Tuesday, July 16, 2019

BBQ Tofu

BBQ flavor can be hit or miss with me.  It is sorta like "hot sauce" or "curry."  The term itself can denote so many different variations...some of which are finger lickin' good and some not so, at least to my liking. 
Often the sweet smokiness is just too cloying for me, so it is hardly ever a flavor on the menu at our place.  
That said Matt and I have been on a barbecued tofu bender recently.  It all started because Matt's brother, Adam, got married last month and we were sent home with a couple different bottles of BBQ sauce leftover from the pulled pork they served.
Storytime with Beth Sidebar:  When I was in high school my mom served up a pulled pork sandwich to one of my friends as we were heading out the door.  I refused to let my friend get in my car--made her consume it standing on the sidewalk until it was totally gone--because otherwise it would stink up my whole car.  The memory is quite vivid because I think barbecued pulled pork is horrific.  So.Much.BBQ.Smell.   It isn't a vegan thing in any way, purely a food preference thing.  The previously mentioned cloying sweet-smokiness overwhelms my senses in a negative way.  I hate it.  It repels me.  So much so that I once made a list of the foods they'd serve in my personal version of hell and barbecued pulled pork topped the list.  Followed by all the creamy-based salads (egg salad, poatato salad, macaroni salad, tuna salad, coleslaw), served with a big Bloody Mary.  Ew.  Just ew.  ☺  I realize many, maybe most, beg to differ, but that's my take.
Months back I'd read a recipe in honor of The Year of the Pig on the Chinese calendar.  It was basically a homemade BBQ sauce with Chinese Five Spice Powder added to the mix.  For some reason it lodged in my brain, even though, like I said we don't really do BBQ much.  I was pretty happy about it though when we ended up with the bottles of BBQ sauce and the meal idea resurfaced from my mental recipe box.  I gotta say, it was spectacular, too.  Mmmmmmmm....so yummy and balanced in flavor.  I immediately wanted a repeat (and it was SO easy there was no reason not to).  Given my propensity to adore Asian flavors it makes only too much sense that I was pleased by this fusion variation.  It was a perfectly swell way to tweak the BBQ sauce to my preferences.  I highly, highly recommend it, even if you're putting the BBQ sauce on something other than tofu.
Matt also developed a delish BBQ blend that was equal parts The Hot Sauce That Matt Likes and the BBQ sauce.  Another brilliant way to tweak the sauce to make me enjoy it all the more.  
On the grill or outta the oven, these have been a very delightful addition to our tofu repertoire.  I might finally be hooked on something BBQ flavored that isn't a potato chip!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Storytime: My Donkey Foot

The summer of 2016 I went to a birthday party at my friend Jesscy's place out in the country.  It was a costume party themed on Neil Young songs and lyrics.

As if all that wasn't silly and awesome enough, there I met my very first baby donkey, just a few months old.  Her name is Ruby and she was the cutest, fluffiest little donkey I could have possibly imagined (having never previously bothered to imagine what a baby donkey would look like).  She was rocking a magenta feather boa.  It was a costume party and all.
Ruby is ready for the party.  
I wanted to hug her every time I saw her.  Which I did.  A lot.  She was a perfect height for hugging and a real sport about it.

There I was, hours deep into the shindig, heart-melting as I hugged this fuzzy angel and when I pulled away she took a step and stumbled, as toddlers might.  And stepped right on my bare foot.  Oooooh, boy.  Let me tell you, even a baby donkey has some heft to her.

Oh, the pain.  The instantaneous Oh-No-I-think-I-Just-Broke-My-Foot pain.  It was shocking and excruciating.  Ruby meandered away sweetly to find someone else to scratch behind her ears and I hobbled off to (curse and) lick my wounds in the privacy of my vehicle.  I called my friend Val for a sympathetic ear and she talked with me until I got myself back into some semblance of calm.  Then I limped back to the party and did my best to pretend it hadn't happened.  I didn't want to ruin the fun and unless I was going to stop and drive to town right then and there, well, there wasn't much I could do about it.

The next day I convinced myself I was being melodramatic.  It couldn't actually be broken...just bruised or something.  It was swollen and discolored, but I could walk, er hobble, on it.  Painfully, I'll admit, but I could get around.  I didn't think it could be both.

Let the record show that Matt tried to get me to go to the doctor several times, especially when it was a month out and I could still only bear to wear one particular pair of shoes because of the lingering (but diminishing!) pain.  At that point I figured it was too late to do much good, plus I am sort of a boss at coping with pain since I suffer from it chronically with my arthritis.  So I didn't have it checked out.  I just gimped through my days until I could walk without a limp again.

Part of me regrets that, but honestly, I'd probably do the same thing if it happened all over again.
Isn't Ruby just GORGEOUS?!?!  Don't you wish you could hug her?!?!?! 
Photo credit to Jesscy.
So, when I say that Ruby broke my foot, there are no x-rays or anything to back up that assertion.  This is just my assessment.  I think it was the third and/or fourth metatarsal bone or possibly the related cuneiform slightly higher up the foot.  Of course, I am not a doctor, but base this on how it felt, looked, and functioned.

That was an interesting couple of months which followed.  For a week I couldn't wiggle my toes.  I learned to cycle with only one pedal for a brief stint.  I wore that one pair of shoes every single day.  I whined, but not too much or Matt would threaten me with the doctor again.  :)

Three years later my foot is fine.  It doesn't hurt, but occasionally I still experience discomfort, most notably when swimming.  It occurred to me during the IronBear challenge, for example, that I almost never do a standard flutter kick with my feet.  The up and down motion is unpleasant on my left foot.  It doesn't hurt, it just doesn't feel like everything fits together quite right either.  Matt tends to think that "discomfort" is just another word for pain, but they're totally different in my book.  My foot is fine.  I basically never think about it at this remove.

I think this story is hilarious.  I love to tell it.  I mean, if one is going to have an injury the least they can get out of it is a good story.  I just recounted the tale of my donkey foot two weeks ago, in fact, for Ruby's new owner who happened to be at Jesscy's most recent birthday party.  This year the theme was All That Glitters--dresses that look like disco balls, sparklers, a unicorn pinata...that gal knows how to have a party.  While we were there Matt told me, no less than twice, to be careful around the pasture where the hinnys/horses/donkeys/mules/anyotheranimalthatcouldbreakmyfoot were hanging out.  I could tell he was half joking, but there was a portion of sincerity there, too.

And I am happy to report that I walked away from this party without a limp.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Top Twelve Tags & Search Terms

Someone heard I kept a blog and asked what I wrote about.  I said something like, "Oh, all sorts of stuff.  Food, hikes, books, tips on simple living and gardening.  Just all sorts of stuff I like.  It doesn't really have a theme....just my life."
Not long after, I joked over dinner that I actually talk more about food and nature than I do about my family or friends.  The tags confirm it.  Hmmmmm, that might be telling.

Or maybe not.  Several tags overlap, after all, and are almost always interlinked--Cooking of Food from the Garden in our Household to share with Friends, for example.

This top twelve list made me smile and nod.  I am a food and book obsessed treehugger who is very family oriented and enjoy music, animals, gardening, and hanging out with my friends... when I actually make myself stay home long enough from traveling to do so.  Yup, that's true.

Labels are funny though.  I mean, that is totally me, but there is so much more, too.  (I recently did a diversity workshop that included an exercise in self-labeling which was very interesting!)
Ruminating on these tags prompted me to check out the Google keyword search stats from my blog, too.  The list of Amish proverbs is still far and away the winner.  Forever and ever, it seems destined to hold on to this top spot.  I really do think that is telling.  Especially since the post is seven years old at this point.

I sincerely hope my review of various non-dariy milks has been helpful to folks and was fairly surprised to see it so high on the list.

I almost never think to mention it, but another topic I frequently cover:  Personal Statistics.  😉  There should probably be a tag for that...

Friday, June 21, 2019

Boot Laces and Love

He tied my shoe.

My new boots have slippery new shoelaces.  My right boot lace kept coming un-tied as we explored Petrified Forest National Park.  I tried double wrapping it.  I tried double knotting it.  And still.  So, I kept re-tying it every 15-20 minutes.

After like the tenth time it happened Matt stopped and tied my shoe for me.  Double wrapped and double knotted.  Tight and precise.  And it stayed.

Life and love are made of the little things, these tiny acts of care and kindness.

Today I welcome the Solstice--summer, glorious summer--and bask in the great blessing of fourteen years out on the trail with Matt, the last five as husband and wife.  We've got a cosmically good thing going, dancing around the sun together.
Wedding photo credit to Jenny Lynn Photography.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Inspiration Thursday: You Win Some, You Lose Some, You Keep Trying

I want to be a better person than I am.

Don't misunderstand.  I know I am good person and I have a lot of positive traits.  But, I also know I am too much of a miser.  I'm too quick to criticize.  I can be so cynical and hypocritical.  I am too frequently selfish or self-involved.  I fight against these tendencies because I strive to be a better, kinder, more honest, sympathetic, and generous person than my base animal nature would have me be.

Some days I do well.  Some days I fall on my face spectacularly.  Recently I had back-to-back experiences in which I quite disappointed myself one day and redeemed myself the next.
Earlier this week a friend dropped this video into my path and I had to ponder how much of a complainer I can be, too.  Could I go a whole day without complaining about the little annoyances that pepper my remarkably blessed life?

There is always going to be something to moan about (rainy days, bad restaurant service, aches and pains, misplaced belongings, dental procedures), but there is always so much more to be grateful for (clean water, love, family, cats, sunshine, flowers, full bellies, friendship, tasty beers, good books, a meaningful job, a nice home, a stupendous lifemate, and another day to live this life I love).

This sprung into my mind yesterday when I pulled up Facebook Messenger to complain to my besties about a woman who'd brought her increasingly unhappy toddler to the library and sat near my office for hours.  I realized my instinct was to find someone to complain to about it--about how put upon I was by the distraction and noise.

But, I checked myself.  I closed the Messenger app.

(I'm going to make up names here for clarity.)

I observed the young mother.  Kate sighed heavily and rubbed her forehead with strain as she tried to placate little Mary with snacks and videos before turning back to type at her computer.  Still Mary cried and cried, expressing her discontent at being cooped up in the library for hours.  Kate took Mary outside for a short walk in the stroller.  She tried to encourage nap time by pushing Mary back and forth in her stroller with a foot as she typed.  Mary was not having it though.  She was up and down and running all about the library with Kate repeatedly jumping up from her computer to give chase and bring Mary back to her desk.  Kate was typing a long document with a serious expression on her face.   She looked tired and sweaty and absolutely frazzled.

I realized that rather than complain I could try and be helpful.  I drummed up a can of Play-Doh and some crayons and asked Kate if I could offer them to Mary.  Kate was so grateful for the new distractions....not that they really helped all that much, but Kate's appreciation and gratitude still made it worth the effort.

Mary toddled into my office a while later (for the seventh time) and when Kate chased after her she apologized and we started to talk.  The young woman unloaded a little bit explaining that she'd just gotten notified her ex had filed new documents relating to their parenting plan and she had to file her reply with the court by Friday, but was going to be out of town so she only had the one day to work on it and it was so important and she was so worried and....on and on.  Kate then thanked me for listening and went back to writing, scanning, and updating her documents.

And I thought:  Well, I am sure glad I didn't complain to my friends.  My day/life is going so easy compared to all that.  That poor woman has enough weighing her down without me griping about noise when she's doing the best she can.  What did it matter in the grand scheme of things?  And what good would complaining have done?  I felt so light.  It was incredible, like I was actually winning the battle.  It was surreal how different I felt about the whole situation when I looked outside myself first.  It reminded me of the Arbinger training Matt's taken and that line my sister once told me about how it is never too late to be the person you aspire to be.

I'm sure I'll keep falling on my face.  Sticking my foot in my mouth.  Regretting and overthinking the careless things I say or do.  I am such a fallible human.  But, each day is a new day to try again.  How remarkable to think I've got so many chances to grow!