Wednesday, February 28, 2007

picture worth a thousand words

If another person asks me whether not I'm happy with my new job, I should punctuate my resounding "YES!" with this image:

A co-worker at DIIA, Amy Miller (enthusiastic shutter bug hiding as a senior systems analyst) snapped the photo of me, which to be very honest is very me. I recalled one of my teammates from my old job back when things were starting to go sour mentioning that he knew something was wrong when I lost my spark, silliness and enthusiasm he was used to seeing. In retrospect, I realize how right he was. I definitely feel more at home here. And oddly, despite the fun-loving carefree atmosphere, I get double the work done. Imagine that!

I love how this is an action shot. I'm leaning back to prevent the runny nose from running even more...Seriously though, I love my desk. The entire unit (not just the keyboard section) raises up and down to adjust to height. The keyboard panel tilts and raises up and down. I have *two* monitor and tons of writing space to the left and right. Lots of storage space, etc. etc.

You can see all my trinkets of affection and photos behind me: the beautiful hand stitched bluebonnet piece Sandy made for me, a drawing from an old co-worker, images of baby Juliet in all stages of growth, photos of my former students, my husband holding 2 kittens, my framed photo of Voltaire and I, posing with the Machine in the Garden, Daniel Link, the top half of the doctored image of Trent and Sarah getting "married" which ground some discussion boards to a halt with incendiary comments...I also love how you can see Alessandro Cortini from the NIN Amherst, MA show in perfect view on one of my monitors. With an odd sense of pride, I should point out that I don't have that pic of Jay and I anywhere in view even though that spot right below Summer and Roger of the Machine and the Garden seems all too perfect. However, if I give in, I can't tease Jay about having his copy of the pic on display at his work station any more. *snark*

I'm eating chocolate macaroons again. God, those are good especially since I'm not really sick anymore and can taste the chocolate. Mine are all melted though. I was gonna drop off a couple for Sandy, but they look like poo. They taste fine, but I need to figure out a way to make sure the chocolate doesn't smear all over the place.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Munchie Mondays: Cindy's Rhubarb Apple Crisp Pie

As an aside, let's pretend that I am holding a beautiful bunch of rhubarb. The stems certainly look like rhubarb, but after I cut off the leaves, I discovered that what I actually had was variety of chard called not coincidentally rhubarb chard. Some times it's called spinach rhubarb. I even ate the beautiful red-veined leaves and didn't die, so it's verified. Am I a nice cook or what? The point is, I didn't actually cook with rhubarb when I took these pics.

How did this happen?

My friend Cassandra passed on to me some of the most beautiful farm grown vegetables this weekend which she obtained from another friend. The funny thing was that she didn't really know what some of the items were except that they taste good and obviously I too get my vegetables mixed up every now and then but I do know a beet from a turnip, damnit...anyhow, this recipe is for that tangy sour vegetable known as rhubarb, but I can say the one I made with the funky hybrid chard spinach beet-leaf looking stuff came out really good too (albeit mellower in flavor), so feel free to experiment!

Onto the recipe...

What we have here is a crunchy, creamy, sweet and tart warm confection perfect as a dessert or special breakfast. If you want to cut down on fat (God forbid) simply skip the pie crust and lightly oil the pie pan.

Cindy's Rhubarb Apple Crisp Pie (feeds about 8)

1 prepared pie crust in pan edges fluted
1 cup of cubed rhubarb (or rhubarb chard petioles in this case)
2 cups of peeled and cubed baking apples
1/4 cup of Bisquick
1/4 cup of wheat flour
1/2 cup of rolled oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar (adjust for taste)
1/3 cup of butter
3/4 tbs of cinnamon
3/4 tsp of nutmeg
heavy cream for serving

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

I used Jazz apples for this recipe. Pink Lady and fuji apples work well too. Gently mix the cubed apples and rhubarb in a large bowl. Since I'm a cinnamon and nutmeg nut, I added a couple more pinches at this stage, but it isn't necessary.

I also sprinkle some to the bottom of the pie crust. Again, I do this out of habit and it isn't crucial to the recipe.

Arrange apple rhubarb mixture evenly in the bottom of the pie crust. In another bowl, cut butter into flours, oats, brown sugar and spices using the side of a spoon or 2 opposing knives in a crossing motion. When the crumbs are small (about the size of a lentil) dump on top of apple mixture. Tap the pan to force some of the crumb topping into the fruit filling. Stick into preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.

When done, let it cool slightly (5 minutes or so) so the fruit can set up. Serve a slice in a bowl with lots of heavy cream on top.

I already ate half a pie's worth! It's that good.

I suspect that chopped pecans in the crumb mixture might be darn good as well. Feel free to play around with pie fillings such as parsnips, blueberries, peaches, apricots, etc.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

CTRL: Loaded Weapons and Darkened Days

If you're into the likes of Orbital, Alpha Conspiracy and Front Line Assembly and don't already know about CTRL, shame on you (*wags finger*). Any admirer of 80's synth pop, digital or industrial gothic should also be a fan.

This Austin based band has a very devoted and solid following that has steadily grown since the early 90's. For me, CTRL serves as the quintessential soundtrack to my early college years as it takes me back to my "eyeliner, corset and boots" years. This was back when dressing to the nines to go clubbing was a regular occurrence. The tunes are catchy and very dance-able. Definitely the type of music you'd want to play LOUD.

Be sure to read the detailed biography on their myspace which gives incredible insight on the evolution, recording process and artistic vision of the band.

Listen to:
"Grand Experiment"
"Going Going Going" (promo track from earlier album Lose the Image)

CTRL's Official Website
CTRL's Official MySpace
Purchase Loaded Weapons and Darkened Days (and other CTRL Cds) from Metropolis

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

pictures... where are you?

What happened to my photos?????

Is blogger having peak usage problems or something?

This isn't just a Flickr issue either. Only pics from MySpace seem to be holding up. The recipe images from photobucket are gone too. WHaaa! My blog isn't as interesting unless I have pictures, damnit. :(

Speaking of myspace, I joined the "dark side." Blame Sammi (I can just hear her cackle). You can check it out here:

Still sick.
I think I managed to catch a cold on top of whatever I had after attending the Educause SW conference. More on that later...


Friday, February 23, 2007

Killing Joke: Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell

Killing Joke has been around for almost 30 years. They were one of the first bands to mix hard rock with synthesizers and drum machines, and they're one of those bands that ages well. Their latest album, released last year, is called "Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell" because it was recorded in a basement-like enviroment. The production is very rough, and this was intensional. They didn't want to go for a "produced" type of sound. The songs are loud, distorted, and LONG! The average song length on this album works out to be approximately 6.89 minutes. This helps to explain why there's only 9 tracks. Like most Killing Joke I've heard, the songs on this album seem to be about the end of the world - while also managing to be about the current state of the world (which makes them that much more creepy and interesting). I'm actually a newbie when it comes to Killing Joke, but after hearing the song "Invocation" I immediately went out and bought several of their albums off of amazon. Now I can say that Killing Joke is one of my favourite bands. They have influenced a lot of other bands I like, such as Ministry, Nirvana, and Nine Inch Nails. Like most modern bands, there is a pretty extensive Wikipedia article devoted to their history. Check it out. They have a pretty interesting history, actually. They seriously thought that "the Apocalypse" would come in 1982. Well... maybe they were only off by a few decades. My money is on 2012, 2022, or 2060.

Listen to:

Killing Joke's Official Website
Killing Joke's obligatory myspace page
Buy Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell from Amazon

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Not performing this season

Ugh. I'm sick. Really REALLY sick.
I got over the cough thing after the weekend and now I have a drippy nose and congestion. I think God that the darling husband hasn't come down with anything. *knocks on wood*

The timing sucks of course (then again, when is it a good time to get sick?)
Mom's got the flu. Dad's recovering from a biopsy and mentally preparing himself for the upcoming chemotherapy.

Anyhow, I wrote madame director a long note about how I had to break contract and not be able to perform due to family issues and being sick. I already missed rehearsals from being so ill. 2 is the maximum you can miss before being cut, so I figured all as well for me to quit anyway. Baby fairies are a dime a dozen and I'm roughly the size of a 12 year old---they can find a sprightly replacement lickety-split. I don't think she's pleased as I hadn't gotten a reply. But, what does one do? Being in Sleeping Beauty just means so little to me now.

When I get better I plan on going back home regardless of what my mom says (she keeps telling me to stay out of her hair). They both need someone to take care of them at least a little, damnit! I figured I'd clean the house, cook some good meals, make sure bills are paid, and just try to be a pleasant presence etc. etc. I have 8 freaking weeks of vacation. I might as well use it.

Course, I won't let me dropping out of ballet deny you of a chance to see me in a tutu! It ain't pink and it doesn't have wings, but it sure is cute nonetheless. So, here we go:

As you can see it's a little smooshed on top, but you get the picture. Once the weather clears up, I'll take photos outside so you can see that it really is indeed shaped like a pancake sitting on one's hips. AND, I can barely make it though the door frame.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A post perhaps befitting my infancy on the Stash Team...

I thought Kidz Bop was the most mind-bending thing I could hear done to music. I remember distinctly sitting on a friend's couch and just ... not ... breathing for a couple seconds when I learned there was a Kidz Bop with *Outkast* on it. Because your six year old needs to learn early to 'shake it like a Polaroid picture', doncha know. How do you even BEGIN to make that kid friendly? I haven't listened to any of it all the way through, so I certainly couldn't tell you.

Imagine my surprise when I'm minding my own business, loitering in my favorite IRC channel full of geeks and nerds, and someone links Baby Rock Records ... yes, that's right, lullaby gumdrop versions of your favorite songs from the likes of Metallica, Tool, Nine Inch Nails and many more. The Beatles ... I grew up with the actual Beatles as actual lullaby fodder. No seriously, I fell asleep more times than I can count to the sounds of The White Album alone. Granted I was a teenager, but still. Mother Nature's Son is really very peaceful. I guess Revolution, maybe not so much.

I just think it feels like cheating somehow, though. I don't have children, so perhaps that's why I don't understand. I do however know people who have children, people who listen to the bands Baby Rock lullabizes (ooh, new word!), and every one of them I can think of would just play the real thing for their kids, at least, as far I know. I immediately decided the very existence of these CDs was a tragedy, a horror visited upon our youth, a thing to fear and shy away from, like sunlight, or perhaps hygiene.

But then I listened to the clips, and then to a couple more - there's something really kind of captivatingly creepy about Smells Like Teen Spirit played on a glockenspiel, wordless, just this sort of plinking, cheery chiming. Maybe Kurt could have kept going if he'd had his own melodies played back to him so sweetly. Or maybe he's turning in his grave now, who can say. I do wonder what sort of dreams the gentle sounds of Sunday Bloody Sunday will inspire. And will baby have the strangest sense of deja vu when he or she hears Something I Can Never Have on the oldies station of the future? It's the sort of thing that leads to far too much existential thinking for a Tuesday afternoon. Is it as simple as making anything warm and fuzzy by using the right instruments? I'm vaguely reminded of the old game of cussing out your dog in the sweetest voice imaginable and having him roll over and slather for you, but scaring him under the table by saying "Good dog, best dog!" in a horrible, aggressive tone. I won't even go into the irony of Mother being made into a lullaby. I just won't.

I'm disturbed, but intrigued. I mean, someone took the time and care to craft these songs into lullabies. Someone, one would imagine, who did so out of shrewd business sense, not out of a drunken or otherwise inebriated state such as the average joe might invent this kind of thing. I wouldn't have believed it was real if I hadn't heard it myself. And it clearly has a market! More than 3500 friends on MySpace, and hundreds of supportive comments. According to their MySpace blog, they made it into the Grammy Gift Bags. They even have a special Hot Topic edition if you're a Various Artists sort of person. Heck, even as I sit here now, making jokes, I find myself strangely attracted... I wouldn't buy them for a child, but you know, I'd buy them for that especially hard-to-shop-for person, as that perfect gift for the fan who has everything else. And if I got one from someone? I could see myself listening to it, at least now and then. If for nothing else than that sort of serene yet surreal feeling I keep getting right now as I find myself compelled to click every single active mp3 link on the page... so ... mellow ... so ... happy ... *snorksniffle* wha? I'm awake! I'm awake!

Is it a travesty of musical justice? I don't think so, unless of course this is ALL you allow your children to listen to. I'm honestly rather curious what the bands whose music is on these albums think of all this. To decide what YOU think of it all, I really do encourage you to go listen to their selections on MySpace. It's trippy. It's weird, which coming from me says a LOT. And you might well be horrified - I know I was at first. But let the soothing sounds of the vibrophone and the glockenspiel wash over you, and maybe you'll find yourself giggling with guilty pleasure like I have been the better part of the afternoon.

Don't worry. Trent and Robert Smith and the rest will still be there in your CD collection should you need to rinse your brain out when you're done. And no one will revoke your Heavy Metal Points for getting a kick out of it. Unless, of course, you actually admit you liked it. Then all bets are off.

Sunday Bloody Sunday clip
Something I Can Never Have clip
Smells Like Teen Spirit clip
Mother clip

Baby Rock Records on MySpace
Baby Rock Records homepage

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Please welcome Sammi to the Adzuki Bean Stash

Gentle readers, please give the newest team member of Adzuki Bean Stash, Sammi a warm welcome.

She'll be providing her eloquent insight, heartfelt ramblings and witty humor to this blog from time to time. Her background is in theater and English, so it's nice to have someone who can actually write on here!

Cheers to entertaining posts in the future. :)

On a different note, Adzuki Bean Stash Podcast episode #10, "J is for John, Johnny and Jonathan" will be coming soon (once I get over this awful bout of bronchitis). JBro, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and John Pointer will be on there, so you don't want to miss this one!

Till then, check out the newest Contrast Podcast theme, "Alternate Versions" provided by Bob from Gimme Tinnitus. Don't forget, you TOO can contribute to Tim Young's show just by sending him and intro and mp3 file. More info here.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Munchie Mondays: Chocolate Covered Coconut Macaroons

If I were a guy, I'd ask Molly from Orangette to marry me. I LOVE her recipes and I love her writing. These cookies are from her food blog and they very well are the best damn cookies in the world.

Case in point: I'm sick as a dog right now. My nose is running, my head hurts and I'm coughing up things that just shouldn't exist in nature. Sammi being the generous soul that she is, baked me up a batch of these as a "get well" present. They were so good, I crawled out of bed to make own batch after I finished hers. She used bittersweet chocolate and I used semi-sweet for mine. Although you can use either, I think bittersweet tastes much more sophisticated. It offsets the sweetness of the coconut quite well.

I added maraschino cherries atop my cookies because I feel guilty copying recipes word for word. They look like titties as my husband decided to inform me...I suppose they do. Anyhow, don't feel the need to add those if you so desire.

Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons (with a cherry on top)
Adapted from this recipe.Thank you Orangette!

3 cups (lightly packed) sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (about 5 or 6 large)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
10 maraschino cherries patted dry

Place the first three ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan, and stir to combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is pasty but not dry. (The uncooked mixture will look sort of granular at first, then creamy as it heats, and then it will slowly get drier and drier. You want to stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but is still quite gluey and sticky, not dry.) Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and almond extracts. Spread out the coconut mixture on a large baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

reheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. Using a 1/4-cup measuring scoop, scoop and pack the coconut mixture into domes, and place them on the baking sheet. I ended up with about 10 cookies. The original recipe ended up with a dozen. Bake the macaroons until golden, about 30 minutes. They'll look like this:

Transfer to a rack and cool. Meanwhile prepare the ganache. Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl and microwave for 20 seconds allowing the morsels to soften. Heat cream over medium heat until steaming hot and simmering, but not boiling. Remove from heat and pour into bowl of chocolate and whisk fiercely until all the chocolate melts and you get a thick batter-like sauce.

Place cookie rack over a ridged cookie pan and drizzle chocolate over the tops of the macaroons allowing most of the cookie to be covered. Yummy! i managed to use all of my sauce, but if you have leftovers, you can store them in tuppaware in the fridge or freeze. The sauce makes great fondue dip.

Let the cookies set up in the fridge for about 2 hours or so. If desired, top with maraschino cherries after an 1 of setting up. I think toasted almond flakes would be yummy too...maybe sprinkles? I dunno. Anyway, store in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper in the refrigerator or freeze. They actually taste really yummy frozen!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

I was too sick to go. :(
In fact, I seem to be coughing up phlegm at a rate of one hack per 3 words.

However, this doesn't stop me from gloating about how glamorously beautiful my friends are and what a magnificent party host Troy is. It's funny, I keep "seeing" Wylie in these photos. Bobby, who is an awesome photographer, took these images:

You can view the whole album here.

They sure do pack a lot of heat, eh?

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Nine Inch Nails- "My Violent Heart"

(photography by Manuel Lino)

Year Zero is the title of Nine Inch Nail's next studio album (Halo 24) and "My Violent Heart" is now making the rounds on the internet...that is to say, it got leaked on Valentine's day. You can read the play-by-play elation and excitement, lyrics, interpretations, fan remixes, legal hassels and other inane commentary over at Echoing the Sound (best mother fucking fan board. period.) in this thread. With the massive fan base, viral marketing campaigns work incredibly well for the Reznor clan. For instance, clues were printed on concert T-shirt leading fans to discover yet another song off of Year Zero. It's like They Might Be Giant's dial-a-song, but infinitely more cryptic and exciting.

What do I think of the track?

There is definitely something to be said about a musician who can sound current and yet maintain his style. "My Violent Heart" is groovy, sexy and in some parts, brutal. I have to admit was a little wary when I first listened to the track. The jungle beats and opening vocal section sounded a shade too close to some of William Shatner's attempts at music...images of Trent in a tiger-striped smoking jacket sipping Jack Daniels began to trickle through my mind (I've been in a rotten mood lately...) and then suddenly, the music break right after the words "on hands and knees" slammed me across the head and knocked the fluffy imagery out completely.

Complex, jarring and yet beautiful in ways only Trent Reznor can achieve, "My Violent Heart" displays brilliant composition and sound engineering in classic NIN form. The instrumental sections are definitely my favorite parts... and lyrics aren't too bad either.

If this track is any indication of what the rest of Year Zero brings, I think we've got another fantastic Nine Inch Nails album coming soon. These guys are currently touring in Europe, so catch a show if you can. Year Zero is due out on April 17th and the live DVD Beside You in Time will be released on Feb. 27th.

Listen to:
"My Violent Heart"

Nine Inch Nail's Official Website
NIN's Incredibly Good Wikipedia Article
Year Zero Mini Site
The NIN Hotline

(photography by Manuel Lino)

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fuck you, US Postal Service!

If I pay for Priority Shipping, I want my parcel to get there at least on time, if not early! Arrrrgh. I'm so angry. At the very least you guys could have delivered my dad's birthday gift on time. It may very well be the last birthday gift he'll ever get if he doesn't pull through. I'm about ready to tear my hair out here.

Oh, the universe is so cruel today!

My mom has the flu. She's the one taking care of my dad right now and she's fucking sick. She downed a packet of Theraflu this morning and drove through Houston rush hour traffic to get my dad back to MD Anderson to hear whatever news the doctors had for him.

They learned that the cancer has spread to his lungs. The primary tumor in his liver is too large to operate on, so he'll be undergoing chemotherapy in a couple of weeks. He has to go in next Wednesday for a biopsy to determine what stage the cancer is at. Tomorrow is some sort of pre-procedure...I sort of lost the details. Mom didn't feel like talking as she feels shitty and all. She's overwhelmed, and of course sick, so I imagine she wanted some peace and quiet today.

At least dad will get new music I thought to myself, but no, not even that could go right! He should have gotten it on Wednesday. Hearing that he didn't get his CDs I sent him just made me cry. What a crappy way to celebrate one's birthday.

I'm sick too. I can barely breathe. My nose won't stop running. My head's all stopped up. I'm nauseated and my back hurts. I think this goes beyond Cedar Fever. I wish I were well so I could go home and take care of mom and dad. I'm angry. Frustrated. Exhausted and I'm not even there.

Fucking post office. I'd be in better shape if that one stinking package could have made it there on time.

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especially rambly today

I bit my lip yesterday and now it's all swollen up. It could be sexy if it's symmetrical, but it just hurts. The crazier thing was I noshed down on my upper lip. How the hell did that happen? I was wolfing down a large plate of fennel salad all by my little old self in front of the TV. After getting off the phone with mom and hearing the sad tale of how she only had 2 pieces of toast to eat while waiting in the hospital for 7 hours for my dad's barrage of examinations, I was feeling major hunger pains myself. After all, I had a hard time eating myself knowing my parents were at the hospital.

I'm not sure why fennel salad is comfort food for me, but it happens to be. The combination of lime juice, sliced mushrooms and shaved parmesan always calms my nerves. I need to thank Orangette for that recipe....

Yesterday of course was Valentine's day. My husband and I pretty much don't celebrate so normally, it isn't a big deal, but I must say yesterday just took the cake in terms of awful Valentine's. Heck, I was feeling so grumpy that I was posting these images everywhere I existed in cyber space:

Yeah, anyway...that's how I felt yesterday.

I had acquired 2 free speakers from work only to discover that the AC adapter was broken. I'm sure the rattling sound was a clue, but I was so intent on using my free gift I went ahead and contorted myself all behind, around, in and under the computer credenza to get things all hooked up. Oy, was I annoyed. Darling husband, being the darling that he is, went out and got me new speakers. So, that was my Valentine's day gift.

I then ate a bowl of chili to wash down the depression. That was okay, but my lip had already started swelling so chewing was difficult.

My lungs hurt today. I'm sure I caught a cold since everyone seems to be sick. However, there's also bad Cedar Fever going on as well.

Today is my dad's birthday. He's in the hospital and I'm sure feeling just as grumpy as me. Telling him "Happy Birthday" just seems absurd, so I'm going resort to telling him "Many good wishes for you birthday instead." I'm still pondering over the whole desire to be dumped into the backyard garden if he has to be cremated. If I get cremated, I wanna be made into a diamond. Seriously, that would be so appropriate for me. It would be a great conversation piece:

I'm wearing grandma on my finger
whaddaya mean?
Seriously! I'm literally wearing her. Her carbon molecules have been mushed into a diamond!


Man, I really cannot concentrate today. I feel awful.

Sammi wants me to join myspace. She even sent me an invite and I'm debating. It seems like that's what people are using the most to network with one another and its good for keeping in touch with other bands, but at the same time, I like not being that easy to find.

One of my tutus arrived a couple of days ago. This one is black and pancake styled. Tutus are so ridiculous. It's impossible to not look cute in one.

Trent decided to cater to his overly analytical NINers and release a secret code in his most recent tour t-shirts. Can you figure it out? I have to say, it's brilliant and creative marketing. Here's the discussion thread that deciphered it. This is like They Might Be Giant's dial a song, but infinitely better.

My husband and I were bored and took an online body fat test. He's 8%. I'm 15%. I doubt it's accurate, but if you're also bored this is something you can do that kills about 5-10 minutes.

Ugh, I think I need to go home early today...I feel like crap!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Freaking Valentine's Day

(photo by Sebarave)

Ahhh Valentine's Day---the fluffy holiday geared towards oooey gooey conspicuous spending and human consumption. Too many memories of wilty carnations, Sadie Hawkins dances and chalky candied hearts.

I ain't bitter. I happened to be married and my husband is just as meh about Valentine's day. Ever try to get dinner reservations on Feb. 14th? It's a nightmare!

Anyhow, I digress. I've been so busy lately (and so has Shawn, who is supposed to be the newest member of the Adzuki Bean Stash Clan once he takes the time to accept the invitation) that I haven't been posting as frequently. To make up for it, here are my Valentine's gifts to you all, gentle listeners. First though, I need to give a big shout out to the Looking at Them blog for introducing me to the phenomenal Puppini Sisters, a new favorite band of mine.

Listen to:

The Puppini Sisters-"Heart of Glass"
Heartless Bastards- "Into the Open"

By the way, don't forget to traipse on over to Tim Young's Contrast Podcast and give him and the artists who contributed to the latest episode some loving. I'm tooting my own horn here, but I ain't abashed. There's some CindyAdzuki and JBro on that show!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Munchie Mondays: Roasted Nightshade Veggies Over Couscous

Nightshade Isn't that just the coolest sounding name? I mean, it's so Gawwwwth. I can imagine a dark 18 year picking that as his or her avatar or something...The Nightshade family contains such veggies (eh, *fruits* cough...) as tomatoes, eggplants and bell peppers. This recipe contains all of them! What makes this dish a treat is the incorporation of fresh mozarella balls and roasted garlic. Furthermore, serving the roasted veggies a top couscous with sliced almonds makes this mouth-feel heaven.

Roasted Nightshade Veggies (serves 8 or more)

2 full heads of garlic
1 small onion roughly diced
1 small bell pepper sliced into 1 inch strips
1 medium eggplant diced into 1 inch blocks
20-25 cherry tomatoes pricked with a knife
1/4 cup of coarsely chopped basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 8oz tub of fresh mozarella balls drained
4 tbs of olive oil
2 tbs of red wine vinegar
salt, pepper and additional olive oil to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut top 1/3 inch of galic heads and place onto small greased baking pan. Drizzle the top with a little bit of olive oil and salt. Place into top rack of oven and allow to roast while assembling the other vegetables. The amount of time varies to taste. Around 20-30 minutes should do, but sometimes I need to bake them along side the other veggies for a while to get them to golden brown bubbly state. When they're done, allow them to cool at room temperature. You'll be squeezing the mushy roasted garlic innards into the roasted veggies after they're done.

In a large baking dish (I used a 9 x 13) mix olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, basil, salt and pepper in the bottom of pan. Once again, this isn't an exact science, so don't get too upset about perfect measurements. Just don't overdo the vinegar. Too much olive oil is never a bad thing.

It's important to prick your tomatoes. Otherwise they'll explode and cause an awful mess in your oven. Grape tomatoes are fine to use as well. Again, just make sure they've been pricked with a knife or form prior to baking.

Add the rest of the vegetables to the pan and toss gently making sure that they're coated with the olive oil mixture. Place into the oven's middle rack and bake for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through and tender. You can easily add other veggies such as zucchini and mushroom. Just be sure to cut everything roughly the same size to ensure even cooking.

When the roasted veggies allow to cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile prepare the couscous. When cooled, squeeze roasted garlic pods into mixture (discard the skins), add the mozzarella balls and toss dish gently.

Cindy Styled Couscous (actually, if it really were "Cindy Styled," there would be an additional quarter stick of butter...not that I'm stopping anyone)

4 cups of chicken broth
2 cup of couscous
1/2 cup of sliced almonds
olive oil to taste

Bring the chicken broth to a rolling boil. Add the couscous and almonds and reduce heat. Cook for an additional minute and then turn off heat. Cover tightly and let steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add olive oil to taste.

Serve the vegetables atop the couscous and you've got a complete meal! If you'd like, drizzle even more olive oil on top, add freshly squeezed lime or balsamic vinegar. I like to dress mine up with more sliced almonds.
What's even better is that you can eat this dish cold. It also goes great with pasta or with lettuce as a salad.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

the highs and lows of a convoluted emotion ridden weekend

I don't even know how to begin this most-likely-to-be long post. I hesitated even bothering, but at the same I think it'll be therapeutic.

I think my dear friend Wendy said it best when I wrote about the icky news in my Live Journal yesterday.

Your LJ is all about real life today. The giddiness of happy silly appreciation for fine men and music and wit, then the reality and pain of mortality and family and fears and sadness.

Let's start with the bad and far more important news...

I discovered Friday that my dad has liver cancer. Now, he had feeling been sick for a while. It all began right after coming back from an extended trip to rural China.

He had abdomen pain that would come and go. He started getting diarrhea and then he had issues with losing his apatite. He started losing weight. Being a well traveled man, the doctors decided it was parasitic infection from eating the foreign cuisine.

Then they discovered he had gall stones. That seemed bad enough at the time, but certainly not life-threatening. In fact the doctor even mentioned there was no real urgent need to remove them. A change in diet should fix things, yada yada... However, after tending to those issues he didn't get better. He merely got worse. His abdomen became distended. He constantly felt weak. I really didn't hear the details of all this until a couple of days mom has known for weeks and to hear the big "C" word really floored me.

He's headed off to MD Anderson Cancer Center on Wednesday for further testing and evaluation, a day before his 59th birthday. Essentially none of us really know what the prognosis is until he's done with testing at the center. He'll be going in for a biopsy and MRI to cross check the blood tests, make sure the cancer hasn't spread and to see if it is removable. There is concern that they won't be able to take out the tumor due to cirrhosis, but it isn't a definite.

I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He asked for Christian Hymn CDs and soothing classical music. I found a nice classical guitar hymn CD by an Austin area musician (Tim Brace) and ripped some John Rutter, Laurisden, Chichester Psalms and other classical sacred pieces onto another CD. It was therapeutic typing out the lyrics and translations. I'm glad he has his religion and I think the fact that my dad isn't afraid of dying puts me at ease.

In some ways from his heartfelt letters and phone conversations with my brother and I, I get the sense that he's not going to fight tooth and nail to live if he has to. Funeral requests, wills, instructions on taking care of Mom, what to do with assets and property roll off his tongue as if we were simply talking about the weather. There's even an air of jocularity when he speaks. For instance, I had asked them about funeral arrangements (if that ends up being the case.) My dad said he wanted to be cremated. I offered to spread the ashes in Galveston since he loved fishing....

"No, I don't want the fishies to eat me!" He exclaimed. "Stick me in the backyard and plant something on top."

We all had a good laugh which was much needed, morbid as it is.

Emotionally, except for the obvious sadness, I'm not sure where to stand. I won't worry until I hear about the results from MD Anderson. I guess guarded hope is the best way to describe how I feel at the moment. I'm calm too, but admittedly a little detached. Perhaps when I see my dad in person, this'll all change. At the moment, both my parents want space and I've been sternly instructed to stay put until my assistance is necessary.

I did find this cute photo of my parents from this past Thanksgiving. If you know my dad and his quintessential engineer personality (as if you can't tell from the tucked in shirt and socks) this image is quite a shocker. Two of them were dancing around in the living room which just never happens:


So, what made the news so jarring to hear?

I'm sure many reading this will think it is just in utterly bad taste to talk about this in the same post, but I think Wendy's sentiment earlier about my own juxtapositions punches the point: Life can be such an emotional roller coaster.

A mere 12 hours earlier I was getting a sweet dainty kiss from an eloquent and well groomed faculty member from the New York School of Visual Arts...I guess it's hotter if I mention that said faculty member happens to be the musician Voltaire and that it was right on the mouth, slightly more than a peck and enough to send me swooning. Sammi got one too and we wallowed in our girly giddiness for hours. You can read all the details here if you so desire. I just want to remind you, gentle reader, that I'm 29. 29, people! Sammi's 30. We're old and yet, we're hotter than the 20 year old sorority chick groupie that was standing next to us...ramble ramble ramble.

Hence, I'm sure it is easy for one to imagine how I felt when I was just about to tell my mother about the lovely incident and getting the news about my dad before I could begin. Suddenly what seemed most interesting became incredibly insignificant.

I honestly believe things happen for a reason. It could very well be that the lovely night I experienced occurred in order to cushion the foreboding news I would receives later. Perhaps it was a message to remember all the little things in life that can make us happy? I don't really know, but I'm sure there's some sort of connection even if it won't make sense to anyone else.


I can say this whole weekend has reminded me to be thankful. I feel so fortunate that I have the type husband who screams "whoo hoo!" instead of "you did what?" when I tell him I got kissed by a rock star. I fall in love with said husband even more when he tells me "If you feel like you need to see your parents all of a sudden, even if it is in the middle of the night, just tell me. I'll take you." I'm lucky to have friends who are there during the happy times and the sad times and lend an ear whenever events necessitate such duty even if it means they have to endure another Cindy Rant. These are the kind of friends who understand how much of a difference a piece of carrot cake or celebratory Pho can make in a day. I truly love my friends afar who read this journal and my messages word-for-word and drop me a note even though I haven't seen some of them in person for years. I'm appreciative of my loved ones who openly pray and send thoughts of healing no matter what their religious (or lack-of religious) affiliation is.

So yeah, it's 1:30 in the morning and I'm feeling peaceful and calm, but admittedly a little emotionally drained.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Munchie Mondays: Cindy's Quiche

Sorry no picture this week. We ate the quiche already. :(
But, it was damn good. Friends who have had it before really like the addition of feta.
Once again, exact measurements on the veggies and cheese aren't necessary. That's the beauty of how I cook. The eggs however are important. You need at least 4.

Cindy's Quiche (makes 6 servings)

1 prepared pastry crust
5 eggs
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp of garlic salt

1 small onion diced
1 bag of baby spinach
1/3 cup of sun dried tomatoes chopped coarsely
1/2 cup of artichoke hearts drained and chopped coarsely
1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms
2 cups of grated swiss cheese
1/2 cup of crumbled feta

Heat oven to 400 degrees
Wilt baby spinach by placing in bowl, covering and heating in microwave for 1 minute.

Place pastry crust into 9inch pie plate, flute edges and set aside on top of a large cookie sheet to catch spillage.

In a large bowl whisk eggs with heavy cream, salt and pepper until light and fluffy. Layer vegetables with cheese inside pastry. I tend to put the artichoke hearts up near the top and then spread a layer of sun dried tomatoes for color purposes, but it really doesn't matter. Just be sure cheese and veggies are evenly distributed within pie pan. Pour egg mixture over filling.

Stick inside hot over. Let bake for 15 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and allow to bake for an additional 30-40 minutes until center is set. The quiche should dome up a tiny bit when done. That's how I usually tell.

Let cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing. This should make 4-6 servings. Goes great with fruit salad.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

John Tavener: Eternity's Sunrise

Sir John Tavener's album is worthy of being mentioned completely on its own, but the reason why I'm posting about it today is because I was quite delighted to discover not only that his piece "Eternity's Sunrise" was used extensively (and quite effectively, I might add) in the movie Children of Men but Tavener actually composed the entire film score (you bet your ass, I am buying that puppy asap).

Tavener is a 20th century English composer whose works are often influences by Orthodox theology. The concept of the album is quite interesting. It was recorded with the Academy of Ancient Music and utilizes old instruments with the modern works. Themes of death, loss, love, hope and eternity run throughout the album. The song, "Eternity's Sunrise" was composed shortly after his father's death and the passing of Princess Diana (to which the song was dedicated to). The words are taken from a William Blake poem of the same name. I should note the song is incredibly difficult to sing, requiring barely any use of vibrato and pure toned, sustained notes. Patricia Rosario does this to perfection as she sings:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
He who kisses the joy as it flies

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Lives in Eternity's Sunrise

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
He who kisses the joy as it flies

I found the incorporation of this song with the Children of Mem film score fascinating. In the movie, humanity is on the brink of extinction due to global infertility that has lasted 20 years, war and economic mishap. Without giving away too much, the movie centers around a main character Kee, who is miraculously pregnant. In the liner notes, Tavener mentions that the solo soprano represents Mother Earth, a symbol of fertility. This song is essentially Kee's theme.

Listen to:
"Eternity's Sunrise"(edit)

Sir John Tavener's Official Website
John Tavener's Wiki Entry
Children of Men Official Website
Buy Eternity's Sunrise from

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ballet is like marching band

Like my new photo? No bosom to speak of. Nor is there an ass, but it sure makes the lines cleaner, so I can't complain. I've got enough of a gut to make the die-hard dancer scream bloody hell. This, I am proud of.

Anyway, I am admittedly a little frustrated with the ballet director these days.

The kids in the group are getting pushed beyond their limits. She wants nothing but perfection and yet, this is a youth company. I suspect she forgets that the majority of the dancers are between 12 and 20. They've got homework, projects, after school AP labs...other extracurricular activities. They've got parents who hang out in the lobby, anxiously tapping their feet wondering why everyone is getting held over an hour.

At the moment she is frantically rearranging the "weaker" dancers out of the formations. Frankly, if the audition was handled correctly and folks were properly cast, this wouldn't have been much of an issue. However, that's my take. Whenever the dancers are in the studio, if anything goes wrong, it always seems to be the dancer's fault. She doesn't say it blatantly, but more in a condescending "hint" sort of way. For example, one of the gals has curly hair with bangs and often the front section falls out of her bun. This annoyed the director. Instead of telling her outright that her hair needs to be properly pinned in place she goes "You're just trying to draw attention to yourself aren't you?" or something to that effect. When her bangs were still unpinned in the next class, Madame's remark was "did you not get the memo about your hair?" So condescending and so unnecessary.

I don't think she notices the kids practicing in hallways trying to get a piece of movement right or the ones cutting lunch so that they have the time to memorize a section of music or review choreography on the DVD player. I'm not convinced she is appreciative of the parents who rearrange their schedules to bring their children to rehearsals and classes or the mothers who sit inside of the cramped storage closets fluffing tutus and beautifully piecing together new costumes from old components.

I'm one of the old farts, so it's easy for me to say "fuck it" if things get to be too much. However, I can still remember what it was like to be a kid and to blindly listen to authority. For many of the company members, they're so willing to please and impress that they're terrified of making her angry. They don't want to be cut out of a performance because they thoroughly believe the distinction of being a member of this group is worth its weight in gold...but let me tell ya: this little ballerinas don't weigh much!

This reminds me of marching band when I was a kiddo. I went to a prestigious school called Clements High in Sugar Land, TX and not only were the academic units top notch, the extra curricular groups were insanely competitive.

The band director ran his group of students like a military unit, forcing us to repeat drills and routines over and over again until they were perfect. I still recall hot August summers weeks before classes even started with us sweating like mad in the awful humidity. The teacher's parking lot served as the rehearsal grounds, so any heat that rained down on us also reflected back up into our faces. We'd be denied water breaks because someone was out of step, or a horn missed an F# or whatever the fuck. Sometime we'd have to set out instruments down and do push ups if the section leader deemed it necessary.

Some parents argue that these kids learned discipline, pride and the value of hard work. That's true to an extent, however, I think many of us learned more to be terrified of losing instead of striving to win. We were taught to be afraid of authority instead of respecting it. We internalized that mistakes were marks of a failure instead of areas of growth.

So, seeing all of this again, 12 years after graduating from high school is sort of a sore spot for me. I find myself telling these girls back stage "Who gives a shit what she says? You gave it your best shot and you're an amazing dancer... Now go eat a burger."

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Wear your jeweler close to your heart

...I'm only half way kidding here. Although, I should change that last word to "finger."

Huh? You ask.

Well, you see, my hubby and I decided to hallmark our upcoming 5 year wedding anniversary with an heirloom piece of jewelry. Those of you who know me know that I'm a GIA alum and you probably already heard (probably too many times) the nightmare of my original engagement ring. I won't go into massive detail, but basically my husband got ripped off big time and I wasn't there to keep it from happening because he insisted on picking the ring out himself. Don't get me wrong. It's a beautiful ring, but you can imagine the verbal brawl I got into with jewelery store owner and the trauma I put my husband through. I wasn't just pissed off at the ring, I was pissed of at yet another vendor taking advantage of an innocent consumer...

I'm long over that. 5 years is ample enough time to heal especially when you get an opportunity to start all over again with a jeweler gemologist as competent and knowledgeable as Cyrus F. Shennum. He was the one who helped my husband select a unique and eye-catching bi-colored sapphire for our 1st anniversary gift (darling hubby was sweating bullets when he presented this to me):

I wore that ring with pride for several years and then came the time when I fell in love with a diamond. I never thought that would happen since I'm a sapphire freak, but ah well, all that dispersion and twinkling won me over. I also liked her soft yellow color and her attractive price tag due to being a "tinted" diamond (colorless and near colorless diamonds command the highest prices). I named her "Lemondrop." Around that time, Cyrus had moved away, much to our dismay so she was purchased from a different vendor and set in a plain cathedral setting.

I felt like she needed something more majestic though. We looked all over the internet and around Austin for a new setting. I threw around a lot of design ideas, but wasn't ever satisfied with the jewelers I met with. It was about that time when we received a gorgeous postcard in the mail:

Cyrus was back!!!! Not only had he moved back to Austin, he now owned his own design studio space. I should note that the last time we saw him, we were at a different address, so he hunted down our new address on his own in order for us to receive the postcard. We decided right then and there to go visit our favorite jeweler and have him create my ring.

Visits with Cyrus are always welcoming, informative and just plain fun. He's laid back, never pushes items on you and is more than happy to answer any and all questions. I should note his space is not a showroom. There are no aisles of glittering jewels sitting beneath glaring spotlights with an entourage of bleach toothed sales people vying for commission money. Every piece that he works on is one-of-a-kind and completely hand made. Instead, you find yourself in a space that resembles a Victorian sitting room decorated in inviting shades of green peppered dark wood antique furniture. Large floor-to ceiling windows line the walls allowing sunlight to pour into the studio space giving you an honest view of the gems and pieces he enthusiastically shows you by placing them directly into your hands, inviting you to appreciate the workmanship through touch and sight. I've held a 45 thousand dollar star ruby ring in my hands, peered into a massive near-perfect stoplight green Zambian emerald and witnessed beautiful pieces of jewelery in all states of construction. Every item has it's own story and Cyrus seems to always remember the dimension and specs of each stone, where it came from, how it was bought, etc.

He allowed us to take pictures of him during one of our visits with Lemondrop as she was being remade. The whole process took about two months from start to finish.

Here is Lemondrop out of her natural habitat surrounded by her new friends-- two smaller fancy orangish-yellow diamonds:

This is the setting in its unfinished format as the shoulders still need to be soldered on. I asked for a platinum shank and head for Lemondrop and 18k yellow gold heads for the side diamonds. The shank is carved from one piece to my size. Each head is meticulously carved from a block of metal unlike most jewelery where pieces are cast and then assembled.

He dropped the stone in place to give me an idea of the looks.

I should note that his bench jeweler Cody did a lot of work on this ring as well cutting and carving the components. Unfortunately, I don't remember his last name.

I also took a few photos of Cyrus's hands as he talked about the process of making my ring. This is a somewhat appealing mannerism both my husband and I have noticed about our jeweler. He turns each piece in his hands as he contemplates each piece. Aside from his boyish charm, I suspect this habit is another a reason why the ladies over at Diamond Talk are suddenly so enamored with him (if you don't believe me, check out this thread.)

As I mentioned before, every time you visit, you get to meet other pieces of jewelery. This particular day, we met a gorgeous sapphire and Asscher cut-diamond ring set in platinum:

(luck gal who got that one!)

This picture isn't quite in focus, but you can see how high quality the stones are:

And a lovely antiqued old-world style pear pendant in a claw setting:

I might as well show you this postcard (such a great way to do advertising...just take fabulous pics of your jewelry and cut out the verbage!) I have seen this pendant in person before and am strongly considering getting something similar made for my mother but with champagne diamonds instead:

Okay, so the last few days when my stones were getting set and my ring was getting its finishing polish nearly drove me insane! I swear could not sleep for those few nights, but finally, I was able to pick up my beautiful ring this week. Boy is she pretty:

I will admit I was surprised at how much smaller she appear set low to the finger with daintier prongs, but I got over that pretty quickly. My old setting was very high and Lemondrop would catch on things and get knocked around. All the surfaces of her new setting are incredibly smooth and contoured to my hand.

Even the back is solid and impeccably finished:

I love how the yellow gold enhances the side diamonds:

And she feels so comfortable on my hand:

I must say, I'm incredibly satisfied with the ring and the whole process. As for wearing your jeweler close to you heart...once Cyrus gets his new die block from India, my ring will be stamped with his maker marking which will apparently be his name. My husband and I find this incredibly amusing (I can just see it down the line: "Grandma...who's Cyrus?") but we're both definitely proud to have a CF Shennum piece on my finger.

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