Saturday, February 26, 2011

happy birthday to the man in black

Johnny Cash was probably the first artist I actually knew by name. I have my father to thank for that.  All these years later, I still love Johnny Cash.  Happy 79th birthday, Johnny.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

a recipe and a rant

I love food blogs.  The ones I like best are written by people like me who are balancing life, family and work.  The recipes they share are often easy to prepare, quick and don't include a list of ingredients that will break my weekly food budget. (That would be if I actually stuck to a food budget.) 

The truth is, I can get pretty excited about good food.  So with a blog at my disposal, sharing recipes is a natural step. Now, I can cook up a storm but getting it photographed to share here is another story.  It is really challenging (for me) to make a very wonderful, very tasty dish look wonderful and tasty in a photograph.  Some people do a better job at it than others and to be honest, I used to be a little critical of the blogs that just had "okay" photos.  That was until I tried my hand at it.  Crow can be tasty, right?

One of my favorite blogs to browse through is Ann West's Dollop. Ann truly has a gift.  Her photographs are spectacular (and her recipes are top-notch too). I am afraid that I don't have an Ann West bone in my body, but I came across a recipe recently that I LOVED so much that I was willing to expose you to my crappy food photography just to share it.  (Because even a bad picture is better than no picture when we're talking about food.)

This recipe is from Mandi Miller over at My Bloggy Life. (And yes, Mandi's photos are better than mine.)

Mandi's Tex-Mex Salsa


1/2 large white onion, chopped
5 fresh jalapeños, sliced (leave seeds and veins for hotter flavor)
1 can whole tomatoes
1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro (alter to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 lime, squeezed 


1. In a food processor, mince chopped onion and sliced jalapenos. Scoop into a large bowl.
2. Process tomatoes in the food processor until they reach a chunky liquid consistency. Pour into bowl with the onions and jalapeños.
3. Add cilantro, garlic, lime juice and salt to the mixture and stir until well combined.

I live in Maryland... no where near Texas (or Mexico, for that matter) but all our Mexican restaurants around here serve salsa that tastes just like this. This is a keeper in my book.  Countrymouse is sold too.  This recipe is easy to prepare, quick and budget-friendly. Perfect for the Mouse House.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

tunes i like tuesday: beat the devil's tattoo

Today's song, Beat the Devil's Tattoo, is from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's 2010 critically acclaimed release by the same name. It's the kind of song that stays with you.  After hearing it the other day, I haven't been able to get it out of my head.  BRMC's pound it out style mixed with gospel-infused rock is the perfect backdrop for this song.  The song is dark and moody and its beat infectious. 

The name of the album and song is in reference to the Edgar Allen Poe short story, The Devil in the Belfry, written in 1839. Singer Robert Levon Been explains
"Leah [Shapiro, BRMC's new drummer] had given me a book of Poe short stories and I'd immersed myself in it. The one phrase 'Beat The Devils Tattoo' leaped out at me though for some reason. I read up on it and found that it originally meant 'the beat of a drum or a bugle signaling soldiers to return to their camps after dark'. But it's a very old lost phrase. These days, I guess it's used whenever anyone anxiously drums their fingers on a table or taps their foot on the ground incessantly, they're 'beating the devil's tattoo.'"
It's no surprise to hear that there is a Poe influence in the song.  Like many of Poe's works, Beat the Devil's Tattoo comes across as distorted while somehow being darkly beautiful at the same time.

There is an "official video" for the song which you can see here.  While well filmed, I wasn't a big fan of the video, so I am highlighting a live version instead. Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Friday, February 18, 2011

spring fever

Today was glorious.  Temperatures in the mid-70s and sunny.  Crazy stuff.  It's the middle of February.  In case you forgot, this is what the middle of February looked like last year...

So how do you celebrate this little gem of a day?  You buy a case of beer and throw some burgers on the grill, that's what you do!

(Yes, that's our snow shovel propped up against the landing. It is February, after all.)

For the record, Spring arrives in exactly 30 days.  I've already started a Spring To Do list and am planning our garden.  How about you?  Are you looking forward to Spring as much as I am?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

tunes i like tuesday: i know you know

I am not always up on what is playing on mainstream radio.  My kids love music and there is always something playing somewhere around the Mouse House though and this helps me stay "in the know".  (That and they commandeer the radio the minute we hop in the car.) Even if I didn't have my kids to help me out, I'd have to be living under a rock not to know who Justin Bieber is. So I was intrigued to find out that Esperanza Spalding, someone I had never even heard of, beat him for Best New Artist at Sunday night's Grammy Awards.  (No, I didn't watch them.  I don't do awards shows but from all accounts, the live music at this year's Grammys may have been worth the effort. And for the record, my vote would have been for Florence and the Machine.)

I checked Esperanza out and was pleasantly surprised.  Esperanza is a jazz bassist/singer who ends up combining a lot of different genres and influences in her music.  Her Grammy win was the first time a jazz artist has won Best New Artist... so obviously I'm not the only one who has been smitten by her sound.

The song featured, "I Know You Know", can be found on her debut album entitled Esperanza.  Have a listen and let me know what you think.  Do you think she deserved to win? Over Justin?  Do you think she's destined to go places musically?

Monday, February 14, 2011

the best is yet to be

Grow old along with me! 

The best is yet to be, 

the last of life, 

for which the first was made. 

~ Robert Browning

Happy Valentine's Day!
I hope your love outlasts your days.

Friday, February 11, 2011

a day to remember

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
~W.S. Merwin, "Separation"

Tonight I will be raising my glass to toast my brother, Phil. Today would have been his 46th birthday.  Last month marked one year since Phil lost his battle to colon cancer.  While I was painfully aware of that milestone, I determined that the anniversary of his death would not be a day of recognition.  Instead, I choose to celebrate his life, his birth.  Tonight, you will find me, along with Countrymouse and some others that miss him, in one of Phil’s favorite local places, sharing some sushi and a beer, reminiscing.

A quick look in the mirror or through a photo album will confirm we’re all aged but I think there is a kind of time warp in siblinghood that allows us to see each other as we always were.  I suppose this can be detrimental at times, but overall, I think it helps foster our relationships.  While life can try to wrap its fingers around us, this perception helps free us from its grasp.

Tonight, I will think about my brother as we boarded a plane in Scotland to return to the States all by ourselves.  We were just 8 and 9 years old.  My ears wouldn’t pop.  (I still have that problem). Since we were traveling alone, we were moved to First Class.  Phil insisted that the man sitting across from us was Johnny Cash.  I wouldn’t believe him.  It was.

I will also think about getting dressed up for all those DeMolay dances we went to in high school.  Phil would ask me to blow dry his hair and use my curling iron on it so all his layers would lay just right.  (This was the height of Saturday Night Fever, after all.)

I will also remember the summer before Phil’s senior year in high school when my parents lost all their common sense and let Phil live (and supposedly work) at the beach all summer.  Countrymouse is still in shock over this more than 25 years later.  In his version of the story Phil gets younger and younger.  I think the latest version has Phil at age 12.  (He was really 17.)  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve laughed over Countrymouse’s indignation (which I think probably was just plain ol’ jealousy). 

I’ll remember many other things about Phil.  I always do.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.  As adults we didn’t always live close to one another and our relationship would also experience some distance from time to time.  However, I can’t think about my childhood or my life without thinking about my brother.  I miss him terribly.  When I think of Phil, I try my hardest to be thankful for all that we did have and shared.  The proverb I shared at his memorial echoes in my heart more today than ever… 

 “Say not in grief 'He is no more' 
but live in thankfulness that he was".

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

tunes i like tuesday: love

Since we are speeding towards Valentine's Day, I thought a song about love was only fitting.  The problem is that there are countless songs about love. Tough choice but I thought I'd treat you to a double dose of love... Love is the name of the song and the name of the artist, as in G.Love and Special Sauce. How can you go wrong? 

The song can be found on G. Love's 1999 album, Philadelphonic.  They have a great funky blues sound that always puts me in a good mood.  It's mid-winter here in Maryland... I'll take all the good vibes I can get!

Have a listen and let me know what you think.  I hope your V-Day is filled with lots of love. 

*A special hat tip to my buddy Stacy for reminding me how much I love G. Love!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

my rabbit can kick your butt

The Chinese New Year celebration begins today so...

新 年 快 乐.

The following is from Simple Recipes, Elise Bauer’s recipe blog, in a write up about Three Teacup Chicken in honor of the Chinese New Year…

“2011 is the Year of the Rabbit () which is a welcome thing after the previous wild and somewhat ferocious Year of the Tiger (). The rabbit is probably the most delicate animal of the Chinese zodiac and those born under rabbit years (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011) are reserved, good natured, compassionate, and artistic, though perhaps a bit absentminded and superficial. The Rabbit, being a such a good friend, also likes to prepare food for people. This is especially true come Chinese New Year.”

I really put no credence in the zodiac, or any kind of astrology for that matter, but from a purely entertainment standpoint, it can be fun. I was born in the year of the Rabbit and while I take exception to the “superficial” (and maybe the “absentminded” one too) characteristic listed above, I think the other ones do describe me.

I have childhood memories of eating out with my family at “real” Chinese restaurants in New York City, well before the advent of our present mega Chinese buffets.  No matter which restaurant or how nice it was, there were always a few things you could count on… you would drink hot tea served in little white, handle-less cups, everyone who worked in the restaurant spoke English as a second language (if you were lucky) and the table would always be set with paper placemats with the dates for Chinese New Year and the year's presiding animal zodiac. My brothers and I would pour over the placements and have whole conversations about whose animal was better… like somehow we actually were those animals. (As I said, I am a Rabbit, Phil was a Snake and John's a Sheep. My two sisters were either not born yet or too young to play along, but to be fair, they are a Dog and a Tiger.) We didn’t eat out often, so the outings were memorable in themselves, but more special are the memories they provided. (Who would have guessed?)