I am a freelancer in the publishing industry, so words are very important to me. I'm a leftist living in a world gone mad, so politics are very important to me. I'm an environmentalist living in a degrading world, so pick up your damn trash, get rid of your gas guzzlers, and don't touch ANWR, you self-absorbed capitalists!

Do leave comments: let's make this a conversation. If you prefer, you can contact me at friuduric at yahoo dot com.

31 December 2007

Christmas Break Wrap-up

I've been gone a long time -- that fruitcake was strong!

Throughout the holidays I meant to post, I really did, but when given the option of either posting or reading/eating/playing a game, posting never won.

For a quick visual overview of what we've been up to since the 20th, I suggest you pop over to my Photo Diary. You'll see that we still have snow, that Grandma has new puppies for the kids to love, and that some crafting and knitting were even accomplished.

2007 was an exciting year, and I expect 2008 to continue in that vein.

Happy New Year to all my blog friends!

21 December 2007

A Rockin' Christmas Song

Sometimes, you need a little pep to start your day.

I love the Kinks' Father Christmas, and this morning, I listened to it nice and loud.

Here it is, for your listening pleasure!

20 December 2007

Good Fruitcake

A few years ago, I found a New York Times article on fruitcake. The only thing I knew of fruitcake was that old story of a fruitcake that had made the rounds since 1954, never tasted but passed on from year to year to some new unsuspecting victim. The article made fruitcake seem edible, so I followed the recipe. The result was good. So good that I've made the fruitcake every year since then. It's one of the Consort's favorite Christmas-time snacks, and he was whistling and bouncing around last night the entire time we were making it (the dates I requested on the shopping list hadn't gotten purchased, so when I mentioned that I'd just postpone making the fruitcake to the next night, he grabbed his keys and went out to buy the dates. A car trip for a single item -- doesn't happen too often around here). I present to you now: Good Fruitcake.

Time: About 2 hours plus 30 minutes' chilling

Butter for pans
1 pound pitted Medjool dates (I have never gotten anything but "dates"; I know not of this Medjool)
1/2 pound prunes from Agen or use more dates (from Agen? Pshaw. I get mine from Sunsweet)
1 pound candied pineapple
1 pound candied cherries
1 cup chopped candied orange peel, or 1/4 cup freshly grated orange zest
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (they said kosher salt in the original, but kosher won't sift, as they want it to, so again, I use the pedestrian version available to pedestrian me)
4 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups shelled salted pistachios
1 cup shelled almonds
2 1/2 cups shelled pecans
2 cups shelled walnuts
White corn syrup
1/3 cup Armagnac, bourbon or whiskey

The most bothersome part will be shelling the pistachios. Two cups! But definitely worth it.

I usually buy the candied pineapple, cherries, and orange, just as the recipe calls for. This year, being in the boondocks, the Consort could only find the green and red colored pre-cut mix. I shuddered, then plowed ahead. I definitely recommend getting the individual whole fruits if you can. Better texture, better flavor, and none of that crazy irradiated-colored fruit.

1. Butter two 9-inch springform pans. Line with parchment paper, and butter again. Heat oven to 275 degrees.

2. Coarsely chop dates, prunes and pineapple. Combine fruit in a bowl with cherries and orange peel. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift this over fruit [Too much sifting. I plop it all together, then sift, once, as I sprinkle it over the fruit]. With your hands, toss to coat.

3. In medium bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Beat in sugar, then almond extract. Pour over fruit. With wooden spoon, mix well. Fold in pistachios, almonds, pecans and walnuts, and mix until coated with batter.

The only way to get everything well mixed is to go in there with your hands. Please ignore the terrible home manicure (supposed to be candy-cane stripes) and the pajama pants. Pretend I'm doing this in a neat TV show kitchen.

4. Divide mixture between pans. Using your hands, pack batter firmly and fill in open spaces [I cover my hands with a thin layer of vegetable oil to press the filling into the pans. Otherwise nuts and fruit stick to your palms and create a bit of frustration]. Bake for about 1.5 hours, until tops of cakes look dry but not brown. When cakes are done, transfer to cooling racks. Let stand for 5
minutes, then release springform and peel off parchment paper on sides.

5. While cakes are still hot, brush lightly with corn syrup. Let cool 30 minutes, then spoon Armagnac on top. When completely cool, remove cakes from pan base and peel off parchment paper on bottom. If not eating right away, wrap fruitcakes in plastic wrap. They will keep for two months in refrigerator. If storing, sprinkle with more Armagnac an hour before serving.

Yield: 2 fruitcakes.

I do usually make this in two springform pans, but I didn't bring them this year. I made it instead in a cake pan and two loaf pans. It worked just fine and they were easy to unmold (but I do prefer my springforms).

Hey, Bush E.P.A.

You suck.

Hey Arnold, you're pretty cool:

"It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “We will continue to fight this battle.”

Hey automakers, you do know your place in hell is guaranteed, right?

"Enhancing energy security and improving fuel economy are priorities to all automakers [lies, lies, LIES!]"

Diane Feinstein, I wish you were this forceful all the time *sigh*

“I find this disgraceful. The passage of the energy bill does not give the E.P.A a green light to shirk its responsibility to protect the health and safety of the American people from air pollution.”

More really great quotes in the article.

When we bought our first car, in 1998, we lived in North Carolina. We asked the dealership (a Saturn dealership, when Saturns were different and progressive) if we could order a California-ready car. We weren't planning to live in CA, but we approved of the tougher standards.

They said, "No."

18 December 2007

Peppermint Mocha

If you think you deserve a treat for dealing with cranky post office workers, if you thought everything was organized and you suddenly realize nope, actually, you are way far behind, then make yourself one of these, and forget your troubles for a minute or two (it isn't a *real* mocha, after all).

1 mug coffee
2 Tablespoons hot cocoa mix
peppermint oil

Mix the hot cocoa powder into the coffee. Take a 1/4-teaspoon and drop a bit of peppermint oil into it. Drop the oil back into its jar. Now your 1/4 tsp is coated in oil. Stir that coated spoon into your chocolatey coffee goodness.

Drink it up.

17 December 2007

Dear Paul Newman

Dear Paul Newman,

This weekend I picked up a package of your Newman’s Own Newman-O’s because my daughter Trixie was having a friend over for the evening, and I wanted to get them a snack (but I wasn’t sure if the guest preferred sweet snacks or salty snacks). Well, that, but really because your Newman-O’s were cheaper than the Oreos (I know, who would have thought it??).

The girls preferred to eat the salt and vinegar chips, so your package was sitting there, all lonely and unopened, on the kitchen table.

Calling to me.

So, when the Consort left to drive the guest home and to pick up Impera and her friend (our guest’s older sister), from the eighth-grade winter semi-formal dance, I was alone in the house with the pets, and those Newman-O’s.

I admit, I didn’t try very hard to resist. Heck, I had been working all afternoon and evening on Christmas projects, so verily, I deserved a treat. And, oh my ears and whiskers, your cookies were delicious! The center was creamy, not dry like Oreos can be (not that I have them very often, but dryness in a cookie is something I remember for a long time).

I have often wondered how much of a ploy your organic food products line is – you know, actor gets old, wants to keep his name in the societal consciousness, decides to sell organic foods, makes lots of money, blah, blah, blah. Well, I no longer need to wonder. Your food empire is totally worth it. If only for these delectable sandwich cookies (which I recommended to the rest of my family, and they liked them, they just didn’t rave about them like I did, so now I have to deal with the knowledge that there is a near-full package of them in my pantry, which I really shouldn’t go check on, to see how they are doing in there. Really, I shouldn’t.)

Thank you!

Hugs to you and Nell,


13 December 2007

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat

In the past week or so, I've joined in the current blog-wide disbelief that Christmas is actually SOON! This year we're not having a cookie party, so the typical post-Thanksgiving baking rush has been absent. We haven't gotten our tree yet (although that's supposed to change this weekend), and, although we've watched "A Christmas Story" and "It's a Wonderful Life", there hasn't been much holiday audio being played in the house.

Last night, I realized I had at most one week before shipping deadlines would arrive. So today, after packaging up a project and setting it outside the door for my FedEx guy to pick up at his leisure, I wrote out a big list of Things Still Needing to Be Bought, numbered the stops so I could made one continuous loop and not waste time (what? doesn't everybody do this?), got in the car, and off I went.

Despite the idiocy of certain sales staff, despite the long Christmas-season lines (exaggerated because by the time my project was wrapped up, it was hovering around lunch time, so the typical lunch crowds were out as well). and despite the beginning of another snow dump (today was the first time I was driving around while hte snow was falling, so I had to deal with the snow-accumulation-on-windshield-with-some-melting-and-some-freezing-at-the-same-time-making-it-difficult-to-see-out-the-darned-windshield experience), I made good progress, and can now welcome in the season with a smile on my face and a Christmas carol on my lips. Phew! I was wondering if the holiday spirit would ever arrive this year. To those of you who haven't gotten it yet: never fear! it'll arrive in good time. Just don't force it.

This week I also began a six-month membership at a local community gym. Twice already I've gone in for some lap swimming. I had forgotten how nice swimming in the winter can be, especially in a pool surrounded by big windows (for lots of light) and in water that is not too cold nor too hot. Aaaaaaah. It's a *nice* type of tired that you get from swimming. As I get braver about participating in activities at the center, I may try my hand at Spinning (no, it doesn't make you dizzy, it seems to be stationary-bike routines [I may be the last person in the civilized world to hear of this new type of exercise]), and maybe even finally get comfortable using weight machines. i'll just have to figure out when all the other newbies are going (or, better yet, when no one else is in the weight room), so I won't make a fool of myself.

And don't think I haven't noticed that my holiday cheer happened to arrive the same week I started doing some physical activity again -- it's been too long since we did a weekend hike. I suppose I was missing it more than I thought.

12 December 2007

Some Sharing

First, of the bragging variety:

For some reason, we are always getting our pictures in magazines and newspapers. We are just doing our own thing, following our regular routines, and there just happens to be a photographer around. When the Consort is running with both girls in the jogging stroller by the canal, *snap!* When Impera and her preschool class are learning about science, her face happens to be in the cross-hairs when the newspaper photographer goes *snap!*. I can't list all the times here, because lo, they have been legion.

Just after the girls had found the local fencing club, a regional magazine happened to be doing a multi-page article on fencing in the Upper Valley. They aren't mentioned in the text, but,


and again,


Then, last weekend, a local newspaper photographer wandered by my sister-in-law's farm during the girls' riding lesson. And what should we see in Sunday's paper?

Trixie, on Murray

Second, of the linking variety:

Since you're still here after that unabashed boasting, here are some sites I've been meaning to share:

Chocolate beer cake at Smitten Kitchen. I followed the recipe (i.e., went out and bought some Guinness just for the occasion), and it is indeed true that this is a superscrumptiously moist chocolate cake. The day it was baked, it had a wheaty flavor to it (clearly from the Guinness). The next day, it had a definite yeasty, beery taste. If you are intrigued, may I suggest you bake it and eat it all on the same day? Get some friends over and make a party of it.

The World Sunlight Map. I spend more time than one would expect here. The satellite pictures make it seem more real than anything else I've seen, and I pop over from time to time to see the current swirls of clouds, the bright light blue of shallow ocean off the west coast of Africa or the east coast of South America, and the brilliant white strip of the Nile at night. Our planet is truly amazing, and even if the desertification and electric output is a human blight on the land, it can look beautiful.

That's it. Sharing over.

11 December 2007

Meet the New Arrivals

These two gnomes arrived to join the Nature Table. They'll be busy doing prep work around here in the next two weeks, because St. Nicholas can't be lifting and arranging things, and that poor donkey is still traumatized by the chokotoff incident.

Taking a bow

I'm sure I'll be able to catch them in action a time or two. They're happy for the work -- heck, even with us keeping the house at 59 degrees during the day, it's warmer than in the forest, and gnomes are easily paid with a pint of barley beer, especially if it has nice thick foam and a sharp bite to it.

I think some of their humor is a bit strong for St. Nicholas's taste (him being a bishop and all), but they have yet to go too far. But they certainly can be jokesters. I suppose a happy gnome makes a happy home (or somesuch quaint saying).

07 December 2007

St. Nicholas, Nature Tables, and Slippers

During my childhood, in Belgium children received gifts from Saint Nicholas (after leaving the slippers out), on the 6th of December. In the U.S., children would receive their gifts on the 25th of December (under the tree), from Santa Claus. Hmmmmm. Now, my parents were willing to shift the big gift giving to the 25th, but they did want to incoporate the whole Saint Nicholas thing, too. So, growing up, from the 6th to the 25th, we would sing the Saint Nicholas song every night before bed*, leave our slippers out, and find a small treat tucked in our slippers in the morning. (We never really had stockings at Christmas, seeing as we had gotten trinket-y things for 20 days in our slippers.)

With my kids, I’ve changed the slipper treats from chocolate and other goodies to things like stickers, pencils, hair ribbons (and a few candies, to be sure). We started singing last night, and this morning, this is what they found:

“What did you get in your slippers?” I asked Impera (it’s a little game we play at Christmas, we all pretend…).

“Saint Nicholas gave me a llama,” she replied.

That’s no llama, that’s Saint Nicholas’s mule, who helps him deliver the treats (Black Peter is not a part of our version of the tradition) to the children! (This morning, the poor mule’s baskets were laden with two chokotoff candies for each girl, his legs rather splayed under him. I proposed we set two candies in front of him for the photo shoot, and he gratefully accepted this offer.)

The theme of this Saint Nicholas season will be: gathering props for our Nature Table.** I’ve been wanting to have a Nature Table for many years now, and in fact have made several projects from The Nature Corner and Feltcraft. We put together something this Fall, gathering things during our walks and hikes (you can see it here, complete with notes), and now it’s time to get a Christmas/Winter table together. I hope the girls will enjoy getting the figurines in their slippers, because I know I’ll be having fun putting them together. I’ll try to remember to post a few more shots as the table is filled with personages and little props.

*I’ll try to track it down for you. I don’t have the time right now, unfortunately.

**You can do a search on Nature Table on Google, and you’ll find some people (those same conservative evangelicals who have no patience for any sort of non-Christian spirituality) saying that this Waldorfian idea is rather neo-pagan (i.e., honoring the spirituality of nature). To which I reply: Yeah, so – what’s the problem, exactly?

06 December 2007

Proof: The End of the World as We Know It--EDITED

First person to guess in the Comments what the heck I'm talking about, gets a prize.

Stew guessed correctly! It's the fact that now, it is cheaper to buy things in Canadian dollars. Growing up, every time I would look at the back cover of a book, I would pity the poor Canadians, who would have to pay two dollars *more* for the same paperback. But now, thanks to Bush and his Administration, our economy is in such terrible shape that Canadians come over the border to get a bargain *here*! I never thought I'd see the day...

As you can read from the next post up, I am into making little felt figurines. The prize for this game is a couple of felt figures for Stew. Once she receives the package, I'll show you all a picture of the creations I sent.

04 December 2007

Sock Saga

April 2007
"Trixie, it's your turn for the next pair of socks I'll be knitting. I'm thinking I could use the yarn I won in the Secret Pal contest, and make up a toe-up, eyelet sock pattern, with a picot edge at the top. What do you think?"

"Cool! That will be great!"

May 2007
"Trixie, can you try this sock on? I think I should start the heel now."

"No, Mom, make it longer."

"Trixie, I made it a bit longer, but I'm afraid it's too big -- it fits my foot!"

"Mom! Remember, I have big feet, this will be perfect!"

October 2007

"Trixie, I finally finished your socks! Here, try them on."

"They are so pretty, Mom. Thanks!"

November 2007

"Hey Trixie, I notice you aren't wearing your new socks. They'd go really well with those clogs we got you."

"Uh, Mom? They're kinda big."

December 2007

"There! Finally fixed. Here you go. How do they feel? Do they fit?

"Yeah ... they fit."

"What's wrong? Are they too small now?"

"Oh, no. But they feel like knit socks. You know, not smooth like gym socks."


(Some notes: These were knit toe-up. When I had to shorten the foot, I cut off the toe [toe-up makes a nasty mess of knots in the toe part, which is unfroggable, so I just cannibalized it], frogged back to where I needed to begin the decreases for a traditional cuff-down 4-needle bind-off toe, put the stitches on needles, and finished it up. Honestly, I know many perfectionist knitters say you can't knit in the other direction and have it look good, but for these socks, it worked just fine. Especially since I only did the toe in the opposite direction from the rest of the sock.)

(And, in all honesty, she's been wearing them every day since I finished them, so she really does like them!)

03 December 2007


We had a snowday today. I can't believe it -- I thought New England was tougher than this. Everybody was up by 6:30, and I checked the website. Yep, no school today.

(Funny how if there's school, Trixie lays abed until 7 on the dot. If it's a snowday, however, she's jumping around at 6:32 a.m.)

The first real snow of the season is always fun. You take the time to go outside, play in the snow, and plan a snowball fight (even if the snow it too dry for proper packing -- heck, you can always just stuff handfuls of snow in your sister's hair, after all!)

It has snowed on and off throughout the day, and even at 2:30, big fluffy flakes were covering everything, turning mundane corners into something magical.

30 November 2007

Feeling Sick to My Stomach

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo; it's also the last Gratitude Griday. But I won't be blogging about either of those today. I can't. Not after having read this article at the New York Times:

A Hoax Turned Fatal Draws Anger but No Charges

Please go read it. It's not long. Then you can come back for my rant.

Lori Drew, your actions have resulted in a permanent withdrawal of your membership in the human race.

What the hell sort of adult does this to a kid? And then seems to show no remorse about it. It's never OK for parents to play mind games with children, their own or someone else's. I am (mostly) speechless. Sure, I could throw around a bucketful of profanity, and that might make me feel better for a little while. But what about Megan Meier? She's dead, and she died as far from peacefully as you could make her. She was thirteen years old. Thirteen. What kind of adult plays such a repulsive hoax to such an extreme? Clearly, no sort of adult in my world view.

I read the article out loud to the girls and the Consort this morning. To the girls because they are entering this minefield we call "the teen years", when little things like peer relationships and belonging balloon to monumental importance for these young people. At a time in their lives when teens don't yet have the experience to understand the triviality of popularity, but when modern technology feeds the mob mentality so that a thirteen year old can be bombarded with profanity-laden messages from strangers who had professed themselves "friends" and therefore begins to feel overwhelmed by the hate.

Sure, as the Consort reminded me, it is not a crime to create an online alias. It is not a crime to pretend to be something you aren't, simply to "mess with" a kid.

But, hey, Dardenne Prairie, Missouri -- how about a good old-fashioned Shunning? That's not against the law, either.

29 November 2007

All Men Have Sports on the Brain

"So, which one did the Beatles trade for? Was it Ringo?"

28 November 2007

City Swap Goodies

City swap goodies
Originally uploaded by friuduric.

I participated in a bloggers' City Swap this month, and last night I received my package. What a treat! It seems that the home of my swapper, Kate, is also the home of a very cool organic farm, Mt. Olive Organic Farm. From the brochure she included, it looks like I'd be in heaven if we lived nearby: olives, sprouts, vegetables, teas, fruits, nuts, free-range chickens and eggs, and what looks like the largest worm bin in the world!

Her package included several items from the farm: mint tea (perfect for an evening cuppa), olive oil with balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic (I'll be making some bread we can dip in this, just like at the girls' favorite restaurant), and plum jam. I got up early this morning to make some biscuits, to celebrate this tasty package. Thank you Kate! And thanks to Shelley of At Home In Rome for organizing this great exchange!

27 November 2007

Lentil Nut Loaf

Marsha mentioned that she cooks tofurkey because her family requires a turkey-ish thing on the Thanksgiving table. Here's what the Consort makes every year for Thanksgiving. I explain the Thanksgiving version after the regular loaf-pan directions.

Nut and Lentil Loaf

4 cups water
2 cups lentils (if you have red lentils, then do 2/3 cup red lentils and 1 1/3 cup brown lentils. It will stick together better that way. Otherwise, just use brown lentils and it will be fine).

Cook the lentils on the stove until the lentils are soft, about half an hour.

In a large saucepan, melt:
4 tablespoons butter
Add and cook over low heat for 15 mins:
12 stalks celery, finely minced
2 Tablespoons mixture of tarragon, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, and other herbs that you like
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 teaspoons salt (seems like a lot, but we have been doing this for a wile, so trust me!)

Combine lentils and celery mixture and add:
4 cups finely minced onion
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped

Turn into 2 well-buttered standard loaf pans. Bake in a 375 degrees oven for at least 1 hour, until a knife comes out fairly clean.
While the loaves are baking, make the sauce. in a saucepan, melt:
4 tablespoons butter

add and cook very slowly for 30 mins.:
2 cups minced onion
2 vegetable bouillon cubes, crushed

Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil

Then, add and cook until thickened, stirring constantly:
2 Tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in a little water
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour, dissolved in a little water

When thickened, add:
2 Tablespoons tomato ketchup

Serve some of the sauce over each portion of the loaf

For a real thanksgiving display, make the loaf in a large, oval baking dish, as well as filling a few muffin cups with loaf.

When done, put the oval nut loaf on a baking sheet, using the muffin-loaves to make the thighs on each side. Roll out some puff pastry for the "skin", and cover the loaf. Brush this with a mixture of soy sauce and ketchup for color, and bake at whatever temperature the puff pastry box says. Make a twist in the other end for the neck, maybe cut a slit between the legs and sew it up like you would a turkey, and so on. Chopsticks can make nice drumsticks. It all depends upon how creative you're feeling!

Front of nut loaf turkey

He usually does the stringing and chopsticking, but we didn't bring our chopsticks with us, and we had no toothpicks in the house to make the closed up turkey cavity this year. You can see the pictures larger on flickr.

Back of nut loaf turkey

NOTE-If you make it in the regular loaf pans, then it can be cut into portions when cold, wrapped in foil or plastic, put in a plastic bag, and frozen for future use. You need only defrost the number of slices you need (when defrosted, this is delicious microwaved as a sandwich, with ketchup and maybe some cheese).

26 November 2007

I had one of those weekends where you want to do nothing (and therefore do nothing), but at the end of it you feel sort of let down.

Well, I didn't do absolutely nothing. I did lots of Web surfing. And I learned that there are some blogs that I shouldn't read. Because the negativity a blogger writes about can poison my own feelings, creating proverbial mountains out of molehills. I wondered why I was acting so volatile after certain familial phone calls, and I think that was a big part of it. (Let's be honest, though, it wasn't just the blog; I never enjoy forced conversation with Drama.)

We also made a dent in preparing for Christmas. Remember how we thought our home here would be teeny tiny? (I'm too lazy to get a link here right now.) So we brought no Christmas stuff. No ornaments, no tree stand, no lights. Currently, we are in the process of deciding whether we'll go with white lights (Impera's choice) or colored lights (Trixie's preference). I allowed that this year, we can get that crappy tinsel which I absolutely hate and we have never had. We also baked three cookie sheets worth of salt dough ornaments:

We are thin thin thin - Not too heavy for a tree!

We turned on some Christmas music. (In my ideal world, Christmas would be centered on the two weeks before Christmas. Period. Six weeks of it just drains me. But, the Consort loves Christmas [I'd argue I do, too, just not in such large doses], so he gets to turn on the Christmas music the day after Thanskgiving.)

We played cards. Spades (because my goal as a parent is to train my girls to be our pinochle partners; they know this and refuse to learn pinochle, insisting we continue playing Spades instead), and poker (we split up the coins in our Change Tin for betting; next time, I want the girls to use their own money -- nothing better than a little bit of family cutthroat betting to make things interesting...).

Oh, yeah. I also made a pie. Yes! The weekend after Thanksgiving! Realize, please, that the photo I shared on Thanksgiving was the extended family pie table. We only made two of those (upside down pear cake and cranberry tart), and they were both mostly eaten on Thanksgiving with the others. I still had one pie's worth of vodka dough. Wait, I never blogged about the failure which was vodka dough, did I? Here's the scoop: Adding vodka to pastry dough is the new Thing to do. Because vodka evaporates completely when baked (I ask, water doesn't?), it results in a fabulously flaky crust. Maybe. But the fact that vodka never freezes means the dough remains soft and sticky, so the beautiful crust edge you create just flumpfs in the oven, and you stand there, looking through the oven window, begging and pleading with Fate that the dough won't flumpf so much that the filling will ooze out and create a baked-on mess in the oven. Sure, the dough may be flaky (not significantly more so, in my opinion), but the ulcer you get during the baking process makes it anti-worthwhile.

One recipe made enough pastry for two pies, so I still had one disc of dough in the fridge. I had made a squash and sage risotto on Saturday, thus the knowledge that we had arborio rice in the pantry was fresh in my mind.

I took the vodka dough, some arborio rice, some milk, and some spices (plus eggs etc.), and made a Tarte Au Riz (Rice pudding pie, pretty much). This is a Belgian staple (actually, it's usually made with a yeasted tart dough, but what the hell), and I would really like to be able to make one like you get from the bakery in Belgium. I allow myself one try a year (so much creaminess, it's dangerous, otherwise). Mine are good, but not what I remember.

Tasty goodness, even without nutmeg.

Now, I need to find my motivation and finish a project. Anybody see it anywhere?

23 November 2007

Gratitude Griday, No. 3

I am grateful for our mail carrier in Iowa, whose schedule is such that we get our delivery around 11 am. That's when I'm ready for a quick break to the door after a morning of work at my desk.

Early mail delivery is a necessity for a home-office person. It keeps us sane.

What I am not so grateful for is the mail carrier here in New Hampshire, whose schedule is such that mail often doesn't get delivered until after 5 pm (which means that I have to go out to check the mailbox with a flashlight).

Where's my darn mail? I got none yesterday, thanks to Thanksgiving; I want my mail!

22 November 2007


Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good night*!

*Wait ... that last bit doesn't belong to this holiday. Have a good night anyway!

21 November 2007

Preparing for a Weird Day

Tomorrow will be the first Thanksgiving ever that we will spend with family, locally. We've done our fair share of flying and driving to someone's house for the holiday. And even have had some people fly or drive to spend it at our house. But, spend the morning at our house, drive 20 minutes with our offerings to a relative's house, eat, belch, then drive 20 minutes home? Never before.

It feels weird. Today is pretty much a regular day. Not much prepping going on yet, the house is in its typical state of Strewn Detritus, and I'm sitting in the office working on a project, of all things.

Tomorrow will feel weird, too. There will be the usual in-family stress (it's not just my family that can't have a gathering without someone's feelings being purposely or inadvertently hurt). Although luckily, the Consort is the Beloved in everyone's eyes (the opposite of my placement in my family, oftentimes*), so the stress isn't directed at us, and I stand close enough to him to ensure some of the glow shines on me, too (heh).

To be honest, though, the weirdest part will be the wine (or, perhaps more accurately, the non-drinking of wine). We are partakers, and luckily, we've found a bunch of like-minded individuals to be friends with in Iowa. We're not overindulgers, mind you. But a gathering isn't a gathering without a bit of wine. (hic!)

My family partakes in grapey goodness as well. So we're always well-watered when visiting that side. (hic! hic!)

The Consort's family, not so much. One BIL doesn't drink at all. The other drinks a can or two of Bud Light. One SIL doesn't drink at all (not even the beer I keep telling her is fabulous for women who are breastfeeding [when I heard this as a nursing mom, I jumped on this information]). The other SIL will have one or two sips. My MIL? Maybe she will, maybe she won't (and prefers the sweet stuff, whereas I prefer dry stuff). But if there were no wine, they'd be just as happy. Is that crazy, or WHAT?

Do we bring wine? I don't know. I stilll haven't asked the Consort what he thinks (are you reading this? What do you think? Should we bring a bottle [or two...]). I really want some wine with Thanksgiving dinner. But that wanting makes me wonder if I'm a slush. (Yes, I call it "slush", makes much more sense than lush, especially since Lush means bath bombs -- oh, yes, it does!) I don't feel like a slush. I don't drink every day. But I likes me some fihne wihne. Am I an alcky on the edge?

Who knows. Just pass me that bottle.

*Not intended to mean anything, siblings. (And where in his case everyone = everyone, in my case, everyone = for the most part, the parents.)

20 November 2007


Getting my tea this morning, I see this:

Really? Could it be? This is how the morning has progressed:

7:17 a.m.

9:10 a.m.

The Consort walked in to work this morning, although I offered to drive him in. He called when he got there and said there had been an accident on the road, so he had actually been faster walking than in a creeping car. Just yesterday morning, he mentioned he was really grateful we had picked the teeny tiny in-town house rather than the larger orchard house to rent this year. Because no matter the weather, we don't have to drive anywhere: he can walk to work, the girls walk to school, and there's a Co-op mini market two blocks away for milk and other necessities. (The large Co-op is walkable, too.)

19 November 2007

Dear Body

Thank you for your thoughtfulness, but really, I can count to 28 pretty accurately. I don't need an entire week of warning (and don't go calling it a "dry run," either; because that would be a lie).

Best regards,


18 November 2007

Another One of Those Posts

The man who wrote the Hokey-Pokey died peacefully at age 93.

The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into his coffin. They put his left leg in. Then the trouble started.

17 November 2007

Fridge Clean-out Lunch

In preparation for the Thanksgiving influx of food, I emptied out the fridge today. (Notice I didn't say "clean out." No washing was involved in my actions.)

We're pretty good about eating things up before they go bad, but certain things were taking up more room than they deserved: Two practically empty jars of jam, a jar of garlic olives with only two olives in it, and two mushrooms. I had a hankering for mushrooms sauteed in butter, so for lunch I sliced and sauteed the two mushrooms, ate the remaining olives while the mushrooms were browning, and had two slices of homemade bread with the leftover jam.

Yum. My lunch certainly hit the spot.

We are tasty, eat us up!

16 November 2007

Gratitude Griday, No. 2

I love music. I love listening to music, I love discovering music, and I love making mixes.*

I am grateful that I am alive at a time when it is extremely easy to learn about new music without depending on ClearChannel dronesbroadcast radio.

Thanks to my iPod (curiously missing these past 30 hours [yes, I'm counting in hours], and I'm thinking I may need to worry about this soon), I can have music when I'm practically anywhere.

Thanks to Internet radio, I know that on any given day I will hear something I haven't heard before.

Thanks to online information tools, I can share music with all of you. No one ever commented on the song I embedded a few weeks ago, so I have no idea if project playlist works. I'm trying again.** I think this song is a great way to start the day. You can almost call it a musical morning blessing. Almost.

Oh. And, may I suggest? Listen to it loud.

*And I know I still owe several of you mixes; this knowledege keeps me up at night (not that I'm looking for sympathy, I totally deserve the insomniac guilt). I dare not say "Soon", but that's what I'm thinking.

**The subtle message incorporated in the previous two sentences is: Listen to this and then comment, dagnabbit!

15 November 2007

Late Night Last-Minute Blogging

There's got to be something I can blog about. I know I did stuff today, just not the stuff I thought I would. (I was going to tell you about the knit sock issue I have with Trixie. But I'm too tired now.)

I know! If you like PostSecret (although I think a majority of the postcards are made up by the senders), you might enjoy FOUND, as well.

14 November 2007

Proof that I'm Still Crafty

You wouldn't know it from the past few months, but I used to blog about my knitting. Although, to be honest, even when I participated in Secret Pal exchanges, and had a bit more drive to produce, I never really did. Produce much, that is.

Then it was summer, and we moved here. The heat didn't really inspire me to go looking for yarn shops.

Then we moved to town, unpacked all our boxes, and I realized that we hadn't brought the winter hats, scarves, and gloves. To New Hampshire! Land of winter sports!

That was just the nudge I needed to get cracking on finding a yarn shop. My first visit was to a shop in the neighbor chi-chi town to our chi-chi town. I figured I'd pay a little extra to support a local business. After my visit, I figured I might believe in supporting local business, but the local business needs to provide at least a smidgen of customer respect! (Maybe she could smell my non-hipness, despite my attempt at "dressing up" for the visit?)

I did buy three skeins of yarn. And I made the following hats:
We are pretending to be freezing despite the balmy weather.

For Trixie and Impera, I used this pattern as a base. However. When I was finished with the head part of Trixie's she said, "Stop!" No brim, just a stockinette cap. I may just knit the brim anyway, in case once winter comes along, the wind blows it right off her head. She wanted a pompom, and I may make her one, but she looks so cute without it. Impera wanted the brim, but I did not understand completely how the hat was to make a double thickness (I loved the pattern, but I like to be talked through the designer's concept; I don't seem to trust designers very much). This means that the hat is a bit too long, so you see some purling below the brim. I'm tempted to just sew up the top a bit to tighten it up. I don't know.

For the Consort, I "made it up." All he wanted was a stockinette cap with a ribbed brim, enough ribbing that he could fold it over and completely cover his ears with double thickness, to keep those poor ears warm. It mostly worked, but I was worried about making it too tight, so it ended up too loose, and because it is so wiiiiiiiiiide, there wasn't enough yarn left to make it as tall as I wanted, so (a) it may fly off in the winter wind and (b) his ears may not be fully double-covered. Sigh.

I was out of yarn, and it was my turn. You can imagine that I didn't really feel like returning to the fancy schmancy yarn shop. Instead, I went to this drab little building we pass from time to time in the antithesis-of-chi-chi neighboring town. It is called Country Woolens, and its white aluminum siding and very few windows worried me. "You should check that place out," the Consort had said more than once when we passed by. "Yeah, well, mmmbmbmbmmghhhuhunh," I'd reply.

Foolish, foolish me. This place was wonderful! The older woman who is clearly the owner was welcoming, she and her buddy chatted with me, they weren't pushy, nor were they aloof, and I came out with some Noro Kureyon and no loss of self-esteem. I am definitely going back there. (And it's on the [free] bus line!)

I am a pushover for a good blog recommendation, so even though I read that this hat sized small (it comes in only one size, and that is 18 inches [even Trixie has a bigger head circumference than 18 inches!]), I made Veronik Avery's Short Row Hat.

Don't look at the face, look at the hat!

I did one extra 4-section repeat, so it would actually fit around my head. This made it a bit too tall, though. I "fixed" that by doing some strategic sewing up along the crown, and hiding the surgery with a pompom. After I was all done, I realized I shouldn't have done surgery at all, I should just have folded over the ribbing (I am folding the ribbing, but without the sewing, I may have had enough to cover my ears completely. (No, wait, that's not my concern, that's the Consort's!) I had the Consort take a bunch of pictures, and I took some more this morning, but I wasn't happy with any of them. This was the least bad picture. But you can't really see the full pompom, and it is taken from the side I knit first -- I got lots better at knitting the short rows together. Really, I did.

Now that the hats are finished, my fingers are itching for a new project. But I'll have to keep these lessons in mind:

  • Trust the designer. They know what they're doing. (Even if they tell you to knit the cap part 9.5 inches before the decreases -- They've got a reason for doing it that way!)
  • Don't worry so much about tightness. Otherwise, hats (and socks, this happens when you knit socks, too) are too darn loose.
  • A good yarn shop = one run by a down-to-earth older woman. It was that way in Des Moines, and it is that way here, too.
  • Remember to get someone else to model your hat next time. You can't take the photo you want by shouting out things like, "Just get the hat! It doesn't need to have my whole body in it!" "Did you focus in on the color changes?" "Wait! These are taken on the bad side! I need the other side!" "Are you focusing on the hat?"

  • 13 November 2007

    Taking Over the World

    All right! Your comments on yesterday's post have given me hope that if I gave a revolution, some people would actually show up. Who knew that I could start my revolution right here?

    Now, I'm just going to assume that when KathyF said she was going to tell her vets what I was up to, she meant it in a nice way (because a coup would never work without some military support), and not an I'm-going-to-denounce-you-to-the-authorities kind of way...

    Definitely, I would provide the benefits I proposed for vets for everyone. Taxes would go up (significantly), but it would make the world a better place if everyone had guaranteed health care. (But face lifts and viagra would not be covered by me. Period.)

    Gil Scott Heron was more right than he knew: The revolution will not be televised (youtube video); it will be blogivised!

    And if this piques your curiosity about Gil Scott Heron, may I suggest my favorite, "Whitey on the Moon." (video or audio only)

    12 November 2007

    Rules Are Meant to be Broken

    This weekend a great friend of ours came to visit. We had a blast, as usual. So much so that other than the joke I shared, I posted nothing. Then last night we went out to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. Food, not so great, but conversation, lots of fun!

    I had a post in my head about Veterans Day. But I forgot to write it down. Let me just note: Vets, thank you for sacrificing your health, your sanity, your youth, your life. If I was in charge of the world, we'd respect your actions with generous lifelong healthcare, strong mental health programs, and supportive communities. We'd never go to war impulsively, nor would we abuse your life, mental health, or soul.

    10 November 2007

    Fulfilling my NaBloPoMo Requirement

    A masochist and a sadist get married. After a fabulous wedding reception, they retire to the honeymoon suite.

    The masochist shuts the door, turns and says, "Slap me, pinch me, make me scream!"

    The sadist replies,


    09 November 2007

    Gratitude Griday

    Some people follow themes when they participate in NaBloPoMo. There are all sorts of themes, but the ones I’ve noticed are the “Thirty Days of Thanks” (30 days? Now that’s just too much) or Thankful Thursdays (hmmmm, I wonder why they picked Thursdays. In November…). Now, because of emotional scars carved in memories of sitting around a table, desperately trying to find something to be thankful for, with grumpiness oozing from the people on your right and tears trickling from the people on your left, … I have a difficult time with this forced group lovefest so many in the U.S. enjoy inflicting on one another. And I swore never to make my children do this (pre-gorging, we can make chains of thanks that we can decorate the dining room with—that doesn’t count). And just thinking about ritualistic circle thanks-giving give me the heebie-jeebies.

    But, as I’ve grown older, I find myself drawn to the idea. In general. But, being stubborn, and being a slave to my preconceptions, I just can’t do it.

    So, I’ve decided to instead have Gratitude Gridays (see, it’s got the alliteration, but I can trick my neuroses this way [‘cause they are on the whole more brawn than brain]).

    On this first Gratitude Griday, I am grateful for all of you, my blog readers. You guys are the best. Some of you visit and don’t comment. (That’s OK: you keep coming back, so either you like what you’re reading or you like to hate what you’re reading.) Some of you take the time out of your day to let me know what you think. (Even if your responses can be not at all what I expected. Case in point: my new living room wall art. Sheesh! For the most part you guys hated it. I hadn’t thought it was that bad!)

    My mother-in-law has been worried about me. She figures that the Consort is meeting new people at his office in town, the girls are making friends at their new school, but I spend most of my day alone in our teeny tiny house. Didn’t I want to join a club of some kind? Maybe a knitting group? Something? Anything???

    Well, sure, I might join some group at some point soon. But, see, my blog friends still visit every day. Keeping me grounded, stoking my ego, sharing ideas, and just stopping by to chat. (I have a hard time explaining blog friendships to people who don’t “do” blogs.) Many of you I would never have met otherwise. Longitude and latitude would have taken care of that. And even if we did happen to live near each other: in the same neighborhood or town, our lives are so different that we may never have taken the time to “discover” each other. But I’m glad we did.

    You, my readers, keep me connected. And I’m grateful.

    08 November 2007

    A Plethora of Bookmarks

    I have too many bookmarks, people. What I really mean is, I have too many bookmarks in my Bookmarks Bar. You know, that thing that you can use to have a select few extra-special Web pages at your fingertips?

    Do you see how the Bookmarks Bar not only spills over the width of my screen, but also bleeds both up and down? Can you see that some of those bookmark buttons are actually *folders* within the Bookmarks Bar? How many bookmarks can someone have on their Bookmarks Bar?

    I don't know, but I'd venture to guess that my one thousand seven hundred sixty (note the nice, even number, tho!) is TOO DAMN MANY.

    I admit I often drag a bookmark to the Bar when I find something interesting that I may want to check back for when I have more time (for example, beer chocolate cake -- wouldn't *that* be on your list of must-retrieve links?). But, dutch babies? Cheap yarn in Germany? Stretchy co? (That last one is really useful, though; it's how to make a stretchy cast-off for when knitting, say, the top of a toe-up sock.)

    Would you like some links? 'Cause I've got more than my share:

  • The Postcrossing Project: A postcard exhange. (I just learned about this one today, so it's fresh! [thanks, Marsha])
  • Librivox: Audio versions of books in the public domain. You can listen, you can volunteer and record some for others. Cool.
  • Bookmaking: A video how-to on making photo-covered notebooks.
  • Go ahead, eat a dutch baby. You know you want to.

  • 07 November 2007

    Songs of Innocence and Experience, 21st century edition

    (A conversation begun in the comments to the previous post got me rememberingimagining this.)

    Two completely fictional* and imaginary young characters: Innocence, who speaks in a dreamy and hopeful voice, and Experience, who speaks with the bitter tones of recently acquired knowledge.

    Sigh. I can’t wait until I start my period…


    Just think, my body growing up, that’ll be just great!


    The nurse said in class that it doesn’t hurt.

    That’s just what they tell you.

    *Absolutely. Because do you really think William Blake actually heard a clod and a pebble talk? OK, bad example. But do you think anyone else would have heard them? Of course not!

    06 November 2007

    "Hey lady, you wanna see my soap nuts?"

    Ever on the lookout for ways to reduce the family’s ecological footprint, a little while ago I ordered a bag of soap nuts.

    What are soap nuts, you ask? This:

    They are the dried fruit of the soapberry tree. They contain saponin, the sudsy cleansing agent that is found in several plants, including soapwort and quinoa.* You take about five soap nuts, put them in a small sack (a sachet-size sack), and toss them in your washing machine with a load of dirty laundry. Your clothes get clean, without artificial detergents, perfumes, or additives. We ordered a 1 kg batch for $30. You can use the same soap nuts for five loads of wash (the Web site where I ordered them says 1 kg would wash 200 loads of laundry, so about 15 cents per load). Thirty dollars didn’t seem too much to risk in trying out an eco-friendly product.

    I’ve used them for the past two laundry cycles, so about eight loads’ worth (I switched out the berries after 5 loads – I am nothing if not a direction-follower), and so far, I am happy with them. The berries themselves smell slightly vinegary, but the resultant clean laundry just smells fresh, without a scent. That’s a big plus in my book. I do not understand our cultural need to layer on so many scents: laundry detergent, fabric softener,** dryer sheets,** scented soap, scented shampoo, scented conditioner, scented moisturizer, scented deodorant, topped off with a heavy spray of perfume/cologne/aftershave. Sometimes, I can barely breathe with the amount of mingled scents others waft around with them.

    Zephyr doesn’t like it when we leave her alone (not a non sequitur, just give me a minute). When we came home from an afternoon out on Sunday, we found one of the duvet covers splattered with chocolate stains and a few empty fun-size wrappers. Zephyr clearly had gotten into the Halloween treats and had herself a little party. Bad dog!***

    I washed the duvet cover yesterday with soap nuts, and this is how it came out:

    Do you see any stains? Neither do I. The soap berries successfully passed the stain test! (Although I probably would still treat a stronger stain, like blood or tomato sauce, say, with detergent; but it still represents a significant reduction in the amount of detergent used.)

    15 cents per load, no obnoxious perfumes or dyes, no phosphates, no petrochemicals, no plastic jugs or cardboard boxes wasted (the list can be endless...), made from a renewable source, and they are biodegradable (*sigh*, I miss my compost!). I definitely would recommend them.

    (Oh, and the title of this post is an homage to my favorite stand up comedian.)

    * In fact, when we shared a house with friends in California, we grew quinoa, and the Consort used the saponin we removed from the grain (it has to be removed in order for the quinoa to be edible – imagine getting a mouthful of soap!) to wash his hair.
    ** I don’t ever use this, by the way.
    *** All I can say is, thank god we had closed the bathroom door and the trash can in there was not accessible to her!

    05 November 2007

    I Had a Tiring Day

    It's the start of a new quarter at the middle school, so Impera is no longer taking Ultimate frisbee for P.E. class (although she became very good at that game!). I suggested signing up for yoga. Instead, she signed up for "Outdoor Games".

    I can't help it; every time I think about it, it comes out "Reindeer Games."

    04 November 2007

    Family Flu Shot Day

    A good thing about New Hampshire: free flu shots for adults and children. This thing was so well organized. I told the girls to bring a book in case the wait was long. There was no wait, just a well-oiled machine: fill out the form, get in line, within two heartbeats, it's your turn. Wipe, jab, bandage, you're done!

    Then we wandered the health fair, picked up lots of pencils and candy (yes! at a health fair!), and went home.

    All done within one hour.

    03 November 2007

    A Friendly Word of Warning

    If you happen to find yourself alone in the house in the early afternoon, and you decide to indulge in a mid-day bath; ... If, while drawing this bath, you decide it would be fun to read that book of essays, which happens to be in the living room; ... And if, already disrobed, you walk into the living room to take the book off the shelf,

    do not,

    I repeat--do not,

    forget that the windows in this house have no sheer curtains.

    For this said un-sheerédness will allow any passer-by to glance in and take a look at you in all your glory, requiring you to execute the fastest damned Stop, Drop, and Roll ever seen.

    02 November 2007

    So, yeah

    ...about that wall quilt I was making? Well, work got kind of super busy, and I didn't have the time pull out the sewing machine, let alone go to the fabric store.

    And we're having guests coming over for supper tonight. I really didn't want us to have a big blank wall -- heck, we've been here for two months, already!

    Enter, plan B:
    I am now adorned.

    It's a wooden frame, with some thick fabric (in our case, duck) stretched across it and the whole thing hung on the wall.

    Check out my detail, it's almost like a painting, right?...RIGHT?

    I got the idea here. Unfortunately, the selection of home dec fabric here in the wilds of New Hampshire isn't as vast as it is in the Chicagoland area. So instead of "oooh! so chic!" we've got the Ramada Inn look again.

    But at least the wall isn't bare.

    01 November 2007

    Halloween 2007

    Hello, we are a chic vampire, a medieval herbalist, and a zombie.

    Trick or treating was a success. The girls came back with tons of goodies, and the weather was unexpectedly mild.

    The Consort brought Trixie to her friend's house, and had a great time chatting with the dad. Seems the two dads have a lot in common (both on sabbatical, both alums of the Woodrow Wilson School, both in the field of environmental studies). Impera went out with a bunch of her girlfriends, and hit the notoriously generous part of town.

    Trixie always picks rather obscure personas for her costumes. This year's choice of medieval herbalist was less confusing to strangers than usual. But no one guessed it right off the bat. I think she likes to confuse people.

    I worried about Impera for a while in the run-up to Halloween, because she really wanted to be a zombie and make herself as ugly as possible (torn clothes, Crisco and leaves in her hair, rotting flesh face paint). (She also never wants to wear anything that makes her "pretty" and refuses to do anything with her hair -- it's either down with two hair clips at the temples, or up in a ponytail with two clips at the temples). Turns out, I needn't have worried. The group of girls she went out with were mostly undead. Must be the new thing.

    You can kind of see the blood and torn pants of the complete zombie costume in the five measly shots the kids let me take before they went out.

    (And today begins National Blog Posting Month. I promise you thirty consecutive posts. Note: quality not guaranteed.)

    31 October 2007

    The Ghost of Halloween Present

    The Ghost of Halloween Present
    Originally uploaded by friuduric.

    Happy Halloween! Happy Samhain!
    I'm still buried under a deadlined* project. So I'm making do with posting a picture of the jack o'lanterns we carved Monday night**. I've been getting lots of traffic on the site lately from folks trying to understand the concept of Beggars Night, and checking out my post from last year. They don't do Beggars Night here in New Hampshire, and I have to say, I kind of miss it (!!!).

    *Apt condition for this day, don't you think?
    **It's fuzzy because I took it in a dark room, with a flashlight, and a very slow shutter speed. (But look -- I have the spirit of a jack o'lantern taking me over [you may have to click on it at see it bigger on flickr]. OOOOOoooooOOOOO.)

    30 October 2007

    Quickie Rant

    I'm so so very busy, and I planned to write a real post, but instead, I choose only to write a cryptic rant.

    Would it be so hard to hope that my 40th birthday (which falls in the middle of a week in the winter) could have been celebrated with a weekend of fun and quality time with my family? Instead, I learn today that the relative (and offspring) I have the least interest in will be arriving that weekend, for a week of winter snow sports.

    Woo fricking hoo.

    i'll try to post something less self-pitiful later.

    25 October 2007

    Calling All French Speakers

    Growing up in a bilingual household, the most important phrase a kid could use was puis-je. Because without it, one could never ask,

    Puis-je avoir cinq dollars pour la foire?*
    Puis-je quitter la table?

    Or, the most important: Puis-je avoir un autre morceau de gateau?***

    This year, living in elite-land, Trixie is learning French as part of the sixth grade curriculum (something the Des Moines school district can’t afford to do). And may I just say, she is doing a fabulous job? I’m amazed at how quickly she’s taken to it, and how much fun she’s having learning those little dialogs for class. She even spells well in French (yes the language of pebblex and owlx)!****

    This makes me happy. (Especially since she was the kid who told me that, given the choice, she didn’t want to learn French ever—she wanted to learn Spanish instead [Oooh! Dagger through my heart!])


    They are taught, not puis-je, but est-ce que je peux (lit., is it that I can; can I).

    In my youth, if we ever said est-ce que je peux, we’d get a look, and silence until we asked correctly. It just wasn’t done!

    Sound-wise, too, where pwee-zhe kind of just glides through your lips, ess-uh-kuh-zhe-peuh hangs around a sprays a bit of spittle on the person you are speaking to. Blech. Not pretty.

    Am I making this up? Is est-ce que je peux the more correct usage? Could puis-je be a Belgian thing? (Like the crass Belgian usage of saying “seventy-three” rather than the much daintier French “sixty-thirteen”?*****) The Consort, who learned French in this very same school district when he was a kid, tells me he never came across the puis-je form until he met me.

    Of course, she’s also being taught the word magaziner, so I should probably just give up.(6*)

    *May I have five dollars for the carnival?
    **May I be excused from the table?
    ***May I have another piece of cake?
    ****I grew up on a steady diet of phonics, and I loved it. Trixie is a pure child of the “whole language” concept (where the teachers encourage writing without learning spelling first, because the kids will just “pick up the spelling as they go” [which is crap, in my opinion; Trixie would read and comprehend way above her age level, but wasn’t very good at spelling those very same words].
    *****Oh, those silly Belgians. [Is the thick sarcasm in my tone coming through? ;-)]
    6* [I figured you lost count at five asterisks, because I did] That’s the French Canadian word for shopping. It is literally “store-ing”. Does that sound weird or what?

    23 October 2007

    Message to a Stranger

    Photo from the New York Times

    Lady, please, get the heck out of there! The fire is right at your doorstep. No house is worth your life.

    250,000 urged to Evacuate Southern California

    19 October 2007

    Food and Blogging (but not food blog)

    Earlier this week, Mizmell shared her solutions to feeding unexpected guests. I promised I’d share one of our quick recipes, too. As you can see from the photo, the Consort thinks this particular recipe is perfect for those last-minute guesses ;-)

    Note the splatters on the page. We are messy cooks.

    What’s great about this recipe is that you probably already have all these ingredients in your cupboard (because everybody keeps pine nuts on hand, right?). I would have made some this week, just so I could take pictures for this post, except we had it when our Boston friends were visiting a few weeks ago, and we had pasta twice already this week (once with the last of the season’s basil – the girls made pesto; and once with vodka sauce—jarred, but all-natural and oh, so good) and I wasn’t sure that the Consort would be happy with pasta three times in one week (he’s all about ‘variety’ and crap like that, the crazy guy).

    Here you go: Tomato Pesto Pasta Sauce, from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

    1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
    6-oz. can tomato paste
    1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
    2 teaspoons dried basil
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1/2 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    freshly ground pepper to taste

    Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. You’re done. Ta-daaaaa! Now go socialize with your last-minutes guests.

    Actually, I often mix in 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta water to the sauce to thin it a bit. And don’t forget this sauce goes on top of one pound of pasta, so you’ll have to cook that up, too. The cookbook says capellini, but we’ve made this on everything from thin spaghetti to penne, and it always tastes great.

    Oh, and lest I forget: MizMell also urged me to join National Blog Posting Month (or, NaBloPoMo). I figured, since I failed so miserably at NaNoWriMo last year, that I probably should have started smaller, and posting on my blog daily (including weekends!) probably has a better chance of success than writing 50,000 words of a novel (Note: you’re just promising to post daily, not lengthily). If anyone else would like to join, let me know and I can send you an invite (you can do it yourself, but this way you’d be automatically added to my friends list, which currently numbers one friend: MizMell). This would be a wonderful way for people who have not blogged in a year (or two) to get back into it. *hint, hint*

    18 October 2007

    Deviations from the Mean

    Earlier this week, I came across the Carbon Conscious Consumer site, and, without really thinking about it, signed their Monthly Action Pledge.

    It sounds like a great idea. Each month, you pledge to make one small change in your life (because “BIG changes start with small steps,” as their tagline says). You can also win prizes depending on how many people you get to sign up (so totally not my thing, but hey, whatever works to rope in the most people, right?).

    Then I took a look at what I was pledging to do, as well as the list of previous monthly pledges, and it seems that I’m not pledging to do anything more than I already do (sort of like me signing a pledge to not eat beef for a month).

    I think I have a disconnect with what constitutes normal behavior. I know I always get into trouble when I specifically request input from my readers (you all will comment away happily, until I ask you to, and then the comments dry up, like *that!*). If you were so inclined, could you tell me which of these actions you already do on a regular basis, which you wouldn’t do, and which you might do (but it would be a sacrifice, no doubt about it). I’m not trying to shame anyone, but I’m just curious how far from normal the Consort and I really are.

    I’ll go first.
    The C3 Challenge Actions:

    1. In July we asked you to Eat Locally - Buy one pound of local food a week.

    During farmers market season, we buy practically all our produce from the vendors. On a regular week we might bring home: a bunch of broccoli, a bunch of chard, brussels sprouts, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, celery, a melon (pee-yew!), some blueberries, cheese, and salad mix.

    2. In August we asked you to Downshift your Driving - Carve out one car-free day a week.

    The girls walk to school, the Consort bikes to work, I work from home. When we take the car, we try to combine errands into a single trip. We shop for dry goods once a week, rather than pop in at the store every couple of days.

    3. In September we asked you to: Junk Your Junk Mail - Use online forms to eliminate most of your unwanted ad mail.

    We did this years ago. We don’t sign up for catalogs, and cancel them when some slip through.

    4. In October we'll: Break the Bottled Water Habit - use a non-toxic reusable bottle for water on the go! And a high-quality filter in your home.

    We rarely buy bottled water. We each have a Nalgene water bottle that we use for hikes (and the girls use theirs to bring water for lunch at school; they pack a lunch every day, BTW). The Consort doesn’t use disposable cups at the office, and I try to remember to bring a travel mug when I buy a cup of coffee at the library (where I hang out on fencing nights, so I don’t have to make two round trips to drop the girls off and then pick them up again two hours later).

    We drink tap water in Des Moines, and I started using a Brita filter this summer when I was not too sure of the quality of the water coming out of the pipes here in NH.

    5. In November we'll: Clean Green – Cold wash your clothes and choose the no-heat dry cycle on your dishwasher.

    OK, I do one hot and cold load per week. But I only do laundry once a week, so the loads are always full. The girls do their own laundry, and when they actually get around to doing their wash, the amount of clothes they let pile up has gotten to the full size, as well.

    We have always used the no-heat dry on our dishwasher. I usually open the door when the dry cycle starts, and let things air dry. Since July, we’ve done all our dishes by hand. (The girls are hoping we find a used portable dishwasher soon. But they aren’t complaining.)

    6. In December we'll: Bring Your Own Bag – Neither paper nor plastic when you take part in “The New BYOB.”

    We bring our own bags to the farmers market. When we aren’t purchasing more than will fit in our arms (book shopping, for example), we’ll say, “No sack, please.” (Yep, I really say “sack.” It’s one midwestern thing I’ve adopted quite happily into my speech.)

    We do get at least one paper bag per week and use it to collect our newsprint, etc., for recycling. We use the plastic bags from the grocery store to line our trash cans. We don’t buy special boxes of “trash bags” for that.

    There you have it. Anyone else want to share? (And go take the C3 pledge, if you like, too.)

    17 October 2007

    Multimedia argument

    Consider a man, who, during those halcyon pillowtalk days of yore, is told, “You have the largest, brownest eyes I have ever seen. *Sigh* They are so beautiful. Like a big, loveable, puppy dog’s eyes.”

    And who responds to his beloved with:

    Your eyes remind me of a turtle!

    Consider a man, who, upon first hearing this song:


    Eeeeesh. She sounds like she was high when she wrote this!

    Consider a man, who, when played this capture (from this Slate.com article) of someone breathing heavy (“light” snoring),

    when told this is what he does from time to time, and is asked if this is a good representation of what his beloved does from time to time, replies:

    Ummmm. What you do is more what one generally thinks of when one hears the term “snooooorrrrring”.

    I ask you, can this man’s judgment be trusted?

    Clearly, no.

    Right? I mean, gosh—I hate the fact that I have no control over what I sound like when I’m asleep. I hate not being in control, period. But. For full disclosure purposes, when I wailed that now I would never feel comfortable sharing a room with anyone ever again, this selfsame man reassured me that (a) he hadn’t noticed an occurrence of this snoooorrrring in the past year, and (b) it didn’t really matter because he was planning to be the one to share a bed with me for many more decades to come. (Awwwwww. [But I’m still never going to forget the turtle comment!])

    Ooooo! And isn't this embedded playlist thing cool? I think I may have to start using this.