December 18, 2009

Happy Holidays

There’s a simple joy to food. It is a universal joy. We all need food. We all find certain foods pleasing. We all eat and share food. Food has its own special timeline: want, preparation, consumption, contentment. It can appeal to all the senses; though it doesn’t always have to appeal to the eye to taste good (oysters come to mind). It is such an understandable joy.

Perhaps that’s why it is such a dependable gift during the holidays. Who doesn’t love fudge? I’m sure the neighbors would like some pie. Let’s get together over tacos and reminisce about meals of yore. Food can be wrapped and portioned out and shared and appreciated by anyone. It is such a basic joy.

When the annual holiday potluck came along I signed up for a dessert, because you can never have too many desserts. I chose a new recipe, something a bit out of my comfort zone. If you can’t experiment on your coworkers, who can you experiment on? The recipe announced itself as apricot mishmishya. I modestly introduced them as apricot almond sweets.

A good holiday treat should be beautiful, sweeter than sweet, and easily shared. I am so happy to say I was successful on all fronts. Rather surprised at how pretty they turned out I showed them off to coworkers long before the potluck. Their sugar seemed to sparkle, their paper wrappers sounded like crinoline, their almonds were perfect accent pieces.

Could they taste as good as they looked? I watched carefully during the party to see how quickly they moved. A nice pick-up pace with a comforting “mmmm” now and then let me know that I had done well. My contribution to the soiree was appreciated.

As we were packing up the remnants of the feast, I only had a few left. Not bad for a five-dessert party. As I was about to close up my tin of sweets, our host said, “Oh Anne, did you make those? They are delectable!” With my heart glad I offered him the remainders. He happily accepted.

As I drove home, full and happy, I wondered if our host knew how much we appreciated his annual potluck. His home is always cozy and well-decorated. He provides the drinks, napkins, utensils, and comfortable surroundings that make a potluck lovely. Every year we happily await his party as a favorite way to celebrate the holidays. Does he know this? Do we show our gratitude properly? Do we say thank you enough?

I decided that a candied apricot thank you was, indeed, enough.

After all, food is a universal joy.

December 2, 2009

Ooh, ooh, she likes it!

Did I mention I like instructions?

In one of my Internet forays for more information about my bourgeoning guitarist ways, I found’s guide to guitars. While my blind-stumbling-wild method of teaching myself guitar held a certain amount of charm, I’m very happy to have found Mr. Dan Cross and his font of guitar knowledge featured at

It’s everything a new guitarist could want: beginner lessons, chord library, tuning guide…all in clear, easy-to-read instructions with illustrations. I especially appreciate the MP3 sound files, which let you know things like what the heck E is supposed to sound like anyway. There are even occasional words of encouragement for the weary-fingered.

I now know how to tune a guitar to itself and how to play six distinct chords, two scales, and a ridiculously simplified version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

Yep. Rock star.

The most pleasant surprise I have discovered since beginning this guitar voyage: I really like playing guitar. Remember, mostly I’m playing finger exercises and limited chords, and yet, I really want to play them. I see my guitar and pick it up just to practice that C Major chord one more time. I keep playing that chromatic scale for the nth time even as my fingertips go numb. I’ve even trimmed down the fingernails on my left hand so I can play clearer chords. My fabulous lovely fingernails are a source of vanity for me (and they’re much prettier than yours). I trimmed them down! More than once! Seriously, this is a big deal for me. (This is also a good time for us all to consider just exactly how Dolly Parton manages to play her guitar with her long brightly-colored nails.)

I like when one of my experiments turns out and trying something new really does bring a sense of accomplishment, of joy. Maybe, someday, I really will sip my morning coffee as I strum my latest poetic folk song. Until then, I kind of like sipping my coffee along to the strains of G, G, G, G, C, C, C, C, D, D, D, D, D, D, D, D. (That’s the “kiss me and smile for me” part, in case you didn’t know.)

November 11, 2009

A Little Love

My guitar was made in a small village near Patzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico. My father bought it during one of his travels with the intent of teaching himself to play. He never did get around to the playing part and the guitar ended up sitting on one of his bookshelves, looking quite artistic if a bit dusty. When I mentioned that I had always wanted to learn to play guitar, my father was only too happy to pass it on to me. I think, perhaps, he grew tired of the artistic nature of a guitar propped on top of his bookshelf, or thought to himself, “That thing is really getting dusty,” or he felt bad that no one had gotten around to playing the guitar.

Musical instruments should be played after all. I’ve seen quite a few of them end up as dusty decorations in various places. Restaurants, especially, seem to have a fondness for parts of dented trombones and splayed accordions. It seems a shame. That wasn’t their purpose after all. I’m not sure anyone went to the trouble to make a functional instrument with the hopes that some day, just maybe, it’d grace a Chili’s. I imagine that several years ago, an older Mexican gentleman polished the new lacquer on my guitar with a slight smile of pride. A simple but nice guitar. Not so cheap to be a child’s toy, not so expensive to be passed over by the Americano who thinks he might like to learn to play. My father wiped all the dust off that guitar and happily handed it to me.

I didn’t know what to do with it, besides not put it anywhere near my bookshelf. (It’d just be embarrassing if we both let it become a dust catcher.) Luckily, I have friends who know about guitars. I gave it to my friend Ess and asked for his honest opinion. After restringing it, he propped the guitar on this knee and played. (Effortlessly. Just a random little song.) “It’s got a nice sound,” he announced and suddenly by guitar was a musical instrument again.

He did advise, however, that if I was going to play this guitar seriously, that’d I’d have to replace the nuts. (That’s what he called them.) Well, I have every intention of playing this guitar seriously so I determined it was time to go to a music store. First, I looked up online to see if those things were actually called nuts or was Ess just messing with me. I did find a couple of other websites where musicians referred to them as nuts so Ess isn’t full of it, he’s just one of those musician types. However, according to official encyclopedic-looking diagrams of guitars, the first fret is called the nut and the nuts are called tuning keys. Thus armed with new knowledge, I walked into Guitar Center and asked for turny-nobby-thingies for, you know, the strings.

The nice Guitar Center man sighed a little.

“What type of guitar is it?” he asked.

“It’s from Mexico,” I said.

“Is it classical, acoustic, electric?”

“Um…” (Did you know there was a difference between classical and acoustic? Me either.)

“Does it have a plug?”

“No,” this one I knew! “It does not have a plug!”

“I don’t suppose you brought it with you.” He sighed again.

“Yes, it’s in my car.”

A glimmer of hope gleamed in the nice Guitar Center man’s eyes.

“Okay, go get it and I can help you.”

After retrieving my guitar, telling its colorful past, and explaining that it was actually my friend who knew about guitars that told me I needed new turny-nobby-thingies, Mr. Guitar Center looked over my guitar and began turning the tuning keys.

“Did your friend say what was wrong with them?” he asked just as one of the keys came off in his hand. “Oh.”

“Yeah, I think that was it,” I said, very helpfully.

Mr. Guitar Center took me over to the counter told them what I needed and left me in their care. Behind the counter, the wall was covered with an array of guitar parts in plastic packaging. A very young man began pulling parts down and holding them up to my guitar. He would squint a little and then pull another part down and hold it up to my guitar.

“You have to find one that fits,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. I looked up the unending wall of parts and got a little dizzy.

The very young man was joined by, remarkably, an even younger woman who began to also stare at parts at the wall.

“How about that one?” she would ask and point at the wall towering over her.

The young man would reach to a part nowhere near where she was pointing.

“Yeah, that one should work,” she would say.

It’s at this point they began talking some bizarre guitar language. It reminded me a bit of when Ess told me I should get some new nuts. It was all English yet I really didn’t know what was going on. Remember, I was in a Guitar Center at the time so I was surrounded by cacophony and the towering walls of guitar parts. (In case you didn’t know, Guitar Centers have musical instruments that they just let people play willy-nilly. They’re quite noisy.) There was just too much going on to really pay attention to what they were saying. Instead, I just smiled and nodded and considered the child labor laws.

“Here. This should work,” the young man said finally.

“Oh, that’s going to look awesome,” the younger woman said.

I looked at their find. It was a set of some of the gaudiest looking tuning keys I had ever seen—which admittedly is not very many, but still. My guitar is a humble instrument with modest silver and off-white keys. The tuning keys in the package were shiny gold and pearlescent odes to Liberace. I was just about to ask for something less mariachi-pants, when I looked up to see the young people’s faces.

They just seemed so pleased with themselves, so proud they could help me so effectively. I realized that when they had been talking in that guitar-speak they had been praising my little dusty guitar. They didn’t see a bookshelf adornment; they saw a musical instrument that was in need of something shiny to catch the limelight.

“That’ll look so good,” the younger woman said nodding.

“It’s a good little guitar,” the young man said, “it just needs some love.”

I realized that gold mariachi-pants enthusiasm is just what this endeavor needed. If you’re going to teach yourself guitar at 30, if you’re a self-respecting feminist buying yourself a new set of nuts, if you’re going to replace tuning keys on a guitar you don’t even know how to tune, if you’re going to rely on the expertise of teenagers—you just have to go with these things. You just have to be a little silly, err on the side of Elvis, and embrace your inner Guitar Goddess.

With new tuning keys and a new attitude, El Senor Pantalones-de-Mariachi and I are ready go.

"A Modest Guitar" by Anne

"El Senor Pantalones-de-Mariachi " by Anne

October 21, 2009

Whole Lotta Love

How does the saying go, “Life is what happens when you make other plans”? My little projects are generally more fun than laundry or dishes, but they don’t start to smell if I neglect them for a week. Consequently, it is my little projects that suffer. Occasionally I need to remind myself why it’s important to make time to devote myself to a project and not just to going to the grocery store.

My cool friend Mr. A.C. invited to me go see It Might Get Loud. It is a documentary featuring Jack White from the White Stripes, The Edge from U2, and Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. The three talk about their favorite electric guitars, their love of electric guitars, how guitars changed their lives, and then they play some guitar. I mean, they play some guitar. It’s a guitar love fest and a love fest of three great guitarists and if you have ever liked listening to any rock song ever, you’ll enjoy this movie.

My favorite part is when Edge gets up and walks around the stage so he can get a closer look at Jimmy Page playing the opening riff to “Whole Lotta Love.”

I want to make time to teach myself guitar because I love this stuff. I love music. I love creation. I love that one good guitar story makes me itch to go home and strum a guitar.

No matter how many dishes there are in the sink.

October 12, 2009

Horseradish Repurposed

I was watching “Tyler’s Ultimate” on the Food Network®. I like Tyler Florence because he makes delicious looking food and he’s rather tasty looking himself. Most of his dishes are not points friendly for those of us on Weight Watcher’s so I’ve never been tempted to try and prepare his recipes. However, in this particular episode he made a dish that inspired me: Horseradish and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes.

Like any red-blooded American gal, I believe that a good dish of mashed potatoes is next to godliness. I’ve made and eaten many types of potatoes (mashed, smashed, and otherwise), but the horseradish take was new to me. If you click on his version you will see, it complicates the simple beauty that is mashed potatoes about as much as you can. Also, I can tell from the ingredients list that it would be a whopper on points.

If the key to a healthy planet is to reduce, reuse, recycle then the key to healthy eating is to lighten, replace, and avoid.

In the case of mashed potatoes, I choose to lighten. Flavor for potatoes typically comes from yummy fats like cream and butter. It is easy to lighten those, low-fat milk and butter substitute, but you lose flavor. You must replace the flavor with some other ingredient that is also low in fat but high in taste. Some basics include salt and pepper, chicken stock, and the ever glorious garlic. After watching “Tyler’s Ultimate,” I thought, why not horseradish?

Horseradish, like other members of the mustard family, has no fat to speak of and is a flavor powerhouse. It has a very strong bitter, somewhat sour, mustard-like flavor. It is the ingredient that gives tartar sauce its kick. It pairs well with roast beef but should always be handled in moderation. Horseradish can overwhelm other flavors easily if you get spoon happy with this particular condiment.

Is it healthy? It’s as healthy as wheat grass in a tofu shake…if you pay attention to what you are buying. Horseradish can be found in the spice aisle; it’s the white stuff in glass jars. There are two main types of horseradish available to purchase: prepared horseradish and horseradish sauce.

If you are being healthy minded you want prepared horseradish. Prepared horseradish is essentially the crushed plant preserved in vinegar. (Fun fact: horseradish is believed to get its name because, originally, horses were used to crush it to make it fit for consumption.)

Horseradish sauce is typically horseradish mixed with mayonnaise or other similar ingredients. It has a definite fat content and can raise your calories where the wholesome prepared horseradish will not.

For both types, once you open the jar store it in the fridge. It will last in there for quite a while. If your horseradish darkens in color in the jar in the fridge, throw it away, it’s gone bad.

I made mashed potatoes by boiling three diced potatoes in water. When I mashed, I added two tablespoons of margarine and two tablespoons of horseradish. That’s all I needed. The sauce-like texture of the horseradish supplanted the cream/milk generally used. A serving size came to a friendly three points and the flavor was outstanding. The horseradish gave the potatoes a kick that went excellently with the beef I served them with. Though I wouldn’t use this type of potatoes for every meal I make, it is a super tasty and healthy alternative to plain spuds.

October 2, 2009

The Easily Met Goal

Photo by Anne

In my dreams of the perfect job, I believe the axiom, “If you have a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I love food; I think it would be great to be a food critic. I love music; I think it would be great to be a musician. I love to write; I think it would be great if someone would pay me to write. (Anyone?) There is one thing, however, that I love to do that I have decided that I don’t want to somehow turn into a job.

I love to travel. Well, I should clarify, I love to get away. I love to have lazy days in places other than my little home. I love to take longer than usual to do everything. I love to be a tourist. I love to read my tour book while taking the tour and listening to the tour guide. I love to take too many pictures of a thing that everyone else is taking pictures of and then pay a little too much for a kitschy souvenir with a picture of that thing on it. I love cruising there. I love road tripping there. I love taking a plane so I can spend more time at the there I’m going too. I love going on vacation.

If your travel somehow involves a job, I don’t think it can really be called a vacation. There are jobs that include travel. You can’t be lazy when you travel, though, because it’s part of your job. There are jobs that facilitate others’ vacations. You aren’t on vacation, though, they are. There are jobs writing about traveling. For instance, people write those guide books I read. Those people didn’t go on vacation though. They went on research trips. They actively sought out information and trivia and timetables and maps. They didn’t have it spoon fed to them on glossy pages with full-color photos and a Metro map in the back. If someone wanted to pay me to scrapbook my vacation photos the way I always do, we might have a deal. Otherwise, it’s okay. My vacations are my vacations and my dream job is what I’ll be doing so I can go on vacation.

So, what is my goal?

A few years ago I made the goal that I would go one new place a year. It has so far been a reasonable goal. Unlike, “See the world!” or “Visit every continent!” it is a graspable concept. It is also a goal that is flexible in the face of the wart-ridden fates of money and responsibility. My new place can be a grand adventure (cruise to Juneau, Alaska!) or it can be closer to home (road trip to Silver City, New Mexico!) or somewhere in between (visit friend in Chicago!), it just has to be a place I haven’t been to before. The place is good because it’s new. I have to change a little to visit this place. I have to incorporate a new set of images into my concept of the world. I get to try something new by being in this new place. Hopefully, I come out a little newer too. I’m now someone who has been to Juneau and Silver City and Chicago.

I just came back from Burlington, Vermont. I learned why there are paintings of rolling green hills with red barns and black and white cows and puffy clouds in blue skies; there is a part of the world that looks like that. I have now experienced the onset of fall in a place where fall is a distinct season. I’ve heard a crow caw as I crunched through leaves and breathed cold air. I now know that Vermonters are proud of being ecologically friendly in the same way that Texans are proud of largeness. I can picture where my best friend and her family lives. I can see why they like it. I can see why they want to come back. I know a bit more than before I went to Vermont.

I don’t know where my new place will be next year, but I’m excited by the idea of it. I’m excited that I’ll choose a place. I like that I won’t quite know what to expect. I like that I’ll learn something there. I like that I’ll be a person who visited there. I’ll like that I got away from here with no other purpose than to go there and enjoy being there.

It’s a big big world and I want to see all of it, one new place at a time.

Then I want to take its picture.

Did She Really Get That Wigged Out by a Capo?

My blog is not real time. I wrote a few entries before I began posting so I would always have some banked and could post in a regular and timely manner. This plan worked brilliantly, until I went out of town. I could have posted right before I left and right after I returned so no one would be the wiser, but I did not. Instead, my little blog sat all alone with no updates. Today, I was embarrassed to discover that while I was away it sat on an especially silly entry.

You see, in real time, I moved past the capo incident quite quickly and went on to bigger and better guitar things. If you were just going by my blog, however, it seems I was thwarted by a bit of Italian.

Rest assured, the next day after I had gotten some sleep, I realized that capos are good things. They actually make playing a guitar easier. It is also really easy to MacGyver your own capo using rubber bands and a pencil.

Thus, I moved on with my guitar lessons till I went out of town. These exploits will be posted soon. No really. I intend to do it in a timely manner.

Photo by Anne

September 19, 2009

Guitar Lesson Four or Five-ish or Who’s Counting?

So, I’ve got a song picked out—“Bookends”—and a will to learn it. My task the past few nights has been to learn the three chords of the song.

That’s it.

Baby steps, baby.

All I have to do is learn these three chords and I figure I’m halfway to Nashville (or Cleveland if you want to be a little bit Rock n’ Roll).

Each night I get a bit more sure of myself. D minor, my old friend, can be easily changed to C. And by “easily” I mean with a little counting and craning of the neck. F is nearly impossible to play for anyone of normal finger length, but I think I’m faking it pretty well.

I’m there. I’ve got my three chords. I’m ready to sing a moody folk song like nobody’s business.

Except…well…I’m pretty sure this song is a tad more complicated that just the three chords. At some point, and I’m fairly certain of this, Paul Simon uses his other hand in the song.

Time to return to my trusty songbook. Surely therein lies the answer.

Dots on grids. Hmmmm. That probably means something. And what’s this?

Capo fourth fret

What does that mean?

Okay, this is cool. I know my frets (they’re clearly illustrated in my Guitar Chord Bible). I know which is the fourth. All I have to do is figure out what a capo is.

Merriam-Webster Online

capo: the head of a branch of a crime syndicate

Okay, that’s not it.

A general Google of capo leads me to’s compelling explanation.

Oh crap.

How does anyone learn to play the guitar? How did they ever invent the guitar in the first place? Why? Why would they do this?

I think it’s time for me to take a break again.

September 16, 2009

Unwarranted Optimism

Guitar Lesson, Number Two. Okay. Here goes.

After my first attempt at guitar, I’ll admit it, I was a tad discouraged. Apparently, I’m not an intuitively gifted guitarist. I comforted myself with the knowledge that out there in the big big world are people who teach guitar. While, “I taught myself how to play guitar,” sounds much cooler than, “I learned how to play guitar at community college night classes,” I feel better knowing that I have a solid plan B available.

Thus reassured, I took another look at my songbook. I found The Little Black Songbook: Paul Simon on sale at Barnes & Noble. I love Paul Simon dearly. My subtitle is a quote from “Can’t Run But” off his The Rhythm of the Saints album. I bought his songbook because (a) I want to be the sort of person who buys the songbooks of musicians they love, (b) I love Paul Simon, and (c) I know most of his songs so well that I’ll be able to tell if I’m playing them correctly or not.

After calming down from the initial shock of “How many chords are there?!” I was able to see that the chords of each song are clearly labeled in the songbook, much how they are clearly labeled in my borrowed chord bible. I got out my iPod and began listening to Paul Simon songs for the simplest one I could learn. After calming down from the initial shock of “Why did I choose such a talented musician’s songbook?!” I found the perfect song: “Bookends.” I checked the songbook and, sure enough, there are only three chords! Plus, its one of those sad introspective Simon and Garfunkel songs so I can change chords really slowly. I can totally do this song!

Thus rearmed with completely unwarranted optimism, I began guitar lesson, number two: the easy song!

I started with D minor and I got that chord down cold. I even branched out to F and C. At the end I even tried changing between them, but only a couple times before I decided I could save “changing notes” for another lesson.

As I sit down to lesson three, I’m pretty sure the only thing that stuck from lesson two is that D minor chord.

I feel like a rock star.

Farncombe, T. (Ed.) (2008). The little black songbook: Paul Simon. New York: Fall River Press.

September 14, 2009

I’d play the Blues, but apparently that has a lot of chords.

Guitar lesson, number one: I’ll read the book!

I’m good at books. I love instructions. (Seriously, you need to put together something IKEA® and I’m your gal.) Okay, the Guitar Chord Bible starts with “Introduction.” Well, that’s handy seeing as how I’m new to this whole guitar thing. Next, “How to use this book.” Numbered lists, arrowed illustrations, color coding—I’m in instructional heaven! Next, “The fingerboard.” Um, wow. A lot of stuff goes on with these guitars, but I’m still okay. Let’s keep going. “Chord Directory.” We start with C.

This is fret one so finger one goes here and finger two goes over here and finger three—we’re stretching a bit now—goes here and strum. And strum. Is it supposed to sound like that? Strum. Something’s off. Strum. My hand kinda looks like the picture. Strum.

Then I turn the guitar over.

Hey, that’s much better!

Apparently, it helps when you hold the guitar the right way.

Okay, let’s move on to…C. There are five C chords. No wait there’s ... flipping ... flipping ... flipping ... according to this book there are at least 90 variations on the C chord!

How does anyone play guitar? How was the guitar ever invented? Why? Why would they do this? There are two to three chords on each page and the book is 253 pages long?

I look at my songbook as though some answers might lie there. I can in no way relate what is printed in the songbook to what is being illustrated so clearly in the Guitar Chord Bible.

Clearly, I’m tired after my first guitar lesson. I’m sure guitar lesson, number two, will be much better.

Capone, P. (2006). Guitar chord bible: Over 500 illustrated chords for rock, blues, soul, country, jazz, and classical. London: Quarto Publishing PLC.

September 11, 2009

The Shoeless Scullery Maid

Photo by Anne

I cook at home to save on Weight Watchers® points (goal: the healthier Anne) and to save money (goal: the fiscally responsible Anne). I am a recipe cook and try to incorporate one into my diet about once a week. I was thumbing through one of my cookbooks for this past weekend’s recipe when it occurred to me (cue trumpet flourish), “This is an opportunity to push my boundaries!” I rushed to my red folder (no kidding folks, I keep them in a red folder) of Ambitious Recipes to Try. You know the kind: those recipes you tear out of magazines, or you asked your friend to send you at that one dinner party, or you printed off the Food Network© website after watching too many cooking shows. (For those of you who don’t know the kind, just stay with me.)

I found my Ambitious Recipe: “Grilled Tuna Rolls.” I’d been watching the Barefoot Contessa and it was (a) a recipe that looked good and (b) a recipe that I actually thought I could cook. Let’s face it, Ina Garten is the sort of on-TV cook that uses parchment paper and herb grinders and several mixing bowls (goodness all those mixing bowls!). She has that Martha Stewart air about her as she trims fresh sage into yet another mixing bowl for the squab she’s grilling for her director friend who’ll be stopping by her garden party at sunset. The lady’s league ain’t mine. My one-by-one apartment doesn’t have enough storage for that many mixing bowls.

But the grilled tuna rolls were enticing and I’ve got a George Foreman© grill and a dream of being a food critic.

So here goes, Anne’s take on the Barefoot Contessa’s “Grilled Tuna Rolls.”

Health Factor: A friendly 5 pointer. Grilled tuna and avocado tossed in a light dressing on a wheat bun makes this a healthy option for most diets.

Money: I live in San Antonio and not the coastal fairyland where Ina knows her fishmonger by name. The fresh 1-pound tuna steak from the seafood counter weighed heavily on this week’s grocery budget at a whopping $15.00. I also had to purchase the sesame seeds (leave-out-able) and the wasabi (no regrets), which aren’t frequent contenders in other recipes. This was a definite splurge.

Ease: Easy peasy as a box of instant mac-and-cheesy. Grilling the tuna was a breeze on my George Foreman. The required cool down time of the tuna gave a nice opportunity to mix the dressing. Everything else (bun, arugula, avocado) was pretty much good to go.

Variations: I don’t really like onions. (I know, how can I be a food critic if I don’t like onions?!) I bravely added the scallions but the red onions were politely declined. To make up the fiber content of the missing onions, I added diced water chestnuts because (1) I love them, (2) I thought they would complement the tuna because in my mind those two things are both kind of Asian-y, and (3) I thought they would be a good crunch—like the original onions—that would be an interesting contrast to the avocado and tuna. I do not regret this substitution. It probably made the dish a bit blander, but it was good for my palate.

Also, and this was unplanned, I didn’t buy one large Hass avocado but, instead, two petite Hass avocados. One of the two had turned slightly and therefore was only partly usable. As a consequence, my avocado to tuna ratio was not quite as I hoped for.

Appearance: Not as delightful as Ina’s display on the show. This was mostly due to the fact that in my reality the tuna shreds as you cut it and the avocado is squishy. In her reality they were delightful blocks of contrasting color, not a tossed mess. Otherwise, the appearance of the meal was not too bad. I could serve this to people not related to me and expect them to eat it. (Note. The picture does not do my meal much justice. I’ve already added “Learn how to photograph food” to my list of goals.)

Taste: It was…um…weird. (No, not because of the water chestnuts.) I’ve eaten tuna sashimi before so I was sure that the rareness of the tuna would be no problem. However, there was an initial “eewww” reaction. I’m a firm believer that you should try something at least twice before you give up on it so I forged past the “eewww” and arrived, luckily, at “hmmmm.” This dish was definitely situated at the edge of my particular boundaries, but I was glad when I arrived at the destination.

Also, I piled on the arugula to have charming green leaves sprouting from my concoction. Arugula, if you don’t know, has a strong flavor. It is often included in the fancier tossed salads to give them a bit of zing. Its flavor is slightly bitter and, to me, what you would imagine green to taste like. The arugula overpowered the rest of the flavors initially. After my first bite I pruned a bit and that helped the situation. Later, in my leftovers, I left it out entirely and the sandwich became too bland. I say, use the arugula but in moderation

This might seem dumb, but I was a bit surprised when the first bite was cool. I, having actively taken part in the cooling process, should not have been surprised but—for some reason—I was expecting a warm tuna melt type of sandwich. (Despite all my efforts to the contrary.) This recipe is for a cool, limey tuna sandwich with a slight tang of spice. That’s what I got after the initial shock of not eating the sandwich I hadn’t made.

The grilled tuna rolls were, as Ina suggested, the cool sort of tuna salad sandwich that you would find at a picnic, but with an Asian flair. The avocado was a very nice complement to the rare tuna and I wish I had more of it in my version. The meal was flavorful and filling, while being just a tad funky.

Clean-up: The grill for the tuna, one bowl to mix the dressing, one bowl to mix everything, and a plate to serve. Not bad at all.

Leftovers: If kept properly in a sealable container in the fridge, tuna salad can last up to a week. General consensus, however, is that the salad's flavor starts to lose some of its charm after two to three days.

Despite all the lime juice in the dressing, the avocados turned brown in my plastic container. To prevent this (it works with guacamole), squeeze some more lime juice over the top of the mixture and then lay cling wrap across the top, preventing as much air exposure as possible. Next time you open the mixture, give every thing a good stir and that will distribute the added lime juice throughout.

Other than that, the mix was great the next night. I enjoyed my second sandwich more since I knew what to expect (and I went easy on the arugula).

Repeatability: This is the sort of recipe I would make to impress other people on an occasional basis, but I know that it’s not going to become one of my go-to standards. Good for a summer picnic, but not necessarily an ordinary Tuesday night dinner.

New thing I learned: The recipe calls for wasabi powder but in my local store’s Asian section I could only find wasabi paste in a tube (think travel size toothpaste). A quick Google told me that wasabi paste is made from mixing a little wasabi powder with water. If you have an option, the powder stores longer, but the paste requires no extra steps if you are having a sushi emergency. Either works for this recipe.

September 9, 2009

Project #3: Become a Famous Musician

Actually, I’d settle for being any type of musician. My only real qualification for this goal is that I can recognize a song when I play it. Oh sure, like anyone listening to his or her iPod while typing away in his/her cubicle, I have dreamed about my moment on stage belting out my latest heartfelt rock ballad from my best-selling album, but I’ll start small.

In my youth my Mom gifted me with piano lessons. (It was a gift. I remember enjoying the experience.) On one birthday I received a harmonica and, as I recall, thought I was terribly gifted at the time. I also had a brief run in with French horn in school band but that experience is too intertwined with junior high awkwardness to ever be mentioned again.

Otherwise, my musical experience has consisted of coveting others’ musical genius and dreaming of making something so enjoyable and stirring myself. In my favorite daydreams I strum my acoustic guitar over my morning coffee while humming my latest poetic folk song.

I blithely mentioned to my friend CiCi that I had always wanted to learn to play guitar. It’s the sort of thing you say after all. It ranks with, “I’ve always wanted to try acupuncture” or “I hear kayaking is fun.” You say things like that and the other person smiles and nods and the conversation continues. Except with CiCi. She started sending me community class schedules and suggesting where to look for cheap guitars online. Ludicrous, I know! I told my Dad about my crazy friend who actually expected me to act on a lifelong inclination, and he said, “You know I still have that old guitar. You could have it.”

What is up with the universe?! The very idea of just going out and learning guitar just because I want to and owning a guitar so I can learn and…what is going on?! I’m much more comfortable with just talking about these things and the universe expects me to act?

If that weren’t enough, my other friend Rae has a fiancĂ©, Ess, who turns out to be an actual musician. He not only taught himself guitar but can actually play music on a guitar! He restrung and tuned my out-of-nowhere free guitar in his spare time just ‘cuz. He told me my guitar (he actually referred to it as “your guitar” like I owned a guitar or something) had a nice sound. Rae lent me a chord bible and Ess suggested I get a songbook and practice. Practice. Practice. (Apparently, this is the solution to everything.)

So, here I am with a guitar, a guitar bible, a songbook, and a desire to be a musician. I think I’ll teach myself to play guitar.

What do you think? Two weeks?

September 8, 2009

Project #2: Become a Food Critic

I, like many the average person, am not totally thrilled with my job. I’ve got a good job. A solid job. A regular paycheck sort of job. It’s not the best of jobs, it’s not the worst of jobs. It’s a far far more average job than any job I’ve had before.

I like to daydream about changing jobs.

So, in my ongoing effort to be more than the average person, I consider what would be a spectacular job. What sort of job would make me leap out of bed in the morning. (“Leap out of bed in the morning for” is about as high a rating as I can give something.) In my list of possible dream jobs: famous writer, famous musician, lottery winner, and food critic.

Oh yes. My name is Anne and I’m a foodie. Or, at least, a wannabe foodie. I am what happens when someone belongs to Weight Watchers® and watches too much Food Network©. That is to say, I obsess about food. I love food. I love junk food. I love gourmet food. I love all the food in between. I love talking about food. I love eating food. They should make me a food critic.

I see the latest food critic to be introduced on Iron Chef America and I wonder, “How do you get that job?!” According to and other such sites, in order to become a food critic I need to write well and know everything about food and the food industry. It’s all downhill from there, I’m sure. The various online help-yourself sites advise practice. Practice. Practice. (Apparently, this is the solution to everything.)

So, the point of this entry: expect to see me write about food in the near future. I gotta get some practice in before Iron Chef calls.

September 7, 2009

So, what’s this blog about?

I’m no Martha. Nor an Oprah, a Teresa, a Diana, nor an Eleanor. I’m not flying across the Atlantic, leading explorers across the West, or pulling off a tuxedo in a smoky jazz club in Berlin. I’m certainly not an astronaut. Pick any female icon (heck, pick a male one) and I’m not that. I’m an Anne. Most singularly and certainly an Anne.

I’m not a bad Anne. I’m a perfectly fine Anne. In fact, at certain points in time, I’m a pretty good Anne. But I’m not the best Anne. Certainly not the best Anne I could be. I know that I could be a spectacular Anne if I just tapped into my inner Anne-ness a bit more. That’s what this blog is about. It’s about me becoming a better me.

In my angst and my little poor-me parties I always wish to be more. To be something special and outstanding. And, on the good days, I get over myself and go do something about it. I work out or search for the dream job or call that friend from college I’ve owed a phone call to for forever. On a lot of days I sigh and eat low-fat ice cream snacks. On the worst of days I keep feeling sorry for myself.

This blog is dedicated to the good days. This is about the days where I try something new, or try to do something better, or try to be happier about how I’m doing things already. This blog is about being Anne. Anne is constantly (if slowly) trying to be better.