To a Dee-luxe Cubicle in the Sky

I’ve said before that I work for a great company.  Oh sure, there are bad days, but I always wanted to work here and it has been the best place I’ve ever worked.  I believe in the nobility of our mission and the urgency to do more to help the patients who depend on us.

I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll begin at the end: I just earned a big promotion.

I will be working with a totally new group of people.  These are the kind of professionals from which one learns by example, by conversation, by everything.  I will be reporting to a woman who has been an inspiration to me since – literally – the first day I worked here.

My office is moving downtown, and I will dearly miss my current coworkers.  But this is the opportunity I have worked my whole career to earn. 

I’m so excited I could pop.

Hearty Mushroom Soup

Looking for a quick recipe that tastes long-simmered?  Look no further…

Into a large, heavy pot, over medium high heat, add

¼ c extra virgin olive oil (or butter)

and heat until oil shimmers (or butter stops foaming).  Roughly chop

1 medium yellow onion
12 ounces Portobello mushroom caps (or baby bellas, aka criminis)

Sauté onions until soft; add mushrooms.  Sauté mixture until onions are golden and mushrooms have given off all water.

Turn heat to high; deglaze pan with

3/4 cup Burgundy wine (white or red)

and allow to reduce by half.  Turn heat to medium; add

1 1/2 c vegetable or chicken stock
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1-2 t freshly ground black pepper
Tiny pinch cayenne pepper

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.  Add

1 c heavy whipping cream
2 green onions, chopped, green part only
2 sprigs parsley, chopped fine
Salt to taste
(about 1t)

Bring to a simmer again.  Use an immersion blender to blend about half of the soup, leaving some chunks of onion and mushroom.  Taste and adjust salt/pepper as needed.

Makes 4 servings. This is delicious with toast dressed in extra virgin olive oil and shredded parmesan, toasted until golden.  The mushroom caps are very robustly flavored and I recommend the red wine version.  Using baby bellas lends less woodsy flavor and the white wine will not overpower the more delicate flavor.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Taste [rate 5]
Ease [rate 4]


Went to a memorial today.  While I don’t think anyone finds these things fun, it was especially hard because it affected Carlton.

I don’t have much to say, but just felt like I should write something.  Today wasn’t a barrel of laughs, I didn’t feel well, and it’s all a little icky.
Good night.

Saying Goodbye

Carlton’s stepdad passed away today. He’s been in Carlton’s life for over twenty years, so it’s hard to say goodbye. Carlton’s mom has been preparing for this- her husband has been ill for quite some time. But nothing ever really prepares one for the end.

As a group of friends and family held hands to say the Lord’s Prayer with him, he breathed with difficulty. Right after the group said “amen,” he coughed his last breath and passed away among a group of people who loved him.

As he was carried from his room to the hearse, snowflakes gently fell on the cloth covering him. He loved the snow. It’s quite fitting he feel the snowfall one last time on this earth.

So goodbye, and this picture is for you.

Snow for Harold

Snow Jobs for Everyone!

Bobcat Throwing SnowAs winter storms have gripped much of the midwest, my little corner of the world is faring well. It’s not a Nor’easter, but it’s a lot of snow for Hoosiers unaccustomed to more than a couple of inches every once in a while.

The snow alternated with freezing rain. Coupled with frequent plowing, a three and a half foot wall of ice blocked the end of the driveway. Luckily I had the forethought to bring work home with me and was able to accomplish some stuff.

Covered in Snow!Just as the fun, cozy feeling of being snowed in was transitioning to cabin fever, the doorbell rang and we were rescued by a couple of guys making a killing with their Bobcat. Please note in the picture to the right that the neighbors across the street were unable to ram through the snow/ice wall…with their minivan. You can see how far the vehicle went. Uh, I guess that thing isn’t AWD, folks.

The snow is glittering beautifully in the sun. It sure is pretty…from INDOORS.

King Kong directed by Peter Jackson

IMDb link

kingkong.JPGBecause Carlton went with friends to see this movie in the theater, it never made it onto our Netflix queue and I never saw it.  By happy accident, it was playing on HBO and we caught all but the opening 10 minutes.

I’ve heard complaints that the beast isn’t even seen until the movie’s second hour.  I had no such complaint.  The first hour was well crafted and extremely interesting on its own.  I liked the revelation of the motivation that led each person to go aboard a less-than-luxurious vessel in search of adventure, fame, or just a paycheck.  Each character’s story was well told by the actor.  Jack Black surprised me with his semi-serious role.  He was the weakest acting-wise; he was having trouble not mugging for laughs on every take.

I was not convinced that Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) could be as in love as they claimed after a few days on a boat.  Honestly, true attachment takes much longer, and most movies suffer from this malady.  Heck, most people suffer from this malady…but I digress.

Once on the island with Kong discovered, the pace is very quick.  There was one scene- the brontosaurus run- that was about a minute too long and totally implausible because everyone would have been trampled.  In addition, there were a few spots where it was very obvious that actors were green-screening.  Another scene- shooting insects off of people with a tommy gun- was impossible, even in fantasy movie terms.  Nobody can sharpshoot that well with a tommy gun.  And wouldn’t poor Miss Darrow have had a broken neck (or at least whiplash) from Kong holding her while fighting other creatures?

Imperfections aside, I was very impressed by the film.  Peter Jackson produces some heart-pounding action-adventure, and does not fail to do so here.  I was truly engaged with all of the characters.  Kong was not a CGI terror, he was as multi-faceted as other characters; difficult to do without even speaking.

The scenes with Ann Darrow and Kong could have been intolerably boring.  Instead, Watts and Serkis (and the CGI staff) deliver emotion-packed scenes that rivaled the spoken dialogue.  In the dénouement, I was emotionally involved with both characters.  Though I knew the ending, I was hoping that somehow it would be different.

The message I chose to pull from the movie is man’s inhumanity to animals.  Kong was viewed as a commodity by Denham and everyone else.  The message is as relevant now as it was when the first King Kong movie was filmed.  Animals are not human.  But they don’t deserve to suffer for our gain.


[rate 4]

The Negotiator directed by F. Gary Gray

negotiator.JPGIMDb link

I have realized that the more movies I watch, the more I can see Hollywood formulas as they unfold.  This movie shows its age with the formulaic plot and predictable camera shots.

Pop quiz: what was the point of making Samuel Jackson’s hair red?  I don’t know either.

The acting was executed well, considering the weak dialogue.  Kevin Spacey can act his way out of almost any poor script.

Wow.  I am so uninspired by this movie that I am too bored to describe the plot.  I have to respect Ebert and Roeper for being able to talk at length about mediocre films.  It’s so much easier to love or hate.
I enjoyed watching it, but I guess I expect more from a movie from this.

[rate 2]

Creamy Cajun Pasta

This is one of my favorite craves, so I looked at some recipes online and improvised based on ingredients on hand.  Pretty delicious…but definitely NOT low fat!

To a spice grinder, add

1 T kosher salt
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T paprika (smoked, if available)
1 T freshly cracked black pepper
1 t Mexican oregano, whole

Buzz until all is a fine powder.  This is your cajun seasoning.  Set aside.

Into a large saucier, cut

8-10 dry sundried tomatoes

into strips with scissors and soak in

4 T warm olive oil

for at least 2 hours. With tongs, remove the tomato strips and heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add 

6 green onions, chopped white part only
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

and saute until golden and transparent. Turn heat to high; deglaze with

2/3 cup dry white wine

and reduce by at least half.  Reduce heat to low-medium low and add

1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream

and reduce by half.  Add about

2 T cajun seasoning
1/4 c Parmesano-Reggiano, ground to a very fine powder in a food processor

Taste; add more seasoning, if desired, to increase spiciness.  Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring

1 gallon water

to a rolling boil.  Add

2 T kosher salt
1 pound brass-cut fettucine

boil 8-10 minutes or until al dente.  With tongs, move finished pasta to saucier; toss with sauce.  Garnish with

6 green onions, chopped, green part only

and serve immediately.  Garnish with walnuts, if available.
Makes 4 servings. I actually used dry sundried tomatoes; if you can only find pre-marinated (which are much more expensive), skip the warm oil step. Use the drained sundried tomato oil to fry onions and garlic.  Using brass-cut pasta will greatly improve the sauce’s adhesion to the pasta and the overall creaminess of the sauce.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 2.5 hours (30 minutes if using premarinated tomatoes)
Taste [rate 4]
Ease [rate 3]

A Man of Faith

Yesterday, while working to prepare my home to watch the Super Bowl, I was listening to some coverage of a speech given by Tony Dungy that morning. I was blown away by his ability to keep his priorities straight. Luckily, I found a reprint of his speech, and this is the line that really hit home for me: “I have a great platform and that is the number one thing that drives me to stay in football. People know we’re excited to be in the Super Bowl, but this is so small compared to what God has for me. We always have to keep perspective.???

Go, Tony. Go COLTS!