Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween: New Ways to Scare Yourself

If you ask me, nothing's as haunting as a scary tale written by one of the world's greatest writers. Who can forget the effect Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" had on them when they first read it? Right now, the Academy of American Poets has several fantastic, spine-tingling poems posted on their site in observation of Halloween. Go check them out!

For the brave, they also have a directory of famous poets' grave sites. Eee.

For the really brave, Cinespia has a treat for you - a scary
movie viewing . . . at a cemetery! . . . and I thought Salem, Massachusetts cornered the market on Halloween scary. (Of course, it would have helped if I posted this before the actual screening [last Saturday] - sorry!)

Of course, if you really really want to scare yourself, . . . you can just imagine what it would be like if McCain wins next week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meatless Monday: Spaghetti Squash with Edamame-Cilantro Pesto

In my house, this next dish is one of our go-to comfort foods.

Spaghetti Squash with Edamame-Cilantro Pesto


We skip the cilantro. (As I've mentioned before, I'm not a fan.) The dish doesn't miss anything without it, but you can substitute parsley if you really want. You can fiddle around with the ratios of vegetable broth, pepper, and garlic to find the combination that suits you best. I tend to like dishes more garlicky than most, and although I usually go light on pepper in most dishes, I like a lot of it in this one.We also use a food processor to get the pesto consistency really smooth.

The instructions advise preparing the squash halves a day or two before because it's easier to remove the flesh when it's cold. It really is so much easier to do when cold, so I highly recommend doing that part early. Doesn't need to be a day or two ahead though; doing it a few hours ahead and refrigerating works just as well.
The way the spaghetti squash flesh really does looks like spaghetti is just so fun.

We typically run out of spaghetti squash before we run out of pesto. But that's okay because you can, of course, put it on regular ol' spaghetti too. We've also used it as a dip. And, o
n a whim, I even tried it as a sandwich spread the other day and LOVED it. Sooo versatile.

Got any favorite vegetarian recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday Posts

Sunday, October 26, 2008

1st Anniversary

This past Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the day Matt and I got married . . .

Wedding - October 24, 2007

Ohio Reception - May 17, 2008

California Reception - June 1, 2008

Massachusetts Reception - August 17. 2008

After all the wedding celebrations, it was nice to have a very low-key anniversary celebration. We just took the day off, caught a couple of matinee movies, and had a nice dinner out. Sushi - yum. Keeping with anniversary tradition, we both gave each other paper gifts. I wrote Matt a poem. (Sorry, won't be sharing that. That's his and his alone.) And I also gave him two books:

The Hungry Scientist Handbook, by Patrick Buckley and Lily Binns, seemed right up his alley because he loves to analyze cooking techniques and recipes in scientific terms. (He adores Alton Brown's show Good Eats.) After I'd already purchased the Buckley/Binns book, I saw this article about another great science-focused cooking book. Doh! Sounds better. I guess I'll just have to get that for him next.

Matt read his first graphic novel several months ago (Persepolis) and really liked it. He'd heard that this graphic novel, Watchmen, is being touted as the best graphic novel bar none, so he was really curious about it.

And Matt gave me these three books:

At different times, Matt and I have read entire books aloud to each other. It's a really neat experience to share. The first time we did it was with Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos, but we also did it with The Best American Non-Required Reading, 2003, edited by Dave Eggers. I'm hoping How We Are Hungry, another collection of short stories, will be another we read to each other. I'm a big fan of Eggers - the author . . . and the man. Matt knows this because he stood in line with me forever waiting for Eggers to sign my books and was totally amused by the fact that I shamelessly flirted with him once I got up there. The people in line in front of me wanted him to sign their books, but they weren't even talking to him. (I think they were the type who collect signed books regardless of whether or not they liked or had read the author. Their books were probably up on Ebay later that same day.) By the time I got up there, the poor guy was totally bored, so he drew a piece of balsa wood on the title page of one of my books (in addition to signing it). I told him he could make the other one out to "a fellow sock-slider" (an A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius reference). He gave me a big smile and wrote "Sock Sliding = En Fuego." Wood? Fire? He was so hot for me. ;)

View with a Grain of Sand, by Wislawa Szymborska, is one of my favorite books of poetry. Because I love it so much, about a year ago, I found myself in one of those moments where you're torn between wanting to share something and selfishly wanting to keep it for yourself for fear that it won't be returned. Well, I'm happy to say I decided to share, . . . but what I feared would happen did happen. It was never returned. Matt knows how much I love it, so he bought this as a replacement. I'm still not opposed to sharing, . . . but I will be more careful about it in the future.

Sharon Olds is probably my all-time favorite poet. I've got just about all of her books, but The Dead and the Living is one that I didn't have.

And, a gift to myself while we were out and about celebrating:

Kay Ryan is the current poet laureate. I had read, and heard her reading, some of her work online, but I really wanted to get one of her books. Unfortunately, there was a run on them when she was first announced the new laureate; many bookstores had to wait to get more until the publisher could crank out another print run. Then, of course, there's the usual problem of most bookstores just not carrying much poetry to begin with. So, I was very pleased to finally find a decent selection when we were out on Friday, and, after inspecting three, I chose this one - Elephant Rocks. I'm loving it so far. And it's kind of funny because my style of writing poetry is very similar to hers - well, except that she does it brilliantly and I'm a hack.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meatless Monday: Pea Soup

In my book, there's no food more satisfying than a hearty soup in the fall. And, in fact, eating more soup is one of the things I look forward to as the temperature starts to drop. I just love the way soup warms you up from the inside out and that you can warm your hands on a cup of it just like you would with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. And there are just so many different delicious kinds you can make! One of my favorites? Split pea.

Apparently, once, when I was about three, I saw Popeye on a package of food in the grocery store and pitched a royal fit because my mother didn't want to buy it for me. I know what you're thinking - "Of course not, it was probably some sort of sugary cereal." But, actually, it was a 5-pound bag of . . . split peas. I know! Not even spinach. Peas. Go figure; maybe they were trying to make some loose connection to the Popeye character Swee' Pea? And what was my fascination with Popeye anyway? Well, it's likely that he reminded me of my grandfather, who we called Pappy - an avid fisherman who had a scrappy muscular build and who, on occasion, was known to smoke a pipe. (In this photo to the right, he doesn't have the pipe, but I think he strikes a rather Popeye-esque pose, no?)

Um, where was I? Ah yes, the world's largest bag of split peas. My mother put the bag of Popeye split peas in the cart to temporarily placate me and ended up buying it because she'd forgotten to put it back before we got to the checkout. Not surprisingly, we had pea soup that week . . . a lot of pea soup. And that kind of started a tradition in our house. Whenever my mother made pea soup, she would make what seemed like a vat of it and the whole family would consume bowl after bowl of it for about a week straight, always with multiple loaves of fresh scala bread from the local bakery. And, now, at this time of year, I get a hankering for it.

On one of our trips up the west coast, my husband and I discovered a quaint Danish restaurant that's been around for almost 85 years called Pea Soup Andersen's. Their billboards along the highway are pretty cute and kind of hard to miss and their location in Buellton places them at a good stopping point for the weary and hungry traveler, so we didn't need much convincing to stop in and give them a try. Oh my my my. Yum. Yes. So happy we did that. And, since then, we discovered they also have a location in Santa Nella (and we have an extremely dorky picture from that visit to prove it). To our delight, we also discovered their pea soup recipe can be found online. Matt made it just the other day. Turns out there's really not that much out of the ordinary about the recipe - no amazing secret ingredient - but it made one hell of a pot of soup anyway. I highly recommend.


I've found using a regular ol' sieve can be time-consuming, frustrating, and messy. Matt opted to use a food mill and the results were great. To finish the soup, we also like to use Pea Soup Andersen's Gourment Choice Seasoning, which contains salt, chili peppers, sweet red peppers, celery, onion, garlic, and a couple of preservatives and anti-caking agents.

Got any favorite vegetarian recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday Posts

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pet Peeves: Ho-ing it up for Halloween

Halloween (or All Hallow's Eve) used to be a time to take stock of and celebrate the harvest, a time when people believed the divide between this world and the underworld became permeable, allowing the dead to cause havoc amongst the living. During celebrations, people would often dress like ghouls, goblins, and other scary creatures to mimic and placate or scare the ghosts away.

Now? Well, now we dress like whores. The movie Mean Girls captured this beautifully. Remember Lindsay Lohan's character Cady's big faux pas when she dressed up like a zombie bride for a high school Halloween party? Cady's inner dialogue: "In 'Girl World,' Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it. The hard-core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears."

And nothing's sacred. Even the most chaste and honorable costume ideas have a "sexy" twist nowadays. Angel? How about a bad angel? A nun? How about a naughty nun? Judge Judy? How about Judge Do-Me?

And me? I'm no better. That's me dressed like a belly dancer in college in the picture to the right here. . . . And didn't I just comment about being sick of the objectification of women as eye candy in a recent post, using the U2 belly dancer as an example? Yes, yes I did, Internet.

Hmm. Have I become a complete and utter hypocrite? Have I just become a finger-wagging prude in my 30's? Or was I just a young girl who was susceptible to societal gender stereotypes who has since matured? Ya, . . . I'd like to argue for the latter, . . . but, if I'm honest, the truth is probably closer to a combination of all three of those theories. Nevertheless, it's still the latter that bothers me the most . . . because it starts so early. Unless you've been in a coma for the past few years, you have to be aware of the most recent generation of little girls' unhealthy obsession with Disney princesses these days. (See a great Target Women video post regarding this too.) There they are to the left, each coquettishly tilting her head for the "camera." Yikes. Just when I think we've made so much progress, I realize how much things are still so gender-typed. Parents might as well just cut to the chase and dress their kids like this for Halloween! Boo, indeed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Meatless Monday: White Bean, Tomato, & Green Bean Salad

One of my husband's favorite magazines is Cooking Light, and it's through their website that we discovered a link to a must-bookmark recipe database, What makes the database so great is that it's quite large (containing over 30,000 recipes); the enhanced search feature is wonderfully refined (you can search by cuisine or course type, cooking method, dietary restrictions, and much more); and it allows you to use the recipes you find to create menus, shopping lists, and personal recipe files. The following recipe is from our favorites file. It's so simple to make but oh-so satisfying and scrumptious!


*We usually use cannellini beans.

Got any favorite vegetarian recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday Posts

Friday, October 10, 2008

Live Shows: DeVotchKa

Back on September 16th, Matt and I went to a DeVotchKa concert at El Ray. (We always admonish ourselves for instinctively saying the El Ray. Duh, "el" MEANS "the"! But, hey, even their website is called "," so I guess we can't feel that bad.) We saw them for the first time back in August of '06 at the Troubadour, and they were amazing. The opening of the show is still seared into my brain as one of the best I've ever seen. I remember, all of a sudden, the spotlights opened up on the second-floor walkway on the side of the room, and there were Nick and Shawn standing on the railing, leaning out over the crowd, playing in perfect unison the opening notes of La Llorrona ("weeping woman" in Spanish) on their trumpets. Wow. Just. Wow. They came out with a new CD earlier this year, so we were really looking forward to seeing them again. (For those who may think they don't know DeVotchKa - they did the soundtrack to Little Miss Sunshine [a must-see movie].)

How to describe DeVotchKa? Hmm. Well, as Jeanie Schroder, who plays the tuba, bass, and sings vocals for the band, says, "It's an eclectic mix of a lot of different sounds. It's got mariachi, it's got polka, it's got tango, it's got rock and roll, it's got gypsy music, and it all kind of mixes together." Yes, it all kind of mixes together . . . and it's killer. LOVE IT. They're just so talented. And Jeanie's not the only one who plays multiple instruments (extremely well). There's Thomas Hagerman who plays the violin, accordion, and toy piano; Nick Urata who plays guitar, theramin, trumpet, and sings lead vocals; Shawn King who plays drums, trumpet, and accordion; and they also often employ back-up violinists who bring even more depth to the whole big sound they create. Something else amazing? Nick whistling live. He's pitch-perfect and never misses a note (check out "Til the End of Time"). Truly impressive.

Some other interesting trivia about DeVotchKa? They started out as a back-up band for burlesque shows. Uh-huh. No, seriously, they did. As a bit of a throw-back to those days, their recent tour includes a performance piece involving a scantily-clad woman and a long piece of hanging fabric, akin to something you might see at a Cirque du Soleil show. I'm not sure how it was incorporated at other venues, but it was part of the encore the night I saw them. I didn't catch a picture of it myself, but I found these (left and right here) online from a couple of other shows. On the one hand, I was pretty amazed at the woman's performance. On the other? I was thinking, "Mm, exactly what does a writhing, half-naked woman have to do with this song?" Kind of how I felt when U2 starting bringing that belly dancer on tour to dance during "Mysterious Ways," except I could at least see the song connection there. It's just . . . the whole thing is not that far removed from the go-go dancer, the girls dancing in cages. They're not part of the band; they're just there to act as some sort of hypersexualized eye candy. The whole objectification of women thing, it just never ceases to annoy me.

(Note: Because I'm such a superb typist, when I initially went to look up pictures of the U2 belly dancer, I typed "belly dander." . . . I do not want to know what that search might have unearthed.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Love Words: Soupçon

Word: soupçon

\süp-ˈsōⁿ, ˈsüp-ˌsän\


French, literally, suspicion, from Old French sospeçon, from Latin suspection-, suspectio, from Latin suspicere to suspect


a little bit : trace

You sometimes hear this word uttered by food or wine critics as they dissect and analyze a dish or bottle, trying to identify every last flavor or aroma. It's a fun little word, but I find it is seldom used in common parlance amongst the likes of my peers unless someone is looking for a laugh by pretending to put on airs. I guess you could say it's not a word you ever hear coming out of the mouth of your average Joe Six-Pack. If that means using it makes me less like Palin, I believe I might have to start making it a part of my everyday vernacular.

Other Parlancer "I Love Words" Posts

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Meatless Monday: Potato-Corn Cakes

I've decided to institute "Meatless Mondays" in my home as a way to be a little healthier and to help out the environment. Yes! Another excuse to buy way too much at the farmers' market on Saturdays. :) (Have a farmers' market near you? Not sure? Check out this site -

Since we'll be cooking more vegetarian dishes now, I thought I would introduce a new regular post type on this site called "Meatless Mondays" in which I'll share some of my favorite vegetarian recipes. Here's one I found at which I tried out over the weekend:


I love almost any recipe with cumin, and this one was no exception. These are soo delicious! They make a great main attraction for a brunch menu or a crowd-pleasing side dish for lunch or dinner. (
Note: I skipped the cilantro because I think cilantro tastes like toilet. If you don't like cilantro either, like with most dishes, you can just do without it or substitute parsley.)

Got any favorite vegetarian recipes?? Please share!

Related Post:
Lamentations of a Non-Vegetarian

Other Meatless Monday Posts

Praying Mantis Visitations

I hadn't seen a praying mantis since I was a small child in my grandparents' backyard. Now, yesterday marks the second time I've had one drop from out of nowhere inside or just outside my window in the span of a month. Eerie. (And by eerie, I mean . . . eerie. Have you seen one of these mofos up close‽ *shudder*)

Mantis Dude says the "mantis under the crescent moon in European cultures would represent a female's menstruation . . . [In] the 1920's European symbolism had crept into the Japanese culture and female 'sanitary pads' were advertised with crescent moons depicted on the women's kimono." (Well, if Mantis Dude says so, I guess I'll have to believe him. After all, he is Mantis Dude.)

Just so happens that this week was "my time of the month" and the moon is crescent-shaped right about now (according to the lunar calendar). Sorry if that's T.M.I., but, hey, it's a natural part of life, so I am going to have to ask you to just get over it. And speaking of getting over it, what's up with the quotation marks around sanitary pads? Were they not sanitary? Or not pads? Or is this just another example of society still treating menstruation like something taboo and dirty? I should probably fight my urge to send Mantis Dude a link to this.

Of course, the female praying mantis is probably most known for killing and eating the male immediately after copulation (see video below), so it has also been associated with radical feminism and "man-haters." Turns out, though, that this sex-typed cannibalism might be a behavior provoked in stressful laboratory settings when the female has been deprived of an adequate food supply and not something that actually happens independently in nature as often as has been suggested by scientists in the past.

Others say the praying mantis symbolizes peace, patience, and stillness. Particularly funny considering my purposefully ironic status update on Facebook the other day - "Cheri wants more patience . . . now." I'm going to choose to believe my praying mantis visitations are reminders to invite more peace into my life, so I'm going to try to make an effort to cultivate a little more zen in my intentions and surroundings. It's been a while sine I've done any yoga or meditated properly. I'm thinking that might be a nice place to start.