Sunday, November 28, 2010

Life is a bowl of...roasted vegetables?!

I've been thinking about a conversation that my cousin and I had a few weeks ago, about people who feel "called" to do something good - people who believe that they are "special" and will somehow change the world. Some of those people will become Tom of Tom's Shoes, or Bill Gates, or the Cousteaus. But most of those people will, at some point, be forced to accept the fact that This Is All There Is. That the next big thing, which they believe they will create, is not just around the corner. That life is just a bunch of trials and errors made on a treadmill that get us mostly nowhere. Those of my generation might be tempted to partially blame the movie "Dead Poets Society" and its mantras of seizing the day and letting loose a mighty yawp for inspiring such a (delusional?) can-do attitude. What, then, of rumors about how the boomer generation, so idealistic in the '60s and '70s, sold out for a pension and a station wagon? Are dreams of changing the world just delusions to get us through our youth, and does maturity mean accepting that we're never going to be a star?

What a thought. Is that true? Do we all reach some point at which we must admit that our loftiest of goals are just dreams that keep us moving? Or do those who succeed do so because they possess some innate quality, and that if we dig deep and find that special quality within us, we too can make a real difference? Or perhaps, a third option: maybe not all changes come in the same size. Maybe even small wins can change the world. Maybe we must accept that our lives are exactly what they look like, and not what we dream they should be, but that doesn't preclude us from doing something good anyway. A recent study found that people who daydream are less happy than people who are focused on the present. But if we don't dream, do we have any chance of getting what we really want?

A quote from this morning's tea: "Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think." -- Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (often attributed to French essayist Jean de La Bruyère)


I made roasted cauliflower again today. If life was just roasted cauliflower, I would be okay with that. Well, that and leftover pizza...

Thursday, November 25, 2010


How can two holes make you feel whole? And yet, they have. My ears were first pierced when I was very young; I don't remember a time when I couldn't wear earrings to make me feel like a girl, to embellish my dress or stand out in a crowd. I don't remember the punching of the second holes, but after a time, I let them close up in the middle, a visible hole without an exit. This year, I punched them through again, first with diamonds, then with birds that look like whales. I contemplated a third set but couldn't get up the nerve at the mall to face the gun. Lately, I dreamed of holes in odd places, and when I woke, I couldn't imagine not having them. So yesterday I went for it. I walked into a tattoo parlor, paid my fee, and let a heavily tattooed, earlobe-stretched man stick needles in my lobes and fill the gap between the birds that look like whales and the cartilage fold with blue gem-topped stainless steel studs. They were sore last night; today they feel fine. Twenty-four hours later, I can barely remember a time without them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November Prairie

I went to Chicago this weekend to visit my family. I didn't go to the place I grew up, nor to the place I lived for three years, nor to my mom's first apartment, which felt like home the minute I walked into it, nor even my mom's condo, which no one lives in right now. Instead, I went to the house in the suburbs that my mom's boyfriend bought. She lives there now. To many of my friends, going to visit their parents is "going home". To me, it's just going to visit my family. Home is where I live.

Chicago may not be home anymore, but it's still the place that wraps around me like an old familiar blanket every time. On this typical November weekend, it was warm one day, then rainy and grey, then chilly with a bitter wind. When the sky wasn't grey, it was bright blue, the yellow sun low in the sky, on a long angle to the land. The sad, bare trees were a shock compared to the mostly green with orange tinge here in the Mid-Atlantic; all I ever remember of Chicago are the leafless trees, the grey sky, the blasting wind. Summer doesn't seem real; Chicago in my mind is perpetually November.

My mom lives down the street from a forest preserve. Despite the chilly air, we walked the dog along the paved path that winds around a lake and passes through wooded areas and tallgrass prairie. Geese and gulls flock to the lake, but we didn't see many other birds. Since my family moved to the city, I haven't spent much time in the suburbs, and for the first time ever, I recognized the forest preserve as part of the native landscape. Before humans took over, the woods and the prairie, like the ones in this preserve, spanned the land, and now I felt a closeness to it that I hadn't felt before. I heard it whisper its secrets, sigh its November sigh, and hunker down for the winter. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Turning point

Okay, so it's been a rough year. Things didn't go our way, and we've been a brat about it. A breakup, a missed job opportunity, internal turmoil over a milestone, troubled mind over troubled times, those things are small. They leave small wounds that heal quickly, and they'll likely return in other forms in the future. They are not a lost job, a bankruptcy, a serious illness or injury, the death of a loved one, homelessness, natural disasters, a mugging. Those are all things that people around us have experienced in the past year. Those are things that leave lasting marks.

We are fortunate, after all. We have homes, jobs (some of us), our health, and people to lean on. If some of those things are not to our liking, some day, they will be. Or not. But if we have them at all, we are lucky. So no more whining. No more mulling over said difficulties. Life is just life, and as long as we open our eyes each day, life will keep going. Tragedies will occur. If we are lucky, they will not happen to us.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Give it a try

I like cauliflower well enough. I'll eat it anytime it appears in a dish or on a veggie tray or in a California-style mix of frozen vegetables. But I haven't made much of a conscious effort to cook with it. Unlike its cruciferous cousin broccoli, it just doesn't excite me. But recently someone (I don't remember who) wrote that anyone who doesn't like cauliflower should try it roasted - it will change how they think about the vegetable. So I gave it a shot. I bought a large, solid head of cauliflower, cut it up into medium-sized florets, drizzled it with canola oil and a healthy sprinkling of garam masala, and roasted it in a 350 degree oven for...a while. Maybe 30 minutes? Until it gained that roasted brown color and a few edges started to look burned. I ate it with homemade red lentil/split yellow pea curry and brown rice. Twice. Tonight, I just finished off the remainder of the cauliflower, cold, right from the fridge. And let me tell you, the person who recommended roasting cauliflower was right. It changed my world. The cauliflower itself became sweet and tender and velvety in the oven, and the sweetness of the garam masala, which contains cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom (among other spices) gave it more depth and richness. Roasted cauliflower will definitely be a go-to for future Indian dishes, and I'll have to try it with other spices as well. Maybe spicy, with zucchini, corn, and black beans in quesadillas? Layered in a lasagna? Pureed like mashed potatoes? Do you have any favorite cauliflower recipes you can recommend?

Color me inspired.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Classified Ads Section

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