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Happy birthday to me…

March 30, 2005

Just me, wishing myself a happy birthday. Today I’m 27. Much closer to 30 than 20. Getting a little scraggly around the edges, maybe some wrinkles? Last night I dreamt that I found a white hair on my head and said, “My first white hair! And on my birthday even!” I was not happy about it.

But now it’s daylight and I’m here in our little apartment thinking about getting older and still feeling young. I still feel like a kid most of the time. I mean, seriously, would a grown-up spend 30 minutes taking 50 photos of themselves just to post it on a blog?

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Que chulita!

March 28, 2005

My family came to visit us this weekend. My mom, my dad, my sister, and her two children all piled into my dad’s new truck and drove seven hours just to hang out with us for a while. We shopped and ate and talked and hugged and had an all-around good time.

It was a little sad for me, though, to see how grown-up my niece, Kourtney (the gorgeous girl shown above) has become. My nephew, Gary, is growing taller by the minute. It seems that nothing can make you feel as old as when you see kids around you growing up. I remember when Kourtney was so tiny that she could sit in a shoebox, and I would push her around the living room, making “vroom vroom” noises and laughing as her wild morning hair flipped about. She used to follow me around the house, her tiny footsteps behind me, saying, “Tia! Tia!” to get my attention. She loved Selena, and would give us dramatic performances of the latest Selena song, complete with emotional flailing of the arms and the occasional fainting-to-the-floor act.

She seems to remember me as the aunt who tried to kill her several times. She remembers being in the car with me when I backed into a pole at a Payless store. She remembers the time we thought we might drown in a swimming pool in Corpus Christi (who knew I wasn’t strong enough to carry her through the deep end?) She remembers getting caught in an elevator alone, with me screaming on the other side of the door, and the hotel janitor jamming his fingers into the crevice to pry open the doors and reveal tiny little Kourtney, crying and screaming, “Tia! Tia!” She is so small in my memories, never more than four or five years old, and I was just a pre-teen, trying to be the “cool” aunt that I had always wanted.

She’ll be celebrating her fifteenth birthday this summer, at a quinceanera planned just for her. She’ll be in a gorgeous dress, the center of attention, with her teenage friends surrounding her, and I’ll be on the sidelines, teary-eyed and wishing I could turn the clock back to a day when she fit in a shoebox. Her “little” brother will be all decked out and looking like a fine young man, and that night, after the party’s over, I’ll have a familiar dream in which I’m holding them both in my arms, their tiny little voices calling out, “Tia! Tia!”

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Beans, beans, good for your heart

March 27, 2005

There’s nothing like coming home at the end of the day and smelling a pot of beans simmering in the kitchen. Beans are so simple, so yummy, so cheap. We prefer black beans, because they seem to have their own distinct flavor and don’t need much to make them delicious.

My basic black bean recipe is so easy, it’s embarrassing. I got the idea from a Rick Bayless cookbook, and we’ve been making these beans ever since.

Black Beans

  • 1 pound dry black beans
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • Salt to taste

Clean and rinse the beans, making sure to remove any rocks or damaged beans. Add them to a 2 to 3 quart crockpot along with the onion, oil, and water. Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 7 to 8 hours, until beans are tender. Add salt during last hour of cooking (usually 1 to 2 teaspoons is plenty for us).

This amount of water makes brothy beans, which we happen to love. We like to serve the beans with their broth in a bowl, topped with chopped tomato, crumbled queso fresco, and avocado. We usually have tons of leftovers, so we’ll make black bean chalupas, flautas, or tacos the next day. To “refry” the beans the next day, I just plop them in a skillet and heat them up, mashing with a potato masher until they’re as mushed as we like them.

You can also soak the beans for a few hours or overnight, and discard the soaking water to get rid of some of the gas-causing compounds in the beans. If you don’t have a crockpot, you can simmer the beans on the stove for a couple of hours, checking them occasionally to make sure they haven’t dried out (if they have, you can add hot water as needed).

Basically, you can’t go wrong with beans. I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad pot of beans, whether they were pinto, black, or any other kind. We always make a big pot of them, since they can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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The boys

March 24, 2005

Allow me to introduce you to a few of the men in my life. Pictured above is Ernie. What can I say about Ernie? He’s sweet and loving, and he’ll just sit in front of you all day as long as you pet him. He’ll lay his head in your lap, or sometimes just offer you a paw to hold.

Below is Sebastian. Aaah…Sebastian. He is sometimes a little too full of life. He likes to jump, he likes to be really, really close to you, and he will plop down on your lap if you let him.

Not pictured is Bert. Bert is the quiet type; he still keeps his distance from me, occasionally stopping by for a quick rub behind the ears, but mostly he seems uninterested in hanging out on our little patio.

Thus passes another afternoon in my busy, busy life, hanging out with these guys and shootin’ the breeze with Todd downstairs. Oops…was I supposed to be looking for a job today?

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Just another day

March 23, 2005

So I guess Roux likes towels. First he christened our towel-rug, and now he’s taken over our towel basket. He curls up in it and sleeps there, and we end up having to wash the towels since they’re covered with Roux hair.

Today I took Justin to the orthopedist, who said he had chipped part of the joint in his thumb (proximal phalanx, Justin says), and that he didn’t think surgery was necessary. Which was good, because honestly I hadn’t even thought that surgery was a possibility–scary! He has a removable splint that he has to wear for three weeks, and then we go back to see if it has healed well. Poor guy. No biking, no X-box, no buttoning his pants alone.

After lunch, I took a walk downtown to the library. Man, I love Austin. On the way I passed by beautiful historic houses, city lofts, a BMX bike course, trendy hair salons, and plenty of squirrels and birds. It only took me about 25 minutes to get there, and I was just strolling. I spent the afternoon finding collections of food writing and flipping through back issues of Saveur magazine. I could seriously get used to not working.

One more random thought for the day: TV is an addictive drug. I am addicted. It’s calling my name. I used to watch an occasional PBS show, or maybe a cooking show or two. Now, I’m loving Everyday Italian and West Wing and Buffy and Project Greenlight and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and random movies on Showtime, Cinemax, HBO or Starz…how do people live their lives around the TV schedule? I guess that’s why they have Tivo. I draw the line at Tivo. We get cable for free (thanks Tim and Todd!), but I sometimes wonder whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s free entertainment, but it’s also like a vacuum, sucking you in, and filling your head with subliminal messages (“I need a new haircut like hers” or “oooh, that looks good, maybe we’ll go for an ice cream later” or “man, I need one of those revolving tupperware organizers”) that encourage you to spend, spend, spend. Then again, without TV, I would never know what people are talking about most of the time (“Hey, did you see that commercial…”).

Aside from TV, I’ve been reading a great book called The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin. It’s all about food and gluttony, my favorite topics. If it’s available at your library, I highly recommend checking it out (or, if you’re an Austinite, BookPeople currently has it on its bargain table for $6.99!!). It’s incredibly funny, and totally focused on the art of eating good food (not healthy food, just good food).

Okay, internet, enough rambling for tonight. Stay tuned…

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