Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to be an unforgettable volunteer

Are you considering volunteer work? Follow this advice, and I guarantee no one at the Nonprofit Agency will EVER forget you.

1. Do not expect to follow a volunteer schedule. The Nonprofit Agency's work flow certainly won't be disrupted by your unannounced arrival or early departure.

2. Your desire to volunteer trumps a Master's Degree.  Unskilled volunteers and highly educated professionals do the same work. On your first day of volunteering, expect to take on the duties of the Museum Curator or the Head Administrator (but only the fun duties, not the ones you don't feel like doing). Anything else would be beneath you.

3. Clothing is optional. It is a good idea to take down your pants in the middle of the Children's Library to show off the scars from your botched tummy tuck. It's best to give no warning when doing this--just go for it.

4. "Teen volunteering" and "babysitting" are synonymous. Do not ask your teenager whether he or she would like to volunteer. Simple drop your child off at the Nonprofit Agency with no warning. The Volunteer Coordinator will immediately be available to invest hours of training in your reluctant child. After all, the Volunteer Coordinator never attends meetings or has other appointments.

5. Never confirm an appointment. If the Volunteer Coordinator asks "Would you like to train on Tuesday from 3:00 - 5:00?" do NOT, under any circumstances, answer her. Simply show up on Tuesday at 2:00. If the Volunteer Coordinator is not immediately available to see you, be angry.

6. For men: Every woman who works at the Nonprofit Agency is in love with you. You should wait outside by their cars at night in the dark. Better yet, wait by a woman's car and make sure she sees you duck behind another vehicle when she approaches. This is appealing and mysterious, not frightening or threatening.

7. Assume that being a volunteer means you are about to be hired, especially if there are no positions available, and you have not given Human Resources an employment application. Ask the Volunteer Coordinator if you can work at the Nonprofit Agency on a daily basis.

8. The Nonprofit Agency is a good substitute for therapy. While performing volunteer work, it is perfectly acceptable to cry, threaten suicide, and/or describe personal traumas in great detail. There is no such thing as Too Much Information.

Above all, remember this: YOU are the most important thing. "Volunteer work" is something you do to amuse yourself, not something you do to assist the Nonprofit Agency. Happy volunteering!

Senegalese Peanut Soup

Flavorful, filling, and delicious served over rice. Add some chicken or tofu, and it's a meal.

2 tbsp peanut oil
3 shallots, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
stems from 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp curry powder
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
3/4 c peanut butter
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk

2 tbsp chopped cilantro
plain yogurt
lime wedges

1. Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add garlic, shallots, and cilantro stems. Cook over high heat for a few minutes, then reduce heat to medium. Cook 10 minutes.
2. Stir in curry powder and cayenne pepper.
3. Add 3 cups of water and tomatoes, including all the juices. Stir well and bring to a boil.
4. Drop in the peanut butter and simmer 15 minutes.
5. Stir in the coconut milk. Add salt to taste.
6. Add a dollop of yogurt and some chopped cilantro to each bowl. Serve with a wedge of lime on the side.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

This book is a modern fairy tale, a lighthearted philosophy lesson, and a reminder that life is a miraculous and beautiful gift. As the story begins, Hans Thomas and his father are traveling to Greece in search of Hans Thomas' long-lost mother. A strange little man gives Hans Thomas a magnifying glass, and a kind old baker gives Hans Thomas a sticky bun containing a tiny book that can only be read using the magnifying glass. The book contains a fantastic fairy tale about a shipwrecked sailor and a magical island populated by a suit of cards that mysteriously came to life. But as Hans Thomas reads further, he realizes that the story in the book relates to him and his family, and it might not be entirely fictional.

The narrative switches back and forth between philosophical conversations between Hans Thomas and his father, and the fantastic story in the sticky bun book. This keeps the book balanced so it does not become too silly. Well-written and whimsical, I recommend this to anyone who is looking for light and interesting summer reading. This story will leave you smiling.

Just another day at the library.

Jen: "Alex, the sign-in sheet says that you volunteered from 4:00 to 6:00, and you worked for 3 hours."
Alex: "Yeah."
Jen: "Which one is accurate?"
(long pause)
Alex: "I worked 3 hours, from 4:00 - 6:00."
Jen: "That's two hours, Alex."
Alex: "Four o'clock. Five o'clock. Six o'clock. 3 hours."
Jen: "No. Four to five is one hour. Five to six is one more hour.That's two hours, hon."
Alex: "You say I only worked two hours? No! I worked from 4:00 to 6:00!"
Alex is a high school senior.

I can make a very convincing fart noise by wiggling my toe around in my shoe. I like to make this noise in the middle of a crowded place and watch people look around trying to find the gassy one. Everyone wrinkles their noses and gives the people nearby suspicious looks. This keeps me entertained far longer than I should admit.

Cranberry, cucumber, and couscous salad

Is this your image?
Please let me know so I can credit you!
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup couscous
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/2 tbsp mayo or creamy balsamic salad dressing
1-1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1. Combine the water and chicken broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
2. Combine the cranberries and couscous in a large glass bowl. Pour the boiling liquid over them, stir, and cover with plastic wrap. Wait 5 - 10 minutes.
3. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Fold in the cucumbers, feta, nuts, salad dressing, and vinegar. Salt to taste.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

i won the true anser.

Of all the things I've randomly found at the library, this is my favorite. In early 2008, a man brought in a huge, musty old box of children's books printed in the 1960s. The books looked and smelled as if they'd spent the last 40 years in an attic. I poked through the box and opened an ancient copy of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This fell out.

flip it over, and...

The child who wrote this is probably nearly 50 years old now. I wonder if she (it was definitely a she!) still remembers the little boy she liked so much. I wonder if Rick and Christy were in on it. Perhaps one of them delivered the note. I bet the writer bullied one of them into doing it--she seems like a little beast!

Sun-dried tomato & Pecan Couscous

My recipes are so predictable. Shallots? Check. Couscous? Check. Garlic? Check.
But the sun-dried tomato pesto makes this one different and special. Promise!

  • 2/3 cup pecan pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups quartered fresh button mushrooms
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 (6.5 ounce) bottle sun-dried tomato pesto
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecan pieces onto a baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes. Flip 'em over and toast for 5 minutes more. Remove from oven.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms, shallot, and garlic in the melted butter 7 - 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Return the skillet to the heat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet. Stir the water into the butter; bring to a boil. Put the couscous in a glass bowl; pour the butter and water mixture over the couscous. Immediately cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit until the couscous absorbs all of the moisture, 7 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  4. Mix the pesto and tomato paste. Stir the toasted pecans, the mushroom mixture, the pesto mixture, and Parmesan cheese through the couscous. Season with salt and pepper to serve.
Try it. You'll like it!
Ganked from and modified to suit my shallot-obsessed, ingredient-challenged self.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I make bridal hair accessories, floral fascinators, and now flapper-style headpieces. I'm quite pleased with this new design. 

Makeup: Amy Smith
Model: Alexandra Van Zeelandt
Photography: Ernie Passwaters

Headpiece: NeldaZee

Monday, June 20, 2011

Curmudgeon Lady versus The Great I Am.

The volunteers at my library's reception desk get bored and leave anonymous notes for each other.