Sunday, November 30, 2008

Joy... and pain!

Do you know that Soul 2 Soul song? Well, it's the other way around in this case but whatever, I am no longer in a sober mood because...

My friend Lika is pushing her baby out AS I WRITE THIS!!! That's him up there!

YIPPPEEEEEEEEEE! I am so excited! I can't wait to see what he looks like. I am going to spoil him rotten. wheeeeeeee! I can't wait! What joy! What a miracle! A whole new person to fawn over and then, when he's older, make fun of! Wheeee! I bet he'll be born today, in a couple of hours even... so that means I get to meet a whole new person, a product of my two dearest, sweetest, funniest, awesome-est friends, Lika and Brian... TODAY!

-brain explosion-



UPDATE: Bren informed me, in the least snarkily way he could, that the title is actually from a Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock song. Not Soul2Soul. In case you forsaw a night of tossing and turning without knowing the truth. :)

A more personal form of terrorism

I'm in a sober mood this morning after I read this column by Nick Kristof in the NY Times today; watch out the photo is graphic.

It's about a form of terrorism performed on, in this case, women in Pakistan: acid attacks. If you can stomach it, watch the accompanying video. You may have heard about the acid thrown on a number of women and girls by a bunch of men on motorcycles, as the girls made their way to school in Afghanistan last week. After reading this column, and remembering the femcide in the Congo I've been reading about for the past year, I just can't stop shaking my head...



Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Behind the Scenes

We are doing Thanksgiving supper since a couple of sweet guests are volunteering at soup kitchens and such. So, I thought I'd give you a tour of the kitchen and fridge, so you could see the treats patiently waiting a quick torch in the oven and an equally quick journey down the gullet.

As I told you the other day, Bren is making two ice creams from scratch: "Drunken Grandma" and "Fruits of My Labor". They are chock-a-block full of stuff, since neither of us have had any form of dessert/pastry/candy/chocolate since October; he figures we are making up for lost time and opportunity, so best put whatever he can find in it!

The first one is a chocolate-Kahlua base, with a Butterfinger and a Snickers, and half a pan of brownies that have been doused in Jim Beam.

Oh, and a piece of mint gum, because Grandma is so drunk she drops things in without thinking. Haaahahah!

The second one, "fruits of her labor" is named after a line in a Lucinda Williams song: "persimmons and sugarcane... are not fit for a queen." Bren is letting the vanilla custard come down to temperature right now in the fridge, whilst the persimmons and the sugercane are mascerating. He's also adding some chestnuts, which he caramelized... and some chocolate-covered gingersnaps. Sound a bit over the top? Just remember that it IS Bren we're talking about. That boy never does anything simply!

You can see the custard in the back of the fridge here, with the sweet potatoes (soon to be blanketed in marshmallows and smoked paprika-pecans) and my absolute favorite, bacon-wrapped dates, in front.

The McSequeira household isn't too fond of turkey, so I'm making my "I Ain't Chicken" chicken. It's marinating now, and I'll cook my mum's stuffing alongside it. I'll be putting that recipe up later this week (sorry to have missed the Wednesday recipe blast this week but it was chaos around here).

And last, but not least, I made some cranberry sauce to which I added some pomegrante seeds at the very last moment. I'll let you know how it goes; if it doesn't taste good, at least it'll pump some badly-needed antioxidants into my system.

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!



Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The more you read about it, the more terrifying it is. I am sick to my stomach. Please pray for all those caught in the hostage crisis and general carnage in Bombay as you get ready to carve your turkey. This is horrifying.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pig Love

It says something about my eating habits that not one, but TWO people suggested I take a look at a website called Bacon Today. Thanks Andy and Jay! (I think...)

Featured articles include:
- Bacon & Eggs ice cream (funnily enough, Bren has been thinking about making bacon ice cream, in addition to the two ice creams he's making for Thankgiving: persimmon- chocolate gingersnap, and a surprise ingredient one called "Drunken Grandma". More about that one on Thursday!)

- Bacon-wrapped iPhone

- And perhaps the piece de resistance, Turbaconducken: a chicken wrapped in bacon, stuffed into a duck wrapped in bacon, stuffed into a turkey... wrapped in bacon. Photo of the raw completed birds up there. Sounds kinda yucky to me, but the chefs say it was delicious.




Friday, November 21, 2008

The Mad Hatter of Branston & Words of Wisdom

Last Saturday, our Vineyard hosted a Women's Tea, a celebration of all things that require a curled pinkie: tea sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, tea pots and tables festooned with flowers, napkin rings and (gasp!) cloth napkins. Oh and Jesus of course! Woops forgot about that part for a second, although not sure how He fits into the curled pinkie bit. Hmmm.

We were each to bring a plate of tea or finger sandwiches. I brought a plate of Branston pickle and cheese sandwiches, a decidedly English combination that I came upon when I was about 17. A boy, in my class, Matty, suffered from what I could only think was a mild eating disorder, because why else would anyone leave their Branston and cheese sandwiches untouched??

I realise now that he simply may not have liked them.

In any case I, not being afflicted with said eating disorder (perhaps afflicted with an eating order?), would nick them from his locker every day, savoring the intersection of sharp cheddar flavour and sugary, tangy, crunchy yumminess. Branston's is more of a chutney than a pickle, with crunchy veggies (cauliflower, rutabega, onions etc) bathed in a sauce made of dates, vinegar and sugar. Oh MAN is it good.

You can usually find it in the international aisle of your supermarket, and I urge you to get it. Once you do, you might never have a cheese sandwich without it. It's ri-DONK-ulous. In fact, this lady has the right idea: Grilled Cheese with Apples and Branston Pickle. Hello?!

Ok, back to the Tea. We were also encouraged to bring a nice big hat, with as much frilly, flowery floofiness as we could manage. I didn't get a chance to find or make a hat, which I mentioned to good ol' Laura... who a couple of days later texted me in installments:

"I made your hat. It's grand 4 high tea. U shall have the finest! I decree it!"

"U r gonna poop urself."

"U will be a vision. U could have been on the Titanic with this hat."

Between gut-convulsing giggles, I wondered again at the little angels God has put in my life. THANKYOU LAURA! It was indeed, the finest hat of the day. Check it:

I got so many compliments from complete strangers on my hat. In fact, even the blind woman in the gospel choir, Terry, wanted to lay her hands on it so that she could appreciate all the marvelous little surprises Laura had woven into the hat: a little birdie...

...and a butterfly!

It was such a great conversation starter that I made new friends! These are the ladies I shared a table with. They're awesome!

And look at the gorgeous table Kim (the woman in black and white) designed for us:

It was such a great day, bathing in teenage memories of Branston pickle, crowned by Laura's thoughtful friendship, encircled by new friends and (oh thankyou!) full of clotted cream. Oh, and not to mention a fantastic speaker, Grammy-nominated Zydeco singer, Lisa Haley, whose story will bring you to tears.

At the end of the afternoon, right before she left, Lisa asked us, if we had the cojones, to utter the bravest prayer she has ever heard: "Jesus, I give you permission to do whatever You want with my life."

I gulped, closed my eyes and whispered it under my breath. Then Lisa asked us to come to the front of the sanctuary if, after saying that prayer, you didn't know what was next; the elders would pray with you. One by one, about half of the women tiptoed up to the front, whilst Lisa played this song:

For some reason, as I went up, I was thinking about the documentary we've been trying to make about the atrocities happening in the Congo... it has stumbled so many times that part of me, in all honestly, has given up on it. Instantly, I heard a voice inside me say, "Keep going, keep going, keep going. I'm here."

You can call it my inner voice, my gut... I call it God. And I've now written it on a piece of paper and taped to the fridge. So, if there's something that you have been struggling to complete, or been met with adversity about or had people saying, "Nope. Not gonna help you 'cos that's a stupid idea"... even though you know that it is the right thing to do, DON'T BACK DOWN!

Keep going, keep going, keep going. He's with you.

Have a great weekend.




From Yahoo today:

"One of New York City's most famous food critics is out of a job.

New York magazine confirmed Thursday that Gael Greene — known for her flamboyant hats and influential opinions — is no longer working for the publication.

Magazine spokeswoman Lauren Starke says that in a "tightening economy, our company is simply no longer able to support four separate restaurant critics." Three other critics remain.

There was no immediate response to an e-mail sent to Greene.

Greene was the magazine's chief restaurant critic from 1968 to 2002. After that, she wrote a weekly column called "Insatiable Critic."

Starke says this is Greene's last week at the magazine, and her last review will appear in Monday's issue."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's just too good

Y'all have to see my sister, Kuv, performing at her tap dance recital on Monday night. She just started taking tap classes a month or so ago, and I'm so impressed with how much she's learned. Of course, she DID take ballet for a while when we were little (I was too fat to do it I think), so I know all those years of training helped, HA!

Anyway, she did a great job, and you can read about it on her blog.

In the meantime, here's the video. Oh, she's the Indian one. IN THE MIDDLE YEAH KUV!!!!

Tap Dancing Recital from Kavita Sequeira on Vimeo.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Aarti Cooks: The Ugly Duckling Salad

Sometimes Mother Nature (MN) is like a proud male peacock, unfurling his splendid tail whilst looking you straight in the eye.

"Mmmmmm, jealous?" you hear him say, while you swear up and down that he's cocking an eyebrow at you. That's how I felt when I saw the leaves turning in Boston this summer, or the flock of butterflies fluttering around one bush in North Carolina, or when it rained so hard that I got a little bit scared; wasn't MN being a bit arrogant with her beauty?

Ah, but there are other times when the good Mother produces something so ugly, you recoil in disgust. I put some of those things in my salad the other night, which is why I'm calling it the Ugly Duckling Salad.

Exhibit A: Celeriac.

I mean, seriously. Could an uglier specimen cross your plate? The gnarled roots, the sickly wan hue, the wart-blanketed skin… it's a wonder someone ever tried to touch it, let alone eat it. But like the fairytales of old, it's the ugliest duckling, the wart-iest frog, the beast-iest beast whose outside layer belies the most gorgeous insides you've ever seen.

Slice off the thick, ugly peel and feast your eyes upon celeriac's unblemished loveliness, an almost alabaster flesh with the texture of a potato. Slice or grate off a slice, and you're greeted with a mild crunchiness, and just a hint of soft celery flavor. Indeed, if you'll indulge a little tangential dip into Hinduism, celeriac is the shakti version of celery, the feminine version, the parvati to celery's shiva. I don't even like celery and yet, I adore celeriac. Hmm I wonder why -- perhaps I relate to celeriac's ugly duckling status? Or its feminine mystique? I'll let you psychoanalyze that one.

Point of information: celeriac isn't celery root per se... it's a kind of celery, grown for its root rather than for its leaves or stalks. In fact, when I bought it at the farmers market, its stalks were still attached, and they were much woodier and darker green than regular celery.

The other ugly ducklings in this salad aren't really that ugly, but I'm so attached to the name that I'm going to try to make it work. So there.

Pistachios: Well, that shell is sometimes enough to make you want to leave the pistachio in the bowl o' nuts in which you found it. But is there a prettier shade of green than pistachio?
Persimmons: These are really pretty fruit, with their taut, sunny orange skin. The little calyx that's left behind isn't very pretty though, and apparently, in Chinese medicine, they're used to treat... hemorrhoids.
Pomegranate: Sigh. I couldn't make these ugly if I tried. They are so gorgeous. Especially when you open them up. Sadly, when I opened mine up, it was black and gross inside; I had waited too long. Sad face.
Rainbow chard: Ok! I surrender! It's gorgeous, ok? But I don't really like it cooked.

Put all these things together, and you end up with a beautiful salad, a dark green sea with orange and red confetti. So, so pretty.

This salad is completely raw, a departure from my usual cooking style. I don't totally buy into the raw movement -- do you? I believe in a balance between raw food and cooked food, which is why I try to eat one raw meal a day, usually a salad. As my mum is probably thinking as she's reading this, you've got to get your roughage! I don't have to explain why, do I?!

So here you go. A little fairy tale-inspired salad that you can feel good eating both because it'll clean up your insides, and because you can sleep soundly knowing you care more about inner beauty than outer appearances.

The Ugly Duckling Salad: Raw Rainbow Chard with Celeriac, Persimmons, Pomegranate & Pistachio Dressing

You'll need this stuff:

(minus the tofu. That was meant for something else, sorry!)
1/2 cup pistachio nuts, shelled
1-2 cloves, garlic, peeled and chopped roughly (use 2 only if you really like garlic!)
1/2" coin ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
Juice of 1 lemon
About 1/2 cup hot water
1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce or hot sauce (optional)
Good extra virgin olive oil, enough to make a dressing (see below)
Salt and pepper

Salad fixins:
1 bunch rainbow chard, washed (you can substitute kale if you can't find or don't like rainbow chard. Black Kale is my favorite. Try to find the freshest and youngest leaves available because those will taste the sweetest.)
1 persimmon, small dice
Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
1 celeriac bulb, peeled and grated (do this right before serving so it doesn't oxidize and go brown)
Salt and pepper

1) Warm a small skillet over medium heat. Add pistachios, shaking the skillet frequently so that nuts don't burn. Toast until the pistachios turn a little brown. They should smell delicious too. Quickly remove from heat and from the hot pan; otherwise they'll keep cooking and burn.

2) Throw the pistas in a blender. Add the garlic, ginger, half of the lemon juice, the hot sauce, a splash of hot water, a sprinkle of salt and a healthy pour of olive oil. Blend until smooth. If it doesn't form a paste, add more water and more oil and blend until smooth, the consistency of a thin hummus; don't worry if you feel like you're adding a lot of olive oil. I can't tell you how much oil to add, because I didn't measure it as I went -- I just eyeballed it unfortunately. The next time I make it, I'll measure it and update the recipe. Also, my blender is very very crappy, so it needs a bit more hot water than most blenders do. Taste and add more lemon juice if you want more zing (which I recommend. It cuts the oils from the pistachios). Set aside once you're happy with it.

3) Wash your leafy greens and dry them thoroughly (so the dressing sticks to 'em). Cut the bulky stalks away from the leaves, then slice the stalks into three and chop so that you end up with a fine dice. Do this with all the bulky stalks; click on this photo for a closer look at how small your dice should be if you like.

4) Stack four or five leaves, roll them into a cigar and slice across thinly, so you end up with delicate ribbons. Continue with the rest of the chard, and throw into a bowl.

5) Slice the pomegranate open, and using your thumbs, gently roll all the seeds out (the lil' rubies! so pretty!). If you don't care about preserving the juice, you can open up the pomegranate in a big bowl of water and roll the seeds out -- all the papery fibery bits will rise to the surface.

6) Lastly, peel and grate the celeriac. Do this right before serving so that the celeriac doesn't go black.

7) Toss all the veggies together in a big bowl. Pour 1/2 the dressing over the salad and toss. If you prefer more dressing, add it all, which I recommend. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then eat!

Whaddya think?! Worth the wait?




Far be it from me to suggest that your lives are affected by my blog (!), but I'd just like to apologize for the radio silence since Thursday. It's been a bit busy over here, what with the yard sale and working on documentary ideas etc. Don't worry though; if you are looking for the weekly "Aarti Cooks" installment, I hope to get it up later today. As a little teaser, I'll tell you that it's a departure from my typical style of cooking; this time it's simple and requires the teeniest-tiniest amount of stovetop cooking. Oh, and it involves persimmons, pistachios and rainbow chard.




Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Great De-tachment

Bren has always been a DVD junkie. He has somewhere in the 750 range. Yeah, that's a lot.

Even in college, Bren always had the largest DVD collection of all our friends. That of course made movie night a dream. In fact, we often had such a hard time selecting movies that Bren concocted a game, one I grew to resent: each member of the viewing party would pick 5 movies we wanted to see. Then we would lay them out and we would take turns vetoing films until we arrived at the final one. Most of the time, we were happy enough to watch that final film. But sometimes, we weren't happy about it, and so we would repeat the process. Once, I believe we repeated it three times!

I hated the process of picking 5 movies, then seeing that Bren had picked 5 entirely different ones in terms of genre or atmosphere, and then have him veto my films one by one. To me, it was an exercise in UN-like futility. At least, that was what I let him think. Don't tell him, but I secretly think the game is genius. You just can't let your husband think EVERYTHING he does is wicked smart. You have to keep him on his toes. Hahahaaaaaaaa!

To his credit, Bren stopped buying DVDs a long time ago. The bulk of his DVDs came from his days as a movie and home video critic, when discs would literally arrive in the mail... for free! In that way his collection is marked by both classic international cinema (bergman, kirosawa, merchant ivory) and banal disney reinterpretations (Holiday Celebration with Mickey and pals!). They are the second thing you see as you walk into our small flat, as they line the inside wall, and you're likely to find little stashes around the place.

This weekend, the junkie is giving up his stash. (Cue dramatic horns).

Last Sunday's sermon was about our relationship to money especially in these trepidatious times. I can't remember how exactly, but the word "attachment" came up, and rather than think of the things that *I'm* attached to, I thought about Bren and his DVDs. I know, I'm horrible.

Imagine my surprise when Bren told me he had been thinking about them too. And how he thinks he needs to sell them off. We could use the money of course, but I think there's something bigger going on -- a growing-up of sorts, or a realignment of identity or of goals (Bren had kept them in faith that we would have a big house one day where he could keep them all)... it's hard to pinpoint. All I can say is that this is a huge accomplishment for Bren. And the best part of it all is that he's making himself happy about it, as evidenced by this happy dance I caught him doing.

He has sorted through all of his dvds, setting himself the goal of reducing our two sets of shelves... to just one. That seemed like an impossible task but he's done it -- look at that empty bookcase in the first picture! I don't know what to do with it. Now, he's even talking about reducing them further to just 100 dvds. I've told him to slow down!

We're selling them at a garage sale this Sunday, so come if you're interested. He's selling most of them for $5-$10, including titles like "El Mariachi" and "Man on the Moon" just to pick a few from the "Ms". He's even written cool little messages on the box, in classic rambling-literary-Bren fashion.

Even if you don't want to buy a DVD, come see a man relinquishing one his prized possessions because God may have told him to. It's not Abraham throwing his son on the sacrifical pyre, but I know my baba, and this is hard.



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Comedy of Jesus

Did you know that Jesus had a sense of humour? I didn't. Leave it to Bren to take something that at first glance appears to be very very very serious... and uncover the surprisingly dark comedy of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Comedian to rule all comedians.



Aarti Cooks: Fathers Office-Inspired Stuffed Peppers!

Y'all know how much the McSequeira household worships the burger and beer Shangri-La that is Fathers Office. We have our friends Andrew and Meta to thank for our obsession. A few years ago, they told us about the burger (a glorious creation topped with a bacon-onion compote, light blue cheese and arugula), and shortly thereafter, we were hooked.

Indeed, after FO opened their second branch a stone's throw from our house, I wondered whether the theory of (cue eerie whispery voice) "The Secret" could be true! Did Bren love and desire that burger so much that it manifested in his very own Father's Office 2 minutes from our abode?!

We haven't seen Andrew and Meta in way too long, so we had our reunion at you-know-where this week. It was great to see them and gobble that burger together.

Inspired by them and the burger, I made these stuffed peppers last night, built on an autumnal base of caramelized onions, apples and (oh yes please!) bacon. I added blue cheese to the mix, forgetting that I'm not a big blue cheese fan, so leave that out if you're like me. Next time, I might try Gorgonzola for a more delicate tang. Or maybe goat cheese. Hmmm.

Again, with economy in mind, this dish stretches out that pound of ground beef. Plus, since it's stuffed inside a pepper, it's easier to digest; my friend told me that we are meant to eat animal protein with some vegetable fiber so that it digests more easily (so steak and potatoes is actually a BAD idea. Steak and broccoli on the other hand is perfect).

One note -- I used Freekeh instead of the traditional rice stuffing.

Freekeh is a Middle Eastern grain as far as I can figure, probably from Syria? It's wheat that's picked early, hence the green tinge, and then dried out over coals, so the grains have an inherent smoky flavour that is just delicious. I found it at a specialty store here. If you can't find it, or if you don't WANT to find it, you can substitute with 1 - 2 cups of cooked rice, remembering that 1/2 cup of uncooked rice doubles in size once cooked.

This recipe is a tribute to Andrew and Meta, and of course to Father's Office. So without further ado:

Fathers Office-Inspired Stuffed Peppers with freekeh, caramelized onions, apples, bacon and a hint of brandy.

You'll need this stuff:

4-6 large bell peppers, big enough to stuff
1 cup freekeh, or 1 cup cooked rice
Olive oil
2 medium onions, medium dice
2 large apples, medium dice, skins on
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 rashers bacon, small dice
1 pound ground beef
Slurp of brandy or whiskey
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
1/4 cup blue cheese (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten

1) Bring a big pot water to boil, seasoning the water with salt once it's boiling. Meanwhile wash the freekeh and soak in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes.

2) Slice the tops of the bell peppers; I sliced about 1/2 inch off. Remove the ribs and seeds, saving the tops for a salad the next day. Rinse the bell peppers.

3) D
unk the bell peppers in the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes. Then, set them out to dry on some paper towel, cut side up. Bring the water up to the boil again, and add the drained freekeh, bringing the water down to a rolling simmer. Cook the freekeh for 30 minutes. (Alternatively, you can cook the rice in this water. It should only take 10 minutes, as opposed to the usual 15 minutes since there's so much water). Once the freekeh or the rice is cooked, drain and keep the grains aside.

4) While your grains are cooking, set a large skillet over medium-high heat and swirl a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in there. Once it's shimmering, add the onions and the apples. Season generously with salt and pepper. Saute until they start to brown around the edges (5-8 minutes).

5) Turn the heat down on the onion mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, allowing the onions and apples to caramelize, turning a deep brown. Sprinkle the garlic on top now and gently toss. Move the onion mixture to the perimeter of the pan, and add the bacon to the empty space in the middle. Allow the fat to render and when the bacon has stiffened a little (don't let it burn!), stir into the rest of the onion mixture. Allow to cook another 5 minutes.

6) Turn your oven on, preheating to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Then turn the heat up a little to medium-high and add the ground beef. Stir, breaking up the chunks and cooking until browned and no longer pink on the inside.

7) Add a splash of brandy or whiskey to pick up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan; if you'd prefer not to use alcohol, you can use a little stock or even a little water.

8) Add the cooked grains, the ketchup and the worcestshire sauce. Toss and season according to your tastebuds; if you're going to add cheese, remember that most cheese has salt into it, so go easy salt-lovers. Off heat, add the cheese and the egg.

9) Place the bell pepper shells in a baking dish. Fill to the brim with the meat mixture, patting it down. You can top with some cheese if you like, but I like it bare. If you have leftover meat mixture, you can make a little freeform meatloaf on a foil-lined cookie sheet.

10) Roast for 25-30 minutes until the bell peppers have taken on a little color and the meat is browned on top. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, and then serve immediately! A simple salad with a slightly sweet dressing goes really well with this. And so does a nice beer.

What do you think?

Want some more Aarti recipes? Your wish is my command. Click here.



Mouth From the South

This clip is priceless. I have never seen anyone disarm Lou the way Ted Turner does in this clip, nor have I seen Lou be this gracious in a while.



Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The idea of friendship has been at the forefront of the ol' thinking cap recently. We finished a long series at church analyzing the way in which God extended His hand in friendship to the earth, and continues to do so, even though He has every right to be "cuttee" with us; don't know what that means? Well, it's an Indian playground kind of thing -- I had a friend, Cynthia, my best friend in my first years at the predominantly Indian St. Mary's School. We would bicker constantly, and when we did, she would stick up her pinkie finger at me and say, "I'm cuttee with you!".

It was meant to, and often did, inspire a sharp gasp on my end, possibly followed by tears because right then and there, our friendship was over forever. And by forever I mean until the next day when we were BFFs again.

In any case, the way we treat God (not listening to Him, thinking we know better than He does, not giving Him the time of day, cursing/killing/stealing/lying in His name etc), would give Him every right to be cuttee with us. But He isn't. Pretty cool (and mysterious!) guy, huh?

So wait... um, why did I bring that up? Oh yeah, FRIENDSHIP!

There are so many different kinds, right? I have the friends from secondary school, who were the first ones to make me feel like I was worth hanging out around, worth anything really.

Then the ones in college, who walk you with you through all those watershed moments like falling in love, falling out of love, learning to drive (thanks Eli!), holding your hair back when you're returning that horrible fraternity beer back to where it surely must have come from (the toilet).

Then there's those friends that though you only knew them for a season, you never forget -- maybe someone at work who was the only other one who rolled their eyes when your boss talked about "pushing the envelope", or someone at your yoga class who also snorted when someone farted in downward dog... those little friend-miracles you just "clicked" with, your partners in crime in a situation where you felt out of place. That's my Caroline.

Caroline came to visit the West Coast this weekend, and graciously made time to see me on Sunday. I hadn't seen her since 1999, when we were both posted in the Medill bureau in Washington D.C., as part of our degrees (my undergrad, her grad). She worked as the D.C. correspondent for a Vermont station, and I did the same for a North Dakota station. Here we are on one of the first days after getting the precious passes that would allow us on the Hill. Don't we look excited?! Caroline's the one with the sassy short red hair.

Caroline and I clicked from Day One. We were both focused and level-headed about our job there, but we also knew that if we didn't let loose and have some fun as well, we would lose it. We laughed ALL THE TIME, especially if we caught each other's eye at an inappropriate moment. We talked about the perfect suit, the perfect makeup for a standup, the perfect man. We shot together on Capitol Hill, then did a few shots together after work. :) She propped me up when I didn't feel that great about my writing, gave me her honest opinion about my stories, listened to me when I was struggling with how to work with certain folks, and got me coffee when I was lagging. Her laugh was, and still is, infectious. Caroline came up with the coy "WHO said that?" line which she would shriek after saying something inappropriate; she'd then start looking under the table and behind the curtain for the culprit, because it most certainly wasn't her! It makes me laugh just thinking about it!

She was my only friend in DC., and she got me through what could have been a hard and lonely time doing what I thought to be the job of my dreams. I don't know how I could have gotten through without her.

After those three months in DC, we went our separate ways -- and after a successful number of years as a reporter in Vermont, she's in Boston now.

I was a little nervous, I'll admit, that after not seeing each other for eight years we'd have nothing in common, that our conversation would be stunted, uncomfortable and worst of all... lacking all laughter.

But once I saw her walking up the stairs to our place, my heart leapt out of my chest as I realised how much I had missed her! We both yelped and grabbed each other, giggling like a couple of little girls. We picked up exactly where we left off, excitedly finding out about each other's lives, making each other laugh, re-living old memories, and in short, revealing how much the other had meant to us.

I was struck by how many questions she had for Bren, about his acting life, about where he grew up, about what he likes to do... I have never met a more genuine person that Caroline, so honestly curious about other people and what makes them tick. She's a compassionate listener, and always knows just what to say. It's almost as if the sun literally shines out of her butt -- her attitude is always light, always positive and I know for sure that is why we clicked in the first place, because that is something I try (and fail quite often) to achieve.

This is soppy I know, but I felt like I had found an old friend, a treasured teddy bear again. I am trying to think of another way to say how grateful I am for her friendship, but everything sounds cheesy. Suffice to say, I knew I didn't deserve a friend like her, especially in DC, but I am so grateful that she was given to me. I literally ached after I dropped her off later that night, but I am buoyed by the revelation that we weren't just friends out of necessity -- we were friends out of choice, and that once clicked, we probably will never un-click (un-clique?) again. I love you hun!


Friday, November 7, 2008


I'm feeling better this morning guys. How are you doing? I slept pretty well, although today is trash day so the trucks woke me up. Ugh.

In any case, I thought I'd let you know about two new blogs you should check out!

One is by Laura, my improv playmate. You can check it out here! I've also added her to the "Linkies" bar on the right. Her blog is sort of like mine in that it's about her life, her family, her THREE POMERANIANS. And her cat! She loves her some animals!

The other is a video blog (vlog!) that Bren shoots every morning, and posts on his YouTube channel.

He only started it about a week ago, and he's been shooting an edition every morning. Each one is a meditation on his walk with Christ, but given that it's Brendan, it's a refreshing, funny and touching peek into that chaotic brain of his! Start at Chapter One, Verse One. Even if you're not a Christian, I think you'll find something of worth here because you can see him wrestling with the philosophy of the purpose of our lives, and how best to tackle the trickier aspects of our lives; you might be surprised by how this vulnerable exposition on God might fly in the face of the stereotypes out there about Christians, maybe help you understand them a bit more. Heck, his theme song is by Tricky for goodness sake. You can also watch bits of Jed and Sarah's wedding, in addition to the funny little shorts he's been doing.

Have a great weekend y'all! And don't forget! My show is tonight!

Before I leave, Laura made me think of the Muppet Show. So in honor of this week's election, here's a "patriotic" bit from Sam the Eagle.



Thursday, November 6, 2008


Are you feeling grumpy?

I have been decidedly grumpy the past few days. Few things bring a smile to my face. My shoulders ache with tension. A grey cloud hovers over me, inducing a spell of sluggish, moody blech-ness. I can't get enough restful sleep. Should a bird sing too vociferously or a door slam too loudly whilst I slumber, I am instantly and irrevocably awake, my brain firing on all cylinders about silly things like what I'm going to have for breakfast, and the emails I have to write; I can't get my over-achieving brain to shut up and go back to sleep.

And just to add insult to injury, purplish-brown circles are forming beneath my eyes, and GASP! I see a fold or two developing under my eyes too. My skin is breaking out, DESPITE the fastidious Proactiv regimen I have been following. It could be that time of the month, although who knows with my cycle. It could also be the time change, the changing weather, confused circadian rhythms... It could be the end of the year drawing nigh, reminding me of how much I want to accomplish before the holiday euphoria sets in and distracts me from the tasks at hand. It could be the overall sense of fear and anxiety hanging in the airspace above the entire world, or the sense that nefarious forces are taking advantage of the fact that the global focus is elsewhere (see here, here,.)

Isn't it funny what you take on, subconsciously or not, as your responsibility when you're in the thick of darkness? I just realised that as I poured over online newspapers, looking for evidence to support my dark dark theories.

Thankfully, I can detach a little from my inner Eeyore, in part because of my morning meditation. I prayed for peace and comfort, because I wasn't sure why I was carrying all this tension around with me. I opened my Bible-reading guide, which told me to flip to Psalm 127, a perfect balm for my irritated heart:

" 1 Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep. "

Or, as the more colloquial but no less meaningful Message Bible puts it so eloquently in the last line:

If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn't guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It's useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don't you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?

So I'm just trying to take a little comfort in the thought that I can't do everything, that I'm not expected to do everything, and in fact, if I don't ask God to take part in the labor with me, everything I do is pointless! Even if things aren't going my way, or the way I expected them to go, I have to remember that He's got it, not me. Furthermore, I am trying to let myself believe that God wants me to rest, nay he ENJOYS my resting. Even in the face of all the stuff that's going on, I am charged to find my silent place, make sure I'm plugged into Him, and then... drift off to a happy, peaceful sleep.

Anyway, that's where I am today. How are you?



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Aarti Cooks: Non Partisan Pasta

A good vegetable pasta dish is hard to find and so I don't blame you if you don't find yourself excited by this week's recipe. I have had so many versions, where the pasta is covered in a goopy cream sauce, combined with both undercooked and overcooked vegetables. If the goopy sauce has been omitted, then I'm met with a bowl of stodgy, tasteless pasta, to which I add a ton of Parmesan and pepper in order to make palatable. You know that I'm talking about people!

I present to you Non-partisan pasta, so named because it came together whilst watching last night's historic (although slightly anti-climactic, right? I mean, it was over by 8p our time!) election, and realised that not one ingredient in my pasta was either red or blue. Even the autumn tomatoes I used fell into line, revealing a muted purple flesh once sliced open.

This isn't technically my recipe... it's an adaption of one I received in my mailbox from Splendid Table. Have you heard of that public radio show? It plays on Sunday afternoons here in LA, the perfect accompaniment to the long, elaborate cooking that goes hand in hand with Sundays: roasts, stews, pies and soups. The show, hosted by the inexorably perky Lynne Rosetto Kasper covers everything from road food (with the cutest couple in food, the Sterns) to wine, but my favorite segment is the call-in hour, when Lynne answers random caller questions about how to cook blahblahblah. The other great thing about this show is the free "weeknight kitchen" recipe I receive every week -- it's really worth signing up for if you haven't already. She sends out some great, easy ideas for a week day meal.

This was one of them: Sally's Summer Zucchini pasta with fried zucchini flowers; I made it this summer and it was surprisingly delicious, much yummier than this stuck-in-her-ways carnivore expected.

The great thing about this recipe is that it's so easy to riff on. With autumn only *just* arriving this week in LA, there's still a good deal of summery produce at the farmers market, so I decided to whip this up with corn, teeny tiny yellow patty pan squash, purple cherry tomatoes, a green zebra tomato that I couldn't resist (but wished I had because it didn't taste all that great) and basil. As long as you have pasta, cheese, basil, garlic and some veggies, this recipe is going to work. It's easy and perfect for a midweek meal, especially if you have a ton of veggies left over from your overly-generous farmers market day.

Oh, and in these recessionary days, this is a CHEAP meal. Give it a go!

Non-partisan Pasta: Pasta with squash, corn, tomatoes, basil and feta
(Adaptation of Sally Swift's Summer Zucchini Pasta)

You'll need this stuff:

Good olive oil
2 ears corn
4 cloves garlic, minced
Couple handfuls of baby patty pan squash (or 1 big zucchini)
1lb pasta (I used pappardelle here, but I previously used penne to much better results)
2 big handfuls grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or 2 cups regular tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup tight packed fresh basil, roughly chopped

1) Bring a big pot of water to the boil, (the original recipe said 5 quarts). Once it comes to a boil, salt it.

2) Meanwhile, place a big skillet over medium heat, swirling a generous couple of tablespoons of good olive oil over it. If you're feeling frisky (as I was feeling last night), you add a pat of butter too. Drop your minced garlic in there (it should gently sizzle), and keep an eye on it so that it doesn't burn!

3) Slice the kernels off the ears of corn. Once the garlic has started giving off her aroma, throw the kernels in, coating them in the now garlicky olive oil. Mmmmmmm.

4) Your water might be approaching a boil now. If so, slice your baby patty pan squash in half. If you're using a zucchini, trim the ends off and cut into matchsticks about the size of penne.

5) Gently drop the squash into the boiling salted water, and cook for a couple of minutes until fork tender. Don't drain! Use a slotted spoon or a spider to fish the beauties out of there.

6) Drop the squash into your corn/garlic mixture and toss over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, bring the water back to the boil. Drop the pasta in once it's boiling and cook according to the instructions to al dente.

7) Once pasta is cooked, pull out about a cup of pasta water and set aside. Either drain the pasta, or use tongs to drop it directly into your skillet and toss.

8) Add the grape tomatoes and the feta cheese and about half of the water you kept aside. Add as much as you need to make a sauce that lightly coats the pasta. Keep the heat low. Add the basil at the last second so that it doesn't go black. Taste and season accordingly.

9) I like to let it sit for about 5 minutes for the flavours to mingle. Serve and enjoy some nonpartisan goodness for once in your life. :)



all text and photographs on aartilla the fun © 2005-2009 Aarti Sequeira unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.