Adrenaline

I’ve been working very hard lately. My boyfriend is in town currently, I’m filling out school paperwork and items for my FAFSA and loan information, and throughout all of it…. I’m still vegetarian.

Usually by now I’ll have broken and jumped to the nearest meaty comfort food (my personal favorite is biscuits & sausage gravy, which I may post the recipe for soon because I want to make it Saturday morning), but for some reason I’ve been able to beat the craving. I’m going to blame the bounties of summer & her fresh vegetables and the promise of my own measly zucchini plant finally pushing out a single squash (did you know that? zucchini is a squash? yeah? oh..). The recipe I tried this week and totally spaced on taking pictures about was Eggplant Parmesan. I literally had no idea what I was doing but it turned out pretty decently. Well. Amazing enough that I had to put my foot down in order for there to be leftovers.

But that’s enough of that. There’s a bigger issue in all of this. Working full time (at minimum wage, no less) with a commute that adds another 20 hours to my work week that is unpaid for has finally taken it’s toll. I am exhausted.

I need something better. I need a new start and I need to focus on school. I can’t be distracted…

This short post is here for one purpose and that’s to alert the masses that for the first time since 17, I won’t be trying to work as many hours as I can. I won’t balance it with school. I either will be working weekends or evenings, but I feel there’s a big chance I will be attempting to ease myself out of working my current job to find something else to pay my core bills while I go to school.

I’m terrified. Let me say that again. Terrified. All of my friends have moved on to either university or are almost finished. I turn 22 at the end of the year and while that’s not that big of a deal, I’ll be older than the other freshman. I haven’t taken a math course in six years and I have never been through this scary process of applying for aid & loans. Not only that, I have my animals to worry about. I have that beautiful kitty Peaches and my wonderful little crazy ball of poo, Annie. I know there’s going to be bigger vet bills for the cat in the future and Annie will be reaching two this December.

This is me having a panic attack. It’s an irrational fear of the future and the small things that has me nearly hyperventilating as I sit at the kitchen table, waiting for my breakfast muffin.. things.. to finish baking in the oven before I run out of here in a whirlwind to replace my phone charger and then leave for another 1.8 hour commute and 7 hour shift and another 1.8 hour commute back. Run on sentences. Self loathing for run on sentences. Coffee gulp. Stare at the screen for a few minutes with a twisting feeling in my stomach. Yep.

This is what a panic attack does to me.

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Vegetarian Fajita… Thing.

This morning was very productive for me. After two weeks with only one day off I’m finally hitting exhausted and the only way I can stay awake and coherent is by busting my ass in various endeavors. This includes, among other things, morning laundry, baking Jiffy blueberry muffins, and making dinner for work.

I’m at three days of work left before a day off, and the fact that my boyfriend has been visiting has made this week that much easier.

At this point I’ve neglected my cooking duties so today was the time to whip up something. I’ve been craving Mexican food for ages so this is what I ended up with. I’ll jot out a vague recipe later if you’d like to try.

Now, before we jump in, let me tell you about this stuff. Simple Truth brand Meatless Crumbles. If you’re a vegetarian because you can’t eat meat but still love the taste of meat, you go to the simple truth website right now and find a Kroger store. Why ypu ask? Because this stuff is godly. Not just holds its own, it TASTES good. In a pinch and want cheeseburger macaroni? Whip up your favorite box mix and throw about a cup in the microwave.

That’s right. The microwave. It doesn’t get soggy and nasty like the morningstar stuff. I’ve fooled my dad, my mom and my boyfriend using this and every time they’re floored. “This is fake!?” Yep. Fake.

First thing I started with was an onion, a green bell pepper, a jalepeno and then a tiny bit of seasoning. The first round was the fajita seasoning we had in our pantry buuuttt then I realized it was old. I ended up doing about a quarter teaspoon each of cumin, garlic powder, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. A tiny bit of oil and then sauteed it up into an amazing fragrant mess. Note for later, if you’re going to try this, add chipotle peppers in adobo. Most grocery stores that have a decent ethnic foods section should have little jars and oh man, they are great in fajitas.

That’s what about 30 minutes of chopping, cleaning and sauteeing looks like. Beautiful. The smell was divine. While this was cooking I threw a cup of rice into my rice cooker and cracked open a can each of black beans and black olives. This really didn’t take too long, and in hindsight I should’ve added the crumbles first and then the vegetables so the flavors could blend a bit more, but this ended up way better than I could have hoped for.

At this point I was kinda rushing to get out of the door, so I just threw the rice in a tupperware container, put a big helping on top of the rice, and added beans and olives. I ended up having about half of it for dinner tonight while the rest sits in the fridge at work along with a small bag of fresh Rainier cherries I got from one of my favorite grocery stores near my work location, Uwajimaya.

And while I could totally write a recipe…..

Ah hell, let’s write the recipe. Tweak as necessary/wanted to fit tastes & dietary restrictions.

LITS’s Vegetarian Fajita Bowl

Serves about 2 to 3 depending on portions.

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow or white onion (white has the right tang of flavor for this dish), chopped
  • 1 jalepeño, diced finely
  • 2 TB Vegetable oil
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup Simple Truth Meatless Crumbles
  • 1 cup white rice, prepared
  • Spices (to taste); Cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt, cayenne pepper, chili powder

First things first, heat the skillet on medium low and add meatless crumbles straight from the bag into a warming skillet, moving it frequently so it browns evenly (as you can see from the picture to the left, I added the meat later, and got a lighter result). Add seasonings, onions, green pepper and jalepeño and saute until onions are soft and peppers are crisp.

Get bowl of rice. Add warmed beans. Add fajita mixture of deliciousness. Thank me later.

A note about the spices, my first trial run of this didn’t include the cayenne pepper or chili powder (I think I spend 10 minutes tossing the spice pantry upside down trying to find the tiny container of chili powder and gave up after finding the seventh half empty bottle of garlic powder… yeah, we have a spice problem in this house & sadly it’s perfectly legal), but it definitely does need some more oomph. While I had this by itself with the beans & rice as a whole meal (it was indeed filling for me), the carnivorous boyfriend also had this as well with tortillas and it passed his picky inspection. I also had a few of the girls from work get a whiff of this and my best work friend tried it, all approving of it… so I’m guessing I did something right with this.

I’m probably going to continue to tweak this recipe and update this post just so it shows a bit more variety and so I can get better at this recipe thing. Definitely going to be something I will be making again since vegetarian food can get extremely dull after a while.

What does it take?

(Image source: [here])

The source of this picture has nothing to do with this post. Right now, I want you to look at that. Imagine there’s a coffee shop on one side of this parking lot, a quiet murmur as people go about their Sunday and do whatever it is they do near a coffee shop & a liquor store at 11:00 AM on a Sunday morning.

When I was ordering my coffee today (with my father, out doing grocery shopping), I noticed a woman having trouble outside walking with her rolly basket. You know that feeling you get when you know someone is mentally challenged, has an apparent learning disability… whatever it is that you prefer the name of for political correctness, that. This older woman was the embodiment of that. I couldn’t tell if she was going somewhere or trying to get home. It just bothered me. And at first, I turned away like everyone else in this world does and took my $3.50 latte with a shot of Kahlua flavor & savored that first sip.

My dad and I exited the coffee shop and I stopped. I heard crying. I had almost forgotten about her — and there she was, having problems with her cart… and sobbing profusely. I looked at my dad and he just had this pained face, and he continued to stand there. I know he was trying to figure out something to do, but I couldn’t just stand there. I walked over, asked if she was alright. She wasn’t, her cart was stuck on the curb. When I got closer to her I could tell the clothes she had wasn’t as clean as she would probably want. And her eyes. Her eyes had so much pain in them.

I helped, and she started thanking me, over and over as she stood by her cart in the street, tears now streaming down her face. And I turned back towards my dad who still had his eyes on her. I heard her yell, “excuse me? kind lady?” and asked me if I had a dollar – and I didn’t. I did however have a small handful of change and I offered it to her, and she smiled. Gave her a hug. Told her, “God bless,” and she said the same back… and I went back to my life & back to my day.

For eleven hours this has been sitting on my head and bothering me. This incident brings up a couple really painful points to me, and I could spend the next three hours of my night detailing what they are but everyone would just bring up the point that maybe I could’ve done something more. You could’ve given her a ride, you should have done more…

Travelling through Portland nearly every day for the last year for work has given me the Portland mentality of “look the other way” and I hate that. And when I think about how I could approach not thinking like that… I become stingy. I remember how I need to save for groceries, for my boyfriend’s ticket down here/back home just in case, of how I’m saving for school and oh, don’t forget the $100 a month for a bus pass.

I just have to remember her appreciation for what I could give her. I just have to remember, that even actions will speak louder than a dollar bill ever can. I remember watching her make her way across the parking lot, still having some problems with the cart, but her posture seemed easier. And I would have been back out from the safety of the car to ask her further where she was going & if she needed a lift, if someone else hadn’t walked out of their car with an umbrella and start talking to her. I hope she got to where she was trying to go. I hope her day got brighter from the people she met along the way. I hope she is somewhere safe, and that she has someone to call in case something happens…

I can’t give money to every single person I see struggling, but I can help move their cart off being stuck on the curb…

Fuck, I hate this economy. I miss living in the adolescent ignorance of the world.

Potato Leek Soup – the IDGAF way

For anyone who knows me, they know I love food. I especially love amazing food, that isn’t filled with what I deem “shit”. Shit translates to me, preservatives or lots of margarine. It needs to hold it’s own while still having good nutrition. Being in a swing of Vegetarian means it needs to pull double duty – tastes good and is filling. That’s usually my problem with smoothies is that they don’t fill me up and I’m still irking for something solid. Soup tends to be the most comfortable way for me to tackle my problems of needing food.

If you follow me on Pinterest, which I wholeheartedly recommend because you never know when something awesome will pop up, I recently pinned a soup from a good friend of mine to make later. It was only appropriate to try to make it today – and by golly, we had a winner.

[Original Recipe]
With that as my jumping off point, I started to tweak it just enough to fit my diet and my food preferences.

This was by far the most challenging part. I’ve never worked with leeks before, and it wasn’t until a week ago that I had eaten anything with leeks in it. They’re a member of the onion family, and are basically like a giant green onion with a much softer flavor. The original recipe calls for only using the white & light green part. But only buying one leek (it was about the size of my arm) meant trying to find a way to use the rest of it. A bit of research showed that if I started with the darker parts being cooked and then adding the rest, it would soften up plenty.

From there, everything vaguely followed the recipe… I think the only thing I changed was using two types of potatoes for variety and only using vegetable stock. It took a lot longer for it all to simmer down until I was ready to blend part of it, about an hour total on low, but I ended up having a much higher quality taste in the end than I would have with rushing it.

Now, at this point I tasted it and it definitely was missing something. I wanted to have it creamier, unlike the canned soup I had purchased last week. I added about half a cup of whole milk to what I was blending until it was completely smooth.

When it was reintroduced to the pot it was still a bit thin, so the lid was replaced for a good 20 minutes or so while it simmered down a bit more. Right about now was when I added roasted garlic (which isn’t on the original recipe), the listed spices and just a tiny bit of parmesan.

Looking back I did forget to add in the tabasco. Now I’m not overly fond of tabasco — it’s taste just doesn’t really roll with me. We have chipotle tabasco in the house but I normally reserve that for eggs – so I’m gonna experiment with the leftovers to see what sort of sauce will go best with it. I also have Sriracha in the fridge which could be good… I guess we’ll find out the hard way, eh?

And here’s the end of it — the soup with my choice of ale for the week, a Sam’l Smith fruit ale.

How does your garden grow?

The indoor garden that my family has slowly been developing began as a way to use the extra space on an old entertainment center that used to have our second TV. It began with the gift of a spider plant (that’s what my mom calls it) from my wonderful Aunt Kim in September of last year. There was also a stand that she bought with it for my mom, before her and the rest of my mom’s siblings returned to their scattering of the PNW between Medford and Moses Lake.

The other part of this little indoor garden is the ever-growing collection of succulents we seem to be inheriting from neighbors who can see this little garden from our window. “Oh here! We thought you might like this!” Thankfully my cat seems to have figured out without incident that cactus is synonymous with pain, so when we shoo her away from this little area of the living room she’ll waddle over to a sunny spot and roll over with the most defeated expression I’ve seen on a kitty. (That being said, my rescue Peaches has been adjusting quite well to life here – and she also smells a lot better to boot.)

Among my favorite pieces of greenery that we have in our house, is the bonsai my father got. Don’t ask me why. I really don’t know why I like it so much. I’ve liked it enough to look into if there’s a sakura bonsai I could get, just so I could have teeny tiny pink blooms once a year indoors. Cherry blossoms are one of my favorite thing. Just looking at the waterfront in springtime with all the blossoms gracing all the trees… can I just say, most relaxing walk ever? Wow I get distracted easily! Anyway. . .

Probably wonder, why does it even matter what’s being grown indoors in your house? Well it kind of does matter, it creates this little pocket of a peaceful oasis in an otherwise crazy world for me. The rest of the house is rather.. thrown together. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember and I cannot for the LIFE of me remember when we’ve ever had house plants that have survived more than a few weeks in the house before shriveling up, browning and dying. Maybe it was everyone’s New Years Resolution culminating on very similar things, or maybe it’s just the vaporizer we have that’s made the atmosphere much more livable. I have no bloody idea. So, I’ll just keep riding this green wave of pretty that I get to wake up to in the mornings until things change. 🙂

And now for a peek at the little garden I have going outside. A quick note about the radishes – I’ve noticed that being in a container, I lose leaves to slugs and yellowing, the latter a sign of over watering. I wish I could say that I’ve been drowning them, but that’s just been a result of the lovely unpredictable Oregon weather deciding to piss upon my patch of veggies. That poo head. Among my notes for next year are making little covers for the containers I’m using for the veggies & putting a bigger salt ring around that spot in the back. I’m probably going to build a small bench shelf to hold a few of the pots I’m going to get (with them inset in it.. or I’ll paint these ugly black pots), and have two sides built up for a raised garden bed for herbs. I think I’ve gotten as many radishes I could have out of the three.. four(?) plants I’ve harvested, about five big fist-sized radishes I’ve sliced up and split up among salads this last week and the freezer for stews.

Now what’s that? Are those buds? Is that… something like, eight of them? Oh my Talos, yes it is! This has been my biggest challenge so far and the plant I’ve been the most nervous about. Usually zucchini needs a much bigger space to grow and it wants to climb, but this type of zucchini was supposed to mature to be a smaller plant & root system. This picture is a few days old and right now I’m sitting outside looking at four the buds opening up beautifully and there’s two bees hovering around them. Can you tell I’m excited to have fresh zucchini?

All in all… garden therapy has really done what it’s supposed to do for me, I think. My grandpa would be proud of me to see what I’ve been growing and I can only hope that someday I’ll be able to build up a garden that might be possible to surpass his.

Next year (as it’s too late to do now, unless I build small greenhouse covers for the boxes and insulate them), I will have to build boxes on this little back plot that we have near my house. It’s depressing to have the only thing able to grow in that clay to be grass, but it’s just bad soil and there’s not much I can do about that which would look pretty. I also can’t dig very deep as there’s piping that holds electric wires for the neighborhood about a foot into the bed.

So if anyone has even waded through this post at all.. show me pictures of your garden! What do you have growing right now? What are some challenges you’ve had to deal with? I’d love to hear from you, so throw a comment on here! 🙂

Sometimes I really can’t justify the way my head works, and that’s okay.

image

It sounds kinda lame now that I read it, but I’ll tell you why this is an achievement for me.

You see, behind this pale blue fontface and earthy “this is my garden”, post, there’s this big black (as in color of its inky dripping fur, not ancestry) monster that creeps on me. There are thousands of little strings attached to me, my limbs and further my emotions and every day I can repeat that stupid little mantra that everything will be okay, is another day I kick that monster in its shaved gorilla balls and save the cake princess and by extension, have a good day.

I also call that monster depression.

Now at first he wasn’t that bad. It was when I had my first high stress job that he decided “hey, I’ll just put these strings here and… yeah, theere we go. Ignore your responsibilities.” I was miserable. I had a physical aversion to work that made me so sick I ended up with walking pneumonia and furthered how bad my chronic bronchitis had hit me that year. Panic attacks, resulting in me literally curling up in my bed for days at a time and calling in sick to work.

I wish I could say that it got better after I quit, and began working retail. It really didn’t. I reached the heaviest I’d ever been… and I honestly lost sight of what I even wanted anymore. I had never known but it was bad enough then that I stopped caring.

One day, about a year after I had made it out of call center hell, I actually looked at myself and saw that monster standing behind me. The worst part was just how much he had grown and how badly he had gotten his strings under my skin and made it impossible to do anything unless he let me.

“Unless he let me.” I hated thinking it. I hated almost everything I had done up until that day. I wasn’t living anymore. I was waiting to die.

I was able to cut one of the biggest threads the beast had on me that morning, and I went and had an hour long tattoo session.
A month later I was alone in my bed for the first time in three years.

There had been something comforting about having someone next to you. I had felt safe and took it for granted, and when he was gone it took several months to feel comfort in my room alone.

I feel pathetic right now talking about this. As I sit here on the train, tears coming down my face as I realize just how hard everything had hit me and how far I’ve come to own up to my mistakes and shortcomings.

This is what that monster had done to me. And this is where I am now.

I don’t think anyone really realizes just how much counseling I’ve been in over the last two years and how much better I feel now.

To all my friends, thank you. To all the people I’ve wronged or have unconsciously done anything to, please tell me. I’m trying to do better. I’ve never been good at this social thing.

I wish I could say that this is me relearning how to live, but I never knew in the first place. Instead, this is life. And every day is another tally on my win/loss against the beast.

Urban Garden

Sometimes we have to live with what we’re given. And in this case, it’s eking out tiny little islands of lush flowers and healthy vegetables in a sea of badly manicured grass

This began as a project my dad wanted to do, like every year. He begins with an idea and kinda goes off the deep end with it. This year it was to focus on his bird feeders. My project this year? Vegetables.

Now where I live, TECHNICALLY we aren’t supposed to plant vegetables. But reading through the Home Owners Association guidelines and talking to neighbors, everyone pretty much agrees that as long as they are in containers, you can grow whatever you want. So I started the long tedious process of getting starters, organic compost, and getting the back area tilled

Now the first part was in play – a few pots, and a set of seed starters. I wanted something relatively easy for my first haul from the miniature garden I was about to embark up on creating, so I chose things I knew I used frequently.

I started with a majority of zucchini and radish plants, and decided to get some basil growing as well. The Burpee starter (as seen [here]) ended up being a great choice for me because I was able to place it on top of my rat cage without a single issue, aside from needing to put an old ratty (hah, pun!) cooking sheet under it to keep the curious teeth of Annie from gnawing on the plastic. The seed pellets are relatively simple to figure out and after an initial soak in water, they puff up big enough for seeds to take root easily.

All in all, it was about four or five weeks that my plants spent in the miniature green house before they got transplanted outside finally. I’ll get into that in a bit.

Here’s a short progression of what it looked like while they were coming up

It was about this point that they moved outside. In hindsight and because I really didn’t know what I was doing, not a lot of plants survived. Out of eight each of my radishes and zucchini, I’ve only had one zucchini survive and four of my radishes. Here’s what I’ve worked so hard for….

Three months of hard work has culminated in this – my first bud opening up on my zucchini plant. I thought it was impossible to grow zucchini in a container, but I was proven wrong. In addition, that big honking radish is bigger than my fist. I sliced it up for the salad my family had tonight, and I venture it’ll be another month or less before the zucchini will be ready. And on that day, zucchini bread shall be made!