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Paragon

The World is Changed
By your Example,

Not by your Opinion.

~ Paulo Coelho


All Images: WeHeartIt

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Ethos

When an Honest Man Discovers
That He is Mistaken

He will either
Cease to be Mistaken,

Or Cease to be Honest.


All Images: Pinterest

Champagne Chicken ~ The Merchant of Menace

It’s said that, on average, champagne corks kill approximately 24 people a year- far more than the 10 killed by sharks.

Still, Sister Madly decided to risk it with the champagne rather than find sanctuary with a posse of sharks. She likes to live dangerously.

It was the end of October, when the veil between the worlds is said to be its thinnest, and when the living honor those who have passed on through a variety of traditions, including a celebration known as a Dumb Supper.

Now, Sister Madly has attempted a few Dumb Suppers in the past, and with mixed results.* Of course, this could be that the Departed were already engaged in another Dumb Supper across town, or were busy in the southern hemisphere doing southern hemisphere-ish things. Still, she had to consider the possibility that she was completely lacking in the area of social graces, and that the Departed refused to associate with anyone but the elite. Thus, Sister Madly decided to not only host a trial supper, but with a guest.

* Unsuccessful, and even more unsuccessful.

And what Dearly-Departed guest would be more appropriate than Vincent Price?

For a posh dinner party, one must be properly dressed; and for the Merchant of Menace such attire should be both classy and theatrical. Sister Madly has accumulated a most eclectic array of costumes during her Renaissance Faire Days, down to the satin-lined cloak worthy of an Elder god ritual. She admits it may be a bit show-offy for a Dumb Supper, but it would be perfect of the Vincent Price Trial Run. No doubt he would be wearing one as well.

Unfortunately, Sister Madly looked nothing like the sinister, show-offy cultist of her most excellent imagination, but a portable keyhole- something she did not realize during her Renaissance Faire Days. Did she always look like the gateway to another dimension? Why didn’t anyone ever tell her this?

Thanks a lot, fellas.

As for the feast- Mr. Price was a gourmand in his day, and the not-so-sinister Sister Madly couldn’t get away with Frozen Tater Tots and cans of Spaghetti O’s, even if she did garnish it with a lemon wedge and a sprig of parsley. A culinary effort would have to be made on her part, if only to apologize for dressing as a particularly unmenacing Keyhole.

So what could be more appropriate than a dish from A Treasury of Great Recipes, authored by Vincent Price himself?

No doubt he would be pleased that Sister Madly acknowledged his talents beyond The Pit and the Pendulum, and be touched that she was so thoughtful. And should she replicate his recipe to a ‘T’,* Mr. Price would put in a good word for her with gods of the afterlife, who will no doubt permit her to haunt the living willy-nilly. Of course, should she fail, Mr. Price may plague her with wicked laughter, poltergeists, and B-movie dreams for the rest of her life.

* What is this ‘T’ anyway, and why is it the standard to which everyone aspires?

So Sister Madly settled on a delicacy entitled Poularde Pavilion– that is, Champagne Chicken.* That sounded posh.

* Poularde Pavilion does not translate to Champagne Chicken on Google Translate, but Sister Madly is not one to question the magnificent Vincent Price.

Naturally, merely purchasing a bottle of champagne can bring about delusions of sophistication far beyond one’s station. However, Sister Madly- being most adult- retained enough sense to know she might horribly screw up the opening of said bottle; and as she hoped to get her security deposit back one day- and since she wasn’t quite ready to shuffle off this mortal coil in the most embarrassing way possible- Sister Madly opened the bottle on the fire escape outside.

Science can be a beautiful thing to witness, be it fireflies, the way liquid mercury separates, or the Northern Lights; and while there may be a ‘proper’ way of opening champagne, there is nothing more magical than the moment the internal pressure forces the cork from the bottle, and sends it sailing off into the sunset.

Or, as in the case of Sister Madly, over the fence and into the neighbor’s kiddie pool

Naturally, this left Sister Madly pondering one of the Great Mysteries of Life: how fast does a champagne cork travel?*

* Up to 60mph, it turns out- which is a $435 fine and possible license suspension up to 30 days should that Cork be pulled over in Sister Madly’s neighborhood.

Sister Madly did not replicate Mr. Price’s recipe to a ‘T’.
She gave up when instructed to preheat the oven to ‘moderate.’

CHAMPAGNE CHICKEN

  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in
  • 1¼ cup champagne or other sparkling wine, divided (¼ cup + 1 cup)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Heavy cream, to taste (opt)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • pearl onions, peeled
  • wild mushrooms, sliced
  • pancetta, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp dried tarragon
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • pinch cayenne, or to taste (opt)
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for searing

Season chicken w/salt and pepper
In heated skillet, brown chicken on both sides, 3-5 min per side
Remove from skillet; set aside
Sauté pancetta; 2-3 min
Add garlic, pearl onions, and mushrooms; sauté 2-3 min
Add herbs; sauté 30 sec
Deglaze with ¼ cup champagne
Return chicken to skillet
Add broth and remaining champagne
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer: 20-25 min
Uncover; simmer until sauce is reduced by half
Stir in cream (if using) simmer 2-3 min
Remove from heat and serve

THEME SONG: Haunted, Maya Kern

Chicken Shawarma ~ The Atomic Bread-Shepherd

During the first few weeks of summer, a young Sister Madly would wait impatiently for hours to play with her friend Serafina, who was a member of a strict and rather unfun denomination known for its boycotts of various fast-food joints and hosting ‘safe alternatives’ to Halloween. That week, it was Vacation Bible School* that rudely took up Serafina’s mornings, and when Sister Madly showed up at her house later that day, Serafina was trying to draw a picture of Jesus.

* Fortunately, Sister Madly’s mother wouldn’t discover this Summer Vacation Buzzkill for a few years yet.

Now Sister Madly had absolutely no idea what Jesus looked like, aside from the usual pictures of a long-haired, melancholy European holding his pet lamb. After much discussion, she and Serafina were pretty certain that this was an inaccurate depiction, as most of the churches they’ve encountered frowned upon men having long hair. As it was now up to them to right this horrible wrong, they approached the mission like lovely, little know-it-alls of all things sacred, tossing out terms associated with the Divine- such as holy, church on Sundays, and eternal.*

* While she did not fully appreciate ‘eternity’ as a child, as an adult, Sister Madly now flirts with the infinite on a weekly basis.

Since the girls lived in an era a few years after Jesus, Sister Madly decided to ransack the bible for a description of said messiah- she was a bit more of a know-it-all than Serafina, despite not being a member of a strict and unfun denomination at the time.

Nowhere was he described as the long-haired, melancholy European that the art world seems to favor; rather, Sister Madly came upon a host of verses which the artists of yesteryear clearly overlooked:

  • Bread of Life.

Obviously, this was no ordinary loaf of bread; it was alive– which meant the Loaf had a face.

  • Good Shepherd.

To the Smiling Loaf of Bread was added a Shepherd’s Staff.

  • Light of the World.

A magnificent Sunburst was drawn around the Smiling Loaf of Bread-Shepherd.

  • The Alpha and the Omega.

The Inedible End-Slice of Bread was added, which symbolized the Alpha and the Omega.

  • The Resurrection and the Life.

Since Bread rises when baked, there was no need for further artistic depiction. Still, there was concern that merely implying the Resurrection via oven and yeast was too profound and complex for the adult mind; thus they decided to include the baking temp for The Smiling, Atomic, Loaf of Bread-Shepherd.

Sister Madly, however, knew nothing about the joys of baking bread; she only knew the joys of delivering it to the neighbors in a wagon through the snow. And Serafina- well, she only knew the joys of Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches.*

* Sister Madly prefers Peanut Butter and Banana.

So Sister Madly suggested they call Information.

Even as a little Moppet, Sister Madly knew that Information was a direct line to the All-Knowing Oracle, as people were always calling it in old television shows asking for phone numbers; but when the Oracle had no answer, Sister Madly asked for the number to a Bread-Making Store. When told that there was no such thing as a Bread-Making Store, it became clear that the Oracle found that Sister Madly & Co. already possessed the information they sought deep within themselves, thus making them wise beyond their 7 years.

Unfortunately, the inherent Bread-Baking Temp Knowledge was hidden far-too deep within their souls to be discovered by 9 AM the following day, so they had no other choice than to depict the Bread actually rising.

And that is what they did.

  • Bread of Life.

Obviously, this was no ordinary slice of bread; it was alive– which meant the Slice had a face.

  • Good Shepherd.

To the Smiling Slice of Bread was added a Shepherd’s Staff.

  • Light of the World.

A magnificent Sunburst was drawn around the Smiling Slice of Bread-Shepherd.

  • The Alpha and the Omega.

Detail was added to indicate that the Smiling, Atomic Bread-Shepherd is the Inedible End-Slice, which symbolized the Alpha and the Omega.

  • The Resurrection and the Life.

The Smiling, Atomic, Inedible End-Slice of Bread-Shepherd pops merrily out of a Toaster.

As you can see, Sister Madly’s artistic skills have vastly improved since she was 7. This pleases her.

CHICKEN SHAWARMA

  • 6-8 boneless chicken thighs, whole

MARINADE

  • 5-7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBSP sumac
  • 1 TBSP smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup oil, or as needed

Mix marinade ingredients together
Add chicken, shake/stir to coat
Refrigerate 30 min- 24 hours

PREPARATION
Remove Chicken from fridge 30+ min before baking
Preheat oven to 375*
Skewer chicken on metal or pre-soaked bamboo skewers
Lay skewers on greased baking track in baking tray
Cover with any remaining marinade
Bake for 45-60 min, or until cooked through
Slice and serve with pita

THEME SONG: Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode

Famous Last Words

Let’s play a game…

“Pop Rocks in the litter box!”

~ Sister Madly, which she accidentally sent to her accountant.*

* Sorry about that, Steve.

Korean BBQ Chicken ~ The Gateau From the Chateau

One cannot help but consider the many ways that cake brings people together, such as weddings, birthdays, a passion for homemade potato-launching weaponry, christenings, and the like. So it was only natural that the most altruistic Sister Madly sought to perfect this skill in order to unite the whole of the human race- albeit, not with her.

She’d attempted Cake Perfection before, at friend and fellow co-worker’s house once upon a time after being awakened by Rita’s younger brother spraying a hose through the window. This time, it was the robust, repetitive call of Ri-co-la! from somewhere below, which the Pater Rita had perfected like an Alpine native.

In the previous installment, the bungling, sleep-deprived twosome faced a task fraught with September crushes and lovesick butterflies. But they were older and wiser now, and knew better than to frost a cake straight from the oven- such children they were in those days.*

* Approx. 6 weeks prior.

And in honor of this newfound maturity, they decided upon a most grown-up cake with 3 lovely tiers, with each being its own flavor: banana, root beer, and of course, red velvet.*

* To be clear, the intent was to make the cake, not eat it. Mature though she may be, Sister Madly wasn’t a complete idiot.

As it turned out, frosting a 3-tiered cake wasn’t quite the same as writing Congrats on Our Divorce, Darling!* across a giant chocolate-chip cookie. A cake demands a certain amount of finesse, which Sister Madly decided that she had obtained during her 6-week transition into adulthood; thus the decision was made to have the most mature Moppet kneel on an office chair while Rita maneuvered said chair around the cake in a graceful manner. Rita always took the helm when it came to operating heavy machinery.

* An actual request. Sister Madly is all about customer service.

This method was not successful.

Admittedly, Sister Madly has never seen one pastry chef maneuver another around a cake in order to frost said confection at 6:30 in the morning. Thus, one can only conclude that if it is not the chef that moves around the cake, it is the cake that rotates before the chef- a secret most patissiers keep to themselves in order to reign supreme in the culinary world.

Until now.

No doubt the great culinarians of this world excelled in modern-day cake-ology by utilizing the modern-day turntable- which, of course, is your standard record player. Anyone who has any taste in music has access to one to those, if only by way of the neighbor’s skylight at 3AM in the morning.

But that is the risk one must take when it comes to cake.

Looking back, Sister Madly probably shouldn’t have set the player to 78 RPM, but hindsight is 20/20, after all. She did, however, retain enough wisdom to stop the turntable before garnishing the culinary masterpiece with a luscious Alpine Sunburst of Ricola Cough Drops.

While the cake seemed to lack a certain elegance- if not happily dwell in its own gravitational field- there was no denying a certain wonder in its very existence; all Alpine yodeling ceased within its presence. Indeed, it was absolutely magnificent to behold.

What is that?”

A testament to her greatness, sir: a 3-tiered red velvet gateau with essence of musa fruit and sassafras root.

“What’s in it?”

Cake material!

“Interesting…”

No. Don’t say interesting. That means you’re going analyze the cake and demand an explanation of things that have no explanation. It’s a cake, an undeniable work of art; it’s not meant to be questioned, but experienced and enjoyed- much like Pink Floyd.*

* Sister Madly merely declared it to be magnificent to behold, not to taste. There is more than one way to experience cake.

And so the Pater Rita and his Son decided to experience the cake together in the backyard by shooting it with a homemade spud gun.

KOREAN BBQ CHICKEN

  • 6-8 chicken thighs, bone-in

MARINADE

  • ¼ cup coconut aminos* ~ or ~ soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sake
  • 4 tsp ginger, minced
  • 4 tsp garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • 3+/- TBSP oil, or as needed

BBQ SAUCE

  • ½ cup coconut aminos ~ or ~ soy sauce
  • ½ cup sake
  • 2 TBSP gochujang paste
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire
  • 2-3 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • salt/pepper, to taste

Coconut Aminos contain less salt (up to 65%) and is slightly sweeter than traditional soy sauce or tamari, yet without tasting of coconut.
If substituting soy or tamari; adjust salt and honey to taste.

MARINADE
Mix together marinade ingredients
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Cover; refrigerate 30 min – 24hrs

SAUCE
Sweat off garlic and ginger; 2 min
Add remaining sauce ingredients
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer until thickened

BAKE
Preheat oven to 400*
Place chicken on greased baking rack in tray
Bake for 45 min
Remove from oven, brush chicken with sauce
Return to oven; bake 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining sauce straight from oven

THEME SONG: Ri-co-la!, Various

A Second Spring

Autumn is
A Second Spring

When every Leaf
Is a Flower.

~ Albert Camus


Images:

1) Photohito.com
2) Photohito.com
3) Photohito.com

Roti John ~ Saluting the Magpie

Morning, Mr. Magpie…

Sister Madly first learned this of custom from the Professor after listening to his lengthy and completely unsolicited dissertation on superstitions. He was saluting a tree- or so she thought- which is not entirely odd in itself; Sister Madly herself has been known to talk to strange things, such as people.

As it turned out, the Professor was not saluting the tree, but a creature he called a Magpie. Sister Madly had to admit that she didn’t know what a Magpie looked like, but if she were to speculate, she would assume this:

Turns out, they look like this:

The Professor told her that it was unlucky not to salute the first Magpie of the day, which was a bizarre ritual for him to adopt; he was a scientific creature completely without whimsy, living an academic life while selfishly refusing to allow Sister Madly to sell his kidneys on the black market. He seemed to imply that if she were to embrace the Saluting of the Magpie, she could forever live a blissful life in a lovey-dovey, vegan butter-spread commercial.

But this raised a few questions for the most rational Sister Madly; to begin with, how is one to know that this is the first Magpie of the day? There may have been a conga line of 57 birds on her windowsill in the wee hours of the morn. And what if the Magpie she salutes is not a Mister, but a Missus? If the idea is not to anger the old bird, knowing its proper title is an absolute must!

Then again, why would Sister Madly salute a bird whose only purpose in life is to poo hellfire missiles all over poor Itty Bitty whenever parked beneath a tree?

It didn’t take long for her to find out.

At the pub later that night, they encountered the Happy Phlebotomist, whom had recently returned from a trip to Canada and was giddy to show off his souvenirs. He led them to the dark end of the parking lot, where he revealed a trunk full of Ketchup Chips.

“If you’re not going to buy Ketchup Chips, why bother going to Canada? That’s what the country was made for!”

No, Canada was created so that Alaska won’t float off into the Bering Sea, flex its muscles at its newfound freedom, and shack up with Hawaii- everybody knows that, Chipper. It would be most devastating for the caribou.

Since the chips tasted as one might expect, it became clear that the Happy Phlebotomist was fascinated not only by the chips themselves, but the brilliant innovation of this time-saving measure.

You see, much of a Canadian’s life is wasted writing that extra ‘U’ in words that need no extra ‘U’; thus the Ketchup Chip was invented not only to save time, but prevent the excruciating fatigue of dipping said Chip into said Ketchup, hence allowing Canada to continue this curious tradition. Of course, food is so much more flavourful with that superfluous letter, everyone knows that; but nearly 6 years* is squandered in composing that character over a single lifetime. The Ketchup Chip makes that loss much more bearable.

* According to Sister Madly’s estimate, which of course is most excellent.

But that was not his only memento.

But before the Professor could question the logic behind selling non-refrigerated Milk in Bag like a Boss, Sister Madly decided to test the strength of the bag by dropping it to the asphalt.

Bag O’ Milk promptly became Sprinkler O’ Milk.

You know why this happened, don’t you, Sister Madly? This happened because you did not salute the Magpie first thing in the morning after your merry frolic through Sunnyside, which has more Magpies than you can shake a stick at.*

* Not that Sister Madly wanders about town, shaking sticks at things willy-nilly. She’d like to think that she’s still a few years away from that particular mentality.

After the Milk-Sprinkler Dance of Panic, Chipper attempted to correct this by sticking ballpoint pens through the tears. It would seem that the Happy Phlebotomist’s solution to every problem is to stick a pointy object into said problem- which is far from comforting.

Apparently, Canada has yet to learn about the science behind the Pencil-Thru-the-Bag-of-Liquid, because this did not work in the least.

“You should have Saluted the Magpie.”

The Professor clearly has no heart- at least, he isn’t using it.*

* In which case, he shouldn’t mind if Sister Madly sells it on the black market.

On the plus side, Sister Madly did get her recommended daily serving of dairy.

While she can’t say the Magpie was responsible, she did leave him an offering of Ketchup Chips, just in case.

ROTI JOHN

  • oil/ghee for sautéing
  • 1lb beef mince
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 chilies, chopped and seeded to taste
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 TBSP ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • crusty bread, sliced
  • spring onion, cilantro, sriracha aioli, cheese (opt, for garnish)

FILLING
Sauté onions until translucent; 8-10 min
Add chili, garlic, and ginger; lightly caramelize; 10-15 min
Add spices; sauté until fragrant; 1 min
Remove from heat; set aside

Add beef to skillet; sauté until cooked through
Add onion mixture; stir until combined; 2 min
Remove from heat; cool 5 min

Add beaten eggs to beef; mix well

PREPARATION
Heat oiled skillet over medium heat
Spoon egg mixture over sliced bread
Place bread filling-side down in skillet
Fry for 2-5 minutes, or until eggs are cooked
Flip over to toast outside (opt)
Remove from heat; add garnish
Serve open-faced or as a sandwich

THEME SONG: Surfin’ Bird, Ramones

Arepas Chile Chicken ~ The Sweet Hereafter

So, can just anyone buy a submarine?

It’s not like she isn’t qualified to command one; after all, Sister Madly has a boating license- got it when she was twelve. Officer What’s-His-Name said it was all she needed to operate motorized watercraft- sure, she may have forgotten a few things in the intervening years, but surely beneath the water those laws no longer apply.

The craft shouldn’t be difficult to figure out, no doubt just an ignition key and a bright orange button to make it go forward. It will have no reverse gear, but that won’t be a problem on the ocean’s floor where U-turns are permitted willy-nilly; after all, the Germans call these magnificent vessels U-boats, which is clearly in honor of the U-turn.

But most importantly, one need never parallel park a Submarine between an obnoxious Prius and a wood-paneled PT Cruiser, which is a most unnatural and debauched maneuver straight from the pit of hell.

She doesn’t need all the fancy u-boat upgrades, such screen doors and nuclear warheads; your standard get-out-of-the-way torpedo will do. Sister Madly will, however, insist upon flocked wallpaper, disco lights, and a badass stereo system; David Bowie will sound especially haunting inside a submarine.

As for the intermittent, man-your-stations-you’re-under-attack buzzer (complete with flashing red light,) that will make a most excellent alarm clock for any early morning appointments Sister Madly is foolish enough to make.

Also, a conveniently placed shark’s fin will not go to waste.

It shall be called the USS Sweet Hereafter.

* But secretly, she will call it Myrtle.

There are one or two things that will need to be addressed- her negative sense of direction, for example. Officer What’s-His-Name used to talk about this apparatus called a compass, but Sister Madly finds relying upon magnetic poles so 1987. She would utilize a state-of-the-art navigational system,* not prehistoric tomfoolery.

* A few sober friends and a map.

You may be wondering where Sister Madly will store the vessel when not in use. She is certainly glad you asked! Her elder sister, Tallulah, has a creek running through her back yard- no doubt she would be happy to let sweet little sis park Myrtle at the end of the dock. The HOA doesn’t address the subject of submarines, thus one can only assume that they are allowed on the property.

Also, Sister Madly would be most responsible with the torpedoes: she will only use them on spiders.

But all this is nothing more than a pipe dream if civilian submarine ownership is beyond her reach. Sister Madly couldn’t go on wasting her night glamming up Myrtle if she wasn’t allowed to buy one.

So, at 2:41 AM:

Can just anyone buy a submarine?

Now some of you may cluck your tongues at the 2:41 timestamp, but it’s not like she was texting something frivolous, like celebrity death notices. This was important; Sister Madly’s entire future depended upon it.

And rest assured, she was completely sober at the time.

Why?

Come on, Professor- can’t a person ask about submarine ownership without being accused of plotting something nefarious? Sister Madly encountered the same skepticism last year when inquiring about a steamroller. Have a little faith.

The Professor never answered.

So… can just anyone buy a Submarine?

AREPAS CHILE CHICKEN

CHILE CHICKEN

  • 6-8 boneless chicken thighs, whole
  • 2 sweet onions, sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp chipotle pepper
  • salt, to taste

Heat oil in Dutch oven
Add onions; stir to coat
Lower heat, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized (30-45 min)
Mix in spices, stock, and chicken; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer until chicken is cooked (25 min)
With 2 forks, shred chicken in sauce
Simmer to reduce and thicken

AREPAS

  • 1 cup Harina de Maiz (pre-cooked cornmeal, such as P.A.N.)
  • 1 cup water or milk, room temp if possible
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP oil

Combine arepa flour and salt
Mix in oil and water, until mixture is smooth
Knead a few times, dividing dough in four pieces*
Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten about 1/2 inch thick
Heat greased pan over medium heat
Add the arepas; cook until golden brown (about 6-7 minutes)
Flip; cook another 3-5 minutes

* Coating hands in oil will help prevent sticky-dough rage.

TO SERVE:
Split arepas horizontally
Fill with chicken
Top with cotija, guacamole, and sour cream

THEME SONG: Under Pressure, David Bowie/Queen

To the End of Love

Show Me Slowly
What I only Know the Limits of

And Dance Me
To the End of Love

~ Leonard Cohen


Divergent

Nobody Realizes
That some People


Expend Tremendous Energy
Merely to be Normal.

~ Albert Camus


Images: 

1) Laurie Simmons
3) mrs-white.deviantart.com

L’Art Du Soleil

The Artist Produces
For the Liberation of his Soul.

It is his Nature
To Create

As it is the Nature of Water
To Run Down the Hill.

~ Somerset Maugham


Filipino Solar Artist, Jordan Mang-osan, harnesses the power of the sun to create intricate works of art. With a magnifying glass, he focuses the sun’s rays to burn his visions into slabs of wood.

Art by Jordan Mang-osan.

Perfection Salad ~ DisasterChef Theatre

Let’s face it: one can only spend so much time lounging about, indulging in bubble wrap and drinking from the skulls of thine enemies. Faced with the possibility of becoming merely a husk of a person, Sister Madly decided to confront one of her greatest fears: making a salad.

Having fondly recalled the culinary success of Ham and Banana Hollandaise, Sister Madly returned to the recipe box of yesteryear for the inspiration that would propel her into the world of healthy vegetables.

And she found it.

An array of vegetables encased in gelatin, and stuffed rather glamorously into a decorative mold- or in Sister Madly’s case, a disposable tin.

SHOPPING LIST

  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin.

Unable to find unflavored gelatin (she didn’t try very hard, she admits) Sister Madly headed straight for the Jell-O. Not only does this confection have gelatin, it is available in an array of lovely colors. The lack of pigmentation was the one thing that, in Sister Madly’s most correct opinion, that kept the Salad from being absolute Perfection; thus she rectified this oversight with a package of Berry Blue.

  • 1 cup finely shredded cabbage

Sister Madly saw no reason to waste time and effort shredding a large cabbage when Mother Nature has provided mankind with itty-bitty mutant ones.

  • ½ cup chopped green pepper

Green pepper, which is a formidable piece of produce in its own right, does not have a lot of kick, and Sister Madly needed some spice to balance out the sweetness of the Berry Blue.

So she replaced the Bell Pepper with Thai Chilies. Brilliant.

  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup shredded carrots

Since celery is an affront to humanity, Sister Madly omitted this particular vegetable in order to maintain the title of ‘Perfection.’ She had every intention of including the Carrots; however, once at the market, Sister Madly found herself swept up on the winds of whimsy and substituted Cherry Tomatoes.

  • 4 oz chopped pimento

Since the pimento is the heart of an olive, and since produce is at its best when obtained organically, Sister Madly skipped the jar of farm-raised olives and chose to harvest this elusive fruit from its natural habitat: a martini.

And where best to get a martini than at a pub?

24 hours later… Behold, her genius!

Just as professional culinarians enhance their creations with decorative sticks and sprigs, Sister Madly, too, opted for garnish; but her garden yielded little more than slugs and rocks. She did come across a bit of herbal greenery in the backyard, but her neighbors were smoking it at the time.

In the end, she need look no further than her own pantry: indeed, all the culinary masters would agree that brown onions and garlic are the perfect accompaniment to Berry Blue Jell-O.

Even Sister Madly could not conceive what sort of mind would consider this anything other than absolute perfection. It was guaranteed to be called a work of art amongst those blessed with the gift of sight!

Having determined that her Salad was exquisite in every way, Sister Madly decided that it would be cruel not to share this gastronomic masterpiece with the world- and what better way than to present the Salad as the main course at a neighbor’s birthday celebration?

All she needed was a birthday candle.

Sister Madly, as you can see, is the soul of generosity.

Happy Birthday.

PERFECTION SALAD

  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 oz apple juice
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP vinegar
  • 1 cup carrot, shredded
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • ½ cup green pepper, chopped
  • 4 oz. pimento, chopped

In small saucepan, combine gelatin, sugar, and salt; mix well.
Add 1 cup water.
Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar and gelatin are dissolved. Remove from heat.
Stir in apple juice, lemon juice, vinegar, and ¼ cup cold water.
Pour into medium bowl.
Refrigerate 1 hour, or until mixture is consistency of unbeaten egg white.
Add carrot, celery, cabbage, green pepper, and pimento; stir until well combined.
Turn into decorative, 1½ quart mold.
Refrigerate 4 hours, or until firm.
To unmold: Run small spatula around edge of mold; invert onto serving plate.
Place hot dishcloth over mold; shake gently to release. Repeat, if necessary.
Lift off mold; refrigerate until ready to serve.

~ From McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection

THEME SONG: Sweetest Perfection, Depeche Mode

Bait and Switch

The Worst of all Deceptions
Is Self-Deception.

~ Plato


Images: Pinterest

Transcendence

The Closest One Comes
To Perfect Love

Is Accepting Somone
For Who They Are.


Bower Birds do not rely on plumage; rather, they attract females through elaborately embellished structures (bowers) which are carefully arranged by the males.

Images:

1.) viralforest.com
2.) Markus Lilje
3.) stancsmith.com

Pork Udon Curry ~ The Coquettish Maiden Fair

So apparently, this is a thing now…

…which is totally unfair. No one has ever made Sister Madly into a beer.

She knows how this happened; she need look no further than to a Renaissance Faire some 10+ years ago, when her friends stole her Medieval Love-Finding Bingo Rock and gave it to the Dodo.

Everybody knows that Bingo Rocks are enchanted; after all, they’ve united love-seeking desperados across many millennia who might otherwise have never realized that a talking tree was their Soulmate. Sister Madly’s willy-nilly selection of Rock 88 was no mistake in the Love-Finding Universe; the Fates knew that she was just as likely to read the stone upside-down as right-side up- 88 would all but guarantee that Sister Madly connected with her Soulmate instead of a wandering pudding.

However, after a tedious encounter with a cheeky Thyme Lord, Sister Madly began to suspect her friends had not been forthright with her. It was only a hunch, of course, but that is the best way to solve a mystery- clues and evidence be damned, a hunch is always the preferred method according to the movies- and Sister Madly had a hunch that this scheme was the brainchild of a master scam artist.* The Scott’s claimed they gave her Medieval Love-Finding Bingo Rock to the Dodo, but Sister Madly had seen neither hide nor hair of the Ol’ Bird all day.

* Although ‘artist’ may be a bit generous… More like scam finger-painter.

So she thought to herself, Self… do you really want to place all your starry-eyed dreams on the whims of a Ye Olde Bingo Rock? Let’s face it: that’s a few steps away from seeing the Virgin Mary in a Poptart. Are you so far removed from society that you don’t understand how Romance works?

Probably.*

* Sister Madly always responds to her own questions, otherwise she gets miffed at herself and will refuse to speak to herself for days.

But even though she bailed on her own Romance, Sister Madly was no less curious as to what the Fates had in store for everyone else. Thus she began calling out numbers at random- perhaps luring a few unfortunates with the false hope of her siren’s song- but that is the risk one takes when dipping a toe in the dating pool. During the course of this lovey-dovey investigation, Sister Madly learned that the Fates paired Bingo Rock 45 with a Spanish Inquisitor:

… 67 with the Living Embodiment of Dark Matter:

… and lucky number 13 with what can only be described as a Lump:*

* It might have been a Troll.

Having been most successful in locating the Soulmates of those unfortunate chumps, Sister Madly decided not to give up on love altogether, and took a crack at finding her own- she may not have the Medieval Love-Finding Bingo Rock on her side, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t win her True Love over by playing the coquettish maiden fair. Apparently, flirting was quite popular in days of yore.

But Sister Madly was created with a bit of a design flaw: she is completely incapable of playing the Coquettish Maiden Fair without looking like a psychotic Miss Piggy with a bad case of the collywobbles, and that had a catastrophic effect on flirting… never before had a Reaper dropped his scythe and run like that…

She blames it on her recessive genes.

Sister Madly didn’t know it that day, but had she retrieved her Rock, it would have been she – not the Dodo – who met her True Love, who frolicked happily around a maypole, and who would now be a local beer.

Instead, she contemplated the clouds while lying in a field of buttercups- having properly filled herself with cider, of course.

PORK UDON CURRY

  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 chili, chopped and seeded to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 bay
  • udon or ramen noodles
  • sliced pork
  • 1-2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • lime juice, to taste
  • chives, for garnish

Saute onions in hot oil until translucent
Add garlic, ginger, and chili; saute 2-3 min
Add spices; saute 30 sec
Add pork; brown slightly; 2-3 min
Add broth, coconut milk, and fish sauce; bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer until pork is cooked through
Add udon/ramen; simmer until tender
Remove from heat; add lime juice and garnish with chives

THEME SONG: Lover, Lover, Lover, Leonard Cohen


IMAGES:

1) Black Plague Brewing
2) Christopher Lovell

Space Oddity

Nothing makes the Earth
Seem so Spacious

As to have Friends
At a Distance.

~ Henry David Thoreau


Unlikely Friends Images:

1) Pinterest
2) Pinterest
3) Lassi Rautiainen

Rustic Chicken Stout Stew ~ A Betta Fish in a Sequined Bag

The problem with having a local business is that it’s often frequented by enterprising locals, all hoping to sell their wares.

Utopia was no different.

Now Sister Madly had heard tales of these free-range entrepreneurs but thought them as mythical as the Sasquatch- that is, until the winter when they descended upon Utopia in droves, pitching products from handmade jewelry to glass-blown bongs suggestive in their design, to local music unsuitable for human absorption. Sister Madly obtained an extraordinary amount of patience in those years, listening to horrific demos while dogs howled from the alley.

But even this did not quite compare to the brainchild of the wayward Fashionista, whose poorly executed British Accent* pitched her personal line of sequined handbags. These bags, each the size of a cigar box, seemed normal enough- that is, until the Fashionista flipped the purse around to reveal the small compartment containing a live, and rather surly, Betta Fish.

* Like many Americans attempting a British accent, the Fashionista could mimic nothing better than southern Alabama.

Now Sister Madly is all for chasing one’s dreams; she herself has aspirations that border the utterly insane- like one day eating a salad- but not one of those dreams include strutting along Bourbon Street with a Betta Fish in a Sequined Handbag. Clearly, her face reflected the WTF that she was thinking, as the Fashionista went on to emphasized certain selling points, including a self-contained LED light (with multiple twinkle settings) and the fact that almost any freshwater* fish from goldfish to guppy could be substituted for the Betta.

* This was blatant discrimination against all saltwater creatures- after all, what femme fatale wouldn’t want to tote a halibut glowing pride?

Being a humble clerk, Sister Madly was no more authorized to make wholesale purchases than she was to dispose of bodies in the company’s dumpster- and she campaigned for both during her employment. In fact, Management rarely purchased anything local, preferring rather back alley transactions and mysterious shipments from China * to the dubious wares of the native psychopaths.

* Sister Madly eventually gained the confidence of Management, who assigned her the task of ripping the labels off all shipments from China in an attempt to conceal the identity of their suppliers. It was useless, really- the return addresses were written in Chinese.

After the regulation We-Don’t-Want-Your-Wares-Weirdo-But-It-Sounds-Like-You-Have-A-Chance Spiel (which Sister Madly delivered most diplomatically,) the Fashionista said something quite lovely in British-Alabamian, smiled in this same language, and sashayed her glamorous self out the door- leaving handbag behind as a ‘sample.’

Make no mistake, Sister Madly likes presents; she likes finding books on the side of the road, or lotion samples in the mail, and has been known to dine quite handsomely toothpicked meatballs at the market. But all these are a far cry from being saddled with a surly Betta Fish by a Fashionista with a bad accent.

Then again, if Sister Madly can properly care for a Betta Fish, she would be prepared for the day the Humane Society drops off a sample Corgi. She would be the first civilian sought to test-ride a luxury Zeppelin cross-country, and would be the prime candidate to care for the sample case of premium Hard Cider expected to arrive the following week. It wouldn’t be long before Sister Madly proved herself worthy of a galaxy or two, with unlimited dimension-traveling privileges.

In the meantime, Utopia now had a Betta Fish who, judging by its disposition, did not like the poky accommodations of the Handbag Aquarium- and Sister Madly knew all about the unhappy conditions of poky accommodations.

So she transferred the surly Fish to a shiny, new, Tibetan Singing Bowl.

But new digs meant little without nutrition in terms of survival; so Sister Madly took it upon herself to feed the Surly Fish and even went so far as to do it with a smile.

But what does a Betta eat? Aside from giving her the evil eye, it’s been rather uncommunicative, and try as she might, Sister Madly did not speak fish. Taking into account the dietary lifestyle commonly found in poky accommodations, Sister Madly assumed (quite correctly, no doubt) that a Surly Fish would enjoy the same fare.

So she bought the Betta two large pizzas and some olives, knowing her coworkers would assist in finishing what the Fish could not consume as to avoid unnecessary waste. Her coworkers were most resourceful when it came to all things edible.

She also bought a small canister of Fish Food- you know, just in case.

RUSTIC CHICKEN STOUT STEW

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 chicken thighs, cubed
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 1½ cups stout, divided (1 cup + ½ cup)
  • bacon, cooked and crumbled (opt)
  • pearl onions, peeled
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • carrots, cubed
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp sage
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • heavy cream (opt)

Sauté chopped onion in bacon grease/oil until translucent; 8-10 min
Add garlic; sauté 1-2 min
Deglaze with 1 cup stout; 2-3 min
Mix in spices; 30 sec
Add vegetables; stir to coat
Add chicken; stir to coat
Add stock, Worcestershire, and remaining stout; mix
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer 1-1½ hour
Add cream (if using); simmer 10 min
Remove bay leaf; garnish with bacon before serving

THEME SONG: Dream On, Aerosmith

Bourbon Maple Chicken ~ The Power of Cheese

In Sister Madly’s experience, cheeses don’t just pop across the marketplace like champagne corks; so it was something of a surprise when she found herself assaulted by a wedge of Camembert. To find the source of the offending cheese, she had to look no farther than the dreadlocked gent now contemplating the Brie, who gave no explanation other than the Camembert had ‘bad energy.’

Technically speaking, sir, everything has energy, if only potential- Sister Madly learned that much as a wee little thing in Science Class.

But Science doesn’t cover Cheese Energy as far as she knows, except with respect to other objects or situations.

Take gravitational cheese energy, for example: Sister Madly can stuff you full of Brie and throw you off the roof; for electrical, that outlet by the sushi bar appears to be rather volatile.* However, if it’s thermal cheese energy you seek, Sister Madly will be more than happy to set the Brie on fire.

Sister Madly is all about helping her fellow man.

* A conclusion drawn by the presence of several bewildered electricians and lots of pretty sparks.

But the Dreadlocked Gent did not want the help of his fellow man, choosing rather to determine the energy himself by meditating with every Cheese- and she does mean every. He immediately bonded with a cheeky little Manchego from the discount basket, but did not jive with the Asiago nor the Double Gloucester with Chives; Sister Madly avoided those projectiles successfully.

Perhaps Cheese has properties she never realized, much like how the cancerous side-effects of radiation were of no surprise, but the subsequent arrival of Godzilla & Company was somewhat unexpected. Maybe Bad Cheese Energy has its own side-effects: it could be the reason why Sister Madly has 2 different-sized feet, or why her hair gets hair-band big after the rain, or why she is perpetually the 5th wheel amongst her friends.* Bad Cheese Energy may have been responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire, or the extinction of the dinosaurs; it could be the reason behind corruption in politics.

* Although that 5th wheel thing might have everything to do with Sister Madly being a proper lunatic.

But upon thinking about it, Sister Madly realized that she has experienced the Power of Cheese: once, a Provolone attempted to enslave her in the kitchen, while not too long ago she dabbled with Stilton, which is said to induce dreams. Sister Madly did dream that night, but it was nothing like the acid trip of pure imagination that was promised. Then again, perhaps Stilton is the LSD of cheeses, and the dreams will manifest as a series of magnificent flashbacks in years to come.

In fact, there’s one now…

Booyah!”

This most sophisticated salutation was accompanied by an insane proposition by the Happy Phlebotomist, who was in the field militantly actively recruiting for the local Blood Drive- at least, he was militantly actively recruiting Sister Madly.*

* Sister Madly isn’t sure ‘Booyah!’ is the best way to recruit souls for a blood-draining ritual… but then, she isn’t a professional.

Since the Phlebotomy Community of America has yet to figure out a needle-free way to extract blood (osmosis, for example- that’s a very science-y thing) Sister Madly was unable to accept his most intriguing proposition (apparently, the draining ritual comes with a free cookie!) but she was just fresh out of blood. It’s one of the more unfortunate side-effects of being a Moppet.

“But you’re all about helping your fellow man.”

Just when did she say that?

“About 10 minutes ago.”

… she was rather hoping you didn’t hear that…

BOURBON MAPLE CHICKEN

  • 6-8 chicken drums/thighs

MARINADE

  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 TBSP coriander
  • 2 tsp chipotle pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP lime juice
  • 3-4 TBSP olive oil, or as needed

BOURBON GLAZE

  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp lime juice

MARINADE
Mix together marinade ingredients
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Refrigerate 30min – 24hrs

GLAZE
Mix together all ingredients except lime juice
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer to reduce (glaze will coat spoon)
Mix in lime juice and remove from heat

BAKE
Preheat oven to 400*
Place chicken on greased baking rack in tray
Bake for 45 min
Remove from oven, brush chicken with glaze
Return to oven; bake 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining glaze straight from oven

 THEME SONG: Meltdown, AC/DC

Puppet Master

Nothing
Is More Despicable

Than Respect
Based on Fear.

~ Albert Camus


Images:

1)bee-tea.deviantart.com
2) Pinterest
3) Pinterest

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