(Kinda) Foodie Friday

OK, so I’m not responding to a prompt today, but that whole “writing prompts for a week” thing fell apart on Wednesday when I lazily posted a picture. Kinda like I’m doing right now. As I’ve said before, I’m a terrible blogger, but that’s not what I wanted to write about today. When I was in Tallahassee over Christmas I had lunch with my parents at Goodwood Plantation one day. The sandwich I ordered was very tasty, but the piece of pickled okra on the side is what I remember most about that meal. It was so delicious! I’d only had pickled okra one other time – Thanksgiving 2012 when I was in San Francisco visiting my brother. I ate quite a few pieces of the homemade pickled okra before Thanksgiving dinner and probably ruined my appetite for the rest of the awesome buffet. But back to the story at hand. After our tour of Goodwood my parents and I went to the grocery store (Publix, of course) on the way home because I was making lasagna for dinner and we were missing a few ingredients. While walking down the aisle that contained pickles I saw it. Pickled okra! A jar of that ambrosia (the food of the gods, not the marshmallow-based fruit salad) almost instantaneously found itself in our grocery cart. There was no way I was going home without it. I told me mom that I’d never seen pickled okra at any store in Los Angeles, but she teased me (as I was snapping the above photo of the jar) that it was probably there and I’d just never looked. If only that were true! I’ve been to at least four different grocery stores in the last month (plus the Walmart that seems to have the best selection) and pickled okra is nowhere to be found in my corner of Los Angeles. I’m suffering withdrawal! Granted I haven’t tried fancy stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts yet, but I’m willing to bet that okra is just too much of a Southern staple for any stores this far west to keep in stock. What a shame. Los Angeleans will never know what they’re missing!

Writing prompt – Favorite author

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from August 1, 2012:
Who is your favorite author?

To start with I am a big fan of the greats – Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy, etc. I’ve read as many classics as I can get my hands on (mostly thanks to the Paperback Rack used book store in Tallahassee), and I count A Tale of Two Cities as one of my all-time favorite books, but I have to admit that I love YA (Young Adult) fiction. A few days ago I ran across a quote from one of my favorite YA authors, Cassandra Clare. It wasn’t a quote from one of her eight bestselling novels, although I’ve read them all (and I’m looking forward to the next one that’s coming out in March), but from her Live Journal back in the day. When I first discovered Cassie Clare she was writing Harry Potter fan fiction and working on her first book. I devoured every chapter of her Harry Potter fan fiction epic and I was really sad when it was over. (If you’re interested it’s called the Draco Trilogy and it’s archived all over the internet so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.) But besides her fictional creations, reading her blog was just as enjoyable. Especially when she reviewed a newly released Harry Potter book or movie. Her writing was like the text-based version of observational humor. Incredibly hilarious. Unfortunately I can’t find some of her older posts (her LJ account from back then no longer exists), which is a shame because she wrote a fantastic review of the “Goblet of Fire” movie. Luckily I copied a few of my favorites over the years and I still get a kick out of reading them now.

“I suspect the assumption with the filmmakers is that everyone who sees the movie has read the books. Even POA, which I think is the best of the films, left out crucial bits of exposition (‘Harry, your father was a stag Animagus’), leaving Harry to assume, I suppose, that he is magically protected by Merrill Lynch.”
Review of “Goblet of Fire” film

“The other great lesson I took away from this was that it is in fact impossible to get out of going to a wedding you have been invited to, even if you do not want to attend because you have to save the world instead.”
Review of Half-Blood Prince book

“There maybe were one or two too many back-and-forths where Harry suddenly pops into Voldemort’s head. I kept waiting for Harry to check in on Voldemort and discovering him going to the bathroom, or perhaps adding to his vast Beanie Baby collection in a local trinket store.”
Review of Deathly Hallows book

Writing prompt – Procrastination

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from January 3, 2014:
Do you have a tendency to procrastinate, or do you like checking things off your to-do list?

It’s after 10 PM and I’m just starting my webpage post, so what do you think? I’m a terrible procrastinator. Not that I don’t enjoy crossing items off my daily to-do list (yes, I write one everyday), but certain things tend to fall by the wayside. Like tonight I went to Target after work and then washed a sink full of dishes after I got home rather than sitting on the couch with my laptop. Some things just take priority. In my defense, I did spend about an hour looking for a prompt that I wanted to write about (after I finished washing the dishes, of course). By the time I found one it was too late to spend an adequate amount of time actually composing a decent post. It’s a terrible excuse, I know. As for today, I’d actually like to spend more time elaborating on the topic of procrastination, but it’s way past my bedtime and I’m really tired. I realize this writing experiment isn’t going well so far. Hopefully I can turn it around later this week. Good night!

Writing prompt – Resolution #3

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from January 23, 2012:
What have you recently started that you know you’ll finish?

New Year’s Resolution #3: Run a race

I’ll be you’re wondering what happened to Resolution #2, huh? Don’t worry, I’ll get back to that in a month or so when I get started on it. (For once I’m not procrastinating, I promise!) Until then I’ll elaborate on Resolution #3. I started running right after the Fourth of July last year and I think I’ve made a lot of progress. Back then I could only run about a quarter mile before I had to stop, and now I’m running 2.25 mile intervals (and hopefully increasing that before too long). Crazy, right? It’s unfortunate that I’m having so much trouble with my running shoes at the moment because I really need to keep improving. This is because on January 2nd I registered for the Seal Beach 10K. The race isn’t until April 5th so I have plenty of time to prepare, but my ultimate goal is to run two intervals of ~3 miles with a short walk in the middle. It’s not too ambitious so I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to accomplish with more than two months left to train. But I need to find some good running shoes as soon as possible! No, I haven’t taken mine back yet, but I’m planning to tomorrow. But back to the race for a minute. Not only is 10K a good intermediate distance for me to tackle at this point in my running career, but the start line is just a couple of blocks from my front door! It’ll be great to wake up, walk to the race, run 6.2 miles, walk home, and get directly into a nice hot shower. Perfect. I admit that I’m already nervous about the race, but I’m excited too. No matter how it turns out, it’ll be interesting!

Writing prompt – Reading again

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from August 19, 2011:
Do you like paper books or e-readers?

This is quite a polarizing question for avid readers. Some people appreciate being able to carry their entire library with them in a thin Kindle or iPad, but others people swear that holding a hardback or paperback book in their hands and turning the pages is integral to the reading experience. From the arguments I’ve heard, no amount of convincing will cause anyone in either party to defect, but from what I can tell folks seem to find their way into the electronic age in time. Back when the original Kindle was introduced I was sure I’d never want one. Why would I? Holding a new book in my hands was such a magical experience, and surely downloading digital versions wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. But after I started traveling to the East Coast once month, I had to admit how convenient an e-reader would be. I even wrote about it.

“I’m beginning to think I might like one of those digital book readers. Does that make me an enemy of the printed word? I’ve just been on one too many trips with multiple books in my carry on.”
11/16/09 webpage post

So what did I unwrap on Christmas morning 2009? A Kindle! It was a 2nd generation Kindle – simple, elegant, and fantastic. I fell in love with my portable electronic library as soon as I started reading on it. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread! (I had a similar experience when I got my first iPod – I didn’t think I’d ever really want one, but once I had one I didn’t know how I’d lived without it.) Over the years that Kindle went everywhere with me – from the car dealer (for use during long service appointments) to cross-country flights (mostly business trips, I admit). It was wonderful to be able to read whatever I was in the mood for at the moment. And despite warnings that electronic books were going to end up being more expensive than hardbacks or paperbacks, they remained the more cost-effective (and clutter-free) option. Unfortunately last month I noticed that the battery on my beloved Kindle was draining very quickly, even after I’d just finished charging it. I was resigned to replace it. After some debate my parents gave my an iPad Mini for Christmas that is not only perfect for reading (Kindle app, of course), but also for web browsing and Netflix watching. It’ll be great when I travel. I know this has been a long-winded explanation, but I hope it adequately expressed my preference for e-readers. I’ve been exclusively buying digital books for over four years (starting 12/26/09 – I checked!) and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. If that makes me an “enemy of the printed word,” so be it!

Backsliding

I haven’t been feeling well for the last few days, for reasons I’d rather not get into. Until yesterday I didn’t run the nights I was supposed to this week and I definitely didn’t eat right. I know I’m going to pay for this backslide – both mentally and physically. (I have already, actually, but more on that in a minute.) As I’ve said before, if I don’t keep up with the things I should be doing I get really upset with myself. I’m trying to not be so hard on myself this year, but it’s a really difficult habit to break. One step at a time, I guess. Speaking of steps, to prevent my fitness from backsliding too much I went running last night. My ankle was feeling great after three days of rest so I was hoping to get the full benefits of my new stability shoes. Unfortunately the whole experience was miserable. I felt OK until my second mile, but then my feet and ankles started hurting as much as ever. It was awful. Clearly the new shoes are not helping me at all. Tomorrow I’m going to take them back to the running store and hopefully exchange them for something else. I’m really frustrated because a run that goes as badly as last night’s did makes me nervous to go out and try again. What if my next run is just as bad? What if it’s worse? It’s a fear that’s hard to overcome. This is unfortunate because I have a New Year’s resolution to run a race in 2014 and I really want to make that happen. But since this topic deserves its own post I’ll save it for next week.

Running isn’t the only place I’ve been backsliding. Among other things, my writing has been suffering too. And since my blog has such a vast readership I’m sure this has caused lots of unrest on the interwebs. (I’m kidding, of course – I’m pretty sure I only have two or three readers, max. But don’t think I don’t love you guys!) I’ve had some good posts in 2014 and some seriously lame ones too. I love Wordless Wednesday, but I have let that laziness bleed into too many other days as well. Terrible. I’d like to say it won’t happen again, but I know it will. I’ll just try to minimize that cop out as much as possible. For heaven’s sake, I started blogging almost fifteen years ago because I like writing! So in an effort to exercise my brain as much as I’m exercising my body (when I’m not neglecting my running) I’m going to use some writing prompts as catalysts for posts this week. Back in 2011 when I signed up for National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) for the first time I looked over the daily writing prompts that the website provided, but none of them inspired me at the time. But over the years I’ve gathered a few that I liked and stored them for future use. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to pick a prompt each day and use it to help me write a better post than if I was just to rehash my very mundane day. If nothing else, it should be an interesting experiment!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #40

Chocolate chip cookies #40: Based on Cooking on the Weekends’ Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 12/31/13.

More holiday-themed chocolate chip cookies! Well, not really, since the sprinkles are the only thing that make them holiday-specific, but I took these to the New Year’s Eve party I went to. One of my friends requested cookies (and since she is now cancer-free after a fight against lymphoma I’ll pretty much give her whatever she wants) so I took my last legitimate opportunity of the season to add some Christmas sprinkles to the top of the dough before baking. Pretty! With or without decoration, these olive oil chocolate chip cookies are perfect for when you’re out of butter. Or when you don’t want to wait for the butter to soften. Or when you don’t want to break out the electric mixer to cream the butter. (Not that I ever use my electric mixer anymore. Leaving the butter sitting on the counter overnight usually makes a wooden spoon sufficient for mixing cookie dough.) I consulted two different recipes before making these cookies – 1) this one from From Which Things Grow which didn’t seem to have a large enough proportion of olive oil compared to amounts of the rest of the ingredients, and 2) this one from Cooking on the Weekends which seemed more reasonable, but still wasn’t quite right. In the end I used my recipe for perfect chocolate chip cookie bars and just replaced the butter with extra light olive oil. Note that this is NOT the same as extra virgin olive oil. The extra light variety is great for baking – the extra virgin variety is not. The bottom line here is that these cookies are delicious. Try them for yourself!