Friday, December 31, 2010

Culebra New Year's Eve (day) 2010

 Last dawning of the year 
(you do realize we make up this whole time thing right? 
that seasons are Nature's calendar, the sun and moon her watch?
Ok, we can move on now()

Whether you are in a big city, in a little town, on a island big or small, in your home or out with noise and fireworks, have a safe and joyful New Year's Eve as we move together into 2011. Love, joy and peace...and a lot of laughter - my wish for all of us.

(performed by Dougie MacLean)

(basic English translation from the Scottish)

 Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne (old days gone by)?

For auld lang syne, my dear,   
for auld lang syne,   
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,   
for auld lang syne.   

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!   
and surely I’ll buy mine! 
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, 
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Good-bye, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Farewells to 2010...Best of's

Only a few eye blinks more and this year will be behind us. I was looking at some Best of 2010 lists and thought I'd post some of them here for your (and my) perusal. And because last year's beginning is as fuzzy in my mind as dryer lint after a towel load.

Time's list of Best Blogs of 2010 (and I'm not on it, what's up with that?)'s Best Shows (I've of them...I think)

NPR's Best Books of 2010 (many categories, many books to read!)
I didn't read this one...yet
Rolling Stone's 50 Best Songs of 2010 (nope, I haven't heard many of them)
Dang, I missed some of these too!
Wired's 10 Best Gadgets of 2010 (and you know the ipad is # uno!)

Reuters Best Photos of 2010 (there are lots of 'best photos of 2010 lists but this one is pretty great)

Of course, there are many more lists, but that should give you some reading material for awhile, at least until the midnight hour changes the date.

For myself, my favorite blogs of the year continue on the path I've shared with you all over the year, a lot of Tiny House Blog, a few cooking blogs, a couple of new blogs, one being Lloyd's Blog and others you'll get linked to if you hang around here long enough.
I can't say what the best book I read this year was named, I read a lot of good books. I don't watch television, so I don't have a best there. It's been a crazy year, but for me, the best thing that happened to me was seeing my children, grandchildren and brother across the country. Those visits can still bring a huge grin to my face and heart for months after the actual events...when I need that most. And this has been a year of needing that most more than a few times. But that's another list you won't see here. And the bridge got fixed! I mean, really fixed, finished, done, safe! That was, and is, pretty great.
What's on your Best of 2010 list? Remember the good and let's hope for lots more of it in 2011!
Have a transparent Thursday! Do something truthful.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Day Traditions

We all know that black-eyed peas, 12 grapes, pork, greens, along with round-shaped baked items all are some of the many symbolic foods traditionally eaten on New Year's Day to ensure prosperity, long life, completion of a full circle and starting anew. Then there are those foods to avoid, including both lobster and chicken; because lobsters move backward and chickens scratch backward...rather than the forward movement we want in our lives as the new year begins. Hmmm.
Of all of my childhood memories, and I've got a lot, I don't remember a New Year's Eve. Christmas, yes, New Year's Eve, no. I can only think that we just didn't do much of anything. I know we sure weren't eating black-eyed peas, which I never ate until I left home. And round, baked items weren't a big part of our lives either. Bagels, yes, round baked things, no.

But it all got me to thinking, what special traditions go on in your house on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day? Do you make special foods? Draw up lists of resolutions? Wave sparklers or shoot off fireworks? Are champagne corks flying along with kisses at midnight? Or do you throw the night to the wind, go to bed early and simply remind yourself to write a new digit or 2 or 3 on your paperwork?

Because New Year's Eve is on Friday this year, I thought I'd put together a couple of lucky recipes early this week (for prep time, or, if need be, for search, go to the big island, beg for time) that sound good: whether they actually will bring you what you long for, beyond a satisfied palate, I can't promise. I'm only a human being, after all!

I like a lot of the Japanese ways of ending the year, parties called "bounenkai" (forget-the-year-parties) held throughout December, "osoji" which is the deep cleaning of homes, offices and schools, to welcome the new year with a literal clean slate, the eating of long soba noodles, obvious for longevity (plus, I just really like soba noodles).

And then there is joya-no-kane. This is when, before and up to midnight, the temples across Japan begin to toll their bells 108 times, said in Buddhism to purify one who listens of their 108 worldly desires, or sins. I had no idea there WERE 108 worldly desires, and obviously have some serious catching up to do.

Not unlike here, most shops are closed on New Year's Day in Japan, so stocking up beforehand and food preparation are done before the day itself, so that families and friends can enjoy the celebrations.

What I would/could/should do for New Year's Day eating (if my desire for more simplicity in my life shows up here, take it like you see it):

Spinach chips - hey, they are green, they are sort of round, they are easy to make and they are good.

A bag of fresh spinach leaves goes a LONG way here, so just remember you need to lay them out in only one layer (unless you have a dehydrator, and they will still go a real long way)
Olive oil
Seasonings (ground, yes) of your choice - do you like garlic or cumin or hot red pepper flakes on your chips? then use them here!
Parchment paper (and yes, you CAN find it on of those things)

Wash and dry your spinach leaves and toss with a wee bit of olive oil. You do not want these to be anything more than very lightly coated. You can really even omit the oil if you like, but it helps the seasonings to stick and gives the crispiness some help as well.

Toss with the seasonings and put down one layer on your parchment paper covered baking pan. The oven should be about 300 and you're going to let these babies go about 10 minutes. Yes, it's okay to peek and see what's going on with them.

When they are done, they are going to be almost ethereal on your tongue. Sort of like communion wafers are supposed to be, I bet (not being an expert on the subject). I have read for a thicker chip that using kale is best. But I don't see kale much around take your choice and get your lucky greens going on.

Soba noodles are considered lucky because they symbolize long life. But you have to eat them in one long slurp! Pork symbolizes progress. I'm not exactly sure why...but so it is written!
Here is a recipe that combines both of them.

Mr. Lucky?

Soba Noodles with Pork (two, two two lucks in one)
 (adapted from FoodNetwork)

This will serve 4, so if you have more people coming, you can do the math and adjust the amounts accordingly.

8 ounces soba noodles
4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil - I like hot, as in spicy, sesame oil, but you might not. Remember, sesame oil is strong stuff so don't just be dumping lots in there, even if you don't have a measuring spoon, go slow!
1 tablespoon minced pickled ginger - If you can't find pickled ginger, and around here there is a real good chance of that, just use fresh, peel a chunk of it and grate out a couple of tablespoon-ish size amounts. And if you can't find fresh? Sure, use powdered, but use about half the amount.
2 pounds pork (butt, roast, chop, your choice, if you must use tenderloin, go ahead!), cut into 1-inch chunks
salt to taste
a few twists of freshly ground or a finger pinch of already ground black pepper
4 scallions chopped, use the whole thing (well not the roots, don't be silly)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds - a combination of white and black sesame seeds dress this up, but use what you can get
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts, drained - if you like water chestnuts, if not, leave 'em out
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves - fresh isn't optional here, use fresh! With fresh, the stems can be used as well as the leaves; if you use the stems, cut them really tiny! Also, be sure to wash your cilantro well, it's usually got some grit left on it. Dry it by rolling and patting in a dish towel or paper towel.

Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain, and add 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil, gently fork toss to coat the noodles and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced ginger stirring for 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the pork, and cook, stirring, until browned on all sides, maybe around 5 minutes.

Stir in salt, pepper, ginger, scallions and sesame seeds to mix, that should only take about a minute. Reduce your heat to medium and add the broth and soy sauce. Just let that simmer until the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes or so, stirring a couple of times. Remove from the heat and stir in the water chestnuts if you want them in there.

Chop the cilantro, and add it and the soba noodles to the meat mixture. Simmer that for about five minutes and wa la, you've done it!

If you want to make this ahead, you can cool the meat mixture and put it in a container in the fridge. Do the same with the soba noodles. This will keep up to three days, and you can just reheat it on the stove or in the microwave and serve. If you do hold it, don't put in the cilantro until you're ready to serve it.

New beginnings, lucky foods, a clean slate. It's all in how you cook it up in your own life. Or at least, that's what I think. Bon chance and buen provecho!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The in-between

Right now we are in that in-between time; the parties, parandas and packaging of Christmas behind us, the planning for New Year's Eve ahead. Even the weather seems to be in a lulling time, the large seas and winds are gone, it's not quite sunny and not quite cloudy. It seems that life here is often so vivid that when the sheen of lull is cast over us, it becomes a little surreal (as opposed to the vivid surreal times). But I do have to say, last night, though the skies were dark in the absence of that glorious last full moon, we had sharp, dare I say, vivid, diamond stars overhead...a good night to recognize different constellations wheeling by.

Speaking of stars, here is a web site, Starry Messenger, I found recently. It's sort of like the USA Today of things skyward, giving headlines of links to some timely sky related stories (well, yeah, unless it's about a Starry Messenger and I can pretty well promise you won't see a post about that here unless one walks up and taps me on the shoulder), without bogging you down in articles you might have no interest in. I like it!

I have to say, if 2011 goes by at the rate of speed 2010 did, I'll be younger at the end of this year than I am now, in a time-warped non-continuum that leaves me scratching my head (of course, that could be caused by the cat sitting there occasionally), wondering what month it is, let alone what day.
I'm not really sure how that happens, the elasticity of time. Or maybe it is more pronounced on Culebra (ok, definitely it's more pronounced on Culebra). Maybe it's the whole 'getting older, time goes faster' thing, but if that's true, by the time I'm 60, a year will last about a month. Hardly seems fair...ah well, the way my memory is going, I won't remember anyway, so maybe that is the balance of it all. Fair warning, right here, right now! If I don't remember your name (or my own) as we meet up in the coming year, now you know why. Be kind.

I've been thinking of things that brought me joy this year, and one of them is finding photos (and the real thing right here on Culebra) of...are you ready? Container homes. Yes, I'm a simple person. The latest one(s) to bring container home lust into my heart are as follows...unless you quit reading sometime up above.

Does this not look like something that could be on Culebra? In my own yard? Yes it does!
I first saw this on Derek "Deek" Diedricksen's blog, Relaxshacks in a post about container homes, and had to find out more...which I did on the blog De Zeen. So if you want to see more photos of it, click on the link.

Something about a blue roof apparently grabs my fancy.

This is being used as a garden tool shed here on Culebra, but I can easily imagine it as a tiny home. Quite easily, in fact. Yes, I want it.

And yes, I'm rambling, caught in the slow whirling vortex of the Lull Time. I'm sure something notable will be happening soon, like New Year's Eve, if nothing happens before that. Random acts of vividness are not uncommon around here. In the meantime, I'm rolling with it!

Have a towering Tuesday! Do something tangy.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

As things Culebra go...

Christmas may be over in America, but here on Culebra, the celebrations continue on into January, culminating with Three Kings Day, January 6th. But that is later on. Last night I could hear parties going on around the bay, and then I heard the paranda music. I missed Culebra's public party yesterday, with other obligations. All day I asked, what about the horses? No horses, I was told, that's Three King's Day, remember? But I remembered horses...

And here they were! Not many but enough to be a belated Christmas present. I'm not exactly sure what the announcement was about, but it didn't matter much to was music, horses and happy people. What better? Sorry for the dark aspect, it was run and shoot or miss the show!

This morning

Cloud mountain

Sky gold

Have a memorable Momday! Do something miraculously mundane.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Culebra Christmas Eve (day and night)

The day could not have been more beautiful
I love the tradition at Milka's of having Santa show up for the kids (and the kid inside some of the adults). It's not really because of Santa, who, when I first moved here, wasn't really part of the scene, in favor of Three King's Day. But anytime you can see everyone really happy, and experience such generosity of spirit that Hector, Sandra, family and friends provide, is a good time.
And Sandra? That carrot cake roll? It was amazing!

Nice job, Santa, thanks for stopping by!

Waiting for Santa
And here he is!
Sandra, Hector and guy about to eat something yummy!

Daphne, not quite sure what to think of Santa

More goodies!

 And a good time was had by all!

The evening earthquake! Apparently around 7:30, Puerto Rico experienced a 5.1 (or 5.4, I've read both) shaking. I think I was listening to music about then and didn't notice it, but lots of people on PR, Vieques and Culebra felt it. Nothing since then...a good thing. A very good thing.

It also brought music...Son de Culebra at Dinghy Dock and Wiki's Sound Machine at Mamacita's. I bailed out lots earlier than I thought I would, but I have no doubt a very good time continued to be had by all, all over the island. I took a video of them to have here, playing White Christmas, but for some reason <grrrrrrrr> Google won't allow this particular video here. Maybe later...after I deal with their Grinchy spirit.

Santa getting a warm up before taking off for colder climes
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good day! Peace and love, pass it on.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Culebra Clouds Got in My Way

I'd only gone out to water some plants when I looked up and the clouds were all going swirly whirly. So I took a walk and from above, the bay water was doing the exact same thing. Mr. Wind was having a fine old time yesterday.

Merry Christmas Eve! Continue to be good, you never know who is still working on a list.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hi, my name is MJ and I love bacon!

Being the holidays, of course thoughts can turn nostalgic, tending to harken up family and past celebrations. Don't worry, I'm not going all warm and fuzzy on you because, truthfully, my father never made this dish (it's coming, be patient) for us, and certainly not anything like it for the holidays. But he did like bacon and we ate a lot of it (the four of us should have been a bunch of little fatties, the way he fed must have been that GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY! thing we all used to do back in the old days). Usually it was a run of the mill bacon he used, but occasionally he would get that fat-sliced, rind-still-on sort (which of course began my love of chicharrones, leading to my love of lechon, - oh that crunchy skin! - it's an addiction that luckily I only need to satisfy once a year or so). But I digress...sort of. Nostalgia is like that; it has many paths to travel. This is one of the good ones. Thanks, Dad! Even though, back then, I thought you were trying to kill us...

While I was out in Oregon this fall, my daughter Sarah, who is a seriously brilliant cook, told me, with just a hint of her teen-age defiance,  "Mom, I know you don't think this is right, but I love green beans cooked like Grandma made them, seriously overcooked to pale green, with a lot of bacon and bacon fat. I don't care if they aren't crisp!" I use quotation marks but of course, it's not a quite direct quote. She'll forgive me just giving the gist of it. Point being, this girl/woman who can cook circles around me likes her green beans soggy with overcooking and saturated in bacon fat.

Truthfully, how can I begrudge her? My former mother-in-law's cooking could be a thing of rapture to enjoy, once I got over the shock of it, growing up on broiled meats and crisp salads. She made the best fried chicken I've ever tasted. And a German wilted lettuce leaf salad (lettuce from her garden, of course) that made me turn into Inhaler Woman (more bacon, more bacon fat, enough vinegar to squinch your eyes and egg dropped into the hotness of that, blowing up like volcanic lava, insta-quick flashed into egg lace, fastly incorporated along with salt and then slewn (I know, slewn is not a word but one must 'slewn' this combination of fat and vinegar and egg) upon light, lovely, soft to brilliant green lettuce leaves...all for the purpose of making them wilt under the power of heated decadence. Slowly, a pan the size of a small car tire would...well, the size of a family dinner serving (I confess I have been known, on quite a few more than one occasion, to eat that amount all by myself, long after these family meals were a memory).

And as hunger hit me late last night after getting home from Susie's, I realized I had some lovely green beans from the veggie guy and some bacon, a rarity in my fridge but for the past couple of weeks, bacon has been calling me seductively and I've answered. One must do what one must do.

So I cooked this, and the green beans softened in bacon fat. Nothing like my daughter delights in, overboiled, in a pot filled with fat chunks of ham hocks, losing their brilliant green to the dull of military fatigues. But enough for me, in the stew of bacon and its fat, salt and onions instead of my usual flash saute, butter and salt. And yes, the beans have not been 'snapped' because it was late and I was lazy and so there!

 I know, it's Thursday and not Free Range Friday. But holidays (especially around here) are made for breaking the rules. Oh my!

There were really a lot more beans here, but I had to re-take the photo of some leftovers this morning, since apparently I was in such a hurry to eat some of this, the original plating was quite blurry. Best eaten one bean and piece of bacon at a time...using one's fingers. this a cure for insomnia? I slept all night and might still be asleep if not for an early morning phone call. Hmmm.

Have a tasteful Thursday! Do something tantilizing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wow!! A Winter Solstice Show!

I hope you got to see the eclipse this morning. I know some places it was too cloudy (sorry Deb! but here's the photos, more on fb), and clouds did take away the last re-emergence of the moon from us. But we got the best of show and I'm still feeling pretty high about that. It seemed like the moon was covered for a really long time, deeply red and mysterious, making the new edge of light even brighter.

And now, from the silly weather department...we've got Invest 95. Most likely only a rain event, but this is quite unusual at the end of December. But then again, a lot of things seem to fall into the unusual category these days, so why am I surprised?

355 PM EST MON DEC 20 2010 

Today, of course, is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day, and longest night of the year. Imbued with all sorts of symbols and meanings around the world, in my world it is the day of the eclipse, some work, and waiting to hear how my brother's surgery has gone to remove the cage his leg has been in for the last few months (oddly enough, one of his best friends is also having surgery today, on his back. Jonny said, "We used to go out and raise hell together, now we have surgeries together." Best of luck to you too, Bob!! Both of you in the same hospital sounds scary to me!) Will his leg be set free today? I'm believin' it!!!

Have a tantamount Tuesday! Do something thrilling (if you haven't already).

Monday, December 20, 2010

This is it!!! Winter Solstice, Lunar Eclipse!

Yesterday held birds and beach...another beautiful day in Paradox.


I've read differing opinions on whether this is the first time in 400 something or 600 something years that these celestial events, the winter solstice full moon and a lunar eclipse, have occurred at the same time, but it is agreed that it's been a real long time. And that it will be somewhere along that time graph before they occur together again. So get your butts out of bed for something beside the paranda truck and see if you can catch part or all of this historic (and beautiful) sky event!

This lunar eclipse time chart is for us in Atlantic Standard Time. You can find your own time zone chart here, thanks to Mr. Eclipse! And I do thank you, Mr. E (who really is Mr. E; Fred Espenak, a pretty interesting guy from what I read - how many guys have an asteroid named in their honor?), that's one hell of a job you did to make it clear for the rest of us who can't figure out how to tell time.

Have a Monday of marvel! Do something magical.