Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chronic Beginningitis

I have a problem. I've termed it chronic beginningitis. This is where I begin things and then fizzle out once the novelty or my initial drive has worn out.

I'd never make it!
Case in point: this blog.  A few posts and a recipe under my belt and all the sudden, kaput! My engine's run out of steam. But I don't want this to become one of the myriad hobbies that I've started, invested in, and then given up on.  I want to succeed at something for once, damnit!!!

And since I began this thing with the intention of improving myself, I'm writing about the only thing I can at this point in time: I am blogging about my bloggers-block.  How meta!

Because I can't seem to put two thoughts together coherently right now, I'm posting a slideshow of my various weekend activities.  Consider it a preview of what I'll be writing about once I get over the hump.  Here goes:

Vote for what you'd like to read about first!  Maybe it will help me get motivated to write.

How about you? Do you ever want to do something but just can't find the motivation? What are some of your strategies for getting going?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Oh Pickle, My Pickle

Here are my favorite pickles:

If you're thinking "hey! those don't look much like pickles!" you'd be right.  These are nothing like those super-sour, limp pickle slices/wedges you find in hamburgers across the country.  These are REAL pickles!

Actually, these are Asian-style refrigerator pickles.  Which - while sharing the same basic concept as those oh-so-not-crispy Claussen's - are worlds apart in terms of taste and texture.  First off, refrigerator pickles are exactly what they sound like: pickles kept in the fridge.  Unlike cooked and pasteurized monster dill pickles, these darlings have to be kept in the icebox or they will go bad.  The result of this type of pickling is pickles that - instead of boiled and vinegary - taste refreshingly light and slightly sweet.  And, they're super easy to make! 

Here's how:

You need some veggies. I used three pounds (I love pickles!) of a mix of carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower and onions. The carrots were sliced thinly and the other veggies should be diced to about the same size. Any vegetable that holds it's shape will work well, just don't use anything too leafy!

In a large stock pot combine 1 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Simmer over medium heat until dissolved. At this point you can adjust the sugar and salt to taste. Be careful though! This stuff is potent.


In go the veggies! Avalanche!

My Dad and 3 lbs of veggies!
If the pickling liquid seems paltry compared to the amount of veggies in the pot, don't worry!  You have to let the vinegar mixture work its magic.  Stir the mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Then turn off the stove and keep stirring occasionally.  After about 15 minutes you will see the pickling liquid is drawing out the veggie juices.  Yay! that's exactly what we want.

After the mixture is cooled you can transfer it into a container. Mason jars and old pasta jars work great.

Stow it in the fridge overnight to let the flavors do their magical meld (or dig right in if you're like me).  The pickles will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.  

I love these pickles with just about anything: hamburgers, grilled chicken, broiled fish, or just on their own. Make them today; I promise you'll be hooked!

Refrigerator Pickles
3 lbs diced veggies*
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt

*Note: this amount of pickling liquid will work for anywhere from 1 to 4 pounds of veggies

1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Simmer until salt and sugar are dissolved.
3. Add veggies.  Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Turn off heat. Stir occasionally for an additional 15 minutes.
5. Cool completely and transfer into a jar. Store in fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Episode IV: A New Hope (name that movie!)

When I was younger, I was an unrivaled optimist. Not only did I look for the silver lining, it was always there, clear and shining. Although, perhaps optimist doesn't cover it – I was unabashedly filled with wonder. A swirl of leaves in a phantom breeze or the splendor of a cream-and-gold sunset could send me into paroxysms of joy. And small acts of kindness, like a smile from a stranger, gave me comfort.

I'm not sure when I lost that sense. Maybe it was in my teens, after my first heartbreaks. Maybe when my parents got sick, and I became their primary caregiver. Or perhaps it was only recently, after graduating from college and pursing a teaching career, only to find there are no jobs. I became a cynic. And slowly I stopped feeling that tingle when I saw a beautiful work of art. Nature's vistas failed to move me, and I looked for ulterior motives in the kindest of acts.

Whenever it was, and however it happened, I miss my wondering, optimistic self.

I used to journal religiously. I would write about my corner of the world and its small miracles and surprises. If I felt I'd been handed the short end of the stick, I poured my heart out onto paper and it made me feel free. I stopped journaling gradually, as hope and optimism faded. Perhaps the two were causal, or maybe just symptomatic. Either way, I want to begin again.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my idealism, my certainty that right-minded people could re-shape the world into a just and beautiful place. Instead, I let the hardships of life dampen my joy, and I fear, sometimes, that I've hurt not only myself, but the people I love with my negativity.

One day at a time, one interaction at a time, my goal is to become a more positive person. The kind of person that, one day, I can look back on and be proud of.

Have you ever looked back at a period of time in you life and realized you were in a funk? How did you deal with it? Do you think people can change just by wanting it?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Open for Business

Welcome to the Cave & Hollow Inn and Tavern.

I've always wanted a quirky place like this to call my own. Blame it on too many fantasy novels when I was younger, but the idea of a warm, cozy pub with friendly locals, cold beer and delicious food is my idea of a perfect home.

Home is a funny word. It encompasses so much more than a physical place.  Home means to me: love, acceptance, humor, hard work, compromises, disappointment, community, laughter and crusty-warm bread.  I'm still working to build that place in my life, and I'm hoping that writing this blog will help me. Wish me luck!

How about you? What's your ideal home? Is it someplace you've been before? Or, are you like me, and is it all in your head?