Friday, October 31, 2008

Kielbasa Bean Soup

Last week kielbasa was on sale buy-one-get-one-free at Stop and Shop. I picked out the turkey kind and decided to make soup!

I sort of made up the recipe as I went along... it was something like this:

Soak about 3/4 c. each of black beans and great northern beans (I did a hot soak because I didn't plan ahead and start the night before: bring a pot of water with beans in it to a boil; simmer for 2 minutes; remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse.)

Add 2 cups of water and at least 2 cups of broth (chicken, beef, vegetable, whatever).

Pour in a can of diced tomatoes.

Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. I used about half a bag of baby carrots (because that's what I had on hand) and maybe half an onion. I didn't have any celery but I would have put it in if I had it. I think I did three or four cloves of garlic.

Add 1/4 t. salt (or more to taste), 1-2 t. coriander, 1 t. crushed rosemary, some ground black pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper, a little dried oregano and/or basil, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

Let everything simmer until the vegetables and beans are tender.

Meanwhile, slice the kielbasa and sauté until brown and delicious.

Add the sausage to the soup and enjoy! I served it with a little sour cream on top and some sliced avocado.


As rehearsal of the children's orchestra I conduct drew to a close earlier this week, the excitement of Halloween hung in the air. I told the kids that after writing their practice assignment on their assignment sheets, they could come tell me what they were dressing up as for Halloween.

"A ghoul!"
"A witch!"
"A skeleton!"
"A ghost!"
"Darth Vader!"
"The grim reaper!"
"A vampire!"

A shy violist approached me with a broad smile and whispered in my ear with delightful anticipation, "I'm going to be a princess."

Thank God for sweet little girls who love beauty more than ugliness and would prefer to bask in the girly fun of dress-up instead of clothing themselves in grimness, fright, and death.

(And that, I guess, reveals what I think of mainstream Halloween celebrations.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Seeds

SarahMarie: Nathan, try one of these toasted pumpkin seeds. They're so good!

FavoriteBoy: Mm... hmm... Yes, this is delicious. So flavorful. Doesn't taste at all like an old crunchy peanut shell... What can I rinse my mouth out with?

Thriving in College #1

My youngest brother Christopher is a freshman at LeTourneau University in Texas. He's smart as a whip and is taking classes I would have died in, like Calculus and Chemistry. When I talk to him about the college experience, I think of things I wish I had known when I was a freshman (but probably wouldn't have listened to if someone had told me - oh well). Consequently I feel like telling him those things, because that is what big sisters like to do: imagine that a younger brother might learn from his older sister's stumblings through life. I asked Christopher if he'd like to hear periodic thoughts and tips, and his enthusiastic response was, "Yes!" Maybe these thoughts will be of interest to other college students, as well.

So without further ado...

Thriving in College #1: First Impressions

First impressions. You've probably been told how important they are. That applies to your college experience more than you may know. When students embarking upon taking lessons with my college violin teacher ask me for advice, I usually say something like this: "Work really, really hard. Show that you're interested, fascinated, and passionate about the violin by your body language and by your work ethic. Impress him now, or I'm sorry, but he'll write you off. If he starts being "nice" to you, that means he doesn't think you're going anywhere. You have a window of time in which to make him think you're worth his time. Take it and use it well."

While not all teachers are as intense as my violin teacher was, the principle applies to your college courses. Show your teachers how much you care about what you're doing - even if you have to fake it. If you are struggling, or get a lower grade that you expected on an assignment (everybody does at least once!), go talk to the professor about it. It puts you on his radar in a good way, so you're not just a name on a roster, one of many (most likely) who may be straggling. It also lets him know that you would like to do better. Be front and center and show that you want to succeed, and your teachers will take an interest in helping make that happen. That's what they're there for, and if they're worth their salt, it's their top priority as teachers to help YOU soar.


When I heard that my brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Jenn were hosting a "Bring Your Own Pumpkin" party at their home in California, I decided to copy their clever idea and do the same out here in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, it seems that not all my friends enjoy carving pumpkins as much as I do... some people came to the party pumpkin-less. We did end up with some good pumpkins at the end of the evening, though.

Chaz's nerdy computer pumpkin:

Krista's happy pumpkin:

Keith carved a baby pumpkin into a cool spiral:

And the snaggle-toothed pumpkin that Story and I carved together:

Of course, the next thing we had to do was pour a little olive oil over the seeds, add a little salt...

And roast... and eat...


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Musical Obfuscation

Conductors seldom speak plainly for fear of sounding, well, plain.

In a rehearsal earlier this week, a conductor asked the viola section to play a passage again, "On the back of the beat." This didn't seem to work, so he implored them to play it "More restrained." Still without success, he tried saying, "More relaxed! Relax the tempo!" When this still didn't produce the desired results, the conductor looked from side to side to see if he was being watched, and then whispered to the violas, "VIOLAS. I want you to play it SLOWER."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Someone Else's Shoes

They say it's a good idea to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

It is not a good idea to run five or six miles in someone else's shoes, I have found.

Plus matching ones on the sides of my heels.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two-Year-Old Musings

My friend Story's two-year-old son Abel gazed out the living room window pensively, his chin resting on his hand, elbow on windowsill. Talking quietly to himself, thinking two-year-old thoughts, we heard him utter the words, "Jesus, where are you?"

Story laughed, gazing at laundry, diapers, dishes, and two children needing her attention. "I wonder that myself sometimes!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Please excuse the lack of blogging lately, and probably to come. We are trying to save on heating costs by keeping the apartment at 60 degrees. It's hard to type with gloves on. I'm tempted to go to bed (under a minimum of four blankets) and hibernate until April.

Or maybe I'll just go stick my head in my crockpot, or my hands in the toaster...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Comeback Follow-up

For those non-baseball fans (is there such a thing?!), here's the DL on last night's ALCS Game 5 comeback: The Sox were down 7-0 after the sixth inning when they came to life - came from behind and won the game 8-7. It was a sweet moment.

Second-largest comeback in post-season history! I'd like to say I saw it happen, but I actually just heard it on the radio. (Baseball makes us wish we had cable sometimes.) Still cool.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blanket + Sleeves =

It's a blanket. With sleeves. It's a Slanket!

I think it's an intriguing concept - like a cross between a blanket and a bathrobe. I bet I could sew something like this easily. I'll add it to my mile-long list of arts and crafts and sewing projects I want to do someday. (But I think I'll put it at the bottom of the list, priority-wise.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pants Down

In rehearsing the slow movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony tonight, the first violins fumbled an entrance noticeably. Our conductor stopped the orchestra and remarked, "The first violins have been caught with their proverbial pants down. Let's give them another chance."

We did better the second time - even though we were laughing while we played.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


(from here)

Apple Butter

With the coming of autumn, last week I was suddenly inspired to make apple butter. I used this recipe (recommended to me by my Mom), except that I used about a quarter of the amount of sugar called for. The apartment smelled heavenly while this stuff was in the slow cooker for two days. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. Spread on a slice of a toast, it is really yummy. I was even more pleased, however, that my first attempt at canning was actually successful! I don't have any real canning supplies, but I was able to do it in my largest pot using a wet towel lining the bottom of the pan rather than a wire rack. I used tongs to precariously put the jars in the water and then lift them out ten minutes later. Filled to the absolute brim, my pot held just enough water to cover the jars by about an inch and a half. Believe it or not, this haphazard technique seems to have worked:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Crunchy Conversation

FavoriteBoy: I don't know about this no shampoo thing.

SarahMarie: Hmm. Does my hair still look ok to you?

FavoriteBoy: Yes!

SarahMarie: Does my hair still smell ok to you?

FavoriteBoy: Yes!

SarahMarie: What then? Are you worried I'm getting too "crunchy"?

FavoriteBoy (with a grin): Umm... maybe...

SarahMarie: Okay, I promise not to get much crunchier!

(I may shop at Whole Foods when the budget permits, make granola, enjoy carob, periodically consider becoming a vegan, wear flowy skirts, and come from a hippie-town, but I still shave my legs.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

No Shampoo

I haven't shampooed my hair in weeks.

Yes, really.

I might never shampoo my hair again.

Before you run away screaming "granola," you might find this surprising: I personally think my hair looks and feels better now than it did a month ago.

Let me explain. A few weeks ago I came across this post from babyslime (who covers the topic very thoroughly) about washing hair with baking soda and water rather than with shampoo. Shampoos are harsh detergents that strip your hair of its natural oils, and they contain nasty ingredients that I just don't want to have in contact with my body, like sodium lauryl sulfate, an oil-stripping detergent used in floor cleaners, engine de-greasers, and car washes. It's very harsh and often causes skin and eye irritation. Sounds a little extreme for use on the human body, doesn't it? I'm not claiming that a daily shampoo is going to kill you, but it's not good for you, either - no matter what the bath and body companies would like you to think.

An article on Natural News cites research claiming that a common ingredient in many shampoos has been linked to nerve damage:

"Just take a look at the toxic chemicals found in personal care products used by virtually all Americans every single day. Americans bathe themselves in toxic chemicals and they do it by buying and using products made by brand name companies that have premier shelf positioning at convenience stores, grocery stores and discount clubs."

Sodium lauryl sulfate is used in shampoos for its foaming quality, and if you need lather in your hair in order to feel like you're really cleaning it, then washing with baking soda probably won't be your cup of tea. At the very least, it might take some getting used to. But you might just find that you love it.

As I mentioned before, I think my hair feels and looks better now than it did a month ago. For one thing - on an unrelated note - I got bangs, which I think turned out cute. But I digress. My hair feels fuller now as opposed to the limpness I was accustomed to having by the end of each day. I used to wake up to greasy hair every morning; now I can even skip a day of washing. (Ideally I'd like to get to where I only need to wash every two or three days, but for now I wash every day or two.)

If you don't care about harsh cleaners or toxic chemicals, how about this: going shampoo-free can save you money. I bought an enormous box of baking soda for under $2, and it'll last me for months. I use a ratio of 1 T baking soda to 1 cup warm water for each wash. I usually use 2/2, because my hair is below my shoulders. Sometimes I pour it over my hair, work it in with my fingers, comb it through, and then rinse, and other times I make a paste instead of adding the full amount of water, scrub the paste into my scalp with dry hair, then hop in the shower and rinse it out. For $1.49 I bought a huge bottle of apple cider vinegar, which I use for rinses to clarify and detangle once every week or two. And since I only use about a teaspoon or two per rinse (combined with a cup or two of water), that bottle will last me for months, too.

Incidentally, around the same time I stopped using shampoo and conditioner, I also stopped using any specially formulated face washes. If I need to, I just rub a little regular Ivory soap on my fingertips and then onto my nose or chin. I found that both the face wash in my medicine cabinet and the one in my shower (one of which was the brand "Aveeno Active Naturals") contained sodium lauryl sulfate as well as a frighteningly long list of other multi-syllabic ingredients (I found a good explanation of skin-care ingredients here). My skin isn't really acne-prone, but it does usually change with my hormone cycle. I've now gone through three weeks without even the teeniest of pimples or blemishes. And not using face wash means my skin doesn't dry out, which means I can get rid of my chemical-laden moisturizer, too! Also, since some fragrances (such as those in shampoos, conditioners, and face washes) seem to give me headaches, I'm excited about having a way to nix artificial fragrance-laden substances from my lifestyle.

For more hair natural "recipes," check out motowngirl's Homemade Hair Recipes.

Okay, now you can run away screaming "granola" if you still want to. Or you can go buy some baking soda!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

VP Debate

My vote is most certainly going to the McCain/Palin ticket, but I can't help finding it funny that within one statement, Governor Palin managed the name "Ahmadinejad" with ease yet repeatedly mispronounced the word "nuclear."

Then again, even Jack Bauer mispronounces the word "nuclear."