Thursday, August 31, 2006

Chicken Tomato


Doesn’t this tomato look like a little hen? The leaves make the wings, and there are even black spots in the right places for eyes.

Grammy (my grandmother) sent me this photo a few days ago. The tomato came from one of the plants she has growing right outside her front door in east central Indiana. It was sown and nurtured by my Uncle Wayne (an awesome gardener with more than just a green thumb – his whole hand and arm are green!), who says it is a “golf ball tomato.” He starts all his plants from seeds, and this vine is now about seven feet high, held up by a wire cage. I think they ought to consider christening this variety the “chicken tomato.” :-P

Uncle Wayne’s son David (my cousin) took the picture, and when I saw it I was instantly enchanted. I like the light and shadow contrast in this photo, and isn’t the smooth bright red 'mater on the patterned aqua tablecloth striking? Now I see why the red and turquoise combination is hot right now! Thank you, Cousin David, for giving permission for me to post your very artistic photograph.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Easy Sweet Potato Dessert

Recently I've been seeing a lot of sweet potatoes in the grocery store I frequent, so I figure it's time to start making this once again. Street vendors here in Mexico City sell something similar to this, so although the recipe is mine, the idea certainly did not originate with me. I like this because it is nutritious, it's easy to make, and the sweetness can easily be adjusted to suit most any taste.

Easy Sweet Potato Dessert

You'll need:

-sweet potatoes (I prefer the ones that are off-white inside)

-jelly or marmalade (strawberry or blackberry are my favorites)

-heavy cream, whipped cream, or Kool Whip

-chopped nuts (I like pecans)

Boil, bake, or steam your sweet potatoes until soft. Let cool, peel, and refrigerate. When ready to make the dessert, cut sweet potato into 1/2-inch slices and let sit until room temperature (or at least long enough to get the "refrigerator cold" off them). For each serving, place 3 or 4 slices of sweet potato in a small bowl. Top with a tablespoon or so of jelly or marmalade, then a dollop of cream, and finally a generous sprinkling of chopped nuts. Eat with a spoon.


--If you like it really really sweet, drizzle sweetened condensed milk on it instead of the cream.

--Use maple syrup instead of jelly or marmalade, and omit the cream.

See a few more of my recipes.

Monday, August 28, 2006

New Beginning


This is another selection from my now-defunct e-card site. (Click the image to see it a little bit bigger.) It says, "The longest journey begins with a single step. Congratulations on your new beginning," and I thought that was appropriate to my situation right now, what with being in the middle of relocating and all.

I took this photo in northeastern Indiana in about the year 2001. I'm not sure what it is, but there is something about it that I really really like -- maybe the angle of the road? the exhuberant Queen Anne's lace at the left? the visual roughness of the asphalt, maybe, or the way that the road disappears into the brightest part of the image? Something.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cutting a Swath through the Heartland

Here's a little experience the Dear Hubby (DH) and I had while together in Chicago last month:

Most of DH's experience with the United States (he's Peruvian) has been out east, in New Jersey and the Washington, D.C. area, so as we ran around northern Indiana together he would often come out with a comment beginning, "When I lived in New Jersey …." Since we were on our way to Chicago, I kept reminding him that We Were in the Midwest Now -- otherwise known as the "Heartland" -- and the Midwest is way different from the whole Jersey-New York area; people are nicer in the Midwest, friendlier and much less weird. Being in Chicago was going to be nothing like being in bizarre, scary, cold, self-consciously sophisticated New York City.

This claim of mine kept getting harder and harder to substantiate as we actually experienced Chicagoland, though. So many of the people we saw were incredibly strange! There was this one guy we saw on the subway. I know you are going to think I made this all up, but it really happened -- ask the DH if you don't believe me. This guy stepped right out of an old B movie stereotype and into our mostly empty train car. Chainsaw Man was an older fellow, wiry, with grizzled hair and stubbled face, halfway toothless, wearing very wrinkled, caked-with-dirt overalls. He was grinning and talking to himself, and he wasn't too steady on his feet even before the train started moving. He was carrying a rather large, bright orange, dirty electric chainsaw in his left hand. It was not in a case or in any way covered, and the cord was not even wound up into a little compact bundle, but almost trailed along the floor.

My first impusle was to check the chain part of the saw for blood. I saw none, but was frightened anyway. DH had rented The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on dvd only a few months before, and while I had done my best not to see that movie (knowing it would give me nightmares), I had been unavoidably subjected to snippets of it when I walked through the living room that day doing chores. What if this guy revved up his machine and started hacking away at us? The rational part of me sneered, "Where would he plug it in?" but the right side of my brain was genuinely scared. Well, half my right brain was. The other half was wanting to laugh out loud, wondering if this were a show and where the hidden cameras were. And yearning to take a photograph of this guy, achingly wishing I could dare to do so. Here was folk art, pop culture, and surrealism converging before my very eyes!

Chainsaw Man got on and stumbled over to a seat near us. The train started up and he wasn't ready and he nearly fell over. The chainsaw swung semi-wildly. My heart started thumping uncomfortably inside me. The teenaged girl seated across the aisle moved her bare leg just in time and just enough to avoid being grazed by the business end of the saw. She had a little look of alarm in her eyes, too. Ah, so it wasn't just me! Chainsaw Man didn't notice he was being a bit reckless; he was mumbling under his breath. Must have been upbeat mumbling, though, since he looked cheerful enough, and even cackled to himself a time or two.

I was relieved when he finally sat down and I could convince myself that DH and I would be getting out of the subway alive enough to ride another day. Our stop was the next station, and we got off as quickly as we could. Only then did I allow myself to shake my head and laugh in amazement at the things that happen in real life -- even in the Midwest. I take it back about people being less weird there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Taking a Load Off

Many things have happened since I last updated this blog about 2 months ago. Dear Hubby and I spent a nice two and a half weeks on vacation with my parents in Indiana, U.S.A., in July. I came back to Mexico City to finish up at work and take care of winding up the household stuff in order to move permanently back to the United States later this year; DH stayed, finding a job in Chicagoland to live on in the meantime. We are well embarked on this major relocation venture! Woo hoo!

Since I’ve been back I’ve spent a lot of time just going through and getting rid of stuff. Actually, I’ve been doing this sporadically for the last year or so, anticipating this move. However, since the move is now actually imminent, the garage-sale-esque activity has intensified greatly. And whereas before I was just getting rid of stuff I didn’t really want or use, now I am cutting down much closer to the bone and starting to divest myself of things which, were I able to keep them, I would not get rid of, at least not at this time. Everything must go! rings the going-out-of-business ad copy. It’s pretty much like that for me; all I will be able to take with me is what will fit in two large suitcases and a carry-on. It’s kind of exhilarating!

Clothes that I don’t wear get donated to those who can use them. Books and kitchen items and decorations and craft supplies and other good-condition miscellany I take to work and try to sell, tag sale style, to my colleagues in the Teachers’ Lounge. That which doesn’t sell, and large items like pieces of furniture, I hope to milk for whatever I can get at a “real” garage sale (sans garage) shortly before I leave town for good.

And it keeps getting easier, and it keeps feeling better and better. It seems like it was harder to get rid of the unwanted junk way-back-when than it is to part with the stuff I like now. It’s a lot of work, yes, but it hardly hurts at all anymore. How much good it has done me to climb out from under this pile of possessions! I’d heard and read many times about how having stuff weighs you down, and yeah, I understood that, intellectually, and could repeat the platitudes … but I didn’t really know it. I’m starting to know it now. Thank you, God! What a delicious blessing!

So far I’ve just barely made a dent in the mountain of stuff, and already I am enjoying multiple benefits. What will it be like when I’m down to just the basics, to having only the things I really need (plus a few items of sentimental value)? I like to imagine that I will finally be able to live up to my name, Robin – finally be light enough to fly.