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.

11 June 2008

I've Moved!

Yep, I got tired of the nonexistant Blogger support. Writing a blog should not create grief for the blogger, so please come to my new home:


And don't forget to change your bloglines/google reader/links!

10 June 2008

Can't Blog...

I meeeeeeeellllllttttiiiiinnngg.

When I commented to the Consort that in the past, it was only hot here in NH for about 2 weeks in August, he replied,

"Well, it's summer!"

Who the hell is this apologist? And where is my spouse?!

06 June 2008

Alphabet Soup: A PSA, Followed by Some TMI

"A [City name] woman was killed when her vehicle was hit in a head-on collision on Highway 28 Tuesday evening."

We read or hear these short announcements when visiting a local newspaper's Web site or when listening to the local news on the radio. Often, we don't even feel bad. It's too removed, and the idea of a car death too abstract for it to cause more than a brief, "Boy, car travel can be dangerous" reaction.

On Tuesday evening, a woman who is part of our circle of friends in Iowa was killed when an 18-year-old driver overcompensated as his car swerved onto the shoulder of the road. She was 44. Her husband was her high-school sweetheart. She has three daughters, ages 17, 16 and 8. I didn't know her as well as the others in our group, but she always had a smile on her face, and it was always a pleasure chatting with her when we did see each other. She had that calmness about her of self-confident people. She was happy in her life.

Go tell your friends that you love them. Make sure your family knows that even if you bicker, they are special to you. Look your kids in the eye and tell them that you do love them (and you know they love you), even if sometimes there's more arguing than laughing. Go do it now.

Blog friends, even though I haven't met most of you, I really appreciate your comments here. You make my space the Internet a happy place for me to be. I thank you.


Last night, we went out to eat at a local Italian restaurant. I figured that I'd give in and stimulate the economy by ordering a Mafiatini (a vodka martini with a gorgonzola-stuffed olive). I don't know why I picked it -- I don't really like vodka; I haven't liked it since college, when I got really sick on Seabreezes once, and for years blamed it on the cranberry juice (silly Imperatrix). I should have picked just a plain old (yet delicious) Cosmopolitan, but the gorgonzola-stuffed olive caught my eye.

The olive was tasty. The drink? It had the trademark bitterness of vodka, with an extra hit of saltiness that hit me at the back of the throat.

"How's the Mafiatini?" asked the Consort.

"I don't like it. The taste reminds me of another salty fluid, and now I just can't drink any more of it."

"Oh, I see."

"No, this is one fluid I don't think you do see."




"You see, it---"

"I get it! I get it!!"

It was a family dinner, after all. And this is not that type of blog.

04 June 2008

The Fable of the Baby Sweater (Or: Me and Hubris, Once Again)

Once upon a time, I had some sock yarn, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.

Cateling suggested I use it to make the famous Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket. What a great idea! My cousin was pregnant, and she had knit some baby things for my girls when they were little, so I knew she would appreciate the time and effort in knitting a baby garment.


Her baby was due in May. Not an ideal time to wear a knitted sweater!

"That's OK," I thought.. "I'll just make a larger size, for him to wear next winter. There are so many beautiful examples of BSJs for bigger babies!"

"But I won't make it blue, because I don't like to play into silly cultural expectations. I'll make it in shades of brown and eggplant, doesn't that sound nice?"


I wanted to make it in a washable wool (this is for a baby, after all; and for a new mother, who won't have time to handwash her baby's clothing). The yarn store didn't have my chosen colors in washable wool of the correct weight. In fact, the store owner mocked me a little bit (yes, it was that chi-chi poo-poo store, I admit -- I happened to be in that part of town when the urge to get the yarn struck me). The teasing flustered me. Also, the only colors that fit my wool specifications were girly colors, and blue.

*Sigh*. "Fine. I'll make it in blues" ...

... "but I will not" ...

... "finish it with" ...

... "traditional and completely overdone nautical-themed buttons."


That's really the only kind of button that went well with the sweater colors.


03 June 2008

Food Challenge, Two Ways

I decided to participate in One Local Summer this year. Silly, huh? The one year I don't have access to a large garden. The one year the only food plant growing in our backyard are two pots of basil and cilantro. But I have faith in our local farmers market. As the season progresses, I'm sure we'll be able to create fantabulous meals of local produce!

And this week? The first week? I've already failed. See, we always buy eggs from our favorite farmer, Geo of Hurricane Flats Farm, at the farmers market. We always have two dozen eggs in our fridge. Except, by the time today (Tuesday!) came along, we only had four eggs left. Sheesh. So the Consort went out and bought me some free range "local" eggs from the food co-op. Since I can't confirm they come from within 100 miles of here, I can't really take credit for it.

I made asparagus and cheese fritatta, with 40% of the eggs from Geo's farm. The asparagus comes from his farm as well (100% of it, of course). The cheese is Ascutney Mountain cheese from Cobb Hill farm (another weekly stall at the farmers market). The salad mix comes from Geo as well. Until local tomatoes are ready, we have our salad without adornments other than homemade vinaigrette. We like it that way. Although it isn't made from local ingredients, the Consort and I had some Long Trail beer (local company, though).

Mmm, tasty tasty!

Doesn't that fritatta look good? Here, have a closer look:

Oooh, fluffy! And in a cast-iron pan!

You'll also notice some bread in our supper picture. Although the flour is from the local (yet nationally famous) King Arthur Flour, the wheat is grown out west. That's OK, because tonight was also the first of two Home Breadmaking Smackdowns.

I've been making sourdough weekly since January, when I got some King Arthur sourdough starter, a pizza stone, and a pizza peel for my birthday. Just last week, though, I took out Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day from the library. This was after requesting it three weeks ago (someone else had it out), and then going to the Amazon site and reading the seven less-than-stellar reviews (out of 123 reviews). Big mistake. By the time I had the book in my hands, those negative reviews had tainted any excitement I may have had about trying this book.

I figured the only way to know if this bread works for us is to compare it with the two other breads we've made recently. Tonight, it was the sourdough.

Five-minute bread on the left, traditional sourdough on the right

Sourdough takes a bit more planning than the 5-minute bread (the starter needs to be fed overnight, the sponge has to do its bubbly thing for 3 hours, then there's 2 hours of rising after the kneading and 2 hours of rising after shaping), but I use my Kitchenaid to knead the dough (sourdough is notoriously sticky dough, a pain to work with by hand), and most of the rest of the time the dough is just "resting," so it isn't a time sink for a home-based freelancer like me.

Do you like airy and "custard-like" crumb, or dense and more bread-like?

After the initial taste, it was 2 to 2. Trixie and the Consort preferred the 5-minute bread ("This tastes much more like European bread!" they said). Impera found it "too wine-y" and I thought that the crumb was too sticky. Also, I thought the crust had a bitter taste, probably from over-cooking (this loaf was 30 minutes in the oven, vs. 20 minutes for the sourdough -- but I think if I had taken it out sooner than called for in the recipe, the center wouldn't have cooked through).

By the end of the meal, Trixie had joined Impera and I on the Pro Sourdough side, and the Consort (stubbornly) remained with the 5-minute bread.

Soon, I'll make another of these loaves (the recipe makes enough batter for 4 loaves, and the dough can stay in the fridge for 14 days) and compare it to one of those no-knead loaves that have become so popular in the past year or so. I'll keep you informed!

02 June 2008

What I Wanted to Tell You

  • We just watched Seven Up/ 7 Plus Seven. It is a British documentary film project begun in 1964. Fourteen English seven-year-olds, from very different social and economic backgrounds, are followed, to get a sense of what English life is like for them. it has been followed by filmed interviews every seven years, at ages 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, and 49 (so far). The first disc has the age 7 and 14 interviews on it. All four of us enjoyed it immensely and we plan to keep the subsequent films in our queue (you probably don’t want to watch these all in a row, as they pull previous footage over and over to remind watchers of what had gone on in previous years).
  • For all that I support local video stores (and I know I’ve raved about our Best Place Ever in Des Moines), services like Netflix are useful when one wants to watch a more dated movie, or an esoteric film that wouldn’t necessarily be economically feasible for a smaller shop to own.

    I would have written this in more detail and with lots of prose exuberance, except that my soul has been drained by unpleasant encounters with European bureaucrats who relish in the power provided by their petty fiefdoms, and by the eye-rolling ineptitude of US Postal Service employees.

  • 29 May 2008

    My New Idea: Genius or Madness?

    This has been buzzing around in my head for a while.

    Did you know that the average shower head uses about 5 gallons of water per minute? Per minute! And don't forget the energy use of heating that water and keeping it hot in the tank. So, I was thinking, how about getting four solar shower bags?

    That way, nobody could complain that their sibling had forgotten to fill the bag up, or that the available bag(s) had been used up. Today, I did a quick search to get an estimate of the price range we'd be talking about. They are between $15 and $20 each.

    We could use them for most of the spring, all summer, and the first part of the fall.

    How about that? Eighty dollars to train wise shower usage and save energy. (Plus, we could take them with us when we backpacked or camped...)

    What's the verdict? Genius or Madness?

    27 May 2008


    I've got a client based in Cambridge, Mass., and when they learned that I'd be spending a year out in New England, they invited me to come down and have lunch with them. As a freelancer, I have never met any of my clients. I've spoken to them on the phone, emailed back and forth, sent notes with the copyedited files, but I haven't met any of my current clients face to face. We didn't get our schedules to match up until recently, so I drove down to Boston on Friday to have lunch with these folks.

    It's a 2.5-hour drive, and I didn't want to show up all wrinkly and road-weary, so I had a Plan. I would drive down in my comfy clothes and sneakers, then pop off the highway a few exits early and change in the restroom of a fast-food place. What a great Plan!

    Except, not living in a big city, I had forgotten that the shift from suburb to downtown comes fast (as do the maniacal Massachusetts drivers!), so before I knew it, I had to take my exit. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just get my bearings, find a gas station, and change there!"

    I got my bearings, then was pulled along by the city traffic. I didn't make too many turns, because I had to be able to find my way back. I also realized that gas stations are few and far between within a real City. Huh. Then, I spotted a Sunoco station. Victoire! I parked, ran in, and asked the guy behind the counter if they had a bathroom where I could change.



    Uh, OK, is there somewhere nearby I could change? Sure, there were restaurants all along the street. Could I leave my car here while I went to change? ... Well, for 5 minutes maximum! He has a business to run, you know! (Damned mean Bostoninans.)

    So I went to the one open restaurant (it is 10:30 am., so most are not yet ready for customers). The woman inside tells me, yes, they do have a bathroom, I should just go out and around the building.

    At the back?

    Yes, at the back of the building, she tells me.

    I walked around the building, but there isn't an entry that I can see. All I see are the service entries for deliveries. Well, that was a creative way to get rid of a stranger! (Typical Boston nastiness, alright.)

    I got back on the street and noticed the MIT museum just a few doors down. Time is running short at this point, so I go in, a bit flustered (and looking kind of crazed with my windblown hair, sneakers, and jersey skirt and wrinkled t-shirt combo), and explain to the ticket seller (you have to pay $7.50 to learn about the history of MIT) that I just need to change. He waved me in, directed me to the nice clean bathrooms, and I was able to make my big transformation.

    I get back to my car, drive back to the parking lot for which my client had sent me a parking pass, search my entire bag three times, and realize I must have left the permit on the table at home.

    &*^%^^ %$#@#$%.

    I drive up to the attendant, explain to him that I have an appointment with the Press, ask if I can pay to stay in the (private) lot, and he says to me, "Go park over there and then don't let me see your face!" He winks. I thank him profusely, and drive in.

    I don't know who is responsible for giving Boston folks such a bad reputation. Some of them are really nice.

    Oh, and lunch was a blast. The folks I work with at that Press were fun to spend time with.

    24 May 2008

    Dear Hillary Clinton,

    Congratulations! You have singlehandedly turned this year, that should have been one Democratic success after another, into one that is leaving a foul taste in my mouth. We had hope. We had excitement about the future. It was going to be the year of healing wounds, rapprochement, peace, and love (yes, I really thought so). Things were looking up. There was no way the Democrats could lose this year.

    Now, I dread reading the paper, because I know I'll find some other crazy, cringe-inducing comment from you. (Every time, I think," Surely she didn't say *that*!" Every time, I am mistaken.)

    I don't deny that there has been a significant amount of vitriolic sexism in the past six months or so. But the sexism came from the "mainstream" media; not from your opponent -- he's gone out of his way to be polite when speaking about you. The crass racism of this campaign, on the other hand, has all come straight from your mouth or the mouths of your supporters.

    I'm sure you feel vindicated, since just yesterday I had to turn off the radio during an interview with a vocal group of women in California who are threatening to support John McCain if you don't win the nomination. I wonder if you could ask them for me whether they really think that if the mainstream media and the talking heads are sickeningly sexist, they honestly believe that McCain's party is going to be better at supporting their and their daughters' rights than the Democratic party? Really? That seems pretty narrow-minded, petty, and BLIND to me. But then again, I am one of those lazy-assed people (unlike your "hard-working" "regular folks") that are not supporting you.

    This year promised difference. Instead, we have the same old ("misspeaking" -- which in my opinion is not defined as "telling a completely fabricated story of dodging bullets and insurgents"), same old (fearmongering of the Black "Other").

    I feel sick.

    And now it looks like you are pushing for the vice presidency?

    Heaven help us all.

    21 May 2008

    Answer Week Fortnight Series: Day 6: Last One!

    Three of Four asked, Describe one part of your childhood day-to-day (an activity, a sound, a smell, etc.) that your children will never experience as part of theirs (or, at least, will never experience as the mundane, routine encounter you grew up with). Is this a change for the worse, or the better?

    I have to admit, I didn’t come back and check this question for a while, so I kind of bypassed the “day-to-day activity” option. Hmmmm. But I did get stuck on the sounds and smells. So many others have waxed poetic on the sound of the ice cream truck ding-a-ling-ing down the street (including, but not limited to, Eddie Murphy’s monologue bit), but I remember the truck stopping on our street and being terribly disappointed in the weak flavor of those red white and blue rocket bombs, and I also remember how there was a special window built in to the wooden fence around the swim club, so we could buy ice cream “fresh off the truck” during Adult Swim (no ice cream trucks? worse); just as others have, I recall the sound of Ma Bell phones (which people can now choose as a ringtone for their cellphones, for crying out loud) (cheaper long distance? better; too many choices for package deals? worse); and how about the three-tone xylophone “NBC” ID tune (cable TV? worse worse worse). There are also the fire alarm sirens that Three of Four mentioned, we don’t hear those anymore (fewer volunteer fire departments? worse) (although the girls, having grown up in a tornado state, are used to the monthly tornado siren drills in Iowa). Because everyone else has already written about all of these, whatever I wanted to say feels redundant.

    There are also the smells, like the smell of ditto sheets, still wet from the mimeo machine, its purple ink smudging where you touched the damp paper (computer printers in schools? better -- and easier on the eyes!); and the salty-smelling school paste – not Elmer’s glue – that stuck to our elementary-school fingers (remember when you'd get all your school supplies from the school on the first day -- for free? that was way better than the two-page lists kids receive nowadays).

    See? I couldn’t think of anything new and exciting.

    I do have a special place in my heart for theEmergency Broadcast System. You know, the


    that you’d hear on a regular basis on the radio, followed by “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information.”

    And I remember, as a kid, thinking, how nice of them to tell us what other channel we could go to if they had a fire at the radio station!

    Oh, the innocence of youth.

    19 May 2008

    Answer Week Fortnight Series: Day 5

    BoyOnTop asked, "If you were on a desert island, with no knitting or fiction, what hobby would you have to have to stay sane?"

    I suppose being stuck on a desert island might be just the incentive I needed to write the darn stories down, eh? Yes, I'd probably have to write them down just to pretend I had something to read...

    I like this idea!

    Of course, that would also be a great time for me to finally hunker down and learn to play that guitar I wanted 15 years ago, that the Consort bought me for our first married Christmas. I took a semester of Adult Education classes, and I did very well. But then I stopped practicing. I keep beginning to remind myself of chords, then my wrist starts hurting and I give up. I'm sure it's just a matter of learning how to hold the instrument correctly. (Not that being alone on an island would include a personal guitar instructor. which is probably exactly what I need.)

    15 May 2008

    Does This Count as Double Entendre?

    Specter Calls Patriots’ Spying Wider Than Stated

    Sure, he's talking about football, but it just as easily could describe those self-styled Bush post-9/11 war hawks, couldn't it?

    (Answer Fortnight will continue shortly)

    12 May 2008

    Answer WeekFortnight: Day 4

    Stew asked, What's one thing you'd like to accomplish in the next year? The next four years?

    I never liked this type of question, because I am so bad at answering it. Why am I so bad at it? I'll tell you why.

    In the next year, I want to write and submit at least one story.
    (This has been on my goal list for the past 10 years.)

    In the next year, I want to tone up my biceps and get that tattoo.
    (This has been on my goal list for the past 5 years.)

    See what I mean? I don't have much self-motivation. If I have the choice between surfing the Web and doing something productive, I will most likely pick the Web.

    A large part of this lack of self-motivation is fear. My inner Editor is pretty powerful. She is supported by that Perfectionist who took up residence back when I was a toddler. Both of these Ladies scare the bejeesus out of me. I've tried writing through their commentary, but they are pretty damn loud.

    In classic perfection form, I would much rather do nothing than do something imperfectly. I really like the stories floating in my mind. Heck, some of them have been with me for almost a decade. But if I wrote them down, it's more than likely they wouldn't be perfect. And that would suck. And make me sad.

    Yes, yes -- I know: "You can't become a better writer unless you write"! As some random blogger whose name and blog I've forgotten said, she was sitting around, wanting to be a writer until she realized that it's not like she would get a call out of the blue from some publishing house, who just so happened to have an opening for a Writer.

    I know all this, but here I am waiting for that call. Every year. Perhaps blogging it here for you all will get things moving. I hope so. But with my track record, it's not likely, is it?

    I'm also kind of lazy. It wouldn't be that hard to tone my biceps. And I've started hand-weight routines multiple times. But I've dropped those routines multiple times, too. It's always the week that I decide I need to stop snacking that I find a mouth-watering dessert recipe. Or it's one of those work/familiy/life stress weeks. Pshaw.

    What I need is a deadline. A timeline. And that's why I'm pretty sure that my four-year goal will actually be met:

    In four years, I will be the mom of a college student.

    And this is when I start thinking that home-school college is really something I should look into.

    08 May 2008

    Answer WeekFortnight: Day 3

    Mizmell asked, What is your fondest childhood memory?

    I was stumped at having to pick just one, so I let the question percolate, and decided that I would answer whatever came first to mind when I sat down to write this. And here's what I'm remembering this afternoon:

    Split Sister and I are two years apart, and we spent hours upon hours playing together as kids, as you would expect. Our play was always imaginative (I don't remember us playing board games very often), and some of my favorites were games that would fill entire days, if not a series of days and nights.

    One was "Desert Island". Our Barbies would have crashed onto an island when their plane lost power, and they would quickly have to begin the task of surviving. They'd weave leaves into clothes, use twigs and nut shells as tools and bowls, and they'd have lots and lots of baby powder food (mix baby powder and water into a thick paste; use as is, or let it dry in little Barbie bowls). They'd explore the island and have lots of adventures, moving from the front yard to the back yard, living under the azaleas by the house, or in front of the garage, or by the old brick barbeque in the back. I can't remember the stories too well, but I know we'd be engrossed with this adventure.

    Another was lego weekends. We'd build homes for our figurines (were they Little People? I can't remember), and use the square tiles as plates, the narrow half-square tiles as forks and knives, and those little clear or white onesie cubes as glasses. They'd have beds, furniture, styled kitchens, all made with the generic blocks and tiles (over the years as an adult, I've been disappointed that the only way to get Legos nowadays is as a set to make one particular thing -- Rudolf Steiner would be terribly dismayed). I have no idea what storylines we played during these lego weekends, but I have vivid memories of waking up bright and early on a Saturday or Sunday and being excited to go down to the playroom (before breakfast, even!) in the unfinished basement, to get back to the game.

    We also ruined I don't know how many bags of sandbox sand doing "cooking shows" (complete with thick Childean accent), mixing the sand with the wild onions that grew all over the yard.

    We had plenty of toys, but the games I remember most vividly are these games of imaginative play. I loved them, and still remember them, thirty years later!

    05 May 2008

    Happiness is ...

    ... realizing that the issue is six articles, and is due on Thursday, when you thought that it was seven articles, due on Wednesday.

    I haven't forgotten about the remaining questions, I really haven't. it's just that life got in the way, and I wanted to take the time to think about my answers. So let's just pretend that from the beginning, it was going to be Answer Fortnight, OK?

    01 May 2008

    Answer Week: Day 2

    KathyR asked, Now that your time in New England is winding down, are you looking forward to going back to Iowa? Or wishing you could stay longer? Or what?

    Hmmm. That's a hard one to answer.

    I started out by writing out some pros and cons.

    Pros about New Hampshire
    Glorious landscape
    Ocean nearby
    Summer mildness

    Cons about New Hampshire
    Cost of living
    Stand-offish nature of people
    Feeling of entitlement in this university/medical center town

    Pros about Iowa
    Being back with our friends
    Getting back to our big house
    Our big yard
    Big-city library
    Coffee shop, wine bar, video store, movie theater, sandwich shop, mini-mart all within walking distance
    Diversity of people
    Midwestern cost of living
    Midwestern hopitality
    Variety of restaurants and stores

    Cons about Iowa
    Speakerboxes (the bane of city dwelling)
    Midwestern landscape
    Humid summer

    This year has underscored for me the importance of friendships. Perhaps because we knew we were going to only be here for one year, we haven't really tried to make friends. On the other hand -- no one around here has been particularly welcoming, either. I don't really have much in common with these people. We have an awesome group of friends in Iowa. They are kooks, just like us; they are always willing to lend a hand; they make us feel welcome.

    I really don't like the midwestern landscape. Prairie, schmairie. My soul is in the mountains and in the craggy oceanfronts. I'm in a quandary, because although my spirit thrives in a rural woodsy landscape, I like the variety inherent in city-living. I miss my library! The one that always has whatever I'm looking for, that orders books when I suggest it, and that introduces me to different musical artists, rather than reminding me that the 1980s can get boring if that's all you listen to.

    I'm glad you asked this question, Kathy, because it forced me to make these lists. Returning to Iowa is going to be great. But I think I'm going to be more insistent that we take time to be out of the city on a regular basis. And I'm going to be so glad our friends will be nearby.

    29 April 2008

    Answer Week: Day 1

    Split Sister asked, When was the last time you changed all your passwords?

    To which I answer: I change all passwords on an alternate-day schedule. It takes about 37 minutes (I've counted) to do it all. I use a randomizer to get me a series of numbers, and a separate one to give me a few capital and lower-case letters. I mix it up together, until it is pleasing to the eye. I keep the current list of passwords in a self-destruct file, which no one but me can access. (Hackers, you have been warned!)

    But I have a friend who isn't so anal about it all. Over a couple of beers, she's bemoaned the fact to me that she had come up with a wonderful password, one she was proud of, and she had used it for a select few important sites. Her hubris prompted her to tell her lovely spouse about this great password. Unfortunately, he thought it was as cool as she did, and he started using it, too. (Woe to hubris. Woe! Woe!)

    Her consternation (wait, why are you using my cool password, it won't be secure anymore!) was great. She created another password; cool but not teh cool, since that can only happen once in a lifetime, and hers was now street currency, as far as passwords are concerned. He got hold of that second one, too.

    She then moved on to a new method: Take a sentence you will remember, then use only the first letter of each word, including a couple of numbers, as you see fit. (OK, I'm sure her spouse, if he was reading here, would argue that he had that idea way back in grad school*, but, whatev' -- in our story, we'll call it her Next Big Thing.) That has been useful for her. She keeps the same password for all her, ahem, slogging sites. (So she doesn't waste more time than she already does on the Internet.)

    That family uses the same administrator password for all computers. Can you imagine a different one for each piece of electronic equipment? Good lord. (I know, she's a silly friend, and she's really slacking off in the password department, but sometimes, a friend must simply frown in sympathy, say "hmmmm", and order another round.)

    Hmmmmm. Pass me the Guinness.

    *He'll also remind her of the day he brought her, his new wedded wife, to the computer center and said, "and the password is [type] [type] [type] [type]" and she said, out loud, "The password is NEBU?" To which he responded by swishing his hands in the typical CANCEL sign, and hissed "DONT SAY IT OUT LOUD!!" with a look of fear on his face. And his newly beloved looked around at all the undergrads clacking away at the Mac lab surrounding them, and had herself a fun little belly laugh. Mostly because of the look on his face.

    28 April 2008

    Answer Week?

    Question week was fun! I learned more than I thought I would (who knew body glide was such an open secret to all but my family??), and am reassured that at least my readership is as normal (or weird) as me on some issues.

    I'm feeling a bit uninspired, so I'm taking a page from Boy on Top and requesting questions for me to answer. We'll call it, "Answer Week". How does that sound?

    24 April 2008

    Question Week: Day 4

    Am I the only one who washes the tops of canned goods before opening them?

    Or do you all play Russian roulette with your diced tomatoes and garbanzo beans?

    23 April 2008

    Question Week: Day 3

    Now we're nearing TMI land. But don't worry -- I'll try to keep us from crossing the border.

    If you've been visiting here for any length of time, then you know that I like to make summer skirts.

    If I go on a walk, however, I find that if I wear a skirt then -- well, there will invariably some chafing. Always unpleasant, sometimes irritating.

    Is this just me? Do others find that for comfort one has to change into shorts rather than a skirt, when taking a walk?

    I thought I had read something somewhere about a product that takes this chafing into account, but I can't find mention of it anywhere (and don't say "baby powder" -- 'cause that don't cut it).

    22 April 2008

    Happy Earth Day!

    Question Week: Day 2

    This wasn't the question I planned to ask today, but:

    Does anybody else cringe when they see this picture???

    Photo from the New York Times

    The President of the United States on "Deal or No Deal"? To me, this seems similar to the decadence at the root of the fall of the Roman Empire.

    21 April 2008

    Question Week: Day 1

    I can't believe I forgot to mention here that Impera was spending the week in Iowa, and traveled all by herself, with a connection in Chicago. Anyway, she did. We weren't worried -- both the Consort and I traveled alone as kids, and she's thirteen -- almost not a kid any longer. I picked her up at the airport last night, and I think she was pretty tired. I know she had a great time, but I think she needs 24-48 hours to recuperate from all the fun and sleeplessness.

    This week I have to get down to work -- I sorta took last week as my Spring Break as well. But I didn't want to ignore the blog, so I decided that there were several questions I've been asking all of you in my head during the course of my days. This week, I'll be writing them down here. Perhaps you'll answer?

    Today's question is:

    Often, Netflix sends me an email to ask, "Has Yyyy movie arrived yet? Did it arrive Tuesday or Wednesday?" They say it's to improve customer service, but Ithink it's so that they'll know whether to slow up shipping the DVDs to us (if they get here too promptly, you see).

    So, I just ignore these emails. I figure that's better than out-and-out lying.

    If you happen to have a Netflix account, do you receive these follow-up emails?

    Do you tell Netflix how quickly you get a DVD once it has shipped?

    Am I being paranoid? (This last one can be answered by anyone, of course, not just Netflix members)

    19 April 2008

    A Day at the Beach

    Last day of Spring Break. Trixie and I went down to the beach, and we had a blast. Impera comes back on Sunday (did I mention she has spent Spring Break in Iowa? I'll have to check my recent posts).

    We saw cute dogs staying mobile, ate a crazy snack, and found some lovely treasures.

    You can see more of the photos in the flickr set.

    15 April 2008

    When You Hanker for a Bowl of Brown

    Sometimes, I get a hankering for brown food. You know, broth, soy sauce, sauteed mushrooms, soba noodles, tofu (OK, that's more golden, but work with me here). Add it all together, and you've got yourself a tasty (and healthy!) brown meal.

    1/4 cup oil
    1 lb tofu, 1-inch cubes, patted dry
    8 oz sliced mushrooms
    grated ginger (1.5 tsp? 1 Tbsp?, whatever you like)

    1 head broccoli, florets only,* cut into bite-sized portions
    8 oz (or 1 lb, if you're me and like to cook for an army) soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)

    4-8 cups broth (depends on how much noodlage you have)
    1/4 c. soy sauce

    Heat the oil. Saute the tofu, in two batches. When golden, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Saute the mushrooms until they release their juices; remove from pan and set aside. Add the ginger (you may need a dash more oil at this point), saute for a minute, then return the tofu to the pan and stir up. Set aside.

    Meanwhile, heat a pot of water to boil, add the soba noodles, and cook according to package directions. In a stockpot, heat the broth to boiling. Add the broccoli, turn off the heat and let sit until the noodles are done. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water.**

    Plop the noodles into the broth, add the soy sauce, tofu/ginger, and mushrooms. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

    Enjoy your bowl of brown!***

    If you have leftovers, let me share this genius (genius, I tell you!****) method the Consort recently came up with: Strain the noodles and vegetables from the broth and store them in the fridge in separate containers. No more soggy noodles!

    *Yes, you can use the whole thing. I use the stalks in something else. i like the aesthetic of florets only in my bowl of brown.

    **Why not cook the noodles and the broccoli together, in the pot of broth? Good question. But the package directions frightened me. They always insist on a rinsing of the noodles under cold water. I don't know what would happen if I didn't rinse the noodles before eating them. i don't dare test it out.

    ***In George RR Martin's Songs of Ice and Fire series, a "bowl of brown" is what one finds to eat in the streets of Flea Bottom, the dangerous and poor district of King's Landing. My bowl of brown is much better. Believe me.

    ****Don't tell me if everyone already knew about this method. It's new to us, and that's all that matters.

    14 April 2008

    Conversation Out of Context

    "Have you been drinking tea?"

    "Not recently."

    "You're getting over a cold, you need to drink lots of fluids-- go fill your mug with some tea."

    "Mom! I'm going to die!"

    "OK then, after you die, go fill your mug up with tea!"

    13 April 2008

    Dear New Hampshire,

    I'm sorry that after a couple of beautiful days the forecast has taken a turn for the worse:

    It's just that I've finally completed my mittens, and it would be fun to wear them for a few days before packing them away until next winter.

    I'm sure you understand.

    Best wishes,


    PS: And this way, we have a chance of breaking the snowfall record -- we only have 3 inches to go, right?

    09 April 2008

    How About a Slice of This with Your Coffee?

    Hazelnut brown butter cake with chocolate ganache

    This is a cop-out post, because I put this up on flickr the other day, but my inspiration has hit a dry spell.

    Anyway, if you haven't already read what I said about this recipe, you can find out here. (Also, when the owner of a food blog with almost 1,500 subscribers leaves a little comment on your photo, you kinda want to show it off. )

    07 April 2008

    How to ... Cold-Brew Coffee

    So, yes, I drink coffee from time to time. I don't use it to wake up; I make my coffee pretty weak, as you'll see. I usually have it halfway through the morning, after I've had a pot or two of tea (black or green). Just to "mix it up" a little in the drinks-during-work department. Also, I drink my coffee like a baby: with sugar and milk. Since I drink my tea "straight up", my coffee is a sweet mid-morning treat.

    We always have coffee filters in the house, but I've tried to reduce the number of them that I use. It just seems like such a waste of paper. Sure, I could buy a french press pot, but again, I like the coffee weak, and, why should I spend money when I can make my coffee concentrate for free? Another perk? Cold-brewed coffee is lower in acidity than heat-brewed coffee. No more sour stomach!

    There are many places online to find cold-brew directions. Here's my take on the process. (Note that I make this in small batches -- partly because I'm mostly the only one to drink coffee, and partly because our fridge is often filled with other large containers. You can increase your batch size according to your useage/spaceage.)

    First, grab some coffee. Organic fair trade is best, of course! (Let me pre-empt any reactions by saying: This coffee grinder was actually bought as a gift for the Consort, who wanted a spice mill. I've appropriated it, but we didn't buy it for coffee. That use only came later.)

    Put 4 tablespoons of ground coffee in a clean jar. My jar size is 2 cups. (That's the general ratio: 8 cups water for 1 cup of ground coffee.)

    Add a bit of water and make sure the grounds get good and wet. Coffee grounds are rather powdery, so if you forget to do this step, the grounds will float to the top and it'll be a pain to mix them in. Trust me. I speak from experience here.

    Now you can fill the jar with water.

    Screw the lid on, and then place the jar in a cabinet, away from sunlight. I think the real directions say to let it cold-brew for 12 hours, but I find that I always forget 12 hours usually comes when I'm ready for bed, and I'm too tired to do anything kitchen-related it tastes richer after 24 hours. So I let it sit 24 hours (because by then it is the next morning and, hey! I feel like having a cup of coffee! -- so I remember that the jar is sitting in the cabinet).

    When you take the jar out, you'll notice that all the grounds are up at the top.

    The original calls for you to strain the liquid with a fine-mesh sieve. I don't have a fine-mesh sieve. (But I do have two sieves! two sieves layered = one fine-mesh sieve, right?). I also like to use my canning funnel to prevent spillage. You don't need this. Probably most people don't need this; I'm just messy when it comes to pouring liquid from one jar to another. A long-handled spoon also comes in handy (as we shall shortly see...).

    It's helpful to break up the grounds with a spoon before you pour it out. This prevents the grounds from coming out in a big clump and making a mess on the counter (and from having some rather rich words fill the air [yep, experience talking again]). When you break up the grounds, you'll notice some bubbling; this is normal, no need to freak out or worry about fermentation.

    OK. Go ahead and strain it. You can let it sit a few minutes to get all the liquid out. I find that giving it lots of time does not produce much extra concentrate. Maybe I'm just impatient. Probably I'm just impatient. Yep. I'm impatient.

    The result will look suspiciously like coffee. But stronger. You can now place the jar in the fridge to store it until you want to make a cup of coffee.

    Boil some water in your kettle, take the concentrate out of the fridge, and pour your preferred amount into the bottom of your cup. The beauty of using cold-brew concentrate is that each person can make their cup as strong or as weak as they like. For example, I think a normal person would use 1/4 cup concentrate for a regular-sized coffee mug. Me, I use 1/4 cup when I use Impera's mega scrabble mug. But that's what I like: a nice steaming cup of dishwater.

    Go ahead. Try it. Make yourself a cup of non-acidic, non-paper-wasting, non-electricity-using, sweet, cold-brew coffee. Mmmmmm.

    You'll smile, too.

    (Darn, that last picture isn't as clear as I thought it would be. That's a mug of coffee in the foreground. See? I'm offering it to you.)

    04 April 2008

    Orange-Yogurt Muffins

    3 large oranges
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 tablespoons water
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 cups flour
    1.25 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 eggs
    3/4 cup plain yogurt
    3/4 cup milk

    Preheat oven to 375 (190 C). Butter your muffin tins.

    Grate the zest of the oranges (you can use a vegetable peeler, then chop fine). You should have about 1/4 cup zest. Combine the zest, 1/4 cup sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring. Add the butter and stir until melted (about 1 min. more). Put aside.

    Toss together the dry ingredients (don’t forget the other 1/4 cup sugar!). In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients with the orange mixture until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients, until just blended.

    Spoon into the muffin tins, about 3/4 full. The batter will make about 13 muffins. That’s an awkward number, so distribute as you see fit. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes.

    Cool in the tins for 3 minutes, then remove.

    Orange glaze: combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons orange juice. Brush the still-warm muffins with this glaze.

    03 April 2008

    For Every Action ...

    ...there is something online.

    First you have to read this: Easter Story Cookies.

    Got it? Don't say anything yet. Just, try to absorb what you just read.

    OK, now -- only after you've checked out the first link -- go read this: BDOS Cookies.


    02 April 2008

    Word Wednesday: Dear FedEx

    Dear FedEx,

    I was tracking a package online the other day, and as I was glancing down the Detailed Results list (and, as an aside, can I just say that I don't understand how a package can be picked up 25 minutes before its details are transmitted to FedEx?) my eyes caught the following advertisement,

    and my eyes reacted with the visual equivalent of the auditory cringing that usually follows the sound of nails scraping down a blackboard.

    That is, they melted into a pool of burning acid.

    Now, I realize that the skill set necessary for advertising executive types is not the same skill set necessary for novel writers. But, "Find locations even easier"? What the heck does that mean?

    See, there are words called adjectives. An adjective is the part of speech that modifies (or, describes) a noun. And, as all of us from our generation know, [we] find it quite in-ter-es-ting, a noun's a person, place, or thing.

    Then, there is another set of words which we call adverbs. An adverb is the part of speech that modifies a verb, adjective, or, even, another adverb (how incestuous, I know!).

    Yeah, it can be tough, what with both of them starting with "ad". I understand. But here's a clue: adverb ends in VERB.

    So, back to your ad:

    Easier, my friend, is an adjective. Go on, look it up. So, are you saying that we will find locations that are even easier? What is an easier location? We could spend lots of time discussing what exactly makes an easier location, but it would be a waste of our time, because you know and I know that what you were trying to say was that using your Web interface simplifies the act of searching for a location.

    Here's another clue: If you get your thing in action, you're a VERB.

    Put those two clues together, and do you know what?

    How we find a location necessitates an ADVERB.

    How will we find a FedEx location?

    More easily.

    More easily.

    Even more easily.

    I understand that sometimes, when done adeptly (adv.), a grammatical "twinge" is just the thing for a successful (adj.) ad campaign.

    But this isn't one of those ads. This one is just lazy (adj.).

    01 April 2008

    It's That, or Early-Onset Alzheimers

    I think Trixie has played a series of April Fools jokes on me. It took me 5 minutes to find my keyboard, and I still can't find my pencil cup (full of the pencils I need to do my editing).

    31 March 2008

    Hey You!

    Yeah, you. Mr.* IP #12.210.100.# from Cloquet Minnesota, using Mediacom High Speed Internet:

    You sick sick bastard. Searching** online for "nasty older sister and sl&t friend stretches sister c&nt apart or.gy" [without the ampersands, of course]. You're not welcome here.

    But I'm sure you are thirsty, so before you leave, have this delicious cold drink. That's right, drink it up. It's my special visitor drink. I call it Bleach and Arsenic, Straight Up.

    *Is it sexist of me to assume that it was a male?
    **I don't know what disturbs me more. That someone was searching for this, or that my site came up as sixth*** of 78,100.
    ***This isn't as bad as the first site returned: "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody."

    Urghhh. I need a shower.

    30 March 2008

    How to ... Make Maple Snow Candy

    On Friday, the girls had a snow day. The Consort was down in Boston for a conference. I was zoning out on the couch, letting my body fight the cold as best it could. One of the many joys of having older kids is that when you're not feeling well and they are home from school, you don't have to entertain them. Yahoo!

    Late morning, and the snow was still coming down. "Hey, Mom, can we make maple snow candy?"

    Trixie had recently read A Gathering of Days, and of course we had all read at some point in the past Little House in the Big Woods; both of which describe making snow candy. In fact, ever since I was a little girl and read Martine in Quebec (I couldn't find it online, but I swear there was an episode where she visited Quebec during Winter Carnival!), I had wanted to make snow candy.

    Here we were in New England, during what might very well be the last snowstorm of the season, of the one year we were spending in NE. Of course we should make snow candy! They also thought it would be great to make a "How to" of this.

    Another joy of having older children is that they can do so many things on their own. I now present the joint production of, How to Make Maple Snow Candy.

    1. First, gather your materials: A saucepan, some local maple syrup, and a candy thermometer (optional, but handy).

    2. Then, collect some snow. Originally, the girls put a jelly roll pan (raised edge cookie sheet) out in the snowfall. When Trixie came in and told me the snow was melting on the sheet, I said, "Oh, just put it (the snow-filled cookie sheet) in the freezer (until we're ready to make the candy)." I was unclear, so she thought I meant put just the cookie sheet in the freezer, not the snow and cookie sheet. In the end, the girls went outside and collected snow from an unwalked-on patch.

    3. Pour some syrup in the pan, turn heat to medium, and let it boil, boil, boil. You can let it get to soft ball (240 degrees) or hard ball (260 degrees) stage. We went somewhere in between.

    4. When the syrup is at the right temperature, get the bowls of snow on a flat surface near the stove.

    5. Drizzle the hot syrup over the snow.

    6. It hardens on contact with the snow. Dig in and eat. If the syrup was boiled to soft ball stage, it will be stretchy like caramel. If the syrup was boiled to hard ball stage, it won't stretch as much, but will be sticky in your teeth. Either way, it is tasty.

    It really is so simple. The girls think we should keep this in mind for a winter potluck with our Iowa friends. I think that's a great idea.

    I also like how bubbles were caught in the solidifying candy.


    28 March 2008

    Ess to the Aye to the Enn You Ess

    I'm sorry to have abandoned you this week. I had plans that by today I'd have the next "how to" up. I was being responsible: getting certain projects up and running before I blogged, figuring that if I front-loaded the week with work, then I'd have Thursday and Friday to be free! and creative! and bloggy!

    Instead, yesterday was spent drinking tea, dozing, and doing the dreaded saline snort and spit. Today, the girls have another snow day (!!) and I'm going to try to make up for the sleeplessness of last night.

    It's always a tradeoff during a sinus flare-up: do you remain sleepless because you are so clogged up that you can't breathe and the sinus pressure shrieks you awake, or do you suffer sleeplessness because the pseudoephedrine keeps you jazzed up for hours? Last night, I choose the pseudoephedrine route, so 2:30 a.m. saw me composing long, rambling, confessional blog posts in my head. I kept trying to tell myself to shut up, but I wasn't very good at listening in my zapped state.

    Tonight, for sure, I choose the stuffy route.

    24 March 2008

    Getting Out of a Rut

    We all do it: Get used to something and stop trying alternatives. For example, biscuits. There's the recipe you've been using since you started making biscuits. It's the recipe you showed your kids when they started cooking on their own. It works well (it's the Betty Crocker buttermilk and shortening recipe, after all -- a classic!). Why would you ever look at another recipe?

    Until the lazy day you don't feel like walking over to the cookbook shelf and grabbing the Betty Crocker (so lazy). You flip to the index of the cookbook you're using for a soup recipe. And, look, it's got a biscuit recipe, too. Might as well give it a try.

    Hmmm. This one is made with whole milk (no prob, just mix a little cream in the skim milk) and butter (no shortening? They'll be hard as a rock!). But the author gives you two tips.

    One is, after you place the prepared biscuits on the cookie sheet, stick them in the freezer for 15 minutes or the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then put them in the oven. The secret to flaky biscuits, she says, is cold dough. (Well, that, and handling them as little as possible during the process, as you already know from Betty Crocker.)

    The second is to place the biscuit cookie sheet on a second, empty one when you place the biscuits in the oven. That's the secret to preventing dark bottoms on your biscuits.

    How did they turn out? Fantastic.

    Look at me -- Old dog, new tricks!

    21 March 2008

    How to ... Organize Your Week's Menus

    I've gotten the idea in my head that it would be terribly fun to put together an irregular series of "How to" posts. Heavy on the photos, that way I would have an excuse to purchase a gorillapod be able to combine my blogging with my photo diary. In my head, these are fabulous. I don't know how well they'll translate from brain cell to computer screen, but you have to take risks sometimes in life.

    I don't have a gorillapod yet,Once I get a creative idea, I need to start it right away, before the exuberance dissipates and I'm left with ... nothing. So, consider this the beta version of my new "How to" series.


    We are menu planners. This is for several reasons, including (1) the Consort and I share cooking duties so a written menu helps us get a sense of what the other will be making (this is an imperfect method, however, because unless both cooks actually *look* at the menu, you may end up with pasta two nights in a row, or chard twice in the same week!), (2) we are recipe-followers; there's nothing more stress-inducing than having three-quarters of the ingredients needed for a particular recipe, which is what would happen if we just cooked on the fly, (3) some of us have bad memories, so unless it is written down, he'll forget what he had planned to make and which cookbook it came from, (4) it's an easy way to record what activities are planned for that week, (5) it provides us with a surface on which to record items needed for the subsequent week's shopping trip.

    This menu is proof positive of something I've said for quite a while: I am a one-pot-meal-maker, and the Consort is a multi-dish-dining-experience guy. Fist he made us some buckwheat linguini as well as a celery root soup, but even on his "off" night, his spanakopita included a side of salad! Me? Colcannon (mashed potatoes, sauteed leeks, and kale -- all mixed up together) and cauliflower-macaroni soup. It's gonna be mushed up in your stomach anyway, I just start the process for you.

    Here's a hint as to how to tell whose menu will be made that night: If it includes fruit in it, or beside it, then it is the Consort's meal. This past week, he thought that adding a side of canned mandarin oranges was *just* the thing for a middle-of-the-winter supper. Sometimes, he thinks adding kumquats to a stew is just the right touch. On those nights, Impera and I look at our plates, cringe, then eat our food. Trixie and the Consort, meanwhile, are humming happy tunes as they eat their fruited meal. it takes all kinds.

    As the week progresses, we are less interested in cooking, so we'll have a leftover night or a pasta-and jarred-sauce night. Fridays are typically pizza nights. I don't often write it in, though, because I don't want the girls to hold me to an impossibility. For example: this week I actually made my soup for Wednesday night because on Tuesday my mother-in-law invited us over for Thursday supper. She made pizza, and I *know* that, because the Consort wrote "pizza" under the F, I'm going to hear about it when I announce that we'll actually have pasta tonight. "There's nothing wrong with having pizza two nights in a row! Mom!!!" How much do you want to bet?

    Now that the girls are getting older, and they are adding their requests to the "to buy" section of the menu, I'm enjoying the conversations that take place on the list. Their entries usually include ALL CAPS, BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT US TO MISS THEIR REQUESTS, and exclamation points! because they really! like! the food! they are requesting!!!

    If you click on the picture, you'll be brought to the flickr page, which includes several informational notes about this week's menu.

    20 March 2008

    Happy Ostara!

    Spring equinox, and we've got snow on the ground, sleet in the air, and a winter storm warning until Friday morning.


    I shared the World Sunlight Map back in December, and I don't know if any of you have visited on a regular basis, but go check it out again today. If you recall, during the winter light on the planet looked like a pyramid. Today, it is as close to a straight column as the reflection off a two-dimensional representation of a sphere can be. As the season progresses, it will spread again, this time in the opposite direction, giving us an upside-down pyramid of light.

    I can't describe how amazing I find this daily representation of the trek of the sun. It's my favorite daily Web site.

    19 March 2008

    March 19, 2008

    Today is the Mighty Mighty Blogswarm on ending the war in Iraq.

    I knew I wanted to participate, but I've been worried about what to say, and how to say it. When I rant, I rant, and I didn't know how to strike the right tone -- I didn't want to come across as strident, as I often do on issues like this (I think).

    I did some searching online, and found some very cool ways to get the important messages across. But I didn't want to just regurgitate information put together so much more aptly by others. Well, I will -- at the end -- but this has to be personal, too. So here is what struck me this morning (I'm nothing if not a procrastinator!).

    Remember growing up and saying the pledge of allegiance? Remember following it up with a patriotic song? We'd start the day in school with these rituals; we'd do them at sports events, civic events, town parades, and so on. And I believed everything I sang. Sweet land of liberty. Forever in peace may you wave. Let freedom ring. Oh Beautiful.

    Remember that? Remember the feelings of pride?

    My daughters are ashamed of their country.

    The past five years, the five years in which these girls have matured from little children to independent thinking people, have been filled with death, destruction, and mayhem. All in the name of American Business. The reputation of this country has been torn to shreds by those who care more about their bulging wallets than in the sanctity of human life -- of strangers in foreign countries, and of American men and women, both on the battlefield as well as on "the home front" (our health care is among the worst of the developed world).

    I know what you might be thinking. Of course our daughters would react negatively. The Consort and I disagree with this Administration, we've been against the war since the very beginning, marching and attending candle-light vigils, speaking our truth at home and with friends. But through it all, we've made it clear that it is worth it to fight for the things you care about; it is worth it to fix this country; it is worth it to spend our energy, money, and time to fix this place, rather than take our passports and move away.

    But the girls, when they think of what this country represents, they think of Guantanamo. They think of the selfishness and self-centeredness of people in power and the cronies they support.

    If you had to answer the question, "At this moment, are you proud to be an American?" What would you answer?

    And that I why I think this war in Iraq must end. Because a healthy democracy means the answer to that question should not come after a hesitation, or involve qualifications ("Well, I'm glad that our country isn't Kenya"*).


    And now, on to some links.

    The New York Times asked its journalists and photographers in Iraq to share their feelings on this fifth anniversary.

    Here is how much money we have spent in Iraq so far:

    Click here to learn more, including how much it has cost your state.

    Also, the American Friends (aka Quakers) make some kick-ass videos. Watch this one:

    *This was Impera's answer when the Consort asked her the question.

    18 March 2008

    What I Made Yesterday

    My Irish Soda Bread recipe.

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 1.5 quart round baking dish.

    2 c. unbleached white flour
    1/2 c. whole wheat flour
    1/2 c. wheat germ
    1/2 c. sugar
    3/4 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. baking soda

    Rub in:
    4 Tbsp. butter, cut into bits

    Stir in:
    1 c. raisins
    2 Tbsp. caraway seeds

    1-1.25 c. buttermilk or yogurt

    Mix until combined. Turn out onto counter and knead for 1 minute (the dough is a bit sticky). Plop into prepared baking dish. Cut an X on the top. Brush the top with milk.

    Bake for 55-60 minutes. Remove from baking dish and let cool completely on wire rack. (If you let it do the last bit of cooling in a plastic bag, the crust will be softer and easier to slice.)

    14 March 2008

    The Blogger Clutches Her Chest,

    ...falls to the floor, and begins to gasp. She reaches out a hand to someone off-stage, her eyes pleading. "Susan," she whispers, "Have pity! I thought ... I thought we were friends--" But no sympathy is forthcoming. The blogger's spirit has been crushed. Crushed! I tell you. Oh, woe to us. Oh, woe! Woe! Woe!

    Blogs spew forth, in largely unedited form, the observations of people who are often unable to express themselves coherently in writing and are as inept at the virtual conversational skills required for online exchanges as they must be at face-to-face communication.

    --Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason

    12 March 2008

    Update on Those Donuts

    Here is Three of Four’s report on the donut experiment:

    I got up early Sunday to get the dough going, so that it had time to rise before the whole house got going and started grumbling about food. [Ed. note: Of course, the original recipe gives suggestions for how to prepare these the night before, but clearly only oldest sisters read a recipe all the way through!] I was careful to invoke my inner donut-maker, chanting "Time to make the donuts" repeatedly on my way to the kitchen. I stopped short of wearing the funny paper hat, though.

    The dough was easy to make and I didn't need to make any adjustments to the recipe. Halfway through the rise, we ended up transporting the whole operation to [Split Sister]’s house. (This was a stroke of genius on [my darling spouse]’s part: if he was going to be our recipe guinea pig, he wasn't going to go down alone!)

    At [Split Sister]’s place, we rolled, cut and prepped the donuts for baking. We had to scale back the second rising period a little bit (or we would not have had time to eat the donuts before we had to head out for an afternoon hockey game), but this didn't seem to have too much of an adverse affect on the end product. We made two trays of donuts and one tray of donut holes.

    They baked perfectly according to the recipe -- 8-9 minutes to achieve a golden bottom (5 minutes for the donut holes). The recipe author is correct, they are really best when still piping hot! Yum! The kids loved them.

    The donuts were denser than I'd anticipated. I expected something like a light cake; these were more like sweet bagels in texture. The downside is that about five minutes after one donut, there is a very heavy, full feeling that spreads through your stomach. I will definitely be making them again, but probably only munchkin/donut holes. It's easier to control intake that way. The upside to their heaviness is that we made it through an entire hockey game without one person whining that they were hungry. Given the cost of concession foods, that probably saved us at least $20.

    [Split Sister] took pictures & should be sharing them later today. [Ed. Note: Never received any photos. I got bored of waiting and decided to post this anyway.]

    Thank you to the Washington, DC, contingent for being the guinea pigs on this experiment. Now I won't have the urge to make these; I can live vicariously through your experience. With all that brain room free, I can obsess over this, instead!

    10 March 2008

    Currently Knitting

    Anemoi mittens.

    Named for the Greek wind gods. I'll probably call these Boreas and Eurus, seeing as these are mittens!

    I've put aside the Noro sock yarn; thanks to Cate, I have a better idea of what to make with that, and I will get to work on that after these mittens are done. Despite the shoulder-pain hiatus, I think I'll be able to have these finished before the cold weather is over (famous last words, I know). I made significant progress this weekend, although my shoulder and elbow/wrist would "pop" repeatedly when I would switch the working yarn (as you can tell from the color changes, that happens quite often in this pattern). Darn, I hate aging bodies.

    Blocking should even out this stitch pattern. At least, I hope so!

    After this project, I think I'm going to force myself to learn Continental knitting (that means holding the yarn in the left hand). My godmother taught me English knitting (holding the yarn -- you guessed it -- in my right hand), but I think I have to take drastic measures to relieve my right side of its dominance. I expect to be able to use both arms for many more years, but the strain of being so right-dominant may be putting that expectation at risk.

    This probably means for a while my knitting results will be sloppy (although, I'm not a knitting perfectionist by any means, so perhaps the difference in quality won't be so obvious to anyone else!)

    We shall see.

    07 March 2008

    Banking Tip of the Day

    The redder the tie, the bigger the bullshit severance package.

    Photo via the New York Times. Entire article here.

    05 March 2008

    Why Oh Why?

    Do I always come across links like this? And I wasn't even searching for this kind of thing. I was passing through one of my daily reads (which isn't one of my food reads).


    I'm going to try to resist it. I am!

    I would like to share something better with all of you:

    Lemongrass Quinoa Pilaf. Follow the link for the directions.