Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh Grit(s) ReDeux

Yesterday, we went to see a show called Grits: The Musical at the university. Tom got free tickets so I was forced, I mean asked, to go. This is one of those shows that comes into the Performing Arts Center and has nothing to do with the University. I say this because oh Grit(s) it was probably one of the worst things I have ever seen. And trust me folks, I have seen a lot of bad theatre and musicals in my life.

Tom said we had to go early to take in the show at the art gallery, so we did. Fake Carolyn made an appearance as I had to say hello to people Tom knew. God, I love Fake Carolyn because she is so freaking handy to have around sometimes. So we looked around the art gallery and finally the show started. At first I thought it might be interesting since the show was supposed to be about Southern Belles and I am all about Southern Belles. I honestly believe that in a previous life, I was a Southern Belle since I love all things Southern even though I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Anyhow, I was expecting a light hearted romp sort of like Steel Magnolias with music.

If you haven't seen Steel Magnolias, the play, you should. The movie is fantastic but the play is really good. Anyway, the show started and from the beginning I was horrified. It featured four women telling stories about their life and what it means to be a Grit. Apparently a Grit is a southern woman, who knows, who cares. The stories they were telling weren't interesting, bless their heart. The problem was they would tell you the whole damn boring story and then they would sing about it almost repeating word for word what they just said. The singing wasn't bad but the choreography was horrible. I was sitting there watching them thinking: hey, that looks like me when I dance in my living room trying to imitate the Jackson 5. Problem is, I am better.

At one point they were singing about a dead dog and it was a sad song about this Grit missing her furry friend and I almost burst out laughing. And I don't mean a snicker but a laugh out loud belly laugh. I actually had to cover my mouth and start thinking about bad things so I wouldn't laugh. I was telling myself think of Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street, think of Jason from Friday the 13th but that didn't help. I looked up saw one of the "Grits" pining for the dead puppy and almost lost it again. I swear it wouldn't have been at all appropriate to burst out laughing while this woman was seranading her dead fur baby, not appropriate at all. Luckily, the song ended and I fought back my evil urges to laugh. Then at one point, I look over at Tom who was sitting next to 2 of his faculty members and they are chuckling. And I figured it was just at the bad lyrics but found out later that Andrew had noticed that in between the songs the drummer was working on a crossword puzzle or writing his autobiography. That's how bored he was.

The theatre was so dark that we couldn't read the program so we had no idea how many songs were left to intermission. At this point, I am trying to think of unicorns, sunshine and fairies but the horrific lyrics and music kept sucking me back into reality and all I could do is sit there and try not to run screaming out of the theatre. Finally, the lights went up and Tom and I got up and started exiting. At this point, I already knew I was going to grab Tom in the lobby and tell him that I couldn't take it any longer and I would be walking home if he didn't take me home but as we exited he said go right, go right! I said why and he said it's the easiest way to out. Hallelujah, praise Baby Jesus! We were escaping. So we scoot out in a hurry when we see 2 other Theatre folks leaving as well. You know it's bad when there is a mass exodus of the Theatre faculty and staff. So we continue walking and see another Theatre faculty member and her husband leaving as well.

Ay dios mio, I knew then that I loved Tom so much in that moment because he knew that I needed to be saved. Speechless and stunned by the horror of it all, we got in the car and couldn't talk for minutes. When we did finally find our voice we talked about how bad the show was. Then Tom, probably out of guilt of dragging me to this nightmare, took me out to dinner at our favorite restaurant, El Pacifico. YAY! Yes, yes, I was good and had a Taco Salad and only ate half of it and had maybe 4 chips with salsa and guacamole. I am learning folks, I am learning!!

Anyway, today is also weigh-in day and I lost another pound! YAY ME! I think I am doing really well on my diet. I think the good thing about the Nutrisystem program is that it takes the weight off slow so you learn about portion sizes and food you should and shouldn't eat. Sometimes I find myself wanting to eat less than I am supposed to in hopes I lose weight faster but I know that won't work. So I try to be a good girl and really stick to it. I am running out of food so I hope my next delivery comes soon! But like I said before, I am learning to eat less. I am learning that I can still eat some tasty food but to cut back. I think that will help in the long run. I am surprised I am not feeling famished. I am assuming that because I am eating less sugar and carbs that somehow that helps. Plus, eating all day helps because I feel less tired.

I have nothing good planned this week. Today I am hoping that the A/C is installed and done for good. I hate the banging and lack of coolness and people coming into my house and dirtying my floors. But I am told they will be finished today but I highly doubt that but who knows.

We went out to Coraline's Garden when we got home and now we have tomatoes up the ying yang so I will also be putting up more. I swear we will have so many frozen tomatoes come winter that I can't wait. I got a great recipe for a creamy basil tomato soup that I have to try. I think I might put up some of that as well. There is nothing like tomato soup and grilled cheese in the winter to get you warm. Yummo!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Coraline's Garden

I went out to the garden to harvest some more tomatoes and as I walked around, I felt as if I had stepped into a Tim Burton movie. It is creepy and dark and dying. It was sort of like a scene in The Nightmare Before Christmas or most recently, Coraline. Okay Tim Burton didn't direct Coraline; one of his proteges did. But it was still kind of creepy in a good way.

By the way, if you haven't seen Coraline, I suggest you do if you like kid movies. I am all about good kid movies and I liked this one. Plus, the writer of the book it was adapted from, Neil Gaiman, rocks. The funny thing is ten minutes into the movie, Tom looked at me and said she reminds me of you. And even I had to admit that Coraline reminded me of me. It's probably because she is cute and has an attitude. Plus, I would have behaved exactly like she did when I was younger and to be truthful, I still act like that. But it is a good story and if you have kids they might like.

Even though Tim Burton didn't direct it, it still has that creepy Tim Burton vibe going on. My garden now has that creepy Tim Burton vibe as well. I swear as I was walking around I was expecting Jack from The Nightmare before Christmas to pop up and say hello. Or possibly, tomato vines to start wrapping around my legs and pull me under. I guess it didn't help that the morning was gray and gloomy. Or maybe I just watch too many movies especially Tim Burton ones. As you can see, I am a huge Tim Burton fan. Love him!! Can't wait for his new movie, Alice in Wonderland, to come out with our favorite, Johnny Depp! I love that he is doing Alice in Wonderland because I love, love , love anything Alice In Wonderland!!

I remember years ago while living in Florida and I was working for The Lord's Place (great organization that you should check out) we had a tea party for the volunteers. But the twist was it was a Mad Hatter's Tea Party. It was so much fun. I got to dress up at the Cheshire Cat and I loved it. I wish I had pictures. I still have the costume I made and hope that one day I can wear it again. I bought pink leggings and a pink t-shirt and then hand painted purple stripes on them. I put my hair in braids and then wore a Cheshire Cat hat I had bought on a whim at Disney World. Then I found these fun and fuzzy pink boots on eBay. And I also had a pink tail. I have to say this, I looked damn cute!

But again, I digress. The point of this post was to say the garden is on its last days. It is a mess and is slowly dying an ugly death. But even though it looks like death warmed over, it is still giving me tomatoes. We will be out trying to salvage as many as we can but I suspect the garden's days are numbered. The only thing left are tomatoes and green peppers. The cukes, squash and beans are all long gone. Some pepper plants got caught up in the carnage and died. Luckily, I planted my jalapenos in a container and they are doing great. Here are a few pictures of the garden and tell me that it doesn't look totally creepy.

P.S. We got our A/C back for the weekend. They have to come back on Monday and switch out the unit outside they ordered the wrong one but they installed a temporary one.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Grr Argh!

So another day passes without air conditioning and it's not pretty folks. Wednesday wasn't bad at all but yesterday got ugly. It started out cool but somewhere along the line the humidity creeped in. It's not horrible but it is sticky and there is nothing to do but suck it up.

The workers came and start working. It was fine at first. They were unloading big pieces of silver things and some round silver things. Duct stuff, I guess. And I hear some activity in the garage. Then all of a sudden the banging starts. Bang, bang, bang. Now I am pretty patient but damn after an hour of banging I wanted to run screaming out of the house with a baseball bat. But I didn't.

The banging continued for about another hour and then there was quiet. I look out the window and I realize it's lunchtime. They are quietly eating their lunch and that means I get a reprieve. I figured I better eat lunch as well so I make my lunch and sit down to watch the news and eat. In the meantime, the boys are done with lunch and proceed under the house to start putting in the ducts.

I see Scout coming into the living room when all of a sudden there is a huge bang from underneath the house where she was walking. I swear that cat went up like 2 feet. I shouldn't laugh but I did. I wish I had a video of it. Hilarious. But then the banging starts from under the house.

At this point my mellow is harshed and I am not a happy camper. But I suck it up and finish lunch. Luckily the noise is now in the back of the house. But by this time it is heating up inside the house. So I start opening doors and windows to get any type of breeze. And everything seems good. The open windows offer some coolness but not much. Scout is finally relaxed but not happy (see she is sneering in the picture). And Shawn,well nothing bothers Shawn. A 8.0 earthquake could hit and Shawn would not be bothered. I want her life.
Just as we all settle down, I hear the roaring of a lawnmower. I forgot it was Thursday; the day the lawn guys come. They start mowing, weed eating and blowing and we, well me and Scout, are on our last nerve. It's hot, humid and noisy and I can't wait until they are finished with the new A/C unit.

By the time they finished, Scout was a jumpy mess. She would walk, jump and then run away. Shawn was still sleeping. And I was a hot and sweaty mess with a mild headache.

They are back today. UGH! But hopefully after they leave, we will finally have some cool air and the banging will stop.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tomato Madness

Wednesday I spent my day putting up the tomatoes I have been gathering from the garden. The garden is in disarray though. Plants are down and drying up. Weeds are overtaking areas of the garden again because when the plants came in, it was impossible to weed. And now that they are dying, the weeds are back. UGH! I am letting it go for now but when everything is dead I will go out and do a massive garden cleaning.

We are also without air conditioning for a few days since our old one needed to be replaced. So it's not good that I have to heat the tomatoes to get the skin off. I shut down the house this morning and pulled down all the shades so I could to keep it dark. I am in heaven, of course. Because I would live in cave and be perfectly happy as long as it had indoor plumbing and a decent kitchen. Oh yeah it would need to have internet service, satellite TV and A/C as well. Anyway, the back of the house is super duper dark and staying cool. Unfortunately, we get the afternoon sun in the living room and it gets warmer.

But I have to do something with this over abundance of tomatoes. The good thing is that I found this super easy way of putting up tomatoes from the blog: Southern Plate. If you never have read Southern Plate you are missing out. Christy has the best recipes there. It is a great blog with tons of info. One day while on Twitter, she tweeted the link to this method of putting up tomatoes for the winter. Since I have no clue to what I am doing in terms of the garden or storing food, I found this to be perfect for a novice like me. It's so easy!

Like I said, the problem today was that I have to boil them to get the skin off and make it easier to peel them. So it got a little hot in the kitchen. I can't even exercise today because I don't want to overheat. (Okay, that's just a phony excuse to not exercise. Sue me and stop judging me like the evil Wii, whatever!) But I had to do it because there is no room in the kitchen. I know I will have another basket of tomatoes from the garden tomorrow.

I already have 3 one-gallon Ziploc bags of tomatoes in the freezer. I also have another gallon Ziploc bag filled with spaghetti sauce I made with fresh tomatoes, leftover meatballs from the party and fresh garden basil. I got 4 one-quart bags full after all was said and done today. I do have more tomatoes but they aren't ripe yet but sometimes I have to pick the tomatoes before their time since they are on the garden floor. Some have been eaten by the varmints so I try to get them before they do. I suspect I will have tomatoes for at least 2-3 weeks. We are being really selfish and not giving any of these babies away. Sorry peeps.

So that just means I have to keep putting them up for the next few weeks. But I certainly won't regret it when I reach into the freezer in December or January and pull out them out and have fresh tomatoes for soup or sauce. The work is worth it.

Here is my process (well actually Christy's from Southen Plate) step by step in pictures:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

R.I.P. Senator Edward Kennedy

There are no words. For all his personal downfalls and troubles, I believe he was such an important figure in our history and actually did good for this country. He will be missed. Rest in Peace.

Mostly Wordless Wednesday

Our new obsession (yeah I know, the picture of Jon Hamm aka Don Draper is totally gratuitous. Sue me because I HAD to add it in) I would so be like Joan if I lived back then! This is such a great show, if you don't watch it, go rent it:

I actually went on and mad men'd myself. Of course, I had to put myself in the scene with Don at a bar, drinking.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cheaters Sometimes Prosper

Another week passed and I am no worse for the wear. The party sort of drained me since I am not used to be on feet for long periods of time because it screws up my back. So on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, I was a little sore and pooped. I started feeling better on Thursday. But I am realizing that I am getting damn old and it sucks. Oh well, at least I am not 50 like Tom.

Yes folks, it's Nutrisystem diet update day. I really wondered how I was going to fare this weeks since I had totally cheated last Monday. How could I not? I worked my little fingers to the bone and deserved a reward. I ate cake (bad Carolyn) and I had non-Nutrisystem foods like tons of smoked Gouda cheese, meatballs and bread. So I feared that I was going to gain weight. I stepped on the scale and I actually lost a pound!!! Yay for me.

But I was bad girl. Because I hadn't gone real grocery shopping and only bought party stuff, I had very little fruits and veggies to use on the diet this past week. I went back on the program sort of but that's also bad because the program should be followed for maximum results. I was eating the Nutrisystem food but sort of skipping some of the veggies and fruits. And I have to own up to the fact that Saturday night I totally went off.

I made Tom some pork tacos because I found some pork that I had made before while rooting around in the freezer (that's our new freezer in our sun room-look at all the room I have below). Now this pork was off the hook. I had cooked it in the crock pot with some tomatillos, beer and tons of spices. It was so good. So good I saved what was left and luckily I found it yesterday. So I decided to make tacos, rice and beans. I had some leftover rice from the night before. The beans are the best beans you will ever have in the whole wide world. The are from Costa Rica. My mom sends them to me because she knows that I am a fiend for these beans and have been since I was a little girl.

I remember when I was small and we would go visit Costa Rica, we always stayed with my mom's cousin Flora and her husband Juan Jose. They were the nicest people. Juan Jose used to be the ambassador of China from Costa Rica and I always loved sneaking into his office and looking at the picture of him with Mao Tse Tung. It was so cool. He was also an attorney and a fascinating man. I loved Flora. She actually died last November and I was heartbroken because in a lot of ways she was like a second grandmother to me. And I was so sad that she died a month before I was scheduled to visit. She was funny and sweet and one of the best cooks ever.

I blame Flora for my obsession with beans. While in Costa Rica, we would take trips whether it be to their farm or other places. They were long road trips because back then the roads weren't that great in Costa Rica. Come to think about it, the roads aren't that great now but I digress. So on these long road trips Florita would always make bean and butter sandwiches. She made other stuff but I was only interested in the bean and butter sandwiches. Thus, my love of mashed black beans.

A few years ago when we were in Costa Rica, I was helping Flora in the kitchen and she shared her recipe with me and I have not forgotten it. She cheated and used these already packaged beans but she made them special. She would mince onions up so fine that they virtually melted into the butter. Then she added the beans and some spices. Then she added some Salsa Lizano and the trick was to add some sugar to mellow out the taste. I can taste them now. I was so glad she shared her recipe with me. So when I make the beans, I stay true to Flora's recipe.

So anyway, I grabbed the pork and warmed it up, made Flora's beans and warmed up the leftover rice. It looked so good that I decided to have the same (bad Carolyn). But what being on the Nutrisystem program has been teaching me is portion control. I see that I don't need to have a plateful of food because half of that will be enough. Hopefully, this lesson will stick with me as I continue on the plan and once I get off the plan. I had one taco and a tablespoon each of rice and beans. It wasn't a lot but it was enough to make me feel like I am not dieting and it filled me up. It was great.

Sunday I finally went to the grocery store and stocked up. So this week is back to the Nutrisystem program. I guess I shouldn't congratulate myself for being a big fat cheater but I will. I think as long as I make better food choices and keep the portion sizes small, I am on the right track!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Barefoot Contessa & I: Or how Ina can suck it

So the other day I am online and someone tweeted a recipe by Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) for a tomato and goat cheese tart. I was all over that because I am trying to find new ways to use my homegrown tomatoes and also I had some leftover goat cheese from the party. Then I remembered that I had some puff pastry in the freezer that I had bought in hopes that one day I could make something with it. It's always dangerous when there are frozen pie crusts or puff pastry that I can get my hands on because somewhere in the back of my deluded mind, I think I am a pastry chef but I'm not. But I have hope that one day I will be able to make fancy French pastries. A girl can dream, can't she? Anyhow, I click on the link and hot damn the recipe looked fantastic. I decided that I could make that.

Now as you know I am a willy-nilly cook who basically tosses stuff together and hopes it comes out okay. There is a lot of Random Willy-Nillyness (RWN) going on in my kitchen. But most of the time it works out for me. It's not that I don't do recipes but it really is hard for me to follow recipes. It's also hard for me to follow instruction manuals. It's hard for me to follow directions. It's hard for me to follow anything most of time. Tom will attest to that. But I was determined that I was going to make a freaking tomato and goat cheese tart.

I start reading the recipe and all is well as I see that I have all the ingredients except for the fresh thyme. My thyme died after I neglected it. Well, it's not that I neglected it but it was in a planter we had under the tree we took down so it never got any sun. And the planter had no drainage holes so it rained and rained and I think it basically got flooded out and died. Okay, I neglected it, sue me. Anyway, I keep reading the recipe and it's then that I start getting a pain in the back of my head signaling a headache coming on.

Why you ask? Well, old Ina seems to think that I am some freaking Julia Child or something. WTH? Thaw out the puff pastry, unfold the puff pastry, flour the puff pastry, roll out the puff pastry, make sure the puff pastry is rolled out to an 11 by 11 square. I almost cried. But damn if I was going to give up and let the Barefoot Contessa get the best of me. So I continue reading the recipe. I do what is needed to the puff pastry and then Ina is telling me to get a freaking saucer or another round object to cut out 6 inch rounds from the puff pastry. You know what? It ain't gonna happen, Ina. It is not happening because my dough has been rolled out to something that resembles a rectangle with demented stubby legs. It's not pretty folks. It's not like I didn't try. I took that rolling pin and rolled like nobody's business but it still looked like crap. Fine, I figured Ina wouldn't hate me if I didn't make pretty little circles and just tried to salvage the Dali like piece of dough in front of me.

The rest of the recipe called for me to saute up something with something else and then prick the dough and add a teaspoon of something and thinly slice something but I didn't get all that because my head started hurting as I read the complex rules I was supposed to follow. My eyes glazed over and then I started thinking how lovely it would be to have tomato and goat cheese tarts in Paris. In Paris, I would have someone else rolling out the freaking dough, making the tart and serving me. How nice would that be as I sat in a little cafe eating tarts and having a nice glass of wine? Then I remembered that Johnny Depp lives in France and I thought how lovely it would be to be in France with Johnny Depp eating a tomato and goat cheese tart with a glass of wine at a little cafe. And before I could think of things about Johnny Depp that I can't blog about here, I remembered that he has a girlfriend and 2 kids. BuzzKill. But then I remembered that he starred in the Pirates of the Caribbean because he thought it would be a good movie for his kids. What a good movie that was. I loved it and could watch it over and over. God, I used to love going to Disneyland and getting on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Yo, ho ho ho a Pirate's life for me. How fun was that? I love Disneyland but prefer Disney World. Just as I always preferred Goofy to Mickey. I always thought Mickey was overrated. Anyway, by the time I started dreaming about being at Disney World with Johnny Depp eating tarts at the French Restaurant at Epcot, I realized that I had to finish this tart.

I knew that I couldn't go back and try to follow Ina's directions. So I figured if I kept the same flavor profiles that it would come out tasting pretty good. So I chucked Ina's recipe and proceeded to cook RWN style. I finished rolling out the pastry. I decided a rectangle was good enough for me. Then I made it into a little tray by pulling up the sides so I could put the ingredients into the center. I thought I read to brush the puff pastry with olive oil, so I did. Somewhere in the recipe it mentioned white wine and garlic, both of which I had. I took the wine and mixed it with the goat cheese to make it easier to spread.

I know onions were mentioned but I figured that it wouldn't hurt if I didn't add them. Then I sliced some tomatoes. I took the goat cheese and spread it on the dough and then sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on it because I found it in the frig. Then I put some tomatoes on the top. Of course the tomatoes are different sizes and colors but I figured it would look more festive that way. Sure it's not like the Barefoot Contessa would make it but whatever Ina. I tossed it in the oven finally following Ina's directions. Of course, I sort of miscalculated the time by a minute or 5 or 10 or 15 minutes and the puff pastry got a little dark but didn't (totally) burn. It just has a lot of color. But it turned out okay. Sure, it's not something Ina would ever serve to her dogs but it's good enough for me because I am not snobby Hamptons fancy pants chef. The real test was in taste. And yes, it's not on my Nutrisystem program but I had to try it. Plus, I had already cheated on the diet on party night so I expect on Monday when I do my weigh-in, it's not going to be pretty. In any case, the tart was pretty damn good. The goat cheese and Parmesan worked well together. The wine gave it a nice layer of flavor. The tomatoes are just delish and the little piece of basil on top was the perfect topping.

It's not the prettiest tart but the taste is what counts. I went on Ina's site and this is how hers came out. Of course, they are perfectly round and beautiful. What else can you expect from her? She is the Barefoot Contessa after all. What if mine is a little lopsided and weird? It tasted good. So Ina can suck it!

p.s. I actually like Ina ~ hee

Friday, August 21, 2009

Welcome Raul Ramos y Sanchez to Carolyn in Carolina

I want to welcome Raul Ramos y Sanchez to his last stop on the First Annual BronzeWord Latino Virtual Book Tour. The Book Tour is designed to give exposure to wonderful authors like Raul. Please feel free to ask Raul questions or leave a comment for him today. He will be visiting and talking with you. I am also happy to say that a random comment on one of these blogs will receive a signed copy of his latest book America Libre.

A little blurb about America Libre:
AMERICA LIBRE is a gripping fictional account of U.S. immigration issues set in a near-future where Latino rights groups riot against the violence of border patrols and vigilante justice reigns in the American Southwest. Against this tumultuous backdrop, ex- Army Ranger Manolo Suarez finds himself romantically drawn to a Latina radical activist, threatening his marriage, his family and everything he knew and believed about patriotism.

We are also doing something different today. Raul has been hosting a contest on his blog and since this is the last stop on the book tour, he thought it would be fun to bring it here and then pick a winner. Woo-hoo! I am posting his comments and photo entries down below. If you really like one, give it a shout out.

So welcome Raul to Carolyn in Carolina. I am so glad I got to host you today!! As you see, I am a fan. And peeps, please feel free to comment or ask questions. Raul will be around and he is willing and ready to talk!! Remember, a random comment will be chosen and someone will win an autographed book!! If you would like to buy a copy of his book, click on the Amazon widget on my sidebar!

Also, I would like to thank JoAnn Hernandez, author and the brains behind BronzeWord Latino Authors, for coordinating another great book tour!!

From Raul:

The $50 winner of the MyAmericaLibre Photo Contest will be announced here today! Still time to enter!

Today at 5pm EST is the deadline for the “MyAmericaLibre” photo contest -- and your chance to win $50. So you still have time to enter! To take part, just send in ANY photo of your copy of AMERICA LIBRE. The shot can be in a bookstore, in your hand, on a table, you name it. ANY PHOTO of the book will qualify. But please keep it legal. Don't risk life and limb or break any laws, OK? Enter as many different photos as you like.

You have two places to post your shots:

1. The “Photos” section of the Friends of America Libre Facebook page

2. As a TwitPic on Twitter #MyAmericaLibre

Here are the contest entries so far…

Bob Englert

Barbara Estes

Tom Farmer

Carolyn Gonzalez (Frida reading America Libre)

Karla Hernandez

Melody Mangual

Austin Miller

Elisa Molina

Christophe Moustirats

Raymond Ng

Raymond Ng (Well fed warriors make for well run revolutions!)

John Rivera

Scott Willis