Feeding the Masses

“It’s just that the roof is infested with squirrels. They eat the insulation all night long—you can hear them scratching—it’s maddening and nobody can ever really sleep.”

“His roommates are kind of jerks. One of them makes him pay for ramen.”

“He’s a really nice kid and he works really hard but only makes enough to pay for his bills, not food.”

These are the types of statements that make me blurt out things like, “Is it weird that I just want to have him over for dinner and send him home with some freezer meals? Because I do, and here’s why: Kid sounds like an orphan even though his parents are local—I have a soft spot in my heart for kids in this position because I was one. Also, if he’s half as nice as you say he is I’m sure it’ll put my heart at ease to know who you’re hanging out with when you’re not here.”  So I did. And we began planning a fiesta for the inspiring and sassy bunch of teenagers who are important to Koa (including the hardworking kid who recently jumped the nest). 

To select just one “best part” to share would not do justice to the inherent reward of spending this time with Koa. He is inching ever-closer to adventures devoid of my micromanagement and I often contemplate whether he will be one to randomly come home for dinner or drop by to do laundry and hang out on my couch (like my brother does), or whether he will be one to let the wind carry him far, far away to a place where he feels safe to bloom on his own terms (like I did). I realize there are countless ways this scenario might play out but I imagine him here in my space, his shoes at my entryway and his voice rising through the stairwell, eating seconds and thirds at my dinner table. Not every night or anything—I’m not wishing some sort of Oedipus complex upon our relationship—but I hope he will want to see me periodically and forever. Needless to say I am scrambling to reinforce our bond before he feels the need to ask me, in a really gentle voice with blue eyes shining, whether or not I’ll cosign for an apartment for him. I don’t always get it right, but when I do it feels like my vision will come to fruition.

So we went to the store together and bought a ton of food and drinks, compostable plates for easy cleanup, and disposable tin pans to save labor all around. We came home, threw The Budos Band on random, put on our aprons, and made quick work of over 40lbs of turkey enchiladas divided into 9 trays (some for the freezer, some for the friend, a BUNCH for the teenagers). In less than 90min we had churned out enough delicious food to feed the masses now and later. The crowd devoured 15lbs in less than an hour. 

The feeling of accomplishment was only amplified by Koa’s enthusiasm in learning new cooking skills. The immediate and clear benefit of him having the wholehearted blessing of his parents to invite his friends over for a home-cooked meal before heading out to their Saturday night shenanigans was expressed in his eyes, words, interactions with his brothers, and attention to my request that he be home and present early the next morning. Respect and support leads to respect and support? What? Mind. Blown. Teenagers are incredible and deep and inspiring and capable if we treat them as people going through tremendous transformations… because as it turns out, that’s exactly what they are. 

Sweet Koa, your transformation is a gift. Whenever it hurts just remember the turkey enchiladas.

Turkey Enchiladas: A meal fit for the Teens!

We have 92lbs of whole turkey goodness in our deep freezer.

I take full advantage of the couponing season at my local grocer wherein I can score up to a 25lb free turkey for every $150 I spend; last October-November I strategically purchased our groceries and brought four turkeys home. Friday we ate roasted turkey for dinner, and then processed the bird to provide a heaping helping of turkey and two crockpots full of simmering broth to freeze for later. For me this use of the whole animal is both due to the health benefits and unsurpassed quality of homemade foods, and to my desire to ensure nothing goes wasted--not even the marrow.

In anticipation of a dinner party for my son Koa and his friends, I decided to enlist his help and whip up a big batch of turkey enchiladas. Though not true to authentic enchilada form they were inexpensive and made for a great afternoon with my oldest son. These bad boys were easy to make, used up a ton of things I had on hand, called for easily accessed and affordable ingredients to fill the gaps, and were good enough to encourage a gaggle of teenagers to eat 15lbs worth—beneficial or bad for them, you choose.
In addition they freeze easily, so eating well on an otherwise busy night is within reach for a family like mine or a friend in need of a porch-drop pick-me-up.

What we used: 

Affordable, easy-to-access ingredients
day-old roasted turkey
shredded cojack
minced garlic
spices like salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, paprika, cumin
4” corn tortillas
enchilada sauce of your choice
refried beans
roasted hatch green chile 
sweet potato/pear/apple/pumpkin spice butter*
*made in my crockpot, one-of-a-kind sweet, earthy taste.

 What we did: 

1. chop onions, mushrooms, turkey
2. sauté onions and some of the spices to near-carmelization
3. sauté mushrooms with minced garlic and remaining spices
4. coat inside of baking dish with enchilada sauce
5. begin with a bottom layer of tortillas, first dipped in enchilada sauce to coat them, only slightly overlapping 6. continue to layer ingredients in any number of tasty orders [gob of beans, sprinkle of mushrooms, tortillas; turkey, cheese, onions, tortillas; beans, chiles, spoonful of earthy jam, tortillas; etc.], placing a little cheese and sauce on each layer— be sure to dip all the layering tortillas in enchilada sauce
7. end with a top layer of tortillas dipped in sauce and topped with cheese
8. bake covered with foil at 400 for an hour, give or take, or until hot in the center
9. remove foil cover for final 10min of baking or place momentarily under broiler until cheese is bubbly and golden
10. let it sit 5min before cutting into it
11. enjoy

As a tip, you could do this process with pretty much any meat, cheese, veggie, tortilla and/or enchilada sauce and it would likely turn out undeniably delicious on the cheap. If you don’t think so, I recommend inviting a table full of teenagers to taste-test for you. They’ll make you feel like a regular Julia Child.

Is it beautiful? Is it useful? Is it storied?

The Great Purge of 2014: Part One

You wouldn’t know it walking into my sweet middle-class (rental) home, standing under the enormous chandelier with the whiteness of the walls glaring back at you, or looking up into the sparse décor of my open floor plan, but I have too much shit. No really, like, it’s kind of a problem sometimes. It’s emblematic of other problems I have and sometimes it comes rushing into the office in my head to demand a raise on the priority list of mental health concerns I should probably attend to.

Sometimes I am able to listen to the piece of me that yearns to live simply, that feels joy and weightlessness wash over me after handing a prized possession to its next owner to treasure. Other times I hold onto the things I have like a hoarder five years after the Great Depression, the memory of struggle and starvation and stealing and sobering sadness of life lived “without” still raw in my mind and triggered by the sweat of current labors.

Some examples of objects I continue to carry despite their utility having run its course in my life:

  • An extra dining set. No, not dishes. A six-foot-long pine table and six matching chairs. 
  • A scooter that hasn’t been started in two years.
  • Three boxes of size eight clothing.          
  • A jar full of false eyelashes, a drawer full of ruffle-butted funderwear, and a collection of Martha Stewart Kids magazines from the mid-2000s.
… And that’s it. I can’t list anything else right now because in my mind there is ALWAYS utility—I just may not have come to the right moment to discover it yet. Do you do that? Do you ever just hold onto something because someday it is bound to come in handy and you happened to be able to acquire it today for whatever reason? I have to talk myself down off ledges more frequently than I’d like to admit.

And so, the Great Purge of 2014 begins.

I have been homeless, slept under bridges, in rest stop bathrooms, in cars, in camps and on the ground. I have siphoned electricity off of neighboring units to run a space heater and refrigerator full of the previous night’s kitchen loss from my gracious employer. I have had Christmas presents provided for my children by complete strangers. I have lived owning literally nothing more than the pack on my back. And now I have all this shit everywhere.

Two knife blocks. Fourteen Christmas stockings. An Elvis bust with a broken nose. Two lamp shades sliced down the side (rendering them inoperable in their most basic function). Two playpens and no babies left. A 12pk of clear lip balm containers and a 2lb bag of beeswax. A secular Christmas Countdown calendar, homemade, collaged with the most incredible collection of handmade upcycled envelopes, each tucked with a note full of fun. Six boxes of compact discs. Three dead computers. Little hotel shampoos. And of course, those three boxes of size eight clothing. It’s time to let some of it go.

You can follow me on the journey. In fact, I encourage you to not only follow along but to participate. Each week I will select an object or several to get rid of and at the end of the week I’ll post a picture of the all the week’s purge along with a story about one particular item.

The process I will use to break down my inner-hoarder is simple. 

I'll reflect on the given object and ask myself the following:

 Is it beautiful? If no, then out it goes. If yes, is there someone else who might appreciate its beauty more? It has to be more than aesthetically pleasing; the beauty has to be in the context too.   

Is it useful? If no, then out it goes. If yes, do I have more than one? If yes, pick one and get rid of the other(s). If not, I’ll keep it. This is about minimizing after all, not about returning to abject poverty. 

Is it storied? If no, then out it goes. If yes, is the story something I’ll forget if the object is gone? Is the story something someone else might appreciate? Stories are vital components of our relationships to one another. I want to share the storied objects I have with the people who helped to create the memories attached to them, or to find people who can create their own new stories with the objects I no longer need to hold on to.

By my calculations this imprecise formula will have my inner-hoarder feeling a little less hoard-y in no time. I hope that I can find some people who will love and cherish all the storied, cool and useless and wacky and tacky and beautiful, wonderful things I’ll be ridding my life of. Because as awesome as it is feel secure and to engage in consumerism and “collecting” to prove that sense of security, I can’t imagine why I need to hold on to four square yards of fake fur or a pair of hiking shoes that are too narrow for me to wear without getting painful blisters anymore.

What can you let go of this week? How will purging it help you or someone else? Next week I'll be sure to update you on all of the beautiful, useful, storied relics of my past that I'm cutting loose, how I let them go, and what it felt like. I can already feel my palms sweating.  

There's an app for that.

29 hours
My very first successfully watermarked photo.
+2 incredible, just-what-I-wanted mason jar watermark files
+32 different search term combinations I tried in my search to figure it out independently 
+16 attempts at watermarking photos with new kickass digital stamp
-21 deleted files containing maimed versions of said kickass digital stamp
+7 saved, shitty, not-what-I-wanted-at-all files
+10+/- percentage of friends in my close circle who are legit, professional photographers
-2 waves of anxiety over polling facebook for how-to’s of watermarking so I can use new kickass stamp
+0 number of helpful answers because I don’t know shit about photoshop
+1 wild decision to search the Google Play Store on a Hail Mary
+1 perfect application made just for me
-10 seconds to install it
-0 the amount it cost me to buy the watermarking app

= it doesn’t even matter because my brain no longer feels like it’s going to explode!

Whenever you find yourself in doubt, don't. There’s totally an app for that. 

Naming This Baby

Names. I’m sitting at home in my “office” with a hard cider, some music, a bag of blue corn chips and an entire bowl of guacamole. My house is empty save for one sleeping babe on the other side of the door, and I have this entire stormy night to myself to draft an amazing blog entry for my newest great idea. So per usual I’m toiling over some detail instead of producing the brilliant piece I imagined, sifting through dictionaries and thesauruses and searching terms like kickass blog name generator, gimme a good name, and what not to call your blog. Three of my precious Me hours whisked rapidly away into no one direction particularly, kind of like my trash cans in the intense wind storm happening just beyond the rickety rolling garage door. Errr, ummm, walls of my office. 

The only difference, of course, is that I will settle on a blog name eventually (ideally—and likely—before you read this) while I will probably never find my trash cans again. I suppose I’ll likely settle on a nice pair in the selection that will inevitably gather down at the end of the tortuously steep street I reside on so I guess that counts for something. My neighbors will curse me under their breath and call me names, but they will still appreciate that I have eggs whenever they need them. Life is obviously a very delicate balance.     

Names are so important. Blog names. What we name our pets. What we call our kids. Chosen name changes in the courts to signify a new future or to get away from an old past… The cards we play in the Name Game identify pieces of ourselves to those we encounter though they may never question or learn the significance behind a given selection. For example, Mr. Muffstache is not a dog I want licking my face; Shit on a Shingle never sounds like an appetizing answer coming out of my mouth when I’m prodded for the evening menu; and no matter what kind of pudding may be inside that can on the grocer’s shelf, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to eat Spotted Dick.

Hopefully you don’t find my blog name as repellent as something like SOS or Spotted Dick. If you do, it might be a good time to go ahead and leave because I can assure you it’s only going to be more of the same from here on out. If, however, you are among the more adventurous among your friends and family—either in the culinary realm or in life in general—this might be a fun place for you to visit regularly. You can’t change what I’m calling my blog, but feel free to save it under whatever name you choose in your bookmarks. 

UPDATE: I’ve decided on a name for the new baby.  It has been holding me up for days, but less than a week after leaping from the iOS platform to the Android one I was growing increasingly frustrated with my inability to move forward with the setup of all my newfangled gadgets and widgets due to my indecision and so I chose one that fits. I registered the new online spaces with the name a palpable paradox. Why? Well, that’s basically what every story I have to offer now and in the future is likely to be: something so raw, inspiring, true and seemingly absurd,  impossible or illogical that you can feel it confusing your marrow deep inside as you read it. I assure you every word is true according to me and my experience. 

How delightful!