Monday, July 30, 2012

Eating Omily: What a Melon!

You know how our culture often seems to be ahead of the game: Christmas decorations in November, Spring fashion sales in February?  Well, fruits and vegetables aren't like that.  They take their sweet time, and nothing you can do will put pressure on them to grow any faster.

Which is why now, on the cusp of August, and not June fifth, as some would have you believe, is the height of Summer.  A share stuffed with greens and fast-growing roots has been replaced by all the decadence the vegetable kingdom can offer: round, juicy tomatoes, ponderous eggplants, peaches so sweet you have to shake the honeybees off before you can put them in your bag, tables covered in blueberries and blackberries, summer squash coming out of everyone's ears, and of course, the poster child of summer: watermelon.

Now, anytime I've ever ordered a fruit cup in a restaurant, I've left half of it there, and at weddings and graduation parties, I'm the annoying person hovering over the bowl plucking out grapes, strawberries, and pineapples one at a time.  I don't like melon.

However, as part of my campaign to learn to like to eat everything (curse you, olives!), I picked up a small watermelon on Friday, and carried it home.  I've learned that one of the best ways to get young kids to stop being picky eaters works for grown-ups, too: if you get intimately acquainted with a food, if you're the one that preps it from field to table, and it's nigh unto impossible not to like it.

So I thumped it onto my cutting  board, took my biggest knife, and was immediatly thrilled with the easy give of the melon's flesh once the knife had gone through the rind.  It fell into two bright, icy pink halves, studded with seeds.  One half got carefully removed from it's rind, de-seeded, and chopped for fresh eating, and the other half got mostly the same treatment, but was then plunked in a blender with water and sugar.  The first half was tossed with chopped roasted, salted almonds, and curls of aged gouda cheese for a light, refreshing lunch salad, served with buttery bought-that-day-at-the-market corn on the cob.

After sucking translucent pink juice from four pounds worth of watermelon rind, I proceeded to devour at least half of the watermelon salad (and the sad remains the next day with my fingers, in front of the fridge), and learned something new: watermelons are like tomatoes: If you think you don't like them, it's because you've only ever had the sad kind picked rocked hard and transported to parts unknown before being gassed to give it the right color.  Of course tomatoes and watermelons taste shitty when treated so poorly!  These sugary fruits need to be left in the warm sun, and allowed to come of age on the vine, and in that delicate condition, they can't be transported far.  You're only going to find watermelon like this, sweet and pink as bubblegum, at your farmer's market.

But whatever happened to the watermelon relegated to the blender??  Glad you asked.
Ladies and gentlemen, watermelon granita.  Sweet and pink as bubblegum?  Try cotton candy!  And if scooping it into a glass and eating it weren't satisfying enough, pouring a shot of rum or tequila over it turns it into a slushy, frozen daiquiri or margarita, just like magic!  I'm pretty sure I've named about five different concoctions as the perfect summer drink in 2012 alone, but seriously, this might be it.

Take your time de-seeding your watermelon before it goes in the blender, but don't drive yourself crazy either; they're perfectly edible.  For half a four pound watermelon, I put in a quarter cup of water, and something like 1/3 cup sugar.  In terms of flavor, you can do without it entirely I suspect, but it does help to maintain the granita texture by not allowing it to freeze solid.  The recipe I was working off of (which came from, as all my preserving recipes do, Put 'em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton) called for one four-five pound watermelon, half a cup water, and one cup sugar.  Your call.

Blend the ingredients all together, and then pour them in a shallow baking dish.  Slide the dish into your freezer, and every twenty minutes (or less often if you're willing to put some serious elbow grease into it) pull the pan back out and stir or scrape the mixture so it doesn't freeze solid.  When it's ready, scrape it into a container with a lid, and keep it in your freezer for up to six months.  It will need to sit at room temperature a bit so it can be stirred back to its snow cone texture before enjoying...unless you're impatient like me and don't mind picking it up piece by piece and sucking it into oblivion.

It's not even August yet, and we can count on our favorite Summer treats to keep hanging out at the market into September.  Stop trying on jackets for Fall, and go strike while the weather's hot at your Farmer's Market!


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Seven of Coins

Hello everyone!  It's Friday, which is the new tarot day, which is exciting!!  We're back to our regularly scheduled program of offering an interpretation for a card from the Waite-Smith deck every week, leading up to my dropping the loverly zine containing them all for purchase on the website.  Let's get cracking!  What card's up for today?

The Seven of Coins
  "A young man in orange and blue pauses to lean on his hoe, gazing at a rapidly ripening bevvy of coins.  You’d think he’d be thrilled with his progress, but he looks a little glum.  Do some of those leaves look a little brown?  Has there been enough rain?  Are the coins as big as they ought to be?  Carefully assessing the practical side of a situation has certainly served the coins well so far, but stepping forward on the path, there comes a time when you have to trust that you’ve done enough, and from here, nature will do the rest.  Endless fussing and refining of the plan amounts to little forward motion, and the time to pick up some momentum has come. 
Don’t get tired of the hard work yet, when the reward is so close!  You may feel entitled to a break, especially after giving so generously at your high point in the six of coins, but no one can hurry along the harvest celebration.  In the seven of staves, we saw an opposite attitude of grim determination to win at all costs. The seven of cups suggested a break to dream of what completion will look like, which may be all our discouraged young man needs, but on the other hand, his vines may need hoeing.  The swords certainly suggested striking while the iron’s hot, but a moment’s contemplation, as is depicted here, might have led to a different course of action.   A moment to weigh your needs against the needs of your project’s, and the best way to satisfy both may be warranted, but don’t tarry too long.  Take things one step at a time, and trust that everything will be ready when the time is right.
In a reading, ask yourself where you’re losing momentum.  Maybe you jumped into something without fully evaluating if it was right for you.  Maybe it’s just tougher or taking longer than you thought, and you’re dying for a break.  Maybe you just need a moment away to reset your brain, so you can return to the project fresh.  They say you learn the most the first ten minutes, and the last ten minutes of a study session, so it only makes sense to take (short!) breaks every twenty minutes.  You might be entitled to a vacation, but consider your timing: if you leave your boss in a lurch, you’ll lose the good standing your hard work has earned you so far.  If you made a mistake in pursuing this relationship and need to walk away, then do it, even if that means walking away from the altar."

Just looking at the image alone can make you think of sour grapes (pun intended).  Negative thinking can be so toxic to our lives and our plans.  Obviously we need to be realistic and address problems as they arise, and it can be even better to prevent problems, but sometimes that comes at the cost of constant worrying, which is bound to slow down your progress.  Try to look at things objectively, putting aside all the baggage that comes with knowing how much effort you've put into something, and the consequences that will come if it doesn't work out.  Work with what's in front of you, and not what you want to be in front of you, or fear will be in front of you.  That's the way to the health, wealth, and happiness of the coins.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Send Your Friends a Thank You Note

Wow, what a trip!  My life ordinarily flies by at speeds that could leave a cheetah in the dust, but when you're only home four days, and you have to attend a wedding, meet a baby, catch up with three friends, two sets of parents, three siblings, four step siblings, and recharge your batteries at the best local music act possibly in history, well, that makes the whole trip start to have the surreal and overly full feel of a dream.

I mean, I'm pretty sure I deserve a cookie for getting it all done, AND publishing two blog posts!

My brother's baby was beautiful of course, and very sweet, though I think we were more amused by their Boston terrier, Oreo ("Tuh duh, Batdog!").

My mother's wedding went off without a hitch, despite one or two minor crises.    She's now  FINALLY happily married, and my little sister can stop obsessing about them living in sin.

My crazy Ohio friends, who have been my partners in crime, and sisters at heart for thirteen years or so now, are doing well getting those sticky issues of relationships and careers sorted out.

Inevitably they're the ones I miss the most when the plane takes off, mostly because I know six months will go by before we can sit on the floor drinking cheap wine and making fun of each other, and then get struck by the inspiration that we MUST go to Adult Mart, IMMEDIATELY.

I've lived in NYC for seven years, but it's only in maybe the last one or two that I've finally made friends that I can put in the same category of awesomeness as my friends back home (that category has nothing to do with the likelihood of a trip to the Target of porn stores) It's hard to explain what it does have to do with, honestly, but I think it has to do with spontaneity.  Making new friends as a grown-up is too much like dating.  It's a huge step forward that is a long time coming when you can finally just call someone and say, "We need to hang out." without any particular plan to suggest, because it doesn't actually matter what you're doing, as long as you're together.  (Alternatively you can say, "I found out you're at that stupid movie.  You're not allowed to hang out with us anymore.  I hope you get shot." and this too will be understood as an invitation and the friend will show up within the hour.  Oh wait, that's just my weird Ohio guys, what is wrong with us?) 

I always assumed I was the type who made friends easily, since I always had such good ones growing up, but I found out that I'm actually the kind who KEEPS friends easily.  Making them is another matter entirely.  First of all, I have a low threshold for bullshit: I don't put up with baggage, drama, or bad behavior, no matter what the reason for it may be.  You get enough of that from your family.  Apparently this is a development that's very common to people in their thirties and forties, and it contributes to the shrinking number of friends most adults experience as they grow older.  I hit that threshold somewhere around eighteen. 

And more troublesome, when I'm in the process of making a friend, I inevitably revert to myself in Junior High and assume that no one actually wants to be my friend because I'm such a freak, and anyone who acts contrary to that statement is just being nice.  This is a very strange mental block, and since I managed to identify it during this trip home (where in the hell did I find time to do that?), perhaps it won't rear its ugly head anymore.  Or at least if it does, perhaps I can recognize it for what it is, and disregard it.

I think if I have anything to add that's worthwhile via a post about friendship, it's that maybe we all have that hang up to some extent.  Maybe all us grown-ups would make friends faster if we took the time to remember why our friends love us in the first place when we're meeting new people, so we can believe that this new person will love us and want to be our friend, too.

Say, did anyone ever do that exercise in school, where everyone tapes a big piece of paper to their back, and then you walk around the room and write something positive on everyone's paper?  Maybe we should make that a mandatory once-a-week practice for everybody.  I love the idea of everyone walking around NYC with big sheets of paper taped to their suits or summer dresses, and stopping a stranger to write that their confident walk has really inspired you today.

Sigh...we're all special snow flakes, alright?  For realsies!!!

Perhaps at least we can demand one good thing about ourselves a week from a friend or two, and return the favor of course.  That would go a long way toward making the world a better place, don't you think?  Let me know how it goes.

Live Omily,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Eating Omily: Survivor-The Processed Food Jungle

Happy Monday!  Have you been eating Omily this week?  I tend to face a lot of tough choices when I'm visiting home: junk food, or no food?  CAFO meat, or cheap peanutbutter on bad bread?  Damn...

So, what do you do when you start eating according to principles that are hard to fit into a soundbite?  Well, you spend a lot of time trying to decide who to let believe you're a vegetarian.

Or better yet, I tell people I eat a plant-based diet, and they assume I'm a vegan.  That's a misnomer if ever I've heard one.  Everyone should be eating a plant-based diet.  That doesn't exclude supplementing with meat and other animal products.  They just shouldn't be central or necessary to a complete meal.   The night before we left, we made a concerted effort to eat all the veggies.
The resulting stir-fry was beautifully colorful, perfectly tender-crisp, and flavorful with soyaki and toasted sesame oil.  We served it over brown rice.  Thank God[dess] I picked up some extra antioxidants before we left, since I've only had baby carrots and some strawberries and grapes at the wedding since then.  At least there's some low-sugar cereal for breakfast!

It's not all lamenting a lack of food, though: there is wedding cake, and rainbow sherbet, and cinnamon rolls, and my baby nephew, Parker, and my brother's dog, Oreo, who is Bat Dog, and of course, exorbitant amounts of alcohol with my oldest and most hilarious friends.

Maybe on Wednesday I'll share some of the pictures from my Ohio excitement!  In the meantime I'll be hunting down something including green stuff to eat for lunch before I gorge myself on movie popcorn and cheap wine this evening...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Omily Tarot: Pick a Card

So our back-up service doesn't want to let us access our files today, so I can't download my tarot interpretations.  No worries, they'll be back in no time!  In place of that, I picked a random card from my Waite-Smith deck, and I'll interpret the card based on my situation.
I think I'd be better off NOT having a huge sword in my hand when dealing with my sardonic sister...or at least she would.  Am I the one holding the sword?  My intuition says, yes, so we're going with that.

The queen of swords is sworn to uphold the ultimate truth, sometimes regardless of the consequences.  Sometimes I feel more like the king: trying my best to find the truth that best fits the individual and the situation.  Maybe I'd be better off if I quit worrying about making sure everything makes sense and fits together, and just let life be the complicated multi-truth playground that it is.  Especially when talking with a 13-year-old, I doubt other people's ability to deal with that, but who am I to decide what they're capable of, really?

Of course, the truth can also really hurt, and as the queen, it's important that I'm aware of the power I have, especially where my words are concerned.  That sword serves best when it's cutting through the bullshit and making people see things as they really are.  If my words aren't serving that end, then maybe I should put my sword aside.  I certainly don't always feel like the queen, situated high above the clouds of confusion, but maybe I'm letting myself get dragged down into the incredibly confusing realm of the 13-year-old, instead of holding on to my additional 12 years of education and life experience, and trying to help her rise up to my level.  Maybe I need to try communicating with her on her level, instead of trying to work on hers.

I fear that it's not possible to be honest, and cut through those clouds without wounding her along the way.  Is that an inevitable and acceptable consequence?  Was I mistaken at the beginning?  Maybe I should just let my mom be the queen.

Or maybe the ultimate truth I'm supposed to be holding before my eyes at all time is the fact that I remember being 13, and it sucked.  And if any person is difficult or unkind, it is always because they are unhappy.  If I can always remember to treat her like someone who is unhappy, and not someone whose goal in life is to drive me insane for the brief time I'm here, maybe I can access a touch of the queen's mastery over the domain of thoughts and words.  I can't ultimately keep her from hurting; it's up to her to learn that she controls her own feelings regardless of whats going on around her.  On a certain level, it's not productive to attempt damage control and be caught up in the possibility of hurting or confusing her, because life is a confusing place, and sometimes it hurts.

So, the advice of the queen of swords is:

When dealing with my sister, I must strive to remember that she's confused and hurting, not malicious.

And, I should try to impart in whatever small way I can the ultimate truth that she's in charge of how she feels, and as long as she gives that power away by blaming other people for her moods, she'll never achieve queen-hood.

As long as I'm doing those two things, I should work at being honest, instead of worrying about my words being potentially hurtful.

It's a shame I didn't pick a card we'd already interpreted, so you could compare that interpretation with what happens when you apply an interpretation to a reading, but we'll get to the Queen of Swords soon enough.  Enjoy!

Live Omily,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An Experiment in Motivation

This last week has been rather overwhelming.  There's nothing in particular going on around here to keep me hopping, but we've had a pleasantly full social schedule that's made getting enough sleep AND getting up in time to get everything done a challenge, not to mention getting home late means leaving the dishes for the morning, and nothing demoralizes me quicker than seeing a stack of dishes before I've even had breakfast.

Yes, I'm pretty sure it's ENTIRELY to do with the never-ending sea of dishes, and NOT to do with just having gotten back from being out of town on Saturday, and leaving town again later today, and my baby nephew being born today, and my mom getting re-married on Saturday, and my approaching aerial show in late September which I haven't started getting ready for yet, and trying to get through the court cards so I can get started on the Major Arcana, and leaving time to work on my book every day...

Alright, alright, fine, there's a lot going on!  But seriously, if I could just pay someone else to do the dishes I'd feel loads better.  About two loads a day in fact...

Of course, the trouble with feeling a little overwhelmed is that it takes a series of tasks that would take a rather daunting amount of time, and turns it into an un-accomplishable mess, because you wind up sitting around reading Cake Wrecks and ignoring the un-made bed instead of getting a jump on things.

We all know what the remedy for that is, right??

No!  Don't grab a beer and open up cat macros in another tab!  Give yourself a good shakey shake, put on some music, and get shit done!  That's what I'm hoping to do!

And as an experiment in added motivation, I'll be adding edits and updates to my blog hourly (or so) for the next four and a half hours.  At that point I have to head out to the airport.  Oh how terrifying.  Not the airport, the sheer amount of shit I have to do in four and a half hours!

Alright, alright, I'm up I'm on it!!  I'll let you know if I even made it through the dishes in an hour...maybe I'll have a picture of my beautiful, brand new nephew by then, too!

Edit: 1:29 p.m. Got almost all the dishes done, got dressed, washed, brushed, etc., and oohd and ahd over pictures of my new baby nephew.  Not bad, right?  Still lots to do!!

Update 2: 2:30.  I suffered a set-pack when the cat spewed an arc of puke all the way across the white down comforter I JUST WASHED TUESDAY.  It would have been a puddle instead of an arc, but I thought I had enough time to relocate her to the wooden floor which I was about to mop anyway.  No such luck.  In spite of that, I did get the bedroom dusted, swept, and mopped, wrote up the schedule for the cat sitter, made the bed, and scooped the cat box, put the green beans from yesterday in the freezer, and started putting away all the dishes I did at 12:30.  I think things are coming along pretty well!  I stand a snowball's chance in hell of actually getting everything done before I have to leave, and I'm certainly feeling motivated!

Update 3: 3:30 Ok, the big thing I did was make and eat lunch, but I also finished putting away the dishes, packed some snacks for our flight tonight, and made sure I had everything together to walk out the door in an hour and fifteen minutes.  Looks good!  I still have to do all my lunch dishes and put them away before I can sit down to work on tarot interpretations with the time that's left, which is a bit of a bummer since those dishes will probably take half an hour.  But hey, let's focus on the positive: it looks like everything on my list is going to get done, and I'm not going to be late to meet my husband for our flight!  Yippee!!  I'll check in one last time at 4:30 before I head out...

Update 4: 4:30 Last update!  I got all the dishes done and put away, drank all my tea, set everything up for the petsitter, got all my stuff together to take with me when I leave, and I'm nearly done with my first edit of the court card tarot interpretations.  Yay!  I'm also writing down the lyrics of a song by hand to give to my mom.  Should have just typed it; I can't print neatly to save my life!  Ah well...I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and family I only get to see a couple times a year, and meeting my new nephew of course!  God[dess] willing and the creak don't rise, I'll be back tomorrow with a tarot update.  That reminds me; I have to e-mail it to myself!!

I'd say this experiment was a success...I guess it's an accountability thing.  Ever think of sending a report of what you've accomplished a few times a day to a friend to keep you ticking items off your to-do list? Maybe you should!

Live Omily,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Eating Omily: You Can't Have Too Many Veggies!

I have a lot of preserving to do today, since we're off for Ohio tomorrow and have a share and a half giving me the bad eye from the bottom of the fridge, but I'll have to fill you guys in on that excitement later, because I made some lovely meals this week that make great use of what you'll find at the Farmer's Market these days.

A few weeks ago my husband got on this taco kick, and it doesn't show signs of stopping.  It's turned into a holy grail quest of sorts, because thus far the tacos we've made don't taste taco-y enough to him.  This may have to do with the lack of uber cheap CAFO meat, iceberg lettuce, and flavorless tomatoes, but don't tell him that.  So far he's convinced the missing ingredient is far more subtle. 

One day last week I got into the quest a little bit, and bought a packet of taco seasoning from Trader Joe's.  For our next batch of tacos, I sauted summer squash with charred hot peppers, onions, garlic, and taco seasoning, and used refried black beans as glue to hold the taco and filling together.  Good, we agreed, but the husband is still on the search for true at-home taco glory.  Ah well...
On Monday I opened the fridge to look for lunch, and was immediatly attacked by veggies, desparate to be eaten!  Not one to argue with angry chlorophyll, I sauted onions, garlic, swiss chard, brocoli, and a bell pepper with a soy-tariyaki sauce, and toasted sesame oil and crumbled tofu.  I share this with you because it was quick, easy, healthy, and delicious.  It's all about the toasted sesame oil.  THAT is the Chinese flavor you're failing to replicate.   Oh, if only tacos were so easy...
You probably thought I was fresh out after that green feast, but no dice!  The next day I had to go even bigger by adding squash to the mix.  I scrambled an egg in, and ate it on toast spread with pesto.
Squash is always the hardest thing to get through.  It's so damn prolific!  I've baked two loaves of zucchini bread so far, but Monday's dinner was truly a stroke of inspiration.  You know, necessity is the mother of invention.  We had a jar of home-made pesto sitting around, so I thought pesto with whole wheat spaghetti would be a good base for dinner. 
I pulled the frozen chicken out of the freezer and sauted that up to go with it, and, this is genius part, I used a vegetable peeler to make summer squash ribbons to toss with the pasta! 
More's the pity, that's not even one whole squash's worth of ribbons.

I sauted them in the pan I used for the chicken for extra flavor, using a splash of water (I would have used white wine if there'd been a bottle about) to scrape the yummy bits off the bottom.  Sadly, I was excited and starving by the time we ate, and failed to get a picture of the whole thing tossed prettily together, but it was delicious, and a cinch to make, and you get the idea.
You can make this vegan easily enough: eliminate the chicken.  Replace with chickpeas, tofu, or nothing at all.  Wholewheat pasta packs a decent protein punch all by itself.

So, inspired to get a Farm share so you, too can be drowning in nutrition??  I hope so, but at the least, you'll have some rough ideas for lunch and dinner for a few days, right? 

Bon Appetit!

And Fair Warning: since we'll be celebrating a wedding and a birth with the fam from tomorrow till Tuesday, I may get a little lax with my blog posts.  I promise to try really hard, and make up any that I miss!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Seven of Swords

The cards are flying by!  Are you getting ready for the court cards?  They're not too far we're working with the seven of swords, which is a very sneaky card.  I'm working on fleshing out and organizing my court card interpretations, and I've started sketching out descriptions of the Major Arcana, so things are moving along smoothly toward the happy day when they're all done, and I can offer you the whole interpreted deck in a beautiful zine.  Yay!

Let's get on with it...

The Seven of Swords
7 of Swords

            "In this card, a figure tip-toes away from colorful tents, five swords in hand and two more close by.  Though the six of swords suggested awareness and a level of compassion for others, the seven suggests abandoning that tact with an attitude of winner-take-all.  Our hero still hasn’t abandoned a single sword, unless you count the one that must still be stuck in that boat. 
The swords know enough to leave a good party, symbolized by those brightly colored tents, in search of the true goal, but taking all their wisdom and experience with them, instead of sharing it out, isn’t going to win them many friends, or many competent allies.  Objective, airy swords may have a hard time connecting to others and trusting them on an emotional level, and their brute honesty can alienate those who would otherwise be helpful.  Perhaps this figure crept out while his fellow party-goers were dreaming of good things with their eyes shut, as in the 7 of cups.  While this is the only other sword card that suggests motion, it’s also motion in the opposite direction the boat was going in the last card.  Maybe know-it-all swords couldn’t be bothered to ask for directions, and he doesn’t have a free hand to pull out his map now.  For better or for worse, he’s truly on his own as he steps forward on his path.
In a reading, consider if you’re too quick to write off the benefits of social interactions, and not just for networking purposes!  Blow off some steam and let yourself feel human.  On the other hand, the swords may be warning you that if you want to take with you all you’ve gained thus far, the time to make your move is now.  You’ve gotten all you can out of this situation.  Is it time to end a fun, but stagnant relationship?  Take what you’ve learned with you, and move along."

Oh silly swords, what are you up to now?  Don't underestimate this suit!  It may seem pretty opaque, but the swords aren't taking action without good reason.  You can trust them on that, and on the fact that they can't help being brutally honest.  Have you ever felt like you had no choice but to do something sneaky or underhanded?  Have you had to opt out of an invitation because the only alternative would be telling someone exactly what you think of him or her?  There is some kindness in the swords yet.


Monday, July 16, 2012

To Philly, With Love

Woo!  What a weekend!  On Friday we climbed into the back of a stranger's van, spent time in two drinking establishments, ate giant cookies, and slept in a different stranger's apartment, and then we were attacked by cake...what's that?  I should back up?  Right.

Well, we went to Chinatown Friday afternoon planning on catching the next bus to Philly, only to find there weren't any Chinatown buses going to Philly.  Actually, there was an unsettling reduction in the numbers of Chinatown buses at all.  We were mystified.  Till an Asian man asked us where we were going, and motioned that we should follow him.  Surely the bus station had just moved, and he was herding uninformed clients!  Except instead of leading us down a block and around a corner to the familiar sight of big, white buses surrounded by a swarm of travelers-on-the-cheap, he walked over to a silver van, slapped the hood a few times, and opened the door for us.  We froze.  Really?

Yes, really.  When the bus stations were shut down after one too many un-commercial licensed drivers wrecked en route, the enterprising entrepreneurs behind the buses started running bootleg vans back and forth between Philly and New York.  Well, the van was full save our two seats.

"There's seven of us and one of him.  If he tries to kidnap us, we can take him!" The husband was still leary, but between the two of us we had the asking price in cash...and no other way to make it to our airbnb reservation.  We forked it over and climbed in...and walked directly from the bus station we were dropped off at to our favourite wine bar.  Well, that's what I wanted to do.  Instead we got in touch with our host, checked out the studio apartment we were staying the night in, thankfully just across the street from said wine bar, marvelled at his dvd collection, exchanged pleasantries, and not a moment too soon I was sipping eiswein and nibbling truffled egg on brioche toast.  Thank.  God[dess]. 
After our refreshing late lunch (early dinner), we took a stroll through a part of town we missed on our last trip, googled a place that specialized in late night cookie cravings, snuck in to a bar to go to the bathroom, pigged out on said cookies, and returned to said bar for a couple local, craft pints.  We selected a classic from the collection before we turned in, and then slept the sleep of the exhausted just.
 Saturday began with a lively discussion about where to get brunch, a perfectly creamy Italian cappuccino, and a generous serving of guacamole (at the same place!!). 
 We took off for the Mutter Museum, which is awesome and fascinating, or horrifying and nauseating, depending on how you feel about dead bodies.  I'm of the awesome and fascinating frame of mind, but after the soap lady, and the world's most horrifyingly distended large intestine, I was ready to return to the wall 'o skulls to still my beating heart before heading to lunch.  So many Civil War amputations!
We walked to Fairmount, got a sandwich, and awaited quite possibly the silliest reenactment ever.  A caberet-hosted, historically laughable version of the French Revolution; most awesomely, the storming of the Bastille, with the part of the Bastille played by the Eastern State Penitentiary.  And if you thought having Joan of Arc, Napoleon, and Benjamin Franklin on the same stage taunting Marie Antoinette was fun, I should add that Marie Antoinette was played by a gentleman, and several watermelons were chopped via guillatine along the way.   And there was beer!
Which was nothing compared to what happened after Marie uttered her slightly altered famous line.
"Let them eat tastycake!"

And the air was full of falling snack cakes, which soft and tender though they are, are still pretty effective projectiles.  Not surprisingly, the mob lost their fire for the revolution once their mouths were full of cake, and the actual taking of the Bastille via squirt gun, and subsequent decision NOT to decapitate the queen due to excessive liability, were taken in stride.
We moved on down the street for a burger, took a loooooong walk to Philly's beautiful train station to make our bolt bus reservation, and were ensconced again in Brooklyn by midnight.
So what happens when you get spontaneous?  When you decide it doesn't matter if a hotel would be more romantic, and forget to make a reservation for transportation?  You get blinded by science, and smacked in the leg by a flying tastykake, that's what, and I'm telling you, it's the trip of a life time.  Put it on your calendar now.

Live Omily,

Friday, July 13, 2012

Eating Omily: Organizing Awesome Sauce

What a happy Eating Omily week it's been!  Not that it's over: I still have chard and green beans to freeze, hot peppers to roast, sweet cherries to turn into cherry leather, more squash and cabbage to handle than I care to admit, and, I realized, not one but TWO bird carcasses to turn into stock.

Yeah, just cleaned out the freezer.

But, on Wednesday I tackled a big, delicious job: making jam.  Sour cherry, to be precise.   Nom.

Before I get to that though, I should tell you about the treat I made on Tuesday.  I have an awesome book of canning recipes that suggests interesting twists on traditional recipes: black pepper in cherry preserves, basil in blueberry jam.  I wanted to try the latter, but was a little gun-shy about committing to several jars of it, so I used her back burner strawberry sauce recipe to make a blueberry sauce, and wilted basil into that.  Here are the results on strawberry icecream.
Yes, it was delicious.  The smooth, cooling qualities of the basil were a perfect match for sweet, succulent Summer blueberries, and the natural pectin found in the blueberries gave the sauce just the right thickness after just five or ten minutes simmering on the stove.  In the future, I may add a little less basil to give the blueberries more prominence; the husband claimed the sauce tasted like pizza, but I thought it was perfect.  Give it a shot, with or without basil!  Just put any amount of blueberries into a saucepan with a splash of water, crush some of the berries with a spoon, let it slowly come to a boil, knock back the heat, and simmer, stirring, until it looks incredibly delicious.  So easy!

Wednesday was jam day, though.  Woohoo!  My canner took a loooong break after the end of last Summer.  I started with asparagus, and pushed straight through rhubarb, cukes, string beans, tomatoes, and apples.  By the end of the line, I was exhausted from all those hours standing over a steaming canner!  I skipped my winter recipes all together, and most of the spring ones, too.  By the time cherry season came around, I was more than ready to start loading my cupboard for another winter.

First thing's first; I had to stem and pit three pounds of cherries.   That took the better part of an hour, and don't even ask how many I accidentally chucked in the trash along with the stems!
With the pitted cherries relegated to a saucepan, I took a time-out to prep my canning space.  Everything I planned to use had to be carefully washed, and my 5-galon canner had to be filled, and put on a burner to start the sloooooow process of coming up to a full, rolling boil.  I put out rags to cover the workspace, and laid out my equipment.  Canning is easy, truly, but it does require some careful forethought.
Finally!  I added a splash of water to the saucepan, and turned up the heat.

Is it jam yet?

Is it jam yet??
Is it jam yet???
Yes!  Yes, it's jam!

Along the way, I added a cup of sugar to set the color, sweeten the sour cherries, and activate the natural pectin in the fruit, and a quarter cup of bottled lemon juice, to assure the preserves are acidic enough to be safely canned in boiling water.  The process of moving this pot of deliciousness into half-pint jars, removing air, putting on the lids and rings, and processing them has to be done pretty efficiently, so I didn't stop for pictures.  But HERE'S the finished product!
Unfortunately, as sometimes happens with classic jam recipes (no added pectin), these preserves didn't set properly due to an unpredictably low percentage of pectin in the fruit.  This is not a big problem.  You can still enjoy these preserves on toast; it's just best to eat over a plate to catch any drips, and it's easier to enjoy them on icecream, pancakes, or whatever else you may fancy.  I've altered the name slightly in honor of their consistency, from Classic Cherry Preserves to Sour Cherry Awesome Sauce!

And yes, this stuff is the kind of thing you're afraid to keep around because you can't resist eating it with a spoon with the fridge door still open.

Speaking of the fridge, I had some time to kill Thursday, and knew I had to tackle the horror ours had become.  It seemed impossibly full, the door wouldn't shut, and yet we could never find anything to make for dinner, or send with the husband for lunch-a sure sign of poor organization.  I pulled everything out, and started from scratch.  Here's where we ended up.
Sauces and condiments in the door, along with my water pitcher, and the fresh bunch of basil on hand from our farm share.  Packets of soy sauce, a partially used vanilla bean, dried sage, and butter up top, and in the middle, coffee, and my flaxseed and fish oils.  I put pantry staples that we go through too slowly to not regridgerate on the bottom, along with beverages, the (massive) fruit and veggie overflow from our crisper, and the maple syrup.  The drawer in the middle holds cheese, and thawed meat, and underneath that drawer we slip tortillas, whole wheat, and corn, and I stacked the eggs, english muffins, yogurt, salsa, and other husband-snacks next to it.  The top shelf is stuff we need to eat up quickly: quick sauces and pickles, canned things I've opened, left-overs, the current jug of milk, etc.

You'll figure out your own system of course, but for me, it's crucial that I put stuff that needs to be eaten in the first line of sight, because the husband will NOT look beyond what he can see initially.  I purposefully hid the salsa and hummus so he'd see other options first, and have to hunt for those things. :-)  This is what marriage is all about, right??  I did the freezer, too, and wow was that an adventure!
Yes, I promise, there is a method to this maddness!  First of all, I could not believe how many store-bought things had been tucked away in our freezer.  I'm not a fan of frozen meals, but we keep something on hand for THOSE DAYS, and obviously we haven't been eating it and it's added up.  Everything store-bought is on the bottom shelf, along with the icecube trays.  I was also shocked by how much MEAT we had stocked away: chicken, fish, beef, sausage...we do not eat much meat.  I buy it now and then, and freeze it right away, and apparently it had been hiding in our messy freezer avoiding detection for some time.  I found two carcasses, one from our Thanksgiving turkey, waiting to be turned into stock.  Sad.  From right to left, future stock, meat, and my frozen fruits and veggies.  I put things from last year that we need to gobble up in front, and things I just froze the last two seasons that we'll want for later in the back.  The bags that will likely still be added to were placed on top so I could still access them fairly easily.  I restricted the door to mostly structured round bottles and containers, and some smaller bags of things that it didn't make sense to hide away.  Bread crumbs, last year's frozen charred hot peppers, last year's pesto...mmmm, we have some tasty eating to do!  Someone remind me to KEEP my fridge and freezer this organized.  Please and thank you.

Last but not least, I used up some of last year's frozen grated squash to make a loaf of zucchini bread.  The flavor is delicious, but it's a little dryer than I like, mostly because I always skimp on the sugar.  What is the point of making a loaf of wholewheat bread with a vegetable in it if you're going to load it down with sugar??  I'll try using agave next time to up the moisture without upping the sugar content.
Mmmm...I'll leave you with that tastey thought.  When I get the recipe to my liking, I promise to share while the squash are in full flush.  Don't hesitate to grate that stuff up and freeze it though, so you can have zucchini bread all winter!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Seven of Cups

How's it going, guys?  You having fun with the daily posting??  Good!  We're back to Tarot Post day, which is pretty sweet.  We've made a lot of progress through the numbered cards.  Are you ready for the court cards??  They're coming up next...but not till we get through number ten in all four suits, so keep your shirt on.

Today's card is the seven of cups.  It's a bit similar to the seven of staves really, except instead of facing fierce adversaries, real or imagined, the character in this card faces seven dreamed up choices.  Some of them are obviously bad, like the dragon, some of them seem quite good, like the pile of gems, and others are more ambiguous, like the head of a youth, or a man with a sheet over him.  Well, when the cards were designed, it was sheet guy who was considered the best choice: he represents Jesus, as he's present to Catholics in the  Eucharist.  Another interesting tidbit is, you'll notice one of the cups has a skull on it.  Ok, so we probably shouldn't pick that one, but what's in it?   A laural wreath!  Used to crown the victor in ancient Greece, this is a symbol of success and contentment, ie 'resting on your laurals.'  The message is clear: you'd better not stop here; you're not done yet!  

Certainly not!  We've got a ways to go on this tarot journey...

The Seven of Cups
"A silhouetted figured stands, arms raised, before a vision: seven cups float in clouds before him, each holding a different possibility.  Some are mysterious, some are tempting, and some are terrifying. 
The six of cups suggested a rebirth, or a return to simpler times: a retracing of earlier steps as a second chance to get things right.  In the sevens, we’re faced with all those same choices we’ve made along the way again, only now we know what can go wrong if we choose the wrong thing.  Armed with knowledge of which choices will bring pain, you’re left with so many beautiful choices…how do you pick just one?  Well, you don’t have to.  You could stay right here…but that’s not why you bought this ticket, is it? 
The cups are all about the beauty of dreams, but dreams are far less beautiful if they never transition to reality.  Survey your options carefully, and then commit. This is one of your last chances to change horses.  As the skull on the cup containing the laural wreath suggests, the worst choice would be to decide you’ve succeeded and stay here.
It’s too easy to get caught up in those dark rain clouds, unable to see the way out.  The staves are trapped by fear when they look down and see how high up they’ve come.  The cups are trapped by the beautiful things they must give up in order to choose one thing to fight for.  Reach for your sword, and cut through the tempting choices that will only hold you back."

What beautiful dreams are keeping you from fully committing to the path you've chosen for yourself?  Should you be re-evaluating that choice?  Screw anybody who tells you it's too late and you should stick with it; if you're not happy get out!  On the other hand, you can't actually have it all.  We all have to make choices.  If yours still feels like the right one, close the door on those fantasies, and focus on dreams that are actually attainable.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Love, Everyone

Today is my third wedding anniversary.

But actually, I'm remembering seven years, two months, and three days ago...when I thought I knew something about love, and then in three weeks love exploded all around me, and I thought I knew everything about love.

I thought we were the center of a circling love universe, that we had invented the stuff, that the whole universe had been working up to this point to further our love story...

Ok, maybe everyone feels a little like that when they first fall in love.

And of course six months later, we had our first big fight, and that beautiful love universe seemed to be tumbling down all around me...only to reveal the real one behind it, beautiful, complex, and infinitely more grand than the small one we'd been existing in.

So we took our love for a spin, and while it took some decent hits along the way, it was strong, and neither of us would let go.

And nearly three years later, we were sitting on a park bench on Governor's Island, watching our city from a distance, and he set a little black velvet box on my lap, and got down on one knee.  And I cried like a baby, unable to speak.  It took me a few minutes to even get out, "Yes!"

About nine and a half months after that, after some of the most fun and exciting times of my life (Tasting wedding cake!!!  Looking at flowers!!!  TRYING ON WEDDING GOWNS!!!!!!!!) and also some of the most nerve-wracking and stressful times of my life (one aleve, one glass of Chardonnay, and hold the judgement, please and thank you.) I stepped into the church I grew up in, and looked down the aisle at my future, surrounded by the smiling faces of those who loved us.

We said, 'forever.'

And NOW after three years of THAT, maybe I know just a little something about love.

It is a miracle, a gift the universe hands you maybe once, maybe hundreds of times, but once its in your hands you have to decide what you will do with it.  Sometimes letting it go is the best thing you can do.  And sometimes you have to hang on.

It's not automatic, and it's not always easy.  Sometimes it's really hard, but if keep trying, keep caring, the urge will always be there, to give a little more, listen a little more patiently.

There are times you live in a constant state of thankfulness that could easily pass for grace...and the more you can stretch those out the better!

That may be all I know about love for now...I'll get back to you in another forty-seven years...but the joke's on me, because not only are those things that apply to love in general, and not just romantic couplesy love, but those are things that, on some level, we all know already.

Learning how to love no matter how others treat you, instead of madly pursuing someone to love you, is probably the closest thing to a single Meaning of Life there is.  So maybe that's why marriage is sacred, why so many of us so desperately want to be in a monogamous, permanent relationship: not because we need that to be happy (because we don't), but because those types of relationships are like Universal Love Bootcamp.  Living with someone is a recipe for developing homicidal tendencies toward that person.  Fact.  If we can choose love, again and again, and learn all over agin every day how to appreciate this person, less than ideal characteristics and all, then we may just stand a snowball's chance in hell of learning how to love the rest of the planet, too.

And that's what will make us happy.

Live Omily,

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eating Omily: Staying Cool with Cucumbers

So, last week was a funny week for eating.  It involved a lot of frantic face stuffing, random restaurant braving, and less than healthy snacks.  I did manage to eat a sliced and peeled beat and a handful of raw green beans on the ferry...along with my fried mini chocolate chip cookies...which I would not share...

This week is turning into a preserving marathon!  With nearly two full shares to contend with, food had to get put up fast.  Yesterday I turned one head of cabbage into braised cabbage for the husband to take to lunch, and another half a head of cabbage into cabbage salad for nibbling.  I also blanched and froze a pound or so of green beans, and a handful of garlic scapes that had been sitting around too long.
 I picked all the dried leaves off two old basil plants and put them away to  be crumbled up and cooked with, and I threw together a batch of pesto to take care of a little more than half of this week's two basil plants.  That was a lot of time in a kitchen with two burners going!!  But it's totally worth it knowing I can throw together meals all week, and I've already got some green stuff in the freezer to carry us through the Winter.

I turned four cucumbers into a batch of beautiful green, refreshing granita, with lemon and mint, which was definitely my most delicious preservation activity of the day (though likely not of the week, hint hint, wink wink).

To replicate this icy treat at home, and if you aren't sure that you'll like it, imagine a subtley lemony refreshing snowcone, with just a hint of sweetness.  Nom.  So now that that's settled,

Take four cucumbers, the biggish ones, not the little kirbies, and peel them.  Slice off the ends, and cut them into four long wedges.  Cut the seeds out, leaving as much flesh as possible, by slicing off that part of each wedge.  You'll be left with a lot of cuke carnage.  Hope you compost!
Pile them all into a blender or food processor, and add up to one cup of water (I usually add lesss) a lime or lemon's worth of citrus juice (I used bottled because it was what I had, and it still tasted delicious), a couple teaspoons of sugar, and if you have it, a handful of mint leaves.
 You will probably have to use a spoon to push the cukes down into the blades at first; be very careful.  It shouldn't take long before everything whirring along just fine.  Crank it up to liquify, and let it go until it looks...liquified.  Pour it out into a shallow baking dish, tilt it till it's an even layer, slide it into your freezer, and set your timer for twenty minutes.

For the next two to three hours, keep pulling it out and scraping it down every twenty minutes.  This is what keeps it from freezing solid, so it's more like a slushy or snowcone in texture.  I always let it get more frozen than I actually want to eat it since it melts so fast at room temperature.  Dish it up, and enjoy!  It's none too bad shaken up with vodka either, for a pitch-perfect Summer cocktail.

 There's still a few Summer squash, another head of cabbage, two bunches of spring onions, spring garlic, another bag of green beans, a bunch of swiss chard, and a handful of hot peppers to contend with.  Cannot believe I'm being buried under an avalanche of delicious green stuff for only $20 a week!!  Get out to Union Square, and get on that Farm Share, you guys!  The Summer sunshine is nothing to be scared of now that you know how to stay cool as a cucumber, right?


Monday, July 9, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Seven of Staves

Did you think something awful had happened??  Maybe I should tell you it did so I have a good excuse for my absence....hit by a horse and carriage in Central Park?  Attacked by a rat on the subway?  Forced to flee our apartment when it was taken over by (Choose your own adventure: mice, cockroaches, bedbugs)?? 

None of the above, thank God[dess].  My cousin, her husband, and their daughter came for a visit, and I failed to put the warning out that I would likely be AWOL while I was spending time with them and showing off my fabulous city.

Well, I'm back now, and I'm well aware I'm behind by FOUR blog posts, and I intend to make each and everyone of them up in the next two or three weeks.  Thankfully, I have A LOT of material I'm excited to share with you!

Let's get this show in the road with Tarot Monday!  My interpretation progress has slowed back down a bit now that I'm banging out the last four chapters of my novel (Sh, you didn't hear that from me!), so it may yet be a while before I can offer you the fully interpreted Waite-Smith Tarot in zine form.  If you've been following along though, you already know how awesome it will be.  I was frustrated by the tarot books I read when I was first trying to learn.  They were all descriptions of the card, followed by a long list of words separated by commas.  Short of rote memorization, and with seventy-eight cards to deal with, good luck with that, there was no way to connect the meanings to the cards.  There was no SYSTEM.  I did finally find some good books that proved to be a great inspiration to me, and these books did offer systems, and between those books, and the intuitive readings I had been practicing for six or seven years, I quickly developed my own system.  A system like this that's accessible to Tarot newbs is long overdue, and I can't wait to share it with you, but wait we must till I get through writing up and editing every interpretation...

Today, we're onto the Sevens!  We've begun our final push toward home, and generally this means our next major challenge.  You ready??

The Seven of Staves
 “'I’m King of the Mountain!' our figure could be chanting, that is if his teeth weren’t so tightly gritted.  He holds his staff like a weapon.  Are the other six staves stuck in the earth as further defense of his position, or do the angry protesters we saw in the background in the last card hold them?
Either way, our hero is determined not to lose ground, perhaps to the point of paranoia.  A fence doesn’t only keep others out, it also keeps you in, and if this fellow never steps down off his high point, he can never continue onto completion.  Don’t let fear of losing ground freeze you.  If a band of angry nay-sayers (with big bumps on their heads?) have got you surrounded, you’ll have to eat crow like you never have before if you want this as bad as you once thought you did.  Let this be a lesson to you: unethical practices to get what you want will come back to bite you, (or hit you with a big stick) in the ass. 
If you treated everybody right along the way, that doesn’t mean you never made a well-meaning mistake, and yes, you’ll have to contend with that too, sooner or later.  Don’t resist it.   Let your passion for your quest drive you to make things right, even if that means going beyond tit-for-tat.  Enduring some losses now is worth gaining passage to further progress.
Spiritual journeys can be full of such moments.  It’s tempting to stay up on your moral high ground, expecting everyone to roll out the red carpet for your journey, but sacrifice is very much a part of the spiritual path.
In a reading, consider what you're holding onto, and why.  Is it holding you back?  Pissing others off?  Just like the figure on the card appears walled in by the staves, the ideas and labels we hold onto can wall us in, too."

Sometimes it can feel like identifying as a tarot reader, or just a tarot enthusiast, can put us smack in the middle of this card.  That doesn't mean we have to embody this figure, though.  If you believe in what you're doing, there's no need to get defensive, or insist that everyone agree with you.  Take some deep breaths, and let their criticisms go.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Six of Coins

If you're wondering where my Friday post was, my sincerest apologies!  My weekend began unexpectedly Wednesday night, and then kicked it on through last night, and in the whirlwind I didn't even realize I was behind until yesterday.  I'll slip an extra blog post in this week to make up for it.  In the meantime, it's Tarot Monday!  A brief two-part refresher starting with the meta: once a week I'm dedicating a blog post to my interpretation of the Waite-Smith tarot deck based on numerical and elemental significances, as well as the images themselves, found in the cards.  My goal is to give you, not just a dry list of things a card could mean, but a system that you an easily learn to work with reference-free with any deck you may have in front of you.  Once I wrap up all the interpretations, I'll be handing them over to a professional designer I have the pleasure of being acquainted with, and the whole kit and caboodle will be published and available for sale on the site.  Yay!

So today, we're wrapping up the sixes with the Six of Coins.  To get less meta, the sixes are considered the high point of the tarot numbered-cards journey: the peak of the mountain.  The journey is far from complete, since you have to get back down from the mountain, but you're in a good place: you've attained the highest good of your journey.  So, whats the highest good of earthy sixes?  Well, fiery staves were riding high and celebrating, dreamy cups were celebrating childhood and openness, and sharp swords were using the knowledge they gained to plan a smooth journey into the future.  Earthy, practical coins are at their best when their own needs are so thoroughly taken care of, they can turn and share their wealth with others in need.

The Six of Coins
"Six coins float at the top of the card, nebulous, yet attainable, like the wealth the central figure in red distributes.  The two beggars kneel gratefully waiting to receive their due.  For which character does this card represent the high point?   Perhaps both.  Considering the blizzard these characters came through on the last card, a generous hand out in sunny weather is probably a miraculous change of fortune.  And the benefactor?  The staves, riding on their high horse, would gain much that they missed in earlier cards by using their powers for good as is done here.  Benevolent, fertile cups are only expressed at their height in a state of over-abundance, and what better use of over-abundance than in sharing with those in need?  Instead of running away from challenges, as suggested in the six of swords, stepping forward to make changes for the better is certainly more empowering. 
These figures appear to be crouching on gray dirt, or even concrete, though, not fruitful earth.  This figure can only carry so much gold with him, particularly if he’s holding the scale in the other hand, carefully weighing each coin he proffers.  In some ways, he’s the next step from our four card: letting go of his money, but on his terms.   When the coins reach full fruition, everyone wins.  Accepting what others are willing to give you is a sure way to get something, but probably not as much as you’d like.  Treat the world as though it has more than enough to satisfy you, because it does.
In a reading, the first thing to ask yourself is which of the characters draws your attention, or resonates with you.  The cards may be asking that you step up and be proactive if you want a situation to improve, or they might be letting you know that help is on the way.  In either case, it doesn’t suit you to sit around waiting for a mysterious source of assistance.  Get your professor’s attention after class and ask to meet about sources for your midterm paper.  Don’t shake your head and cluck your tongue when your friend starts in again on a mutual acquaintance: stand up for him or her, or ask the friend to keep his or her opinions to him or herself."

This card is a reminder to readers everywhere that a genuine gratitude for our gifts should always naturally overflow into a readiness to share that gift with others.  We all have a sacred mission to pay it forward, whatever 'it' may be.  And by the same token, in moments of need, we need only open ourselves, as in the six of cups, and trust that what we need will be forthcoming.  Keeping in mind that what we need may well not bare the slightest resemblance to what we want.  What do you have to share today?