Marinated Eggplant

October 11, 2011

Eggplant

This year we had an abundance of eggplants sprouting from our gardens. We’ve been making a few different dishes, but I wanted to try something new. Today I experimented and the result was fantastic. Luckily I snapped a few photos to go along with the recipe. Here goes…

2 Eggplants
Handful of fresh oregano, basil, fennel
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 lemon
3 C spinach
3 Cloves garlic
1/2 onion
12 assorted mushrooms (Shiitake, Button, Portabella, etc…)
Marinara sauce

Start with two small eggplants sliced in half lengthwise. Use a knife to carve out a tiny basin in each half. Here’s how they should look after they have been notched and placed into a container:

Notched and ready to be salted

Salt the eggplants thoroughly and leave them covered for 3 hours. This will draw the moisture from the eggplant and remove any bitterness. After the salt has done its work, drain the water and rinse the eggplants in fresh water. Gently squeeze the eggplants without crushing them.

Place the eggplants back into the container and douse them with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. These should pool in the little basins that were notched out earlier.

Chop the herbs and garlic very finely and sprinkle liberally over top of the eggplant, again piling directly onto the basin. Use a heaping pile of herbs – they will be removed and used again later. Drizzle with the juice from half of a lemon, and perhaps a splash of wine. Here’s what it will look like at this point:

Covered in herbs and garlic

Cover the container and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours (the longer, the better). Once marinated, roast in the oven for an hour while covered with tin foil.

Saute the onion and mushrooms until the onions are carmelized and the mushrooms begin to brown. Remove the eggplants from the oven. Remove the excess piles of herbs from the marinade and mix with the onions and mushrooms. Toss all of the spinach on top and mix together. Use a ton of spinach. It reduces significantly and tastes great with the eggplant. Here’s what it looks like when it first goes on:

Spinach

The same amount of spinach reduced:

Once the spinach has reduced, take the eggplants and add them to the mix. After heating together with the rest of the vegetables, remove the eggplants and pile the vegetables on top.

This is delicious on its own, but is fully completed with a bit of marinara sauce and some romano cheese.

Ready to eat!With cheese...


Calmness

July 30, 2011

While drinking my coffee this morning I start to think about the day and figure I will see if Ed wants to go for a ride. I grab my phone and notice that he sent me a text 15 minutes ago to see if I wanted to go for a ride. It is a sure thing, we are going for a ride.

After finishing my coffee I head out to meet Ed, and we start our bikes after a short conversation. Life and weather got in the way, and it has been 2 weeks since we last rode. The bikes have to shake off the dust a little, and so do we. After a few sputters and groans the engines are sounding good. I nod to Ed and we start forward.

After being away from the bike for a couple of weeks it takes a couple moments to get re-acquainted with the bike. We soar down the road and I begin to make subtle movements and feel the bike respond. These movements are little whispers from my body to the machine, and the tiniest motion yields a response. I touch the handlebars to the right a little and the bike shifts to the right. A little shimmy of the hips achieves a different shift. The slightest roll of the throttle and the bike and I take off down the road.

This ritual of subtly shifting the bike around helps me initiate the tacit dialogue between the machine and me. We need to be in close communication if we are both going to survive. Today was a day that this dialogue, and seemingly everything else, was perfectly in sync.

We ride down the road and we seldom encounter a moment of traffic. We meditatively motor our way through the pine barrens. At one point I look over at Ed. Ed’s shirt flaps and ripples like a flag in the wind, and like a flag he carves a straight line through the road and stands as a symbol of freedom and oneness. We ride for hours without saying a word, then at an intersection Ed asks if I want to stop for breakfast. I nod, and we head into the parking lot of the Shamong Diner.

We sit down for a meal and to take a break from the road. I order a vegetable omelette with broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes and onions with potatoes and rye toast. While eating this I tell Ed how meditative I felt during the ride, and he agrees that he was feeling the same. We fill our stomachs and share some conversation and then we’re on the road again. We’re not far from home, so we enjoy our last miles for the day. Just as we are about to get back home I ask Ed if he wants to ride again tomorrow. He does, and we’re set to ride again.


Solo Ride 7/10/11

July 10, 2011

When we were done riding yesterday, Ed told me that he had to work on his car the next day, so he wouldn’t be able to join me for a ride. I still need to get a ride in, so I plan for a solo ride. I touched base with Ed this morning, but it was confirmed, he’d be busy all morning.

A luxury that I benefit from is that when I ride with Ed, I get to use his saddle bags to store things. A jacket, a bottle of water, a camera, whatever it happens to be, I don’t have any storage that could house any of these things on my bike. I want to bring my camera today and I figure it is just a matter of putting the camera in a camera bag, then securely fastening that to the bike.

I head over to pick up the bike. When I get there I begin figuring out where I am going to put the camera. I decide to fasten it to the bracket that holds the license plate. A few twirls of the wrench and the camera bag is secured. As I tighten the bolt it begins to feel loose and then it quickly snaps. I broke the bolt, and now the license plate bracket is loose. This is no good, because anything that vibrates will be a problem on a long ride.

This could cause a big set back if I let it, but I don’t, and I quickly find a zip tie to temporarily secure the bracket. It isn’t perfect, but it is good enough. I jiggle the camera and am happy with how solid it is, even with the zip tie.

About a hundred miles until I’ll start needing gas, so I don’t stop right away. I hit the road and begin to work my way out of the neighborhoods. Sunday traffic has me chomping at the bit. The guy in front of me is going fifteen miles per hour below the speed limit, and I haven’t the patience to wait for him to turn. There’s no opportunity to pass so I turn at the next road I see.

I’m in the neighborhoods a little longer than I had hoped, but now I’m in a different area than I had planned. That’s not a problem, it’s actually a good thing. I find some good roads, and I start to relax when I begin to see flocks of bicycles. There must be a race, or a group ride, or something official, because there are literally hundreds (thousands?) of bikes on the road. I later learn that this was the ACS annual ride that starts out at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge. I don’t know what it is, but I sit at the light for 5 rounds of green lights, not moving an inch.

Once the light turns green, I slowly bring the bike back up to speed. The time standing still gave me an opportunity to start sweating, and as the wind dries the perspiration I start to get cool. My temperature cools, the traffic and bicycles are gone, and I’m alone on the road. All is well.

I continue the ride without stopping. I’m gone for about three and a half hours and I get home exhausted and hungry. Ed is home when I drop off the bike, and we chat for a bit and before I know it we are working on the license plate bracket. He has a piece of hardware that is perfect for the job, and the bracket fastens better than it had been originally. I down a glass of water and head home. Another awesome ride.

Here’s a link to the ride…


The Motorcycle

July 10, 2011

I turn the key to ignition, switch the bike on, start it up and feel the rumble. The bike warms and I shift it into first gear. A glance around and we are on the road. The slow tour through the neighborhood on the way out to a long ride is filled with excitement, anticipation, wonder. We pull up to the edge of the development, turn our signals on, and we’re off.

Today, like most days, I’m following my father-in-law Ed. Ed and I share an appreciation for similar roads and journeys, and our quiet travels are, for the most part, unspoken. We just ride and observe; it is very meditative and calming.

After a few twists and turns we are out of the neighborhoods entirely, and we’re on the rural county roads. Getting out of the neighborhood feels good. There are many more hazards to be aware of in a neighborhood, and you often have to stop, turn, wait, slow down. These are things I don’t enjoy doing when I’m riding the bike.

The rural roads are nice. These are the roads that twist through farms and fields, sometimes dipping through tunnels of trees where the shade hits you instantly, and you feel the temperature suddenly drop. A ride through a mixture of sun and shade feels odd, as the drastic and rapid change of temperature is unique.

Riding through rural roads with the openness of the bike gives you a real feeling of being “there” for the entire ride, a feeling very unlike that which you get from the same ride in a car.

A car comes up from behind and wants to go faster than we want to go. We put on our blinkers and pull to the side to let them pass. The difference is that the car has some place to be. We are already where we want to be, so we let them head toward their destination while we continually enjoy reaching our destination.

We follow a road that changes names several times. Along the side of the road we see corn farms, flower farms, cabbage farms, apple orchards, goats, alpacas, and many other sights that aren’t normally encountered. These roads are the best roads in the state, and there are virtually no other travelers sharing the road. We cruise along and focus on the road, taking in the scenery as it passes by.

We arrive at an intersection where we have the choice to go in any direction. Ed looks over at me and motions with his chin in a circle, as to say, “Which way do you want to go?”. I simply shrug my shoulders, in a sense saying, “I don’t even know where we are, so whichever way is fine with me.” We both realize that it doesn’t matter where we go. Though not a word is spoken, we both laugh a good belly laugh, and we shift our bikes and roll the throttle.

Having no particular destination is one of the keys to a good ride, and that can easily be applied to life as well. Improvisation, whimsical choices, and an open mind comprise a good ride. Having a particular destination or a planned route is limiting, and can make the journey less enjoyable. If you make an effort to make each moment of the journey enjoyable, it doesn’t matter what the destination is.

We tend to ride for about 5 hours a day, but in this time we get hungry, thirsty, and we stop for a bite to eat at whatever tiny place happens to be on the side of the road. Today we found ourselves in the Woodstown Diner, and we ordered breakfast for lunch. These places where we stop have a small-town, local feel to them. Most of the patrons know the workers, and it feels like a step back in time about 20 years. This makes me feel good and I hope to stop at these places often enough, over the season and the years, for these people to recognize me as a patron. The close knit feeling of camaraderie inspires hope. Real people leave an impression.

We talk about getting gas across the street, but we are already itching to get back on the bikes. Ed says, “This may be the beginning of a tragic story, but I don’t want to get gas across the street.” I agree with him, and we know we will have plenty of gas to ride for a while before we have to stop at a gas station. We roll through the parking lot and exit through a back road. This positions us nicely to make a left onto the main road, and in a moment’s time we’re riding again.

The wind whips by and really beats me up. I don’t have a windshield, so the full force of the wind hits me directly. Bugs smash on my goggles, and sometimes on my chest, my cheek, etc. Smashing into a small bug at 50mph feels like being shot with a tiny projectile. Debris flies up from the ground and feels like tiny needles poking me.

We wind our way in a huge circle, a loop that encompasses most of Southern New Jersey. Along the way we stop at a couple of scenic spots to enjoy the view, but mostly we just ride. Our unspoken journeys take us on no particular route, and we finish right where we began. We park the bikes in the garage and we say the same thing we say at the end of every ride: “That was awesome”.

Click here for a map of the route.


The Entity Within (Part I)

January 16, 2011

I am sleeping within my head
My body wakes outside my bed
My eyes are open, except for blinks
I search for pieces, the missing links

Puzzling pieces, bent in creases
Thoughts drained out within my thesis
Vision snowing, floods are flowing
Height of the fire is steadily growing

Drips from eyes, painful cries
Mourning best friends new demise
Drips from pores, from open sores
Lost ideas and stolen cures

Spitting half lies, seen by dark eyes
Buzzing like a swarm of horse flies
Biting, nipping, poison dripping
Liquid death, we all are sipping

Waves are crashing, colors splashing
Visions of flesh, and thoughts of slashing
My shining sword, my weeping lord
Pain is all the weak can afford

The open mind is hard to find
Leave that pipe dream far behind
Lights are gleaming, voices screaming
Thoughts of a boy so deeply dreaming

A legless man. A Vegas hand:
-3 Kings and a pair of Aces
-”What do you got?”
-”Nothin”
Dealer wins (no one grins)

This is poker – a game of no expression.

You think you’re good? You think you’re tough?
I’ll see your hundred, and call your bluff
Well? Ante up, we’ll play some more
(losing thousands, becoming poor)

“I’ll bet the rest” (as he lays down three eights)
Dealer wins again. Three of a kind doesn’t beat straights
And mine is one from ten ’til Ace
You’re doing fine, just keep the pace

Just sit tight, and lose all night
And watch how hustling is done right
I know these cards forward and back
All night I’m counting and keeping track

I’ll scam you any way that I can
I’m the magic man… and I can pull rabbits from hats
coins from your ears, flowers from my wand…
And when you pull on my hankie, it keeps going
and going
and
going
My reality seems to be slowing
And something else is somehow born
From all that is real I am suddenly torn

A world of magic, a wold of awe
The most beautiful world my eyes ever saw
But emotions are strange. I love and hate
With mediation I cannot relate

I hurt from the pain I cannot feel
I cannot tell what is not real
I want to laugh, I want to cry
I think today I’m going to die

My heart feels like it is slowly ripping
With its pieces my soul is chipping
My eyes are tearing, my soul is flipping
All the lights seem like they’re dripping

I fall to the floor and find the cure
Accepting the fact that I’ll never be pure
A simple concept, a life-long stain
I wonder if grudges still remain

“I’m sorry sir, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave now.”
Of course you will, but your conscience will never leave you.


The smiling idiot

November 4, 2010

I rarely smile authentically anymore. The gesture has completely lost all meaning to me. I’ve distorted the concept to the point where it has become unrecognizable. There are many reasons why this is true, and it will be a long ride if you hope to understand what I mean. You should consider navigating away from this page, because this story will not make you smile unless you are a sadist.

My mother was, and is a huge part of my life. She passed away just three years ago, but she still influences me every day. My mother cared about her children as though nothing else existed. She stretched herself so thin, but I always got the impression that she was doing everything in her power for our benefit. Her powers must have been strong, because we were very lucky children.

I didn’t always acknowledge how lucky we were. When I was twelve years old I made a statement in school about how little I valued my parents. My teacher, Mrs. Townes, called me out in front of the class and let me know how disrespectful my comment was. She was right. I don’t know that I realized it at the moment, but I will never live that statement down. Mrs. Townes let my mom know what I said, and I still feel the pain when I think of what my mother must have felt upon hearing from my teacher. In an odd turn of events, I’m grateful that I was called out for my behavior. The rest of my life I have spent trying to honor my mom, trying to make up for how I acted.

In any event, my mom is a wonderful, shining star in my heart. Most of my actions are attempts to make my mom proud, or to make people think, “he must have been raised by a wonderful mother.” I’ve actually had that compliment, and no gesture could make me feel better.

Knowing how wonderful mom was, it always made me laugh when I heard a story that she used to tell. She was a young girl in catholic school and was throwing a fit for whatever reason. She was angry and flailing and started trying to beat up the nun that was holding her, but the nun calmly held her at bay and kept smiling through the whole ordeal. That smile was what my mom remembered most – “And she never stopped with that stupid smile.” That smile may have haunted her, but its ghost is now haunting me in an awful way.

As I said, I have always tried to impress my mom. I wanted to show her that I greatly appreciated everything that she did for me, and that her immense effort was not wasted on me. I wanted her to be proud. While I have had a lot to be proud of, I’ve always been a strange individual that can be hard to understand. I don’t even claim to understand myself.

My path is not always clear, and a great deal of effort has gone into maintaining appearances so that people don’t worry. In spite of my great efforts, mom always worried and I always tried harder to appear “OK”.

I made the first major step toward outward success just two months before my mom got her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I landed a prestigious job and began making a lot more money. Getting the new job practically doubled my salary, and the work I began operated in the heart of just about every major financial firm in the world. I was using my brain and my hands to do what few people can do, and things seemed on the rise for me.

The company sent me to a couple weeks of training in Connecticut, and I was performing at the top of the class. While I was in Connecticut my sister called and told me the news about mom. At the time I wasn’t aware of how serious pancreatic cancer is, nor were we sure that it was pancreatic cancer. There was a whirlwind of information, and if you begin to do some research on this particular cancer you will realize that it goes mostly undetected until it is too late. Usually the doctors identify it as pancreatic cancer and the unlucky owner of that pancreas does not make it but a few months longer. The story was no different for my mom.

I couldn’t fathom losing my mom, and I did my best to juggle my new job with the gravity of the situation. I still wanted to make my mom proud and show her how successful I could be. If she only had a few months left to live I was going to show her that her job with me was done. She had raised me to be a successful adult. My meandering path had reached a summit that she could be proud of.

I remember my first major install on Susquehanna’s trading floor in King of Prussia. I was laying out the turrets (glorified telephones for traders) and I began crying like a baby. My co-worker noticed and suggested that I step out for a bit, but I would hear nothing of it. I practically ignored him and the tears, and I kept working because it was the only thing that I could do. My mom was dying of cancer just a few city blocks away, and I was trying to make her proud by fulfilling my duties as a successful adult.

A month later I was sent for further training, but this time it was three straight weeks in Denver. I knew that there was a chance that she could pass while I was away, but I also felt obligated to make good on my commitment to the new job. I went to Denver for the greater portion of a very cold and snowy January, and I slept alone in a glorious hotel suite while the rest of my family huddled together to share in their suffering.

During the daytime I did my best to lose myself in the material that I was learning. The training course was complex, and there was no chance that anything could be retained unless your full attention was honed. After class I was set free in the city, with no friends or family – just a luxury hotel suite and my thoughts. There was a deep contrast between the luxury that surrounded me and the complete emptiness inside of me.

I walked through the city trying to balance the joy of success with the pain of my impending loss. It has been said that the body reacts to stimulus before the brain, and that a good trick to help you to be happy is to smile. The brain reacts to the feeling of smiling and your thoughts assume softer, more friendly tones. This concept has led to me walking through the streets, or driving through the town with a smile on my face and absolute woe in my heart. A smiling idiot unwittingly associating a grin with dread.

Somehow I survived the three horrifying weeks away from my family, and so did mom. I ended up going back to Connecticut a few times over the next couple of months, but when things turned in a bad direction I made the decision that work must wait. Nothing could ever replace my mother, and no job was worth missing her last moments. I needed to be there for her, for my family, for me.

The last month was dreadful, and really the last week is what sticks out in my mind most. At that point she was suffering through immense pain and discomfort, and all we could do was wait. We took her to a new hospital and we were hoping it was going to make a big difference. Her condition was very bad, and when we knew how bad it was we made sure that everyone dropped what they were doing and came to be with us. My brother was the last to arrive, and he was speeding like a madman on the way to the hospital. As my mother’s condition worsened they made an attempt to prolong her life, if only for a few hours. My brother finally arrived and it was determined that nothing more could be done.

They wheeled her bed over to the hospice area, and we were told she’d pass very shortly – possibly on the way down the hallway. That didn’t happen. She stayed in a sort of limbo for almost a whole week. We dipped a sponge lollipop into water so that she could get some hydration, and the staff would occasionally come in to check her vitals and to let us know what was happening. At one point we were told that her feet were beginning to lose life, and I could only imagine death taking her away from me inch by inch, though I knew she was already far beyond my reach. Now was the unfortunate time where my mind had to struggle with the idea of praying for her to die so all the suffering could end.

Just the concept of hoping for the death of the most loving individual that I have ever met was enough to tear me apart. She would have moments of wakefulness and we did our best to comfort her, but what can you do to comfort someone who you are hoping will die soon? What did I do to attempt to comfort my mom? I smiled. I smiled like a fucking moron. I wanted to show her that it was ok, that she didn’t have to hold on any longer, that she could stop struggling and let go. We were going to be ok, and her job was done.

I felt like I was doing the right thing, but ever since then all I can think of is the nun that just kept smiling while mom was suffering, and how much that pained her. So there I was, staring at my dying mom and praying for her to die while I smiled in her face like an idiot. I will never forget this. How could a smile ever mean anything again?

So here I am in a hotel room in Denver, all alone and crying like a newborn, posting this awful story and doing anything but smiling.


The strength to quit

October 21, 2010

Quitting is not always a simple thing. Sometimes it takes more strength to admit that it is time to bow out than it does to needlessly suffer. The mind and body struggle, and struggle is an important part of life. However, struggle should work toward something. Unnecessary suffering can consume life and eclipse the joy of existence. The present moment is our only true experience of reality. What effort and what “end” is worth sacrificing your only reality?

Still, while suffering that one has become accustom to can be more comfortable than the fear of an unknown suffering, failing to do something about it is dooming yourself to constant struggle. Failing to act is admitting that you do not deserve the opportunity to escape the cycle of suffering.

The fear of causing your own suffering through actions intended to relieve suffering is real, and should be considered thoroughly. A fool steps off of the hot coals and into the fire, but only a coward remains on the coals forever.

Be mindful of how long you linger. To walk out of a comedy too soon is to miss the punchline, but to escape a tragedy before the doom is to be hopeful for resolution. It is important to be conscious of the method, and timing of escape.


Halted thought

September 8, 2010

My brain is like a garden hose
twisted tightly in my head
full of fluid thoughts
that flow as slow as lead

Whenever I try to think
I open up the spout
but fluid finds a kink
and barely dribbles out


Use of time

September 5, 2010

It is a holiday weekend, which means 3 days off of work. While it is 3 days off of work, I usually take these opportunities to get as much work done around the house as possible. When I have an extra day to work with, I feel like I can be a lot more productive, while still having time to relax and enjoy myself. In fact, I usually can’t enjoy myself unless I’ve already accomplished something.

Today the to-do list is split in half, with some of the items being chore-like and the others being fun! It is important to reserve time for fun and enjoyment. We plan to add some good soil and some “Beats Peat” to the ground in the back yard. This will amend the soil enough to allow for grass to grow (I hope). The dogs tear up the ground, so it may be impossible to re-establish grass, but we’ll take what we can get.

Once we get done with the dirt and seed, we plan to go to the dog park to give the pups (and ourselves) some exercise. I consider this a fun activity. After the dog park we will probably get something to eat, then we have a section of the garden that we must attend to. This is a section that borders the neighbor’s yard, and the neighbor just spent a lot of money re-sodding her lawn. The lawn looks really nice, so we feel obligated to compliment her efforts by keeping the border in order.

When we are done with the weeding, we are going to spend the rest of the daylight hours geocaching. Geocaching is a recent hobby, and I’m really hooked. Basically it is scavenger hunting for adults using GPS. Solving puzzles and exploring the outside world is my idea of a good time.

If we are able to accomplish everything that I just mentioned, the day will feel extremely fulfilled. I will be able to relax with an easy mind, and if the wind is calm enough I can sit by the fire pit and reflect on the productivity of the day. Tomorrow we’ll be off, and if we’ve accomplished as much as we plan, we can be content with relaxing and enjoying the extra day off. It *is* Labor day, so there must be some labor involved… but it *is* a holiday, so there must be some time for fun too.

Make good use of your time!


What drives me?

September 2, 2010

Yesterday I made a decision that I need a change in my life. I need fulfillment, and I’m not getting it on the road that I have been traveling.

The course that I have been following has had the feeling of comfort, but is not really headed in a direction that I have chosen. All of the exit paths seem out of the way, and I don’t know where they lead. Up until now I have remained attached to the road that has chosen me, without considering whether or not I would choose this road if given a choice. It dawned on me that I do have a choice. Any new path will be difficult to traverse, but everything gets easier with experience. I just have to do it.

I’m going to take a detour to see what the scenery looks like. Hopefully I’ll have the discipline to see it through.

So, in keeping with this new path I have resumed my running regimen. I went for a 3 miler this morning and wanted to stop after the first mile. I kept running. I really wanted to stop after the second mile. I kept running. As I got closer to the end I realized that my feet wanted me to stop. My feet told me this through the pain of several blisters. I ignored their argument and kept running. My lungs wanted me to stop. I was breathing heavy and laboring to meet my increasing oxygen needs. I ignored the complaints and leveled my breath. My stomach wanted me to stop. My torso was burning and did not want to continue. I didn’t listen, and kept running. Part of my brain was hearing the complaints from the rest of the body and arguing to, “Please, please, stop and take a break!”.

I never took a break. I made myself continue the run until I reached my destination, my home. When I got inside my blisters were shouting, my lungs were expanding and contracting vigorously, but my pride was shining. I had successfully overcome the complaints of my body by listening to my mind. Somewhere in my brain I knew that I *could* finish, and so I made it happen.

What is it that carried me through? I think it is pride, which I don’t always consider a good thing. The theme seemed to be “Know your limits; ignore them” – but this is a dangerous notion. I suppose that if I was truly in danger I would have allowed myself to stop, but I don’t know. Today it was beneficial to be stubborn, but that’s not always the case.

I am determined to test a new route, and I have no idea where it will take me. Eyes closed, deep inhale. Deep exhale, eyes open… time to get moving.


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