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Sunday, May 31, 2009

ice cream and doughnuts

Cinnamon Peach Ice Cream

On Saturday for our party I made some things that turned out to be werry yummy. Here are the recipes. You may notice that they are full of terribly unhealthy ingredients. You won't care. To borrow Tipsy Baker's phraseology, these are all Too Delicious.

Vanilla Ice Cream
(adapted from How to Cook Everything)
My notes on this recipe say, "This is superb. Cloudlike, puffy and perfectly sweet."
Seeds (or caviar, if you're that sort of person) from 3 vanilla beans
1 T vanilla extract (because I'm into overkill)
4 C half-and-half
8 C heavy cream
3 1/2 C sugar (I haven't tried it with agave nectar, but I'm going to)
3 eggs
1/4 t salt

Combine all the ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Churn in an ice cream maker, and eat it immediately. Like most homemade ice creams, this is best right after it's churned.

Bittman's recipe is 1/3 this size, but who wants to make only a quart of homemade ice cream? Communists, that's who.

Cinnamon Peach Ice Cream (adapted from Jenny's Strawberry Ice Cream recipe, which is a great base for all sorts of fruit flavors, like rhubarb and mixed berry--you'll need to adjust the sugar, though)
1 pt heavy cream
1 small can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 quart whole milk
1 small package of vanilla pudding mix
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C vanilla
1 quart blended peaches (if using bottled or canned, pour the syrup off first)
1/4 C cinnamon

Combine the ingredients and churn in an ice cream maker, then eat it immediately. Same as with the vanilla. I plan to try this recipe again when peaches are in season, but bottled peaches are what I had, and those frozen peaches from the store are abominable. Not like Emily's.

Orange Drop Doughnuts (adapted from Cook's Country--really the only change I made is I added WAY more orange zest, and I think it was the right choice)
Holy cow, these were so good. And so quick and easy! I've always been a fan of the cake doughnut, and if you're ever in Lehi, Utah on a Tuesday morning, go to the Lehi Bakery and buy a buttermilk bar. It will change your life. I cannot describe how wonderful that doughnut is. I would sell a kidney for one. And these are almost that good--though not quite as decadent.
Orange Sugar Coating
1/2 C sugar
zest from one orange
Doughnut Batter
about 2 quarts vegetable oil
2 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 eggs
1/2 C sugar
zest from 1 orange
1/2 C orange juice (if you don't get enough juice from your oranges, top it off with lemon juice)
2 T butter, melted

For the sugar coating, pulse the sugar and zest together in a fopro until combined. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan to 350*. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. IN a large bowl beat the eggs, then add the sugar, zest, juice, and melted butter, whisking until well combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until evenly moistened.

Using two dinner tablespoons, drop spoonfuls of batter into the oil, about six at a time. Do not overcrowd the pan. Maintain the heat at about 350*. Turn the doughnuts with a metal slotted spoon, and remove them when they are golden brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes. Drain them on a plate lined with paper towels. After they have drained for a little bit, toss them in the orange sugar to coat. Doughnuts are best eaten immediately.

Friday, May 29, 2009

maybe I'm being chastised for my culinary pride

You guys don't understand how good Irish oats are. Or maybe you do, what do I know? If not, please, please go buy some and eat them.

I think that Willow was some of Val Kilmer's finest work. It certainly wasn't The Saint. Bleck. Directors need to learn that you can't cast Elizabeth Shue as a nuclear physicist any more than you can Denise Richards. Wait, scratch that. Because actually Shue preceded Richards in Tara Reid: Anthropologist, Michael Keaton: Batman--The Story of Incomparably Ludicrous Casting Decisions.

I'm making two more loaves of Dutch oven bread today. It makes me crazy that I don't know how it will turn out.

Here's what a side of beef looks like:
Here's what the first haying of the year looks like:
Here's what it looks like inside our flophouse for chickens of ill repute:
I have lost my cooking mojo! I had to explain what that meant to my mom when I called her to lament. She thought I was talking about a gadget. I've been having all kinds of kitchen failures lately, and I'm freaking out about it. It's like that time that Giles drugged Buffy to make her weak! Which, if you extend the comparison, means that I'm going to be on Iron Chef competing against a crazy, murderous--aaah! That means Gordon Ramsey! I'm toast, you guys.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

so far I'm not drowning, but I'm getting close

Today's News:
1. A couple of days ago one of the Ameraucanas had a pasted-up bunghole that I had to deal with. It looked like we might lose her, but now she's acting much more spry.
2. I definitely have some White Faced Black Spanish in the mix. Not super excited about that.
3. Our chicken coop is in serious need of cleaning, and I don't know when I'm supposed to do THAT before Travis Sorenson Day.
4. Because there's also the small matter of straightening the patio and cleaning the house like a proper hostess--a little something we like to call Shame Hiding.
5. We have a new freezer arriving today.
6. Unless it doesn't, because it turns out that unless I can learn to shift atoms with my mind, the freezer is too big and won't fit into the fruit room.
7. So I have to call Sears to exchange it and hope they can still get one here today.
8. Because the side of beef we ordered and didn't expect until June is already cut up and turned into white packages, to be picked up today.
9. But I have great things in store for the fruit room, including new metal shelving for all the food, and a range to be moved in for the times when I need an extra oven (weekly, if not more).
10. For some reason I can't make the no-knead bread anymore and it's killing me! It keeps not being all bubbly inside. I hate everyone.
11. Also Superman has his preschool program tonight at 6:00.
12. So I have to make bread today to give a loaf to his terrific teacher who is getting out of the preschool business, and therefore won't be available to bring Pinga up in the way she should go. SAD.
13. And Pack Meeting is at 6:30. DEATH TO SCOUTING.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

lazy girl shortcut: ketchup

Wanna know a lazy girl shortcut I take? Almost invariably when a recipe calls for tomato paste, unless it's a large amount, I just squirt in some ketchup. I got used to using those Amore tubes of tomato paste, and when Smith's stopped selling them I just couldn't face going back to the cans. And ketchup works just fine. Don't tell anyone, but it doesn't even have to be Heinz. I use Muir Glen. Shh!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

greenery

Here's the status of the Baba Capra vegetable garden: ROCKING SO HARD. I have embarrassingly low standards, though, so you may not agree with me. My mom's garden is like Thea Kronberg to my Phoebe Buffay, but baby steps, right?

The tiny little nubbins at the bottom are basil, the trophy wife of the garden. You can also see the big clumps of spinach. I am quite happy with my decision to co-opt some of the flower garden space for salad greens. Next year I'm adding Swiss chard to the mix.

See the cute mesclun?

I think my lupine is really beautiful this year.

Nasturtiums with Ebony King.

Nasturtiums with Blush. Not so much with the vigorous.

These are my bean pots, with some thyme and scented geranium in there too.

They are Christmas pole lima beans.

Here are the firstfruits of my Shepody potatoes. Don't mind the weeds--this is my crappiest garden.

Here are my Dragon Tongue beans just coming up. Have you seen what happens with beans? It's like watching time-lapse. One minute they're barely poking up, then BOOM! They're all leafed out. It's like McBroom's fabulous one-acre farm up in here.

My melon-in-a-bucket experiment.

The cucumbers are starting to come up.

This is what the main garden space looks like. Tomatoes, beans, peppers, beets, cauliflower, radishes, peas, and in the back underneath the black plastic are all my cucurbits.

It's not setting the world on fire or anything, but anyone who has seen my "garden" for the past five or six years has got to admit that it's an improvement. I blame the goats. Who, by the way, are sick right now. Traci seems to have gotten over the worst of it, but Catwoman is still sulking and refuses to eat. I just scheduled her kill date, which is the 17th of June. It should be enough time for us to get her all healthy again (except for the bulldog legs), since we don't want to eat a goat that's under the weather. It may work for wolves to pick off the sick and weak, but my opposable thumbs have a little something to say about that.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

homemade peanut butter: an essay in PICTURES, NERDS, because I have a camera again!

The pictures are very dark, because I'm still working out flash issues. I'm old, okay? Just be patient with me.

I'll try to be very clear and descriptive in my instructions so that you can understand just how easy, if needless, it is to make your own peanut butter. And of course you can extrapolate the relevant information and apply it to other nutmeats, like cashews, just in case you're one of those people who already has a diamond toilet and needs something else vaingloriously expensive to spend your money on.

Cost-per-poundwise, it is cheaper to buy your own peanuts in bulk from some hippie food store and grind them into peanut butter, rather than buy it premade. The product is not as silky-smooth--it's very similar in texture to that peanut butter/dried milk play dough stuff--but it tastes great, and you can adjust the seasonings or use a variety of nuts, and be sure that you're using whatever sugar and oil you want. But if you're employing cost-cutting measures, this is probably not the first place to start chopping. You might want to reconsider that diamond toilet, for example.

Homemade Peanut Butter
Cast of characters:
roasted peanuts (shelled, unless you need fiber in a way that I'm not comfortable discussing)
oil of your choice (I used walnut, because I thought the two nut flavors would play well together)
salt
sweetener of your choice (I used agave nectar so I could stick it in some extremely remote way to Monsanto, but mostly because I knew the liquid would be beneficial to the grinding process)

Amounts are very approximate, because I'm one of those annoying cooks who doesn't always measure, and I can't always reproduce my masterpieces.

Put 4 C of nuts in your food processor, sprinkle them with about a tablespoon of salt, and drizzle them with oil (1/4 C) and sweetener (3 T). Pulse the machine a few times until the nuts are roughly chopped--you don't want to jump intimacy levels with your fopro.

When they're broken down a little, then you can turn the machine on and just let it spin for a bit. Check the mixture about every 20 seconds to see if you need to add any more oil--you want the mixture to be thick, but not cementlike. Add salt and sweetener to taste.

Keep buzzing it around. It sort of takes a while. If you want to watch a TV show about vampires on your laptop, this is an okay time to do it, as long as you keep pausing and checking the peanut butter. It's pretty loud, though, and you're going to miss a lot of the dialogue.

When the mixture is smooth-adjacent (you're not going to get Skippy here) you can scoop it all into a quart jar and start using it. You might want to keep it in the fridge if you don't go through peanut butter very quickly. We do, so I'm not too worried about shelf stability. Or you can just make a smaller batch, if you want to start controlling the universe and all.

Go for it, people. Quick, easy, delicious.

Friday, May 22, 2009

darn those star-crossed lovers!

I just cried watching Buffy. I could say this is a new low for me, but we both know I'd be lying. But you try running your boyfriend through with a sword to keep his blood from opening a vortex to hell, right after he gets his soul back! Then we'll see who's laughing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

cheer up, it may never happen

They were talking to a dude on TOTN today who writes the "Extreme Frugality" column for Gourmet, and of course there were all sorts of nutbars calling in talking about how they wash their clothes in buckets and freeze their past-due milk. From what I heard, Carter's mission (he's the aforementioned dude) is for their family to live within $41,000 a year, after years of spending and acquiring and generally digging themselves into obscene debt. With all of their other financial obligations, that means $550 a week. It got me to thinking about my own life, what fat there is in my own budget to be trimmed, and if I'm made of the kind of stuff that it takes to excise all of it.

I do a lot of things that probably save us money, but the fact that I just said "probably save" should tip you off to the fact that cost savings are not my primary concern. I grow a garden because I'm transfixed by the alchemy of seeds becoming food, and I cook a lot of what we eat from scratch because I'm a hella good cook, and I want to have more say-so over what goes into my family's tummies. No one really says, "We seem to spend a lot of money on soap and peanut butter. I don't think we have any choice but to start making our own."

Could our family do what their family is doing? Could we live with extreme frugality? Something that makes me think that Carter is missing the point a little is the fact that he's buying Odwalla juices from the scratch and dent grocery store. Who cares if they're only 47 cents apiece? If he were really taking no prisoners, fruit juice would have to go. It's absolutely a luxury item. And that's where I think I would fail--my luxury items. I try to imagine a life without Testun, or Endangered Species chocolate. Without a new half bushel of peaches on the counter every week in August and September. Without boots! Oh gracious, without boots.

Well, hopefully I'll never have to find out if I'm truly made of pioneer stock. Because I suspect I'm not. Try to give me a half cup of pinata paste for breakfast, and you're going to have a problem.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

in case you were wondering, I hate FOX

Because of course they have cancelled Terminator. I have boundless loathing for them.

I'd better learn how to scald and pluck

What happened yesterday is that Billy at the feed store has reached his saturation point for chick tolerance, and was very anxious to get rid of all of them. He has on his records that I ordered seven, which I can see myself doing, but he just started eagerly plopping them all into my box, reserving only six Black Spanish chicks and some random yellow chicks that were packed in there for warmth. He's a hard man to say no to, so I got some of the warmers, too, which will probably just be boring Leghorns. I ended up with my Columbian Rocks, Australorps, Ameraucanas, a Black Sex Link and I suspect some of the Black Spanish. So now that I have 21 chickens I have some options:

1. Expand the chicken coop and run.
2. Give some of the birds away.
3. Eat the extras.

I would most like to do a remodel, but it's the least likely of all the options. Because when it comes to shove, I'd rather take a vacation. Because pretty much I'm reaching DEFCON 1 around here. So there, chicks! You are low man on the totem pole!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm not exactly sure how this happened

Umm. I came home with eleven* new baby chicks today.

I swear I only ordered six! But somehow there are more of them, and now they live in my house. They are brand spanking new, and the kind of cute that makes people keep having babies.

*Make that twelve. Crap.

must buy curtains

My kids got up at 5:15 this morning.

Monday, May 18, 2009

wish me luck

Because I'm about to make what I believe is going to be a successful attempt at Those Fracking Cookies. But calling them fracking is bad chi, so we will just call them The Cookies That Will Make Me Insane But In A Good Way Where Good Means Bad.

sticking it to big peanut

I just made peanut butter! And it's kind of yummy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

what a dissonant day

It's a pity on such a sublimely beautiful day that everything I made turned out awful awful awful. I made Bittman's recipe for cream puffs and they bombed, and for some reason the no-knead bread was a travesty as well. So now I'm mad and I hate everyone.

*Edit: I was just toodling around on the interwebs, and found a great tip on the Pioneer Woman's site from her guest poster. I love Monkey Bread, but it takes forEVER to cut all the little nubbins, dip them in butter, roll them in cinnamon sugar, rinse repeat for the rest of eternity. Well, I am a total doofus! Because what this Pastor Ryan fellow does is dump all the little biscuit dough nubbins into a plastic bag full of cinnamon sugar, shake them around, and dump them into the pan. Then he melts butter and brown sugar together to make the sauce, and glorifies it as a pour-on! That's Gallery of Regrettable Food talk again. Anyway, here's his recipe, which I am going to try this week. You can of course make your own dang biscuit dough in about the same amount of time it takes you to steel your nerves up to open one of those exploding biscuit cans. It's like smashing a June bug--I can't take part in it. They give me the willies.

Friday, May 15, 2009

remember that lecture about chucking it?

Well, I've reached an impasse. I've been going through my schedule, and I can't find anything that I feel good about chucking. Because the thing I do that I hate the most (hey, it's Scouts, what a surprise!) is something that only requires an hour a week, except for Pack Meeting days when it takes at least two, not to mention the emotional trauma visited upon me by the inane cheers and Native American symbolism. And it kind of makes me feel scummy to ask to be released from a calling that only takes up a tiny percentage of my week, and doesn't actually interfere with getting any of my important stuff done. Plus the whole molding young minds and turning boys into good stewards of blah blah blah. I guess I'll keep slogging through. Stupid Scouting program.

Or there's piano, which I'm taking off for the summer anyway, so no big. Mowing the lawn is a headache, but if I don't do it, my parents get all flustered and my DAD who has MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS comes and MOWS MY LAWN FOR ME. I think the better way around that is getting another lawn mower so John and I can tag-team it. Because I do like mown grass. I'd just rather be in the garden.

Speaking of which, I gots to jet. I'm off to buy some coir to put in my pots, and some bamboo poles for my beans to climb. It's gonna be AWESOME!

I wish I could find my camera. It's a real drag not knowing where it is. And it doesn't exactly lend the air of authority to the lectures I give my children about putting their things away.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

my pidgin german makes me laugh

I was just eating my sauteed cabbage, and it got me to thinking. It's such a pity that I've never served this to anyone outside of my immediate family, but I'd be too ashamed to do it. It looks straight from the Gallery of Regrettable Food, all wilty and brownish looking. But heaven help me, I love it to pieces. It is amazing comfort food, like Irish oatmeal and tomato sandwiches, but much less photogenic. So I'm going to start a new category of foodstuffs called Unschoenlecker. In my made-up language of Frankengerman it means Ugly Delicious.

What's in your unschoenlecker? To qualify it must be hideous, but taste so incredible that you don't care.

lemon pie, how to make it

We have a request for the lemon pie recipe, which I'm happy to oblige. It is the very best lemon pie. At least so far.

I know that there will be some of you who think, "Microwave? But what about all the volatile nutrients and vitamin bundles that you're killing?" I know, I know. But it works in a pan, too, I'm sure. Put it in pate brisee or a lard crust, because they are yummy. When you buy the cream, don't buy ultra-pasteurized, unless that's all your store has. Pay the extra money.

Here's the recipe, exactly as it appears in our family cookbook.

Lemon Pie
serves 6
4 T cornstarch
1 C sugar
2 2/3 T lemon juice
1 T lemon rind
1 C boiling water
1 egg
2 T butter

Mix cornstarch and sugar in bowl. Add lemon juice, rind and boiling water. Microwave 2 minutes and stir with whisk. Repeat until mixture is bubbly. Add small amount of mixture to slightly beaten egg. Pour into cooked mixture and stir well. Microwave 1 minute. Stir in butter. (I usually add about 1/4 C more water because the mixture is too thick. I just play with it after it is cooked.) Cool. Pour in pie shell.

Now, my (Layne's) notes. I will try it with agave nectar and see how it works, since I just ordered 6 45 oz. bottles of it. I use 1/4 C of lemon juice instead of 2 2/3 T, and you can use either more lemon juice (me) or apple juice (Mom) to thin out the mixture, instead of water. And once it has cooled in the pie shell, it can be topped with whipped cream and eaten tiny slivers at a time until it's all gone, or you can share it with others if you must.

I probably don't need to tell you this, but blind bake your pie shell first. I so far have not discovered a pie weight method I like, so I usually just blind bake it as is. It shrinks a little, and makes a less visually stunning pie, but meh. I'd like to try those pie weights that are on a chain, or in a cheesecloth bag, and see how they work. Have any of you used them?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the cooking mayor

I have this problem where I can't stop eating yummy food.

I made ribs last week for dinner and they were the shizznit. And just now I was eating them cold (of course, because I as a general rule not only frown upon, but scowl upon, microwaving meat) and I had to metaphorically grab myself by the shoulders and start shaking, because otherwise I'd have downed the whole slab. Meat is so good.

Yesterday someone asked me how long she should boil (!) the chicken for some dish she was making.
Me (inside my head): "None. Not at all."
Me (aloud): "Uh. I'm not sure, because I don't boil chicken. If you cook it to 165* internally, it will be fine."

I usually think my way is the best way, which is part of why that cookie recipe I'm trying to fix has been making me plotz. I go on food quests until I find the best version of whatever dish, and thenceforth do not stray, unless an even better version comes along. I wouldn't call any of my stuff the perfect recipe, or perfect method, because that's pretty subjective and difficult to qualify with any sort of legitimacy. But here are some more of my food rules, which someone with a less pushy personality would shut up about already, because who really wants to get into it with a Southerner about why their cornbread sucks?

1. There is no real reason to cook asparagus any other way than broiling. The season is so short that you don't have time to get sick of it, and it's so tender and crunchy and salty and sweet.
2. A steak should be cooked quickly to medium rare at the MOST, and seasoned only with kosher salt and pepper. And it should be a ribeye or a New York strip. Stop eating filet mignon, it's embarrassing.
3. Potatoes are best either baked with oil and salt rubbed onto their skins (they're called salty jackets here), or cut into pieces, tossed with oil and salt and pepper, and roasted. Mashed potatoes are boring and their bad dancing makes my feet sad.
4. Lemon pie should made from my mother-in-law's recipe and topped with whipped cream.
5. Scrambled eggs should not have additives, except maybe a tiny, tiny amount of milk added but barely stirred, because scrambled eggs should NOT be homogeneous.
6. Biscuits should be patted or rolled ONCE, then cut with a knife or pizza cutter. No re-rolling. It's stupid and round biscuits are unnecessary.

And it goes on--usually the simplest preparation is my favorite. I have no authority to be pronouncing judgment, but I know what I like, and since I'm the cooking mayor of this house, what I say goes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

cat poop is not a great compost ingredient

Did you know that it's really hard to see the screen of a laptop when it's a sunny day and you're sitting on the bridge that crosses the ditch behind your house?

I'm giving the goats a little love today and have let them out to graze on the fresh grass and alfalfa. Of course I have to watch them carefully (hence the bridge-laptop combo) and put them back after a short time, because otherwise dead-dead-deadski. They are like pigs in slop and I am now reconsidering my decision to not have a Border Collie. If I can get Traci in, then Catwoman will follow, but Traci always walks just a little bit faster than you--not fast enough to give you the satisfaction of making her run, but fast enough that you can't catch her. Have I mentioned that I didn't name her? Because I think Traci is a ridiculous name for a goat. Catwoman, Tenacious D, Captain Stubing, Dame Edna . . . now those are goat names.

It seems that everyone agrees that a variety of eggplant is in order. And I concur, so that's nice. Because otherwise I'd just do what I want, and you'd lose your faith in the process and resent your disenfranchisement. And I don't want to crush your gentle spirits.

We've decided not to go to Italy, which is a real blow. We only have so much funding for our Big Purchases 2009 project, and it seems that the government is sort of territorial about who prints money. Stupid counterfeiting laws. It just seems irresponsible for us to blow it all on a trip when there are so many other things we need to buy, like, for example, a hay shelter to keep our goats' groceries from turning into a giant compost pile.

Garden status:
peas--up and recovering from their deer-induced trim
carrots--freaking carrots are still being lazy bums
cauliflower--thriving and beautiful enough to be an ornamental, with deep purpley-green leaves
beets--perhaps sprouting, but certainly not as far along as I was hoping
onions--no sign of them
potatoes--likewise, but I just put them in last week, so . . .
tomatoes--growing like bindweed and outside right now getting hardened off
eggplant--out with tomatoes
peppers--with tomatoes and eggplant
squash--going in this week
melons--likewise
cucumbers--also this week
beans--yep, these too

Can I say again how impressed I am with the seeds I got from Baker Creek? My tomatoes especially are incredible, and since they're almost the entire reason I grow a garden at all that's pretty good. There have been some iffy ones--the Gambo peppers will live in infamy--that didn't do as well, but so far my results have been very encouraging. And I think it will make me more invested in the long-term health of my plants, since I've grown them all from seed.

Oh, snap! I just got an idea! Since I'm putting Cat Poop Deterrent Pots in the strip of dirt next to the driveway, I can plant some of my beans in the pots and have them climb some stakes! It will be so pretty, you guys! They are called Dragon Tongue, and I'm like, sooo excited to try them. Additionally, I'm excited to not have the smell of cat poop wafting through my dining room windows.

This day is absolute perfection. It's this exact kind of day that Pandora ruined with her lousy curiosity.

major life decision

I need your help, gentle readers. You know how I'm putting eggplant in my whiskey barrels next to my front steps? Umm. Are you sure you don't remember talking about that? Because I remember. Well, I'm sorry that our conversation apparently meant SO LITTLE to you. I guess I'm the only one who prints up all of our correspondence and keeps it in a three-ring binder embellished with fancy paper, stamps and decorative brads. I keep it under my bed next to that preserved human head. But I guess I'm just a lot more invested in this relationship than you.

Anyway, the two varieties of eggplant I grew are Ebony King and Blush. Blush is a pinky-white looking one, and Ebony King is big and black. Duh. So, should I plant one of each, or have some symmetry and plant the same variety in both barrels?

Friday, May 8, 2009

our quirks are what separate us from the machines

Let's have a sharing time, shall we? Because I can't find my camera and it's making me sad. And I like hearing about all the weird things people do. I'll go first.

I get agitated by tangled phone cords. Hey, remember phone cords? Those things from the time when our president was having intimate relations with that woman, instead of giving the helm to the Star Chamber people and letting them turn us into the Eloi? Good times. Anyhoodle, I was always untangling phone cords, obsessively so. I would make the circuit every time we visited my in-laws, and straighten all the phone cords. Maybe it was a physical indicator of my desire to bring order to my life. Rookie mistake--I've long since given up on that dream. For Christmas one year my brother-in-law Daniel had my name in the gift exchange, and he gave me a big, long, hideously jacked-up phone cord. I may be remembering this incorrectly, but I think he may have even gone through the cord and made it even worse than it naturally was.

But that could be wrong, because my memory is notoriously spotty and inventive. When we were dating I told John the story I believed absolutely about the cows in our pasture backing up to the pole fence and shooting poop far enough to hit our house, which would be such a great story if it had only been true.

So, what are some of the weird things you do? Try to keep it PG, since my little sister sometimes reads this blog. In addition to untangling phone cords, I have until recently (when I forced myself to stop, at great cost to my mental well-being) checked swimming pools for sharks before I got in. Especially when there are lanes on the floor of the pool, because a hammerhead shark could totally hide there, no one the wiser, until I get in and WHAM! I'm a dead woman. They have that counter-shading, you guys! My activities in lakes and oceans are pretty much restricted to wading, if you were wondering.

Your turn!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

my conversation with "anna," the ikea help interface

Me: "Can I put a different brand of wall oven in the high cabinet?"
Anna: "Here you will find the bathroom cabinets."
Me: "Anna, you are worse than no help."
Anna: "My users are great. My company, IKEA, is great."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

welcome to the house of fun

What I should be doing today:
folding the laundry
washing more laundry

What I am doing today:
organizing the mudroom shelves
searching for boots online

thanks to mmm.chocolate for the jam suggestion

I just ate the best, most delectable, most comforting bowl of creamy, perfectly al dente oatmeal I've ever eaten anywhere in my whole entire life from birth to now, including today. Donald Trump himself could not lay his hands on enough hyperbole to accurately describe my breakfast. I will give it to you exactly the way I ate it, and you can make substitutions where you need to.

Religious Experience Oatmeal
Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Steel Cut Oats
raw, whole milk in which the cream has risen to the top
Emily's recipe strawberry jam
sucanat

Bring to a boil 1 C of water and 1/2 C of milk. Add 1/2 C of oats, lower the heat, cover, and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-20 minutes (depending on how firm you like it). When it is cooked to your preference, put it into a bowl and add 1 T of sucanat, 2 T of jam, and creamy milk to taste. Stir just enough to loosely incorporate, but NOT until it's homogeneous. Eat it slowly, if you can.

Suggested substitutions:
any brand of Irish/steel-cut oats
dead milk, half and half or cream
whatever jam you have on hand
brown sugar

Understand that your mileage may vary, but I'm betting that it will still BLOW your FREAKING MIND.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

you've been warned

Are you the person who told me that Rubio's was the same as Cafe Rio? Are you? Because if you are, I am going to kick you in the crotch the next time I see you.

on doormats and passivity

Not too long ago I was talking to a friend who is feeling overwhelmed by her life to the point that she's having problems with her husband, because he just seems like one more of the many demands on her resources. She has people expecting her to tend their kids multiple times a week--without compensation, of course--as well as children of her own, a husband who is in a bad mood if he comes home to no dinner and a messy house (which is always, since she's got give-or-take eight kids running in and out of there all the time, and anyway, that's a whole different kettle of fish about gender roles and partnership in a marriage that I won't get into right now), and people flaking out on her when she's asked them for help. She's surrounded by people who have learned that she will do anything for them, at any cost to herself.

One of the prongs of my multi-pronged Chucking It Life Script Fork/Paradigm/Weltanschaung is not being a doormat. And this is why! It adds a prodigious amount of distress to her life to say yes to everybody for every reason, and she's no good to herself or her family when she allows herself to be trampled.

For example: something that causes me stress is worrying about what is in the food they give my kids at school. Hence, I decided that I would make them lunch every day, with a few exceptions for field trips or whatnot. But something else that stresses me are those crazy bento-style lunches that are all froufy and compartmentalized in bright containers. I don't drink coffee, and I don't have patience for that in the morning. I'm just trying to get my kids on the bus with a minimum of yelling and revoking of privileges. So they get PBJ or toasted cheese, cheese sticks, fruit, yogurt--whatever happens to be in the fridge. It's a happy midpoint between cancer/obesity and mommycrazy/shootpeople.

My point is, if there is something in your life that stresses you out, and it's not necessary? Why are you doing it? Stop it! Just say no. For real. It feels so good to say no, and you don't have to be telling anyone that you need a Mental Health Day, or making up elaborate lies as to why you have a conflict, but you'd really love to wanna, blah blah blah. My son The Hulk has a phrase that we have adopted, and you may use it with my blessing: "Nope. Can't." That's it. You don't owe anyone an explanation. Find what your balance is between Selfish Troll and Doormat, and stay there. Serve people, but not to a degree that is going to harm you or your family.

Maybe some of you have already reached that balance, and this was a waste of time for you. But for all the rest of us, let's find something we're doing needlessly and excise it from our lives. We'll be better for it. I'll think about it for a bit, and get back to you on what I've decided to chuck. Then we can spend our efforts on the things that actually matter.

Monday, May 4, 2009

first world concerns for may 4, 2009

I was just sending the kids outside to catch the bus, and somehow I mashed my toe with the front door and detached the top of my toenail from the nail bed, which, if you have never experienced it, is a transcendently enjoyable experience. I wanted to do it all over again with the other toe, it was so nice. I have terrible luck with my toenails. I have knocked them off in multiple theme parks, which was the cause of my choice to wear Crocs when we went to Disneyland four years ago. I know they're ugly, but darnit, they're comfortable, and they have closed toes for clumsy dummkopfs like me. I have since found a compromise of style and comfort and wear Chacos instead. Open-toed, but at the end of a long day in a theme park my feet feel like they've had a massage.

When I was a little girl my mom worked during the day, so I had to go to daycare. One day a friend and I were pushing another friend across the cement patio on a wheel-less chaise-type lawn chair. I don't remember this particular detail, but I bet it made a beautiful noise. We had built up a pretty good head of steam when we came to a seam in the cement, the chair stopped short, and my friend and I both landed on our faces. Only I put my hands down to break my fall, and my fingernails all went POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POP--you know that part in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie sees the flying lugnuts silhouetted against the headlights of the oncoming traffic, and then they're gone forever? It was like that. Only a lot more painful. Then I had to go get my hands with their denuded nail beds washed off, which is in my top ten excruciating experiences.

Have you ever noticed that grapeseed oil smells like burning plastic?

None of you have made quark yet, have you? SHAME! You bring shame on the family! It's so easy and so good! Here's another recipe for it. Make it now! I had some this morning with jam in it. Yum. Which reminds me! Here is Emily's recipe for jam, which is delicious and fruity and means I don't have to do any more experimenting for a while.

Fruity Freezer Jam

recipe from Nettie Linton
Combine:
2 C sugar
3 T Clear Gel, Sure Gel or Ultraset
Add 5 C of mashed/blended fruit.
Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add 1/2 C of light corn syrup (I used agave nectar instead).
Put into containers and freeze.

See how easy that is? And the jam is sweet and good and perfect on toast or biscuits. Or in quark.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

the demon sugar

Here's an article on Slate about corn syrup that I thought was very interesting. I don't buy the idea that agave nectar is worse for you than corn syrup, if only for the reason that I've long since stopped paying attention to what science says I should be eating. They're continually doing new studies that entirely refute the findings of previous studies, so it's best just to ignore them. My approach is that the more minimally something is processed to become food, the better I like it. Honey is obviously the best choice in this regard, but it has such a strong taste that it can't be used in all applications.

I think it's worth a read, if only for the reminder that sugar is sugar, and no matter where it comes from you need to practice moderation. And that the most real and satisfying version of any food is the one you should be eating.

someone remind me why mob rule is good

This has been on my list of action items to discuss since the Arlen Specter news hit, but it's been pretty circus-calliope sounds over here with ear tubes and soapmaking and 5K registration. But I can't allow myself to put it off any longer. It's too important.

You guys, I don't want you to be worried about the filibuster-proof majority that the Democrats are going to have now, if that kookoopants Al Franken gets seated. Because I am confident that the Democrats will not abuse their power the way the Republicans did during Bush's tenure, when government spending went KABANG, our civil liberties went POOF, and our economy went JUST GIVE ME A FEW YEARS AND I WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN.

So don't worry. Because the governance of our country is a sacred trust that no politician would ever violate.

Friday, May 1, 2009

cookie-induced myocardial infarction

THESE FRACKING COOKIES!

How is it fair--HOW?!--that something that sounds as Rube-Goldbergian as "croquembouche" is just cream puffs (easy!) globbed together in a pile, and something that sounds innocent, like "cookie," is like climbing an Escher? WHY must I fail at every attempt at masonry?

This cookie recipe is going to drive me screaming from my house, rending my clothes as I run drooling and barefoot down the street.

It is my magnum opus, and I can't get the stupid thing past alpha testing!