Monthly Archives: January 2009

Recipe: Crockpot Chicken & Rice

— 3/4 cups of brown rice
— 3/4 cups chicken broth
— 3/4 cups lowfat milk, divided
— 3/8 cup flour
— 1 sm onion, diced
— 4 oz sliced mushrooms

— 3-4 chicken thighs

— 3 garlic cloves, diced tiny
–1/4 tsp black pepper
–1/4 tsp paprika

The Directions.

Combine all of the chicken broth and 1/4 cup of milk in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat on the stove. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of milk with flour. When the broth and milk have begun to boil, reduce heat, and slowly stir in the milk and flour mixture. When everything is fully incorporated, set the pot aside to cool.

Add the rice and seasonings to your crock along with the onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Stir in the broth mixture.

Lay the chicken pieces on top.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for about 8.
When you take the lid off of the crockpot, stir the rice. If the rice is fully cooked and you have extra liquid, keep the lid off for about 15 minutes. The liquid will absorb quickly.

In my small crockpot this cooked very quickly and was not at all ‘gloopy’. This was very tasty, in fact. I might add a few herbs next time — tarragon comes to mind. And perhaps 1/2 cup of frozen peas for color.

Recipe: Winter Squash and Chicken Stew w/ Indian Spices

This is what J made last Friday night, and we had enough for 2 more lunches. Very tasty, pretty easy. If you are not a fan of curries, or warm spices (as compared with ‘heat’ spices) then you may not enjoy this. The butternut squash completely breaks down, and the color ends up as an orangey-brown.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 6 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled butternut or acorn squash
  • 2 cups 1-inch pieces peeled russet potatoes
  • 1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to Dutch oven; sauté until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, cumin, and cinnamon; stir 1 minute. Return chicken to pot. Add squash, potatoes, broth and tomatoes. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked through and liquid is slightly reduced, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Absolutely a keeper.

Goals for 2009

Each year at my birthday, I set aside time to review my accomplishments of the past year and set goals for the coming year. Then I give myself until the end of the calendar year to make adjustments to my goals. I’ve been writing this post for about two months now, time to publish it . . . (I can, occasionally, get so caught up in the organizing /to do list making that I never actualyl get to the projects themselves.)

2009 doesn’t have any major writing goals, although I do have a book idea I want to complete — its a ‘leftover’ from 2008 when I just didn’t get it done. One thing I realized is that I’ve spent a lot of time writing, traveling, and speaking on behalf of the community, and I have not seen any progress in terms of recognition, book sales, or correspondence. After nearly ten years (my first article was published in 1999, the same year I spoke at Pantheacon for the first time) I feel I need to step off that carousel and take it easy. My wallet needs the break as does my body and my psyche.

I have a handmade book I want to finish: it’s An Alliterative Alphabet for my nephew. I want to create several ‘in memory’ books for family members commemorating my grandfather. There is a Paris book in there as well.

For this blog I intend to start posting more examples of the items I make. I took a lot of pictures of making the yule stockings, for example, but haven’t actually written up the process. When I make the above-referenced books I want to take pictures and talk about how I am going about doing it.

I want to make all of my paper files into electronic ones. (that’s a biggie)

I want to get healthier and lose weight. My goal is to lose 20% of my starting weight. (No, I do not care to share that specific number with you.) I’m starting with a handicap in that although I’d lost about 10lbs last year, I gained 5 back in the last quarter — almost entirely due to stress I’m afraid. (this is another biggie.) I made a lot of improvement in my general eating habits in 2008, and I will be continuing with them. A big part of this is not going to be diet, its going to be exercise. I’ve gotten lazy and that will stop. Cardio 3x/wk, strength training as well.

I intend to continue with my savings goals: 15% of gross income into my 401(k); maximum contribution to my Roth IRA ($5000) and buy another CD (or three) to start rolling over every quarter. I’d like to spend half as much money on clothes and other ‘beauty’ items in ’09 as I did in ’08; the same goes for dining out.

Facing North will have another 200 reviews posted this year, and I suspect it needs a major back-end revision. I want to see if the rights to The Virtual Pagan and Magickal Connections can or have reverted back to me.

In the house, I think we’ll need some repair work as a result of the sink leak and that cuts into my dream of renovating the master bath (I truly covet a real bath tub). Other than that, I think we’ll only replace carpeting and paint the hall (and maybe get to those ‘holidays’ all over the place!). The garage needs re-organization, but I think much of it rests on J’s shoulders, so I’m a bit player in that event. Everything else is in very good shape.

I’m sure there are a few more things, but as I said, its time to publish this list.

Getting My Ire Up: The Mentalist

Sent to (my thanks to Jason at The Wild Hunt for pointing this out to me):

The episode of The Mentalist that aired on January 13th was profoundly insulting to me and to anyone who identifies as a witch, or Wiccan. We have spent decades attempting to explain to frightened and superstitious outsiders that: a) we are not crazy for our belief in a power greater than ourselves with the ability to interact directly in the physical world; b) we are not delusional about our belief in our ability to take personal control of our reality; c) our fundamental precept to harm none and a general agreement that it is our responsibility to better ourselves and our community by living as ethical beings.

Your writers clearly read a few essays and cobbled together a few terms in the creation of the character Tamzin Dove and in doing so did a grave disservice to a thriving, well-adjusted and non-violent religion: Wicca. Would it have been appropriate for her character to have been a Seventh Day Adventist? A Mormon? A Buddhist? Perhaps then the plot would have revolved more aruond the fact that she was a psychologically damaged individual rather than a witch.

It’s a shame, because in general The Mentalist is an amusing show with good writing and I have been enjoying it. Your writers need to learn respect.

Want to share your opinion with them? Here’s the link:

Why I Love Living Here

This morning it was densely fogged in around our house. You could see maybe a block away, but that’s it. The streetlights glowed like something out of Dickens’ and it was cold. When I reached the top of the hill, however, it was clear and the waning moon lit up the sky full of stars. By the time I reached my office, dawn was just beginning. The sky to the south was perceptibly lightening in shades of progressively lighter blue. To the West the moon was beginning its descent. It was clear enough that I could see the wedge of Mt. Rainier visible behind the office building down the street from me.

As I watched, the sky grew lighter, and wisps of fog/clouds began to turn pink and gold. The water in the sound reflected the growing light like a silver mirror. There’s a strong wind from the East and I simply enjoyed the light, the movement, the beauty that is Seattle.

A Word About Flying Business Class on United Airlines

Going to Europe was incredible. The section was quite empty (likely due to the season and not the usual happenstance) and we got very attentive service. The food was also quite good (for airline food) and felt ‘real’ rather than like a school room cafeteria. We started with a fresh salad (real lettuce, not iceberg) and a shrimp, prosciutto, and vegetable crudités. The main course was a choice between bacon-wrapped strip loin, pecan-crusted chicken breast and cheese totellacci (no, not tortellini). I had the beef (very good, very tender) and J had the pasta (very rich and delicious). I skipped dinner but J enjoyed his key lime cheesecake (which tasted like real key limes were used, not bottled concentrate – and it was NOT green, always a good sign). About 90 minutes before arrival we were served a nice continental breakfast of bread, yogurt, fruit and preserves.

The return trip’s food was not very good at all. Quite a disappointment. The salad was poor quality and had a lot of iceberg in it. My filet mignon was overcooked, dry and required the mashed potatoes to make it edible. My green beans were absolutely inedible. J’s cannelloni was actually more tortellini, and was decent. The ‘specialty dessert’ was a cookie. Our meal prior to arrival was a Tuscan Sandwich and was cold, hard, and may have been decent if it had been room temperature. Very unsatisfactory.

That said the seats in Business Class are worth the expense (or the miles, which is a different kind of expense, but how we managed it). We both were able to sleep and it made all the difference in the world in how we felt when we arrived.

Day 5: A Quiet Farewell

Because we were meeting Gretchen at 9:00am in front of the Rodin Museum, we asked for a wake up call for 8am. To our horror, the phone rang at 9am – there was no way we were going to make it in time if we were going to shower and dress fancy for lunch. Friends are more important than food, so we canceled our lunch reservation and got with the moving. We were out the door and into a taxi and in front of the museum at 9:30, no later. And no Gretchen! It would have been weird for her to have left, even if we had made her wait for 30 mins in the cold. But when it was 9:45 and still no sign of her, we went in.

As with everything else, the work was amazing. But we’d barely got started when Gretchen arrived! It seems she’d missed her train and it was an hour until the next one. Yay! We wandered through the incredible talent that was Auguste Rodin, and admired his work. It was fun meeting her and sharing stories of the trip. Afterwards, we wandered over to Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. I was feeling a bit peaked, so they went on in without me and I just people watched for awhile.

We bid a farewell to Gretchen and meandered our way back to the hotel room. Both of us were tired and we just couldn’t cope with seeing any more sights, or eating any more elaborate meals. We were ready to go home.

J stopped by a boulangerie and for about $20 got us croissants, quiche, sandwiches, and hot drinks. So we had a nice picnic together. At that point we realized we hadn’t had a chance to mail our postcards and we didn’t have stamps. J had an adventure buying stamps from the Tabac – which is sort of like a neighborhood mini-mart (with no food). For dinner we ordered in again, this time it was pasta and hot sandwiches with salads. J stopped by Café Soufflot and picked up a bottle of wine for me, so it was a lovely picnic for us both. Very relaxing, and a nice way to end the trip.

Day 4: Heights and Depths

Our day began at the Eiffel Tower around 11am. Two of the elevators were being renovated (apparently they were actually being modernized) and we aren’t fans of heights, so we decided to skip the lines. Today was the first day we had sun – the sky was clear and bright blue, the city looked very different.

Which was especially fortunate since today was our lunch/tour aboard the Batueax Parisiens which left Pier 3B at 12:30, packed with tourists from all over. We were seated on the port side of the boat, right at the window, and given a glass of kir royale. As we slowly moved up the Seine from the base of the Eiffel Tower we went past Les Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb), the National Assembly (city hall), Le Musee d’Orsay (more on this later), L’Institut de France (responsible for the lack of changes in and correct usage of French), Notre Dame, La Bibliotheque Nationale (a library containing more than 12 million books), L’Hotel de Ville (the original town hall), La Conciergerie (former palace, used as a prison during The Revolution), the Louvre, Le Palais de Chaillot and then the Statue of Liberty (a much smaller copy of the one found in America).

There was very little explanation of what we saw, but it didn’t really matter. There was a very good violinist and pianist who played throughout our meal. What about the food? It was surprisingly good. We were prepared for airline food, and instead we got upscale bistro. My salmon gravlax with cucumber and peas was lovely, as was Js chicken terrine with pistachio nuts, and sweet onion preserve. J’s beef main course was incredibly rich and delicious, as was my duck confit. For dessert we finished with warm apple tarts and mascarpone ice cream.

It was almost 3pm when we finished, so we caught the Batobus and went up to the Musse D’Orsay.

Holy wow. The Louvre may be big, but d’Orsay is SO MUCH BETTER. Again, thank you Rick Steves. We spent hours here, wandering around, and could easily spend hours more. Cassat, Cezanne, Corot, Courbet, Degas, Manet, Monet, Pissaro, Renoir, Seurat, Toulopuse-Latrec, van Gogh, and even a couple of Whistlers. They kicked us out at closing or we wouldn’t have left. There were sculptures, too. (can you tell I loved it and was overwhelmed?)

Special coolness: they had a 1/24 replica of the Opera House, complete with cut away section so we could see how it was all put together.

We staggered away and had a bit of a lie-down before dinner.

Brasserie Bofinger was our destination based on recommendations like:

“At the grand old age of 134, it lays reasonable claim to being the very father of the Parisian brasserie. . . Inside it is a confection of dark polished wood, shining brass and comfortable banquettes. The whole of the interior – including the deliciously Victorian urinals in the basement – is now a protected national monument. But the crowning glory is the intricate glass dome above the central dining room. . . Bofinger continues to be what it has always been: the classic Parisian brasserie.”

Sadly we were seated upstairs, which is paneled in dark wood and cozy. Mostly we had the worst service we encountered in our whole trip. It boils down to this: I was given a single glass of wine (ordered with our meal) and never once given the opportunity to order another NOR was I ever asked if I wanted a refill. In a country that prides itself on the vin ordinaire being very good and pairing wine with your meal, I think this was absolutely unacceptable. Not to mention all of the money they lost. Let me be clear: We were prepared to have (and had consistently enjoyed) a leisurely meal while in Paris. However the time between our courses was much too long and we ultimately felt ignored. My meal was utterly forgettable, although Js charcuterie (sausages and sauerkraut) was quite tasty. Really, it was the only negative experience we had.