Monday, November 29, 2010

Functional Fitness

According to Web MD, Functional Fitness is about strengthening your body to handle real-life situations.  Instead of going to the gym today, I did my fitness activity at work.

The preschool I work at was closed last week; today was the first day back.  Since I work with two year olds, they have very short memories.  Several of them had forgotten exactly what school was all about, including one of the special needs boys.  After his mom left, he spent his time walking around and crying.  He did NOT want to be there!

This boy likes to jump, and he likes it even better if I boost him up so he can do a gigantic "bunny hop". I decided to see what I could do to improve his mood by putting my hands around his waist, lifting him up about a foot, then bringing him back down.  He kept crying, but not quite as loudly.  I did it several more times, lifting him up a bit higher each time.  He stopped crying and started smiling.  

I treated the activity like squats at the gym. This boy weighs about 30 pounds, so it was a great mini-workout.  After a couple of minutes I was quite tired, and he was ready to move on to another activitiy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Keeping Track

After Thanksgiving food for dinner yesterday and lunch today, it was time for something else for tonight's dinner.  We wanted to eat at home, and we decided to order pizza from Domino's. (The most convenient option, because there's one a half-mile from our house.) Hubby Tony said he'd be willing to pick it up. Son Donald pulled up their Website on my laptop so we could check out their current promotions.

I've always called in my pizza orders, but while browsing the site I noticed that there was an option to order online.  I went ahead and did just that, and got to experience the very interesting Pizza Tracker.  The Tracker lets you follow the progress of your order through its preparation, baking, quality check, and delivery (or in our case, pickup).  It even lists the name of the employee making the pizza.

You can choose one of six different themes.  Depending on the theme, Pizza Tracker will speak, cheer, or sing the status of each step of your order. As long as your speakers are turned up, you can hear what's going on.  I briefly tried out each of the themes, but my favorite was "Romance Novel".  A hunky, Fabio-type voice delivered my status updates, and after he finished talking the sounds of ocean waves and sea gulls continued in the background.

Thanks to the status updates, Tony knew when to leave to pick up the pizza.  His timing was perfect. Our order was ready to go, and it couldn't have sat in the warming oven for more than a minute or two.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fresh and New

We had granite counter tops installed in the kitchen back in January.  This is what the room looked like then, with light peach walls:

This is how it looks now, with newly-painted khaki walls:

It's taken me almost a year to get around to it, but since I've been on vacation this week I've been busy giving the kitchen a fresh look.

Why did it take me so long to get this job done?  I don't know, but it did take quite some time to pick the color.  I got paint samples from the hardware store and stuck them up on the wall under the cabinets.  That wasn't a great place, because soon I was looking past them every time I got a plate or cup out.  The project rose to the top of the To Do list when I remembered I was off work this week.  I chose paint, and went to the store to buy a gallon.

It took days to get the room done.  Our kitchen is quite large, with a lot of wall area. The first floor of our house has 9 foot ceilings, and part of the kitchen is vaulted; in some places the walls are more than 11 feet tall!

Day One of the project was all about preparation.  The tops of the cabinets hold a selection of objects d'art and other knickknacks that had to come down.  I put them in milk crates and moved them to the dining room.  The artwork came off the walls, and the outlet covers and faceplates came off.  I washed all the walls with TSP, rinsed them, then let them dry.

Painting Day started bright and early. After breakfast I moved all the plants to the kitchen table to get them out of the way and shut down the computer. I opened the paint, grabbed my brush, then climbed the ladder and got to work.  Immediately I could tell there was going to be a problem.  Even standing on a ladder I couldn't reach to the top of the wall in the vaulted section. I pressed Tony into service, since he's several inches taller than I am.  He was able to reach most of it, but there were still a couple of places where the countertop was in the way and he couldn't get the ladder in the right place.  When Son Donald stopped in for a visit I hoped he could take care of it; since he has almost four inches on his dad,  . He did his best, but there were still several spots that weren't completely covered.  In the end I attached a paint brush to the end of a mop handle, stood on the ladder, and dabbed at the offending spots till they were covered.  The rest of the job went well, although I had underestimated how long it would take.  I thought I did a good job, but when the paint dried I saw several places that needed retouching, which took an additional hour.

Once the walls were pristine, I devoted Day Three to the woodwork...there were floorboards around the room, chair rail on half of it, two six-panel doors and door frames (laundry room and pantry), and six windows-two of them directly over the kitchen sink.  This part also took longer than I thought it would.  I'm not particularly good at detail work; even though I tried to be careful, I had to clean up a lot of mistakes and paint splatters. However, the combination of shiny white paint against the dark walls was worth all the work.

Now that the painting is done, I'm working on putting everything back together.  I already know that not all of the decorations will fit with the new color scheme.  Some of them are headed for the donation pile, but a few of them I'll be able to recycle.  That's a project for another post, though!

Monday, November 22, 2010



For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 19, 2010


I have fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes.  When I was younger I tried my darndest to tan, to no avail.  Eventually I gave up trying.  Several months ago I purchased a Groupon for UV-free tan sessions.  The price was right, and I've always wanted to try spray-on tanning.

I kept looking for "just the right time" to use it; summer turned into fall and the weather got cold.  Even though my body's covered in clothes now, today I went and used the first of the two sessions I purchased.  This morning I showered, exfoliated, pumiced, and lotioned my body.  I picked out old clothes (some athletic pants and a polo shirt) so I didn't have to worry if chemicals got on them.

Although it seems like there's a tanning salon in every strip mall, I've never been in one before. The front desk was staffed by a bronzed 20-something, who was quite helpful.  Before I could indulge myself, I had to fill our a bit of paperwork, then go on a quick tour of the facility.  As part of the tour we stopped in the sunless tanning room, where I got a quick lesson in using the booth.  It seemed pretty easy, but there was also an instruction poster on the wall in case I forgot any of the steps.  We went back to the desk so I could sign the required waiver, then I was free to do my fake tanning.

The instruction poster showed a smiling model in a bikini. I decided to be daring and go for a full-body tan. (Not that anyone would see it.)  I took off my clothes and laid them on a chair, put a disposable cover on my hair, and applied lotion to my feet, elbows, and hands--places where the tanner was likely to accumulate.  I read the instructions on the wall one more time, took off my glasses, and entered the shower-like booth.

There was a green button on the far side of the enclosure that started the spray.  I pushed it, and after a few seconds a very fine mist of sunless tanning solution (mixed with a bit of bronzer for immediate color) started coming out of a row of nozzles on the wall. My eyes were closed, but I could feel the moisture moving from my face down to my legs.  It took about 20 seconds. The mist stopped, and I turned around so I could do the other side of my body.

When the mist stopped, I waited in the booth for a few minutes to let my body air dry, then stepped out and patted off the rest of the moisture with a towel.  Although I was dry, my body felt sticky, like I had a heavy layer of sunscreen on.  I dressed, left the salon, and drove home. Every time I came to a stop light, I pulled down the rear view mirror and took a look at my face, which was substantially darker than I'm used to.

The instructions said not to shower for at least 4 hours, because it takes that long for the solution to be fully absorbed by the skin.  Three hours after I got home, I checked the progress of my tan. It looked pretty good, except for my palms, which were brown (with white lines). I guess I didn't use enough lotion on them.  However, after dinner I noticed that my palms were even darker, and so were the bottoms of my feet.  My knees were overly dark, except for a weird light-colored spot on my left knee that somehow hadn't been sprayed.

However, after a shower I looked better.  Much of the splotchiness had disappeared. I suspect it was from the bronzer, which came off with soap and water. This is the best tan I've ever had. My body has a nice light brown tone, and although my knees are still a bit darker than the rest of my legs I'm not too concerned.  They'll be covered up and no one will see them!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey Trivia

What do you know about turkeys?  Take this quiz and find out.
(Answers are below) 

1. When was the first American Thanksgiving celebration?
    a. 1492
    b. 1567
    c. 1621
    d. 1777

2. Where was the turkey first domesticated?
    a. Canada
    b. Mexico and Central America
    c. New Zealand
    d. India

3. What great American statesman lobbied to make the turkey the national symbol?
    a. Benjamin Franklin
    b. Thomas Jefferson
    c. John Adams
    d. Andrew Jackson

4. About how many feathers does a mature turkey have?
    a. 1,500
    b. 2,000
    c. 3,500
    d. 5,000

5. Which state produces the most turkeys annually?
    a. Kansas
    b. Ohio
    c. Arkansas
    d. North Carolina

6. How fast can wild turkeys run?
    a. 5 mph
    b.15 mph
    c. 25 mph
    d. 45 mph

7. Which country consumes the most turkey per year per capita?
    a. The United States
    b. Israel
    c. Spain
    d. The United Kingdom

8. What Native American tribe celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the colonists?
    a. the Wampanoag tribe
    b. the Sioux tribe
    c. the Choctaw tribe
    d. the Arapaho tribe

9. Can wild turkeys fly? If so, how fast?
    a. No.
    b. Yes, up to 25 mph
    c. Yes, up to 40 mph
    d. Yes, up to 55 mph

10. Approximately what percentage of American homes eats turkey on Thanksgiving?
    a. 49%
    b. 67%
    c. 82%
    d. 90%

11. Approximately what percentage of American homes eats turkey on Christmas?
    a. 34%
    b. 50%
    c. 67%
    d. 89%

12. What is the name of the skin that hangs from a turkey's neck?
    a. snark
    b. wattle
    c. garble
    d. swag

13. Which U.S. president specified that Thanksgiving would fall on the fourth Thursday of November?
    a. Martin Van Buren
    b. Andrew Jackson
    c. William H. Taft
    d. Abraham Lincoln

14. Which president attempted to move the Thanksgiving holiday to the next to last Thursday in November to create a longer Christmas shopping season?
    a. Franklin D. Roosevelt
    b. Dwight D. Eisenhower
    c. Harry S. Truman
    d. Gerald R. Ford

15. What is the fastest way to defrost a turkey?
    a. with a hair dryer
    b. in the refrigerator
    c. in cold water
    d. in the microwave oven

1. c. 1621

2. b. Mexico and Central America

3. a. Benjamin Franklin

4. c. 3,500

5. d. Minnesota

6. c. 25 mph

7. b. Israel

8. a. the Wampanoag

9. d. yes, up to 55 mph

10. d. 90%

11. b. 50%

12. b. Wattle

13. d. Abraham Lincoln

14. a. Franklin Roosevelt

15. b. in the refrigerator

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The preschool I work at is trying to get away from processed foods at snack time.  Instead, we're being encouraged to serve healthy and "whole" foods.  That's a great concept, but most of the students in my class are two years old, and some of them haven't been exposed to a wide variety of food.  We have some reliable snacks- pretzels and animal crackers are always a hit, along with some types of fruit (bananas, apple slices, raisins, and dried cranberries are popular with most of the children).  Other offerings, like rice cakes, baby carrots and dip, edamame, dried apricots, and cheese have been met with various levels of non-acceptance. But we keep trying.

With the lead teacher's permission, I've designated myself as the primary snack gatherer. When I came across a recipe for Roasted Chickpeas the other day, I wondered if it might work, or if the size and shape of the beans would make it too dangerous for our children.  I made a batch last night and took it to work today, where it was deemed not appropriate. That's ok, though, because I got to bring it home to snack on myself!

Her's the recipe if you're looking for a quick, inexpensive, and good snack.  Be careful, though, because they're addictive.


1 can (15-ounce) garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp, tossing occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Last night I had the most unusual meal in quite some time when Tony and I dined at Al Waha Restaurant and Hookah Lounge on South Grand.  Al Waha, which means "oasis" in Arabic, is a Bedouin restaurant, one of only a few restaurants in the country to offer the cuisine.  Bedouins are a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group, and based on Al Waha's menu, their food seems to be similar to any number of Middle Eastern cuisines.

Bedouins were originally nomadic people, and the idea of hospitality is ingrained in their culture.  Our meal began with a traditional gesture of hospitality, a bit of Bedouin coffee brought by our waitress.  It was dark, strong, and mixed with cardamom; a great start to the evening.  The waitress came back a few minutes later to take our order, and it didn't take long for the food to arrive.

I started with a yogurt salad, which was a mixture of  finely-chopped greens, cucumber, green onion, slivered almonds, and tomatoes topped with yogurt.  For dinner, I got the Al Waha plate, which the menu described as ground beef cooked with pomegranate and tomato sauce, garlic, and chili peppers served over basmati rice with raisins, crushed almonds, and dried apricots. This dish looked like a work of art!  A large dome of rice was mounded in the center of a round plate, with a border of lightly-sauced meat circling it. The top of the dome was garnished with a bit more meat, dried fruit, and nuts. It had a unique flavor-savory with sweet bursts from the fruit, and a very slight hint of heat from the peppers.

Tony chose Menezulah, a mix of eggplant, onions, garlic, and potatoes in tomato sauce.  It was also served with basmati rice.  His dish wasn't as beautifully composed (the entrĂ©e filled one half of his oval plate, and a large portion of rice covered the other), but as much as I liked my meal, I might have liked his more!  If there had been an easy way to split the food we would have done that, but instead we nibbled from each other's plate in addition to our own until everything was gone.

There were two desserts on the menu.  One of them was baklava, which I've had many times, so we shared the more unique sounding Palace's Nest, a mixture of toasted sweet bread, raisins, almonds, pistachios, dried apricots, and shredded coconut. It was a bit like a cold bread pudding which was topped with a layer of whipped cream and garnished with a more coconut and a bit of dried fruit., and it was delicious.  I finished the meal with a cup of fragrant mint much as I liked the Bedouin coffee, it was getting late and I needed a non-caffeinated drink.

The front room of the building also doubled as a section for hookah smoking.  There was a man indulging as we left, but that will be an adventure for another night.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Living Thanks

I saw this on a church marquee on the way to work, and I've been thinking about it ever since.


I was intrigued. What did it mean?  After pondering it for several days, I've decided that Thanksliving is about:

  • Living with an attitude of gratitude and thanks.  
  • Looking at the positive side of things and 
  • Finding the good in everything 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What does Thanksliving mean to you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


After two and a half weeks of out of town job training, Hubby Tony is home!

He finished up his class yesterday.  This morning he checked out of his hotel in Kansas City and drove across the state, pulling in the garage just before lunchtime.  I was still at work when he got home, but Tony reported the cats didn't show a whole lot of excitement over his arrival; it took them a while to wake up from their late morning naps to come downstairs and greet him.

When I got home I put on shorts and we drove to Castlewood State Park for a hike, because today's weather was even nicer than yesterday's.   Tony and I walked and talked for about an hour, catching up on everything that had gone on since we'd last been together.

Tonight there will be two people in the bed for the first time in a while.  I hope the cats remember who to jump on at breakfast time tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beaucoup Bugs

The weather here this week is crazy!  Over the weekend we had a freeze, but today's projected high of 76° will come close to breaking a record.  Things are due to change in a few days, so I decided to take advantage of the way-above-average temperatures and spend as much time outside as possible.

Instead of going to the gym to get my exercise, I came home and mowed the lawn (not so much to cut the grass but to mulch the leaves that had fallen on top of it).  I actually got sweaty! Afterwards I broke out the flip flops I'd stowed in the back of the closet, then grabbed the newspaper and went out to the porch to read it.

My seat provided me a good view of the front yard landscape. There's only a few flowers left in the beds next to the house...a half-dormant dianthus sporting four pink blossoms, several alyssum plants covered in tiny white clusters, and a large mum plant.  Most of it's yellow-orange flowers were spent, but there were fresh blooms interspersed throughout.

I was holding the newspaper in front of my face to keep the sun out of my eyes when I saw movement off to the right. The mum plant looked like it was alive!  Upon closer inspection, it wasn't, but there were dozens of insects buzzing around it.  I saw several types of small butterflies, house flies, a few beetles, and bees from tiny to large.  They flitted from one bloom to another, getting whatever nourishment they could.  Occasionally the butterflies perched on the flowers and opened their wings to bask in the sun.  They were enjoying the weather just like I was!

However, good things never last.  Within 20 minutes the sun dipped behind the house across the street and it started to cool off.  My feet started to get cold in their flip flops.  It was time to go in.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Random Road Trip

Last month, I told you the story of how the "D" light on my car's dashboard blinked when I drove at highway speeds.  I had the car fixed right away, but I haven't had the time to make sure everything was working. Thanks to the "fall back" to regular time last night, this morning I woke refreshed at 8:00.  I rolled over and stretched, wondering what the day held for me.  The sky was clear and the sun was shining.  It felt like the perfect opportunity for an adventure.  Time to kill two birds with one stone and take a road trip.

The car's problems started when I drove over 60 miles per hour. In order to get my car up to the correct speed today, I had to get out of the metropolitan area, where there's a lower speed limit.  There were three choices: Interstate 70 to the west, 44 to the southeast, or 55 to the south.  My last few trips have been to the west, so I decided to pick one of the other highways today.

I wanted to include church as part of my adventure.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I had access to the Mass times of every parish in the Archdiocese, along with Google maps for directions.  I chose the 10:30 Mass at St David Church in Arnold, which was 30 minutes from my house and a mile off of Interstate 55.  Now I knew which direction I was heading.  I  grabbed my purse and left the house.

St. David's was easy to find in a residential area not too far from a major street. I parked my car and followed the stream of people to the front door.  It was a nice Mass.  The people around me were friendly, the priest gave a thought-provoking homily, and the music was provided by a quartet of singers  whose voices blended together well.  One of the singers also played the piano, and his musical accompaniment added a nice touch.

It was 11:45 when I left the church and backtracked to the Interstate.  When I got on the highway going south, the speed limit was 65 mph (and my car's trip odometer read 19 miles). At the 21 mile mark the speed increased to the magic 70 mph mark. I kept a close eye on the D light, which was shining strong and green. At the 23 mile mark, I saw a sign telling me a road construction zone was coming up, and the speed would decrease to 50 mph.  That was NOT what I was looking for!  There was an exit coming up, so I made a quick decision and veered onto the ramp.  The rest of my day's plans were made.  I was going to Kimmswick.

Kimmswick is a small historic town along the Mississippi River.  It has the oldest wrought iron bridge in Missouri, several bed and breakfasts, and a large selection of gift shops. I'm sure there are a lot of good places to eat in Kimmswick, but my destination for lunch was The Blue Owl.  The Blue Owl has been featured on several Food Network shows.  They serve soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches, and plate lunches, but they're most well known for their pies.

I thought the restaurant might not be busy today.  I thought wrong.  There were dozens of people sitting and milling around outside waiting for a table.  When I put my name on the list, the hostess told me it would be a half hour wait, and suggested I might want to walk around or shop while I was waiting.  That sounded good to me!  The time went quickly, and when I came back 30 minutes later I was the next person on the list.

It was 12:30, and I was really hungry.  I ordered one of the daily specials-roast beef and mashed potatoes, which came with a salad, vegetable, and roll.  It was a lot of food, but I ate every bite of it, including the spiced apple ring decorating the plate.  Did I leave room for dessert?  Not really, but you can't go to a place known for their desserts and not indulge, so I got one to go. There were dozens of choices in the bakery-pies, cakes, cheesecakes, and cookies.  I passed on the Levee High Apple Pie (which is made with 18 apples), the 6" tall banana cream pie, and the pumpkin cheesecake and got a slice of chocolate chip pecan pie.  The plan was to bring the pie home and eat it for an afternoon snack.

I paid for my food and carried the bag containing my pie back to the car. I backtracked out of town and went north on the Interstate towards home. All the time the pie was calling out to me.  Halfway home I pulled into a shopping center, parked the car, and ate every bite of it.  It was wonderful.

So is my car fixed?  I don't know.  It may take another road trip to figure it out!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Who's Got The Pumpkin?

On Tuesday I cooked the first of our two Halloween pumpkins.  Since Sunday the second one has been parked on a section of newspaper right next to the front door.  Now, almost a week later, it was time to do something with it.  Other than cooking and pureeing it, I wasn't sure what that could be. I really don't need more pumpkin puree, but I can't stand to throw anything edible away.

Then I read a post from Nancy at Life in the Second Half, talking about her new dehydrator.  All of a sudden a light bulb went on.  I have a dehydrator, which I've used on all types of foods. Would it work on pumpkin?  Minutes later I was Googling the subject.  My search led me to the Website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  They had information on every conceivable way to preserve pumpkins, including drying.  The steps:
  • Peel, then remove seeds and fibers from pumpkin
  • Cut pumpkin into strips no more than one-inch wide by 1/8-inch thick
  • Steam strips for 3 minutes, then put into ice water to stop the blanching action
  • Remove from water
  • Dry the strips until brittle
Time for a project.  I don't do particularly well peeling hard-shelled squash, but I managed to complete the process relatively unscathed, only sacrificing one of my fingernails to the cause.  It was hard to slice the firm pumpkin into even-sized strips, but I did the best I could. I got out a big pot, poured a couple of inches of water in the bottom, set the steamer basket in the pot, and put the whole thing on the stove. When the water boiled, I filled the steamer and set the timer for three minutes. (I ended up adding an additional thirty seconds to the steaming time, because my pieces still seemed a bit crunchy after three minutes.)  After they were cooked, I dumped the pieces into a bowl of cold water, drained them, and arranged them on the dehydrator trays.

It only took a third of my 18" diameter pumpkin to fill the four trays. Because I just wanted to be done with pumpkin-processing, I steamed the leftover portion.  I pureed part of that, but decided to experiment with putting some of the pieces in the freezer.    I don't think squash freezes well, but I might be pleasantly surprised.

This was by far the easiest thing I've dehydrated, and I'd certainly try it again. The first strips were ready to take out after three hours, and I was cleaning the dehydrator an hour and a half after that. My four trays yielded about two cups of dried crunchy-but-chewy pieces, which will be good for throwing in a pot of soup or eating on the go.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shower Me Clean

This morning I had planned to go to the gym before attending a meeting and running some errands, so I just threw exercise clothes over my dirty body when I rolled out of bed.  However, I forgot to remember to eat a light breakfast, and with muffins and fruit sitting like a lump in my stomach, the idea didn't sound appealing.  I decided to save the exercising for later in the day.  It was time to get showered and dressed.

We've lived in our house for almost twenty years.  The previous owners converted part of the basement to a mother-in-law suite, complete with a full bathroom.  Even though there were five of us living in the house we never used the basement shower on a regular basis.  For years we took turns bathing in the second floor bathrooms-some of us in the morning and some at night.  After Son Tony left for college and came back for breaks, I noticed he no longer wanted to shower upstairs, preferring the basement one.  He said that shower's water pressure was much better than anywhere else in the house.

Today I decided to use that shower for the first time.  I had a towel and all my street clothes packed in my gym bag, so all I had to do was carry it downstairs. I have almost everything I need in my bag, but not shampoo and conditioner, because I just use the gym's all-purpose foam to wash my hair and body. Hopefully there was something I could use in the shower.  When I opened the door, I noticed there was a bar of soap in the holder and quite a selection of bottles on the floor.  I figured I was set, but I discovered  that three of the four shampoos were empty or nearly empty, as was the conditioner.   It was too much work to go back upstairs, so I added water to the empty shampoo bottles and shook them, which dislodged enough shampoo remnants to give my hair a wash, then did the same thing with the conditioner.

The water pressure in the shower was good, but not enough to get me downstairs every day.  After I finished I dried off and put my clothes on.  I used the towel to dry the shower glass, walls, and floor, then gathered up the empty bottles and took them to the recycling bin.  If I ever use the shower again, it will be tidy for me!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Movie Night(s)

Since Tony's out of town, it's been all about me.  Last Thursday I stopped at the library and got movies to watch.  I got to pick out what I wanted and didn't have to take anyone else's tastes into consideration.  Half the time when I get videos from the library they go back unwatched, but this time I was determined not to let that happened.

Saturday night I watched Julie and Julia, the movie from last year that contrasted the life of Julia Child at the beginning of her culinary career with the life of Julie Powell, a New Yorker who in 2002 cooked all 524 recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook.  I really enjoyed the movie, especially the "Julia" segments. Meryl Streep did a great job. She really nailed Julia Child's distinctive voice and mannerisms, and her relationship with her husband Paul (played by Stanley Tucci) seemed genuine.  I finished the movie hungry after looking at all the food, and had to get myself a snack!

After watching that movie, the DVDs sat on the coffee table in the family room.  Today the calendar reminded me that I needed to return the movies tomorrow, so it was take in another one tonight or return them unwatched.  Other than work, right now my schedule is completely my own, so at 4:00 this afternoon I sat down to watch another movie.  Because I could.

Tonight's feature was the classic Metropolis, the 1927 German science-fiction film. The capsule plot summary, compliments of IMDb:
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences
When it was released, Metropolis was considered too long for American moviegoers, and it was cut substantially.  Over the years there have been different releases (with different running times).  The version I watched was from 2002, which is not the newest or longest version (there's one that's 30 minutes longer that was premiered earlier this year).  Even so, the movie's running time was a little over two hours.  It was still sunny when I fired up the DVD player, turned on the surround sound speakers, and got comfortable on the couch.

I started watching more out of a sense of obligation, like I "should" see this classic movie, but soon I was caught up in the spectacle of the sets, soundtrack, and special effects, and by the end of the movie I was sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see if  the "good guy" or the "bad guy" would win.  I did get a little tired of the silent picture overacting, but for the most part it was quite an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.  When the THE END screen came up it was dark in the family room, and time to start on dinner.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Squishy Squash

This year we had two pumpkins that graced the porch for Halloween.  I prefer to keep my pumpkins uncarved, which allows me to cook them after the holiday.  This afternoon I roasted the first one.

It's easy to cook fresh pumpkin in the oven:

  • Cut the pumpkin in quarters and take out the seeds and "goo". 
  • Put the pieces in a big roasting pan and add a bit of water in the bottom of the pan to keep them from sticking
  • Bake at 425 degrees until the pumpkin is fork tender (30-45 minutes). 

 I scrape the soft flesh off the skin and puree it in the food processor until it's smooth.  Today's pumpkin yielded two 4-cup bags of puree that I put in the freezer for later (it's a tradition in our house to use the Halloween pumpkin for the Thanksgiving pie).  After that was done I still had three cups of pumpkin left over. It was coming up on dinnertime, so I decided to see what I could do with the extra puree. A bit of Internet searching helped me decide on pumpkin soup.

I browsed different Websites, picking and choosing ingredients for my soup based on what I had in the house. The result was an amalgam of several different recipes, and very good if I do say so myself!


1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
3 cups pumpkin puree
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add chicken broth and mixed vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add remaining ingredients and cook until heated.