Organic Black Bean Pasta

It’s certainly not pretty, but it tastes better than it looks. It looks like a pile of slip.

I bought this gluten free black bean spaghetti at Marshall’s. I don’t usually shop there as my soon to be ex-husband worked at Marshall’s and I didn’t approve of their practices as employers or their merchandise.

But I am always looking for trendy forms of protein.

I got inspired (I blame too many episodes of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares) to make Asian-inspired glazed chicken meatballs with pineapple and the black bean pasta with a cheater method peanut sauce.

The sauce is an easy 30-minute meal starter, and vegan. See the recipe on my old cooking blog where I chronicled every meal for about seven years: Peanut Butter (Thai) Noodles

The chicken meatballs turned to mush in the pan. It’s my own fault as some of the ground chicken was still frozen. I don’t know why I thought I could work around that.

Flavor was fine, but texture was like scrambled eggs.

As for the pasta, I liked it. The teenager didn’t like the texture of it, but I did. If anything I would call it a tad sticky. The teen referred to it as gummy.

Eating Polish Things

For Christmas, I got the teenager a subscription to Universal Yums, a snack box that send food from a different country to your door.

This month featured Poland.

We plan to do an unboxing and a tasting with every box.

This box featured a lot of chocolate. The three items that weren’t chocolate were pretzel sticks covered with poppy seeds, a milk caramel coconut candy and a potato chip called Monster Munch that was the same product as Frito Lay’s Munchos in a different shape.

For our review, visit my YouTube channel:

Universal Yums from Poland part 1

Universal Yums box from Poland, part 2

And for the initial box, the multicultural holiday box, see here:

Universal Yums holiday box

Turkeys and Trophies

The title and format of this post is homage to our local daily newspaper, The Express-Times, and their weekly column on the op-ed pages celebrating the best and the worst of the community that week.


    I did three workouts this week.
    I packed several smart lunches.
    I went to the grocery store.
    My daughter and I worked well together trying to keep the house clean.
    I started the week eating fresh fruit. (I’m not a fan of much fruit.)


    I wanted to attend the book club last night at our local independent bookstore, Book and Puppet Company, but I didn’t read the book. And it was Zazie in the Metro so I really intended to join the group.
    Those workouts were five to ten minutes each.
    I ordered Dominoes twice and ate a ridiculous amount of pizza and two doughnuts.
    The fruit is languishing in the fridge.
    I watched way too many episodes of Kitchen Nightmares.

Roomba: the vacuuming toddler

I asked for and received a roomba for Christmas.

First surprise was that he’s an older roomba and he can’t recognize 5G internet. So my internet service is too good for him. We’ve hooked him up to my neighbor’s network instead.

And now I find myself child proofing my house in order to vacuum.

I thought the roomba could help keep up with the mess from the pets and the teen.

But man, I had no idea what a maze we had in our house.

I’ve spent the last couple days observing it and trying to map its habits and paths. Because it’s a machine. There has to be a pattern.

I named him Isaac after Isaac Asimov.

Isaac goes straight until he hits something then turns 45-degrees and goes straight again. That’s the pattern.

He misses a lot of bigger things and it’s like a toddler vacuuming. He’s going back and forth but he can’t really see what he’s doing. When he’s done, he’s usually bumped a few things I need to put back and I need to pick up all the wrappers and large objects he pushed out of hiding.

I moved his home base to my bedroom. He vacuumed my room yesterday and did a pretty impressive job, and that’s where the budgies are.

I let him loose in there again today. The featured photo in this entry is the amount of hair, seed and dirt he picked up after one day.

That made me stop judging his toddler style.

Christmas Bomb (part 1, at home)

Good morning and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate.

My teenager asked me to open her presents last night so I allowed it. Why not? She’s a teenager so it spares me waiting for her to get out of bed in the morning.

So I’m enjoying a cup of coffee, after trying to pick up all the wrappings, thinking about my friends far and wide that I miss.

My daughter bought me these lovely winter boots, which are nice and warm and toasty but I am very glad I don’t have to test them in snow today. She also bought me penguin socks and replaced the teapot she destroyed a couple months ago.

She melted a Le Creuset teapot. Really. She did.

Her main Christmas presents included a calligraphy set (she’s always commenting on how she wished she could make fancier letters) and a subscription box from Universal Yums.

Of course, there are some junky fun gifts, some candy and some activity books.

But I didn’t expect the fun that came from these three stocking stuffers:

Christmas Shenanigans

Scaring the Cats

Christmas Eve 2019

I started my Christmas Eve morning trying to make the house presentable for my mother’s Christmas visit, but I also treasured the silence and stillness of the house.

The teen got up early and finished her advent calendar…

The final window

My mom came down around 10, and the teen and I had made Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and some fancy break-and-bake cookies.

We exchanged presents and my mom left after about 45 minutes and took the teen to her father’s apartment. Apparently, he had intended to have my mom over for a tour and despite the fact that we’ve been separated six months she still hasn’t visited.

My day was pretty quiet. I did some laundry and loaded the dishwasher and tried to unclog the bathtub drain. At 2 pm, I realized I hadn’t really eaten so I ordered Dominoes.

I hung out with my three budgies (they do love to fly around my head) and watched two episodes of Jonathan Maberry’s graphic novel, now a series on Netflix: V Wars. I took a writing workshop with Jonathan more than a decade ago when he had just published his first (maybe two) novel(s).

The teenager just read my signed copy of Ghost Road Blues for her independent reading in English. She didn’t enjoy it. She then purchased his later book, Rot and Ruin, and devoured the whole tome in two days.

VWars definitely held my interest for the episodes I watched but I think I need to turn to something more uplifting for holiday viewing.

The teenager is with her dad and paternal grandparents.

She should be home soon. She wore her new dogs and cats in Christmas hats sweatshirt, complete with blinking lights. We opened that gift on Saturday when my friend and very talented nail tech Beth came over to see my tree and have some wine and cookies.

The teen’s ugly Christmas sweater

Holidays often bring a lot of anxiety for me, and this year has had its moments. But sometimes you just have to remember to be kind to yourself and do what seems right for you and your family.

Opening night of Cats

My daughter has a big love for the musical Cats. I was fortunate enough to see it as a kid with my extended family. I bought the movie of the Broadway play for my daughter when she was small.

She loves Cats. I have a feeling the musician in her loves Andrew Lloyd Webber. Can you be a latent Andrew Lloyd Webber fan? As a musician, my daughter loves musicals and is constantly searching for “beautiful harmonies.”

My backstory with Musicals

My connection with musicals started in middle school. The school offered a field trip every year to New York City to see a musical. My first was The Sound of Music. The show that made the biggest impact on me was Miss Saigon. I still remember that helicopter and my amazement as it came out on stage.

Videos of that helicopter don’t do it justice. The scale and the shock of a helicopter in the theater, especially as a fairly new and young theatre-goer… the impressions still linger in my memory.

I found this video on YouTube about making the helicopter, apparently its designers were overwhelmed too.

The Building of the Miss Saigon helicopter

So I’ve seen a fair number of Broadway shows, though none really of my own choosing. Our middle school music teacher, Mr. Birgenstock, had us listen to a lot of musics oh records in the music room and he gave us the lyric sheets to follow along.

My musical ear is tin, but I still have a large soft spot for musicals. Let me see if I can list the musicals we studied in middle school in the late 1980s:

  • Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • Chess (still my all-time favorite)
  • Tommy

Nope, can’t remember them. Darn.

Opening night of Cats

So, back to Cats. We had a rough week in this household and our holiday plans keep shifting.

Our evening at the holiday light display at the local zoo fell through and I worked late so I asked the teenager if she wanted to go see Cats. Now she’s made it a point to bring up every possible opportunity to go see Cats for the last week.

I didn’t have to ask. I knew she wanted to see Cats.

We skipped dinner and went straight to the 7:10 show.

They did an amazing job. I didn’t look at the cast before I went so I had a lot of fun asking, “is that Judi Dench?” (She’s one of my favorite actresses. I had my hair cut like hers once. Modeled after M. I think in Casino Royale.) Is that Ian McKellan? (And my daughter: “That’s the girl from Pitch Perfect.”)

The costumes were amazing. The dancers lithe and incredibly feline. The pacing was way better than the Broadway show. And they even added some plot to give it more of a linear story line.

The set was delightful, full of detail and fun cat puns. I felt like I wanted to frolic on those sets. Seeing people scaled down to cat size was a visual treat.

And the music pleased my daughter.

I had to keep shushing her to keep her from belting the songs out with the actors.

Bottom line, if someone you love wants to see Cats and you are hesitant because you’re not a fan, it shouldn’t be a painful experience for you. They did a nice job. It’s also fairly short.

Dinner at Rocco’s

It was about 9:15 when we left the theatre so I stopped at Rocco’s Pizza on the way home.

I spent most of my newspaper career in downtown Phillipsburg so when I saw Rocco’s light on, I knew we had to stop. The teen said it looked kind of creepy on the outside, but she knew to trust me.

I haven’t had much of a social or professional life in the last ten years, so when I told Mike, the owner, that we hadn’t seen each other in a decade he needed some convincing.

He had three slices left and heated them up and we ate them in the car.

Mike, if this makes it to you via the internet or Facebook or Phillipsburg word-of-mouth, you made my daughter very happy.

“I haven’t had real pizza in ages. This isn’t even greasy,” she said.

“Mom, this pizza is the sh*t.”