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 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.

04 March 2008

Note to Memoirists: DON'T LIE!

Did you all hear about this? Gang Memoir is Pure Fiction. I read the article last night. I had some outbursts of indignation as I read it, so I'll reproduce them here with you. (You can open the article and go along with me. It'll be like we're at the breakfast table together and I keep interrupting your reading with another snippet from my reading.)

In “Love and Consequences,” a critically acclaimed memoir published last week— Critically acclaimed? It's only been published one week! Let's wait a bit before labeling a book critically acclaimed, OK?

Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore., where she currently lives.—A book tour? Didn't the author ever consider the issue that her persona was a half-Native American woman, and she's 100% white?

The revelations of Ms. Seltzer’s mendacity came in the wake of the news last week that a Holocaust memoir, “Misha: A MĂ©moire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha Defonseca, was a fake, and perhaps more notoriously, two years ago James Frey, the author of a best-selling memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” admitted that he had made up or exaggerated details in his account of his drug addiction and recovery.—Publishers' take home message: Don't publish memoirs any more. Or at least, do a little background checking, eh?

Ms. Seltzer’s story started unraveling last Thursday after she was profiled in the House & Home section of The New York Times. The article appeared alongside a photograph of Ms. Seltzer and her 8-year-old daughter, Rya. Ms. Seltzer’s older sister, Cyndi Hoffman, saw the article and called Riverhead to tell editors that Ms. Seltzer’s story was untrue.—Oooh. She must have done some pretty nasty stuff to her older sister when she was a kid. Three of Four, Split Sister, and Cowgirl: take note! (Although I wouldn't call the publisher, I would have called my sister and we would have had a little chat about the importance of literary honesty.)

[The editor in charge of the project said,] “It’s very upsetting to us because we spent so much time with this person and we felt such sympathy for her and she would talk about how she didn’t have any money or any heat and we completely bought into that and thought we were doing something good by bringing her story to light,” Ms. McGrath said.

“There’s a huge personal betrayal here as well as a professional one,” she said.
—See comment above. Also: Maybe visit this person at least once during the three-year writing process, huh? (Three years!!)

Ms. Seltzer added that she wrote the book “sitting at the Starbucks” in South-Central, where “I would talk to kids who were Black Panthers and kids who were gang members and kids who were not.—Ummm, color me naive; and even, color me steeped with stereotypes, but, Starbucks? Really? That's where "the Back Panthers" (are they still active nowadays?) hang out? So, like, a Mr. T-style boss goes around saying, "Don't give me no jive talk. When I want a coffee, I want a five-dollar venti half-caf caramel macchiato, skinny, no whip, from Starbucks! Don't you go to the MickeyD's drive thru, boy! Get your ass over to the Starbucks!"

RANDOM SEGUE: I don't think I have mentioned these here before, but World of Warcraft recently created two commercials. One of them features Mr. T. I love Mr. T! This is a great commercial. Check it out if you haven't seen it yet. (The other one has William Shatner. Good, too. Just not as good as the Mr. T one.)