Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pasta e Ceci

I was hanging out and chatting with some lovely folks at Duchess Jane tonight while I watched the finale of Top Chef. Jane hosts a little chat on Top Design. I was multi-tasking. While watching and chatting, I was also cooking. My dear friend, Kay at Gobstruck had shared a recipe for Pasta e Ceci with me.

The recipe is:

Pasta e Ceci
Serves 4

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
a sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 14 oz cans of chickpeas
2 1/2 c chicken stock (I used broth...)
3 1/2 oz ditalini or other small soup pasta
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
optional: a small handful of fresh basil or parsley, leaves picked and torn

Put the onion, celery, and garlic into a saucepan with a little olive oil and the rosemary and cook as gently as possible, with the lid on for 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables ae soft, without any color.

Drain the chickpeas well and rinse them in cold water, then add them to the pan and cover with the stock. Cook gently for half an hour then, using a slotted spoon, remove half the chickpeas and put them to one side in a bowl.

Puree the soup in the pan using a handheld immersion blender (or dump it in a blender/food processor and then pour the soup back into the pan.) Add the reserved whole chickpeas and the pasta, season the soup with salt and pepper, and simmer gently until the chickpeas are tender and the pasta is cooked.

At this point, if the soup is a little thick (mine was), pour in some boiling water from the kettle to thin it down. Served drizzled with good-quality extra virgin olive oil. Lovely sprinkled with some freshly torn basil or parsley. A real treat.

I don't have an immersion blender so I put my soup in my regular blender. I either put too much in the blender or didn't hold the lid down tightly enough.

Scalding soup on your face will detract from your enjoyment of your television watching, your chatting, and your consuming of soup. Damn. Ow. That's pretty damned painful.

If I can get a good picture of the soup, I'll post it. Right now, it's not beautiful but the taste is AMAZING. I love this soup and I'll make it again. I will purchase an immersion blender before I make it.

Good. Ow. Good. Yum.

I'll post about my happy reaction to the Top Chef finale tomorrow.

This soup is so good. It's a bit thick so I added some water to it when I re-heated it. It's also remarkably easy to make (except for the whole facial scalding stuff). I'll make this again and again.

The pasta I used was Acini di Pepe and it was a very nice size for the soup. I might experiment with that a bit.

I never realized that celery, onion, garlic, and rosemary could smell so good! Gently cooked in a little olive oil, it puts off the most amazing fragrance.

Make this soup! You'll love it!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What Are Ya Gonna Do?

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don't much care where –”said Alice.
“Then it doesn't matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

~ Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wander. If you don’t have a goal, how do you know where to aim? If you don’t know what you want, how will you ever get it?

Many times, I end up stressed about things over which I have no control. I fail to determine where I want to go, what my goal is, or what I want. I will have a vague idea of what I want; i.e., I want my life to be less complicated or I want to have less stress or I want my kids to be happy. I need to get down to the specifics or, at least, break each want or need down into smaller parts.

During a class I attended last August, I learned about One Minute Motivations. I’m sure someone deserves credit for that and I’ll check my materials when I get home and will edit this portion of the post to reflect the author. The OMMs work off four basic questions. They are: What would you like to have happen? What needs to happen? Can you? Will you?

Answering those questions helps me gain control over the situation or, if need be, let go of those things over which I have no control. It helps me focus.

What would you like to have happen?
This needs to be specific. “I want to have less stress” is not specific enough. I need to pick one part of that at a time and deal with each part. So, I’m getting specific. I want my home to be an oasis from stress. I want my home to be a place of peace.

What needs to happen?
My house needs to be clean. My bills need to be up-to-date. Stress needs to stop at the door (I can deal with the yard later). I need to be organized, have less clutter, have less things, refuse to allow arguments in my home. Sure, that’s several things but they’re all doable and they all need to be done to achieve my goal of having my home be a place of peace.

Can you?
Can I do what it will take to make my goal happen? When I get to this step, I have to look at all the excuses or reasons I have for this not to happen. If someone other than me leaves a mess, I can bitch and nag about it and hope they’ll pick up after themselves or I can clean up after them or I can ban them from my home until they’re willing to help me meet my goal. Can I get organized? Can I get rid of clutter? Can I get rid of anything that I don’t need or love? Can I shred anything sensitive that I don’t need? Can I simplify my life by getting rid of things? Can I get organized? Can I refuse to allow arguments in my home – either in person or on the phone? Can I step outside to deal with anything unpeaceful?

Will you?
WILL I do those things I’ve identified – those things that I CAN do? Will I ban someone from my house? No. Will bitching help me meet my goal? No. Will I pick up after them? If I want a clean house that is peaceful to me, I suppose I will. Since I've identified that, I can let go of my irritation (and stress) about it. The other things? Will I do them? Those things that apply just to me? I can and will do those things.

Those four questions can be applied to any situation. They can identify a destination, a goal, a want or a need. They can also help you decide if a vague wanting of something is important enough for you to pursue.

Piece by piece, one step at a time, I can and I will change my life.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Top Chef - Season 2: Finale - Part 1


Bad judges!!!

How could you possibly keep Marcel and tell Sam to pack his knives and go??? Elia? Okay, I'm not happy about that but it's understandable. She's high-strung. She cracks under pressure. Sam?? My dreamy fantasy chef??? What the hell were you judges thinking????

I apologize for the excessive punctuation but I'm very upset.

Marcel is a whiny little boy. He's not a chef and he's certainly not a Top Chef. He's an immature kid playing with his Mr. Science chemical set.

Ilan seems talented but he does not branch out of his comfort zone often. He'll probably be a Top Chef one day but he's not there yet.

I'm tempted to not even watch next week. It seems I'm not the only one who feels this way. Comments to judge Tom Colicchio's blog numbered 2,235 at last count.

I was too cranky to put a really thoughtful post together on this topic. If you'd like to read a nicely done review (even though I don't necessarily agree with her), go check out Kay at Gobstruck.

Monday, January 22, 2007

¿Dónde está Miami? ~or~ Where is Miami?

As I was getting ready to run errands the other day, I had the television on to provide background noise. I like background noise. I wasn’t really paying attention because I wasn’t watching television – I was just listening a little. The show hadn’t been on very long before I realized that it was Hogan Knows Best. Isn’t that what it’s called? One of the reality shows on VH-1? Hulk Hogan, former wrestling superstar, invites cameras in to film his family?

I commented on Becca’s blog that I don’t watch much reality TV. Top Chef is my favorite. Flavor of Love is my guilty pleasure. I guess I’ve had the Hogan family on enough to recognize their voices. I recognized the sound of the two kids complaining. They couldn’t get directions. They couldn’t order food.

This is where I started to get mad. Based on my half-hearted listening, I assumed they were on vacation because the focus of this show seemed to be the Hogan children’s inability to communicate with people in stores. These people were speaking Spanish. I could not believe the gall of these spoiled, obnoxious American kids who went on vacation and expected the people to cater to them and speak English. I was livid. No wonder the rest of the world has such disdain for Americans. They may envy our freedoms but our people are just fucking rude.

I started paying a bit more attention when the Hogan mom began talking about the whole family taking Spanish lessons. I was a bit confused but assumed they must be on an extended vacation. Intrigued, I started watching the show.

They weren’t on vacation. They’d moved. They had not moved out of the United States. This family was taking Spanish lessons so they could live and communicate in MIAMI. Miami, Florida. In the United States of AMERICA.

The Hogans could not get directions, could not buy vitamins, could not hire/direct household staff without first learning to speak Spanish. In Miami. Florida. USA.

Ladies and Gentlemen: That’s fucked up.

Please don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Latinos or the Spanish language. I might, inadvertently, offend by my ignorance of Latino vs. Mexican vs. Spanish but I don’t have any dislike for anyone based on their country of origin. It’s like this. I’ve been to Juarez and Cancun. I’ve been to Munich and Frankfurt. I’ve been to Korea. Not once did I expect that anyone from any of those countries would speak my language. Granted, I was in Korea as a child and we lived on a US military installation but I was in Mexico and Germany as an adult. I went with the knowledge that English was not the native language in those countries. It would have been arrogant to expect anyone to understand me.

Why should Americans living in America have to learn to speak Spanish in order to live in an American city? That’s just wrong. In my humble opinion, that is so very, very wrong.

World Carrot Museum

Last week, I posted my shock and outrage over the carrot conspiracy of which we (especially those weight watchers) have been victims for so long. I was not alone in my dismay and feeling of betrayal over finding that the supposed baby carrots I’d been noshing on were not baby carrots after all.

It turns out that the baby carrot conspiracy is not all there is to the story. Mr. Carrot of the World Carrot Museum found The Wordy Bitch and commented on my baby carrot conspiracy story. Mr. Carrot, or John, is the curator of the World Carrot Museum and he has provided the image for this story.

Did you know that carrots were originally purple or white? It’s true. Carrots come in orange, white, red, yellow, and purple. Or that the Anglo-Saxons included carrots as an ingredient in a medicinal drink against the devil and insanity. I always assumed that wild rabbits ate carrots. I was wrong! Creamed carrots were served in the fifth course of the last meal onboard the Titanic. That probably had nothing to do with the disaster but why on earth would you want to cream a carrot??

The World Carrot Museum’s website boasts a wealth of information about the carrot. You can learn about the history of this vegetable, varieties, medicinal uses, recipes, trivia, and so much more by visiting John (Mr. Carrot) on his site. Interested in carrots in fine art? Literature? Outer space? It’s all there. Go on, go play with Mr. Carrot Head!

P.S. I know I said I had a rant coming but, damn it, this was important! It's carrots!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

How It Feels Today

It is getting better. There wasn't a question about starting back. It was just a matter of how bad it was going to get before it got better. I feel human again. Other people are, for the time being, safe. I've changed the way I'm talking about this. I don't talk about quitting. I'm not quitting. I have quit. I'm a non-smoker.

I do have a rant in me. It's a real rant, not one inspired by cravings or anything else associated with my quit. I hope to have time later today to post it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Daily Non-Smoking Whine

I think it's going to get better. It has to, right?

I had a cigarette in my hand last night. I had a lighter, too.

I didn't smoke it. I put it down and walked away. Maybe it's good to have tremendous challenges thrown in your way when you're quitting smoking. It gives you the knowledge that you can get through future crises. If you can name your demon, I think that helps, too. My demon has a name. I was able to say, "Fuck you, _______. I'm not giving you that kind of power over me."

I'm going to Walmart. I hate Walmart on a good day. This is probably not the best time to go to Walmart but I have to go today. That's the bad news. The good news is that I might have another installation of "People Irritate Me" when I get back.

I'm hoping that I get over my foul mood soon. I think it's causing the choppy, high schoolish sentence structure. Bear with me. TJ says it will get better and I believe her.

Friday, January 19, 2007

People Irritate Me ~ Chapter 3

I guess it’s not quite fair to have a “people irritate me” post when I’m trying to quit smoking because my tolerance is pretty low today. I also said I wasn’t going to blog my quitting smoking details. So much for that! I’ve decided to put some People Irritate Me stuff in here right after I blog about my quitting smoking crap.

I was driving home yesterday when I realized I felt sick. Really sick. Sick to my stomach, head hurting kind of sick. Right about then, I had a lightbulb moment. I realized that how I was feeling must be similar to how junkies (not the turnip kind) feel when they're craving their fix.

My body is pretty pissed at me for not smoking. All of the unpleasantness normally associated with quitting is hitting me full force. I know that if I can get through today, it will start to get better. By this time next week, it will probably just be those random and unexpected cravings to handle.

I'm allowing myself some leeway on the whole Weight Watchers thing. I'm not tossing my plan out the window but, especially these first few days, I'm rewarding myself with food. If my brain and body are whining about losing something they enjoyed, I'll substitute food for a while. I know I can handle the food thing again after I deal with now.

I didn’t blog about quitting smoking yesterday so I’ve kind of exploited a loophole. I said I wasn’t going to do a day-by-day blog of it.

Now, on to the People Irritate Me part of this post. This is a general, non-specific kind of irritation. A list of character traits that run the gamut from mildly annoying me to making me want to [the rest of this sentence has been edited out on the advice of my attorney who states that one should never incriminate oneself by providing proof of intent to commit a crime.]

Posting the specifics would only end up making me more irritated (and might piss some people off) so I’ll just do a short list:


Hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Top Chef - Season 2

I love this show.

I love the judges.

I adore Tom Colicchio.

Cliff crossed the line this week. I liked him but he needed to go after what he pulled with Marcel.

I really don't see any need to blog the details of this show/episode. You can catch this episode on Bravo through the weekend, if you wish, or right before next week's new episode. Each of the judges (Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Padma Lakshmi) and some of last season's top finishers (Harold Dieterle, Lee Anne Wong, and Dave Martin) also has their own blog at BravoTV.

I love this show.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Carrot Conspiracy

Okay. I need everyone to wait just one minute.

Baby carrots.

Am I the only one on the planet who thought they were really baby carrots?

It seems that most of the baby carrots aren't really baby carrots at all. They're baby-cut carrots.

It's a conspiracy. Read about it at SLASHFOOD.


I've been smoke-free for more than ten hours. I put the last one out before going to bed last night. The rest of the pack was broken, dumped in the trash and taken out to the bin.

I'm not going to hour-by-hour or day-by-day blog this. I just felt I needed to have a real "I QUIT!" post.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Disclaimer: I haven’t actually quit so my title isn’t exactly accurate. A better title would have been, “I’m going to quit.” It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to quit.



Not counting a few unremarkable, short-term quits and one three-month quit, I’ve been smoking for over 26 years. That’s a long time and a lot of money - not to mention what it’s done to me health-wise.

So, I’m quitting.


January 17, 2007.

No more smoking.

The thought of quitting smoking used to make me so sad. Seriously. I know it sounds ridiculous that the thought of stopping something so expensive and damaging and stinky and offensive to others would make a person sad but it did. I hated the thought of giving them up.

I enjoyed cigarettes. I did. I really did. I loved the way they tasted. I loved the way they smelled. I loved pulling that toxic smoke deep into my lungs only to exhale it in a smoky cloud around me. I tried to be considerate of non-smokers and was, mostly, successful. I smoked in my car and in my house. I used cigarettes to wake up and I used them to relax. Stressed? A cigarette just seemed to help. After a meal or with a drink was a wonderful time for a cigarette. Smoking while playing pool just seemed natural. I didn’t mind if someone smoked while I was eating. Aside from while I was sleeping or showering or having sex, any time seemed like a wonderful time for a cigarette.

During all of my adult life, cigarettes had been there for me – like a trusted friend. They were there for the good times and the bad - especially the bad. Cigarettes didn’t mind if it was the same old drama. Cigarettes didn’t care if it was 3 a.m. They were there when I was bored. They were there when I was nervous. They were always there.

So, the thought of giving them up made me very sad. I didn’t even want to think about it. I’d get panicky at the very thought of never smoking again. It made me want to go smoke. Then, the sadness went away for a while.

Sure, there were things about smoking I didn’t like. Standing outside in the cold to smoke sucked. Standing outside in the heat to smoke sucked. Riding anywhere with a non-smoker sucked. Getting out of the airport to smoke and then back in through security for connecting flights sucked. I hated having to do that evaluation on the way home: Do I have enough cigarettes to last until morning? Is my lighter running out? My car reeked of cigarette smoke. I’ve burned clothes and carpet. I hated when my granddaughter would reach out for me to hold her and I’d have to say, “Wait until Grannie puts out her cigarette.”

None of that seemed to matter. I still enjoyed smoking. I wanted to smoke. Even knowing the love of my life HATED it, DESPISED it, LOATHED it, DETESTED it…(where’s my thesaurus?)… I still wanted to do it. My son’s best friend lost his mother, Sandy, to lung cancer recently. She and I went to high school together. I still didn’t quit. I knew I needed to quit and I half-heartedly planned to quit but it made me sad. I was addicted, mentally and physically, and the mental addiction was what had me running to the store to buy more cigarettes.

I had to decide that I didn’t WANT to smoke anymore. I had to get to a point where I didn’t enjoy it. I had to have a plan so I could succeed.

I reached that point. I didn’t want to keep smoking. I’d tried and succeeded (for three months) once. I’d tried and failed numerous times. I knew what worked and what didn’t.

I picked a date: January 17, 2007

Why that day? I’m not a New Year’s Day resolutions kind of person. I knew I wouldn’t have time to get to my doctor before the end of the year. I wanted to quit on a Wednesday because I play pool, in bars, on Tuesday nights. I wanted a full week of not smoking behind me before I faced big temptation.

I went to my doctor on January 4 and got a prescription for Zyban and started taking it. I know it helps. I know it makes cigarettes taste awful. I need the cigarettes to taste awful as I quit. I also got a prescription for a Nicotrol inhaler. If I get a really bad craving, I can get a “hit” of nicotine without all the other bad stuff in cigarettes.

I’m ready. I don’t want to smoke anymore. I’m tired of getting bronchitis every year. I want to de-stench my car and my house and my clothes. I want to stay inside when it’s cold. I want to sit and talk after a meal instead of rushing out so I can grab a smoke. I want the love of my life to LIKE how I smell. I want to pick up my grandchildren as soon as the reach out to me. I don't want my kids or parents sitting in a funeral home as people walk by and say how sorry they are.

I have Zyban. I have the inhaler. I have carrots. I have celery. I have gum. I have water. Thanks to a wicked smaht lady I know who recently quit, I also have tic-tacs. She says they help. Most of all, I have resolve and determination. I’m thinking like a non-smoker. I don’t love my cigarettes anymore and I’m looking forward to laying them down forever.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

May You Have An Interesting Life

“May you have an interesting life.”

If I remember correctly, this is an Asian saying with the dual purpose of being both a blessing and a curse.

I have an interesting life.

A week and a half ago, I was thinking about what to write next. I contemplated end of year reflections and New Year hopes. I built draft blog posts in my mind.

Then my purse was stolen along with my checkbook, passport (Why, yes! Yes! I am a dumbass.), car registrations, proofs of insurance, my rings (irreplaceable because they came from little shops in various countries and cities), my watch, my everything notebook, my new cell phone, Weight Watchers stuff, photo booth pictures of me and Mr. Wurdibitsch (irreplaceable), pictures of the grandgirls (thankfully, replaceable), signed checks from Mr. Wurdi, all of my keys, lottery (probably winning) tickets, my memory stick and more. The inconvenience of closing accounts and opening accounts and stopping and redirecting direct deposit and changing auto pays and all that other crap was a great big pain in my ass.

There was good news:
I always carry my work badge with me but I'd tossed it on my nightstand that afternoon.
I meant to bring my camera but left it on my home office desk.
I’d tucked my wallet (cash, ID, credit cards) in my pocket.
I still had my old everything notebook at home.
Mr. Wurdi usually carries his computer (and leaves it in the truck). He didn't this time. He also forgot his phone in the hotel room. If he'd left it in the truck, he'd probably have lost it, too.
The locks on the house were getting worn out and needed to be replaced – we just ended up doing that sooner than planned.

I was going to do a blog post on the lessons I learned from that little experience (and I may still) but I had some other difficult issues to deal with and then I got bronchitis. Thursday, on the way to finding out that I had bronchitis – wait. I wasn’t going to find out I had bronchitis. I was going to my doctor to get a prescription for Zyban because I’m quitting smoking next Wednesday, January 17th. Mark the date… So, I was on the way to the doctor who would soon discover during the course of talking to me about Zyban that I had bronchitis. My car started overheating. Badly. The needle up in the red zone near the “H” while I was driving down the Interstate. I turned the heat all the way up and put the fan on high while I crossed my fingers. The temperature came down and I was able to make it to the doctor.

After the appointment with the doctor, I got my first estimate on repairing my car (water pump, Chrysler, damn it): Close to $1000. The second estimate was about half of that. I asked the guys if it was safe to drive it just a little bit longer. See, with the stolen checkbook fiasco, my direct deposit of my paycheck was lost in banking limbo land. They said to keep an eye on the coolant levels and temperature gauge and get it fixed soon. I planned to figure out a way to do it middle of the next week.

All of this happened right in the midst of my regularly scheduled drama. Oh sure, there’d been very special episodes of drama popping up for months but it all of a sudden just got to be too much. I was feeling rather picked upon by Fate for a few minutes. I wanted to wallow in self-pity. I wanted to cry but held off because that just makes my contact lenses cloudy. I wanted to pound my fists and feet and scream, “It’s not fair!!”

It didn’t last long. Funny – and not the ha-ha kind – how we get slapped in the face with a little perspective when we need it. I’m not dealing with heartache over a relationship or a loved ones illness or death. I’m not having an excruciatingly long recovery from an illness or surgery. I’m not dealing with medical uncertainty or a life-threatening illness. I have people I love who are dealing with all of those issues and others equally as difficult right now. My whining stopped and I started thinking of the positives in my life: I’m in a great relationship. I’m able to see my parents every week. My parents, kids, and grandkids are happy and healthy. I have a job and a home and supportive friends. More than I could possibly list, I am blessed.

Monday morning, I was ready for a NEW new start to the New Year. I prepared the night before by getting my clothes laid out (including my jewelry). I cut up my fruits and veggies. I got to bed at a fairly reasonable hour. I woke up with a whole new attitude.

My car wouldn’t start. Dead battery. My other car wouldn’t start. Also, dead battery.


I am quitting next week. I wasn’t quitting Monday and, damn it, it had turned, rather abruptly, into a chain smoking kind of Monday.

I remembered something a very wise woman and dear friend said. What she said speaks to the times when you feel like you just can’t handle one more crisis in your life. It reminds you that you aren’t the only one on the planet dealing with crisis. It’s some good shit about bad shit.

She said:
1. bad shit happens to everyone all the time,
2. people get over bad shit all the time,
3. just because you don't see bad shit in someone's life doesn't mean it's not there,
4. we have all walked a mile through a field of relatively bad shit in cruel shoes at some point in our lives, and
5. even the biggest load of bad shit does not have to define your existence. you just have to choose to rise above the bad shit and put it behind you.

that is my shit theory.

She’s wicked smaht, don’t ya think?