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Thursday, October 30, 2008

eat that, neighborhood!

I'm done voting!

I was trying to find where to sign Captain America up for basketball, which, do they have to make it so hard for me to give them money? Finally, after trying two other buildings I found the right place in the basement of the police station, which freaked me out, because I had to walk right past the police dogs, and I've seen Mythbusters, I know those guys don't screw around, puma musk or not. But I was not accosted.

And the bonus is that the first wrong building I went to while looking for the "give us money to teach your child athletic prowess" department had early voting. I got my cute little sticker, which doesn't have the cachet that it would next Tuesday, when I could use it to browbeat the non-civic minded around me. Also--no candy! What gives, aged volunteers? I've come to expect to be offered a piece of ancient, nasty Brach's Pick-a-Mix when I do my civic duty and exercise my franchise!

I hope I didn't break the country.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

getting to know quinces, getting to know all about quinces

(Sung to the tune of that song from The King and I--I don't care if the meter is wrong!)

Here is what I know about quinces:

They are very fragrant and do, in fact, perfume the whole room.
I think Nate's grandma's tree is a Pineapple Quince, because that's what these quinces smell like.
They are in the Rosaceae family, so they're cousins to apples, cherries, pears and such.
They are very high in pectin and help with the jelling of other fruits in baked goods.
They are fuzzy like a peach, but hard like an unripe pear.
When raw they are inedible.
They taste yummy when they're cooked.
They take a terrifically long time to cook.

Making quince preserves:

I altered a Martha recipe somewhat, because I looked at the equal parts of quinces and sugar and said, "No, thank you." Refer to Martha for the ingredient list.

Wash the quinces and pull off any leaves or stems, then put them in a pot with 5 cups of water and (if you're me) 2 cups of honey or (if you're not me) 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring them to a boil, then reduce heat and let them simmer until they're tender (mine took about 2 hours).

Once they're tender, remove them from the pot, reserving the liquid. Let them cool enough to chop them into big pieces (I forgot to take a picture of this part), then return them to the pot, seeds, skins and all. Add the lemon juice and (if you're not me) the remaining 5 cups of sugar.

Stir them and let them cook for eleventy billion years until they're soft and the liquid has thickened. They should get to about 220* on a candy thermometer.

Plop the mess into a sieve and moosh it through the mesh with a spoon. Or use a food mill or something fancy if you must. Give the leftover gook to your chickens.

So sparkly!

This is how much I got. Not 7 cups, if you're wondering. But I only need 1 1/2 cups for the cake I'm making, so that's okay. I think the honey-for-sugar swap may have affected the results.

And all I had to do was dirty every dish in my house!

If anybody was wondering, quince preserves taste equally great on both Wensleydale and Midnight Moon.

So if you see some quinces, snatch them up and make some preserves. Or put one under your armpit and give it to your husband. Oh, wait. I think that's supposed to be an apple. Well, preserves it is, then!

at least it's almost over

I keep hearing people expressing the idea that next Tuesday will be a litmus test of America's progress in its treatment of racial minorities, and it bothers me a little. Perhaps I feel this way because I live in an idyllic rural community, but my politics transcend race. I will not vote for Barack Obama because I disagree with him on a number of core issues, but I will not be voting for John McCain, either--for the same reason. And I resent the claim being made that an Obama loss next Tuesday would mean that America is still racist. I will not say that there aren't racists living here--I've certainly had the ill fortune to meet enough of them--but I don't think you can place all the blame at their door. It's the same way I felt about Hillary. Yeah, it's time to have a female president, long past time, in fact, but you don't vote for someone based solely on their gender. Nor do you vote for someone because of their race. Likewise, you don't NOT vote for someone because of their race or gender. That is a ridiculous and dangerous way to conduct governance of an extraordinarily diverse country. So, I do feel that it's quite likely that there will be a Bradley Effect in play, but I don't expect it to change the projected outcome of the election. If Obama loses next week I will eat my hat. Which would really suck, because I'll have to go buy a hat to eat. But I still have enough faith in my countrymen that I believe they, like me, will vote for the person they feel best represents them and their approach to how to help America succeed.

I get so frustrated because I feel like in our modern political arena we only get sound bytes tailored to get airplay, and we're never able to scratch past the carefully constructed veneer and see who any of the candidates really are. So we're left with Obama the Pandering Socialist, Biden the Duplicitous Windbag, McCain the Senile Warmonger and Palin the Redneck Barbie. And I'd guess--I'd hope--that the truth is quite different.

John thinks that we should have a "C-None of the Above" option on the ballot, and if more than 50% of the population chooses C, we get a do-over, Bush leaves office immediately, and the interim president is selected at random from the phone book, because whoever it is surely can't make things any worse than they already are.

Monday, October 27, 2008

makery

Things Chucking It I've done recently:

I made yogurt with some milk that was getting close to its pull date. My children refuse to eat it, because although it tastes EXACTLY like the Mountain High yogurt we buy, it is in an unfamiliar package. But the joke's on them, because I put it in their lunches today, and they'll eat it or starve. The Hulk: "I'll starve, thanks."

Nate's grandma sent some quinces for me, so I'm making quince preserves. I wasn't supposed to peel and core them.

Here is our slow cooker applesauce. Super easy and delicious. Chunk the apples up and cook them until they're soft. I added a little bit of honey and some cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. So I'll feel even more like I'm eating pie filling!

As soon as I find a slow cooker at the D.I. I'm going to get together with some other hippie ladies and make some soap that supposedly only needs to cure for a day. I'll be happy because I wash with lard.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

quirk tag

I've been instructed to list six quirks about myself. What, only six, you say? However did I narrow it down to only six?

1. I cry about some really stupid crap.
For example, I cried while watching Ghostbusters 2 on the treadmill yesterday. Like, not even Ghostbusters Original Recipe. But you guys, with the giant Statue of Liberty, and the playing of "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," and the baby, oh my gosh, the ENDANGERED BABY. It's the confluence of three of my known kryptonites: nostalgic patriotism, unfettered joyful singing, and jeopardy of a small/cute/furry creature. Jeez, I'm not a robot. Speaking of which . . .

2. I'm fairly certain that intelligent robots will factor heavily in bringing about the end of the world.
John is concerned about my mental well-being.

3. I resent schedules imposed by external forces.
For example, I have one piano student, and every Wednesday I wake up and think, "Well, THIS day is ruined!" because I know I have to be at my house for a specific half hour that afternoon. Even though I'm at my house almost all of the time, anyway. I feel claustrophobic about it.

4. You know those old ladies in nursing homes who swear? That's me.
I know this, because I curse in my brain all the time. It's only the social filters put in place by my parents and my religion that keep me from swearing like a mule skinner, so when I get senile? I'm probably going to get evicted from my assisted living center.

5. I love words, especially big words, especially big German words.
Schadenfreude? Gotterdammerung? Weltanschaung? Angstschweiss? Petersburger Schlittenfahrt? With their ability to create words of such precise, descriptive meaning, it's a wonder that these people aren't running the world.

6. I'm a grammar stickler.
I check and re-check and edit all my correspondence, including emails and text messages. In fact, I refuse to use text language, because I find it asinine, so I type everything out. I'm fine with using an informal, conversational voice (as you may note from my blog), but I hate errors. I found a spot in the comments of one of my posts from a while ago where I had typed "thought" instead of "though," and I seriously considered trashing, rewriting, and reposting the comment.

There they are, six of my hideous disfigurements. I tag Claire (happy birthday!), Jill, Heidi, Courtney, mmm.chocolate, and the tipsy baker.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

so, I make an incision just below the navel?

What is your opinion of health care? Is it a right?

My own opinion is that it is a need, but not a right. I think the world would be much better off if we all had access to affordable, quality health care, especially preventive care. As the situation stands, you have people who can't afford their co-pays, so they don't see a doctor until their problems have gotten drastic enough to require a hospital visit. But I get nervous when people refer to it as a right, because I don't think anything that requires the participation of another person to be a right. For you to have quality health care, you need help from someone who has the ability to provide it, and your rights do not include forcing them to provide that care. Am I making sense at all?

We may as a country take the same road we have with public education and decide that a healthy populace (like a well-educated populace) benefits society enough to merit government funding. I'm not sure how I feel about that, given the state of our public schools, but I'm willing to consider it. I really hate taxes, though. It's the libertarian in me.

So, to sum up, I think our society desperately needs better health care, but I don't want people thinking they're owed it simply because they exist. I am a fierce believer in Oliver Wendell Holmes' quote that "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

Our inalienable rights as described in the Declaration of Independence are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not the achievement of happiness. (Or the pursuit of property, as my AP Government teacher Mr. Bishop said it.)

But we're all grownups here, and I'd love to hear different opinions. John has broken me and turned me into someone who likes to hear all sides of an argument. I used to be so absolute!

Monday, October 20, 2008

this is what people do who don't live by a good bakery

Joy of Cooking, my longtime companion.

ingredients in the bowl--lotsa eggs

sticky dough

It's a good thing I'm familiar with sticky bread doughs, or I would have killed this by adding too much flour, just to get it off my hands.

ewww

But you add a little oil to your hands, get a bench scraper, and you can work your will upon it.

After two rises (one in the fridge, don't ask me why, Joy is the boss of me) you separate it into three balls and let them sit a spell.

Roll the balls into strands, then dust them with flour so they won't mesh into a big lump in the braid.

plaiting the bread

all done, and fairly decent looking

first layer of egg wash

second layer of egg wash, then a dusting of poppy seeds for my drug test

This is the prettiest bread I've made since that time I made Steven a Bread Wife (she was not as pretty as the Marzipan Wife, but was much better tasting). This bread is not very fun to eat.

But my childhood run-ins with the stomach flu taught me many things, like thinking about sourdough pancakes is a vomit catalyst, and a sojourn in eggs and milk will improve many things.

And so we were able to eat some scrumtrillescent French toast, with homemade butter even. Challah is not great for just eatin' on, but I will be making it again and again for weekend breakfasts.

man, do I ever feel your pain

This website makes me laugh:

You Suck at Craigslist

Because, yes. People are the worst. I've gotten some great things from Craigslist, but you have to do some serious weeding. Does anyone go to school anymore?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

of one-holers and desserts

I want all of you to drop whatever you're doing right now and LISTEN TO ME. Close down all your other tabs, pause your tunes and hearken: THE GHETTO BATHROOM/TOIDEYGYM IS FINISHED! I only have a sucky picture, because it's sort of a difficult space to photograph, but know this: it is so, so great to have another place to deal with waste matter. And apparently, here in the 21st century, the quantity and temperature of the shower water are controlled with one knob! What a time to be alive.

The turd churner is regrettably not part of this picture, but rest assured that it has worked according to spec thus far.

I bought a box of peaches last week that I think must have gotten frozen, because they were all mealy and tasted like if bland and sugary and plastic all gave birth to a malformed baby. But, living by the adage of "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," I refused to throw them all away (at least until they have been around a little longer). So I made a peach upside-down cake and peach cobbler. Also I had some rolls left over from a baby blessing that John was supposed to leave at the guest of honor's house, but he is so greedy and evil, you guys! He stole them from that sweet little baby and took them to our house! Anyway, the rolls were about to go south, so I made them into a pumpkin bread pudding. And by pumpkin I mean Butternut squash, because that's what I had. There were some issues relating to ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack (COBBLER, BOO), and I would be embarrassed to enter these dishes in the county fair, but the children were delighted with The Day of Three Desserts. My favorite was the bread pudding, and it will be made again.

Superman is not daunted by my bounty of baked goods made from ingredients nearing the end of their shelf life.

As you can see, I have a picture cord again, finally, and will post tomorrow about the challah, which made up for its wan personality by enabling us to have the most rocking French toast we have ever eaten. And I'm not exaggerating for effect.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

no pictures of challah

I made challah! And it worked, I think. It's not a very exciting bread, is it? Maybe because I'm not eating it on the Sabbath. And, not having grown up in a Jewish family, or knowing any Jewish people, I had never heard "challah" pronounced. You will be glad to know that it's pronounced with a hard h, as with chutzpah.

That reminds me--I once worked with a girl named Hala Day. Crazy, no? She sat next to Roxanne, so there was much singing of Sting and Madonna that went on. Ah, those halcyon days of yore, working for an educational non-profit. Back when I lived in a studio apartment and could hear my newlywed downstairs neighbors screaming at each other every day. Good times.

I will do a better post of the breadmaking when I am able to download the pictures. But I celebrated WORLD DAY OF BREAD. And it was good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

whoops

Sorry I forgot to tell you peoples about this earlier, but tomorrow is WORLD BREAD DAY. See?

3rd World Bread Day hosted by 1x umruehren bitte aka kochtopf

So tomorrow I'm going to celebrate by baking bread and blogging about it. I'm going to attempt challah, which I have never made before. Should be an adventure, since all the kids will be home on Fall Break.

Monday, October 13, 2008

cheese for conference weekend

Purple Haze
Bleck. It's a decent chevre underneath the herbs (I'm looking at you, FENNEL), but I like my cheese to taste like cheese, not licorice.

Brillat-Savarin
John's dad could not stop eating this cheese. We spread it on a slice of the Dutch oven bread, and it's great. It's like Brie, but if they were both partygoers, the Brillat would listen politely and contribute to conversations without trying to steal focus, while the Brie would stand near the mirrored wall and accidentally keep starting conversations with its own reflection.

Maytag Blue
All the blues I've eaten recently disappoint in comparison to Roaring Forties, but this is okay. A little tangy, smooth-textured, and has a nice finish--a lot milder than you expect.

Midnight Moon
I realize that I've already done this one, but it's so good, you guys. So caramelly and nice. I want you all to go to Whole Foods and buy it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

dinner report

Tonight's Menu:

Red Beans and Rice
Collard Greens
Green Beans
Monster Bread
Pieces of Chocolate

The red beans and rice were delicious. Maybe not authentic Cajun--you'd have to ask Matthew--but good all the same. The collard greens came from my own garden, if you can imagine. I can't believe they survived, but they did and they were pretty good. I think I'll try the Swiss chard next, since it's the only other plant that survived my negligence. The green beans were the result of a last-minute caving of my resolve to force the children to eat dark, leafy greens. It's a good thing the world economy is going down the pissoir--maybe it'll teach them to be grateful for their slimy vegetables! The monster bread is because I tried to make some sourdough bread, but didn't have enough time to do it properly, so the bread didn't rise. There it was, 30 minutes to zero hour, and I had no bread. So I mashed it in a pan, sprinkled olive oil, coarse salt and fresh pepper over it, and pretended it was focaccia. It was surprisingly successful. The pieces of chocolate are to prevent cancer and dementor attacks. That is all.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I hear digging, but I don't hear chopping

We thought we were going to have to take Edna to the chop yesterday, because of course she got a piece of twine wound around half of her hoof (you know, because goats cheweth the cud and parteth the hoof) and lamed herself but good. It was in so deep that it had started cutting off the hoof. But the Allreds (to whom Edna rightfully belongs, so they had a vested interest) came over after dinner and we stuck Edna in the milking stand, sprayed her with lidocaine, plied her with grain and comfrey leaves, and set to work with an x-acto knife. Happily there was a spot on the inside of her hoof where Brian could cut away at the twine, and about a minute later the twine was extracted, and nasty it was indeed. Then we soaked her foot in epsom salts, then greased it up with some sort of pasty herbal thing Wendy brought. Almost immediately Edna started to put a little bit of weight on the foot, and her spirits improved considerably.

Also yesterday I went to the library (no fee this time!), picked up the milk, took Superman to preschool, taught a piano lesson, picked Superman up from preschool, made five loaves of bread, cooked meals and practiced a song for a funeral--not someone I know, I just seem to be a hired gun for this sort of thing. And I was sworn in at city council meeting to be on the Board of Adjustments or somesuch. I love rural city council meetings. True to form, there was a farmer there wanting ag protection so he can't be sued by the new move-ins because he's farming, and another wanting the speed limit decreased on his road so his livestock won't keep getting hit by the morons that are using it as a shortcut to Idaho. You know where my sympathies lie. I'm the sort of person who wants our town to have restrictive covenants that say you have to buy an existing house, and you can't subdivide a parcel of land into anything smaller than 5-acre lots, which have to be kept agricultural. And now I have my foot in the door! See how I begin to snake my tentacles into the system and commence exercising unrighteous dominion over my fellow townsfolk?

I've been out to check on Edna, and her foot isn't looking great. I was hoping to avoid penicillin if possible, but we may have to use it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

denny's . . . love denny's . . . can't get enough

Sorry it's been so ALL POLITICS ALL THE TIME around here lately. But I'ma talk about it some more all the same. I'm thankful that NPR has commentators to parse the bombast and hopefully find the kernels of truth, if there be any. Now all we have to do is decide which lies are deal-breakers and how much we want the deficit to increase over the next four years--by 200-something billion, or merely 200-something billion.

I highly recommend visiting procon.org and factcheck.org to help clear the waters a little. During the primaries of this interminable presidential campaign I visited the websites of all the candidates to see what each of them had to say. Well, good luck finding anything of substance or worth. I learned that they were all very fond of buzzwords and propaganda, or barring that, insane, but I certainly didn't feel that any of them were being terribly forthright about what they really intend to achieve while in office.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

product may not stay: this stupid shirt I bought from old navy yesterday

WARNING: any male readers who are not my husband may want to skip this boring and yet overly intimate post.

So I bought these shirts from Old Navy, because it's time for my summer uniform of jeans and T-shirts to change to my winter uniform of jeans and long-sleeved T-shirts. And I guess I didn't poke and pull enough in the dressing room, because the elbow-sleeved shirts with a sort of henley front are so low-cut that my dinners are always plated, even with a tank top underneath. I wore one today while I was out running errands, and I was miserable. Pull, tug, shimmy, yank, pull, tug, shimmy, yank. Now I've got to go back and exchange them, which is a big hassle. Friggin' Old Navy. Product may not stay.

Monday, October 6, 2008

having goats is like money in the bank . . . if the bank is your toilet

Current goat situation:

Traci: staying on
Finola: don't remind me
Catwoman: staying on--her udder was much better this year than I expected, and her milk had that hint of sweetness that marks her as one of Finola's babies
Edna: going to the Allreds, our wonderful neighbors who have chaperoned us down the path of better nutrition and conspiracy theory
Catwoman's twins: gone to the Christensens in payment for Cyclone's services
Tenacious D: soon to be packages
The Other Boy: soon to be packages

We think we can get away with not buying any beef this fall--we certainly don't have the room in the freezer for it, anyway, once the two wethers are dealt with.

I am really looking forward to only having two mamas kidding next spring. I was knackered by the end of kidding season this year--although it made a terrific excuse for the extreme suckitude of my garden.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

you, too can be unrepresented!

A fun/discouraging quiz for you to take can be found on procon.org. I took it, and found that, as I suspected, none of the ridiculous yahoos running for office represent me. I am in 30% agreement with both McCain and Obama. I guess I should be relieved it's as high as that. Perhaps I can make like whatever Utah city that is that has declared independence from the U.N.

Ah! I just found it. It's La Verkin. Hee.

So maybe we'll secede from the Union and establish our own system of government. I think I'll go with a benevolent dictatorship, which is pretty much what we already have.

it's nature's candy, but not like raisins, which are mean to kids

Those Angelus peaches I bought the other day? They are so, so sweet. Like, so sweet that the Brix scale is all, "Look, you're on your own, man." I'm loving them, but I'm a little afraid of how the Hales are going to compare when I buy them next week (because this is the last picking of Angelus). They'll probably taste like grapefruit aspirin. But! I will persevere.

not to pile on . . .

. . . but this video from Letterman is pretty funny.