12 February 2010


Continuing my tradition of irreverent Valentine's Day posts, I present my favorite V-Day e-cards for 2010.

Because Valentine's Day, for me, is just not complete without zombies.

Happy V-Day. ;)

PS: SciFiDad has some pretty funny V-Day E-Cards of his own going on over at his place today. :)

09 February 2010


I have a thing for bags.

And by "thing", I mean "mild addiction".

And by "mild" I mean, "raging out of control".

Okay, I'm a bag-aholic. I'm not proud of it, people. But there it is.

I don't have many "girly" tendencies, but when it comes to bags, I'm like a walking, talking, accessorizing cliche'. I am to bags as Imelda Marcos was to shoes. (Google it. You can thank me later for adding to your historical-cultural education. Now, get offa my lawn.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. My bag-ses. My preciousss bag-ses.

I have a closet full of purses and backpacks and clutches and totes: Black ones and brown ones and red ones and multi-colored ones; Big ones and medium ones and small ones and tiny ones; Summer ones and Fall ones and Winter ones and Spring ones; Beaded ones and sequined ones and fuzzy ones and glow-in-the-dark ones. (But not bedazzled ones. You have the draw the line somewhere.)

And still I buy more.

My favorites are my three (Count 'em: THREE!) different Timbuk2* Messenger Bags, including my carry-it-every-day Eula tote in sexy custom fabric and my sturdy black-and-gray Classic Messenger that I use as a camera bag.

You don't even want to get me started on my two complete sets of luggage, umpteen tote and beach and overnight bags, and my baker's dozen of "this-is-the-last-one-Honey-I-promise" diaper bags. (What? I never said it was easy to be married to me.)

And then there are my shopping bags.

I claim that I have so many reusable shopping bags because I like to be environmentally friendly. But, deep down, I know that I'm really just feeding my bag-ddiction.

At any given time in the storage area of my car you will find:
  • 4 big blue totes from Ikea 
  • 3 large green totes from Costco 
  • 2 little red bags from Target
  • 1surprisingly roomy Disney "Mickey Tree" tote
  • 1 mesh "CSI: Evidence" bag ( I love the looks I get when I whip that one out.)
  • 3-5 assorted canvas tote bags

My latest additions to the collection are my new Flip and Tumble bags, which I bought from Amazon. I LOVE them.

Most people who use "green" shopping bags will tell you the number one problem is forgetting to take them into the store with you!

Sure, it's easy to remember them when you're planning a big grocery stock-up trip. But it's harder to have them handy when you're "just running in for one or two things" with a toddler on your right hip, a preschooler tugging at your left hand and your shopping list clenched between your teeth.

But I don't have to "remember" the Flip and Tumble bags at all! They live in my purse! They oh-so-easily roll up like colorful little pill-bugs and fit just nicely in that Timbuk2 tote I mentioned earlier. I carry two or three of them around with me at all times.

When I get to the register, I just pull them out, un-stuff them in seconds and fill them up! At home, I empty them, crumple them back into their built-in stuff sacks and pop them back in my purse. Voila! SO easy.

I find they're usually more than adequate to carry $100+ in purchases. Which might say more about the current buying power of the dollar than the capacity of the bags, I dunno. But, either way, these are the perfect medium-duty "green" bags for me.

I should know, I've tried a lot of bags.

And - heavens help me - I want more.

Checking myself into Bag-Rehab,

*No, I'm not being compensated in any way by any of these companies. I just happen to really like their products.

07 February 2010

Comidas buenas

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, I present a rare "Cooking with ZenMom" post.

It's no secret that the ZenHusband is the cook of the family, but I do have a handful of things I enjoy cooking or baking and that, I think, are pretty tasty.

Today at Casa Zen, we are throwing together a bunch of "easy" finger foods to munch tonight while we gather 'round ye olde telly to watch the Super Bowl. So, I thought I'd go ahead and share my favorite, super-easy chili recipe.

I stole this recipe from my Dad and tweaked it here and there to my own personal taste. In fact, I don't think we've ever made this chili exactly the same way twice. We're always substituting or throwing in something new or changing proportions.

So, really, this is less of a "recipe" and more of a "guideline". :)

I think the best dishes come from experimenting. So, if anyone out there gives this chili a try, I'd love to hear how you liked it and how you "made it your own".


1 medium-sized crockpot
1 large skillet

2 cups black beans
1/2 pound ground beef
1 pkg (9oz) beef chorizo
6 oz (1 small can) tomato paste
3 roma tomatoes
1 medium green bellpepper, chopped*
1 anaheim chile pepper, chopped*
1/2 yellow onion
3-4 cups chicken broth (or 1 1/2 bottles of a medium ale)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
salt and pepper (to taste)

* I prefer to remove most of the seeds from the peppers to cut back on the heat, but if you like your chili spicier, leave them in.)


The night before:
In a medium saucepan, cover the 2 cups of dry beans with water and boil for 20 minutes. Then turn off heat and let the beans soak overnight (or at least 4 hours).

Chili day:
Drain the beans. Add them to the crockpot.
In a large skillet: Sweat the chopped onions and bellpepper.
When the onions are soft and almost translucent, add the ground beef to the skillet.
Brown the ground beef, seasoning with the chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper.

Drain the beef, add it to the crockpot.
In the same skillet, cook the chorizo until it is mostly liquified.
Add the chorizo to the crockpot.
Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and chopped peppers.
Add the chicken broth (or beer) - make sure there is enough liquid to fully cover the ingredients.
Put the lid on the crockpot. Turn it on medium and walk away for at least 6 hours.
(Come back and give it a stir every hour or so.)

I like to serve it with a little grated cheddar cheese on top and a side of toasted french bread.



(Stolen from my Mom. And, again, a lot of wiggle-room to make it to your own taste.)


3 large roma tomatoes (or 1 beefsteak) (3/4 lb)
1/8 brown onion (or to taste)
6 sprigs cilantro
1/8 lime or lemon (no peel)
1-2 cloves garlic
1-3 Serrano Chiles
1 tsp salt
1/8 Green Bell Pepper

*For guacamole, just add 4 large avocados


Chop garlic, chilis. Add to bowl. Stir.
Chop onions, tomatoes, cilantro, bell pepper. Add. Stir.
Add salt, lemon/lime. Stir.
Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors combine. It will get spicier the longer it sits.


I like to make this in my food processor. Just "pulse" the garlic and chiles first until they are minced, then add everything else and "pulse" to your desired consistency.


Feliz Comiendo!


02 February 2010

Groundhog Day, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the weather rodent

The astounding weather-predicting rodent Punxsutawney Phil poked his nose out of his stump up on Gobbler's Knob this morning and predicted six more weeks of winter.

As much as I might want to resent the oversized rodent for denying me an early Spring ... I don't.

As I said last year: I just love the silliness of Groundhog Day.

I mean, seriously, what an absurd holiday! A rodent that predicts the coming of Spring?! How odd a tradition is that? And, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania? Good on ya' for capitalizing the hell out of it. (Psst. Don't tell Punxsutawney I called their holy day "silly", okay? They take this shit seriously, y'all.)

Groundhog Day is such a special holiday it even has it's own movie! Dude, that puts it up there with the Big Guns of Christmas and Thanksgiving! Sure, Bill Murray is no Charlie Brown or Heat Miser. But, still, a movie named after you, that's a pretty big accomplishment for holiday that doesn't involve gifts or feasts or rampant commercialism! Go, Groundhog Day!

As I also mentioned last year, I quite like the movie. (And, since so very few of you were reading my blog this time last year, I'ma tell you, again, why I like it.)

It's a funny movie, sure. Bill Murray almost always cracks me up. But, I also see interesting philosophical undertones in it: Undertones that Buddhists and Taoists might recognize.


In the movie (directed by the very funny Harold Ramis), Phil, the self-absorbed weatherman, finds himself trapped in the same day over and over again. He tries several approaches to end his suffering - to exert control over his reality, to break out of his cycle through some force of his will.

When those don't work, he falls into desperation and despair.

And then he has a moment of understanding and acceptance. He stops focusing on his suffering. He stops fighting against his reality. He focuses instead on this moment and he turns his attention to relieving the suffering of others. He stops "trying" and starts "being" part of a bigger whole.

By caring for others and living in this moment instead of worrying only about himself and what the next moment will be, he has the "perfect day".
"Whatever happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I'm happy now..."
~ Phil, Groundhog Day
Cue the Hollywood Happy Ending™: Boy breaks cycle, boy gets girl and they live happily ever after.

There's a warm-n-fuzzy message in there, delivered on a platter of funny. Win-win, yeah?


So, when Groundhog Day rolls around each year, it's a reminder to me that it doesn't matter if Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of cold or an early Spring thaw.

Religiously, I'm an atheist. Philosophically, I'm a Taoist. Realistically, I'm a pragmatist: Complaining about the cold doesn't make it warm.

And, yeah, I'm not just talking about the weather.

I believe that you can either accept what life is and, thereby gain the freedom and ability to find the happiness in it, or you can make yourself miserable by dwelling on what "should be".

Groundhog Day is my annual reminder to shove "should be" out the door. If you let it, "should be" will steal your time and your happiness. I don't have any room for that thief in my life.

As Phil-the-weatherman learned on his never-ending Groundhog Day: You can beat your fists uselessly against the bars of your "cage" or you can take another look around, spruce the place up and make a home of it. And maybe find it's not so much a cage after all. It's your choice.

Whew. Pretty heavy stuff to hang on such a little holiday, huh? Meh, I think Phil can handle the weight. He's a hefty little groundhog. And, I suspect, wiser than your average rodent.