Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: Study Abroad Wrap-Up

It's Classy in Philadelphia's Where in the World Wednesday!

The idea of WITWW is to post a picture of you in someplace in the world... it doesn't have to be somewhere foreign or tropical. Just a picture of you somewhere that you consider traveling. It might even be somewhere in your own hometown!
Over the past several weeks I've recounted just a few (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) of my memories from the study abroad trip I took in 2002.

After our week in Scotland, we returned to London for the last week of the program. And like the Scotland week, I didn't manage to get any pictures taken of myself. Fail!

So instead I'm just going to wrap it all up and tie a bow around it.

I saw six theatre shows in five weeks: Les Misérables, We Will Rock You (for which I got standing room only tickets and danced around in the back of the theatre the whole time), The Vagina Monologues, My Fair Lady, The Phantom of the Opera, and My One and Only. I spent a ton of money on tickets, but what better to spend money on than live theatre? While my classmates were out drinking, I was going on dates with myself.

There were a lot of firsts on this trip: first time getting drunk, for example. My last week in London I had another couple of firsts. July 29 was a really rough day for me. I was terribly homesick and probably overtired, and all of that somehow manifested itself in a panic attack that seemed to last all day, causing me to cry in my room for four hours. Yay me!

By August 2 I was fully recovered and back up to my old tricks, which included a night out at a bar to celebrate the end of our class. While there, I had the Pants Incident of 2002. I can't put details here lest they fall into the wrong hands, but it involved my pants, a Macedonian named Tony, and a public shaming on the streets of London by one of my male classmates. It's one of the funniest and most embarrassing things that's ever happened to me. I summed it up in my paper journal by saying, "I wish I were a bad girl."

Alas, I am not. (So stop worrying, Mommy.) No one saw my Britney that day.

A couple of days later I was on my way home, pants and all, waiting for my flight at London Gatwick Airport. A flight that never took off because the luggage handlers backed their truck into the plane and damaged it so much that it wasn't flight-worthy. Bravo, Northwest Airlines!

After much confusion and a long wait to get our bags back, a few of the people from my class were given meal vouchers and free rooms at the Hilton connected to the airport. One more night in London! I spent it using all of the free stuff that Northwest gave me and getting a good night's sleep (no more pants incidents).

The next day we hopped the pond back to Detroit, where I was expecting to find my family waiting anxiously. EXCEPT THAT THEY WEREN'T THERE.

My friends were picked up one by one until I was the only person left. Finally I called home, and found out that no one had come to get me because the flight arrival time listed on the internet was wrong. Northwest was really going for the gold with this one.

After what seemed like FOREVER my mom and dad showed up to take me home. I'll let my words from my paper journal sum it up:

The whole ride I just wanted to see Velv. And I finally did! And it was wonderful, and he still remembered me and loved me. I'm just SO glad to be home. This was an amazing experience, but I love my home.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

from the blotter

Something miraculous happened on Friday. I'll tell you, but brace yourself first.

Braced? Alright.


As a reward for being such an obedient husband, I let him upgrade his XBox 360. So now he has a black one, and that's all that's different as far as I can tell. And then I bought myself some celebratory ginger beverages:

From left to right, The Ginger People's ginger beer, Boylan Bottling Co.'s ginger ale, Fentimans ginger beer, Maine Root ginger brew, and Bundaberg ginger beer, all from World Market.

Apparently my relations are pretty good at sports. You might remember my golfer cousin from two years ago. Well, she's still playing, now for Michigan State! And today my other cousin was named hockey player of the year by the local newspaper! Hooray athletically-inclined cousins!

Speaking of Michigan State and athletics: Final Four, baby! I think back fondly to last year when I braved a blizzard to watch my Spartans play in the Final Four. I'll be checking the riot status meter often on Saturday.

We've spent nearly $1000 on our cats so far this year and are anticipating a bill of at least $200 for Jasper's vet appointment on Thursday. Almost half of that $1000 has gone to Jasper's vet bills. FML.

Remember how I went to Virginia for work last October and painted pottery with my boss? And how I had to assure the group that I am not an alcoholic? Here's what I painted:

Yes, it's a shot glass. Decorated with coffee beans. That says "ADDICT." It's for my espresso maker! I have not yet used it for booze. I'm more of a drink first, measure later sort of boozer.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Foodie Friday: Fudge Fail and Fudge Win

It's Foodie Friday! Foodie Friday is my weekly feature that gives you a window into my kitchen. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to read cookbooks, and I love to inspire people to give vegan food a chance. Thus, Foodie Friday was whipped up and baked to perfection.
I feel like I make macaroni and cheese every week. That might not be exactly true, but the leftovers last long enough that we eat it for a while, and I've posted four different versions (1, 2, 3, 4) since the end of January. That just goes to show how many delicious ways there are to veganize mac and cheese! My latest attempt, baked mac and cheeze from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes, was no exception.

I had been wanting to make this for a while because miso paste is among the ingredients and I was intrigued by the idea of miso and cheesy noodles together. Once it's all put together, of course, you don't taste the miso. Since Jason doesn't like "dry" pasta, I doubled the amount of sauce and it baked up nicely without sucking up all of the ooey-gooeyness that makes macaroni and cheese so good. I served it with Lightlife Smoked Style Smart Sausages that I coined and toasted up in a pan with a spray of olive oil. We had salad, too, but who wants to read a food blog about lettuce? Not this vegan.

Another 1,000 Vegan recipe that I tried this week was for basic mashed potatoes. I've never followed a recipe for mashed taters--I always eyeball and estimate the quantities and cooking times and it turns out well every time--but I figured I'd try this one just to get one step closer to making all 1,000. They turned out fine, if a bit bland. They're called "basic," and that they were. I served them with sautéed grape tomatoes and Lightlife Savory Chick'n Smart Tenders.

And that brings me to my epic fudge fail. The other night I promised Jason that I would make him the chocolate-peanut butter fudge from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. How hard can fudge be, right? You don't even have to cook it.

Well, apparently fudge is hard, because I followed this recipe from start to finish TWICE and both times it ended up as pebbles. No, seriously--look at it!

I had nice melty chocolate and peanut butter in the bowl one second, and the next I had cocoa puff cereal. I blame the powdered sugar. Maybe the recipe had a misprint, maybe I suck at following directions... who knows? All I know is that I stayed up until midnight trying to make my husband some fudge and when he got home from work in the middle of the night I didn't have a sweet treat waiting for him. I was exhausted and pissed off.

For the first batch, I tried to melt the chocolate in the microwave because the recipe said to. Instead of melting, it filled my kitchen with smoke. My cats were all, "Huh? Wha? Forest fire?" But the smoke alarm didn't go off. That damn thing goes off if I so much as turn on the oven, but not when my kitchen looks like a scene from The Fog. Nice.

I threw out the scorched first batch (in the silver bowl), but I kept the second batch--I melted the chocolate on the stove and it was perfect. You know, until I added the powdered sugar. The second batch is at least useful as an ice cream topping.

Today I was ready to redeem myself. I tried a different fudge recipe, chocolate smoosh fudge from 1,000 Vegan Recipes, which doesn't call for powdered sugar. It's just chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, and dried fruit. Oh, and rum. Because pirates like fudge too.

The result:

Redemption is sweet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: Scotland

It's Classy in Philadelphia's Where in the World Wednesday!

The idea of WITWW is to post a picture of you in someplace in the world... it doesn't have to be somewhere foreign or tropical. Just a picture of you somewhere that you consider traveling. It might even be somewhere in your own hometown!
On July 21, 2002, my Michigan State study abroad group left London for a week in Edinburgh, Scotland. We stayed at the University of Edinburgh's dorms near Holyrood Park, and woke up to this spectacular view every day:

Arthur's Seat!

I climbed the hill after a couple of days of admiring it from afar, and it was so worth it. It was lush and green... and crawling with giant black slugs. I poked around some ruins and took this picture of the city skyline at dusk, just before my camera's batteries died:

Other activities included a class trip to the BBC in Glasgow, visiting Edinburgh Castle, dinner at the Hard Rock Edinburgh, and seeing The Art of Star Wars exhibit.

I somehow didn't manage to get a picture of myself the whole week!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Just another day on base.

This afternoon I was sitting at my desk, gazing out the window working, when from out of nowhere a phalanx of emergency vehicles appeared at the guarded, gated base housing entrance a stone's throw away from our back yard. There was a fire truck, an ambulance, a k-9 vehicle, several base police cruisers, and a giant RV-like vehicle that looked like what the SWAT team uses in action movies. They quickly blocked off the road and closed the gate, stationing armed men behind concrete barriers. A pair of officers with German shepherds stood at a distance.

A group of people were milling about outside the gate, chanting "Water, water, we want water!" and "H20, H20!"

Angry farmers who thought Nancy Pelosi was in town? New recruits being hazed? Navy wives driven mad by thirst?


I had to know!

So like any good gawker American, I popped a bagel in the toaster and set up shop in front of the window to watch the spectacle unfold and shout play-by-play to Jason, who was sitting in the living room and couldn't have cared less. I made it back with my bagel just in time to see a tanker truck pull into the fray.

Water, water, they got water!

Well, the grass did, anyway. The tanker sprayed some on the grass, but not on the people.

And just like that, it was all over. The vehicles drove away without any fanfare and traffic began flowing through the gate once again as if nothing had happened.

It was just a training exercise. Nothing to get excited about.

We do that kind of thing here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Foodie Friday: Sunday Edition

It's Foodie Friday! Foodie Friday is my weekly feature that gives you a window into my kitchen. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to read cookbooks, and I love to inspire people to give vegan food a chance. Thus, Foodie Friday was whipped up and baked to perfection.
I didn't work on this post on Friday because I was just plain tired out from wrestling with poor sick Jasper in our twice-daily attempts to force-feed him his medicine. He thrashes, he bites, and he foams at the mouth--I'm going to try to take a picture of him post-drugs. He looks rabid.

But on to the food. Not pictured this week: vegan Shamrock shakes and chocolate peanut butter shakes. After revisiting my Shamrock shake recipe, I wasn't satisfied with it, so I called a do-over on myself today. The result was different, but not necessarily in a good way. I'm still not satisfied. Back to the test kitchen on this one... and back to the grocery store for more nondairy ice cream.

As promised, last Friday night I made Maris' soft pretzel recipe. And then I made another batch, tripled, because Jason ate most of my share while I wasn't looking. Tricky!

I served them with home-brewed miso mustard mayonnaise, and it was divine. Just combine 5 packets of Chinese hot mustard (from any Chinese takeout restaurant), 1 spoonful of Vegenaise, and two spoonfuls of miso paste. Stir well and dip away!

And some Robin Robertson recipes:

pumpkin bread with cranberries (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes)

red bean and sweet potato curry (from Vegan Planet)

sesame soba noodles (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes)

ginger-spice brownies (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes)

My next challenge: tonight's dinner. I have no idea what to make!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

He just feels bad that we don't have a pool.

When we last discussed Jasper's health, he was coming off of an epic bout of diarrhea. The prescription food our veterinarian recommended did indeed fix that little problem, and we have since increased his insulin dosage as well. Smooth sailing!

Except that a couple of weeks ago, he started urinating on the floor. And not just little pee puddles, but lakes.


Lake Michigans of dilute, nearly invisible diabetic cat piss in my laundry room, just waiting to be stepped in. So I bought another litter box and tried a couple of new kinds of litter, in case he suddenly found what we were using objectionable.

For those of you keeping score at home, we now have five cat boxes. FIVE. Tidy Cat should give us a bulk discount.

But it wasn't the litter or the box. So I put down old towels in his go-to spots to at least soak up some of the mess. I've been washing a load of soaking wet towels nearly every day. I moved litter boxes into those target spots. He started peeing in the middle of the room instead.

The frequency of the pee lakes increased and I began to watch his behavior more closely. It was not normal. He would circle the laundry room, meowing and inspecting each pristinely cleaned box, then eventually hunch over the linoleum to do his business.

We knew he wasn't OK, so Jason took him to the vet today. They stuck a needle through his belly, withdrew some urine from his bladder, and stuck it under a microscope. Sure enough, poor Jasper has a bladder infection.

Cue me feeling like a horrible cat mother for not figuring it out sooner. But now I know the symptoms, and when it happens again, I'll be ready. And I say when, not if, because apparently diabetic cats are prone to bladder infections.

I'm thinking about renting us a room at the vet's office--we're there enough to have VIP status. I feel like I go there on a weekly basis. In addition to Jasper's frequent appointments, I also buy insulin, syringes, and food from them. We never run out of those things at the same time, of course.

Treatment for kitty bladder infections is simple in theory--just administer a course of amoxicillin.

Jasper, however, laughs in the face of simple, and turns into a biting, clawing beast when I try to squirt a syringe of liquid into his mouth. Our bathroom wall in Massachusetts was permanently stained with hot pink spatter marks from the last time we had to give him liquid medication. I imagine it'll go equally as well tomorrow morning when we have to give him his next dose.

If I'm lucky, maybe he'll pee on me, too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Well, he probably eats too.

I got an e-mail from my stepmom earlier today with some cute pictures of my dad asleep, covered in a pile of cats. She asked "Does [your dad] ever do anything other than sleep?"

I'm going to use genetics as an excuse, then, because this is what I did all weekend, pretty much:


Lie around!

Losing an hour on Saturday got me off track, but the real culprit is Jason's new schedule. He switched to working the second shift last week--3:30 pm to 1:30 am Sunday through Wednesday. It's the complete opposite of my 6 am to 2:30 pm Monday through Friday work schedule (I work East Coast hours), and I haven't worked out yet how to meet Jason's needs while getting more than a few uninterrupted hours of sleep at a time. I've already had two naps today and I could definitely take another right now.

Our cats aren't sure what to make of the change, either, but they are thrilled to take naps with me. The cutest thing about it has been waking up after falling asleep on the couch, and finding Lola all muffined up on my chest. We have our lady time, she and I.

Adding to my general fatigue level is that I haven't had any coffee since Jason made the switch to his new shift. When he was getting up at 5 am every morning, I would get up with him and make a pot of coffee so he could take a travel mug to work. Then I would sit down with my own cup and get to work. Last week I just never worked up the energy to make a pot for myself. Dumb, right?

This is Navy life, though. We worked opposite schedules when we lived in Virginia Beach, and we survived that. This is probably temporary, anyway, since in a month or so there won't be enough people in his shop to staff two full shifts. In the meantime, I guess I'll just be useless on the weekends.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Foodie Friday: Volume 5

It's Foodie Friday! Foodie Friday is my weekly feature that gives you a window into my kitchen. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to read cookbooks, and I love to inspire people to give vegan food a chance. Thus, Foodie Friday was whipped up and baked to perfection.
I've slowly begun cooking again after being sickly all last week. I've recovered to the point that I'm inventing recipes on my own again, and making things that require a bit of work. Earlier in the week I made General Tao's tofu for a second time, after Jason practically begged for it. That's how good it is: steak-chomping husbands ask for it by name.

When I asked Jason what he wanted for dinner last night, he said he wanted chicken and rice, the two most boring foods in the entire world. Now that I've regained my sense of taste, I was not about to waste calories on a bland meal, so I invented...

Ginger garlic chik'n and pea pods!

Lightly coat a pan with olive oil and sauté a package of Morningstar Farms Chik'n strips, a heaping spoonful of chopped garlic, a heaping spoonful of chopped fresh or pickled ginger, and five or six chopped green onions. After all that stuff has mingled for a few minutes, add three or four handfuls of snow peas. When the chik'n strips are heated through, stir in three generous spoonfuls of miso paste and soy sauce to taste. Mix everything around until evenly coated. Serve over rice. I wanted to make coconut rice to go with this, but alas, I'm out of coconut milk.

Here's my lazy dinner for the week:

Morningstar Farms Hickory BBQ Riblet sandwiches with spiced oven-roasted sweet and regular potato sticks

And some 1,000 Vegan Recipes, uh, recipes:

Paglia e fieno ("straw and hay"--because of the two colors of pasta) with peas and homemade parmasio (akin to parmesan cheese, but vegan)

Chocolate-cranberry oatmeal cookies

These were so good that I made a second batch as soon as Jason, aka Mr. Sweet Tooth, finished off the first.

Caramelized French onion soup

Ginger-molasses bread with blueberries

On tap for next week: soft pretzels (which I'm probably going to make tonight) and pumpkin bread with cranberries!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: London, part 2

It's Classy in Philadelphia's Where in the World Wednesday!

The idea of WITWW is to post a picture of you in someplace in the world... it doesn't have to be somewhere foreign or tropical. Just a picture of you somewhere that you consider traveling. It might even be somewhere in your own hometown!
After our quick and dirty Paris trip, my MSU study abroad buddies and I jumped right back into the swing of things in London with class and a tour of the BBC Television Centre.

In 2002, a student pass for the tour cost £4.95. Today, it costs £7. How about that?

Again, what is happening with my shirt? Was I having some sort of weird peasant girl stage?

The bag in my hand contains the CD recording of Party at the Palace, a concert that was held at Buckingham Palace the previous month in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee (ruling for 50 years). I still listen to it.

Later in the week I had a hankering for a haircut, so I gathered two other girls who were itching for a trim and we headed to a salon that didn't look disgusting. I ended up with a drastic change. I went from my natural dirty blond to red! I had always wanted to make the transformation, and without my mother there to forbid it, I threw caution to the wind.

The redhead picture was taken in my dorm room after the new school year had started. The lighting was horrible--I promise the color was way better than that.

I loved it! Not surprisingly, my mom hated it. I have very few pictures of my red hair, and it was gone by Thanksgiving, but I remember the time fondly. For once in my life, I was a rebel.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

an embarrassing prom photo, and two nice ones

When I'm not blathering here, I'm often spreading the joy at other blogs.

You might have already seen me today chez Cary, showing off my senior prom dates on List of the Day. That's right, I said dates, plural. High school was an interesting time for me.

Here's the uncensored version:

Since neither of us had dates, I went with my best friend. We decided to take the ubiquitous "pose in front of a lattice" prom picture with our friend Señor Green Suit to be funny. What was even funnier was that he was blazed out of his mind. We ladies kept it classy with rub-on armband tattoos, plastic floral candle rings around our updos, and hooker-riffic glue-on nails. Ironically, I painted mine a sparkly blue color called Corvette Shimmer. Before the dance, my friend and I had a romantic lukewarm dinner at the Olive Garden where she worked. We probably looked like our dates stood us up.

Because I am a fancypants, I went to three Okemos proms total. My senior prom pictured above, and proms my sophomore year of high school and my freshman year of college. My dates for those, while they were actually male, didn't add much to the pictures, so I've cropped them out. Behold:

I loved that dress with the bows.

I've also been sending pictures (but not of myself) to Vanity Plates: Creepiness in 8 Characters or Less (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and the English Fail Blog. Jason is probably embarrassed by my constant picture-taking, but I think populating the internet with entertaining blogs is a public service.

You're welcome.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I still wish it had all been a hallucination.

I've been sick all week. I woke up last Friday with a burning sore throat (that's what she said) and while that has gone away, I still have some sort of crud hanging out in there of the snot and phlegm variety. I blame the dentist, because Jason hasn't been sick and I didn't go anywhere else that I could have picked up a bug. I'm usually one of those magical vegans who never gets sick, but I guess I've met my match--this guy inserts the germs straight into your mouth.

So, no soup for you. Foodie Friday will resume next week. If I've recovered.

Since I've been hopped up on all manner of drugs for the past seven days, I figured I was hallucinating when earlier this week Jason started talking about selling his Corvette. And then he kept talking about it and started calling around seeking offers. I haven't been hitting the NyQuil that hard, so I knew he must be for real.

Sure enough, last night we (well, he, since I had to follow in a second car to drive home in) took one last joyride to CarMax in Fresno. And just like that our hot rod became the property of... not us.

I officially feel old and way more like every other boring sensible car-driving family on this base. It's a buzzkill and I feel decidedly un-fancy, but it was for the best. Jason made the decisions all by himself from start to finish, and I could not be prouder of him for thinking about the future.

In the short term, we'll be able to pay off our furniture and Jason's TV. In the long term, we'll be saving enough money for a respectable down-payment on a nicely-appointed home that we'll be purchasing in a state that is not Massachusetts or California when Jason gets out of the Navy in three years.

The good stuff is on the horizon. I know that. But it is bittersweet to look in the garage and see my CR-V sitting there instead of this beauty:

Responsibility is a bitch, but at least we won't have to be renters all our lives.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: Paris, 2002

It's Classy in Philadelphia's Where in the World Wednesday!

The idea of WITWW is to post a picture of you in someplace in the world... it doesn't have to be somewhere foreign or tropical. Just a picture of you somewhere that you consider traveling. It might even be somewhere in your own hometown!
After my MSU study abroad program's day trip to Wales, I was anxious to get back to London to prepare for another trip--this time a weekend jaunt to Paris for Bastille Day, July 12-14, 2002. After going to France in high school, getting back during my study abroad trip was a priority of mine. That I was able to plan my return for a holiday weekend and get twelve other people from my program to come along was an added bonus.

Unfortunately for us, things didn't go well on this trip. On the first day, one girl forgot her passport and had to get a later Chunnel train, our hotel flooded necessitating a move to a different hotel, and we got lost late at night when the Métro had shut down and our cab driver dumped us off in the rain at some random street corner nowhere near our replacement hotel.

That day had its nice moments, though, like chilling on the grass near the Eiffel Tower:

Please do not judge me for my seriously questionable choice of shirt.

The whole France group minus the girl who was taking the picture.

We did eventually find our way back to the hotel that night, after I took charge of the situation and used my superb linguistic skills to get directions at a McDonald's. The night had deteriorated to the point that one of the girls was about to have a panic attack and another was falling-down drunk, so we were all glad to just go to bed.

The next day started out well enough, with some sightseeing, shopping with the hoity-toity people on the Avenue des Champs Elysées, and dinner at an Italian restaurant, but things quickly soured when we went out that night to see the Bastille Day fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. I somehow lost my Métro ticket on the train over there and got slapped with a 20-euro fine that I had to borrow money to pay. When the subway police finally let me go and we got up to street level, the crowd was out of control and people were throwing little exploding noisemakers at us. We found the other half of our group, who'd been waiting for us at the Eiffel Tower, and they said things were even worse there--they'd had firecrackers thrown at them and one guy had nearly gotten into a fistfight. Were we that obviously American? To this day I can't figure out why we were targeted--it was before the U.S. military invaded Iraq, French people started hating Americans, and the U.S. House of Representatives changed French fries to freedom fries. Needless to say, we hightailed it back to our hotel before any more trouble could find us and we were all happy to say au revoir to Paris the next morning.

I still love France, though, and I'll never forget that weekend, the good and the bad! Plus, I took some of my favorite pictures of the whole trip there:

I'll be back Paris, you wait and see. And next time, I'm bringing my husband. Stockpile your firecrackers.