Friday, February 26, 2010

Dutch Oven

I've been doing a lot of cooking recently, and making a lot of cooking magazine impulse purchases. I've been totally frustrated for a long time that tons of recipes call to be cooked in a Dutch oven. For weeks (no joke), I couldn't help wondering... what the heck is that?? Is it a type of oven (like a pot-bellied stove?), or more like a crock pot? Do I already own one and not know it? Gah!

Finally, after stumbling upon the Picture-Perfect Meals blog, and seeing a delicious chili recipe that called to be made in a dutch oven, I gave in a looked it up. A Dutch oven is a "thick-walled (usually cast-iron) cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid," so says Wikipedia.
See? Pretty.
And as it turns out, I have one! It's ceramic, but it has a tight-fitting lid and is used for cooking and it's a pot. And according to Wikipedia (which I am not ashamed to use as a credible source for all my baking needs), modern Dutch ovens are often ceramic, and are referred to as "casserole dishes." Yay!
According to the Wikipedia article, dutch ovens can be used as actual ovens over a camp fire by putting a baking dish inside--you can cook pies, buscuits, stews, etc. You can also stack them on top of each other to cook multiple things at a time because as the iron of the lowest pot gets hot, it heats the one above it and so on! How cool! Makes me want to go camping.
A note on my stromboli from last night: I apparently didn't seal the edges well-enough because when I took it out of the oven the bottom seam had vomitted the inside of the roll so it turned into a rather triangular-shaped, semi-rolled up pizza. Still good! But ugly.
I talked one-on-one with my poetry professor today and got some great advice about my poems for his class, and poetry in general. I also read a great article about "rules" of writing fiction: Check it out! It's funny and there are soem great pieces of advice to discover.
Learning lots,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stromboli (no, not the puppet bad guy from Pinnocchio)

I am baking a stromboli! For those of you who don't know what it is, or only know the Pinnocchio reference, it is basically a rolled up pizza. It's pizza, jelly-roll style! I bought a frozen pizza dough ball a few days ago and put it in the fridge yesterday and it nearly tripled in size as it thawed! When I opened it I discovered that the size was primarily gas (hello, Yeast, thanks for doing your job) and that pizza dough is not as sticky as I feared--I shaped it quite evenly without much difficulty.

I also learned that tomato sauce (from a can) is not necessarily what you ought to use for pizza sauce. The consistency was rather like a V8 and tasted like it too. Not terrbile, but definitely not pizza-y.

I also thought rolling it would be easy-peasy, but alas, I was wrong on that, too. So now I have an oddly shaped, uncooked stromboli waiting to be put in the oven, and I can't help but be a little grateful that I'm still full from my Max&Erma's dinner I had earlier. And, if it sucks, Steve can just order a pizza! Or eat my leftovers.

I am meeting with my poetry professor tomorrow to dicsuss my recent inability to write more than a few condensed lines about anything. I bet this has something to do with my current haibun-haiku fixation. Not that I'm complaining, but I really would like to turn in my second poem before spring break so I don't have to rush to write five more after.

My friend just started a blog about reading, books, and bibliophilia! If she okays me linking her blog, I will come back and paste in the link. Yay for having a community of people who like writing down and sharing their thoughts!

Learning lots,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taboo Shmaboo

I wrote a haibun the other day about something rather taboo. I was emboldened to do so in part by Janice Pisello (, who wrote on some taboo subjects the last time I had the pleasure of hearing her work, and in part by a monk who wrote about sex and sexuality and sexual parts even though people thought he was weird or even wrong to do it. I don't feel comfortable relating the events that inspired the haibun on the world wide web... that's too much publicity for me. Nor am I ready (yet! maybe later) to share the haibun publicly. But I did it! And I think it's pretty-well written. It was such a relief and so much fun to write about what I believe to be a taboo subject. Breaking the rules is awesome!

I made my first big investment in Mary Kay last night--I bought my first set of inventory! It was terrifying to spend so much money in one sitting, but I know I will make it back and then some--remember the long run, Monica!

I'm also working on remembering the big picture--being aware of the world around me, not just my world. Remember the sands in the Sahara and the mud in Peru. The world is huge and full of things that I don't pay attention to. I want to be conscious of being part of a global community as well as the smaller communities I'm a part of here. Connection!

I'm feeling very scatter-brained lately and I don't like it. I'm going to stop this entry short and go calm down and regain some focus for myself.

Learning lots,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mary Kay

I DID MY FIRST FACIAL LAST NIGHT!!! Two of my close girl friends were my guinea pigs and were totally supportive as I went through my whole spiel about the company, it's history, the products and my I-story before we even got to play with the skin care and colors. I was totally excited because they were really interested in the things I had to say about Mary Kay. I think they were most impressed by all the care that goes into creating the products--two years of lab testing, then our top Sales Directors test the products before they go on the market. Mary Kay doesn't support animal testing and the company works to support cancer research, women's independence and safety, and going green. I love being a Mary Kay consultant because I believe in what the company does and how they do it, and the products after only four days are already making my skin so much brighter and healthier. I feel very joyous about working my next facial party. Who's next??

I am baking a cake with my friends later this afternoon--a late birthday cake for me and an early birthday cake for my friend Sarah. It's a delicious-sounding recipe for a chocolate layer cake that I found in Better Homes and Gardens, a magazine that I discovered I love when I picked up a copy a month or two ago. Hopefully it will turn out well (cream-cheese-brownies-well, not flourless-chocolate-cake-well).

I began three poems yesterday. I finished one and then realized it wasn't the poem I wanted to write, but rather the base for a different poem. I basically wrote down the rules and guidelines (not exactly, but that's the best metaphor I have) in this poem, and need to expand on the emotions and what it means in the second. I think it could turn into something that I'm really proud of. I'll be working on it later tonight so I can have it ready for my Tuesday poetry workshop.

Learning lots,

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I learned today that online banking is stupid. It's really more complicated than it ought to be, and finding out things like account numbers, usernames, passwords and general verification information is nearly impossible if you don't have a perfect memory and can't remember the things you set up four years ago that you haven't used since. It took me two hours of being on the phone with my bank before I was able to log in to my account. Sheesh! I mean, I know how important the security of my money is, but come on! There's got to be an easier way.

I'm in the process of teaching myself more about money management. I'm working on transferring money between my accounts and the importance of investing money to make money. I am living in a lot of monetary scarcity right now, and although I consciously know that I need to put money into my Mary Kay business (by buying inventory and stuff), I'm scared to put in more because I have so little. My limbic system is trying to hijack my frontal lobe and scare me into doing nothing, so I'm empowering my frontal lobe to use my fear to motivate instead of cripple. Go Frontal Lobe!

I got my Mary Kay website today: I've been reading through my manual and discovering a question I need answered on almost every page. I've gotten tons of affirmation from my Sales Director about having and asking questions, so I guess I'm on the right track!

I'm going to take this space to recommend, again, The Book (On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are) by Alan Watts. I am learning and having affirmed my understanding of things that I can't quite put into words right now. It's about the Self's inherent connection to Everything--and you know me, I'm all about being connected and knowing that I matter. So pick it up!

I made homemade chicken tenders tonight. They were quite delicious and, like all great recipes, there were plenty of leftovers. If anyone is interested in any of the recipes I talk about, let me know and I'll either give you the recipe or tell you where I found it. And if you've come across anything delicious (dessert, soup, whatever!) please share it with me too!

Learning lots,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Big Slip Up

Sooo again it's been quite a few days since my last post, and I appologize. Mostly I feel like I let myself down by not making sure this blog was high on my list of priorities.

New news on the front:
I have a job! I am an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics. I am quite a newbie (I officially started yesterday evening) and am looking for opportunities to have facial/makeup parties with beautiful women around the Bowling Green area and around the Chicago area when I go home for spring break. If you're interested or know anyone who might be, you can email me at or give my email to friends of yours! I am very excited and pretty scared about this awesome opportunity. I am excited because it is a fun way for me to become financially independent, and I'm scared because it's all up to me--I'm my own boss, it's my business, the success of it depends on the work I put into it. Wooooohoo! I will be learning so much about what it takes to start and keep up a personal business.

Did you know, Ladies, that if you don't take off your eye makeup at night, your face ages seven days?? I didn't! My goal for the next 40 days (I guess Lent, although I am not Catholic, it just seems like a good way to motivate myself and keep myself accountable for a goal) is to take off my makeup every night so that hopefully by the end it will have become a habit.

I finally moved the TV and DVD players out of my room. I filled the space with pictures and other decorations that had previously been squeezed onto my bookshelves. Already I find myself sitting in my butterfly chair to read, instead of sitting on my bead facing the place where the TV used to be. It feels a lot better to sit next to the window with a book then turn into a potato on my bed watching a numbing screen.

I made enchiladas and pudding on Sunday for Valentine's Day. The enchiladas were very easy and very very tasty, and so was the pudding--it was Jell-O instant, not from scratch. I am going to make homemade chicken tenders tonight and probably edamame. I am so excited that, with this Mary Kay opportunity, I will soon be making money so I can buy more groceries and cook cooler things! Oh, and also pay rent and bills and all that jazz ;)

I am reading a really inspiring book called The Book by Alan Watts. It's "on the taboo against knowing who you are" and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a short, non-fiction account of society, the human mind, and the universe. I am totally engaged and don't want it to be over! I love how much I'm learning about the Self and consciousness and my connection with everything else.

I will post again tomorrow! (Maybe every day posting should be a tacked-on "Lent" goal...)

Learning lots,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oh Hey There

Well it's been quite a few days since my last post. I know it's a crappy excuse, because really, what's easier than laying in bed and typing on a computer, but I've been sick and getting sicker and just haven't felt like posting anything new.

It's my birthday today! It's also snowing a LOT here but for some reason the campus hasn't been closed. None of the roads or sidewalks are plowed, and it's incredibly dangerous and difficult to get anywhere, by foot or by car.

I baked a flourless chocolate cake and cream cheese brownies this weekend for my birthday. The brownies are quite possibly the most delicious things I've ever cooked, but the cake is only average. The recipe required 1lb of chocolate, melted, a stick of butter, 9 eggs, and a cup of sugar, so seriously how could it be bad?? I think I just used the wrong kind of chocolate, and my oven sucks so it baked unevenly. The recipe called for dark chocolate, which I think, combined with the bottom and the edges getting overcooked, made the whole thing too bitter. I would make it again, but probably do half dark chocolate and half milk or semi-sweet.

Also, a HUGE important thing I learned from my dad is that if you put tin foil over a baking dish, it helps the thing cook more evenly. Once I realized the edges of the cake were burning but the inside was still mush, he told me to try foil and within 5 minutes the cake was set! I think it would have been completely ruined if I hadn't used the foil, so I tried it again with the cream cheese brownies and it fixed them too! Whoo, this makes the prospect of baking in a crappy oven for a long time just bearable.

Tonight, Steve (my boyfriend) and I are going to make lasagna--and by "make" I mean heat frozen, pre-packaged lasagna in the oven. I'm feeling too rotten to really cook, and he doesn't get home until about 10 tonight, so frozen is just easier. Anyway, lasagna is like the food of the gods, so it will be delicious regardless.

When I feel well enough to lift things again, I'm going to move the TV and DVD player out of my room. They're just sitting on my dresser, staring at me, taking up much-needed space that I could be using for books and pictures.

Now, off to play with my new spice rack (thanks, Debbie! I love it) then take a nap.

Learning lots,

Friday, February 5, 2010

What a Full Life

I had a wonderful opportunity last night to go to the Dance Marathon fund raiser/variety show and see my friend who was both dancing in it and hosting the event. I spent about an hour there listening to talented singers and musicians, a comedian who surprised me by how funny he actually was (usually I get nervous for stand-up comedians that their jokes won't be funny), a cool science demonstration, and a woman who was creating a painting to be auctioned off at the end of the show. I went to the event by myself, which is a new experience for me because I usually feel more comfortable doing things with people I know, but it was a really fun, rewarding time.

After that I went to an interesting, engaging open mic in the Union (it's every Thursday at 9pm in the cafeteria. Come read, sing, play music, or whatever to make your voice heard!) and then had dinner with my boyfriend and started a new book.

Today I had coffee with a close writer friend and expressed a lot of my deep desires and moral beliefs. I always feel so nourished after having these discussions with her, and discover more about myself and what I believe in the process. Then I borrowed a copy of a collection of Matsuo Basho's haibun called Narrow Road to the Interior to use throughout the semester for my independent study.

I have had so many things going on in my life recently, and it doesn't feel busy exactly--it feels full. There's a cool quote by Henry David Thoreau about this: "It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?" I am busy about creating a nourishing life. Through my work with haiku and haibun, I have become more aware of who I am and where I am and what is going on around me--I feel more in touch with the world and the people and things in it. I love when I walk home and spend the whole time really noticing the things around me, instead of walking home in a daze with my mind blank.

I wrote a haibun last night about something that I pass nearly every day and rarely notice:

The graveyard slips past me behind iron bars. Names and dates slide by, over and over. I know some of them by heart: Murlin--the one that makes me think of King Arthur; Dunn--a thought of Romantic poetry; Name I Don't Remember--born in 1883, death date unmarked. I wonder where this man is buried.

Black marble swimming
in yellow light,
crouching in snow.

I am doing what I can to be aware of my life.

Learning lots,
P.S.Also, in light of my printer scam I wrote about a few entries ago: Immediately after I replaced the black ink, my 3/4 full color ink suddenly was in the WARNING zone with alomst no ink left, according to the print icon. Very suspicious...
P.P.S. I made fish yesterday in the oven and totally failed! Yay! I'll be trying again this weekend.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Native American History and my Anger

My Native American History class is every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning right after water aerobics. We study the events that took place on the American continent after 1492 up through (so far) the early 1830s. We've read excerpts from Columbus' journal, stories of battles (written by Conquistadors), Puritan accounts of war with Native tribes, a story of the kidnapping of a Puritan woman by a native people (written by her after she was released), and so far only one document written by a native person about the native view on English colonialism, which was written and published centuries later in the 1830s.

I decided to take this class because it seemed like the least of all the "evils" I could fit into my schedule, but now it is so much more than just the lesser evil. I feel so angry in this class every day. Today I could barely keep myself from yelling in rage in the middle of class about what I was hearing.
I never wanted to admit that I knew very little about the building of North America by European settlers. Of course, I learned as a kid the cute story about the first Thanksgiving, the Disney Pocahontas story, and how awesome it was that Columbus managed to overcome so many obstacles and to make such a fortunate error in "discovering" America. Through my teenage years, I slowly learned that there was another side to the story, but I only learned generalizations like "we kicked Indians off their land" and "settlers killed lots of Indians" and somesuch nonsense, but I never actually knew.

In this class we read actual documents from the era--journals, books, ads, propaganda--that are all from the European point of view, and it disgusts me to read about actual battles and wars and hear not a note of sympathy or regret on the part of the settlers. Reading about these events, it is painful to realize how terribly the Europeans treated the native people, individually and collectively, how much they thought they deserved this already populated land... to see the justifications and excuses they made for selling into slavery, raping, betraying, murdering, lying to and otherwise manipulating and destroying the native people. I cannot (perhaps I do not want to) understand how such terrible things could be perpetrated by people who claimed to be creating a land of freedom, equality and liberty and for the advancement of Christianity. The selfishness of the settlers and the naivete and eventual desperate anger of the natives stirred into action such atrocities that I cannot understand. It makes me sick and furious.

I have felt growing anger about this subject for more than a year, since I took a Native American Literature class with Theresa Williams here at the University, but I haven't been comfortable with the anger. My anger insists that I act, but how can I act to right these wrongs? I cannot change the pages of history, nor can those of us living in this country now just get up and leave and give back the land--nothing would be fixed, nothing could make this better.

I know these are things I should be writing about in stories and poetry, but I cannot figure out how to harness my anger (rage? perhaps) about this subject. I am too up in the air right now and too uncomfortable with the level of my anger to see how I could put it into words. Writing about it here is hard enough--even now I am crying because my anger fills me up so much that it leaks out in tears--sadness is easier for me. I suppose this is a good start, and I suppose this will be something for me to write about my entire life. I need to find a more truthful, ugly expression of my anger, or it will stick to my insides and rot me slowly.

I am a woman and I am angry!

Learning lots,

Monday, February 1, 2010

Learning About My Body, Etc.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am taking a water aerobics class this semester. I took it mostly because I thought it would be easy, it's my last semester, and I was hoping to get enough "fun" credit hours to avoid having to take a menial 1000-level academic class just to get enough hours to graduate on time.

So far it has been fun, a little challenging, but over-all an easy class. However, this morning while stretching, I pulled a muscle in my upper back. I didn't want to believe, at first, that I could A. get hurt while stretching, B. get hurt while stretching in water aerobics, and C. get hurt so badly that I couldn't move on in my workout. I sat out thinking that I would just stretch and massage the muscle and then jump back in, but I'm pretty sure now that even that was too much and I should have just let the muscle rest. Throughout the day, the pain got worse and now it is moving up my neck and across my back. So I guess my learn is: I am not a doctor, therefore I should rest instead of pretending I'm a sports injury specialist--over-working a hurt muscle does not make it better.

Also, I learned that if I've had Icy Hot on my hands at all, I shouldn't touch my eye, even if it's been an hour, because that will hurt!

Tonight I am cooking jack-BBQ chicken. I'm supposed to broil or grill the chicken, but it's too cold to grill outside and we don't have a broiler pan, so I'm just winging it. Also, I'm a little worried that the toothpicks I used to hold together the pepperjack-stuffed breasts weren't soaked in water for long enough and might burn or get stuck to the chicken. This recipe is pretty much all experiementation, so if it sucks, we can just order pizza!

Down the hall, walking. One foot forward: my torso shifts subtly sideways. The other foot--a shift in the other direction. Muscles in my shoulder blades and neck twitch, tighten, relax. The pulled muscle near the top of my spine sparks and cuts with each move of my feet.

Muscle pain: outside,
soothed by the blast
of cold winter wind.

Learning lots,