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.