Wednesday, December 31, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

I survived. More importantly so did my family. I am home and got to sleep in my own bed last night. I slept like a rock, a warm and cozy rock.
I'll start with the train ride. It was, to date, the least late of all the trips I have taken. I had two seats to myself for almost all of the ride. That means I was able to sleep. Not that sleep on a train, in coach, is particularly restful. My food and drink reserves held for the whole trip. The fly in the ointment was the 2 hour stint from Denver to Granby when I had some old geezer sit next to me and spout a bunch of racist, bigoted bullshit as if he thought I might agree with him. It was Japs this, and Obama that, and something about how if his daughter had ever come home with a black guy, she wouldn't be welcome. I could hear the people sitting behind me gasping. I just smiled, told him that everyone has an opinion and then I attempted to change the subject. I was tempted to tell him to shut the fuck up and keep his hatred to himself. I was tempted to tell him (politely) that it might be best if he found another place to sit. The train was full. That is why I did neither. I did not want to be stuck sitting next to him while he directed that hatred and ignorance at me.
My family was only marginally better than that guy. I was asked my political views by an uncle who really wasn't trying to be argumentative. He honestly wanted to know what I thought. His sister in law, my aunt however tried to start a "debate". I told her that I knew that her opinions were not the same as mine, and that she was entitled to those opinions. Just as I was entitled to mine. That I would not argue politics with her, as we would NEVER change each others minds.
I stayed at a cousins house, on an air mattress. Word to the wise, when up in the mountains, in the cold, air mattresses need to have a blanket that you sleep on top of PLUS about 3 more to cover yourself with. The air inside the mattress is the same temp as the room. And the room I slept in was about 40 degrees.
Gift giving went well, I now have more orange stuff. And more salt and pepper shakers. And more crosses. I gave every one pieces of cross stitch, and then told them how it was intended to be "used". For one uncle I had a gift card, since he lost his house to a fire. I figure he knows what he needs and I don't want to get him something useless.
The train ride home was late getting to the station. By an hour. But it was nice. I saw a bald eagle launch itself into the air. I saw others in trees. I saw a huge herd of elk, running in the snow. I saw wild turkeys in the corner of a field. I saw the sun rise all pink and orange, over some hills. I saw the frost glitter on the dirt road that ran along side of the tracks. And I saw horses playing in the snow. All of this was beautiful.
My train arrived home at 7pm. THREE hours late. I was never so happy to be home. To sleep in a REAL bed. And a friend of mine gave me an early birthday present. A case of beer. It was a fantastic homecoming. Now, I just need to gear up for Friday, my birthday. I will try not to do what I did last year. And hopefully I won't need to spend Saturday hiding under the blankets and pillows with a pounding hangover.

--Little Bird is back in the nest

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lessons Learned

So I have only a few days to go until I leave for Colorado. I am almost completely packed. The only things I don't have are food and beverage items. That is the beauty of train travel. You can bring your own food and drink! I have learned to bring cheese, beef jerky, crackers, soda, and propel packets (the powder kind that you mix into a water bottle). Yes I also bring a bottle of wine. And yes, I have a small cooler to hold all the foodstuffs. If you bring a sports bottle, you can fill it at water fountains in every car.
I also recommend bringing a blanket. And one of those sleep mask things. And ear plugs. These three things will help you achieve the near impossible. Sleep. The wine helps too. I am an old hand at this, having done it several times already. Each time I think of a new way to make my trip more enjoyable. This years is a regular twin sized blanket and a pillow. I have been bringing a travel blanket in the past and it's not all that great.
Books, music, and a laptop are also pretty much essential to passing the time without killing someone. They help you ignore the 7 year old kid that won't stop running up and down the aisle saying "boogerboogerboogerboogerbooger!". And if you can ignore the kid, the kid survives to see another day.
A note about the alcohol. Technically it's a no-no to bring your own. They want you to buy it from them. I guess this would allow them to monitor your level of drunkenness as well. But, if you don't make an ass of yourself, start a fight, get sick or any other ass-like thing, they don't really care. I sit quietly in my seat, drink what ever I brought and read. Or watch a movie on my computer. To my knowledge no one has ever complained about my behavior on the train. And believe me, the conductors tell you when there's a problem.
I'm sure when I get back I'll be full of train related horror stories. I choose to pretend that this time it will all go according to plans. And that this time the train won't arrive at my destination 5 freaking hours late!
The other night my mother and I cooked. We made quiche. When I was young I hated the stuff. But in recent years I've had the little mini kind at parties and liked it. So I thought I would try my hand at making it. It was divine. And I figured that I can use this method to use up leftovers so I won't throw as much food away. My mother, who has traveled the world and eaten quiche in some of the best places, declared this to be the best quiche she has ever had! I think it was the leeks that made it so good.

Ham and Leek Quiche
1 pre-made pie shell (the refrigerated kind)
1/4 lb smoked ham, cubed really tiny
3 cups shredded cheese ( 2 cups a four cheese blend from Trader Joe's and 1 cup Mozzarella)
3 medium leeks white and pale green parts only
3 eggs
1 1/3 containers of creme fraiche (the 7oz package)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
cracked black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp butter

In a pie plate place the crust and bake according to instructions on the box.

When you remove the crust from the oven, turn the heat down to 350 f.

While you are waiting for the crust to come out of the oven cut the leeks in half lengthwise, and then into 1/2 pieces.
Put them in a bowl and swish them around to clean them. Drain and pat dry.
In a 10 inch skillet, melt the butter and add the leeks, stirring often until leeks are tender.

While the crust is cooling you can place the ham in the crust, try for an even layer and up the sides if you can.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche, nutmeg and pepper.

Add leeks to the ham, in a layer. Add the cheese on top of the leeks.

Pour half of the egg mixture into the pie, moving the cheese about (gently!) to get the mixture to settle more evenly. Pour the rest in.

Bake for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. The top should be a rich brown and the center should wobble ever so slightly. Allow to cool for 15 min before serving.

The next time I make this, I'm using BACON!!!

--Little Bird only breaks minor rules

Sunday, December 14, 2008


This weekend has been spent recovering. Recovering from the party I went to on Thursday. The party that my ex invited me to. Awkward! I did have fun. I think I drank too much, and I didn't get any phone numbers, but it was still a good night. I got to get dressed up and a number of my other friends were there.
Now I get to plan the holiday trip to see the family. In Colorado. By train. I think I've figured it out, what to pack and all. Gifts this year are easy, I only have one to get. For an aunt and uncle. Gift cards, visa or amex. See, they lost their home in the California fires. So instead of buying stuff that no one really needs for ALL of them, I'm going to spend about what I would have normally done. And give it all to one family. I decided to go with gift cards because I don't know what they need, and this was the best way to make sure that they could get those things.
Also in the works is a trip to D.C. for a neurofibromatosis forum. This will be the first time I will have met another person with it. And it will allow me to learn more about any clinical trials in my area. And maybe, just maybe talk to someone who knows what it's like.

Endive Spoons with Herbed Goat Cheese
1 lb soft fresh goat cheese
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 generous Tbsp fresh lemon zest (minced)
3 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
3 Tbsp finely chopped chives
8 long slender heads of Belgian Endive
6 grape tomatoes, cut crosswise into very thin slices, slices halved, for garnish
very small sprigs of cilantro, for garnish

Using on/off turns, blend goat cheese, olive oil, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, and lemon zest in food processor until smooth and creamy. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Stir in chopped cilantro and chives, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cover and refrigerate until cold (can be made a day in advance. Keep refrigerated.) If desired, transfer cheese mixture to pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip.
Cut off and discard root ends of endive. Separate leaves. Into each leaf spoon or squeeze some of the cheese mixture. Continue until out of cheese, or out of leaves. Garnish each with sliver of tomato and cilantro leaf. Serve.

--Little Bird recuperates

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This Week, Back at the Ranch...

This has been an off week. I didn't do all that much. I did, however, go to a party. A girls only party. And sorry guys, it did not turn into anything inappropriate. We had a tex-mex theme. So for this party (I attended, not threw) I made citrus salt. To go on the margaritas. It was pretty easy. It does not look so great a few hours into the party though. It tastes great, so that's good.
I also have been working on several cross stitch pieces. I'm up to 8 so far. They're all fairly small, I'm not really sure what I'm gonna do with them, but I can't stop making them. I even went so far as to buy some 22 count fabric to try my hand at really tiny detailed work. I need more practice. 22 count means that there are 22 "squares" per inch. Most of what I do is on 11 count or 14 count, so this new fabric is really not so easy. I need better light. And a stand to hold my frame. And one of those big magnifiers on an arm. And a whole host of other things. I really should get organized first though. That means a few MORE items are needed, and scans or photos need to be taken of the existing work. Meanwhile my room is developing a pile of shnibbly bits of embroidery floss, the snipped off bits. I keep picking it up, and it just keeps piling up. The annoying thing is they stick to my clothes, and I keep finding random threads on myself when I'm not at home. Grrrrrr!

Citrus Salt

2 cups Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Orange zest, FRESH
1 Tbsp Lemon zest, FRESH
1 Tbsp Lime zest, FRESH

Mix all together in a bowl. Spread it in a metal pan that has a lip (you'll see why). Bake at 225 f for about 2 hours.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Put through a food processor on pulse to blend thoroughly.

This is also good for chicken or seafood. You can also reduce the amounts, to create a smaller yield.

--Little Bird is going cross-eyed

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Ok. So. Now that that is out of the way. I would like to point out that I have neurofibromatosis. A condition that makes me prone to tumors, migraines and fits of overshares.

Today was spent shopping. Shopping for someone else's party. CostCo, Trader Joe's, and Jewel. It was an interesting day. I got a book that I have been dying to read, and beer. I also got to spend the day with a friend that I don't often get to see. I'm looking forward to her party, I'm cooking part of the food for it. Also, while I was at her place I cooked for her. I get the feeling that not many people have done that for her. Anyway, while we were out shopping she bought a small rosemary christmas tree. I told her I knew of a recipe that called for rosemary, one that she could easily cook. Then she bought Chicken breast. The major ingredient for my recipe. I decided then that I would cook for her when we go back to her place. It was a good evening. Good food. Good friends. Wine.
The wine wasn't so great, but it was the cheap stuff from Trader Joe's, so we weren't expecting Opus One. It was fun today though. And now she knows how to make Balsamic Chicken. And so will you.

Balsamic Chicken

2 or 4 boneless chicken breasts
1 or 2 teaspoons minced FRESH rosemary
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a bowl mix, the rosemary, the garlic, pepper, and olive oil.
Place the chicken in the bowl, making sure to coat the chicken with the mixture.
Place in roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes before flipping and cooking for another 20 minutes.
After removing chicken from roasting pan, add balsamic vinegar to pan. This will add flavor to the drippings, AND make the clean-up soooooo much easier.
Serve over acine de pepe. Spoon pan drippings over the whole dish.

--Little Bird will try not to gross you out again, but promises nothing