May Bake Quest: Sesame-Miso Cucumber Salad

We tried this recipe over the weekend to have something to go with our steaks.  It was really delicious.  The sesame seeds give it a nice nutty flavor that pairs well with the mellow taste of the cucumber.  The came from Cooking Light Magazine – May 2011 issue.


1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

2 tbsp white miso (soybean paste) or lower sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp hot water

1 tsp crushed red pepper

2 tsp dark sesame oil

4 cups thinly sliced cucumbers

Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add cucumbers.  Toss to coat.  Yield 6 – 3/4 cup servings.

We toasted the sesame seeds over medium heat in a skillet.  They turn light brown and smell a bit like popcorn when they are done.  We added about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to sharpen the taste.  The recipe also calls for the cucumbers to be de-seeded.  After slicing them I cut them in half but left the seeds. 


An Evening at The San Carlos Hotel, Circa 1928

 Last night was my husband’s niece’s art show which was held in the Ghost Lounge of The San Carlos Hotel.  In addition to giving me an excuse to get all gussied up (read that word on someone’s blog recently and needed to use it) and wear a shade of lipstick I don’t usually wear. 

This hotel was one of Phoenix’s finest and was built in 1928.  Stars like Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable stayed here, as well as Mae West.

There is something special about old buildings and I find myself drawn to them in hopes that the walls will reveal some unknown secrets.

Here are my niece and her husband standing in front of her artwork.  She is a very talented artist as you can see from the work behind her.  Several other artists were set up as well.  I got one shot of another artist’s work.  I didn’t take too many shots of the artwork because I wasn’t completely sure if the artists would be okay with that.  Regardless, I did get one…

There was so much talent there last night.  I stayed for the fashion show which featured designs by students at a local art school.  Models of all sizes were used to show off these beautiful head pieces made of feathers, tulle and even a page from a comic book.  What struck me so profoundly was that there was so much passion displayed in everything shown.  All of these students couldn’t be any older than 25, my niece included.  I felt the opposite of that cranky old lady that shakes her fist in the air yelling, “kids today!”

 Bravo to all of them!

The art ranged of course from clothing, to pictures one might hang in their livingroom, to more obscure things like the girl who used her oil paint dipped breasts to create a painting.  There was also a photo of a blood spattered bathroom which I couldn’t picture hanging up in the Girl Cave but, hey, art is what it is to all people. 

After finishing up a cold and fruity concoction from The Ghost Lounge, I decided to take the elevator up to check out a few of the floors.  This clock hung in the lobby above the elevators.  I just loved it’s charm.

On the third floor I came across the room that Marilyn Monroe used to stay in.  Apparently she liked to be near the pool so that she wouldn’t be spotted as she made her way out to sunbathe.  Here is her room:

The hotel itself is like a museum.  I wandered around the floors looking at the old sepia pictures of Phoenix back in the late 1800s and 1930s.  It was neat to see a horse-drawn trolley filled with people going down what was once a dirt road, the same road I traveled on to get to the hotel.

I made my way down to the second floor and started to hear Big Band music.  How apropos, I thought.  Nice touch.  It seem to fade in and out which I’m sure had to do with the old electrical system in the building.    Mae West apparently stayed in the suite on the second floor.  I wish I could have gone into these rooms and inspected.  How neat would that have been?  I can just picture Mae at the door in a flowing robe. “Hello boys.”

 As it was getting late, I caught one more fashion show and then decided to hit the road.  I had to make change at the front desk for the valet and I mentioned to the lady working there that I thought it was really a nice touch that they had the old-fashioned music piped in the hallways.  She looked at me oddly for a moment and told me that they didn’t have any music piped in.  I told her that I heard the Big Band music.  She responded that she wouldn’t go anywhere in the hotel but the first floor because the other floors terrified her.  The hotel has a reputation as being very haunted, hence The Ghost Lounge.  So. . . ?  What did I hear?  It is a functioning hotel still so it could easily have come from the tv in one of the guest rooms but it has me wondering.

Click on the link of the San Carlos Hotel for more history.

Creature Comforts

 Yesterday while leaving work, I spotted these two canoodling by the man-made pond outside my building.  I had to move slowly to get the shot and was feeling a little like the ducky paparazzi.  Luckily I didn’t disturb them.

There is a turtle that likes to hang out in the larger side of the pond.  A few evenings I have spotted him hanging out by the surface.  He has remained camera-shy as each time I try to get a pic of him, he ducks down and swims away.

What is the equivalent of placing a tom boy in a dress?  That would be Abby getting an actual bath.  She is not happy unless she is dirty.  Hubby bathed her and brushed her to get out all her loose fur because she can shed like nobody’s business!  We could probably construct another dog from all the hair she loses. 

Bath time is usually followed up by 12 hours of sulking to make sure we notice her disdain.  She absolutely loves to be dirty!  We have red decomposed granite in the back yard which turns her fur pink.  While hiking someone will usually ask me if it is natural for her to be ‘peach’ colored, or if I did that on purpose like she was some punk rocker’s dog.  I usually have to explain why she looks that way.  Her fur is a gorgeous white but we don’t see it very often.  All the ‘Oh, how pretty you look’ comments don’t seem to matter.  She is not happy unless she is dirty.

 Here is Smokey trying out her new dryer hose.  Dryer hoses are lots of fun when you are a ferret!  They make a really cool sound when one is running through it.  Just ask Smokey.  Here she is adjusting to her new digs.  Her face is a bit of a blur.  She doesn’t sit still much. 

Yesterday she and I were in the middle of a game of chase when Abby decided to join in.  Abby of course had to be the leader of the pack and ran ahead.  I was in the middle offering up encouragement to all playing, and the Smokester was heading up the back chattering away the entire time.  Abby at one point decided to stop quick which pretty much sent me sailing over her.  Luckily I didn’t get hurt.  Smokey caught up to me and instead of pouncing on me she just stood in front of me looking up at my face as if to say ‘I know I’m supposed to do something here.  I’m just not quite sure what!’  Then the chase began all over again. 

Just a typical night in the Monsoon residence.

May Bake Quest: Ginger Slaw With Plums (Salad)

 This recipe came from Weight Watchers Magazine – July/August 2006 issue.  I’ve added some variations over the past couple of years which I will mention after I post the original recipe.  This is a great and colorful summer side dish that we enjoy with burgers and other items from the grill.


1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tsp canola oil

2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups cole slaw mix

3 plums, pitted and thinly sliced

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

2 scallions, sliced

Whisk together the vinegar, oil, ginger, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the cole slaw mix, plums, cabbage, carrots, and scallions; mix well.  Cover and refrigerated until chilled.

Here’s how I substitute: once when we were out of rice vinegar, I used red wine vinegar.  Truth be told it had a better flavor so I continued to use it instead.  Plums aren’t always in season so I have used cherries and most recently I threw in a cup of raspberries.  It was delicious.  Also, any oil will do.  I’ve used olive oil mainly when we were out of canola.  I also like my cole slaw a bit sweeter so I added 2 packets of Truvia to it.  Delish!

There’s A New Kid In Town

Introducing Smokey!

Saturday morning I went to meet the lady from the shelter down in Tucson.  I completely procrastinated getting ready because it meant that I needed to clean out Monsoon’s old carrier, a task I wasn’t sure I was ready to complete.  I did it, however, and felt better after that was done.  I also had a dream a few nights before that I was following the new ferret around while she explored and all of a sudden Monsoon appeared.  She was looking up at me as if to say, ‘you are replacing me so soon?’  I guess I’ve been feeling a bit guilty.

Where it was a hot day I packed a cooler full of water and also an ice pack to keep in a pillow case in the carrier for the newby.  Around 8am I said goodbye to hubby and he asked where I was going.  “You know where I”m going,” I said, and left it at that.  He said no more.  I debated which way to take to get to the freeway and decided to cut through the Indian Reservation.  The last time I went that way was with Monsoon when we went camping back in January.  It was such a happy time and I immediately teared up at the memory.  Once I passed a few miles of ranch homes on the rez (as we call it here), the desert opened up for miles and miles.  There’s something so peaceful and soothing about it.  I placed an upbeat CD in the player and felt much better about the adventure ahead.

The shelter lady arrived shortly after I did.  She had a bumper sticker that read ‘Husband and ferret missing.  Reward for ferret.’  My type of lady!  She took Smokey from her carrier and held her out to me.  What can I say?  I was smitten.  She relaxed into my arms as if she belonged there.  She slept all the way back to Phoenix and perked up once we got into the house.  Abby also seems to be in love with her and followed her around while she explored.  That was a relief.  Monsoon could get a bit aggressive with Abby but Smokey just seem to take her curiosity in stride. 

Hubby called and asked if I had arrived home with a ‘guest’.  Yes, I said, and Abby is in love with her.  I took a nap thereafter and hubby had arrived home.  I heard him enter the room and woke up a bit.  Smokey was sleeping in her cage.  With one eye open I watched hubby bend over to inspect Smokey.  I knew he’d come around.  I shut my eyes again before he noticed.

Smokey has been an absolute joy.  She walks around pushing little jingle ball toys around the house.  She makes happy noises and loves scritches under her chin.  I guess her former owner could no longer keep her.  She and several others were surrendered to the shelter.  She is 4 years old.  I was hoping to get more pics of her but it is a bit difficult to get her to stand still for a while.  🙂  She is always on the move.

While I’m still a bit sad about Monsoon (this is the first day I’ve worn something other than water-proof mascara in a month) having Smokey definitely fills the emptiness at home.  I love hearing her play and she simply just makes me smile.   I’m so looking forward to some happy times.   And I’m sure there will be more pictures to come (if I can get her to stay still long enough!)

Bake Quest #7 for May

The requests came in for this month that we focus on healthy recipes.  Here’s what we’ve got:

  • Eggplant
  • Salad
  • Nut butters

Let’s see what we can all come up with! 

The rules are to make a recipe using one of the ingredients above or to provide your own take on one of the items listed.  We choose from three separate ingredients or items due to allergies, items not in season or unavailable in certain areas, etc…

When posting your recipe, include any helpful hints you may have found, like for instance, say a recipe says that it yields a certain amount but you found that it produced more or less, etc…  Also, give credit to the recipe provider.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your great aunt’s recipe or it came from a cook book.   If you’ve stumbled across this page and would like to participate, please leave a comment and I’ll add you to the blog roll.

Please feel free to bookmark this posting.  Once you’ve posted your recipe for the month if you would like, include a link back to this page.  That way everyone participating can check out your creation.  Have fun!

In Praise of Thursday, Weasels and Red Velvet Cupcakes

So last Thursday was a really good day.  I got up to start my morning meditation when all of a sudden I could feel Monsoon’s little spirit in the room with me.  Abby could sense her too.  Later on in the morning while putting on my makeup I thought I felt what felt like a little nose pressed up against my ankle.  All day long I felt a tremendous amount of peace.  On the way to work I had received a call from Marshall Ferret Farms in New York.  I was doing some research on them to see if their reputation had improved since the mid-90s.  I found a Wikipedia site that stated that kits that were sold to Petco’s and were not sold by a certain date were then sold back to Marshalls and euthanized.  Yeah, I was in shock.  I immediately wrote to Marshall Farms and Thursday morning I received a phone call from a woman named Cindy who stated that there “was no way on God’s green earth that would ever happen.”  That was a relief and it just goes to prove that you can’t believe everything you read online.

Bettina’s seeds arrived in the mail on Thursday, too.  I’m looking forward to planting them this weekend.  That was a nice surprise (and thanks again, B!).  My Mom also surprised me with a ticket to Ohio to visit my sister and her family.  We had all planned on meeting there for a long weekend.  It will be so nice to get away.

Friday night we finally picked up the kitchen table that has been on lay-away for months.  Hubby and I brought it into the house, which was no easy task!  The thing had to weigh over 100 lbs (I think).  It’s solid walnut.  It took a few hours to put together but its nice to go into the kitchen and see that instead of the outdoor set we had been using for a while. 

Saturday evening we had friends over for homemade tacos and sangria which meant Saturday we spent all day cleaning.  Every single room in the house, plus the yard, got a scrub down.  We should really have friends over more often.  😉  I think everyone enjoyed themselves.  Yesterday hubby and I made flautas out of the leftover taco fixings.  We of course had red velvet cupcakes for dessert.

I felt like a kid who had eaten too much cake after eating only one.  They are topped with the creamiest of cream cheese frosting and then coated with red sugar crystals that turned my finger tips red.  They were quite divine!  A few of these went home with friends to be given to their kiddos.  We still have a few in the fridge that I’ll be bringing in for my boss’s kids. 

Something has definitely been up with Abby.  I really didn’t know how she would react to losing her buddy, Monsoon.  In all honesty I didn’t really think much about it.  It’s hit me though the past couple of days that she is mourning.  She’s been carrying that rawhide bone around for almost 2 weeks now.  I woke up really late at night late last week because she had barked.  It wasn’t the normal bark I hear from her.  As a dog owner, and I’m sure most could attest to this, you learn what your dog wants by her bark.  She has a separate bark for when someone is outside.  She has a bark for when she wants to be let out, etc…  This wasn’t like that.  I opened my eyes and she was pacing around the furniture, the bone in her mouth.  Definitely not like her.  I saw her looking for Monsoon last night and it broke my heart.  Today when I left for work she was trying desperately to leave the house with me.  I grabbed her by the collar and she pulled so hard to get away from me that I thought she may even try to snap at me.  Very odd.

On a lighter note, I’ve been in touch with a ferret shelter in the Tucson area.  I’m meeting with a lady from the shelter and she is going to present 2 little ones to me named Smokey and Gloria.  I’m going to see which one picks me out.  It will be hard to not take them both but I know if I did then the three of us would all be staying in the shelter.  I convinced hubby that this was the right thing to do.  He’s not happy about it.  I believe his final words were, ‘fine, do what you want.’  I think he’ll come around.  Saturday morning I’ll drive down.  It will be so nice to have a little one around the house again.  I hope it will make Abby happy, too.  I’m still mourning Monsoon but it’s getting better.  Sometimes a memory will come to me and I’ll find myself in tears again.  I don’t think the new little one will replace her but it will be so wonderful to have another little creature around to enjoy.

This morning I got the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed.  I didn’t feel any relief.  Truth be told, I didn’t really feel anything but indifference.  In some ways I suppose it could be closure for that horrible day if I felt something.  I did pray on it during my morning meditation.  Not for forgiveness which is what would be the right thing to do some would say, but more that God’s will be done.  The end. 

A friend of my step-dad’s was killed last week in Afghanistan.  This was a 34 year old man from Massachusetts who had a wife and two kids.  My step-dad has known this man his whole life.  He was in the air force.  He was shot point-blank in the head by an Afghan man.  The Taliban claimed responsibility although the shooters brother denied any involvement.  I read about it later on CNN. 

The who-hates-who and who-has-done-who-wrong is just getting plain old.  It doesn’t matter where we live or what our beliefs are.  We can all be a bit kinder to everyone that crosses our path.  No excuses.