I'm Part Wicked

Mr. Man and I recently saw the musical Wicked. I had been wanting to see it ever since it was in San Francisco for pre-Broadway shows a few years back. I have always kicked myself for not forking over the cash to go see it while I had the chance. So, when it came post-Broadway to my corner of the northwest I knew I didn't want to miss the chance.

This musical was really great. As far as staging goes, it was not one of the best productions I have ever seen, but it doesn't matter because the music and the story line are so strong it can carry your attention and imagination on it's own. It doesn't need all the choreographed numbers that are usually my favorite part of a musical.

For those of you that don't know, Wicked is based on a book of the same title by Gregory Maguire. Maguire writes about the Land of Oz (you know, as in Dorothy and the yellow brick road) except that this is the back story. This is the story of how the wicked witch became wicked and the good witch became good. Except it is better and more complicated than that one sentence can describe. Much like life and our own stories we can not be simply described by either good or evil for it is never that simple.

I have seen a lot of musicals thanks to a special theater here in the northwest that allows myself and Mr. Man to purchase cheap season tickets in an effort to get young people through the door- and addicted. There have been some really great musicals. Most make me want to leap and sing and dance all the way to the car. They all make me want to be a Broadway star in my next life (I am letting you know this now, so you know where to look for me). However, none has left an impression on me as great as Wicked.

You see, in Wicked, Maguire weaves the tale of two young women in school who will eventually become known as the good witch of the north and the wicked witch of the west. Without giving too much away, the plot unfolds and we see that while their future names are entirely black and white neither one of them is entirely good or evil. The witches are named as such more as a product of their own upbringing tied with public perception and meddling from politicos instead of any real definition of who they are.

I think Wicked made such a great impression on me because it somehow tapped into beliefs I maintain for myself. Like many, I believe we are all products of our upbringing and that we should struggle to fight our natural desire to look at things with our own light rather than the torches of the mob. Isn't it funny that we are all much nicer people when we have to deal with people on a personal, face to face basis, but when we are part of a group or anonymous we lash out judgments and harsh words for people for whom we do not know or understand? But I digress, I am going off on a tangent here. A post for another day.

My point here, and I do have one, is that not even my belief that people are a product of their own upbringing is black and white. Because eventually we all have to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. Eventually, we all have to lift ourselves up. In this life nothing worth having is handed to you whether you are rich or poor. My other point here is that this is a hard thing to explain.

The other day I was downtown and just as we passed a couple of men on the street yelling at passers by about something having to do with America sucking and jihad and 9/11 and us deserving it all (I can't really be sure about this...living in a city for the past 6 years has made me really good at tuning out random shouters on the street). I didn't really think twice about it except that I saw a father with his three year old. And the young sprout was asking his father about these men. And the father (I assume, perhaps it was just a well-meaning uncle) went on to explain that these men were spewing hate because they were really just very unhappy people who had hard lives.

Naturally, the three year old had a lot more questions because this was not really an explanation a three year old could understand. But, the light changed and we all crossed the street going our separate ways. I tried not to, but I rolled my eyes while simultaneously smiling to this explanation. The answer he gave was black and white. It made excuses. It was part right. It was part wrong. Of course this is just my opinion. And I am always part right and part wrong too.

You see? Hard to explain. And yet, there needs to be a way to explain them. And there isn't a lot out there as far as I can tell. On another related tangent, Harry Potter. Once upon a time, I used to love the idea of Snape. What a great lesson. Snape was a product of his upbringing. But he wasn't entirely good or evil. It forced us to all think about Snape's character. (What? You didn't have long conversations with your friends or maybe just yourself about the many facets of Snape?) And I thought, "What a great lesson for kids reading this book! Harry may not like Snape, but he isn't evil. He defies perception."

And I continued to think this, right up until book number five. And I was pissed. Seriously. I stewed for days (fine, years obviously because I am ranting about it here). I love the Harry Potter series and I will sing its praises from the highest hilltops and read them to my future, hypothetical children. But, I really think that Rowling missed an opportunity.

What I am trying to say here is that through Wicked, Maguire has captured the gray area of these beliefs perfectly. A fairy tale with a moral I can get behind. Rise above your circumstances (even if you have to do it on a broomstick). Look behind the curtain. Get to know a person so they fall into that gray area. And eventually, you will have to take a stand for what you believe in, so be prepared.

Not all who wander are lost...but this post certainly is

I have been trying to think of a tag line for this blog. You know like a hook for a song, but it will make me less money.

I have been trying to think of something that would tie this whole she-bang together. I once read somewhere that your blog should have a clear focus. Readers should be able to stop by and figure out what you write about in a couple seconds flat.

My problem is that this blogs' subjects are as winding and wandering as my path in life. I have tried to come up with a solution to this. I have thought about having separate blogs. But truthfully, I like having one place to collect recipes, ramblings, and tidbits of life. So, I thought that a clever tag line would really solve this whole problem quite well. You know, wrapping up every topic I have blogged about in a few short words. Totally the obvious choice, right? (Again, I need that sarcasm font, like immediately.)

So far the best this I have come up with is "A Shared Mile: Blogging about the good food and the humorous aspects of life...just don't shoot your cocktail out your nose."

Classy, right? I really like how I tried to have a very whimsical, romantic blog title and then have de-classed it by adding something about food and drinks coming out of your nose when you laugh too hard.

I'm a genius, I know.

This post is the haute-est thing EVAH!

Once upon time you may remember that I asked my dear friend Prince William to watch over all of you. He wrote about tapeworms in china, trips to doctors who are obsessed keeping it up, and the eccentricities of his father.

I love all of those posts.

In one he linked to a picture and referenced haute couture. I now get ever increasing hits every day from people linking to that blog post from people using Google image searches. I seriously have no idea why my blog is related to this image at all, when all Will did was link to it. I guess I have yet to understand the workings of the Internet at large.

No one ever sticks around. I mean, this blog is really the furthest thing from haute couture. But, it makes me feel as if I should give these relative droves of people something haute.

I just don't know what, seeing as how I am no slave to fashion. Unless you count my small obsession with Project Runway.

So far, my only real idea involves puns on the word haute. As in, "It's getting haute in here, so take off all your couture." Or maybe "Is haute in here? Or am I just overdressed in this couture?" Or perhaps "Is that just an over-embellishment on your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

Damnit. That last one didn't even use haute as a pun, it just made fun of haute couture. See? I need help!

Does anyone have any real suggestions?

Like a slumber party, but for adults -or- Recipes for an entire dinner party

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I miss the slumber parties of my youth. I was the kid who had slumber parties all the way through high school. After the boys left, the girls and I would stay up all night long talking about the boys who had just been there, daring each other to do stupid things, and laughing until it hurt all night log.

No one really has slumber parties as an adult. At least not the kind I am thinking of. I don't blame us though. The older we get the less willing we are to sleep on someones hard wood floor for fun. Our backs just can't handle it and we need more sleep than we used to in order to be sane the following day.

So, as adults we have to dress up the slumber party. We have to have dinner parties from time to time that are free from the Y chromosome carrying half of our species.
I wanted to have my Northwest friends over for dinner and drinks and I wanted it to be the type of event where all they had to do was show up. I didn't want to ask anything of them. I just wanted them to come over, be my guest, and hang with me.

I didn't quite make it through to the entire menu I had planned. I was on my feet the whole day, so much so that my feet were sore and swollen like a pregnant ladies by the time I went to bed. One item didn't turn out servable at all. I spent the morning shopping and the rest of the day cooking. I had one of the best days ever.

For me, it does not get much better than spending the morning at the farmers market, the entire day cooking, and finishing up just in time to laugh uncontrollably for an entire evening with some of the best women around.

This was the menu:

Cantaloupe and Pineapple Sage coolers

Hibiscus Gin and Tonics


Goat cheeses on crackers with pickled sweet peppers

Caramelized onion salsa and tortilla chips

Fresh cherry tomatoes

Main course

Nopales and vegetable tacos

Grilled corn on the cob


Honey caramel peach pie

It was all delicious (with the exception of a failed experiment with a new avocado soup...no need to ever mention it again). I do wish I could send a plate your way. Instead I will just have to share some recipes and photos with you.
There are a lot of recipes here...so feel free to just scroll through and look at the pictures.

Hibiscus gin and tonics
makes 2

This was adapted from a recipe for hibiscus juice from Gourmet. I just couldn't resist turning it into something more sinful than juice. I used pineapple sage simple syrup to make the drinks last night, because it was what I had on hand. However, any simple syrup will do.
I made these in a shaker, but if you don't have one, just halve the recipe and make it right in the glass.

2 shots gin
~1 cup hibiscus juice (recipe follows)

2 Tbs. pineapple sage simple syrup (recipe below)
Tonic water

straws (not optional, in my opinion)

Fill two pint glasses and shaker to the top with ice. Place gin, simple syrup, and hibiscus juice into the shaker and shake vigorously for a few seconds. Divide the mixture between the two pint glasses then finish each one off with about a quarter cup of tonic water. Throw the straw in and give it a quick stir.

Hibiscus juice

2 oz. dried hibiscus flowers
8 cups water

Soak the hibiscus flowers in water for at least four hours in 3 c. water. To get the most flavor out of the flowers soak them for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
Once they are done soaking strain the flowers out and pour the liquid into a pitcher. Add the remaining water. If you are just going to serve this as a juice, go ahead and add a cup of sugar as well and stir.

Cantaloupe and pineapple sage coolers
makes two

My pineapple sage plant is an overachiever. I haven't been sure what else to do with it this summer other than use it in simple syrup for making drinks. There could be worse fates. You can of course just omit the pineapple sage if you are without, or substitute mint or even ginger. I made these in a shaker, but if you don't have one, just halve the recipe and make it right in the glass.

2 shots vodka

2 Tbs. pineapple sage simple syrup (recipe follows)

~1 cup cantaloupe juice (recipe follows)
club soda to top off

straws (seriously, a must)

Fill two pint sized glasses and the shaker to the top with ice. Pour the vodka, simple syrup, an cantaloupe juice into the shaker and shake vigorously for a few seconds. Divide the mixture evenly among the pint glasses then top each one off with about a quarter cup of club soda each. Throw the straw in and give it a quick stir.

Cantaloupe juice
adapted from Gourmet

1 cantaloupe (at least 4 lbs)

half a lime

1 1/2 ccups water

Cut a ripe cantaloupe into larch chunks and discard the skin. Blend the cantaloupe and 1 1/2 cups of water in batches in a blender.

Line a colander with a kitchen towel (not terrycloth) and place it over a large bowl. Pour the cantaloupe puree into the colander and allow it to sit for at least an hour. After an hour pick up the edges of the towel with one hand and use the other to squeeze out any remaining juice. Then squeeze in the lime juice.

Pineapple sage simple syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

3 sprigs of pineapple sage (or mint or peeled ginger)

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat. Continue to stir until all of the sugar dissolves and it has just begun to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Simple syrup will keep for about 10 days in your refrigerator.

Quick pickled peppers
adapted from Bon Appetit

This pickling recipe is from
Orangette's column in the magazine Bon Appetit. The colors of the peppers were so beautiful, I had to make them myself. The original recipe calls for shallots, fresh thyme, and white wine vinegar. I had none of those, but my guests loved them anyway. The seven of us at the entire jar in about an hour flat.

1 lbs sweet peppers, sliced into rounds about 1/4 '' thick
2 cups white vinegar of some sort (white distilled, white balsamic, or white wine)
1/2 cup sugar

1 medium onion (yellow or white) halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 Tbs. Herbes de Provence

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

pinch of sea salt

Put the sliced peppers and onions into a large bowl. Place everything but the onion and sweet peppers into a sauce pan and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally. Bring it to a boil and once the sugar has dissolved completely, pour it over the sweet peppers and onion. Cover and let it stand for five minutes. Then remove the cover and let it stand until it reaches room temperature. Once it reaches room temperature squish the entire mixture into a quart sized jar and refrigerate it for at least four hours. The peppers should keep for up to 10 days in the refrigerator.

Serve with crackers and cheese.

Nopales and vegetable tacos
serves 6

These tacos are great for a dinner party because they come together quickly and your guests will be impressed by your use of cactus. Nopales, or cactus paddles, can be found at Mexican and specialty super markets. The corn that I served with dinner I just covered in butter, salt, and pepper and cooked on a cast iron grill pan.

For the tacos:
4 nopales, or cactus paddles
2 medium sized white or yellow onions, halved and sliced thickly
3 zucchini
salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
18 corn tortillas

For the toppings:
10 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
2 avocados, thinly sliced
Caramelized onion salsa (recipe follows)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
one large handful cilantro leaves
sour cream
2 limes, cut into wedges

To prepare the nopales, rinse, and then hold with one hand by their bottom and use your other hand to run a knife down it to remove any needles and other rough spots. then slice it horizontally into half inch thick slices.
Put two Tbs. of extra virgin olive oil in two medium sized saute pans over medium -high heat. Put the nopales in one pan and the onions in the other pan and season both pans with salt and pepper to taste. After five minutes add the zucchini to the onions and continue to saute both the nopales and the vegetables until they are cooked through and beginning to brown, about another ten minutes.

While the vegetables are finishing up cook the tortillas. If you have a gas burning stove turn on a burner to medium-high heat and place a tortilla directly on a burner. Use tongs to turn it over after about 10 seconds (or when it starts to brown) and let it cook on the other side for the same amount of time. When you remove it from the burner place the tortilla on a plate under a kitchen towel to keep it warm. If you have an electric stove, heat a frying pan with 1 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil. Once the oil is hot place a tortilla into the pan and cook it until it begins to brown, then flip it to cook the other side.

Serve the tacos buffet style with all the tacos, fillings, and toppings laid out for your guest to pick and choose.

Caramelized onion salsa

3 medium sized tomatoes, quartered
2 medium yellow or white onions, halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 jalapenos, sliced
handful of cilantro leaves
half of a lime
salt to taste
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Heat the olive oil over medium low heat Once the oil is hot add the onions and a pinch of salt. Continue to cook slowly, and stir occasionally. After about 15 minutes the onions will have turned a golden translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another two minutes.

Place the saute along with all the other ingredients, with the exception of the lime and salt, into a food processor and blend until there are no large chunks left. Taste the salsa and add salt to taste and squeeze in the lime juice. Blend quickly and taste one more time for salt.

Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it for a few days.

Honey Caramel Peach Pie
adapted from Gourmet

This pie was really good. It was not overly sweet like many pies are. For perhaps an even more decadent version head over to Sassy Radish for a Bourbon version. Also, if you are willing to head to the farmers market the day of, you can get some really good deals on over-ripe peaches that are perfect for pie making.

3 lb ripe peaches
2 Tbs. cornstarch
1 1/2
Tbs. unbleached, all-purpose flour
half of a lemon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
tsp. salt
cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar
cup honey
Tbs. water
tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 recipe pastry dough (follow link)(for how to do it with out a processor and good pictures of what it should look like at each step head over here to smitten kitchen)

Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring it to a boil. Then make a large bowl of ice water and put it next to the stove. Rinse and cut an X in bottom of each peach. Once the water is boiling place the peaches in batches into the boiling water and remove with tongs or a slotted spoon after 15 seconds and place in ice bath (to stop the cooking). This will blanch them and make it easier to remove the skins. If you don't mid the skins, you can skip this step.

Toss the peaches along with cornstarch, flour, cinnamon, and salt as well as squeexing the half lemon to juice it, in a large bowl.

Place a foil-lined large baking sheet (with edges) in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

To make the caramel, place a 1/2 cup of the sugar, honey, and water in a small to medium sized heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until it has reached a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Continue to boil the mixture without stirring, but instead swirling the pan occasionally so that the caramel colors evenly. After about five minutes, the caramel will be dark amber in color. Remove the pan from heat and add the butter, swirling pan until butter is melted. Pour evenly over the peaches and toss (caramel may harden slightly but don't worry, because it will melt again in the heat of the oven).

Keep the pie dough in the refrigerator and remove them one at a time for pie assembly. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fold it into quarters and lift it into a greased, 9-inch pie pan and then unfold it again. Roll out the second piece of dough into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.

Transfer the peach pie filling to the pie pan and then place the second piece of dough on top. Trim the edges of the bottom and top pieces of dough and pinch the edges together by hand, or with a fork. Brush the top with the milk, then sprinkle with the remaining Tbsp sugar (the sugar is optional). Cut 6 steam vents in top crust with a knife.

Place the pie on the baking sheet you put in the oven earlier and bake for 20 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake the pie until the crust is golden-brown and the filling is bubbling, about another 50 minutes.

Cool pie to room temperature, approximately 3 to 4 hours

An open letter to Kanye West and others who use similar phrases

Dear Kanye (and world),

If you have to say "No offense, but ..." then you are about to say something offensive.

If you have to say "I'm not racist, but..." then you are about to say something racist.

If you have to say "I don't mean to disrespect you, but..." then you are about to say something disrespectful.

And finally if you have to say "I really like you Taylor, but..." and you are on national television, on a stage at a public event with your colleagues, then you are about to do something really stupid.

Correctly identifying that what you are about say is offensive does not give you extra credit. It does not excuse you from the consequences of what you are about to say. In fact, it is worse, because you know what you are about to say wrong and you do it anyway.

Sorry if this letter offends you Kanye, I don't mean any disrespect.

That's my jam

This song is my new jam. I have it on a continuous loop on my ipod right now. It is my inspiration at the gym. I can't help but make my feet go faster when it plays.

Jessie James is a little like Christina Aguilera, but country. This song is probably meant for teenagers and is full of cliche's like "don't matter what you wearin', it's about the way you wear it. " I can't help but to love it.

It is definitely part country. You know, the genre that everyone writes off in what seems to be the default for music preferences on personal profiles. As in " Music: I love everything, except country." I dare you not to tap your feet to this song.

It makes me want to go out and buy some cowboy boots and go two-steppin' ...or at least go faster on the elliptical at the gym.

Not a morning person, doesn't even begin to cover it

Well, as some of you have noticed, I have not exactly been on top of posting since I returned to the northwest last week. I had a valid excuse while home in the WV, no Internet or powered computer. Now I am just acting lame.

I would like to say that I have been too busy to write, but that would not be the complete truth, which is different from a lie, mind you.

I have been busy. School has been busy. Life has been busy. My time to write is in the morning before I make my way to the gym and then on to school. And to be honest, that seriously cuts into my leisurely morning that I like to have.

I am not a morning person. So, really there is not a perfect weekday morning. For me, the closest thing is to roll out of bed after Mr. Man gets out of the shower. I am super groggy so I can't really conversate yet. He seems to respect this and tries not to talk to me or get in my way. I appreciate that.

I like to pull on some pj's and stumble downstairs to make breakfast. Usually, it is a fried egg sandwich. I make it so much that I have it down to a timed science and can do it with my eyes closed. Which is good, because I usually do. While I eat, my coffee brews in my favorite French Press, so it is ready when I am done with my food.

Then, I like to take my coffee and sit down with a magazine or at my computer to read all of my favorite blog posts and visit the websites of friends who don't know we are friends (all those people over there, on the right).

By the time I am done, I start to feel the nag to start my day. The coffee has awoken the voices inside my head telling me to go to the gym to lose the boyfriend weight (the weight you gain from dating, and therefore eating like, a boy). They tell me to get my rear to school and get some work done already. They tell me I have had enough personal time so I had better get a move on. And so I forgo the blog post. Another morning gone by. Another day without a post.

As you can see, I really have no time at all for writing (there should be a font for sarcasm).

But, I love this blog. And I love all of you for stopping by from time to time. So, I will be better. I will take the time to write again in the mornings. I just need to make it my routine again after all this time away doing field work and visiting family.

Luckily, I have some extra motivation. There are some changes comin' round here real soon. So do drop by later this week with your morning cup of caffeine and spend some time sipping and reading. I think you are going to like what you see.
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