A place for random thoughts, ideas, and fun!
What really goes on in Amy's brain? I'll use this space to share more about myself and my interests, journal some of the more exciting goings-on in my life, and work through some of the writing ideas and dilemmas I'm wrestling with. Enjoy!|
Movie Review Mondays . . . if you watch a film after reading a review, please come back and let me know what you thought!
|Pommes frites. Freedom fries. French fries. Whatever you call them, they’re delicious.
Very few among us did not grow up clamoring for “MickeyDonalds” French fries (or was that just me?) When I was a kid, my grandparents would come to visit, and I remember one time insisting that we should go to MickeyDonalds for dinner. “No,” my mom reminded me. “Grandma and Grandpa don’t eat McDonalds. It’s not kosher.” “Oh, okay.” I could be flexible. “Let’s go to Booger King instead!” Yeah, maybe not.
But I dreamed of my next batch of French fries. Still do. Although to be honest, the fries I look for have changed radically over the years.
For several years, after accidentally squeezing lemon juice on a stray fry that was near my fried shrimp, I ate them that way. Delish!
And of course Greek fries – cooked in olive oil, sprinkled with oregano, and dipped in the heavenly yogurt, garlic and cucumber sauce called tzatziki.
Sweet potato fries . . . mmmmm, I did go through a phase where these were on the top of my list.
Out here in the bay area near San Francisco, I discovered a new choice – garlic fries. Everyone in the town needs to eat them at the same time, however . . . or no one can stand to be around each other.
What are your favorites?
|Have you ever been so utterly convinced that you hated a food, that you were never willing to give it a chance? There have been several in my repertoire . . . or rather, hovering sulkily outside of my repertoire. Since moving to California, I have added a handful of previously snubbed items to my diet.
Surprise number one – artichokes are delicious! I had them once many years ago, perhaps on a pizza or in a pasta dish, and I decided I hated them. Blech! What a waste of the title “food.” I’m not sure now what I tasted, but it WAS NOT artichokes. Mmmmmm - on pizza, in dips . . . someday soon we will have to travel to Gilroy, which is known for its garlic, but also for its artichokes, and try fresh ones prepared by a local restaurant.
Surprise number two – Brussels sprouts are delicate and delightful! Those wee mini cabbages, growing so awkwardly on a stalk like so many carbuncles, are definitely worth trying. Growing up, my cousin used to joke, calling them “putt putts” and refusing to eat them. So I never gave the cruciferous little bundles of vitamins a chance. Roasted with olive oil . . . sprinkled with lemon and parmesan cheese. Give them a try. Really.
Surprise number three – arugula is the magic of the lettuce world. Peppery and full of vitamins, it’s incredible when paired with a sweet balsamic, and some good cheese. I CRAVE an amazing flatbread that I had at our favorite little tapas place, several months ago. Alas, it was a special. I’ve hinted repeatedly that it needs to return. Arugula, sliced apple, goat cheese, honey, and balsamic. Oh. MY!
One thing that will never change, though . . . there’s nothing anyone could possibly say or do to get me to eat or drink and enjoy anything cherry. Nope. Not going to happen.
|I tend not to use food as reward or incentive for my children, as I grew up with some not so great habits regarding the place of treats within my daily life.
That being said, last night poor Goldilocks was just looking so unhappy, unwell, and pathetic that it came out before I realized what I was saying – “I know what Goldilocks needs. Chocolate chip cookies.” I did a quick take over my shoulder to make sure someone wasn’t manipulating me with a voodoo doll or something, and then I got up and made cookies. At 8:30 at night. Unsolicited. Despite the fact that I hadn’t even made dinner since I wasn’t feeling well. Despite the fact that my palate was off and the dough tasted salty to me.
Somehow, I just knew. She’s a girl who just needs some unconditional loving, and she was feeling really shaky. The look of excitement in her eyes when I mentioned chocolate chip cookies FOR HER was most definitely worth the effort of defrosting the margarine, mixing the dough, and baking the cookies. No one else in the house contradicted my declaration, of course. In fact, there may have been a few motions seconding the idea.
When the cookies were out of the oven, Goldilocks said she wasn’t hungry. I KNEW she wasn’t feeling well. A little while later she got up and had a cookie. This morning she was all better and went to school.
Because sometimes, you just need a cookie.
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|I’ve shied away from reviewing for the past few years. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I struggle with finding the right balance in a review. Sometimes it’s simple – a lovely piece with a few grammatical errors, or a comment on how to make the work flow more smoothly. But other times the piece is so flooded with grammatical errors, punctuation errors, and simply poor writing, that it’s painful for me to tackle.
I’m a people pleaser, at heart. I want to make people happy. But in the long run, would it make someone happier to receive a glowing review for a piece that needs a great deal of work . . . or to receive constructive criticism with an eye to what works in the piece? I simply cannot do it – a glowing review for a piece that needs an overhaul is not honest, and it’s not within the realm of what I can do. And it’s not helpful. A writer who comes to the site might be just looking for fun, and an outlet for their creative energies. On the other hand, a writer may be looking for truly useful advice on how to create a publishable piece of work.
The question is – how does one know whether an author is simply looking for a “cute piece” type review, or a run-through of what would make the work shine?
I’ll be honest – I know I’m not the most polished author, but at the same time I know grammar, and I know spelling. The undisciplined years of reading until my eyes felt like they would fall out of my face served me well. I know what good writing looks like, although I may not be able to create it 100% of the time.
So, as I said . . . I’ve shied away from reviewing, when in reality I should be doing far more of it than I am. Parsing the work of others can also help me figure out what I need to do with my own writing.
It’s time to get myself back on that horse, and figure out how to create the proper balance in those reviews. Giddyap!
|I made chicken soup with matzo balls for the first time, yesterday. Well, I made chicken soup for the first time. I’ve made matzo balls many times, during Passover preparations. BUT, I’ve never tried making matzo balls without matzo meal, before. I could NOT find any in the grocery store, and did not feel like tooling all over town to find some. So I bought matzo, and made my own in the food processor.
First, though . . . the soup. I looked through recipe after recipe online, trying to find one that sounded like what I wanted. I had nearly everything I needed, except for a chicken and some herbs.
1(4 to 5) pound chicken
2 to 3 quarts water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 onion, sliced
3 stalks celery
3 parsley sprigs
1 dill sprig
Place chicken in water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Skim fat that rises to top with large spoon. Repeat 2 more times or as needed. Add vegetables and herbs. Cover and let simmer for 3 hours.
The recipe worked really well. I added 3 carrots, rather than 2. It might have been a bit sweeter than I wanted, as a result. I’ll try sticking with the recipe, next time. The only problem I had was that the fat did not want to foam for me, which made it tough to skim. As a result, the first servings had a lot of grease on the top. Another recipe said to refrigerate overnight and skim the fat . . . but who’s got time for that when you have someone in the house who needs chicken soup!?
And on to the matzo balls. So I may not have processed the matzo quite enough, or somehow I may have gotten the proportions a little off, but they were too sticky while I was forming them, and when I dropped them into the boiling water, some of them fell apart. On the other hand . . . they were the fluffiest matzo balls I’ve ever had!
If you prefer your maztah balls light and fluffy, this is the recipe for you. It’s the seltzer that makes the difference. Originally from the back of a Manichewitz® box, my aunt has been making them this way for years.
1/2 cup seltzer
1 cup matzah meal
1/3 cup melted shortening (margarine)
1 tsp salt
Dash white pepper
Add seltzer, salt, shortening & pepper to beaten eggs. Mix well. Add matzah meal and stir thoroughly. Place into refrigerator, and let stand 20 minutes. Form into balls & drop into boiling water that had been seasoned with 1 tablespoon of salt.
Cook 45 minutes. Drain with slotted spoon and cool. Place in refrigerator or freezer. Heat and add to soup before serving.
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|I hate New Years Resolutions – picking an arbitrary date on which to change your life seems futile. And yet, I consider it, every year. What would make me a better person in this upcoming year? How can I be the person I want to be? What do I need to change about myself, in order to achieve that goal?
Oh please . . . the answer is that I need to transport myself into someone else’s body, with someone else’s motivation, metabolism, and experience.
What are the things I would like to change, if I could? For starters, I need to sleep. I have weaned myself off of my sleep meds (which I really DID need to do, though I’m very much regretting it at the moment). So I’m sleeping horribly, waking up far too early without the ability to fall back to sleep, and as a consequence I am cranky and tired throughout the day. Which is no big surprise. I’ve ALWAYS been cranky and tired during the day, with the exception of a short, blissful period of time when a couple of meds were working beautifully for me.
What would I do if I were not cranky and tired all the time? I could be a better, more patient mom. I could accomplish more during the day. I’d have more energy to exercise, motivation to clean, and focus to write and edit. I would not feel like “just a little snack will perk me up,” adding to the tally of unburned calories in my life.
It all comes back to sleep . . . the one thing I am thoroughly and completely without control over. If I slept, I could be thinner, because I’d have more energy to exercise and more motivation to stay out of the kitchen. If I slept, I could be a more accomplished person, and not feel as though I were living on the precarious edge of nothingness. If I slept, I could be a more pleasant person to be around, mainly for my kids and my husband. With most other people, I can fake it. If I did all of those other things, I might be better able to sleep.
Or is it all one big excuse? Sure, if I slept life would be so much easier all around. But does that mean I cannot effect the changes I need to, regardless of the time of year?
I don’t know . . . I’ll have to think about it when I’m not so tired.
It was nearly 4 years ago that I to traveled to Greece with my friend Liz. A few of our favorite memories surrounded 2 establishments we’d visited in Athens. One was a taverna, and the other was a jewelry shop.
We walked into the jewelry shop, and the charming proprietor greeted us with a friendly “hello! How many thousands of Euros would you like to spend today?” We laughed, and spent probably 45 minutes to an hour chatting with him. We met his wife and his adorable son, and the following day I went back to bring his son a package of gum (the only thing I had from the states that was unopened). We laughed, as the proprietor told me that he could buy the same package of gum at the periptero just outside the shop. Ah well. Liz and I returned once more, and each bought something special as a memento of our visit. Again, we spent a great deal of time talking with the shop owner.
When I planned a trip to Greece with Dr B for this past September, I was excited to visit the shop again. Even more exciting was the fact that Liz was joining us for a few days!
We wandered up Makrigiannis Street, looking for Emblem jewelry shop, only to find a sign that said they had moved. We took down the street address and moved on. I was excited to discover the following day that the street was in fact quite close by. But we could not quite find the shop. Until we walked past it for the 8th time, and finally saw it, right along the sidewalk we passed each day, as we walked from our hotel to Plaka! How exciting! In we went, and saw the proprietor’s wife. We exclaimed excitedly over how glad we were to have found the shop, and she told us that the rent on Makrigiannis Street had gotten too expensive, now that it was a pedestrian thoroughfare full mostly of touristy eateries. The new shop was smaller, but looked similar to the other. Her husband was not there. I promised to return when we had more time to look around.
This did not happen until after Liz had left. But I kept my promise and went back, seeing Susie once more. We chatted, and she asked whether I had talked with her or her husband the last time we’d been there. When I told her we’d spent quite a bit of time talking with her husband . . . she told me. He had died 2 years earlier. She did not come out and say it directly, but it was clear from the implication – he died suddenly, he was more tortured than she had realized – he had killed himself.
I don’t even remember his name . . . I believe it began with an M. But I was quite shaken up by her news. The smaller shop made even more sense now. She was doing this on her own. I felt obligated to purchase something from her. Not obligated, perhaps . . . she certainly did nothing to force me . . . but I would have felt horribly guilty if I had not spent some money in her shop. She did not have change, and so rather than accept the extra Euro I gave her, she instead gave me a small evil eye necklace that her husband had made. A very meaningful memento.
I was out of sorts for hours after Susie told me of her husband’s death. I did not truly know him, but I had some wonderful memories of our visit to his shop. And so I did mourn the loss.
|I’m excitedly getting ready to run my first writing contest on the site! Given the wonderful success of Mumsy’s Dreidel Game last month, and my ongoing efforts to actually be productive, I thought it sounded like a decent idea.
The contest should be a unique one – I hope! The topic is something of great personal meaning to me, so I’m hoping it generates some interesting entries.
"Diversity Makes the World Go Round" [18+] Write a story that illustrates diversity as a positive force in society. I have my judges lined up, and a few donations for the prizes, already. I just need to make sure I have all of my in a row before I open it for entries!
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|I’m taking the lazy route today. Someone posted this list on Facebook, and I don’t really care to put it up there, but I thought it would make a decent blog post without my having to come up with a topic for the day.
A. Age: 44
B. Bed size: King
C. Chore you hate: Cleaning toilets, tubs/showers. Toilets are GROSS, and I’m too short to reach the back of the tub/shower wall to scrub (see H.)
D. Dogs: I’m a cat person, but dogs can be sweet.
E. Essential start to your day: COFFEEEEE!
F. Favorite color: Green.
G. Gold or silver: Silver
H. Height: 4’11”
I. Instruments you play: none
J. Job title: Mom, chauffeur
K. Kids: 3 – Dr B is 19, Goldilocks is 14, and Monkey is 9
L. Live: Livermore, CA
M. Mom’s name: Mimi
N. Nicknames: Amygdalia, Mumsy, Mom, Pocket, Amya
O. Overnight hospital stays: Memorial Day 1980 – was in a car accident with my dad, and stayed overnight 2 nights in a random hospital in NJ. August 1994, when Dr B was born. January 1999, when Goldilocks was born. February 2004, when Monkey was born.
P. Pet peeve: Just one? Lying. Random, meaningless noise. Leaving the cabinets open.
Q. Quote from a movie: “What’s this? My book? C.K. Dexter Haven, you have unsuspected depth!” ~ Jimmy Stewart as Macaulay Conner in Philadelphia Story
R. Right or left handed: Left
S. Siblings: none
T. Time you wake up: Too early. Lately, when given the chance to wake on my own, my body has been getting me up around 8 AM.
U. Underwear: Always
V. Vegetables you dislike: I don’t think there are vegetables I dislike so much as vegetables I haven’t been able to bring myself to try. Parsnips. Rutabaga. Beets. Not a fan of bitter, so there are some greens I’m not crazy about, but can’t think of what they are.
W. What makes you run late: My kids.
X. X-Rays you’ve had: Foot, leg, knees, chest
Y. Yummy food you make: Baked brie with raspberry and puff pastry, Moroccan spiced chickpea soup, chai spice cookies, latkes, trifle
Z. Zoo – What are we looking for, here? Favorite zoo? Philadelphia. Favorite zoo animal? Capybara!
|There are times when I just cannot get myself to enjoy reading a book. I sometimes wonder whether it’s the book, or me. There are definitely times when I know it’s the book – stories that I don’t care for, writing styles that turn me off. But then there are other times when I wonder whether I would enjoy a particular story, if I were in a different frame of mine. I have about 20 books on my shelf, partly read and bookmarked, in the hopes that someday I will care to go back and finish them. The ones I loathe I just get rid of. Why leave them around to accidentally pick up again another time?
But I’ve had the same book sitting on my night table since the end of November. I pick it up occasionally, and read a chapter. Meh. Is it me, or is it the book? *shrugs* I can’t tell with this one.
I hate it when I get into a reading funk. Reading is an escape for me, and when I cannot bring myself to enjoy something, my funk deepens.
On occasion, I have to read them anyway because they’re for book group. Every once in a while I can’t bring myself to finish reading a book club book. They’re often not quite my cup of tea. And yet, I stay with the group because I enjoy the discussions (even if I don’t enjoy all of the books) and I adore the other women in the group.
But what to do when I just feel like I ought to be enjoying a book, and I’m not? Put it aside and pick up something else? I’m about ready to do that. I have this month’s book club selection, and I should probably read it (I’m hosting this month).
Yes, I think it’s time to put aside that supposedly light and fluffy romance and pick up something else. Hopefully my book funk will fade.