Occasionarian diary 5, Italian style, crock-pot recipe, veggie

1. Soak a cup of beans overnight. I used a quarter cup each of black, Mayacoba, pinto, and hominy. Then rinse them.

Step 1, after soaking, rinse the beans

Step 1, after soaking, rinse the beans

2. Get the beans started. Put them in the crock pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Turn it on high.

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Step 2, get the beans started

3. Gather veggies. These are from our garden. Choose whatever you want, but the tomatoes are a must. I didn’t use the little hot ones as this is Italian, not Mexican this time. But I did use the one jalapeno for flavor. It isn’t very hot.

Tomatoes and peppers

Tomatoes and peppers

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Yellow squash that we let too big and rock hard, but no problem, the slow cooker will soften it

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Veg Slow Cook Italian Style17


The stinking rose, but of course

Garlic…but of course! Sorry for the little camera strap…

4. Chop all the veggies, but do the onions and garlic first, plus peppers, old gourds, and eggplant if you use them.
5. Saute the “aromatics” (onions and garlic) and the eggplant and peppers while you chop up the tomatoes and basil. Once done, add them to the crock pot so you can saute the hard squash. If you aren’t using a hard squash, skip step 6.

Olive oil

Olive oil

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Sauteing the aromatics, peppers and eggplant (because those all taste better if sauteed in olive oil first)

6. If you are using an impossibly hard old squash, saute that too.

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7. De-glaze the pot with some wine or sherry to get the yummy brown stuff off the bottom.

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8. Throw everything in the crock pot.

Veg Slow Cook Italian Style229. Add a teaspoon of salt, a couple teaspoons of Italian seasoning, and stir.



I love that people grow these. The couple came out of the house when I was snapping shots. The man was the gardener. He was pleased I was admiring them and explained many gardening details about what he had done to create the beautiful collection. Apparently if you plant too many, they don’t grow as high. He has another crop of starter  plants ready to go when this crop dies out.


How to pack for a two-month trip with one carry-on suitcase

You all are going to be seeing me in these clothes for a couple months. I did my best to incorporate some variety for the sake of the photos.

After thinking about this for months and coming up with one strategy, I learned they have convertible pants for women and changed my strategy. Yesterday I bought two pair of convertible pants at REI. These are pants that can have the legs zipped off to make shorts. They also are made with fabric that seems like it will dry quickly, so I can hand wash them in the hotel and hang them up to dry. Since we are staying at least 3 days in each hotel, I can wash one pair and let it dry the whole three days, if needed. The convertible pants form the core of my plan. I will wear them with various shirts.


Core sight-seeing outfits

Then I have a stack of polo shirts. One eggplant-colored long sleeved shirt that is in the upper right, a brown turtleneck with a scarf. The scarf also goes with the eggplant shirt. A blue turtleneck goes with the blue scarf. The little taupe pile next to the pants is a Chicos stretchy knit tank and a silky light jacket which I bought a couple years ago at Ross Dress for Less. Then that red tank, to which I also added a navy-blue cotton jacket made by Charters Club (not shown). Both of those came from Kohl’s a few years back. The pile of polo shirts are all hand-me downs! Handy…indeed.

Next, what to wear to dress up? I bought a nice outfit in New York many years ago at the discount store called Century 21. (If you get to Manhattan and want to shop, I highly recommend it.) The outfit has a pair of black lightweight pants and a long shimmery tunic. I added another tunic I just bought locally (the red and black striped one to the right of the pants), and then I had to have my favorite blouse, which I bought in New York at Filene’s Basement.  (Another recommended shopping spot!) That is the one on the right. It has little pictures of Paris landmarks. So this gives me three different outfits in case we eat dinner in a fancy hotel three nights in a row. I will look a little different each time.

Dressy outfits

Dressy outfits

I don’t know why I’m giving you all this shopping detail, except that this blog post has reawakened my love of clothes, something that has withered on the vine since I retired from my day job and became a full-time fiction writer (see: sweats).

Okay, next we have to deal with possible cold weather and rain. Also beach weather and workout clothes. The jacket on the left is, I believe, Patagonia. A hand-me down. Yes it’s nice being the youngest; even as an adult I get stuff! Then there is long underwear, a baby alpaca sweater that I bought in Peru, a thin bathing suit cover up from TravelSmith, some Tevo sandals, and a couple pair of workout shorts and tank tops.


Cold weather clothes, swimsuit cover up and workout clothes

I also packed a leather jacket I spent too much on but it is such high quality it has lasted 10 years so far and I wear it all the time in the winter. It is not shown, however you will see it in my travel photos.

It all had to fit in here.


Carry on bag

You can see I’m not a fashionista when it comes to luggage. Not that I don’t love beautiful luggage, but it’s not super important. Mostly I want practical and this travel-weary bag does the trick.

Carry on bag interior

Carry on bag interior

That’s a pink cube which is used for…who knows. I’ll explain in a minute. There’s a blue umbrella in there, a memento from a Paris tourist shop and a plastic bag. Hang in there, we’re coming to the great packing adventure.

Failed packing attempt

Failed packing attempt

I love the color of the pink cube. It seemed like a good idea to use it to separate out some of the clothes. But it was a space hog. The shoes, shown in those two plastic bags, didn’t fit.

My husband was watching all this and explained that the cube was forcing me into a certain configuration and not allowing me to use all the space. He also told me about rolling the clothes.


Rolled clothes in the suitcase

Even the shoes now fit!

Fully packed bag

Fully packed bag

You’ll notice on the left side there are a couple snaps. Turns out this bag has a separator there and that’s where I put the leather jacket.

On the plane, I’ll wear BCBG black sweats that have a pretty rhinestone flower on them, a polo shirt, my running shoes and a black hoody.

We don’t leave for a few weeks, but I’m packed. All I have to do is add the swimsuit, which I still need, and toiletries. A few other essentials and my computer and camera will go in my second carry-on, a backpack.


New York, Manhattan, Warwick, Bellvale and Greenwood Lake

I wasn’t in the city too much, but I did catch this shot of the George Washington Bridge on the way out.


I stayed with friends at Greenwood Lake outside the city. You don’t have to drive that far to be in a country setting. This shot is from Demarest Hill Winery in Warwick New York.

Demarest-wineryThe wine wasn’t to my liking, but they do appear to have good grappa and brandy, which I didn’t try. The scenery was stunning.

However, in the department of recommendations, I suggest The Creamery. Here you will get great views and fantastic ice cream!

The Creamery Ice Cream Cone Nia in front of The Creamery View from The Creamery

To burn off some of the ice cream, we went water skiing, or at least, my friends did. I used the opportunity to play with the Panasonic DMC-ZS40’s auto-focusing motor drive. It’s pretty easy to rack up about 300 photos in an hour that way! I liked that I could zoom in on the skier and then shoot continuously. For action shots you really have to shoot that way to get just the right shot. Here is my favorite of a friend of my friends.


Ochs Orchard in Warwick is a beautiful place to pick up some produce.

Ochs-farm FarmOverall, I had a great time with my friends. The meeting I had with Brenda Novak, her agent and one of her editors, Margaret Marbury, was very helpful to me. We had a good time and the conversation helped me sort some things out for myself about genre, direction, blogs, and commercial fiction.