passport renewal

passport renewal part 2 / blueberry bliss smoothie

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Last night I picked up our mail and was pleasantly surprised to see an envelope from the Department of State. Must be my new passport, right? After an evil post office woman, four hours, a $110 check, and yelling obscenities in the privacy of my car about the inefficiency of government run businesses, I was actually receiving my passport in a timely fashion. I nearly felt guilty for my previous post (see Passport Renewal), but then I opened the thick, manila envelope. New passport? Nope. It was my old passport, all of my filled out paperwork, and a fresh white letter telling me that my passport renewal had been denied. I looked in the envelope for the returned check. No luck; the bastards took my money anyway…and, on top of it all, they had the audacity to tell me in that my check amount was incorrect. I was supposed to send $135 dollars instead of $110 dollars. Super. So why had it been denied? Apparently I had already applied for a passport in 2003.
#$%*@#?! (translation: I am a little frustrated) because I sent them my old passport, marriage license, social security number, soul, and a unicorn friend to vouch for me…and they still turned me down (not to mention my unicorn had to be overnighted which was expensive).
Luckily, my husband’s passport is up to date, so he just needs to renew his green card (he’s from outer space!!!). Isn’t it strange how they call non-citizens aliens? Every time I see his “legal alien” card I envision a purple, bug-eyed creature with antennae and sticky fingers like E.T., not a cute englishman.
And speaking of aliens…Dragon (samwise gamgee) has been mewing all morning and staring at the ceiling as though a demon has infiltrated our apartment. I think it may have something to do with the fact that we removed the AC unit from our bedroom window. This is rather catastrophic (no pun intended) for a cat like Dragon. She lives in our apartment, every second of every day, and isn’t allowed outside (for reasons I think you may be able to guess…she gets lost in open spaces, remember?). There was a large, grey object that made loud noises and now there isn’t (translation: demons are in the apartment and she must alarm everyone to their presence). I also made the mistake of leaving the closet under the stairs (mordor) slightly ajar. Frodo went inside (naturally, because he’s got to throw that ring into the fires of mount doom already!) and when Dragon approached the dark, menacingly entrance…she panicked. She could hear the crinkling of bags (translation: roar of mount doom’s inferno), and feared for Frodo’s life, so she pooped outside the litter box and has been running around the apartment like a maniac for the last ten minutes.
Needless to say, I’ve been slightly distracted and unable to edit my novel very much this morning. Solution? A raw smoothie to energize my spirits (and an excuse to turn on the blender and further confuse Dragon). Raw food used to scare me because I love cooked, hot, cozy food, and whenever I thought of the word raw I envisioned cold, gazpacho soup, goosebumps, a food dehydrator, and an unsatisfied stomach. But you know what? Raw food is pretty r-awesome. Yup, I just said rawesome…deal with it, haters.

Blueberry bliss smoothie

1 large banana, peel removed
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
1 cup soy milk (I use Edensoy Extra Original) or non-dairy milk of your choice
A few pinches of ground cinnamon
3-4 ice cubes
**For a protein boost, I add a small scoop of hemp protein powder (I use Living Harvest Organic Hemp Protein…nothing but cold milled hemp!)

In a high speed blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve to two sluggish unicorns without passports.

passport renewal / penne perfection

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Whenever I have to do something that involves a visit to a government run agency, I realize that those cocktail parties aren’t so bad after all.
I needed to renew my passport. I’m an american citizen and I already have a passport, shouldn’t be too complicated, right?  Wrong.  I brought my passport to the post office along with my marriage license, driver’s license, american flag, soul, and cross.  This didn’t change anything. The woman at the desk looked at me as if I was a criminal, handed me a form, and told me that I had to go somewhere else to have my photo taken.  “Why can’t I do it here?” I asked.  “Cannot do it here,” was her reply.  Fine.  I went to AAA and got my photo taken, and you know what?  They’re really nice there and didn’t charge me anything for my photos. I started to feel better about the whole process, and brought my filled out form and photos back to the evil post office woman. No good. She said that because I had gotten married, I needed to make a notarized copy of my marriage license.  “I have it right here…can’t you just make a copy or sign off that I showed it to you?”  She shook her head, and I felt the distinct urge to scream. I gave her a fake smile and said “thanks for your help,” sarcasm heavy on my tongue, and went to town hall.

The office was in the basement, at the end of a long corridor.  I was feeling sorry for myself until I saw how bad the town hall people had it.  Their bodies were slowly expanding over the sides of their chairs, and desks were littered with glass jars of jelly beans and hershey’s kisses. A plaque bearing the words “Live, Love, Laugh” brought on a feeling of sudden nausea, not to mention the seasonal decorations; an attempt to evoke the feeling of celebrating the season, but instead only managing to look cheap. The windows, which overlooked a slope of dirt and a few gangly bushes, was littered with scarecrows and dried corn stalks. Black spiders and cats hung above the windows. I felt as though I had been transported to a scarier version of The Wizard of Oz.  $25 dollars later, I was given a copy of my marriage license from a woman wearing earrings that said “Boo!”, and drove back to the post office.  I wrote a check for $110, then paid a few more dollars to mail everything out to the passport processing center, and then, I was done.  Hooray!  It only took me three hours, four stops, four different people, and $140 dollars to renew my passport!  What an efficient system!  

In light of the time I wasted for passport renewal, I will share a lovely pasta recipe of mine that takes 30 minutes or less to make, and tastes so delicious that you’ll feel like you’re dining in an Italian countryside, with or without your passport.  I use tempeh for an added boost of protein and to give the dish a meatier texture.  If you don’t like capers and olives, then I don’t know what to say except: I’m sorry.  Capers and olives make pasta extraordinary so if you’ve never tried this combination out before, now is the perfect time!

Penne Perfection with Tempeh, Capers, and Olives

1/2 bag or 3 cups whole wheat penne (I use Bionaturae brand) or brown rice pasta (I use Jovial brand)
1 jar marinara sauce (if you’re not using homemade, splurge a little on the good stuff…Rao’s marinara sauce = amazing)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 package tempeh, crumbled (I use SoyBoy soy or five grain tempeh)
generous splash of white wine or stock to deglaze the pan
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 container or 2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 jar capers + brine (I use Mediterranean Organics capers)
generous handful of kalamata olives, pitted (buy them pitted, otherwise make a unicorn work on pitting them while you do the rest of the cooking)
sea salt & black pepper to taste

Fill a large pot halfway with water, add a small handful of salt (yup, handful.  Water for pasta should almost taste like teardrops), and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat oil on medium flame and add onions, cooking for a few minutes until soft and starting to brown.  Add crumbled tempeh and stir occasionally, until cooked through, about five minutes (the tempeh will stick, and that’s okay!).  Deglaze the pan with wine or stock, using a wooden spoon to loosen the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.  Now add garlic and mushrooms.  Once the water is boiling in your pot, use a colander, chinois, or strainer to briefly submerge kale in water.  Press out excess water with spoon, then add to saute pan.  Turn down flame to low and add capers, olives and marinara sauce. allow to simmer for a few minutes while you cook the pasta according to package instructions (usually about 10 minutes for whole wheat).  Once the pasta is al dente, drain in colander and place back in pot with a little olive oil.  Now add the entire mixture in your saute pan to the pot and mix everything together with a little salt and pepper.  Serve to four italian-wannabe unicorns.