Thursday, December 22, 2011

jacob seems like not a great father

I cleaned the oven yesterday, because I hew to retrograde, sexist gender roles. You know how I am. For a minute the door wouldn't close and I was panicking, because I need that door. I called a local appliance sales and service place, and they said, "We could send out our technician and he could maybe bend the hinges back into line." So I stopped talking to them.

But all is well, because it turns out I just accidentally engaged the hinge lock, and figured it out while I was on the phone with a guy from what sounded like possibly Massachusetts--he talked like Tom Silva a little bit. And now my oven is healed.

I am learning from Drive that I am a Type X person in some regards--the chief one being that I am situationally content. As opposed to Type I people, who tend to be content generally, regardless of circumstances. This worries me because Type X people are more stressed and die earlier and are less successful in the long run. But! I am also learning that you can make yourself into a Type I person. I will do this.

I wonder if it would be easier to say that I don't immunize Willa, rather than go to the doctor and get her immunization records. Yes. It would be easier. But then people would look at me the way I look at those crazies in Utah County who are giving us all pertussis outbreaks. If smallpox comes back, man, I will come UNGLUED.

It's amazing how similar pho breath is to Cool Ranch Doritos breath.

I have come to the conclusion that my pink grapefruit lotion from The Body Shop (which sounds like it would be all earthy and natural, but isn't) is going to have to be emergency lotion, because although I like the smell in the bottle and have no complaints with its moisturizing capabilities, it metamorphoses on my skin to become a B.O. fragrance of exceeding vigor.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I won't even stay awake to hear those magic reindeer click

I want to talk about lynching for just a second. It's bad, vigilante justice is bad, right? Academically I know this, but deep in my gooey nougat center I am a vindictive, vengeful harpy with a black and white perception of the law--not civil law, moral law. So I just wonder, after all the people who've been lynched who didn't deserve it, why can't we lynch someone who does deserve it? Why can't we lynch Sandusky?

I know, I know, rule of law. Right to trial by jury of peers, slippery slope, etc. In a world where we lack omniscience it's dangerous to mete out justice according to personal or public opinion. But still. Don't you sometimes wish you could smite?

Speaking of which, I do not miss Kim Jong-Il. Do you think there might be a slap-fight between his maybe horrible sons for who gets to succeed? Do you think they might each be even worse than their father? It's worrisome. Why can't all the bad people just die? See what I'm saying about smiting?

On to better and brighter topics.

Our neighbor's guinea fowl prefer our yard to his, because his yard is xeriscaped and orderly and boring, and ours is full of weeds and bugs and interesting messes. But guinea fowl and chickens do not easily co-recreate, so it looks a lot like the Sharks and Jets out there.

Man, my brother-in-law Steven has a great bit about learning how to fight from West Side Story.

We have a buck goat staying with us right now. It's Willow-Lane Ted Nugent--remember him? Did I tell you how at his old house he accidentally got caught in the electric chicken fence (for keeping out foxes and stray dogs)? We worried that it might have scrambled his brain, but if it did, then we have definitive proof that breeding is an instinctive, right-brain behavior, because he has no trouble performing his buckly duties. But he's fairly docile and doesn't pee all over himself as much as a lot of bucks I've met. He's like the fabled Iron-Owl Bobcat of yore, the best buck in all the world. Sniff. I miss Bobcat.

But Ted Nugent is so splashy! Calico--mostly white with splashes of black and orange. I think we're going to get great color out of him. Let me know if you want to buy a bred doe by the name of Baba Capra Julia who is going to have pretty babies. Do you want to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse/EMP or not? If you can't see the link between goat ownership and disaster preparedness then I can't help you.

I accidentally kneaded my bread for a half hour yesterday. It was liquid by the time I remembered to look at it. I think I'll sue Bosch for making breadmaking so easy that I forget to do my job.

Do you think it's weird that there are Lego sets that cost two hundred dollars?

Friday, December 16, 2011

what I thought about "make the bread, buy the butter"

You guys, I can't wait any longer to do a review of Tipsy's cookbook. Just buy it already. It is personable and funny and intelligent, and my whole family insisted that I read it aloud to them, they were that entertained. For someone like me, who is always trying to figure out how to sanely reduce the amount of process I eat, the book is a blessing. Who wants to be the idiot buying something that can be done better and more cheaply at home? Who wants to be the idiot trying to make something that is done perfectly deliciously and trustworthily and better by someone else? Not me, that's for sure.

Even if the recipes were all crap the book would still be a good read, and the recipes are not crap. I have made the peanut butter, the milk mayonnaise, the every day bread, the pudding, the hot chocolate, the Vadouvan mac n' cheese, the bagels, the chocolate chip cookies, and probably some others that I can't remember right now, and they are all great. Be sure you chill the cookie dough, though--I am an eager greedy, and I fared poorly. The Vadouvan mac n' cheese in particular is remarkable and addictive, and requires an inexpensive and transporting little packet of spices you can get from Kalustyan's which will make you feel worldly and sophisticated, which of course you are. Order some marble halvah while you're at it.

Tipsy is a smart woman, but aside from that, she is a woman of good breeding and impeccable taste, and you are safe in her care. If she says you can make it, you almost definitely can, but if she says to buy it? BUY IT. Unless you get a perverse pleasure from being an obstinate also-ran, in which case, knock yourself out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

treat me like a mushroom

Flats are not comfortable. They are murder on your arches, and I think people need to stop acting like they're better than heels, because they're not. They just shift the damage to a different spot.

It would be nice if we lived in a world in which young girls who are considered too cognitively immature to take an abortive pill correctly could be prevented from having to make such a decision. It would be nice if all children could be raised in safe, loving, homes by responsible parents. And I don't think pre-teens--regardless of the circumstances in which they got pregnant, despite my moral queasiness about the Plan B pill itself--ought to be carrying babies to term.

Ike had a dream the other night that I bought him a dog. I think I'm transferring my own desires to him. I look for dogs all the time, and I wonder when people will stop buying puppies from irresponsible and unethical breeders. I wonder when people will stop being irresponsible and unethical breeders.

The political climate in our country is very discouraging. I keep wondering why it is that only idiots are talking, and then today on Radio West one of the guests said that it--the polarization, the extremism, the disproportionate representation of special interest groups--is due to lower voter participation. Makes sense to me. When all the normal people check out, all that's left is the wingnuts, and there's no rational voice to counter their shrieking.

I hear the Iraq War is over now.

Do you ever think about how much mess and misery could be prevented and remedied if people just acted decent?

I like Santa. I like the Wizard of Oz.

Actually, that's a lie. I don't like the Wizard of Oz. I fail to see the magic. It's certainly not worth John Connor obsessing over it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

don't shoot me santa claus, no one else around believes me

I'm a pretty smart person. For example, when I read the headline, "Man Destroys House Looking for Girlfriend in Walls" I didn't even need to read the story to know that the guy was on drugs. I also suspected foul play in the shooting that happened in a church parking lot, even before the police suspected it. I am a luminary.

We're doing a present Christmas this year, and it's going to be quite an exercise in conspicuous consumption. The kids will never know what hit them! I'm pretty excited about the forthcoming glut of wonder.

So, the sourdough bread. It continues to be delicious. But: it is not sour. Not even a little bit. I don't know what the deal is. I like some tanginess, but I'll take sweet, light bread over the dumpy bricks I've had in the past. I haven't had an overflow like the first day since I started splitting the dough into thirds. The starter itself is fed with white flour, and then when I make the bread I do half white and half wheat flour. So it's not like a bread vitamin or anything. But it is delicious and chewy and soft. I recommend bread flour, which is what I've been using--Big J baker's flour, to be exact. Fantastic flour. It's the stuff my sister uses for the cinnamon rolls she sells on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer, and she makes like a bazillion dollars.

First off, you will need a sourdough starter. This is the hardest part, but if you read this blog with any regularity, chances are you are the kind of person who knows a weirdy who has a sourdough starter they can share with you. For example, me. I have one. I got it from Magic Wendy, who got it from a lady who wanted five dollars for it. Wendy thought that was a bit much, and she gave some to me for free. I think it's a good starter, but what do I know? If you want some, let me know. I gave some to my sister-in-law Emily the other day, so you can get one from her, too. If you don't know a weirdy, you can buy a sourdough starter on the internet. Google it and you will see.

You can make more than just bread with it--waffles, for example, that are light and crispy and soak up steaming gouts of syrup and melted butter, becoming infused with tastiness and rendering themselves far superior to hard, syrup-repelling waffles. But I mostly use it for bread.

Sourdough Bread (from The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers)
makes 3 loaves in my kitchen

3 C sourdough starter (he calls it "pioneer yeast," but I think that is gimmicky)
4 C flour, plus more for later (I use half whole wheat and half bread flour, but whatever you have is fine)
2 C room temperature water
1 T salt

1. Mix all the ingredients with a wooden spoon or with a mixer until the dough is thick and elastic. It's like a really thick batter at this point. Let it rest for five minutes.

2. Add flour, 1/2 C at a time (alternating between white and wheat if you wish to possibly slightly lower your chances of developing colorectal cancer), until the dough is just a little bit sticky. You may need three cups or more of additional flour. Knead for eight to ten minutes until the dough becomes smooth.

3. Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl, covered, and sprayed with oil, for at least three to four hours. I'm serious about this. At least.

4. When the dough is doubled in size, deflate it and form it into three loaves. Put the loaves into greased and floured loaf pans. Let them rise until double while the oven preheats to 350* (450* for a thick, crispy crust).

5. If baking at 350*, bake for 30-40 minutes. If baking at 450*, bake for 10-15 minutes at 450*, then reduce the heat to 350* and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes. Note: the times may be way off. Today I cooked mine at 450* for about 25 minutes and then pulled it out. Take it out when it's done, okay? You will know by the smell. Maybe take it out of the pans and cook it directly on the rack for the last ten minutes. Go crazy, why don't you?Now, here is the part that will change your life. When you slice the bread to make toast, spread one side of the raw bread with butter, then grill it--only the buttered side--in a hot skillet until it is browned and crispy. Once cooked, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, or spread some jam or honey on it. It is called . . . pan toast. And it is the best thing you will ever eat. I may be overselling it a little, but you have no idea how good it is. It is so much better than normal toast. It eats pieces of crap like normal toast for breakfast. I will never willingly eat normal toast again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the plight of a doughy mom

I eat too much, and it irritates me as soon as I get over the enjoyment of eating whatever it was I decided I wanted more than I wanted to be skinny. It's gross that I am surrounded by so much abundance and plenty that I have to worry about eating too much. Isn't that such a grody first-world problem?

I would really love to be skinny like my sisters and sisters-in-law, but I am weak and pleasure-seeking and indolent, so I always give up what I want most (to be slim and trim with no saddlebags or jiggly stomach) for what I want now (second helpings, continued couch-sitting). It affects my mood, so I'm a bitter, angry chub instead of a happy chub. And it's not even the health benefits that drive my desire to be skinny--I just think it looks better. I can see myself developing bulimia if I didn't hate vomiting so much, but no way could I be anorexic--too much discipline! I'm very monkey see, monkey eat.

Monday, December 5, 2011

too loud too loud

I'm making a half white/half wheat batch of the sourdough today. I'm interested to see how the wheat flour affects the texture.

On Friday my sister Aleece came over and we made the bagels from the "Breads and Spreads" chapter in Tipsy's book. Would you like to see?
We are not professionals.

I'm not sure how to explain these bagels, but I will attempt. When I first cut one open, I saw that the crumb is looser than the bagels I'm used to. It looked more dinner-rollish than bagelish. We tasted them, trying to compare them to the bagels in our memories, and they tasted different. It's hard to be objective about something like taste, but here's what I thought, and Aleece agrees.

They do not taste like the bagels I know. They're chewy like bagels, but the taste is not the same. I chewed and thought, "What is different about these? What does a normal bagel taste like?"

Let's see if you guys agree with me in my description of a typical bagel.
Requires toasting to be halfway enjoyable
Feels like lead in the stomach once eaten

Do I have that about right? An acquaintance used to bring Einstein bagels over to the apartment of a thing I was dating in college, and they were, to a one, awful. They were all the stuff I said above. I've had many, many grocery store bagels (fresh and frozen) and bakery bagels over the years (to be fair, none from a respectable bagel purveyor), and I do not like the bagel.

Tipsy's bagels were different from ordinary bagels in that they were soft and moist and flavorful and could be eaten straight and not suffer. Add some butter and you've got a delightful snack. They are also lighter than bagels. So they were delicious, and vastly preferable to every bagel I've eaten before, because the ways in which they are different are ways that make me hate other bagels, and the way in which they are the same (chewiness) is the only characteristic worth retaining. But the question is: are dryness and density required attributes of an authentic bagel? Because if they are, these are not bagels. If they are not, these are the only bagels worth eating.

So I'm torn. I liked these bagels a lot, but I am ignorant of proper bagel composition, and maybe I don't appreciate real bagels. Are they real or not? Is a bagel by definition a gross thing? If not; if this recipe in Tipsy's book is what bagels are really supposed to taste like, then it's just one more reason to be irked at the food industry for selling us mediocre garbage, and one more reason to be irked at ourselves for paying for the privilege of eating the mediocre garbage.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

why do birds suddenly appear?

Tipsy may have been the only one who expressed an interest in hearing about the sourdough bread results, but I know she was really speaking for most of you. That's okay--I understand your secret passion for bread research and development. So I will oblige. But first, some sauerkraut: Looks tasty! Did you know that sauerkraut is very good for you? It won't be ready for another two days, though. Let me know if you want to come over and eat some. Behind it you can see my sourdough starter and John's brownish gook which he is taking for his voice, because he is a delicate flower who bruises easily. And if his instrument is damaged that means no new countertop for me.

I let the dough rise for three hours, and that was hugely important, I think. The bubbles were very strong. I think the use of Big J Mill baker's flour was another important detail.
Look at those bubbles! That is gorgeous dough. Previously the windowpane test has mocked me more often than not, but with this dough I could have made a six-foot picture window for my dining room.

I formed it into two loaves and let it rise for another little bit--it was supposed to be a 90-minute rise, but I couldn't let it get that big, since it was already spilling out of the prescribed two loaf pans. Next time I'm using three pans. I baked it at 450* for ten minutes, by which time the loaves had already doubled in size, then lowered the heat to 350* for another half hour. I took the loaves out of the pans for the last 5-10 minutes, because I wanted a good hard crust on the bottom.

The oven spring on this bread was astonishing. I've never seen anything quite like it.
Don't they look like muppets? The crust is amazing; crispy and chewy, and the interior is soft and stretchy. This is unquestionably the best white bread I have ever made--or tasted outside of a professional bakery.
But there is the issue of appearance--I think splitting it into thirds would have helped immensely.

Two days later it is still soft and chewy. I've made slice upon slice of pan toast with it, and it is heavenly. I'm going to gradually switch it over to wheat, at which point I expect to be elected Bread Queen of the House in Perpetuity.

I will post the recipe once I figure out if wheat flour, another teaspoon of salt, and three loaf pans make it the perfect bread for granolas, hippies, helicopter parents, industrial-food conspiracy theorists, and bread pigs. That's a lot of masters to serve. I don't know if I can do it, but I'll give it my best.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I will seriously lose my entire mind


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

and now, googol, I've really got your number

Today I am doing a very exciting thing, which is making bread completely from sourdough starter, no yeast. No yeast! This has never gone well in the past. Always it is a squat, dry brick. I'm trying to manage my expectations. I am using a recipe from the incredibly smurfily-named "Forgotten Secrets of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers" (review coming). So far the dough is smooth and pillowy and fragrant. But it could still turn against me.

I finally found some good bread flour so I can make Tipsy's bagels and do my real review of her book as well. I want all interested parties to put it on their Christmas lists, so I will try to hurry.

Last night my sisters and I dipped chocolates for the first time. It was a mess, and that was with ready-made fondant mix. They are the ugliest chocolates known to man. But in tasting one just now, purely for research purposes, I realize that I now have the tools and technology to produce my very own Cadbury eggs, with decent chocolate. Let me describe for you my anger when Hershey began making the famed, once-sublime U.S. version of the Cadbury egg: imagine a galaxy consisting entirely of suns, and all of those suns going supernova at the same time. That was my anger. Of course I am exaggerating, but only a little. I hate hate hate Hershey's chocolate. But according to my sister Troy, who is in high school and read something about him, Milton Hershey was supposedly a really nice guy instead of a robber baron like some I could mention, so I'll give them a pass. I won't buy the eggs anymore, though, because the Hershey formulation makes my teeth hurt. CADBURY! RETURN TO ME!

Monday, November 28, 2011

reflections on the monday after thanksgiving, 2011

I'm not saying that shopping on Black Friday means you're a dumb dummy, I'm just saying that of the people we know, the family who most feverishly pores through the ads--highlighting and circling and dog-earing pages, assigning different stores to each family member to maximize their manpower, slavering that "you can't afford NOT to go! they're giving stuff away!"--is the same family that declared bankruptcy a few years ago. That's all. I like a good bargain myself, and sometime during the weekend we always end up at Al's Sporting Goods to buy some shoes. But so far the Friday morning after Thanksgiving finds me doing the crossword and drinking hot chocolate with my kids at Grandma Maxine's kitchen table while John and Grandma do the sudoku, and I intend to keep it that way.

My grandma scoops the last shreds of the egg whites out of the shells with her fingers, because she once heard someone say that you get the equivalent of another egg's worth of whites for every dozen eggs when you do that. I know what you're thinking: She's nuts. That's what I thought at first, too; that she was wasting her time on something so dumb with so little return, but this is a woman who managed, as a divorced mother of seven children and full-time teacher, to not only hold on to a working cattle ranch, but to pay off the many tens of thousands of dollars of debt her former husband had gotten them into. So maybe she's not nuts. Maybe she's disciplined. Maybe she knows that the little things matter.

Probably the first step in an effective defense against child pornography charges is to shave off your mustache.

I support your right to not vaccinate your kids. I agree that there is some weird stuff in there, and it bugs me. I think there should be scrutiny and perhaps revision of the vaccine schedule, but I'm still going to be super pissed at you if one of my infant family members gets polio or measles.

I think a senior dog is the way to go for us.

They didn't come out and say it in words, but before my parents got a Wii my kids used to greatly prefer going to John's parents' house. Also there are cousins their age on John's side, cousins with whom they can fight with about whose turn it is to use the Wii and GameCube.

The basement is not as horrid as I thought, now that the shelves are out. I think we might be able to salvage it, if someone can come and replace the ducting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

what I thought about "the botany of desire"


Pardon. That is an overly simplistic summation of my feelings. I began this book with excitement to learn more about how humans and plants have co-evolved over the centuries, but my excitement was squelched almost instantly. I don't know why this is. I think I'm safe saying that I'm a big Michael Pollan fan, since I loved The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, but this one left me cold.

Here are some interesting things I learned:

Apples don't come true from seed, so a tree you grow from a seed will most likely be nothing like the tree the apple came from.

The bi-colored tulips that fueled the Dutch tulip craze were that way because of a virus, and as soon as the Dutch growers figured that out, they pulled any infected tulip they found.

Modern marijuana is a hybrid of two different Cannabis strains, supposed to give you a better buzz with fewer side effects.

The potato that all the Irish were growing before the blight was called the Lumper.

Here are some things that irritated me:

I didn't like the way he interpreted John Chapman's motives as though he had any idea what he was thinking. That makes him just as bad as the effusive John Chapman fanboy he meets and superciliously dismisses in the book.

I didn't like that he didn't tell me if modern bi-colored tulips are also infected with the tulip breaking virus. I had to go to Wikipedia to find out that that is not necessarily the case. This feels like lazy research.

The marijuana section was not nearly as interesting as I thought it would be. I got sort of bored when he started being all navel-gazey about the effect of hallucinogens on the great thinkers of the past, and on himself.

The potato section was fascinating and I have no complaints about it. Excepting the potato section, the book was boring and felt sort of amateurish and cursorily researched. The apple section was hard to get through; I had to stop reading the tulip section for a while and go straight to the potatoes; I forced myself to finish the tulips with great difficulty; I couldn't be bothered to finish the marijuana section.

Not a fan of this book. But since it was one of his earlier works, I think it shows that he has improved with age.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

why doesn't batman dance anymore?

I've been helping with the assembly of the new playground at the unpark. I never know in situations like that if the guys are wishing I would just go home and stop getting in the way. I think I've been helpful, but who can say? I know it took me twice as long as anybody else to dig a hole for one of the support poles. Thirty inches deep, they are! Curse my inferior upper body strength. Our former mayor, who is a reporter for the two newspapers in the area, came to take pictures of the process yesterday, and my pants were falling off in all of the pictures she took. When in Rome, you know. Hopefully she'll get a marker and color over my underwear.

Last night I had a nightmare that I had lice. It woke me up at 4:30 and the rest of my sleep was fitful at best. It's probably my worst fear, next to kidnapping and assault. I googled "lice" on my phone as soon as my alarm went off, and from what I read I don't think I actually have lice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

you can lead the way

Have I shared with you yet my testimony of down bedding? I have one. Down bedding elevates a regular bed to a bed of supreme comfort and warmth. It helps even a so-so mattress seem more inviting. It is the only true way to sleep. A secret: much of my down bedding is more correctly described as feather bedding, because I got it from Ikea on purpose. Feathers are cheaper than down, and plenty warm for me. Feathers and wool make the best comforters and blankets, in my experience.

I am making pies for a Fakesgiving dinner this Saturday--do any of you have a splendid traditional family recipe that you love beyond compare and would like to share with me? I've got my heart set on grape or gooseberry. My sister Aleece and I made pumpkin and chess pies on Friday. We were doing a taste and texture test of conventional pumpkin pie to see if the Herd Family Way is truly the best. Short answer: it is. For the chess pie we used Tipsy's recipe that she was kind enough to share with us, and I much preferred it to the conventional pumpkin. Those Southerners do not screw around with their pies (Tipsy is not Southern, but chess pie is). It is eggy and rich and sweet--sort of like those dim sum custard pies that are usually disgusting, but were incredible at the dim sum place Tipsy took me to in Chinatown--and I loved it immensely. I also made a discovery: I think what kills restaurant pie is keeping it cold. I put the uneaten portion of the pumpkin pie in the fridge, and when I sampled it a few hours later the crust, which had previously been delicious and flaky (aside from the hated soggy bottom), was super, super gross. Dry, chalky, bland. Truly terrible. Actually inedible--I threw it away. So now you know: don't refrigerate your pie.

We got an American Girl doll catalog in the mail last weekend, which seems very Big Brother to me. It feels like an invasion of my privacy--do they buy hospital records? Old Navy receipts? They should know that I think their dolls are a wicked, homogenized extravagance. Who do they think they are, the Frye Company? Pshaw.

Friday, November 11, 2011

why don't you ask mr. owl, for he is the wisest of us all

I'm not positive--but I'm close to positive--that my sister Claire's friend Melany was on the bleeding edge of the owl craze. She may even have been the instigator. We may never know. But what we do know is that I bought some hair clips from her for my niece Eliza three years ago, and I swear she had in her inventory an owl clip. Maybe I bought the clip. Sarah would know. If I did, it was the cutest thing in the world of baby hair accessories, because that's how Melany does it. Here is her Etsy shop, if you're curious. She is truly gifted.

But back to my point: what is the deal with owls? Yes, they're cute, but people are ruining it! There are too many now, everywhere I turn! So many owls that I'm sick of them! This needs to stop. Everybody, just settle down about the owls. Stop cupcaking them for those of us who already liked owls before the madness started. Some of us like owls for their nocturnal predation of vermin and Tootsie Pops, as well as their beady eyes and swivel heads. We haven't forgotten the True Meaning of Owls.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

high/low, or mundane/horrifying

Probably one of John's most favorite things is when he comes home and finds that I've made some irreversible change to the house--carpet and linoleum torn up, shelves demolished, furniture thrown away. I know this about him, how much he loves sudden, uncomfortable change, and that's why I'm downstairs taking out a weird set of shelves built along one wall of what we call the toy room. A 1923 house is what it is, and the basement can only be improved so much, because there are so many pipes and ducts and electrical conduit running along the ceiling, but I must remove the shabby, holey carpet and wallpaper, and at least paint the walls.

The Penn State thing is killing me, and the riots opposing Paterno's firing are bizarre. What should have happened when Mike McQueary walked into the locker room is this: he should have opened Sandusky's head with a ball bat and called the police while he was taking the kid to the hospital. And here's what should happen now: Sandusky should be executed. McQueary should be charged as an accessory after the fact, and Paterno, along with the rest of Sandusky's associates, should be investigated as well and charged if necessary. The idiot college students who are rioting in support of a man who colluded in the rape of children should be sentenced to community service volunteering at a safe house for victims of sexual violence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

so crazy it just might work

This post of Tori's is one that I really needed to read.

In other news, I dreamed last night that I went to an Aerosmith concert with my parents. They opened with "Livin' on the Edge," and Steven Tyler was shuffling around onstage in a mangy-looking brown duster, a ratty fedora, and aviator sunglasses. He was not nearly as charismatic as I assumed he would be. It was weird. I didn't dream long enough to find out if my parents liked the show.

A few of the things that are giving me grief today:
1. The mess at Penn State--what in the world is happening there? Why did the eyewitness wait a day to tell Joe Paterno about it? Why did he tell Joe Paterno instead of the police? And I mean, innocent until proven guilty and all that, but of course Sandusky worked with at-risk youth--because they lack a strong family support system and are much easier to victimize.
2. It was an incumbent sweep in our city council elections yesterday. John won the 2-year term, which is a mixed victory, but I hoped for more backlash against the good-ol'-boys who wanted to bless our community (the part of the community not near them, naturally) with a smelly biodiesel plant run by a porcine charlatan.
3. Long, sparkly, square-tipped acrylic nails on a little girl in Ike's first grade class. The child cannot use her scissors or color or write her name because of them, and I'm like, "Really, mom?"

Last night John texted me that he'd lost his phone, and I said, "Find it." He texted back, "Don't you mean, 'Find it, councilman?" That's how he told me he won the election. Maybe he is already drunk with power. He'll be putting in gravel pits and biodiesel plants before we know it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I like voting

Go vote, everybody! It's fun. You get a sticker and usually a piece of candy, plus you get to have a say in local politics, which is where your voice counts the most.

If you live in Honeyville, you can vote for John, who is fair and kind.

Friday, November 4, 2011

who buys guacamole, anyway?

By the way, here is Tipsy:

She's quite famous, don't you know?

then I hold my nose, thusly

This is the dog I went and played with last Friday, and almost she persuadest me to become a dog owner again. She is so sweet and loving, with a pleading face and very soft fur. She has scarring on her head, and her ears have been cropped incredibly short--probably a bait dog. I just loved her to pieces.

Poop. Shedding. Walks every day no matter what. Dog smell.

Okay, I'm better now.

Magic Wendy and I took a pie-making class this morning. It was interesting--the guy made the crust in a stand mixer, which I would never dare do. But I used to think I would never make pie crust in a food processor, either, and I've long since crossed that bridge. He used shortening, which made me all boo-hiss at first, but said he prefers lard and thus won himself back into my good graces. He used a French rolling pin, which I have never gotten the hang of using, but I practiced with his and finally figured it out. My mom's is about three times the diameter as the one he used, and I could just as well use a log. Here is a Hyperbole and a Half-esque picture, except not as funny or good: Stupid fat rolling pin.

I'm thinking of moving the dressers out of my room and putting in a floor-to-ceiling wall closet thing. I think it would be an improvement, if only to remove the temptation of stacking clutter on top of the dresser.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

there won't be a hook in sight at the codfish ball

When my kids ask me to buy stupid junk for them I need to stop saying, "We can't afford that," which is not technically true, and start saying, "We don't want to spend our money on that." Saying we can't afford it implies that we would buy it if we only had the money. This is misrepresentation. I don't like buying stuff for my kids because they just break and ruin it. I much prefer taking them on vacation, because the likelihood that the four of them will ruin Oregon or Florida any way other than metaphorically is slim.

I took the slavery footprint quiz yesterday, and it says I have 61 slaves working for me, which I don't think is correct. Don't misunderstand me, I'm pretty sure my purchases are financing enslavement, I just don't think I have more than twice the national average of slaves (which is 25), because most of the places where I got dinged were places where I do most of the work myself--hey, wait a minute. What does that mean?

I hear from the Facebook that Tipsy is going to be on Good Morning America tomorrow morning at 8:30. I encourage you to watch, because then you will see how delightful she is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

eyes burning like coals

Wow! Thanks for this!

I have watched—generally with a mix of disapproval and concern, on a few rare occasions with approbation—as, one-by-one, my high school girlfriends jumped into marriages at the super-mature ages of 22, 23, and so on. Women who had seemed so driven and talented, so capable of achieving things beyond a comfortable small-town, nuclear family existence, are settling into and, in my not-so-humble opinion, for, just that.

--J. Bryan Lowder
in an article on Slate today

It is gratifying to see the "just a housewife" bigotry raise its ugly head again. How foolish of these women to waste their lives on merely raising children! I know the reason I got married and had children is that I'm just too darned stupid and shiftless to achieve "things beyond."

Neat guy, this Lowder fellow.

He's got a point, of course--girls who marry young before getting a good education are selling themselves short. But the patronizing tone really grates--I was graduated from college and had been working as a tech writer for a year when I got married at the "super-mature age of 22," and it was after I married John that I did my best growing and learning.

What does he really know about these women and what their drives and talents are, anyway? He is a pious nag with his "disapproval and concern." He should shut up.

just really mad about chocolate today

Here's the thing: brownies and hot fudge pudding cake and all other chocolate desserts need to taste like CHOCOLATE. I'm so sick and tired of people making this crap that only indicates its intended flavor by being sort of brown. One time about five years ago I had some hot fudge pudding cake at a relative's house and it was dark brown but totally flavorless. Such is my first world entitlement that I actually became angry about it. I still get angry when I remember it. Ask my family how I get about store-bought pumpkin pie. Look, either bring a dessert or don't. Bring a pie or don't. If you can't make it well, don't make it, and don't buy it. Have someone else do it who will do it correctly.

Authors of children's books need to stop rhyming. Unless your pen name is Dr. Seuss, which it isn't because he's dead, it's gimmicky and I am not impressed. I look through the books my children ask to check out, and if they rhyme I immediately reject them. If one accidentally gets through my filter and I end up reading it at storytime, I will change the words so they don't rhyme, or purposely read in the wrong meter to mess it up.

When my children grow up I'm going to have to either move to California or get rid of my chickens and goats so I don't have to carry water buckets through the snow. When they read this they'll say, "You only had kids so you'd have someone to do all your work for you!" And I will say, "You're right. It is how I am teaching you to be good people."

I think Willa has pica. Yesterday at Costco she ate her sample cup, and then last night she ate her Nerds box. How could a child who refuses to eat anything but the Doritos she steals from the neighbors be suffering from a mineral deficiency? Search me!

Monday, October 31, 2011

a flibbertigibbet, a will-o-the-wisp, a clown

Rex and Groceries have started crossing the road, so it's only a matter of time before they're squished. This makes me sad in advance. I hated them so much when I was bottle-feeding them and wiping their bottoms with paper towels to get them to poop, and encouraging them to eat solids by sticking my fingers in the canned cat food. There was very little about cat ownership that I enjoyed at that time. Plus Skiver was dying. It was a mess all around.

But now I love Rex and Groceries. They are terrific cats. Yes, I would prefer it if they hadn't ever pooped in the house--this is mainly Groceries--but they are soft and friendly. I think they made Skiver's death a lot easier for us. Even Emmett likes them. Emmett has been decidedly cool toward animals ever since he was bitten, unprovoked, by our niece's horrible purse dog--a poodle, of course--when he was a toddler. He didn't even like Skiver at first. He used to come wake us up in the middle of the night and say, "THE CAT IS IN MY BED," and we'd have to go make Skiver get out. But he gradually softened, and now he slings Rex over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and takes him downstairs with him at bedtime, and lets Rex sit on his lap and lick his ears. It warms my heart to see the child who used to shun all animals curl up in a chair with a cat and a book.

Plus they are so useful. They caught a mouse just on Saturday. I wish they wouldn't cross the road, but trying to keep a cat in your own yard is like trying to hold a moonbeam in your hand or something.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

bye, bye li'l sebastian . . . you're five thousand candles in the wind


Well, friends and neighbors, according to the pencils which I numbered from one to fifteen, and from which John selected while his eyes were closed, commenter number 6, also known as All8, has won the very fun, handy, useful, dare I say life changing "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" cookbook. Congratulations, All8! If I know you at all, this book is very well suited for you, methinks. I believe I still have your mailing address from a couple of years ago when I sent you some soap? Or something? Oh, remember when you gave me some jam? Everybody, All8 is probably the best jam maker of all time. Sour cherry . . . spiced peach . . . it is her superpower.

I'm sad the contest is over, though. "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" giveaway contest, we hardly knew ye. Sniff! I wish I could give a copy to all of you. If Tipsy's publisher would just send me a whole box of them I could be like Father Christmas and give them to all you worthy souls. I can see why Oprah got the way she did--giving stuff away, even something small like a cookbook, is very intoxicating. Imagine the high she got from giving those cars! Same with Bob Barker. I bet that's what kept him so Dick Clarkishly preserved for so long--the giver's high.

Thanks for participating, everyone. It was fun to read what everyone likes or doesn't like to make. I've only bought buttermilk a couple of times. Sometimes I culture my own, but mostly I just use milk with lemon juice in it. I would like to do a comparison of pancakes made with store-bought buttermilk, milk and vinegar/lemon juice, homemade buttermilk made with culture, and powdered buttermilk.

Why can't I give away a hundred books?!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I was a teenage monster

John has a joke he sometimes tells that goes something like this: One day Noah's son Shem came up to him and said, "Dad--there's a pair of snakes that hasn't multiplied at all! It's still just the two of them." "Okay," said Noah. "I'll go have a talk with them." A few days later Shem was checking on the animals again, and he noticed those same two snakes, only this time they had tons and tons of little baby snakes, slithering all over this piece of wooden furniture with four legs and a flat top. Shem ran up to Noah and said, "What's going on? Why weren't those snakes multiplying, and why are there so many of them now?" Noah said, "Well, they were adders. So I built them a log table."


That is a math joke that I don't even understand. I probably didn't even tell it right.

A post that Tori has up about the salted caramel trend (that is good and righteous, but unfortunately about to become a victim of its own success) reminded me how much I hate cupcakes, and how ready I am for them to be over, and how there are people who don't realize that the trend has spent itself who are still starting cupcake businesses, and although cupcake shops may continue to make money for a while, especially in places like Utah where we're a good 1-5 years behind on food trends, the cupcake thing has peaked and is going into its twilight years. Cupcakeries better start some smart diversification and line extension. Pies are the next wave, and I'm not sure what's coming after that. Let me think about it for a while. Welcome the pie, is what I say. I'd love to see a pie shop that makes an edible pie. Heck, I'd like to start one--note to Huffs: let's have that be a sister business of our set-menu restaurant.

As Tori implies in her post heading, it's the same thing with bacon. I don't think bacon will see as vituperative a backlash as I foresee for cupcakes, because it is such a worthy foodstuff, but we all need to settle down about bacon. Sometimes there isn't enough fat on the bacon, and those times make me irritated. Tipsy has a great bit about bacon in her book--I'll go find it so I don't butcher it in the retelling.

Here we go:

At some point in the last few years, bacon became everyone's naughty best friend. Even vegetarians love bacon. Dieters love bacon! There's a bacon-of-the-month club and I went to a trendy restaurant where cake was served topped with candied bacon. It was insanely delicious and also insane. People wear T-shirts silkscreened with strips of bacon and get tattoos of pigs on their biceps. Bacon, bacon, bacon, enough with the bacon. I feel about bacon the way I do about Tina Fey. Sometimes I get sick of the adulation and want to dislike bacon. Except, of course, I can't. It's bacon.

--Jennifer Reese, from "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter"

This is truth. Do you see why you need her book?

Anyway, like I was saying. Shut up, cupcakes. You are stupid and always have been because you wreck the 2:1 frosting to cake ratio. Shut up, cake balls and pops. You are moist and delicious, but you are a trophy wife.

I have it! The next trend should be old-fashioned doughnuts. Not raised doughnuts, cake doughnuts.

What food trends do you want to go away? What food trends do you love or want to see? Am I off-base about the cupcakes and cake balls/pops? Do you like fatty or meaty bacon?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

who wants a present? a really cool present?

My friend and yours, Jennifer Reese--known on my sidebar as the Tipsy Baker--has written a superb cookbook. I have read it from cover to cover, and although I am waiting to do a complete review until I've cooked something in every category, this is what I can tell you: I was reading it aloud to my family on the way to John's parents' house for dinner on Sunday, and they were enthralled. If I stopped to swallow or read a recipe they exclaimed, "Keep reading!" That's because she is a great writer, and the personal anecdotes are charming and engaging. It's a lovely book, and although my recipe testing is not finished, I know you're safe with at least the Vadouvan Mac N' Cheese, Isabel's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Everyday Bread, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Pudding, Cocoa, Vanilla Extract, Ricotta and Lard.

The premise of the book is that there are some things it's worth it to make yourself--a lot of things--but there are things that others do as well or better, and you don't need to waste your time on that stuff. I was illuminated and validated. It's a wonderful book. I want you to have it. And it turns out I have an extra copy!

If you would like to win your very own free, brand new, pristine copy of Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, here's what you need to do: in the comments, tell us something about food. Something you love to make, something you hate to make, something you thought you had to buy but found out you don't, something you thought you could make but found out you'd rather buy, an interesting or little-known fact about some food . . . anything about food.

The contest will go until Saturday, October 29th at midnight, at which point I will randomly select a winner, and mail you your very own copy of this cookbook that, regardless of the high esteem in which I hold Tipsy herself, is now one of my Kitchen Standard Works.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

how often have you been there? often enough to know

I have a guest post up at Feminist Mormon Housewives today that you can read if you've got a hankering.

Monday, October 24, 2011

deutschland, deutschland, uber alles

Last night I was drinking from the bathroom faucet after brushing my teeth, and I noticed the barest whisper of chilly water, which means winter faucet drinking season is almost here! It's my favorite faucet drinking season of all. Our bathroom is on the north side of the house, where there is a tangle of Pyracantha and dogwood that spans the house from front to back, so it is perpetually in the shade. Therefore, the bathroom faucet water is always the coldest water in the house, and therefore the best-tasting. But in winter it becomes ambrosial.

I drink from the faucet because I find cups in the bathroom to be needless furbelows. Frankly, I like the taste of water straight from the tap, and I'll go to my grave drinking it that way, unless I have a stroke and can't walk anymore, and the nursing home workers won't hold me up next to the sink because they are too busy stealing my identity. I feel like that last sentence has too many commas. I'm suspicious of commas. They are sneaky and always trying to use their powers for evil.

John's sister is moving, and a woman in the ward she's moving into wanted her to bring a calf, like a live Jersey calf, with her--you know, she's already driving across the country, so why would it be a big deal to bring some total stranger lady a cow? And that right there is why I could never be a real hippie. There is a large subset of the hippie population for whom the concept of personal property does not exist. For them, all resources are community resources, which is a fine idea, but not terribly respectful in practice. That's why the United Order doesn't work--there's always some jerk who holds back the cream from the communally-owned milk cow, or uses the community's corn to make mash liquor and doesn't share, or drops her kids off on your street and assumes that somebody will take care of them while she goes shopping for the rest of the day.

Friday, October 21, 2011

this again

This is a good post, but I disagree with him that hamburgers are hamburgers and fried chicken is fried chicken. A grass-fed hamburger on a Lee's bun is not like a Big Mac. Oven-fried Appenzell chicken is not like KFC. Yes, there is too much snobbery and classism in food politics. But it's not snobby or classist to say that the nutritional content of the homemade burger or fried chicken meat is better. I believe this. But in addition to that, I believe that the food choices we make have ethical and moral as well as dietary implications. When I fry an Appenzell chicken at home, I know what that chicken's life was like, and what's in the breading--flour, salt, pepper and paprika. When I grill a Bingham beef hamburger, I know that the cow ate grass and silage, not grain and antibiotics. This doesn't matter to everyone, but it matters to me. I saw a comment on some article I read the other day that said the government should subsidize healthy food, not junk food. I think just not subsidizing the junk food would be a good start. It might help us balance better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

what I thought about "the illustrated man"

This was a re-read for me, by my boyfriend Ray Bradbury, only it feels cheap to call him that, because he's so much more than my boyfriend. He is probably my most cherished writer. If you follow my tweets you may have seen my upset last week when I thought I had lost my signed copy of "Something Wicked This Way Comes." It was a bad day until my mom said she had borrowed it.

"The Illustrated Man" is a great collection, most of the stories strong, with recurring themes about censorship, human nature, the role of technology in our lives, how to gain self-worth, how to parent, love, forgiveness . . . I don't know if there is any important life lesson you can't learn from reading Ray Bradbury. What a treasure. I love him.

what I thought about "haunted"

I can't recommend this book. It's a collection of short stories, many of them stomach churning. There are a couple that I didn't get, and maybe it's because I'm not smart enough, but deep down inside me I think it's because they weren't written as well as the others--there were holes in the narrative. There are some very compelling themes, and meat for discussion, but it's in really rough territory in places. Really rough. Like, smut kind of rough.

ever see a man say goodbye to a shoe?

I'm just looking at dogs on the internet again. I don't want one, but I sort of want one. I would like a beagle again, only this time one that doesn't run into the road, and will chew on somebody's face if I need it to.

I watched Buck this morning--instant play on the much-maligned Netflix! It is inspiring. It's why I started looking at dogs again. He says the same kinds of things that Cesar Millan says, that animals manifest the problems of their owners, and that the way you learn to treat animals translates to how you treat people, etcetera. I have found that to be true with goats--they are training wheels for children. Animals, at least the animals I know, respond the same way children do. But the nice thing about animals is that when you make mistakes, if you fix them the animal is rehabilitated fairly quickly, compared to a child. I learned that from Finola. So you can practice proper parenting--staying calm, being firm and encouraging--on animals, and it's easier to repeat it with your children, who will be much slower to respond. Maddeningly slower. But the animals will give you hope and strength to carry on! You should probably have a dog or a horse or a goat.

The kids and I went out for breakfast at noon today. We are shiftless idlers! But we did fold some clothes and do some superficial vacuuming beforehand. Now they are at Crystal Hot Springs soaking up the trace minerals, luckies. Then tomorrow we're finally going to finish our patio extension and put a real gate in the goat pen that they don't sneak out of, and on Friday I'm going to learn how to do a cat eye for real. Fall break is the best!

Monday, October 17, 2011

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now

Who loves cults? Brandon Flowers, that's who. He loves babies, too.

iridescent socks with the same color shirt and a tight pair of chinos

At the beginning of this school year I sat myself down and did some thinking. I thought back to school years past, specifically the lunch-making portion of school years past, with mornings full of complaints about the same lunch over and over again. Homemade peanut butter and homemade jam on homemade wheat bread, with a piece of fruit. The end. And I decided that I could not take another year of that. So I made some changes.

I buy sandwich bread now. I was making five loaves of bread a week, and I always felt really stingy and rationed them, because I didn't want to have another day in the week that I had to bake bread. I still make bread for eating at home, but for sandwiches I started buying Dave's Killer Bread and Harper's Homemade right as I found out that good ingredient lists were no longer adequate, but that the bread had to be made with soaked grains. Oh well, I guess we'll all die.

I buy lunch meat. Emmett and Ike still like peanut butter and jelly, but Grant likes meat, and I'm not equal yet to the task of cooking my own meat for five days of sandwiches.

I buy sliced cheese. Yes, it's more expensive. Maybe a lot more, but I don't know for sure because I don't care.

I buy juice packets. I usually don't approve of juice, but if it keeps my kids from gazing forlornly at their classmates drinking pink milk, it's a fair trade.

I send treats. Sometimes it's a cookie, sometimes it's candy. Right now we have a huge bag of mini candy bars--the little square ones--and I send one in their lunch box every day. Yeah, kids eat too much candy. But again--if it helps my kids feel less put-upon, I'm okay with it.

I bought some good sealing containers to send sliced fruits or vegetables in.

I bought lunch boxes--Grant and Ike both got metal, Emmett got a soft zippy one with a hard plastic insert. Insulated bags are a giant headache. I was sick and tired of their lunches getting smashed, and the seams filling up with rotten fruit.

The whole purpose of making lunches is to help my kids learn to love and want healthy food, but you have to be really careful. If you are too austere your children will probably just rebel and eat candy bars and pop for lunch as soon as they get to junior high. I'm sure you all know the family in your town with the really strict, earthy parents who won't let their kids watch TV or eat junk food, and what do their kids do whenever they go to someone else's house? Watch TV and eat crap. Forbidden fruit is so sweet.

I had to compromise, both for my own sanity and my children's long-term ability to govern themselves. The lunches are not as healthy as I would like, but they beat the heck out of school lunch, and the kids don't complain anymore. They'll probably still eat candy and pop and plastic from McDonald's when they are teenagers, but I'm hoping the siren song won't be quite so powerful.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

what I thought about "the chosen"

What a beautiful book. I saw it on the library shelf and thought, "All right, I guess." I'd heard of it, of course, but had no idea what it was about. I thought I might hate it. But I don't. I don't even want to say anything about it, because I want you to experience the same joy of discovery I did. Please read it.

oh, darlin', I was blind to let you go

When I was in high school, the summer between my junior and senior years of high school I went with my AP Spanish class to Mexico for three weeks. We saw Mexico City, Teotihuacan and Acapulco, and spent two weeks with host families in Toluca, while we were attending a school in the city and studying for the AP Spanish test. The first morning with my host family they served lukewarm shelf-stable milk and cantaloupe, my most hated fruit at the time. But I looked at it and knew that to refuse it would be horribly offensive, so I took a deep breath and muscled it down. Now I love cantaloupe. They also served me sopa de calabaza, and some soup made with a pig's backbone. I loved those. I've successfully replicated the sopa de calabaza, which was basically zucchini bisque, but the pig's backbone eludes me. I ate white shelf-stable cheese, chicharrones, cerebros and orejas and a bunch of other pastries I can't remember the names of. I went to a quinceanera where my friends Aimee and Jaime got drunk on the classic combination of rum and Coke. Mexico is where I learned that enchiladas in Utah, at least twenty years ago, are completely unrelated to enchiladas in Mexico. It's why I openly laughed at my roommate in college who said her mom makes enchiladas "the real way, like Mexicans--with cream of chicken soup and no sauce."

One day when I was driving home from school with my host sister Laura and her mom, we stopped at a little store where they had slabs of fudgy-looking stuff in all different colors. Laura's mom bought some for us, and that was my first taste of penuche candy. I obsessed about it and brought about five bricks of it home from Mexico with me. I have sought it in countless Latino markets all these years since, and have finally found real chicharrones, but not penuche. Well, like an idiot, I signed up to bring penuche to a Relief Society activity we're having tonight. We're learning about Latin America, so I thought, "hey, appropriate!" Why did I sign up to bring a candy I can't make or buy? Not sure. But I scoured the internet and made a failed batch that is caramel, broke my hand mixer, then tried a different recipe, and it is perfect. It's just like I remember. I almost wept at the exactness of the texture and flavor, which is nerdy of me, but I couldn't help it. It had been so long, and it brought back such wonderful memories of Mexico.

I used this recipe, and followed it almost exactly. I did have to beat it a little longer than four minutes.

Now that I can get chicharrones, tamales and chiles rellenos that taste like I remember, and make my own penuche with comparative ease, is there anything missing from my life? Yes, but not much.

san francisco trip, day four

We got up and got ready and went to the airport and came home.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

san francisco trip, day three

Remember back in the olden days, when the internet was all fresh and new, and online socializing was in its infancy? There was no Facebook, no Myspace (remember that?). We were just figuring out that we could use the internet not only to ignore email queries from our parents who were wondering what malfeasance we were perpetrating at college (exploring the steam tunnels under USU's campus), but also to communicate with perfect strangers of unknown character with whom we shared interests, like TV or Magic: The Gathering. This behavior was initially frowned upon, because of the chance that someone might go all Single White Female on you, but has progressed to the point where people are rarely murdered by their online acquaintances, and in fact often prefer them to their real life friends, because their real life friends keep asking them for rides.

Thank goodness for the internet, because I have met some truly lovely people. For example, Tipsy.

On Saturday I met Tipsy for the first time. We've been friends ever since I went googling for Sumida's first name and found her blog. I think she is smart and funny and creative and warm, and I admire the daylights out of her. She's great.

She picked me up in front of the hotel, and we began our all-day conversation and eating/shopping trip. It was delightful. We ate dim sum, which included an egg tart that rivals any custard I've eaten, and Vietnamese yogurt, which is sweet and delicious and my new favorite thing. We saw some more crazy grocery and housewares stores, and those little bamboo steamer baskets are going to be my financial ruin--they are so cute! Can you imagine having a big stack of mini steamer baskets, all filled with little personal-size pies? I can't stand it! We saw the Golden Gate Bridge, and Lombard Street, and the beach, and all sorts of beautiful houses. San Francisco is just a really cool place.

I feel weird telling you about Tipsy's house and family and goats and chickens, because it seems all name-droppy, like, "Uh, I'm super famous, just like MY FRIEND the PUBLISHED AUTHOR, WHOSE HOUSE I HAVE BEEN TO and WHOSE FAMILY I MET," so I'll just say they're all lovely, and her goats really liked my boots, because they have good taste.

It was a fun day, because I got to do all three of my favorite things (talk, eat, shop). I hope to someday repay her kindness, and show her around my own stomping grounds, including the pond, the cemetery, and the pasture up the hill where Aggie used to poop.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

san francisco trip, day two

The main reason John and I go on vacation is to eat, so we put careful thought into our meals. For breakfast we ate at Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery (I like saying "crepery" and making it sound like "crappery," because I am a twelve-year-old boy inside). We got Crepes Suzette and Crab Cake Florentine. John hated the crab cake, because his was gross and old-tasting. But the eggs and hollandaise and crepes were all great. We recommend it. I'd love to show you pictures of it, but unfortunately we never downloaded the pictures, and John left the camera on the Caltrain, so . . . no evidence of Honey Honey, or Yuet Lee, where we ate lunch, or anything else in Chinatown, or Little Delhi where we bought naan that has ruined us for all other naan.

We walked past Union Square, which was very boring to me, and looked in Neiman Marcus a little bit. I got an idea that my bishop the bootmaker could make for me an orange purse for fifty or a hundred bucks instead of $1800.

San Francisco's Chinatown is far more impressive, at least to me, than New York's. It's squishier and that makes it seem more vibrant to me. There were all manner of exotic fruits and vegetables and flopping fish and frog legs and roasted ducks hanging in the window, plus gaudy, extravagant chandeliers, and hilarious shopkeepers who will tell you with a straight face that they just started carrying the teal color dresses--which are called "cheongsams," no idea how to pronounce--only for a month now! They are ruthless negotiators. It was great fun.

We met a man on the street who recommended Yuet Lee to us, because it was good food and we were dressed appropriately for it (he looked disparagingly at our attire while saying this). We got roast duck with noodles and sweet and sour pork. The duck noodle soup was not quite as delicious as the one I ate at Great NY Noodletown, but it was still good. Duck skin is hard to beat. The pork was good, too, and while we were there the staff all stopped working and sat down to lunch together, and one of the guys had a really deep, gravelly voice like Oscar the Grouch with emphysema, and he got into what looked like a mild to moderately heated argument with a customer. That was fun, too.

We walked back to our hotel, stopping along the way in a skeevy part of town where Little Delhi is. We waited a million years for our naan, and on the way back to the hotel a homeless man asked us for some food, and John gave him the rest of the naan. We're big old humanitarians. John almost missed the bus that was taking him to the conference. I had a nap in the hotel room, then watched Anderson Cooper try to figure out why the crazy religious nut was being mean to the less-crazy religious nut, then I went to a beautiful mall where I bought fancy chocolates and ogled shoes for a long time.

When John got back we ate some okay pizza and wonderful frozen yogurt at Blondie's. There was a man leaving as we got there who was shouting, "BLONDIE'S IS DEAD! YOU'RE DEAD TO ME!" They laughed at him because he was on drugs.

Monday, October 10, 2011

san francisco trip, day one

Thursday was filled with running and almost-lateness and anxiety sweat. Let us not speak of it, other than to say that traveling with John is powerfully frustrating and stressful until you get to a place on your itinerary where there are no hard stops. If we were on Amazing Race together it would be the death of our marriage.

We dropped our things off at the hotel, which was like a Victorian Motel 6, with shared bathrooms and cupboard-sized rooms (I didn't mind it and would stay there again, and hence spend more money on food and clothes, as long as there are no bedbugs, knock on wood). Then we took a cab down to the pier and boarded our ferry to Alcatraz. It was Fleet Week, so on our trip there and back we watched the Blue Angels perform death-defying stunts in their jets, and John nearly had a joy seizure. We wandered around and admired the accommodations on Alcatraz, listening to the audio tour. We had to keep skipping ahead because we were trying to make the ferry back to San Francisco so we wouldn't miss our dinner reservation, which bummed me out. Some of Thursday's stress can be blamed on me, since I put Alcatraz and Chez Panisse in the same day, with not a lot of time to spare.

John is thinking, "What a great view!"

I am learning what happens when people get sick of spaghetti (hint: riots).

I wish I had been able to spend four hours at Alcatraz, it was so fascinating. I would go there again tomorrow if I could. Very interesting.

Against all odds we made our reservation, and our perfect dinner began.
I don't look like I was just fretting in the cab, plucking at John's sleeve and begging him to call the restaurant and hold our reservation, do I?

Everyone from the hostess to the servers to the kitchen staff was friendly and gracious, and the hostess took us on a tour through the kitchen, and showed us their meat locker. The kitchen is incredibly calm, with nobody swearing or throwing things, or even sweating perceptibly. Everyone was working quietly and efficiently at their stations, but they smiled and happily answered questions and talked about their dishes. I was overwhelmed by it all, to be honest. It was one of those experiences where after the fact you think, "Oh, I should have said that!" But it is too late now, and they'll never know how impressed I was. Not that they will suffer. The way I have described it so far is thusly: I have had dishes as good as those I ate at Chez Panisse, but never better, and never an entire, impeccable, flawless meal. The pictures were taken with our primitive camera and do not do the food justice, but I have no interest in lugging around one of those albatross cameras.
Figs and house-made prosciutto.

Onion tartlet.


Lamb with ratatouille and onion rings.

We forgot to take a picture of the granita with peach sherbet and peach slices. Oops, accident. And I will say that the peach was not as good as a Brigham City peach, but since I had been eating Angelus peaches the day before, and Canadian Harmony peaches the week before that, it was a competition they had no hope of winning. They can't help it that California peaches are inferior.
Everything was perfectly cooked, seasoned, sauced and garnished. I really can't describe it properly. There was very little conversation at our table, because John and I were just making food noises most of the night. The people at the tables near us were all eating like, "This ain't no thing," and I guess it's nice for them that they've eaten there and at similar caliber restaurants enough times that they're unaffected, but I feel sad and irritated that they take such gorgeous food--food into which such careful thought and preparation has been put, food that many people are not lucky enough to eat--for granted. I guess I have an immature palate.

Then we went to Andronico's, and I was envious of the variety of cheeses and bought some sheep's milk yogurt.

Friday, October 7, 2011

scoob and I can just keep the party going here

I don't have time for a full recap of our perfect meal, but here is a shot of me in front of the fire where they grilled the lamb. You may be able to tell from my expression that I'm a little bit excited about everything.
And here is the outfit I wore, which was just right. I think the zebra would have been great for the weekend, but I would have felt overdressed in it last night.
I don't know how people could ever be blase about that food, but places like Chez Panisse help you to understand why California people act like they do. You know what I'm talking about. You guys, I bought sheep's milk yogurt last night, which was right next to the bottles and bottles of raw milk available for just anybody to buy at the grocery store. How could they not feel superior to the rest of us?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

maybe there were a few less patients than I said

I have a fun exercise for you guys today. I'm trying to decide what to wear to Chez Panisse tomorrow night, and obviously, as if I even need to tell you, I hate everything I own. But I will shoulder my first-world burden and soldier on. Here are three outfits, each with two shoe choices.1. Yellow/navy skirt, white/navy shirt, double wrap belt made by my cool bishop, brown Mary Janes or oxblood boots

2. Navy knit dress, brown striped cardigan, Mary Janes or boots

3. zebra dress, black shirt, stilletos or boots

Which of them do you think? Any of them? None of them? Should I tell you which is my favorite, or will that pollute the data pool? I think the second choice is kind of a dud, but it does look decent on. The platform Mary Janes are very elongating and slimming.

Help me, internet friends and acquaintances! You can answer in the comments, the sidebar poll, or both.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

the bridges were burned now it's your turn to cry

This is my spice drawer. The labels are handwritten because I'm not anal-retentive (about that), and they are alphabetized, otherwise it would be MADNESS! In the comments Eric brought up a very good point--you can buy a tiny bottle of whatever herb/spice for around five dollars, or you can buy a pound of it for about a dollar more. You see the wisdom in my jars.

It has made me wish for more drawers, however. Unfortunately there is a cabinet directly beneath this drawer where I keep my flour and sugar and cocoa powder, so I can't extend the spice drawer. I still keep the lesser-used ones in a spice carousel in the cupboard above this drawer. This is irritating to me. I like uniformity of organization schemes.

Here is a picture of some tomatoes from our garden. For perspective there is a wide-mouth jar. Here is a picture of the co-op spraying our field with poison. I felt super great about it, obviously, because it felt like letting Monsanto get to second base. But currently I don't know of another (practical, appropriate for agritainers) way to get rid of the alfalfa so we can put the field in oats for two years.

Monday, October 3, 2011

product may stay: ben & jerry's late night snack

When I was in college I used to buy Ben & Jerry's Wavy Gravy ice cream on the rare occasions when I was feeling particularly flush with cash. Evidently they discontinued that flavor, while clunkers like Cheesecake Brownie linger on. Who wants sour chocolate? Now I buy Ben & Jerry's even more rarely. I don't like how they try to act all virtuous and high-end, which I think is a little disingenuous, to be honest. Because if you take a quick look at the ingredient list, it's just as full of fillers and crap as, say, Dreyer's/Edy's. That's what inclusions, fair trade or not, will do for you. Their inventive flavors are the only thing that legitimizes their ridiculous prices. And that is what brings us here today.

Have you eaten the Late Night Snack? Have you partaken?

I bought some today. I tasted it. It is fantastic. It is a perfect marriage of salty, rich and sweet. It is a wonderful flavor with terrible power. Do with this information what you think best.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once

It's been a while since I pontificated about something about which I am not actually knowledgeable. So here we go.

1. Gays in the Military
It seems weird to me that DADT was ever a thing. Why wouldn't the military want any good soldier who is willing to serve? Is there any real data implying or proving that homosexuality endangers soldiers' lives? Because of the sexual tension or whatever? If so, heterosexual men and women shouldn't serve together, either. In any case, I suspect that the expiration of DADT will have very little effect on the amount of sex being had by any of them.

2. Pacification
All you moms out there who, for instance, buy or make special bread for your kids because they don't like seeds: that's fine. But constantly caving to your children's illogical demands that they not be served food they see as unappetizing is not doing them any favors. If you allow them to steamroll you all the time, you'll end up in a place where they'll only eat mashed potatoes and ketchup. What about your desire to cook and eat something new and challenging? Don't you deserve validation? Compromise is good; complete acquiescence is not. Serve them the lamb curry in a sweet onion-tomato sauce (which is not even weird, Emmett). Sure you'll have to fight them now and then. So what? Eventually you will win--silent disgust is an improvement on vocal disgust. They'll be better, less entitled people for it, and if they're Mormons, they'll be less likely to offend someone who tries to serve them balut or chitlins on their mission.

3. Gay Marriage
Here's my overly simplistic solution: Everybody pairs up with the CONSENTING ADULT of his or her choice. If you get married by a religious figure, it's a marriage. If you get married by a secular figure, it's a civil union. Everybody gets to see their loved ones in the hospital and receive tax breaks. The end. Should a college education be a requirement? Maybe.

Is marriage being diluted? Yes, but it happened long ago, when the government got involved in a religious ordinance, and when the practitioners of traditional marriage screwed it up by being selfish and immature. So if you want to fight this battle you're going to need a time machine and a magic wand that makes people not be jerks.

4. Spice Jars
I keep my spices in a drawer next to my stove. But they were always rolling around all over the place, and the drawer is too shallow to stand them upright. I love those wee metal spice canisters with the clear lids, but they are overpriced, and that is a stupid way to spend money that I could otherwise spend on another pair of boots, or maybe an icicle crown. So I bought a bunch of wide mouth jelly jars and put my spices in them. Cute, orderly spices next to my stove, for less than a dollar per jar. And now I can buy bulk spices in fancy foil bags! It's one of the best kitchen decisions I've made.

That's what I have for today. I realize that I form opinions hastily, whether or not I have all the facts. Please inform me of any errors you see in my reasoning. I kind of have a stomachache about this post.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

that golden dress is not doing her any favors

I apologize if you've already seen this, but it is so worth watching even if you have. When we watched it I was laughing so hard I thought for a second I was going to suffocate. When he really hits his stride, right at "Hmm. I'm surprised at the concern!", and goes into the stream-of-consciousness rant, it is absolutely golden. The first part is too long, and there is a fair amount of salty language. Probably don't watch this with your kids or in-laws.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

not the first discussion

Hey! Did you know that Mormons are big old a cappella nerds? 'Course we are, myself included. My beef with it, though, is that the way popular songs get arranged for a cappella changes their sound--the chords get weighted differently, and the emphasis ends up on a different note, so it feels all wonky to listen to it and makes me sad I'm not listening to the real song. This is most pronounced with women's groups. Not sexist, true.

However: look at this. Well, look or don't look, but definitely listen.

Yeah, it would be nice if there were more bass and percussion, but still. That note that starts on 1:23ish? Wow. The lead singer is One of Us, if you were wondering. Hey, Mormons may be judgmental prudes, but some of us can sing.

It's good to see that hot pants are making a comeback? Curse my drumsticks!

Monday, September 19, 2011

what color are their hands now?

I hate PTA, you guys. I don't think it would be too bad for most people on the "board," as they grandly call it, except maybe the treasurer and secretary--those both seem like crappy jobs, too. And maybe those are all the jobs . . . sad! But there is so much bureaucracy and meetings and paperwork and minutes and budgets and yeas and nays and battling with the faculty . . . I do not understand it. Anytime I go to a meeting it's like being in a war room, where they're strategizing a perpetual death match with the teachers who keep asking for money, greedies! Seems like it's pretty much a tree-killing busywork generator.

Grant's basketball coach says "cotton-picking" as an adjective. Like, "Gimme that cotton-picking ball!" I didn't know people still did that. Don't get me wrong--it feels nice in your mouth and everything, with the same syncopation and hard consonants as mother-effing, minus the swearing. But it's probably equally offensive in the right company.

I went over to Magic Wendy's yesterday to make a buck rag for Tipsy, and I have goat pen envy now. Their setup is so nice, with straight fences, gates that close all the way so the goats don't escape, a nice keyhole feeder, and no piles of wasted hay mixed with goat and chicken excrement. Sigh.

Six years ago, give or take, the Relief Society in my Lehi ward had a demonstration on making jalapeno (pretend there's a tilde) jelly (taught by one Emily Mortimer, so call her if you want a piece of that sweet action). At the time I thought, "Who are these crazy people? Who would eat such a thing?" I tried it, and it was okay, but sort of weird, what with the hot and sweet. But everybody else was throwing babies about it, they thought it was so good. And it came to pass that it was totally a gateway drug, because last year our friends the Shipps gave us a jar of habanero jelly (really jam, because it's all chunky and jammy), and I thought I could choke it down, because I'd been introduced to jalapeno jelly. The more I thought about that first time I ate jalapeno jelly, the better it sounded, and the more I started to crave it, and then I opened up the bottle of habanero jam, and it turns out that I love it. Sugary hot pepper jelly, like, why did it even get invented in the first place? But it did, and here I am, with nine jelly jars of jalapeno jam that I made yesterday with Jeny Shipp and our friend Melissa. And it is delicious to me! It goes along with my theory that the older you get, the weirder your food becomes, because your taste buds are all dead and you have palate fatigue. Pretty soon I'll be eating actual garbage. Emily's fault. Jeny's fault.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

well I tried to make it sunday

So, what is the deal with horses? Are they trustworthy or not? I wasn't really afraid of horses when I was a young child, but as I got older they freaked me out more and more, and now, even though I love a good gallop, there is always a tiny fear in whatever part of the brain makes fear that I will be bucked off and have my head stomped on and die from brain damage, or be kicked and die from internal bleeding. Horses can smell fear, you know. I think they can smell arrogance, too.

I know horse people on both sides of the fence--those who believe that certain horses are bomb-proof and can be trusted absolutely, and those who believe that no horse is completely trustworthy. In my opinion, a horse is an autonomous being who despite all his training may one day decide not to do what you tell him to do.

We went riding for YW last night, and the combination of horses, 12-year-old girls for whose safety I was responsible, a number of younger children, and everybody climbing on and off and running in and around the horses' legs was almost too much for me. I think I have aged five years since yesterday afternoon.

We're having meatloaf tonight. Ike requested it for his birthday, which was last Saturday. By the time we went to two soccer games and emasculated some goats all our time for making dinner was shot, and we had to spend the remainder of the afternoon shame hiding and making a birthday cake which cracked into a bunch of pieces when I tried to unmold it, so we had trifle instead, and I must say, chocolate cake and chocolate and vanilla puddings go very well together, especially when hot. Emmett made a Star Wars scene out of Lego to decorate the trifle for Ike and make it more celebratory--Obi-Wan and Anakin fighting in pudding lava, floating on Lonchera cookies. It was quite a thing.

So we're having Ike's birthday meatloaf tonight instead. Can you imagine meatloaf without ketchup? Disaster! Speaking of which, I really like Muir Glen ketchup. Try it.