Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ceviche! Acidic Fish and Romantic Compatibility

Last night the Mister and I ate fish and mixed seafood ceviche at Ceviche House in Warr Acres (NW side of Oklahoma City).  Ceviche components can vary greatly, but it is typically a South American preparation of fish "cooked" in the acid of lime juice.  I use it as an example of denaturing proteins with changes in pH (rather than heat) every semester in my intro classes and I receive blank stares.  Last night the ceviche was very "bright", almost overwhelmingly so, and quite tasty.  The Mister's big dish of fish ended up being a bit too much of one thing; the soft texture of the fish calls for some contrast, which was provided by shrimp, mussels, calamari, corn nuts and some hominy on my plate.  A different use of acid than anything in my daily life.
We'd been talking about eating ceviche since I started acid year.  Last night seemed like a great opportunity because we had a babysitter and were heading into "the City" for a knife skills class, but as of 5:30, we thought we had been thwarted, again, and were happily eating Thai food next door to the closed Peruvian place.  The Mister inexplicably rushed us through the Thai meal and as we were pulling out of the strip mall, we simultaneously realized that he was under the impression that our class was starting a half hour earlier than it was and the ceviche restaurant was now open.  So we parked and had second dinner immediately after first.
That this is a fairly mundane story reflects how well-suited the Mister and I are for each other.  Most of my readers nodded through the previous paragraph and found nothing particularly unusual about us driving an hour and a half each way to take a knife skills class, eating highly-seasoned ethnic food, or calmly turning a miscommunication into a chance for bonus food. 
I'm aware that in the world at large, this combination might not be exactly normal.
Thanks to the Mister for sharing spicy brightness with me wherever we can find it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Double Vinegar Could Choke A Man

Watching Top Chef last night, the Mister and I downed two shots of vinegar based on comments about acid and brightness from the judges.  I started with the very nice balsamic, which is smooth sweet and sipable.  The Mister started with the Spanish red wine vinegar.  He had hardly recovered when he had to take a shot of the sherry vinegar.  It's a good thing that we didn't need to drink every time balance (of which acid is a big component) was mentioned-- we would have ventured to the ume plum, black Chinese or coconut vinegar and the Mister might still look slapped and out of breath.
Next up on acid investigation: in cooking, differences between tart, acidic, citrus, sour and bitter.
When Gail suggests that I dish really needs acid, I don't think it's straight pH that she is talking about.  Pepsi is as acidic as most vinegar, but I don't think that's what she means when something needs a little acid.
How do you use these words when discussing food?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Next Week on Top Chef: The Vinegar Drinking Game

 Next week (or whenever we get around to watching it), the Mister and I will be watching "Top Chef" and doing a shot of vinegar every time Gail Simmons mentions acid; be it for brightness, for contrast, for balance, or just because a dish needed it.
Yep, that's what wild and crazy professor parents with a selection 18 vinegars do on a Thursday night.
Join us if you dare.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Old People Acids?

I am well pleased to be (mostly) out of the topical salicyclic acid (and benzoyl peroxide) phase of my life.  While they rear their nasty little heads (pun intended) every now and again, zits are not something causing me great concern on a regular basis.  Nor, frankly, are wrinkles.
But as winter approaches and my skin seems to tighten around, it occurs to me that maybe wrinkles, and avoidance of future wrinkles, should be causing me a bit more concern.
Maybe I should be applying some miracle cream.
Heck, maybe there's an acid for that.
So, two questions.  1) Do you have any acids in your "beauty regime" (glycolic, alpha hydroxy, GABA, lipoic, others)?  2) Do you have any other grown-up products I should know about?
(For instance, I recently tried a beauty balm [BB!] and loved it (between a tinted moisturizer and regular foundation), I've started using "primers" around my eyes, and my gel manicure for New York really did last 3 weeks [but nobody told me I would never be able to remove it]).
I think I'll definitely need an acid facial before the end of the acid year and other suggestions will be taken under consideration.

Monday, November 26, 2012

STIR up some ghosts

New: We're going to be reading "A Christmas Carol" for the December STIR.  Like many of you, I have seen many productions of this, but I am not sure if I have actually read the original Charles Dickens text.  So, let's read and discuss.  Sure, I know we're in the midst of holiday craziness and finals time but A Christmas Carol* is short, it is timely, it is good, and it is widely available for free (including on several forms through Project Gutenberg here).  Grab, borrow, or download yourself a copy and we'll start discussing on Dec. 20th.

Newish:  We're going to be reading Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God for January at the request of one of my students who wants to discuss.

Sorta Random: Has anyone made vinegar, sauerkraut or kimchee?

Old: I had the good fortune to see Janet and skype with Brenda recently.  Janet and I discussed July's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and concluded that Tom Wolfe was fantastic at re-creating the scene, but that we were overall satisfied to be done with that scene (both in the book and satisfied that it wasn't part of our life).  Brenda and I each had issues with verisimilitude in Diary of Marie Landry.  The book is allegedly the diary of a 14-year old.  I didn't believe that her English would be quite that good and thought that the diary device was overall unnecessary.  Brenda didn't believe that Marie would whine so little and be so repentant when she did whine.  Brenda was also waiting for some sexual tension or growing up issues.

*Novel or short story?  To italicize or quote?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Young Punks with Personality

Technically, Aster's Halloween costume was the same as Dianthus's two years ago.  But, "yet another young punk" is not like any other "another young punk" (Aster, for instance, plays Elmo guitar with his knees, mostly because he walks room to room on his knees; Dianthus was more conventional [and had far less hair and far fewer teeth]).

Dianthus decided months ago that he was going to be a firefighter for Halloween.  He also determined I was going to be a witch (I always am), the Mister was to be a pirate (?) and Aster a train conductor.  He was disappointed at first with Aster's costume, but by the time we were trick or treating, it was with obvious pride that he announced.  "I'm a firefighter.  My baby is a rock star."
Here's Aster as a black cat in 2009 and both boys last year, should you need any convincing that young people change quickly.

Nostalgia


When you wait 5 months to post cute pictures, there's time for the pain of a roomful of paper scrapes to fade. 
Sometimes I reminisce fondly about the days when they were almost one and almost three.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New STIR: Diary of Marie Landry

If you've been thinking, "Gee, I would really like to read a short new YA historical novel about the plight of the Acadians after being kicked out of Nova Scotia written by A woman from New Orleans with some connection to the University of Lome in Togo," now's your chance.  If you haven't been thinking that, here's your chance to think that and then read and discuss it.
The new STIR selection is The Diary of Marie Landry: Acadian Exile by Stacy Demoran Albritton.  Brenda, who lives in Lome, Togo, is the selector of this work, based on some connection to the author or illustrator or translator (I'll admit I've forgotten).
The book is short, moving and an easy-read.  Neither the writing nor the story is fantastic; it feels a bit like reading a junior high "history made personal" assignment, but altogether it is solid.
I think both mothers would enjoy it, as well as Beth as many others.
Please join us!
Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God it is on for January if I can find someone to read it with me (I'm reading it because one of my students couldn't put it down, but very much wants to discuss) and I think we'll do A Christmas Carol later in December.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Some things make me smile

Putting his 14 teeth to good use

Little Black Boots

 After purchasing five pairs of nearly identical black mary janes with a heel on-line (you might ask why someone with hard to fit feet would purchase shoes on-line, but then you might not fully fathom how very few size 11 narrow shoes one can find in a small town in rural Oklahoma), I ended up taking a pair of black suede ankle boots I've owned for years with me to New York.  My taller black boots with heels would have looked better, but then I would have had no room to bring home the jar of granola from Eleven Madison Park in my carry-on luggage.
Purple socks and steel grey tights with just a bit of shimmer
 I wore my flow-y bias cut dress to the opera and loved it.  If I looked terribly 1999 I didn't know it because 1) I don't exactly recall this sort of dress ever being really in and 2) it was the opera in New York City.  The opera is full of rich people, artsy-types and tourists; if they could agree as to what is in style, they certainly all wouldn't want to wear it.  After trying on several wrap and jacket options, I went with the terribly expensive piece of two-toned silk I bought to wear with this dress years ago.  Definitely not following any trend, but it makes me feel opulent.  The Mister looked dashing on the quintessential autumn evening.
Yes, that is Curious George tie.
 The next day I wore black pants, a drape-y gray top and black lace-ups to the four hour lunch. I wore a long black skirt and a black silk top to the theater, while the Mister lost the tie, but looked largely the same.
"Enough about what you wore, what did you see?"  you may be thinking.  Well, we saw Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, which was fabulous (and I only fell asleep for a little while in the third act).  The puppet show was War Horse, which was also fabulous, and the puppetry really amazing.  The skill it takes for three (completely visible) people to work together to so convincingly animate a horse puppet is quite something to behold.  And we saw the prairie turnips at the American Museum of Natural History, of course.

Major tourist site checked off!

 As to what we ate, well I will leave you in a cloud of suspense until I have time to blog again.

Friday, October 26, 2012

For Goodness Snakes

This is not going to be one of those blogs inundating you with the cute things my kids say.  (How could it be?  At once a week, it could never be inundation.)  I even resisted summer 2011 when Dianthus, fascinated by trucks and having a hard time with first syllables and consonant blends, shouted "-UCK" every time he saw a truck.  Firetrucks were especially amusing (Fer-UCK!) and the one time he ran to the window shouting "Mu-her frUCK" I was baffled until I saw the trucks with the lawn mowers parked across the street.
But this week, at dinner, he's been determined, with an exasperated sigh, to chastise us repeatedly, "For goodness snakes, Mommy,"  and I find it even more worth sharing than, "Dora's fascist."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Good Enough for Centennial in 1989, Good Enough for NYC

So the Mister and I are headed to NYC next week to eat and attend the opera and a puppet show in celebration of his birthday.  After lots of reading message boards and asking for advice on Chowhounds, (and spending a long time on hold exactly 28 days in advance) we have reservations at Eleven Madison Park for lunch on Friday and reservations at a newly re-opened Picholine for great cheese (and more) before seeing Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday and I have a pretty good idea of how were going to fill our time.
Now I need to figure out what to wear.
We're only going to be there 50 hours, so we're carrying on our luggage.  I need to wear comfortable shoes; we'll be walking and taking public transportation.  The Mister will probably wear a jacket on the plane.

But what am I wearing?  Advise please!  There is some temptation to just wear black pants the whole time and be done with it, except that it's the opera at the Met.  I'm thinking Cher in Moonstruck.  I want a dress.  And while The Mister fondly looks at me as we trade food at what will certainly be the first, and may likely be the only, 3 star Michelin lunch of our lives, I want to look seductive and beautiful, but not in the opera-going-dress way, and in a way that involves footwear in-which I can whisk through an art museum.

Suggestions?  What would you take?  How many pairs of shoes do you travel with?

By the way, I'm not buying anything new for this trip, so things must be found in my closet.  One thought was a turquise rayon trapeze shirt with giant buttons which looks fabulous on me, and could go with my long straight black skirt, my swishy knee-length black skirt or black pants.  As it happens, I took out the shoulder pads and 1989 is so long ago that nobody thinks that I really wore it on my first date with my college boyfriend.

Sunday Sundae

Is this weekend.  Let me know if you'll be in Western Oklahoma and I'll reserve a banana split glass for you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why My Sweet Acidic Pie is Better than Yours*

The Mister turned 40 last week and, having no baking time to attempt a Lord Baltimore follow up to last year's Lady Baltimore Cake (pictured here), I baked him a key lime pie.
The Mister's parents were in town to enjoy the key lime pie with us and MiL commented that I bake a really good key lime pie.
I do.  (False modesty is not my thing).
Which started me wondering, "Why is my key lime pie better than many others, when I follow the very basic egg yolks, lime juice, sweetened condensed milk in a graham cracker crust recipe?"
Since this is acid year and since we did not go into "the city" for ceviche as planned, so I can't write about that, I'll share my key lime thoughts here.
  1.  I don't add anything to lighten or stabilize. Key lime pie is not chiffon pie.
  2. I squeeze real limes (and, in this case, 14 itty-bitty key limes)
  3. I don't add anything to make it green.  Key Lime pie should be a pale yellow.
  4. This year I used good local eggs.
  5. I make my own graham cracker crust and use real butter in it.
  6. I pay close attention to the directions and whip the yolks until the color change happens before adding other ingredients.
  7. I whip cream for the topping and let eaters choose how much they want to add (although my whipped cream needed a bit more sugar and vanilla this year-- I experimented with a little coconut rum in the whipped cream and the result was inferior to the classic).
Hmm, maybe there is something to that mantra from the cooking shows I watch:  simple recipes require good ingredients and attention to detail.
And acid balances sweet and crunchy balances creamy.

*Probably not yours, because you probably don't make key lime pie or you follow the same recipe that I do.  But mine is definitely better than somebody's is.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is there ever a wrong time?

It's not been an easy semester so far.  I've had incapacitating back issues, sick kids, sick spouse and a case of severe crankiness.  Admittedly, it's been easier than the previous three semesters, and I have it much easier than many of my friends who are facing real health and job issues, but knowing it could be worse doesn't actually make giant stacks of ungraded papers go away any faster.
Last week (or rather two weeks ago now, but it feels like just last week), was particularly frenetic with a house guest following a week of sick toddler (like sleeping with Darth Vader punctuated by seals mating) and sick babysitter/housecleaning helper.

And then a colleague down the hall told me that I was really "slimming nicely".  Then my guest, my graduate advisor, traded compliments about me with my current bosses.  It felt a bit like he was fishing for them, but I became convinced that everyone was sincere, if not normally so forthcoming about my positive attributes.  My students told me what a great speaker my advisor was, one going so far as to thank me for bringing him. My peer reviewer thought nutrition labels were an excellent addition to biological molecule discussions.  And one of my neighbors spontaneously told me how much his family loves my giant sunflower patch and "wild" flower garden.

Things were much better.

Amazing the benefit of a compliment at just the right time.

Which, reminds me, have I told you how good you are looking these days?  That I love the way you laugh when you read things I write?  That you're a great friend (or odd random reader) and I really appreciate having you in my life?
You are and I do.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

American Cities in Film-- Suggestions?

I'm taking the Mister to "Houston"* for his 40th birthday, except that it's not really Houston. I've planned to reveal the actual destination on his birthday and then have a series of "Houston" themed movie nights prior to actual going in October.  This is highly unlikely to happen, because, well, we've managed to watch two or three movies here in the last six months.
So I need to get  my enjoyment from planning and discussing movies rather than actually watching them.  Of course, discussing would mean revealing.
So, we're going to discuss movies that feature American cities.  The movies don't need to be about the cities, or necessarily very good, but be set there enough that you think, "Oh, this is where X happened."
I think of "Adventures in Babysitting" when I see the Chicago skyline.  I want to go to art museums in Los Angeles because of "L.A. Story".   Except we won't be watching those particular films because we're not going to L.A. or Chicago.
We're going to either San Francisco, New York, Houston, Cleveland, New Orleans or Boston.  Or maybe D.C.
What are your favorite movies set in these cities?

*Thanks to Janet for the actual Houston suggestions.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Raising the Bar and Drifting Apart


My Father is drifting away from My Mother

Only a few days into their month long anniversary trip, my mother took a picture of my father drifting away from her.  My father e-mailed it to me with a similar caption and I'm posting it here**, because they were in Iceland, at the very spot on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where on can see North America separating from Eurasia at about 3 mm per year.  When you are in Iceland, a geologist, and a fan of puns, taking and captioning such a photo is what you do.  When you are a nerdy daughter of a geologist who also likes puns, blogging longingly about it is what you do.
I mean, how much more romantic can you get?


Iceland!  Drizzle! Imperceptible geologic event!

Regular readers of this space will not even need to know that it's 102 degrees here to realize I'm only mocking myself: I would love to be in Iceland in the drizzle looking at weird rocks with The Mister.

I'm planning a getaway trip to "Houston"* with the Mister for his 40th birthday.  We're going to eat good food, see a puppet show, eat some more and probably see a garden or some art, because that's what we do if we're not looking at weird geologic formations or engineering marvels.  I think he's looking forward to it, but has already commented on his apprehension about what this means for future expectations.  Perhaps, he notes, I am raising the bar on birthdays.


Alas, Mister, I was not the one who took me to Paris for the weekend when we'd been dating for 6 months.  I was not the one who made (birthday or anniversary related) "dose of coast" trips every year it was possible.  I'm not the one who planned a fabulous honeymoon with me to see weird rocks in cold conditions on Newfoundland.  I'm not the one who's been married for 45 years to a great travelling companion who sends maps and menus for kids and in-laws to follow.  I'm not even the one who made a birthday getaway to Wichita exquisite with trips to the botanical gardens, art museum, and prairie arboretum in addition to scheduled movie and dinner.

The bar is high for birthdays and travel, but it wasn't me (or at least not just me) who put it there.

*It may not be Houston; actual destination is a secret.

**And I had rotated it already!  How did it end up sideways?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

STIR Next?

Compared to 2011, I've done a very poor job of organizing STIR this year.   Good books have been read (The City and the Mountains, The Hunger Games, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest [albeit not read by me] and The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test) and interesting discussions have been had (Janet, I am really going to call you because we have lots of say about E. Kool Aid), but I didn't formalize a schedule and I didn't contact an up-and-coming writing to join the discussion.  And I've completely forgotten who wanted to be the next selecters.
Let me know if it was you, or if it wasn't you but you want it to be you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How book bloggers enhance Heat Wave

The actual text of Richard Castle's Heat Wave is a pretty standard light police dectective-centric murder mystery.  Someone dies, attractive female detective is on the case, gets threatened herself, most clues are red herrings, and the murderer is eventually confronted and the attractive female detective prevails.
My experience reading Heat Wave last week was greatly enhanced by three things:
1) I have watched Castle, the TV show (for two episodes, and my mother keeps me updated).
2) I read blogs about books that occasionally contemplate things like voice and notice conceits of novelists whose fictional characters write their books (see, for instance, a discussion here on Wuthering Expectations about Fitzgerald's author-character, Nick Carraway, who wrote The Great Gatsby or the posts about Ferdinand Pessoa, who created at least three poet personas that wrote very different types of poetry)
3) Richard Castle wrote a personal note to The Mister on the cover page of the copy I read.

Richard Castle* is a character on the TV show Castle.  He is a mystery writer in NYC who follows Beckett, a female detective, around.  (He's also played by Nathan Fillion, a big plus in my estimation).  Beckett is continually annoyed by the presence of Castle, but is very attracted to him.  Heat Wave was one of his big breakthrough books.
So I knew going in to Heat Wave that the book was the shlocky product of a tv character.  I did not know that Heat Wave was a barely fictionalized account of the relationship between Beckett and Castle (cleverly disguised as "Rook").  This allows the book to be far cheesier, and far more fun, than an average detective novel, because Heat Wave is Castle's fantasy of his life and relationship with Beckett.  Rook, a pulitzer prize winning journalist, not a pulp novelist like Castle, has stamina and powers of attraction Castle could never muster.  Castle's mother is an over-bearing soap-opera diva; Rook's mother has several Tonys.  I can imagine Castle trying to use the book to impress Beckett.  And Beckett muttering, "Oh please" and walking away.
Except, of course, that Castle and Beckett are themselves creations of some writer.  And one doesn't know who actually wrote Heat Wave (I think Nathan did the book tour).  Perhaps the same person who wrote his very complete wikipedia bio?  

Altogether, silly fun made more fun by admiring the circularity of the invention.  By the way, MiL and FiL, I think you'd like Castle.
*Also the name of The Mister's father-in-law, who, as it happens, gave him the book for Christmas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bacteria Good: Tripping Bad

 As I've previously mentioned, sometimes the universe shouts a message to me through sheer repetition (I'm sure many political advertisers shout through repeition as well, if only I lived in a contested state and watched television).
From reading The Elecric Kool-Aid Acid Test and dooce.com, being awakened by my children, and from looking at photos of celebrity fashion "don'ts", it is clear to me that I should never do acid*.  Heather Armstrong of Dooce likened the experience of child-caused-sleep deprivation to an acid trip (although, like me, she has no first hand experience with the latter) which concurs with Tom Wolfe's description.  It makes me wonder why anybody would ever intentionally enter that state, especially knowing that it could sneak up on them unawares later in life.  Message received, universe.  I'll stay away from those guys hanging out around the playground and their stickers**.
When The Wall Street Journal, Parents Magazine, Conservation Magazine, Best Science Writing 2011, and The Art of Fermentation all, within a week, instruct that bacteria can be beneficial, how could I ignore the message?  I must surely breast feed my baby, allow my children to get dirty, refrain from germaphobic sanitizing, and not take antibiotics uncessesarily.  Okay, I already do all of those things.  Why is the universe telling me this now?
Maybe the prompter the universe hired to give me personal messages is on vacation and we're into reruns for August?

By the way, Janet and I are discussing lots about Electric Kool Aid.  If you read it and want to join us, please let me know.

*Even though my attractiveness went way up to a friend of a friend when he learned I'm into acid this year and plummeted when he learned that it's "not that kind of acid".

**Was anyone else instructed in elementary school to stay away from unknown adults encouraging you to lick stickers because they might have LSD on them?  I was.  The Mister thinks this is crazy.  He does have a point.  While I know that LSD can make people do weird things, I'm pretty sure going a long way out of the way to give away acid to third graders was not high on most of their lists.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

But who's counting?



Dianthus is not impressed by Long's Peak.
This summer prairie dog crossed the Continental Divide at least six times.  In one day in Rocky Mountain National Park we saw 5 moose, 6 elk, about 15 big horn sheep, a few deer, 5 marmots and some chipmunks and ground squirrels.  Aster turned one.  Dianthus turned three.  Aster's first three molars made their way into his mouth (making them tooth 9, 10 and 11).  Aster and Dianthus each had their hair cut.  Dianthus rode free gondolas six times and also rode a mountain bus, a city bus, two miniature trains and one commuter train.  In the last two weeks, 11 shots were divided among the five household members (cat is included).  Mean 11/5.  Mode 0.  Median 2.  How many shots did each family member receive?
Moose!






Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why I Can't Write Food Fiction: A Vinegar Example

As mentioned below, I want to write fiction and write about food.  At first glance it appears I have what it takes: passion for food and writing; an awareness of detail, an inherited talent for spinning stories*, and the ability to construct good sentences; but something is seriously missing, both at the palate and the pen end of things.
Take vinegar, for example.  I've wanted to write about vinegar for acid year for months.  I have a collection of 16 vinegars in my house: white, industrial cider, Canadian artisanal cider, coconut, champagne, sherry, opal basil, rice, black Chinese, ume plum, red wine (Rioja), malt, lesser expensive balsamic, really nice balsamic and Spanish white wine.  I have tasted and used all of these except the ume plum and coconut (both of which, to the uninitiated me, just taste sharp and nasty).  The really nice balsamic can actually be sipped as an aperitif and is smoother and sweeter than the big bottle of balsamic. The sherry is my favorite for most things: bracing and tart but complex, smooth, and not the least bit like cleaning solution or old wine.  Artisanal cider vinegar is nothing like Heinz cider and Heinz cider tastes more apple-y and real (less like industrial cleaning solution) than the Walmart Great Value brand which is useful to know, if one is going to try to drink a spoonful of vinegar before each meal as a dietary tonic.  They all taste different and they all taste acidic.

Yep, that's about the best I can do.  Months of working with these vinegars and thinking about them and how I should blog about them and what do I come up with?  A list.

Something is missing from the great food (or fiction) writer I would like to be.  Let's hope it is just time.

*some might call a high BS factor.  It permeates both of my parents' families.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I want to write food fiction

Author's Note: This was first written on July 15.

Last night the Mister and I took my mother, father, brother and sister-in-law to a dinner sponsored by Slow Food Denver featuring dishes highlighting grass-fed Colorado cheese (mostly from Windsor Dairy) and paired with Colorado wines (and, for one course, beer).  Chef Michael managed to include lots of other local products, sweet corn from Brighton in the cold corn chowder with the mini-grilled cheese (with Fat Tire Sunshine Wheat), grilled Denver peaches gleaned from residential street trees with the Haystack Mountain fresh chevre over fresh greens, Boulder bison, St. Lois Valley quinoa, . . .
Preparing to attend Slow Foods Dinner
I bought the tickets at a silent auction during the Society of Ethnobiology conference I attended in Denver in April and was a little nervous about attending a function at a giant private house in the foothills, knowing nothing about the "typical" attendee at such an event.  Fortunately, slow food brings out friendly sorts and my parents can talk with anyone about wine and cheese.  Well. let's face it, my mother can talk to most anyone about anything, and by the time the ricotta mousse with sand plum sauce came around, she had invitations to a harvest party at a Pallisade winery from one woman at our table, and over Chocolove chocolates and Evergreen Winery port on the patio (made from Norton grapes and as complex at the dinner as it is at the winery [which is somehow much better than when one buys a bottle and brings it home and it just tastes syrupy]), she set up play dates for my nieces in Germany.  I learned a great deal about what's being produced on the front range and all together it was a was a lovely evening with good food and good company.

Except it didn't happen.  The whole Slow Foods dinner was a ruse to get my parents to a friends' house for a surprise anniversary party*.  They were surprised.  Sixty four people showed up to wish them well and drink wine.  It was a lovely evening with good food and good wine.

A few friends are disbelieving that there never was a Slow Foods event, or that I envisioned this much detail into the event (these friends apparently don't receive my April Fools e-mails).  But my parents are like me.  We like anticipation.  I knew that they would look up Windsor Diary after I started talking to them about it.  I printed directions to a specific house (I found it on Zillow-- it was for sale for 1.9 million) that was just the right location (in the foothills, giant, 20 minutes from the friend who was going to babysit) because I doubted my father would head to any event without directions.  Of course, I didn't reveal all of this detail.  I was spinning a story.  Authors sometimes need to know their characters breakfast choices.  Readers rarely do.  I want to write food fiction.

Happy Anniversary (in a few weeks) Mom and Dad.  I'm glad you married each other.  Thanks to everyone for making a great event.

*Hint, if you want a surprise party to be a surprise, throw it at a time removed from a big event.  My father did not see his surprise 43rd birthday party coming.  My mother was a little taken-aback at her surprise 50th birthday party, because, well, her birthday was in June and the party was at the end of August.  Similarly, Mom and Dad did not expect a 45th anniversary party a month and a half before their anniversary (and, as it happens, I would have thrown the party this year had it been 44 or 46 . . . it was that my family and my brother's family were both in town). 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Long Weekend

Ahhh.  Monday morning.  Finally.  I thought the weekend would never end.
Someday, I am sure, on a Monday I will again lament how quickly two days can pass by.  [Actually, I am sure that will happen as I walk into my Monday morning lecture every Monday for the rest of my working life, but let's leave underprepared lectures aside for the moment.]  But somehow I don't see that someday coming until at least one child is potty trained, or both children have full sets of teeth, or ragweed is not blooming, or both children sleep all night in their own beds, or daytime highs are under 100, or we have friends with whom to play, or some auspicious combination of the above.
Someday I'll look at Dianthus and Aster and the Mister on Friday afternoon and think about the great possibilities of two days to spend together.
But probably not in August while they are 1 and 3 and 39.
For now, I'll just savor Monday morning.

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Lactic acid is a foodies' new BFF"

So read the subhead of a July 14 Denver Post article.  Fermented food is apparently making a "big bubble" on the scene.  I had no idea I was so with it.
The Mister and I gleaned from the article that we needed the book it kept referencing, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, as this year's anniversary present.  We ordered it to arrive at our house just as we did (yesterday).  So now we are home and contemplating the romance of starting a big batch of anniversary Kraut-Chi or some back-to-school noni or smekra in the 110 degree heat.  The book is hefty, so in the right light I suppose it could be considered a desk set (because it's certainly not copper, wool or brass).
We also ate some fabulous meals while on the road, and stayed two different nights in hotels away from our kids, so instructions for promoting beneficial bacteria are not the only way we celebrated, just the most amusing.
I'll keep you posted on acidification results.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

One year and ten teeth

And the bit of hair was chopped off so he can't have quite the mohawk any more.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Alloy anniversary

As of yesterday, the Mister and I have been married for seven years.  Despite many recommendations from the gift industry, we did not buy each other desk sets to commenerate the day.
(The desk set anniversary?  Really?)
We decided earlier in the year that we are going to buy an interesting kitchen item for our anniversary each year, but didn't decide if we are going to buy a new one or count the mandoline he purchased early in the spring.  Maybe 7 years is the "Broken Cuisinart Lid Replacement" anniversary.
We are such romantics!
And speaking of romance, one of the reasons The Mister is right for me is that he deliberately mows around interesting weeds in the lawn [photos of cool volunteers towering over ugly lawn intended to go here, but we're traveling and the technology is not obviously compatible at the moment].  Another is that even though we are going out for a special meal tonight, it's my birthday meal, so we're going out for a different meal for our anniversary while in Denver in two weeks.  Yet another is that he is apparently the only person in the world who can pour Dianthus's juice correctly, and he does it.  Everyday.  Multiple times a day.
And speaking of romance, the Mister jokingly asked when the "brass anniversary" is.  There are two different bronze anniversaries, but finding brass takes some doing.
Somebody says it's seven.
Happy Brass Mister.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A little acid to brighten up STIR

The thing about acid is that, in the right dose, it can brighten up any dish.

My summer reading needs a bit of brightening.  I carried One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,  the May/June STIR book around for weeks.  I finally sat down to read it.  I managed five pages before deciding it was too depressing for me now (that statement may cause my  Brother in Law to shake his head sadly and wonder just how "lite" I need my reading to be, and many others of you to shake your heads because it is a great book*). So I picked up The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  My Mother had given it to me for my birthday and, to me, it has the title of a quirky book (and a star one at that).  I was two pages in before I fully realized I had traded cruel treatment in a mental institution for teenagers with terminal cancer.  Terminal cancer won.
The Fault in Our Stars suffers a bit from a Juno complex (the teenagers are way too witty for their own good), but is generally fabulous-- if you are into romantic comedies about teenagers about to die.  I highly recommend it for a lot of my reading audience.  There's also a fabulous champagne scene tying stars to sparkling wine (using the alleged Dom Perignon quote, "Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!"), a few sucker punches plot-wise, and a lot to think about (teenage cancer patients being more worried about their what happens to their parents after they die than about their own fates, for instance).
In any case, Janet, was here over the weekend (hooray for friends who visit!) and we decided I needed an "acid" book this year.  Janet and I like to read "recent classics" (Graham Greene last year, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Faulkner were under consideration for this year).  So, even though it is officially off-limits for being officially non-fiction, the July STIR selection is The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.  Acid! Classic! and with references to the author of the book I didn't read.  Join us if you'd like.

Speaking of STIR books, I realized two from last fall were mostly overlooked during the Juno's Daughters craziness.  I still highly recommend, and would still like to more discuss The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  The former is a short novel with a masterful building of tension, the latter an account of where cells we research really came from.

Other books I've recently read (recently being the first half of the year):  The Lacuna: Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel I found super-engrossing for the first half (Mom needs to read it) and good for the second half.  The first was one of the best half of a book I've read in a long time.   What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell which was perhaps a bit more entertaining than Outliers because, as a collection of articles, it has less of a point and a more interesting range.  NutureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman: a scary evidence-based book about child behavior that explains how we are doing it all wrong.    Highland Fling: a romantic comedy by Katie Fforde. I enjoy Fforde because her characters are always not-gorgeous, working, and more often than not, gardening and that was true of this one as well, but I liked Wild Designs and Second Thyme AroundToss the Bride by Jennifer Manske Fenske: fun, but not as well-written as those by Fforde or Jennifer Crusie.  Bet Me: one of my new favorites from the aforementioned Crusie.

*If you read One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, let me know and I'll try to set up a discussion with Debbie, the book's selector. And maybe me. Someday,



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Find your own purple gloves

I regularly want to write a book of tips on living well.  It would contain some entertaining tidbits, lots of pleasures to be found in small details, and humorous stories about how much my life improved once I stopped drinking sparkling wine only for named occasions and started making occasions to drink it.  I swear the book wouldn't be nauseating.
I'm reading one such book at the moment: Alexandra Stoddard's Living a Beautiful Life (1986) which I received as a birthday present.  And it is nauseating, when it's not being right on, charming, out-dated or insightful.
Stoddard is a interior decorator who emphasizes arranging one's life around where one actually spends time [e.g. spend effort arranging the kitchen and bathroom comfortably before decorating an unused living room] (right on), treating everyday tasks into sensory stimulating rituals (with suggestions that are sometimes insightful), surrounding oneself with books and flowers (charming, and, in my book, right on), and making sure that one's phone cord is long enough to reach the kitchen sink (outdated).  She also suggests one "save old, worn-out white gloves and wear them as silver-polishing mitts"  (Whaaa?  Not from the universe I inhabit)*.
Living a Beautiful Life reminds me of the futility of my (never-to-be-written) book. Living well in the details is personal.  I love making rose petal and violet ice cubes.  Stoddard must love the scent of burning orange, based on her repeated suggestion of throwing orange peels into a roaring fire.  Both of our ideas have limited applicability.  While I think that hanging clothes outside to dry is a pleasant (and money and environment-saving) task, I can see readers bristling, "Like anyone has time for that," the way that I bristled about Stoddards daily "puttering" and "clipping" rituals.
I have a good friend with a lab job.  The gloves in her lab are purple.  They make her smile when she puts them on, and she puts them on every day.
That's really all that needs to be said in such a book.  Find little things that make you smile.  Do them regularly.  Notice them and smile.
Find your own purple nitrile gloves.
If that doesn't work, use them for polishing the silver.

*Alexandra Stoddard is still working, by the way, and that her web page calls her a "philosopher of contemporary living" doesn't do a lot to reduce "for real?" factor.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dianthus and Aster


February in OK
Life is good
Searching for prairie turnips at sunset
Mule in March
Picking peas with Grandma in Jun
If Dianthus and Aster grow up to be sad, whiny creatures, it will not be for lack of educational play opportunities, for lack of time spent outside, or for lack of people to love them.
But it might happen anyway. (You can envision photos arranged in such a way to support this small bit of text).

Life is rough
Spring Break in OK


Spring Break on The Ranch
Fishing with Grandpa
April in Colorado
Maple helicopters abounded
Has meanest parents in the whole wide world




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'm 40 and my hair looks great

In second grade I met a girl who became my best friend.  We were friends for years and did classic best friend things: we had a secret club, a collective crush on the cutest guy in the class, and spent way too long analyzing most anything on the phone.  And then one year she didn't invite me to her birthday party and we were suddenly no longer friends.  It was all very seventh grade.
Except at that time of the birthday non-invite, we were 25 years old.  We had been friends for 18 years. I was crushed. It hurt worse than any romantic break-up I've experienced.
The day after my 40th birthday, almost 15 years after she quit speaking to me, we became in contact again.  It was all very Beaches.
Except that there was no dying, no children, no fight over men, no fight at all and no drama involved.  And Beaches didn't take place in the time of facebook.  So, while my ex-best friend has long reminded me of Bette Midler, it wasn't like Beaches at all.
She sent a friend request. I accepted. We wrote each about our hair.  We're judging by little thumbnail photos on facebook and we each think the others hair looks great.
I expected some personal drama around turning 40.  I expected some personal drama surrounding my first re-acquaintance with the ex-best friend I've always known I would someday see again.  I did not expect them to be one and the same.  Or both entirely devoid of dramatic tension.
So, I'm 40.  My hair looks great.*
Ex-best friend is still 39.  Her hair looks great too.
That's that.

*Photo taken immediately after blowing out the candles on my birthday.  And, alas, my hair frequently doesn't look this good, but I like to think that it always could.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Spoons are for wusses . . .


or those lacking a certain panache with shimmering, semi-solid accessories.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Acid on the eggs?

When dying Eater eggs this year (yes, back at Easter time) I noticed that the instructions have changed since I was a kid (on both Paas and another brand).  Now there are three levels of color: for pale colors, drop the tablets in water, for classic colors, use lemon juice, and for ultra-bright colors, use white vinegar.
Growing up I remember using vinegar and water in every cup and I had never heard of using lemon juice.
Dianthus used the pure vinegar method this year.  I observed that the colors were much brighter than those I remembered from my youth (and I'll admit to dying eggs every year at least through college and actually much later, so these are not ancient memories), and they dyed the eggs much more quickly, but they actually had poor adherence if you left the egg in to soak for a while, and they did not blend well.
Has anyone else experienced this?  Does anyone know if it is a different formulation or just the switch to vinegar?
And what's up with lemon juice?  Do any of you use the commercial egg dyes with lemon juice?  Is it different?*  How?
In any case, Dianthus was pleased with the results, found all the eggs the next morning**, and ate most of them.
*Lemon juice and white vinegar have nearly the same pH, so this is bugging me.
** He was better at searching for eggs than he is at his new game, hide and seek, during which he will either tell me where to hide or all of the places I should look before I find him in the bed.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Step 2: Flail Around A Bit

When I first started reading The Hunger Games (before the Mister had started reading them), I commented about a friend who had problems with the second book (of non-memorable name).  The Mister and I discussed how that wasn't much of a surprise; we already knew that in book 1 she wins the Games, in book three the system must be overthrown and in book two, well, in book two, things don't go so well.  Han is left frozen in carbonite and Frodo is trapped in Shelob's lair.  This is the way of trilogies.

So I have a question: what second book of a trilogy is really good?**  If there is a single story arch of the whole trilogy, is there any way to make book 2 positive?

My second Hunger Games question (as I am aware that I thought out a whole series of Hunger Games posts back in March and posted exactly once-- I'm not really going to get around to it again.) is about picking the right man. One of my former students (now a pharmacy school grad-- I'm getting old if I have students with doctorates!) celebrated the conclusion of her classes by reading Hunger Games and posted on facebook about being "Team Gail". Is there any coming-of-age book written by a man in which selecting the right woman is the big growing up conflict?  There are plenty of stories in which getting the girl (or selecting the right girl) is a sign of having grown up or otherwise succeeded.  I'm wondering if male authors are ever writing about the angst of choosing the right woman as a major decision.  Harry Potter, of course, suffers plenty of girl trouble, but Harry Potter, you recall, was written by a woman.  Are teenage females just kidding ourselves that teenage males are actually concerned about the right relationship?

As far the "ick factor" I mentioned earlier.  For many people HG is disturbing.  For Debbie, who works regularly in Haiti, the disparity and obliviousness of the wealthy is unnerving: talk to her about that.  For many readers, that these books are written for adolescents is bothersome, but not to me  (I came up with a long list of extremely disturbing short stories we read in 7th and 8th grade English class.).  At least one reader I talked to  was disturbed that something this poorly written was getting this much attention (again, not a big bother to me because I really liked them and have read plenty worse and get pretty excited every time I see young people reading and discussing books).  My mother was disturbed by the fact that this was  young people killing young people as directed by adults.  Yeah, that is supposed to be disturbing. Collins points out that war is young people killing young people at the direction of adults.  The Mister was disturbed by how quickly everyone accepts this, and how quickly the tributes fall into the roles of killers.  I'm not sure it is all that exaggerated, which is disturbing.
I heard  on the radio about a  school happily launching their own "Hunger Games".  This, and similar stories (along with the Team Peeta Team Gail debate) suggesting young readers are entirely unfazed by the games in which kids kill kids, disturbs me.  I was also disturbed by the return to the ring in the second book.  It was icky enough to be reading a book about how violence should not be entertainment for the rich for entertainment without the author acting as if I, the reader, needed a return to the violent entertainment to keep reading.
Anyway, those are some of my thoughts.  Add yours.

*A nod to the South Park underpants gnomes episode and their brilliant plan.  "Step 1: Steal underpants.  Step 2: ?  Step 3: Profit."
**The Mister thinks that Empire Strikes Back may be his favorite movie.  Whatever.  It's great but Han is left frozen in carbonite-- how can that be a best movie?  As for The Two Towers, LoTR is just one book, (or 5) not really a trilogy as far as I am concerned. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cuckoo STIR Soon

Some day, say, tomorrow, I will turn in my grades and then someday, after more meetings and graduation and stuff and stuff and stuff, say Friday or next week, I will post the rest of the Hunger Games discussion, videos of my sons sledding (yes, that happened in December) and giggling, new garden images, and questions about acid and Easter egg dye.
As of now, that time still feels like the far-distant-future.  So I write briefly to alert you that the next STIR selection is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, suggest by Debbie.
Join us as we join NPR (??) and the 50th Anniversary Read-Along.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The kites are back in town

The Mississippi Kites arrived on a thermal at 7:10 yesterday evening (April 25).  I may be mistaken, but it really appeared as if I witnessed the very moment of in-migration.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hunger Comparisons

When I've had conversations about the Hunger Games*, other works similar to (or not similar to) the series have always been part of the conversation.  While certainly not unusual for me to make comparisons, I find it striking that I always do with Hunger Games.  I never felt compelled to describe Harry Potter as combination of Chronicles of Narnia, A Separate Peace and Star Wars, at least not until right now, but very few Hunger Games conversations did not include mention of The Lord of The Flies, "The Lottery", Star Wars, Spartacus, The Truman Show, "The Most Dangerous Game", Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Survivor.
So I'll kick off the Hunger Games discussion with a few questions:
1) Have you made comparisons of the Hunger Games with other works?  If so, with what?
2) Which of the above have you read or seen?
3) Why do you think this work elicits so many comparisons?
4) What else do you want to talk about regarding Hunger Games?

Next big discussion point: The ick factor.  How hard is it to get past the idea that you are reading, for pleasure, a violent work which has a point that violence should not be entertainment?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Life on the margin. Of something

Last week, while we were rushing to the computer lab to finish his poster, I told one of my completely overwhelmed students that I felt like I was, "just one paper jam from being fired", and we commiserated about how much we hate being that close on everything.
I spent some time walking home thinking about how thin the margins I'm working on here are-- of time, of professional competence, of family sanity-- and how I was going to blog about how I hate not having wiggle room.
Except it's not true. Well, it is true that I hate being so rushed going into lab that one paper jam can screw up my whole day.
But I had the paper jam. On a day when I was already late because Dianthus didn't want to get up. Because he had been in bed with us in the middle of the night. Because we'd had serious thunder storms all night. And I had hand-written the quiz instead of printing it because . . . and I arrived at worked soaked from hard rain pellets that I somehow didn't expect to start only a block from our house.
And that paper jam that put me over the edge made me give a quiz three minutes late.
I'm over-fed, loved, not about to be evicted and generally appreciated at work.
I've given some poor lectures recently, and I really hate giving poor lectures. And I've picked up Dianthus at 5:15 instead of 4:45 and I really hate doing that. And I've had too many meals of cereal and yogurt and I almost didn't get my April Fool's letter out and I haven't started a Hunger Games discussion and my younger son has too many teeth (6 at 8 months!) and tries to use them on everything and my older son needs to be made to sit down at dinner time and and and
And you'd better watch out. Because I'm just this close and with a little provocation I might slip.
And then I'd have to write the quiz questions on the board.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Leeking this time of year

Strangely enough, it is April 1 and I am neither engaged nor pregnant with twins.

And, despite what some of you may have read, I am not headed to the National Championship game in New Orleans. I'm headed to work in the morning.

Of course, some of the stranger parts of the letter are true. We did have all of those maladies. My graduate fellowship was funded by someone with the same last name as the KU Men's Basketball coach. We walked a 5K in dense fog yesterday. And KU is playing in the national championship game.

A while back the campus sewer lines had to be completely dug out because, seriously, men were flushing too many cell phones. I didn't include that in the letter because, well, a leek in the toilet strains credibility enough (although the leek I put in the toilet 17 years I ago still makes me laugh).

If you don't know what letter I am talking about let me know and I'll send you a copy; this year's distribution was spotty, at best. Happy April.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What I don't like about Eastern Kansas

Ticks
Chiggers
Humid summers
Lack of mountains*
A lower concentration of great friends than it had 7 years ago
My super-cool jogging stroller is par for the course here
I don't have a job here.

I had to remind myself of the above list as we drove into Lawrence yesterday
and it felt like we were driving into spring personified. Flowering trees! Green grass! Buds! Kids in shorts! People drinking on patios!

I have lived in some very beautiful places in my life. Non-Kansas friends are surprised when I rank Lawrence very high on the places-I-would-like-to-live list. Anyone surprised by this did not live through Lawrence today. Heck, the place even smells fabulous with the Korean Spice Viburnums and crabapples in full flower.
And I was going to comment upon the perfect place for today even before the happy mob that descended upon downtown tonight.

Alas. Western Oklahoma has some nice wind farms.

*Shared with my current home.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hungry Books

The ethereal oranges mentioned in the earlier post are just one of the foods mentioned in The City and the Mountains. That AR and I both selected the orange passage for our blogs is more telling about our knowledge of each other than the writing of Eca de Queiros. I'm into creative cooking of all forms, including wanting to try real molecular gastronomy (I would have loved to dine at El Bulli, for instance, and would seriously consider wd-50 for my fantasy weekend of food in NYC*) and AR is into mocking fancy food**.

In another post, or at least a post in my mind, I will write about the various kinds of things I don't know how to read, and what that means. I very much enjoyed The City and the Mountains, but felt I was missing a great deal because I know so little. So little about Portuguese history, so little about Portuguese literature, so little about the times, that I didn't really know when I was being made fun of. In the novel, Paris is Civilization and Civilization is soulless, at best. The Mountains (of Portugal) have their own issues, but the air is clean, the work is meaningful and the food is satisfying.
Perhaps, because, unlike AR, I have no experience with soul-satisfying food in Portugal, or perhaps because one of the wonderful moments of my life was an extravagant dinner in Paris (in 1984***) of the sort that a modern Eca de Quieros would mock (roster kidneys! pigeon! bitter chocolate souffle!). So I'm not sure the point really resonated with me.

Anyway, interestingly, The City and the Mountains did not make me hungry while reading it. Scant food though there is in The Hunger Games (and Catching Fire, and Mockingjay) the food there is makes me want to eat. I want to eat the breads of all the districts. I want to eat the cookie Katniss tosses aside. I hear of roast birds and lamb stew and I just plain want to eat.

So yes, Hunger Games discussion on for sometime soon. It feels weird to be on-trend. Janet, don't worry about the deadline. It will go fast. One of these times I'm going to contact my cousin who gave me the book and tell her she's starting a discussion.

In the meantime, what do you know about Portuguese food, what books make you hungry and what you want to discuss concerning The Hunger Games.

*But I want to eat at Le Bernardin, pretty much anything Momofuku group, the Red Rooster and a whole bunch of ethnic restaurants, to name just a few.

**He might actually be a bigger foodie than I am, but he is the post-fine dining kind of foodie that is really into perfect fried chicken and restaurants of the least ambiance. I very much enjoy the perfect local burger and street food and soul food, but I also like dining as theater and sniffing corks makes me foolishly happy.

*** I figured out that my mother had just turned 39 on this month-long Europe trip. My parents were such adults at my age. I'm so far behind on so many life experiences, but it pleases me to think about how many great meals my parents have eaten since that pivotal summer and how many more opportunities I could have.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

But those were my quotes!

Over at Wuthering Expectations, Amateur Reader has started our discussion of The City and the Mountains by Eça de Queirós.
I've been reading this Portuguese STIR novel differently than I read most novels. First, I have read it in ridiculously small chunks (not due to any particular characteristic of the book, but because of the set up of my life and the age of my child who has become an efficient breast-feeder). Secondly, I have been marking specific passages to have something to discuss with AR.
If one reads Wuthering Expectations at all, one quickly notices that AR writes about the actual text. Surprisingly, a focus on the author's sentences is not the norm among book bloggers. Actually, if you've been in a typical book club, this is not surprising at all. How much we liked the book, what it reminded us of, what we liked better, what we are going to eat, what we are going to read next. . . this is what my book club actually talked about. The writing of the book in front of us, not nearly as much.
So I started marking passages in The City and the Mountain.
I marked a passage that reminds me of most modern offices:


From the foot of [Jacinto’s] desk, soft, fat cable snaked over the carpet,
scurrying into the shadows like startled cobras. On a bench, and reflected
in its varnished surface as if in the water of a well, stood a Writing
Machine, and further off a vast Adding Machine, with rows of holes from
which protruded stiff, metal numbers, patiently waiting. (21)

And a passage that deals with food:



And for dessert, iced oranges in ether.
“Why in ether, Jacinto?”
My friend hesitated and made a rippling gesture with his fingers as of an aroma being wafted away.“It’s a new thing. Apparently the ether develops and brings
out the soul of the fruit.” (28)


And everything I typed after this disappeared. Hmmmm. Who is in for The Hunger Games, by the way?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring is in the air

. . . and thus our itchy eyes and congested heads (although the latter has improved greatly for me while the former may be getting worse. Hmmm.)
In any case, the spring report . . .
First daffodils (south side of house) bloomed a full month ago. The daffodils on the east side of the house are tapering off now. Bradford pears have been out for a week and are just going past. Apricots peaked on Friday (March 9) and cherries are full out. Red buds are starting.
The golden currant (clove currant) at my house is in full bloom and is fabulously fragrant.
Maples and elms are setting fruit but haven't started shedding them.
Little violets are blooming in my yard, as is Vinca major and Vinca minor.
We've had lamium and shepherd's purse blooming all semester because I use them all the time in my plant taxonomy class.
The buds on the lilac are swollen and I wouldn't be surprised if it blooms over spring break (next week).
What's springy where you are?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Someday . . .

I will reminisce fondly about my children and their youth. And I will think back on my jolly baby Aster and my charming toddler Dianthus. And I will smile.
And I won't be remembering yesterday.
Or the day before.
Unless I am smiling at how delightful it is that those days are long past.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Meyer Lemons

Reading Cooking for Mr. Latte years ago had a profound effect on me. It made me long for meyer lemons. Some readers left the book annoyed at the whiny narrator, some took away an enhanced appreciation of Italian cuisine, others may have questioned how their family dynamics play out in the kitchen. I wanted desperately to cook with citrus I'd never heard of.*, **
I've finally had my chance. The local Walmart has been stocking bags of meyer lemons for the last month (or perhaps longer, I never thought to check until the Mister mentioned that they had them). I purchased them and put them to good use in two of the Mr. Latte recipes.
The dishes, linguine with meyer lemons, creme fraiche, arugula and freshly grated parmesan (too lemony in the end) and chicken with a sauce of meyer lemon, chutney, sour cream and mayo were mixed. But the slightly orangey lemons? They are really good.

*For mom, "Of which I've never heard". I think it it sounds too stilted to so rearrange the sentence, but I can do it for you.
**Reading wikipedia I learn that I could have learned of meyer lemons, Citrus x meyeri from Alice Waters or Martha Stewart. Somehow I didn't. The image is from wikipedia.

Monday, February 20, 2012

STIR up your reading, 2012

During the second half of 2011, I read 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) books a week. I've read none in the last six weeks.
Whoah. I never read no books.
I don't even have one in progress that I'm not liking which is slowing me down. I've just not been reading.
But that is changing.
STIR 2012 is here.
Once again, each month or so one of my friends will be picking a book that she or he wants to read and thinks I would like*, promoting that book in advance on my blog so other friends can join, discussing it with me (in person, over the phone or electronically) and allowing me to share the discussion.
I'm also hoping to have another author involved with our discussion, as happened with Juno's Daughters, but lined up in advance and happening over the summer.
What to do now: 1) pick a month is you want to be a selector
2) check out the February(ish) and March selections and read them if you'd like.
3) think if you know of an author who would like us to read her or his work and would be willing to discuss it with us.

February: The City and the Mountains by Eça de Queirós (read up on other works by Eça de Queirós here on Wuthering Expectations as part of the Portuguese Literature Challenge). My copy, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, was a Christmas gift from MBiL, with whom I will be discussing it.
March: The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins Everybody is reading it, why don't we? My kind cousin sent me the trilogy for Christmas. Read the story before the movie

Summary of 2011 to come someday in the meantime, links here.


*Fiction, under 500 pages, no horror. We laugh about how well our students read directions, but fewer than half of the selections in 2011 met these criteria.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Growing up!

Aster seems to be a slightly neater eater than Dianthus at the same age, but no less enthusiastic.

Mature as he suddenly is in his button-up shirts, Dianthus is not too old to frolic in the snow.


Snow image December in Kansas; Leggos Christmas in Colorado; Aster and squash here in Oklahoma last week.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy Groundhog Day from the Star Boys


What do these have to do with Marmota, weather predictions and the end of winter? Not much, but they make me happy. In their glow-in-the-dark star pjs, Dianthus was watching bunnies and Andrew was watching Dianthus (taken in December in Colorado).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Better to shoot for the stars and miss . . . *

I did not do nearly as much stargazing as I intended in star year. Nor did I watch any star movies (which is odd. Since we own all of the Star Wars movies, I could have at least re-viewed my beloved New Hope [aka original Star Wars] even if I didn't find the time for Starman, Stardust, or any of the 14 movies titled "Star" on imdb) or eat any starfruit.
I did twice bake star shaped cookies with Dianthus (peanut butter and gingerbread).
I read many star books, and a few Starr books (to be discussed later).
I watched an embarrasing quantity of reality TV with "star" in the title (only a few episodes of "Dancing with the Stars" but nearly two whole seasons of "The Next Food Network Star" [no "Top Chef" but I loved it while pregnant] and, much as it pains me to admit it, a whole season of "Design Star").
I learned that star anise can be great in mulled wine, spiced apple cider, port poached pears and red cabbage with apples.
I made no star quilts, but then nobody really thought I was going to, and I admired many.
For the last month, I've taken my Dianthus out nearly every night. He knows now that we don't see the moon every night; sometimes the stars are behind the clouds; Venus and Jupiter are beautiful, and there are "more stars" and "more stars" and on clear nights "more more more stars, Mommy, more stars." And he tells me about more stars until I acknowledge every one. And I hug him and hold him and he sees some more. There are always more stars in the sky.
That's the kind of thing I was shooting for.

*. . than to shoot for a manure pile and hit. While I appreciate the cliched intent that it is better to aim high, I'm too much of a scientist not to think that floating in space after you've missed the star is considerably worse than being on earth covered in a little dung. But isn't floating in space preferable to actually hitting a star?