Archive | July, 2012

Green Goddess Soup

22 Jul

I love reading blogs. There are a handful of blogs I read from people I know. There are also numerous blogs I read from people I don’t know, but seriously wish I did. For example, when telling my boyfriend about one of my favorite food blogs, Iowa Girl Eats , I actually said the phrase, “This is my friend’s blog.” Let me go ahead and admit that I have never, not even once, met Kristen from Iowa Girl Eats. So the fact that I introduced her as “my friend” must be about the biggest (non-sexual) Freudian slip ever, right?

I also so, so, so, so wish I could be best friends with Liz from One Twenty Five. (I know, I’m sounding creepier by the second!) This girl is me. Well, pretty much a way more awesome, cute, and witty version of me. I feel like I actually know this girl, even though we’ve obs never met as she’s Canadian and currently living in Melbourne. BUT…if we met, I have no doubts that we’d get along swimmingly. Check her out. She’s the shiz.

There are also Cara and Phoebe of Big Girls, Small Kitchen. These 2 fantastic gals found a niche in the “I’ve been out of college for a little bit, have no money, and a very small kitchen” market. They even have their own cookbook, In the Small Kitchen. Did I mention these 2 are my age? And they have their own cookbook. #jealous

Today I woke up with the need to eat healthy. Do you ever feel that way? Maybe I’ve just had an abundance of processed food or something lately, but man, I woke up in a “Ugh, I need veggies stat” kind of way. Fear not. I made Green Goddess soup. Even if you’d rather play dead than eat veggies, this is a pretty yummy way to get them in.

This recipe was taken from In the Small Kitchen and I am going to share it with you! (There is proooobably something illegal about that, but I am giving credit to Cara and Phoebe, AND telling everyone to buy their book.) Am I good? I hope so cause here.I.go.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 large Swiss chard leaves with stems
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for all my vegetarian friends)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped zucchini (about one large zucchini)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • couple pinches of lemon zest
  • Pinch of cayenne (I didn’t have any on hand, so I used paprika)
  • Sour cream (optional)

1. Remove the Swiss chard leaves from their stems. Rinse both thoroughly under running water until all the grit and dirt is removed. Coarsely chop the stems (about one cup). Chop the leaves (you should have 2 cups, tightly packed.)

2. In a medium Dutch oven bring the stock and chard stems to a boil over high heat. (Just at a boil, my apartment was filled with delicious aromas.) Reduce the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Then add the chard leaves, zucchini, and salt. Cover, and simmer for another 5 minutes. When the vegetables begin to soften, but are not completely cooked through, add the cilantro and cook for an additional minute. You want to cilantro to wilt just slightly.

3. Transfer the entire contents of the pot to a food processor or blender. (I used a blender, which worked fine, but ordinarily would have chosen the food processor. However, I lost the blades to my food processor. (Seriously, who does that?) Add the cream if using (which I did) and puree until the mixture is completely smooth.

I then transferred the soup back into the Dutch oven.

Add the lemon juice, cayenne (or paprika!), and lemon zest. Serve hot.

Delicious! After the photo was taken, I did choose to add a dollop of Daisy. Because why not make a very healthy soup slightly less healthy? I also had a fresh ear of sweetcorn as a side. Is there anything better than sweetcorn in July? The soup honestly tastes better than it looks and is just perfect for those “Ugh, I feel disgusting” type days.

Hope everyone is having a splendid weekend!

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Junk On Your Trunk

22 Jul

If there’s any place where you can get your fill of bumper stickers, it’s definitely Boulder.  A good drinking game would be to sit on the side of Arapahoe Avenue and take a swig every time a Subaru Outback with a “Coexist” sticker on it passes by (I said a good drinking game, not great).  In my college days, I actually sold these stickers, among others that had feminist and progressive sayings on them.  I do love and still have these stickers, but I’ll admit that I never stuck them on my car.  Even on my most zealous day, I really don’t feel like putting a sticky car tramp stamp on Rudy’s (my car) rear end.  She’s beautiful just as she is.

While I can understand why people have bumper stickers, I usually don’t find them necessary –and sometimes I even consider them a bad tactical move.  Anytime I see an a bumper sticker that is anti-choice, pro-gun, or generally small-minded, I start fantasizing about pulling up next to the person and beginning an argument.  Aggressive?  Yes.  Bad idea?  Totally.  However, it’s their fault for putting their ignorance on display for me to react to.  And aren’t you looking for a reaction when you display ridiculous ideas on the vehicle that takes you wherever you go?

Most bumper stickers leave me feeling good, bad, or indifferent, but there are a few stickers that just have me confused.  More specifically, there is a car that belongs to someone in my apartment building that has me really stumped.  Based on this person’s bumper stickers, I have them pegged as a sarcastic band nerd with a superiority complex, but I could be wrong.

Here’s a full view of the back end of the car:

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Can you see where I’m coming from?  Of course, not all of these stickers are hard to figure out, there are just a select few that, after almost a year of looking at them, still make not even the slightest smidgen of sense.  Allow me to show my work.

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Is this some sort of commentary on fairy tale-tainted schizophrenia?  Are we supposed to think this person is awkwardly imaginative?  A crazy rebel?  A mentally-ill descendant of the Brothers Grimm?  No entiendo.

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This sticker runs along the same lines as the first, and is just as confusing.  It reminds me of how I feel about most of the t-shirts sold at any Hot Topic store: I just don’t understand why it needs to exist.  Also, who are these people who are sticking their noses in a dragon’s business?  You would think this sticker is aimed at Arthurian knights, but I don’t know of any Arthurian knights who would know what ketchup is.  The only person who might truly understand this bumper sticker is the main character from the ’90s classic A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (fun fact: Kate Winslet is in this little gem!).

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Are you Shia LaBeouf?  Then I freaking doubt it.  (I’m operating under the assumption here that a Transformer is the same as an autobot.)  Also, if you were Shia LaBeouf, I would tell you to go back to the Disney Channel, because you peaked on Even Stevens.

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This is just unnecessarily violent.  Why the hatred for the Type A kids with caring parents?  Your giant robot is just a hater.  Also, I notice that your giant robot “steps” on said honor student.  Good for the honor student for persisting through several steppings-on.

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The pie is the truth.  The ice cream is a fallacy.  The creme brulee is a white lie to avoid telling someone how they really look in jeggings.  I’m stumped by this bumper sticker in several ways, but mostly by the fact that they have a picture of a piece of cake.  Is it just that piece of cake that’s a lie?  I don’t think I’ll ever find out unless I wait for the car’s owner and then pummel them with several pointed, and probably unanswerable, questions.

I don’t think I’ll ever unravel the mystery of the sarcastic band nerd-mobile, but if any of you have any insight, please let me know.

Big Girls Don’t Cry (Unless It’s Ridiculous)

14 Jul

I, Ali Jepsen, have an odd relationship with tears.  I almost never cry out of sadness, and when I do, it is so long after the event that I’m upset about that I almost can’t remember why I’m upset.  However, there are several things that will make me cry instantly, and they are ridiculous.  I’m not saying it’s stupid to cry, I’m saying that the things I cry at, more often than not, do not deserve to be cried over.  I know a lot of people have these “tear triggers,” but lately I’ve had a few conversations with friends over this phenomenon so I decided to compile a list of the things that consistently make me bawl.  Feel free to laugh at me about it; I do all the time.

A Little Princess: Sara & Captain Crewe Reunited Scene

If you were a girl (or maybe a guy) growing up in the ’90s, it’s highly likely that you saw A Little Princess.  If you’re like me, you probably saw it close to 500 times.  Everyone who has seen this movie knows that the scene when (spoiler alert!) Sarah’s father, Captain Crewe,  gets over his amnesia and runs after his daughter while she is being dragged off by police is a tearjerker.  You would have to be completely heartless not to be touched by it.  However, you would think that after watching this movie into the ground that I would get over intensely sobbing at this scene.  Sorry, no.  I have literally NEVER watched this part of the movie without crying at least some.  I think this moment really gets to me because my reasons for crying at it have changed over the years.  When I was younger, I just marveled at the miracle of a father and daughter being reunited.  When I got older, the thought of a cute little girl (who incidentally reminds me a lot of my cousin) nearly being taken away from her father was too much to bear.  I don’t know if I’ll even be able to handle watching this scene when I have kids.  I’ll probably break out into convulsive spray tears.

 

Homeward Bound: Sassy, Chance, Shadow, et al Reunited Scene

In the same ’90s vein as A Little Princess, the last scene of Homeward Bound always gets to me.  Even though one of Kenz’s and my first bonding moments was making fun of the way Shadow says/thinks “Ohhhh Peterrrrrrr . . .”, I also cry as I laugh.  I sit there and tell myself how crazy I am while tears come down my face and schizophrenic laugh/cry (craugh) noises come out of my mouth.  It’s all very attractive.  Also, “craugh” is now a word.  Feel free to use it as I just have, or you can use it as punny wordplay,”That play was so melodramatic that I nearly craughed my pants!”  (“Craugh your pants” (verb phrase): when you cry and laugh so hard that you lose your bowels.)

 

Hy-Vee Summer Olympics 2008 Shawn Johnson Commercial

Maybe it was because I was super emotional the summer of 2008 since I had just graduated from college, but this Hy-Vee commercial brought on the waterworks something awful.  Perhaps it was the mix of Olympic glory and Iowa pride that got me going.  Whatever it was, I got made fun of a lot before and during the Games because of it.  To be truthful, when I searched for the video on YouTube and watched it again, a few tears still escaped me.  You may be retired, Shawn, but you doing it all “with a smile” still makes me emotional and proud as hell.

 

Disney’s The Little Match Girl Short

Of all my tear triggers, this one in particular stands alone because it also makes me mad.  Imagine, if you will, me a couple years ago sitting on my couch and checking out the DVD extras on the anniversary edition of The Little Mermaid while waiting to go to work (as one does).  I start watching a clip where a Disney animator talks about how much he loves reading Hans Christian Andersen stories to his daughters.  He was so inspired by working on The Little Mermaid that he decided he would also make a movie short of The Little Match Girl, one of HCA’s other works.  Of course I was intrigued by this man’s love of the story, so I watched the short film which was also included on the extras.  Ho. ly. Crap.  Nothing in me was prepared for how devastating this story is.  By the film’s conclusion, I was sitting alone on my couch with my shoulders heaving and crying so hard that my throat hurt (You know the throat cry.  Sounds like: huuuuhh, huuuuhh, huuuuuuhhhh . . .).  Here I thought I would be watching a sweet little kid movie, when in reality the hopeful innocence within me was brutally beaten with a club.  Once I finally got the tears to stop flowing, I got angry.  SOMEONE should have prepared me for such unnecessary sadness!  I don’t know if I was mad at this animator, Disney for funding him and putting the film on a classic childhood movie, or at Hans Christian Andersen himself.  All this story does is kill happiness -but of course I’ve included it here so you can be mad with me.  Hopefully I’ve prepared you enough so that the morbidness of it won’t run your soul through with a steak knife.  Even now, I still tear up when thinking about the story –and that only works to tick me off all over again.

 

This Article About Santa Impersonators

I know, I just used the word “impersonator” to describe people who play Santa.  As if Santa is like Elvis, or something.  Psh, everyone knows Santa is more real than Elvis.  Or at least more real than Elvis still being alive and/or being abducted by aliens.  In any case, this article about the men who play Santa professionally got me weepy.  Perhaps it made me recall when “Santa” would come to my house and wouldn’t be quite quiet enough not to wake me up.  Ah, how I loved those times when my body would be paralyzed with the need to see Santa in the flesh, and the fear that he would yell at me for sneaking up on him and watching his magic in action.

 

Pampers/UNICEF Commercial

This commercial is so potent with cry material that I used to tear up just talking about it.  Pampers (yes, as in the diaper company, as I had to clarify with my incredulous friend Mark) partnered with UNICEF a few years back on a campaign that gave one vaccine for every pack of diapers sold.  The commercial is actually kind of bad since it perpetuates certain stereotypes and is shamefully cheesy, but I can’t help but lose it when the baby in a Siberian poncho hugs the whitey suburban mom’s leg.  Is it because of the cute, needy babies?  Or is it because I want to believe that yuppie white people can save the world?  Who knows.  I might be better off not analyzing this one.

 

If you’ve gotten through all of these articles and clips and haven’t teared up, congratulations, you are a stronger person than I am.  Either that, or someone has surgically removed your heart, and you’d better look into that.  Let me know if you have any of your own forays into ridiculous cries.  After seeing this list, you can bet that I certainly won’t judge you.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight

10 Jul

This summer has been one of the oddest of my life.  It’s like a combination of the summers during college when I would go back and work in the cornfields, mixed with my time as an 8-5ing “young professional”. (Since working in Des Moines, I have come to roll my eyes at this term because it was most often applied by 20 and 30-somethings who are very self-congratulatory, though most of their success stems from being middle to upper-middle class and being extremely fortunate).  However, things are also completely different since I am working as a caregiver –a position I really can’t compare to anything else I’ve done before. It’s a job that has caused me to think more than ever about growing old.  It’s the summer that has me thinking a lot about my winter.

Just to be clear, I want to distinguish the difference between “growing old” and “dying”.  I have never been especially concerned about death.  As Pink Floyd said in “The Great Gig in the Sky”, “I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don’t mind.  Why should I be frightened to die?  There’s no reason for it, you’ve gotta go sometime.”  Death is merely a part of life.  However, before this summer, I really hadn’t thought a whole lot about growing old, as in the process of your body losing vitality.  Yes, it is another part of life, but it’s one that I will have to deal with head on.  Somehow, the mystery of what state I will physically be in and who I will be when I’m old is more terrifying than death.  Still, I have been trying to gain a more positive outlook on getting older by taking lessons from the people I’ve been working with.

One of the most interesting characters I’ve been a companion to is a woman named Penny.  To be blunt, Penny is kind of a handful.  She has dementia, and constantly needs to be “re-directed” when she starts being negative or resistant to keeping appointments.  “Redirection” usually goes something like this:

Penny: “I don’t need to go to that darn physical therapy appointment!  I’m 84 years old, in great shape, and I used to be a nutritionist!” (Penny was never a nutritionist. She is, however, in wonderful shape for an 84-year-old.  So I say . . . )

“Oh, but Penny!  Doesn’t it feel great to get some exercise?  And the therapist is always so impressed with you!”

Penny loves being told that she’s impressive.  And if you’re like me, and have seen her kick a soccer ball in a PT appointment, you’ll see that she actually is.

One thing Penny loves is to drive up into the mountains.  She says she wants to “see the animals.”  At first, I was completely for this –until I learned that Penny has odd ideas about this activity.  We could be surrounded by a mountain lake, pine trees, and snow-capped peaks, and she will insist that we are not in the mountains.  Essentially, we could spend an hour and a half among some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and I will spend most of it redirecting Penny to notice what is around her while she states that she KNOWS that we are NOT in the mountains.

At first, this particular behavior was what had me convinced that I should take up extreme sports when I get older so I can kick it while cliff-jumping instead of watching CNN in my recliner on a Friday night getting angry at how Kyra Sedgwick doesn’t seem to comb her hair (yeah, that happened).  However, the funny thing about Penny is that, even though she may grumble at certain activities throughout the day, in the evening when I’m getting ready to leave she always, always, says what a great day we had and asks when I will be by to visit her again.  Sure, some of this is the dementia making her forget, but her kindness toward me is genuine.  She always thinks the day was a success.  Penny has taught me that, even if I get a bit more grumpy as I age (I will try like heck not to be) the important thing is being comfortable with where I am at the end of the day.  There’s no sense in getting angry about getting older.  I’m beginning to understand how tough it’s going to be, but I can’t stop it from happening, so I at least want to be someone who still realizes that late life is just that: a life.

My sweetest client has to be a woman named Donna.  Donna is someone who has gone through quite a bit.  She’s in a wheelchair, has a prosthetic leg, and a car accident has made it hard for her to use her hands too much.  Every time I visit her though, she seems to be very positive and ambitious.  She’s always hosting for or getting ready to visit someone, and she never seems to let herself do less even when she’s feeling sick on top of all her other problems.  I reeeaallly hope I can be this positive when I’m older.  I hope I have a husband that I’m still in love with, like she does.  I hope that, if I do have to have a caregiver come into my home, that I will have her help me make rhubarb pie and then give her part of it to eat (this actually happened too, and it was awesome).  I want to be the kind of old lady that my grandchildren seek out.  I think I like Donna so much because she reminds me of the sweetest woman I’ve ever known, my great grandma Marge.  She put all cute, sweet grandmas to shame.  If I had it my way, I will be a combination of her and Frances McDormand’s character Margie from Fargo.  I will be sweet, kind, smart as a whip, to the point, and maybe I’ll change my name to Marge, since that name seems to come with the territory.  And hopefully I’ll be married to a guy like . . .

Ernie.  Ernie is the cutest old man to ever hit this planet.  And he has a beagle named Spunky.  If you need a visual of him, just watch this Pixar video.  That is all you need know.  Feel free to “awww” at any time.

One of my less traditional clients is a guy named Alonzo.  Alonzo is one of my few clients who actually isn’t all that old.  He’s maybe in his mid-50s, but has some mental disabilities due to an accident he had as a kid.  The amazing thing about Alonzo is that he has Savant’s Syndrome.  If any of you saw Rain Man, that’s what Dustin Hoffman’s character had, and it’s what made him so great at memorizing numbers.  Alonzo’s miracle talent is that he is an incredible sculptor.  It’s always so fun to go with him to the grocery store and hear all of the people who approach him to compliment him on his work.  He’s gained quite the reputation.  The one thing I was told when I first started working with Alonzo was not to bring up his birthday or anything about his age because it upsets him to get older.  However, I’ve noticed lately that he has been bringing up age and aging a lot in his conversations with me.  He’s recently become very interested in Marilyn Monroe, and always has me help him calculate how old she would be now (86, for the curious).  The other day he said something that kind of caught me off-guard, “Nothing stays the same right? Always changing?”  He always asks me questions in such a way as if he wants me to confirm his thoughts, so I said, “Yeah, things are always changing. That’s true.  But it’s a good thing.”  He seemed pretty happy at that trite and dorky response, but I wanted him to believe it and I wanted to believe it too.  It’s kind of like Kenz’s post a few weeks back: there are great things about being what age we are now, and there will be more great things as we get older.  It’s an attitude thing, but it can be harder to pull off a good attitude depending on the hand your dealt.  I don’t know if Alonzo fully understands how he is different from everyone else, but I don’t think it can be easy either way.  However, he is still incredibly happy and comfortable with himself.  I want to be as entirely comfortable with myself as Alonzo is.  Not that I don’t have self-confidence or don’t like myself, I just want to shuck any of my self-doubt long before I get old.  There will be plenty of other things I will need to worry about.

My most intense clients are a couple, Helen and Peter.  They are both suffering from the same degenerative illness, though Peter is more advanced.  When I first started my job, caring for them was what had me the most nervous.  I wasn’t just worried that I couldn’t care for them correctly, but I also wanted them to really like me since I really like them.  Working with Helen and Peter has required me to do things that I NEVER thought I would do, (I won’t go into details) but I’m just happy if I know I made their day a little bit easier and more comfortable.  It’s difficult to watch two people together who know what they’re up against, and know that they probably won’t get better and can actually see themselves getting worse.  I see their frustration, but I can also see how they can still lean on each other and help each other out.  Whoever is having a good day helps the person who is having a bad day.  When you get older, you have to be ready for any and all scenarios, and you have to learn to accept them with as much grace as humanly possible.  I will need to up my grace quota before too long, but I’m working on getting there.  I’m 26; I’m still allowed to be a little bit (or sometimes a lot) of a mess.

This job has definitely been one of the craziest I’ve ever had, and I’ve had my share of odd jobs.  Still, at the end of the day I’m glad I took it because, while it’s great that I can help people, selfishly, it has made me realize even more of what I’m capable of.  I don’t know what old age will hold for me –I’m especially clueless since all of my grandparents are still alive and fairly young.  Not so secretly, I hope I physically end up like my great grandma Wilma.  Grandma Wilma is in her mid-90s, but has never lived in a nursing home, nor has she had any extra assistance from anyone.  She keeps up her own house, rides her trike (yes, it’s a trike), and hangs out with her boyfriend, Ed (who replaced her ex, Shorty).  Just last week though, my dad called me to let me know that Grandma Wilma was in the hospital after having three heart attacks, and probably wouldn’t be coming out.  My dad told me not to be sad, as the only thing my Grandma Wilma hates more than “bearcats” (her term for bitchy women), is receiving pity.  My dad learned this the hard way when sitting alone with Grandma Wilma in her hospital room.  He began to cry a little, as it was dawning on him that she might soon be gone.  In response, she raised herself up (this is after three heart attacks, may I remind you), looked him straight in the eye, and said, “Stop crying!!”  And by golly, he did.  You do not want to piss that woman off.

So a week after her three heart attacks, my Grandma Wilma, who wasn’t supposed to leave the hospital alive, is getting kicked out of hospice because she, “isn’t dying.”  I think it’s hilarious that her body is as stubborn as she is.  I’m super lucky to have those genes.  Even if I don’t end up as fortunate as her, I just want to be prepared for my twilight years by becoming the person I really want to be as soon as possible.  I’m still working out some kinks, but I think that getting there will make the end of my life -or all of my life really -that much better.  There’s not a lot anyone can control about getting old, but I think it’s wise to have a goal in mind of how you want to be as you get there.  So here’s to Future Me being awesome.  Maybe time travel will be invented so I can high-five her, or something.