Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day


Happy Leap Day!
Today is NOT Sadie Hawkins Day; I always thought it was. Sadie Hawkins Day is some day in November. The 19th, maybe? From what I've read, I think the two days are confused because Sadie Hawkins Day is a day when a woman can ask a man out to a dance or a date, and Leap Day is a day that a woman can ask a man to marry her (and the man can't say no without paying a fine.)
Sadie Hawkins Day originated in the 1930's; Leap Day has been around since at least 40 BC, but the tradition about asking for marriage may have started somewhere in Europe in a bit more modern times. Lesson of the day, whatever. All I know is that it makes February a day longer, which I don't care for. But March is coming and that means spring, even if the forecast is eight inches of snow...
In other news, I picked five lemons today, off of my little Meyer lemon tree. Now it looks so naked, poor little thing. And now I'm expected to make lemonade out of the tiny little lemons; I imagine I'll only be able to make a jiggerful and everyone will get one sip.
I definitely did not understand the life/fruit cycle of the lemon tree. We had flowers in the spring, green lemons in the summer, and the lemons just started turning yellow about a month and a half ago. I suppose that makes sense, but being a gardener in zone 6, I am used to a much shorter growing cycle--fruits and vegetables blossoming and maturing in a few months.
Enjoy the extra day!
PS: Sorry about the creepy ghost in the corner of the picture. I don't know what that is. Ick.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Crudaiola

This is one of my favorites. It's a recipe I found in Bon Apetit several years ago, and I don't remember any more details than that. It's really summery and fresh and EASY. The ingredients and preparation are simple and the outcome is, well, perfect.

Taglierini with Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce
(Crudaiola=Raw, or maybe raw sauce, or raw ingredients...
I don't know, I don't speak Italian.)


Ingredients:

1.75 lb plum tomatoes, chopped

1 C basil, coarsely chopped

0.5 C pine nuts, toasted

0.5 C olive oil

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I use 3, and put them through the garlic press)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 lb taglierini or linguini (I often use linguini fini)

0.5 C grated parmesan



Combine the first seven ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to blend. Cover and refrigerate at least thirty minutes, up to three hours.

Cook pasta. Drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot.

Add your tomato-basil sauce to the pasta in the pot.

Toss the sauce and pasta over medium-high heat until heated through, and the sauce coats the pasta thickly, adding enough reserved pasta cooking water (by half-cupfuls) to moisten, about four minutes.

Add 0.5 C parmesan cheese and toss to blend.

Season with salt and pepper.

Prep time: pretty quick. Serves: about six.

No pictures of the finished project--off to an annoying quarterly meeting right after dinner and budgeted my time poorly!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mr.P

Not sure why I stay up so late. Now I'm playing with Mr. P. Check it out for yourself at http://www.cs.utk.edu/~ffowler/javahtml/potato/Potato.html.

Puppy Love

Just look at this sleepy little face! This is the newest member of my (extended) family, isn't he beautiful? He's my sister's new puppy, does that make him my nephew? (I'm trying to somehow claim some ownership.) We really aren't quite ready for a dog at my house although the ranks are starting to riot--so for now, we'll just play with this little guy. He's a rhodesian ridgeback, so he won't be little for long! (The other ridgeback in the family is gigantic.)
Puppies are so much fun. I want one.

Hey, it's true, the Red Sox have their first grapefruit league game the 29th against the Twins. Yay! Here comes spring!



Sunday, February 24, 2008

This Week's New Try

Obviously not my healthiest recipe.

But so delicious!

I made Baked Alaska today. I've wanted to for a while. It was great, and easy. Unfortunately, it has to be cooked just before it is served, and the meringue has to be whipped up, too, so it needs an audience with a bit of patience.

Baked Alaska has many variations. The dessert was more popular in the past; I couldn't find it in any of my modern general or dessert cookbooks. It's made up of three basic parts: a cake base, ice cream on top, all covered with meringue, then popped in the oven at a high temp to brown the meringue without melting the ice cream. It can be made as individual desserts or a big dessert to be sliced.
I was craving chocolate, so I made the base a big brownie, covered it with vanilla ice cream which I molded in a bowl, then covered with a sugary meringue. If I did it again, I would chill the ice cream right on the brownie. I used a springform pan I lined with tin foil, which worked very well. Man, it was good. A success!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Discrimination; What's Your Station?


What do you say when someone is talking to your husband about babysitting and then (jokingly, although said someone did not know that I was (pardon me, you were) listening when he said it,) lists you as one of the children who need watching? Hmmm. Not funny.

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Not even really that funny when it is the other way around, and the husband is considered as one of the wife's kids. Which is much more the common form of the "joke", for lack of a better term. Right? Hmm. Not actually anger-inspiring, but certainly annoying to me. Likely because this is one in a long line of similar comments from someone.

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I grew up in a family where there were no gender restrictions; as a girl I played with Tonka trucks, climbed trees, made forts, baked, played with dolls, basically did whatever interested me. (Aside: which is probably why I am scared of manicures and pedicures.) I went to a Women's College and graduated thinking (knowing) I was as smart as anyone else. I went to graduate school and laughed the first time I came across gender discrimination, because I thought it was a joke, it was so flagrant; and once I realized that it wasn't a joke and it kept happening, I learned ways to work around it (or bring attention to it, on occasion,) and still get and do what I wanted. I went to work and got tangled in the old boy's network and still complain to whomever will listen, but I know how to get my work done and be successful. And every chance I get (and I get many,) I teach girls about equality, self-respect, and self-confidence.

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So I'm a little surprised that this comment caught me, but I generally don't expect to deal with stuff like this among friends and family. Just business, usually, you know? Or maybe I'm just getting sensitive. Or I'm getting spoiled. I really am not sure. I dealt with the comment with a good natured joking reply of some sort (people laughed, anyway) and moved on.

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So really, what do you do when you face discrimination? And do you react differently depending on who else is around you? I want answers!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fun Management

These paints always bring me back to my childhood.
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I loved the little paint pots, and rinsing out the colors that got mixed up, and the glass of water changing colors with each dip of the brush. Remember?
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Today my crafting mainly involved managerial duties. I oversaw watercolor painting and hand-stitching. I love to watch kids create. I was a bit concerned about the sharp pins aspect of the sewing project, but there was only one poke, and no tears. And no spills!
I'm still in a rut as far as getting motivated to finish one of the many projects I've started, so this made me feel like I was at least somehow involved in the creativity.
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Even if I was the rule-setter and enforcer more than anything else.
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At least my gardening dreams have subsided--the snow is dropping on us at a rate of approximately an inch and hour, if you believe the forecaster (I know, right?) But that's what it looks like. So now I can convince myself it's winter still and maybe I'll finish some of my winter projects. Or not, if you believe the forecaster.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hot Chocolate and Not Doing

And this is pretty much the only reason I am okay with winter not being over yet. When I came home from work today (not a bad day, actually,) I was greeted with a little cup of hot chocolate, and it was definitely a high point of the day. So yummy. I was offered marshmallows, whipped cream, and marshmallow fluff, but I turned them all down for the pure stuff. A good decision, I think, because if I had accepted one of the options, I'm sure I would have ended up sharing. Instead, I had the little cup to myself.


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And so I sat for a few minutes, and drank my chocolate, and read some of the blogs on my favorites list (I've got to update my blog crawl...) and looked at all of the things people are creating: sewing, knitting, painting, sketching, baking and cooking, designing...come on, I thought I made good use of my time, but I've got nothing on these people! I mean, this blog was my idea to get me creating things, and photographing things, and writing things, but I am just not doing very much! At this point, I am blaming my lack of creativity on the most recent illness to strike my family, and my subsequent sleep-free nights, but that all ended three or four days ago; work's not actually that busy, so I can't blame that (although I have had to work some recent weekends,) and I'm starting to think that maybe I'm reading too many other blogs...


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So I have nothing to show for the past two weeks, aside from the aforementioned fuzzy-toothed pasta, a failure I should really put behind me; I've got a half-finished litle sweatshirty thing I was working on, a less-than-half-finished slightly bigger sweatshirty thing (I cut out the fabric, okay?) a half-painted kitchen table, two half-painted chairs (uh-huh, we're using them anyway,) hmm, what else--a bunch of fabric for some tote bags. A half-scraped wall I'm planning to repaint. Packets of seeds to plant. I think I'll stop here, as I'm beginning to be embarrassed.

Yup, that's what I'm doing. Not doing. I've got to stop not doing so much!


Monday, February 18, 2008

Cherry Pie and Rice

I made a cherry pie today. Yum! It took approximately twenty minutes to put together (and then an hour to cook.) It's totally non-gourmet, full of canned cherries, and was just great. The crust, of course, is from scratch.
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I've given up eating between meals. This is supposed to make me have a healthier diet, but instead, since I'm anticipating being hungry later, at meals I am totally engorging myself. Whether it's Valentine's cookies or cherry pie, I'm practically doubling up to make sure I stay full.
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So when I read about a website that allows you to donate rice by taking a vocabulary test, I was again reminded of (and embarrassed by my ability to forget) the huge, huge difference between my privileged life and the lives of certain others.
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Www.freerice.com is a website that donates rice to be distributed to those in need by the United Nations World Food Program. Anyone can be a part: you simply go to the site and start to take the vocabulary test. For every word you get correct, twenty grains of rice are donated. It's quick and fun and you learn something. I learned that my vocabulary has become very limited, and that nudibranch means sea slug. Who knew?

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Check it out.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Supper time




Hmm, what to talk about today....

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Does that sound like I can't decide which of the marvelous and exciting things that I did today I should talk about? Oh ho ho, don't be misled. Actually, I've done very little and have nothing to show for the time that's passed. So here's what I wanted to be able to say today:
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Oh, today was lovely--I spent the afternoon making pasta and French bread while my husband made sauce. It was delicious, we had it with a California table wine, even the kids ate it (the food, not the wine...) and for dessert, some yummy raspberry and chocolate chunk scones.

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And here's the real blog entry:
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Oh, today was pretty good--I actually had time to cook this afternoon. Initially I was going to make raspberry and chocolate chunk scones, but then I realized that the dried raspberries I bought contained an allergen we can't eat in my house, so out the window went that idea.
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I decided to make some pasta, and in an effort to be healthy, I used organic whole wheat flour. I also pulled out the old bread machine and started up some French bread (also with the whole wheat.) My husband made the sauce, and then we all sat down to dinner.
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Cue the sound of a record on a record player scratching and slowing way down...
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YEEEEEEEEUCK! Oh dear lord, the pasta was DISSS-gusting. My husband ate it. (He eats everything.) One of the kids ate it. (Just recovered from a nasty gastro and lost about 5 pounds; so this week will eat anything, in large amounts.)
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But the rest of us thought it was bogus. Are you familiar with the feeling of your teeth becoming furry? Not a good feeling. The noodles definitely caused that feeling. Eww. I can't think of another way to put it--the taste was okay, but the texture, not appropriate for food. The French bread, pretty tasty, actually. But I think bread made in my bread machine is always a little bit chewy; probably a bit over-kneaded. No chance to really rest and rise.
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My husband's sauce was delightful. Thank goodness he also cooked up some sausage; it helped fill my belly! As I mentioned, dessert was a bust, but luckily there were left-over valentine's cookies...(and no, I didn't have four. I had five.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Flower Girl


Why do I like Valentine's Day? Because it marks halfway through February, which had always been my least favorite month, until, of course, my eldest niece was born. And my youngest nephew. So now it's bearable, at least.
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Instead of cleaning, I perused the flower catalogs again today, and there is a ton of great stuff out there! In Breck's, I love the Anneke Calla Lilies and the Little Blue Wonder Sea Holly. From Spring Hill Nurseries, where I've bought before and had pretty good results, I'd like to try growing the Early Hybrid Kniphofia; they're so cool! and the maybe some helleborus. The Dragon's blood sedum is really crazy looking, too. This year I've become partial to Weigela; I'm waffling between that and the Ferdy Hedge Rose. I don't know.
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I often have great ideas and no time (or energy) to actually follow through. If I buy the plants through the mail, though, I feel guilty about letting them die in the driveway in their little pots, so I usually do get around to planting them. My other problem, which I'm hoping will go away with a little more experience, is that I can't always picture: a) what the planting will look like as it matures and b) what "garden look" I'm actually aiming for when I start combining different plants. And the written descriptions of the plants don't always fully explain how the plant will look in my yard. But I guess that's part of the fun.
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That's it for my ramblings on plants. My sisters will both be vomiting if they read this entry; they hate talking about gardening! One actually has a diagnosable plant phobia, I think: she gets grossed out around houseplants. Really. She doesn't like any plant life growing in the house--it's even worse if it's edible, like herbs or something. Well. Just a quick aside.
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The weekend's coming! I'm hoping to do some sewing; I'm working on a project from Bend the Rules Sewing, by Amy Karol. Not too much else planned at this point, but I'm sure I'll run out of time anyway!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spring dreaming

Days like today make me think about my garden. Not that I spent any time outside in the daylight hours; but something about the drenching rain beating on the flat roof of my office, and the grayness of the day, and the relative warmth (40+ degrees, woohoo!) makes me think spring is coming. Experience tells me otherwise: it's only february, after all, and there are many winter days before we have any true spring weather. I know that, but I just can't help thinking about planting things, and seeing all my plants come back to life.
This winter I tried my hand at starting clippings-I used my Thanksgiving cactus to start a number of Christmas gifts. The plant was my grandmother's; she passed away 10 years ago; and this plant has survived my moving it out of state, moving back into state, moving across town, and generally, all kinds of neglect. But it blooms twice a year anyway and reminds me of my grandmother and looks pretty happy most of the time. So I was very happy to have success in starting my little clippings: all 26 survived (well, they survived my house...I can't speak to what's happened to them at the homes of my cousins and sisters and aunts and uncles and nieces etc...)
But that kind of planting just isn't the same as starting bulbs or seeds or even planting bushes and trees. Maybe it's the smell of the soil and spring blossoming in general, or the fresh air, or the physical labor, but it's more fun outside. I've been greedily searching the garden catalogs for the perfect plant. I don't actually have a particular place in the yard to fill but I definitely have some ideas! More to come on my spring planting plans...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fatigue

Have I mentioned how tired I am? I haven't really had a normal night of sleep in, oh, eight or nine nights. How tired am I? I'm so tired, I:

Backed out of the garage without buckling the carseat;

Blew-dry my hair with some new crazy flip on the bottom, but only on one side;

Just realized today that valentine's day is this week;

Did laundry this week but now have approximately 12 loads of unfolded laundry (no, I don't usually have this much laundry each week. stomach bug in my house. need I say more?)

Speaking of laundry, instead of spraying the spot on my olive green pants with spray-and-wash (a prewash spray), I sprayed it with clorox clean-up (bleach tile/kitchen cleaner). Turns out that the spot came out...

Fell asleep every time I sat on the couch

Bought a really funny but seriously inappropriate card for a friend (definitely can't send it)

Am going to bed early now!





Friday, February 08, 2008

On the Boards




I've finished up the bulletin boards; their recipients are pleased. I like 'em, too. I should have lined the light pink one, but it'll be covered with photos and notes and cards soon, so I don't think I'll change it. That and the lazy thing.
I made the blue and yellow one a few years ago, and I sewed the buttons and ribbon to the fabric before I attached the fabric to the board. Again, that was a few years ago, pre-children, when I had time. And wasn't so lazy.
To make the newer boards, I stapled the fabric to the back of the corkboard, then stapled the ribbons to the back edge of the corkboard, also. I glued the buttons to the ribbon, and later glued the ribbon intersections (under each button) to the fabric to make some places to set cards/photos/etc.
I expect the stapled/glued corkboards won't hold up as well as the sewn one--that'll be evident the first time someone tries to use the board as a ladder to reach, you know, the ceiling, of course.
That's it. An extreme lack of sleep is preventing me from thinking clearly; you know that feeling of seeing everything through a haze? I'm beyond that to the loss of emotion state: I am now an automaton. Time for sleep!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bottoms Up

Oh yes. I outdid myself this time. Let's let the lead-in be that I basically replicated one of my favorite funny memories, except in the original, the star was a relatively famous but not very likeable Spanish professor, and in the remake, I'm in the lead role. Now, I like to think I've reached an age at which I generally no longer find humor in other people's embarrassment. Generally. Not that this actually has anything to do with the remake, but it plays into the original. Mostly nowadays I am a helpful person, with the occasional "excuse me sir, you dropped your credit card," or "sure, I'll direct you to the place you're trying to find," or "of course, let me help you finish up so you can get home a little earlier"...but I have to say, I laughed all day at the remake.

Anyway, the original is just a short story: ditzy but well-published Spanish prof arrives to class late after taking the subway in the rain. Now, she's been mean to the non-native speakers all semester, belittling American culture in off-handed comments to the class all along. (Can you tell this is me trying to justify something?)

Today she comes in and starts writing on the board without taking off her trench coat because she's late; so she starts writing and talking about some literary topic--it was actually a really interesting class, she's famous for a reason, I guess. She's speaking in Spanish, so I'm concentrating pretty hard...she takes off the trench coat and throws it over a chair and keeps writing and talking. About halfway through the class, I look up from my notes and I realize that the entire back of her skirt is tucked into the waistband of her nylons. Those icky tan control-top-type nylons. And for the rest of the period, I can't even look up, I'm trying so hard not to laugh; except I do look up, and she is feeling a draft or a breeze or something on the back of her....well, her backside, and waving her hand around back there, but not quite figuring out where the breeze is coming from; and occasionally she must feel like her skirt is a bit askew and she straightens it out a bit (but doesn't do any untucking,) and I'm trying to sneak sidelong glances at the other girls (no boys in this class, if there were, I might have acted more...helpfully) to see if they are reacting--and they all have their heads down too!
Finally I just get up and leave the little classroom early, because I really am on the verge of hysteria and I have to get out of there because I'm starting to shake and soon she's going to ask me if I'm okay in Spanish and then I'll have to answer her with tears rolling down my face and my voice wobbling, and then when she figures out that her bum was hanging out of her skirt all period, she'll know I knew, and kaplooey, failure of Spanish Literature 205 or whatever it was.

Well, in today's remake, I head back from lunch after a quick stop in the ladies' room; I did notice that my skirt seemed quite puffy posteriorly, and I checked but it didn't seem out of place (I am sensitive to the skirt stuff because of the above story) so I went about my business, literally--and I'm sure I passed some co-workers in the hall. But it wasn't until I was talking to a nice grandmotherly type (client, not colleague,) when she interupted me and said, "your skirt's all wrapped up, and I'm sure you don't want go around with your bum hanging out!" So I rapidly rearranged things, (I hadn't even felt a draft or a breeze!) laughed hysterically for about ten minutes (rather inappropriately, I must add) and then tried to get back to work. Every once in a while I would erupt in hysterical laughter, prompting odd looks and questions about what I was up to from colleagues--even now I can't write this without laughing. Man, it's a good thing this remake wasn't set in high school--can you imagine the fallout? Probably not that cool to be well-known but not popular.

And that's what I get for dressing up. Thank you, helpful grandmotherly lady! I think I'll wear pants tomorrow.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Weekend Recovery

It was a good weekend, all things considered. One of those weekends when you accomplish alot but you feel like you get a ton of rest, too. Unfortunately there is a virus attacking us one by one, so I am alternately caring for the sickies and dreading my turn as one. But aside from that, and from the fact that the Sunday paper wasn't delivered, oh, and that we had to miss our superbowl party due to illness, thereby also missing chili, meatballs, italian subs, nachos, etc, (it's just in my nature to complain, these things were not big deals;) ah, run-on sentences, I do truly think in them; it was a nice weekend.

Here's what I did this weekend:

pizza night with the extended family;
day trip to Providence;
solo trip to the store (a treat!) to pick up all sorts of fabrics and notions for some project ideas;
started the corkboard on my to-do list
watched a couple of Disney movies
attended a bonfire
watched the superbowl

Here's what I cooked this weekend:

grilled cheese sandwiches with grape jelly
Julia Child's french onion soup (delish)
cranberry-maple pudding cake (a Bon Appetit magazine recipe from the 1/08 issue)
bittersweet chocolate pudding pie with creme fraiche topping (also from Bon Appetit, 1/08 issue) (I recommend it!)

Here's what I learned/relearned this weekend:

cleaning the throw-up bowl is gross. (but necessary, obviously)
Christmas trees burn really, really fast and hot. very scarily.
Julia Child rocks.
Chocolate pudding can be sophisticated.
People in the city seem to be in better shape than people in the suburbs.
City supermarkets don't always have a better selection than suburban ones.
I really do still not like football.
I am addicted to chocolate (the taste? the caffeine?)
Cornmeal is a rustic taste.
I am not reading enough.
Years and years after a funny event happens, sisters can still laugh as hard as the first time when one of them brings it up.
I think I may be addicted to using Lysol spray (appropriately, of course.)
Infant development is amazing.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Sandwiched In

One of my favorite things to eat is a good sandwich. I think this may be something I inherited from my father, an excellent sandwich maker. He can turn out those kinds of sandwiches that are just loaded with good things and are presented with panache--you know, an olive on a toothpick, pickles on the side, chips, what have you. So I have a sandwich thing; never really liked hot lunch.

Today was a great sandwich day. It's cold and rainy and dark, and lunch, comprised of my latest favorite, was in the warm, bright kitchen.

This is my latest favorite:
cucumber, sliced thinly; tomato, sliced very thinly; maple brown sugar ham (yup, sliced thinly) and boursin cheese on lavash bread. Very important also is the beverage, which in this case (as usual,) is iced mocha. The cookies, well, they should be for desert, but I had four just like them for breakfast, so maybe I'll hold off. Maybe.

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