Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thanks, Bomb Man

for making an already horrendous and difficult flight with a lap infant that much harder. Seriously dude, fuck you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Baking

I know I know, Christmas break and blah blah blah shut up Suzie. Before this post is out of date I do want to show off the baking magic we three ladies of orient pulled off a couple weeks ago. Lacy's killer oven was capable of baking two trays of twelve cookies at a time, so we were able to make quite the array of devilish delights. Our holiday baking day consisted of:
  • Peppermint Bark
  • Peanut Butter Bars
  • Cherry Almond Shortbread cookies
  • Chocolate Almond Surprise cookies
  • Pecan Turtles
Top it all off with Sufjan Steven's ethereal Christmas album and a viewing of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and we had ourselves a nice little party. Thank you, Lacy and Janelle, for a wonderful Christmasy day. Now that I've spent 3 years bringing home to Japan, I'll probably spend the next three bringing Japan home. Sigh. Damn you greener grass.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

God bless you, seasonally flavored yogurt.

Fig and Rhubarb, I think we'll miss you most of all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Break

Hey. I don't know why, but I've been feeling guilty whenever I don't post at least a couple blogs a week. I set these goals for myself not really knowing why, and then beat myself up over them. Ever do that? Ever pick up a book you've been c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g through and have to psyche yourself out before beginning your nightly chapter? Yeah me too. Usually I'm ok with a little self torture motivation, but with the chaos that is my life right now I'm not meeting my usual goals, and frankly I'm rather tired of kicking my own ass over it. I love blogging. I want to keep it that way. Things are pretty hectic here with Christmas and our departure from Japan fast approaching. I have about a million drafts with fun ideas for blogs (get excited!), I just don't have time to sit down and tinker with them right now. Maybe after the holidays I can get back in the blogging spirit. Until then my posts will probably be sporadic and sparse, which now that I think of it isn't much of a change. Huh. Ok, disregard everything I just said. This blog won't change a bit.

Happy Holidays, friends. I love this community.  Thanks for giving me a reason to write. You've helped me more than you know. See you in the states.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rainbow Chili

I needed something to replace my quest for the perfect tortilla, and with all the canned and dried beans we're trying to use up, chili seemed like the next logical choice. Japanese fresh green peas are phenomenal but but a wee bit expensive. I found this little package for 150 yen, which had me looking around at the other shoppers with expectation on my face. Do they know??? They're bigger than most peas, and just so sweet and hearty. The perfect green for my rainbow chili! These amounts are approximate. I believe chili is a "spice to taste" kind of dish, and lately I've been toning down the spiciness in my recipes to accommodate babies and friends whose stomachs aren't made of steel. I love that this chili is vegan and gluten-free (if you take out the sugar), but if any of you have some vegetarian chili recipes you think I should try, please post them! This is how perfect recipes are procured . . .

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1-3 tablespoons finely chopped chipotles (opt)
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, drained
3 cups cooked kidney beans, drained
1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup fresh green peas
2 12-oz cans diced tomatoes, with their liquid
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2-3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
dash of cayenne
dash of nutmeg
pinch of brown sugar

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, peppers and garlic and cook for 10-12 monutes, until vegetables are softened but not browned. Add chipotles, oregano, cumin, chili powder and salt. Stir to blend. Add tomatoes, pinch of sugar, nutmeg and 4 cups water. Gently simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Add beans and peas and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Adjust the spiciness of the chili with cayenne.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spicy Cauliflower

The stars aligned for this dish. I found this recipe on a package of sun-dried tomatoes I'd grabbed from the half price bin at an import store a couple weeks ago. Then I found cauliflower, which is usually difficult to find in this area (it's more of a cold-weather crop), for 100 yen a head at the grocery store! I usually don't make side dishes. With only two burners on my stove, I'm more of a one-pot cooker. But I needed a use for the cauliflower (I bought it not knowing what to do with it - a hundred yen!), and I'm also trying to use all of the canned and dried goods in my cupboards. I was really impressed with how this turned out. Hope you enjoy it!

(serves 4)

1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup vinegar
50 g sundried tomatoes (about 1/4 cup)
1 kg cauliflower (I used one head, but could have used more)
2-3 tablespoons crushed chili pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
4-5 cloves minced garlic
7 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup vegetable stock or broth
Salt and pepper to taste


Revive the tomatoes by soaking in warm water and vinegar for 15-30 minutes. Rinse well and julienne them with a sharp knife.

Cut the cauliflower into florets.

Sautee crushed chili peppers, chili powder and garlic in olive oil until golden, then add the cauliflower tops and cook for ten minutes to flavor.

Add the tomatoes julienne, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer on low heat for 40 minutes, pouring a little vegetable stock over the cauliflower every 10 minutes or so.

Can be served warm or cold!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Punishment for Gluttony

Hello, my name is Suzie, and I am an addict. My drug of choice is Hannah's belly. When she does this*:

or this*:
or this:
and maybe especially this:
. . . I have to eat it. Devour it, more like. Munch munch, kiss kiss, nom nom, Pppppppppppfffft! I can't help myself from helping myself. Bare belly is by far the best, but onesies don't stop me.** My personal favorite is after-bath belly that smells like green apple and lavender soap and is just so pink and warm and irresistibly scrumptious and grrrrr chomp chomp slurp shhhhhmack! Baby skin is heavenly. Baby BELLY skin . . . sinful. Seriously. Nothing should taste this good and be this fun (for all the giggles it elicits) at the same time.

But I have a problem.

My addiction has come back to bite me in the belly. It was a quiet evening like any other. A dinner of beans, rice, cucumbers and tomatoes. A session of picking rice out of her hair monkey-style. A kiss and a thank you for dinner ("dee doo!"). She ran off to play with her toys before bed. I stretched out on the couch with my book. All was quiet and calm and eventually. . . I drifted . . . off . . . to sleep.

Then, so subtle it could have been a dream, icy little fingers crept up my shirt. I felt a draft of cold air on my midriff. I hazily opened one eye and looked down just in time for. . . oh no! Don't do it! Please!

Too late.


*The last photos of a binkied baby.
** For a definition of onesie, click here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Boggarts and fallow land

I've been having a lot of conversations with old friends lately who, though on all walks of life, are experiencing the same growing pains. It's funny how we become little experts when someone else needs help - handing out relationship, career and parenting advice like we know what we're talking about when we don't have a stinking clue. Not a single one of us. All I know is that most people my age are struggling right now. Maybe our mid-20s are a transition we didn't know about - one where we have to buck up, grow up, and let go. Or maybe it's just the time we come to realize that we can't fulfill everyone's expectations of us - least of all our own. Whatever it is, a lot of people are hurting. Everyone I know, almost. One friend said to me, "nothing about me is real" and I said I knew how he felt. I am, after all, a phenomenal performer. Maybe I wasn't the best person for him to glean any useful advice from. The only thing I could think of to say was,

"It's all real. Even the fake stuff."

There's light and darkness in all of us. Cliche, I know, but it's real - all of it. We're not fake. Flawed, yes. Fake - impossible. Thinking back on all the times I've dished out and received this criticism (some quite recently), I see the absurdness of it now. (nerd alert!) I imagine my personal boggart might be a mannequin whose style morphs according to her surroundings. And my riddikulus spell would have her doing the robot and giving bunny ears to witless bystanders. It's genius, really, that Harry Potter learns to fight his greatest fears with laughter. Because in the end, what does it matter? In fact, I wonder what other demons and darknesses will, with time, deflate with a simple shrug and chuckle. All of them? Seems that with age our parents become more wisely ridiculous. Like Samuel in Steinbeck's East of Eden, they laugh and shake their heads at us overly serious and pretentious 20-somethings who either don't want to or don't know how to let go of our pain:

'Do you take pride in your hurt?' Samuel asked. 'Does it make you seem large and tragic? . . . Maybe you're playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience . . . there's all that fallow land, and here beside me is all that fallow man. It seems a waste. And I have a bad feeling about waste because I could never afford it. Is it a good feeling to let your life lie fallow?'

Staring at this post I realize I have no profound conclusion or explanation for any of this. Maybe I'm doing it again - being that little expert I know I'm not. Or maybe, just maybe, there's someone out there who needs to know he or she is not alone. You're not.

You're not.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Do you ever feel like you're just clumsily meandering through your week? Or maybe your life? Like by trying to do everything and be everyone, you don't get anything done? You want to be a good cook, a good mom, a good photographer, crafty, spiritual, intellectual, athletic, artistic, politically active, a good friend, daughter, sister, lover, citizen, guest, you want to be strong, empathetic, kind . . . and by trying to be all of them you're not any of them - just tired and lost with bruises on your shins and ten stubbed toes.

I'm haphazardly hobbying my way through life, giving myself impossible "to do" lists each day. Lists like this:

1. Wash/hang/fold/put away laundry
2. Dishes
3. Take Hannah to park, make new magnets for her
4. Write blog during Hannah's nap
5. Finish book
6. Empty downstairs closet - pull out books, fans, and other stuff to give and sell at Thursday's meeting
7. Sort stockpile of lotions and toiletries that haven't been used - give away.
8. Make Christmas cards
9. Dinner: homemade pizza

At the end of the day I can only cross 3 or 4 tasks off the list because I wrote it during that ambitious hour called "coffee time" or, as is usually the case, life happens. Hannah busts her lip on the coffee table and plants herself on my hip for the next 2 hours. There's an obnoxious kid at the park who I don't want my child to emulate. My book gets dreadfully boring. It rains. I fall asleep on the pile of laundry. Instead of celebrating those few things I manage to accomplish, I recount every oops, sorry, and dammit! that weakens my resolve and shatters my hope. WHY?? Why, Suzie? I think it makes me less productive - knowing I won't complete the list. It also makes my social interactions awkward and strained, because I know I'm better than this. I know there's still good in me. Still light. I'm just so effing SWAMPED by my own ambition and self-disappointment that I don't know how to speak any more. I don't know how to just . . . be. Would it help if I make a shorter list - say, 3 tasks? Or one, perhaps?

1. Take Hannah outside.
2. Clean or pack something.
3. Make something.

Look for beauty and grace in everything.