Pasta olio

•July 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Last night I really wanted some pasta olio…

The first time I heard the phrase “pasta olio” was as a kid watching Kindergarten Cop (I love that movie, and I don’t know why.) I probably had been eating it for years before that. It’s one of my favorite dishes, one that mom said she “just made up.” Well, don’t know if that’s really true, but I have certainly enjoyed eating it all these years.

This is a very simple, easy recipe that anyone can make. It’s mild, not spicy, and can easily take on extra flavorings if you like. If you have an upset stomach, the way my mom had a couple weeks ago, it should be gentle enough on your stomach (unless it’s more reactive against oils – not that it is all that oily.) You can use your choice of pasta noodles – I prefer extra wide egg noodles, but that’s just me.

So I went to make my pasta olio last night. I was all out of margarine, so I substituted butter instead. Big mistake – something about the way the butter separated when it was hot made my stomach turn. If you refuse to use margarine, try ghee (clarified butter) instead of regular butter, as the solids that would have separated have been removed – your stomach will thank you.

Pasta Olio

Ingredients
pasta
margarine
parsley
salt
red pepper flakes, optional

Boil the pasta in salty water according to the directions on the package. (Note: I like to boil it past the al dente state, but gluten free pasta will fall apart if you go past that state.) Drain properly.

Put hot noodles in bowl. Add enough butter to coat the noodles thoroughly, between 1/3 c. to 1/2 c. per 2 cups cooked noodles. The heat of the noodles will melt the margarine. Stir until thoroughly coated. Sprinkle in parsley and red pepper flakes.
Enjoy!

Advertisements

About the dog

•July 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Buttercup, my mom’s dog, will be celebrating her ninth birthday in August. So imagine my concern when, on Monday, she was sluggish and tired and was hard-pressed to hop on the couch the way she likes or stand on her hind legs while dancing about for a treat the way she always does. She was fatigued and slow and moved in a way that suggested full body ache. She even climbed into my lap, which is unusual for her – she prefers to snuggle up next to your leg, or your feet, if you have the couch in a reclined position. We checked her all over and couldn’t find anything wrong. I checked the computer. It said if she was better by the next day, then no problem.

Buttercup sleeping

Hey Butterstuff. Butterlump. Butterbiscuits. Muttley. Hey, hey – are you listening to me?

She wasn’t.

My family and I were very worried. Buttercup has always been a very energetic dog, eagerly bouncing about when she heard the word mail same as when she heard the word walk, because it meant to her “go outside in the front.” She almost staggered out the door and barely made it to the sidewalk instead. She had no appetite and wouldn’t drink any water. She didn’t even finish the jerky strips, one of her favorite treats, which she always demanded to eat every morning before going to the bathroom properly.

So Tuesday, when I went to Target to pick up some bread I also grabbed a FreshPets sausage. When I got home I chopped up a quarter pound of it into little pieces and put it in her bowl. As she went to eat it, she wagged her tail, if rather slowly, but at least she ate all of it.

Mom then decided to add olive oil to it, as her mom used to give olive oil to her children and their pets if they weren’t feeling well. Buttercup seemed to like it as well, even though when Mom tried to give straight olive oil to Buttercup before she wouldn’t eat it.

At work, I talked to the coworker whose dog had died. It was on their walk, and they noticed the dog wasn’t doing well. They had tried to cut the walk short and took some short cuts to get home faster. If the dog was smaller (he was a boxer) they would’ve carried him, but he was much too big to be carried. Fifteen minutes from their house, the dog had a heat stroke. Twenty minutes later, with she and her kids crying around him, their dog was dead. Emergency services for the pet got there too late. It cost her seventy-five dollars for animal control to take the dog. She was going to cremate him – one hundred twenty dollars – but her husband was in a car accident that weekend and it cost two hundred forty to get the truck fixed, so she has no money for that. They can’t bury the dog in the backyard because they are renting the house they live in. Hearing about this made me even more jittery and anxious to get home to see Buttercup.

My car overheated, popping the cap off the coolant overflow and almost didn’t make it home. Steam billowed from under the hood. When I got home, Buttercup seemed to finally be resting well, curled up on some blankets we put on the floor because she couldn’t make the hop up to the couch.

Wednesday dawned bright and early, and Buttercup seemed to have perked up a little bit. Her appetite for the sausage had definitely improved and she was drinking water again.

Thursday she was still improving. When I got home from work, turns out Buttercup had eaten too much olive oil and messed herself. Oops.

Today Buttercup seems back to normal. If her joints are a bit achy, and she is a bit hesitant about hopping up onto the couch, it’s only a tiny bit. She dashed to the front door to help us bring in the mail, danced on her hind legs for a treat, and went skittering around underfoot like a hazard to our health as usual.

Buttercup’s a fox terrier mix. The way I figure it, she has at least another five good years to go. I’m glad she’s doing better. We think it was a bug bite. It might have happened in her cage on Sunday night because we’re always very good about killing spiders (I have nothing against spiders, but if I think any of them might possibly harm my pets, I’m going all gung ho on their tiny bodies.)

And now she’s begging for a treat again. Stupid mutt. It amazing how we get so attached to troublesome dogs like her.

Tuna noodle casserole

•July 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I’m not a big fan of fish. I hate most seafood – won’t eat shrimp or lobster or anything. (Well, clam chowder is acceptable, if there’s enough potato.) I am fond of tuna though and happily make lots of tuna sandwiches and tuna noodle casserole. It’s certainly good enough that my sister, when she moved out, asked for my recipe (and she isn’t the sort of person who usually asks for recipes.) Here’s the copy I sent her.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) extra wide egg noodles
  • 1 can cream of celery (if you use low sodium you might need to add salt to the water)
  • 2 6-7 oz. cans tuna, including water
  • Mayonnaise (optional)
  • ¼ c. onions, diced (optional)
  • Cheddar cheese, grated, enough to cover the top and maybe mix some in (probably about 1-2 c. grated)

1. Boil the noodles according to the package instructions – you can use a minimal amount of oil if the water is at a rapid boil and salt is not necessary. If you buy the large bag of noodles (the 2 lb. bags are what I usually get) you can either double the recipe if you have space and save one for later or just estimate half of the noodles and use the rest for something else.

2. Once the noodles are cooked to taste, preferably not too soft so they aren’t obliterated when you mix in the other ingredients, drain. Add the cream of celery and tuna, the onion if you prefer, and mayonnaise (¼ to ½ c. is normal) in case the mixture seems too dry.
Note 1: I like lots of tuna so I doubled the recipe amount to two cans; if it’s chunk tuna you might want to break it up even smaller with a fork before adding it so that it can be separated more easily without completely destroying the noodles.
Note 2: if you want to add the onion, you might want to precook it separately in the cream of celery (no water added) in a small pot to help it soften up and meld with the flavors better.

3. Spoon tuna noodle mixture into a pre-greased 13” x 9” glass pan (here is when Pam is your friend) and cover with cheese – I like to layer some cheese in to the mixture as I’m spooning it into the pan. Place in oven at 350°F for 30-35 min. There is no need to preheat but if you would feel better about it, you can turn the oven on while spooning the mixture into the pan. Remember, technically the tuna noodle is already cooked – we just like our cheese crispy.

4. If after 30 (preheat) to 35 (no preheat) minutes the cheese isn’t golden brown and crispy at the top, turn on broil for no more than 5 minutes. Your tuna noodle casserole is done. Happy eating. 🙂

So I tripped over the dog…

•July 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I often walk around the house late at night with the lights out. I feel there is plenty of light coming in from outside (one of the reasons why I need black out curtains in my room, and a door snake tucked down at the bottom of my eastern facing door. The cats are usually in their room at night, and Buttercup, my mom’s dog, if she isn’t curled up sleeping next to me on the couch, she’s curled up sleeping in her pet crate, which she loves taking naps in, even if the door is open for her to be outside.

Monday night after work was pretty much the same as any other night after work – relaxing while I ate my dinner and watching Star Trek – but as I got up from the couch, I picked up the plate from the table I had been eating at to go to the kitchen to make another sandwich. Unfortunately, that got Buttercup excited – she thought I was getting more food, which was true – and darted between my feet.

Buttercup is not a very big dog. She doesn’t even reach my knees. I always worry about hurting her by stepping on her since she’s much smaller than me, and will be nine next month. Sunday night at work I had been talking to another girl while we were cleaning up and she mentioned that the dog of one of our co-worker’s had died. It had been hot and they went for a jog, and the dog, old and fat, tried to keep up with her. It was too much for it. Then the girl talked about how a kitten of hers died. Her mother was walking in the dark, and the kitten was on the floor. Her mother stepped on something, and hoped it was a rat. It was not.

So, tripping over Buttercup, my mind immediately flashed to the dead kitten and dog, and I moved myself so I wouldn’t land on her. I landed wrong, twisted my left ankle and bashed both my elbows, hard, on the tile floor.

I brushed it off, got up, and went to make my sandwich. Big mistake. By the time I was done, my ankles were killing me, I was limping and I could barely move my elbows. Even my wrists and hands ached. To be honest, all of my right arm ached.

Realizing I needed to take care of my ankle and elbows before I next needed to work, I thought I would try typing a bit to see if I could do that. Nope. I could barely get out a sentence before my right hand cramped up and the bones from my right wrist up through my right index finger throbbed. My mom has carpal tunnel syndrome, and I remembered that a small injury followed by lots of typing as her job as a secretary required, set it off. I decided to take the week off of typing.

The limp is gone, my wrists are mostly better – I’m still getting twinges in my right arm and wrist – and feel I can start writing again. Still, bad luck upon bad luck for me, eh? At least I didn’t squish the dog.

Why I’m not visiting other blogs right now

•July 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It’s fairly anathema to me to not visit other blogs. I love blogs. I’m now a blogger. If you’re a blogger, you should read blogs. I read them all the time (except right now, with the exception of about two.)

The thing is with me, I sometimes read blogs a little too much. I start reading and don’t come up for air until days later – I’ve managed to make both this and my old laptop crash, usually just the browser, sometimes the whole danged laptop, because I have hundreds of tabs open to blogs. Blogs upon blogs upon blogs. Not necessarily dozens of posts from one blog. Sometimes hundreds of single posts from blogs opened by clicking on one link after the other in a particular blog’s blog roll.

I recently went and did the same thing recently – just this past week, in fact – first with Cracked then BuzzFeed. I had literally well more than a hundred tabs open in BuzzFeed, once or twice of the same tab because after one hundred, you might lose track of which tabs you’ve opened.

BuzzFeed tabs

This is just a small segment of the BuzzFeed tabs I had open…

What’s really pitiful is that I don’t even remember what I read, only half recognizing that some of the tabs I’ve opened were things I already knew about (the tabs I had really been interested in) and others were just little tidbits of information I might find myself sharing with other people later – a random bit of useless information, I call it, that often ends up being fairly useful.

Last week I was feeling ill from the excessive heat – yay, it’s cool today! – and did nothing but read blogs, articles and stories or write gibberish. Then, last night, after I thought I had posted the post I had written, I started opening up BuzzFeed. About fifty or so tabs later, I realized I had forgotten what I had been looking for because, hey look, lil’ bub, and I can’t believe the Eleventh Doctor could make such a touching goodbye  video, and what the heck happened to that cake?! I originally went on to do a bit of “research” for a topic I was thinking of writing about, and had remembered seeing something related to it in passing on a BuzzFeed article. That I ended up staying much later than I meant to because I kept getting distracted by article after article without actually getting anything done was the last straw.

Frankly, this past month had seen more of the same as I had started going through blogs again too, only to lose track of time and end up not writing anything. I’m easily distracted at times, I must admit, but right now, as I’m trying to get over the writing slump that the summer heat had dropped on my head, I can’t really afford to. Otherwise this blog may crash and burn before it really takes off, and I don’t want to fail at this. This blog is supposed to help me get back into my writing groove. I want to share stories, recipes, useful information, and stuff about my cat, because I think he’s just too adorable. Eventually, though, when I get more grounded with my writing, I would like to go back to visiting blogs, and even write about the one’s I visit. I’d really like to hear some direction from my readers – what are you interested in reading about, what would you like to see here, what do you want to get out of this blog?

Hopefully, my blog reading hiatus will be at an end fairly soon. There are so many good, promising blogs out there, and simply not enough time to read them all.

The Dip

•July 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Note: I thought I uploaded this last night – guess not.

It’s been ridiculously hot lately. When I wake up, it’s so hot there isn’t a single coherent thought in my head, just an overwhelming fuzziness that conveys the feeling of “hothothothothot!” I spend the rest of the day at home, trying to cool off or, if I’m lucky, I leave the house and go to work or the store, where there is air conditioning, my brain can cool off, and I can finally, happily, blissfully even, think. When I get home, I try to write as much as I can before I get overheated (and therefore stupid) again. So I now have several partly finished posts which I’ll be trying to finish up and post later.

Thankfully, today has been a bit cooler than usual – the sky a murky gray with thick clouds, the high humidity wreaking havoc on my hair for no good reason – and so I, home from work late in the evening, the sun finally having gone down,find myself able to think more clearly. I’m rather tired though – the heat, more than work, is quite draining for me, and for a moment I thought of maybe going to bed early. Going to bed early appeals to me – I’m a night owl and rarely can make myself sleep at night properly. To me it makes more sense to sleep during the day when it’s too darn hot and the sun sends it’s punishing rays down at my skin – the worst time to be out in the sun is from approximately 10 am to 4 pm, because that’s when the UV rays are the most concentrated. But I digress.

I was eating a quick snack when I heard the most grating noise, a loud, long “bwrrrrrrrr” of a passing, speeding motorbike. A bit later, the much deeper “vwmvwmvwmvmmm” of a car went by too. The loud noises completely woke me up – oh, I was still tired, I just knew I couldn’t go to sleep just yet.

It’s a noise that has become more and more pervasive in recent years, especially during the summer when the sun goes down and the police aren’t throwing up speed traps in the early afternoon to catch people going a little above the speed limit by the semi-nearby school. The sound of drag racers, because that’s what those noises are, used to never be heard in this area, never, never ever. That was because of The Dip.

The Dip was a rather pronounced dip at a crossroads that went behind my house, and it was big enough that it was given a speed limit of 10 mph when the rest of the street was 35 mph. People would be driving the road, cruising along, when they’d see the sign, see The Dip, and almost screech to a stop to inch slowly thru it. There was no reason to go that slow – it was deep, but not that deep. Still, everyone who knew of The Dip would speak of it in almost reverential tones, as though in awe that something that massive could possible exist in our tiny city. Yes, you could hear the capitalization in their voice: The Dip.

Some people complained that it was dangerous. I must say, however, was that the biggest danger was to people who were familiar with the area. That’s right, familiar. Those people shrugged off the dangers inherent in the dip and would try to speed through it, despite the face that it is part of a four-way stop. One time a van flipped over – the woman lived about a mile away and drove down that street everyday. Another time a person in a sleek looking mid-sized sedan hit it too fast while trying to turn left, skidded out, and flew across the street, snapped a tree in half, uprooted some bushes, and broke through some of the brick wall behind the trees and bushes. She herself was flung from the vehicle. Not only was she speeding, she wasn’t wearing her seat belt. She also lived nearby and drove down that street everyday. Both people were fine.

Most incidents involving The Dip were much less dangerous and a lot funnier. One time we heard a loud clatter. Running upstairs to the balcony to look out over the brick wall, we started laughing when we realized that a guy in a pickup truck with a ladder on top had hit the dip a bit too hard, then hit their brakes too hard, and the ladder flew off the top of the truck more than fifty feet to land behind our house with a loud shakkashakka! Whoops – it seems he forgot to fasten it down.

Strangers to the area didn’t make the same mistake. Almost everyone upon seeing The Dip would drop to below ten miles an hour and coast through it. It became even worse when someone had taken a big black sticker and put it between the one and the zero on the 10 mph, so it looked like it said 1.0 mph, even if the dot was much too large compared to the other numbers. People seemed to take it even more seriously.

In the dark, and sitting in the back of a car, it’s hard to tell how fast you are going. Sometimes my sister and I would find ourselves being driven home from church, among other places, by people who weren’t familiar with the area. One time we warned the driver too late about just how big The Dip was. He hit the brakes so hard that us three girls  in the backseat – my sister, myself, and another girl who was also being dropped off – ended up hitting our heads on the roof of the car. Not hard, no, but it was enough to surprise us all. To be honest, we all burst out laughing because of just how much he panicked over the size of The Dip.

Years back, not long after I started driving, they decided to fill in and level out the road completely. I find myself missing The Dip, especially on nights when that long stretch of road seems to invite even more drag racers than normal.

It’s amazing how the most innocuous, ridiculous things, such as The Dip, can leave a lasting impression on a person. The people who knew about it and lived nearby The Dip would speak of it in proprietary terms, as if they were proud of it. People may feel the same way about a pond, a park, a side alley, some place nearby that they had some sort of connection to growing up. Did you?

Learning from history (programs)

•July 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A happy 4th of July to everyone who celebrates Independence Day in the US of A, and even if you don’t celebrate the American holiday, a happy 4th of July anyway… it is the fourth day of July, after all. This is a day in America, not just for rest and relaxation, but to reflect on the events of 1776 that led to the founding of this nation. History is ever relevant.

Last night I posted about The Men Who Built America. Like I said, it was about a specific era of American history, blemishes, dings and all. That era, the late 1800s to the early 1900s, added framework to the foundation of our country. The next part of history, however, the years after, from early 1900s and onwards, was only mentioned in passing as they talked about the innovators (such as Hershey and his chocolate, yum!) who came after the events in the miniseries.

But where to go from there? As I mentioned before, I was homeschooled – three quarters of the school year in tenth year, the second semester in eleventh, and the whole of twelfth grade. Learning history was better when I was at school due to the involvement of the teachers I had at school (the teachers I had for homeschooling during tenth and eleventh were Spanish teachers – basically I learned nothing of relevance from them, and even had to teach them math, as I was more advanced in the classes than they were, which did nothing but made me resent Spanish.)

That passive, bare-bones version of learning history was disappointing to me. History classes I took in college were somewhat better, but again, not anything that thrilled me. The teachers I had did not really make history alive to me, or simply went over the basics, many with glossed over facts. So imagine my delight when, walking through a Virgin Records store years later to come across a tiny book with the intriguing title “50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know.” Pocket-sized for easy traveling, a short and easy read, this book can be considered a gateway book to learning more about history outside of what history class tries to program into you. Some people suggested it was like a fifth grade version of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present“, and that may be true, as it only talks about fifty points in American history. Zinn’s “A People’s History” may be a bit radical in its tone, but it is an accurate accounting of events that occurred in history, history that is often hidden, glossed over, or buried in a deep dark pit in the middle of nowhere, and the idea of learning “forbidden knowledge” can be thrilling to a student who otherwise would turn up their nose at having to learn history. (Okay, it’s been years since I’ve read it, but from I can recall it was accurate.)

I am not a liberal, nor am I truly conservative. Like most Americans – like most people – I am a moderate, not leaning too much in either direction, looking at things from the middle, let’s face it, you can actually experience more of what’s really going on when you’re in the thick of things. So, Zinn’s tome may be a bit on the liberal side, true, but I feel it is important to look unflinchingly at the unvarnished history, because, as they say, if you fail to learn from history, you will be doomed to repeat it.

If you are interested in programs about more recent history, a reader – Mack – suggested Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States” (it is a Showtime series, but you can probably watch it online at Showtime’s website.) I myself have not seen it yet, so I cannot make an accurate assessment of it. I understand that it covers American history from WWII to the present, and therefore is likely to also be an excellent supplement to teaching history. He felt that “The Men Who Shaped America” did not do enough, that it needed to be a mirror for learning, for reflecting. I do not necessarily concur.

Please understand – I do not recommend “The Men Who Shaped America”, “50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know”, or “Untold History of the United States” as anything more than a teaching tool – something to help engage the student’s mind. The teacher, or the adult who is eager to learn, is responsible for using it responsibly – not as a substitute for doing any actual teaching – and in helping the students create their own “mirror” and learn to research properly. The purpose of learning history should be to not only know where we’ve been, but to help put it in a framework for us to build the future upon, to think, to move forward. A show about history does not necessarily require being a mirror for us to to connect to current events. We can create this mirror in ourselves, using what we’ve learned, using to make leaps of logic, such as taking two seemingly unrelated events, finding similarities, and arriving at a conclusion. A show about a period of time long past can still be completely relevant without having to relate what happened back then to the now – that should be the task of student and teacher both.

The best teachers out there don’t merely want “one correct answer” from you – they are there to teach you to think, dagnabit! Yes, an education begins with getting a basic grounding of knowledge you are expected to know to be considered a well rounded person, but many schools have lost sight of the fact that they are supposed to push you past that point, to inspire you, the student, the scholar, to think, to expand the boundaries of your world with your mind. That’s right, any parrot can regurgitate facts that have been crammed into its skull, but more should be expected of us, because more should be expected of schools.

Education does not need to be confined to a classroom. That is something I’ve long believed in. If you are capable of self-directed study, you should not have to be stuck in an uncomfortable chair in an over-sized classroom, another faceless, nameless number in the crowd of other students. A school’s purpose, besides providing an education, is to be for social relations – if you already have a good network of people, there is no reason to go to a traditional school.

Food for thought, eh?