Friday, August 27, 2010

i think i was born a couple decades too late

Sometimes I think I was born a couple decades too late. Either that or I was an old French lady in a former life. I love antiques, old movies, the domestic arts, vintage, etc. I also have a fondness for oldies music, everything from the 40's to the 70's. I would even venture to say I enjoy oldies more than I enjoy current music. Here are some of my current favorite songs:

She's Not There - The Zombies
Landslide - Fleetwood Mac
Where Do You Do To My Lovely - Peter Sarstedt
The Wind - Cat Stevens
If You Wanna Be Happy - Jimmy Soul
La Vie En Rose - Edith Piaff
Something - The Beatles
In The Still Of The Night - The Five Satins
I Am A Rock - Simon & Garfunkel
Oh Yoko - John Lennon
Play With Fire - The Rolling Stones
A Day In The Life - The Beatles
Don't Sleep In The Subway - Petula Clark
A Summer Song - Chad & Jeremy
Que Sera Sera - Doris Day
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy - The Andrews Sisters
Everyday - Buddy Holly
Maybellene - Chuck Berry
Fever - Peggy Lee
All Shook Up - Elvis Presley


Friday, August 20, 2010

misadventures in online dating

I've decided to wound my pride by sharing with everyone my misadventures in online dating. The idea of finding a partner online and forming a relationship over AIM seems so common place now. I always thought it was a morbidly desperate attempt at finding a soul mate. But somewhere along the way, I decided to give it a go.

One day about a year or so ago, I sat down at my laptop and logged into a popular free dating site. This is normal, I told myself. Everyone is doing it. I convinced myself that baring my soul to internet strangers and "selling" myself like a cow at a stock yard (I'm young, love nature, have a little meat on my bones...) was better than being alone. Plus, I was getting real sick of relatives asking me where Mr. Right was.

I answered dozens of stupid questions about myself and tried to describe my aspirations, interests, and personality. I discovered it's nearly impossible to do this without sounding like a narcissistic twit. But I did it. I sat and waited for my matches, for my future Mr. Darcy to sweep me off my cyber feet.

Things started to look really dismal from the beginning. My first match was a former co-worker--we'll call him Bob. Bob is partially blind, about 600 pounds, and tried to kill every customer at my concessions job by spraying the soft pretzels with Windex instead of water. I was mortified. What could possibly be in my profile that would suggest a guy like that would be a good match for me?

But I didn't lose heart. Surely, there was someone out there.

The next day I received a message from a friend from high school. "Hey, saw you on here! Isn't it a small world?" Great. Just great.

Months later and my matches didn't get any better: a post-doc that worked for my step-mom, a body builder that looked like he was sprinkling steroids on his Wheaties, a John Wayne Gacy lookalike (a la clown make-up), countless baby daddies with names like Cletus or Elmer, a 50-year-old married man, a guy named Dark Silencer who probably slept in a coffin, and a LARPer. I only wish I was exaggerating.

Sometime later, my good friend Canyon Girl met a seemingly normal guy on the same dating site, renewing my interest in finding someone that at least had all their teeth. I made a resolution to not be so picky. Surely that was my problem. Surely there were lots of women out there interested in Cletus.

I received a message from a fellow student at Penn State expressing interest in getting to know me better. He was an engineering student, read Stephen King novels, and yes, had all his teeth. At least the ones I could see anyway. What did I have to lose?

We began to talk over the private messaging program. He was nice enough at first, though a little boring. Things took a more interesting turn when he started talking about naps. He told me how much he loved taking naps, and how taking a nap together would be a great first date. Date? Did I say anything about a date? The conversation grew progressively worse as he told me he was a virgin and insinuated that I was a scarlet woman for wanting to take a nap with him. Did I say I wanted to take a nap with him? I don't believe I did. I cut off the conversation when he started asking my bra size and what type of underwear I wore.

After this, I decided I was done with online dating. No more. But the saga wasn't finished yet. Mr. Naps-a-lot apparently had great interest in stalking, in addition to those Stephen King novels. He found me on Facebook and found my cell phone number.

For a few days, I received texts like, "Hey, we gonna take that nap? Wink, wink." I finally texted him back that my name was Tiffany and he had the wrong number. Naps-a-lot proceeded to hit on "Tiffany" via text.

This whole online dating thing has left a bad taste in my mouth. What happened to those days where you met people in person? Have meet-cutes progressed to smiley faces and winks behind a computer screen? It's hard enough to really know and trust someone when you form an in-the-flesh relationship, but when you can hide behind the internet how can you know that your Brad Pitt lookalike isn't really Jason Voorhees 2.0? At least if you meet in person you can ponder why your date is wearing a ski mask and has a fondness for chain saws.

I don't mean to knock online dating, especially when I know of many people who successfully met their spouse on Match.Com or eHarmony. Online dating just isn't for me. In a world of technology, I don't want to lose something as intimate as dating. I can wait for now. I'm young and careless and happy. When the time is right, I'm sure a Mr. Darcy will come my way. I'll even settle for a Mr. Bingley.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

baked chickpeas

I love beans, every and all types. Pintos, lentils, black beans, black eyed peas, and of course chickpeas (or garbanzos). This recipe is a great family favorite. It's vegan and rich in protein. I found the recipe in my favorite cookbook, The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. The dish is a traditional Greek Lenten meal, and it's full of warmth and flavor. It's very filling, great served alongside a salad and some bread.

Baked Chickpeas & Tomatoes
adapted from the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook

3 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas, reserve the liquid
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 green bell peppers, sliced lengthwise
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1.5 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Gently saute the onions, peppers, and jalepeno in oil over medium heat until the vegetables are soft--about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and mix well, then stir in tomatoes, parsley, oregano, and bay leaves. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Drain the chickpeas (reserving the liquid) and add to the tomato sauce. Transfer mixture to a large casserole. Add 1/2 cup (355 ml) or more of the chickpea liquid, just enough to cover the peas with liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until beans are very tender. Add some of the chickpea liquid from time to time if sauce starts to reduce too much. The chickpeas and vegetables should always be just covered with liquid.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

scarf #2 is finished!

I finally finished my second scarf and it looks SO much better than my last one. The stitches are even and snug. There are no holes or really big lumps! Both ends are equal in width.

The yarn I used was another Plymouth Encore Colorspun acrylic/wool blend. The color is 7137 and it makes me think of chili peppers or Mexico!

So, I started my third project, another scarf, using another skein of Encore Colorspun (color 7515). This is a really interesting yarn and I'm anxious to see how it turns out. Instead of casting on 25 stitches, I cast on 20 stitches to make a slightly skinnier scarf.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

chicago in photographs

Back to Chicago. I wanted to share some of my vacation photos. I wish I could have had more time to see the sights.

Our first day in the city, we walked up to the Navy Pier and took an architecture cruise on the Chicago River. I snapped this picture before we boarded the boat.

This was my favorite skyscraper I saw on the cruise. There are two identical buildings and they're called Marina City. It reminds me of the Jetsons. I think it's really cool because each building has condos, plus parking, a grocery store, bars, dry cleaners, restaurants, and even a bowling alley. It's really a mini city.

After the river cruise, we walked up Navy Pier and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant right by the Ferris Wheel. I really enjoyed the pier, even if it was a bit kitchsy.

This is the new Trump tower, right near our hotel. It is really a sight to see.

We of course went to the Art Institute and I was very excited to see Grant Wood's American Gothic.

We also saw Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

I love Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and this is one of my favorites of his, Au Moulin Rouge. It's a self-portrait of him at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. I love the lighting on the dancer's face.

I accidentally set off the alarm trying to get a picture of this, Vincent Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles.

And of course I saw Georges Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte. It is very striking in person and absolutely enormous.

It was very foggy and cloudy when we drove out of Chicago. All the skyscrapers were completely covered!

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

cookbook stash: the complete book of greek cooking

I love Greek food. There is so much flavor, warmth, and spice. But it's often also refreshing and light. While I love a good moussaka, I also love sliced cucumbers and tomatoes topped with tzatziki. In my town, unfortunately, there is no Greek restaurant. There's a Greek pizza place, which isn't bad, but no restaurant serving authentic dishes.

I decided I would make my own Greek food and picked up The Complete Book of Greek Cooking. This great cookbook was compiled and written by the Recipe Club of Saint Paul's Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Hempstead, NY. It's over 300 pages long with a yellow and blue soft cover. It's arranged into 11 chapters by the type of dish (i.e. meats, desserts, breads) and very easy to navigate.

The book not only has some delicious recipes, but some great features as well. There's a map of Greece along with information on religious customs in the Orthodox church. The Orthodox fast during Lent, giving up fish, meat, alcohol, oils, and dairy until Easter. The recipes appropriate for a Lenten fast are marked, which is convenient for my family since my brother is Orthodox.

There is a really great appendix in the back of the cookbook listing helpful information and history on Greek cooking. You'll find pages on Greek tea and coffee. There are tips for working with common ingredients, like phyllo. A glossary with ingredients and terms is included. Best of all, there is a section about Greek cheese and wine.

This is a great primer for those eager to dive into the world of Greek cooking. One thing I like is that each recipe has both the Greek name for the dish and the English translation. The recipes are authentic and family-oriented. It's a church cookbook, but in a more professional format.

A lot of the recipes are simple, but I would probably recommend this for someone who knows their way around the kitchen. A novice cook might have a little trouble. I like having cookbooks on my favorite cuisine, so this is the perfect addition to my stash.

Best features: appendix, Lenten dishes
Recipes worth trying: Marinated Cocktail Meatballs, Eggplant Spread, Meatless Stuffed Grape Leaves, Chicken Souvlakia, Moussaka, Hot Potato Salad, Spinach Phyllo Pie, Almond Cookies, Baklava
Yay or Nay? Yay! Great overview on Greek cooking for those interested in trying the cuisine.
Purchase here: I recommend purchasing from the cathedral directly, but you can also find it on Amazon: The Complete Book of Greek Cooking

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

emilio's tapas, part two

We couldn't resist going to Emilio's for dinner a second night in Chicago. This time we ordered four different tapas to share, and dessert. We also got a bottle of white wine, but I skipped the sangria this time.

The first tapas we tried was a daily special and I wasn't able to find it on their website. It was mussels cooked in a white wine broth with garlic and herbs. It's very similar to the moules mariniere
I fell in love with in Belgium. The mussels were cooked perfectly and the broth was delicious soaked up with bread.

After the mussels, we had another daily special, a salad of romaine hearts with smoked salmon, capers, and a creamy dill dressing. It was very good, but probably my least favorite dish of the night. My dad attacked it before I got a chance to get a good picture.

The third tapas was Canelon frio de atun. This was a cold tapas--cannelloni stuffed with tuna, asparagus, and tomatoes with a creamy vinaigrette and crumbled eggs on top. It was like a very flavorful tuna salad, and was my favorite dish of the night.

Our last tapas was another special. Similar to the tuna cannelloni, this was a hot cannelloni filled with spinach, bacon, and cheese. It came with a rich tomato sauce. Once again, a very good dish. My dad really likes bacon, so I didn't get very much of it.

To end dinner, I ordered profiteroles stuffed with vanilla ice cream and bittersweet chocolate sauce. Yum!

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