This Blog Has Moved!

Hey peeps!

This blog has packed its boxes, turned in the keys, and moved out of its little starter apartment!  Don’t worry—Adventures in Tralaland is moving on up, definitely not out.

Come and check out the new blog digs at http://www.laurageorgina.com/

I won’t be posting on here anymore, so please update your bookmarks and Google readers (or just subscribe directly from the new site).

Come check it out and help me give this new spot a good housewarming.  I’ve already warned the neighbors, so we can party it up big-style…

Your Chica

How to Diagnose and Treat the Sewing Rut Virus

My sewing machine has been snoozing since I returned from Buffalo.  Snoozing hard, like Sleeping Beauty (or rather, Sleeping Messy).  It’s been centuries, or so it seems, since it spun out such pretties as these:

I need to shake it awake, but there’s a further problem: I have been infected by the sewing rut virus.  The evil, dreaded sewing rut virus.

The symptoms of this curious disease include:

  • utter sewing laziness
  • paralyzing indecision about fabric and pattern combinations
  • ineffective sewing pattern search binges that result in no purchases
  • general belief that everything you sew will be fit for the landfill (0r old ladies)
  • high levels of impatience
  • strong aversion to actually cutting through a piece of fabric

Sadly, there’s no SewingWebMD, so I had to look a bit further afield (read: sewing blogs) for a pathology of this rather nasty disease.  After a bit of reading, I discovered that this bug can be contracted in several ways:

  • too much generous sewing for others:  check–I went on a sewing binge for my mother and sisters before my last visit home
  • ill-advised sewing binges for self: check–I went berserkers trying to finish about four different things before I went home, and  therefore enjoyed sewing none of them
  • having a fabric stash:  check–I have about six fabrics that I just can’t commit to making into anything because a better idea may come along, like, ten years from now
  • undertaking too many refashioning projects:  check–cutting up a dress and turning it into a skirt will give you a quick high, but it’s always followed by guilt when you realize you did a half-assed job
  • not having to dress up for work:  double check–I spent the last year and a half sewing outfits for the office, which are collecting dust now that I can work in my pajamas (which I never, ever do; I’m a fashionista and I’d rather eat rocks)
  • a drastic change in size of the sewer:  double check–I barely know what size I am in ready to wear; the thought of having to do math and figure out my size in patterns makes me break out in hives
  • being a ridiculous cheapskate:  check–like I need to tell you how cheap I am yet again

However, the treatment is nowhere near as unpleasant as the disease itself.  Should you find  you have contracted a case of Sewing Rut, you’ll need to take a dose of the following antidotes:

  • take mental inventory of what you actually end up wearing given the new work and size circumstances (for me, it’s shorts with blouses, skirts with tank tops, and sundresses)
  • get thee to the mall and try some clothes on for sewing research purposes (this helps you figure out what styles fit and look best on you now; it also makes you realize that you can make things that you like 100 time better than what’s in stores)
  • realize that you will never find THE ultimate perfect use for any piece of fabric and therefore should just do something with it already
  • stop with the pointless online pattern trawling:  if you start to look, you better buy something, and if not, knock it off and back away from the computer
  • read up on your favorite fashion and sewing blogs–if you see a tiered skirt and want to make it, just make it and stop obsessing
  • remind yourself that sewing is supposed to be fun, not a chore, and remind yourself that this is precisely why you sew for yourself and yourself only–heaven knows it would royally stink to have a sewing rut over someone else’s stuff

I’m now off to swaddle this virus in fabric, Mad Men, and rum–if my grandma’s rum drink cured colds, it can certainly cure this bug.

The Lazy Sunday Taskmistress: Reporting for Duty

For once, you may find me all wordless–or rather, as wordless as I get.  You see, I’ve been tinkering away at something really big (hint:  it involves the blog!) and have spent way, way, WAY too much time attached to the trusty Toshiba over the last few days.  It’s totally zapped my powers of speech.  Unbelievable, I know.

Worry not, though:  I managed to live a little, too!

Here’s the abbreviated, almost-wordless take on the weekend:

Hunkered down for the heavy rain on Friday

Went out for a post-rain Friday night movie and snack of beer and potato wedges

Hoped against hope for disappearance of ominous clouds on Saturday

...Because I spent Saturday at the Caribbean 20-20 Cricket final

Cheered as Trinidad won third place and eliminated Jamaica

...And witnessed Guyana winning the final against Barbados at midnight, which set off a storming of the field by Guyana supporters

Ate a fittingly-late Sunday brunch chez my table--southwest scramble with avocado salsa and tex-mex cornbread

Performed the inevitable weevil check of the dry pasta before dinner--'tis the season for bugs

Dined on pasta with eggplant sauce, sauteed plantains, avocado slices for dinner

See?  I can be quiet sometimes… only sometimes.

Foodie Fix: Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

You may already know that I’m a huge fan of salads.  But I’m not talking about wimpy salads with chopped greens, a smattering of grated carrot, a couple of tomato wedges and a bit of bland dressing on top.

Nope.

When I say I love salads, I mean huge salads that spill out of their plates.  I like loud, brash, badass salad parties with beans and peppers and every other vegetable I can find and homemade dressing all trying (though not trying too hard) to keep the party indoors but inevitably spilling out onto the lawn, at which point the police gets called and everyone’s got some serious explaining to do.

I like my salads THAT good.

So, when I want to eat a salad that could get the police called on it for making too much of a scene, this is the first one that comes to mind.  I started making it last year as a way of using up the humongous avocados that fall from the tree in the yard.  It won’t use up an entire bowling-ball-sized avocado (the kind I’m so lucky to get!),  but it’s a pretty snazzy way of using up more normally-sized, run-of-the-mill avocados (like Hass and such) that you can get in supermarkets in North America and elsewhere.

The whole thing is filling and cheap and, apart from the avocado and cilantro,  uses ingredients that are easy to find or easy to keep around the house.  You do, however, need a halfway decent zester–that one is non-negotiable.  Just watch your manicure.

You can also add green peppers and jicama to this.  I’d add the jicama to the mix of black beans and corn, and I’d top the finished plated salad with the green pepper, but you can do whatever your hungry little heart desires.

As usual, quantities are completely flexible and negotiable; just use what you have and what you think tastes good.  This makes enough salad for me and the man to eat twice as a big side for dinner (with a soup or something like that) or for me to eat twice as a main-dish lunch.

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

Invite these guys to the party:

  • 1 ripe avocado (2 if they’re tiny)
  • 1 can corn, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1-2 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped (I use culantro or shadon beni, cilantro’s stinkier and more potent cousin, because that’s what I find here in Trinidad)
  • Zest of half a large lime (or zest of a whole small lime)
  • Juice of 2-3 limes
  • Small glug (1-2 tablespoons, just eyeball it) of olive oil
  • Couple of scallions, chopped
  • Lettuce (as much as you want to cover your bowl)
  • Tomato (optional, but I like it here)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Then, tell them to please mind the neighbors while they party and keep the kegstands inside, please:

  • Mix the oil, lime juice, lime zest, salt, pepper, and cilantro together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add corn and black beans, and mix well.  This can chill in the fridge until you’re ready to eat (it gets better as it sits, so it’s worth making it ahead of time if you can).
  • When you’re good and hungry, plate up your lettuce, top with as much of this mix as you want, sprinkle with scallions, and then top with cubes of avocado (and the optional tomato, if you’re using it).
  • Eat and try to keep your enthusiasm at an acceptable decibel level.

In Which We Talk About Being Sidelined

Last week, I had a grand old time with some at-home Zumba and a less-grand time with some kitchen cleaning.  One of the two did my knee in.  I hate to admit it, but I think it was the Zumba.

Since then, I’ve been sidelined.  Sigh

I’m not in any kind of serious pain, but I can feel my knee at times when I shouldn’t be feeling my knee, if you know what I mean.  Basically, my knee feels like it was taken off me, sloshed about in a martini shaker, and returned to me with an errant cube of ice still whooshing around in there.

This is definitely not the first time my knee has forced me to simmer down–I won’t go into the blasted boring details and I’ll just say that my IT band and patellofemoral pain syndrome have kept me on my toes as long as I have been exercising.  Nor is this by any means the most annoying of the knee injuries (I think my yoga-induced knee tantrum wins the crown on that one) or the most painful (the 2007 IT Band Flare-Up has literal pain in the ass covered).

Since Thursday, when this ignominy went down, I’ve been icing and stretching and treating my knee like the sad diva that it is.  Fortunately, it feels light-years better today than it did yesterday and exponentially better than it did the day before that, so apparently my knee really likes the frozen pea bag treatment and being pampered like it’s Saudi royalty.

Still, the temptation to have a pity party of epic proportions has loomed large.  At one point, I thought of taking an ad out in the newspaper to tell the world my woe.  However, I know that is NOT the way to go and it won’t get the Diva Knee back in working order any sooner.

So, instead of moping about how sad and lonely my Nike+ avatar is looking these days and shaking my fist at the sky every time the sun makes quality pool time tempting, I’ve been focusing on the bright side, in a more introspective way than I focus on the bright side, literally, for all things sartorial.

This boils down to some pretty good pluses (in ascending order of ridiculousness):

  • Total excitement about all things running/swimming/Zumba (the kind of excitement you only get when something is totally off-limits)
  • Time to regroup and be grateful for the fact that I can run at all (and to remind myself that I will get over this like I’ve gotten over the other Diva Knee performances)
  • More quality time with the Core Fusion Pilates Plus abs segment (only the exercises that don’t involve my knees)
  • More quality nose-stuck-in-book time (may I recommend “Eiffel’s Tower” by Jill Jonnes, about the Eiffel tower and the belle epoque shenanigans of artists and industrialists and Buffalo Bill in their Paris playground?)
  • More time to plan/obsess/plot my sewing (though this does NOT translate to tidier sewing area–I’m not that good)
  • Longer-lasting manicures and more time to do them (who knew hot pink with yellow dots would be so wearable?)
  • Less laundry needs to be done (no explaining needed here)
  • Considerable savings on water/shampoo/body wash now that I don’t need so much to remove my post-workout salt crust

So, if all goes to plan and the knee feels good on Friday, I’ll be out sweating and swatting bugs come Monday morning.  I can’t wait to shake it again–and I can’t wait to put that taunting little Nike+ avatar in her place, instigator that she is…

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Here are a couple of good reads for the injured and temporarily wimpy:

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How do you deal with being sidelined?

Breadfruit and Me: A Brief History of War

Hey hey!  I’m hot-footing it all across the interwebs this week–check out my post on how I started running (twice!) on Bridget’s awesome blog Pounding Pavement and Plants!

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I think I’ve discovered my vegetable nemesis.  Ladies and gentlemen,  meet the not-so-humble breadfruit:

This vegetable just will not let me be.  It haunts me and taunts me and very rudely gives me the vegetable finger, no matter what weaponry I throw at it.  We have a history of military squirmishes. I believe you could well call it a full-blown war at this stage.

Battle Number 1 (Fall campaign 2008) took the form of traditional Puerto Rican breadfruit tostones (fried slices of breadfruit).  It may not have been ripe enough, or maybe it was too ripe.  I also think I sliced it in the wrong direction.  The tostones lacked both the requisite crispy exterior and the creamy smooth interior.  Breadfruit 1, Laura 0.

Battle Number 2 (Spring campaign 2009) took the form of curried coconutty breadfruit.  I dutifully wrote down the directions from a coworker and stuck faithfully to the recipe.  The breadfruit stuck faithfully to the pan.  It tasted like Elmer’s glue paste with a sprinkle of bitter.  Breadfruit 2, Laura 0.

Battle Number 3 (Summer campaign 2010) took the form of a breadfruit salad that I tried to copy from my neighbor.  Mr. L raved about the neighbor’s delicious breadfruit salad, which was done much like a standard potato salad (mayo, onion, canned vegetable).  I should have known that I had no business dealing with 1) canned vegetables and 2) mayo-based salads because I just don’t do either.  I boiled the beast breadfruit, dressed the beast breadfruit, and (almost) bawled at the beast breadfruit’s refusal to pick up ANY kind of flavor (other than bitter). Breadfruit 3, Laura 0.

Needless to say, this frustrates me and keeps me up at night.  Why is it so hard to judge its ripeness?  Why is its texture/flavor combo so temperamental?  How can I tell what each particular breadfruit is best suited for?  Was breadfruit put on this earth to drive me crazy?

I’m not capitulating.  I’m not giving up.  Aw, hells no.  I’m gonna beat up on that breadfruit like I’ve wailed on caraili (bitter gourd) before. For heaven’s sake, I am Puerto Rican.  I should be able to tame a damn breadfruit in my sleep.

So on Tuesday, Battle Number 4 took place.  I armed myself with my weaponry:

  • Saltfish for me/veggie mince meat for him
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Trini seasonings (Scotch Bonnet peppers, seasoning peppers, chive/green onion, garlic, thyme, green seasoning mix)
  • Olives (which I didn’t end up using)

I worked some magic by stewing the above while I boiled the breadfruit into submission, then mashed it up with some sauteed onion, garlic, and herbs of the above varieties.  I then plonked the fish/meat down and covered with the mashed breadfruit to make a tropical (aka more feisty) version of a shepherd’s pie.  I shoved it all into the oven, crossed my fingers that it would turn out and that my oven would not turn against me, and prepared for the worst.

This is what emerged from the oven:

And this is what landed on my plate:

I held my breath and crossed my fingers before tasting it.  Guess what?  It rocked!  The breadfruit layer was not bitter at all and it actually took on the flavor of the bucketload of seasoning I put on it.  The bottom later of saltfish melded very nicely with the breadfruit and, with the bonus of a slightly crisped top, the combination worked really, really well.  The Mr. very much liked his vegetable mince version, too, which was seasoned the same way as my saltfish.

I  really, really can’t wait to make this again. I will not go nipping breadfruits from branches along the side of the road, no matter how tempting, to make this again.  I solemnly swear.  I don’t fight dirty like that.

Final verdict on Battle Four?  I win!! I therefore take the liberty of pronouncing this last battle the only battle that really matters in the outcome of our war, and declare myself winner.

Fabrics and Food Shopping: A Lesson In Obsession

Quick note-slash-big announcement:  I’m on Hollaback Health today in the first of a series of regular posts on how to improve your writing!  Head on over and find out why writing matters so much–and why I just NEED to get up on a soapbox and make us all better bloggers.

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This weekend, I confirmed a fact that I already knew beyond a reasonable doubt:  I am a Class A hoarder.

I don’t hoard junk that would land me on those ridiculous TLC shows.  I just hoard non-perishable food items and fabrics.  You know, the usual stuff.

The worst part is that I know that I do it.  In fact, I recognize the process:

  • A fancy can of something interesting or an insanely bright piece of fabric (usually cotton–let’s keep it real) catches my eye.  I get so excited I have to buy it (usually because it’s both special AND cheap) and I yammer to the salesperson about it as I purchase it.  I can tell they all roll their eyes when I walk out of the store.
  • The purchase turns out to be SO special that I just can’t bring myself to open it or cut into it.  I set it aside for the right dinner/occasion.
  • The right dinner/occasion never comes.
  • Fast forward a few months/years and I’m unearthing eight cans of chickpeas and a jar of sweet and spicy jalapeno jelly/ X cuts of fabric from the depths of my kitchen/sewing mess.
  • Cue shame–but cue indifference, too, because by the time I dig it out I’ve moved on to other, more exciting finds.

And so it goes.

I usually don’t feel guilty for it, except for when I do, and today is one of those days, sadly.  So, in the interest of not humoring my compulsions, I hereby announce that I will refrain from multiple-can purchases of beans until I’m down to just two cans of chickpeas (two being the amount of cans that I end up using any time I use beans–helps me make leftovers).  I will also refrain from buying any more fabric until I’ve dealt with at least three of the cuts of fabric I’ve squirrelled away.

Honestly, inspiration has struck in a million different ways for each of these beauties.  I just have to simmer down and make a decision and get on with my bad sewing self:

Purple was purchased in April, yellow in February, red in May
Uh-oh: the blue on the right was purchased in March 2009, the green in September 2007 (!), and the one on the left in May

Clearly, I have a problem–and some sewing to do.

And yet…

This De-Hoarding Measure does not mean that I can’t evade my own rules by making bean-free dishes and chopping up my curtains to make my own Hostess With the Mostest/Trophy Wife version of this Anthropologie dress:

Convincing reasoning, no?

Are you a ruthless de-cluttering machine, or do you hoard things like the world is ending tomorrow?  What is your hoarding poison?

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