Friday, December 25, 2009

Bonfire, Bonfire, BONFIRE!

Greetings from the high desert! I am writing this from Abiquiu New Mexico and it is COLD here. The train ride here was blessedly uneventful and the scenery (while it was light out) was pleasant. It snowed almost the whole way here. Or at least, there was snow on the ground almost the whole way here. The peanut butter filled pretzels were just right.
Mama Bird and I came to a deal last night. I won't make disparaging comments about her buying expensive, well made items ($40 socks, for example), and she won't make fun of how I tend to over prepare for travel. And the reason she won't make fun of my preparedness is we had to stay in Santa Fe the night my train came in. See, it snowed here. A lot. And the roads were horribly bad. She didn't want to be driving in that PLUS it would be dark before we go to the cabin. But, she hadn't planned on staying in Santa Fe, so she didn't have things like a toothbrush and toothpaste. Or lotion. I had all those things. Plus a few more (I also had a wine key that came in handy last night). I won't be making any more disparaging comments about her expensive well made things because I realized that I too tend to spend a lot for things that are worth it (I want a $30 garlic press).
Last night was one of the best Christmas eves I've ever had. It was cozy, we had good food, we sat around and sang Christmas songs. The church across the plaza from us has a bonfire every year. A great huge thing that has to be visible for miles. We had never been to it so we figured we would go this year. Midnight Mass was at 10, and so we kept peeking out the window, and sometimes walking over to the church to see if there was anything to see. Nope. So we finally figured that the fire would be lit after Midnight Mass, and we settled down in the living room to reminisce. Mama Bird got up to get something out of the kitchen and all of the sudden I heard her say "bonfire". I had to ask her what she meant and she said "bonfire, bonfire BONFIRE!" What we hadn't noticed was the piles of wood in front of the churches fence/wall. Quite a few of them in fact. And now they were all lit. It looked like the church itself was aflame. People were gathering and going in, and the processional was getting ready to go in. We were outside to watch them all go in to the church and watched the fires for a bit, but we didn't think we could stay up another hour to go see the big bonfire. We walked back to our cabin under a cloudless sky filled with all the stars you can't see when you live in a city. It was perfect.

I have just been informed that next year for Christmas, Mama Bird wants an axe.

--Little Bird is prepared for this

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Christmas came to my nest early this year. My grandfather sent me a HUGE check, and that really helped me finish purchasing all the rest of the gifts I needed to buy for others (of course, now I am committed to go to a family reunion in the summer). I didn't manage to finish Roosters "craft gift" (a cross stitched throw pillow with his favorite Star Trek quote) and he already knows what it is as we have already exchanged gifts.
For Rooster I bought a leather messenger bag, it sorta has an Indiana Jones vibe to it and looks as if it will last forever. He also received the movie "Inglorious Basterds" and two tiny books - one of dirty limericks and another of weird factoids - both for the bathroom.
From Rooster I received the first season of "The French Chef" with Julia Child (!) and two sets of salt and pepper shakers, and then he blew me away with the totally perfect dove stick pin! It's a prop replica from the movie "For Your Eyes Only", and when we watched the movie, I saw it and told him I would love to find one of those because of this blog and my failblog name. AND HE FOUND ONE!!!! He totally gets brownie points for being so thoughtful!

For my step-father I picked up a stainless steel liquid soap pump. He had this ugly plastic bottle on his bathroom counter. He has very good taste in the things he chooses to surround himself with so I thought that maybe he'd appreciate something a little less... fugly. I also got him a jigger for when he and Mama Bird make martinis, and some black gum. He always gets something black from me, it's a long standing gag with us. But I don't think I'll ever top the year we found black toilet paper!
To Mama Bird I gave a set of black micro-fleece base layers. Basically long underwear, but slightly nicer than that. She too, will get a cross stitched pillow. She has requested the quote from Alice Roosevelt Longworth -- If you don't have something nice to say about someone, sit right here by me. Yes, she already knows, and we looked up the quote together so it would be right.
FROM my parents, I received a 6 piece set of Le Crueset cookware!!!! A stock pot, a sauce pan, and a 4(?) quart french oven!! Each one has a lid (and the lids count as three of the pieces). And they are ORANGE!!!!!! I can finally throw away my old, beat up, no-longer-teflon-coated pots and pans!!! And the new pieces look so pretty in my kitchen with all my other orange stuff. I haven't cooked anything in them yet, but I will tonight.
Gift giving was done early this year with Rooster because I will be out of town on Christmas proper, and I wanted to share that moment with him. My family and I exchanged gifts early because no one wanted to lug a 6 piece set of enameled cast iron across the country, and some of the items might not have made it through airport security.

So now it's just one more day to go, and then it's onto a train and one week of quiet, crisp New Mexico mountains. I think I'll take fried chicken to eat, and I picked up peanut butter filled pretzels for snacking. Along with the soda, beer and propel packets. Maybe I'll find some candy of some sort to also bring along.
I've been packed for two days already because it's one of my little quirks, I want to be prepared. I don't want to forget anything. I always forget something anyway. Also, this train will be ridiculously packed, and I need to make sure I have what I need to have a pleasant train ride. Here's hoping I don't get stuck sitting next to a creep. Also, here's hoping I can get a window seat.

--Little Bird has achieved cookware nirvana

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What To Pack

Once again I am preparing for a trip to New Mexico. This year we'll be staying in a different place, one I've never been to before. And, once again, I'll be taking the train there. This is the 21 hour trip. Not the 27 hour one that always seems to turn into a 32 hour trip. Still, this trip requires some advance planning. Not just the usual packing stuff either. See, 21 hours on a train is a bit of a long time. And I leave right before Christmas. The train? It will be PACKED. Chances are they will somehow mysteriously over-book*.
So, what to bring on a packed to the gills train? Books. At least two and of different genres, because I will get bored with one of them at some point. My cross stitch stuff, the small hoop and maybe a pattern. Music, this year I have to use the personal CD player as both iPods are out of commission. The travel Scrabble game. Food. And basic amenities. These include wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a bitty bottle of Febreeze (try it once, you'll never travel without it again), a toiletry kit (remember, this is 21 hours I'm talking here), and slippers. I haven't decided if I'll bring the blanket and pillow, they take up precious space, but then they are really helpful once sleep is needed.
The food situation is still up in the air. I don't really know what to pack this time. Other than soda and beer. Propel packets are good, small and easy to pack, the water bottle is also a good thing since there are water fountains in each car, thus being free. Now, for actual food? I'm kind of at a loss. I might just pack a few Lunchables. That's what Rooster and I got on the way back home from St. Louis.
I'm open to suggestions.
* When a train over books, no one gets bumped off the train. Not even the extra person, assuming of course that they only over booked by two or three people. They just seat those extra folks in the observation/snack car until a few seats open up. That's kind of the cool thing about the train. All those stops, picking up and dropping off all kinds of different people. You never really know what kind of person is going to end up sitting next to you. Sometimes it's a great person (the trip back from Colorado on year was particularly nice). Sometimes it's a harridan (the trip back from New Mexico once was unbelievably awful). For some reason, I love to travel by train. I may be a glutton for punishment.

--Little Bird is getting prepared

Friday, December 4, 2009


The other day I called a friend, just to see what she was up to. Apparently not much, as she felt terrible. She said her stomach was really bloated (enough to look preggers she said) and that she had taken about 10 to 15 antacids. The first thing that went through my mind was, that that many antacids can't be good for a person. I told her that maybe she shouldn't take any more and possibly call a doctor. She didn't take any more. Neither did she call a doctor. She went out and had a glass of wine and a bite to eat. The next day she still wasn't feeling any better (this was after she did some work stuff) and spoke to a doctor. Today she is in the hospital having her appendix removed.
She has asked me to feed her cat and to bring her some things from her place. You know, reading material, reading glasses, and MAKE UP. There are cute doctors in hospitals you know.
It took me a bit to figure out just how to get to the hospital she's in. And it will take a bit more, once I actually get there, to find her.
I was told that the pain associated with her appendix was like shards of glass in her belly. I hope my appendix decides to stay nice and calm.
So now that I've finished cleaning my parents apartment, it's off to my friends place to feed the cat, gather some reading material, and her make up. What did you do today?

--Little Bird is on a mission

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Visit To A Padded Room

Mama Bird and I got back late afternoon Saturday from our new Thanksgiving tradition. We decided while we were there that it would become our new tradition. The cottage we stayed in was perfect. A full kitchen (while small, was still bigger than my own), a fireplace in the living room and cozy furniture. Well, most of it was cozy (some of the chairs were less than comfy). The living room was upholstered! There was fabric on the walls and someone took the time to put piping along every corner, the top and bottom edges of each wall and surrounding each window and door. There was even batting under that fabric, so the walls were lightly padded. The bathroom had a half sized tub, something I don't think I've ever seen before. It makes sense though, you don't really need a full tub to shower in. And the Inn has a heated indoor pool just down the road, so you could soak there if the mood struck you.
The only bad things I have to say about the room are these; the fireplace came without any instructions*, and neither did the weird locking system for the front door.** Other than that, things were peachy! They left us fresh orange juice in the fridge for the next morning, and that fridge was large enough to hold all the perishables we brought with us.
* Ok, you might think that lighting a fire in a fireplace is pretty easy. And for the most part it is. But really, not everybody has much experience doing so. Mama Bird and I are both fairly proficient at it, but we still had problems. For one thing the flue was shut, and we did not know that until the fire was lit. The WHOLE cottage filled with smoke and we had to call maintenance to come help us out. I was on the phone with them while Mama Bird tried to do something about the smoke. If there were an audio recording of the whole ordeal, it would have been comedy genius.
** Again, you would think that door locks are pretty easy to figure out. This door lock was ... interesting. The door was unlocked when we arrived, and that was no big deal, we figured that was on purpose. However, once inside, I noticed that the lock was only accessible from the inside. There was no keyhole on the outside of the front door. It was some kind of deadbolt that while it certainly locked the door, was a bit odd. It turned out that if you left your cottage, say to go walk around the town, or drive to the next one to buy provisions, you locked your front door from the inside, and returned through the back door. That doesn't seem so bad, but the path TO that back door was poorly lit after dark and required a flash light to navigate.
All that aside, we had a great time. Again for the most part***. For dinner the first night we had butternut squash filled ravioli served with sun dried tomatoes, basil, shaved parmasean, and roasted pumpkin seed oil. It was... perfection. Just a tiny bit of garlic (fresh) and some italian seasonings to give it that little touch. For Thanksgiving dinner we went to someone else's house and had a full traditional meal. Turkey, stuffing, and veggies. I brought the mashed sweet potatoes and walnut green beans and for dessert I brought Ry's pumpkin cheesecake. All of those recipes can be found somewhere in the archives, and the cheesecake in the comments of "I Was On A Boat 'Yall". Everybody loved everything!
*** Put me and Mama Bird in the same kitchen and eventually tempers will flare. It never fails. But the food always comes out great, and we always get over it. I still maintain that there is some kind of catharsis to it.

---Little Bird has a new tradition

Sunday, November 22, 2009


My computer conspires against me. That weird little last post? Wasn't supposed to post like that. It was a draft. One that I had to save and abandon the computer so my step-father could get on-line. I've been having computer problems lately. A sick, twisted part of me hopes he has too. If he has, maybe we can get the damned thing FIXED!
So yes, the stitches come out Monday (tomorrow) and Mama Bird and I go to southern Indiana for Thanksgiving later in the week.

We are bringing food to a dinner we have been invited to. Two sides and a desert. Mashed sweet potatoes (recipe from last year about this time) and Walnut green beans (recipe also somewhere on here) and pumpkin cheese cake. That last recipe is from the comment section of "I Was On A Boat Y'all" , a relatively recent post of mine. The recipe is from a FailBlog friend, and looks fantastic!
The trip to New Harmony looks to be pleasant. Nice and quiet. We're bringing all the food we need as we rented a cottage and it has a full kitchen. The part I'm looking forward to is the fireplace. Reading and playing Scrabble. And maybe some cross-stitch work.
I'm working on getting everyone's Christmas gifts in order. This is not exactly an easy undertaking. I've got Rooster's figured out (I won't list them as he reads this site) and my step-father's gifts are also figured out. Mama Bird's are not yet decided and the crazy family is getting nuts. Spicy roasted nuts. I figure it's appropriate. There are a few other friends to buy for, but for the most part, I've got their gifts all worked out.
Other than that, I have nothing to report.

--Little Bird tries to work with her computer

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Update: The stitches are healing fine. I guess. They itch. But they haven't popped open or torn or anything that fall into the realm of uh-oh.

This year for Thanksgiving, Mama Bird and I are traveling to New Harmony, Indiana. As someone from FailBlog put it, it's about as close to not being in Indiana as you can get, and still be in Indiana. It's right on the boarder near the southern end.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nick/ Cut

So, today I had the little tumor-thing cut off my back. I named it Nick, after one of the Backstreet Boys. Subsequent tumor-things removed from my back will be named after the other band members. The doctor was very pleasant, and quite kind. He played music, I think to keep me from hearing what he was doing. Regardless, I heard the "snip" when he cut away the bulk of Nick. It was a bit disconcerting. Not nearly as disconcerting as seeing Nick, held between thumb and index finger four feet away from my body.
I have a few stitches that have to come out next week, and a few rules to follow in the meantime. Put polysporin on it, change the bandage, don't get it wet for twenty four hours, those sorts of rules. It twinges a little, and if it really starts to hurt I can take tylenol (I think it's weird that spellchecker has no problem with the word tylenol, but Avis is flagged). The only thing that worries me is when I sleep. See, I move around when I sleep. A lot. I don't want to aggravate the stitches anymore than they already are.
I do not have health insurance. So every time I need to have a tumor removed (or just a plain old check up) it costs a lot of money. Out of pocket. Most of my doctors have been really cool about it, offering some sort of price reduction to help out. This visit cost less than it could have, thanks to the doctor for understanding that no insurance and no job means parental payment. We still had to pay a lot though. Plus there was an additional $200 pathologist fee, to have someone look at it to see if it has anything to do with the dreaded "C" word.
Neurofibromatosis is a "pre-existing condition" that precludes me from most insurance. The places that WILL cover me want an arm and a leg in monthly fees and a HUGE deductable. It costs less to not have those fees. But, if any of my tumors (I have well over 40) should turn cancerous, I'm screwed.
Why does health care have to cost so much? Why isn't there a better system in place to help people who can't cover those costs?
I would like to encourage everyone who reads this (all four of you) to go to and learn more about neurofibromatosis. The site explains things far better than I could. If you have any questions pertaining to my specific case, I'll answer as best I can.

--Little Bird is now Nickless

Friday, November 6, 2009


Sometimes I disturb myself. Like with this little tidbit of personal information. I have several tumors, and when one has to be removed, it gets a name. A regular sort of name. The one that was above and slightly behind my right ear was Ralph. The one on the underside of my chin was Harry, because of the one lone hair it occasionally sprouted. The annoying one on my neck was Herman, and that's what my dad used to call me when he wanted to get under my skin. The group that was removed when I was 21 (discussed in an earlier post) we can call the Brothers Grim. And lastly the one on my face, right side, I've dubbed Arnold. Arnold wasn't really a tumor (hence the name... "It's not a toomah") but a cyst that abscessed and had to come out ASAP.
But the naming all started with Ralph. You see, years ago, when I was 22, I dated this guy. And his mother had a tumor in the exact same place. She had named it Ralph, because it had been with her for so long. So I named my matching one Ralph too. It was the only one to get a name before it had to be removed. So far all the names are masculine, and have some meaning behind them. So. What do I call the one on my back that is coming off on the 16th? I'm having difficulty thinking up an appropriate name for him.
I just remembered that I did name one other one that hasn't been removed yet, and not only that, it has a feminine name. Rosey. She's on my forehead. I also feel I should point out that all of these tumors are really small. Mole sized, but not moles. And they get removed when they start to act up.
Should I talk about food now?
No? Too soon?
Sometimes other people disturb me. Like what my crazy relative told me yesterday. She lives in Texas (I know, I could stop there and you would still understand). She and I were discussing the incident at the military base not too far from her. The one in the news. The one where the officer lost his marbles and started shooting up a theatre. She informed me that the gunman was muslim, and that was why he did it. She went on to tell me that there has been talk of rounding up all the muslims in the U.S. and deporting them. That's right. She said it like this was a good thing. It worries me sometimes that crazy appears to run in my family.
I pointed out to her that we (as a country) can't really do that as we have laws about that sort of thing. You know, you can't discriminate against some one for their race, color, or creed. Civil rights. Basic rights at that. I also pointed out that this country was founded on freedom of religion (among other things). She seemed to think that it was perfectly alright to ship 'em all out because, you know, they all want to kill us. Forgetting that nearly every group has extremists and you can't judge an entire group of people by the actions of a few. She said it was part of their religion to try to kill us all. And by "us" she meant everyone who isn't muslim. THEN she went on to say that the saddest part of it all was that those people (and by "those people" she meant everyone who isn't christian - her brand of it at that) were all going to hell. Did I mention that she kinda scares me sometimes? I'm RELATED to this person! I share genetic traits with her. Luckily, that's about all I share with her.

--Little Bird is soon to be carved

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Train Stations

The train station in St. Louis is pretty new. And fantastic when compared with the last two they had. Oh, yes, St. Louis has a Union Station. But they turned that into a mall and a hotel. About 20 years or more ago. When the mall was new, it was really cool. Now that mall only has crap. And the hotel doesn't see half the business it used to. So while St. Louis had a great new mall, they still needed a downtown train stop. So they purchased and assembled one of those "temporary" buildings. The ones that on a smaller scale are often used as garden sheds. It was drafty and cold in the winter, and overly warm in the summer. It was referred to by locals as the "Amshack". So someone decided to build a new station stop. Same kind of building, only this was about 20 yards east and faced with bricks. It was still called an "Amshack". Finally someone (I assume someone else this time) realized that this stop is the first impression that many people have of the city. And rolling up to a tiny metal shed doesn't send the right message. Also, the station(s) were/are right near the new ballpark and the hockey arena, gotta keep up appearances! So now the station is bright, clean and has actual food vendors instead of vending machines. And the bathrooms aren't scary at the new place (I honestly don't know what the restrooms in the older places looked like, I could never bring myself to enter them). The new station is nice! The new station makes it easier to tell the difference between the normal people and the crazies.
To explain, the old place was a dump, and anyone can look crazy in a dump and everybody sort of blends in there for some reason. But in the new place, the crazies stand out. There was this guy there Monday. When he wasn't constantly moving from seat to seat, he could have looked normal. Except then he got up to wander around and a security guard turned around and the guy (let's call him Mr. Green) made a mad dash for the nearest available seat. It turns out that he'd been there awhile and been something of a problem. We watched this charade play out a few times until finally the guard told him (and his brother who did nothing to control Mr. Green) that he had to stay seated. In ONE seat. That's when we noticed that Mr. Green was a wee bit... twitchy. I was a bit worried that he would be on our train, but luckily he was taking the bus (Greyhound also uses the station). Other than that, the train experiences this trip were entirely uneventful.
The turducken has arrived!!! A ten pound hunk of birds within birds, along with some creole stuffing. The company that assembles them also sent along a canister of creole seasoning for any other dishes you might be making go go along with the bird(s). So this weekend it's off to get the rest of the necessary items. Green beans (in a can, ick) for the green bean casserole (also ick) and the other stuff for it. The stuff for the mashed potatoes and the mashed sweet potatoes and a few foil pans to cook and transport the food from my place to the staff lunch room. Here's hoping my cold is gone by then and I don't infect the entirety of my building maintenance staff!
Other than that, I have nothing new to report. Unless you want an update on the state of my cold. Which I strongly suggest that you don't.

--Little Bird will soon be cooking a big one

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I'mmm Baaaaaack

So, the trip to St. Louis went well! The costumes were great! Whirly Bird went as FLO from the Progressive commercials, and totally looked the part. My Julia Child costume looked eerily accurate (when I was standing next to the 5 foot 2 inch Whirly Bird that is). Rooster's revolutionary war british officer was fantastic. And Whirly Bird's beau went as an OB-GYN, with an offer of a free exam, that night only advertised on the back of his lab coat.
The night was cut a bit short by the cold that Whirly Bird and her beau both had. But we still made it out to some parties and bars. It wasn't too cold, but it was cold enough that we needed jackets.
We got to stop by a few neat shops the next day, and catch up with some of my old friends. I also got to pick up some of my favorite St. Louis foods. Red Hot Ripplets (Old Vienna) and Pasta Crunchers from a local restaurant.
Whirly Bird is a kind a generous hostess, she shared her home, her food AND her cold with us! I've been teasing her about that for the past two days. It's not her fault, I'd have gotten a cold anyway. It's how it works.
We did get to introduce Rooster to some only-in-St.-Louis delicacies. Like Imo's Pizza. With the cheese that sticks to your teeth. The cheese that (legend has it) was invented in St. Louis. Also the super thin cracker style of pizza the town is known for. Some local beers, and Steak n' Shake. I know, Steak n' Shake isn't St. Louis only, but I don't know where any are near me, so I only get to go to one when I'm there. Next time we'll take him out for toasted ravioli and find some gooey butter cake. And Vess soda.
Today I am all about the not doing anything. I am popping Advil cold and sinus like candy (every 4 hours or so). And drinking gatorade right now, trying to keep hydrated. I want to sleep. All day. Rooster wasn't too keen on that idea, but suffered through it for a while. But he had to get back to his place before the buses get packed. Poor thing has to go to work tomorrow. Yes, Rooster got the cold too. I can't even begin to tell him how sorry I am about that.
We took the train there and back, and it was an uneventful ride. No real delays (ten minutes doesn't count). We had plenty of food both ways (we picked up lunchables for the way home). There were no screaming children, nor creepy neighbors (on the train at least, the station is another story for tomorrow).

--Little Bird is staying in the nest today

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Was On A Boat, Y'all

Jetskis are unpleasant machines. In my opinion at least. They are loud, they create a dangerous swimming environment, and they are loud. Yes, loud enough to complain twice. Also, unless they are on, they don't move in the water so well.
Allow me to explain. Yesterday a friend of mine was scheduled to take his boat from Chicago to Portage, Indiana. And he wanted to have a second set of hands on board, just in case. So he asked me to help. This being a chance to go for a spin on the boat, and of course enjoying that friends company, I agreed to help.
Before we could leave, however, we needed to drop off a jetski at a harbor just two or three harbors south of where the boat summers. So we attached a line to it and off we were. As soon as we got out into open water (past the breakwater) we sped up a little. And the line connecting the jetski to the boat... snapped. When we looked back we didn't see it and at first thought it was merely covered by the wake. So we had to circle around it a few times while I tried to reach out and snag it with the boat pole/hook. In order to do this we had to actually hit the damned thing to get it to sort of slide along the side of the boat so I could reach it.
Once it was secured we continued on our way, at a much slower pace. And as we turned a corner of the other harbors channel, the line snapped AGAIN!. This time we got it much faster, as the water was calmer and I resorted to looping the line around the steering column. Word to the wise. Don't attempt to tow a jetski by attaching the line around the steering column. The damned thing flipped over and we ended up towing it upside-down to the nearest dock. And I was so afraid we were going to damage the thing somehow, I got the pole out again and reached out to snag it and pulled it in -by the pole- and held it that way 'till we got to that dock. Once there we attached a whole new line to it and turned it upright. The owner of the jetski was waiting for us and we made the drop-off successfully. With a minor bonus of my getting to hurl a few life jackets at the guy. I officially hate jetskis now.
After that it was no problem. We pumped out the head (had to be done), and off we were. The trip across the lake was nice, if slightly bumpy. The marina we were headed to is down this small channel, kind of hard to see. The building near it used to be painted green. But now they've painted it beige, so it looks like all the other industrial buildings along the lake. It took us a bit to figure out exactly where we were going. Once in the channel the choppiness stopped and we had to go pretty slow. As we got close to our slip, I was standing on the bow, getting ready to throw the line to someone on the dock, and a beautiful heron flew across the channel, right in front of us. It was incredible! I have never seen one that close, and certainly not that close in flight. It was really quiet back there, and so peaceful.
Once docked it was a mad dash to get the boat ready for dry dock. Stuff to be put away, other stuff to be emptied. All the food on board had to come off, and oddly enough, all the booze stayed on board. We got a ride from one of the dock employees to the train stop and took the train back into the city. And while on the train we drank champagne, a tradition I'm told. Every trip back from taking the boat in for the winter he drinks champagne on the train. (Though I must say, we didn't drink champagne the first time I helped with this voyage, that time we ran out of booze much earlier in the evening (while at dock, we weren't boating and drinking) and had resorted to try drinking straight vermouth. Sweet vermouth. I do not recommend it.)
So, because of yesterdays excitement, I am beyond sore today. I hurt. And I have a LOT of stuff to get done before Thursday night.
I'll leave you with a question; what is the last voyage of a season called? Not a ships final voyage, but just the last one of the season.

--Little Bird survived

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Last night I was trying to think of a topic to write about for today. And I had a fantastic idea. Right before I fell asleep. No, of course I don't remember what it was. That would be silly. And unlikely to boot. So I'll just muddle on here, and see what I can come up with.
My trip to St. Louis is coming up, and the weather just keeps getting worse. I hope it's at least DRY this year. Rain would put a damper on things (no pun intended).
This weekend I am making a birthday dish for Mama Bird (birthday was while she was out of town) and I haven't a clue how to make it. It's that dish she had at that restaurant in Taos. The dish is Chiles en Nogado. I've found several recipes for it on-line but every time I tell her about them she says it's not the right thing. That hers was breaded. So this ought to be an interesting experience. I think the yelling in the kitchen is all part of the cooking experience anyway. It's cathartic. At least that's what I'm going to tell my step-father the next time he complains about our yelling.
Thanks to everybody for the container ideas for traveling with spices! I'll figure something out, I have some time left. I did realize that I need at least two containers by Thanksgiving, when Mama Bird and I go to New Harmony. For those that don't know, New Harmony is a tiny little town that has a lot of history to it. We like the quiet. And the quaint, antique-y feel the place has. We're getting a "cottage" this time (we haven't been in YEARS) so we can cook our own meals. The real plus side is the place has a fireplace. We get to sit in front of the fire and stare at it. While that might not sound like fun to everyone, for a couple of city-bound nerdy types, it's absolutely heaven. When we go to New Mexico, we stare at the fire there too. It's like taking a step back, and getting away from all the hustle and bustle. Stopping and taking a breath. Meditating. The fire is like a focus. It's always changing, but always the same.

--Little Bird takes a breath

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Valley of the Dolls

Taking a cue from Nancy over at, I bring you this story from my childhood.
When I was very young I wanted a Barbie doll. All my friends had them. My cousins had them. But, alas, these dolls were not allowed in my house, by edict of Mama Bird. I know now why she didn't want them around. But I still don't agree with the ban on them. When I was eight or so I took it upon myself to buy my own damned Barbie doll. The western/cowgirl Barbie (I think I was still harboring dreams of becoming a Dallas Coyboys Cheerleader. Remember, I was born in Dallas, I couldn't help it.). She came with the hat and boots and a tiny rubber stamp that was a kiss mark. I was so proud of myself for getting it myself (I used my Christmas money) and my grandmother had no problem with me buying it. Mama Bird made me return it the next day, unopened, unplayed with.
Mama Bird thought that I would develop an unhealthy body image if I had Barbies around, what with their enormous boobs and microscopic waistline. That I would think that was how I should look. That I would somehow become as acquisitive as the dolls "character" (C'mon, the bitch had everything).
Eventually Mama Bird cracked, and for valentines day when I was about nine or ten, I got my first ever Barbie doll. Pink 'n Pretty was the version. She came with both a dress and slinky pink pants. I was over the moon. More Barbies followed that one and I ended up with quite a collection. Because you can't just have one. She's got to have friends. And boyfriends too.
I never thought I would look like Barbie. In fact the ones that I thought the prettiest weren't because of their figures. There was a tropical something or other friend of Barbie's who's name was Miko or something like that. Her facial features were exotic. And a few years later there was a strawberry blonde with green eyes I thought was pretty. I wanted her hair. Not the body shape. I wanted to wear make-up, and be a rock-star. Or a clothing shop owner. Or a vet. Barbie had sooooo many jobs over the years.
Because I had a few of them, and it was my constant desire to make everything the way I wanted it to look, I drew heavier make up on them. I tried to crimp the hair of one of them (yes, I had a crimper) and melted it all away. When I got even older I turned them in to punk Barbies, drawing tattoos on them and cutting up their clothes.
I don't think Barbie is the best role model for little girls. But I don't think she's the worst either. I think that if parents take the time to show them how ridiculous she looks, kids will be just fine playing with Barbies. Dolls are for make-believe. Pure fluff. Not for reflecting reality. That being said, I think the Barbie computer games and "movies" are awful. They make no allowances for pure imagination. And they totally push the "I must have every thing Barbie I can find" attitude.
I am able to look at Barbie now and make fun of her. More for the consumerism aspect of her and her world. You could take virtually anything, paint it pink and write Barbie across it and it would sell like hot-cakes. That's the part I totally agree with Mama Bird about.

--Little Bird does most emphatically NOT look like Barbie (and is still quite content)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mixed Bag

It is cold here in Chicago. Nasty cold. The windy kind of cold that wouldn't really be so cold if it weren't for the damned wind! Every year about this time I am reminded that while I own elebenty million coats/jackets (seems like it anyway), I do not own the right kind of jacket for this kind of weather. A windbreaker with fleece lining. Maybe a little bit of batting in there for extra warmth. I have wind breakers. I have fleece jackets. But one does not fit so easily under the other. So, maybe this year I'll finally get that holy grail of jackets.
In the plan for today is SOUP! (What else would you have expected from me?) But I'm switching up the recipe. I'm making a butternut squash soup, just not exactly according to the book. I figure I'll roast the squash, then simmer it in broth with onion and seasonings. Once the squash is really tender, I'll add some cream and puree the stuff. If it works, I'll be sure to tell you what exactly I did (if I can). If it doesn't, I'll.... I'll... figure something out.
Mama Bird and Co. are in New Mexico again. I'm only slightly jealous this time. They've been on the land, they've been to a party (Mama Birds birthday was Sunday), they had to get pulled out of a ditch. Dirt/gravel roads don't really have a shoulder, just ditches. Luckily, no one was injured, not even the car. They're there for a few more days, enjoying the quiet and the views. I used to think that the desert (in this case the high desert) would be an ugly place. Dry, barren, with nothing to see. It is dry, but that's the only thing I got right, and even that was only half right. There is a small river near where we stay, and a reservoir big enough to go boating on. There are colors in the mountains that you might not expect, pinks, yellows, and deep reds. When the sun hits them at sunset, they're amazing. (I'm told that they are equally amazing at sunrise, but I can't confirm that. I don't get up that early unless forced to. And then I'm so bleary eyed and cranky, the landscape is the last thing I'm paying attention to.)
I recently figured out that the tomato tart might not be the best idea to cook for Whirly Bird and her boyfriend while I'm in St. Louis, so I need some suggestions. Got any?

Little Bird is on a quest

Friday, October 9, 2009

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy

My bestest friend ever (the one I've known for 17 years now, and known from now on as Whirly Bird) came in to town early Tuesday morning. WAY early. 4 a.m. early. She and her boyfriend slept on the inflatables out in the living room while I went back to bed and got some more sleep. Later that day I had to run an errand so they went to the Museum of Science and Industry, to see the U-505. It rained. Of course it rained. In spite of the rain a good time was had by all and we spent much time after errands and nazi u-boats sitting around talking.
Whirly Bird gets her name from the fact that she teaches pole dancing classes (therefor she "whirls" around the pole). Also she and I are actually veeeerrrrrryy distantly related. She is the most fun, thoughtful, and caring person I think I know. She knows more about me than anyone on the planet. Thankfully, she did not share all that knowledge with my movie friend (who we will now refer to as Rooster). At least not the embarrassing stuff.
Wednesday morning we got up and went out into the city. We stopped at La Perla (just to browse) and decided that, at best, we could afford maybe half a bra. A bra and panty set there costs more than some mortgages! And no, I am not exaggerating! From there it was through Millennium Park and up the lake path to Navy Pier. After lunch we walked around the outside of Navy Pier, the weather cooperated and it was lovely. Now, when we were walking on the north side of the pier, Whirly Bird's boyfriend and I were talking and she was pretty quiet... until.... WB's boyfriend saw the splash of a large fish and commented on it. I , of course, missed it entirely. All of the sudden, we hear this quiet little voice say "Here, fishy, fishy, fishy, fishy!" There was a moment of silence while we processed what we had just heard. We laughed so hard we nearly fell in the water! Whirly Bird is like that, you never really know what she might say. Or do. And that is one of the many reasons I love hanging out with her!
That night we all went out for mexican food and that was when she and her boyfriend met Rooster. Rooster and Whirly Bird's boyfriend got along great which is good because Whirly Bird is hosting myself and Rooster over Halloween later this month, back in St. Louis. I can't wait!

--Little Bird plays hostess

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Misunderestimation

Bread takes a lot longer to make than you might think. A LOT longer. Hours longer! And apparently you have to pray. At least according to the recipe Mama Bird and I used. Mama Bird decided yesterday was the day to bake bread and found a recipe to use. We got the ingredients along with a few other items we needed for the rest of the meal and a next few days. And eggs. When we got home she read the recipe to me, and we decided to sit and rest a bit before starting the cooking process. After all the soup we were going to make wouldn't really take all that much time and the bread, well the bread should be a snap! (Oh how I wish there were a font for sarcasm!)
The first thing about this bread recipe I noticed was the fact that it tells you to pray during the kneading process. The second thing I noticed (when I finally read it myself) was that there is no ingredient list. I know that I don't always include one, but this recipe appeared to NOT come from someone's personal blog (there is too a difference!). Then sometime later as we were actually making the bread we noticed that this was a really lengthy project. Mix, set aside, knead, set aside, punch, set aside, divide, set aside, put in pans, set aside, bake, set aside. Every time we "set aside" it was a 20 minute to 1 hour wait, with two minor exceptions. It took us FOUR freaking hours to bake two loaves of bread! I mean it was good bread, and we learned that my metal mixing bowl could be used as an impromptu loaf pan, but really? Four hours? Maybe we should have prayed.
The soup was creamy potato & leek. And that also was a learning experience. For instance, you need to not let it cook for, say, four hours. And if you do, you will need a lot of milk to help thin it out once all those potatoes release all that starch into the broth. Seriously? The mixing spoon stood straight up in the middle of this stuff. It was more like slightly runny mashed potatoes than soup. Hence the milk. Again it tasted great, but clearly we need to try again another time. I don't think there'll be any complaints about that! Once again, I think it needs bacon! Maybe as a crumble topper.
My best friend from back home is coming up for a visit tomorrow, waaaaaaay early in the a.m. I'm looking forward to seeing her again, and then again at Halloween when I go visit her!
This year's costume is in the bag (no literally, it's all packaged up and ready to go)! I'm going to dress up as Julia Child (I can't remember if I mentioned that or not). And If I can ever figure out the posting pictures thing I will post some from that trip. I will be joined on this trip by a friend, and am very much looking forward to that too!

-Little Bird was not compelled by the power of prayer

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

As Per Request

Apparently, the word "soup" means different things to different people. To me, "soup" means pretty much anything that must be eaten with a spoon (cereal and ice cream being obvious exceptions). Stew is essentially a soup as far as I am concerned, so is bisque. My step-father, on the other hand, equates the word "soup" with "broth", which is another thing altogether. "Broth" is the stuff that when you add stuff to it, becomes soup. At least, that's how it works in my mind. So when I offered him some of the roasted eggplant parmesan soup I made yesterday, he was expecting something a little less.... hearty.
Have you ever had eggplant parmesan? This was like that but more liquidy. It definitely needs to be eaten with a spoon, but this stuff is a meal unto itself. You could have it with bread, and I would recommend that, but you don't need the bread to fill out the meal like you might with a "thinner" soup. My step-father was surprised that it was so filing and informed me that he very much enjoyed it. He had two helpings, so I think it was a success.
I used the recipe from "The Daily Soup Cookbook" and only tweaked it a little. And most of the soups look fantastic in that book, if you like soup, and can find the book, get it. It's well written and has interjections of humo(u)r throughout.

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan Soup

3 medium eggplants, halved
3 large tomatoes
2 Tbs butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 celery stalks chopped
2 Tbs thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 Tbs kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 ts cayenne
4 to 6 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and diced
1 (3-inch) hunk of parmesan rind
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut one of the eggplants into 1 inch cubes, spread the cubed eggplant, and the other two eggplants (halved) AND the tomatoes on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray. Brush the veggies with olive oil for good measure. ( The book didn't say anything about peeling the eggplants or the tomatoes so, I didn't) Roast in the oven for about thirty minutes.
Remove from oven and when you can touch them without burning yourself, core the eggplant halves and puree the centers, then cut the remaining shells into cubes (1 inch).
Melt the butter in a large stockpot (think 6 qts plus) over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, shallot and one of the garlic cloves and sweat until just translucent.
Add the thyme, bay leaves, salt, and cayenne and stir well, you want to coat the vegetables.
Add the eggplant cubes, and puree, and the tomatoes both roasted and canned, and the parmesan rind, AND the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and add both the basil and the parmesan.
Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind before serving.

The above was adapted from the one in the book. I added my tweaks, since that was how I made it.
Today's endeavor? The poblano corn chowder. With minor tweaks (I can't find all the ingredients).
It's a good thing soup freezes well. I think I need to set up a sort of soup-schedule. Make a few different soups one week, freeze it in small(ish) batches and use when needed. It really only is good for a month, so two or three different soups ought to do it.
I think next week I'll try the Cheddar cheese with potatoes and bacon!

--Little bird aims to please

Monday, September 28, 2009

Soup On The Brain

The weather has turned cold again, so thoughts have turned towards soups. After making the tomato basil soup, and the french onion as well, I realized I like making my own soup. It tastes better than the stuff in cans. So this week I think I'll try a roasted eggplant parmesan soup. And maybe a poblano corn chowder. I have a cook book that is devoted entirely to soup, and I think I've really only made one of the recipes in it. And that was chili, so it's time to get my money's worth out of the book!
I've also made those tarts again, the new one- the one with the apples and brie, turned out incredibly good. So good I cannot make it again. So good, it likely has 5000 calories per whole tart. But Mama Bird and I picked up some more veggies at the farmer's market to try still more variations of the tart. Leeks, sweet red peppers, mizzuna (we have no idea how that will turn out) and eggplant. The eggplant probably won't make it to the tart, but rather the soup.
This past weekend I went to a friends house and we made pot roast, a dish that I normally don't really like all that much. It turned out pretty good! We started out with what looked to be a 5 pound chunk of chuck roast and added potatoes and onions and carrots. You know, along with the beef stock, wine and spices. He (the friend) now has enough food to last the rest of the week! Of course, he also made chili the next day. Not my chili recipe but his own. The words "Melt Your Face Off" appear in the title of his version of chili. I'm a little afraid to try it.
I haven't been getting my 4 hours a day in the kitchen in every day, but this Thanksgiving ought to help me average it out a bit. So will Christmas. Did I mention that this Thanksgiving I'll be roasting a Turducken? I will be. For the staff at my building again. One of the guys on the staff buys the ingredients, I cook it and he keeps whatever leftovers are, well, leftover. For this service I have asked for a $40 gift card to Sur La Table. That way I can get some more fun kitchen gear. I will also get to have some of the Turducken, something I have never had the opportunity to try. It ought to be.... interesting.
Yesterday Mama Bird and I went to IKEA. Amazingly we spent little more than an hour and less than $100!!! And we are already talking about going back. I'm sure my step-father will request to be left out of that trip. There are stlll some things we need to get, and a few items we just plain want. Really, one should only go if one has a set list and amazing will power. And really good walking shoes.

--Little Bird is grinning

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When Tomatoes Attack

The past few days have been an extravaganza of tomatoes. Canning tomatoes, oven roasting (or attempting to) tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato basil soup (fabulous) and then, the best thing EVER. Rustic tomato tart. Hand made pastry crust (1 &1/3 cup flour and 9 tablespoons of cold butter, plus just a bit of water) topped with ricotta, chopped thyme, oregano, italian parsley, and basil, shredded caramelized onion cheddar, tomatoes (both fresh and roasted), and MORE of the cheddar. All baked at 375 for about half an hour. I got one piece. I took the whole thing over for my folks to have for dinner, asking that they leave me some. Apparently it went over so well Mama Bird had to stop my step-father from finishing it off! And I just ate the piece that was left me. It was like pizza, but better. Soooooo much better. I wish I had made another one! This Sunday I'll try a variation, same crust with brie and apples and watercress. I intend to use that cheddar again too. If you have access to a Trader Joe's, that is where the cheddar was obtained. And, dear GOD, is it good! I highly recommend it for any number of dishes. A grilled cheese sandwich with that cheese would be just this side of heaven. And no, not THAT type of grilled cheese sandwich! Ooh, and add bacon! That would be drool inducing!
See, last weekend Mama Bird and I got it into our heads that we would can tomatoes. Our plan was to go to a farm and pick 'em ourselves. Well, life got in the way of that plan so we got our tomatoes at the farmers market. All 25 pounds of them. Yes, 25 pounds of tomatoes. The idea was that we could can them and then make chili and pasta all winter without resorting to cans from the store. Interesting thing about tomatoes, they cook way down when you can them. We need at least ten more pounds to even try to make it through the winter.
But just since Sunday (I also made chili - with the help of a friend - that day) I have logged about 15 hours in the kitchen. I didn't do much today but warm things up for my meals. This coming week I have a few more dishes I'd like to make, and at least one of those Mama Bird wants to try. She never got any of the french onion soup, so that's on the list. Any diet plans I had have flown right out the window.

--Little Bird is getting fat, again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's a Learning Experience

As with everything in life cooking is a learning experience. Sometimes you don't know until you taste what you've made to know if it turned out right. Other times you can tell right away what you're doing wrong. The learning curve varies.
Fried green tomatoes is one of those things that you figure out right away what's wrong. So last night when I made them, you could tell which ones were done first, and which ones were done right. To make them, one must dip the slices in egg and milk, then in flour and bread crumbs before frying. But they were not coming out as fully breaded as I wanted. So I dipped them in those things twice, and lo and behold! Perfectly fried green tomatoes! I did the same thing with a couple of kosher dill pickle "chips" and they were even BETTER!
Also learned last night was that if you add a bit of milk and some minced cucumber to sour cream and onion dip (made from scratch) you get a reasonable approximation of ranch dressing. Who knew?

--Little Bird keeps learning

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Love The Smell Of Onions In The Afternoon!

There is such a thing as too much/many onions. If you've seen Julie & Julia, you have an idea of what too much/many onions looks like. Last night I made french onion soup. The recipe called for SEVERAL POUNDS of onions. There is no way I was chopping 6 onions. I barely made it through the two (huge) onions I did chop. The onion fumes were so strong I was blinded by tears before I was done with the first onion. I had to go to another room to wipe my eyes. But I finished and threw them in the pot with AN ENTIRE stick of butter. Mmmmmmmm! Once they were done, (a deep yellowy color) I added the tablespoon of flour. Slowly, just like the recipe said to. Why is there flour in french onion soup? I have no idea. But it was in the recipe, and didn't seem as objectionable as six onions, so in it went. After that, it was just a matter of adding beef broth, again, slowly. I didn't have enough beef broth as it turned out so I had to get a can of it (concentrated) and add that. Now, I didn't put as much water in (to balance out the concentrate) as the can said to, but it turns out I didn't need to. I also made the croutons that go in this soup. Slices of baguette, soaked in garlic and chive butter, then baked. Gruyere was the cheese the recipe called for, and was perfect! I had a friend over for dinner and we decided that the soup was perfect! We each had two helpings and my step-father ate ALL of the leftover soup for lunch today. Making it made me realize something. I will never buy french onion soup in a can again. I will only make it the hard way. There's a bit of an ego boost when you make it yourself, and it turns out the way you wanted it to. It's not just the food that tastes good, the success does too!
So today, the dish will be roasted fingerling potatoes, served with a dollop (on the side) of sour cream and onion dip/sauce. I'm going to roast some chicken breast too, so it's more of a complete meal, but it's the sauce that's the experiment.
No, I am not working my way through a cook book. I'm just trying to cook (really cook) every day. And I'm trying to cook some new things. Things I may not ordinarily try. Chances are, if it's not something that really appeals to me, my folks will love it! I've made things before that I despise (beets for example) for Mama Bird, simply because she likes whatever it is.
I'd like to ask again what your favorite recipes/dishes are. I need some ideas!!!

---Little Bird has a plan

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fresh Is Best

Last night the temperature dropped to 48. In AUGUST! It had been kinda chilly all weekend, so when I was trying to come up with what to serve for the regular family Sunday night dinner, I was thinking fall type things. And then Mama Bird and I went to the farmers markets, to a booth that was selling tomatoes for a dollar a pound (if you bought more than 5 pounds). So of course we bought 5 and a half pounds! That of course meant we were going to have chili. So we then had to figure out the other things we needed. Onions, cilantro, and chilies. The beans we used were from a can, but we don't really know where to find fresh beans, or rather, the right type of fresh beans. Anyway, using my canned beans (from Whole Foods, 4 cans red kidney, and 2 cans black), and the 1 and a half pounds each ground chuck and ground pork we started the chili. Sweating the onions and some garlic (picked up at the market the week before) first, then adding the meats. I mix my own spices for this dish and those came next. Following that comes the tomatoes. Now, before we could add them to the chili, we had to skin them. To do that you dip them in boiling water for about a minute and the skin just comes right off. So with our now skinless and chopped up tomatoes we add those and the two whole red chilies and the diced jalepeno. We had purchased some beef broth to add if the chili was too dry. Five plus pounds of tomatoes provide ample amount of liquid, just so you know. The beans get added last and only after everything has simmered for about thirty minutes. Once the beans are added it's another twenty minutes or so and it's ready to serve. We had ours with a dollop of sour cream, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, and chopped green onions. Oh, and queso fresco. It was divine!
It's true that when you use the freshest ingredients your food tastes better. This most certainly proved it.
So now I have an entire container of beef broth to use. Tomorrow I'm going to another farmers market and buying onions. Yellow onions to make french onion soup. I'll need to pick up some gruyere cheese to smother the top with, but that's not a problem. We also have a bunch of fingerling potatoes to use. Those we intend to roast with salt and pepper (a little olive oil too) and serve it with a little side dollop of sour cream that has green onion, chives and a smidge of garlic.
Yeah, I'm back on a food kick. After I told Mama Bird my plans she sighed and said "I'm gonna get fat". She won't.
Also at the markets this past weekend, one of the booths had giant bunches of basil for only a dollar each. We bought three. In addition to the two we had gotten at a different booth earlier. Basil is hard to find at the other booths now, so when we first saw it we jumped on it. And then we found it for cheaper (and better quality) we decided to make a ton of pesto and freeze it. You can freeze pesto for up to three months, and I'll keep making it as long as I can find basil at the market. I have to keep that freezer stocked!
Everybody has favorite autumnal foods, what are yours?

--Little Bird is back in the kitchen!

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's The Little Things

This is a question for the women who read this. All three of you.
What do you keep in your purse?
A wallet, sure. And in that wallet are credit cards, money and ID. I bet your keys are in your purse too. A hairbrush, some make-up, perhaps a phone. Anything else? Anything that you value?
If you keep anything at all that you value in your purse never, EVER hang said purse from the back of a chair when you are anywhere but home. It will eventually get stolen. Then you have to replace those things. AND whoever took your purse now has your home address and your keys. That's worse than having to replace all that stuff.
My mothers purse was stolen yesterday. Right off her chair. People saw him, but didn't realize what he was doing. Most of the stuff is replaceable. But (and here's where it gets kinda sad) the only hairbrush she had was in that purse. It was a really good hairbrush, the kind of thing you have for years. Of all the hairbrushes she has owned, this was her favorite. So when her purse was stolen she couldn't even brush her hair. Something so simple, so everyday. Her stolen purse interrupted her very basic daily life.
After she came home (my step-father and I took care of cards and keys) she and I went to get her, among other things, a new hairbrush. As soon as she got out of the store she ripped the brush out of it's packaging and brushed her hair. You could literally see her start to feel better. Reclaiming that little tiny part of her life made a difference. It was... moving to see it happen.

Salsa with Corn

1 ear sweet corn
2 large tomatoes
1 serrano pepper
1 smallish red onion

Roast the corn (on the ear) after brushing lightly with olive oil. You can also put it under the broiler, but keep an eye on it. It will need to be turned a couple of times.
While the corn is roasting, chop the tomatoes into pieces smaller than a half inch. You can leave the skin and seeds in or not, whichever you prefer ( I like to leave them in).
Remove the seeds and membrane from the serrano pepper and discard them.
Dice the pepper finely. Be very careful not to touch either your eyes or your nose until you wash your hands very carefully).
Dice the red onion, again you want really small pieces.
After coming back to the kitchen after wiping your eyes from the onion fumes, start removing the stems from some cilantro.
You can add as much or as little as you like, but you don't want the stems. I recommend chopping the leaves a bit as well.
Mix all these things together and allow to sit so the flavors really mix.
If the corn is done by this time, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, remove it from the ear with a knife (or one of those nifty corn "zippers"). Allow the corn to cool completely before adding to the mixture. You can eat it right away, or put it in a sealed container and chill overnight. Serve with corn chips or heat it up and serve over chicken.
It's a great mix of spicy and sweet!

--Little Bird with a public service announcement

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Windows And Jets

I've learned an interesting lesson this past week. If the windows are open at my folks' place, I can stay with the cats for a longer period of time. I now know why my step-father ALWAYS has a window at least cracked! We had a heat wave here in Chicago recently and I had closed the windows and turned on the a/c. I itched. I sneezed. I turned off the a/c and opened the windows today. It's not as bad this way. And the heat wave seems to have passed.
My folks are extremely lucky to not be in town this weekend. The air show will be here. Fighter jets and freaking HUGE planes will be buzzing our buildings for two days. I hate the air show. And they are doing practice runs all week. Nothing says "good morning" like an F-15 (I have no idea what kind of plane it was, so I'm using a name I know) screaming past your window at 8 am. I should point out that they are at roughly the same height as my windows too. It sounded like the thing was going to come crashing into my living room. I wasn't at my folks' place so I couldn't tell you what the cats did. But I can guess. They must have freaked. And hid in the closet. And I know one of 'em puked.
Why do we even have air shows? Friday morning about a million people will descend on my neighborhood and trash it. The maintenance guys are putting up the orange hurricane fencing now in an effort to keep them off the grass. They'll have to post one guy up on the sundeck to keep non-residents out. If we have to have air shows, why can't they be out in the 'burbs?
Other than that, it's been slow around here. With the folks being in Europe for a bit, and not due back for a few more days, there's not all that much to do. The markets are nice, I live off of them nearly exclusively. Which means the food is good. I've been walking (primarily to the markets) and I have somehow managed to lose some weight. I am now down ten pounds from the starting point. When I reach my goal I'll tell what that was, but not before.
The ice cream ball is getting a little use, but not too much. I don't want to gain weight, I want to lose it. Nor have I used the fry daddy. To be honest, I'm a little afraid of it. I don't want to start a fire. Or burn myself. And I regularly burn myself on my oven so you can imagine what damage I could do with the fry daddy.

-- Little Bird itches, a bit

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Having a Ball

Ok, so I went to another concert in the park yesterday. It was a glorious evening, not too hot, not chilly. There was no rain to soak the grass (and therefor my blanket). Since it was just me, I only took the blanket and some food. And a bottle of wine. I made a salad of roasted corn and grape tomatoes, this time with chives. And of course, pesto. I brought a book so I could relax and read while enjoying the music. Not too far from me was a couple with a few kids. About 30 minutes before the music started the kids (boys) were running around giving themselves noogies while shouting "NOOGIES!". I think perhaps they were unclear on the concept. Shortly after that a small group of people set up camp behind that family. That family was joined by a couple more adults and a couple more kids as well. Then four more adults and a kid. Then one more adult and about three kids. The people who had sat behind them moved so the family could have more room. That family kept growing. And someone brought hula-hoops. By this time there were sooo many people they were standing right next to my blanket. So close in fact, that in order to get past the standing adults, the kids were running on my blanket. Then the music started. And. They. Did. Not. Shut. Up. The adults in the group all moved to one area and chatted away while the kids started to hula-hoop. Right next to my head. Those folks that moved earlier suggested I might want to do the same. I very much agreed and they helped me do so! It was so kind of them! I offered them some of my pesto and salad, but they had brought their own feast and declined. Not five minutes after I moved, the guy in the kind group got whacked in the head by a hula-hoop. Twice.
I wish I could tell you about the music, what little I heard sounded like the score to a really good movie. The kind with sweeping scenes of fantastic vistas. But so much of the music was drowned out by yelling kids and yammering adults. Once again it bothers me that what is most memorable about last nights experience (other than the fantastically helpful, thoughtful group) is the sheer inconsiderateness of the family group. A concert is not the place to hold a family reunion. There are other people there who have come to hear the music. I don't think I'll go alone again. I'll go with someone or a group and let them pick the spot since I seem to have rotten luck at it.

In other news, my ice cream ball came in today!!! And yes, it has been christened. I made Strawberry-Orange sorbet. And it was great! It only takes about 30 minutes plus whatever time blending your ingredients before putting them in the ball's canister. I'm gonna make real ice cream this weekend.
Also planned for the weekend, pizzelles. To be formed into little cups to hold the ice cream. I also plan on making french fries (finally gonna use that fry daddy) and then spraying those with truffle oil. I figure I'll use every gadget I own this weekend.
One of these days I plan on making a meal where nearly every aspect is made from scratch. Veggies with an onion dip, the dip being made from sour cream and onions and parmesan. Pasta (by hand) with a pesto cream sauce (no surprise). And either sorbet or ice cream. If I got really adventurous (and planned ahead, waaaaay ahead) I could make bacon vodka and make bloody marys with it. No, the morph into Martha is as yet incomplete. But I'll keep you posted.

--Little Bird can't picnic alone anymore

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hey Pesto!

So it's been sorta busy around here lately. My step-sister was in town, and there has been more walking, and farmers markets, and pesto.
About two weeks ago I decided to make pesto. The hard way. With a mortar and pestle. Using an entire bundle of basil from the farmers market. It should be known that nearly every stall at the market has a different sized bundle of basil. I found the biggest, for the best price. This yields about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of pesto. And takes over an hour to make. I am now making the stuff at least twice a week because my step-father likes it so much. I think he may cry when the farmers markets close for the season. That or he's gonna have to learn how to grow basil in an apartment, because I will surely kill any plant I try to grow.
The foods prepared over the past two weeks have been: Fennel, green bean, and roasted potato salad, pesto, Tex-Mex chicken salad, pesto, mixed green salad with sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella, pesto, caprese with pesto instead of basil (that one was just for me and was spectacular), Salsa, bean dip, yogurt dip, and more pesto.
I picked up a new cooking magazine when I went to the new Whole Foods up in the Lincoln Park area. And have made four of the recipes so far. And there are at least twenty more that look like something my family would like. The magazine is awesome and I want a subscription! It's Fresh, from Fine Cooking, and appears to be a "best of" type deal.
But what else is amazing is the new Whole Foods! It is beautiful. I never thought I would ever refer to a grocery store as beautiful, but Oh My God is it ever! If you live in Chicago you must go experience it. There is a BAR in the grocery store. There is a cafe AND a wine gazebo. The store is huge, the cheese department alone is bigger than most store's entire dairy departments. Go, just go. You'll see what I mean.
Tomorrow I will be preparing a picnic that will include a new bean dip recipe, that salad with the sun-dried tomatoes, bread, and caprese made with pesto. I love summer and the opportunity it affords me to cook with FRESH ingredients!


One bundle basil
One - two cloves garlic
Parmesan- Pecorino Romano blend cheese (grated)
Pine nuts (raw)
Olive oil

Start with just a few leaves a little of each of the rest ingredients if using a mortar and pestle. Smoosh it all until smooth and bright green. Keep adding bits of everything until the bowl is too full to work. Keep putting the excess in a container off to the side until all basil is used. Then put it all back in the mortar and smoosh it around some more to really blend it together.
I can't really give you exact measurements, but the finished product should be bright green with darker flecks. Just keep at it 'til it looks and tastes the way you want it to. You can add sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste as well.
Now you can also make this in a food processor. That pretty much just entails putting all the ingredients into the machine and pressing "Puree". Pesto can be frozen for up to about two months. But tastes best if used immediately. And it's even better when simply used as a spread for bread. My step-father practically eats it with a spoon, by itself.

--Little Bird eats fresh

Monday, July 6, 2009

Don't Read If Easily Disgusted

So, last week I had a medical scare. It turned out to be nothing of great significance, but was disturbing before I went to the doctor. It started out with a lump on the back of my neck, just inside the hairline. This was on say Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday it erupted. It oozed. I apologize if you've just eaten. It continued in this vein for a couple of days. Sunday Mama Bird looked at it (again) and the two of us had a discussion on the possible reasons for the ickiness. I thought it might have been an exploded tumor (it's happened before) or a spider bite from a venomous spider (also happened before). Mama Bird thought it was ringworm. We discussed the possible places I could have come across the last two. Monday I noticed that I now had a growing lump lower on my neck, in the back. I went on-line again and figured that my lymph nodes were swollen. The posterior cervical lymph nodes to be exact. So Tuesday morning I called my doctors office and spoke with whoever it is that answers the phone there. I made clear that if MY doctor was unavailable, I would be MORE than happy to see whoever else that might be there. I also told him the three things we thought it may have been. According to him, at the time of the call my doctors day was full, but he'd ask if I could see someone else. Not even twenty minutes later I got a call informing me that my regular doctor would be able to see me 45 minutes later. So I walked over to her office. Yes, I can turn this into a loooonnnggg story. Good news: the prognosis is none of the three choices. It turns out to be a decidedly unhappy hair follicle. Really unhappy. The bad news: I am currently taking clindamycin four times a day, 300 milligrams each time. I have to wake up at 2 am in order to do this. And I can't lie down for at least a half hour after taking it. I read the side effects and was not terribly worried, but didn't know why I couldn't lie down for half an hour. I looked on-line again. I found a site where people were telling their horror stories. I haven't had any of the most noted side effects, but then I have been obsessively good about the half hour rule. Even for the 2 am dose. And that seems to be making the difference.
That's really about it for this week. Oh yeah, I've started bike riding again. Not that that has anything to do with anything.

--Little Bird is on a schedule

Friday, June 26, 2009

Picky, Picky, Picky!

When I was a child I was an extremely picky eater. My list of things I would consider eating was short. I liked Mac & Cheese, ham & mustard sandwiches (ick, I know), hot dogs with ketchup only (or the cheese filled kind, plain), rice with butter, and spinach. I liked salads, but smothered them in "Creamy Cucumber" salad dressing (btw: eleventy million internet points to anyone who can tell me what they changed the name to, I LOVED that stuff and I can't find it anymore). I'm sure there were other things on that list, like cheez puffs, but I gave Mama Bird fits when I was a kid. Now I am still a picky eater, but soooooo much better than then. I used to hate - hate - HATE guacamole! Now I love the stuff and would gladly work avocados into my daily diet if I could do it and not gain 300 pounds.
It's kinda funny, I have photographic proof that I was picky as an infant (orange goo, every where but my mouth. I think it was mushed carrots- cooked). It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I tried, under great pressure, sun dried tomatoes. Which of course are now a staple in my diet. In fact, very little of what I eat now is anything I would have even considered back then. Feta cheese? No way. Squid? Ha! Dream on! Green beans? Don't make me laugh. I love these things now. Not prepared any old way mind you, but hey, at least now I'll consider them.
The best part of being picky is now that I cook for myself, and for my folks too sometimes, is that meals have become enjoyable. Food isn't a debate anymore. If I make it, I know I'll like it. And if there are requests for things I won't eat, I will make my own stuff for me, and theirs for them - within reason. Take last night, we have a house guest currently. A friend of my folks, but staying in my place. We all had dinner at my folks place. And I cooked. We had chicken salad and this avocado-citrus-fennel salad. I personally hate fennel (and anise too) so I made a separate thing for myself substituting radishes for fennel and a slightly different dressing. Since I am the odd man out, it's really no biggie. If Mama Bird had been cooking she would have informed me that I needed to bring or make my own substitution.
The Salad:
Ok, this one is difficult to explain. For a more detailed recipe go look it up @ Whole Foods.

2 avocados, pitted and halved
1 bulb fennel halved and sliced thinnly
1 orange, the segments separated and the membranes removed
1 grapefruit, the segments separated and the membranes removed.
snow pea shoots
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 tablespoons orange juice (from that orange up there)
1/2 teaspoon (I think) fennel seeds, crushed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped

In a bowl mix the fennel and the pea shoots and shallots, set aside
On a plate place the segments of citrus in a rough circle, and the avocado half in the center.

In a small bowl mix the vinegar, the fennel seeds, orange zest and juice together. Add the oil in slowly.
drizzle this on the avocado and citrus - not very much at all.
Toss the fennel and shoots with some more of the dressing, again, not too much.
Mound that into the avocados, spilling over the sides is fine.
Drizzle the rest of the dressing over the whole thing.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I think the next time I do this I'm going to use red bell pepper instead of fennel for myself. The radishes weren't one of my better choices. It was OK, but not great.
Were any of YOU picky eaters? (She asks all 4 of her readers)

--Little Bird has a hunger

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tchaikovsky in the Park

Tonight I went to Millennium Park for the season opening of the Music Festival. Tchaikovsky. Beautiful music. I went to Trader Joe's and got the fixings for a nice picnic. Tzatziki, hummus, pita chips, kalamata olives and wine. I packed my mini cooler and my roll-up table and my beach chair. Thankfully I also brought my picnic blanket which I used to keep my legs warm as it ended up being quite chilly. I went by myself, and was all set to enjoy a nice evening of good food and better music. Alas, no one told the tools who sat near me that some people go to these things to ENJOY THE FUCKING MUSIC. They were loud. They were obnoxious. They were REALLY obnoxious. Then when they were leaving (early, much to the delight of those around them- several people got up and moved away from them), one of them kicked a volley ball. Hard. Straight at my head. It was surreal. I saw him pick up the ball. I saw him kick the ball. I saw the ball hurtling towards me. I managed to get my hand up and block it. I was told by those around me that they were amazed I managed to do so. The wife of the kicker said, and I quote, "nice block." After nattering on about how they just like to enjoy themselves she did say something to the effect of "sorry about that". My response? "Well, thank you for that." In the most insincere voice I could possibly muster. What if I hadn't been looking in that direction? What if my back was turned?
And see? The part about this that truly pisses me off isn't that I narrowly avoided a volley ball to the head. No. It's that I spent 2+ hours at the park all set to enjoy the music in a wonderful outdoor setting and all I can think about is how wretched these people were! Did I mention they were old enough to be my parents? I almost cheered when they left.
I am hoping that this weekend, when I go back to the park for the NEXT concert in the season, it is less irksome.
The music WAS beautiful. What I heard of it anyway. The opening piece was Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op.23. I recognized it, and had never known the composer. I think I actually teared up a time or two, the music was that beautiful. I know, I'm a sap. I've come to terms with that.
Also, I saw something I wouldn't have expect to ever see. A woman walking down the street, BOTH of her feet in casts. The kind you can take on and off as you need to. It was... odd to say the least.

--- Little Bird can block, well, apparently

Monday, June 8, 2009

Of Trains and Crocs

It's official. I am a nerd. I just watched the first few minutes of "The Big Bang Theory" and one of the geeks (the head geek) is particularly excited about an upcoming train trip. And he knows to much about the route. Sigh. It sounds way too much like me. And seriously, the rest of the guys are like nearly every other guy I've met on the train. Well, OK, I've met a few guys that were very likely convicted felons too. That being said, I still prefer train travel to plane travel. I don't claim to really understand why.
My weekend house guest was lovely. We had stir-fry and much wine. Then it was mexican food with some of her other friends that live here. Friday, we spent pretty much the entirety of the afternoon at the beach. It was the best afternoon I think I've had in a very long time. Also, the best part of all of that? I DID NOT HAVE TO WEAR MY BRIGHT ORANGE CROCS!!! I did however have to wear my earth shoes. To the beach. It was slightly weird. All in all it was a good time. I did realize that I have issues with the beach. I will almost always be the one in long pants.
That's all that's new, except for the fact that I did pound the crap out of the new shoes with a hammer and they are nearly wearable now. The blisters are almost healed!

--Little Bird has accepted the truth

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blister Woes & Fungus Among Us

OK, first things first. The nail thing? Not cancer. Might, MIGHT be a tumor. A very very specialized type that has a name that is 18 syllables long and that I couldn't begin to say, let alone spell. This type of tumor is associated with Neurofibromatosis. Apparently. I was prescribed an anti-fungal/cortisone cream for now. And have to wear a cotton glove, the cream and Vaseline on that hand/finger for about ten days. Goody. If, in two months there is no change (or there is a bad change), we figure something else out. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
The doctor was very nice, and actually seemed to listen to what I told him. Something that isn't always known in a doctor. I happen to have a zit or two right now and he didn't comment once on them. Brownie points to him! He did ask me if I had any skin issues to report or ask him about. And when I said that I didn't, he didn't even blink. Everyone gets a zit now and then. Nothing new about that.
Now. The other portion of todays post. The blisters. Those shoes I bought? They came in the mail yesterday. Being me, I had to put them on and go for a walk. A two mile walk. Think about that a moment. New - BRAND NEW- shoes + two mile walk = MASSIVE BLISTERS. I cannot wear any shoes that have any sort of back on them. I had to cut up my crocs (the strap off the back) in order to make it to my doctors appointment. I do not like to wear those "shoes" outside of the house. For reasons you can understand, I hope. So. I had to go buy burn pads, these wonderful soothing pads designed for burns, scrapes and bites. You know, areas that are missing skin. These are made by 2nd Skin and I love them. I use one for both ankles (cut in half) and then slap a huge band-aid over that. I can hobble around with this set-up.
Of COURSE this would all be the day before my bestest friend comes into town! This would never happen when I have no plans. I will have to venture out into the streets and BARS of Chicago in my screaming bright orange crocs. Can I tell you how much I am not liking my footwear options for this week?
The shoes will not be worn until there is once again skin on the backs of my ankles/heels. I may ask the dry-cleaner in my building (who knows a shoe repair guy) to see what can be done. I think the ankle support area is just really stiff. I am considering taking a few whacks at them with a hammer. To sort of "distress" the "leather". Mama Bird may have issues with that idea. We'll see.

--Little Bird WISHES she could fly!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

These Shoes Are Made For Walking

And the walking continues. To the point where I am tired most of the time. And it is likely to get worse. I just purchased (via e-bay) a pair of MBT's. MBT's are weird looking walking shoes that have nearly completely rounded soles. They are supposed to work nearly all your leg muscles AND your core muscles. I tried a couple pair on at a store in town and they feel odd. They're not the most attractive shoes around, but if they work the way they're supposed to, they'll be worth the $170 I paid for them.
Plans are in the works for my step-father's birthday dinner. I'll post the recipe after, assuming it turns out the way we want it to. Gifts have been purchased and wrapped. On top of all this a good friend from St. Louis is coming into town in the middle of next week. AND the concerts will start next week at Millennium Park. At least the ones I want to go to will. This means that picnic season is upon us.
I really don't have much new to report. I get up, I walk, I come home and eat something, I go either walk some more or ride my bike, I come home and relax for a bit, then I go walk some more. I'm averaging about 6 miles a day right now. With those shoes that are due to come in the mail soon, it'll be even MORE effective. I figure by the end of July, I'd better have fabulous legs!

--Little Bird is gonna walk all over town

P.S. I'll post a recipe soon, really I will.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seventeen Miles to Ravioli

The walking. THE WALKING! Damn, am I tired from all the walking! NINE miles yesterday and eight today. And any benefit from either day ruined by tonight's dinner. We MADE ravioli. It was only a matter of time before we progressed from linguini style noodles to something more advanced. These were stuffed with ricotta and basil. We served them with a cream sauce and added tomatoes orange peppers and chives to the sauce. I am now very full and disinclined to move much.
We haven't started the canning yet, but really, there isn't much available at the farmers markets TO can this early in the season. But I am more than ready to attempt to use that giant pot. It's 21 quarts!! My biggest stock pot is 5 quarts, and looks like an infant next to this behemoth.
The warmer seasons are upon us, and in about two weeks the fireworks start. Literally. Every Wednesday and Saturday over Navy Pier. I'm just waiting for the concerts at Millennium Park to start, I have a bunch of ideas for new dishes to try out. And those dishes are best enjoyed at picnics. One of these dishes will have me venturing into Greektown to find decent pita bread. Another will have me making my own crackers. Yes, the transformation into Martha is nearly complete. I think the transformation will be total sometime after I move to New Mexico, which will be in a few years or so. I refuse to wear pale blue oxford shirts with khakis though.
My bed is looking very comfortable right now, and my stomach is very full, so I think it's time for bed. Or at least time to sit and rot my brain with lots and lots of bad TV.

--Little Bird is too full to leave her nest right now.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wild Wild Weekend

This past weekend was odd. Saturday Mama Bird and I went for our usual 7 1/2 mile walk. We were discussing what we were gonna do for dinner on Sunday. And what she and her husband were gonna do for dinner that night. While we were discussing this we passed a re-sell-it shop and I saw a pasta pot that I wanted. It was orange, and from a distance appeared to be Le Cruset, a brand I covet deeply. It was not the brand I so desperately desire, but we did see (and purchase) a never been used canning pot and rack. The downside to this was I had to carry the dratted thing home. About 2 or 3 miles. The thing is light, but oversized, it holds 21 QUARTS! We also stopped at the regular grocery store to pick up a few things. So there we are, laden with grocery bags and a cook pot nearly large enough to bathe in, walking home. We get within one block of home and the street is taped off with crime scene yellow tape. And the cops made us walk out of our way to get to our place so we wouldn't traipse through their crime scene. It seems some woman had tried to use a stolen credit card at a store, the cops had been called, she tried to get away, couldn't so she tried to grab the cops gun. BAD IDEA. She was shot twice. She must have gotten a gun somehow, because two cops also went to the hospital with injuries. No. I do not live in a crime ridden ghetto. This all happened right out in front of the Drake hotel. And the store where the scam was attempted? Louis Vuitton.
Later the same day, Mama Bird and I were walking home from the overpriced organic grocery store and witnessed a woman fall out of her car. She was not driving and the car was not moving. She looked as if she were just exiting the car. And she fell rather gracefully. She was standing and she just sorta... rolled to the ground.
Sunday we saw the Fire Departments SCUBA team out in the lake. And a couple of helicopters in the area. We never did find out if they were training or looking for something. Or someone.
For Mothers Day dinner we made pasta, and put bolognese sauce over it. This time I put the truffle salt into the pasta dough. I certainly ate too much, but it was worth it.
Canning starts as soon as I can get enough berries and such together.


1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 tiny can tomato paste
1 largish yellow onion chopped fine
1 clove garlic minced
1 entire small container heavy cream

In a large stock pot sweat the onions and the garlic. Add the meat and blend thoroughly, cooking until browned.
Add the tomato paste, and allow to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. Add the cream and turn down the heat, and let sit, stirring occasionally for another 20 minutes or so. Serve over pasta. Garnish with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.

--Little Bird dodges bullets, after the fact

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spicy Spicy Pain

So, now that my guests have left, and the temperature is reasonable, I have started walking again. In the mornings. With Mama Bird, to her office. The idea is to also walk down and meet her in the evenings, but it seems that for the past three days it rains at 5pm. Thunderstorms actually. In a few weeks I'll also add bike riding to the daily schedule. You know, because I apparently like pain. The only thing wrong with all of this is how early morning comes. How much I do not want to get out of my bed. And it's not all that comfy either! I wake up sweaty, and really, I would rather just lie there. It really wouldn't be so bad if I didn't wake up 5-10 times a night.
The warmer weather also means a change in diet. I don't mean GOING on a diet (per se) I just mean my eating habits change in the warmer weather. Less heavy pastas and roasted chickens, and a whole lot more salads and sandwiches. I'm currently on a caesar salad kick. Next up is likely to be caprese. I can't wait for the farmers markets to get into full swing, so I can make STELLAR salads. And picnics. If it ever stops raining.
While I said I wasn't going on a diet (per se) I DO have a weight loss goal. But I expect a lot of that to be through exercise. Summer foods (for me) do tend to be on the lighter side, but it's not a hardship, so it doesn't feel like a diet. I plan to lose around 20 lbs. Again. I gained most of what I lost last summer back over the winter so I'd kind of like to shed a few now.
Sitting in my hall closet are 4 and 1/2 bags of Old Vienna brand Red Hot Ripplets. A potato chip so hot, your lips burn. A potato chip so addictive my friends and I call them "crack chips". I do not understand why I love them so, but I practically begged my friends to bring them up with them when they visited. I cannot find them here reliably. The little convenience store in my neighborhood had the bitty bags for about a week (it's entirely possible I ate their entire stock) but they only have had them twice. Watch, I'll go in tomorrow, they'll have them and then someone ELSE will discover the tasty tasty pain and by the time I'm out of the ones I have, the store will be out of them. And they won't get the in again until September.
I could order them online, and have them shipped (by the case) to my apartment. But if I did that they'd be in my apartment, just begging to be eaten. And then Mama Bird would come over to find me dead of spicy potato chip overdose. With little reddish crumbs everywhere. The bags I have are bad enough! There is sort of a built in punishment. Eating too many of these wonderfully spicy chips can have nasty repercussions in the morning. Especially if you partner them with just a little too much beer. So far I've been good, just a little here, a little there.
I'll end this with a recipe of sorts. There are no real measurements for it though.

Basil Oregano Vinegar
Purple basil (a good sized sprig, about 4 big leaves on it)
Oregano (the top of a sprig, where the flowers are)
White wine vinegar (enough to fill the bottle to the very brim)
A bottle that seals completely.

Fill bottle halfway with vinegar.
Put both herbs (do NOT chop) inside bottle.
Fill the rest of the way up, over flowing just a tiny bit (you want to not have air in the bottle).
Seal tightly and put in a dark dry place for at least a month.
In a month the vinegar should be bright pink and is ready for use. You do not have to remove the herbs.
I use this over caprese, and leafy salads, with olive oil.

--Little Bird feels the burn

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I don't even know where to begin. Ok, I had house guests this past weekend. Girls/women I've known since KINDERGARTEN! Thirty years! One of them had visited me before, the other had not. So I spent some time trying to come up with things to do. Things to do that do not cost much, since we're all of us on budgets. So we went to the Zoo. In the rain. On our way to the Zoo we encountered one of the many slightly off citizens. She yelled at us as if we had been following her for hours, telling us we were "so stupid". Needless to say we cracked up. At the Zoo we didn't stay long and made some sea gulls nervous.
I took them to the conservatory. We wandered around there, our glasses fogged up and we smelled an orchid that smelled like coconuts. We walked home. In the rain.*
We stayed in that night, I cooked. We just sorta hung out. It was nice, we got all caught up with the gossip and whatnot.
Friday started out tame. Really it did. We walked around some more, I pointed out the old Playboy mansion, we went to the Spice House. That evening, we went out. To 3 bars and one of the friends brothers house. I got to bed at about 6 am. At one point, near the end of the night, we took the Red Line. And my friends got to experience another of our strange citizens. The guy tried to sit on one of the girls, was asked to move, then tried to stare down the brother, and when he was told to find another spot, he started whimpering and sniffling like a 5 year old. He moved though and nearly every one near us started to giggle.
Later that night, back at the apartment it was learned that if you can't get in to the container holding more alcohol, you probably don't need it. And you shouldn't ask someone who DOES know how to open to do it, because they will. I opened a bottle of wine that we didn't need to and thankfully a large portion of it was found in the fridge in the morning.
The morning was a highly unpleasant experience. As was the rest of the day. We didn't go out. We didn't drink. We barely ate. We turned in early.
Sunday was spent being lazy. We got out of the apartment this time though. We went to the beach and did nothing but sit there for an hour or two. We walked down to Millennium Park and stopped in souvenir shops.
We went to Chinatown yesterday, and they left last night. We had a few drinks before they left and the folks at that bar ROCK! They knew me, it's right around the corner from my place and they not only bought us a round, they comped all of my drinks!

*It wasn't a pouring rain, more of a drizzle/misting of rain, we weren't completely soaked when we got back, just from the knees down.

--Little Bird feels taxidermied

Monday, April 27, 2009


A granuloma is a medical term for a ball-like collection of immune cells which forms when the immune system attempts to wall off substances that it perceives as foreign but is unable to eliminate. Such substances include infectious organisms such as bacteria and fungi as well as other materials such as keratin, suture fragments and vegetable particles. A granuloma is therefore a special type of inflammatory reaction that can occur in a wide variety of diseases, both infectious and non-infectious. The adjective "granulomatous" refers to diseases or inflammatory reactions that are characterized by granulomas.
Doctors often use the term "granuloma" loosely to mean "a small nodule". Since a small nodule can represent anything from a harmless nevus to a malignant tumor, this usage of the term is not very specific. The correct use of the term "granuloma" requires a pathologist to examine surgically removed and specially colored (stained) tissue under a microscope. This is what my day has been about. My doctor told me today that she thinks the the thing with my little fingernail (I thought it was just your run of the mill nail fungus) is a granuloma. She neglected to tell me what that meant. I had to look it up online. Never look stuff up online, it's just plain scary. She made me make an appointment with the new dermatologist at the office because he apparently specializes in nails. Yep, you read that right he specializes in nails.
Now as it happens I have "soft" nails. All that means is they bend very easily. But as it stands I have no pinky nail on my left hand and the index finger is losing it's nail too. The sucky part (OK, one of the sucky parts) is the appointment is in JUNE! I have to suffer the not knowing until then!! I hate not knowing.
And to prove just how bad today is, a very good friend told me today that she lost her job. Today sucks. It just plain sucks.

--Little Bird should not look up stuff like that on the internets