Pumpkin Seeds

After the annual carving, my friend Amy and I were lamenting (greenies that we are) that so many gourds are wasted on just being decorative. Well, my pumpkins supplied the seeds for the following recipe. If you like popcorn or roasted nuts, you will LOVE these:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Under cold running water, in a colander, rinse

Seeds from at least one large pumpkin

to remove all pulp. While still in the colander, drizzle seeds with about

2 tablespoons peanut oil

and stir to coat. Place parchment paper/Silpat on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread seeds in a single layer over the sheet. If you have too many seeds, use more than one sheet or bake in batches. Sprinkle seeds with

1-2 teaspoons kosher salt (to taste).

Bake for 10-20 minutes or until toasty GBD (golden brown and delicious). Try not to burn your fingers while you wolf them down!!!
If you use cooking spray (but it’s more expensive and less environmentally friendly), you can just spray the seeds after spreading them on the parchment. It is very important to use kosher, not table salt; it is very easy to oversalt with the fine granules of table salt.
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Total time: 30-45 minutes

Taste [rate 4]
Ease [rate 5]

Five Years

wedding-11.jpgAt the exact time of this post, I was standing in front of 100 friends and pledging to become one with Carlton for the rest of my life.

My immediate family- parents, siblings- have always been my world. The five of us have always had a very special bond that I’ve not seen duplicated. We called our family outings Fab Fives; as adults, we are even more closely knit than ever. When I was single, I imagined my spouse would be seperate from my “real” family.

Then came Carlton. With style and a genuine nature, he captured the hearts of my entire family. Then a funny thing happened: it wasn’t about spouse and family; he became a part of us and we became a part of his family too.

We’ve had our ups and downs. What marriage doesn’t? But in the end, we complement each other perfectly. Our families have said that we are both so lucky tocgb-knh_self_portrait_hootie.jpg have each other. I can’t speak for him, but I sure feel blessed to be married to such a smart, dashing, intelligent, kind, amazing person.

One of my favorite things about Carlton: he can make my mom laugh harder than she ever laughs with anyone else.

Grandma Harter said marriage is a 60-60 proposition. Carlton makes it easy to give that much and more.

Happy Anniversary!

Ten Years

Ten years ago today, I was living in Memphis Tennessee.  I had lived there for just a few months and was starting to realize I didn’t like it.  I was lonely a lot and was not ready to be so far away from absolutely everyone whom I loved.  The shiny new adventure had worn into something not nearly as good.

The day I went to see my Grandma Harter before I moved, she was on a lot of pain medication.  She was losing weight rapidly and was just a kindly shadow of the strong, elegant person I had known.  I told her I was moving away, how much I loved her, and how much I would miss her.  We talked about art a little bit and life a little bit.  As I left her room, she sat smiling and waving goodbye with one delicate little hand, fingers closed and dainty like always.  I knew it would be the last time I would ever see her.

Fast forward a few months to my apartment in Memphis on a drizzly work day.  My dad called, too early in the morning for a social call.  He awakened me to say not to worry but that Grandma Harter died, everything was going to be OK, and that he’d already bought me a plane ticket home.  We chatted briefly and then I called my work.  They were indifferent and told me to return soon and to be sure to bring a copy of the death certificate to prove my absence (nice, huh?).

I flew home and went through the motions of the funeral.  I had brought some of her artwork with me to decorate the viewing room- I wanted people to see her life more than her death.  Some of her close friends hadn’t even known of her amazing talent.  But that was her: elegant but unassuming.  She was the kind of lady to wear a hat and gloves to the store and still root for the Steelers on Sunday afternoon.  She found a way to be completely proper while putting others at ease.  I inherited a fraction of her talent and grace and I try to cultivate it.  I had four wonderful grandparents, but she was the one I had the good fortune to really know well before she died.

She did not have a college degree, but she was learned on a multitude of topics, especially politics and the World Wars.  The Depression prevented her from being able to attend the art college where she had a full scholarship.  She didn’t let her lack of formal education stop her from learning or from living.

Ten years ago today, Grandma Harter died.  But she still influences me and I am still learning from her.


Beer makes carving better.My friend Amy and I have an annual pumpkin-carving tradition. I had a friend who was a Jehovah’s Witness who really made me think about pseudo-holidays like this. What exactly am I celebrating? I’m not Wiccan, right? But instead of casting aside all of my traditions, I then started reflecting on Dia de los Muertos and All Soul’s Day, both contemplating the passing of souls from one world to the next. I’m fascinated that our world religions created such competition. I can hear the marketing thought process: The feast of the Rising Sun is drawing some of our members to a pagan feast? Fine. Let’s make it the most important holiday we can…. how about Christ’s birth? Feast of the Rising Son, get it?

It just shows we are more similar than different. Now, I try to not just think of a fun costume, but to really reflect on the soul’s passing from the body. But as evidenced by the photos, Amy’s and my carving have little to do with spirituality and much more to do with recapturing a bit of youth.

carving-background.JPGLeave it to me to overthink something really fun. Amy and I spread out newspapers and hacked up some gourds. It’s actually somewhat artistic and our designs vary by year. I always think I’ll do one of those elaborate, shaded carvings, but I always end up wanting to just cut out some corncob teeth. Amy’s on the left with the scary pumpkin; I’m holding the sad face pumpkin.

I just hope that this year, I manage to discard the pumpkin a little earlier than last year.

Napoleon Dynamite directed by Jared Hess

napoleon.JPGIMDb link

Every generation has their cult film.  Actually, it’s every mini-generation; I would say that in recent times, cult classics have been every five years.  For me, the first one was The Princess Bride.  For my sister, just five years my senior, it was the Breakfast Club.  Then Clerks defined college for me; for my sister, Raising Arizona.  There are semi-serious movies like this as well (Legend, The Big Chill), but I’m talking about the stupid movies.  It is almost necessary that the film be grossly underbudget; bad acting, usually a damning factor, can be forgiven and can even be welcome.  The latest of these filmes blancs was Napoleon Dynamite.

When I heard about this movie, I didn’t want to see it at all.  I am tired of the Deuce Bigalow comedy with far too many crude jokes and this looked to be more of the same, done with That Seventies Show flair.  The guys in the lab where I worked were quoting it all day and the quotes didn’t even sound funny.  “Tina, eat your dumb dinner?”  Sounds stupid.

I watched it, and wow.  What a stupid movie.  I kept thinking I could not bear to keep watching it.  Carlton paused the movie so he could pour us some beers to power through the movie. 

Then something odd happened.  We weren’t laughing out loud, but we were amused.

I still thought I hated it, but when I went to work the next day, I realized I kept quoting it and laughing.  Something about Napoleon’s dumb Butt-Headesque voice made him fun to imitate. 

OK, that was all a year ago.  Carlton decided that, since this is a cult film, we should watch it again.  I realized I was actually looking forward to seeing some of the scenes again.  Homebrews were poured and we settled in to watch.  We laughed out loud.  The performances of the actors were brilliantly moronic.  Each character lives in his/her own reality cloud of confidence and false bravado.  Napoleon is beat up and then defiantly kicks the locker to assert himself (after the bullies are long gone, of course). 

This is not a movie to be taken seriously, or for one to devote all of one’s attention to it.  But if you want to remember why high school was fun and awful, pour a brew and laugh at something stupid.  WARNING: if you like highbrow movies, don’t blame me if you watch this.

[rate 3]

Fueling without Gasoline

I recently joined digg, becoming one of a community of hundreds of thousands of geeks trolling the web for interesting, funny, and useful news. I’m in love with the site (and Kevin Rose ain’t bad either).

Carlton and I have started watching diggnation on weekends. It’s clever, relevant, and hilarious. I feel like I’m in college again with a couple of really smart guys. Carlton and I laugh out loud and still learn stuff! I felt extra-cool the other day when I story I “dugg” when it only had ~125 diggs made it to the front page with over 5,000 diggs.

This story, found on digg, is about diesel technology. Because I married an engine geek, I learned a ton about engines that I’d always wanted to know. I’ve combined my love of cars with my love of environmentally conscious alternatives: using my purchasing power to send a message. My new car is a hybrid and I only wish that there were diesel hybrids!! However, Toyota recently announced that they would not pursue that as an option because of the double premium- $2000 for diesel plus $3000 for hybrid technology is a lot for the average consumer to swallow.

Well anyway. Someday, I hope to submit a story that makes Digg’s front page!!

Wednesday is so cool!

Another work-related post…stop yawning!

This week has been very busy.  I’m on a special project that has me away from my desk all week and multi-tasking like crazy.  It is very demanding, and this type of project is part of the reason that I do my job all year.  It’s like the final exam every semester except that my grade also depends on the performance of others.

So while last week may have been hard, this week tests our mettle even more strongly.  I come home every night, after 13 plus hours of work, physically and mentally drained.

I arrived home to a small gathering of people at my house, all in the home theater with Carlton.  When I opened the door, they spontaneously said “hooray!”  It made my day in the nerdiest way.

It was a great night.  One of the guests noted that the five of us were probably too intelligent to all be in the same room.  We had a wide variety of personalities and beliefs.  It fueled some very heated debates.  I loved seeing how the discussions would turn; how we would passionately discuss every facet; how sometimes, it led to new revelation and new thought.  My brother noted that without being open to new ideas, we cease to grow and learn.  We were not a diverse group ethnically, but all five of us brought amazing diversity of logic and expression and knowledge.  It was really eye-opening.

Funny how a plain old Wednesday night can turn into a special event.

Work-Life Balance?

I’m sipping a hot cup of coffee from my favorite mug. My house’s temperature has dropped to a chill factor that requires socks, flannel, and chunky sweaters. This is perfect contemplation weather.

I haven’t written in a while, but it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve thought of posts on the commute and have actually started writing a few when my carpool allowed me to ride. I just didn’t feel the right inspiration for the writing to be any good.

Work has tried my patience lately. I’m not loving what I’m doing like I have in the past. However, I have been making a concerted effort to do my best even though the situation isn’t perfect. Yesterday, I worked for 12 hours straight with one quick break to grab lunch and take it to my desk. Late in the day, the work rose to a fever pitch as a small group of us prepared for an inspection. If you’ve never been involved with this kind of prep, it’s the same in every industry: everyone involved knows they’re doing a good job, yet everyone starts to overthink and panic a little.

Everything went wrong for our group. The power went out in our work area, but several of us had work that had to be finished that day. We crowded into a conference room and lined up our computers to keep working. The stress level was high and it was hard for the group to stay civil, even though on a normal day we work together like clockwork. Several times we laughed (tensely) that there was a whole room full of people who didn’t want to be there.

I was the last to leave; I didn’t want to have to rush around Monday morning. I have been pretty down at work for a few weeks and it culminated in the rough day yesterday. Then a funny thing happened.

As I walked through the long hallways to my car, it was completely quiet. It was almost eight o’clock in the evening and the sun was all but gone. I had almost completely missed a party that was thrown by some good friends. I had lots of reason to feel bitter about work…but I didn’t. I absolutely love the company for whom I work and I believe in our mission. So many of the people who were there today were not just hard workers but truly great people, a lot of whom I consider friends. Some friends from a different department grabbed a beer after work and texted me several times to ask me to join them. I couldn’t make it, but it felt good to be asked. Sure, I could be mad that I couldn’t go, but I guess I’m more glad that they wanted my company!

It was an odd feeling to want to feel mad and to instead experience a quiet satisfaction. I’m so glad to work for such a good corporation…in the company of friends.