Sunday, April 30, 2006

Surimi and Melon Salad

This recipe came to me recently via the wonderful World Wide Recipes daily mailing list, though I have modified it a bit. I made it yesterday because it has been hot here lately and I thought this salad would be refreshing. It certainly was! The combination of surimi and melon seemed a little strange at first, but once I got used to it, I loved this salad! Served cold, it is guaranteed to refresh even a desert dweller.

The recipe originally called for crab meat, but since I can't afford that, I used crab surimi. The lettuce is my own addition; I think it adds interesting texture and takes the edge off of the unusual sweetness of the salad.

Surimi and Melon Salad

2 cups crableg surimi, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, and chopped into pieces roughly the same size as the surimi pieces
1 cup cooked white rice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups lettuce, finely chopped

Put the surimi, lime juice, rice, mayonnaise, sour cream, and salt and pepper into a bowl and stir until well mixed. Add the melon and stir gently until combined. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to several hours. Serve well-chilled on a bed of lettuce -- or mix the lettuce in with the rest of the salad before serving.

You can do the first step a day or two before serving, if desired, and refrigerate, adding the melon on the day you plan to serve the salad.

This yields 2 or 3 main dish servings or 5 or 6 side salad servings.

See a few more of my recipes.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Snail mail online

Through the years I have been involved in many an exchange of various items via snail mail. This swap activity has accelerated in the past couple of years as I've been active in online snail mail art and exchange sites and groups such as,, various Yahoo groups, and others.

Uh, wait a minute ... online snail mail?

Yes, it sounds very strange, if you stop to think about it. Wasn't e-mail and the whole Internet deal supposed to make snail mail obsolete? Yeah, and personal computers were supposed to take us into a paperless society, and yet we are using even more paper in our homes and offices now than before.

Actually, the Internet and snail mail exchanges are great partners. See, online you set up a swap with a cool person -- or several cool people -- whom you would never have known existed if it hadn't been for the Internet. Then you send the stuff via snail mail, and aside from receiving whatever it is you are exchanging, you get to see the interesting postage stamps, open a physical envelope, and try to imagine all the places the letters passed through on their way from Timbuktu to you.

Pretty cool.

And by the way, I am hosting an exchange of freebie bookmarks (you know, the kind given away free with an advertisement or a public service message). The deadline to sign up for it is April 30th, and everyone is welcome to participate, so if this sounds interesting, have a look at:

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday

He is risen! Truly He is risen!

Thank you, God, for overcoming death, and for including us in your plan for Life.

Yesterday morning dh and I attended a Via Matrix (similar devotion to the Via Crucis, but with more meditation on the sorrows of Our Lady) at the little chapel next to the nursing home where I volunteer on Saturdays. It is a small chapel, but since it attended to by priests of the nearby (stone's throw away) Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the liturgies are always lovingly done. There were only maybe 20 people in attendance, but there were three liturgical vestment-clad altar boys (about 10 years old), one carrying the cross and two with candles-on-a-stick. There was an organist and a fabulous, opera-quality male singer who produced truly wonderful, majestic music. The chapel itself is maybe a hundred years old, and copiously decorated for such a small, little-known church. I was so glad we were among the few who had decided to attend! Unfortunately, my camera didn't cooperate; the batteries were low and I was unable to take any pictures.

Last evening we went to Easter Vigil Mass at our usual San Cayetano. It started at 9 p.m. and lasted approximately three hours. Ever since my first one six years ago, I've always loved Easter Vigil Mass! First, the "new fire" rite outside the church, then the procession into the nave, with all lights off and the place illuminated by the candles each person holds. Then the nine Bible readings, summarizing the story of salvation, each one accompanied by a Psalm and a prayer. Then the baptisms and confirmations, and finally holy communion. What a blessing to be able to be present at all of this.

The photos today show dh and myself with our candles at the beginning of the Vigil Mass.


Writer's Challenge goal for April: 15,000 words // Words so far: 2,903

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Yesterday, Holy Thursday, dh and I went to the 6 p.m. Mass at our parish, San Cayetano. During the homily Fr. Argimiro washed the feet of twelve men from the congregation, as is customary on this day. After Mass we went for coffee (I had a McFlurry, actually), then returned for an hour of Eucharistic adoration at 9 p.m.

Today we attended the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) at the same place. We walked there from home, which took about 25 minutes. Since the inside of our church is large and very lofty, they hold the Via Crucis inside it. The procession goes around inside the nave. Though most people participate from their seats, anyone who wants to is welcome to join the procession and help carry the cross and candles. I'd never participated in the procession before, but I did today, and even carried one of the big candles (on the top of a stick -- anyone who knows the proper name for the candle-on-a-stick, please leave a comment!) for one station.

After the Via Crucis we came home and ate, then returned to church for the 5:00 liturgical service. First were the readings, then adoration of the cross, in which everyone who wants to goes up to the big crucifix and kisses Jesus' feet. There must have been several hundred people at the service, because it took like half an hour for everyone to do this -- and there were two lines! After the adoration part was the communion rite.

I like these high holy days because there is so much solemnity and ceremony and incense. Love those "smells and bells"! I was overjoyed to see almost thirty acolytes at both Mass yesterday and the adoration service this evening! I'd never seen that many in one place at one time -- except maybe on t.v. during a papal Mass. The ones at our chuch are mostly males, though there are a few females, and of all ages, from about, oh, eight years old on up to mature men. The photo above shows some of the adult men acolytes getting the crucifix ready for the people to kiss today.


Writer's Challenge goal for April: 15,000 words // Words so far: 2,595

Monday, April 10, 2006

Peruvian Elections

Yesterday there were general elections in Peru, my dear hubby's native land. He was able to vote here in Mexico City, along with many other Peruvians. The voting was held at a school in an area of the city in which I had not been before. As in many parts of this city, San Juan was a little picturesque town before it was swallowed up in the megalopolis. Though it is just another neighborhood now, you can tell by its Colonial style walled-in parish church, shown here, that it was once well outside the city limits.

Here's dh casting his ballot. He's dressed (sort of) in the colors of the Peruvian flag -- red and white.

After casting their ballots, voters' fingers were stained as a measure against fraud. Here dh is showing his stained fingers and his Peruvian national identity card.

There is always a good turn-out because voting is obligatory by law for Peruvians citizens, and those who do not do it are subject to a fine. Most of dh's relatives live and voted in Peru itself, but some others participated in the elections from as far away as Costa Rica, the U.S.A., and Japan. A cousin living in South Africa was not able to get to his designated polling place, hundreds of miles from his home, though.

Official results as to who got the most votes are still not in, but since no candidate got over 50%, there will be another round of voting. I hope they hold it in the same place; I enjoyed that part of town and wouldn't mind an excuse to visit it again.

Writer's Challenge goal for April: 15,000 words // Words so far: 2,234

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday, which I love in Mexico because of the artisan-woven palm figures for sale at street stands outside all of the churches here. You can buy dozens of different models, from the most simple palm fronds to very elaborately woven crucifixes involving palm leaves, stalks of wheat, and other natural and manufactured materials, all of them very economical. They are carried in the Palm Sunday procession into the church, often together with chamomile, rosemary, or other aromatic herbs.

We went to 10 a.m. Mass at San Cayetano church (our parish), and I took a few pictures of the palm weavers-and-sellers at the door. They are not the best photos in the world, but they do give you an idea of the local "color" on this day.

This third picture shows dh (in red at left) asking the price of an item he liked.

And here's the one I ended up buying for myself -- in the shape of a Eucharistic monstrance, bedecked with a little glitter. It is a wonderful example of folk art -- and cost only 10 pesos (less than the equivalent of one U.S. dollar). It's green and supple now, but in time with dry to a straw color.

Finally, here's another image from my defunct e-card site. This was one that I had available to send for Palm Sunday. It shows the close up of one of the less elaborate, more usual palm figures.

Today was also national election day in Peru, dh's homeland. He voted here in Mexico City ... but that's a topic for another day -- namely, tomorrow.


Writer's Challenge goal for April: 15,000 words // Words so far: 1,998

Friday, April 07, 2006

Chocolate strength

Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces.

Isn't that the truth!

This quote came to me as an e-mail forward. It was one of several about chocolate in the message, most of which I had heard before, but this was the saying that stood out as most meaningful to me.

Self-control. I often don't have nearly enough of it. I remember growing up and Mom talking about the evils of "instant gratification." That's a hard term for a little kid to understand. For a long time, I didn't understand what it meant, but the idea came across loud and clear that, whatever it was, Mom didn't approve of it! (lol)

When I got older, I learned that we were a middle class family, and that one of the important middle class values is that of not seeking instant gratification. We were supposed to work diligently and consistently towards harder-to-reach but much more satisfying goals than those that come easily and fast. For example, you save up for the down payment on a house before you trade your used car in for a snazzy, new model. Or, in other words (more at a child's level), you save your nickels for a month to buy that record you want instead of spending the money you have today on a candy bar.

I'm glad I got that lesson, and I'm glad I internalized it -- for the most part. I never did internalize it totally, 100%, and I'm glad about that, too. Because, frankly, instant gratification can be a lot of fun! Not as a lifestyle, of course, but occasionally, once in awhile, it can be soul nourishing. Diligent, consistent effort is the way to go most of the time, but if you never spontaneously take a day off and blow a little money on something frivolous, you are liable to end up with a very dour outlook on life -- and a very dour look on your face.

So while I consider breaking a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands and then eating just one of the pieces to be the more admirable of the two behaviors and the way to proceed most of the time, I certainly would not advise being obsessive about it. There are times when you actually need all four pieces. After all, like they say, "All things in moderation." Even moderation itself.


Writer's Challenge goal for April: 15,000 words // Words so far: 1,731

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Time is flowing like a river ...

You can't turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again.
- Bonnie Prudden

I had never heard of Bonnie Prudden when I first read this quote the other day, but I loved the words, as they can interpreted in several different and very satisfying ways. I Googled her name and discovered she is the originator of myotherapy, which I gather is a kind of massage therapy for muscle pain and dysfunction. Knowing that adds yet another dimension of meaning to her quote.

You can't turn back the clock ... I can't go back in time, I can't do over what's already been done, I can't do what I didn't do in season. There are a lot of things we humans have control over, but the flow of time is not one of them. Oh, I can control and am responsible for what I do with my time, but there's nothing I can do to make time go faster or slow down or stop altogether. At least in this life we are subject to its laws. When I don't accept this fact, I am maladjusted to reality. Thus, the first part of the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change ...

But you can wind it up again. I don't have control over everything, but I do have control over a lot of things -- such as how I respond to what gets thrown at me. Things will run down, get used up, be over, but they don't have to stay run down, used up, and over. We can renew our lives. True, physical youth leaves and doesn't come back, but other, wonderful things come in its stead. I can renew my relationships, my knowledge, my experiences and my general experience. I can not only wind up, but actually rev up, my spiritual life. The courage to change the things I can ...

A couple of years ago I turned 40 years old. It was weird -- still is -- to think of myself as being in my forties; I had just barely gotten used to the idea of being in my thirties! Perhaps my soul is an eternal 26-year-old. And yet, I do not regret my age. I don't mind saying how old I am when people ask, and I don't use "anti-aging" creams and such. I have a few gray hairs I am not considering dyeing. I am actually disappointed when people say I look younger than I am; I want to look 42! Though I lived a lot of great things in my youth, I wouldn't go back and do it again -- not now, not when I know the beginning of the insight of maturity. And the wisdom to know the difference.

I don't think I would turn the clock back even if I could. I do want to keep winding it up, though, for a while yet.


Writer's Challenge goal for April: 15,000 words // Words so far: 1,342

Monday, April 03, 2006

Chowder Chatter

Yesterday I put the ingredients for ham chowder in the crock pot and turned it on low when we left the house at about 9 a.m. to go to the monthly retreat of dh's prayer group. When we got back at about 4:30 p.m. it was cooked, but still not ready; the potatoes had not yet started falling apart. We ate it about 8 p.m. and it was great! Recipe below (modified from one I found on Recipezaar).

Since what I made called ham chowder, it got me to thinking, What exactly is a chowder, anyway? Sure, it's a soup, but what makes a soup a chowder?

So I got to reckoning. Let's see, the one I am most familiar with is clam chowder, and I made ham chowder so maybe the vital criterion for a chowder is that the first word in its name rhyme with am.

Nah. That can't be it.

Maybe it has to be white. Yeah, it should have milk and potatoes in it, and be cooked so long that the potatoes start disintegrating apart. Hm. Well, but back when I was a kid my mom used to make a wonderfully delicious potato soup that had milk in it and the ´taters would be falling apart, only we always called it just potato soup and never chowder.

Then this morning I Googled What is a chowder? and got the following results back:

Definitions of Chowder on the Web:

A thick soup that usually contains potatoes.

A half-soup, half-stew of vegetables, fish or other foods.

Creamy soup originating from the west coast of the USA , usually made with corn, potato and shell fish.

a milk based soup, usually containing seafood.

a thick soup, almost a stew, usually based on fish and/or seafood.

A soup, usually thick and made with vegetables or seafood, especially corn or clams.

a thick soup or stew made with milk and bacon and onions and potatoes

Chowder is any of a variety of soups, enriched with salt pork fatback and thickened with flour, or more traditionally with crushed ship biscuit or saltine crackers, and milk. To some Americans, it means clam chowder, made with cream or milk in most places, or with tomato as "Manhattan clam chowder." Corn chowder is a thick soup filled with whole corn (maize) kernels. Chowder is often commonly associated with New England cuisine.

According to the above, some people consider potatoes a vital ingredient, while others say it's usually made with some kind of seafood. Bacon figures prominently in several versions. Some mention milk; others do not. Once definition has chowder originating on the west coast of the USA, but another states that it is "more often commonly associated with New England cuisine." A lot of the definitions use the word "thick."

So I still don't know, and the world may never know just exactly what makes soup a chowder. And hey, I may not know much about food, but I know what I like.

Crock Pot Ham Chowder

All quantities are approximate, so don't worry if you're a little short on some ingredients and long on others.

4 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup cubed ham
1 can whole kernal corn (I prefer white corn over the sweet yellow corn)
2 boullion cubes (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
2/3 cup powdered milk

Put potatoes, onion, celery, ham, corn, and boullion cubes in the slow cooker. Add enough water to cover the other ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours or high for 5-6. When potatoes are starting to fall apart, add the powdered milk and stir well; cook about another half hour, then serve.

Yield: Four to six hearty servings.


Writer's Challenge goal for April: 15,000 words // Words so far: 867

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Sugar in My Coffee

For the last several days, I've been sweetening my coffee!

That doesn't sound very earth-shattering, does it? But it's a sea change for me.

See, my parents have drunk black, unsweetened coffee ever since I can remember, so I learned growing up that the proper way to drink it is without sugar. When I'd see someone else sweeten their coffee, it would always strike me as a little exotic -- and definitely unnecessary. I certainly did not approve. When I began to drink an occasional cup myself, my attitude was that I wanted it to taste like coffee, not like sugar! And so it was for a long, long time.

Once I grew up and got a job and started having coffee at work, others would see me drink it straight. Often they'd ask if I was on a diet -- that's how strange unsweetened coffee seemed to them! (I've also been asked the same question several times while eating a salad, which always seems so weird. Eating a salad means you're on a diet? I guess they didn't grow up eating them most evenings with their dinner, as I did.) But these were folks whose parents put sugar in their coffee, so that's what they learned as kids.

It guess it is pretty obvious that kids learn what they live at home, but it still often strikes me as surprising how very much of our daily life and habits are formed early. I learned to drink my coffee straight long before I even learned to drink coffee! As an adult I would very occasionally (once or twice a year) drink a cup with sugar in it, but never without a vague feeling of being careless and wasteful and unnnecessarily luxurious -- a slight sense of debauchery, I'd guess you you could call it.

And then for some unknown reason about a week ago I decided I no longer wanted bitterness in my breakfast, and I added a spoonfull of sugar to the coffee granules before I poured the water in. That sugar sure took the edge off of my cheap instant coffee! And I've never looked back. Maybe when I drink a cup of the good, brewed stuff I'll be a purist, but for now sweetness is the way to go with instant.

I'm not completely debauched, though, and I haven't totally betrayed the family; I still prefer my tea, hot and iced, unsweetened.


Writer's Challenge goal for April: 15,000 words // Words so far: 405