squash roundup

buttercup squash, ready for roasting

Thanksgiving was great. We are now into a two-year “routine” where we go to Kate and Ned’s and spend the day with them and some of Ned’s family. It’s terrific and relaxing and I enjoy it. For whatever reason this year I’ve been cooking squash like it was going out of style. Partly it’s because I’ve been eating out less but partly it’s because I just got sick of soup. Squash, as it turns out, is delicious. So I’m now one of those women who finds recipes on The Pioneer Woman and passes them around. I’m not proud. Here are the recipes I have been making. If you’re squash-curious but don’t know where to start or never really get past the stuffed acorn meals, this is for you.

Acornstuffed squash with brown rice and sausage (my photo)
Buttercuptwice baked buttercup squash OR buttercup squash casserole (my photo, another photo)
Butternutred pepper and butternut soup OR roasted beet and butternut soup (my photo)
Carnivalquinoa stuffed carnival squash (my photo)
Delicatamaple glazed squash rings (my photo)
Golden Acorntopsy turvy stuffed squash (my photo)
Spaghettibaked spaghetti squash with garlic sage cream OR simple spaghetti squash parmesan (my photo)

I haven’t braved the giant lumpy hubbard squash yet since I am usually just feeding me and maybe one other person. Now that I’m back in Vermont after holidaytime I may see if the farmer’s market has anything outside this usual suspects list. Oh and the Frontier Woman recipe I made? Not squash at all but something called Crash Hot Potatoes (my photo, looks the same, doesn’t it?). Simple.

as the sun goes down, here we are


Apple season is the best. I think if I were forced to choose between “apple season” and “autumn” I might go with the apples. Fortunately, I don’t really have to choose and that’s good news. Here is a gallery of some of the apples I’ve gotten to sample around here in the past few years.

Two big pieces of news here. The first is that I’ve actually gotten me and my healing ankle back to the gym over the past few weeks which is doing wonders for my mood. While I think the mandatory ankle-inspired slowdown was maybe not a bad thing, I’m very happy to be scooting around at my regular pace again. Being able to ride a bike and swim laps and still be able to walk okay afterwards is happymaking and especially before the winter comes. Now that daylight saving time has passed, the sun sets over the nearby hill at about 3:30 and I’ve lost all momentum by about the time I start mod-work at about six pm. Exercise helps.

The other odd piece of news is that I’m now an elected official in Randolph, Vermont. I’m now an elected Justice of the Peace along with eleven other people. I start February 1st. Yes, I can marry people. I also help out with elections and tax abatement hearings and not too much else. I can become a notary. I can get a special stamp. I started a little blog about it if you are curious about Justice of the Peace-ery, as I am. Basically once I started traveling significantly less for work, I wanted to do something here in the town that I love so much. And I’m pretty mouthy about people’s civic obligations to one another, so this is me walking the talk. I wasn’t really expecting to win, truth be told, and yeah I’m not really entirely a Democrat but it’s significantly more of a pain to run as an independent, so here we are. I’m excited and interested and we’ll see how it goes, as with most things.


snack bar

It’s a continual challenge trying to find things to eat that are delicious and also fit in with the current fitness regime. I’m back to taking long walks on the beach (thank you ankle! thank you Rachel who helped fix my ankle!) while I’m down in Westport for the week so I can also make bigger meals and eat more desserts. Last week in Vermont I felt like I ate, happily, nothing but squash. Every day I’d go to the farmstand and get a new type of squash and then find ways to cook it. This week I am having some people for dinner and even though they are incredibly friendly and polite I thought I could do better than “Here, I roasted this single vegetable for you!”

So, I’m putting together something with stuffed acorn squash and some butternut curry soup. While I’m planning these recipies I’m eating nothing but rice and green beans. I’m never great with desserts. I think my friends are bringing pie. I noticed that I have some marshmallows left over from a summer where I didn’t do many cookouts, so I tried to see if that old “put the marshmallow in the microwave” thing still works and it does! So, I put a melty marshmallow between two of those ginger thins that you can get at Ocean State Job Lots and am making a ton of those little sandwiches to stick in the fridge. Stupid tasty and only about 75 calories.

Another side project while I’m down here is going through the boxes of stuff that I got back, finally, from Seattle. There are a lot of books in there, many of which I liked and still look forward to reading or at least admiring on a shelf somewhere (note to self: get more shelving) but there are two types of books, maybe three, that I feel like I just don’t need anymore: cookbooks and medical type books. I took my favorite cookbooks with my when I left Seattle and the random ones I still have (a Cuisinart cookbook? a guide to soups?) have been supplanted by the easy keyword searching and ease of use of sites like this one. This is especially true when many sites online have calorie counts and/or have huge databases where you can search by what you have in your house. Health books are quickly outdated and, again, I am good at the searching online. I think for a lot of people it’s important to have something authoritative and they’re not sure if they know how to do that sort of thing online. I don’t feel that way, I know the truth about the tree octopus.

Between these books and a few different sorts of dictionaries (rhyming, crossword, Romanian/English) I have a small little pile of books that won’t make it home with me. This house has its share of useful and useless books so it may be part of a larger weeding plan. It’s good to have winter projects. I’m just happy to have one that isn’t all “Leg exercises.” and “Eat more salad.”


pen drawer overhaul - towards the end

Tired of talking about my ankle (improved but still painful) or my weight (staying the course) or even Vermont in the Autumn (lovely) so this is a short update to say that being at home is great and I’ve really seriously decided to do less travel-for-work this school year. This involves saying “No, thank you.” a lot. Eventually this may lead to a decrease in overall speaking requests or, who knows, maybe an increase in the amount people are willing to pay me to come speak to them. For now, I have no get-on-a-plane talks scheduled. I have two panel discussions scheduled for October (NELA and in re: books) and I believe that’s it for 2012.

This is just fine since there is a lot to do around here. The house got filled with moths and fuzz in my absence which just highlights how little I’ve been around since May really. And, as I say over and over, I like it here.

So the Pen Drawer Overhaul was a late night project where I cleaned out my pen drawer and got rid of all the slacker pens that take up space but don’t do anything. There’s just a small amount of extra psychic energy I get back from not thinking “Gee I should really do something about that…” And my Albatross List has dwindled from big things like “sell house” and “retrieve things from friend’s basement” to “make dentist appointment” and “dust.” Not bad for autumn-slipping-in-to-winter.

out and a boot

Took the stupid boot off and have been limping around and doing my exercises without it for the past few days. I am one slow person. Went out to my favorite stores (Savers! Ocean State Job Lots! Price Rite!) to get some supplies for the weekend and realized that there is no such thing as a favorite store when you’ve got a gimpy foot. Plus I’m bad at parking near the entrance to places since I’ve got the “Park further away and get some exercise!” bug so firmly ingrained in me.

On that front, things are good. Since I started this “Lose that grieving weight” program in April I’ve lost 14-ish pounds eating about 1200 calories a day and getting a good amount of exercise. The MyFitnessPal routine (are you on there? friend me.) is that if you do, say, 400 calories worth of exercise you can add those to what you’re allowed to eat for the day. This is a lot more fun when you can work hard, play hard and eat hard. Less fun when you’re in an aircast slicing up yet another apple. I’m going off the plan for the weekend because we’re going to get the grill going and I might want cake and/or ice cream…

Aaaaand, I never did get this little blogopost finished before the weekend. I had a lot of people come over and hang out and it was a good time, the weather couldn’t be beat and I ate an extra day’s worth of food calorie-wise which is actually totally okay with the plan that I’m on as a “Hey it’s your birthday” sort of extravagance. Here are some photos.

I’ve got some friends coming in and out this weekend and then I head back to Vermont on Tuesday. Drop-in time starts up again next Tuesday and I’m looking forward to my home routine a little. I spent most of yesterday in and out of the backyard hammock reading a Big Summer Book after getting myself a library card at the Westport library. Starting the slow process of tidying up and closing things down. Not starting new projects. Wrapping up old ones.

As a few people have noted on the Facebook Happy Birthday Machine, the Virgo Month of Leisure is again in full swing and possibly for the first time ever, I’ve hit the mark.

the mini/mynnie road trip

Burma Shave

So I got home last night just about a week after I left. The road trip was great, a success, and I got to do a lot of fun things I hadn’t expected I’d be doing. If you’d like to just jump to the photos, they are here. However the one above is probably the best one. Here’s a daily outline of how my trip went. For people who like to follow along with these travels when they are happening, please feel free to friend me on Foursquare which is a little app I use to “check in” places and allows me to make little trip summaries like this one. While I pretty much always come back around to post updates here, occasionally there are bits of data stored in places like Foursquare, facebook, Twitter and Trip Advisor. Here’s the recap.

States visited: MA, RI, NY, NJ, PA, OH, WV, IN, IL, MO, KS, OK, TX, NM, AZ, CA
States stayed in: PA, MO, TX, NM, CA
Road Trip Duration: Monday noon til Saturday afternoon

Reason for the trip: A friend got a job writing for Mad Men and had to move to LA basically yesterday. Had a car in Brooklyn that he wanted to have out with him. Car transport services take forever and cost a lot. I have a busted-up foot and can’t do much but sit. I figured sitting in a Mini Cooper was preferable to sitting at home. Plus work has been bugging me to take a vacation since forever. I offered to help.

Monday – The car was in Brooklyn. I offered to meet the car somewhere, but driving out of Manhattan was not going to be possible. I am okay driving in the city but don’t enjoy it and I am jumpy in other people’s cars. My friend’s brother had the car and we arranged to meet in New Rochelle NY. Jim dropped me off at the Providence train station and off I went. Minis have this weird little starting mechanism where there is a key-like disc, not really a key. I got into the car, said goodbye to my friend’s brother and realized I had no idea how to start the car. Also I was in a taxi zone. Figured it out, headed off. The big downsides to GPS devices is that they don’t really tell you what’s coming up. I’ve always liked how Google Maps will give you a list of choices, directions you might want to go. I was planning an I-40 trip but first I had to get out of NY which meant the George Washington Bridge (and traffic!) and a wrong turn in Jersey. The first 30 miles of my trip probably took 90 minutes. Then things picked up. I stayed in an unremarkable Howard Johnson’s in New Stanton PA which was super cheap and totally okay. Got up the next morning determined to make some time up.

Tuesday – Just drove drove drove. Ate beef jerky from the car and listened to podcasts and noted that there weren’t as many people in the rest areas as I’d expect. Stopped at a family restaurant called Dottie’s in Cuba Missouri and noticed the Route 66 mural and thought “Oh hey that’s around here isn’t it?” Peeked at Trip Advisor trying to choose among the interchangeable roadside hotels and was hipped to a cute little place called The Wagon Wheel that was just around the corner and on the historic highway. The price was right and the place was adorable but also sort of shrieky with tree frogs (one of which seemed to be in my room) and so my night was less restful than it could have been. I downloaded a white noise app for my phone. This was the last day I saw anything resembling traffic except for construction.

Wednesday – This seemed like when my trip really began. I went to Waffle House for grits and also stopped at the Missouri Route 66 Welcome Center which gave me maps and ideas of where to go next. I was making great time, so I decided to take some side trips down some of the disconnected parts of Route 66. Not only was this a nifty look into some American nostalgia [and of course I ate up the Wikipedia entries and learned a lot about 40’s-70’s era roadtripping] but the sorts of restaurants and hotels that were on these little disjointed parts of the old touristy highway were exactly what I was looking for. Places like the Crown Railroad Cafe in Flagstaff AZ and the River Valley Inn in Needles CA. I stopped in Shamrock TX and stayed at the Irish Inn which was run by Indian folks. I’ve noticed that the types of motels I tend to gravitate towards (off-brand, inexpensive, possibly old fashioned) had a tendency to be run by people from India and I wondered a little bit why that was. Apparently it’s the law of averages. Here is an interesting old New York Times article that talks about it somewhat. I liked the Irish Inn. It was right on the highway but also pretty quiet. They appeared to be renovating it as I slept!

Thursday – got on the road for a short trip to Santa Fe to see my aunt and uncle. Went to an incredible Texas rest stop after spending the previous day in Oklahoma where their rest areas are closed or non-existent and they have non-EZ-pass-taking toll booths that are unstaffed and require $1.15 in exact change! Terry and Jerry been exceptionally supportive and just present in my life, especially since my dad died and have repeatedly told me to come visit. Their place was almost on the way, so I stopped by. First real traffic of my trip and then headed up a mountain to stay with them at 8000 feet. Got to spend some quality time with them and their dog. Ate too much chocolate and got a headache from the altitude. Was happy to get to see familiar faces and I will have to come back again sometime.

Friday – Maybe could have pushed and made it all the way to LA but decided instead to do more Route 66 meandering. There was a decent guide on Wikitravel showing how to do this without winding up lost or thirty miles off in the wrong direction. I did some of the side routes from the Arizona and California sections. I really enjoyed looking out the window at formerly-hopping roadside America. Was very sad that I couldn’t stay at the Grand Canyon Caverns and their open air rooms. Wound up in Needles where I got a poolside room at a nice old motel and caught up on email and sleep before heading in to LA the next day.

Saturday – Needed gasoline and wound up having to get it in Ludlow which was a pity because it was very expensive gasoline, but a delight because I wound up eating at the Ludlow Cafe (not the old one, the new one) which is one of those “keepin’ it real” places you always hope you’ll wind up at complete with amazing coconut cream pie and some folks with a broken down car trying to get a ride in some direction other than the one I was going in. Historical Route 66 as it’s called parallels Route 40 in a lot of places, so it’s sort of fun to be zipping along on an empty road at 55 next to the big trucker highway where people are going 75 and getting to see more stuff including the big 66es painted in the roads. I got to my friend Michael’s house in Pasadena mid-day and then made the scary trafficky trip into Los Angeles to drop off my friend’s car later in the day. I was so terrifically relieved to hand over the keys to him, my friend who I had never met until this point.

I spent the rest of the trip hanging out with my friend Michael and eating tacos and going to the library and playing with his dogs and taking a long shower and finally flying home yesterday. Limping through the airport reminded me that I am still healing and coming back to a low-level MetaFilter kerfuffle reminded me that this is the first real vacation I’ve had in a while, years, and maybe I could stand to take a few more.

Route 66

some before and some after

I have some friends who came down to Westport for a while and did one of those work vacation things. They spent some time here recreating and noodling around and taking advantage of the nice location and the decent weather. And then they spent some time helping me around the place. I was hoping for just a little gardening and weeding but they found the power washer and went to town on the patio along with helping out with a lot of other terrific things. I am still galumphing around in this boot (may be a few more weeks, otherwise I am feeling great) and it’s tough to describe what a wonderful thing it was to just have the place get all spruced up around me while I concentrated on working and getting sleep and eating well and getting better. I’m a pretty stubbornly independent person; having people around getting things done with no input from me and having folks to chitchat with over dinner and snacks was incredibly pleasant in a way I’m not really used to.

The week before this, Jim and I headed to Indiana on a fly-by trip to get the remainder of my Seattle stuff that has been in various basements since I moved from there “for good” around 2003. I still have a few misc. pieces of furniture in a few places (anyone know where my metal table got to?) but for now the bulk of my things are in places that are mine. Last step is to get the Topsham stuff which is temporarily in a friend’s shed into either my apartment or some nice yard sale or FREE pile somewhere. The trip was fun and short and filled with little nifty parts and I’d forgotten sort of how much I enjoy road trips, and Waffle House.

Which is good because this next week is going to be a Real Road Trip where I do the thing I used to love doing and drive someone else’s car across the country. In this case a friend of mine got a job in Los Angeles and has a Mini in Brooklyn and I have a free week more or less and there you go. I’m taking the first real week off of work that I’ve had in years (mostly my own fault) and this will be my first cross-country trip I’ve taken with a smart phone, as far as I can remember. And for longtime readers you will remember that I used to do this sort of thing a lot.

So I’m assembling some maps and NOT getting tour books from AAA and realizing that I don’t have to plan almost any of this and can still find good places to see and eat and sleep. Driving out, flying back. Hoping to be almost out of this boot by the time I’m back in MA/VT.

Seriously, look at this patio!