Tuesday, August 23, 2011

perfect summer dinner

difficulty rating: bottle short of a six pack
you know what's lovely on a summer night? a filling salad and a cooling grown up drink. without further ado i give you creamy greek "chicken" salad and cucumber mojitos:

1 cup kalimata olives, roughly chopped
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled (use low fat if you like)
1 cup cucumber, diced (about 1/2 a long english)
1 cup yellow pepper, diced (about 1 big pepper)
1/4-1/2 cup red or white onion, finely chopped
1 cup tomatoes, chopped (about 2 med)
1/2 cup tatziki sauce (store bought or make your own)
1 pkg veggie chicken pieces, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups, i use superstore brand or yves. you could use real chicken i suppose but i would suggest it be precooked)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 veggie chicken broth cube
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dill
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried onion flakes
water, to cover

mix "chicken" with spices and lemon juice in a small pot, add water to cover. bring to a boil and simmer on med
in the mean time chop all your veggies and mix with tatziki in a salad bowl.
taste the "chicken, see if it has some flavor yet. if not, mix a drink and go out for a cigarette while you let it stew some more.
drain the "chicken", save the broth if you like. it may need to be watered down somewhat to be drinkable on it's own but it would be great to cook grains in or use as the start for a soup. add the "chicken" to the salad and toss well. leftovers would be good in a wrap.

make a simple syrup by stirring half a cup of sugar and half a cup of water together, bring to a boil to dissolve, then cool. it only takes about 2 min, don't be so lazy. you can make a bigger batch to keep in the cupboard if you like.
throw a few ice cubes in a glass
add a couple sprigs of fresh mint. dried or extract or any other mint flavored thing will not do, it must be fresh.
squeeze in a couple lime slices. you can cheat a bit here and use the bottled stuff if you have to. if you use fresh lime, throw the squeezed fruit into the mix.
add a few slices of cucumber. you could also use whatever fruit you have on hand.
muddle this mess with a spoon. that means kinda mash and bruise it all up to release juice, oils, and flavors
add a couple of ounces white rum
top with soda water
sweeten to taste with simple syrup.
use a straw to avoid chewing leaves and things

there! you just made a super easy, grown up meal and cocktail in about 20 min. packed full of vitamins and protein and flavor, and you can get most of it from the farmer's market this time of year. impress your friends by being all effortless iron chef. relax in the hammock with another mojito, you totally deserve it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

argh with the flies!

so this is a little off-beat from my usual fare but have you ever noticed that bugs come in waves per year? one year it might be a mosquito year, then it might be a fly year, then a spider year, or a beetle year. this has been a fruit fly year. i'm not sure what causes it, probably a combination of life cycles of bugs and plants combined with weather, but i'm not the only one playing battle of the fruit flies right now. i thought at first it was just my sub-standard housekeeping skills, which undoubtedly contribute to the problem, but lots of people with cleaner houses then mine are having the same issues. i can't set a glass of wine or cider down around here for even so long as to go pee without coming back to find 4 fruit flies swimming in it. random note: have you ever found that after fishing out several fruit flies from your drink (carefully to avoid consuming bug bits but not have to pour out your drink every 2 min) that it takes on a sickly sweet smell? concerning... anyways. we're fighting around here by trying to get rid of all dirty dishes and garbage as quickly as possible and in the mean time setting out fly strips and traps. "traps?", you say?....yes traps. if you're fighting the same battle, i advise you to create a few of these and set them up wherever you see the most flies:

it's just a container of some kind topped with a funnel made of a piece of paper and taped in place. you bait it with wine, cider, a piece of fruit, balsamic vinegar, or anything else they've been trying to steal in the bottom of the container. they fly in and are too stupid to find the exit so they drown or die of old age. i'm not usually one for murdering bugs en mass but this has truly gone too far. they are disturbing my quiet after-work drink and invading my cherished fruit and coming in clouds that are making me crazy. this means war! common sense rules still apply, keep your place as clean as possible, even if it's still messy (not the same thing) and don't leave anything out that they like. remember that they will live and breed on damp sponges and dish rags and that vinegar is just as good, if not better, than any toxic chemicals to get rid of that juice spill or counter crumbs. i never thought i'd be so looking forward to winter when they all die! fight bravely for your sanity, my friends, and stay strong! they only each live a week.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

the delusion of time

we were recently talking about the silly concept of money and the value of physical objects. main conclusion: money doesn't exist. while we're on the subject of crazy things we take for granted, let me tell you a little story about the delusion of time.
once upon a time (*smirk*) humans did not keep track of hours or minutes or years. we noticed the seasons as the length of day and night changed and grew warm and cold. we worked with those seasons to gather and store what we needed. if something got done today instead of tomorrow it was no matter. when hungry, eat. when tired, sleep. you're a baby until you can walk. you're a child until you reach puberty. you're an elder when you can no longer work as hard as the rest of the tribe but have wisdom to impart instead. seems fairly sensible, doesn't it? time is relative to what you're doing and measured by the movement of the sun and the beating of your heart.
then we started noticing things like the patterns of the stars and started keeping track of years and noticing various cycles. in an effort to understand our world better, we started playing with math and star gazing and really neat theories. we figured out that each day is the same length even though there's more and less light in each depending on the time of year. we noticed the length of the cycle of the seasons and came to all kinds of fun ideas about how the universe was put together because of it. so far so good, these are all naturally occurring cycles, even if none of these are nice round numbers that would make for easy math.
now we start to diverge a bit from the rational. at some point we decided that years and moon phases were not fitting nicely together, math-wise, and we wanted to divide up years and months differently. we also decided we want to divide up the day into more then morning, afternoon, evening, and night. this is where i think we went terribly wrong.
humans have this strange and arrogant desire for control. we also have this notion that just because math makes sense to us as far as explaining things to each other (the whole point of it, btw), it must be a universal truth. because of this, we adjust either our notions of the world, or our systems, until we are sure we totally understand how everything works. if we understand and measure things we can control them, right? *smirk* and if we control them we can change them and we have, MWUAHAHA! ULTIMATE POWER!
so for a system that can make sense in our brains (although the math is...interesting), we divided the year into 12 months for some reason. this is close to the lunar cycles we used to follow, but 13 moons don't fit nicely into a year. 12 doesn't actually fit either but it's a little closer. it used to be 10 but that really made no sense. since the math doesn't work, the months are different lengths. instead of naming the months things like the cold moon and the planting moon and other such things, we named many of them arbitrarily after some dudes who used to have lots of power and various gods. once you name something after someone it must BELONG to them, right? so August(us) wants more days then Jun(ius) and Februalia gets totally shafted, etc. since it still doesn't work we have leap years which almost makes sense. i once tried to create a lunar calender but it was such a headache i have no idea how it used to work. i think it was mostly just that we used to be a little less control freakish and didn't try to reconcile the phases of the moon with the seasons of the year. the sun and moon are two separate entities with separate cycles of their own. why should the math relate to each other from where we stand on earth? i'd actually like to see a round calender with an outer ring for the moon name, then one inside for moon phase, then one for seasons closest to the center. each ring would turn independently...anyways
a bit of math that mostly makes sense is that 365 almost divides evenly into 7, so we have weeks. 4 weeks is almost a lunar cycle but doesn't relate mathematically to months which is why weeks start and stop more or less independently from them. perhaps they were doing this math before we came up with the decimal?
now that we have a silly little system to divide up the year, we feel the need to have more precise control of the day. "i'll meet you at mid-day at the oak tree" is terribly inefficient, you see. in an era before clocks, you had to get good at looking at the sun to determine what point in the day it was. if it's THAT big a deal to wait for someone or something for a little while then we have to track better and have a system we can all relate to. a day is a rotation of the earth. it's a fixed natural amount. we arbitrarily decided that we would divide the day into 24 units (yay for more strange math). enter sun dials. they're easy for people to understand and reasonably precise. at some point we then decided we needed much more control then that. if it makes any sense to divide a day into 24 hours, it must make the same kind of sense to divide an hour in 60 min and a min into 60 seconds. kinda reminds me of the craziness of imperial vs metric measurements.
besides being rather dumb math, the big problem with dividing this much, and making it such a part of our lives, is that we've become slaves to it. yes, it's useful for various science and explaining things to other people, but otherwise how important is it, really? if you have to wait for a friend who's ten min late, is it the end of the world? if you were ten min late to a job interview it would be considered a huge deal. in theory you're being disrespectful by making someone wait. in practice, we're really all being disrespectful to each-other by insisting that not only should every clock in the world be perfectly synchronized, but we should each be perfect at keeping to every bit of a schedule, with no room for real life to interfere.
when was the last time you watched the clock while making love? while sitting on the beach? while dancing to your favorite song? time that keeps close track holds us to an impossible standard. it sucks the joy out of life. it leaves us no room to breathe and remember that we are alive. do you hold your pets to this kind of standard? your garden? your infant? why are we so harsh to each-other?
once upon a time we woke up at dawn, regardless of what a clock would have said. we went to bed when we were tired. we ate when we were hungry. we planted when the ground thawed, we harvested when plants were full grown. we hunted when animals were plentiful or culled the herd when we needed meat for the winter more then we needed to feed all our animals during the cold months. we slept more in the winter because that is the time for renewal. you baked the bread until you could tell it was done. time should be measured by what is done in it.
keeping close track of time has given us many insights and allowed us to share a lot of knowledge with one another. it has also caused us an awful lot of harm. use it when it is needed, but for gods' sake cut each-other some slack! hours and minutes are a human-constructed notion. the important things are those you cannot measure. the times that stand still or rush by. this is where our souls live. this is relativity.