Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dear Diary

My friend Karen turned me on to this group, Trifecta, which comes up with writing challenges. Having some extra time on my hands, I figured I'd give it a go. It's a good way to jump start those writing gears, which have sat rusty for a while now...

This week's word is:

1 archaic : unfavorable, unlucky
2 archaic : fraudulent
3: singularly evil or productive of evil

Please remember:
  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above. 
  • Only one entry per writer.

Margie was typical of her time. She followed the same arc as most of her peers: School, marriage, kids, and boredom.  Few in her town veered much from the trajectory they all seemed to be on, although a lucky few inserted “teaching” between school and marriage. Often these women eventually had kids, and found themselves being pulled back into the same orbit they thought they’d untethered from.   
Margie was never one to rock the boat. A tamed, domestic future was fine by her.  She led what she considered a happy life in bucolic California. Nothing adrenaline-spiking happened to her or anyone she knew, unless you consider that one time when she snuck Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Murders in the Rue Morgue from the library because she was afraid of other’s reactions to her reading about something so macabre as death.  Upon finishing the book she often wondered if she was capable of a dark side. She tried to conjure up images of her playing the part of villain, but she was incapable of thinking of anything more extreme than dressing in black and slinking through dark alleyways.  When one lives a mediocre life, even its shadows are tame.  She eventually let go of such fantasies and settled into the life she knew awaited her. She married her high-school sweetheart, had three kids in quick succession and settled into afternoons of obligations to acronyms: PTA, YWCA, SI.
When she was delivered to her path’s final destination of boredom at age 33, she felt despair.  She reconsidered whether she was capable of a dark side. The next morning she awoke from a dream that startled her. She distractedly completed her morning obligations and once her children left for school she hesitantly approached her husband's study, put paper in the Underwood, and clicked out, Dear Diary, Apparently I am capable of sinister thoughts. I can't say I'm displeased...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Boots & Umbrellas

Living in Vancouver makes me realize that I have two massive holes in my wardrobe: a decent pair of rain boots and a functional umbrella. Even though I've called the Pacific Northwest home for more than 20 years, I've managed to somehow get through the wet months without these items. Suddenly both seem equally essential. I'm not sure if it's because I walk a lot more and spend scant amount of time in a car going from point A to point B, or if the rain here is different than the rain in Oregon, somehow making me more wet. Whatever the reason, as soon as these rain clouds pass I am hurrying out and going on the hunt for aforementioned items. Your recommendations on rubber boots that are worth a darn, are most welcome. Ditto for umbrellas that actually keep one dry and don't keep showing their undersides the moment a slight breeze pops up!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Worthy of a Repeat

I love to cook. I’m fairly certain Quinn and Logan wish I didn’t. Although I’d consider them non-fussy eaters, at this stage in their life they’d be happy to eat Goldfish crackers and meatloaf 24/7. My personal eating habits skew more toward ethnic and vegetarian. I am also an experimental and impromptu cook and will often select recipes for the evening meal based on the ingredients I have on hand. I rarely, if ever, repeat a recipe. I don’t do this intentionally, but I’m not an organized enough cook to bookmark recipes with notes that read, “Repeat.”  Again, I think the boys are relieved by this as they’d prefer not to repeat certain meals. Every now and again, though, I knock one out of the park that satisfies all of our eating needs in terms of quantity and flavor. I figured I should share it here, not only to remind myself to repeat this recipe, but also if two teenage boys liked it, then consider it somewhat vetted for your own family. This is a Thai dish from the cook book, True Thai by Victor Sodsook. I highly recommend this cook book if you enjoy Thai food. I’ve made a number of the dishes and they are all equally delicious, and surprisingly simple. The key, of course, is having access to a good Asian food market where you can find some more obscure ingredients. Once your pantry is stocked, this will be a cook book that you’ll reference time and again. The winning dish from the other night was “Sweet Pork (Mu Wan).”

3 Tbl. Vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, pounded to a mash or crushed and chopped
¾ pound pork tenderloin, cut crosswise into thin medallions
2 Tbl. Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
4 Tbl. Golden brown sugar
½ tsp. white pepper
Crispy Shallots* recipe to follow
Place all of the ingredients within easy reach of the cooking area. Set a wok over medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, add the oil. Rotate the wok a bit so the oil coats the sids. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the pork. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir-fry until pork is just cooked through, approximately 3-5 minutes. Top with crispy shallots and serve hot or warm over jasmine rice.

Crispy Shallots
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 5 or 6)

Pour oil into a wok or heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring the oil to 360 degrees. (To test the oil temperature, dip a wooden spoon in the hot oil. The oil should bubble and sizzle gently around the bowl of the spoon.) Add the shallots and fry, stirring frequently, until crisp and brown, about 2 minutes (note: I’m not sure how the author achieved crispy shallots in 2 minutes, it took me closer to 12!) Remove with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cool to room temperature. Shallots will keep for up to two weeks if stored at room temperature in a tightly sealed jar.

The crispy shallots are essential to making this a 3-star recipe become a 4-star recipe. Also, I love, love coconut so I make our jasmine rice with coconut milk & water. It imparts a very subtle coconut flavor, without being too rich or sweet. Also, if you have leftover rice, then it makes a delicious breakfast the following morning with a little milk and cinnamon. Mmmmm.