Monthly Archives: September 2006

Random Friday–On the way to Iowa

Wouldn’t it be appropriate if Dar Williams’ song Iowa popped up in my Random Ten today? Well, we shall soon see if that will happen.

Random Ten rules: set your pod a’shufflin’ and report back the first ten songs it spits out, no excusing, skipping or justifying your songs. The Random Ten gods want you to stand tall and proud with your music.

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana (Nevermind)
2. All Along the Watchtower, Bob Dylan (B. Dylan Unplugged)
3. Last Boat to America, David Gray (A New Day at Midnight)
4. Mobile Line, Jon Sebastian (King Biscuit Flower Hour)
5. Unceremonious, King Britt (King Britt Presents Sister Gertrude Morgan)
6. He Rode all the way to Texas, Harris, Parton and Ronstadt (Trio II)
7. Colors, Amos Lee (Amos Lee)
8. Wise Up, Aimee Mann (Magnolia)
9. I’m Only Sleeping, The Vines (I Am Sam)
10. Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin (18 Essential Songs)

Favorite Song: Me and Bobby McGee is by far a favorite in this set full of good songs. I was just reading a post about Janis on a blog called Jew Eat Yet, where he discusses the episodes of the Dick Cavett show when she appeared. It was shocking to learn that she was 27 when she died, the same age that I am now.

Favorite Album: Amos Lee. Having seen him live a couple of times now, I admit fully and completely to having quite the (obviously) unrequited crush on Amos. He is from Philly though, so you never know what could happen. I’m looking forward to his new cd which comes out Tuesday.

Dar Williams didn’t appear, but there’s lots of good stuff on the list today, and nothing I don’t really like (well, it is my pod). I also have to point over to Jon Sebastian with a certain amount of love and affection. Thanks to my dad, I grew up on this man’s music, singing and dancing around the living room many a Saturday morning to Jug Band Music.  And what’s with the two kings, right in a row?
Other Random Friday players:

The end of employment

Leaving work today, I had to fight to suppress the grin that wanted to take over my face.  I left my keys on the desk, flicked off the built-in desk light, locked the door and walked away.  Once I was down to the sidewalk, I called my parents in Oregon.  When my dad answered the phone, I said, “Hey Daddy, I’m unemployed!”

He laughed and said, “Congratulations!”

It is such a joy to finally be a full time student.

Guided flight

For the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about going to Portland for a Subud gathering held the weekend before Thanksgiving. When I mentioned that I was pondering this possibility to my mom, she hopefully suggested that I stay for the entire week. It was an appealing idea since I haven’t had Thanksgiving with my immediate family since 2001.

I sat down today with the intention to buy a plane ticket. I checked out America West, and was reminded that they had become part of US Airways. I found a flight and was about to buy the ticket, when I had a feeling I shouldn’t do it. I paused, scooted my chair back from my computer and got quiet. Nope, I really felt not to buy the ticket. I sighed and got up to go to the bathroom, thinking that maybe I just wasn’t supposed to take the trip.

When I got back to my desk, there was a new email in my gmail account. It was SideStep newsletter with links to travel deals around the internet. Normally I toss them without looking, but I scrolled through mindlessly. Noticing Orbitz was having a fall flight sale I clicked over and punched in the dates and times I had just been looking at over at US Airways. It searched for a moment, before pulling up a roundtrip flight with dates and times that worked, costing almost half the price of the ticket I had been about to buy on the other airline. It was the cheapest flight I’ve ever gotten between Philly and Portland in nearly five years of flying back and forth.

I bought the ticket, without any feeling of apprehension or worry in my stomach. That sense I had been picking up on wasn’t telling me I shouldn’t go, just that if I could just wait a half hour long I would get a better price on the ticket. It’s nice when the big stuff works out in life, but somethings having the little stuff flow smoothly is just as satisfying.


I’m going to Iowa this weekend.

When I tell people that’s where I’m going Friday morning, they pause and then respond, “Iowa? What’s in Iowa?” The Prairie Star District is in Iowa (as well as in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas) and they have some Unitarian Young Adults who are looking for a little information and inspiration.

A year and a half ago, I was hired to be a Young Adult and Campus Ministry Trainer/Consultant by the Unitarian Universalist Association. They sent a bunch of us to a four-day training in May of 2005. I learned a lot over that long weekend, but right now I couldn’t tell you much of what I was taught as I have yet to lead a workshop. Until now. It will be interesting, because while I know instinctively how to do a lot of this stuff, I haven’t had a chance to get up and talk about it in front of people in a very long time. Thankfully, I’ve been teamed up with someone who has done these things before and so will be relying on him.

So, to sum up. I’m going to Iowa this weekend, to do something for which I am poorly prepared. Doesn’t that just sound like an adventure in the making?

The last Monday night in September

I’ve been writing up a storm these days.  Newsletters, story stories, emails, Metroblog posts and pieces for my journalism class.  My head starts to hurt at thought of creating more right now, but don’t despair, I’m not going to leave you empty-handed.

I’ve taken some pictures recently.  There’s a set from Labor Day Weekend at Unitarian Church Camp, as well as pictures of bowling from Nikyia’s birthday party on Saturday night.

And that short story I mentioned?  If you have any interest in reading the draft, feel free.

Soup Greens

Walking through the produce section of the Rittenhouse Market, I was stopped by a woman holding her hand up like a traffic cop and waving it at me slightly.  She looked to be in her early 60’s, had stylishly short dark hair and wore a black suit that would have impressed my fashionable grandmother.

“When a recipe calls for soup greens, what does that mean?”

I paused for a second before answering,

“That depends on the type of soup you’re making.”

“I need to make chicken soup.”

I asked if she was making soup with leftovers from a roasted chicken or from raw chicken and she shook her head.

“I have some cans of Manischewitz broth, which isn’t bad, and some boneless, skinless chicken breasts.”

At that point, I understood perfectly what she was trying to do and I walked her through the steps of making chicken soup in twenty minutes.

You need:

1 clove of garlic (or 2 if you are a big fan)
1 onion
2 nice sized carrots (or 10 baby ones)
3 ribs of celery
1 bunch of cilantro or parsley
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 or 2 boxes of chicken stock
1 cup of cooked rice or noodles (optional)
Chop the onion and garlic and start it sauting in a little olive oil in a large soup pot. Chop the carrots and celery into bit-sized pieces and add that to the pot.  Give them a couple of minutes to soft and get some color and then pour in the stock (the amount depends on how much soup you want to make).  While it is coming to a boil, thinly slice the chicken breasts against the grain.  Once the liquid is boiling, drop four or five slices of chicken in at a time, stirring occasionally so that they don’t clump together.  When all the chicken is in the pot, let it come to a slow boil for another 30 seconds (this is so you make sure to kill off any residual raw chicken bugs) and then turn it down to a simmer.  Take a taste, add whatever seasonings you think it needs (salt, pepper, thyme, etc), put in the rice or noodles and it’s done.  Garnish the bowls with some chopped parsley or cilantro and you’re ready to fake out your family .

The woman thanked me profusely and jokingly asked when I would be in the store next.  I just smiled and she said in amazement, “I certainly asked the right person about soup greens, didn’t I?”  I said that she had and that I was happy to help.  She walked back towards the onions and I wished her a Happy New Year.

Random Friday–What You See (is what you get)

It’s Friday once more, and that means it’s time for a set of random music, direct from my iPod to your eyes. The rules are simple, set your pod (or other digital music device) a’shufflin’ and report back the first ten songs it spits out. Do not skip, omit or excuse any song, as it is in the imperfections that we see beauty.

1. The Drugs Don’t Work, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals (Live from Mars)
2. Cold As It Gets, Patty Griffin (Impossible Dream)
3. Amazing Grace, The Blind Boys of Alabama (World Cafe-Vol. 18)
4. Spring Street, Dar Williams (The Green World)
5. Save Me, Aimee Mann (Magnolia)
6. What You See, Ike & Tina Turner (Greatest Hits Vol. One)
7. Rock and Roll All Nite, Kiss (Dazed and Confused)
8. When My Morning Comes Around, Iris Dement (The Way I Should)
9. See The Constellations, They Might Be Giants (Apollo 18)
10. Ragtime Annie/Arkansas Traveler, Cross-Eyed Rosie (Lookin’ Up)

Favorite Song: Ragtime Anne/Arkansas Traveler by Crosss-Eyed Rosie. Just a couple of weeks ago I waxed poetic about my love for the music that this bluegrass/folk/old timey band creates, and here they are again.

Favorite Album: This is a hard one because there isn’t one album on this list that I wouldn’t choose to listen to at some point for some reason and not enjoy it thoroughly. That’s actually pretty rare for a Random Friday set, normally there’s always something I care for more than the others. But I’m okay with that.

Other folks:

A particularly good Thursday

I woke up today feeling as if my dreams had infused my being with extra light and buoyancy. Writing the profile about Mrs. B had kept me up until 2 am, but it had been invigorating and enlivening instead of enervating. Looking at my face in the bathroom mirror after a shower, I liked what I saw. That doesn’t happen every day and so on the days that it does, I notice and appreciate the feeling.

The piece on Mrs. B turned out pretty well. Going to class tonight, I wished I had signed up to have this assignment workshopped, because I liked what I had done. If I could only feel this positively about everything I write, I would be leading a good life.

If you are interested in reading it, you can find it here.

Profiling Mrs. B

I’ve spent most of today working on a 1500 word profile for my Practice of Writing class. It is due tomorrow night, and while I am enjoying writing it, the going is slow. I’ve got nothing fresh or exciting to write here (I’m afraid this is going to start happening a lot), but I can give you a couple of paragraphs from the profile.

I’m writing about my neighbor, the spunky Mrs. B, who can always be counted on to give me both a laugh and a cookie. If this thing is any good when it’s all done, I’ll post the full length version. If it sucks, well, you’ll never hear me speak of it again.

She has left the door to her 20th floor apartment unlatched, so after one knock to announce myself, I nudge the door open and walk in. Mrs. B is standing in her mostly-unused galley-style kitchen, wielding a bread knife that’s as long as her arm, with which she is attempting to open a package of cookies that her daughter had brought her earlier that day. As she tugs at the silver-colored cellophane, she starts talking without even looking up, about the lunch she just had with her daughter and granddaughter and how the salad they served her at Continental was far too large.

Each time I see Mrs. B, I am taken aback by how tiny she is. In her prime she barely topped 5 feet tall, but after nearly 89 years of living, she has diminished to a stooped 4 feet 6 inches. Standing next to her, I feel like a giant. Her hair is a meticulously teased cloud the color of apricots that frames a minimally wrinkled face. She wears a pair of red, pointy framed glasses balanced on her nose, that are attached to a beaded chain around her neck that is primary for show, as I’ve never seen her take them off her face. Her voice is that of a former smoker and when she laughs, it is a good-natured cackle.

Carrot Soup

Edge of Jar of Carrot Soup

Fall will officially be here on Saturday, but the scents and senses of fall have been in the air for a couple of weeks now. I always find myself longing to make a big pot of soup as soon as I feel the change in seasons start to occur, and one of my favorites is carrot soup.

I first had a bowl of carrot soup at Shay and Erin’s Fall Back party in October 2002, their yearly party to welcome the change in time. Erin had followed the recipe in the original Moosewood cook book, that included some chopped almonds, toasted in a pan with butter. I was so taken with that soup that I tracked down a copy of that out-of-print Moosewood. I made it according to the recipe for awhile, but despite my extensive cook book and recipe collection, I find that I don’t like to follow recipes.

This is my own, very easy version of carrot soup. I make it any time I know I’m going to have a busy week, because it’s quick, easy, tastes good and doesn’t go bad quickly.

Here’s what you need:

1 onion
a couple of cloves of garlic
carrots (anywhere from 3-5 pounds, I often make this soup using up carrots that have been in my fridge for many moons)
1 box of chicken or veg stock
1 tablespoon of olive oil (approximately)
1 tablespoon of butter (approximately)

Put the olive oil and butter into a big soup pot and let melt together. Chop up the onion and garlic and throw that it, stirring occasionally. Chunk up the carrots (this can be a very rough chunk, the only thing to remember is that the smaller you cut them the quicker they’ll cook) and throw them in. Let everything saute together for a minute or two and then pour in the box of stock. At this point, I’ll put in a little salt and pepper, some nutmeg and some cinnamon. Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll throw some curry powder in at the end, or I’ll leave it out. Let it all cook until the carrots are soft, and then blend. I do it with a immersion blender, but you can do it in a food processor or blender as well.

You can also mix it up and get one of the bags of precut butternut or hubbard squash at Trader Joe’s and substitute it for half of the carrots. Or you can use beets (carrots and beets together look awfully cool). Putting in some roasted red peppers before blending is also a nice touch.
I eat it topped with a big spoonful of yogurt, which gives it a nice creaminess, and can also cool it down if you’ve gone a little heavy with the curry powder. It is good, quick and healthy.