I love our library. Well, I love all of them…we have a lot…seems like you can find one every few miles. Every so often, the libraries hold used book sales, and this morning was the book sale at the library in our ‘hood – Mar Vista. So, I dropped TJ off at work (yep, working Saturdays in preparation for the Super Bowl spot he’s editing), and decided to go to the library instead of the beach. I’d say my efforts paid off…all of these finds for just $7. Now, to choose just one & head back to the beach…20090117-dsc_1894

Titles include:

The Historian by Kostova
Charmed Lives by Korda
Towns without Rivers by Parker
We Were the Mulvaneys by Oates
The Human Stain by Roth
American Pastoral by Roth
Cannery Row by Steinbeck
Atonement by McEwan
Lolita by Nabokov
My Antonia by Cather


Borscht Update

I’m happy to report that the Russian Cabbage Borscht I blogged about yesterday turned out to be wonderful! Definitely a “keeper” recipe. If you’ve got some beets, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery, and onions lying around, you can most likely whip up a batch. You can get the recipe at allrecipes.com, or, right here (my changes are in red):


  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
  • 1 cup thinly sliced beets
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water (I used chicken broth)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed (optional) (I didn’t use this)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped red cabbage (I used green cabbage)
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh dill weed (I used WAY more than this…probably a tablespoon or two)
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • sour cream, for topping
  • chopped tomatoes, for garnish


1. Place sliced potatoes and beets in a medium saucepan over high heat; cover with stock, and boil until vegetables are tender. Remove potatoes and beets with a slotted spoon, and reserve stock.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions, caraway seeds, and salt; cook until onions become soft and translucent. Then stir in celery, carrots, and cabbage. Mix in reserved stock; cook, covered, until all vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Add potatoes and beets to the skillet. Season with black pepper and dill weed. Stir in cider vinegar, honey, and tomato puree. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer at least 30 minutes. Serve topped with sour cream, extra dill weed, and chopped fresh tomatoes. (I also bought a sourdough demi-baguette with nuts & caraway seeds on top & dunked it in the soup.)


I haven’t written on (or even accessed) this blog in a very long time. I’ve been feeling…um…well, insignificant, to be perfectly honest. Every time I thought of this blog, a voice in my head asked, “Who cares?”


Consequently, as each day passed, I worried, “Damn, my next entry is going to have to be huge – something really thought-provoking and meaningful.” Like an ice-breaker. Or Spring. Something that kinda jump-starts things again and makes up for the lull of nothingness.


Of course, that freaked me out even more – which, in turn, increased my self-consciousness of the whole issue. It’s been a vicious cycle, I tell you.


Besides general feelings of insignificance, here are a few other possible culprits for my aversion to writing:

  • Fear that I’ll never make it as a writer. I think this is probably the biggest problem-child of them all. It’s given me an outlook of, “F$%@ the whole damn idea.” I’m trying to work through this.
  • The holidays. I was pretty busy making stuff the past few months. Seriously.
  • A newfound interest in all things crafty. It might be from the sunny, warm weather – or the visual diversity & personality of everything out here – or just a need to domesticate…who knows? But, if it involves paper, scissors, fabric, sewing machines, crochet hooks, yarn, tape, glue – you name it, I’m game.
  • Lack of creativity in the professional arena. Without going into elaborate detail, I’ll just say that creative tasks at home balance the incredibly mundane hours at work. (On an optimistic note, it’s not always like this…just a lull in the industry right now.)


But, I’m writing now. Something must have changed, right? So, what do I bring you?




Not just any ole’ Borscht, though. No, siree. Russian Cabbage Borscht, to be exact. Topped with sour cream and dill. With a side of crusty, olive-oily bread to dunk in this hearty beet soup…


And I’m not even going to try to masquerade this as though-provoking or meaningful. I’m blogging about the Eastern European version of vegetable soup, for crying out loud – not to mention, one whose recipe was reviewed online as a poor knock-off of the real thing. I guess there’s always a critic in the crowd, though…


So, Borscht, huh? Yep. A long-lost voice inside me finally surfaced with a tired, cynical eye-roll…Get over yourself! And that’s just what I intend to do.


I’m super-duper excited about making Borscht tonight. Just so ya know.

I Almost Forgot!

Here’s one more…I meant to post this with everything yesterday.

For when I'm feeling funky. This is a modified Simplicity pattern, and the dress/shirt is made from a thick, soft knit.

For when I'm feeling extra funky. This is a modified Simplicity pattern, and the fabric is a super-soft, thick cotton. It also looks pretty cool over a button-down with khakis. Love versatility.


Earlier this week I told you that I’ve been crafting, and here’s some proof. I finally got around to taking some pics of everything. Anyhow, I wanted to make some purple stuff. Just ’cause I was feelin’ purple. So, this is what I made:


Fabric necklace (Amy Butler design). Inside the fabric are marbles, and beside each marble is a knot to hold it in place.

Purple dress (McCall's pattern)...and, yes, I usually wear a tank top underneath this - today was a shortcut kinda day, though.

Purple dress (McCall’s pattern), and me doing some kind of ridiculous mannequin pose. Oh, and I always wear a tank top under this…today was a day for shortcuts, though.

Scarf, made from the leftover fabric from the necklace project.

Scarf, made from the leftover fabric from the necklace project.

Pajama pants - I live in these. I'm planning on making a "winter" pair out of flannel.

Pajama pants - I live in these. I think I'm going to make a flannel pair for "winter."

And, then comes the yellow…mostly due to fabric that I already had on hand…


Cat (Denyse Schmidt design). This is made from the extra fabric from a quilt I made a few months ago. The face is hand-stitched, as well as the paw & tail detail. (The fabric behind the cat is a slipcover I made for our Poang chair.)

Lace-trimmed flannel tank top (Simplicity design). This, like the cat, was also made from extra quilt fabric. Soooo cozy.

Lace-trimmed flannel tank top (Simplicity design). This, like the cat, was also made from extra quilt fabric. Soooo cozy.

Apron with an obi-style belt. I've had this fabric for, um, years.

Apron with an obi-style belt.

I pulled a muscle in my back. Not mountain biking. Not hiking. Not doing anything cool or strenuous. I just sneezed, and something in my back ripped. My parents have said things like this. “Your dad just bent over to pick up his shoes, and his back snapped.” Old-people stuff. Except, I’m 28. Not old. But, you see, this old thing has happened to me. And it hurts. This burning in the lower left portion of my back – this radiating pain that brings me to my knees if I bend over too far – makes it hurt to even breathe.


And, I feel I need to say that my tolerance for pain (at least I think) is pretty high (my tolerance for needles is a different story). When I complain – and especially when I go to the doctor – something is really wrong. I might be overprotective of Maizey, but when it comes to me I usually let things slide.


So, when I left work yesterday to visit urgent care, I was in tears from the pain. The facility looked nice, which put me somewhat at ease. No blood stains. Nobody screaming. However, it quickly deteriorated to something akin to my experience in the Hungarian bathhouse…


Three dark-haired, top-heavy nurses behind the counter spoke in clusters of nouns, rolling their Rs. “Paperrrrrwork,” as one pushed the clipboard at me. “Sit,” as another pointed to the chair. “Crrrrredit carrrrrrrd,” as the third held her hand out, wanting to make sure I’d pony up the money before anyone would see me. She did the nurse stuff: weight, temp, and BP.


A doctor entered – a young, skinny doctor who must also work as the facility’s English translator…you know, to translate what the nurses & docs say into English for the patients. His badge said Dr. Picklefield. Yes, Picklefield.


“First thing’s first. We need to talk about your weight. You’re extremely underweight.”


I was confused, and told him that I was actually right in the middle of my weight range for my height (5’7”). I was also wondering why the doc was obviously unfamiliar with weight ranges…


“No, you’re very, very underweight.”


I finally asked, “What does my chart say I weigh?”


“112. Which is very thin for your height.”


I laughed. First, that he looked at me & actually thought I weighed 112. Second, because the scale must’ve been too difficult for the incompetent nurse to work. “I weigh 130.”


That confusion behind us, we moved along to my purpose for the visit. I detailed the pain – how it happened, when it hurt most, etc. He gently touched my back, listened to my lungs, listened to my heart…


At this point, a middle-aged, greasy, eastern-European man entered the room wearing what looked to be a safari outfit accessorized with a yin-yang necklace. He pounded on my back. BEAT me, actually, asking, “Das dat hurrrrrt?”


I think my reply was something along the lines of, “Fuck yes, it hurts! Because you’re hitting me!”


And then, in the best Dr. Nick (from The Simpsons) impression, he says, “Tis kidney stones. Ve’ll need to do an X-rrrrray and ultrrrrrasound of yourrrr back.”


“How much will that cost?”


“Vell dee X-rrrrray is trrrrree-hundred dollahs.”


I stopped him there, not even wanting to know how much the ultrasound would be. I reiterated that I felt my back snap when I sneezed. It was a very specific catalyst.


He countered with, “Yah, vell I got my farrrrst kidney stones vhen I vas doing a push-up.” He even puffed out his chest a little. I thought he might actually beat on it & do a little Tarzan yell. Or hike his leg & mark the corner of the table.


And then, I said something that probably solidified their hypothesis that I was a doctor-hopping drug addict. “Can’t you just give me something to relax the muscles so I can at least move? Or sit?”


“No. Vitout an X-rrrray, tat vould be unetical.”


Any other day, I’d praise doctors for being leery of passing out pills like candy. The last time TJ had an earache, the doc gave him an entire bottle of painkillers…quite unnecessary. But, on this day, I couldn’t help but think…unethical are the people who have ruined this for the rest of us & caused doctors to be overly-skeptical of honest people truly in need of help. Unethical are the doctors who irresponsibly write the scrips for these equally unethical people.


So, after a urinalysis to disprove the kidney stones hypothesis, (and another odd encounter with the nurse who couldn’t read the scale) my burning back & I waddled back out to my car, teary-eyed, with instructions to take some Motrin, use some IcyHot, and rest. And a credit card receipt for $165.


Thank God for ethics, huh?

In Friday’s post, I mentioned our adventure in printing our pictures for our apartment. What began as a simple task quickly evolved into a much, much more involved process. There are different kinds of paper, different kinds of printers, different kinds of processes…oh, boy. We did our research, made our decisions, and in the end we were very happy with the results! The photos have warmed up our apartment tremendously. What’s even better is that we’re always reminded of the memories surrounding each picture.

Oh, and I should mention, we whittled these 11 pictures down from our database of over 10,000 pictures. It took awhile, but sipping on margaritas while doing it made it even more fun.

Kitchen: This photo hangs above our stove. It was taken outside a lodge in the Swiss Alps during one of our day-long hikes. We did, indeed, have a picnic (or pick nick) there of dried sausage & cheese (both made in Gimmelwald) and dried fruit. The manager of the lodge had just arrived to begin preparing for the fall season – which included helicopter deliveries of supplies & food.


Kitchen: Well, you didn’t expect us to not print a picture of our princess, did you?? This was taken on one of our many Sunday visits to my grandparents’ farm in Circleville. Maizey loved it there. So did we.


Bathroom: We wanted to have some fun with the bathroom pics. This is a picture of the original outhouse on my grandparents’ farm in Circleville. My Grandpa actually used it as a boy.


Bathroom: We took this picture in Baden-Baden, Germany. We were frantically searching for a bathroom (a drawback to backpacking is that you’re always on the lookout for a public bathroom), and we came across this sign…with a key hanging on it. We immediately asked each other two questions:

1. Is 150 meters far??
2. Are we supposed to take the key with us??


Living Room: We wanted our pictures to tell a story. Not a look-at-that-sunset kind of obvious story. No, we don’t like being obvious, do we? Instead, we wanted the pictures to kind-of start the story right in the middle. This picture was taken inside Walter Mittler’s Hotel Mittaghorn in Gimmelwald, Switzerland. TJ & I were in the loft (right) with 13 beds all to ourselves. Each day, the guests were to mark on the board if they would be joining Walter for dinner that night. His food was amazing.


Living Room: This was also taken in the Swiss Alps on one of our hikes. I can’t remember if this was the nortoriously “bad hike day” when it rained & the horse tried to bite me or not.


Living Room: Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. This was taken from the tower of the castle. Cesky was one of our favorite cities in all of Europe – and where we celebrated TJ’s birthday.


Living Room: Aaaannnnd…the granddaddy of them all. I say that because it was our largest print, and it hangs above our couch. And, I have to brag…I took it! While TJ was the mastermind behind the lens for the other pictures, this was my baby. It was taken in Utah on our way to CA.


Dining Room: This picture was taken in Budapest, Hungary, whose subway system was an absolute nightmare. TJ & I were frantically trying to get somewhere before our ride ticket expired (remember, we’d already incurred a hefty fine on the bus for trying to freeload). We popped up at a soccer game surrounded by a Hungarian SWAT team. When we asked them where we were on our map, the officer grinned, and pointed to the air approximately 8 inches OFF the map. Nice.


Dining Room: Another farm picture, taken from the old Ohio Canal, looking back toward the farm. You can see the silo where the beanfield splits. Beautiful.


Bedroom: A budget motel in Utah – one of the many budget motels we stayed in on our trip to CA. TJ took this right before a storm hit. And don’t be fooled by the advertisement for the pool…unless you count septic tanks as pools.