Arliss the Disapproving turns 12

Welcome to 2012!

First, Arliss let us live to see another year.

And now it’s her 12th birthday!

I had another request for my vegetarian crock pot chili recipe, so I thought I’d post it here:

2 small to medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 pkg Boca “ground beef” soy crumbles (14 oz)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can chopped green chiles OR 4 tsp diced chiles in adobo sauce OR 3/4 cup finely diced green peppers
28 oz canned diced tomatoes
28+ oz canned black, kidney, great northern, or whatever beans
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1+ tbsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Worcestershire and paprika… I just kind of throw it in, never really measured it!

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker on high for 4 hrs or low for 8 hrs. (The crock pot is forgiving so feel free to cook longer.) You can also pre-saute the onions, garlic, and spices and then put them in the crock pot. I think the recipe is great without the Boca crumbles too, but might call for more beans that way.

I like to serve with cornbread!

Holiday spirit as experienced by the frugal introvert

The pups are lined up head-to-butt on the couch twitching in their sleep. I heard a report at work this week from David that speedy Emmy finally caught that squirrel in the back yard… with bad results for the squirrel. Her face is a little scratched up too. Walter and David were rather disturbed by the scene!

Thanksgiving has come and gone (and it was tasty). Now we’re solidly in the holiday season. I feel like purchasing zero gifts and I don’t want anything, which is generally a good thing when it comes to saving money and not indulging in consumerism. I suppose there’s some element of economic crash if we all stopped shopping, but I think it would be a good move in this country at least. I didn’t share in the outrage many people online expressed about Black Friday shopping starting early or even about holiday decor going up too early in stores. I really don’t care if there are decorations before Thanksgiving. If you feel retail is pushing you, don’t open your wallet. Big deal.

I think I’d like to put up a tree this year, especially since I collected so many ornaments while I was abroad last year, but I’m not sure we have room. There’s a foster rabbit in the usual tree spot and clutter tries to take over any leftover real estate around here.

Just heard the unemployment rate is down to 8.6%, the lowest in 2.5 years. Seems somewhat positive.

Bit of a PSA: here’s where you can opt out of receiving telephone books. My bunnies eat them but they can’t keep up with the supply.

Cute link of “grammar” gifts like air quote mittens and punctuation mark lamps. (But don’t buy me anything. ­čÖé

I made a tortilla soup last week that was yummy, based on two other recipes. My version:

Tortilla Soup

vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
14 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can black beans, undrained
2 quarts vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 can whole kernel corn
2 avocados, peeled/pitted/cut into chunks or slices

Tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Saute the onion in oil in a large soup pot. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin, and chili peppers, cooking until onions are tender and spices are fragrant. Mix in the tomatoes, pour in broth and black beans, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes.
Mix corn and avocado chunks into the soup, and continue cooking 5-10 minutes. Serve in bowls over tortilla chips, topping with cheese.

Finish line

Well, I think I made it through NaBloPoMo. The weather in Ireland turned cold a week ago and is now snowy and icy. They actually kicked us out of work early and two of three roads away from the plant were immediately blocked by jacknifed trucks. It took me an hour to drive my ten minute commute yesterday because an inch of snow became ice-rink roads. If they treated the roads it would have been fine. And if anyone knew how to drive on “slippy” roads it would have been better, but most locals are trying to go 5-10 mph and then they can’t get up the slick hills. There was a work email advising us to avoid routes with hills. hahahahahaha

Bad weather is all relative: I think this is only the second time in 30 years they closed work early due to snow, and the grass wasn’t even covered when we left. The roads were slushy but fine, but when all that freezes tonight… yuck. I’m kind of glad I went in Sunday to get some work done because this is a three day week for me as it is, and now I’m not as far behind with my projects. A guy at lunch said his kid was 11 before he even saw snow, so I believe it doesn’t happen often! I advised my fellow diners to take home cafeteria trays for their sledding pursuits. Other parts of the country received a LOT of snow so I guess our inch here and there isn’t so bad. But listening to the radio amuses me: today a weather person tried to explain why it felt a lot colder than it was when the wind was blowing (“we call that wind chill!”), there was a proud report of AN actual plow in the western part of the county, and we are getting lots of advice about dealing with the “bitterly cold” temperatures. Oooh… sometimes it drops to upper 20s!

David walked into town for pints with a friend but I opted for a nap on the couch with a Walter foot-warmer. Walter’s been puking for a couple of days and I hope he’s feeling better before we hop a plane Thursday for our next adventure. I also hope the bad weather doesn’t ground our plane!

I’ve got about two posts of pictures left from Spain, so may as well finish those too!

ongoing account of May trip to Spain

When we left the Alhambra to explore Granada, we found flamenco dancers and dressed up horses and riders everywhere. There were celebrations in the streets and several decorated crosses in plazas, which I think must have been our accidental visit during Dia de la Cruz (Day of the Cross) and related May celebrations, May Crosses. We had seen some decorated crosses in Málaga too but there was more of a party going on in Granada.

The last picture is our triumph over hours of wandering to find the ‘right’ food, which I’ll just say was my companions’ attempt to find ‘authentic’ food at some pricepoint I didn’t care about, while still trying to accommodate something I could eat. In the end I wouldn’t say I liked this food, but I’m glad I ate somewhere that was local and representative of the culture and that means it was still a good experience.

The ocean’s fecking free, mate

An Irish Thanksgiving meal: actually it was five Americans and a British guy, who has been quoted as saying the title of this post, which I think had something to do with not paying to swim in a pool. He had pumpkin pie for the first time (made with pumpkin we had our visitors bring from the States because you can’t get canned pumpkin here).

Our Irish coworkers wished us happy Thanksgiving way more times than I’ve ever heard it in the US and asked if we were going to take vacation days. Seeing as how it’s freezing cold here and there’s nothing to do in Ireland in November, we just went to work!

Emmy ate all the bread off the counter again today but we managed to have a nice spread and even heard Alice’s Restaurant on internet radio. Now it’s time for bed!

Málaga, wrapping up bike tour

ongoing account of May trip to Spain

Just a neat shot of the palms along the streets

In Constitution Square

Another vegetarian restaurant! More good food

I asked the tour leader what she recommended for an evening activity and made arrangements with the Polish couple to ride with them the next day to another city. Next up: the “white village” of Mijas

The Real American Heroes

We went to trivia night run by the Lions Club at a local hotel this week and picked a GI Joe motto as our team name. I’m not sure where our friend Kathleen saw the signs but she invited us and our table of four (Kathleen, her sister, David, me) didn’t come in last but sure didn’t win! It was more fun than I expected. We were the youngest participants for sure! They were raising funds for local charities through the entrance fees and raffle tickets. It lasted over three hours! We also got a map of the defibrillators in town to keep in our wallets…

The MC was a dry-humor English guy and he sang Happy Birthday to people when they came out of the bathroom (because it really was the first lady’s birthday; “happy birthday to Sue, she is in the loo”). There was an entire round with questions related to lions.

Things we knew or guessed:
How long is elephant gestation? (I don’t know why I had this stored in my brain)
What was Beethoven’s disability?
Who designed St. Peter’s in Rome?
Who flew too close to the sun?
Year the US civil war began (no other table got it right!)
How many times Armagh won the All Ireland senior championships (I don’t remember now if it was about hurling or football, but we guessed the number, except I think David was reading lips at another table)
Largest cell in a human body
A LOT of questions about songs, from Bonnie Tyler to Tony Bennett to Phantom of the Opera to Eurovision

Things we got wrong:
Neil Diamond being the writer of a Monkees song (I put down Mickey Dolenz but actually had second thoughts about Neil thanks to my brother)
What team some famous soccer player played for (I crossed out Man United but it was right)
What town Gilbert O’Sullivan is from
Most of the names of streets associated with pictures of buildings in Kinsale
What year the Republic of Ireland became the republic (they multiple choiced it, so I guess not everyone here knows?)
Bono’s real name

The big prize was a hamper, which is what they call a prize basket, but it always makes me think of dirty laundry. We even get a Christmas hamper at work with a turkey AND a ham voucher. I’m curious what the mentioned vegetarian option is… and why they mailed a company-headed letter to everyone’s home to ask which butchers they want to use instead of just asking us at work!

Málaga, Chicagoans eating veg

ongoing account of May trip to Spain

Concerned that I might not translate something properly and end up with a plate full of dead animals, and being someone who gets a huge kick out of vegetarian restaurants, I checked online before I left for possible dining options. What a great move–the food afforded me a chance to try new dishes without the worry of my bad Spanish questions getting in the way. I started with sangria and just ordered whatever else sounded interesting!

Some American women at the next table seemed to be having trouble describing a dish to the server, so I tried to help with my phrase book. Pretty soon they had invited me to dine with them and we had a lovely late dinner discussing what brought us to that part of the world. They were from Chicago and were in Spain to manage some property left by a relative who had died. I don’t remember their names, but I think the mother had grown up in Europe somewhere (Poland?) and had an accent, and the daughter was an artist. They were at the vegetarian restaurant because they had been ill from the food in Spain and had even been in the hospital, and a doctor had recommended they not eat animal products for awhile to see if they’d recover more comfortably.

It’s not like me to hang out with strangers, but it was fun to do it this time. We also managed to mingle with some locals on the way back to our hotels. They were having a celebration to raise money for their Semana Santa thrones/floats (more on that in a later post), and now I think I’m in a whole lot of other people’s pictures!

The bats or birds were plentiful above the cathedral on the way back to our rooms.

Málaga, parque

The park near the sea. I saw extravagant flowers like hibiscus and Bird of Paradise, and there were parrots in the trees

In Constitution Square (I think)

My first restaurant meal. The food was excellent (walnut-gorgonzola tortellini, I believe), but the server was taking a break at the table next to me, smoking! I had forgotten that people smoked in restaurants. And, like Italy, you have to buy water when you go out to eat.

Málaga, gatherings

While wandering through the city I ran across a labor march:

I found my hostel, where I’d booked a room to myself with a bathroom, but it was a pretty sparse place. My Spanish was just good enough to communicate with the owner and I dumped my bag. Then, off to explore along the main road near the sea, where I found an international festival with lots of items for sale (ranging from knits and linen clothing from South American countries to furry hats and gas masks from Russia!) and several food booths. I found something vegetarian, a Peruvian food I’ve eaten in Indy several times. This time, however, it was served cold! Just as well, since it was a warm, sunny day. I think I had to buy shorts right before I left because I didn’t pack any when I moved to Ireland. (And I only wore the shorts once in Ireland this summer!)