Monday, February 23, 2009

Poor Sap Vermont Vegetarian Travesty Of Jambalaya.

I was talking to Michaela today and we were discussing how nice it would be to go to New Orleans.  She pointed me to the Mardi Gras section of 

First I made myself a Sazerac cocktail because I happened to have a little Sazerac Rye and some Absente hanging around.  Highly recommended.  

I got hungry while I was sipping it and checking out the jambalya recipe.  I decided to make some "Poor Sap Vermont Vegetarian Travesty Of Jambalaya."  I didn't have all the ingredients for Jambalya but what I made turned out to be surprisingly good.  So here's the recipe.  You're going to have to fudge the amounts for yourself depending on what you have on hand and how many people you're feeding:

olive oil (plenty)
vegetarian hot dogs, sliced into rounds
onion, chopped
garlic, chopped
celery, chopped (if you have it - I didn't)
bell pepper, chopped
left-over (cooked) rice
Green Mountain Gringo Salsa (I don't like it as salsa - it's not very Mexican tasting - but it's good for this) or some other wet canned (JJ would vote for jarred) tomato product 
vegetable broth
ground cayenne pepper
ground black pepper
hot sauce like Crystal, Frank's Red Hot or Tabasco
fresh parsley, chopped

Heat up a frying pan and pour in a mess of olive oil.  You're going to need a lot of olive oil to make up for the fact that you're not using nice, fatty sausages.  But keep in mind you can always add more in the end if you need to.

Saute hot dog slices, onions, garlic, celery, and peppers until they are soft and as browned as you like them.  Add rice and enough vegetable broth and wet tomato product (chopped, stewed, salsa, anything but paste) to make the mixture loose but not quite soupy (if it's soupy you just have to cook it longer - but no harm done really)  When in doubt use more broth, less tomato.

Season to taste with the cayenne and black peppers and hot sauce.  I recommend being generous with these, as you like of course.  Spicy heat mitigates the disappointing flavor of the fake hot dogs.  I found I didn't want extra salt but to each her own.  Taste to see if you need to add more olive oil.  Cook until the mixture is heated through and as firm as you like it.

Remove from the heat and stir in chopped parsley.  Serve.  

Obviously it's not authentic New Orleans  food but considering the ingredients it's darned good.

Warning: Gruesome

I had an unusual dream last night.  It was about vampires and, I think somehow, the economy.

I'm not one of those people who have a thing for vampires.  I haven't read the "Twilight" series.  I can't stand Anne Rice's writing or horror movies in general.  

Sometimes some people are able to write good stories with vampires in them.  Dracula, by Bram Stoker is a wonderful story beautifully written.  "Buffy  The Vampire Slayer" was a great T.V. show.  It had engaging characters, surprising plot-lines and was presented with humor and humanity.  In all of these examples vampirism is eroticized (which is probably why some people like vampire stories)

My dream was nothing like any of them.  In my dream groups of vampires would take huge bites off of people, removing half their body-mass in three quick chomps.  What was left, partial torsos on legs, stood bleeding on the sidewalk.  The vampires would drink their victims' blood from pools in the street. 

When they weren't devouring people the vampires were rather personable, even endearing.  They just seemed like normal, genial people until all of a sudden - bang - half your head was gone.

No eroticism, no remorse.  It's just the way things happen.  People do that too.  Look at farm animals.

Like I said though, I think this dream was about our economic situation.  For example, I'm sure that most of the people who speculated with money, from the house-flippers to the mortgage traders, CDS traders and ponzi-schemers, are loveable people.  I'm sure most of them never thought about what they were really doing.  They probably ignored the fact that down the line somebody (not them or anyone they cared about) would get screwed.  

We all do things like that sometimes.  We all ignore how our simplest actions (or inactions) can really do damage to others.  Damage is a law of nature.  I absolutely believe that nothing can live without somehow  damaging something else.  

People can't think about things like that all the time.  We'd be immobilized.  We do have to think of it a little bit to mitigate the harm we do.

Anyway,  it wasn't the kind of dream that would make my Netflix queue.  I hate gore.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I'm doing it again.  My inner doom buggy is running away with me (Of course I know that's the name of a Boston metal band)

I'm getting help from the news.  All those stories of people who are homeless or who are trying to sell everything they own including personal stuff that nobody wants because they have nothing left.  Bad economic news is piling up relentlessly every day.  In addition, global warming is going faster than previously predicted.  

Pretty much every path my mind goes down these days leads to some aspect of armageddon.  

This morning at around three (Fay woke me up) I thought I heard a spring peeper.  It's way below freezing here in VT so if that were so (is it even possible?) it would be very bad.  I started imagining the day that there are no more frogs.  

I don't know... Somehow I got whammied.  Gotta keep moving though.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Trade In Flesh

Hi there.  I hope you will allow me to introduce myself.  I am Melissa Winter Weiss and I am a person.

Maybe this has always been the case and I'm only just noticing but it seems to me that there's a huge marketing fad going on now.  People are branding themselves.  There appears to be a segment of the world's population who think it's really important to become a product that they can market.  

What's more they have no interest in interacting with other people who are not so conveniently packaged.  The belief is that if you aren't branding yourself then you're missing the boat and aren't on the ball enough to talk to. 

Well I'll save them the time of bothering with me.  I'M NOT A PRODUCT.   I'm a person and I like it that way.  I don't fit in a package with a hip, eye-catching label.  What's more I am not interested in becoming any such object. 

It's like personality anorexia or something.  One must have to shave off, ignore or disown all sorts of facets of one's psyche to become a marketable product.  It takes a lot of effort but if one keeps focused on one's brand one is free to ignore one's more inconvenient traits.  This allows one to see oneself more simply and with fewer misgivings.  One would concentrate on refining the product - the marketable aspects of oneself - and present to the world this unified object, free of human shortcomings.  

That sounds like a disorder to me.

I am a person.  You have to spend time with me to begin to understand what I am.  It takes time and effort and you won't know until you've spent it whether it was worth it or not.  I can't be encapsulated.  I will not curl up into a ball so that someone may consume me more easily.  To be honest I don't believe I'm capable of it.  Maybe that's why this is all so frustrating to me.  Maybe I would if I could.

I want attention too.  I want people to think I'm interesting.  I can't invent a short cut to that end though.  I'm difficult and I will be difficult.

There it is.  I'll just let all those speeding balls of product roll on by me into the glittering future and do what I do in the dowdy backwater of now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Travesty In The Snow!

I found a camera.  I don't think I ate that much of the bottom of the cake.  But if I didn't I don't know where it went!
It's only a little roughed up in a couple of little spots.  Most people who have some probably won't know there was a problem.  Tee hee!

An Unexpected Scenario

Here's one: the cake wouldn't come out of the pan!

The up-side of this is that the burned bottom fell off all by itself.  I got the cake un-molded using a spatula and have now soaked it in glaze.  It looks dark but it might still be good.  I have to say I ate some of the bottom that fell off and it's pretty good.

I'd love to take photos but I have no idea where my camera is.  I'll go look...

Where Is My Head?

After a couple of days feeling barely functional I have decided that it's important to do anything I need to to keep moving.

I had been afraid that my productivity would suffer if I did things I enjoy (besides work)  I think I found out instead that my productivity grinds to a halt if I don't do things I enjoy (besides work)  

To that end today I worked on a scarf I am knitting as a gift for someone.  I want to have it finished before spring arrives.  I am also baking a Bahama Mamma cake (from "Sticky, Chewy Messy Gooey")  It's in the oven right now.  Yesterday I made chocolate chip cookies for Pete as a Valentine's Day gift.

Yeah, the Valentine's Day gift was a day late but Pete approves.  I had big business in Boston on Valentine's Day.  The important thing was we were together for dinner that night.  Believe me, we've been making up for lost cookie-eating time.

The cake baking endeavor has been a minor adventure.  For example I was running low on vanilla extract.  I noticed this the last time I was marketing and picked up a bottle.  When I went to add the new extract to the teaspoon I was measuring out, much to my alarm it came out viscous and syrupy.  I looked at the bottle and it isn't vanilla extract.  It's Frontier fair trade vanilla flavor, made with glycerine as a solvent instead of alcohol and the same vanilla-derived flavors in vanilla extract.  I only needed a quarter-teaspoon more so I went ahead.  

I understand that they can't call it "extract" because it's alcohol free but I don't know why you would need such a product.  What is the benefit of glycerine over alcohol?  The only thing I can think of is that it would keep every possible form of booze out of the clutches (gullets?) of the family souses.  The product information page on the website is vague.

I've also had problems with the oven temperature and with adding the half-cup of rum the recipe calls for to the glaze too soon.  You can see that alcohol in my vanilla extract is hardly a concern in this case.

In fact, it would have been just as well had I drunk the rum!  I just burned the cake!  I took it out thinking it was done and turned the oven off.  I realized my mistake, turned the oven on again and put the cake back in.  Five minutes later I realized that I'd never turned the oven down to the correct setting after I'd turned it on again.  My cake is very dark brown.  It's thoroughly cooked now.  If I'm lucky I just burned the top (which will be the bottom once it's turned out of the pan)  and I can cut that off.  If I'm unlucky the pan is too thin and the whole surface of the cake is burned and we'll just have to chop off the outside and eat the middle.

I'm not saying "die" on this cake.  Thank God all that's left to do now is soak the thing in rummy syrup.  I don't think I can wreck that too badly.   Unless I spill the syrup all over the carpet (or the dog!) or get the cake nice and rummy syrup-soaked and drop it on the floor.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bird Sounds

One of the things I like the most about Vermont is listening to the birds.  I get particularly excited about the owls and the ravens.  Yeah, they don't make the prettiest sounds.  I just think it's so cool that we have owls and ravens to listen to.  

The owls were active last night and we've been hearing (and seeing) ravens almost every day for the last several months. 

The chickadees are always entertaining.  I also love to hear the phoebes.  In case you don't know, phoebes actually chirp out fee-bee!  It's very charming.

Today's Cute Picture

Cute and a little sad.  The story has a happy ending though.  This fire-injured koala was rescued by firefighter David Tree.  Pretty good name for a firefighter.

Monday, February 9, 2009

In Vermont Today

It was sunny in Vermont today.  At least it was in my lower-right-hand corner of Vermont.  The only human I saw today was the FedEx man who came to pick up a defective piece of gear that Pete's reviewing for Tape Op magazine (only he'll need a working example if he's going to be able to review the thing.  Ahh, Tape Op - I love those folks.  Very good people.  The defective gear has nothing to do with them)

I spent the morning in my studio and the afternoon at the house working on various projects.  I get more done in the studio.  When I'm in the house Fay pesters me almost constantly for food.  Oink!  She's so cute I can't complain much but it is an interruption.  Also I keep checking twitter and e-mail.  Bad news!  Some people have a serious case of tweetterrhea.  I am not referring to you, Marilyn.

As usual I have too many ideas for things to make.  Today went well though because I'd just work on something until I got to a stopping point and then move on to something else.  In theory this means progress on a number of projects which means that I might be able to finish a few of them someday.  I have high hopes.

Today I also finished that damned 25 Random Things list that's going around.  Facebook, you are a diabolical time suck!  Number 23 was a list of things I want to learn and the observation that when you're a kid a list that long is possible to tackle.  On further consideration kids take years to learn the things they learn.  In school you take French for an hour then computer for an hour then you have gym then you have lunch then maybe you have your violin lesson, etc.  You do this every week over four to six years.  Why can't I do that?  Oh yeah, adult responsibilities.  I think I can still do that only it might take longer.   

Also I have proven to be kind of bad at honoring the schedules I set for myself.  I keep trying though.  Just like I keep showing up for Maya, my XBox personal trainer.  It took four years but I can do five man push-ups.  That counts for something.  Forty-three years old and can do man push ups for the first time ever.

So now I'm going to go take a quick peek at the moon because Michaela told me to and then I'm getting back to work.  And it will be fun!

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Pal, The Void

I sent Pete to San Francisco this morning.  The dude seriously needed a vacation.  I hope he takes one - vacation requires a certain state of mind.  He'll be back Tuesday and I'm hoping he'll bring some healthy new perspective with him.  At least I hope he'll take a break from thinking about all the things that are stressing him out.

As for me I have work to do.  Life is distracting me though.  There are lots of extremely unusual things going on in our lives and that can be a little disconcerting.  None of it's bad.

For example we're making new friends and meeting new people.  It's something I want to do but don't usually know how to do.  I find it very easy to stay in and work on my own things and think my own thoughts.  It's harder for me to come out and engage with other people.  It takes extra effort that I'm not used to expending.  As my old pal Alex would say though, it's good for me.

We're also thinking about finally selling the Brookline house were we've lived since 1991 and moving into a closet in a totally different neighborhood.  We're very excited by this idea.  We'd have no tenants, no snow removal and a lot less stuff.  Hopefully we'd also have more money.

Things are moving forward in my art career.  In addition, I'm setting up an Etsy shop.  These two facts are making me rethink the things I'm making and the way I make them.  

At the same time I'm going through the normal processes that artists go through as their work changes.  Things in the studio become even more unpredictable than usual at times like this.  You can't be sure if the hours you spent working were productive or not and you may not find out for months.  Sometimes it takes years for certain ideas you start to become fruitful.  Of course you could also be skipping down a blind alley.

All of this can be a little uncomfortable but I'm really getting a kick out of it.  At least I am now while I'm writing this post.  It's a bit of a wild ride if you want to look at it that way.  Which way is up?  Which way is forward?  Who can say?  

I wonder if this Void has a taco stand?  I'm hungry.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Grey Is A Color

Not much blogging going on these days, at least not on the blogs I follow.  Me neither.  I don't know about anybody else but I've got too much going on in my head to stop and write anything down.  I'm going to write something now though in case others, like me, want some content damn-it!

I grew out my dye job.  I do that every few years because I want to know what my hair is really doing.  I'll have to get Pete to take a picture so you can see it.  I kind of like it and I think I'll leave it a while.  Over the last few weeks I've been catching myself in the mirror and feeling kind of satisfied.  My hair is short with a little grey streak in the front and a little more grey peppered through the sides and back.  The rest of it is chestnutty auburn, I guess.

In my travels I've been seeing friends of mine with similar hair - short and uncolored (they're all guys) - and feeling like I'm in good company.  Finally the other day I realized the real reason I like what my hair looks like now:  I look kind of like Jon Stewart.  I don't have time right now to make a hilarious yet disturbing composite photo.  Maybe later.

The grey doesn't bother me.  I'm so glad to be as old as I am.  The things I have learned over the years are so worth the grey hair and saggy skin.  For example, back in '89 I worked for an animation company.  It was a fun job but stressful.  I liked every single one of my co-workers but some of them could be really moody.  I was 23 years old and I didn't realize that their moodiness had nothing to do with me.  I thought that some days they liked me and some days they didn't.  Probably accurate but that was their fault and not mine.  Sure, some 23 year olds already know better than that but I didn't.  Thank God I do now.

Chances are good that I will dye again.  Spring usually has me feeling dismal so I may need to perk myself up with some color.  We'll see.

Now I'm going to unhitch Fay from her wheelchair and head over to my studio to make a painting based on a Japanese sticker of a cute sandwich with a face.

Okay, it's later: