Sunday, December 21, 2008

Turkey & pear tart

When I was a kid, I didn't much like turkey. I've always preferred nice moist dark poultry meat, and turkey is so much drier than chicken that it just wasn't a favorite of anyone in my family when I was growing up. So we stopped serving turkey for holidays when I was a kid, and alternated between duck and goose instead. Now that's flavorful meat!

But duck and goose are expensive and not always available, and lately I've begun to appreciate turkey for its distinctive flavor, more interesting than chicken by far. We don't traditionally have Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at our house, so we don't get turkey leftovers that way. But hey, who says you can only cook turkeys for holidays? Our local coop has locally-raised turkeys, and sells some of it fresh in packaged pieces, so I picked up some thighs the other day and baked them. After we enjoyed a meal of turkey meat, I used the leftovers for this tart. We both liked it. It has a nice blend of flavors and textures, and the sour cream makes a smooth, satisfying sauce without making it heavy.

Now, the Huz doesn't care for blue cheeses of any variety, even mild gorgonzola. So I had to make half the tart with another cheese, in this case some shredded Swiss I had on hand. Just like a half-and-half pizza, I split the ingredients in two and added Swiss to one half of the mixture, gorgonzola to the other, and carefully piled them in separate halves of the tart. It worked out great!

Here's the recipe, adapted from

Turkey & pear tart

1 9-inch round pie crust (prepared is OK, although I made my own tonight)
2 c leftover turkey meat, cut into bite-size pieces
¾ c crumbled cheese (gorgonzola, blue, swiss), divided
3 large or 4 medium firm pears, peeled, cored, and diced
¼ c pecans, toasted and chopped
¼ c dried cranberries (I used dried cherries and would have liked more)
1 c light sour cream
3 T light cream
1 T minced fresh thyme
salt & pepper
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Gently press pie crust into 9-inch tart pan and trim excess dough with knife. Prick bottom of dough all over with tines of fork. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
  3. Combine turkey, 1/2 c cheese, pears, cranberries, sour cream, cream, and thyme in large bowl. Season with salt & pepper. Transfer mixture to cooled pie crust, then sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  4. Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Let cool up to 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The tart can be refrigerated for 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

where it's happenin'

My acting resume

With all the acting & working going on, this sad little blog has been very lonesome lately. (Not nearly as lonesome as my virtual pet on Facebook, but let's not go there.)

I did recently update my acting resume, and am frankly putting a post here about it in hopes of getting some search engine love. So you can follow the link or not, totally up to you, and no hard feelings if your answer is "Feh!" Recent updates include a page with photos and some anonymized comments from others ... kind of fun for ME to read if nobody else! :o)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Give peace a chance

Whether or not you agree with the views expressed, this animation is fabulous.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Some fun at rehearsal

Whenever a show runs just on weekends, there's always something called a "pickup rehearsal" mid-week, so the actors aren't coming into the first night's performance cold. Sometimes it's a full rehearsal without costumes, other times we just "run lines," which means we sit around with each person saying their lines, no movements. Often if it's running lines, it becomes something of a race, with everyone saying their lines from memory as fast as they can, with little inflection, just really running the lines.

Earlier in the rehearsal schedule, if I was having trouble remembering a line, I would use some sort of trick. My second favorite one was when Annie says, "... her mind is like a mousetrap." My next line isn't responding to that one, it's referring back to something she'd said earlier. It's a little harder to remember lines like that. My line starts, "But after a child hears how many words, Miss Annie?" So the trick that I used for that one was to envision a cartoon mouse with his butt sticking out of a mousetrap ("mousetrap." "But") and then to envision a child's bare butt ("But after a child") and that got me to remember the next line.

That was one of the more elaborate ones, but it worked, and now I don't have to use the trick any more, I just remember the line!

But my hands-down favorite trick led to some fun at last night's pickup rehearsal, which was of the running lines variety. I have a line that goes, "We're off to meet the train, Captain." For some reason, I couldn't get that exactly right. I knew I needed to tell him we were leaving to pick up Annie at the train, but I couldn't get those exact words stuck in my head. So while I was saying them over & over again, I began to hear, "We're OFF to meet the wizard! The wonderful wizard of Oz!" That did it for me, but then of course my mind began running to who we're really off to meet, Miss Annie, and before you know it I'd composed a silly little takeoff on the song.

So I began conspiring, whispering, telling the other actors (but not Annie or the director) that at the pickup rehearsal when we came to that point, I was going to signal with a "Hmmmmmm" setting the first note, and we'd all burst into song. So we did:
We're off to meet the wizard!
The wonderful wizard of Ann.
She is, she is a teaching whiz
Because of her flappin' hands!

If ever, oh ever a whiz there was,
The wizard of Ann's a whiz because,
Because, because, because, because, beCAUSE!
Because of the wonderful signs she does!

[doo doo, doo doo, do doo, do dooo!]

We're off to meet the wizard!
The wonderful wizard of Ann!
We all had a good laugh, and now Annie's worried that when she hears that line as she sits stage right in the "train station" that she'll be unable to keep from smiling!

Very fun. What a good cast we have, to indulge me in such silliness ... and to enjoy it with me!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Quick show update

I'm thrilled to tell you that our first weekend of The Miracle Worker was a raging success. By Sunday, word of mouth had swelled the audience to 3/4 of the theater (and I've played shows there with only 20 people in the seats, so this is definitely a commentary on the show). It's a physically demanding show, especially for the young women who are playing Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller (if you've ever seen the movie you know what I mean). They are doing a bang-up job of those action sequences. When we started rehearsing I was pretty sure it was going to look like a couple of girls pretending to fight with each other but Man! It surely does not!

The role I play, as Helen's mom, is a gem. Even though it's not a lead part, in my opinion Kate Keller really is the beating heart of the story (or am I prejudiced?). She loves her daughter fiercely, and even though she's a proper Southern belle, she is willing to stand up to an overbearing husband, a sniping stepson, and anyone else who tries to get in the way of getting Helen the help she needs. She is gracious, smart, and loving. She loves, jokes, smiles, struggles, cries, and offers emotional support to everyone in her family at one time or another. She's just a gem, and I'm privileged to play her.

The play is structured so that I'm on stage most of the time, even though the lead roles are Annie and Helen. I so much prefer being on stage a lot during a performance. It helps me stay in character; there's often a lot of goofing around going on backstage that can be distracting.

My costumes are drop-dead GORGEOUS! Here's a snapshot the Huz snapped. I'll have more at some point, as the costumer intends to offer them for rental on a website. They're completely authentic right down to the corset & chemise, and completely beautiful. She chose lovely fabrics for mine. In this picture you also see, from left to right, a blind girl, Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, and a second blind girl. Click on the picture to see it a bit larger.

Saturday night for the first time in all my performances I had the heartwarming experience of hearing the audience clap louder when I came on stage. ("You like me, you really like me!") It happened again for the Sunday matinee, and the crowd held the applause for so long that we had a second bow.

I'm on cloud 9! (That little speck in the picture is me ;-)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bear sign

Sneaky bear ... what were you after? And was it really necessary to leave a huge pile of your ... ahem ... leftovers on our lawn?

We have our birdfeeders so well protected that the bears haven't been able to reach them, which is good for our feeders but really limits our bear sightings for the most part. They're still coming through the yard, to be sure, but they're so silent about it most of the time, we don't ever know it. This planter was knocked over in the middle of the night, though, so we heard him. But didn't see him. Too sleepy to hop to the window for a peek.

The Huz walked up our driveway the other day and decided to detour into the front yard to check the veggie garden and spotted a big bear streaking away into the woods, spooked. I'd been upstairs working the whole time and never knew he was out there.

I miss seeing them, but really this is the way it's supposed to be. No bird feeder depradation, no bear interactions ... it's what's best for them and for us. I guess I'll be a grownup about it. Sigh.

Pictures of local black bears in our yard in previous years

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm a Miracle Worker!


... or, a little more accurately and a lot more humbly, I've gotten a role in the classic play The Miracle Worker! As Helen Keller's mother. It's not the lead, to be sure, but the lead needs someone who looks like she's twenty, and they found someone MUCH closer to that age to play Annie Sullivan. But Kate, Helen's mom, is a complex character and on stage a great deal of the time, and I'm delighted at the opportunity.

I don't mind not being the lead as long as I'm not spending most of the night backstage, twiddling my thumbs and waiting to go on. It's not a comfortable sort of waiting for me. If I relax too much, I risk not getting on stage on time or falling so far out of character that my acting suffers. If I keep my energies / nerves too revved up, I'm either hyper or exhausted when I finally do get on stage. Best to just be on stage, in character, all night long, as far as I'm concerned!

I also have signed up for a weekend-long acting workshop in mid-June, and am currently reading the text book, "The Power of an Actor" by Ivana Chubbuck. Good stuff. She has twelve steps (doesn't everybody?) that you apply as you prepare for a role, and while I'm waiting to learn what scene I'll be applying them to for the purposes of the workshop (I know it will be from "The Secret of My Success" but I haven't gotten the script yet), I've been trying to analyze the MW role. It's a whole new way to approach acting for me; up till now it's been pretty much acting by instinct ... and that only gets you so far. I feel like I'm stretching my acting muscles and so far it feels pretty good!

Anyway, the show goes up late July, rehearsals don't start till about 5 weeks beforehand. And more good news, friend Betsy has accepted a small role in the play, so we can commute to rehearsals together! Betsy is famous for being a scene-saver. If someone "goes up on" (forgets) their lines, Betsy is so quick-witted that she'll figure out a way to help them get back on track. An extremely valuable person to have around! We acted together in my first acting experience two years ago ... look for pictures of Nurse Ilsa here.

Train station memories

When you head out on a trip like our 3-weeker across the country, you have no idea what you're going to see and what's going to strike you as memorable. One thing that surprised me was the absolute elegance of some of the old train stations that we saw as we went along. We also saw a few that were plain and serviceable. One, the Salt Lake City train station, was a complete disgrace to the city so there will be no pictures of that here! But many were so beautiful that I found myself snapping picture after picture of the details.

Below are some of my favorites.

Above left: The Huz and his sister brazenly defying the "No Loitering" sign at our starting point, the train station in New London, Connecticut. Right: an unusual bay window at the station, and a view past the train tracks to the ocean just beneath it.

As noted in a previous post, Seattle's King Street Station (above) is absolutely stunning inside. It is being restored to its 1906 glory, full of marble and ornamentation. The architects were part of the team that designed Grand Central station, a gorgeous building if ever there was one, but this one is a small-scale rival.

The photos above show restored sections. Below is a shot of the beautiful ceiling that's been hidden for years behind an ugly drop ceiling. Restoration work started in 2003 and continues today. It will be quite a sight when it's all finished!
I took some very fun shots of Denver's Union Station, but do you think I can find them? The two highlights of the station for me (besides the absolutely crack-up train station attendant who complained that I was keeping him awake when I "hallo"ed to get him to come to the window) were the fabulous tall-backed benches with built-in reading lights running the length over your head (see a picture here), and a retro sign on the outside of the station that urged, "Travel by Train". You can see a picture of it here.

Update! Found my photos! A couple of shots of the gorgeous exterior, one of the Huz lingering anonymously on those fabulous benches, and a beautiful hallway that you walk through from the train into the station proper.

And, of course, there's Chicago's Union Station, the granddaddy of all train stations west of New York.
The beauty of this station just cannot be overstated, although there's a tacky new section that's not so cool. But you can get any kind of food you want here, there's a whole section that's like a shopping mall, and just look at this staircase (below left) and great hall (below right). Fabulous.
180px-Chicago_Union_Station_grand_staircase 180px-Union22

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sacramento, the Delta King, and traveling by train

The Huz and I spent a few hours walking around Sacramento this afternoon, working off our yummy Greek lunch purchased at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant (the best kind, in our opinion!) from a woman whose Greek accent was so thick you could spread tzatziki on it. Yesterday we'd prowled Old Sacramento pretty thoroughly, taking a ride on a formerly steam engine train completely surrounded by 3rd - 5th graders, and then just walking up & down this very touristy but fun section of the city. I found a cool little place called Shiny Objects, with the owner behind the counter and scads of fascinating glittery dichroic glass pendants. Picked up a couple, one for myself and one for friend Robin. I liked them so much that I went back today to buy some more for gifts, but unfortunately by 3:00 he was already closed. Bummer! Oh well, it gives me an excuse to find something unique for them at one of our next stops (Salt Lake City and Denver).

Below are some pics showing the charm of the Delta King, where we're nesting for a couple of days. We're trying to stay at locally-owned venues whenever possible, and we've loved our stay here.

Look how short the doorways are! (The Huz is 6'2")

It's funny, much as we're enjoying this leg of our trip, we're finding people are a bit more stand-offish than many we've met earlier in our trip. I find that the memories that bring a smile to my face are the ones that include people we've talked to, like Carol in Whitefish, and this fellow who helped us with camera batteries in St Paul, and a dinner with the Huz's former fiance and her husband (surprised myself by really liking her! And him :o). And for the past couple of days there hasn't been a ton of that.

Partly it may be that we're not eating in the dining car lately, only because our trips don't coincide with meal times. Dining cars are great social experiments. Each table seats four, and because they can't afford not to have all the seats populated all the time, we've always been seated at dinner with others. It's made it very easy for us to spend leisurely time with some pretty intersting people. For example, our first dinner companions, on the trip from NY to Chicago, were a couple who'd just come over from Egypt. She was an American who's been teaching at the American University in Cairo, and he was an Egyptian lawyer. We never did entirely get the story as to why they're traveling together; they're not married and had separate sleeper compartments. They were in the US so she could undertake a grant-funded project for the city of Detroit, something to do with comparing the "spaces" that middle Eastern immigrants choose as compared to their residences back home.

Our second companion was a published author! He has published a novel and is working on another one. He lives in Syracuse and writes until his money runs out, then he does contract work for Microsoft writing content for their website.

Next we dined with a newly engaged couple, Jeff and Stephanie. Both are well ensconced in the hospitality industry. She's a concierge, he advises restaurants and wealthy individual collectors on wines. Needless to say, we got some good tips from them on restaurants!

Next was a woman who's lived all her life in North Dakota and told us about the recent oil rush going on there; and another woman who is a project manager for the King County (Seattle) prison system.

Honestly, it was all just so fascinating! The Huz is great at drawing people out and we've both enjoyed being diverted from our own sort of dense togetherness on this trip ... we've been married 16 years and together for 20, so it's not that we don't have anything to talk about, but we probably don't have three solid weeks of conversation in us either!

Seattle to Sacramento

After another scenic trip on Amtrak, from Montana to Seattle (see below), we spent 3 days with the seester and her family, including Katie the Jack Russell. Katie's a love, never happier than when she's getting a tummy rub. Got my doggie fix. Shhh, don't tell Simba! We went out for some fabulous sushi at I Love Sushi with the seester, her Huz, and my Favorite Blond West Coast Niece. And really enjoyed some great music and preaching at the seester's church, Eastlake Community Church. After church, some of the seester's friends old and new joined us 4 for brunch at a local diner type place (we love those!) and the conversation was great ... wide-ranging, some personal, some about current events, just a good mix of talkers. We loved it to PIECES!

We had such a nice visit with the seester & her huz, we hated to leave, but leave we did, hopping on a train south to Sacramento. We're staying on the Delta King, a permanently moored river boat in Old Sacramento. Despite our landing in their laps at the unseemly hour of 7am, the staff gamely took in our luggage, directed us to the restaurant for a fabulous breakfast, and got us into our room by 8:30. What a blessing ... we were pretty tired from the overnight train trip. We'd gotten on the train in Seattle at around 10 am and arrived in Sacramento at 6am the next morning. If all had gone smoothly, that would have been a no-hassle way to get here, but a section of the track was out for repairs so we were on the train just to Eugene, Oregon, then got on a rather ratty bus for a 5-hour ride to Klamath Falls, Oregon, and then finally got on a train at 10pm for the final leg. We hadn't arranged for a sleeper car because we'd heard you can negotiate for the sleeper with the conductor once the train has left the station, and often get a better rate for it. So that's what we did, and it worked, but it also delayed bedtime quite a bit. And I can never just walk into the room, lie down, and go to sleep. So while the huz clambered into the top bunk and closed his eyes for the night, I played card games on my PDA till 1am, and then *still* couldn't get to sleep when I shut off the lights!

Needless to say, we took a two-hour nap right away when we got our room, and then headed out to explore Old Sacramento. More on that, and pictures of the Delta King, later!

The Seattle train station is gorgeous. So's the Portland station, but unfortunately I didn't have my camera handy for that one.

vanilla: real? imitation?

A shout out to my cooking pals: here's an unexpected result in the real v. imitation vanilla wars!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Week 1: Greetings from Whitefish, Montana!

We've been on our three-week train trip for 6 days now. Starting in New London CT because we dropped Simba off at Todd's sister's house for the three weeks, we hopped on the train for New York and then on to Chicago. We decided to splurge on a sleeper car from NY to Chicago, it being a 17-hour trip overnight, and we were hooked! Not only is it nice to stretch out when it's time to sleep, but the little compartments are just a wonderful way to spend the daytime hours as well. The fact that meals in the dining car are included in the price was a nice bonus, too.

We breezed straight through Chicago, changing trains to the Empire Builder there, and spent a couple of days in St Paul, falling in love with it in the process. It's a wonderful small city, walkable, and beautiful. I hope to post some pictures from there later ... I don't have PhotoShop on this laptop so I need to seek out an image editor that will let me resize the images down to Blogger size. In the meantime, above is a picture of the main street of Whitefish, Montana, showing the gorgeous mountains at the end of the very Western-quaint street. We had a lot of fun moseying along the street, and met a really nice lady named Carol in "Montana Tom's" who, as it turned out, designed and made the earrings that I bought there. She was a treasure. She wasn't going to tell us that she designed and made them, but since they were labeled "Made in Montana" and were called "CMK Designs" I asked her if she knew the designer. Ha! How very fun!

The trip from St Paul to Whitefish is some of the most gorgeous scenery in the country. Just about an hour before you get there, maybe a bit more, you cross the continental divide over the lowest pass in the Rockies ... which is still a mile high! The mountains still have snow, although it's a bit patchy now. I can't even begin to do justice to the lyrical beauty that you pass through. Just do it yourselves and see. So much better to drive through it than fly over it!

Next stop: Seattle, where we'll stay with my seester, do some laundry (one backpack for 3 weeks, what WAS I thinking?) and hang out for a few days before moving on to ... not sure where. Either Victoria Island in Canada or Sacramento in the other CA!

P.S. The second half of this YouTube video gives you just the faintest flavor of the glories of traveling across the top of the country in the Empire Builder. This whole train experience has been amazing ... a little moveable community of travellers, with time to sit and have a meal together, as the scenery slides past the window, sometimes mundane, sometimes completely stunning.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Chard Stems, Acting, and Birds

I keep promising to post follow-ups, and it's gotten to the point that I have a list now of things to update you about! So here goes ...

Chard Stems

In a follow-up to my posting on Roasted Garbanzos with Garlic & Chard, here's the recipe using chard stems. And, by the way, the last time I went looking for chard, it was simultaneously a bit peaked and overpriced the last time I was in the store, so I substituted collard greens in the original recipe for roasted garbanzos. It was OK, but chard was better.

This recipe comes from a book you've heard me mention before, Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day. If ever there's a cookbook that's guaranteed to get dog-eared from regular use, it's this one. Mine's a well-loved mess! Kalyn informs me that he has a new book out, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, oriented toward helping us eat what's in season and thus as locally as possible. It's on my Amazon wish list with a priority of "highest", which means I'll probably have it by next Christmas at the latest. My family are very good about buying me books because they know it makes me so happy.

Most chard recipes call for cutting out the stems and discarding them. The recipe below is a tasty (albeit decidedly not diet-friendly) way to use them up instead of tossing them. In a recipe this simple, using a good quality cheese will make a big difference in the results. And Jack reminds us to be sure to cook the casserole long enough so that the edges start to brown.

Baked Chard Stems with Butter and Parmesan

1 pound chard stems (about 12 large), any bruised parts trimmed
3 T unsalted butter (I used a little less)
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Lightly grease an 8-in-square baking dish.
  2. Add the chard stems and salt to the boiling water. Cook until the stems are almost tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and reserve the stems.
  3. Lay three or four chard stems in the prepared baking dish in a single layer, cutting them as necessary to make them fit. Dot with a little of the butter and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Repeat this process three or four more times, alternating the direction in which you place the stems for each layer, until all the chard, butter and cheese have been used.
  4. Bake until chard is very tender and the top of casserole is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
This recipe is my entry for Sweetnick's ARF (anti-oxidant-rich foods) Tuesday. I've been absent from food blogging for so long, it's really good to put my oar in the cooking water again!


As a result of auditions previously mentioned here, I'm now in rehearsals for a brand new ten-minute play called "Pre-Nup," to be performed in the context of a ten-minute play festival two weekends in February. It's a plum role, as a wily aging Hollywood diva (think Faye Dunaway). I'm having a ball being "Delphina."It's been really interesting to be in the first cast to perform a play. The script is being modified as we act it and discover that certain lines don't work or motivations are unclear -- which admittedly makes it a little hard to memorize your lines, but it allows you to be part of the creative process, too. Pretty cool!

The playwright is directing her own play, not by choice but because her favorite director is unavailable. I've heard that this arrangement can make for problems in cases where the writer is too in love with the words they've written to be able to allow the acting creative process to take place. That certainly hasn't been the case here. She's been wonderful to work with and, as a former actor, very respectful of and interested in her cast's insights.

My co-actors are engaging and well cast. We have an amazing number of rehearsal hours logged and planned for only ten minutes of theater, and I have to admit the rest of my life is getting a bit squooshed as a result. In some senses it's fortunate the Huz is away till Wednesday so he's not feeling neglected. In another sense, though, it's very UNfortunate, because there's snow coming down out there and there's a long, steep driveway between my car in the garage and the street and no Huz muscles to clear it for me. Sigh.

Also am in rehearsals for a murder mystery weekend, but with much less intensity right now so I'll have to make another of those promises to update you more later!


No more sightings of the pine grosbeaks, I'm sorry to report. But here's a cute picture of a chickadee silhouetted against a blue, blue sky.

And I think that catches me up with all the updates I promised. Hope your Sunday is going well, and don't forget to check in at Anna's Cool Finds later today to get her roundup for Weekend Herb Blogging. She's offering a cookbook as a prize, in hopes of garnering the largest roundup so far. Will she make it? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A bright new visitor!

photo from the Canadian government conservation websiteThe Huz and I love "our" birds. We have a big line of feeders outside (hence the regular visits from squirrels, and black bears in non-hibernating seasons -- see pictures here and here and here and here).

All the usual suspects come to the feeders daily (chickadees, titmice, goldfinches, nuthatches) and others a bit more sporadically (pine siskins, purple finches, sparrows, cardinals). In spring and fall we often get extended visits from rose-breasted grosbeaks, one of my favorite birds with their tuxedo plumage and red "bow tie". Other birds that come rarely and don't stay nearly long enough for our taste are evening grosbeaks and orioles.

But in the 15 years we've lived here, we've never seen a pine grosbeak before! The Huz spotted a couple of males, brightly noticeable against the white snow, under the feeders. While I was running for the Audubon bird identifying book, he called out that a female had landed. By the time I got to the window, seven or eight birds were there on the ground. Very exciting.

So of course I ran for my camera, but as soon as I stuck my head around the edge of a ground-floor window to take the picture, they all startled and took flight. And they didn't just fly to the trees at the edge of our yard. They completely disappeared! I am so bummed!

Here's hoping the lure of the seeds is stronger than the fear of the camera. We would love to have them stay for a season.

By the way, many of the links on this page go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The articles there have pictures, and, even better, you can listen to recordings of the birdsong. Very cool.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Amazing, scrumptious, sensuous, delicious -- have I convinced you yet?

The Huz's doctor recently recommended that he try to get more fiber in his diet. Now, we pretty much eat only whole wheat pasta and whole grain breads (and, incidentally, avoid high fructose corn syrup which is a whole 'nother rant) and I've been trying the new white whole wheat flour from King Arthur flour in some of my baking, too. We're fairly conscious of what we eat without being fanatics about it. But the Huz has always had stomach issues, so his doc wants to try a diet change before going to stronger meds. And we're all good widdat!

So I've been making granola and bran muffins, and we picked up some fruit for snacks today, and we've always done fairly well with veggies except on pizza nights, so we're on our way to a fiber-licious diet.

Everybody knows that legumes are an excellent source of fiber. What you may not know is that they're packed with minerals, and their skins contain flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants. Researchers are even suggesting saving the water you soak dried beans in and using it in soup, because soaking leaches the flavonoids out of the skins but doesn't destroy them.

OK, you may have noticed that we're three paragraphs into the post and I haven't mentioned what the recipe is yet. That's because I know as soon as I say the name of it I'm going to lose some of you. But here's where I advise you NOT TO STOP READING ONCE YOU SEE THE TITLE. Because this recipe is so amazingly tasty, even if you don't like the ingredients separately, I really, really recommend that you just try it once. The combination of ordinary ingredients somehow lifts everything to the level of sublime. It is scrumptious, amazing, sensuous, delicious, [your adjective goes here]. Seriously. Would I lie to you?

AND you can use canned beans, and do a lot of the prep ahead of time (not that it takes a lot of prep) so the recipe can come together pretty much at the last minute, making it ideal for a weeknight meal or a meal with friends. Please try it and let me know how you liked it!

Roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with swiss chard

From Bon Appetit, with my comments added

Garbanzo beans

2 15.5 ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained (about 3 cups)
10 garlic cloves, peeled (this is part of why it's so yummy; I'm going to use more next time)
2 large shallots, quartered (I used onions and thought it was great)
2 small bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 tsp fennel seeds (didn't have this, omitted it without apparent harm to the results)
salt and pepper to taste
1¼ cups extra virgin olive oil (don't let this scare you, it doesn't all end up in the dish)


2 T extra virgin olive oil (can use some from the beans)
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
3 small bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 shallots, sliced (I used some chopped scallions & onions, worked fine)
2 bunches Swiss chard, center stems cut out, leaves coarsely torn (save the stems for baking with butter & parmesan cheese, also a winning recipe that I'll try to post later)
2 c low-salt chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine first 5 ingredients (through fennel seeds) in 8 x 8 x 2 glass baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour oil over; cover dish with foil. Roast until garlic is tender (important! taste it. If it still has any bite to it, roast it some more. It should be sweet and mild), about 45 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.)

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, bay leaves, and shallots. Cover; cook until shallots are tender, about 2 minutes. Uncover; add half of chard. Toss until chard wilts and volume is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add remaining chard. Toss until chard wilts, about 2 minutes. Add broth. Cover and cook until chard is tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season chard with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a large sieve set over bowl and drain. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Drain garbanzos, reserving oil; discard bay leaves. Combine garbanzos and chard in large skillet. Add 2 T oil reserved from garbanzos. Toss over medium heat until warmed through, moistening with more oil by tablespoonfuls if needed, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper, remove bay leaves, and serve.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this weekend at Anna's Cool Finds. If you have a recipe for a yummy dish that has herbs, veggies, flowers, or other plants, then it qualifies for Weekend Herb Blogging, and you might want to send annalou (at) ix (dot) netcom (dot) com an email about your post. Or maybe you're just interested in creative delicious food that also delivers a vitamin, mineral and fiber blast of health to your bod ... then just drop by Anna's Cool Finds this weekend to see what your fellow bloggers have dreamt up!

[1/27: the recipe for baked chard stems]

Monday, January 14, 2008

audition update

Yep, I was offered a part. One for sure. May be contacted for more later this week. More details later.

I'm all Sally Fields at the Oscars: "you like me, right now, you like me!"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Theater news

Oh, boy, I haven't blogged in a while and now that I've started I can't seem to stop. Lots of pent-up blogging demand in me, I guess!

[Warning: loooonnggggg post]

I'm happy to report that my theater life has been busy. I just can't seem to get enough, at least not so far, although I'm beginning to be able to imagine that a time could come when I won't feel such a driving desire to keep doing show after show. Anyhoo, a while ago I mentioned that I had gotten a part in a show with a local director whose work I admired. It went live in November for three weeks, and overall the experience was a good one, albeit a bit stressful for a variety of reasons. I learned a lot about how to act in a farce:
  1. Don't try to get a laugh. These people are deadly serious about their lives. Let the material get the laugh for you.
  2. Talk faster than you normally would, especially if you're playing an intense person or it's a tense situation.
  3. Keep the pace up. With very few exceptions, the dialogue has to be rapid-fire. If there's dead air, the humor will be lost. Serious plays have quiet spots. Farces have lots of noise and action.
My part was a relatively small one, and she was not a pleasant person. Some adjectives you might use would be "cold, bitchy, demanding, self-absorbed, vain." It was definitely casting me against type since up till now people have wanted to use me for the pleasant girlfriend/wife parts. So I very much appreciated the opportunity as a somewhat green actress, although it did contribute to the stress because I'd yet to discover whether I was up to it or not! I think I carried it off OK, although I wasn't sure at first. When you have a small part, people don't necessarily direct a lot of compliments your way because naturally they're focused on how well the leads did. It wasn't until the last weekend that someone I knew took me aside and more or less raved about how I'd done. That was a huge relief to me. The last thing you want to do is be an dead weight in a good production, and until she'd done that, I couldn't be sure I wasn't. Of course the Huz told me I was good, but he would, wouldn't he? :o) And others had made some general comments about "You guys were wonderful!," which frankly means nothing to an actor.

So, if you ever have a friend in theater and go to see their show, if you really think they did well, say something specific so they know you're not just blowing sunshine at them, OK? We really don't know if we're doing well. We rely on you to help us know. If all we get is general comments, we're liable to conclude that we're not doing all that well. Of course, if you think they stink, just try to slink out the back door without saying anything so you don't have to compromise your ethics!

The director took some black & white still pictures & promised to share them with us. If he does I'll try to post some later.

So, what's coming up next? Next week I start rehearsals for another murder mystery weekend, or what the Huz calls "a life-sized game of Clue", to be produced the weekend of February 29. Our cast of 13 (ooo! unlucky! for the murdered one(s), that is, heh, heh) will be in character all weekend long, as murder(s) occur(s) and the guests at the resort attempt to discover who dunnit. You may recall I did one of these last year.

Here's the blurb from the resort's website

Join Hector MacLean and his wife Gillian (that's me!), along with a clan of MacKenzies who have come to the resort for a family reunion. Little do they know that the Cameron family has the same idea. These two families have a long history of feuding. It's a situation ripe for murder. It falls to Detective-Sergeant Malcolm Hardasche of the Vermont State Police to unravel the tangled tartan of grudge, deceit, betrayal and Scottish passion that play out like an unmentionable drama in "MacDeath."

2-Night Package
Main House $206
Terrace Wing / Suite $249
Avery Suite $407

2-Night Minimum Stay required. Package includes 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts, 2 nights lodging and amenities.

Isn't that amazingly inexpensive? This is a pretty nice resort. $206 per person includes all meals except one lunch, Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast. And this is no diner food, folks. The food is excellent.

Anyway ... this time I believe the director wants to do more improvisation and fewer scripted scenes, which is making me a little nervous! When you do improv, you're basically writing the scenes as you go along. It's not that you just show up the day of the show and spontaneously pull something together. It's that you rehearse and rehearse, try this, try that, and when you finally get it the way everyone thinks works well, then you have to keep trying to reproduce that or something close to it at subsequent rehearsals and on the day of the show. I'm much more comfortable with scripts!

And with a full-immersion show like this, you have to also get your back story figured out, because you never know what the guests are going to ask you, and if they ask you a question and you give one answer, and then they ask someone else the same question and get another, they might think that's a clue and not just that you've bungled the answer, and that's not fair to them. So we have to be fairly thorough about inventing our back story, too. Add to that the need to learn to speak with a Scottish accent, and that I'll be a character very different from myself (this one stern, dismissive, bossy ... OK, OK, I have a hint of bossiness in me :o) .. it's going to be a challenge. But that's why they call it acting! And one definite blessing is that I don't have to weep my way through the entire weekend this time. That got to be a bit of a downer last year!

(I also have to learn a Scottish accent for this MMW. The last 3 shows I've done have required foreign accents --Russian, British, and now Scottish. I have vowed that the next thing I do is going to be plain old American.)

Sunday I'm planning to audition for a 10-minute play festival, with another new director/producer in town who's done work in Hollywood and New York, and is sure to be a mover & shaker in the theater world hereabouts. He grew up in the area, graduated high school here, and then went on to be a professional. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing maybe he's moved back here to raise his family in a healthier environment.

Anyway, he recently produced & starred in a wonderful production of a little-known Arthur Miller play, "A View From The Bridge", and now he's producing these 10-minute plays, each of which has a different director. The festival is happening for two weekends in February, so if I'm offered a role I'll have to consider carefully whether I can do both this and the MMW. If I weren't working, too, I'm sure I could handle both, but I am, so we'll see. Wish me luck! Better to be offered a part and turn it down than to not be offered anything at all!

My sis says to me when she hears all this, "You're so funny." "Funny, or crazy?" I IM back. "Whichever suits you." she says. Yep. Whichever suits me.

P.S. Any new passions in your life?

Some Christmas photos

For those very few of you out there who still are paying attention whenever I share a brief moment from my life (and thank you!) here are a few pictures of loved ones from Christmas, a time of amazingly wonderful relaxation and very pleasant times with family. We were able to leave work entirely behind us and just enjoy being with the Huz's family. The little girls, of course, made the visit exceptionally fun, and as usual his sister and her husband were consummate hosts. Simple foods, no pressure to do things, and lots of time with the kids for us. We were able to spend 4 days with them, while other family members zipped in for a shorter period. Simba was a perfect little gentleman, I'm proud to say, so well behaved that he earned an invitation to stay with them for three weeks in April if the Huz and I do what we're thinking of doing and head off for a train trip all around the country!

So I'll start with my peaceful little doggie, asleep in my arms. Aww!

Listening intently ... (nope, this isn't the Huz)

A peacock on Christmas?? Yup, visiting from the neighbor's. He was skittish as heck, had a hard time getting good shots, but this one shows off his roadrunner style nicely!

A perfect little princess with a brand new tiara

Hair straightened (as best curly hair can be) and brand new sparkly shoes on. Life is good.

Happy, silly twins