Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hazel Deduces and Pursues Her Passion

I'm going back to work! I'm embarking on a new venture! Are you excited? I am!

Let me begin by telling you about a little exercise I did several years ago. I think it was when I was starting my post-doc. Or maybe while I was finishing up my dissertation. I don't know, but it was a time of soul searching and existential crisis and wondering about how to find and have the guts to follow my true passion and whether self-actualization will be an unmet need of mine until I die. Amidst this angst, in church I heard a quote by Frederick Buechner, a 20th-century writer and theologian.
The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world needs most to have done.....The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Did somebody say "Worksheet"? So I made a column down the left side of a piece of paper listing things I can do, i.e., my abilities. I defined "ability" somewhat loosely. It didn't have to be directly marketable and I didn't have to be good at it if I at least enjoyed it, e.g., reading magazines and singing. I stopped when I got to the end of the page. Then I made 4 headings across the page for rating each ability on a scale of 1-10: a) does it bring me great gladness, b) does it help the world, c) how skilled am I at it (not one of the requirements from the quote, but I think it's at least mildly important), and d) the average of these three scores. I noted which abilities received an average score of 8 or more. These were: interior design, blogging/newsletters, arts and crafts, helping the environment, organization, internet/computers, yard sales, shopping, making people laugh, and travel.

So I thought, what career could I make out of these abilities which I find at the logically discovered magical place where my deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet? And I wrote at the bottom of the page, "Concl: Use internet, perhaps blogging, to communicate re: environment and perhaps market products and arts and thrifty solutions (e.g. yard sales)." This didn't encompass every high-scoring ability, so next to the ones that were left out (interior design, organization, shopping, and travel), I wrote "hobby".

Years passed.

Hazel had a baby.

And now she's going to follow her passion. This new venture is two-fold:

1. I'm starting an environmental blog about how to enjoy saving the world. My goal is to have as many readers as possible, so unlike Hazel's House Blog, which I only shared with certain family and friends, and any complete strangers that might happen across it (welcome!), I won't be keeping the new blog secret from anyone. My goal for the new blog is to discover how much I can do for the environment and to engage people in an effective, positive, and enjoyable mission to protect the planet. I want readers to use the blog as a place for daily inspiration, hope, mirth, and a greater appreciation of our incredible world. I've been doing a lot of research on how to make a blog successful, and I am excited about my plans and ideas. It will likely take months (at least) of consistent hard work to make it pay off, so while I'm starting out, guess what is my greatest asset? OR should I ask, who? That's right. It's You. Time's Person of the Year, 2006. I would be very grateful for your emotional support, your comments and participation in the blog as it starts out, and for any input you may have about this, right now or in the future.

2. I'm making and will sell upcycled clothes and toys for babies and children. By "upcycled" I mean recycling items to make something better out of them, which is contrasted with "downcycling", or recycling an item into something less valuable. I am still in the prototype stage but I'm loving where it's going. I've already blogged about several items of clothing I've altered, and the possibilities for future items are endless, but I don't think I've mentioned the toys. As you may know, babies love the crinkly sound. As you may also know, lots of unrecyclable materials make a crinkly sound. I've made some soft blocks and a soft book, both of which crinkle, and both of which Blueberry loves, and both of which saved trash from going into the landfill, and were made using second-hand materials. And I've got ideas for new designs. I will keep you posted, with photos and possibly videos.

So as of now, I've returned to work. I'm a work-at-home mom. It's great so far.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hazel Would Like to Share a Few Special Recipes and Blueberry's Fetal Hands with You

Hazel's cup runneth over with gratitude lately. She has a wonderful husband with whom she just celebrated a 5th wedding anniversary this past Friday.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, Stanley tried his hand at making sushi.

Stanley has become quite the chef in his old age and it turned out AMAZING. He made nigiri tuna, spicy tuna rolls, and California rolls. We decided that from now on we will most likely make it ourselves rather than go out to a restaurant or (the horror) buy it from the supermarket. We estimate that it costs half as much to make it ourselves. And if you get sashimi grade fish from a reputable business, it's acceptably safe.

Hazel was recently blessed greatly by a visit from Giggles Murkowski*, her friend from college. Hazel graduated from college 14 years ago. She only includes the previous sentence because maybe if she sees it in print she will finally believe it. Nope.

Anyway, Giggles was a wonderful guest and provided much encouragement and thoughtful advice about all manner of issues with which Hazel has been grappling of late, hence Hazel's gratitude. Giggles also schooled Stanley and Hazel on many things Korean, including the food, and how to find it at our convenient neighborhood Asian market, and gave us some non-Korean food ideas as well. Here are but some of the recipes she shared with us.

Bulgogi [Korean marinated beef] (Hazel notes: SOOO Good!!!)

Beef sirloin tip roast, 3/4" thick (or rib roast or rib eye)
About 3.5 lbs

3 teaspoons fresh pepper
1 cup soy sauce
3-4" inch long ginger /
2 garlic cloves (or more) <--chopped together
1/2 cup brown sesame seeds on a stove (put in ziploc bag and smash til 1/2 smashed)

1 cup sugar

Put sesame seeds, garlic/ginger, soy sauce, on top of cut meat, put in half sugar and 1/2 cup soy sauce. Mash it around on the meat with your hands for about 5 minutes, add pepper, 3 teaspoons. Then add the rest of the sugar and 1/2 cup soy sauce, mash it some more for 5 minutes. Layer all the meat to marinate it all. Cook on Korean BBQ 8 hours later or next day. (or cook on non stick skillet on stove) (you can eat it sooner, but the taste will not be as good. eat with rice, kim chee, romaine lettuce, veggies, etc)

Jong Jor Rim [Korean marinated flank steak, spicy]

Beef flank steak - cut off fat, rinse off meat Cut into squares. 4x4 inches Put in a large pot on the stove (always cut meat opposite way of the grain to keep it tender. With this recipe - it is okay to cut the opposite of the lines as you will peel the meat later) Pour soy sauce so it almost covers the meat. not over the meat, about 1.5" from the top of the meat in the pot Put jalapeno pepper - small handful of whole, rinsed pepper, cover with lid. Cook on high until it boils, then turn it to low. Add garlic. 2 Handfuls of jalapeno pepper in the pot (soy sauce will suck up the flavor of the peppers) Add LARGE handful of peeled garlic into pot - push down the meat. Return to boil, then turn it to low again for 15 minutes. Check the tenderness of the meat by pulling off a thick piece. Do not let the meat get too mushy or tender. Once meat is done, put meat into large containers. Place liquid from pot into the containers as well. You can refrigerate the meat and re-heat later to eat with rice and leaves or lettuce. Eating the garlic is good for you and the peppers are good with the soy sauce soaked up in them also.

Green Chili Eggs

8 oz. diced green chilis (can)

1 oz. grated jack cheese (or any cheese)

12 eggs 16 oz. sour cream

Mix cheese and chilis. Grease a 13x9 pan and spread in pan. Combine eggs and sour cream. Beat well and pour over chili cheese mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Chicken Divan (Hazel's note: Giggles' coworkers demand that she brings this to every potluck.)

Three bunches of broccoli

Four chicken breasts

Two cans condensed cream of chicken or mushroom soup

3/4 cup mayo

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. Curry powder (I usually put in tons more) (Hazel's note: LITERALLY tons!)

8 oz. shredded cheddar

1 1/2 cup bread crumbs - mixed with butter, 2-3 tsp.

Cook the chicken, let it cool. Steam broccoli, then arrange it at the bottom of a 11x 7 type pan. In a bowl, combine the soup, mayo, lemon, curry. Cut the cooled chicken into bite size pieces with poultry or kitchen shears. Place the chicken on top of the broccoli. Place the contents of the bowl on top of the chicken. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the mixture from the bowl. Combine the melted butter and bread crumbs - then sprinkle on top of the cheese. Cook 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 6-8 servings.

Stanley has recently adapted a mac 'n cheese recipe to make it his own, and he kindly shares it with you.

Stanley's Mac 'n Cheese

fry 1/2 pack bacon and chop up (Hazel's note: AGAIN with the bacon?)
boil noodles
melt 1 package of cream cheese add milk perodically to make it liquidy
add 4 cloves of crushed garlic cook it 1-2 min.
for an interesting flavor you can add some nutmeg - original recipe called for smoked paprika.
add sauce to noodles and then mix in 2-4 cups of grated cheese (we used cheddar but if you wanted to splurge a mixture of a really sharp cheddar and gruyere would be good).
The sauce should still be a little liquidy because it will thicken when you bake it so add more milk if it thickened too much from all the cheese that was added.
stir in the bacon.
crush up a bunch of saltines and saute in butter to light brown
bake mac 375 for 15-20 min until bubbly.
add the saltines to top of mac for last 5 min or so.

And this past Thursday, Blueberry turned 8 months old. I'm typing this from my laptop, which has no recent photos of her, so here are her hands at 20 weeks gestation.

*Names changed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Late Summer Offering

I can't believe it's already been three weeks since the lovely impromptu tea party at Hazel's House that she's been meaning to blog about and has finally gotten around to doing it. What a horrible sentence that was. On with the post.

I love an excuse to bring out the good china, and I love having nice people over. Ergo, I love a tea party!

My guests generously provided the fabulous food.

My friend Lucy* brought both of her daughters, which was a treat because I usually don't get to see her oldest because Lucy often pops over with the baby while the toddler is at day care. They will both be tea connoisseurs by the age of 8.

My friend Kate** was in town, stopping for a few days in Minnesota during her and her husband's move from Santa Cruz, CA to New Haven, CT. Last year she helped me host my first tea party ever, and threw a tea-party themed baby shower for me as well. Kate is my tea connection. She's my Teafather. What? Stop!

While we sipped and munched, the babies gnawed...

...and kissed...

...and bottlecaps were proffered and sorted.

My friend Cora*, another guest at the tea party, recycles bottlecaps to make jewelry and other art objects, and Kate brought her some caps all the way from CA. I have several necklaces and magnets from Cora that I LOVE! She takes requests! Check out her work! Click here!

The following weekend, we went camping, and a badger came up through the ground in the middle of the night and ate all the campers.

And yesterday was the last day of this year's state fair. Last night Stanley and I watched the fireworks from our deck for the last time and felt the mixture of joy and sorrow that another 12 days of fun has come to an end until next year. It was great to have a visit from Janis* and Grover*, my sister and brother-in-law, which coincided with the fair, and we stopped by the fair a couple of times. Here's one of my favorite photos of our adventures. I can't remember what Janis has on a stick, but Grover and Stanley each have a Cheeseburger on a Stick (TM). It was pretty good.

I'm still sewing! It's getting colder and Blueberry tends to kick out of her blanket swaddle at night, and she's grown out of her sleep sacks, so I decided to make her a new one. If you aren't familiar with sleep sacks, here's an example:

I decided to try making it from a fleece pullover that I've had for years and never wear.

Here's the finished product:

Instead of a zipper (Difficulty level: too hard for Hazel), I used 4 pieces of velcro, which I may change up if needed, and since it came together so fast and Blueberry was napping, I added the pinwheel fabric trim and appliqued a patch as well, not because there was a hole there, but because I fancy myself whimsical.

Blueberry was happy to model it for you.

I don't want to jinx it, but she slept great the two nights I put it on her, and she didn't seem too warm or too cold in the morning. Now it's in the laundry, so keep your fingers crossed that it comes out okay. If it does, I'm going to make more.

Guess who got her upper lateral incisors last Thursday! Yeah, that's right. Now she has six: four on top and two on the bottom. Click photo to enlarge and fully appreciate the tiny pearly whites.

Her canines also appear to be in, but they haven't poked through yet.

*Names changed.

**Originally "Tori"; fake name changed to a name she really likes upon her request. Did you know that you can request a fake name? Oh yes, you can.