
Who am I?
The thing that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when the creepy man across the street is watching you a little too closely, or the thing that makes you feel bad when you say something mean to another person.
I’m pretty sure we all have it. This internal voice we sometimes find ourselves arguing with but most often ignoring because I certainly know better than myself, right? Who cares if myself is telling me that something doesn’t feel right and maybe I should get help? Myself isn’t a doctor. Myself doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
But maybe she does.
Because, whether I’d like to admit it or not, she knows me better than anyone.
If you’re still reading at this point and haven’t rushed off to unsubscribe, thank you.
I have a point.
And I think it’s this:
We all have a self. A conscious. A soul. Whatever you want to call it. It’s the thing that makes you, you and not me. And, for whatever reason, we’ve trained ourselves not to listen when it’s trying to tell us something.
And we certainly don’t talk about it.
We’re afraid what others might think. I’m afraid of what you think.
But I’m saying it now because maybe these “issues” aren’t really issues at all. Maybe these bouts of depression/anxiety/self-doubt are something we’re all capable of contracting if we ignore the voice for too long. At this point, I have nothing to lose – except maybe a bunch of blog readers I love – by admitting it. But, maybe explaining my process of dealing with it could help someone else.
I have my second appointment with a counselor tomorrow.
Sure, I could just pop a couple of prescription happy pills (which I’m sure I’d have no trouble getting at this point) and go on acting like everything’s peachy, but living life in a fog and suppressing the one voice I know is 100% on my side doesn’t really seem like a way to live.
At least not for me.
I need to know why I feel the way I feel and then figure out a way to fix it. I think this counselor might be able to help me with that.
Don’t get me wrong. What you “hear” in this post isn’t the real me. It’s not my normal tone. I’m mostly a pretty positive person. My inclination is to be happy. My laugh lines are real. I smile all the time. Except lately, a little less. I know that the wrinkles, the sagging skin, the spots on my hands are inevitable eventualities of getting older. It’s going to happen one day, whether I like it or not.
But my happiness? That is something I can control, even though lately it feels like I’m losing that control. I know it’s a choice I can make.
So I’m making it now.
*I promise this blog will still have my usual posts – recipes, random humor, rants… it’s still me. But I’m choosing to “go public” with this other issue and will refer to it on occasion because I think it’s important. Some people need to see that the healthy way of dealing with emotional problems is not to ignore them. We all experience them from time to time, and sometimes we heal naturally, and sometimes we need a little help. You can judge me if you want for putting this out there and making everyone feel uncomfortable, but if it brings comfort to one person, I’ll consider it worth it. And don’t be afraid of me. I’m not going to break. I thrive on feedback. So, if you have thoughts about depression and the ways people deal with it, I’d love to read ’em. UPDATE: Click here to read Step 2.
You know how I’ve always kind of sort of really wanted to live in a foreign country? Well sometimes it feels like I already am living in a foreign country.
I moved to “The South” (I think they get mad if you don’t capitalize it) in late 2003, when the man who would eventually become my husband scooped me up in his pickup truck and carted me and my very limited number of material possessions down to Valdosta, Georgia where, over the years, I would become accustomed to such things as people saying, “I’m fixin‘ to go to the store” and drinking “soda” instead of “pop” and iced tea that already has the sugar added.
But there are certain things about living here that really irritate the crap out of me. Although, I’ll admit that it probably has more to do with living far outside of any major metropolitan area than actually living in The South.
Yesterday afternoon I went to the grocery store. It’s a chain called “Food Lion” (yeah, because that makes sense), and from what I understand without doing some quick Google research, it’s a fairly large chain. And while it’s nice because it’s only 5 minutes from my house (when most other commodities are 35-45 minutes away), it can sometimes leave something to be desired if you’re looking for… less “southern” ingredients.
I will say they have a pretty decent selection of Hispanic food, considering the population around here, but if I’m looking for Asian, Indian, or ingredients from another type of culture, I’d best look elsewhere.
Case in point:
I headed to the store today with 3 new recipes in mind. I left missing at least one ingredient from each recipe, not because Food Lion was out, but because Food Lion – or at least this particular Food Lion – doesn’t stock them.
And these weren’t crazy things, people. I wanted things like orzo, which is just a rice-shaped pasta and not all that uncommon. I wanted a beef brisket, which is just a certain (albeit slightly more expensive) cut of beef. And I wanted some damn Panko breadcrumbs, which are Japanese breadcrumbs, “fluffier” than the stuff you normally buy, but again, I thought not all that uncommon.
I mean… It’s not like I was looking for tripe, which they HAD:
Cow stomach, anyone?
Or beef tongue, which they also HAD:
At the value price of $2.08 for the WHOLE tongue, I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong.
And who needs Panko breadcrumbs when instead, you can get crumbs made specifically for chicken, pork, fish, general seafood, plain crumbs, seasoned crumbs, Italian crumbs, beer batter, medium-hot, spicy, two varieties of hushpuppy batter, and of course, any variety of Shake ‘n Bake you can imagine.
But NO. F*cking. Panko.
And yes. I realize I’m incredibly fortunate to even have the option of choosing between tripe and tongue (two things that, I’ll admit, I’d probably be in line to try at a renowned restaurant – just not in my own novice kitchen) when there are starving children in the world, but I can’t help it.
The heart wants what it wants.
And my heart wants Panko.
So. I can get what I need by driving a bit further to my favorite Asian market or another large chain grocery store. (Which is not Piggly Wiggly, by the way. Did you know those are real? We actually have one. It’s the only grocery store I’ve ever had to go through a metal detector to get inside. Never. Again.)
So it’s not like I’m living somewhere devoid of all things different. But I have to work a little harder to get them, and something in me longs for the ability to step outside my front door and walk down the street to any variety of specialty shop or restaurant and carry everything home in a couple of reusable bags and call me crazy, but I think I would just be happier overall if the ‘burbs weren’t so… suburban.
How easy is it for you to get your groceries? I know Bec’s chain grocery store has about 4 parking spots, is “missing” one wall, and she can find a million different dried beans, but a tiny block of cheddar cheese is like $8. Many of my former co-workers make the effort to buy from local farmers markets and grow their own vegetables and herbs.
So how about you? Can you walk to your local grocery store? Do you have to visit 12 different stores before you can find all the ingredients you need?
Am I just a big spoiled brat who should stick her beef tongue where the sun don’t shine?
I only made it through one week of setting and completing goals for myself. This past week, I failed miserably.
What can I say? Sometimes I suck at life.
I’m not sure what happened – it’s like the past 7 days just disappeared entirely, and I have (almost) nothing to show for them.
If you recall, I had a whole laundry list of “small” items I needed to complete, including mailing out for a new social security card (not complete), book our favorite boarders for the mutts for our upcoming trip to Spain (not complete), call my counselor for a reminder of the name of the book I’m supposed to read by Thursday (don’t need to complete because I found the scrap of paper with the name of the book, but yeah… I haven’t bought it yet), find at least 2 healthy recipes (only found and made 1), and research at least 3 potential publications to which I could submit article pitches (COMPLETE).
So I’m 1 for 5.
Oh, and this pile still looks exactly like this:
1 for 6.
So. Needless to say, my goal for this week is to complete all of last week’s goals.
AND I need to finish at least one lesson per day of Spanish from Rosetta Stone, picking up where I left off before I went to Costa Rica.
The good news is that I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the weather and my ability to get things done. When it’s beautiful and sunny and the birds are singing, good things happen.
And I’m pretty sure good things will be happening this week.
Because the thing is, sometimes Mondays are just a fresh start from the mess you made of the week before.
Realistically speaking, I really don’t think it ever stopped biting me. It’s like a greedy little deer tick, barely noticeable to the naked eye, latching on and digging in and sucking my lifeblood until I can think of little else but the pleasure of meeting new people, the adventure of traversing new roads, the taste of new flavors on my tongue, the thrill of discomfort.
It matters not that I returned from a 2 month stay in Costa Rica a mere 5 months ago.
All that really means is that I’ve been suffering 5 months of withdrawals.
And I can tell you this for sure – after 2 months of high, the comedown can be a bitch.
When I talk like this, most people don’t tend to understand.
But… you have a wonderful husband, they say. And that, I do.
But… you have a nice home and adorable puppies and a comfortable bed! Yes, I’m incredibly fortunate.
But… why would you want to leave these things for the difficulty of living out of a suitcase? The pain of getting from one place to the next without the luxury of your own vehicle? The questionable cleanliness of your pillow? The struggle of communicating with people who don’t speak your language?
Because, my friends, that’s how I know I’m alive.
Travel is the pinch I give myself when life starts to feel too much like a mundane dream. It’s a pleasant dream, to be sure. Comfortable. But you know how sometimes you get too comfortable and you fall asleep and your entire leg goes numb from lack of circulation – stimulation – and you have to beat on it just to get it to wake back up and feel something again?
It’s like that.
Like I said. Most people don’t understand.
The good news is that this time, Justin is going with me. Or maybe I should say I’m going with him. Because, as is our fashion when we’re taking a “big” trip, we’re visiting someone we know. It’s one of the best ways to make an otherwise unattainably expensive trip… attainable. Besides, there’s no better way to experience a locale than to travel with a “local.”
We’re visiting one of Justin’s sisters, Becca, and her boyfriend Bradley, who have been living in Spain for the past 2 years.
That’s right – Spain.
They spend their time teaching English to students in Spanish classrooms and traveling around Europe. And sometimes Africa.
I know. It’s a rough life.
And since they’ve decided to move stateside again at the end of the school year to pursue even higher education, Justin and I realized that if we want to visit Spain while knowing someone who lives there, it might be now or never.
We’ve never actually met Bradley. Becca met him while they were both working on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean and it’s all very magical and romantic. I’m excited because I already know I love Becca and, based on his blog musings and awesome taste in music (just read the linked post comments), I’m pretty sure Bradley and I are going to be friends.
Plus, he’s a huge planner and Justin actually likes to have a schedule (I know – he’s weird), so Becca and I can just go with the flow. It’s pretty much the perfect situation.
While I’m slightly bummed we won’t have time to see much of mainland Spain or any of Portugal (one of my dream places to see), we will get to experience two completely different and amazing Mediterranean islands, Ibiza and Formentera. So I can’t complain.
And, based on preliminary Google image searches, on Ibiza we’re going to experience a lot of this: