A Happy Peach

Things that make my heart smile…


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Food Chronicles…2…Arepitas….

The star of the dish....

A simple and easy favorite food of mine is arepas (pronounced a-ray-pas). They’re a Venezuelan staple, and we usually have them as a breakfast food. It’s basically Arena Pan, water and salt. Once you have made your masa by combining your ingredients you shape them. Traditionally you make a sort of flattened ball. This is done by taking a ball of dough and cupping your hands, you pat and pass the dough from hand to hand till you’ve made the proper shape. This can take practice. Then you pop them on the cast iron grill/skillet (anything that can retain heat and brown food) and brown the bottom and flip them over and brown the top, then move it over to the oven to finish cooking. When we take them out the oven we butter them and eat them. You can also add in some cheese, whatever cheese you like. Sometimes I like to add the cheese in before so it gets melted in side the masa, it is really yummy that way. But you can eat them with anything you desire, it’s sort of like corn bread, but not really.

There are different variations of this dish. One totally less healthy version is to fry them. Now they taste super good fried, but I feel so naughty eating them but does that stop me? No, no it does not. However I don’t do it so often. If we fry them we make them small and sometimes make them sort of doughnut shaped. A regular sized arepa is about 1.5″ to 2″ in diameter and maybe about .5 to .75 thick. Now the tiny ones, which we call arepitas (add an ita to anything and it becomes the smaller version), are my favorites. As a kid I was a picky eater and to get me to eat my Mom would make tiny muñeca (Spanish for doll) arepitas for me. She still does, not that I am so picky now. Another version is to use the masa and fill it with seasoned ground beef and fry them, if it sounds like it’s a fried meat pie that’s because it is. It’s a sort of hybrid areapa empenada, but in truth in I just refer to it as an empenada. Don’t know what an empenada is? OK, that’s the next food lesson.

Want to see it in action? I found some ladies kicking it old school. You don’t have to mix by hand, a spoon is alright. I think how it’s made varies from house to house, because we make it a bit thicker and the tops and bottoms need to get a little more brown.

 

OK, so they even have a machine that does it…

So does this look interesting to you? If you try it, the first few times you do it may look a little wonky. Just keep at it. You don’t want the top to crack, but it will still taste good even if it looks a little off. Even better, I hope I get a chance to make it for my friends one day. 😀 Let me know if you’re up for it.

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Growing Pains…

I have been playing with the themes for this blog, I think the last one may have been confusing. Sometimes I did not have pictures to go with my post, so it would have been naked if I kept the current post as the feature post. And my camera has not been cooperating so pictures seem to not be in my immediate future. So I’ve changed the look of the blog again. Sorry friends, I personally liked the old one too.


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On A Summer Day…

Good gravy is it warm/hot in Southern California, making it worse is that it’s humid and I am melting. I think it is hot in most of North America and I am sure other places like Asia. So what should the heat afflicted do? Well, the first thing to do is keep calm and don’t lose your head, I am here with a few suggestions. (FYI the heat makes me a little squirrelly so I may be the only one who panics a bit and feels a bit deflated by the weather)

  1. Stay hydrated, drink tons of water. You’ll drink more in the Summer since you are losing more water because of the human exhaust system (I know I could have just said sweat). Bored of water and want a treat. Try slicing some strawberries and tossing it into your lemonade and leave it overnight. I bought a bottle of lemonade and had some strawberries that I needed to use ASAP, so I made some homemade lemonade. It is quite good. I think I may pop some frozen peaches into some black tea and see what comes of it next. I tend to drink with a straw, it’s better for your teeth.
  2. Whenever you feel like you are going to melt go for a cool treat. Try throwing some frozen fruit with some juice in your blender. If you have a good blender throw in some ice. I personally love pomegranate juice with some berries and mango. You get a lot of vitamins from uncooked fruits, there are so many health benefits. You may need add sugar (simple syrup, stevia, or whatever you like) to sweeten to your taste.
  3.  I was at Henry’s today looking for almond flour to make macaroons. I was slapped in the face when I realized it was over eleven dollars for a small bag of flour. I then thought why would I want to bake in this heat. Back to reality. I haven’t tried this, but maybe I will pick up a sponge cake and some brandy. I bought some apricots yesterday, I may blend some brandy with the apricots and let it sit for a bit and then layer on the cake. I am not sure if this may be better with dried apricots. I think this may be a nice little quasi home-made desert for summer.
  4. For food I am all about salads and the broiler. I loved broiling chicken and putting together a salad, either green or pasta. I just don’t want to spend too much time over a stove when it’s hot to start with.
  5. I don’t know about you, but when it is hot at nights I tend to get up for a drink of water. So I like to freeze those individual bottles of water. Open the bottle before hand and drink some of the water so when it starts to defrost it won’t bubble up. If it’s starting to defrost and you open it will spill out. Also don’t leave it on wood as the dew from the melting bottle can ruin your furniture.
  6. If you feel miserable and want to cool off, I warn you this is old school, but wet a towel and place it on your neck. It will cool off your entire body this way. I have seen someone put it on their head, which probably works too.
I wonder what everyone else does to beat the heat. I’d love to hear your suggestions.


**Just to let you know, I do have a couple of  air conditioners, but I think it’s more environmentally friendly to use fans. Plus I figure why make yourself hotter than you need to?


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Expectations…

It has been my experience that people set goals and accompanied with those goals are fabricated expectations. For example some people go to college and work hard to get their degree and expect to find what they perceive to be the perfect job with a set salary. They also believe that this chain of events will make them happy. In this example the initial event goal is to graduate from college with the expected byproduct of a dream job, but upon graduation you realize that while you have achieved your initial goal and the dream job you expected may be more of a goal than a byproduct. Say you define your dream job and with effort acquire that position, your next expectation is that this job will make you happy. But for some reason or another you may not be happy. If this happens you are left with a feeling of disappointment, which can be very difficult to accept and deal with.

Most people do not enjoy being disappointed, I wanted to say all of us but there are just some people who do want to be disappointed. Most of us want to be happy, well I think we do. Happiness can be simple as simple as just choosing to be happy or we can make it this difficult and unachievable goal. It’s a decision we make each and every day, whether or not we realize it. We make a lot of these types of decisions all day long, even though they may seem instinctive rather than cognitive. We’re thirsty, we have to choose if we drink and what to drink if we do, we have an expectation of what it will taste like and our goal is to quench the thirst. If we analyze this simple chain of events further we realize that this was more of an exercise in fulfilling a need, being thirsty was a problem and it probably bothered you and was the impetus to act. You would have drunk till you were satiated and the problem of thirst was solved, effectively removing the thing that bothered you. The removal of the thirst which bothered you may have brought you, if even subconsciously, a bit of happiness. I think the value of these types of cause and effect events can have a pendulum like quality, the greater the desire the greater the expected outcome.

The previous paragraph reads like a clinical report, but was meant to demonstrate logically our thought process. It was also meant to introduce some thoughts on what may be the cause of our unhappiness, namely expectations and desires. Both desire and expectations set you up for the possibility of disappointment. If you take a sip of water expecting soda you are going to be surprised and probably disappointed. You’ll also, for a minute, be confused and frustrated till you adjust your thinking. There is nothing wrong with water, but if it’s not what you desired or expected you won’t be happy. If you drink it without any real expectation, you will taste the water for what it is.

Removing expectation creates the opportunity to experience the moment as it is, rather than creating a closed desired outcome which limits the experience. Desire in and of itself is a sign of lacking, we want something because we feel we do not  have it. We feel that we are missing something and that we must find a way of remedying it, we define goals based on it and our actions follow this logic of lack in accordance with our plan of acquisition. We create a limited set of desired outcomes, a lot of times based on external cues and what we think we should want, and define them as our expectations. But to me that limits our life experiences and can make us miserable.

Now, there is nothing wrong with goals and planning, it can be a helpful exercise, but put them into perspective and allow them to be adaptive. Life does not typically go according to your plan. When you understand and accept that you can adjust your thinking and the better off you will be. If you don’t have strict expectations then you are less likely be disappointed, rather if you set up your goals and plans with logical outcomes but not invest too much emotionally in them you will able to adapt to any changes when you need to. Releasing yourself from the burden of desire will allow you to relinquish that feeling of lack. When you want what you have, you will never feel that you are without. After you release yourself from those constraints you can see that happiness is available to you in the here and now. You will be able to decide that you are happy, that you have all that you need and appreciate your relationships and environment, the rest becomes your future footsteps.  You may also find it easier to see and make the changes that you need to in life.

It’s just a matter of removing all the shoulds in your life, shoulds will only lead to a state of constant dismay. At least this is what I have gathered from my experiences in life. I have come to understand that the journey is more important than the destination and that one should pack accordingly :D.


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Gluttony vs. Lust….

Yesterday was the premiere of the Captain America movie at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. I could have gone, Hollywood isn’t really so far, just grab the 101 and technically you’re there. Although they did close off some streets, just to make it difficult. Folks can gather outside the premiere and take pictures and get autographs. I am not sure who does all that though. I can’t remember any of my friends ever wanting to go, nor of someone speaking of doing that. I think it may be a tourist thing to do or maybe it’s something that high school kids and families do. I really do wonder.

When I lived in New York as a child I never went to the Empire State building, passed it I am sure, but never really paid it much mind. Never went to see the Statue of Liberty. We did go to see the Rockets at Radio City Music Hall and played in Central Park. Now that I live in Southern California there are things that I wouldn’t think to do, but many people associate with SoCal. Going to see a taping of a TV show is something we did when there was a field trip and we wanted to get out of class. It doesn’t pay in the long run as it may take forever for the taping to be done and you may end up going home pretty late. When I think of Hollywood, I think that’s too much traffic to fight to go to see tourists. Going into Downtown L.A. and Hollywood means you may see surly prostitutes (don’t mess with them, they don’t like that) and bums peeing on your car (I’m not sure why but that’s a thing). Actually I went to the Chinatown New Years Parade and a few non-homeless people peeing in the streets, there aren’t any restrooms and well folks gotta pee. It’s as gross as it sounds.

That last passage was included to demonstrate my reasoning for not going, because of the traffic, and because of the possible yuck factor, not to mention gas prices, finding parking, paying for parking, and possible lameness, blah blah blah. I really have a whole laundry list of reasons. But really those are excuses and what it comes down to is the fact that I’m too lazy to put aside those reasons and just do it. My only reason for wanting to go would have been to peek at Richard Armitage, but I guess that motivation was not great enough. You know I must have spent about six minutes entertaining the thought, then went about doing something else. Namely washing my car and throwing together a little nosh.

Let’s put it in writing, I stink as a fan. I would never be a super fan or one of those stalker type folks, because I just couldn’t be bothered. Yikes, that just takes too much time to obsess over one person. The most I can do is admire someone’s work and think that they’re attractive (this may mean that I have a limitation on the whole lust thing). If I see them somewhere on street, maybe I would take a picture, but I need a better camera (look another excuse). And it is much easier  (ease a close relation to laziness) to just catch bits of it on TV and the internet. Voilà…

Yesterday is was super muggy,humidity was at 94%, I crossed my legs and I broke out in a sweat, and somewhat hot somewhere in the 90s. After watching that video I felt bad for the poor man he was wearing a suit, the people interviewing him couldn’t pronounce his name and asked the dumbest question. You could see his eyebrow twitch every time she mispronounced his name and he was way to polite to correct her. But then you see someone like Robert Downey Jr. who’s done this a few hundred, if not thousand, times. This fool has got his shizz down.

I wonder if it’s an American vs. British thing, are we just too relaxed and joke around a lot? Or maybe it’s starpower. I bet he says things in his head like, “I AM ROBERT DOWNEY JR.!!!!” Like it’s some sort of power mantra to remind him of his RobertDowneyness. I think everyone in that crowd knows who he is and I’m certain the reporter knew of his work, she had way better questions than that other “British” Interviewer, she did not sound British to me. And I think if they were crap questions Downey would have handled it and left the wrangler to deal with the aftermath.

I know this was a superficial and rambling sort of post, but I suppose I am in a superficial and rambling sort of mood. It’s hot here people and feel a bit scramblely in the old noodle. But I guess I was wondering if anyone would have (wanted to go or) gone to this sort of event. Am I missing something?


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Taking Stock…

This post is brought to you by our lovely friend Vix over at Little Miss Everything who has tagged me. Today we are going to play a little game, a sort of Name That Post. So let’s begin shall we?

1. Most Beautiful Post…

I have been trying to improve my photography skills as well as playing with some of my graphics software, and while I am still an amateur I am quite happy with A Day with Flowers. It was just fun to do and I liked the outcome.

2. Most Popular Post…

I think the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Posts were the most popular. Of the series, where I went a bit hog-wild for a week, Nordstrom Anniversay Sale MAC Cine-Matics was the most popular, and only by a hair. I was surprised by all the visits, and even more surprised by part of my reaction. You see I felt a little taken aback by the hits and felt apprehensive to post anything of a more personal nature on here. While I don’t post all my personal details, I do have a little bit of myself in this blog. I think developing friendships with other bloggers made it feel a bit more personal, like a community. But people who were coming by were strangers, just there to get some info and run. Which is fine, that’s what it’s there for, but I guess my private nature felt awkward. It wasn’t something I was anticipating

3. Most Controversial Post…

Hmm….I don’t think I’ve had a controversy on my blog per se, but I did write about something that was a bit more serious. I think the post on negative comments, Drawbacks, handled a different subject matter than I normally do. And there were some really great thoughtful comments left, actually most (if not all) of my blogger friends leave really great comments consistently.

4. Most Helpful Post…

What I’ve noticed is that my posts are quite varied, which is a very accurate reflection of me as a person. Choosing one post under the label of most helpful was difficult. There are a few posts which may fall under the category of helpful. But for this heading I am going to go with Daijoubou Daijoubu…, because it was written for someone and anyone who ever felt like they were having a harder time in life to read and hopefully feel a bit more optimistic about things. Sometimes we just need to be told that things will be OK in order for us to look past the problem.

5.  A Post Whose Success Surprised Me…

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Catalog on Facebook was just a blurb linking folks over to Facebook, but it came in a close second to most popular post.

6. A Post That Didn’t Get The Attention I Felt it deserved…

This is an awkward choice to make. Some posts are hit or miss, blogging is a leisurely thing, or at least it should be. I don’t think we take too much offense if one post is popular while another swept under the rug. But I had to pick one, I pour over all the seemingly unloved posts and found one that I liked, but maybe some folks missed…Business Idea: One for One. I am really interested in any innovative business approach which thinks of the community. Money is just a way of getting it done and status is irrelevant, rather it gets in the way of evolution and productivity.

7. Post I’m Most Proud Of…

Egads this was also hard to pick. I think I am going to have to pick The Importance of Being Creative. This post came from a very personal epiphany, and it’s something that after it was written gave me a pretty good feeling. It was cathartic in nature. And I thought if anyone could benefit from what I was feeling and thinking, all the better. But I write a lot of these posts with that thought.

 

This was really a challenge, but it was a great way to look back at the last five months. This will be my 118th post. I hadn’t realized how many posts I had written. So with this I pass on this tag to five more fabulous bloggers:

  1. Skyraftwander
  2. Tien
  3. Pervisha
  4. Eugenia
  5. Tipsy Lucy 
Have fun kids, it’s a great opportunity to go over your work. Woohoo!!!!!


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Food Chronicle…1

Is it me, or is the food that you grew up always the best? It may just be nostalgia, but I love that sort of familiar food. I think it is a lot healthier and offers a richer flavor than take-out. My personal food history is quite varied, as my background is varied. While we adapted to American food culture, we also integrated in different dishes we learned from family friends as well as television and cookbooks, we have also been influenced by introductions to new dishes through restaurants, all the while maintaining a lot of our Venezuelan food culture.

It’s a cuisine that isn’t spoken of very much, but it’s rich, warm and gently flavored. I think a lot of people are familiar with Mexican food, although the dishes you get in Mexico are quite different from those served in many restaurants outside of country. But if I were to compare the popular Mexican dishes to Venezuelan dishes, I would say that many Mexican dishes have good deal of heat while Venezuelan dishes tend to have a savory quality. Both are very good, but very unique which is a good thing if you ever get a chance to travel through Central America and/or South America.

If you hadn’t noticed food has a special place in my heart. I think you can communicate your hearts truest intent with food. I think one of the best time to take note of that is during Christmas. For Venezuelans, Christmas is the time to make hallacas, and it can be a bit of a family production. You have to secure your banana leaves to wrap them. Then you must amass the necessary ingredients: the meat, seasonings, the Arena Pan for masa (it has to be Arena Pan). Even bigger pain is the fact that some of the ingredients are not readily available in the U.S. so you must make due with what you have. Then make the masa, making sure that it has the right texture, this takes skill and experience. After that you need to prep the banana skins. If you are lucky enough to have a production team you can have someone working on the filling, and don’t think the filling is easy either. Getting the right flavor and the pieces to the right size is a triumph in and of itself. Then you need to assemble, package and cook those bad boys. The whole process can take hours, which is why it’s a Christmas thing. It also makes sense to me that in Mexico tamales are made for Christmas too. But for those of you wondering there are differences, the tamal is wrapped in dried reconstituted corn husks, and the masa’s texture is different, the grains are thicker and mixture is made drier. Also the filling is more likely to be simpler like cheese with a roasted chile (a personal favorite) or a pork filling. While the hallaca is a mixture of meat, vegetables and seasonings. Both are very good, and best when you can have them homemade, preferably by someone’s Abuela.

Now that’s old school. And yes when you like a food item in Venezuela you do refer to it as rico (don’t forget to roll your r’s) y sabrosa. 😀